Friday, December 31, 2004

Journal challenge

I found this in several journals and traced it back to "Spicey's Life"; looks like a good read.  I'll be back to see what else she has to offer.


2004 ... lessons learned


1. What did you do in 2004 that you'd never done before?  I started an AOL journal.
2. Did you keep your New Year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?  Every year I make the same two resolutions:  To read the Bible through in the year, and to lose the weight I've gained over the holidays.  Sometimes I'm successful, sometimes not. 
3. Did anyone close to you give birth?  Nobody really close to me, but a co-worker who lost a baby tragically in 2001 had a healthy baby, and it makes me happy to see her so happy.
4. Did anyone close to you die?  Yes, my mother, in January. 

5. What countries did you visit?  When I visited my sister in Texas, we shopped in Mexico.
6. What would you like to have in 2005 that you lacked in 2004?  More self-control; more boundaries.
7. What dates from 2004 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?  The date of my mom's death ought to, but for the life of me, I can't tell you what date that was.  July 4 is etched in my memory because my son was here, and we had a nice reunion with other family members and friends.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?  Getting my horse to stop acting like a spoiled brat, and seeing him turn into a horse that everybody says is perfect!  And that's due to reading books by Mark Rashid.
 9. What was your biggest failure?  I didn't pay enough attention to my spiritual life. 
10. Did you suffer illness or injury?  I was on medical leave with my left knee, and had orthroscopic surgery on it.
11. What was the best thing you bought?  Airplane tickets:  for me and my daughter to visit my sister in Texas, and to go to Washington, DC.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?  my son-in-law for quitting smoking
13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?  My grandson's ignoring the letters he keeps getting (at my house) telling him to pay some traffic fine or other.  Depressed, more than appalled. 
14. Where did most of your money go?  You name it!  Travel, house payments, day-to-day bills, tractors, vets and farriers for my horse; the list is endless.
15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?  Our trip to Branson.
16. What song will always remind you of 2004?  "Welcome to my Life" by Simple Plan.
17. Compared to this time last year, you are:  working less at my job
18. What do you wish you'd done more of?  traveling!
19. What do you wish you'd done less of?  eating unhealthy stuff
20. How will you be spending Christmas?  It's over; I spent it with family.

21. How would you rather be spending Christmas?  Exactly as I did.
22. Did you fall in love in 2004?  Good grief, I've been married for 38 years!
23. How many one-night stands?  None in my entire life.
24. What was your favorite TV program?  I hardly watch TV.
25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?  no
26. What was the best book you read?  "Christmas in Plains" by Jimmy Carter
27. What was your greatest musical discovery?  Green Day
28. What did you want and get?  Trips I took:  to my sister's, to Branson, and to Washington, DC
29. What did you want and not get?  1.  a second horse  2.  a house on 2 1/2 acres about a mile from here
30. What was your favorite film of this year?  "Ray"
31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?  I had to check back in my journal for this one:  I worried on my birthday!  My grandson was keeping everybody on their toes with his girl friend problems.
32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?  finding a church where somebody knows I'm there, or cares.
33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2004?  Sweats, jeans, and T-shirts:  does that qualify?
34. What kept you sane?  I haven't had any problems keeping sane since my children left home (raising teenagers was HELL)
35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?  Jimmy Carter
36. What political issue stirred you the most?  I don't talk politics in my journal.
37. Who did you miss?  My mother, the way she used to be before my dad died.  Her brothers, my Uncle Carl and Uncle Leo, who both thought I was wonderful.
38. Who was the best new person you met?  I'm such a loner, I don't meet a lot of new people in real life; but I've "met" so many new people through these blogs I won't even try to pick one. 
39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2004:  It's a lesson I've been learning for the last fifteen years or so:  Life is short; don't take any day for granted.  Treasure your memories.



Just meandering

After he caught up with my recent journal entries yesterday morning, Cliff decided we'd go check out the "ghost farm".  I've been at him since September to drive down the hill and take a look at it.  There's also a place on that now-deserted road that I'd love to own, and had been pursuing to some degree.  A woman I work with lived there until recently, until they defaulted on the loan and moved.  The old house wasn't much, although, when Cliff and I went inside it yesterday (yes, we were trespassing) we agreed we've lived in worse places in our lifetimes.  What I love about the house and two acres is its location, looking out over the river bottom.  I'd heard it could be bought for under $40,000.  However, after doing some detective work to trace down its present owner, I called the bank that had ended up with it, only to find out they closed on a deal the day before.  It's sold.  Obviously, we were not meant to have it.  I don't know what we'd have done with it anyhow; saved it for retirement, I suppose, when Cliff can no longer take care of the 43 acres we have here.

Cliff's in the process of painting our Cub tractor; when he opened the can of Van Sickle paint he bought for it, it was orange rather than bright red:  he'd bought the wrong color.  So we made a trip to Orscheln's, about twenty miles away, to switch cans of paint.  I bought a farm set  I'd looked at the other day.  Hopefully the kids will enjoy it when they're here.  If not, I'll play with it myself!  I think the real reason I wanted it was because one of my favorite Christmas gifts as a child was a farm set with cows, pigs, and chickens, and a metal barn with a loft.  I just can't help strolling down memory lane.

Cliff has had some scares over the years, after sand-blasting or painting.  He'd wake up in the night unable to get his breath.  So he invented the rig you see here:  it brings him clean air from a squirrel-cage fan in the garage attic, so he isn't inhaling paint or sand as he pursues his hobby.

I imagine I'll switch to a lighter schedule at work in February.  The part-time plan there offers plenty of flexibility:  I'll be ableto work as little as two days a week, or, during busy times, up to five days (I don't see myself doing many forty-hour weeks though).  My knees have a better chance of holding out for another year and a half (until I'm 62) if I work less hours.

We got by pretty well while I was on medical leave, drawing half my regular pay; all I did was quit wasting so much money.  I could cut back a whole lot more, on groceries and such.  No more airplane travel around the country for me!  It's OK, it was fun while it lasted. 

"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven."  Ecclesiastes 3:1 


Thursday, December 30, 2004

John Scalzi's Weekend Assignment #41

Weekend Assignment #41: Make a new year's resolution... for your pet. If you have more than one pet, of course, feel free to make resolutions for any or all of them.

Mandy resolves to come as soon as her owners call, even if she's having fun with the dog next door, or chasing squirrels.

My horse, Blue, resolves never to chase the cows again, even when they tempt him by running at the slightest move he makes toward them.

The pigs resolve to eat as much as possible so they'll grow fast and be ready to butcher in February or March.

Oops, I forgot this:  Extra Credit: Imagine what your pet would make as a resolution for you.

Mandy's resolution for me:  That I'll let her run freely all day and night, all over the neighborhood, for the rest of her life.

Blue's resolution for me:  That I'll lose about twenty-five pounds.

The pigs' resolution for me:  That I'll become a vegetarian.


I Wish I'd Written That!!!

OK, so I've never been a long-haired male rock singer (not even one of the those categories) traveling from town to town on a bus.  But I can tell you exactly how it feels.  Why?  Because Bob Seger paints such a perfect word-picture in this song, you can taste the cigarette smoke, hear the bus wheels turning, and smell the burgers in the greasy spoon cafe he walks into.  I love this song!


