12/29 - Day 3: Universal Studios
Why, oh why, don't we trade our LEMON?Our Lemon is big, pretty and a great ride
That's a question we ask each other every time we have another expen$ive repair. Most recently, the question came up after we spent around $700 to have another axle bearing and axle replaced. This is the second time on the left rear axle according to Ray. However, according to our Lemon dealer, the right rear axle bearing has been replaced twice.
Whichever, we think Ford must be getting its bearings from China because as many cars as we have owned (and we've owned a lot) we have never had to replace an axle bearing on any of them once, let alone three times on the same car.
So why haven't we traded this Lemon? If we had it to do over, we'd have traded it before the warranty ran out because now we know if a car requires a lot of repairs under warranty, those repairs are going to keep right on occurring when the money is coming out of our pockets. Problem is, we reached a point (actually many points) where we thought that every thing that could go wrong had gone wrong. We believed we had almost rebuilt the car one part at a time. WRONG!
Here's the thing: Ray and I like big cars but they're not making them anymore. What they call a full-size now was once a mid-size. An SUV is out of the question because of my 28-inch inseam. I learned that short people have no business buying an SUV when we rented one and, while I could climb into it, I had trouble getting out of it because my foot couldn't reach the ground. I had to turn sideways, let my posterior slide off the edge of the seat and freefall until my feet touched the ground.
We've driven lots of different rental cars lately when ours was being repaired. We also rented a car for our trip to Pittsburgh, PA last summer. We didn't trust our Lemon and decided to drive a Ford Taurus with all the bells and whistles because we were told it has the same body as a Lincoln MKX or MKS (I forget which is bigger). The Taurus was a perfectly nice car and while I could see me driving it around town or to nearby cities, Ray and I love long driving trips and that car just didn't cut it when compared to the size, comfort and great ride of our Lemon. Plus our Lemon averages 27 miles per gallon on the highway. I have friends with much smaller cars who don't get mileage that good.
Perhaps we'll luck onto a car like ours with fewer miles or maybe manufacturers will start making big cars again. We're thinking if our Lemon breaks down hundreds of miles from home (it's happened before), we'll kiss it goodbye and fly back.
Charmin short-sheeted meOld roll on the left, new on the right
Remember Mr. Whipple? He was the bespectacled, mustachioed guy who admonished toilet tissue shoppers in long ago commercials to “please don’t squeeze the Charmin.”
Well, he’d be pretty disappointed to learn that presently there isn’t as much Charmin to squeeze. That’s right, ladies and gents: Charmin is short-sheeting us. I have photographic evidence to prove it.
Old roll fits nicely in holder
Certainly, manufacturers don’t charge less for diminished products. The price for the smaller quantity may remain the same for a little while, but it soon begins climbing the old price ladder. Less for more makes them happy and us sad.
New roll leaves big gaps
I guess manufacturers of all kinds of products — from toilet tissue to tuna fish, soup to candy bars — think consumers are too dumb to notice the difference. We’re not . . . but what to do about it? A few ideas about toilet tissue, too gross toseriously consider, come to mind.
Each is about four inches wide. Rulers don't lie
For all the good it will do, I think I will write Charmin. Perhaps if we all did, they’d reconsider. In the meantime, if I find a manufacturer of toilet tissue that hasn’t yet resorted to short-sheeting customers, I’ll be their happy new customer. When it comes right down to it, quoting another old commercial, I’d rather switch than fight.
Hopper, the terra cotta-eating bunnyHopper chews on the rims of terra cotta pots
I’ve fooled a few people into thinking I’m good with words, but it is Ray who names our wild critters and cars, even the property on which our house was built that he dubbed Willow Run. He recently named a new critter that’s been hanging around the front of our house eating — I kid you not — terra cotta pots holding a powder puff tree that has never bloomed and a bird of paradise plant that has.
He's contemplating chewing on the plant now
If he’s actually ingesting the clay from the pots, I think his diet must be lacking some critical nutrient. On the other hand, it has occurred to me that he is sharpening his teeth to bite someone
. . . and I don’t want it to be me.
The only person I know of who was attacked by a “killer rabbit” was President Jimmy Carter when he was fishing in a boat and had to beat off a sinister swimming bunny with an oar. According to The Washington Post, the incident occurred
Time to relax after a terra cotta snack
when Carter’s popularity was at a low ebb and some believe it encouraged Sen. Edward Kennedy to challenge the president's renomination in the primary. Carter secured the Democrat nomination, but lost the election to President Ronald Reagan in a landslide. I’m pretty sure the bunny who set that all in motion was a Republican.
I snapped these photos of Hopper. I think you’ll agree he’s as cute as a bunny!
Blood MoonBlood moon photos all look alike: BEAUTIFUL!
Did you see it? Neither did I. I awakened sometime between 4:30 and 5:00 a.m., sleepily looked out the bedroom window, noticed the full white moon had a big bite out of its left side, turned over and went back to sleep.
My dad would be really put out with me. With a little help from Mom, he brought my sisters and me into the world and was determined to show it to us at all hours. He dragged us out of bed to see eclipses of the moon, geese flying over in V formation, their white bellies reflecting the city lights as they honked their way North, and lightning jumping from cloud to cloud.
Ray, who is a lark — not an owl like me -- and rises well before the sun did see the blood moon, but knew better than to wake me. Would I have liked to see it? You bet! But would I have been happy to be awakened and leave my warm bed? I think you know the answer to that question.
Eye-yi-yi: Part Deux
Stick a needle in MY eye?Red and green eye (shots partially visible lower right)
Cross my heart,
Hope to die,
Stick a needle
in my eye!
That rhyme made me keep my promises during my entire childhood. It wasn't the dying part so much as the thought of a needle piercing my eye. And yet today, Dr. B., retina specialist, did exactly that . . . twice.
My exuberance over recent cataract surgery – and my near 20/20 vision – lasted a week and a half. Then the vision in my left eye became progressively blurred. Two days of that sent me back to my ophthalmologist who, after documenting my vision at 20/50 and performing an eye scan, diagnosed me with CME (cystoid macular edema), increased my steroid eye drop to 4 times daily and added an anti-inflammatory eye drop.
My vision continued to decrease which resulted in a panicky Sunday phone conversation with the on-call ophthalmologist who increased my steroid eye drop to every two hours. By Tuesday, my vision had decreased to 20/100 and the eye scan showed further swelling of the macula prompting a referral and subsequent visit to Dr. B. He ordered more tests, including one where dye was injected – remember I hate needles? – into my hand, a bright light flashed into my eye while what looked to me like 3-D color pictures were taken of my eyeball. For about 10 minutes post dye injection, everything was bathed in a rosy glow . . . even people.
The diagnosis was Irvine Gass Syndrome, the name for CME that is caused by cataract surgery. Who knew? Drs. Irvine and Gass, that's who! Depending which doctor you talk with and what website you visit, the condition is rare . . . or not. Smart too late again: I learned that preoperative treatment might have prevented this condition. Studies are precious few, but those that exist show that an anti-inflammatory drop in the eye a day before surgery and continuing for a few days after resulted in no I-G Syndrome for those in control groups receiving the drop, while I-G Syndrome occurred in varying percentages in control groups without the drop. Dang!
There is no protocol for preoperative treatment for cataract surgery patients who have no risk factors, such as diabetes. Treatment is considered expensive: $183 with coupon (I checked), but some surgeons routinely pre-treat by giving patients samples of the drop. As a patient who paid $750 out-of-pocket for laser surgery because it is safer than a blade, in retrospect I wish I had been offered the option to decide for myself whether to have the preoperative drop. And if my right eye ever requires cataract surgery, you can bet the bank I'll have that pretreatment drop.
Sure would be better than the two injections I had in my eye today. However, if a needle in my eye restores my near 20/20 vision, I'll be a happy camper. Consider this posting a public service message to all of you who may one day be candidates for cataract surgery. It is the article I wish I had read before I had mine.
Cataract surgery? Eye-yi-yi!Left eye, not right. Mirror image. Parrot on right shoulder
Cataract surgery? Me? At my age? Yep. I blame years of sunbathing while reading without the protection of sunglasses. Smart too late on two counts. Don’t you just hate that?
Back in the day, I spent hours in the sun — either in the backyard or at the pool while watching the kids swim and dive. My friend Jean often met me at the pool and we would lounge on our beach towels and talk about all the leisure time we would have when our kids were grown. "How," I recently asked her, "should we have known that those werethe days when we had leisure time?" I sure haven’t had much downtime since.
Only my left eye required surgery. I suspect it is because I favored lying on my left side causing the sun to bounce off the white pages into my left eye. Only thing I can figure anyway.
You need to know this: I am scared of needles, blood and surgery. And I amreally scared of anesthesia. True, with my cataract surgery there was no general anesthesia, just Versed and a pain reliever (likely Fentanyl), which together provide "conscious sedation" or "twilight sleep." Together, the two drugs are supposed to prevent pain and anxiety during the surgery . . . and, since it’s a memory blocker, if you do suffer pain or stress, you won’t remember it. OK, where was this stuff when I was giving birth to two kids?
I put off cataract surgery for a couple of years, even though Dr. Mary P, my ophthalmologist, walks on water as far as I’m concerned. She operates in our local hospital (a place I’m glad I went since Joan Rivers’ tragic experience with anesthesia in a doctor’s clinic). I opted for laser surgery requiring that I pay $750 out of pocket because Medicare will pay only for surgery by a blade (I forgot to mention I’m also scared of blades). Insureds who want laser surgery have to pay the difference. If you noticed the word Medicare, you probably have concluded that I’m not too young to have cataract surgery. As for me, I think I am and I’m sticking to it.
I went home shortly after surgery with a shield taped to my left eye. The next day in Dr. Mary P’s office, the seven of us who had surgery the previous day showed up for our individual unveilings. The waiting room looked like a pirate convention. One woman with her right eye shielded said that was her second surgery in two weeks since she was already seeing 20/20 in the first eye.
I was spooked when my vision wasn’t anywhere close to 20/20 at my unveiling. However, five days later, I was nearly 20/20 and I expect to have perfect vision in my left eye when I see Dr. Mary P in a couple of weeks. As for my right eye which doesn’t require surgery, I’m wearing a contact in it for far vision which I didn’t need when I was younger. That may indeed be an "age thing" but I can’t help thinking how fortunate I am to live in a time and place where vision can be restored . . . even if I did have to look like a pirate for a day.
Termites gave us Peace in the ValleyLesta's favorite photo of Dick
"You have termites," is not something a homeowner wants to hear, and yet many Californians like my sister Lesta hear that bad news. Termite treatment is expen$ive, invasive and a lot of work for the homeowner who must clear the basement for the drilling that ensues.
If you have read all my posts on this site, you know that I lost my brother-in-law Dick in March. One of a great many things that Dick liked to do was sing. He sang in church, at nursing homes and performed as Elvis in shows and benefits. Lesta thought most recordings of Dick’s songs were lost, but a few days ago she sent me a CD of two of his songs she found by happy accident.
Many years ago, Dick recorded on tape two of his mother’s favorite songs. Flo listened to that tape every single day so, in addition to being more than two decades old, the tape was well used. While moving the boxes for the termite treatment, Lesta found the tape in one of the unopened boxes of Flo’s belongings that were stored in their basement after her death. Lesta was afraid to play the tape so she took it to a friend who saved it on several CDs, one of which was sent to me.
Dick was a good guy who loved kids and entertained them (and adults) by talking like Donald Duck. I always liked him, but I learned to love him like a brother when our son Greg knocked out his daughter’s tooth in a backyard baseball game. All the kids were young and Greg was just three years older than Kym. Greg was batting when Kym, who had only played T-ball and didn’t know batters swung the bat in an arc, ran up behind him and was struck full in the mouth by the bat. We hunted for Kym’s permanent front tooth a long time, hoping it could be saved. We found it, but implanting it was a hopeless cause.
Greg felt awful and was afraid Dick and Lesta would be angry with him, but as soon as they returned from the dentist, Dick made a bee-line for Greg, hugged him and told him it wasn’t his fault. You have to love a guy like that.
If you’d like to hear Dick sing Peace in the Valley, click HERE. We hope he has found it.
I pity those who lack a sense of humor
There are people who lack a sense of humor. I know because I have encountered them. Can you imagine going through life without seeing the funny side of things? It would be hard. For me it would be impossible.
It is true I have sometimes made a spectacle of myself when I think something is funny and those around me do not. Take the time my friend Jean talked me into going to a meeting where the school district introduced a national public health official sent to our state to study sexually transmitted diseases and educate high school students about the danger of unprotected sex. The audience was made up primarily of folks who opposed the idea . . . not of STDs, but of telling kids about them. Nothing funny about that subject until a very serious woman introduced him to the crowd by saying, "And now I'd like to introduce the man who is responsible for all the VD in Kansas."
I tried not to laugh, but wasn't successful even with all the faces around me — except Jean's — frowning in my direction. I got myself under control just in time to hear the speaker say, "I'd like to thank her for that glowing introduction, but I want you to know that it is a gross exaggeration!"
I was practically rolling in the aisles after his remark and I'm pretty sure Jean was deciding she wouldn't invite me to accompany her to any more meetings.
My friend Heather recently ran into a highway trooper with no sense of humor who ticketed her for speeding on two consecutive days. The second day, he approached her car and said, "Haven't we talked before?"
"Yes," she said, "but if you wanted my number, you could have asked me yesterday and wouldn't have had to pull me over today." Her court date is pending.
And my friend Jackie ran into a surgeon who lacked a funny bone when she required a breast biopsy and labeled the healthy boob: NOT THIS ONE! He let her know in no uncertain terms that he was not amused. How much happier his — and I suspect his wife's — life would have been if he could have gone home and said with a big grin, "You'll never guess what a patient did!"
I hope you find something to smile at today.
One gutsy stowawayHangin' on for dear life on a very slick car hood
Driving home from our walk at Clinton Lake the other morning, I noticed a stowaway on the hood of our Lemon. "Look at that grasshopper!" I exclaimed, "He’s hanging on for dear life."
He was, too, at 30 mph. "He’ll blow off as we accelerate," Ray said. But he didn’t . . . even at a burst of speed up to 74 mph. Blowing backward and from side to side in the wind, his antennae acted much as a windsock does. Periodically, he would lift a front leg to straighten an antena. Each time he did so, he lost a little ground and slid nearer the passenger-side edge of the hood. Several times I thought he was a goner, but he maintained his grip.
Our little stowaway lasted an amazing 27 miles, jumping (or falling off) by our mailbox as Ray slowed to turn in our drive. "I only hope," I said to Ray as we pulled into the garage, "that he and our grasshoppers speak the same language." (Click on photo to see antennae.)
A tree frog's gotta eat . . . bugsFlash through window gave bug red eye
If you read the first post on this site, you know about the tree frog that once invaded our bathroom, taking a seat on the toilet.
While the little guy pictured at left didn't actually make it into our bathroom, he put on quite a show outside our bathroom window as he stalked a bug drawn to the light. This tree frog had better luck securing a meal than an earlier tree frog on the same window. When that tree frog (perhaps the same one since they all look alike) lunged at a bug, he lost his grip and fell off the window. It was a long drop and Ray and I looked at each other in dismay, hoping the bridal wreath spirea under the window had broken his fall.
Hard to digest when you're standing on your head
The current tree frog didn't lose his grip and fall, but his whole world turned upside down as pictured at right. He worked really hard for his meal.
Too bad the bug didn't work equally hard to avoid being eaten.
Climate change? Ask the dinosaurs
The Ice Age surprised dinosaurs who woke up covered in snow and icicles
The only thing settled about Climate Change — sometimes dubbed Global Warming — is that it isn't. Settled, I mean. We all know that the climate has been changing for eons. Just ask the dinosaurs whose tropical climes became the Ice Age almost overnight. And when the Ice Age retreated, we were left with cool memories of it . . . like the Rocky Mountains and Utah's Great Salt Lake. We might have had that latter feature in Kansas — and all been swimming to work — but our inland sea evaporated or flushed (I'm not sure which), leaving us with sharks' teeth free for the finding in arid Western Kansas.
If my facts are a little fuzzy, know this: I am not a scientist nor do I portray one on television. But neither is Al Gore who won a Nobel Prize for warning us in An Inconvenient Truth that polar bears were going to drown because they would have no ice floes to sit upon and that New Yorkers would be swimming to work. I never really warmed up to Al, so I am predisposed to believe the report that he has made a lot of money — and is poised to make more (greed is GOOD) — on remedies to prevent man-made climate change.
And there's the rub. I do believe the climate is ever-changing (Kansas is presently very cool in July, which I presume is why the "Global Warming" term went out of fashion), but I do not believe man has a lot to do with it. Too much extreme change occurred before man even appeared on the planet. And I'm not alone in that belief because Dr. Patrick Moore, Canadian scientist, co-founder and former director of Greenpeace, says, "There is no scientific proof that human emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) are the dominant cause of the minor warming of the Earth’s atmosphere over the past 100 years." Moore left Greenpeace in 1986, claiming the other Greenpeace directors were not scientists, but political activists or environmental entrepreneurs who abandoned scientific objectivity in favor of political agendas. The directors, in turn, called Moore heretic and traitor. Sticks and stones.
A United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report released last September indicates that global surface temperatures have not increased for the past 15 years, yet subsequent reports by that panel continued to forecast doom and destruction (but wait, were those reports written by open-minded scientists or environmental crusaders with an agenda?). Sometimes it is hard to tell. NASA reported that this year's maximum wintertime extent of Antarctic sea ice was the largest on record, even greater than the previous year's record amount. But before the ink was dry on that report, some were theorizing that while decreasing ice in the Arctic was meaningful, increasing ice in the Antarctic was meaningless in the context of global warming. Why is that? I'm confused.
Apparently, those who believe the earth is warming and that man is the main cause of it are not persuaded by such scientific data as stable surface temperatures and increasing Antarctic ice. I once read that scientists who subscribe to the Gore Theory of Global Warming base their belief on computer models, not actual data. Say WHAT? Surely, that can't be true. And yet it might be. If you were a scientist who staked your reputation on an inconvenient truth that turned out to be a huge fib, would you admit you were wrong? Or, like Gilda Radner's Emily Litella persona, would you simply smile and say, "Never mind."
It's hard for the rest of us to know who or what to believe. I have studied it all, from man-made climate change activists' articles ("OMG, the sea is rising!") to man-made climate change deniers' articles ("What are those idiot alarmists talking about?"). For now, I am skeptical of those who see everything as an indication of global warming. Hot summers? Global warming. Cool summers? Global warming. Warm winters? Global warming. Bitterly cold winters? Global warming. So I plan to take a calm wait-and-see attitude toward global warming, but if I start walking down our hill and find myself dog-paddling to the mailbox, all bets are off.
Our beautiful, but incredibly
stinky, flowerBeautiful, yes, but too stinky to keep
Imagine my surprise to read in this morning’s newspaper an Associated Press story about a corpse flower set to bloom at Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas. Biology professor and greenhouse supervisor Max Thompson is very excited about it and thinks it’s the first-ever to bloom in Kansas. Corpse flower (Latin name: Amorphophallus titanum which gives you an idea what it looks like) may indeed be the first of that Latin name to bloom in Kansas, but in 2008, our solarium hosted it’s younger brother’s beautiful, but unbelievably stinky, flowers.
I documented its blooming in a Jest for Grins column, published November 8, 2009, after we had torn up the family room looking for a dead mouse (make that a whole family of dead mice with a bunch of deceased cats thrown in). We finally located the stench in the adjoining solarium and realized it was coming from the lovely 12-inch-in-diameter blooms on Ray’s prized starfish cactus. Suppressing the gag reflex I couldn’t, he carted it outdoors. I never saw it again and assume it succumbed to our Kansas winter’s harsh weather . . . and . . . I . . . DON’T . . . CARE! I looked up "starfish cactus" on the Internet and found its Latin name (Stepelia gigantea) as well as the names corpse flower and carrion flower. What do you think the likelihood is of Ray paying good money for a flower bearing those two monikers? You got it: slim and none.
If you’d like to read, "Household odor spurs great mouse hunt," click HERE. You will read more about mice encounters than our stinky flower incident, but — if you keep reading — you’ll get there.
Thank you to veterans of all wars
for keeping America Free!
To those living veterans who served our country, whether under a flag with 48 stars or 50, THANK YOU!
