Saturday, October 30, 2004

How I'm doing

Friends ask how my surgery went, and at this point I don't know what to tell them.  I had surgery for two reasons:  One was that I was increasingly in pain; in order to sleep at night, I had to put a pillow under my leg to get even halfway comfortable.  The second reason, and also a primary reason I didn't go ahead with total knee replacement, was that I'd like to at least work through next July so I'll be fully vested in my retirement plan at work.  Ideally, I'd like to extend that another year so I'd be 62, and eligable for social security.  I'm pretty young for total knee replacement, but once I'm retired, if need be, I'll have it.

Now, I can honestly tell you I have less pain than before surgery, and I'm not taking any pain relievers now.  But the question people ask me is, "Will you be able to go back to work?"

I don't imagine I'll know the answer to this question for at least eight weeks, when I actually go back and try it.  Meanwhile, I'm doing exercises for the upper part of my leg, keeping the left leg elevated a lot, as instructed, and surfing the 'Net a lot!  When I know more, I'll let my friends in on it.

Oh, meet my surgeon:  I'm rather impressed with her accomplishments:

Alexandra J. Strong, M.D.
Dr. Strong received her Medical Degree from the rigorous UMKC six-year medical school program. She did a residency at the Grand Rapids orthopaedic residency at Blodgett Medical Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Dr. Strong's special interests are in joint replacement, hip and knee as well as shoulder and sports medicine. Dr. Strong is the team physician for Park College with significant insights into the female athlete.

Friday, October 29, 2004

My checkered life

Back when my two children were small and we lived on our twenty-acre farm in a run-down shanty, I looked forward to any kind of outing, even a trip to the grocery store.  I've never had a driver's license, so I was in the boonies all week long with nobody to talk to but my babies and my husband.  I have a rather melancholy nature at best, and I recall changing diaper after diaper, rocking a child and singing lullabyes, baby-talking while pretending a spoon was an airplane and the child's mouth was the hanger... thinking to myself, "Is this all there is?  Is this how my life will be forever?"

Little did I know the time would come when I'd long to go back, just for a minute, and hold one of my babies in my arms.  The time seemed to be crawling back then, but in retrospect, it went so fast!  I was caught up in the humdrum routine and didn't even realize how precious those times were.   If I had,  I'd have kept more journals, taken more pictures.

The present is all any of us have.  Whatever stage of life we're in, it needs to be explored and enjoyed for all it's worth.  Because later on, we'll wish we had. 

"Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans."  John Lennon     

Dog saves woman's life, calls 911

Yes, it's true!  This Rott called 911 for her mistress.  Read the whole story HERE.  I've always had some distrust of Rottweilers, personally.  It just goes to show there's good and bad in all kinds of dogs (and people).

Thursday, October 28, 2004


For almost two days, I wondered why the doctor bothered to give me Vicodin, since I hardly had any pain from the surgery.  Yesterday evening, I found out why!  As my husband said, why would I have to be off work for eight weeks if it were as simple and pain-free as all that?  Anyhow, about bedtime last night my knee decided to let me know that it had been invaded, however minimally; and I was delighted to take not only two Vicodins, but an Ibuprofin to boot!

Today wasn't bad, but as evening approaches, I can tell I'll be needing something for pain again.  That got me thinking about how pain always seems to increase at night:

© copyright October 28, 2004
Donna Wood

I have often thought it odd
How we'll drop our brave facade;
Once the sun is set and gone,
Then we'll drop our guard till dawn.
Even if it's just the flu,
Darkness gets the best of you,
Sneering at you, in your plight:
Everything hurts worse at night.

I've outlived some broken hearts,
Overcome, and made new starts.
I've seen loved ones slip away
And lived to smile another day.
Yet, when darkness comes around,
Tears can fall again, I've found.
Even knowing I'm all right,
Everything hurts worse at night.

Fevers rise when darkness falls;
Cruelty chafes; injustice galls.
Boils and blisters pulsate red
And throb with pain when you're in bed.
Long-forgotten memories ache
That you'd prayed the Lord to take.
Oh, hang on till morning's light!
Everything hurts worse at night.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

poems that say nothing

I have a mailing list made up of Internet friends who bought my book of poems.  My intention is to write a poem a day, and once it's written, I e-mail it to these folks.  I recently took a much-needed haitus; but now I'm back in the swing of things.  Knowing these people are watching and waiting for their daily poem motivates me, and I usually can come up with something, even on dull days.  However, these forced poems tend to go in circles, not really making much of a statement.  Today's rhyme is an example:

© copyright October 27, 2004
Donna Wood

Here I sit with one foot propped up on a kitchen chair,
Mandy lying next to me with four feet in the air.
Autumn leaves are falling; gentle rain is coming down,
And it won't be long before the winter rolls around.

I'd be working overtime,if I could work at all;
But, because of surgery, I'm staying home this fall.
Naps will be in order, since I cannot ride my horse.
I will read, and oh... I'll surf the Internet, of course!

Now and then, I think about the war that rages on
Wond'ring if our troops should stay, or maybe be withdrawn.
It's just six more days until we'll go and cast our votes,
Ending all the politics they're shoving down our throats.

I know I'm meandering; I haven't much to say.
There is not a lot to write, when you’re inside all day.    
But I've pledged to try and write a simple, daily rhyme:
This is it; as you can see, I'm simply marking time.

I really take no pride in these "mandatory" poems; but they force me to strive for words and rhymes, and make it easier, I think, to be creative when I actually do have something to say.              


Yesterday I was going to go about my everyday routine... cooking, doing laundry, washing dishes... until a nurse called from the surgery center where I had the orthroscopy done.  She seemed disappointed that I had no pain, had slept well the preceeding night, and didn't have any stomach upset.  Anyhow, she cautioned be about being up and around too much, and told me I must keep the leg elevated as much as possible, and keep an ice pack on it to reduce swelling.  The written instructions they sent home with me seemed to insinuate that the ice pack was only in case of swelling and pain, so I guess it's a good thing she called, or I'd have done too much.

As far as pain goes, I'm almost afraid to hope that this will last: I'm as pain-free as I've been in months.  I don't have to put a pillow under my knee when I sleep, and I can sit down without hanging onto something and bracing for the pain that was inevitable, every time I bent my knee.  Maybe, after all, I will be able to finish another couple of years at work before I retire.

I took this picture from Blue's back, on Sunday's ride:  I pity him because he has no horse companions; so when we ride through the countryside, any time we see another horse, I let him touch noses with them and sniff them.  There's often a bit of squealing and snorting that goes along with this, and sometimes some's mostly idle threats, not actual biting.  Horses like to bluff and show off for one another.     

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

knee update

If you're interested in the procedure I had done on my knee, click HERE.  I'm very pleased this morning.  After taking no pain pills since 4 PM yesterday, I have less knee pain than I've had for weeks... and I was able to sleep without putting a pillow under my knee last night.

Anjel, I saw your question in my comments yesterday about the dots on my knee:  I haven't seen yet, because the doctor said to leave the wrap on it till today.  I'll remove it shortly. 

getting along

I've spent six years on the Internet, and I've seen some wild confrontations and squabbles in chat rooms and on message boards.  I've been stuck in the middle of one or two; but thank God I finally chose not to join in on the stupidity.  A hint of old troubles cropped up on my favorite message board yesterday, and in the midst of that, one very savvy Iowa lady offered this bit of wisdom:  "... and you don't have to go to every battle you are invited to either."

