Please click on Posts by Topic in navigation to read postings and columns about the many humorous (in retrospect) events encountered by my family, friends and me. The above drawings by son Greg (way over qualified for that task) illustrated a couple of my books. You may click on each to enlarge if you wish to see more detail. And, yes, I really did hit an owl on the highway and unknowingly drive all over town with him hanging from the grille.
Staying at home to avoid
Friends, I am not minimizing the danger of COVID-19, but I have watched the coverage of the exponential increase of cases in New York and listened to Gov. Cuomo warn that the devastating increase is coming to us.
I don't believe Kansas will be as seriously affected as NY. Here's why: according to the NY Times, there are 32 counties in Kansas with cases, most in single digits and five counties in double digits. Now know this: Kansas has 105 counties meaning that 73 counties have no cases. My county has 18 cases, only one of which may have contracted it via community transfer.
Do I think we'll have more? You bet. But most of our residents are staying home as are Ray and I. We grocery shop only when we must and do it early. We also drive to Clinton Lake to see the wild critters and to Mary's Lake to walk the trails. Fresh air and exercise is good for us.
If you've read all of this, you deserve a treat. Here it is with one caveat. If you don't have a sense of humor, don't watch this:
My mother was born in Oklahoma in 1917, the twelfth child of Jacob and Maude Shellhammer. Until she was two years old, she was called Baby because the family couldn't agree on a name for her.
The family's oldest child was a schoolteacher named Edna Grace, referred to as Babe and loved by all who knew her. She would have been considered a spinster at 27 years old were she not engaged to be married.
In 1918, American soldiers were fighting in World War I, the war to end all wars. But before the war ended, the Spanish flu, which began in the spring of 1918 as a relatively mild virus, mutated in autumn into a deadly, highly contagious influenza that curiously attacked young, healthy people usually unaffected by flu, and killed its victims within hours or days of the onset of symptoms. It killed more young soldiers in all armies than died in combat.
The Spanish flu pandemic killed over 675,000 people in the United States. One of them was Babe, Jake and Maude's beloved firstborn. When she became ill, the family called the town's doctor who placed her in a sealed room and didn't allow visitors. Not even her fiancé was allowed to see her. If her illness followed the course of others who died, her skin turned blue as her lungs filled with fluid and she slowly suffocated.
But the flu wasn't finished with the family. Another child, Jake, Jr., was stricken. Because of his failure to save Babe, the doctor had lost the family's confidence and they called the local veterinarian to care for Jake. His treatment was very different. He placed Jake in a room, opened all the windows though it was October, and piled on the covers. Whether because of the veterinarian's innovative treatment or in spite of it, Jake survived. No other Shellhammer sibling contracted the flu.
By the time the spring of 1919 arrived and the pandemic waned, an estimated 20 to 50 million people had died worldwide. Some put the estimate even higher at 100 million, three percent of the world's population. In 1919 the Spanish flu pandemic ended — after lowering life expectancy in the US by 12 years — and so did World War I, the war to end all wars that did not.
And one more thing of importance occurred that year. On February 10 at the age of two, my mother was finally given her name: Genevieve June. It was the name that her sister Babe had chosen for her.
Anyone who has ever received a parking ticket when the meter ran out while they were doing charitable work knows that no good deed goes unpunished. When I expressed that view to the meter maid who was writing my ticket, she continued writing and self-righteously replied that “a good deed should be its own reward.”
Well, yeah. I suppose that’s true . . . on whatever planet she’s from. Here on Earth I don’t expect rewards for doing good deeds, but neither do I anticipate a $2 fine.
My cousin Yola once had an expensive fender-bender while she was taking another cousin to the bus station. Yola’s rewards were double: no one was injured and the wreck wasn’t her fault. Still, she must have wondered if the deed wouldn’t have been just as good had she called a taxi for her cousin instead of serving as her personal chauffeur.
My friend Darlene suffered actual physical pain as a result of good deed doing. She was laid up for a week after she threw out her back while moving and setting up tables and chairs for a PTA function.
One of my good deeds gone potentially painfully bad involved my friend Ila. At the time, I was managing our county GOP political headquarters and had recently met Ila, who — although a member of the opposing party — was volunteering there to help a candidate who we mutually agreed was the best person for the office. When Rho, my bedfast friend, phoned to say she required help marking her absentee ballot, I thought it prudent to take along a witness. Ila readily agreed to accompany me to Rho’s home.
Once the ballot had been marked to Rho’s satisfaction, Ila and I spent quite a long time visiting with her as she was obviously grateful to have company. When I ran out of things to talk about — yes, it IS possible — Ila cheerfully regaled us with tales of her many charitable and church activities.
When Rho’s teenaged son came home, Ila and I said good-bye and started down the hall from the bedroom to the living room. I was a few steps ahead of Ila when the Hound from Hell attacked. Chaos — screams, barks, growls (some of them mine) — ensued. I kicked at the beast with my high heels and found as primary targets my own calves and ankles.
Suddenly, a green jacket mysteriously appeared in my hand. I waved it at the dog who grabbed it between his teeth and engaged me in a brief, but vicious, tug-of-war contest. I decided to let the dog have the jacket, made a dash for the front door and pushed through it with the snarling canine hot on my heels. The door slammed shut in the dog’s face and I stood safe on the porch. Whew!
As my pulse slowed and my breathing eased, I realized I had left Ila, whom I had last seen pressed against the far wall of the hall, trapped inside with the beast-dog. Thought of her made me wonder if, during my terrifying encounter with the dog, I had used words which might seem offensive to the ears of such a sweet and virtuous lady as Ila obviously is.
Abruptly, the door opened and Ila leaped through. As the door closed, she leaned against it and exclaimed, “#@&*#! I need a cigarette!”
I drove to the Court House, thinking that there I surely could find someone from whom I might bum a cigarette for Ila, who acknowledged that she hadn’t smoked in years (more accurately, that she hadn’t NEEDED to smoke in years).
We sat on the Court House steps and relived our horrific adventure while Ila attempted to calm her jangled nerves with a borrowed cigarette. “That was the biggest dog I ever saw in my life!” I said. “Was it a Rottweiler, Great Dane or Mastiff?”
“I don’t think it was quite that big,” Ila remarked, “but where on Earth did that jacket come from?”
“I haven’t a clue,” I answered. “It had to be a miracle. I think God must have handed it to me.”
When I recently encountered Ila, she told me that, while walking with a friend, she had been the victim of another dog which attacked her — “He came out of nowhere!” — and sent her to the hospital. While I was delighted that she had fully recovered from her injuries, I couldn’t help thinking that it was too bad she had been exercising instead of doing a good deed. A green jacket miracle would have come in handy.
One of the coolest things I get to do as a writer is to shine a spotlight on amazing people and critters! Lillian Lockwood is an emergency room physician who also is half of a search and rescue team with her dog Justin, named after her nephew who was killed in Costa Rica at the tender age of 16 while on his high school's Spanish Club trip. Read about how Justin and Lillian are honoring her nephew's memory in the latest issue of Topeka Magazine by clicking HERE.
The bureaucrat in the graphic above looks mean. Mine today at the Driver’s License Bureau had a smile on his face and a pleasant enough demeanor but his NO answer was the same. So I ask you: Is a smiling bureaucrat better than a frowning bureaucrat? Not, in my opinion, if the result is the same.
The instructions are clear: If you want your Driver’s License to be a Real ID you can use to board airplanes, you must bring documents, many documents. For me that was bringing: 1) a Birth Certificate showing proof of lawful presence; 2) a 1099 showing my full Social Security Number; my current Driver’s License and a Credit Card Statement showing my current address. Sounds easy enough, doesn’t it? I thought so, too, until my bureaucrat perused my documents , then said, “The names on your Birth Certificate and the other documents don’t match. The name on your Birth Certificate is different.”
“That’s because I wasn’t married when I was born,” I said. But here’s the deal. My home state apparently lost the cards my mother and the doctor who delivered me sent to the Oklahoma Bureau of Vital Statistics. Hence, at the advanced age of 44, I had to get a delayed Birth Certificate in order to obtain a passport. How did I do that? Easy-peasy. I sent an Affidavit of Personal Knowledge from my mother who claimed she was present at my birth; my son Greg’s Birth Certificate listing my age at his birth; and my school record listing my parents’ names and my age when I entered high school.
Those documents prevented me from doing what I wanted to do when I realized I had to get a delayed Certificate of Birth. I told my sister Lesta, 13 months younger than I, that I was going to be younger than she was! I figured the hassle was worth shaving a few years off my age, don’t you?
I told my bureaucrat that my present name was on my Birth Certificate. And it is. Although the certificate lists my name at birth as Marsha Lou Henry, on the Delayed Certificate of Birth itself, I had to sign and have notarized an Affidavit of Registrant (person whose birth is being recorded). My signature on the document which is actually a part of the Birth Certificate is Marsha Lou Henry Goff. That proof of change of my name seemed obvious to me. Sadly, my bureaucrat didn’t see it that way.
So Ray and I drove all the way home so I could get our marriage license (how many of you have one of those handy?) and bring it back. Two trips there and back adds up to 60 miles just to get a Real ID Driver's License with a gold star on it. All that and 20 bucks, too. And when I expected to get some sympathy from good friends Betty and Louie by telling them about my horrendous experience, they had even worse stories about their Driver's License renewals. Seems everyone has had a bad experience there. What's yours?