To the Rangers and 83rd Chemical Mortar Battalion veterans who served with Dad through Africa, Sicily, Italy, France, Belgium, Germany and Austria, THANK YOU!
To those who served in later wars, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and those who serve today, THANK YOU!
But how can we thank those who died under foreign skies and did not have the opportunity to grow old? There is only one way: Never forget their sacrifice. Remember always!
My friend Franck Maurouard and his family, who live in Normandy, France, haven't forgotten. Each year on Memorial Day, they decorate the graves of two Rangers who died there on D-Day. If you'd like to read my article about Franck and his family, and a soldier from Kansas whose grave they decorate, click HERE.
A little lemonade from our LemonA repair bill under $100 is a cause for celebration!
Yesterday was a red letter, lucky, happy day for us! Why? Because we walked out of our Lemon dealer’s garage with a bill under $100 . . . 43 dollars and 52 cents under, to be exact. Even better, we used our credit of $18.58 (since we require so many repairs, we always have on the books a credit that Ford bestows based on the money we spent on previous repairs) giving us a final total of $37.90.
This time the problem was the cruise control. It worked driving to Topeka on Friday, but didn’t work driving home. I honestly thought once the car was parked in the garage overnight and restarted the next morning that the cruise control would function. (I blame our IT son who has finally convinced me that the best thing I can do with my computer when it’s on the fritz is to reboot. You’d be surprised how many times that works.)
However, blaming him doesn’t explain the large and small appliances stored in the basement that are awaiting self-healing . . . especially the broken TV that we moved to the "new" house we built 19 years ago. All these years later, it’s still broken. I didn’t even have any takers when I offered to give it away in a newspaper column: I have always believed that, if left to their own devices in a darkened basement, appliances will fix themselves. But I’ve given up on that television set. Anyone who wants a TV which quit working after smoke started coming out of the back of it, may have it for hauling it away. If you’d like to read that entire column, entitled "Appliances are designed to rile," clickHERE.
The buttons at left control the cruise control
But back to the cruise control. When I drove the car the next morning it was obvious that rebooting hadn’t worked, so I began to worry that the remedy would be to replace the steering wheel where you punch the buttons that turn on the cruise control and set its speed. You’ll remember that fixing the broken driver’s door handle required replacing the inside door at a cost of $450.93. I can’t imagine what replacing a steering wheel containing an airbag would cost.
Turns out the brake pedal position switch (I didn’t even know it had one) was out of adjustment, making the cruise control think the brake pedal was depressed the entire time we were driving (like we’d be so dumb). Since depressing the brake pedal turns off the cruise control, it now makes perfect sense why it wasn’t working.
I hope all the future repairs on our Lemon will be such simple and inexpensive fixes. And I also hope that the TV in our basement will fix itself one of these years.
Tech Support: Send in the clowns!They aren't all clowns, but too many are!
It has happened to all of us. Sooner or later we require technical support . . . for a webpage, satellite TV or even a brand new lawnmower that doesn’t work as advertised. And yet we hesitate. Why? First, because we fear we won’t be able to understand the heavily-accented English of someone in a far off country to whom the job has been outsourced. Second, if wecan understand them, we often realize they are reading from a script and their answers — like those from your Congressman/woman — don’t relate at all to the reason you have contacted them. Third, and it has happened to me, you realize you are speaking to someone who is even more clueless about the problem than you are.
Late last night, after realizing the stunning (for me) number of visitors to my website had not updated for a couple of days, I contacted support. The automatic update has failed before and the person I called has been able to fix it. This time, I decided to use the 24/7 chat, figuring I could eliminate any problem with understanding speech if it were written. It started out great with Godson (I decided he is male, but I can’t be sure of that) who told me that in those two static days an additional 535 people had visited my site. He said he would manually change the visitor statistics and if I was happy with him, would I rate him at 9 or 10? I happily gave him a 10. BIG mistake. That was before I checked my statistics page and saw he had reduced my visitor count to a pittance and screwed up the graph as well.
Not to worry. I tried the chat again and was connected with Poornima (I decided she is female, but who knows; could be, could be not). I explained the problem and asked if she could help. "Sure," she replied confidently. But she couldn’t and the chat went downhill to the point that I realized, Hey, I freely admit I am clueless, but she is making me look like Einstein!
When she told me how many days were left in the month, I was reminded of the time I called for support from my satellite TV provider and, after being instructed several times to unplug the receiver, wait 30 seconds and plug it back in, the man (he was a man . . . or a woman with an uncommonly deep voice) suggested I wasn’t doing it correctly. I told him there were only so many ways one could unplug and plug in a receiver and to send me up to a higher level. You can read my newspaper column about that experience, if you wish, by clicking HERE.
When, in desperation, I phoned webpage support, I was connected to Zach, a nice guy who appeared a tad bored (it was after midnight my time), but who did send a report to "Tier Two." Later, I heard from Sudheer (Male? Female? Beats me!) at "Tier Two" who said the website was now updated . . . but it’s not and I fear it never will be. It was going to be a great month, too. Rats!
I am tenacious, if nothing else, so this morning I talked to support person Joseph. He sent it back to "Tier Two" marked priority. I haven’t heard anything yet, but I suspect if the problem is corrected, it will be because it has reached "Tier Two Thousand Twelve" or higher. Stay tuned . . . but don’t hold your breath. I'm not.
HAPPY FATHER'S DAY!
If you'd like to read a Father's Day
column, Every father is special to his children, please click HERE.
A link to another Father's Day
column is found in WW II Articles.
Hazmat suits can be scary!
When husband Ray and I walked in the park one recent beautiful morning, I expected to see barefoot children playing on swings and people walking their dogs. What I didn’t expect to see only a couple hundred feet away from said kids swinging and playing tag was a man digging in the ground while wearing what appeared to be a full hazmat suit. It gives one pause, doesn’t it?
Well, consider how I felt when — just a few years after moving into the new home we built on a hill in the country — I went to the large, carpeted double-closets in a downstairs bedroom of our walkout to get a pair of seldom-worn dressy sandals and discovered the shoebox had mold on it. Within seconds I was on the phone scheduling an appointment with the mold abatement folks. Meanwhile, Ray found the culprit . . . a rogue bunny rabbit who had made a nest in one end of the foundation drain that surrounded the lower outside walls of our basement, causing water to back up along the exterior of the closet wall.
I thought I was coping fairly well with the situation until the mold abatement people showed up in white suits and helmets with clear plastic face shields. I was standing in a hallway talking to them in their protective gear when I realized, Hey, I’m standing here in shorts and a T-shirt breathing moldy air. Heck, Ray and I are living here, eating here, sleeping here. And that was the moment when I stopped coping and started freaking!
The double-closets sans sheetrock and oak molding
Ray contends that was also the moment when I decided it was perfectly reasonable to spend $20,000 to have all the furniture in that bedroom (including Ray’s computer) stored in a warehouse for a couple months, to rip up and replace bedroom carpet, tear out sheetrock and insulation, clean every carpet in the house, wipe down and purify every surface (including ceilings), run air purifiers 24/7 on both levels and double wash, dry-clean or throw out every item of clothing and shoes in the affected closets.
New carpet, closet doors, furniture back = $20,000
The result was a home certified to be as mold-free as a house can get and a husband who regularly checks the foundation drain to be sure it’s free of rogue bunny rabbits.
As for what was going on in the park, I haven't a clue. I just hope the parents of those equally clueless kids haven't noticed them glowing in the dark!
Car woes continueEven out of focus, my key looks good
After spending close to $3,000 fixing potential problems with our Lemon’s suspension, while driving home the other day I noticed that my posterior was feeling every tiny imperfection in the pavement. Not chuckholes, mind you, but every little pebble and seam in the highway. In short, our car rode like a lumber wagon. And that wasn’t all — I could see the entire hood ornament, only the very top of which was customarily visible from my position behind the wheel. Clearly, something was wrong . . . AGAIN!
"I think something’s wrong with the car," I told Ray when I arrived home. My poor, long-suffering guy has heard this before — many, many times — from me, so he didn’t ask any questions, just headed for the garage. A quick look told him all he needed to know. "Call Roger," he said, "and tell him we’re bringing it in."
Back in the days of "Real Steel" autos, fender skirts and lowering blocks were highly coveted by high school and college kids. Don’t know what a lowering block is? Neither do I, but what it did was make the back of the car so low to the ground that some bumpers (then real chrome) would scrape the pavement and throw up sparks when hitting dips in the road. Our Lemon looked like it had heavy-duty lowering blocks. Either that or like we were smugglers smuggling God knows what . . . or who.
Our Lemon was lowered this much
Once at the dealer, we settled into the waiting room with our books while the mechanics inspected our Lemon. About an hour later, Roger, our service adviser, showed up and asked if we were up to walking to where our car was hoisted high on a lift. Bruce, our service manager, Ray and I stood under the car and gazed at the underside. "What’s wrong with it?" I asked.
"I wish I knew," said Bruce. "A pneumatics code showed up, but we already knew that. The compressor [it fills the air bags] checks out. All the mechanic did was disconnect the sensor and when he reconnected it, the bags inflated, lifting the rear end back up."
He counted off on his fingers which of the expen$ive problems it might be, but advised us to wait and see what happens since fixing it would be a guess at best. Sooooo, that was eight days ago and the back end is still up where it should be. However, driving into Kansas City that day to have our Lemon’s lowered rear end checked out, a truck threw up a big rock which hit our windshield with a loud bang. "We’re lucky," I said to Ray, "that that rock didn’t break our windshield."
The next day as I returned from Topeka with my friend Martha sitting in the passenger seat, she said, "You’ve got a crack in your windshield."
"No, I don’t," I replied. But, oh, I did! A couple days later, we took our Lemon in to our favorite local glass company to have the windshield replaced. About an hour before closing, the owner called to say that they had broken the new windshield as they installed it and would have to order another one. We drove around with a windshield boasting TWO cracks for a couple days and yesterday they installed a third windshield sans cracks.
Turns out that — even when we can’t blame Ford — our Lemon is bad luck!
Dear Ford Motor Company (Part Deux)
Since I last wrote, we have spent an additional $2,587.45 on repairs to our Bad Luck Lincoln (aka LEMON). We thought long and hard about having airbags replaced (not the safety kind, the air ride kind) along with ball joints, stabilizer bar and other steering parts (not including the recall on the steering sector which didn’t cost us). I ask you: What’s wrong with us? Why didn’t we trade this car while it was still under warranty?
I’ll tell you why. When you have as many repairs done under warranty as this @#$!%&* car required, you have a tendency to think that everything that can go wrong already has gone wrong. Now we know that there are a bazillion other things that can go wrong as we are busy proving daily.
I was happy to capture this guy's foot
What may have been the last straw occurred in Spirit Lake, Iowa — after a couple of golden hours snapping pics of pelicans and a fisherman catching bullheads — when the car stalled at a stop light on a six-lane highway through town. The car was as dead as the parrot on the
Friendly fisherman with bullhead
old Monty Python TV show. Nothing would work, not even the hazard lights. Ray put the transmission in park and instantly regretted it when it stayed stuck in park. The Menard’s truck behind us beeped gently to alert us that the light had changed to green.
Ray walked back and told the driver that our car was dead. The driver (bless his sainted mother) immediately turned on his hazard lights and told Ray he’d block for us until the sheriff arrived. However, Ray didn’t tell me that and all I saw was Ray standing in front of an open hood while I imagined a vehicle rear-ending us and running over Ray with his own dead Lincoln. The sheriff arrived, turned on his red-and-blues and called a wrecker (the sheriff wanted to get us off the road pronto).
Meanwhile, I called our dealer to ask for a diagnosis. I expect our service manager to be correct most of the time and he called it right, saying, "It sounds like the alternator" (which had already been replaced once). Bruce has received many calls from me during the time we’ve owned this @#$!%&* car, but never one as panicky as this call which was interrupted several times by me sticking my head out the window and yelling at Ray, "Get away from the front of the car!"
As we waited, Karen and Brenda, friends staying at our resort, recognized our car and stopped to see if they could help. "Move along, move along," said the sheriff, "nothing to see here."
"But they’re our friends," said Karen, "We’re trying to help." They offered to take me back to the resort, but I told them I’d stick with Ray.
Ray (that's his baggy shirt, not his belly) inspects our dead car
Car trouble in an unfamiliar town is dicey. Thinking of outrageous wrecker bills in my own city worried me that we were at the mercy of any nefarious individual who might decide to gouge a sitting duck. That worry was unfounded and bad luck changed to good the minute Rick arrived and took us to his three-generation family business that sold gas, auto parts and repaired cars. His dad drove to another town to pick up an alternator for our car (make that most Lincoln Town Cars), but when he returned, the part didn’t fit. Who knew our car required a limousine or Highway Patrol alternator? It was too late to return the part to the warehouse which had to have the right part over-nighted. Rick drove us back to our resort and said the alternator would be installed in the morning.
The place where Rick replaced our alternator
Ray and I felt good about the business, even though we had yet to receive a bill, because a local investment banker was waiting to have u-joints installed on his car. We had a great hour-and-a-half visit with him and with Sylvia (the mom) who shared our politics and views on life, as well as several retirees who came in for donuts and coffee. We figured those who lived there knew best that they could trust the business.
The next morning Karen’s husband, Steve, transported us to pick up our car which Rick had washed. We gladly paid $446.19 and the car ran great all the way home. Best of all, we made new friends and — if we ever again have car trouble in Spirit Lake — we know who to call.
(Click on photos for larger images.)
My vintage dressA short fat Elvis might have made me look thinner
Some women visit a vintage clothing store when they want something old to wear. Not me! I go to my closet where I have a versatile summery dress in a small-flowered print trimmed in lace — complete with shawl — that I have worn on momentous occasions (weddings, dinner theaters and parents’ night at the kids’ schools).
(Click on photos for larger images.)
The other night I wore it to a charity fundraiser/dance where Elvis performed. No one complimented me on the dress, although one woman did stop me to ask if I had made it. "No, I said, "I bought it a long time ago, either 35 or 36 years. This dress has been worn to several weddings and outlasted more than a few of those marriages."
The dress goes casual with bare feet
The dress has traveled to Cancun a couple of times and to a great many states (including Hawaii, but not Alaska). It’s a game to me now to see exactly how long I can get by wearing it. But the time may almost be up because when — after spending several days looking in three cities for something to wear to the dance — I decided I liked
I'll bet my friends aren't still wearing their dresses
the vintage dress best and tried it on. Grandson Gabe, studying for college final exams, looked up from his laptop long enough to say, "That’s pretty."
"Can you tell it’s almost 40 years old?" I asked.
"I don’t think you’ll like the answer," he replied.
I wore it anyway and now I have a picture taken with Elvis to add to my collection of photos where I’m wearing that dress. How cool is that?
After wearing it to a wedding several years ago, I wrote a newspaper column about my heirloom clothes. If you’d like to read it, click HERE.
Mickey and Mandy: Show Biz RoyaltyOlder, but still has that smile
In a column I penned a decade or two ago, I wrote about Mickey Rooney and Mandy Patinkin, the latter of whom is scheduled to appear at KU’s Lied Center this coming season. More recently, I wrote on this website that Mickey Rooney is alive. Sadly, that is no longer true. The 93-year-old had been in showbiz 90 years when he died. The top box office star for many years in the ‘30s and ‘40s, Mickey is known to kids today only for his bad guy role inNight at the Museum with Ben Stiller and Dick Van Dyke.
Patinkin in Princess Bride
Mandy Patinkin is much better known to America’s youth. He has starred in numerous movies, among them Princess Bride (my favorite of his movie roles), Yentl and Dick Tracy, TV shows (Chicago Hope,Criminal Minds, Homeland), as a guest on late night talk shows and on Broadway where his amazing voice won him a Tony for Evita as well as several Tony nominations for other shows.
However, in our family, Patinkin is best known for stiffing my kids. When he was a student at KU, he lost Sebastian, his much loved dog. He posted flyers which pictured the dog doing tricks and offered a $100 reward for his return.
As luck would have it, a few days later Sebastian showed up in our suburban yard. King, our Shepherd-Husky pooch, was getting the best of trespassing Sebastian when the kids intervened so — not only did they find Patinkin’s dog — they probably saved his sorry life. Butch and Spike (I know, I know, the boys’ nicknames sound like dogs’ names) were already counting the ways they’d spend the reward money as they dialed Patinkin’s number.
His roommate answered and said he’d come after the dog. Within 15 minutes, he’d departed with Sebastian after casually informing the kids, "Sorry, no reward. This is the second time he’s been lost. The reward was paid the firsttime he was found."
Years later, it occurred to me that if the roommate was a nefarious sort, he might have told Patinkin he paid the reward and collected $100 for his trouble. In that case, it would be the nameless roommate who stiffed my kids. Unless he’s a bigger star than Patinkin, that wouldn’t be worth writing about.
Note: If you want to read the column about all of my brushes with greatness, click HERE.
A fun day with DadZoe and some friends (and foes) from Star Wars
Granddaughter Zoe walked with her dad in the Kansas City Corporate Challenge kick-off walk held in a big parking lot serving Arrowhead and Royals stadiums at the Truman Sports Complex. Greg, who walks in the challenge every year, said it was the first time any member of his family walked with him and added, "It was a good time!"
In addition to enjoying the day with her dad, Zoe was rewarded by having her photo taken with Star Wars characters. When Greg emailed the photo to Zoe’s siblings, Gabe and Sammi, Gabe — busy cramming for college finals — noticed that Zoe was holding Jango Fett’s Westar-34 pistol blaster and morosely responded. "My life feels so empty!"
Note: I’m told that Jango Fett is the guy in the blue helmet standing behind Zoe. (Click on photo for larger image.)
Hey, look! Turkeys!
We never know what we are going to see in our back yard when we glance out a window. Yesterday, Ray said, "Hey, look! Turkeys!" We’ve seen more of them — 29 in our yard once — but yesterday’s lovelorn Toms were putting on a show for the ladies among them. I was disappointed that none were dancing. Sometimes, when their tails are spread, they will dance in a circle around the hens.
He's tryin', but she's not buyin'
Until we built our home on a hill in the country, I never realized wild turkeys had blue heads. I don’t know why God put that single dangling feather in the front chest of a male turkey, but the color and pattern of their feathers are an artist’s dream.
Ray says he is curious about how wild turkeys taste, but hasn’t tried to shoot one to find out. I am told that their drumsticks are very tough because, unlike their domesticated cousins, they use their legs a lot (probably running from guys with guns or the coyotes that roam the country).
Now HE's playing hard to get
I doubt we'll be tasting wild turkey any time soon, because Ray is not much of a hunter. If he were, he could shoot some of the pheasants, chuckers and quail that make it to our land from the hunting preserve just up the road from us. We call them "the prey that got away."
(Click on photos for larger images.)
My new best friend, Regina Something
I have a new best friend and her name is Regina. I don’t know her last name but she works for TurboTax and is from Savannah, Georgia. She is the fourth TurboTax expert I have spoken with in recent days . . . and she is the one I believe will keep me out of Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary..
Since 2005, I have relied on TurboTax and, until this year, it has been slick as a whistle to import tax information. Oh, it imported dividends and interest this year, but once the information was imported, the amounts inexplicably doubled. If only those figures were real! I think I’d like to be stinking rich.
The first TurboTax expert I spoke to was a man who fixed it so everything wasn’t doubled. Unfortunately, I later noticed that there was one form, a Foreign Tax Credit form, where the amounts were still doubled. It wouldn’t allow me to manually change it (BAD TurboTax!) so I called the support number again and talked to a man whose English I couldn’t understand. It was a two-way street because he couldn’t understand me either. I’ll bet I spent 20 minutes trying to give him my email address. I use my Netscape address for things like that and our conversation still rings in my ears:
Me: Netscape. N-E-T-S-C-A-P-E.
Me: No, E . . . N-E
Me: No, No, T . . . N-E-T
I could go on, but I’m sure you get the picture. He was a nice man and I didn’t want to hurt his feelings, but I finally said, "I’ll try again later. Thanks. ‘Bye."
The next TurboTax expert was a woman from Texas. She, too, was very nice and finally resorted to consulting the company's tax experts in Illinois to help with the problem, but it did me little good because, after I had invested almost two hours, I was disconnected.
Later, I tried again, hoping I’d get a native English speaker. Yippee! I got Regina, who said it would be a simple fix . . . and it was. All she had to do was find the correct amount entered twice, have me delete the untitled form containing duplicate information and miraculously the Foreign Tax Credit form was corrected.