This inspired my daily poem (I do try for one every day) which I'm sharing with my readers here.

© copyright October 26, 2004
Donna Wood

Invited to the battlefield, I did not choose to go:
I have much better things to do than wrestle with a foe
Who hangs on to the rotting past and relishes a fight
While most of us no longer even care who's wrong or right.

Invited to the battlefield, I choose to take my ease.
I have no no tastes or appetites that fighting will appease.
So I will keep my distance and politely watch the show:
I have my invitation, but I do not choose to go.


Monday, October 25, 2004

back from surgery

The doctor did some meniscus repair; that's a cartilage that was torn, somewhere in my knee.  I feel fine.   I don't even have to use crutches, unless I need to for discomfort.  So far pain is minimal, but I'm on Vicodin.  I'll be off work at least eight weeks.  Most of that time I can draw 66% of my normal pay, so we shouldn't have any huge financial problems.

There is no guarantee that this surgery will help.  It's sort of a roll of the dice.  The doctor told Cliff that I'll eventually have to have knee replacement, but that comes as no surprise.  I just want to work a little longer before it comes to that.

No horseback riding for at least two weeks; that's when I see the doctor again.  One point in my favor, on that note, is that the doctor is a horsewoman!  So I'm thinking she'll be open-minded about the situation.


Sunday, October 24, 2004

AOL addiction

I bought a cheap computer to put in the bedroom for my grandchildren; that way, when they're here, they can do their stuff and not bother me (or my expensive Dell).  My seventeen-year-old granddaughter, Amber, has used it extensively on weekends.  My grandson, Brett, has downloaded and recorded music on it and made CDs.  Now, nine-year-old Monica has started watching AOL's punk-rock videos.

AOL isn't my main provider; I have cable.  But when I buy a new computer, I usually get some free AOL time.  This time, they got me hooked with these journals, so it looks like I'm here for awhile unless we get really hard-up for money.  My daughter hates AOL... thinks it's for dummies, etc.  She and her youngest daughter, Natalie, make a game of taking those free AOL discs they get in the mail to the trash as though they're poison... saying, "ewwww" all the way, barely touching them.

But now that I've shown Monica how to watch AOL music videos, she's addicted (in the words of one of her groups, Simple Plan: "I'm addic-, I'm addicted to you". 

Here are the contents of an instant message between my AOL-hating daughter and myself, this evening:

fierro6 [7:01 PM]:  Monica bitched at me for 10 minutes on the way home (until I pulled over and theatened to whip her butt) about the fact that I won't get AOL for her

Mosie1944 [7:02 PM]:  oops,  I'm so ashamed
fierro6 [7:02 PM]:  I told her "I'd rather have a virus on my machine than to load AOL" and she muttered (barely audible) "when I grow up I'm gonna have AOL on all my computers."
Mosie1944 [7:02 PM]:  LOL
fierro6 [7:03 PM]:  what day would be best for me to drop off her and her belongings?   ROFL
Mosie1944 [7:03 PM]:  ACK
fierro6 [7:03 PM]:  she's all better now, but MAN she was ticked
Mosie1944 [7:04 PM]:  poor underprivileged kid
fierro6 [7:04 PM]:  I finally convinced her of the fact that she totals about half an hour a week on our computer (life routine, etc.) and can be on yours a LOT on weekends, so she quit griping

My poor, poor granddaughter.  I guess she'll overcome this adversity, but it won't be easy.



Lovely autumn weekend

Knowing I may not be able to ride for awhile after having orthroscopic surgery Monday, I rode in the flatland along the river for almost three hours yesterday.  We are fully into autumn now:  The colors are vibrant in many places, the air is bracing, and it was the kind of day you dream of.

Look closely near the bottom of the picture:  a beaver has been hard at work.  See the stump and chips he left?

That's the road leading away from the river bottoms.  Usually there are no vehicles around, but yesterday some fellows had been target-shooting down in the flat-lands, and they passed us on their way out.  Hearing the guns made me somewhat nervous, since I had no idea where they were, or in which direction they were shooting.  Blue flinched a little at the first shots we heard; I'm sure he had flashbacks to July 4 when the bottle rockets chased him.

My daughter's family was here for the afternoon and evening:  she brought all the ingredients for lasagna, one of her specialties; Cliff worked till two, but hurried right home for his favorite meal.  Amber, my son's oldest daughter who has been spending most weekends here, now has a working computer at home; so we likely won't be seeing her as often.  Monica is happy to keep the spare computer warmed up and in use, though:  She watches AOL videos by the hour, singing along with the punk rockers, using lyrics we Googled and printed off for her.  She's not even what I'd call pre-teen yet, so we have to find substitutes for a few of the words she isn't supposed to say.

Our two pigs are eating like... well, you know.  Here they are at the trough.  I'd love to hold one and stand on the scales and see how much weight they've put on in a week.  The trouble is, I'm not sure I could hold one now!  I weighed Mandy that way yesterday and barely managed to restrain her long enough to see the numbers (she weighs 38 pounds).

Friday, October 22, 2004

Have you seen these bugs?

Several years back, in the autumn, these invaders started showing up in my home.  At first glance, one would think they're the old-time, friendly ladybugs from nursery rhymes of childhood; and they are a close relative.  They aren't quite as pleasant to live with, though.  Here's what I gleaned about these pesky critters: 

How Did These Exotic Lady Beetles Get Here?

The multicolored Asian lady beetle made its way into the United States through a number of accidental and planned releases. There are several reports that this species was accidentally brought on ships to various ports, notably New Orleans and Seattle. This lady beetle was also intentionally imported from Russia, Japan, Korea, and elsewhere in the Orient and released in the United States as part of a Federal effort to naturally control insect pests in trees. The rationale was that native species of lady beetles are not particularly effective in controlling tree-feeding aphids and scale insects. The Federal releases were made in California as early as 1916 and again in the mid-1960s, but the multicolored Asian lady beetle apparently failed to establish.

During the late 1970s through the early 1980s, tens of thousands of multicolored Asian lady beetles were intentionally released by the U. S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) in an effort to control insect pests that injure trees. The USDA-ARS coordinated the lady beetle releases in many southern and eastern states The USDA-ARS release program was eventually discontinued because failed recapture efforts suggested that the multicolored Asian lady beetle was not surviving in the United States.

Hence, there is some controversy regarding the origins of this nonnative species. Nonetheless, the multicolored Asian lady beetle is now well established in the United States, where it currently thrives in many parts of the Midwest, East, South, and Northwest. This nonnative species appears to be displacing some of our native lady beetles in Ohio.

 Good Ladies, …

The multicolored Asian lady beetle is an important predator that consumes aphids and scale insects on trees, shrubs, and agricultural crops. During the spring and summer, the immature and adult lady beetles consume large numbers of plant-feeding pests, thereby reducing the need for pesticides. The multicolored Asian lady beetle has significantly benefited the pecan industry by nearly eliminating injurious pecan aphids.  It also has impacted pests that injure other commodities, such as fruit orchards, Christmas trees, ornamentals, small grains, and many agricultural crops.

 … With Some Bad Habits!!!

In spite of their important role in nature, multicolored Asian lady beetles can be seasonal pests in and around homes, particularly from late autumn until early spring.

Nuisances. Homeowners often express concern and aggravation with these nuisance pests. During late autumn, homeowners complain that multicolored Asian lady beetles cluster on the sides of houses; "crunch" under foot; get into food and drinks; alight on hands, arms, and other parts of the body; and sometimes enter the ears and mouth. The lady beetles can be so numerous that they appear to be "raining" outdoors or swarming like bees. A variety of other problems are associated with these lady beetles, as detailed below.