Facebook reminded me that three years ago, I offered this book free so I decided to do it again from now through February 5. It's up to you whether you believe this unacknowledged mission happened. If you want to tell me what you decide, please click on CONTACT above to do so. I'd love to know what you think.
Of 16 million American military in World War II, only 7,000 were Rangers. Today there are only about 40 of those living. There are currently bills in Congress (S1757 in the Senate and HR5002 in the House) to award the Congressional Gold Medal to WW II Rangers. Dad was in Darby's Rangers (the 1st, 3rd and 4th Battalions. that you'll read about below. On June 6, 1944, he 2nd and 5th Ranger Battalions were part of the massive D-Day invasion of France. The 2nd Battalion climbed up the cliffs of Normandy while the 2nd Battalion landed on Omaha Beach and used Bangalore torpedoes to blast their way through the barbwire that barred their advance. The 6th Ranger Battalion in the Pacific rescued 512 Bataan Death March survivors from the Japanese prison camp 30 miles behind enemy ines at Cabanatuan, Philippines. If you think the WW II Rangers deserve the CGM, you can help by writing or calling your senator or congressional representative and asking them to sponsor their respective bill.
Seventy-six years ago—on January 30, 1944—767 men of the 1st and 3rd Battalions of US Army Rangers, known as Darby’s Rangers, slogged through the Pantano irrigation ditch toward Cisterna. Only eight days previously, they had spearheaded the invasion of Anzio.
The Rangers were special operations forces who had invaded Africa in 1942 and battled Rommel, then spearheaded the first invasions of Europe at Sicily and Salerno and fought their way through the freezing, muddy and ultimately bloody mountains of Italy. Their successes were unparalleled.
This time, however, fate conspired against them. Col. Darby’s protests that the plan was an inappropriate use of his Rangers were ignored. “I have my orders,” he told his Rangers, “and you have yours.” The intelligence was faulty; planners believed reconnaissance that indicated the main line of German resistance was behind Cisterna. Even when an Army Air Corps pilot flew his A-36A fighter-bomber over the area and reported that he saw a large number of concealed Panzers and self-propelled guns where they should not be, he was told to stand down and return to his tent.
We now know that what he observed was evidence that the Germans, unknown to the Allies, had chosen Cisterna as the assembly area for its reinforcement divisions for the counterattack on the beachhead where they hoped to drive Allied forces into the sea. Estimates of the German force around Cisterna ranged from 71,000 to 80,000 combatants.
The final nail in the Ranger’s coffin was when a young Polish conscript serving with the Germans deserted to the Rangers and attempted to warn them of the ambush ahead. However, no one understood his language so they sent him to the rear for interrogation which did not occur until after the battle.
The ring of tens of thousands of enemy soldiers and heavy armaments surrounding the Rangers was impossible to penetrate although the 4th Rangers, in trying to do so, suffered more casualties that day than did the other two battalions combined. Very few escaped being killed or captured. Some historians say as few as eight of the 767 men returned to Allied lines.
Any woman dumb enough to wash 54 mostly really BIG windows, inside and out, in a two day span should probably have expected to mess up her rotator cuff. After the fact, I looked up what causes that injury and right up there on the list is repetitive movement. But that was the last of September and, while I can still use it, I pay the price because it HURTS … a lot! I can lift my arm over my head now, which I couldn’t do at first, but I can’t reach behind me with my right arm which makes doing a lot of things — like putting on and taking off a coat — very difficult.
A few years ago, I messed up my meniscus (can you spell klutz?) and were it not diagnosed by not one, but two, MRIs, I would think I was misdiagnosed. Why? Because although I hobbled around for about a year and a half (to be fair, part of that time was due to my achilles injury), my knee doesn’t limit me now in any way. Hubby and I walk a lot, I can climb stairs, ladders to wash windows, I’m good with all of that.
What made the difference — and I’m disgruntled to say that the company isn’t giving me one thin dime for this testimony — are two little wraps: one, a cold cure with gel packs I keep in the fridge or freezer, and the other an electrical wrap called BFST which stands for Blood Flow Stimulation Therapy.
I’m cautious by nature so I consulted my orthopedic surgeon who was already sharpening his scalpel before I tried BFST and, while he said he didn’t think it would help, he assured me it would do no harm. So, convinced if NFL players used the products for their torn meniscuses that it would help lil ole non-athletic me, I ordered it. Odd thing about that BFST wrap is when it was set to 1, I couldn't feel any heat, but my knee warmed. It worked so well that last year when son Greg injured his knee, I told him about BFST. He ordered one and it worked for him, too.
So after suffering for four months (the wraps aren't cheap but I am), I ordered two wraps for my shoulder and they were delivered today by our great FEMAIL rural carrier. The shoulder wrap is a lot bigger and a lot harder to strap on than the simple knee wrap, but I’ve used the cold cure wrap today and will use it tomorrow before starting the BFST on Wednesday. I could have had them Saturday according to online tracking but the wimpy guy who was supposed to deliver it said the delivery couldn’t be made because the location was not accessible. Never mind that my husband and I had made several trips up and down our long snow-plowed driveway on Saturday, it looked too difficult to him. So much for through rain, snow and gloom of night.
If I feel as much better once I start the BFST as I did with my knee, I will be the happiest of campers. One more thing. I no longer do windows.
It must be true because that’s what the latest email from someone offering help for my enlarged prostate tells me. And yet a prostate wasn’t part of my original equipment. I haven’t had one added so I guess that emailer — like so many others who email me cures for my ED, male-pattern baldness or offer hot (women) dates — mistakenly thinks I’m an aging male who has a prostate the size of a lemon, male-pattern baldness or wants a hot date but wouldn’t know what to do with her since I have ED. Maybe they think I’m Harvey Weinstein, but no, the emails begin with Dear Marsha. Somewhere there must be a boy with the name of Marsha since Johnny Cash knew a boy named Sue.
But you know what bothers me most regarding that email about my non-existent prostate? It’s the fact it compares the size of it to a lemon! Twenty years ago, I wrote a column about my breast cancer in which I lamented the fact that the doctors for three of my friends with the disease compared their respective tumor size to that of a lemon, lime and pecan. “What is this?” I demanded of Ray when I heard about the fruit and nut comparisons. “Do they think women only understand produce?”
I guess we’ve come full-circle when the writer who wrote that copy presumes that men, too, only understand produce. But, frankly, were I a man who had an enlarged prostate, I’d prefer the doctor find another way to describe it: Inches? Centimeters? It wouldn’t matter as long as they didn’t compare it to fruit and nuts.
If you’d like to read my column titled Humor lightens the darkest days, click here.
My grandparents who lived in the small town of Sabetha, Kansas, were said to own the biggest junkyard in Northeastern Kansas. I’m told the business saw the town through the Depression and also through WW II. The junkyard was a marvel to me as a child. It comprised an entire city block. Grandma and Grandpa’s home was in the middle of the block on the west side and they had two rental houses on the corners. A horseshoe drive extended east to the property line.
Once the leg of the drive to the south of their home passed the house, the garage behind it and Grandpa’s big fur warehouse — where he housed the pelts that trappers sold to him — huge piles of sorted metals lined the drive on each side.
The north leg of the drive ran between their rental house and the home Grandpa had purchased for his father. It’s a pity that families don’t always get along. Grandpa and Great-granddad once had a cordial relationship (after all, Grandpa bought him a house) until Great-granddad, in his mid-90s and long a widower, acquired a 35-year-old girlfriend. Grandpa didn’t approve and apparently made known that fact. I suspect he thought she was a gold-digger and odds are she was because not often does a 35-year-old divorcee fall in love with a 96-year-old gentleman.
Anyway, Great-granddad sent a letter to his son telling him that some of his iron was encroaching on his property (the property Grandpa gave to him) and he needed to get it off or he would have it removed. I do not know whether the two men made peace before Great-granddad died at 98-and-a-half but I hope they did. However, if they did settle their differences, Great-granddad forgot to change his will. He left the house Grandpa bought him to his other children and bequeathed Grandpa the sum of one dollar. I have the check now because Grandpa never cashed it. Hey, do you suppose the money that check represents has been sitting in the bank drawing interest and compounding for over 75 years?
Nope! Me neither.
Every time Ray and I drove on SW 29th Street in Topeka, I noticed in the front yard of a home the lifesize silhouette of a soldier praying in front of a battlefield cross and a white cross. The Stars and Stripes and a POW flag flew over the silhouettes at half-staff. I always said, "Some time, I'm going to find out what the story is behind that tribute." One day I made good on my statement and got a better story than I had imagined. If you would like to read it, click HERE to go directly to the article:
I’d love to read the book Senior Spring again and see if it is as risqué as we high school girls — and especially our sweet old maiden lady librarian — thought. When it was finally returned to the school library, she read it and pulled it from the shelf. The story around school was that the mile-long waiting list for the book is what piqued the librarian’s curiosity.