                                           TURN THE PAGE

On a long and lonesome highway
east of Omaha
You can listen to the engine
moanin' out his one note song
You can think about the woman
or the girl you knew the night before
But your thoughts will soon be wandering
the way they always do
When you're ridin' sixteen hours
and there's nothin' much to do
And you don't feel much like ridin',
you just wish the trip was through

Here I am
On the road again
There I am
Up on the stage
Here I go

Well you walk into a restaurant,
strung out from the road
And you feel the eyes upon you
as you're shakin' off the cold
You pretend it doesn't bother you
but you just want to explode

Most times you can't hear 'em talk,
other times you can
All the same old cliches,
"Is that a woman or a man?"
And you always seem outnumbered,
you don't dare make a stand

Here I am
On the road again
There I am
Up on the stage
Here I go
Playin' star again
There I go
Turn the page

Out there in the spotlight
you're a million miles away
Every ounce of energy
you try to give away
As the sweat pours out your body
like the music that you play
Later in the evening
as you lie awake in bed
With the echoes from the amplifiers
ringin' in your head
You smoke the day's last cigarette,
rememberin' what she said

Here I am
On the road again
There I am
Up on the stage
Here I go
Playin' star again
There I go
Turn the page

Here I am
On the road again
There I am
Up on the stage
Here I go
Playin' star again
There I go
There I go

The rest of a wonderful year

My son and his family visited in July, which is always a great time.  We invited a few friends and relatives in, one day while he was here; and we'll attempt, next year, to have more in attendence... a reunion of sorts.  Wish me luck on this, it sounds like a lot of work.

Something I can't leave out about 2004 is the way my granddaughter, Amber, has influenced my taste in music.  She was spending practically every weekend here throughout the year, listening to her type of music:  alternative, or "punk", and it grew on me.  Before long, I actually liked Simple Plan, and suggested that, if they came to Kansas City, we should try to see them.  This led to Amber, her brother Arick, a friend of his, and myself going to "Van's Warped Tour".  Amber and I spent a brief time in a mosh pit... enough time for me to know I don't like mosh pits!  Amber and I are hoping Green Day makes it to this area during the coming year.  We really like them.

August took me and two granddaughters to the Missouri State Fair

And through this whole year, I've had some amazing adventures with my horse, Blue.  The ghost farm ride and the cornfield fire ride were the most exciting, but it's been great just watching the seasons change, thanks to the most wonderful horse anybody could ask for.  The time is fast approaching when I'll have to go part-time at work, if I'm going to make these worn-out knees last.  Most of my travels will likely cease, especially the air travel:  But as long as Blue is healthy and sound, our meanderings around the local countryside can go on for a long time. 

Here and now, I want to thank awonderful, loving God (and my patient husband, who just shakes his head at it all) for the things I've seen and done this year.  It's been far beyond my wildest dreams and expectations.

2004, What a great time

Probably the biggest event in a year of lovely happenings was my visit to Washington, DC... made possible by my dear friend Joanna (Bnana to you AOL folks).  She lives a few minutes from Dulles Airport, so I flew in, she picked me up, and we spent a glorious week together as tourists.  I had free room and board and a tour guide, to boot.  Joanna is one of my "Internet" friends, met in the old chat room.  We only skimmed the surface of things to see.  I'd so love to get Cliff out there.  He'd love the Smithsonian museums.  However, it's highly unlikely.

Anyway, Joanna's hospitality was such a gift, and allowed me to do something I'd otherwise not have been able to do.

To read my journal entries from that time, start here.  My blog was brand new.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

More 2004 memories

When I stop to think about all the fun I've had this year, it's mind-boggling.  In April, on Easter weekend, we went to visit our son and his family; that's my favorite time of year to see Georgia.  This year there was a bonus:  we traveled to Plains, Georgia, and went to Maranatha Baptist Church.  We sat in Jimmy Carter's Sunday School class, and had our picture taken with him and Ros after services.  What a thrill!  Only in America.

The following weekend I met with several long-time Internet friends in Dallas, Texas.  We visited the place where John F. Kennedy was shot, the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza.  Also, we went to South Fork Ranch, of "Dallas" fame.  Trust me, that driveway, the house, and the swimming pool are all much smaller than television made them appear.

In May, Cliff and I took a jaunt to Branson, Missouri, and had the best time I believe we've ever had there.  We almost overdosed on music shows:  In one day, we saw four seperate shows, barely making it from one to the next by starting time.  We WILL return next spring.  And on the way, we'll eat at Lambert's again.  Only this time, we'll order one meal for the two of us.  They serve up very generous portions.

More about 2004 in my next entry.

What a year was 2004

In February, my daughter and I flew to visit my sister.  We'd planned the trip for January, but my mom passed away on the week we'd have gone, and my sister was here, rather than our being there.

February is a great time to go south.  It was cold and snowing in Kansas City, but lovely in Mission, Texas.  I enjoyed sitting on the patio with temperatures in the 70's and thinking about the cold climate at home.

We happened to be traveling on Super Bowl Weekend; since that event was held in Dallas, it was NOT a great time to switch planes in that town.  But we survived, and the people-watching was great.

This was the first of many memorable travels and events in 2004.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

I wish I'd written that

I've written the occasional country song; I even had a couple of them published by a small, now-defunct local publisher.  Some of my writing is pretty decent. 

Once in awhile, I'll hear a song that just takes my breath away with the picture it paints and I'll say, "Boy, I wish I'd written that!" 

Not because the song was a money-maker, but because it paints a picture so well, and shows such raw emotion.  Kris Kirstofferson has written several I envy:  here's one.        

 SUNDAY MORNING COMING DOWN, by Kris Kristofferson

Well, I woke up Sunday morning
With no way to hold my head that didn't hurt.
And the beer I had for breakfast wasn't bad,
So I had one more for dessert.
Then I fumbled in my closet through my clothes
And found my cleanest dirty shirt.
Then I washed my face and combed my hair
And stumbled down the stairs to meet the day. 

I'd smoked my mind the night before
With cigarettes and songs that I'd been picking.
But I lit my first and watched a small kid
Playing with a can that he was kicking.
Then I walked across the street
And caught the Sunday smell of someone frying chicken.
And it took me back to something that I'd lost
Somehow, somewhere along the way. 

On a Sunday morning sidewalk,
I'm wishing, Lord, that I was stoned.
'Cause there's something in a Sunday
That makes a body feel alone.
And there's nothing short of dying
Half as lonesome as the sound
Of the sleeping city sidewalk
And Sunday morning coming down. 

In the park I saw a daddy
With a laughing little girl that he was swinging.
And I stopped beside a Sunday school
And listened to the songs they were singing.
Then I headed down the street,
And somewhere far away a lonely bell was ringing,
And it echoed through the canyon
Like the disappearing dreams of yesterday. 

On a Sunday morning sidewalk,
I'm wishing, Lord, that I was stoned.
'Cause there's something in a Sunday
That makes a body feel alone.
And there's nothing short of dying
Half as lonesome as the sound
Of the sleeping city sidewalk
And Sunday morning coming down.

I haven't actually felt like that since before I was married, but I've been there; and that song brings back the feeling so strongly it almost makes me cry.  I close my eyes and I'm in my apartment in North Kansas City, sad and very alone.

Why would I do this to myself?  Because when I return to my present life, I'm thankful for every little bit of it.  You can't appreciate where you are unless you remember where you've been.

Monday, December 27, 2004

close friends

"If there is at least one person in your life whom you consider to be a close friend, and who you would not have met without the internet, post this sentence in your journal."

That was in my daughter's journal, and I'm giving it considerable thought.  You see, I just don't let folks get too chummy; not all THAT close.  My husband is the one friend I consider "close". 

Cliff has often said to me, "You don't need people".  In some ways, he's right.  But of course, we all need people.  Otherwise, why would I spend hours of my life connecting with strangers on the Internet, whether it be by reading their journals, or spending short periods in chat rooms.  Surely I'm looking for something.