Home Invasion. Unlike our native species of lady beetles, the multicolored Asian lady beetle seeks protected hibernation (overwintering) sites in and around buildings. They may occur in any type of structure. Because these exotic lady beetles readily occur on trees, homes in forested areas are often infested. Multicolored Asian lady beetles often are pests in log homes, because they can slip through the cracks and crevices between the logs.

Multicolored Asian lady beetles seek protected sites where they can hibernate. Some may overwinter underneath siding, roof shingles, landscaping timbers, or leaf litter. Others readily slip through cracks and crevices and come indoors, where they make themselves at home. They may cluster together in corners of porches, attics, soffits, wall voids, door or window frames, or dark, undisturbed areas within buildings. The beetles can form large, hidden aggregations in secluded dark locations inside homes, commonly in attics and basements. They periodically invade living spaces, apparently in response to the warm interior temperatures. On warm sunny days during the winter, they tend to move about and fly within living spaces. They readily fly to windows. During the spring, these lady beetles are particularly noticeable in houses when they leave their hibernation sites and attempt to make their way outdoors.

Stains and Odor. When lady beetles are disturbed, they defend themselves by exuding a yellow-orange body fluid, which is their blood. This defense mechanism is termed reflex bleeding. The blood has a foul odor and can permanently stain walls, drapes, carpeting, etc. Thus, do not crush or swat lady beetles so as to minimize their defensive behavior.

"Bites." Although an uncommon occurrence, multicolored Asian lady beetles have been reported to nibble, nip, or "bite" humans. These lady beetles are not aggressive toward humans, and they simply may be examining an unfamiliar substrate or they may be seeking moisture. Their occasional nibbling is not reported to break the skin or draw human blood.

Allergic Reactions. Some individuals report an allergenic response to lady beetles. Although published reports are uncommon, multicolored Asian lady beetles apparently can cause inhalant allergies. These allergies clear up once the lady beetles are removed.

Some people are sensitive or allergic to the fluid that lady beetles secrete, which can cause contact dermatitis and a stinging sensation. However, lady beetles cannot sting, because they do not possess a stinger.

I found all this information HERE.  (I like to give credit where credit is due. 

Around here, these varmints live in the soybean fields; so as soon as the farmers start harvesting soybeans, the bugs invade my house.  Couldn't someone make a horror movie out of this?  "The Curse of the Ladybugs"?

Thursday, October 21, 2004

John Scalzi's Weekend Assignment

Assignment:  What gone, but not forgotten, TV series do you miss the most?

How can you beat I Love Lucy?  I've seen every episode at least 200 times, and I still laugh at the Vitametavegemin episode, or the candy factory one, or the grape-stomping... oh well, they're all great.

Extra Credit:  If you had to be on a game show or reality show, which one would it be?

I suppose, given those choices, it would have to be a reality show, because I stink at competitive games of any kind.  I play Scrabble online with a friend, and maybe one time in ten I win... and even then, she may be taking pity on me!  Plus, I never enjoyed watching game shows on TV.


my persistant dog

When we first brought Mandy home as a small puppy, we agreed she was not to be a house dog; my husband has a real problem with animals in the house.  However, living as we do in the country where everyone lets their dogs and cats roam free, it presents a problem, because puppies have no idea of boundaries.  So if they see something tempting on the other side of the road, or another puppy next door, they'll go check it out.  I've suffered so much aggravation from other people's dogs killing chickens, pooping in my yard, and chasing my cattle that I did not want my dog causing this kind of grief for others.  So Cliff built Mandy a nice pen in the barn where we can put her when we leave.  Later we found out that even when we're outside with her, Mandy will invariably run next door, where a neighbor puts table scraps out for her own pets... and while she's there, she usually runs into their puppy and forgets to come home.  So, we bought a lead and stake to tie her outside sometimes.  However, it's no fun to have a dog if you can't enjoy them, so early on, I started letting her in the house.  Cliff's gone when I get home from work, and it's nice to have some company.  At Cliff's request, I kept her off the carpet, which means she can't go into the bedroom or living room.  At first she found a throw rug in the kitchen that she liked to lie on.  By her second day here, she understood she wasn't allowed in the carpeted rooms, and never entered them at all; she's a very bright dog and learns fast.

Soon, though, we noticed she'd lie down on her rug in the kitchen with only her head on the living room carpet.  Cliff said, "Oh well, that doesn't hurt anything."  (In all honesty, he'd rather she wasn't in the house at all, but he likes to see me happy.)

We'd never see her actually moving on into the living room or, later, the bedroom... but we'd notice that somehow she would creep in farther when we weren't looking, inch by inch, till not even the tip of her tail was left in the kitchen.  We'd holler "get back" and she would.  But within twenty minutes, you'd glance her way and she'd be at least halfway back into the living room! 

I took this picture a few minutes ago; she's sound asleep in the bedroom, just across the threshold from the kitchen.  You'll notice that she is 100% in the bedroom!  She is certainly persistant, isn't she?  And the thing is, it works.  We look at her and say, "Well, as long as she doesn't go any further...".

One of these days I fully expect to see her on the bed or couch, and we'll just sit and wonder how she got there.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Latest update on the knee

I think the orthopedist was rather surprised that I'd had such a problem getting the proper fit with my brace.  The salesman met me at the doctor's office with my "new and improved" (yeah, right) brace before my appointment, and supervised my putting it on; I wore it in for my appointment, and the doctor watched me walk with it and heard my story.  I really can't say whether it's helping or not, just now, but I intend to wear it during most of my waking hours this week if I can.  Anyway, I am scheduled for Orthroscopy at 8 AM Monday at a surgicenter.  They called and said that because I'm past 60, I must have an EKG prior to the operation.  So I'll get that Friday morning.  When I mentioned my perhaps being too knock-kneed for the brace to help me, the doctor said, "Well, you ARE more knock-kneed than the average bear."  She reminded me that orthroscopy might not help me at all, and listed all the dangers of the surgery (any surgery, really).  And after all the trouble with the brace, I must admit that I'm going into this procedure thinking it probably won't help a bit.  (Boy, I hate to admit that my feelings about it are that negative.)

I'm looking forward to tomorrow:  a Church of Christ in the town south of here has a yearly "ladies' day" and invites all the local women.  They usually have some cute skits, and they always feed us well.  I haven't gone in four years because I've been working, and it's Kohls' busy season this time of the year.  I'll just be glad to get out and about... and I imagine Cliff and the next-door twins will be glad to be rid of me for one day.

The weather here is STILL droopy and dreary.  They're promising a better weekend though.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004


Congratulate me!  This is the first time I actually downloaded a picture from my AOL FTP space.  I figured out what I was doing wrong before, too.  I have no problem using Photobucket, but I have a feeling they'll start charging a fee one of these days.  Thank you Celeste and others, for guiding me in the right direction to use my FTP space.

What you see in the picture is a cup and saucer my maternal grandfather bought as a gift for Grandma the year they were married, 1909.  The flowers on it are raised, and the words say, "Forget me not".  I doubt that it's worth much to anyone else; it's chipped and scratched.  But I love having it, knowing the story behind it.