I have always wondered if she read all of it or just enough to be appalled that she’d bought it for the library and possibly corrupted innocent young girls. However, she shouldn’t have blamed herself because Senior Spring is an innocuous title. Who would have expected it to be pornographic? And now I am wondering how she disposed of the book. Did she have a private book burning in her backyard?
I don’t know how many girls read the book before I did. Sally loaned the book to me after she read it. I learned many years later that Martha was the girl who had checked it out. She swears that she didn’t pay a fine, but I know it was long overdue when I read it and I no longer remember to whom I passed it after I finished it. “Someone may have paid a fine,” Martha insists, “but I didn’t.”
I do remember there was a lot of heavy petting in the book and some clothing removed. You’d think I’d remember how far the sexcapades went, but I don’t. The only phrase I remember with absolute clarity is, “I think I’ll wear the sweater that’s the color of yellow chicken feathers.” Actually, those may not be the exact words, but sweater and yellow and chicken feathers were definitely in there.
I suppose the book was unacceptable reading for high school girls, but I don’t remember being scandalized by it. Of course, I had read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn when I was in third grade, shocking my teacher when she found out. I routinely read all of my mother’s Literary Guild book club books. I didn’t necessarily understand all of them and couldn’t pronounce all of the words. It is why for years after I encountered the word fusillade in Wake of the Red Witch, I pronounced it fullisade, dyslectic though I’m not.
I’ve searched in vain for Senior Spring just so I could reread it and find out how bad it actually was. I’m pretty sure it would pale beside Lady Chatterley’s Lover which I read long ago, Fifty Shades of Gray, not so long ago, or The Total Woman, a book my friend Betty loaned me that I kept hidden in the linen closet so the kids wouldn’t find it. Funny, all I remember about the latter book is that it advocated something I never did: Not once did I greet my husband at the door wearing nothing but clear plastic wrap. What would the kids have thought?
I love to write about interesting people. In a recent article, I wrote about Joan Hagan Martin, an 88-year-old artist who taught watercolor until her 87th year. Joan grew up in Lawrence, with sojourns in Kansas City, California and Los Vegas, but she returned to her hometown several years ago. If you would like to read about this remarkable woman, click here for the article which begins on page 18.
The downside about writing about a wonderful artist like Joan is my tendency to spend the money I make writing by purchasing their works. I have purchased 18 (three designs) of Joan's laminated watercolor placemats. Two designs are pictured below.
In the late 1990s, I was commissioned to write a history of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce. At the time, I knew little about the Chamber and was not a member, nor am I now although I was a member for several years after I wrote the history simply because I had learned enough to support its mission. I was commissioned again in 1999 to update the history and that was finished in 2000. It hasn’t been updated since, but the Chamber has still been busy working to improve our city.
Few know the many businesses the Chamber has brought to town: Reuter Organ, Hallmark, Holiday Inn, Co-op, Westvaco (then FMC, Astaris and now ICL) and so many more. Nor are they aware that the Chamber was often the genesis of entities we take for granted: Lone Star Lake, Sunflower Army Ammunition where at one time one-half of the city’s working population and one-sixth of its total population was employed, New York School in conjunction with the CCC, and Clinton Lake to name a few. The Chamber had its fingerprints on almost every positive thing that has happened in Lawrence and the surrounding area.
It was the Chamber that provided employment for men without jobs during the Depression and later helped Lawrence host the premiere of The Dark Command, a movie about Quantrill’s Raid. The Chamber helped Lawrence recover after the devastating 1903 and 1951 Kaw floods and tried to bring peace to a town racked with riots during a turbulent period in 1970 that resulted in the deaths of two young people, the shooting of a police officer and the burning of the Student Union at KU.
Who knew the Chamber had a hand in the construction of Allen Fieldhouse or the airport or the once controversial but now heavily traveled K-10 Bypass known as the South Lawrence Trafficway? Or that, through a non-profit corporation it created, it purchased the land for Centennial Park, then sold it to the City for the sum of one dollar? The Chamber also was involved in supporting many bond issues for school projects, including the building of a second high school. And the Chamber always sponsored events that would bring throngs of people (and their money) to the community: The National Corn-Husking Contest in 1939, bike races, marathons, Independence Day Festivals and lots more.
If you care about the history of our city and would like to know some of the stories behind the stories, you’ll want to read about the city that was once the site of “big dam foolishness” as people tried and failed to dam the Kaw River. Lawrence was derided as a town "not worth a dam" or the worst town "by a dam site."
Here’s how the Chamber felt about Lawrence in a brochure published in 1938:
1/2 way East, 1/2 way West
1/2 way North, 1/2 way South
The Center of the World
Many decades later, Google Earth saw it the same way.
Back in the day when I had more time than money, I liked to make Halloween costumes for our boys. In the above photo, Ray, Jr. (aka Butch) sports a KU uniform and a papier mache Jayhawk mask while Greg wears an LHS uniform and a Chesty Lion mask. You wouldn’t believe how many hours, strips of newspaper and flour paste went into those masks. And yet those weren’t the best costumes I made them.
Oh no, those would have been the costumes transforming Butch into the Red Baron and Greg into that beloved dog Snoopy. I regret not having photos of the kids wearing those costumes. I used red poster board to make a 3-D Fokker tri-plane, complete with wings, propeller and tail with a German cross insignia. He wore it hanging from his shoulders with string and completed the look with a brown leather helmet. I crafted Snoopy’s 3-D white doghouse out of white poster board with a red poster board roof, which hung from Greg’s shoulders with string. A papier mache Snoopy mask completed the costume.
The costumes were good enough to take either second or third prize (I forget which; maybe it was second and third) at the Torey Southwick Halloween show at the Lawrence Community Building. Southwick with his puppet Gus was a popular kids’ show in the 1960s. But what I really remember about those costumes was walking the kids around the neighborhood on Halloween night in the worst Halloween snowstorm I can remember. Snowflakes as large as chicken feathers were blowing toward us as we canvassed the blocks for lighted porches. The kids weren’t content until we had covered our customary route. As a bonus for braving the weather, they collected more candy than usual. They weren’t the only kids out trick-or-treating, but numbers were lower than usual and I’m pretty sure I was the only pedestrian mother out that night.
Here is a photo of Torey Southwick and Gus. I don’t know which one judged the costume contest, but I’d sure like to see the costume than won first.
Although this was written about a year and a half ago after Ray and I received the all clear, it has taken me this long to actually publish it. Why? Well, because to a lot of people, reading about poop, even if it might save their lives, is disgusting. What overrode my concerns about that? I lost a favorite cousin to colon cancer simply because he wouldn't have a colonoscopy and he didn't know there was another way to test for that disease. This test at home he might have done. If my humorous take on it pushes one person to try the test, my work here is done.
Dave Berry once wrote a hilarious column describing his colonoscopy and the messy process leading up to it. However, his graphic description caused husband Ray and me to decide we were going to skip that procedure in favor of a heavily advertised test that you complete in the comfort of your home (bathroom to be precise) without the need for cleaning out your entrails with laxatives and enemas. The kit is delivered to your door in a box and you just drop it off at UPS when you’ve completed the nasty job.
And that is the hard part. You open the box, remove a large white plastic gadget, unfold it and clamp it onto the bowl of your toilet. Then you drop the accompanying plastic pot through the hole in the gadget, put down the lid and go. Sounds easy, but it is not because it just doesn’t seem natural to poop — for the record, I know words like defecate and excrete, but I avoid polysyllabic words when a word of one syllable suffices — in the white plastic pot and let it remain there. In the words of the late great George Carlin, you don’t take one, you leave one.
Even weirder is that you send ALL of it back. This isn’t the test for occult blood that your grandmother knew … the one where she used a popsicle stick to get a smear of poop to send back on a cardboard slide. Oh no, they want to analyze the entire poop for DNA to ensure you do not have colon cancer. The instructions warn you not to allow the poop to extend over the top of the pot … as if that were possible. An elephant might be able to fill the pot to capacity, but I seriously doubt if a human could.
I read the instructions to Ray and the look of astonishment on his face reminded me of the time I took the boys to the doctor for physicals. Greg, then 4-years-old, went with the nurse first and came out holding two stainless steel cups. He presented one to Butch, his 9-year-old brother, who asked, “What am I supposed to do with it?”
“You’re supposed to potty in it.”
“Yes, really,” said Greg, his eyes as big and round as saucers, “Really, REEEELY!”
Ray had to read the instructions himself before he believed them. We’ll skip the part where we got the poop in the pot — you already know how that works — and go to the part where you take a little plastic wand with grooves in it, slather it with poop and place it in the supplied liquid-filled tube. Then you take the big bottle filled with poop preservative which is also supplied and pour it into the pot with the poop. Put the lid on and screw it down tight, place it in the holding tray (there’s also a slot for the little tube with the wand), put the whole shebang in a zippered plastic bag to avoid spills (God forbid), put it back in the box, seal it, slap on the return label and deliver it to UPS.
The box is emblazoned in the big, bright and oh so familiar logo of the test (a plain brown wrapper would have been nice), so everyone knows exactly what you are delivering. “I’d rather be sending it, than receiving it,” I said to the guy who took the box.
And that makes me think: How would you like to be the person whose job it is to open those boxes and the plastic pots inside? Perhaps that is one of the jobs they tell us that Americans simply won’t do.