And what defines "close"?  I think of close friends as those who go shopping together often, share the same hobbies, go to parties together... that sort of thing.  Then I thought of another way to figure this thing out.

If there is someone to whom you'd give a kidney if she were dying, to save her life... I'd say that is a close friend.  And if that defines it, then yes:  I have some close friends online.

Or, if there's someone with whom you'd spend a night, or invite to spend time at your house... is that a close friend?  If so, I do have some close Internet friends.

Perhaps, all these years, I've expected too much out of "close" friends. 

Thanks, Rachel, for putting my mind to work so early in the morning.

roaming the fields and woods

Mandy and I made it to our favorite "holler" yesterday.  This is the view from the north.  As I look at this picture, I drift back in memory to my childhood, and other similar, magical places.

When I was young, I loved wandering in pastures and through woods.  It was an adventure to reach the top of a big hill and see what the view was like on the other side.  We lived in small towns most of my childhood, but I spent lots of time at Grandma's house, where there was plenty of space to roam safely.  There was even a creek to wade in (I remember leeches attaching themselves to my legs once, and Grandma holding a lit match to them to make them let go).

I wanted to be an Indian.  I'd quiz my mom about our family tree, hoping there might be native American bloodlines somewhere far back.  Her grandfather had come to the USA from Canada, and I'd ask if perhaps he could have been a Canadian Indian; and she'd say no, not so far as she knew.  This must have stuck in her mind though, because in later years she told people her grandpa was part Indian.  The other relatives were very surprised, having never heard this tidbit of (untrue) information.  There was no correcting her, unless you wanted to provoke her anger!  And  I can imagine someone in succeeding generations searching the family tree and hearing from some old codger, "Old Great-Grandpa Smith was part Indian, I hear."

I'd head to the woods on my imaginary horse with an invisible tribe of Blackfoot Indians surrounding me.  I took turns playing different parts:  I'd be a squaw with a doll tied onto my back awhile, picking up kindling; then a brave heading out on a war party; then the chief, ordering the others around.  Sometimes I'd get caught up in the game so thoroughly that I could almost feel and smell my horse; and I'd think how much better the whole thing would be if I only had a real horse.

When I was thirteen, my parents and I went on vacation to the Black Hills.  I was in the back seat looking at the road map as we crossed into South Dakota, and noticed there was an Indian reservation not far off the beaten track.  Mother (she was always the driver; Daddy hated to drive) obliged me and took the meandering route through the reservation.  There was a small town there, and everyone in the town was brown-skinned.  I was ecstatic to see that many real native Americans at once!

When I'm in the woods now, or riding my horse on the river bottom, I don't imagine things... but I remember how much fun it was when I did.

And I still have some fascination with Indians.  I wonder why? 

Sunday, December 26, 2004

My Christmas


It's been a great Christmas season.  For some reason, I haven't had my usual winter/Christmas depression.  I'm trying to figure out why.  It could be that, since I was off work with very little extra money, I just did not worry about trying to buy everybody what they wanted.  In fact, I only bought for grandchildren, and didn't spend more than $25 on any of them.

We had a great Christmas day:  My daughter's family was here, and Cliff's sister, Charlene, with her husband; my son's two older kids, Amber and Arick, joined us for dinner along with their mom, my ex-daughter-in-law Kat.  We get along fine; always have, really.  Of course, had my son and his wife been here, Kat would have had the class to stay away.  But in their absence, I'm glad she could be here with her children.

I do miss my Georgia son, Jim, at Christmas, and would love to see him, Debbie and the kids.  But we get to see them throughout the year, at times that are much better for traveling 750 miles than this busy, bad-weather season.

I believe this has been the best Christmas I've enjoyed since becoming an adult, and I thank everyone who played a part in it; most of all, I thank God for all my family.  I wouldn't trade any of them.

Patrick's Saturday Six

1. Did you travel for the Christmas holidays?  If so, how did you get where you were going and how was the trip?  Nope, no travel except for going to our daughter's Christmas Eve to exchange gifts, fifteen miles away.

2. Did you get most of the gifts you were hoping for?  Honestly, I don't worry about what gifts I'm going to get.  I received a can of Topsy's popcorn, which I love, and a box of Russell Stover's Chocolates (OK, so I have an eating problem).  Cliff got me a hay feeder for my horse and put in in Blue's stall; I wanted that.  But, as my granddaughter Natalie often tells anyone who will listen, "It's not about getting...."  Besides, if there's something I really, really want, Cliff usually sees to it that I get it, at any time of the year.

3. If you were to check Santa's list, would your name appear to indicate that you had been good enough in 2004 to have DESERVED those gifts?  Probably so; now, had I received another horse, or an $800 saddle, I'd have to say no.  Maybe that's why I didn't get those?

4. If you HAD to make one New Year's Resolution next year, what would it be?  Just one?  To get my weight where it belongs and maintain it there, I guess.

5. READER'S CHOICE QUESTION #35 from Mrs. L:  What is your favorite kind of Christmas cookie or dessert?  There's a cranberry salad I love, another of my mom's recipes, that doubles as a dessert.  That's probably my choice.

                          CRANBERRY SALAD

Grind one bag of cranberries (I use the food processer).  Stir in two cups sugar and let stand in refrigerator all night.  Next morning add 1 can crushed pineapple, drained; four diced bananas; and a cup of nuts.  Whip one pint whipping cream and fold into the mixture (these days I just use a carton of Cool Whip).  I can eat this stuff until I'm sick!

6. READER'S CHOICE QUESTION #36 from Promise:  Who inspires you the most in your life?  My husband.  There really aren't a lot of inspiring people in my life these days, but the longer I'm married to Cliff, the higher on the "inspiration list" he climbs.  After thirty-eight years; he's the greatest.


1.  His devotion to me is astounding, for I remain the self-centered only child and he continues to love me anyhow.

2.  His sweet, giving and loving heart.  He'll talk as though he's the most bigoted, spiteful person in the world; but when "the rubber meets the road" it turns out to be all talk.

3.  His patience with kids.  Our grandchildren wouldn't spend the amount of time here that they do if it were up to me to look after them constantly.  Cliff will stop working on all his favorite projects to do something with the kids.  We have 13-year-old twin neighbor boys who are home-schooled, and they spend the better part of each day with Cliff in his shop.  He's taught them to use tools safely, to weld, to overhaul lawn mower engines, and all manner of other useful things.  The boys drive most of us crazy, but Cliff's glad to have them around.  In fact I often tell him, if ever anyone was sent into his life by God, it's those boys.  He needed them, they needed him.  It's been a perfect match!

That's Cliff, Ryan (the twins' cousin, also a neighbor) and Travis and Tyler (or Tyler and Travis).

Saturday, December 25, 2004


I'm cooking this morning.  I made Oreo dessert yesterday (very much like dirt cake that so many people make, only it uses Chocolate pudding instead of vanilla).  I also got the deviled eggs done, because any time my granddaughter, Amber, is coming to a family dinner, that's a must-have.  Cliff received a five-pound ham from work, so that's our meat.  But the most essential food at any big meal here is home-made noodles.

When I was growing up, we visited my mom's relatives often.  For a couple of years we lived near them, and somebody fixed a huge dinner every Sunday for the whole gang.  When Mother did the cooking, we had fried chicken as the main course.  She'd kill and dress the chicken on Saturday and keep it in a bowl of water in the refrigerator until the next day.  But the real main dish, no matter who did the cooking, was chicken and noodles.