Today when I took Blue over to the grass, he decided to chase the cows he's been grazing beside all summer long.  So now he's been dis-fellowshiped (a good old Church-of-Christ word) from the cattle.  He didn't mean any harm... he was only having fun.  But it scared the cows to death, and they are liable to run into a fence or ditch and hurt themselves running like that.

The man who has been working with getting my brace functional called and said they have the new one made, and he is positive it will work for me; according to him, they had the pressure on the wrong side of my knee.  I certainly hope he's right!  I'll keep you readers posted.  Tomorrow is my appointment with the specialist, and I intend to schedule the orthroscopy then. 

Dwelling on the positive

Donna Wood
© copyright October 19, 2004

Folks ask how I'm doing, since my knees have let me down.
Well, I limp a little, but I still can get around;
So instead of thinking of the stiffness and the pain,
I dwell on the positive, and try not to complain.

Though I have been sidelined by arthritis in my knees,
I can ride my horse and hear the birds and feel the breeze.
Asked how I am feeling, I'll endeavor not to whine,
For ninety-five percent of me is getting by just fine.

Knees are just a fraction of my total body parts,
They don't have to interupt the song that's in my heart.
Misery is not a thing on which I like to dwell:
Ninety-five percent of me is doing very well.

Monday, October 18, 2004

a great Google download

While browsing AOL journals, I found an entry that led me to a fantastic program.  I'm always trying to find some poem I wrote in 2002, or a letter I wrote in 2005; now Google will do in your computer what it's famous for doing on the Internet.  It's a quick download, and your safety and privacy are assured.  I found out about it HERE.  Once you have it downloaded, just type a word or two in from some past thing you've written.  You'll be amazed at what comes up.

Whoa!!!!! I'm on Google

Go to, type in "My Country Life", and watch this journal show up, about the 4th one down the page.  WOW!  And if you type in my screen name, I'm the ONLY one that comes up.

Pig Poem

© copyright October 18, 2004
Donna Wood  

Some folks think it's awful if you raise a pig for meat.
Me, I'd rather get to know the creatures that I eat.
To know they've had a pleasant life enhances every meal.
(Someone's cow contributed your roast or steak or veal.)

The burger at McDonald's once ate grass and walked and mooed;
Though you never met him, someone's cow is now your food.
The sausage in your gravy once was suckling from a sow,
A happy little porker:  But you're glad to eat him, now!

Maybe I'm too honest; but to face reality
Acknowledging the fact that some poor creature died for me,
Is nobler than to block it from our consciences somehow
And eat our steak, pretending that it never was a cow.

Meet the pigs

The granddaughters named these two "Snout" and "Piglet".  We've warned them that we'll butcher the pigs in a few months, and they were fine with that concept until they actually met the pigs.  Now Natalie is having difficulty with it.  It's no big deal:  When we have pork chops or sausage on weekends they're here, she doesn't have to eat.  I think, though, if we use the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, she'll be able to eat chili or meat loaf, or other things that more-or-less disguise the meat.  She informed her mom yesterday, "I'm never eating meat again... I'm gonna be a veteranarian!"  Rachel pointed out that the word is vegetarian, and 7-year-old Natalie responded glumly, "Whatever." 

The neighboring farmer who sold us the pigs priced them at $1 a pound; the way we weighed them was this:  I weighed myself on our bathroom scales, stepped off, Cliff handed me a wiggling pig, and I weighed again, holding the pig.  We ended up paying $107 for the two of them.  Cliff couldn't be the one to hold the pigs and weigh, because our scales only go to 300 pounds, and his weight plus that of a pig went beyond that.  When it was all over, I wondered why we didn't think to get a picture of me holding a pig.   

We've started the "Purpose-driven Life" at Church, and Cliff made his appearance with me in Sunday School.  He's a little uncomfortable with the small-group discussion, since the people are practically strangers to him (I don't know most of them that well either).  But he took it like a champion.  I did not encourage him to participate in this at all, because I figured it wouldn't be his cup of tea, and he likes to salvage his Sunday for fun things.  But when the preacher came by and asked, Cliff said yes.  Monica and Natalie love going to Sunday School and Church, so we'll have them spend Saturday nights.  With my not working, it isn't so important to me to have time alone with Cliff on weekends... we're alone together each day, all week long, from the time he wakes up till 2:30 PM when he leaves for work!  Well, not entirely alone:  The 13-year-old home-schooled twins next door practically live in the shop with Cliff, most days.  (Don't ask me how they can be home-schooled and not be home all day; I don't know.)  But we do have lots more quality time together than when I'm working, since we work different shifts.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Consider the Lilies

While passing the time in a cow-pasture near Jefferson City yesterday, looking for a good picture of autumn foliage, I spotted a lonely wildflower.  I took a picture (it's my desktop for today) and was inspired to write today's poem.

© copyright October 17, 2004
Donna Wood

"Why take ye thought for raiment?  Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin."
Matthew 6:28

Autumn flower, blooming as though winter won't arrive...
Don't you know, a month from now, you will not be alive?
Surely you have noticed how the nights are long and chill.
See the changing colors of the trees on yonder hill?

Yet you bloom whole-heartedly where few will ever see
Such display of beauty; there's a lesson here for me
To bloom where I am planted, with my heart and mind and soul:
If life ends tomorrow, I'll have filled my proper role.

 Jesus said to watch the little flowers, how they grow,
Clothed in lovely raiment, though they neither spin nor sow.
I'll pass on the lesson this October bloom gave me,
Granting her a tiny bit of immortality.



An Autumn outing

Cliff's brother has a restored '56 Mercury, and he found a good buy on a "parts car".  He asked Cliff to go with him, with our pickup and trailor, to pick it up (near Jefferson City).  Because I'm rather bored, sidelined from my job as I am, I went along.  It crowded us a bit, and because my knee won't bend well, Phil had to sit "on the hump".  But it got me out of the house.  I'm learning to take the digital camera everywhere I go, and I snapped a few shots of them loading the hunk of junk Phil bought.

With the help of two tractors, they got the thing loaded.

Of course there was lots of conversation going on:  Cliff had to discuss all the virtues of John Deere tractors with the old farmer who helped them load the car, and Phil discussed classic cars with the farmer's son, so I passed part of the time finishing the George Jones autobiography, "I Lived To Tell It All" (I really don't recommend the book, it's just one story after another of whiskey- and cocaine-induced brawls among country singers).

I got inspiration for a poem too, but I'll make that my next entry. 

The man came Friday to check on my Don-Joy brace and see why it wasn't working out for me.  He thinks they made it wrong, either from improper instructions from the doctor, or perhaps misunderstanding her instructions.  He was going to check this out and let me know in the upcoming few days.  I'll try and keep everyone posted, although I do not intend to dwell on my problems in this journal.  I know there are lessons to be learned in all of this.


Friday, October 15, 2004

My most recent ride on the river bottom

©  copyright October 15, 2004
Donna Wood

When I ride, there is no war;
Knees don't hurt me any more.
God is near, and hears my prayers.
Here I lose my fears and cares.

When I die, may heaven be
Just like this, eternally.
I ask nothing more than this:
Near the river, constant bliss.

You can have the streets of gold:
Once My Savior I behold,
Give me Blue and one clear day,
And all my cares will fade away.



We'd been wanting a pig or two to raise for meat; pigs can be ready to butcher by age six months, so it isn't a terribly long wait from piggie to pork chops.  The trouble is, most family farms don't have hogs any more; the huge "pig factories" have taken over and made it impossible for any small farms to make money.  If you go to a livestock auction, you're usually forced to buy a whole group of pigs.  We didn't know where to find someone to sell us just one pig.