My sister Vicki Julian has just published a new book titled If it Hadn’t Happened to Me, a collaborative work of non-fiction stories told by those who experienced supernatural or unexplained events. Whether describing a dramatic near death experience, contact from beyond or just a simple premonition, the stories are interesting because of the credibility of the story contributors. Many have never spoken of their experiences and have chosen anonymity because they fear being regarded as kooks.
Vicki persuaded me to contribute two stories. One is about our mother who appeared to have remarkable ESP powers. She once predicted I would have a wreck (my first and I feel compelled to say that it wasn’t my fault. Still, it happened the very day she predicted it and that made quite an impression on me). Sadly, Mom’s powers skipped me. The closest I have come is knowing who is calling as I’m walking to a ringing phone (I’m not always right, but many times I am). The story I wrote for Vicki’s anthology about Mom is titled “The Telegram” and it was typical of Mom’s sixth sense. Plus, she had a couple of well-documented and believable contacts from beyond, something I would love to experience, but never have.
The story of my experience is not dramatic, just a most unusual occurrence for me. I had never experienced it before and haven’t experienced it since although I would love to do so. In reading the book, mine seems rather tame compared to others but it was memorable enough that I haven’t forgotten it.
Vicki’s book is available on Amazon as both a print and E-book.
I wrote a story about Katie and a few other Rosies who attended and were honored along with attending WW II veterans at the Eisenhower Presidential Library on the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day Normandy invasion. You may read the story in Amazing Aging, the newspaper I edit and write for Jayhawk Area Agency on Aging, by clicking here. Another story about Katie appeared in Topeka Magazine. You may read that by scrolling down or searching for Katie the Riveter. You may have to do that a second or third time to reach that article because the first search may take you here (same words in both titles and in this post; I should be more original).
I recently wrote a story for posting on our high school class website about our friend Bob who still has the first car he purchased as a college sophomore: a 1955 Studebaker President Speedster. It was produced for only one year and only 2,215 were made. Ray and I owned a car identical to his and posting about Bob's car made me nostalgic so I also wrote the following post about my husband's relationship with cars.
Many years ago, I bought Ray this little statue of Garfield the Cat, clutching a mouse in one paw, while holding another mouse with his other paw. The statue’s base is emblazoned with the words, “It’s not the having, it’s the getting.” That describes Ray’s relationships with cars exactly. We’d be filthy rich if he had kept all of his cars to sell in today’s market. Sadly, he had to sell one to buy the next one he wanted. But we had fun driving them. Oh, yes, we did!
Understand this: I am married to a man who felt he had to own — at least briefly — every car he coveted in high school and later. The “Real Steel Autos” under Posts by Topic on this website describes many of the cars we have owned and includes the tales that only they can tell. About our Speedster: Ray wants you to know that the Speedster was aptly named. The top speed on the speedometer was 160 mph and he says it did every bit of that. Whether Bob has pushed his speedometer that high, I do not know, but I know that Ray did and I admit it only because I’m confident the statute of limitations is up on that offense.
I learned a lot about cars from Ray, but some things I learned from experience. For example, the noise I hear coming from the engine isn’t there until Ray hears it. Also, do you know that cars have the ability to sense estrogen sitting behind the wheel? We owned a 1983 Cadillac Seville that proved they do. The Caddy? We still have that car. I don’t think it’s been driven since 1996 but we have it in case Ray decides to take up car restoration again. In truth, I’m the one who didn’t want to sell that car for a hefty price when we had the opportunity. Pretty silly of me but I really liked the Caddy until it was totaled in a hailstorm.
Here are a few posters I made for Senator Dole. Note there are two Jayhawk related posters and only one Wildcat. My favorite is the elephant wearing the Beak'em Hawks sweatshirt. I received an unusual complaint about the poster with the gender sign for female under the O in Women because the woman who complained thought it smacked of radical feminism. Eek!
I kept my semi-annual appointment with Jane my dental hygienist Friday and I didn’t take a boatload of reporters and cameramen with me. I also didn’t take them the day before when Mary Ann gave me a haircut. Why did I shun the opportunity to publicize these two momentous occasions? Easy answer: I’m not running for president.
One of the many candidates for president (I’m not sure exactly who he is, but he’s a guy) slid down one of those high multi-slide amusement park slides. He was 40 or 50 years older than the others on the slide, but, hey, that shows he’d be a good president, right? Just like the guy who had a good dental cleaning and a great haircut for which we hope he tipped well.
Back in the day, presidential candidates kissed babies for the cameras. Who wouldn’t want to kiss a sweet little baby? The candidate loved it, the parents loved it . . . I’m not so sure that the baby did. Probably not because I saw far too many squalling babies hurriedly handed back to their mothers.
As a veteran of a great many campaigns, I yearn for those simpler days of baby kissing instead of close-up views of molars and bicuspids. During my growing up years, I passed out cards soliciting votes for my dad who ran, always successfully, for city and state offices. I was so invested in his campaigns, it would have broken my heart if he had lost. One of my friends who grew up in Oklahoma remembers sitting on the courthouse steps crying after her dad, a police chief, lost his race for sheriff. I never felt that pain, but I can imagine what it felt like.
At fairs and festivals, I passed out many cups of Dole pineapple juice for Senator Dole when he was running for various offices. When we ran out of Dole juice and had to use another brand, we kept the can hidden. I always had a soft spot for Senator Dole because he served in the Kansas House with my father back in the day when both were young combat veterans. I was disappointed when he lost his race for president, but after losing the presidential contest, he appeared on late night TV showing his funny side and I heard someone say, "Well, if I had known he was that funny, I would have voted for him." Hmmmm, so being funny is what makes a good president. Who knew?
I made campaign posters, tons of them. One gubernatorial candidate was so happy with the posters I made him, his campaign manager called to say the candidate (he was elected governor) was going to do a quick stop at the Lawrence airport and would like to meet me. I could have made up a good excuse for missing the chance to meet him, but instead I told the truth: the time of his stop conflicted with a Tupperware party I had promised to attend.
Uh-oh, the candidate who showed us his teeth cleaning and haircut has just been televised changing a flat tire on his car. I hope he’s around if I ever have a flat because I sure don’t know how to change a tire. You'd think a presidential candidate could afford AAA.
I think he's trying to show he's just an everyday Joe doing what every guy does. I don't know about you, but I'm hoping he hasn't scheduled a prostate exam.
I was saddened to read about the death of Ross Perot with whom I once spoke via phone. I had written him before we held the WW II Ranger reunion in Lawrence in 2006. There was a song and video, "Before You Go," on DVD about WW II veterans. I thought it would be nice to give a DVD to each Ranger attending. We didn't have the budget to buy them so I wrote Mr. Perot, provided a link to the video and asked him if he'd consider buying the DVDs for them. I received a call from his secretary who put me through to him. He had watched the video and was willing to pay for the DVDs but had one reservation. "It's SAYAD!" he said, "It's tellin' them they're gonna DIGH!"
I told him I'd ask a sampling of Rangers and/or their children and see what they thought. I emailed and sent links of the video to several and only had a single response from one Ranger daughter. Her response was ambivalent so we didn't go forward with the purchase. I have always had a warm feeling for Mr. Perot because of his willingness to buy the videos and his sensitivity about the Rangers' feelings. If you'd like to watch the short video and hear the song, click here.
They don’t get T-bones every night, of course. Nor do they get rump roasts, KC strips and coconut shrimp. Last night was an exception because our basement freezer lost electricity and defrosted, taking with it a bunch of Omaha Steak purchases as well as a brand new Costco-sized box of ice cream drumsticks purchased for our annual 4th of July bash.
We don’t know why the freezer lost electricity. It was plugged into the socket good and tight. Sure the power was off about ten hours night before last due to a torrential thunderstorm that dumped four inches of rain on us and put deep gullies in our driveway that Ray and his tractor Mr. Ugly will have to smooth, but the freezer had clearly started defrosting before the power went out. Ray discovered it when he went down to bring up shrimp for stir-fry.
We spent until 10:30 p.m. emptying the freezer, removing thawed food from boxes and making the coyotes' night. Fortune was smiling on us because, although six bacon-wrapped filet mignons had thawed, they were still cold so we grilled them and refroze them. We don't know what they'll taste like when heated in the microwave, but we'll give it a shot.
We also baked (make that burned) a Mrs. Smith's cherry pie. Those are meant to be baked frozen and while we adjusted the time for it being thawed, we should have lowered the temperature. We rescued some caramel apple tartlets, freezing them again since they were still cold and I don't think there are any ingredients that will make us sick. And we salvaged two roasts that were semi-frozen. (How did those remain semi-frozen? It's a mystery.)
So what caused the power to fail? The unfinished area of the basement has four outlets serving Ray's work space that come down from the ceiling in metal conduit. None of them work. We have reset every Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter we can find but either there is a hidden one we've missed or something else is messed up. We'll have to get an electrician out here because right now we have a long bright-orange extension cord from the freezer to an outlet in the family room. I'm not Martha Stewart when it comes to decorating, but even I know that just isn't in good taste.
Meanwhile the coyotes' tastebuds are happy little campers enjoying hundreds of dollars of our meat. They'll have to buy their own cherry pie and caramel apple tartlets.