Grandma would make noodles early in the morning when she was having folks over for dinner (dinner was noon, by the way, and still is, in my book).  She'd roll the dough out, then roll it up lengthwise with plenty of flour on both surfaces, so it wouldn't stick, and cut the noodles about a quarter-inch wide with a knife.  My cousins and I had the job of unrolling each individual noodle.  They'd lay there to dry a for a few hours, until time to throw them in the boiling broth.

Any baby born into the family was introduced to noodles early on:  I can almost hear Aunt Ruby saying to someone, as we waited on the meal, "Give that baby some noodles".  I imagine both my kids tasted noodles by the time they were a couple months of age.  It's a dish all kids seem to love.

The most nostalgic comfort food I make is noodles.  My mom had a noodle-cutter she offered me, and I declined; I enjoy doing it "just like Grandma".  I can almost feel her presence when I'm cutting those strands and then unrolling them.

                                     MY MOM'S NOODLES

2 cups flour, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp baking powder.

Mix well.  Cut in 4 tablespoons butter.

Beat together 3 eggs and 1/4 cup of cream; also a few drops of yellow food coloring.  Add to the dry ingredients and mix all together.  Knead into a ball and cover on the counter with the mixing bowl for 20 to 30 minutes.  Roll out, roll up, and cut.  I try to do this in the morning and leave the noodles scattered on the counter until time to cook them.

Today I'm making a double batch.  Noodles freeze well if there's any left over (fat chance).

Friday, December 24, 2004

My puppy is turning into a dog

I thought it would NEVER happen.  We're able to pet Mandy now without her jumping all over us and nipping at our hands.  She's quit trying to eat the furniture and woodwork.  Cliff can turn her loose to go on his chore-rounds in the mornings, and when he calls her back to him, she listens and returns.  She still can't resist other dogs, so we have to be careful not to turn her loose when other canines are roaming the neighborhood (one drawback of living in the country, people don't keep their dogs home).

We think she's quite pretty, and suspect there might be a little Malamute mixed in with the Blue Heeler blood she got from her mother. 

THere she is with her head on my lap earlier this morning... this is her pose if she's inside when we happen to be eating.  (Don't you like my flannel pajamas?)

It has taken months, but I think this is going to be a dog we can live with and enjoy.

She still spends too much time in the house, but does fine in this frigid weather spending her nights in the pen Cliff built for her, inside her very snug igloo made of hay.  She loves being on her long chain in the yard during the day, when somebody's outside to supervise:  her houndish-looking young friend from next door comes to visit, and they wrestle for hours.

Mandy has pure joy in being alive.  What a gift! 

Thursday, December 23, 2004

My annual shop day

Every year, when Christmas draws very near, I spend most of a day shopping.  Now this may not seem like a big deal to most folks, but I don't drive.  I really am not a "shopper" by nature, either.  And I'm used to getting my shopping done as quickly as possible because Cliff is usually waiting patiently in the car.

But around Christmas every year, Cliff takes me to Independence Center, lets me out, and leaves me for six to eight hours.  I love the people-watching, and I like browsing to my heart's content.  I like to peer over the rail at the kids down below, playing in the play area.

When I arrived this morning before 10 AM, it wasn't so big a crowd.  But by afternoon, the place was teeming with humanity on all levels.

The line of kids waiting to see Santa was unbelievable, and most of the kids obviously would rather have been someplace else.

I realize this picture's blurry, but see that big Christmas tree up there?  That's where Santa sits on his throne, and the line of kids that disappears at the lower left of the picture goes on further back than it shows.

I had all my shopping done already, but of course I found a few last-minute bargains.  Tis the season.

When Cliff came to get me, the parking lot was completely filled and police were directing traffic on the road outside the mall.  Cliff was Scrooge, personified; he hadn't had an easy time getting to our meeting place.  Oh well, Christmas comes but once a year.

Weekend Assignment #40: When We Were Six

Here's what John had to say:

"This Weekend Assignment, I decided to step away from the usual holidays to note a very special day of another sort:

Weekend Assignment #40: It's my daughter Athena's sixth birthday today. Celebrate by sharing a story from when you were six."

OK John, there I am... second to the last in the row on the right, in the green and yellow home-made dress.  The year is 1950.  That shapely lady is Mrs. Eighmy, my first teacher, and she taught through the eighth grade.  I'm in the first grade here, but it's my second year at Skinner School, an old-fashioned, one-room country school in Iowa.  When I was five, I started "Primary". 

There were five or six of us in First Grade.  When it was time for us to be taught, we gathered little chairs in a semi-circle around the teacher and took turns reading.  When Mother, Daddy and I moved to the city later, I was so far ahead of the other kids that they put me ahead a grade, which was a mistake.  I was completely out of my element, trying to keep up with things I'd never learned.  They moved me back later, thank goodness.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Jolly Old St. Nick

My oldest grandchild, in 1987

My youngest grandchild, 2004.  Grandchildren make life worth living!

My first dairy cow


In the fall of 1967, Cliff and I bought our first home, a little shack of a place on twenty acres.  We'd been renting a mobile home from my mom and dad and, before moving, we'd purchased a first-calf Hereford heifer from a farmer-neighbor.  That's her in the background.  She had a lovely black heifer calf, and, being beef stock, had only enough milk for her baby.

My parents had a few milk cows and mentioned they'd consider selling us one they had raised from a calf... Suzie.  Cliff was interested, but I told him I certainly wasn't going to milk a cow twice a day.  I had tried unsuccessfully to milk, as a child. 

He'd do the milking, he said.  And brought Suzie home.  I think perhaps he might have milked her twice, after we bought her.  He worked a job; I didn't.  I felt sorry for him, struggling to milk that cow with his big butcher's hands.  So, although I had two babies to tend, I took over.

Suzie was patient enough to stand for forty-five minutes while I pulled and squeezed and pinched and begged milk from her capacious udder, and before long I was not only milking her in fifteen minutes' time, but enjoying it... except when it rained, because we didn't have a shed or barn yet.

In the picture here, you see Cliff's sister, Charlene, sitting on Suzie.  There's nothing restraining the cow.  She was that gentle.  We have another picture of her with a saddle on, and three kids aboard. 

We built a barn that first summer and put a sliding door in... which Suzie learned to slide open using one of her horns, so she could help herself to the hay inside.  Cliff had to install a latch on the door.  If I slept late on a summer morning, she'd get as close to the house as possible and bawl loud enough to wake the dead, until I went out to do my chores.  She liked to be milked on schedule. 

That cow instilled in me a love of dairy cows so strong that I sometimes had six cows milking at once.  I milked twice a day, every day, for over twentyyears.  I eventually graduated to purebred Jersey cows, and we sold Old Suze; we never did know for sure what breed she was, but I'd say mostly Guernsey.

I loved my Jerseys, but none of them had the personality of Suzie.  If cows go to Heaven, I'm sure she's there. 



Tuesday, December 21, 2004

I'm praying for our troops overseas


I can't help but think about the families of all the service-people in Iraq.  They've no doubt seen or heard the news (Click here) and are wondering if their relative was there, eating lunch.  I remember that feeling, from when my son was in that place, during another war.  May God help our troops, and be with their families. 

Twenty-some families, as of today, won't be having a very merry Christmas this year.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Happy Holidays, J-landers


Ain't it the truth?  I've certainly stretched my boundaries since discovering AOL Journals. 

As far as the "slightly irregular" goes, it takes one to know one.

Merry Christmas.



What I really miss about the 1950s

Christmas makes me nostalgic, as evidenced by my journal entry yesterday.  I can taste, hear, and smell the excitement of many past Christmas seasons, this time of year.