I called Steve, a farmer down the road, to see if he knew of any such person.  As luck would have it, he keeps a few sows farrowing for 4H and FFA projects for their youngest son... and they have a litter of piggies just the right size for us!

This isn't the best picture I've ever taken, but I'll get good ones when we choose ours from the lot and bring them home.  Oh... and we decided to take two.

This 'n That

My dog is a "buddy eater".  She figures if anyone else is eating, she ought to get in on the action.  So, when I feed the horse, Mandy is right there, begging.  Blue hates dogs, but he seems to realize Mandy is OUR dog; it's a good thing, because I've seen him do some damage to pesky canines that nipped at his heels and got in the way of his back hooves.  Anyhow, when I give him his sweet feed, I put a handful of the grain to the left of his container, and Mandy eats too. 

She gets excited when she sees me heading toward Blue's lot with a Folgers can in my hand, because she knows it has feed in it.

Notice that Blue's ears aren't laid back, as they would be if any other dog got that close.

What a pair, huh?

Now, on a different note:  I mentioned my knee problems to a long-time Internet friend, MistyJ, and she sent me the link to a site where you can do virtual knee replacement yourself!  It's great fun, and educational.  Try it yourself HERE

Today a man from the Don-Joy company (they made my brace) will come and see if I'm using my brace properly.  My appointment with the Orthopedist is next Wednesday, and I'll probably schedule Orthoscopic surgery then.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

My Town's Fair

In the back seat of this ride, you'll see two of my granddaughters, Monica and Lyndsay, enjoying our local fair.

Our little town (population 780) always had their fair the weekend after Labor Day.  It's as much a reunion as a fair:  People of all ages come "home", hoping to see old schoolmates and friends; and usually they see plenty of them.  However, with the passage of time, there's less and less interest in this annual event, in a town that has become little more than a bedroom community for Kansas City.  Therefore, the carnival that has always been a part of this annual event was losing money, and requested that we hold the fair a month later, in October; otherwise, we'd have a fair with no rides for the kiddies.

People don't like change, and there was plenty of grumbling; but there really was no alternative, so the time of the fair was switched.  This worked out well for my son, though.  He comes to visit us at the time of the big races at Kansas Speedway, and he hadn't been to our fair for about twenty years.  He got to see several friends from his childhood and teen years.

There was a car show, and Cliff's brother entered his prize classic car.  Here you see Monica, Cliff (my husband), Natalie, and my daughter, Rachel, with Phil's car behind them.  Obviously Monica wanted the world to see that she was eating cotton candy.

That's my granddaughter, Amber (who spends most every weekend here); her best friend (also named Amber); and two of my son's step-daughters at the fair... they're the ones who had fun seeing how fast my horse, Blue, would run. 


There's my little Georgia peach, Lyndsay.  I don't know who the girl on the right is; she just wanted a companion for the ride, I think, so her mom put her beside my granddaughter.

The fair really set off our weekend of family fun, and the weather was pleasant both Saturday and Sunday. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

My Poems

I've written poems ever since I was a child.  I  loved the metre and rhyme of the Mother Goose ditties my mother taught me, almost in my cradle. 

Several years ago in the early 90's, I challenged myself to write a poem every day, and I did so, for the most part, for two or three years.  Then it got to be a drag and I stopped.  About three years ago I decided to try it again, and was once again able to come up with some sort of rhyme every day.  There was a group of trustworthy Internet friends who enjoyed my writing, and I'd e-mail them my daily poem.

Someone was always saying, "You should do a book of poems."  That, of course, is easier said than done... unless you self-publish.  So, that's what I did.  I had 500 books of my poem book done, and priced them high enough so that if I sold 1/3 of them, my cost was recovered.  I sold about half of them, so they paid their way, and I have no regrets about my book.

At present, I'm not doing a daily poem; it was turning into work once more, so I'm on haitus.  But now that I'm sidelined from my job, I'm thinking this would be a good time to start again.  All I need is a tiny bit of inspiration:  and that could come at any time. 


Donna Wood October 21, 2002

“I would as soon play tennis without a net as write free verse.”  Robert Frost  

It seems the people who make all the rules
(Scholars, and teachers from upper-class schools)
 All endorse free verse that’s lofty and grand:
They publish “poems” I can’t understand.

Granted, I’m low-class.  But it seems to me
If it doesn’t rhyme, then it’s not poetry!
I cut my teeth on old-time Mother Goose,
And raised both my children to love DoctorSeuss.

I love the rhyming, the rhythm and all…
The beat and the cadence, the rise and the fall.
Spare me your “free verse”.  I only have time
For easy-to-understand poems that rhyme.

Finally, sunshine

The sun's shining, so I took advantage of it and went for a ride.  Since Halloween is approaching, what better place to enjoy than a graveyard?

In the distance, you see the wheat-covered river bottom where I so often ride.  Our leaves are turning now, and this picture shows it. 

I came upon a pair of graves so old that some descendant had a new tombstone put between the old originals, in case they become illegible.

It was altogether a relaxing and enjoyable ride, although I could have used a light jacket in addition to the sweats I wore.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

The Purpose-Driven Life

My son and his family left for Georgia this morning.  They'll arrive home late tonight, good Lord willing.  There are some enthusiastic eaters in my family, let me tell you.  Since last Thursday, I've made:  three apple pies; two Oreo Delights; one batch of Toll House pan cookies; and one brownie pudding.  Plus we've consumed two cakes my daughter and son-in-law made and brought, in honor of all the grandchildren's birthdays.  That's only the desserts!  (note to self:  next year, make two tater-tot casseroles if you intend to feed everybody).  What can you expect, though, when there are four teenagers in the group (note to self:  buy milk two gallons at a time, next time my son's family visits).

When you're used to cooking for two and metering out leftovers, it's difficult to remember how to cook for a large group.  I love to cook for people who love to eat, though.

I am not having great success with the fancy brace I got; a man from the company that makes them (Don-Joy) is coming Friday to see if I'm doing something wrong.  Meanwhile, I'm thankful that 800 mg Ibuprofen eases the knee pain a lot... I just have to limit how often I take it, since it doesn't always agree with my stomach.  My next appointment with the orthopedist is October 20.

Perhaps, in these rather distressing times (and during what, for me, is a depressing season) this series we're doing with the Church might be just what I need.  There's a devotional that goes along with "Purpose-driven Life" that gives one key thing to ponder each day.  Yesterday's ponder was, "It's not about me."  Today's is, "I am not an accident."  Because we had company yesterday, I played catch-up today.  My husband had good intentions of doing these exercises with me, but he's hard to pin down.  Tomorrow I'll see if I can catch him for a few minutes before he goes out to his shop, which is where he spends most of his waking hours till time to get ready for work in the afternoon.

It's been overcast and rainy for two days, and is supposed to remain so through Friday.  No horseback rides in weather like this, but I'll only appreciate riding that much more when it clears off.  I'm reminded of a poem I loved as a child:



Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The day is cold, and dark, and dreary
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
The vine still clings to the mouldering wall,
But at every gust the dead leaves fall,
And the day is dark and dreary.

My life is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It   rains, and the wind is never weary;
My thoughts still cling to the mouldering Past,
But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast,
And the days are dark and dreary.

Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.

A poem I wrote in 2002


Donna Wood   

Someone said, “this too shall pass”.
I know it to be true.
Life makes changes rough and vast,
But God will see me through.