See the switch in the above photo? It goes in our oldie but goodie 2005 Lincoln Town Car. The switch quit working. It would roll every window in the car up and down except the driver’s window which was stuck down. Stuck up might not be so bad; stuck down is. It’s hot out. We could get wet if it rains and it has been raining a lot. Also it’s noisy.
We called our favorite mechanic who recommended a glass company where he said he’d take his car if it had that problem. But they wanted $278 to replace the switch. That sounded like a lot for a job that I watched a Youtube mechanic do in 2:09 minutes so I called the dealership to see what the switch cost. He said it was $116 and change plus tax. Then I called the dealership again to see what they would charge to replace the switch. They said $197 and change plus tax. No wonder some people call them stealerships. Still, the Lincoln dealer was cheaper than the glass company.
Then I checked for the part on Amazon. Why didn’t I do that first? Long story short. I ordered the part yesterday. It arrived today. Husband Ray and son Butch replaced the switch in five minutes flat. Window works. Car is now cool, dry, quiet.
My guess is that the part I purchased from Amazon is made in China in the same plant or just down the street from the plant where the $116 part is made. What do you think?
Total cost to fix: $15.10.
We are blessed in Lawrence not to have the flooding that is occurring in Nebraska and Iowa. Nonetheless, we have had enough snow hanging around on top of the ground and rainfall usually seen only in tropical climates that our 950 foot gravel driveway is an absolute mess! It is such a mess that Ray got our car stuck in it . . . not once . . . but TWICE!
Try as he might, Ray couldn't free it from the muck. So he called AAA. The wrecker tried to back up our drive and got stuck. The driver finally managed to free the wrecker and pulled Ray partly down the drive. Ray drove to the highway, thanked the tow truck driver who drove off as Ray turned the car around and headed up the drive, this time driving on the zoysia grass bordering the drive, and got stuck AGAIN!
Called AAA once more and, because it was getting dark, a different driver brought out a wrecker the next morning. The driver parked by the road, refusing to come up the drive because he was worried he'd damage his hydraulics. Ray got his shovel and he, with a little help from the tow truck driver, dug through the grass in front of and behind the car. Then the tow truck driver put one end of a chain on our car and the other end on Guppy Rojo, Ray's little 4-wheel drive Toyota, and had Ray pull the car out backwards with his own truck. Meanwhile, the wrecker safely sat at the end of the drive.
Ray drove the car to our neighbor's who offered it a place to sit until our driveway was dry enough for Ray to repair it with Mr. Ugly, his tractor. Do you think it is odd that Ray names our vehicles? Well, I don't think it is nearly so odd as that — since we stopped driving our 1983 Cadillac Seville (I say stopped driving because, although we still own it, it hasn't been driven since 1995) — the four times we've used AAA tow it was because Ray had a vehicle stuck at our home. Once Guppy Rojo was stuck in the middle of the backyard and another time he (Guppy Rojo is a boy) had to be transported to a garage for repairs.
I'll leave it up to you. Do you think AAA should pay Guppy Rojo for the tow?
Back in the day when turquoise kitchens were popular, landlines were the only way to go. Hard to believe this turquoise wall phone hanging in our turquoise kitchen served our entire household consisting of two parents and two young sons. Later, we added an extension in the bedroom which we used primarily to answer late night wrong numbers. There were no cell phones then and it was years before we got one of those and a bag phone (remember those?).
In the days before cell phones if you had trouble on the road, you either relied on a CB radio (yep, we had one) or waited for a trooper or helpful motorist. There were also no medical alert phones or buttons. If you fell and hurt yourself, you had to hope you had the strength to crawl to the landline to call for help. My mother did that twice, calling me when she broke her hip and later when she broke her femur. The thought of her crawling to the phone in pain was almost more than I could bear and she finally gave into our pleas to get a medical alert button.
I made many mad dashes into her home after med alert personnel called me on my landline to say Mom needed help. My favorite call was from Mom herself who said, "Marsha, they keep saying I am pushing the button to say I need help, but I'm not. I can't even find it." So I drove into town and a frustrated Mom met me at her door in her electric wheelchair. It didn't take long to find the alert button. She was sitting on it.
Our current landline is connected to eight phones. The base phone on the desk in the kitchen has five walk around phones scattered throughout the house. There's a wall phone in the family room downstairs, a fax machine in the office and my favorite phone: Garfield the Cat. His eyes are closed in the photo, but when he is in use, his eyes are wide open. I will surely keep Garfield in my office even though he won't be usable as a phone just because he is so darn cute.
Because this post is about phones, I'm going to tell you my favorite phone story. Our friend Jack coveted a wooden antique wall phone, but was never able to bid high enough at auctions to buy one. Then one day he saw an auction ad in the paper that listed 30 antique phones. He was certain that, with so many phones to sell, he would surely be able to buy one.
The phones were beautiful, all 30 of them. Only one thing was lacking. Not a single phone had a receiver.
No worries. Jack figured if he bought an antique phone, he could find a receiver somewhere. But it was not to be. The same man outbid him on every phone, smirking when the auctioneer gaveled sold. There was only one item left for sale: a big unopened cardboard box. Jack didn't want to go home empty handed so, having no clue what was in it, he bought the box on the cheap. He opened it as soon as he acquired it and inside were 30 receivers for antique phones.
The man who bought all the phones looked at Jack and said, "I suppose you're going to try to hold me up on the receivers."
"Nope," said Jack.
"You're not?" the man asked in surprise.
"No," said Jack with a smile, "they're not for sale."
Perhaps someday all our landline phones will be worth some money. Just in case, I'll keep the receivers with them.
As a child, I purchased my pencils from Leo Beuerman and tried to talk to him. But Leo couldn’t hear me. He was born a crippled dwarf, had limited sight in one eye, was blind in the other and lost his hearing when he was a child. He sat in his little red cart on the sidewalk in front of various businesses in our town and supported himself by selling pencils and repairing watches.
He drove into town each day from his home in the country on a specially-designed tractor that carried his cart. My father said Leo was a mechanical genius and I believed him. I was never afraid of Leo. I doubt any child was because, despite his appearance, he wasn’t a threatening presence. We simply pointed to the pencil we wanted, gave him money and he counted out our change. He once wrote that children were his best customers. Adults, he said, turned away.
In 1998, I was on the board of our county historical society and suggested we offer the public a showing of Leo Beuerman, a 14-minute Centron Films documentary that had been nominated for an Academy Award. The showing was free, but I insisted on reservations. The museum director thought that was unnecessary, believing we’d be lucky to get more than a dozen people to watch the film. Reservations totaled 180, a standing-room-only crowd, and when people without reservations showed up, Ross Wulfkuhle, who owned and operated the 16-millimeter projector, and Trudy Travis, who wrote the script, offered to stay for a second showing.
Shortly thereafter, I wrote an article about Leo for the Kansas City Star’s STAR Magazine. If you would like to see additional photos and read more about Leo, including the serendipitous positive outcome when a ruffian jerked him out of his cart one night when he was sleeping in a service station and robbed and badly injured him, please click here.
I’ve come to the conclusion that I am not smart enough to have a smartphone. I hate owning a device that knows more than I do. This thing does everything except pop popcorn . . . or perhaps it does and I just haven’t discovered that yet.
Why am I so late to this technology? For years the hubby and I have made do with low-tech cellphones that merely made and received calls and texts because we couldn’t get a signal in our home and used said phones only on the road.
Back in the day, we had a bag phone and cells that worked in the house, but that was before we added a stone-coated, steel roof to our stone- and steel-sided home. The only way we could make calls with our cells was to stand outside on the front porch or back deck and that just isn’t practical in steamy summers or freezing winters.
The first problem I had with the smartphone was finding the power button. I didn't have a 4-year-old nearby to explain it so I consulted the manual. Later, while fooling around with the smartphone in the car, I called IT son to show I could at least make a phone call, then I couldn't figure out how to hang up. I powered off the phone and turned it back on only to receive a callback from him. Seems I had pushed enough buttons to hang up, then accidentally called him again. I asked how to end the call. Easy-peasy. You push the red phone icon to hang up. Who knew?
Son and family who gave me the phone for Christmas visited and I asked for a crash course in usage. Wow! This phone gives a heart-rate reading that looks just like an EKG and monitors the oxygen in one's blood like an oximeter. It keeps track of my steps like a pedometer and also allows me to keep track of calories, sleep and exercise.
It has a night mode that darkens the screen like our GPS. I turned it on but couldn't figure out how to turn it off because it is very difficult to read small white writing on a black screen in the daytime. Worked that out after a couple of days and only wish I could remember how I did it.
Have you ever been doing something (I was on Facebook) on your smartphone when it rang and you couldn't figure out how to answer it? IT son helped with that: "Mom it will come up at the top of your screen and you can accept or decline the call."
Someone smart thought of that idea which is a very good one. I've decided to keep playing with this phone and maybe, just maybe, I'll get smart enough to use it. Hope, they say, springs eternal.
OK, so the other woman is a cat, but Ray is smitten nonetheless. And his love is reciprocated. He pets; she purrs. That is quite a change for a feral cat who arrived on our deck last spring thin, hungry and afraid . . . very afraid. So afraid that even when Ray was holding out his hand with food she badly wanted, she wouldn’t approach him. If he attempted to move closer, she backed away.