Savannah is a big city and River Street is a busy one with tourists (think me) buying souvenirs for family and friends, but I hope I’ll run into her there one day. I’ll recognize her by her voice and, after our long conversation, she will recognize me the same way.
As for you, TurboTax, my new best friend Regina deserves a raise.
March Sadness . . . once again
March Madness has turned to March Sadness again for Jayhawk fans. I don’t even have a joke to make of it like I did when the University of Texas El Paso knocked us out in the NCAA tournament. At that time, I created cards for friends with a Jayhawk flat on his back, legs sticking up in the air. On the front of the card were the words How do you kill a Jayhawk? Inside the card read U TEP on it!
That was the year then Coach Roy Williams mentioned he felt like stepping in front of a bus or something similar. I sent him a card with a Jayhawk wearing a black armband and carrying a sign that said BIG 12 — or was it 8 then? — CHAMPS. The card was decorated with musical notes and the lyrics "No, no, they can’t take that away from you!"
Received a nice card in return from him saying that he realized they couldn’t take the conference championship away. I haven’t read about Coach Bill Self wanting to off himself because our team lost so I won’t be sending him a card. Nor will I create cards to send to friends because I can’t think of anything funny to say about our defeat by Stanford.
Once KU was out of it, we had only a couple more hours to cheer on Wichita State with their amazing 35-0 record prior to meeting Kentucky. We hoped they’d go all the way, but not so my sister Lesta. That’s because on a long ago day, Lesta, Dick, Ray and I were sitting in the KU stadium watching Wichita State defeat us in football as planes circled overhead filming the sold-out crowd for the movie The Day After (later they added ballistic missiles lifting off in the background).
An odious Shocker fan sat beside Ray. Now I expect fans to cheer for their team, but this guy insisted on yelling insults at the Jayhawk players. When he finally yelled, "KU stinks," Ray turned to him and said cooly, "Something stinks here but it’s not KU!" I quickly persuaded Lesta to change places with Ray, but it didn’t help because she got into it with the guy. All teams have bad fans like him, but Lesta isn’t forgetting or forgiving his insults.
There’s always hope that next year will bring us March Gladness! Go Hawks 2015!
Smart of us to have an IT GeniusButch grew up to be our IT Genius
Back in the days of yore when I was having babies, the conventional wisdom was that you should have a girl first so you’d have a babysitter for subsequent children. Sexist I know, but that was before the feminist movement, as we know it today, was in vogue.
Today’s wisdom should tell us to first have a baby who’ll grow up to be an IT genius. Even without knowing I’d need one, that’s what I did. Ray, Jr. (aka Butch) has saved my hi-tech bacon on numerous occasions, but never more so than yesterday when I couldn’t find my 2012 Turbo Tax file. The desktop showed 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 tax files, but 2012 was gone, apparently the victim — like Word 2010 — of an earlier computer crash which fried my hard drive.
It took two internal hard drives (the current one and the one that was toast), an Ubuntu Linux disc, one external hard drive and a flash drive to find and restore the lost file. Something about taking a snapshot of Windows 32 from a previous backup, locating orphan files . . . hey, I don’t have to know how it was done, just that he did it and I can stop sweating bullets thinking I’d have to redo our 2012 taxes before doing our 2013 taxes.
Thanks to our IT Genius, 2013 Turbo Tax was able to import important info like depreciation and carry-overs from our 2012 taxes, saving me a ton of time and trouble. Is it any wonder I love that kid?
The downside of love
Wouldn’t it be great if life was just one big grin after another? Sadly, it is not. My sister Lesta called yesterday morning to give us the news we had expected, but dreaded: "We lost Dick at 6:15."
Dick waged a valiant battle, but Big C was a foe he could not best. Now he is soaring with the eagles or so we like to think. Especially our son Butch who, while today driving to work over a long bridge spanning Lake Perry, noticed an eagle flying over the water beside him, keeping pace the entire length of the bridge. Could it have been Dick trying out his new wings?
Dick wore a white hat
Many tears have been shed in California and Alabama and Kansas, but more and more my thoughts are turning to the many funny moments when we were with Lesta and Dick. Like the time Dick had to take a business trip in the middle of a visit to Kansas. Lesta and I transported him to the airport in Kansas City and picked him up. But when he came out of the gates, I was standing with the limo drivers, each of whom held a card with their passenger’s name neatly printed. My card, scrawled in pencil, read DICKIE KLINE.
Or the time in Cancun when Hurricane Hugo was in the offing and we were caught in a heavy downpour waiting for the aquaboat. Ray and Dick removed their T-shirts and wrung them out only to have to do that again and again. Our most recent trip with them was a cruise to Alaska. Our mini-suite was luxurious but the potty smelled even after I had watched a crew member clean it. Finally, I asked Lesta, "Does your toilet smell?" When she said no, Dick explained, "That’s because I sprayed it with Febreeze."
Dick was a good guy. Ray always said he wished Dick and Vicki’s husband Steve had been his brothers instead of brothers-in-law. Both are gone now. But not really gone, not as long as we remember and love them. And that will be forever.
Note: I once included an anecdote about Dick as a young boy in a column I wrote about white hats and black hats. If you’d like to read Bad guys don’t always wear black, click HERE.
Everything's coming up ROSES!Music makes Zoe happy
In late January, Ray and I traveled to Tan-Tar-A Resort at Osage Beach, MO, to see granddaughter Zoe, 16-year-old flutist, perform with the Blue Springs High School Wind Symphony at the Missouri Music Educators Association Conference. Even better, we plan to spend next New Year’s Day in Pasadena watching Zoe and her Blue Springs High School Golden Regiment Marching Band strut their stuff in the Rose Bowl Parade.
Zoe learns of Rose Bowl trip
The trip to the Rose Bowl Parade wasn’t on our bucket list — although I have recently learned a bunch of friends have it on theirs — but it is an opportunity too good to pass up because, in addition to the parade, the trip also includes visits to Disney Land, Universal Studios, Aquarium of the Pacific, a tour of the floats and much more. We haven’t been to Disney Land since our kids were little. Late in the afternoon of that long ago day at Disney Land with Ray and the boys, my sister, brother-in-law and nieces, everyone — including the kids — wanted to go back to the motel and rest. Not me! I opened the park that day and closed it that night.
Only downside to the upcoming trip: I don’t like flying in winter. Last time we did was the winter of 2002, our first — and so far only — trip to Hawaii. On the last leg of our flight home from Chicago to Kansas City, a fellow passenger asked, "Have you heard about the big ice storm?" When we reached our car at our park and fly hotel, it was covered with about three inches of ice. And where were our coats? In the car, of course. Ray chipped ice for a long time to get a door open so I could start the car, heater and defrosters while he continued chipping on the windshield. I don't want another homecoming like that!
But my glass is always half-full so I’m betting next holiday season will be unseasonably warm and everything will come up roses!
A Short Jog Over the Hill
Because you read all that mushy Valentine's Day stuff without complaining, I figure I owe you something. Here's one of my favorite stories from my book entitled Life is more fun when you live it . . . Jest for Grins. If you want to read "A Short Jog Over the Hill," please click HERE.
Still THE ONE . . .
after all these yearsCute at 8
Had I met Ray in third grade when this photo was taken, I’m sure I would have known then that he was THE ONE. But, as third graders, he rode his horse to a country school while I walked to a town school, so I had to wait six years to meet him in Miss Black’s ninth grade English class where he sat in the desk right in front of me.
Not every 14-year-old girl falls in love at first sight with a boy whom she decides she will one day marry. Do you remember the stories of school boys in days past dunking braids of the girls sitting in front of them in ink wells to show their interest? Well, although Ray sat in front of me, he didn’t have braids and ink wells were long gone, so I improvised. He contends it was my yellow No. 2 pencil poking him in the back that sealed the deal for him.
Even cuter at 18
We dated all through high school (except when we were broken-up which we learned wasn’t all that hard to do despite Neil Sedaka thinking it was). One day my Spanish teacher asked me to come in after school. I thought I was in trouble but she, a maiden lady approaching retirement, — who had once taught high school English to my father in Sabetha, Kansas — simply wanted to give me some advice: "You shouldn’t be dating that farm boy." It was advice well-meant, but I am so glad I didn’t follow it.
Two sons and four grandchildren later . . . he’s still THE ONE!
Can you blame me?
Didn't think so!
Happy Valentine's Day!
(Click on photos for larger images.)
Our bird dependents know
where to go when it snows!When birdbaths are frozen, snow quenches thirst
Seven inches of snow already and three more inches expected. Our birds have been hitting the feeders as if their lives depended on it . . . and actually they do.
But the bluebird in the photo isn't interested in the feeders. He was drinking snow. I think bluebirds hang around here because of the little blue berries on the cedar trees which appear to be to bluebirds like catnip is to cats. (Click on photos for larger images.)
So many birds, it's hard to keep the feeders full
The bluebirds may shun the feeders, but other birds do not. When the snow is a near whiteout as it was today, it is hard to see their colorful feathers . . . except, of course, for the cardinals.
The suet feeder was empty today because a rogue raccoon ate the entire cake last night, but, as I have frequently told Ray, coons have to eat, too. I like all of our country critters, even the possums. Ray once took a video of deer (eight bucks and six does) that frolicked through our back yard. When I learn to post video files, I'll show them to you.
For now, we're staying warm and cozy indoors and I hope you are, too!
Mickey Rooney is ALIVE!
(I know because I Googled it.)Old photo of Great Uncle Lew and Mickey Rooney
I've been thinking a lot about Mickey Rooney lately. If you are over 40, you're probably thinking WHY? If you're under 40, you're likely wondering WHO?
I think my Mickey Rooney musings started around Christmastime when Ray and I became tired of watching the same holiday movies over and over. We remembered a movie — I think it was "It came upon a Midnight Clear" — in which he starred. Ted Turner must not own the rights to it (or perhaps he just doesn't like Mickey Rooney) because I haven't seen that flick in years.
I never met Mickey (although Ray and I did meet his mother whose name was Nell Pankey when, while visiting California, Uncle Lew took us to her home). Uncle Lew and Mickey were such good friends that Uncle Lew and his wife accompanied Mickey to Omaha when he was making the movie "Boys Town" with Spencer Tracy. His mom was as close as I got to Mickey, but that was OK because she was a real hoot!
However, the hero of this posting isn't Mickey or his mom, but my Great Uncle Lewis Sly Moriarty. Everyone should have an uncle like him even though most of what I know is family legend and occurred before my time. One story is that -- during the filming of "Boys Town" -- Uncle Lew lost $80,000 gambling in Omaha. Could be. He was a gambler until the end of his days. But my favorite Uncle Lew story was of the time he visited his family in Sabetha and drove his Dusenberg down the short main street at 100 mph. Arrested later (he wasn't chased and caught), the judge fined him a then astronomical $50 . . . at which point Uncle Lew threw down a $100 bill and said, "Keep the change. I may want to do it again."
Mickey would be 93 now. I wonder if his memory is good enough to recall Uncle Lew and the adventures they shared. Sure hope so.
And you are?I save nametags from interesting or fun experiences
"And you are?" the man asked as he scanned my left bosom for a nonexistent name tag.
I hate those see-and-be-seen events, don’t you? — the ones where people close enough to read your name tag can pretend they have known who you are all along. For one thing, as my friend Jean noticed, "You can always tell social climbers at such events because, while they are talking to you, they’re always scanning the door to see if someone more important is coming in."
I once tried having a meaningful conversation at one such affair, but gave it up after the man who had initially engaged me in conversation appeared to lose attention as his eyes swept the room. "Am I boring you?" I finally asked. "Yes, yes," he replied distractedly, smiling all the while and completely unaware of the insult he’d just handed me.
So now I usually just hit the hors d’oeurve table and find a quiet corner where I can scarf down a plate of catered cuisine while avoiding conversation altogether. At one gathering, however, I found my corner occupied by another woman who had the same idea. Sensing a kindred spirit, I introduced myself and said, "I really hate these functions where everyone is trying to figure out if I’m important enough for them to try to impress me."
"Tell me about it!" she exclaimed. "Someone just introduced me to my husband!"
Her name was Sandra and she had the misfortune to be married to a locally popular District Attorney, known by everyone in the room. Like my late mother, who was the wife of a state legislator, Sandra preferred to avoid the limelight by staying at home with her children, a choice that made her unimportant and anonymous in that particular crowd. Their loss because Sandra and I had a great time. Well, yeah, a lot of time was spent picking out and making fun of the phoniest among us. It was the best time I ever had at one of those functions.
I haven’t attended a see-and-be-seen event in a long, long time and I’m betting Sandra hasn’t either.
How cold is it?This winter sunset is pretty, but very, very cold
Not as cold as it was the other day when the high was two degrees and the low was minus ten! Those aren't wind chills, but the actual air temperatures. Brrrrrr!
On cold, snowy days, our avian dependents can empty the feeders in short order as shown by the photo below. Often birds of many colors occupy every perch on the feeder, while their bird buddies line up on the deck railing waiting their turn.
It's unusual to see so many cardinals sharing the feeder
Cardinals are supposed to be territorial, or so I've been told. But you wouldn't know it by this photo. Cardinals love black oil sunflower seeds, but Woody, our yellow-bellied woodpecker prefers the suet cake in cold weather as does what Ray calls "the upside- down bird" which, according to the bird guide, is a nuthatch. Ray's description, however, is accurate because the only thing that silly bird does right-side-up is fly.
Their fluffed-out feathers show the birds think it's as cold as I do. I think we should all fly south for the winter!
A fool and her money . . .Magic trick: turn $35 into $1 and a free ticket
Once a year, at Christmas time, I buy lottery tickets for Ray's stocking. I started out buying $10 worth, then jumped to $20 in subsequent years. This year, I went nuts and bought ten $1 tickets, ten $2 tickets and one $5 ticket because it had Santa Claus on it and provided 30 options to win. If you've done the math, you know that is $35 dollars worth of lottery tickets.
What a waste of my money . . . and Ray's scratching time. Except for the Santa ticket, I relied on the woman in the gas station to pick the type of tickets (there were many choices except for dollar tickets on which there had evidently been a run by women eager to part with their money). The clerk said, "I'll give you crossword tickets for the $2 tickets because they're fun to play."
Sounded good to me because Ray works the newspaper's crossword puzzles before even reading the news and sports sections. Turns out, crossword lottery tickets are much more difficult and time-consuming to play and I wouldn't recommend anyone buying them even though it is claimed that you can win multiple times up to $20,000. Fat chance!
Out of $35 worth of tickets, Ray won one free ticket and one lousy dollar. He didn't even do as well as sister Vicki, for whom we purchased ten $1 lottery tickets. She won $2 and I thought that was a bad return on our money until Ray's scratching proved nearly fruitless. As for Kansas lottery officials? They laughed all the way to the bank.
Merry Christmas and a Wonderful New Year from Marsha and Ray!
3 days to ChristmasRay makes one more batch of peanut butter fudge.
I misspoke when I said all of our tables were filled with wrapping paper, ribbons, etc. Yep, our kitchen table is reserved for the large plastic storage units that hold the candy Ray makes each Christmas: marshmallow fudge with black walnuts (about $80 worth), orange macadamia fudge, peanut butter fudge, magic cookie bars, rum balls, cashew brittle, peanut brittle and more.
Let's just say my husband is way more popular than I with family and friends at Christmastime. They know I'm too busy wrapping their presents to make any goodies for them.
There's even more candy in the refrigerator.
Ray stores some of the candy in the refrigerator — so much of the sweet stuff that we almost didn't have room for the turkey. The only reason that turkey is on the premises is because Christmas dinner is at our home this year. If dinner were elsewhere, there would be a ham in its place because ham is Ray's preferred entree and the dish we take when dinner is at a house other than ours. Just how we will find a place in our fridge for Mom's (and before that Grams') cranberry salad recipe is beyond me.
But wait, Ray will distribute most of the candy before Christmas Day. At least I — who am trying to lose 20+ pounds in the hope that it will help the torn meniscus in my knee — fervently hope the temptation to scarf down daily samples candy will be removed and that Santa won't place any licorice in my stocking. Tell that jolly old elf if you see him, will you?
5 days to ChristmasSo far, these presents show no sign of tampering.
I don't know about your home, but every table and counter of mine is covered with wrapping paper, bows, ribbon, gift tags and Scotch tape. It is my goal to finish wrapping presents tonight, but I'm not holding my breath because Procrastination appears to be my middle name.
The thing is, I can't guarantee that the presents will stay wrapped until Christmas . . . at least those I wrap for Ray. As a young boy, he took advantage of his parents' work schedules to unwrap his presents during the weeks before Christmas, play with them and wrap them back up before his parents returned home. They never suspected a thing so he must have acted (think Academy Award) very surprised when he opened his gifts on Christmas morning.
He made a mistake in telling me about his sneaky childhood present-opening activities for two reasons: 1) I know to be on guard for any signs of present tampering, and 2) I have the valuable knowledge that he is a man who can actually wrap presents. No, he doesn't help me wrap our bazillion presents for family and friends, but he does wrap those he buys for me (believe it or not, one of my friends has to wrap all of her husband's gifts, including those to her). I wonder if she sneaks a peek before she does.
Neither a tenant nor a landlord beThis 12-foot evergreen was run over by a city bus
It was my idea to buy the new little rental duplex we owned for over a decade. For the most part, it was a good investment although owning any property brings challenges — like the time the driver of a city bus lost control turning the corner, ran up into our duplex's yard and knocked over a 12-foot tall evergreen tree (a lovely scotch pine, if I remember correctly).
Recently, our city commissioners have been considering expanding the rental inspection program and I felt that the discussion was ignoring the owners of rental property from whom the city hopes to collect a fee for inspection. Though no longer a landlord, I haven't forgotten the perils of being one, so I wrote an op-ed piece for the newspaper describing the final straw that caused us to divest ourselves of the duplex and vow to never own another rental property. If you'd like to read about it, click here.
Dear Ford Motor Company:
Sure, the car is pretty, but where is AAA?
Someone recently asked my husband if our beautiful 2005 Lincoln Town Car was "hundred-dollaring us to death."
"I wish!" Ray said, "It’s thousand-dollaring us to death."
Indeed, we have put enough money into this @%#&*! car to build a Stealth bomber.
Our practice of buying late model, low mileage autos and driving them a long time worked well until we purchased our latest Lincoln, which I would bet cold hard cash weathered at least one hurricane. That is because — when our car was showroom new — it lived in Florida and during that time the state was hit with FOUR hurricanes (Cindy, Dennis, Katrina and Wilma).
Oh, sure, when we purchased our car it was certified to be in absolutely fantastic, like-new shape with only 13,000 miles on its odometer. But I no longer trust any car’s history report and I suspect that, as I write this, the cars we saw floating down the streets during last summer's flooding in Colorado are hitting the market to break the hearts (and bank accounts) of unsuspecting buyers. Caveat emptor!
Because our shiny new car was covered with a 100,000 mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, we were confident that everything that could go wrong with it would occur under warranty. Well, everything that could possibly go wrong with a car — Can you spell LEMON? — went wrong under warranty and kept right on going wrong after the extended warranty ended.
Electrical problems? Oh, yes, including static that would move from one of eight speakers to another when neither the radio nor CD were playing. Sometimes the static would come from several speakers simultaneously. CDs became permanently stuck in the player and had to be sent to Ford for removal. The GPS quit working twice. The lock on the driver’s door wouldn’t unlock. The alternator quit working, as did the switch that controlled the front passenger window and something else that rendered the seat heater on the passenger side useless.
Arrow points to broken door handle
Did I mention the handle on the driver’s door stuck in the open position? To fix that, the entire inside door had to be replaced at a cost of $450.93. Something went wrong with the driver’s seat belt and it had to be replaced. Then the pretensioner (don’t ask) on my seat belt needed to be replaced ($682.35). But wait, there’s more . . . a lot more. The accumulator on the air conditioner rusted out and had to be replaced ($446.15).
A few months later, the air conditioner compressor required replacing ($1089.66) and after it was replaced, every time we started the car, it made a noise (sometimes a moderate "brrrrrrpppt," but occasionally an explosion that sounds like a shotgun blast at close quarters). A second and third compressor did the same and the explanation I have in writing from Ford pretty much says IT HAPPENS, just live with it. What Ford actually wrote is: "This noise will not cause an issue with component durability and does in no way affect how the system performs." Same thing, don’t you agree? Tomato. Tomahto.