Yes, at times I speak in haste
And I am often wrong.
Some actions are emotion-based,
And oh, my will is strong!

But I’ve learned, as I near the grave
To try and keep my peace.
Let other voices rant and rave.
Eventually, they’ll cease.

Examining my imperfections,
I’m a mortal soul.
And I will try to make corrections…
Yet remaining whole.

Through my life I’ve seized the words,
“To thine own self be true”.
To change it now would be absurd.
I’ve always wallowed through.

I would not change the life I lead,
Or person that I am.
I am supplied with all I need.
My life is not a sham.

The real friends will see me through.
The phony ones will go.
I’ll wait, and see what God will do…
And learn, and sing, and grow.


This is only a test

I've been adding pictures to my entries in this journal almost since the first day.  I think my online friend, Xib, told me about  You can store your pictures there for use in the journal.  For the uninitiated, the only way to include pictures in the body of your text in a journal is to have them stored online someplace, and Photobucket is free and fairly easy to use.  I've had no problem with them. 

However, AOL has a certain amount of space reserved for each member, called FTP space; and I felt that, since I'm an AOL member, I should be availing myself of "my" FTP space.  I found said space, all neat and tidy.  But for the life of me, I couldn't figure out how to place pictures there.  And if I had, I wouldn't have known how to put them in my journal.

I asked my good friend in J-land, Csandhollow, for instructions, as well as a new acquaintance, Bookncoffee.   Both were quick to respond with nearly-identical instructions.  In case someone else needs this information, I'm going to place both of them here.  Here's Celeste's version:

  1. Go to My FTP Space
  2. Click    See My FTP Space
  3. Click     Create Directory
  4. Type in   ( I type in month and year)
  5. Click continue
  6. Click red X
You should now be back on original page that you click create directory. Now
  1. Locate directory
  2. Click it open
  3. Click    upload
  4. Name the picture
  5. Click continue
  6. Click select file
  7. Locate file on your computer
  8. Click send
To place the picture in your journal
  1. Click the little camera for add pictures
  2. Type in
  3. type ok

OK, now here's BooknCoffee's version:

Yes, I can tell you how.     Go to keyword and type in FTP.  And you will have a window come up that will have several options, one of which is "see my FTP space".  So click on that.   Then it will come up with a box and you will need to type in the name of what you want to name your file.  For example, if I have a picture of a little dog, I might call the file:      tinydog.jpg You need to make sure to call it the type of file it is....jpg, gif, etc.  Animated is usually "gif".   You will see a radio button and you will keep it at "binary graphics and programs" and hit continue.   Then You hit the "upload" button that you will see.   It will then bring up a box that will give you an option to "select file" ---click on it and it will bring up a box to let you select your file from your hard drive or other drives so you can select c drive or d drive - then you can select your file and then....   Hit the "send" button.  Then it will begin uploading your picture.   Once it is uploaded, I close out of ftp completely.  And then I call up the picture by going to (which you type in your browser): (or gif, etc.)   so like:    You must type your file exactly like it is (case specific and file type specific---jpg, gif, etc.).  Then the picture comes up and you right click and copy it and then you paste it into your journal entry.  If you delete it from FTP it will delete it in your journal.  But I understnad that FTP has quite a bit of room and you can also use other screen names FTP space too.   VEry easy, but if no one tells you how, you'd never figure it out!  At least I wouldn't have!!!   Also, there are some links attached in my journal sections that links into journal help sites.   But hopefully this will help.   Many folks helped me and if you have trouble let me know and I'll try again!   Isn't journaling fun?   Sonya    

And now, I'm going to attempt this amazing feat with a picture I've included before:  Me and my husband after Church last Easter with former President Jimmy Carter and Ros.

As you can see, I'm going to need more tips.  But hey, isn't that a pretty little red X?  Don't worry, I'll eventually get it.  Meanwhile, I still have photobucket, which makes things a lot simpler:

Don't give up on me, Celeste and Sonya.  I'll get it yet.  (By the way, Cliff and I are both thirty pounds lighter now than we were in that photo.)

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Wonderful Weekend

It's been a great family weekend.  Blue has been ridden by at least five different people:  My son-in-law, two step-granddaughters, my daughter, and myself.

That's Alana, my son's step-daughter, back on "the point".  Notice the leaves are getting some color.  Alana's sister, Christyn, also rode:

I told both girls, since they're inexperienced horsemen (women?) not to run Blue.  I never run him, and he once bucked their mom off when she rushed him.  I watched awhile, then my daughter supervised.  When all was going well, we left them on their own.  Should I be surprised that they both had Blue in a dead run as soon as they were out of our sight?  Everyone was OK when it was over, though.  Blue even looked like he enjoyed the change of pace.

We barbecued yesterday... or I should say my son-in-law, Kevin, barbecued.  He always gets stuck with that job.

That trailor in the background is where my mom used to live.  Now we rent it out. 

Today my daughter and the little granddaughters went on a hayride at the pumpkin patch, and everyone chose a pumpkin.

Natalie got a bit carried away, wanting a huge one she could barely handle.

It was a nice ride back behind the Allis Chalmers 190, with everyone closely guarding her pumpkin.

It's been a great weekend!

Saturday, October 9, 2004

Happy Family Times

That's my husband, my oldest grandson Arick, and my son... three generations.  I love it when my family gets together.  I'm having a great time cooking and enjoying my grandchildren.

A Poem written a couple of years ago

I thought of this old poem today, and figured perhaps some of you would be able to relate to it in one way or another.  It's interesting to note that the AOL chat room that inspired this poem is a thing of the past; but I think it applies to any chat room, message board, or group of people.


  June 7, 2002
Donna Wood

I’m older and I’m wiser since I found the Internet.
I've been three years in chat rooms, and I still have no regrets.
Alhough I’ve met some phonies and some people that pretend,
I wouldn’t take a million for my few close “cyber friends”,

When insults are delivered and the innuendoes fly,
I’ve learned to just ignore them and to let them pass me by,
For life is like a chat room:  although I've been often burned,
I thank God for the good times, and the many lessons learned.

Some folks hint for money. Some just want my sympathy.
Several are my dearest friends, while some look down on me.
I’ve seen people dying, and some hypochondriacs.
A few are loving to your face, then stab you in the back.

I’ve learned, in the chat room, how to closely guard my heart;
I've learned to not respond when they’re tearing me apart.
I don’t fret over hateful ones, and what they have to say:
These are lessons learned that I am using every day.

I learned in the chat room how to cope with testy folks.
I try and understand the ones that live by “different strokes”.
I’ve learned, no matter how I try, I can’t please everyone,
But if I have a few good friends, I know I'll have some fun.

So whether I’m at work, or Church, or walking on the street,
I never get too flustered by the folks I chance to meet.
I’ve seen enough to know that those old tables can be turned,
And I just smile and thank God for these chat room lessons learned!

Friday, October 8, 2004

about my knee

I have to laugh looking at this; I forget how big my feet are until I see them like this.  Anyhow, I wanted to share my brace with the world, so you get my feet too (no toenails, I had them removed over a year ago).

I wore the brace all day yesterday and got by well enough that I think there may be a possibility of working while wearing it.  I'll wear it all weekend and see how it goes.  If it doesn't work out, I have another appointment with the orthopedist on the 20th.  The worst that could happen is I have to quit my job, so I'll manage, no matter what.  I just won't have as much fun without my own money to spend.