But he persevered and finally she took food from his hand. While she accepted food, she would not allow him to touch her. But that was then. Now she delights in his touch, but still will not allow me to pet her. She may have nine lives, but she has one heart and she has given it to Ray. And he has given her the name Cupid "because she is so sweet."
Tell that to granddaughter Zoe, a certified cat charmer, who attempted to approach Cupid at a recent family gathering. Cupid reacted to her charms by jumping off the deck which is sans stairs and ten feet above the ground. Zoe was astounded. "She committed suicide!" she exclaimed in horror.
Cupid’s home base is our deck. Four jumps up one of the big cedar posts and she’s up; one long jump and she’s down. Ray has not mentioned bringing her in the house and it’s a good thing he hasn’t because that is not happening . . . not because I’m jealous of his other woman, but because she has claws! Two screens to the deck, one from the living room and one from our bedroom, are shredded to prove the effectiveness of those claws. When warm weather returns, he will re-screen them and affix clear Plexiglass to the bottom halves of the screens so she can’t repeat her destructive action.
Cupid is an outdoor cat and that is where she will stay. She comes and goes at will. The first morning she didn't greet Ray, he was sure a coyote had killed her, but she sneaked in during late afternoon like a guilty teenager who had missed curfew. In summer she sleeps on a padded chair on the deck which she hasn’t shredded (she apparently prefers screens) and in winter she sleeps in her cozy kitty house with a self-warming bed that reflects her body heat.
Cupid loves Ray so much she even bought him a Christmas gift which shows the depth of her love for him. At least I'm convinced that she would have bought it if she had a credit card and access to the Internet. So I confess to purchasing it for her. Fact is, other woman or not, I love Ray, too.
I have the best family! Even when I get a cockamamie idea to take a family photo in front of Nancy and Jim Yonally's Jayhawk tree in 30-something degree weather with a bitter wind blowing creating a 20-something chill factor, they go along with it. The fact that we aren't blue in the photo is because Nancy invited us inside to thaw out.
Seven of us braved the weather. Eight if you count our intrepid photographer and good friend to all of us. Such a good friend that Greg's kids call him Uncle Steve. Our immediate family of ten was missing three members, all of whom had good excuses: Butch's wife Linda was ill, grandson Gabe is presently in Oregon with his maternal grandfather and granddaughter Zoe is still busy with classes at Truman State.
I planned to Photoshop those three in but doing so proved beyond my capabilities. So I included them in the picture the best way I could. We plan to take another family photo at the Jayhawk tree in the Spring. If we are missing only one in that Spring photo, I can Photoshop them in (two or more, it's back to milk cartons). I am proud of my limited Photoshopping skills as evidenced in the photo below of Gabe and his friend Miriam who lives in Arequipa, Peru, but I learned it is a long tedious process and one person is all I can add with any confidence.
Gabe taught English in Arequipa part of last year and this, and plans a trip to visit Miriam and her family in January as a Christmas gift from his parents. We're doing our best to make Miriam, who is a lawyer, a Jayhawk so she can get a graduate degree at KU.
Stay tuned for the Goff Family Spring photo. Let's hope it doesn't rain. Been there, done that and it was still better than freezing.
A long time ago, I won a national contest for an editorial I wrote. How long ago? Well, in the news release of the win I was described as a “housewife,” not the now politically correct “homemaker.” It is a worthy occupation, but it has been a long time since that word alone has defined me. Oh, and Jimmy Carter was president.
What made me resurrect that long ago opinion piece is the recent Veteran’s Day recognition and a Facebook post in which I mentioned it while responding to another post. In the event you wish to read it, I have copied “Of Women and War” below.
Of Women and War
Marsha Henry Goff
President Carter’s call for registration of draft-age youths has sent chills of fear up the spine of every mother I know. Put two or more mothers together anywhere — from the bridge table to busy offices — and the topic of conversation is the same: The chances of their sons being drafted.
My friend, Darlene, says the Army will not take her son because of his football-injured knees. Betty’s son has bad eyes. Jean’s son suffers with asthma. Jody’s boy has one flat foot and she hopes it will keep him out of the service. Such physical defects, once ignored by mothers in favor of reporting their children’s academic progress or athletic prowess, suddenly are regarded as attributes.
Mothers, such as I, whose strong, healthy sons are obviously 1-A classifiable, are pitied and consoled by the others. I suspect that each of us heretofore lucky mothers wonders why her son cannot have a health problem — nothing major, mind you, just some small ailment that would keep him off the battlefield and safe in school.
We fear war because we know it. Even those of us who were very young during World War II have personal recollections of that terrible time. My father fought in Africa and Europe and our living room was dominated by a huge map of the area. Mother listened to the news on the radio and moved colored pins on the map to correspond with American and enemy positions. Every Christmas I asked Santa to bring my daddy back. Oh, I remember!
During the 1960s, my friends and I sweated out the Vietnam War with our husbands. As a wife, I worried that Ray would be sent to Vietnam. Then I worried whether, if he were, and if he were disabled, I would have enough love and strength of character to take care of him for the rest of our lives. I remember the trepidation I felt each time JFK or LBJ announced a new call-up of troops, and I recall my relief when Ray was designated III-A instead of 1-A. Yes, I remember!
Daughter, wife, mother. How vulnerable are we women at different stages of our lives. How afraid we are that our fathers, husbands, sons will be torn away from us and sent to places far from the protection of our love.
Yet we have an inner core of steel, an endurance that we can call upon when we must. I know this is so because, while going through my father’s papers after his death several years ago, I found a V-Mail letter sent to him during World War II’s darkest days by his mother. He was her only child, but she wrote a letter in which no trace of fear or doubt is evident. Her letter is one of love and pride and confidence that her son would return safely from battle.
It is a beautiful letter, one that makes me admire my grandmother’s courage. Still I pray each night that no mother ever again be obliged to write one like it — in English, or Russian, or German, or Chinese, or . . .
I have always been fascinated with chainsaw carvers, those artists who can take a big chunk of wood and turn it into a piece of art. Usually, I have watched them in Colorado carving bears, raccoons, foxes and a variety of other critters and birds. It is amazing to watch someone take a felled tree and saw it into something beautiful.
Dan Besco, dba Kansaw Carvings, is licensed to create Jayhawks, the mascot of The University of Kansas. If you have been living under a rock and aren’t aware of the bright primary colored bird, you haven’t been watching college basketball, where the mascot struts his stuff on courts throughout the USA and occasionally abroad. Big Jay has a small sidekick, Baby Jay, who may or may not be a female. However, the student inside the small costume is typically female between the height of 4’11” and 5’1”.
Besco created the Jayhawk tree from the remains of a gigantic white mulberry tree. He was commissioned to do so by Nancy Yonally who saw it as a way to honor her parents, David and Margaret Shirk. Margaret, who grew up on the land where the tree stands, lived to be 100 years old, half the age of the tree she loved.
If you would like to read the entire story I wrote for Amazing Aging and see detailed photos of the carvings, click HERE.
Nineteen years ago this month, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. October is a bad month for that diagnosis because it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and you can’t get away from it even if you want to ... and believe me, I wanted to! Pink ribbons and pink bracelets are everywhere, newspaper articles and TV stories urge women to get mammograms and literature is handed out in churches, grocery stores and even on the street.
I do not remember the exact date I was diagnosed, nor do I remember the day I had an eight-and-a-half-hour surgery. The date I do remember is the first scheduled surgery date — October 18 — which I discarded because my father had died on that day 26 years earlier. I am not superstitious, but I knew my mother could not handle me having surgery on that date. My decision made the agonizing wait from biopsy to surgery almost a full month so, to take our minds off the upcoming operation, Ray and I traveled to the Ozarks and met four good friends there. As I wrote in my column, “Sometimes you must change your latitude to improve your attitude."
Here's the thing about me. I can be open about my life (if you have visited this website a time or two, you already know that), but I'm very private when I'm in the midst of a crisis. Only my family and two very close friends were told of my upcoming surgery. Then, when it was all over, I wrote the column and shared the experience with friends and folks I didn't even know. Think it is hard to write a humor column dealing with cancer? Think reading it would be a bummer? If you're game, click HERE and answer your own questions.
Not knowing in advance upset a few close friends who read about it in the paper. One friend who served on the United Way Board with me thought the column titled "Humor can lighten the darkest days" was a joke, although why even I would joke about such a situation is pretty far-fetched.
But I didn't stop at the column. I interviewed a couple of cancer researchers at the KU Medical Center and delved deep into everything I could find about breast cancer regarding cause and treatment. If you want to read that article, click HERE. You didn't get a chance to read it in any of the women's magazines I sent it to. It was before the Women's Health Initiative halted its study early because it concluded that the overall health risks from the estrogen/progestin combo substantially exceeded the benefits. Said women's magazines all have multiple pages of full-color ads for those very same medicines. While I understand the economics, I often wonder how many women might have been helped by the article.
By the time the study was halted, I was mad and busily writing opinion pieces on the issue which I also couldn't sell. However, the WHI study shutting down did make me want to send a four-word sentence to the women's magazines that had turned down my earlier article: I TOLD YOU SO! Click HERE if you want to read my rant entitled "Just say WHOA!"