As I thought today about my previous entry, something seemed amiss.  Russ' comment got me thinking:  were the 1950's really so innocent?

Of course not.  It was me that was innocent.  And now I realize, it isn't the 'fifties for which I'm homesick.  It's my childhood. 

I don't want to have to know about a fiend who would strangle a pregnant mother and cut her baby out of her belly.  I don't want to think about my countrymen being in Iraq, miserable and lonely, some of them dying.  I want to go to bed knowing that Mamma and Daddy will take care of everything tomorrow, right down to which socks I wear. 

That way, if there are any wrong choices made, it's not my fault.

I don't want to have to make the hard decisions we adults face, like which politician is the lesser of two evils, and whether it's wiser to save all your money for old age, or eat, drink and be merry, enjoying life now.  I want somebody to tell me which things are good and which are evil.  I want to know where the line is that seperates black from white, so I won't have to try and figure out what to do with life's many shades of gray.

I want to believe in Santa Claus again, and the tooth fairy, and even the Easter bunny.  I want my childhood back!  And I thank God that, several times each Yuletide season, random memories are triggered that take me back, however briefly, to the simplicity of my childhood.  That's the magic of Christmas.

As I said before...

Beam me up, Scotty.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Merry Christmas 1960

In my junk room, there are a couple of boxes I'll be tossing before long.  I've had these old Ladies' Home Journals around for years; I ended up with them because nobody would bid on them at a farm sale.  I love going down memory lane, but I must face the truth:  I never go up and leaf through these magazines, and they deteriorate a little more with each passing year.  However, I wanted to share this article from December, 1960.

It was the end of the wonderful 1950's (as later portrayed on "Happy Days").  Grandma and Grandpa were leaving the White House.  I was a sophomore in High School.  Hardly anyone had heard of Vietnam, much less Iraq.  I do recall back-yard bomb shelters, and some fears that communism was trying to take us over.  But youth is self-centered, and I didn't concern myself with all that for very long. 

Perhaps I just had my head in the sand, during the 'fifties.  Or was still young enough that I thought my little world was all that existed.  But I still get homesick for the simplicity of those times, when people didn't know the president had a girl friend on the side (in recent years, I've heard he did), and really didn't WANT to know.

Beam me up, Scotty.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

One of my favorite poems



by: John Burroughs (1837-1921)

      ERENE, I fold my hands and wait,
      Nor care for wind, nor tide, nor sea;
      I rave no more 'gainst time or fate,
      For, lo! my own shall come to me.
      I stay my haste, I make delays,
      For what avails this eager pace?
      I stand amid the eternal ways,
      And what is mine shall know my face.
      Asleep, awake, by night or day,
      The friends I seek are seeking me;
      No wind can drive my bark astray,
      Nor change the tide of destiny.
      What matter if I stand alone?
      I wait with joy the coming years;
      My heart shall reap where it hath sown,
      And garner up its fruit of tears.
      The waters know their own and draw
      The brook that springs in yonder height;
      So flows the good with equal law
      Unto the soul of pure delight.
      The stars come nightly to the sky;
      The tidal wave unto the sea;
      Nor time, nor space, nor deep, nor high,
      Can keep my own away from me.

Patrick's Saturday Six

1. What is your all-time least favorite Christmas Carol or holiday song?

I have a Reader's Digest three-CD set called "Christmas Through the Years".  Some of those songs carry me back to my 1940's childhood in a magical way.  However, there are a couple that I wouldn't mind never hearing again:  One is "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" by Spike Jones; another is "I Yust Go Nuts At Christmas" by Yorgi Yorgesson and the John Duffy trio.  Awful!

2. Who is the most difficult person on your shopping list to buy a gift for, and have you already purchased his or her gift, yet?

My teenaged grandchildren are hard to buy anything for, but we'll give them gift cards. 

3. What picture are you least proud of:
    A) Your most recent professional portrait
    B) Your driver's license photo
    C) Your passport photo
    D) Your work ID photo
    E) Your senior class portrait

I don't have a driver's license, but I do have a state ID, which is similar.  I hate the current picture on it.  It could be worse:  Cliff's last picture for his license was so bad, they offered to re-take it; seriously, he looks dead in that photo!

4. How many Christmas/holiday parties have you been invited to this month and how many have you (or will you) attend?

I guess you could count Cliff's company party, to which we're always invited but never attend.  It's a real dress-up affair, and we don't dress up... nor would we go, even if we did.  Cliff says, "I see those people for 40 hours a week; why would I waste a Saturday night going to see them again?  (He misses the fact that he'd get to see half of them drunk, but I don't think that's a big priority for him.)
5. A previously-unknown rich relative appears and offers to buy you the car of your choice.  What would you like?

I don't drive, but Cliff and I both agree on our dream car:  a brand new, pearl-white Cadillac with that navigation system that never lets you get lost.  We drove a used Cadillac for four years, and it ruined us for any other car... although we're getting by fine with our Mercury.

6. What is your favorite thing to wear around the house when you know no one else is at home?  Is that what you're wearing as you answer these questions?

In winter, my flannel PJs, topped by a robe (mainly to keep Mandy's hair off my pajamas when I pet her).  With NO supportive undergarments underneath. 


Friday, December 17, 2004

We must all be adults here!

I noted with interest the comments on my preceding entry.  Several folks were bothered by the dead deer, and some by the idea of an eleven-year-old boy being so happy about killing the deer.  I had nothing to do with it anyway:  the child is no relation to me... although I have no problem with deer-hunting, especially if one intends to use the meat (and I'll certainly take any ground venison folks may offer; it makes the BEST chili). My husband has tried, in vain, to procure a deer on our property this year.  Thank goodness we have two pigs we'll butcher in February or March (let the weak of stomach beware, there may be pictures!).

I am proud of the fact, however, that nobody attacked me or my character.  They all seem to realize it's MY journal, whether they approved of the entry (and the picture) or not.  You really don't know how refreshing that is.  Thanks, J-landers, for being mature in your comments.  I intend to show the same maturity when I visit your journals.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

one more update on Kody

For all of you who enjoyed my little story about Kody, here's one more update.  Tracy, the friend I ride to work with, happens to be related to one of Kody's grandmas, and e-mailed me this picture.  Kody got his first deer this fall!

Weekend Assignment #39: Disappointing Toys

Weekend Assignment #39: Tell us about the toy you had to have for the holidays when you were a kid, only to find out it was kinda disappointing once you had it.

I don't recall what it was called, but I was at least twelve years old, and absolutely had to have a toy projector; I was far too old for such a toy.  It was little more than a glorified Viewmaster, except it projected a picture on the wall, about 6 inches wide.  You had to turn off all the lights to watch, and once you'd seen the three or four stories, there wasn't much you could do with it. 

Extra Credit: Tell us the most unrealistic holiday gift request you ever made.

A pony.  For at least a half-dozen Christmas's, although we lived in town, I begged, I cried, and I prayed for the pinto pony that was pictured in the Montgomery Ward Christmas catalogue.  Yes, you could order a real, live pony from Wards back then.  It was an impossible request.  But guess what:  childhood dreams sometimes are fulfilled in adulthood.  I now have my "pony".  In fact, I rode him for over an hour, just today.  Kids... never give up on your dreams!

