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.
A spectacular Jayhawk tree
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).