I've given you a lot to read, but, after all it is October so I will leave you with the following thought:
I was blessed with lots of funny uncles on my mother’s side of the family. Not those kind of funny uncles … just the kind who provided great stories for me to write about. Mom had six brothers and five sisters (all but one of whom married). But the uncle that Ray and I were talking about at dinner tonight was Uncle Lloyd, the husband of my Aunt Vera and very special to us.
Uncle Lloyd was the mayor of his small Oklahoma town of about 300 people whose main street on Highway 33 was about two and a half blocks long. At various times, the town had a garage, café, movie theater, drug store, hardware store and not one, but two, grocery stores. And a bank, central to our dinner conversation about Uncle Lloyd, who was friendly and helpful to a fault. Oh, you don’t think one can be too helpful? Read on.
He had business at the bank, but noticed that a young man, parked at the curb in front of the bank, was desperately trying to start his car. Uncle Lloyd grabbed the battery cables out of his truck and asked if he could give him a jump. The man gratefully accepted and, once the car started, thanked Uncle Lloyd profusely and quickly drove away.
Uncle Lloyd returned the battery cables to his truck, retrieved his deposit and headed into the bank where he found the tellers and a couple of customers tied up on the floor. Yep, what a friendly town it is when the mayor starts the car for the man who had just robbed the bank. Helpful to a fault, right?
Does that mean you have to keep it? What about if you’re buying cat food and treats? Oh, and cat toys, too? A kitty house guaranteed to be waterproof? Even if it’s not? How about a padded cat mat that reflects the cat’s body heat and keeps the little feline toasty in the coldest weather?
I contend that Ray started it by naming the stray Cupid. “Why Cupid?” I asked. “Because she’s sweet,” he replied. Next thing I knew he was buying her cat food. So I bought her some salmon cat treats. Then I bought cat toys: a jingly plastic ball she won’t play with and a green and white furry mouse with a long tail that she also won’t play with. What does she play with? The ties on the lawn chairs. The same lawn chair she’s trying to sleep on in the photo below if I’d quit turning on the light to take her picture.
She actually went in the house for a couple of nights, but it rained and — not being waterproof although it was advertised as such — it got wet and she doesn’t trust it anymore even though I Scotchguarded it and Ray has a plastic trash bag tied around it. The lawn chairs are going back to the basement for the winter so I hope she’ll try the house again with the warming mat so I will stop worrying whether she’s too cold.
I’ve pretty much stopped worrying that she’ll get pregnant. Ray has always been confident that she’s spayed, but we thought the last stray — Miss Kitty — was pregnant, only to find out she was a neutered male. The reason I am accepting that Cupid may be spayed is because my friend Laura, noticing her damaged left ear (the point is cut off), said that many shelters pick up feral cats and spay and release them after docking an ear so they won’t mistakenly pick them up again.
One thing we do not have to worry about is that she can’t climb away from coyotes. Miss Kitty was declawed; Cupid is not. We know this because she can climb up on our stairless deck ten feet above the ground. The shredded screen from the living room doors to the deck is further evidence. Thankfully, she has yet to discover that there is another screen on the doors leading to the deck from the bedroom.
Cupid is definitely Ray’s cat. The minute he is anywhere near her she starts purring and rubbing against his legs as a signal to be petted. I think I just answered the question I started this post with. Yeah, we have to keep her.
Those who know me are aware that I do not post my political opinions on social media. Oh, I have opinions and love to express and defend them in a civil debate, but I have observed that one cannot have such a debate on social media. This post is not intended to be political, although it may be perceived as so by some, but here goes.
Not all women are liars; not all women tell the truth. Not all men are liars; not all men tell the truth. I have met a few men who are pigs and a few women who are witches. That doesn’t color my view of all men and all women. Certainly not all men are predators, nor do they defend those who are, although some women currently ranting on television appear to think so. I refer specifically to the female senator from Hawaii who told the men of this country to “Shut up and step up!” I’m guessing men in her state stepped up to vote for her. I wonder if they will next election.
A couple of decades ago when I was on our local United Way board, we visited a battered women’s shelter for allocations hearings. That was unusual because they kept the location secret (not that you can actually do that), but they required money for needed repairs they wanted us to see. The women who resided there were not in residence. Nonetheless, the men were not permitted to go upstairs where repairs were needed because, according to the shelter’s director, their very presence — even when the residents were gone — would taint the space. I do not know if the men were embarrassed, but I was embarrassed for them, so I joked, “Is this where you separate the sheep from the goats?”
This I know. Whether the allegation of sexual misconduct levied against a man is true or not, he is forever tainted by the charge. If it is true, he deserves it. If it is not, the seed is planted and his reputation is ruined.
And concern about male sexual misconduct starts early. Remember the little bespectacled 6-year-old boy who sneaked a kiss from his female classmate? He was suspended from school for his heinous action. When I mentioned to my mother’s cardiologist that I thought it was ridiculous to suspend him, she said indignantly, “If it had been my daughter, I would have killed him.” She wasn’t kidding. Of course she wouldn’t really have killed him, but her outrage was real.
I was born liberated and grew up as the eldest of four daughters in a home where our parents told us we could do anything or be anything if we worked hard enough. My lawyer father taught us to look at both sides of an issue and not to make up our minds until we had all the facts. I once wrote that our family had the same dinner table debates as the Kennedy dynasty (no servants, though). We were encouraged to state our opinions from a young age and be prepared to defend them. Mainly, we were taught fairness. And fairness doesn’t mean believing someone just because of his or her gender.
I’ve been on this particular soapbox a long time. After a long ago column titled “Let’s hear it for the boys” was published, I received email and calls from some pretty angry women, one of whom asked, “Would it be okay if girls just went away?” I said, “Of course not. After all, I am a girl.” If you would like to read the column that made her so angry, click here.
Grandson Gabe has a degree in theatre from KU so when I saw the following YouTube video of the guy on the weather channel (#fakenewseverywhere), I wanted to share it with the Gabester. We have a similar sense of humor and this is what ensued on Facebook.
Marsha Henry Goff: And the Oscar for best acting in a hurricane goes to . . . the Weather Channel! Watch behind this thespian.
Marsha Henry Goff: Hey, Gabriel Goff, perhaps you should go into weather reporting. Who needs meteorology classes? Your degree in theatre will do nicely. After all, you did win the "Best Physical Actor" award!
Gabriel Goff: Marsha Henry Goff "Well Cuomo!!! I've spent the past half hour in the horse stance that Chuck Norris-sensei taught me to keep from getting blown away by the Nature Death Force!!! I'm also having to speak in a very loud voice because if you look behind me, Florence is summoning sound barrier-breaking tornado demons all around!!! if you look out to the East Side!!! You can see Moses trying to hold the hurricane at bay with his awesome God Stick!!! And I -- OH LORD THE WATER IS GETTING RED!!! This storm is next level!!!" *dramatic death faint* End scene.
Marsha Henry Goff: Gabriel Goff O.K., forget acting. Go into script writing. You're a GENIUS!
Marsha Henry Goff: O.K., Gabriel Goff, I had to look up Cuomo in the Urban Dictionary: after rivers cuomo. used to describe nerdy indie rockers. ... Top definition. Cuomomusic ... Get a Cuomo mug for your bunkmate Yasemin.
Still don't understand it, but I know what it means. Does that mean I'm hip? Do you need to look up hip?
Gabriel Goff: Marsha Henry Goff You read too much into it. Cuomo is this guy on the news that Grandpa likes to watch. He was reporting on the storm, that's why I used his name.
Marsha Henry Goff: Gotcha, Gabriel Goff. Chris Cuomo. I know the names of all the talking heads on every network (even the long-departed old and dead ones), but somehow, I don't think that makes me hip. I always look for a deeper meaning in your writing. Like I said, GENIUS! G'nite now.
Two years ago I had the great good fortune to be assigned to write a story about Katie Sherrow for Topeka SR Magazine. Then an active and vigorous 95-year-old, in her youth as a “Rosie the Riveter” she helped win World War II by repairing planes damaged in combat. “Sometimes, as you viewed the blood stains and bullet holes, you felt very close to the war zone,” she said. She also helped build aircraft, including the Constellation — a troop carrier and the largest plane Lockheed manufactured — as well as the P-38, a fighter plane.
Katie and Pat Martin, who became fast friends while playing competitive softball as young women, have become adopted family to Ray and me. Both are active, fun-loving, kind-hearted and have the greatest senses of humor. Recently, when a repairman attempted to leave their house, he was surprised to find that the door was locked. “Yes,” said Katie with a wicked grin, “when we get a man in here, we try not to let him out.”
For years, they operated a greyhound breeding and training business on the acreage where they live outside of Topeka. Each morning before heading to their respective jobs, the women would get up at 4 a.m., muzzle the dogs and train them by allowing them to chase jackrabbits which they purchased for $5 each. Katie once shot a badger that was threatening the greyhounds in their pen. “She locked me in there with it,” Katie says, pointing to Pat. “I locked the gate so she wouldn’t go in there with the badger,” Pat explains, “I didn’t know she was already in the pen.”