Last car's name: Old Blue; this car: @%#&*!
While the car was still under warranty, the left rear axle bearing required replacement. Ray said, "I have never, ever had to replace an axle bearing in any of the cars I have owned." That number of cars is considerable since, in addition to our family vehicles, Ray also collected antique and classic cars, including every car he coveted — but couldn’t afford — in high school. He asked the dealership to also replace the right axle bearing, believing if one was defective, so was the other. They said Ford wouldn’t allow it.
Ray continued to worry about the rumble he heard from the right rear axle and even took the car back to have it checked before our trip to Georgia last spring. Assured it was okay, Ray was still skeptical enough to repeat multiple times on the way to Georgia, "I sure hope he’s right, but it really sounds to me like it is that right axle bearing."
Turns out that Ray was right but he wishes he wasn’t. So our most recent expenditure ($736.71) on our @%#&*! Lincoln was the replacement of the right rear axle bearing . . . plus the axle . . . plus the seal . . . plus the parking brake because the grease leaking from the blown seal messed it up.
The service manager and our service adviser at the dealership are knowledgeable, professional and fair. I’m not mad at them. It is Ford Motor Company that I am furious with for two reasons: One, if they could manufacture an AC compressor that didn’t make a noise on start-up when the car was new, why can’t they make a replacement compressor that doesn’t? Two, I’m thinking Ford owes us $736.71.
Pay up or our next car may be a Lexus.
Never say never!
I freely admit I am needle nutty
Today, I did something I said I would never, never, never do. When my friend Cyrene said she planned to get a cortisone shot in her ankle before her cruise to Hawaii, I reaffirmed, "That’s something I will never do." The fact is, if I had a book for every time I have been offered a cortisone shot, I could open a library. You might say I am prone to injury.
In the last six months, I have thrice twisted my right knee which I initially injured years ago in Yellowstone when I tripped while running back from the car with my camera to take a photo of a pretty blue boiling thermal pool. I shredded my palms, skinned my face, scratched my sunglasses and tore my meniscus in addition to permanently scarring my knee. Those scars are just a couple of inches from the scars resulting from trying to ride my son’s motorcycle in our front yard, doing a wheelie and — while crawling out from under the cycle — falling on the still-spinning tire.
You could see the scars better were I still tanning
Most of my injuries do not result in scars. Dropping a ten-pound weight on my bare foot hurt a lot, but didn’t scar. I injured my Achilles in Costco when I (wearing Crocs) stopped quickly and, behind me, Ray (wearing sharp-toed cowboy boots) did not, giving me a solid kick in the heel. Almost all my injuries resulted in cortisone shot offers which I declined.
However, I injured my knee again (November, 2013) even though I was wearing a knee brace as I rehabbed my latest (September, 2013) knee sprain from stepping in a hole at Central City, CO, which occurred as I was almost recovered from twisting my knee (April, 2013) by slipping on the wet floor of our jetted tub. I was merely walking through Costco — wait, isn’t that where I received my Achilles injury? — when I stepped wrong and suffered a pain that took my breath away. (Ray wants you to know he had very little culpability the first time and absolutely none this time.)
By the time we exited the store, I could no longer put weight on my right knee. Ray left me sitting at the door, retrieved our car and helped me hop to the front seat. At home, he loaded me into my late mother’s wheelchair and pushed me into the house. After icing my leg, I tried out my late mother-in-law’s walker and found I could walk if I put most of my weight on the walker and just used the heel of my right foot to balance. I called Dr. Sean, world’s greatest orthopedic diagnostic physician, who worked me into his busy schedule. He again mentioned a cortisone shot. I said to Ray, "You’d do it, wouldn’t you?"
"Darn right!" he replied. So I did, but only after asking a multitude of questions, two of which were "Will I cry?" and "Will I wet my pants?"
"Maybe we should get her a chuck," he said to Ray. And that is one of the reasons he is the only doctor I would allow to give me a cortisone shot. He used an ultrasound to target the injection site and rubbed a cooling gel on my knee to reduce the pain of the shot. Guess what? I won’t say it didn’t hurt, but it didn’t hurt much. I felt a sting and bit of pressure and it was done (no crying, no wetting). I used the walker to arrive at the desk where I scheduled a follow-up appointment after my MRI next Thursday, and then — because there was also a numbing agent in the cortisone shot — I was able to walk on my own two feet to the car. Amazing!
Dr. Sean says that the cortisone shot doesn’t work for everyone, but I most sincerely hope it works for me. It is late at night as I write this and my knee is beginning to hurt as the numbing agent wears off. He said it may take a day or two for the cortisone to fully kick in and to know if it will work. If I am really lucky, I may be pain free for up to three months.
So don’t be scared if you need a cortisone shot. And if you want to be certain it doesn’t hurt, contact me and I’ll give you Dr. Sean’s number.
A shared nest is best
One of my few cross stich efforts
Ray and I never suffered from "empty nest syndrome." I remember once reading about a woman who, when her last daughter married, cried and cried, moaning, "I'm all alone. What am I going to do?" Her husband inquired, "Have you thought about getting married?"
We love our boys dearly and enjoyed every stage — well, almost every stage — they passed through on their journey to adulthood. But when it was time for them to marry and move on, we were happy for them and eagerly awaited the grandchildren who would be in our future.
But when grandson Gabe moved in with us to finish his last two years of college at the University of Kansas, we wondered how it would work. I'm pretty sure he did, too. One year and counting, so far, so good. Part of the reason the arrangement has been successful, I believe, is because the house we designed on a napkin at Perkin's 18 years ago and built on a hill outside of town offers plenty of privacy for everyone. We all need some alone time . . . but, wait, maybe that's just me.
Gabe clowns around with a Jayhawk on Parade sculpture
I wrote about our no longer empty nest for the newspaper I serve as editor. If you'd like to read it, please click HERE.
Everyday was Halloween at our house
Our skull had lost his teeth and lower jaw
My sisters and I should have named him (or her) Yorick, but we were too young to have been exposed to Shakespeare so we simply called him (we decided it was a him) "The Skull." He sat on a cabinet on the sun porch right outside the kitchen door. We cradled him in our hands as we examined the narrow cracks in his head and the tiny holes of his sinuses, understanding even then how easy it must be for such little holes to plug up and cause headaches.
We brought him to the front porch on Halloween and stuck a lighted candle in the center of him to scare trick-or-treaters. He was also the star of several Halloween parties held in our basement which was decorated with orange and black twisted crepe paper, bats, witches and black cats hanging from the ceiling. The Skull belonged to Dad who acquired him in an anatomy class during his pre-med years . . . and, best of all, he was a genuine, ecru-colored human skull, not plastic or plaster.
Many years later, Dad acquired a small Caterpillar tractor and had fun burying things, including some old antiques I wish I had now. One thing he buried reverently was The Skull because Dad said he needed a decent burial. Were my sisters and I still living at home at that time, we could have given The Skull a really good sendoff considering the practice we had with a multitude of dead critters (the frogs, birds and bugs that we folded into sardine cans and match boxes and buried with the appropriate hymns, prayers and tearful eulogies).
I have often wondered if future archeologists might dig up The Skull and — given The Skull's unknown age, gender, race or country of origin — completely skew forever the history of their find and the land on which they found it.
Not our shrunken head, but close
Life with Dad was never boring. One day he came home, saw me sitting on the couch doing my math homework and tossed me a brown paper sack. Without looking inside, I reached in and pulled out a shrunken human head. My screams brought Mom and my sisters to the living room, who, forewarned it wasn't something good, responded with, "Eew, his mouth is sewed shut," "So are his eyes," and "Is that his real hair?" (Yes, that long black hair was his) and "Are his brains still in there?" (No, they were not; his head was hollow but stuffed with something to hold its shape).
Turned out the shrunken head was a gift to Dad from a friend who had traveled to Latin America. I am certain that, even those many years ago, such a gift must have been illegally smuggled out of its country of origin. Happily, the shrunken head did not find a home with us. Dad gave him to a natural history museum and I wonder if he is still there or if someone long ago gave him a reverent burial far, far from his Amazonian homeland.
Our luck while traveling hasn't
always been bad
A tunnel similar to the one that collapsed
Well, sure, our timing was off when we arrived at Estes Park the afternoon before the flood, but our timing was great driving up Highway 36 while it was still there.
That experience made me think of the many times we avoided disaster by a day. On one trip down Highway 67 to Cripple Creek, Colorado, we were forced onto a hastily constructed dirt road detour around a tunnel that had collapsed on a car the day before.If I recall correctly, that tunnel was very primitive, constructed of dirt and wooden supports. Thankfully, the driver of the car wasn't injured and, even more thankfully, the tunnel didn't collapse on us.
These water taxis are so much fun to ride
One great example of our good luck in avoiding catastrophe occurred the day before we arrived in Laughlin, Nevada. The Colorado River separates Laughlin's casinos from the state of Arizona and some enterprising company set up pontoon boats which zigzagged gamblers from casino to casino by transporting them across the swiftly-flowing river to the Arizona side, then allowing them to board another pontoon boat to the Laughlin casino of their choice. We eagerly embraced this fun mode of transportation even after learning that, the previous day, a pontoon dumped its passengers into the river, It was actually the fault of the passengers. The boat's motor quit a few yards from the Arizona side and it started to drift back toward the dock. Seeing the dock approaching, all of the passengers panicked and rushed to the far side of the boat, flipping it. Fortunately, all were rescued and one witness told me the passengers were lined up at lawyers' offices before their wallets were dry.
It wasn't a close call for us — or any call at all — but I remember the tragic November 1980 fire at MGM Grand in Las Vegas because the summer before the fire, we stayed at a nice little hotel just south of the MGM. I was in the pool floating on my back and looking up at the top floor of the MGM when I told Ray, "I sure wouldn't want to be up there in case of a fire."
In the early 90s, Ray and I stayed at Bally’s, the hotel that purchased the MGM Grand after it was rebuilt. That stay was memorable because, first, we were mistaken for high rollers and given a room with a huge round bed, a big sunken tub, two bathrooms (one of which contained a bidet and both of which had telephones) and — I kid you not — a walk-in closet. Second, Hollywood was there making "Honeymoon in Vegas," complete with James Caan, Nicholas Cage, Sarah Jessica Parker and about a million Elvis impersonators, including the "Flying Elvi" who parachuted out of a plane in the wee hours onto a target painted in the middle of the parking lot. And who was there videotaping their feat? We were.
We still have the video and it will be good luck for us if the 21-year-old tape hasn’t turned to dust.
Evacuation from Estes Park
Big Thompson begins flooding on Thursday
Being part of an emergency evacuation was not a good way to end our annual trip to Estes Park. But Ray and I realize that what was merely an inconvenience to us was tragic for the many Colorado residents who lost their jobs, businesses, homes and, in some cases, lives.
We spent three nights in Idaho Springs before driving to Estes Park on Wednesday, September 11. Except for a light rain, everything appeared normal as we passed Longmont and Lyons and drove up Highway 36 to Estes. I would have noticed if the streams were overly full because I take seriously the signs I have seen in mountainous areas that say CLIMB TO SAFETY IN CASE OF FLOODING. I definitely would have noticed rising water that Wednesday because the Monday prior, I stepped in a hole in Central City and badly sprained my knee. Climbing would have been difficult for me but I certainly would have given it a good try.
Our Estes Park visits always include a morning trip to the General Store in Glen Haven, located a few miles northeast of Estes Park, to buy cinnamon rolls, 25-cent coffee for Ray and tea for me to take down the canyon to a park by the Big Thompson River. Late Wednesday afternoon, after we had checked for elk in Rocky Mountain National Park, we decided to scope out Glen Haven in preparation for our next morning cinnamon roll run.
The word "hamlet" is a descriptive name for the pretty little town with its few businesses and the rustic homes and cabins that line the banks of the river. Glen Haven is reached by driving down Devil’s Gulch Road, an apt name for the steep road with multiple hairpin turns. We drove through Glen Haven and a little farther down the canyon to the park where we would breakfast the next day. The river at the park was higher than we had ever seen it and moving fast, but was well within its banks.
Dairy Queen the day after our Blizzard visit
Back at the Columbine Inn — situated on a hill where we always stay high and dry (I am too cautious to book near a River) — we decided to go to the Dairy Queen on Elkhorn Avenue (Estes Park’s main drag). The parking lot was wet because of the light rain but a few puddles contained the only standing water.
We flatlanders went to bed with no worries, but, as clueless as we were, we weren’t alone. Governor John Hickenlooper was quoted as saying that Coloradans went to bed Wednesday night with no inkling that overnight rain could be heavy enough to flood canyons and send rivers of water throughout the front range. They call them "flash floods" for a reason. Many residents had little or no warning of the wall of water approaching them.
Big Thompson River rages in the background
The next morning, we decided not to go to Glen Haven because it was still raining and we were beginning to hear of flooding in the areas through which we had driven the day before. Although no one knew it, the clock was ticking out Glen Haven's last hours. The charming little town was destroyed by a flash flood that struck in the wee hours of Friday the 13th. Neighbors reported that one elderly woman, perhaps two, were killed when their homes were washed downstream in the cold, dark night. However, subsequent reports say there was no loss of life in Glen Haven and I am hoping those latter reports are correct because the image of someone struggling in that raging water is almost more than I can take.
In the photo at left, taken in Estes Park, you can recognize the actual river in the background by its turbulence. The river then was rushing above both sides of a bridge contributing to the flooded streets and businesses. Sandbags were stacked high in doorways by owners who unsuccessfully tried to protect their businesses. Back at the Inn, we discovered we no longer had cell signals or Internet connections. Landline phones were unusable because the circuits were busy. Ray and I didn’t realize until then how dependent we are on the ability to instantly communicate. We felt totally isolated. Leaving then wasn’t an option because all of the roads leading to Estes — except Trail Ridge Road over the mountain, which Ray has driven many times but doesn’t like — were washed out or impassible due to high water. Officials were advising people to stay at home and not travel.
Small creeks flooded streets and parking lots
We decided to head to the Big Horn restaurant for lunch and that is when we found Elkhorn Avenue blocked off due to flooding. We detoured around the flooded area and found the Big Horn on higher ground was closed. By Friday, the term "hell and high water" applied. Many of us, both residents and tourists, learned on Friday that City Hall had a Fiber-Optic Internet connection which we could use to let family and friends know we were safe. After using the Internet, we walked a half block to Elkhorn which looked more like a river than a street.
Ray stands in front of Elkhorn's receding water
After consulting with rangers at the Park, who advised against trying to evacuate that day — Trail Ridge Road was wet with scattered debris and the trip was taking up to five hours — but suggested we leave the next morning. Saturday we were up bright and early and headed for the dreaded Trail Ridge Road. I was worried because the normal route to the Park’s south entrance was impassible. We had to take a convoluted path which crossed the Big Thompson River. One woman told me that she had heard reports that the bridge in question was getting "spongy" on the approaches. A policeman assured me that was one of the many worrisome but untrue rumors people were spreading.
We were glad to reach the ranger station where we were asked, "Where are you heading?" Only people who were evacuating or driving emergency vehicles were allowed in the Park from the Estes side. We answered, "Kansas! As fast as we can get there!"
Trail Ridge Road feels like the top of the world
It wasn’t fast. The trip over Trail Ridge Road, about which we decided we had worried overly much, took us two hours. We only met one vehicle headed east as we were driving west through the Park because, at the west entrance, no one was allowed to go to Estes Park unless they lived there or were transporting needed supplies. The detours on I-70 added both time and distance to our trip but we made it home at 1 a.m. Sunday morning. We were tired, but oh so happy to be home.
If you believe in the power of prayer, please say one for the victims of the flooding in Colorado. They need them badly.
Cute critters perk of country living
His fingers remind me of E.T.'s
Critters are one of the most fun things about living in the country. Each day, as Forrest Gump would say, we "never know what we’re going to get" with regard to unexpectedly coming face-to-face with the many critters that share our acreage. And when the face-to-face is with cute baby critters, the surprise is even better.
This tree frog is likely not a baby, but he’s (or perhaps she’s) so tiny (a little larger than a quarter), he looks like a baby. I first photographed him at an angle from indoors as he was clinging to the outside of the door leading from our living room to the deck. (Click on photos for larger images.)
He seems happy, doesn't he?
He looks like he is suspended in mid-air but the little suction cups on his tiny fingers and toes are gripping the glass for dear life. When I moved outdoors to photograph him from the other side, my presence didn’t scare him at all.
That same day, Ray discovered this nest of baby bunnies when he was trimming around a flower bed. I planned to photograph them again a couple of days later, but they were gone. It worried us because cats and dogs (none of them ours) and coyotes (ours if they’re anyone’s) wander through our yard. Still, we were encouraged that there was no sign of blood or fur.
There are four bunnies in this cozy nest
According to information I found on the Internet, baby bunnies leave their nest as early as three weeks, so we hope that is what happened and that we see some adolescent bunnies hopping around.
Ray will be happy that they made it until they bite off some of his newly-planted trees. "I wouldn’t mind so much," he said on a previous occasion when bunnies did just that, "if they’d eat them, but they bite them off and leave them just for spite!"
Hopefully, these bunnies have better manners.
Oil spill — invisible but very slippery
Dawn is good for cleaning ducks in oil spills.
It would be an exaggeration to say that the oil spill that occurred in our bathroom last night rivaled that of the Exxon Valdez. And it would be hyperbole to claim that I had to clean oil off the rubber duckies with Dawn dishwashing soap. Still, it was quite a slippery mess as I discovered when I hit it with my bare foot and did my best Hamill Camel into the lavatory cabinet.(Click on photos for larger images.)
As invisible and slippery as ice, the oil is there
Were the oil the black messy stuff, I would have seen it on the floor and avoided it. But, no, this clear oil is billed as good for skin and hair and professes to contain three fruit oils: olive, avocado and shea. What kind of fruit is a shea? Can you imagine going into Denney’s and ordering a slice of shea pie? I think not.
I am a sucker for spontaneity so, when I spotted the oil in Wal-Mart while wandering the shampoo aisle, it was just pricey enough for me to figure it would do what it said it would: namely, make my hair shiny. Who doesn’t want shiny hair?
But did I get it? No, I did not. Too late, I realize I should have taken a photo of my hair before I washed it FOUR times to remove the oil I sprayed on it. My hair dangled in long, thin, oily strands. I looked like I was wearing an overcooked angel hair pasta wig. It was when I approached the lavatory to wash my hair that I hit the oil spill and realized, as oily as my hair was, even more of the oil had landed on the floor.
So, what to do with this oil that’s reported to be good for hair and skin and smells — at least to me — like bug repellent. I once heard Oprah say that she had recommended mayonnaise as a conditioner to a white friend and learned that what worked on her hair did NOT work on white girl hair. So I might give the oil to my black and beautiful friend Joy and see if it works like mayonnaise does on Oprah hair. Then again, I like Joy a lot and she might not be as adept at doing a Hamill Camel as I am.
The story that wasn't published
Click the cover to read the story.
Every writer, I suspect, has a favorite article that was never published. This is mine. It is the story of a boy whose heart was pierced by a wire and the doctor who was determined to save him. Jere was lifeless when he reached the hospital. He had no pulse and was not breathing. His eyes were slightly dilated, but his pupils responded to the light the doctor flashed in his eyes. That tiny flicker of life was enough for the doctor.
"You're not going to die, Kid!" Dr. Wayne Hird promised, "I'm not going to let you die!" Working with a team of medical professionals as dedicated as he was, the doctor kept his promise. If you would like to read the story, click on the cover at left to download a PDF of "Something's Stuck in His Heart!".
I have kept the rejection letter from Reader's Digest for three decades. It still hurts.
Hi-tech coon capture
Ray is having so much fun with the new Trophy Cam that son Greg and family gave him for his birthday. But his prize photo captures aren’t of six-point bucks he plans to shoot — although he hopes to capture photos of the many deer that use our yard to graze or pass through on their way to our neighbor Belinda’s deer feeder stocked with corn.
No, Ray hopes to capture a raccoon pulling on the chain of the steel can that nightly secures the bird feeders to keep them out of coon hands and the sunflower seeds they contain out of coon tummies. He came close on the first night's photo and — who knows? — perhaps the coon in the photo at right did climb on the can and the shot just missed it. To ensure that isn’t the case next time he visits, Ray has set the Trophy Cam to take short video clips.