Merry Christmas, circa 1952


What a beat-up old picture, eh?  My mom and dad moved many times over the years, and Mother had the habit of just throwing pictures in a container and hoping for the best (must be genetic).  I'm only guessing at the year, and it isn't dated.  But I look to be eight, and if so, my nephew Larry would have been three.  My mom curled my naturally curly hair around her fingers every morning in a style that went out with little Shirley Temple in the mid-forties.  I begged and pleaded, and she finally let me start combing my hair like other girls did, when I was in the 5th grade.  Thank goodness, that was before we moved to Kansas City, or I'd have surely been the laughing-stock of the school.  Hey, I was her baby!  She had to wait until she was thirty-two to have me, and she was only trying to keep me her little girl.  (Now I can see that; I wasn't always so forgiving and generous-spirited about it.)

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Look what I found at Sears!

I love a bargain!  While Cliff was buying himself a Christmas gift in the tool section at Sears (a reciprocating saw, whatever that is) I was looking through the rather bare-looking shelves in the Christmas trim area.  Things were very picked-over, and what was left was marked down.  Signs everywhere practically shouted, "50% off".  I happened to notice on a high top shelf the box you see in the picture which, as you can see, was marked $89.99.  "How much is that," I asked a salesman.

"Well, let's see, 50% off would be...."

Another salesman came scurrying over with a scanner in hand.  "Here, let's make sure," he said. 

"Hey, today it's 75% off!"

The first salesman said, "Aww, I was going to get that for my mom."

Well, as my ex-daughter-in-law has often told me, if you snooze, you lose.

There's a volume control on it, and you can select non-Christmas music after the season's over.  My granddaughters are going to love fooling around with this... and it cost less than $25. 

Oh yes... I LOVE a bargain!




 I have a real dilemma every year when it comes to Christmas cards.  I really feel it’s a waste to just send impersonal cards with only our names signed... what’s the point in that?    On many years, we’ve had a relative take some sort of photo of Cliff and me, and had cards made:  one year I held a goose and Cliff held a turkey; another time, it was a shot of us with the last two dairy cows we owned.  People enjoyed these, and we had fun posing for and sending them.   One year I wrote a Christmas poem.  Most other years, I’ve written a Christmas letter to put inside the cards I send.  Whatever I’ve done, it was an effort to personalize the greetings.  I won’t waste a stamp sending a card with nothing but my signature on it.  

My muse has not visited me this year with a poem.  Cliff and I couldn’t think of any sort of photo that might make a good Christmas card.  So, here it is a few days until Christmas, and I’m left with two options: Send no cards, or compose the (dreaded by some) Christmas letter.  

Last night I started on such a letter, but here’s the  problem: Most of the exciting things I’ve done this year, I have done sans Cliff!  I went to Mexico without him (took my daughter instead, he didn’t want to go).  I visited Washington, DC, without him (visited Joanna, a friend of mine... he didn’t want to go).  My granddaughters and I spent three days camping at the State Fair... he took us down there, set up the camper, and came back and got us when it was time.  

OK, so he and I did go to Branson together, and we had a wonderful time.  And we went to Plains, Georgia, on Easter Sunday, sat in former President Jimmy Carter’s Sunday School class as he taught, and  afterward had our picture taken with him.  But folks, that’s it!  Cliff hasn’t even bought any new tractors this year for me to tell folks about.  

 I read over what I had written in my Christmas letter and decided it might be a short one, because I’m NOT going to send a chronical of what DONNA did this year.  I get to talk about myself enough in this blog.  Our Christmas letter will be about us, with of course some “honorable mentions” of our children and grandchildren.   Yep... it’s back to the drawing board on my Christmas letter.      


 P.S.  Sorry to all of you who got more than one notification of this entry... I messed it up and had to delete it and start over.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

a quick update on Kody

Some of you wondered if I still see Kody.  Yes, I do.  I work with his mother, his grandma, and his aunt (my ex-daughter-in-law).  He lives less than ten miles from me, and his grandparents live in my little town, so Cliff and I do see him occasionally. 

We babysat Kody until he was old enough for the local pre-school... I suppose we had him about a year and a half.  By that time, my grandchildren were back where we could enjoy them again; Cliff had gotten a few raises, so the money wasn't so necessary; and we wanted to go camping and vacationing more. 

I guess I'm able to "let go" of people and things easier than most, when the time comes.  I never tried to keep Kody in my life; he has a host of relatives to love him.  It seemed he was sent to us for a season, and I will be forever grateful for all he meant to both of us.  I will say this:  Even now, when I see Kody's smiling face, my heart does a flip-flop:  the love for him is still there.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Another thing I like about Christmas


In December of 1993, Cliff and I weren't at all anxious for Christmas.  My son and his family, which included two grandchildren, were stationed in Germany with the Army.  My daughter was living in Carthage, three hours away, with my other grandchild, Brett.  Christmas, after all, is for kids, and we had no children close at hand.
One day I got a phone call from a young mother asking if I'd be interested in babysitting her little son while she was finishing her high school education.  Money was pretty tight, and $50 a week would help a lot.  I took the job.

If ever someone was heaven-sent into our lives, it was Kody:  he was very hyper (I knew I was in trouble when I asked Jenny, his mom, "What time should I put him down for a nap?" and she answered, "He doesn't take naps."  Who ever heard of a seven-month-old that doesn't take naps? 
I did eventually get him to sleep for a half-hour to forty-five minutes after lunch, but that was the best I could do. 
Cliff worked second shift, so he was here with Kody too, for a big part of the day.  To say we doted on him would be putting it mildly.  He received all the hugs, kisses and approval that our far-away grandchildren were missing out on. 
Please note the big smiles on our faces, when Kody was around.
When we get out the Christmas ornaments each year, there's one silly, home-made bauble that brings "our" baby to mind.  We were decorating the tree the second Christmas we had him here, and he was playing with an old piece of junk-jewelry, part of a necklace Cliff's mom had given a granddaughter to play with.  The chain had been discarded, leaving only the big "pendant", two-and-a-half inches across.  I was hanging things on the tree, with Kody watching intently.  He somberly took the pendant to the tree and balanced it on a branch.  Then he looked at me and smiled.  Cliff and I thought it was amazing that he'd invent a Christmas  decoration like this although, looking back, he would have been nineteen months old at the time.  So I guess it really wasn't the stroke of genius we thought it was.

When I put away the ornaments that year after Christmas, I put Kody's masterpiece with them.  The next year I wrote his name on the back of it, and noted the year he came up with the idea.  It's now one of my favorite Christmas decorations.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

What I love about Christmas

There's a story behind this nativity set:  it tells me what my mother was like, at her best.  The camels, and the Holy Family, were gifts to Mother on two different Christmases, given by one of her Avon customers.  A lady who made ceramics as a hobby wrapped them and presented them to her.  The rest of the cast portrayed here, I was fortunate to find at a Wal Mart; they were cheap, and made to the same scale as my Holy Family.  But back to my mother.

She started selling Avon in 1963, I believe.  She was more than a saleslady:  she became bosom buddies with most of the housewives in her "territory".  If she happened in at lunchtime, she was invited to share a meal.  She often heard their most private thoughts and confessions.  If someone needed a friend, Mother was there.   

That's what my nativity set reminds me:  that my mom was there for the people who needed her, and they loved her enough to give her very special Christmas gifts.  Before she went into the nursing home, I asked Mother who made these ceramics for her.  "Brenda Tuttle," she said.  I don't know the lady, but I wrote her name on the bottom of one of the camels with a marker so her gift wouldn't be forgotten.

Every granddaughter I've had, beginning with Amber, has played with Baby Jesus, Joseph and Mary, and moved the camels around to change the scene a bit.  So of course, the whole Nativity set has become more precious each year because of the little hands that have touched it.

I'm not a "people person".  But my mom was.  And in the past few years, any time I've caught myself being too critical of her, I remind myself that anyone who had that many friends, couldn't have been anything short of wonderful.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

We have a tree!