Katie hasn’t changed much in the past two years, nor has Pat. They work hard and play hard, although bingo and casino visits have now taken the place of softball. “Katie the Riveter” and her friend Pat continue to live fulfilling and productive lives. We hope they live forever!
I have absolutely no idea what this squirrel is doing, but he did it for about 15 minutes. I thought perhaps he was catatonic. Then I decided he was stretching before his morning jog. I am used to seeing squirrels upside down on the bird feeder or stretching from the deck railing to the feeder, but this guy (could be a gal) held a position I had never seen before.
I checked to see if he was looking at Ray's new stray acquisition, but the cat was not in sight (did I mention Ray has named her Cupid?). The photo below is the way our squirrels normally stretch. Ray recently was watching a squirrel doing this stretch when it lost its grip and fell to the ground. Here's the thing about squirrels: they can fall or jump from great heights without hurting themselves. They can also swim. Know how we know? Because one day Ray went out to fill the bird feeder and startled a squirrel who ran across the railing to the far end of the deck and sailed far enough off the end to land in the water garden. What a photo that would have been!
Our new stray cat is a calico and unlike our last stray — Miss Kitty renamed Paul — we are confident that this cat is really a female. Why? Because I just learned that only one calico cat in 3,000 is male. It has to do with the X chromosome which determines color: females (XX) have two X chromosomes and males (XY) have only one, so a female kitty can have orange and black patches while a male can have only one of those colors.
Also, the rare male calico cat (XXY) is usually sterile, only one in 10,000 being fertile. I wish that were true for female calico cats. Ray believes this cat has been spayed because it appears to him that the hair on her belly has been shaved at some point. I'm thinking that perhaps cats' bellies always look like that. After all, we thought that Miss Kitty was pregnant only to learn that she — er, he — was a neutered male.
Another dissimilarity to Miss Kitty is that this cat (as yet unnamed) is scared and unfriendly. Miss Kitty loved to be petted and tried to get in the house every time a door opened, while this cat won't come close even if Ray is holding food she badly wants. She is either a feral cat or has been abused. I'm pretty sure her damaged ear was the result of a cat fight which makes me worry again that she might have kittens. I don't mind buying food for one cat and worrying about her, but I don't want to worry about an entire litter.
Miss Kitty was declawed and I do not think this cat is since she can climb 10 feet up to the deck. And that is my other worry. Notice the above photo of her. Then look at the photo to the right to see what she is looking at so intently. Here's the thing: Cats gotta eat . . . but they don't have to eat birds. Especially our birds. And especially when we are buying her cat food and giving her chicken (that's a bird) out of a can.
When son Greg and family gave his dad this charming little fountain, we thought the birds would love it. Not only is it pretty, but the water falling into the metal cups makes a melodious sound we enjoy when the outdoor temperature allows us to have the doors open to the deck. That hasn't happened lately with temperatures hovering near 100.
This morning, the heat was too much for the robin pictured above. He splished, splashed, ducked his entire head in the water, and shook the water off like a wet dog. He was still so wet when he left, I thought he might be too waterlogged to fly. I'm guessing he will share his experience with feathered family and friends and they'll have a pool party tomorrow. There's room for 17 and if they show up in force, I'll snap a picture of the gathering.
It's simply not fair that we have to drive to Clinton Lake to see foxes! A resident of Clinton told me this little fox pictured above was one of about four litters. She said these foxes aren't afraid of people or dogs. The dogs chase them and the foxes think it's a game.
We live in the country, but the only live fox I ever saw in our vicinity was one running across the highway. The others I saw never made it. Our house on the hill is surrounded by seven and a half acres which is plenty of room for a vixen to be producing litter after litter. Perhaps our lack of foxes is because we don't have a dog for them to play with.
Even my friend Martha, who lives in the city, has a fox frequenting her neighborhood. She complains about it. I, on the other hand, would be putting out dog food for it and Ray would likely be giving it meat scraps. He feeds the coyotes. Why not a cute little fox? I'm pretty sure he'd even name it.
We're headed out to the lake in a while so maybe I'll snap more pics. Enjoying foxes vicariously is better than not enjoying them at all!
Writers do not write for money alone. The best perk of my profession is the opportunity to interview and write about interesting people . . . or several interesting people in the same family. Ray’s and my classmate, Ralph Leary, is the fifth generation of Learys who have owned and/or lived in the beautiful Victorian home his great-great-grandfather built in 1870 south of Lawrence.
Ralph and his wife, Leila, were once held hostage there by a couple of convicts, making it the most memorable event to ever take place in the house. “By far!” adds Ralph.
Julius Leary, the current owner and grandson of Ralph Leary, and his wife Carolyn are determined to restore the house to its former beauty. They've made a good start and they have created an eighth generation with Julius, Jr. and Jennifer.
If you would like to read the story I wrote for Lawrence Magazine and see some great photos of the family and the house, please click on this link: https://issuu.com/sunflower_publishing/docs/lm18su/40
A year ago last March when I talked the entire family into dressing in Jayhawk garb and posing for a picture under a limb on Ray’s and my favorite hiking trail at Mary’s Lake, I had visions of taking seasonal photos every three months. Silly me! It took over a year to get everyone back there and even then we were missing granddaughter Zoe because she was taking a friend, returning home to Vietnam for the summer, to the airport .
In the last photo, Ray was wearing sunglasses while the rest of us were not, so I thought it would be fun to take a photo with everyone wearing sunglasses. It almost worked. I took the precaution of bringing extra sunglasses in case anyone forgot to bring them. Greg, however, said his glasses darkened in the sun . . . and they do, but you have to be in the sun, not on a shady trail.
Steve Jones, Greg’s buddy since high school and everyone’s friend (Greg and Val’s kids call him Uncle Steve), was a good sport and took the photo as he did last time. Then he took another photo on our deck — where we had gathered for a cookout celebrating Ray's and Sammi's birthdays — so Zoe could be in a picture. Problem is, Butch, Linda and B.J. are missing in that one.
I was ready to apologize (NOT!) to granddaughter Sammi, who attended the University of Missouri at Columbia and now attends UMKC, for wearing the T-shirt that says Defeating Missouri since 1854. But, guess what? She turned up in the very same T-shirt. Here’s proof.
I may keep trying to get everyone together periodically for a family picture at the Mary’s Lake trail. Perhaps we can arrange to take one in the snow where we are all wearing Santa hats. What a Christmas card that would make! Stay tuned.
Ray rises before the sun while I, owl that I am, still sleep. Only rarely do I envy his lark status. One of those times was when he drove his truck down our long drive to retrieve our newspaper. He still cannot talk about the incident — a pre-dawn possum encounter — without laughing.
A mama possum giving her babies a ride started to cross our drive and did a quick U-turn when his truck's headlights hit her. "The two little possums walking beside her were okay," Ray says, "but the ones clinging to her back were thrown off and rolled all over the place like little furry softballs."
Fortunately, Ray avoided hitting any of the little possums. It would have broken his heart to kill one because he likes possums. Why? Because possums kill and eat snakes (they are impervious to the bite of venomous snakes) and they are such fastidious groomers that they kill 95% of the ticks that try to suck their blood. What's not to like?
At Clinton Lake, where we often drive and frequently walk, we became used to seeing a possum who palled around with a gimpy-legged raccoon. I don't remember naming the raccoon, but we dubbed the marsupial Possum Doble (clearly the fault of too much viewing of dancers performing the paso doble on Dancing with the Stars ).
Have you ever seen a possum play dead? They do a good job of it and that is where the term "playing possum" comes from. I recently met my friend Linda at the Big Biscuit for breakfast and she told me an interesting possum story regarding the possum's ability to do that.
Linda has a dearly beloved female Lab and a doggie door in the kitchen so the dog can go in and out at will. One day, Linda noticed a possum walking around in her kitchen (I suspect you don't have to be very observant to notice a possum in the house). The possum was removed. A few weeks later, it happened again. The third time a marsupial entered the house, the mystery was solved because the possum, playing dead, came through the doggie door in the soft jaws of the Lab. "She didn't want to hurt him," Linda explained, "she just wanted to play with him."
Any dogs around our home belong to our neighbors and we enjoy them vicariously. Definitely no doggie doors in our house. As much as we like possums, we want them to stay outside the house.
For 15 years, I wrote a humor column titled Jest for Grins for my local Lawrence, Kansas Journal-World
newspaper.While I stay busy with speaking engagements, writing articles and books and serving as editor and primary writer of a newspaper for a non-profit agency, I really miss writing about the funny things life throws my way. This website allows me to do that.
I freely admit to being a control freak who wants to do things on my own, but my good friend Ruth has been a tremendous help to me. I kept trying to make this website perfect before publishing, but finally decided that was like waiting to have children until you can afford them: it will never happen. So here it is; you'll get to watch it improve.
If you develop into a frequent Jest for Grins visitor, you'll quickly become familiar with my usual cast of characters: husband Ray, sons Ray, Jr. (aka Butch) and Greg, daughters-in-law Linda and Valerie, grandchildren B.J., Gabe, Sammi and Zoe, sisters Lesta, Bette and Vicki, as well as a host of family and friends (not one of whom is boring). If the topic has the potential to be embarrassing to them, be assured that they read it and gave it their OK (otherwise, sister Lesta has threatened to sue me).