Better yet, if the coon manages to figure out the combination lock on the chain (I wouldn’t put it past him), Ray might have a winner on America’s Funniest Videos. You’ll be among the first to know.
Photo captions by Ray (Click on photos for larger images).
Dinky Dingo, coyote pup
Searching for the perfect grass to eat
We have a new young coyote that Ray has named Dinky Dingo hanging around our home. I wish you could judge from the photos, taken from a window in our solarium, just how small he or she (haven’t looked that close) actually is. For now, we think Dinky Dingo is a boy so I’ll refer to him as he.
Dinky Dingo is about the size of your average Chihuahua with really big ears and a very long tail. We are mindful of the tiny coyote a few years ago that didn’t make it even though we bought a sack of dry dog food for him.
But WHY when there's Gravy Train?
We had nothing on hand when we noticed Dinky Dingo except a couple cans of salmon which he carried behind a bush and quickly ate. Pretty pricey coyote food — and two cans were all that we had — so we made a quick run to Wal-Mart for several cans of Gravy Train dog food. It looks pretty good and he seems to like it, but we have no idea how much — or what — a coyote pup should eat in a day.
Did she say there's Gravy Train?
I snapped these photos (Click to enlarge photos) of him while he was eating grass, whether from hunger or to clear his palate for another go at the Gravy Train, I haven’t a clue. But the neighborhood coyote pack was raising a ruckus a few minutes ago and, since I am not sure that adult coyotes have a protective attitude toward abandoned pups, which Dinky Dingo appears to be, I hope he keeps his distance from the pack until he is bigger.
He’s definitely wary and keeping his distance from us . . . as we are from him. Ray and I don’t need a coyote pet; we just want the little guy to have the opportunity to outgrow the Dinky part of his name.
Our prevaricating GPSMy father always said that thieves are better than liars because when you are watching thieves, you know they are not stealing from you. But with liars, anytime their mouths are moving, you can’t be sure they aren’t lying to you. Our onboard GPS fits into the latter category. Take our recent trip to Georgia and how we were led far astray by the Navteq GPS in our car that, instead of directing us to our Best Western hotel in Macon, navigated us into another county in the opposite direction. I have the pictures to prove it!
Yay! We will reach our destination in 3.4 miles!
We are tired and ready to find our hotel, get some dinner and crash for the night, so when the GPS says we are within 3.4 miles of our hotel, we are happy -- even though we can't see the city for the trees. (See photo below. Click to enlarge photos.)
Nothing but road and trees
The view through our windshield for miles has shown only a tree-lined two-lane road. Once in a while, we see a house, but no gas station where we can ask for directions. We seek help at one house with two cars in the carport, but no one answers the door.
Only 6/10 of a mile to go and no phone signal?
Only 6/10 of a mile to our destination according to the GPS. However, we are concerned that we still appear to be deep in the Boondocks. I try to phone our hotel but cannot get a cell signal. We haven't seen another vehicle for miles. Except for the paved road and trees, we might as well be on the moon. But not to worry because the GPS assures us that we have arrived at our
We have arrived? I don't think so!
But where is that familiar blue and yellow sign that says Best Western? We continue driving down the road looking for our hotel or anything that indicates we are nearing civilization. But what is this? The GPS is recalculating. We have turned off "Aunt Blabby," as Ray has dubbed our voice navigator, but I know what is coming. If we could hear her, she would be saying,
Recalculating . . . RATS!
in an exasperated voice followed by the dreaded, "Make a legal u-turn!" If we could figure out which tree is Best Western, we might follow her instruction to make a u-turn and head back, but we have lost all faith in the GPS and keep driving until we reach a service station where the clerk tells us we are in another county far from our destination. She draws directions on a sheet of paper which we follow and eventually find our hotel..
Aunt Blabby wants us to make a u-turn
Her directions cost us nothing but a thank you; updating the GPS CD each year costs us a cool $199 and still doesn't get us where we want to go. We haven't purchased an update in a couple years so it is possible this foul-up in directions may have been corrected, but I am skeptical . . . mainly because when I type "Navteq Sucks" in Google search, I turn up a bunch of sites with multiple pages of complaints, including one site that claims 90% of people hate Navteq. Can that many people be wrong? Frankly, I don't think so.
For all the good dads I know
Ray's Father's Day card
Ask either of our sons what they remember best about their childhood and both will say it is playing in the yard with their dad. Sports played varied by season and neighborhood kids were frequently accepted or recruited for football or baseball games.
My three guys were practicing football techniques when Ray, Jr. (aka Butch) broke his ankle. Later that year, Butch and Greg were scrimmaging sans Dad, who was at work, when Butch broke his front tooth on his younger brother’s football helmet. “Hey, Mom, look!” he said, running into the kitchen, “I’ve got a canine tooth!” It was an expensive summer. (Click on photos for larger images.)
Ray was — and is — a hands-on dad. He changed poopy diapers before it was fashionable. And he took the boys to the doctor at shot time when needle-nutty I was too wimpy to do it. But one of the best things about Ray was that he encouraged the boys in their interests. That is why, at age 14, Butch was presented with a small Hodaka motorcycle. Ray bought a bigger Suzuki for himself so they could ride together on country roads.
Ray does not — repeat NOT — like snakes. Greg does. So, one snowy Christmas morning, Ray picked up a large Burmese python we purchased for Greg, then in junior high. My friend Darlene reminds me that I told her, "I don't believe I'm thinking beyond Greg opening his present and saying, 'Wow, a snake!'" The snake eventually attained a length of 14 feet living in our guest bedroom with a heating pad to warm him when he was feeling chilly. That is what Dads do for their kids.
Dad and Vicki playing with her train
One of my favorite photos of my father shows him playing with my sister Vicki’s train set that he couldn’t wait to buy her. To this day, Vicki will tell you, “I LOVED that train set, but it was very hard to put the tracks together.” Well, sure, she was only two, but she had Dad to help her. I took the photo with a Brownie Hawkeye camera I received the same Christmas Vicki got the train.
Dad had four daughters — no sons to carry on his name — which is the reason I use my maiden name in my byline. I can remember being awakened in the middle of the night by Dad to watch lightning jumping laterally from cloud to cloud. “You don’t see this too often,” Dad said. He was right, I haven’t seen it since. He also rousted us out of bed one night to see a huge flock of geese flying over, their bellies a ghostly white in the reflected lights of town. The city lights had apparently confused the geese who were flying in circles and Dad used his duck caller to lure them away from the lights and across the river to the periphery of town, where we lived, so they could continue their journey North.
On Father’s Day I salute my late father, our sons, both of whom are great dads, and especially Ray, who wouldn’t be the father he is without me.
Ray versus Raccoons
Ray places the feeder in the can . . .
Ray loves one of his birthday presents: a shiny galvanized steel trash can with a length of chain and a combination lock. I bought it to secure the birdfeeders from the raccoons after they chewed through a heavy-duty locking plastic trash can and ate ten pounds of expensive black oil sunflower seeds. So far, they haven’t been able to chew through steel or pick a lock, but I wouldn’t put it past them. Only time will tell.
. . . then he locks it up for the night
The coons have been an ongoing problem for years, ever since I encouraged the first little coon visiting our deck high above ground by buying him dog food (Purina doesn’t make coon chow). Ray has safe-trapped many coons and taken them to the tree-lined banks of the Wakarusa River four miles away. It seemed like a great location for raccoons, but they apparently didn’t like it and beat Ray back to the house. They are, after all, Kansas coons and have bought whole-heartedly into the slogan "There’s no place like home."
Ray even threatened to shoot them after they destroyed an $80 bird feeder and dug up all his big plants in containers, but when he caught them red-handed and had the opportunity, he didn’t have the heart to do so. Bottom line: raccoons are cute! We’ve become accustomed to shoveling off the deck the poopy gifts they leave nightly for us — whether in gratitude for their midnight snacks on those occasions their cunning allows them to reach the feeders . . . or in frustration when they cannot.
Ray says Gabe's sketch is pretty accurate
A couple of nights after Ray began using the locked steel trash can, he heard a noise and turned on the deck lights. A raccoon was sitting on the lid of the can, ringed tail dangling behind him, using his front paws to yank hard on the chain. So concentrated was he on his mission to reach the feeder, the lights didn’t deter him. He yanked for about ten minutes before he gave up and Ray turned out the lights. The next morning, a dozen or so tropical plants were lying on the deck. I’m thinking it might be cheaper to buy dog food.
Note: if you would like to read about Ray’s catching the raccoons dead to rights and refusing to shoot them, even though he was armed, click HERE.
Remembering Steve at Relay for Life
Last days: Steve smiles from his hospital bed
Had my brother-in-law Steve Julian survived his rare cancer, he would be walking in the Relay for Life Survivor’s Lap tomorrow night. And I am confident he would be the most enthusiastic walker on the track. Steve lived life with gusto and approached every task with cheerful enthusiasm.
When Ray and I were readying my mother’s house for sale after her death in 2004, we went there one day to find Steve, just six months after extensive and complicated surgery, attacking with a rake the high grass edging Mom’s large back yard. He worked alongside Ray and me for a couple of hours before raking up a huge — and very much alive — blacksnake. The snake encounter took the fun out of raking for Steve and he packed it in for that day, but he was back the next day, rake in hand.
Before his death two and a half years after surgery, my sister Vicki told Steve, who had been fascinated by space exploration long before Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, that she would send a portion of his ashes into space orbit. She fulfilled her promise last year. Steve’s ashes, contained in a small capsule, orbited the Earth 576 times before reentering the atmosphere over the South China Sea.
That is why the luminary I decorated for him shows him as an astronaut. I will see it burning brightly when I circle the track tomorrow night. Steve cannot walk in Relay for Life, but I can walk for him. I will also be walking for those, like I, who survived cancer . . . and those others, like Steve, who did not.
Note: You may read my newspaper article about Steve’s journey into space by clicking on Articles in the navigation bar of this website.
My predominately purple paw
People ask, "Does it hurt?" What do you think?
I have a purple paw and I'm blaming spiders. Rather, I'm blaming my fear of spiders. Ray and I were walking on a breezy cool Wednesday when I decided to retrieve a light jacket from the trunk of our car. I have never seen a spider in the car, but I figure if one is there, it would likely be in the trunk. I gave the jacket a hard shake, capable of making a tarantula lose its grip, and the end of the zipper hit me on the top of my right hand just above the knuckle of my naughty finger.
Before we had walked 20 steps, my hand began to develop a blue bump that grew larger by the second. A smarter woman would have followed her husband's advice to return to the car and go find an ice pack. But, no, I thought if I held my hand at shoulder level, the swelling would be minimal. I was wrong. Ray glanced at my upraised hand and exclaimed, "It looks like you're growing a NOSE on your hand!"
I would have been as horrified as Ray had I not suffered the same injury in Cancun a dozen years ago when an elevator door slammed into my hand. By the time I reached the eighth floor, I had a nose of Cyrano proportions growing on my hand. An encounter with the hotel manager had him insisting that I see the hotel doctor. "I'll let him look at my hand," I said, "but I won't let him touch it." Within a week, my hand healed itself and looked normal . . . until last Wednesday.
Every day I learn something new. Now I know ice should be applied immediately if swelling is to be avoided. While the swelling is abating (today, two days later, I can see my knuckles, something I couldn't do yesterday), my hand is becoming quite colorful: predominately purple with swatches of red, green and yellow.
I don't think I'll be shaking any more jackets in the effort to free them of arachnids. Hard to think a spider bite could do more damage than the zipper did to my painful purple paw.
Iowa's Great Lake Area is great!
Cabin 420 feels like home to us
Ray and I recently returned from our annual spring trip to Iowa where the corn that will eventually grow as high as an elephant’s eye was just beginning to show in neat rows. Our destination, as always, was Cabin 420 at Fillenwarth Beach on the shores of Lake Okoboji, only a few miles from Minnesota.
(Click on photos for larger images.)
Every May, for many years, Ken Fillenwarth and his family have hosted a WW II Ranger reunion. This year, there were only two Rangers of that era, but several more who served as Rangers in more recent times, as well as families of deceased Rangers -- like Ray and I -- who attend to honor those WW II Rangers still living.
A 94-year-old Ranger who made the day-long trip from Missouri became ill on the drive. His driver called 911 and he spent the night in the hospital of a small Iowa town. The next morning, he insisted on traveling on to Fillenwarth Beach which shows how important the annual reunion is to him. Rangers of any age are tough!
The painted quilts show well on weathered barns
I love the drive up to Okoboji and kept Ray busy u-turning so I could snap photos of the quilt patterns on picturesque barns. Ray found something new to love at the Chatterbox Café, a small roadside restaurant in Audubon voted to have the best tenderloins in Iowa. We are told that people drive from as far as Des Moines just to eat there. My carnivore husband tried a hamberloin which, if you haven’t guessed, is a tenderloin with the addition of a hamburger patty. He liked it and I liked my BLT so much that we were forced to split a slice of homemade coconut custard pie.
Cabin 420 is our home away from home. I originally booked it so that Rangers could have the lakefront apartments. Turns out we quickly bonded with 420 and have opted to make it our residence while there. Once unpacked, we headed for Spirit Lake where the pelicans that migrate through Kansas — stopping briefly at our lakes — go to breed. I was surprised that male pelicans develop a big knot on their beaks at breeding time and have no idea why that is unless it is to grab attention as turkeys do by spreading their tails or bullfrogs by puffing out their throats. But, whoa, I just looked it up and girl pelicans also develop that knot. The theory is that, for both sexes, it shows their interest in breeding, happily removing all guesswork.
Who's in front . . . Mom or Dad?
I snapped of a photo of Canada geese taking their goslings for a swim, one parent in front and the other guarding the rear. I always wonder whether the mom or dad leads the way. I wish I could show you photos of the otters we watched playing in a slough. Sadly, I caught only the roiling of water after they dived. Perhaps next year . . .
El Potro the Great"Would you like to have dinner at El Potro?" Ray asked.
"Would I? Yes! I mean, Sí!"
The reason Ray’s question is such a big deal to me is because I love Mexican food and he does not. Oh, he’ll take me to a Mexican restaurant if I suggest it — and always on my birthday — but for him to initiate the idea of eating Mexican cuisine is a real rarity, or it was until we discovered El Potro. We have my sister Vicki to thank for that happy change because, had she not given us a $20 gift certificate to that restaurant, we likely never would have tried it.
Ray grew up on a farm eating American food that his family raised (both vegetables and meat). Pizza was about as adventuresome as he got until, early in our marriage while visiting relatives, we ate dinner at a Mexican restaurant in Oklahoma City. Driving back to Kansas on I-35 the next morning, Ray desperately and painfully searched for a rest stop . . . so painfully, in fact, that he swears our Buick’s steering wheel still had his fingerprints etched in it when we traded it off.
Ray was a happy man when he parked the car and ran into the roadside men’s room. I was happy for him for about 30 minutes until I began to worry he had passed out inside the potty. Men went in and came out during that 30 minute period and, after a smiling man in shorts and a colorful Hawaiian shirt walked out, got in his car and drove off, I berated myself for not asking him to check on Ray. I made up my mind that I would ask the next man who entered or exited the potty to make sure my husband was okay.
Happily, the next man to walk out was a greatly relieved Ray. "I was commiserating with a man in there," Ray confided, "who had Mexican food in Amarillo last night."
"Was he wearing a Hawaiian shirt?" I inquired.
"I don’t know," Ray said, "all I saw were his sandals."
For years, Ray blamed the spiciness of Mexican food for his digestive system’s inability to tolerate it. Then one day we were dining at a Chinese restaurant (it appears my cooking has made Ray much more adventuresome while eating out) and our order was so spicy it was making my lips numb. Ray ate his and mine, causing me to exclaim, "It’s not the spice in Mexican food; this is much spicier!"
Turns out the culprit was the beans, but Ray was still wary until El Potro, where they allow him to substitute papas fritas for the beans and rice and where he adores their shrimp fajitas. Pretty impressive for a man who ate club sandwiches and papas fritas for every lunch in Cancun and lobster for every dinner. My favorite at El Potro is chicken flautas and, even though I tried a cactus taco in Cancun, I’m really glad they are not on the menu. Seems I don’t like all Mexican food . . . just most of it.
Global warming? You gotta be kidding!
Snowing on Gabe's car and Mr. Ugly
May 2 and it is snowing in Kansas. What's up with that? Grandson Gabe's car and Ray's tractor Mr. Ugly, parked nose to nose, must brave the elements which includes May snow. The temperature is just above freezing so the snow is melting in most places, but the tulips have to be wondering what the heck is going on? I know I am!(Click on photos for larger images.)
Poor chilly tulips hang their sorrowful heads
Yes, the white stuff next to the house is snow and ice. I'm sure that is what is making the tulips look so sad. Is a little sunshine in May too much to ask for?
It has been a very weird spring, but we are relatively lucky. I-70 was closed yesterday in Western Kansasdue to snow that didn't melt, but stuck. And that is Kansas . . . just like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates: you never know what you're going to get. I love the change of seasons here. I just wish winter would be winter and spring would be spring.
Quilling IS an old art form, but that
doesn’t mean I’m dead
Butterfly now belongs to granddaughter Zoe
I had a lot of fun during my time in school, but little of that fun was in the classroom. However, that is not the case with one of my grandson’s university courses. That particular course sounds like a super fun class I might take … if only the professor did not think I was dead. I freely admit that, had I been in said professor’s classroom when one studly student stripped down to his boxer shorts, I might have had a heart attack that killed me. But no, I missed his provocative show so I am still on the green side of the grass.
The confusion about my early death arose when Gabe shared with his design class a quilled butterfly project I long ago created. Quilling is an art form dating back to the Renaissance, initiated by French and Italian nuns and monks who apparently didn’t have anything else to do. Several centuries later, when my artistic friend Blossom showed me some of her lovely quilled projects, I decided I must try it … and that is why I have enough colored strips of thin paper in the basement to open my own hobby store. I made several quilled projects, but — unlike the nuns and monks — I had other things to do and didn’t need to ease my frustration by wrapping tiny strips of paper around a corsage pin.
The professor admired my butterfly project, Gabe reported, then queried: "If you don’t mind my asking, how old was your grandmother when she passed?"
"She’s still alive," Gabe answered.
"Oh, well," said the embarrassed professor, "then bless her."
I used thick watercolor paper for the peacock
I laughingly related the story to Gabe’s parents when we met for lunch in Kansas City, adding that, "I told Gabe he should have said, ‘We don’t know yet. We can’t get her to pass.’"
Gabe’s dad, Greg, took a more practical approach: "Gabe should have asked, ‘Which answer will get me an A?’ A sympathy A is as good as an earned A."
I am posting photos of a couple of my quilled projects, but I will not post a photo of the young stud in his boxers (Gabe took a photo with his cell phone). Why? The kid may decide to run for the US Senate someday and that photo needs to remain in the closet. However, if he becomes a Chippendale dancer, I'll bring it out of the closet and you will see it here. Stay tuned.
(Click on photos for larger images.)
Laxatives, Guthrie tornado and tarantulasDoesn't the above title sound like a Carnac the Magnificent answer to one of Ed McMahon’s questions?
But, no, this is the tale of an Oklahoma day when Aunt Vera (whose home we were visiting) and I decided to take Butch and Greg to Guthrie — mainly, I suppose, because there wasn’t a lot to do in Coyle (pop. 250). We promised the boys ice cream cones and a trip to the dime store, but first Aunt Vera steered us to a main street drugstore.
She was pondering which laxative to buy when the tornado sirens sounded. I calmly asked the pharmacist if he had a place we could take shelter. "No," he said, shaking his head, "we don’t have a basement." Aunt Vera, meanwhile, was terrified. So scared was she that I figured a laxative would be the last thing she required. "We can go to my daughter’s sister-in-law’s house," she cried in a shaky voice.
We herded the boys, who thought they were experiencing a great adventure, out the door toward the car. Across the street, I noticed my cousin Nancy’s husband, standing outside his shoe store, scanning the sky as the sirens screamed. And that’s when I lost my cool and embraced panic. Accustomed to being able to see the horizon from home during tornado scares, I realized I wouldn’t see the approaching tornado until the 2- and 3-story buildings across the street were leveled.
As Aunt Vera directed me to Patsy’s sister-in-law’s home, we witnessed three wrecks while I managed to avoid drivers as scared as I who were also trying to reach safety. We pulled up in front of the house, jumped out of the car and barged through the front door to find the house deserted and food still cooking on the stove. I flung open every door in sight without finding stairs to the basement. Finally, we heard a voice from below: "Who’s up there?"