Thursday, October 7, 2004

John Scalzi's Weekend Assignment

"Weekend Assignment #28: The United States Congress (or appropriate legislative body in the country in which you live) has vested in you the power create exactly one National Holiday, celebrating anyone or anything you want, no questions asked. What is the name of your holiday, what does it celebrate, and how should we celebrate it?

One Rule: It can't be a holiday that honors someone who already has a holiday. Share the wealth, people."

OK, my nomination goes to the first day of Spring.  I'm always so glad to see winter ended, and I'd go for flowery decorations and more big family get-togethers.  I know, it's awfully near Easter.  But that's my choice.

Extra credit: Name the holiday that already exists that you'd like to see have a higher profile.

My favorite holiday is already pretty high profile, but I'd want it to be more so, because I want four days off for Thanksgiving.  I work at a distribution center for a department store, and our busy season is in full swing at that time; we're lucky to even get Thanksgiving day itself off... and we're always being told we "might" have to work on the holiday, as well as the Sunday after.  Even if you save a vacation day so you can shop on "black Friday", only a limited number of associates (I love that word, whatever happened to "employees"?) are allowed to take off.

I've been chosen!

Hey folks, every week AOL features five member journals. This week I'm number three.  Go to the top of your screen, click on "community", then on "journals" and see mine listed under "editor's picks".  This is something I never expected, and really wasn't aiming for... but thanks, AOL!  And welcome to any new folks who've drifted this way.

My knee brace

Yep, that's it... the DonJoy Bledsoe II.  I'm wearing it as I type.  So far, the brace has put me in about ten times as much pain as arthritis does.  But I'm giving it every chance.  One thing makes me really angry:  My brace cost $1,250, of which the insurance paid 90%.  That would be fine, but if you click on the link above, you'll see the sale price is $735.  I'm sure the orthopedic shop that sold it to me made a tidy profit.

Another think I'm leery about:  I went to the shop to be fitted, straight from my doctor.  The lady there measured different spots on my leg and said the brace would be ready in three to five business days.  The next day, a fellow called and asked to come out and re-measure, which was fine.  He said according to their first measurements, I was too far gone for the brace to help (too knock-kneed, although that isn't the medical term).  He re-measured and said that ought to work.  Now, with the pain this thing puts me in, I'm wondering if he fudged on the measurements.  I'm sorry, but I don't have great trust in these folks.  And if it doesn't work out, you can bet I'll call and point out to them the difference between the price quoted online and the price I paid.

Now, on to happier things.  I have a busy day ahead.  It's 4:30 AM, and I already have two apple pies in the oven.  Cliff loves apple pie so much, he occasionally takes a picture of one, fresh out of the oven.


This morning the preacher is coming to discuss the "Purpose-Driven Life" series coming up at Church.  Cliff's sister from Wisconsin is in the area, and she's coming to visit today.  And sometime this evening, my son from Georgia, his wife and daughter Lyndsay, and two of his step-daughters will arrive.  I'll be doing lots of cooking over the next few days! 

Wednesday, October 6, 2004

my childhood religion

I was raised in the Church of Christ.  Not that rather weird "Worldwide Church of Christ" and not the "United Church of Christ".  I'm sure some of their beliefs may have loosened up with time, since Max Lucado is a Church of Christ preacher, and he seems to have it all together.  But when I was a kid, if you weren't a member of THE Church (C of C) you were headed for hell.  They try to follow New Testament teaching strictly, so since pianos aren't mentioned in the New Testament Church, they didn't have instruments of any kind; just a cappello singing.  I have the utmost respect for their Bible knowledge, so don't think I'm slamming them.  However, I'm not tied to any denomination these days.  The church I attend now was chosen because I don't drive, and it's close.

Now, years ago when THE Church had communion (every Sunday, of course!), they passed one communion goblet around to everyone.  In the 40's and 50's, people began to worry about germs, so they came up with the Communion trays with tiny individual glasses.  But some of the old-line Churches of Christ pointed out that, at the Last Supper, Jesus took "the Cup" and blessed it... only ONE cup.  Therefore they deemed it a sin to have individual cups.  Believe it or not, congregations actually divided over this!

Most of her life, my Grandma attended tiny Zion Church of Christ, down the hill from her house.  In the last years before its demise, there were only about three families in attendence.  As a child, I enjoyed going down there with my cousins and "playing Church" in a real church.  Anyway, Grandma was in charge of the Communion.  She'd bake the unleavened bread (looked like pie crust to me) on Saturday.  In the fall she'd can Concord grape juice to be used in Communion.  She had a felt-lined suitcase that held two Communion goblets, and that's what she carried the Elements to Church in.

Somehow, my mom ended up with the Communion glasses, and she passed them on to me.  I hold them and remember summer Sundays looking out the two doors (the pulpit was between the two doors at Zion Church, so you could look straight ahead and see the crops and daydream, during extremely boring services.  There was no preacher there; as I remember, that was another thing they didn't believe in, paid preachers.  My uncles and  another man took turns "speaking".  None of them were any great shakes as orators.  In summer, since there were no screens on the windows or doors, flies would buzz in, and I'd make a game of seeing how long I could let a fly crawl on my hands or arms without having to chase him off.  Once in a while it occurred to me that the fly may have come straight from one of the two outhouses out back, but I brushed that thought aside.

I wish I could have gotten a better picture of these, but I've tried several locations and angles, and this is as good as it gets:

Anyway, as I often tell my friends, "You can take the girl out of the Church of Christ, but you can't take the Church of Christ out of the girl."  And if you belong, or have ever belonged to that Church, you know exactly what I mean.  These goblets are a reminder of my Christian roots, and I cherish them.

My daughter thinks she can get a clearer picture, so this weekend I may replace that photo with a better one. 

I've found someone else who loves my river

I took this picture yesterday around 5 PM at the Corps of Engineers park nearby.  I've been leaving for a ride at 2:30 PM, when my husband leaves for work.  He's started calling me from work on his break to make sure I make it home OK.  Blue has never put me at risk when we ride, but I guess there's always that possibility.

While surfing this morning, I found an article about a fellow who loves the Missouri River as I do; if you're interested, here it is:

I wish I had this guy's e-mail, I'd love to chat with him.

Wish me luck today:  I'm going to pick up my knee brace, and we'll find out whether it will help me at work tomorrow, when I return to the daily grind.  Actually, I'm anxious to get back to work, so I'm really hoping and praying this is the solution.  If not, my next move will be to schedule arthroscopy.

Here's something I read about on one of my "horsie" message boards that sounds like it would be such GREAT fun; but I wouldn't want to do it by myself.  Still, I'm keeping it in mind, perhaps for next year.


Tuesday, October 5, 2004

Sights in Harlem

We only lived in that dinky apartment in Harlem for a few months.  The same landlords had an old house up the street that we rented (back to an outhouse).  Our next move was across the road, to a house WITH indoor plumbing (even hot water and a bathtub) and for the first time in their lives, my parents became home-owners... unless you count the five months or so they tried farming in 1944, the year I was born.

You'd step out the front door, walk south on Harlem Road about half a block, and be at the stone levee.  There were two bridges in close proximity to us, the nearest one being the ASB Bridge I wrote about yesterday.  If a barge needed to go under it, they'd whistle or toot, and the bottom part of the bridge would slowly lift to let them through.  We children would go running to the top of the levee to watch, when we heard that horn blast.

Cars went across the top part, trains on the bottom; only train traffic was interupted by the barges passing below.  This shot, by the way, is taken from across the river from Harlem; it's the best I could find on the Internet.