It was a big, rewarding day:  I think the pictures tell the story.  And I believe this year's Christmas tree is the most beautiful we've ever had.

Besides this, I had a short horseback ride; Cliff got his wine bottled; his sister, Charlene, and her husband, Pat, came calling; and after that, our ex-daughter-in-law,  with Amber, our lovely, oldest granddaughter, showed up.  Some days are diamonds:  this was one.

Patrick's Saturday Six

1. What is your all-time favorite Christmas Carol or holiday song?

"White Christmas" as sung by Bing Crosby

2. What percentage of your Christmas shopping have you completed?

probably 15%

3. Other than yourself, which of the following would you most likeyour child to have as a role model and why:
    A) Doctor
    B) Politician
    C) Professional Athlete
    D) Businessman

I don't care for those choices, but I suppose a doctor.

4. What current television show would you most like to see disappear permanently?

My daughter will kill me, but I'll say it anyhow:  Survivor.
5. Have you used any themed photo wall calendar in 2004?  Do you already have one ready for 2005, and if so, what is next year's theme of choice?

We always have plenty of antique tractor calendars here, since tractors are Cliff's passion.  For 2005, we have one we paid for, one sent to me by a message-board friend from New Hampshire, and one sent to us by a chatroom friend in New Mexico.  And none of the three are alike.  The free ones are made even more interesting because of the advertising on them from towns and states I've never been near.

Armand:  Read this quotation from Ralph Waldo Emerson recently posted in Armand's journal, "Uncommon Sense."  Given the context of the quote, how have you been most successful in your life?

I believe I have left life better for several folks by poems and letters I've written.  For instance, I once wrote a poem for my daughter's fifth-grade teacher (at my daughter's request).  About ten years ago I talked to her when she was teaching my granddaughter, and she told me she still gets that poem out at the beginning of each school year and reads it.  Many people have told me I made a difference in their lives by something I wrote for them, and I'm proud to know that.  It warms my heart. 

bottling day

You should have seen me and Cliff last night:  All these bottles have been collecting for months, and I washed and rinsed them as they were emptied (yes, I really AM the chief cook and bottle-washer).  However, if you're going to put new wine in old bottles, they have to be sterile.  So Cliff half-filled the bathtub, washed them all there, then had me put the sterilizing potion in each of them, pouring it from one to the next.  They're ready, and Cliff plans to bottle at least one of our batches of wine today.  You can see Mandy is checking it out, wondering what all that junk is doing in the way of her dog food dish.

We still don't have a Christmas tree, and I really wanted to have one here for the girls to decorate this weekend.  This may be the first year we don't have a tree... but I doubt it!

Thursday, December 9, 2004

How I'm doing, back at work

That's me at work, three years ago, proudly holding my Radio Frequency gun.  Behind me is one of the "mods" I walk up and down all day. 

I'm really doing better on the job than I expected, after my long medical leave at home.  They've been offering lots of "Voluntary Time Off" days (VTO's), which means you may choose not to work that day, and Early Quits (EQ's), where they tell us we can go home after four hours if we want.  I don't really care for the EQ's; half the effort of having a job is getting to the workplace, so once I'm there, I'd just as soon stay for the whole day.  I did take Tuesday off, which helped me ease back into the work scene.  There's not a lot to do in my department, so some of us were sent downstairs yesterday to a job that required our walking all day on concrete, without the benefit of rubber mats that we're used to upstairs.  I survived better than I expected. 

Christmas week I'll probably only work two days; the same with New Year's week.  There's so little to do, the schedule will only be for three workdays on those weeks, and they're letting us choose to take off the others, without getting docked for our holiday pay.  So I do have it pretty easy right now.  I'm fairly well determined to at least keep my job till I'm fully vested in July, by any means:  FMLA (I still have 240 hours of that), occurances (three days off due to illness is one occurance, we're allowed 12 in a year before we're terminated) my two weeks' vacation time (that starts on February 1) and VTO's and EQ's!  Yes, I think I can do this, with the help of God and Ibuprofen.

Wednesday, December 8, 2004

Starting my day online

I've always been an early riser, but the older I get, the earlier I seem to rise.  I set my alarm for 4 AM on work days, but that's a joke; I'm always awake by 3.  So, what do I do so early in the morning?  I get online, of course.

My online life has evolved over the years.  I started out just surfing.  Then I got hooked into the whole chat room thing for a couple of years or more.  Once that scene turned ugly, I found other things to do.  I still join friends in a chat sometimes, but I can take it or leave it.  When it starts getting nasty, I leave.

My computer's in the kitchen, which is handy.  Cliff and I will be sitting at the table eating and he'll say, "I wonder what year they started making Farmall Cub tractors," or some such rhetorical question, and I'll jump up, run to the computer, and google the answer.  He's learning not to ask rhetorical questions.  But he does come in from the shop regularly and ask me to hunt up something for him.  Having the computer in the kitchen, I must add, makes for a messy keyboard and a weight problem, if you're not careful.  It's awfully easy to grab a snack and eat while you're surfing.

The first thing I do in the morning, on the way through to the bathroom, is turn on the Dell.  There are about three message boards I read, and of course I check email, both on and off AOL; but these days, the first thing I do once I'm online is check my journal alerts.

People interest me.  I like to try and figure out what makes them tick.  I've always enjoyed reading biographies (if they don't get too deep into politics or some such loblolly that turns them into a history book).  These day-to-day journals are a real-life peek into folks' lives, and I'm hooked.

I read some blogs that tell about folks' ordinary lives at home or work; I get a feel for their personalities and they begin to seem like neighbors.  I choose some for their humor (Mrs. Linklater should be making money as a stand-up comic, I swear!).  Some journals make me think, or cause me to be aware of things going on in the world around me.  I've deliberately chosen a couple because the writer is completely opposite me in beliefs and ideals, and it's interesting to see opposing views without feeling the need to argue about them (after all, it's their journal).

Cliff reads all my entries, and often, the comments.  Now our daughter has started a journal, so he has to read hers too, of course.  He's rather proud of her sense of humor.  Yesterday he said, "So, show me some other journals."  I think he's hooked!  I sent him to Patrick's Place, and he spent probably a half-hour there.  He's visited some of the other journals in my alerts, ones I comment in regularly.   

I'm not concerned about his taking over the computer though:  he can't sit in a chair at a computer for over an hour without getting a stiff neck and backache.  But if worse comes to worse, we do have two computers.

Tuesday, December 7, 2004

Cliff's GED

Cliff has spent the biggest part of our married life being the sole breadwinner for the household, working a variety of jobs.

When we first met, he worked in the city at a metal-plating place where they anodized aluminum. In 1969, he started working part-time at a little country butcher shop not far from our house; he loved that job, and eventually made it his full-time occupation. Because it was a family-run, small operation, there weren’t a lot of fringe benefits: much of the time he worked there, we had no health insurance. We were fortunate to have come from healthy stock.

Cliff left the butcher shop, then returned; but as years went by, there was less demand for its services, so he acquired a job where R B Rice Sausage was made. For the first time in his life, he had a really good-paying job with wonderful benefits; we had two kids in high school, so the money was welcome.

Then, after three years there, with no prior warning, that plant closed and moved operations to Nashville, Tennessee. Cliff was devastated. He took the first job he could find at another hog-killing place, over an hour’s drive away: this was the only job I’ve ever known Cliff to literally hate, but he couldn’t imagine being out of work, so he made that long drive every day for almost a year. Finally he could take no more, and quit to do concrete construction.  That job paid well, but like all construction work, if the weather’s bad, you don’t work; it’s also mighty hard, physically, for a man in his late forties.