"Vera Smith!" I yelled, realizing they wouldn’t know my name, "How do we get down there?"
"The stairs to the basement are outside at the back of the house," the voice answered. Once in the basement, I learned that Oklahomans really know how to do tornadoes. A radio announced that the tornado was making its way through the town … at which point, my claustrophobic aunt said, "I can’t stay down here with all these pipes. The tornado’s not coming in this direction, so let’s go home!"
The 12 mile drive to Coyle was hair-raising. I remember instructing the boys that, if we spotted a tornado, I would stop the car, they should lie down in a ditch and Aunt Vera and I would lie on top of them. Aunt Vera, who was supposed to be watching the sky for approaching tornadoes, worried more about my driving … and well she should. Suddenly, I braked hard and stopped the car in the middle of the deserted highway. "Why are you stopping?" she asked.
"S-s-s-s-spiders!" I exclaimed, pointing to five arachnids crossing the road. "They’re as big as turtles!"
"Drive over them," she ordered.
So I did. Just their bad luck. They might have survived the tornado.
Winter is over, now it's tornado season The nearest tornado siren to our country home is about three and a half miles away. Nonetheless, I heard it the other day when the county ran a tornado siren test. The sound is eerie, but I am not fearful of prospective tornadoes … only actual ones.
I can’t count how many times my friend Darlene and her young sons — packing pillows, flashlight and a battery-operated radio — huddled in the basement of our previous home on the outskirts of the city while Ray was at work and I was upstairs looking out our picture window. Please do not think I was stupid or fool-hardy. My view of the western sky from that window stretched to the horizon and I was confident that I could see an approaching tornado while it was still miles away.
Then came a day when I persuaded son Greg to join me in the basement as I prepared for a garage sale. Husband Ray called me upstairs where he was standing on the front porch. The sky was a sickly green and rumbling loudly. Ray asked, "What is that sound?"
"Thunder," I replied confidently.
"But it never quits," he said.
"That’s because one peal begins before the other finishes." I said. "Why don’t you come help us in the basement?"
He agreed and that is why we were all underground when the tornado struck, forever imprinting on my memory what a tornado sounds like. When the rain and wind began, I told Ray I had opened all the windows so he headed up the basement stairs into the garage, then through the screened porch to the dining room. He later related that — just as he looked out the dining room’s patio doors — our 10 x 14 shed twisted into an aluminum pretzel. He hurriedly reversed course to the basement and met Greg and me in the middle of the stairs as we bravely headed up to save him.
We were fortunate to lose only our shed and half of the shingles off our roof. Once the tornado passed, I phoned my widowed mother several miles northeast and advised her to take cover. "I can’t go down in my basement!" Mother exclaimed, "Who knows how long I might be trapped down there if a tornado hits?"
"Trust me, Mom," I said, "if a tornado hits your area, it wouldn’t be more than a week or two before Vicki or I would call the other to ask, ‘Hey, have you heard from Mom since that tornado hit her neighborhood?’"
Lucky for me, my late mother had a sense of humor.
March SADNESS at our house
There are only two rhyming ways for March Madness to end for Jayhawk fans — sadness and gladness. Oh, that it had been the latter.
Armchair coaches are still trying to figure out how KU, up 10 with 2:22 to go, fell to Michigan. Why didn’t Johnson take the final shot instead of kicking it out to Tharpe? Why didn’t KU foul Michigan late in regulation play, ensuring they didn’t tie the game with a 3-point shot (yes, Mario, they did, causing history to repeat itself ... but not in a good way). Even if Michigan made the free throws which they were having a struggle doing, KU would have the ball with about 9 seconds to play and a one point lead. Michigan would have to foul and KU was doing a better job making their free throws.
I am sure the players and coaches are asking the same questions, second-guessing their decisions. Even Coach Self said, in retrospect, he wished they had fouled. Shoulda, woulda, coulda. No one feels worse than the players and coaches. We armchair coaches have an advantage over players and actual coaches … sort of like we have the advantage over Wheel of Fortune contestants. Have you ever watched that show, known the answers and wondered why they were not equally obvious to the contestants? Husband Ray is especially good at figuring out the puzzle answers, but freely admits it would be much harder were he actually spinning the wheel on the game show.
During Roy Williams tenure as Jayhawk coach, a hard loss in the NCAA tournament caused him to say he felt like getting hit by a truck. I sent him a hand drawn card, on the front of which was a little Jayhawk wearing a black armband, holding our Big 8 Championship pennant and singing, "No, no, they can’t take that away from me!" Inside, I wrote, "We were sad, too, Coach … and then we remembered … nobody died."
That brought me a nice note from Coach Williams which I am sure I still have ... if only I knew where. I also sent out cards to other Hawk lovers (but I was smart enough not to send it to the coach) when the University of Texas, El Paso upset us in one NCAA tournament. A long-legged Jayhawk wearing sneakers lay on the front of the card with his legs sticking up in the air. Inside I wrote:
Q: How do you kill a Jayhawk?
A: UTEP on it.
Some of us need to laugh to keep from crying. Especially now.
March Madness at our house
Click for larger image of Jayhawk birdhouse
It’s March Madness time at our house. You can tell by the little blue cloud that hovers over our home if our Jayhawks are not doing well … or if Ray thinks the referees are calling fouls at the wrong end of the floor. We are Hawkaholics, no question about it. If you look carefully at the photo I snapped yesterday afternoon during our most recent snow storm, you will note that even our birds are Jayhawk fans. The little Jayhawk birdhouse hanging from the sycamore is the only spot of color in our black and white world.
While our Hawks gave us quite a scare against Western Kentucky on Friday, we are hoping they will do much better against North Carolina — and KU’s former coach Roy Williams — today. If not, it will be a very bad day in Snowville. My bracket sheet has the Hawks going all the way, defeating Louisville in the championship game. Hey, it could happen. No one expected us to win the NCAA championship in 1988, but we did and somewhere I still have a couple of now-faded T-shirts proclaiming "The Hawks Spread Their Wings When the Fat Lady Sings" in commemoration of that victory.
Speaking of my bracket sheet, I’m glad I didn’t bet any money on my picks! Who expected Harvard to beat Georgetown? However, I am proud to say that I did pick Iowa State and Wichita State in the early going. But I also picked my mother’s alma mater OSU, my birth state Oklahoma, K-State and even former Big 12 Missouri before they deserted us for the SEC (those picks really messed up my bracket sheet).
The cookie box by Garfield is empty
My little office is filled with Jayhawk paraphernalia as the photo of one tiny corner attests. The balloon was made by my late sister Bette and the embroidered Jayhawk is my work (amazingly so, given my lack of talent with a needle). I’d like to find a Blue Devil fan who would buy that small piece of the floor on which the 1991 NCAA championship game was played where KU lost to Duke 72 to 65. What was I thinking to spend good money on that bit of loser wood?
We’re pulling for our Hawks. I hope they win, but, if they don’t, I’ll remember the words of Hubert Humphrey (or was it Adlai Stevenson) when he lost the presidential election: "It hurts too much to laugh and I’m too big to cry." Doesn’t mean I won’t though.
Click HERE if you’d like to read my column entitled "Family boasts true blue (and red hot) Hawk fans" and HERE if you want to read "Showing one’s true colors not advisable in Missouri."
Click on the chilly daffodils for larger image.
I snapped this photo yesterday near our front sidewalk on the last day of winter. Just the Friday before, Ray (bare chested) and I (not) walked at the lake in balmy 75 degree weather. Since then, we have hit the treadmill rather than brave temperatures in the 20s. This is typical Kansas weather and we are accustomed to it. We have learned there is real truth in the statement that if you don’t like the weather here, wait a day — or sometimes only an hour — and it will change.
Today, the first day of spring, the sun has melted the snow, but the temperatures are very cold. I am happy, however, because my photo of daffodils in the snow reminds me that spring's coming will not be denied. I am ready!
Eat your heart out, Imelda!
Fuzzy Crocs for winter, Crocbands for summer
I received two pair of pink Crocs for my recent birthday, bringing my Crocs total to six pairs.
If God had equipped me with brake lights, I wouldn’t have a closet full of backless shoes that even Imelda Marcos would have envied. There’s everything from backless strappy heels to backless sneakers … all necessary because of an Achilles tendon injury suffered at Costco. I was wearing red Crocs and Ray was in his customary sharp-pointed-toe cowboy boots when I stopped abruptly and he didn’t, giving me a solid kick in my right heel. (Click on photos for larger images.)
Only a centipede needs this many backless shoes
I turned down offers to see a surgeon or have the bump on my Achilles drained with a HUMONGOUS needle. "Hey," I said, "people have had these injuries for centuries and they either got over them or became crippled. If I get to the point I can’t do what I want to do, then I’ll see a surgeon."
After visiting two specialists (one orthopedic diagnostician, one podiatrist), having multiple x-rays and months of therapy, my heel still hurt and a doctor ordered an MRI. The MRI report suspected a tumor … which speculation sent me to a surgical specialist, who diagnosed my bump as scar tissue. "As much as I like to earn my living doing surgery," that blessed surgeon said, "I wouldn’t do surgery on your heel. It would be purely cosmetic and would make your Achilles tendon much more likely to rupture."
It was a "no brainer" decision to do nothing. Time is a great healer and my Achilles no longer pains or limits me in any way. Sure, I still have a bumpy right heel but I can live with that. Several years later, though, I am still afraid to wear enclosed heels, resulting in all these backless shoes.
But I’m keeping all my shoes with enclosed heels. By the time I get up the nerve to wear them again, they’ll probably be back in style!
Bridging my fear
A bird's-eye view of the KU basketball court
The best sports photographer I know just admitted in print to being terrified of heights … especially when he must access the catwalks multiple stories high in KU’s Allen Fieldhouse. When Nick wrote that he worried whether the structural steel could support him, I had a flashback to the time I walked across the bridge spanning the Mississippi River from Davenport, Iowa, to Rock Island Arsenal.
I was in the area because I accompanied husband Ray on his week-long seminar in Davenport. That trip taught me that I could only visit so many art museums and antique shops before a boredom set in that even shopping couldn’t cure (surprised me!). I no longer remember, but I suspect I decided to walk across the bridge because I was afraid to drive across it.
The Government bridge in motion
It’s a long way across the Mississippi and I was well onto the bridge before I looked down and was startled to see the river flowing far beneath my feet. I was walking on a metal grating; worse, I had recently read about a woman who was killed by falling through the metal steps of an escalator. To my right, I saw a dam and wondered if I fell through the grating whether I could hang on to the dam wall long enough to be rescued. Did I mention that above me on the bridge were railroad tracks? As if I didn’t have enough to worry about with my concern the grating wouldn’t support me, I also had to worry whether the bridge would support me, cars AND a train. Fat chance of swimming to the dam if a train fell on me.
I only had an extra long span to go when a warning horn sounded and metal gates blocked the pedestrian walkway and driving lanes. Then the end of the bridge swung sideways, leaving me trapped on a bridge that was no longer bridging the river. I was thrilled when the span swung back in place after a barge floated through the locks and I was able to continue my trek to Rock Island. Once there, I visited another museum and watched from the safety of the shore as a number of ships, barges and boats navigated the locks. I still remember the name of one boat: Our Tuition.
I spent the entire afternoon at Rock Island Arsenal, leaving only when I knew Ray would be returning to our hotel. The bad thing about walking to the island over the bridge was that I had to walk back across it to get to Ray and our hotel. The next day, Ray and I drove across the bridge to visit the island. It was still scary, but much faster than walking. Best of all the swing-span stayed in place.
If you would like to see a longer (and larger) time-lapse video of the bridge in motion click HERE. Don't blink or you will miss the train.
Snow no more!
Somewhere out there is a driveway
Hard to believe that in late January, Ray and I were walking at the lake in 75 degree sunny weather when today, February 26, the ground is covered with our second foot of snow in five days. Snow no more, Mother Nature, I’m sick of the white stuff. Sure, it is pretty as long as we’re looking at the snow from the cozy indoors and do not have to go out in it. But there’s the rub, sometimes you do.
Click on photos for larger images
Ray used his little 4-wheel-drive Toyota pickup to make tracks down our long drive, but when he turned around and started up our hill, the tracks were already filled with snow. When it is snowing at the rate of a couple inches an hour with high winds, conditions resemble a whiteout. Ray was a frozen, unhappy camper when he came in after shoveling our driveway pad, but on our deck I noticed a little avian critter braving the elements who looked even more miserable than Ray. I titled the photo I snapped of him (or her) "The Bluebird of Unhappiness."
Silo of LoveRay and I met in Miss Black’s English class when we were 14. I took one look at the cute black-haired, blue-eyed, deeply-tanned farm boy and decided he was the one for me. Way too lovey-dovey, I know, but I meant to post this on Valentine’s Day (I’m just a little late). We went steady all through high school — if you can call it steady when breaking up wasn’t really all that hard for us to do. We practiced it so much we made it into an art form. Thankfully, we got it out of our system before we were married.
When we were 16, Ray’s parents had a brand-new concrete-block silo erected at their farm. Ray told me that one of the workers, a former paratrooper, made it a practice to jump off every silo he worked on once it was completed. Then, figuring if that guy could do it, so could he, Ray jumped off the 35-foot silo. He related his feat to me, skipping the part about almost driving his knees through his chin when he landed in the big pile of sand.
"Neato!" I exclaimed, proud of him. And that, dear readers, is the difference between a girlfriend and a wife. As a wife, I would have said, "You idiot! You might have broken your neck!"
But that is not the reason this piece is titled "Silo of Love." The incident that prompted the title occurred when Ray and I crawled into the empty silo. And if you think you know what the incident was, I will bet you serious money that you are wrong.
As we stood inside the empty silo, I noticed a bird nest sitting on the rung of a built-in ladder leading up to the rounded top. "Hey," I said to Ray, "why don’t you climb up and see if there are any baby birds in the nest?"
My little piece of the Silo of Love
Ray scaled the ladder, reached over his head into the nest and pulled out a yard-long blacksnake. I learned two important lessons that day. First, Ray will hold a snake about as long as Minnie Pearl’s brother will hold a hot horseshoe. Second, when someone drops a snake on you in a silo, there’s no place to run except in tight circles.
I know that many women make it a policy not to marry any man who drops a snake on them. But I obviously will, so that is love to me. I even have a souvenir of that silo. Although my illustration shows hearts, the actual silo had large white diamond-shapes in a band at the top. Decades later, when Ray’s family farm, once so far from town, was developed for residential homes, I rescued a piece of the silo after it was torn down. It is, after all, a part of the Silo of Love. Sweet memories … except for the snake part.
A memorable last bath in Mom's tub
Filling Mom's tub for my bubble bath
Last week our 80 gallon water heater, with a loud roar, turned into Old Faithful. I’m told that when your average water heater springs a leak, the water seeps out the bottom and, if you are lucky, runs down the drain. Ours wasn’t average. A small hole appeared in the top and the pressure sprayed water about 12 feet in every direction. Everything within range was soaked!
Ray, around the corner and out of range, was walking on the treadmill which makes its own noise and didn’t hear the water heater rupture. Once it was brought to his attention, he quickly shut off the water and called the plumber. Lenny diagnosed the problem as unrepairable and ordered a new water heater which would arrive and be installed the next day.
The good news was that, after he left, we had water. The bad news: it was cold water. No nice long pre-bed soak in a hot bath for me. It reminded me of the time when, after working a year to get my late mother’s house ready to sell, I told everyone that the night before closing on the sale, I was going to take a bath in the bathtub my parents had installed decades previously. The bathtub was square with seats on either side — large enough so that my sisters and I, when younger and in a hurry, often bathed together. (Click on photos for larger images.)
A very chilly bubble bath
I drove to Mom’s house alone that night, brought a fluffy towel and bubble bath, filled the tub and stepped in for my long-anticipated "last bath in Mom’s tub." Problem was, I forgot that Ray had lowered the temperature on the hot water heater and the water was freezing! A smarter and less-determined woman would have abandoned the bath and settled for the foot test. Not I. I lay down in the tub and took a picture. I am still surprised that my shivering and teeth-chattering didn’t blur the photo and that my feet aren’t Smurf blue. My last bath in Mom’s tub was memorable in a way I didn’t expect.
By 10:00 a.m. the morning after our water heater rupture, we had a new water heater, hot water and $1,236.63 less in our checking account. It may have been some of the best money we ever spent.
Nothing but trouble from . . .In a perfect world, no one would ever need a root canal. But we don’t live in a perfect world. However, I think in our imperfect world that root canals, once done, should last forever. They don’t. Who knew? Certainly not I.
If I told you how long ago I had a root canal on Tooth #30, you’d think I was talking in dog years … so I’ll only say that when I had it, both boys were still living at home. We were at a swimming pool when a small filling fell out of Tooth #30. The next day, the dentist replaced the filling. No big deal . . . until the tooth started to HURT. I had never had a toothache and was an unhappy camper on my return trip to the dentist. He said I needed a root canal but he only did single root canals, so he sent me to a dentist who did multiple root canals.
In case you have never needed a root canal, the procedure is to deaden the tooth (make that the whole side of your face), drill out the nerves in the roots and fill the canals with some unknown compound after which the tooth, sans nerves, is never supposed to hurt again. But mine did which necessitated another trip to the dentist who "opened it up" and left it that way for a couple of days before filling it once again.
In the decades that followed, I felt that something about the tooth wasn’t quite right, but I never had a jumping pain that would have landed me in a dentist’s chair for exploratory drilling. Ray and I are diligent about seeing the hygienist and dentist twice a year and between us have had enough dental x-rays to light up a small city, but no hygienist or dentist ever noticed anything unusual until recently when the tip of the back root of Tooth #30 looked cloudy. Cloudy, I learned, is not good. Cloudy means infection, bone loss. YUK!
You should know that I hate, hate, HATE going to the dentist. When I once said that to a dentist, he looked puzzled and replied, "But you are a wonderful patient."
"Sure," I agreed, "I lie in the chair, open my mouth, shut my eyes and do not move again until you say, ‘Okay, we’re done’ — but do you notice that the small of my back never touches the chair?"
Tooth #30’s infection sent me to an endodontist (a super dentist who does root canals and re-treats old troublesome root canals). If a plain old dentist scares me, imagine how much more a super dentist does. As a lawyer’s kid, I read every warning sheet anyone hands me. I shouldn’t have read the one at the endodontist’s office — very scary stuff about root surgery, broken instruments, all the things that might go wrong.
Happily, the worst part of the visit was the bazillion shots in the back of my mouth. The endodontist discovered three canals in Tooth #30, the first properly filled with the unknown compound, the second drilled but not filled at all, and the third canal undrilled and containing dead nerve tissue which caused the infection. Two days and a mere six aspirins later, I was feeling great! I am left with a healing Tooth #30 that doesn’t hurt and a lower lip that does where I bit it while deadened.
I hope you never need a re-treat on a root canal, but if you do I hope you purchased dental insurance. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.
Kansas on 1/28/2013: Spring,
outside and inside
Ray's beautiful Bird of Paradise doesn't stink
January 28 in Kansas: Outdoors, the temperature is 75 degrees and the sun is shining. It’s a bit windy, but no one is complaining. We’re not even complaining that the last day of January is predicted to have a temperature of 10 degrees. We Kansans are a hardy bunch.
It is days like today that tell us — while there may be a lot of winter weather in the weeks ahead — Spring is coming. By late March the grass will be greening, purple and yellow crocuses will be blooming (sometimes through the snow) and tulips and daffodils will be poking their leaves through the thawing ground.
Inside, we have a lot of blooming flowers. Three poinsettias are looking like they’ve outlived their usefulness, but they’re still healthy so we will see how long that lasts. Same with the Christmas cacti. But Ray is thrilled that his Bird of Paradise plant is blooming …finally! He’s only been waiting four years. I reminded him that Grams once called asking if I’d come take a photo of her Century Plant. Imagine waiting 100 years for a plant to bloom. (Click on photos for larger images.)