Now, the other bridge had quite a history:  The Hannibal Bridge, built in 1869, was the first ever to span the Missouri River.  When barges had to pass beneath this one, it actually had to swing open like a gate to let them through.

At the north end of the Hannibal Bridge was another one of my favorite playgrounds... the Municipal Airport. 

My cousins and I would wander through the lobby and pick up brochures that told of exotic places where only rich people traveled.  We'd go up to the observation deck and watch planes landing and taking off.  There was one minor problem at the airport:  the rest rooms had pay-toilets; coins had to be deposited to unlock the stall doors.  This was no more than a minor inconvenience for us, though.  We'd wait until there was nobody else in the rest room, and one of us would crawl under a stall door, use the facility, and let the others in as we exited.  I believe I was usually (perhaps always) the brave soul who crawled under.  I've always been less finicky than most folks about things such as crawling on my belly on public rest room floors. 

Monday, October 4, 2004

My Missouri River

I spent my first twelve years in small towns and in the country.  My parents were "Central"... the telephone operators in whatever community in north Missouri or southern Iowa in which we happened to land.  But around 1954, modern telephone service came on the scene, and put my parents out of a job.  We moved onto a farm where my dad became the "hired hand", and my mom found work, first as a cook and waitress in a truck stop on 69 Highway (the last place to eat before you hit the Iowa line) and then at a grocery/dry goods store.  We must have been really scraping the bottom, but I was deliriously happy:  I was living on a farm!  There were kittens in the barn, and wild strawberries in the roadside ditches, and blackberries at the edges of the fields.  And I had the run of the place! 

I assume our finances were in rough shape, because after a year or so of this life, we moved to Kansas City... or more specifically, to Harlem.  Daddy took a factory job at a paper box plant and Mother went to work at a place where they made light fixtures.  I was devastated, and so homesick for the country that I'd cry at night as I lay on the couch that served as my bed in the living room.

There were some redeeming features of our city life though:  for one thing, we had running water in our three-bedroom apartment.  That was a first for us.  And there was an inside toilet!  Oh, we had to share it with three other families, but it sure beat going to a stinking outhouse.  The apartment was very near the old Municipal Airport... and right near the Missouri River levee.  My cousins (they lived in the other pitifully small apartments in our building) and I would play on the levee, and even go right to the river's edge.  I don't know why, but I loved that river.  The ASB Bridge was right there, and had stairs you could climb all the way up onto the bridge, to a sidewalk where pedestrians could cross to downtown Kansas City and the city market, if they had a mind to.  Under that bridge, we'd find evidence of hobo fires, and the whiskey bottles and sardine cans where they dined.  Sometimes they'd venture across the levee and beg at our door.  If Mother was home, she'd give them a sandwich and a glass of milk.  If I was home alone, I didn't  answer the door. 

The Missouri River, especially at that time, was pretty nasty:  You'd see all kinds of interesting things floating by that I won't describe... just let me say that untreated sewage went directly into it.  Examining floating things in the river was a pastime in itself. 

Gradually I got over my homesickness for the farm; I had no choice, and kids adapt.  Who would have known I'd end up marrying a city boy who shared my dream of having a few acres and some farm animals.  Since the fall of 1967 when we left the suburbs with our baby, we've never considered going back to town to live.

We started with twenty acres not far from here, and, after a couple of moves, ended here... near the Missouri River.  Every time I ride my horse in the bottoms where I can see the river, I feel like I've come home.  I still love it.

You've heard people say how they love being near the ocean; that's how I feel about the Big Muddy.  Even if we're traveling somewhere, if there's a bridge across the Missouri River, I have the strongest urge to have Cliff stop the car and let me look at it more closely.  It's a feeling of belonging, almost as though fate intended for me to be here all along.  Here's my river as it looked this afternoon:

Just call me a river rat.


Back from a morning walk

While my knee is out of commission and I'm stuck at home, I'd love to take a walk with my husband, but it's too painful... unless I ride Blue.  Here's my view from the horse's back:

It's actually a pleasant way to start the day, and you should see the smiles and looks we get from passers-by.

Sunday, October 3, 2004

I've followed C.W. Gusewelle's writings in the Kansas City Star for years, and have often corresponded with him.  I can really relate to what he has to say in today's column.

Autumn's arrival signals a season of richness, not regret

The bird dogs spend their night — or part of it — in the chairs we bought for ourselves to sit in. But sometime between 3 a.m. and half past 4 they are fully rested.

At that hollow hour, awakened by the urgent racket of their toenails clicking on the floor, I roll groaning from bed and follow them downstairs to let them out into the fenced back yard.

There is no memory afterward of sleep being interrupted.

Immediately, then, as if no time had passed, the clock radio begins to sing its dismal little song.

The dogs, listening below the open bedroom window, hear the radio, and Pete, the vocal one, sets up an insistent yipping to notify me of their desire for breakfast.

But outside all is black. It still is night. The radio has come on by mistake. I look at the digital numbers on its face.

There's no mistake. The clock says 6:20 a.m., the usual time for the beginning of our day.

What has happened is that, in the sweet march of an uncommonly pleasant summer, we'd simply forgotten what it is like to rise in darkness. Then, in a strange and sudden way, one notices that the planet has tilted a fraction on its axis, and our world has changed.

I love the autumn, and always have.

The sharpness of the mornings, the suddenness with which the golden afternoons soften into evening, the greater length of shadows, the wild asters in bloom on the roadside, the flame of sumac against a green hillside, the drift of leaves outside the window — those are the signatures of the season I live for.

Some people may see it as a time of things ending, a season of regret. But I feel only the satisfaction of things complete and others about to begin.

My country friends are busy bringing in their harvest, counting up the yield of their year's labor.

When the first hard frost has burned the lush foliage brown, the dogs and I will be in the field. The orange and brown and white flash of them against a far woodline, as I trudge behind, will bring fresh again the memories of other years, other pups, other friends.

Then we'll be into the holiday time, with families regathered and the table full and diets briefly put out of mind.

All that is the richness that autumn brings. And I'm at a loss to understand how anyone could find it melancholy.

Would I like to be young again? Who would not?

Would I like to be new at writing again, to feel that wonderful fear and excitement of the beginner? Absolutely.

Would I like the chance to spend some days again with the people in my life I've lost? Of course I would.

But past is past. And now, in this turn of the year when I wake to find the morning has arrived in darkness, instead of looking backward, I imagine only what's sure to be ahead.

Cliff's first ride on Blue; harvest-time and the death of summer

Cliff's favorite pastime has never been horseback riding.  He says it makes his legs hurt the next day, and he doesn't like the way horses can be so unpredictable.  But finally, at my urging, he took a little ride around our pasture.  Blue seems not to like men getting on him; he won't always stand still to let them get on.  But after moving over once and getting scolded by me, he let Cliff mount, and there were no problems.  Oh, they were neither one quite comfortable with one another, but they managed.

It was a perfect day for a ride!  The high was barely over sixty, the skies were blue, and the wind was calm.  While riding around at the local park, back near the woods I saw a very curious fox.  I took a picture, but he was so far back that you'd have to know what you were looking for to even spot him in the photo.  Here's what's going on all around me throughout the countryside; farmers combining corn:

When I step outside to let Mandy loose from her pen each morning, I can hear grain dryers running in the distance.  Summer is only a pleasant dream now... as perfect a summer as I've ever known.