Our next-door neighbor, David, had a good job with a company that was always hiring, and Cliff talked to him about the possibilities of his securing employment there. David figured there was a good chance Cliff could get hired, but he’d need a high school diploma or a GED.

Cliff’s parents moved often throughout his growing-up years (he says they moved every time the rent was due, but I don’t think it was that bad). As a consequence, he was forced to switch schools often, and of course, didn’t do well. When he was fourteen, he got his first job throwing newspapers before and after school, and when he was sixteen, he decided to drop out of school and make money.

While Cliff was working construction, I happened to see a notice in our local shopper about free GED classes, and Cliff signed up. At his initial testing, the teacher told him, "You won’t be with us long."

Cliff actually enjoyed his twice-a-week, evening sessions in class. He’d never understood math, and suddenly it began to make sense to him. He almost seemed disappointed when his lessons were over.

The big day arrived when he took his test. There’s a wait of several days before results come back on the testing. Finally one Saturday, the mail we’d been waiting for arrived; Cliff was out back of the barn building a pen for my pregnant sow, and I took the unopened envelope to him... and my camera.

So that’s the story behind that picture:  one of the best success stories I’ve lived to see.

Oh, and that job he was after?  He's worked there for eleven years now.

Sunday, December 5, 2004

About the Jersey Cow


As I was dusting and cleaning, I realized I hadn't told anyone what I decided about the Jersey cow I was dreaming of recently.

That little cow I found in Iowa is exactly what I want... except for the stage of lactation she is in.  She's not been "fresh" very long (when a cow has a calf and starts milking again, it's called "freshening") so she is in rather heavy production, and I wouldn't be getting her calf along with her to help take all that milk.  That means I'd have to milk her twice a day.  I leave for work shortly after 5 AM, so you can imagine how early I'd have to do the morning milking.  She isn't re-bred, either.  So, I accept the fact that the time isn't right.  At least I know where a Jersey cow can be found, when I'm ready; and who knows, maybe by then I'll "get over it". 

Back to work

I've been off work since late September.  My knees have both given me fits for the last couple of years, but in September, the pain became too intense to deal with for eight hours a day, so I arranged for a medical leave and had orthroscopic surgery on my left knee.  It helped a lot.  However, I'm not so sure it's up to the wear and tear it's about to receive:  I walk constantly on concrete all day, at work.  Monday I'll go back and find out.  I've enjoyed my little haitus, but I've missed seeing the girls at work, too.  As a non-driver, I really don't get off the place much when I'm not working, and I almost become a hermit; I also have a tendency to let the computer devour me when I'm home all the time.

The Christmas rush is over at the distribution center, and my ex-daughter-in-law tells me the work is slow, and that there's a chance we'll be allowed to choose extra days off each week.  This will help immensely.  The slack time will last through January, and possibly February too.  My first goal regarding my job is to somehow hobble through until July 17, at which time I'll be fully vested.  My original plans were to work until age 62, then draw social security.  I can't imagine that happening now; it would require my staying with it for yet another year; I do well to make it down a slight incline to our mailbox!  For some reason, when you have bad knees, hills are murder!  That's why I treasure every trip back into our woods, because I know I won't be able to navigate those steep banks forever.  I would, however, learn to drive the four-wheeler if need be, and I'm not above having Cliff take me and Mandy back on the tractor and leaving us there.  I've found a deep sense of peace back in the woods and "hollers", and I intend to keep returning there if I have to crawl on hands and knees. 

I took this shot yesterday as the sun was lowering in the sky, while descending into the deepest canyon on our place.  You can see patches of snow in the shaded spots.  It isn't unusual to see deer in this area, and their tracks are everywhere.  In a rainy April, huge morel mushrooms grow here.  It isn't beautiful at this time of year, but it's calm and peaceful.  My soul is restored in this place, and I thank God that we are fortunate to have a few acres, and a haven like this to which I can flee with my hyperactive mutt and be at peace.

Saturday, December 4, 2004

What a difference three days makes

Lest the previous entry be too offensive to some (I had a complaint from an old acquaintance) I deleted it.  Nice to know you can do that; wouldn't it be nice if we delete an particularly bad day in our lives, now and then? 

To replace that entry, I'll share a picture of Mandy running at almost the same spot on our place, last Wednesday morning in the snow, and then this afternoon.  This is the first time I've tried patching two photos together into one, so bear with me.

Brown Sugar Fudge

I found this poem in my Word documents while looking for another Christmas poem, and changed the words around a bit for my journal readers.  (Putting poems in this journal drives me nuts, because spacing and such is all messed up when you copy and paste.  That's why the last three lines are spaced by themselves!  Oh well, you get the meaning.)  

© copyright December 17, 2003
Donna Wood

The normalcy of routine days
Helps all of us survive.
For otherwise, life's just a maze...
A fight to stay alive.
To read the items in the news
Would drive a soul insane:
Without some other, pleasant views,
We couldn't take the strain.

We seek out understanding folks
With humor bright and wry,
And make inane and useless jokes
While, somewhere, soldiers die.
We tend our gardens, cook our meals
And push the fear away
Full-knowing that the danger's real
And bombs might drop today.

I cling to everyday routine
And cherish it like gold
Ignoring threats that lie unseen
As I am growing old.
Life's a vapor,this is true,
A little puff of smoke.
I'm feeling just a little blue...
So please, tell me a joke!

The J-Land blogs we often read
Will help us all survive.
The laughs we share fulfill a need
And help the spirit thrive.
The friends I've found on AOL

Bring smiles, when skies are grey.
May all of you reap great rewards
On this next Christmas day!


Now, about brown sugar fudge:  My mom used to go into a frenzy of baking and candy-making, starting before Thanksgiving and not stopping until Christmas was over.  She made pink divinity, white divinity, several kinds of fudge, and my favorite:  Brown sugar fudge!  She'd set out pretty dishes with an assortment of these home-made goodies, all around the house.  And I'd sneak around and dig out every piece of Brown sugar  fudge in each container.  She probably thought there were a lot of people  who loved the stuff, the way it disappeared.  But I think I was the only one eating it.   Every year, I make at least one batch of Brown Sugar Fudge.  If I make more, I'll eat it all.  And my orthopedist would like me to keep my weight down as a favor to my mutilated knees.  Cliff says it's so sweet, it'll set your teeth on edge.  My daughter says it tastes too much like "pure brown sugar".  People at work have asked me to bring some so they can try it.  I oblige, knowing they won't like it.  "Too sweet," they say.    In recent years, some of my grandchildren have begun to share my fondness for the stuff... so what do I do?  I hide it from them!  Oh, I let them have a piece or two, but then I shove the regular chocolate Fantasy fudge in their faces to distract them.    There's just something about Brown Sugar fudge that takes me back to childhood instantly.  I'm a little girl again, Santa Clause is coming, and Mamma's lap is available any time I need comforting.  It's just a shame the stuff is so fattening.  Here's the recipe, but I warn you now, you won't like it.  I copied this direct from my mom's recipe card, and I love the way it's worded.  "... remove from fire".  Is that old-fashioned, or what?  


1 pound box brown sugar
2 large tablespoons white syrup
3/4 cup cream (or evaporated milk, but I like cream)
1/4 cup butter
  Cook slowly to soft ball stage.  Then remove from fire.  Add 1 teaspoon vanilla.  Beat till very thick.  Add nuts and pour in buttered pan.  Add a few marshmallows, if desired.  (I don't add marshmallows, but that's how my mom gave me the recipe)