Its beauty doesn't make up for its odor
I am married to a man with a green thumb which is a bonus for me because my thumb is pitch black. I belong to the "Stop me before I kill again" chapter of gardeners and houseplant growers. However, one plant I wish I had killed was Ray’s prize Starfish Cactus. Oh, it was pretty but it STUNK! We had never seen any rodents in our home, but the smell in the downstairs family room was so bad we thought a mouse had died in the couch. We turned over all of the furniture looking for a defunct mouse without finding the source of the smell that was making us gag. It was when I began looking in the solarium abutting the family room that I noticed the smell growing stronger. As I approached Ray’s cactus, boasting three beautiful 8-inch blooms, I exclaimed, "Ugh! It’s these FLOWERS!"
Ray hastily moved the plant outside while I headed upstairs to the computer. One site referred to it as "Corpse Flower" and another as "Carrion Plant." I’m assuming no one would buy a flower with either of those names, which is why the plant Ray purchased was marked "Starfish Cactus." According to one website devoted to flowers, the blooms of the Starfish Cactus "give off a deep rotting smell imitating dead animal matter."
I’ll say! The best thing about his Bird of Paradise plant is that it doesn’t have any odor. Ray’s stinky cactus taught us that can be a very good thing.
Fifty shades of technologyBetween us, Ray and I have three desktop computers, one laptop, two netbooks, an iPod and a Kindle Fire HD. Do we know how to use them to their full capabilities? Not a clue! If we didn’t have an IT son, we’d have Geeks on Wheels on a monthly retainer.
I regard computers the way I do my car. I know pushing on the accelerator makes it go and stomping on the brake pedal makes it stop. I don’t have to know HOW it does it and, furthermore, I don’t care. But the problem with computers is that I often achieve a result without knowing how I did it. Sometimes it is a result I want, other times not. So I am clueless if I want to repeat the action that brought me the result I want and equally clueless how to reverse it if it is a result I don’t want … which is usually the case.
Because of that, I could readily identify with our friend Heather’s problem. Heather is currently the owner of two Kindle Fires. She explains that she loved her first Kindle Fire so much that she bought each of her young sons Kindles of their own so she could upload their elementary school textbooks onto them. Sounds easy enough and after a lot of trial and error, she managed to do it and was pretty proud of herself once she had their school books locked in. Proud until she discovered that, in addition to her second-grader’s text books, she had also locked in her Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. She couldn’t figure out how to unlock and remove her three Fifty Shades books so she headed to the store and bought a new Kindle for him. Good plan since Fifty Shades was not on his approved reading list.
And there’s the rub. How do you get out of something if you don’t know how you got into it in the first place? In a recent panicky call to IT son, I explained that I had uploaded to my computer, by cutting not copying from my SD card, photos that I desperately needed for the newspaper I edit. When I couldn’t find them where I thought I saved them, a search revealed a bunch of internet shortcuts, one for each photo. I couldn’t open them and I couldn’t save them to another folder.
After having me try several procedures, IT son said, "Mom, put your SD card back in your computer. The photos will be there."
"No they won’t," I protested, "I cut them and they’re not showing up on the camera viewer."
"They are still on the card," he insisted.
And they were. Who knew? My IT son, that’s who. How smart we were to have him … and how lucky for him that pregnancy doesn’t require technology.
A letter to my spammersDear Viagra, Want a Hot Date, Cialis,
Phone Hot Babes, etc., etc., etc.,
I wish I could convince you and all the other spammers in my email inbox that I am a GIRL! And to the dozens of device and potion inventors who send email messages offering to enlarge a portion of anatomy that I do not possess, STOP IT! As for you, Cialis, I do not own even one claw-foot bathtub, let alone two, so you’re wasting your time!
Curiously, my husband doesn’t receive these shady email messages. I cannot figure out why I do, but I’m blaming the two times I have accidentally visited pornographic websites. The first time, I attempted to show my IT son a music site I liked. I typed in the address and up popped a bunch of naked ladies. "I see your mistake, Mom," he said cooly. "You typed wave instead of wav. Quite frequently, porno sites will use a name similar to a popular website, so if you make a mistake typing the address of that site, you’ll wind up on the porno site."
How embarrassing! Who knew?
Zoe with Little Girlfriend dolls. Click for larger image.
The second time, I was looking for a "Zoe the Outdoor Explorer" doll for my little granddaughter, Zoe. But when I searched for the brand name of the doll — My Little Girlfriend — I turned up tons of porno site options.
It is true that the only email account (out of four) on which I get these suggestive messages is the one that was published in the newspaper so readers of my humor column could contact me. But readers knew my gender so I’m pretty sure they are not sending the unwanted offers. Readers who wrote were divided into two groups. My favorites were those who wrote to compliment my column or tell me about something similar they experienced.
Then there were those who wrote to complain: the snakes' rights guy who angrily objected to Ray killing a snake that attacked him, the body modification folks who furiously reacted to my column about piercings and wanted to tell me in graphic language exactly what (you wouldn’t believe it) they had pierced, and the woman who misunderstood my column in support of boys to mean that I was advocating "getting rid" of girls.
Of course I wasn’t doing that. As mentioned above, I AM A GIRL!
Take me off your list. Pleeeese! I’m begging you.
Marsha H. Goff
Girl, not a guy
If you’d like to read the column about my accidental porno site visits, clickHERE.
A cozy end to 2012
New Year's Eve photo taken from our front door
Ray and I found the best way to spend a snowy New Year’s Eve is to stay home, eat chili and cheesecake and cozy up with a couple of good books and each other. At midnight, from our hill in the country, we saw (and heard) celebratory fireworks, making me wish we had saved a few from our big 4th of July celebration to welcome 2013. (Click on photo for larger image.)
Our New Year’s smooch was two minutes late because CBS TV’s New Year’s bash forgot all about a countdown for Central Time Zone viewers (we should have been watching ABC’s Dick Clark’s Times Square production, but it’s just not the same without Dick, is it?). Had it not been for the booms and bangs around us, we might have missed it altogether.
Whether you were partying with crowds of friends or enjoying a quiet night like the Goffs, we hope the end of 2012 was the beginning of a wonderful new year for you. Happy New Year!
Swiss Army knife not always useful
Sure, it looks innocent now ...
Husband Ray learned an important lesson on Christmas Eve: If you drop an open Swiss Army knife, do not, repeat NOT, try to catch it. He wouldn’t have had the knife out to begin with if those serrated strips on boxes which are designed to cut plastic wrap actually did the job.
Ray was wrapping plates of candy with sheets of clear plastic when the accident happened. The falling knife might have cut his finger off instead of just slicing it, so it could have been worse. Still, it was bad enough with lots of blood. I hate seeing blood! Especially when it is Ray's.
Son Greg, who was visiting with his family when the cruelest cut occurred, shared a similar story about a man he knew who was showing a friend a combat knife when he dropped it onto his sock-clad foot, severing two tendons. So what is it with guys and knives?
I bet there aren’t many women who have been hurt by knives they drop. I’ve dropped knives a few times and, for said knives to have injured me, they’d have had to chase me across the kitchen floor. It took only a nanosecond for me to put it in reverse and be far, far away when those knives hit the floor.
So listen to me and learn from Ray. If you drop a knife, retreat fast and far and let it fall. You'll be glad you did!
The fight before Christmas
Please click on photo for larger image
Oh Christmas tree,
Oh Christmas tree,
Oh artificial Christmas tree!
I just realized that Ray and I haven’t had our annual Christmas tree fight since we bought an artificial tree several years ago. I kind of miss those fights before Christmas.
For most of our married life, we spent entire late November days choosing and cutting exactly the right trees: expensive white pines with soft needles during our last years of real tree buying, free stickery cedars from Ray’s family farm in our young-married-with-kids poverty years. One of those cedar-cutting years is memorable because Ray was shot by a shotgun-toting hunter who mistook him for a rabbit. Fortunately, Ray was squatting while sawing down a tree and his jeans were stretched tight across his rear end, causing his posterior to be bruised, but not punctured, with the shotgun pellets.
The Christmas tree fights invariably ensued when Ray and I found a tree we liked. Unfortunately, it was never the same tree. I always looked for a tall, skinny tree that wouldn’t crowd out the furniture, while Ray consistently searched for the tallest, fattest tree on the farm. He usually won those contests of will, especially the very cold year when, after walking the tree farm three times, I was ready to jettison the idea of a tree altogether. The owner, realizing he was about to lose a sale, volunteered to drive us around in his horse-drawn wagon.
After Ray referred to the perfect tree I spied as a STICK, I told the owner I was done. He quickly drove us back to the barn and offered me a couple cups of his special spiced cider before making another circuit of the farm. As he was netting the tallest, fattest tree for us, I asked for his cider recipe and learned that the cider was spiked with grain alcohol. No wonder I was mellow; I was filled with Christmas spirit.
Years later, when we were preparing to build our home in the country, we designed our dining room as a 15-foot tower with 10-foot walls to accommodate a Christmas tree of Ray’s liking. Although we swore it would never happen, today that tree is artificial. It’s big, it’s beautifully shaped and, if I light a pine-scented candle, it smells just like a real tree. Best of all, you don’t have to water it and it doesn’t shed needles.
Merry Christmas. I hope Santa brings you everything your heart desires.
Click HERE if you would like to read more about Ray’s encounter with the rabbit hunter while cutting a Christmas tree.
The further adventures of
Huckleberry and Ray
This part of the lake is usually far under water.
Ray and I were so inspired by our hike to the island that we decided to walk another portion of the lake perimeter that is usually under water. Our goal was to walk along the shoreline to the western edge of Clinton Lake. Problem was, we started way too far east. (Click on photos for larger images.)
We learned the hard way that when you are walking away from your car — or in this case, Guppy Rojo, Ray’s beloved red four-wheel drive Toyota pickup — you should walk only half as far as you think you can. I don’t know how many miles we walked yesterday, but we were already exhausted before we turned back without reaching our goal.
White head, white tail . . . it's a bald eagle!
Ray thought we didn't see as many neat things as we observed on our island trek, but we spied something we missed on the island. "Can you tell what kind of bird is in that tree?" Ray asked, pointing to a large bird perched in a dead tree far out in the lake. I couldn't identify the bird so I zoomed in and snapped this photo.
Pelicans and gulls on the other side of the lake (thank goodness for zoom).
Shell and shell
Deer track (we saw many which may explain the shotgun shell)
We left this evidence of our time on the mud-cracked beach. It's just our form of "Kilroy was here."
Late in the afternoon, we found the overgrown path we had taken to the beach and were glad that Ray had marked the entrance with a screwdriver or we might still be trying to find it. Guppy Rojo was certainly a sight for sore eyes and tired feet.
Tomorrow we may try to walk in the other direction . . . and then again . . .
Ray's Guppy Rojo really is beloved. If you don't believe me, you may clickHERE to read "Husband maintains lifelong relationship with cars," a column in which Ray's love for Guppy Rojo is oh so evident.
Call me HuckleberryHave you ever yearned to do something for a long time and then, when you finally did, it exceededyour expectations? I had that experience a few days ago and it was fantastic! Clinton Lake, a reservoir with a surface area of 7,000 acres, where Ray and I frequently walk, has a small, round, tree-covered island far out in the lake. (Click on photos for larger images.) Last year, when I realized the drought had lowered the lake so much that we likely could access the island by walking to it, I began telling Ray that the Huckleberry Finn side of me would like to explore it.
He seemed cool to the idea until the other day when he suggested we give it a shot. We began our trek to the island via a path atop a breakwater that was clogged with weeds, brush and thorny trees. Huckleberry might have put up with that without complaint, but not I, so we exited down a pile of big rocks to a wide strip of land that is usually covered with water. I snapped photos of the remnants of human habitation (the lake covers many farmsteads): the crumbling foundation of a house or barn, an auto gas tank, tractor tires and pipes sticking out of the ground (I found one when I tripped over it).
I have more close-up photos than I'll ever need of iridescent clam shells and long-dead fish with empty eye-sockets. We were thrilled to see dozens of pelicans ranged along the perimeter of our little beach. I took many photos of them, forgetting to change the macro setting — terrific for taking close-ups of dead fish — on my camera. You'll just have to imagine how great this pelican photo would be were it in focus.
I suspect the whisky bottle I photographed was abandoned by a previous visitor (we saw footprint evidence) to the strip of land leading to the island. We dubbed one visitor Bigfoot after I fitted my Croc into his footprint in the soft dirt. But Ray and I had that land and island all to ourselves that beautiful unseasonably warm day (imagine 72 degrees on a Kansas November day).
I photographed Ray with a lure he found and pelican and goose feathers he picked up. I would have asked him why he picked up the feathers, but I was afraid he'd question why I have photos of a dozen dead fish.
We explored the island and the land leading to it long enough to sate my spirit of adventure. As we walked the long way around the breakwater back to our car, we passed a beaver lodge (I know that's what it was because the beaver exited as we neared it and swam away from us). And, yes, I also snapped a photo of him (or her, hard to tell), but he is just a small black dot in a really big lake. That is because I wanted to be sure he wouldn't return to his lodge and decide to bite me with those big, scary teeth that can chew down trees. I'm pretty sure Huckleberry wouldn't have been scared of a beaver, but then Huckleberry wasn't a girl, was he?
Proud as a peacock about our
family turkeysThanksgiving, with family gathered around the table, is a great time to learn about your ancestry … especially if your family, like mine once did, boasts a resident genealogist. Our family relied on our late sister Bette to tell us about the peacocks and turkeys roosting in our family tree. Ancestor turkeys, in my opinion, are far more interesting than ancestor peacocks.
Grandad Josh sans still
Without Bette’s research, we would never have known why Great-grandad Joshua Henry left the hills of Somerset County, Pennsylvania in 1879 to travel by train to Kansas, with Grandpa Marsh a baby on his knee. The family’s sudden departure was caused by a dispute over stills (one of them Grandad’s). Threats were made, shots were fired and Grandad decided there was one too many bootleggers in them thar hills. I think that Grandad, a Civil War veteran, must have regarded bootleggers a much scarier foe than Johnny Reb.
Bette surprised all of us by reporting that Moses and Susan Johnson, Mom’s grandparents — along with Mom’s mother, aunts and uncles — were listed on the Dawes Commission rolls, showing them to be part American Indian. We were excited to discover we had the blood of Choctaw, Cherokee and Creek running through our veins, but disappointed to learn that our Indian heritage didn’t include oil rights.
In a photo Bette gave me, Great-grandma Susan’s left hand — missing two fingers — is prominently displayed on a table. She easily could have hidden the mutilation, but didn’t. Good for her! We would love to know how she lost her fingers, but that is knowledge we likely will never have.
Further, Bette learned that we have Huron (Mohawk) blood on Dad’s side of the family. No oil rights there, either. My late father never knew about the American Indian blood or we would have heard about it. He greatly admired Indians like Cochise, Chief Joseph, Sequoyah, Sacagawea and others … so much so that my sisters and I wanted to be Indians when playing Cowboys and Indians. Shortly before he died, Dad was attempting to learn the Sioux language to complement the German, French, Italian, Hebrew and Arabic languages which he spoke.
According to Bette, our family tree includes many peacocks, among them: William the Conqueror, Catherine the Great and Captain John Johnson. Also, Eystien the Noisy. (I don’t know who he is, but husband Ray says it figures I’d be related to someone with a name like that.)
Are you impressed yet? No? How about Anne Boleyn? Although the issue of Anne having a sixth finger on her right hand is still debated, Bette thought that’s why granddaughter Zoe was born with six fingers on each hand. A surgeon’s scalpel took care of Zoe’s extra fingers, which was way better than the body part poor Anne lost when Henry VIII found a new love.
When I asked Bette if we were related to any currently living peacocks, she named Dick Cheney as a distant relative. Attaining the office of vice-president certainly qualifies him as a peacock, but shooting a friend while hunting may signify he’s a turkey. The fact is most of us are a combination of peacock and turkey.
I recently read that Barack Obama, Sarah Palin, George Bush and Rush Limbaugh share a common ancestor. And there’s the rub: you can’t pick your ancestors. I’m sure most of those people would rather not claim relationship to one another.
My own knowledge of ancestors goes back only four generations: parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents. They are relatives I have known personally or, in the case of my greats and great-greats, through the writings they left. Those are the ancestors I love and care about.
My late cousin Patsy eschewed turtlenecks and asserted that we must have had a horse thief in our family who met justice at the end of a rope. If so, Bette never found him.
This year, I invite your family to join mine in a new Thanksgiving tradition: Celebrate your family turkeys!
VOTE — It’s the American thing to do!
Old photo, but I still have this hat.
I descend from a long line of politically active citizens. My great-great-grandmother, Mary Hammond Sly, was active in the Women Suffrage movement. In her journal she wrote that a woman from her church asked her to "bake a chicken pie toward feeding the people on election day."
A few days later she wrote that if her minister was "too conscientious to vote for Women Suffrage, the church may bake its own chicken pie."
My father served our city as councilman and city commissioner and our state as a legislator. Back in the days when lawyers were prohibited from advertising (now those were the days), many new lawyers publicized their names by running for public office. While that wasn’t Dad’s primary reason — he already was a dedicated public servant — he may have thought a little extra name recognition wouldn’t hurt.
I’m glad campaigns then weren’t as vicious as they are now. Today’s ads make me wonder why all politicians aren’t in jail. The most negative thing that happened in Dad’s race was a flyer distributed by his opponent, a long-time incumbent, which implored the public not to vote for Dad because "we don’t want lawyers making our laws."
At a pre-election meeting sponsored by the League of Women Voters, my always courteous father approached his opponent, held out his hand, and said, "May the best man win."
"That’ll be me," his opponent replied as he turned away. When the rural vote reported first, putting Dad well behind his opponent, he graciously conceded the election. But his concession was premature. The city vote came in strong for Dad and he won!
Gotta go. We’re headed to the township fire station where we vote, then we’re going out for Chinese, after which we’ll celebrate our patriotism with a blizzard at DQ. We do not count calories on Election Day.
Click HERE if you’d like to read my column on elections: "Frogs, sacrificial lambs make strange political bedfellows."
And, if you're still game, click HERE for "Elections are meaner than they used to be."
Backwards is not the way
to fall down stairsIf you had looked down these stairs the other night, you would have seen me lying crumpled at the bottom. Trust me: it is never a good idea to put it in reverse on stairs when you notice you’ve left a bedroom light on
. . . especially if you’re carrying a laundry basket full of clothes.
(Click on photo for larger image.)
My brain didn’t keep track of my feet so I thought I was on the bottom tread, but, no, I was three or four stairs up. When I stepped back with my left foot, expecting to step on tile, I found only air, giving me time to scream loudly in anticipation of hurting myself. I landed on my left hip, hit my head on the door and somehow managed to injure my left foot and right wrist.
As I lay there taking stock of what hurt and what didn’t, I could hear Ray’s boots upstairs racing through the house as he hollered, "WHERE ARE YOU?"
When he finally found me, he said, "Let’s get you to the emergency room." I declined because, as it turns out, I wasn’t really hurt at all — No osteoporosis for me! — except for my pride. I suffered a little residual soreness, but not enough to stop us from walking our daily two miles the next morning.
This makes the second time I’ve tumbled down those stairs, the first time a decade or so ago when I was rushing down to open the back door for Ray to bring in a piece of antique furniture we’d just purchased. At the top of the stairs, I dropped my purse, decided it was prudent to check to make sure I wouldn’t tangle my foot in its strap and missed the first step entirely. I only had time to think "This is gonna hurt!" and make a grab at a spindle about half-way down which caused my only injury: a sprained thumb.
As a child, I lived with perpetual skinned knees, the result of my tomboy lifestyle. As an adult, I’ve only skinned my knee once (and tore my meniscus at the same time) when I tripped over a curb while running to take a photo at Yellowstone Park. I learned then that I needn’t have hurried because the bubbling spring could be relied on to stay put. My recent fall down the stairs taught me that, since I’m not equipped with backup mirrors, I should not go down backwards. So I won’t . . . anymore.
Pheasants and peacocks, both birds --
but not always!In Autumn, my lawyer/politician father loved to hunt pheasants. He hunted with several groups of men, including a band of brothers, self-described as Missouri hillbillies, whose tendency to get into brawls kept Dad busy trying to keep them out of jail. We knew and liked all of the brothers and Dad said he learned more about biology and botany from them, unschooled as they were, than he ever learned in college courses.
Dad was on a hunting trip to Western Kansas with a group of businessmen and our female household was quiet that evening as we awaited his return. Mom was taking a bath, my sisters Lesta and Bette were in their bedroom and Vicki, a toddler, was sound asleep. I was alone in the living room, sitting on the couch doing my homework, when a loud knock at the door startled me.
We never knew when we answered the door whether we’d greet a US Senator asking for Dad’s support or a client who needed fast legal help. This time it was the third oldest of the band of brothers who I knew had also been pheasant hunting, though not with Dad. The man was obviously drunk and sobbing when I invited him to come in and sit down. "What’s the matter?" I asked as soothingly as a 14-year-old could.
"My wife has been unfaithful!" he blurted.
"Oh, no," I replied, denying the possibility.
"Yes," he cried, "when I left to go hunting I had five peacocks and now I only have three."
"You mean pheasants," I corrected.
"Pheasants," I repeated, and looked up to notice Lesta standing in the archway to the kitchen. A year younger, and supposedly a year more innocent than I, Lesta’s eyes were as round as saucers and her mouth formed a capital O. It was then I realized that he did indeed mean peacocks . . . the kind that my sisters and I once found in Dad’s dresser drawer and tried to blow up, thinking they were white balloons.
At this point, Mom, freshly bathed and dressed, entered the living room and the man, still crying, turned to her to spill his marital woes. But, first, he motioned to Lesta and me, saying protectively: "You girls get out of here. You shouldn’t hear this."
October's bright blue weather
The photo I snapped of this month’s colorful drive down our hillside causes me to believe that Helen Hunt Jackson said it best: Love loveth best of all the year October’s bright blue weather. I suspect it is the brilliant colors of the foliage that make the blue of the sky appear so intense.
Autumn was my father’s favorite season, but whether it was because of the vivid ever-changing colors or the advent of pheasant season remains in question. Likely it was both. Every afternoon after school I’d fly with him in his little plane over the hills north of town because he wanted to see how much the colors of trees had changed overnight. Sweet memories! I’ll bet you have some of your own, like jumping in a pile of leaves, carving a jack-o'-lantern or watching a high school football game on a crisp Autumn evening. I hope you glory in those memories and thoroughly enjoy this beautiful season.
Buddy the Tripawd and other dogs
Regis loves living at the lake campground
One of the best things about walking at the lake most mornings are the dogs we encounter. Early last spring when the campground opened, we met this little cutie named Regis, owned by Sam, a volunteer, and his wife, Kathy. Today, as I snapped this photo, they were preparing their motorhome for the long trip home. (Click on photo for larger image.)
While I love dogs, I tend to be a coward around canines I don’t know by name. Being chased by a nameless growling Rottweiler with big scary teeth will do that to you. But dogs at the lake must be leashed, allowing me to brave even the fiercest looking and loudest barking dog . . . unless, of course, I can’t see a restraint. "Whoa!" I exclaimed to Ray, cowering behind him, "Is that dog loose?"
Turned out the big black Lab was loose and headed our way, but his owner quickly grabbed him and brought him over to politely introduce him to us as "Junior, who really likes people." Since we qualify as people, that meant he liked us and greeted us each morning with a big sloppy grin as long as he camped at the lake.
Buddy the Tripawd was loose the other day, but that was okay because we know him. We met Buddy, missing his back right leg to his hip, and his mom, missing one of her front legs, earlier this summer. I remember asking their owner if the dogs were Pointers. He said they weren’t, but they certainly look like my dad’s Pointer hunting dogs.
If I had a dollar for every dog I have seen heist his leg at a tree this summer, I’d be well off. Easy for a dog with two back legs to do. It would be easy for Buddy, too, if he approached a tree from the right where he needn’t even heist his non-existent leg. But, no, Buddy moved up to a tree and heisted his left back leg to do his business (see illustration at right). "How’d he DO that?" I asked. "He doesn’t have a leg to stand on."
"He must be balancing on his front legs," Ray said.
"That," I agreed, "or he’s got the world’s strongest back muscles!"
Buddy’s owner appeared at his motorcoach door. "Is he bothering you?" he asked.
"No," I replied, "but he just baptized a tree by raising his LEFT leg!"
"I know. I think I ought to videotape him doing that and send it to America’s Funniest Videos."
I can’t wait to see Buddy on AFV. I’ll bet he wins the $100,000 prize.
Lucy's "Gratitude Attitude"I am really bad at guessing people’s age. Are you? How old do you think the woman in the photograph is?
This photo of Lucy, my late father’s older cousin, was taken in 2005 when she was 97 years old. Last Friday, Ray and I drove to Sabetha, Kansas, where we attended her graveside service. If you are quicker at math than I, you have already figured out that Lucy was 104.
Because Lucy lived in Colorado, we expected very few people would attend her service. Boy, were we wrong! And here’s the kicker: last May, Lucy traveled over 600 miles to Sabetha to attend her 86th high school reunion. Her daughter and granddaughter drove her around the small town in a car decorated with signs: CHEERLEADER! MY 86th HIGH SCH00L REUNION! At a reunion she attended several years previously, similar signs left observers awestruck. Many were overheard exclaiming, "What? That can’t be right!"
I shouldn’t have been surprised that so many people attended her service. Life wasn’t always easy for her. She was widowed as a young housewife and went to work to support herself and her daughter. But Lucy’s lifelong motto was "Gratitude Attitude" and she lit up every room she entered. She bowled on leagues well into her late 90s and visited the casinos well beyond that.
Most fitting, at her service, four Sabetha High School students — dressed as football player, soccer player, cheerleader and jeans-clad student — sang the school song for the alumna who, in addition to being a cheerleader, instituted the Pep Squad and helped initiate the school song still in use.
Here’s to Lucy and her long productive life!
Anorexic coyote spurns food
What a pathetic specimen of coyotekind!
Okay, if you looked this skinny and pathetic, would you walk away from a plate of delicious dog food? I don't think so . . . and yet our little coyote pup did. (Click on photo for larger image.)
He'll take a few bites, then leave. Doesn't he know coyotes are starving elsewhere? No, wait, that's here they're starving . . . though through no fault of ours. We bought him food but, like the proverbial horse who can be led to water, but not made to drink, we can't force feed our coyote. Well, perhaps we could, but we're smart enough not to try.
Our anorexic coyote will eat a few bites then walk away.
Grandson Gabe, who is bunking with us while attending college, is gradually getting used to the many coyotes that frequent our neck of the woods. But he has decided that listening to them yip-yip-yoooing in the distance is far preferable to hearing them fight under his window over the meat scraps that husband Ray persists in throwing under our deck in the hope that a neighbor’s dog will eat them.
We're hosting an even smaller coyote pup than the one pictured above, but he is too shy for me to photograph. However, starvation is the least of my worries about him after my friend Heather told me about a traumatic incident she once experienced. Her family was entertaining guests from Texas on their urban Kansas patio while Roxie, the guests' much-pampered tiny dog, complete with diamond collar, enjoyed the outdoors. Suddenly a red-tailed hawk swooped out of the sky, grabbed the dog in his talons and took off into the blue. Neither Roxie nor her collar were ever seen again.
We have many red-tails in our vicinity and, while I once saw two hawks fighting high in the sky over a snake, I wouldn't want to repeat that experience with a little coyote pup.
Dog food for a coyote pup
Hunting for grasshoppers?
Why, you ask, would we buy dog food for a skinny little coyote pup? Easy answer: Purina doesn’t make Coyote Chow.
I am beginning to think that mother coyotes in our neck of the woods abandon their babies far too early. For the past two years, tiny little coyotes have prowled our yard seeking sustenance. Ray swears that our current coyote pup is so desperate that he is eating grasshoppers. I don’t know if that is the case, but the manner in which he hops after his prey indicates it may be true. Surely, there cannot be that many field mice in our back yard. (Click on photos for larger images.)
By the time we bought dog food for last year’s coyote pup, it was too late. After three days roaming our front acreage, he never returned to eat the dog food Ray put out for him that fourth day. The previous night, coyotes in our area had howled, barked and generally raised a ruckus loud enough to wake neighbors a mile away, causing me to fear that adult coyotes might have killed our little guy. Coyotes don’t eat coyotes, do they?
Telephoto shots taken from window
This year’s coyote is little, but still bigger than last year’s pup which I first mistook for a stray Chihuahua. So I’m taking no chances with this tiny guy (or gal, hard to tell). On day one, I offered him ham; day two, Canadian bacon. I couldn’t be sure he was the one who ate the meat, however, so we bought dog food to put out several times a day and hopefully catch him in the act of eating it. So far, no luck. Only Bob (so-dubbed by Ray because our neighbor’s cat has no tail) was spied chowing down on our coyote’s dog food.
It’s not like we need more coyotes, but neither Ray nor I can bear the thought of a hungry baby animal. Also dog food is cheaper (though not by much) than ham and Canadian bacon. And — in case our pup is of the Jewish persuasion — it just may be kosher, too.
Meeting cousins and making waffles
in Guthrie, Oklahoma
Mike, Ray, Marsha, Nancy, Picture Crasher (we haven't a clue who this woman is) and Naoma (Mike's wife)
My mother was the youngest of 12 highly prolific children of Jacob and Maud Shellhammer. Consequently, I have SIX cousins born the same year as I. Ray and I recently caught up with two of them in Guthrie, the Oklahoma town where Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise filmed portions of the movie Rainman— including one of my favorite scenes where Hoffman stops in the middle of crossing the street when the light DON’T WALK begins flashing.
I have such great childhood memories of Nancy and Mike. When my family visited Grandma and Grandpa in Coyle, Nancy’s home in the country was where I stayed so we could go down to the creek and try to find quicksand. As adventuresome as that sounds, I’m not sure we ever found anything but boggy ground, but WE thought it was quicksand.
As preteens, I stayed busy scaring myself reading Mike’s Tales of the Cryptcomic books, while Mike and my sister Lesta practiced one-upsmanship. I remember the time Mike dropped a water balloon on Lesta from his perch high in a tree. Lesta retaliated by smashing a ripe banana on his head. It took a while before he got revenge by locking her in the little pantry off Aunt Vera’s kitchen, then shooting a hose at her through the small window. Sure, Lesta, the pantry and kitchen floor were all water-logged, but Mike’s retaliation was so creative we talked about it for years.
While having dinner with my cousins at a restaurant was the best thing about our recent trip, the second best thing was the great complimentary hot breakfast at our motel. I LOVE those automatic flip waffle makers. I filled the paper measuring cup with batter and poured it into the waffle maker. When I lowered the lid and flipped the appliance to begin the cooking process, it quickly became apparent that I had used too much batter. As the tray underneath began filling with batter, I decided someone had substituted larger cups. Just then I noticed that the drips from the machine were starting to cook, looking like cave stalactites. When the beep signaled my waffle was ready and I flipped it over to remove it to the plate, the stalactites became stalagmites.
Photo illustration of my weird waffle
A female traveler fixing a bowl of Cheerios stared in amused wonder at my waffle. When I learned that she was returning to Dallas from her 100-year-old mother’s funeral in Nebraska, I empathized and told her about my mother’s funeral. "I’d tell you how my family handles tragedy with humor," I said, "but you might think I’m weird."
"I thought you were weird," she said with conviction, "as soon as I saw your waffle."
Click HERE if you would like to read "Sometimes grins are hard to come by," the article about my family using humor to cope with tragedy.
Humor may make sorrow bearable
Steve's ashes ride to Topeka in a cupholder
When a loved one dies, there is so much to do that time seems to rush by in a blur. Operating on little sleep and incoming relatives, I tend to get slap-happy. Such was the case when husband Ray and I traveled to Topeka on behalf of our sister Bette’s siblings to settle her remaining expenses at the crematorium and cemetery.
Riding in our car’s cupholder was a small decorative personal urn that sister Vicki had purchased to hold some of her husband Steve’s ashes, then decided not to use. His ashes are in a larger urn, a portion of which were sent into Earth orbit when SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Florida last May. (You may read a story about Steve’s posthumous astronaut experience by clicking on Articles in the above navigation bar.)
Vicki, Ray and I were unsuccessful in our attempts to open the urn so we delivered it to the crematorium and asked the gentleman there to place some of Bette’s ashes in it for her daughter Sheli. He couldn’t open it either and said, "I believe something is in here."
"No," I replied confidently, "Vicki decided not to use it."
He shook the urn and we could hear that something (or someone, apparently Steve) was indeed inside. "It’s been filled and sealed," the gentleman said solemnly.
As we drove to the adjacent cemetery, I called Vicki and totally lost it when she answered and I tried to tell her that Steve’s ashes were in the little urn. Because I was simultaneously laughing and crying, it took three tries for her to understand me when I gasped, "We j-j-just gave S-s-steve a ride to T-t-topeka!"
It didn’t help that Ray commented, "He thinks his trip into space was much more exciting."
"He w-w-wants to go to the m-m-mall," I stammered.
"And Schlotsky’s," added Ray.
At home, Vicki was doubled over with laughter. "I gave away my husband?" she asked.
The small urn now has a place of honor next to the large urn on Vicki’s mantle and she purchased a small (and happily empty) urn for Bette’s ashes which Sheli now has.
Note: Not every family handles tragedy the way our family does, but it seems to work for us. Click HERE if you want to read "Sometimes grins are hard to come by," a column about how humor helped us deal with the tragedy of our mother’s passing.
I much prefer to write the light and humorous articles you are accustomed to reading on this website, but life isn't always funny. I wish it was. On Thursday, August 9, my sister Vicki phoned to inform me that our sister Bette had died. I am sure that in the coming days our tears will be tempered by laughter as Lesta, Vicki and I remember our sister's irrepressible sense of humor and loving manner. This article is:
In Memory of Bette
Bette June Henry Mallonee Hulser
Bette loved Facebook! It provided an outlet from her self-imposed isolation during the many years she cared for her son who succumbed to MS two and a half years ago. Bette gave up a challenging, well-paying job and turned her home into a hospital as Mike's illness progressed. We watched in amazement as she learned to feed him through a stomach tube and suction his breathing tube. And she did it all without any sign of resentment or self-pity.
Last Thursday afternoon Bette posted these words on her Facebook page.
Never take your loved ones for granted because you never
know when their hearts will stop beating, and you won't
have a chance to say goodbye.
Then she lay down to take a nap before dinner. It was a nap from which she didn't awaken. I remember the simple prayer we recited each night as children:
Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord my soul to keep
If I should die before I wake
I pray the Lord my soul to take
I like to think He did exactly that.
Note: Click HERE if you would like to read “For the Love of Mike,” a column about Bette and her son.
The saga of Shaky Pig
Ray feeds Chet Similac from a bottle.
During this morning’s walk, I noticed some small pink and white flowers and asked husband Ray to identify them. "Oh, that’s bindweed," he said, causing me to immediately think of Shaky Pig.
Long ago, when the boys were little and Ray’s parents were phasing out of farming and livestock, Ray decided to supplement our income by raising pigs in one of his folks’ vacated barns. He purchased six bred gilts (first-time mama pigs) and waited for piglets to arrive.
Unbeknownst to us, the bred gilts had a disease called lepto which causes pregnant pigs to abort or — if they carry to term — their babies, few in number, are stillborn or often non-viable. Ray expected litters of twelve, the number of teats on his soon-to-be mama pigs, and was hugely disappointed when they began delivering litters of three to five.
One of the non-viable pigs, dubbed Chet, moved to our suburban home, drank Similac, ate corn chips, pushed my red shoe across the floor and became viable indeed. (Click on photo for larger image.) Poor Shaky Pig, neurologically injured shortly after birth when his mother laid on him, stayed at the farm. The veterinarian advised Ray to dispose of Shaky Pig and not waste food on him, but Ray refused, saying he couldn’t kill any animal that was trying to live by eating.
And Shaky Pig ate everything in sight, including bindweed. Given his tremor, Ray said Shaky Pig looked like a mowing machine, his head moving right to left, as he munched on his preferred bindweed.
Ray kept Shaky Pig through three more breeding seasons and didn’t sell him until — deciding the pig business wasn’t as profitable as anticipated — he sold all his pigs. When Ray took Shaky Pig to the sale barn, the pig had trouble getting from the truck’s tailgate to the loading chute. Trying to help him, Ray put his hand on Shaky Pig’s bottom to give him a boost and inadvertently ran his middle finger up Shaky Pig’s . . . uh . . . well, you know.
As Ray looked in dismay at his soiled finger, the sale barn owner shoved the consignment document toward him and handed him a pen. When Ray signed the paper and tried to return the pen, the man took one look at it and said, "No, that’s okay, you can keep it."
Shaky Pig sold for 75 cents — not per pound — total. I hope whoever bought him kept him for a pet and allowed him to eat all the bindweed he wanted.
The night the closet fellNight before last, about
2 a.m., a loud crash and a series of smaller ones awakened us. Husband Ray thought it was thunder. I was sure something had fallen. We searched the main floor of the house, seeing nothing amiss, until I opened the door of the walk-in closet. What a mess! (Click on photos for larger images.)
One side of five shelves had given way, spilling the contents of the top two shelves into the middle of the floor and crushing clothes on the bottom three shelves, as well as the blouses and short jackets hanging on the rod below.
There would have been no problem had the top two shelves contained clothing instead of an eclectic mix of heavy, breakable treasures. So, I’m wondering, what was the final weighty straw that caused the collapse? Was it the Jayhawk bobblehead? Or perhaps the iron I bought when Ray and I first married that I keep purely for sentimental reasons. I suspect that the heaviest item — and therefore the likeliest cause of the disaster — is the can of old coins that sat on the top shelf. It couldn’t possibly be the feather-weight plastic pump that blows up my exercise ball. Or the shoebox of empty jewelry boxes. The sack of Happy Birthday balloons weighed nearly nothing and certainly didn’t cause the nighttime havoc.
A few items awaiting placement on the newly-repaired shelves.
I was surprised by some items I picked up from the floor; many of which I had forgotten we owned . . . like the traveler’s alarm for use on hotel doors that I bought in a rash moment because it was on sale. And what is up with that Coke bottle? Why did I have that on the top shelf? Then there is that stupid neti pot I used one time to rinse my sinuses. I haven’t a clue why I thought that was a good idea, but I shelved the neti pot long before I read about two people who used tap water in theirs and died from the "brain-eating" amoeba Naegleria fowleri which enters the body through the nose.
aBy early afternoon, Ray had the shelves back in place, secured by multiple toggle bolts, and I had reloaded the shelves with everything that hadn’t broken in the fall. Now I only have to worry about the 15 shelves and four drawers that are affixed to the other walls in the closet. I can’t speak for Ray, but, as for me, the next time something goes bump in the night, I hope it’s "goulies and ghosties and long-leggedy beasties." Wouldn’t take nearly so long to clean up!
Note: Click HERE to read my column about previous household repairs . . . including a toilet that had the potential to explode.
Pretty red toenails: good on a woman,
but bad on a manLast night, I used up all my miracles and persuaded husband Ray to massage my tired little feet. It was then — as he sat on the couch and I reclined on it with my feet in his lap — that he complimented my prettily painted toenails. Why, I wonder, did it take him so long to notice them when my natural state around the house is barefoot and, when I am shod, my summer shoes of choice are sandals?
"Would you like me to paint yours?" I asked. When he hastily declined my offer, I told him about the time my father scheduled a trip to Roaring River in Southwestern Missouri with some of his fishing buddies. They were leaving in the wee hours of the morning and Dad decided to snatch a few hours of sleep on the couch so he wouldn’t awaken Mom when he left.
As he snored away, Mom took the opportunity to paint his toenails bright red. He might have noticed the adornment had he turned on the light when his buddies came to pick him up. But, no, he pulled on his socks in the dark and hustled out to the car. After their four hour drive, the men stood along the river bank at dawn, waiting for the sound of the siren that announced the start of trout fishing. It was then that one man suggested they take off their boots and socks.
No one was more surprised than Dad to see his fire-engine red toenails. He was even more surprised when his buddies, acting as one, picked him up and threw him into the river. I have always believed it was a good thing that Mom was safely 225 miles away and that, by the time Dad returned, his clothes were dry and he was able to laugh about her joke.
Did he retaliate with a joke on her? It took years, but you bet he did!
Car woes in the boondocksCLICK is not the sound you want to hear when you try to start your car. You really don’t want to hear it when you’ve just finished a 1.6 mile walk so far in the boondocks that phone signals are iffy. Did I mention that the temperature was 90 degrees and climbing? And that husband Ray and I had just downed all our Gatorade? (Click on photo for larger image.)
What to do . . . wait, isn’t this why we have Triple A? While Ray checks the battery and questions its parentage, I revolve in a circle trying to get a bar or two on the phone. I stand on a rise, face south and call the 800 number for road service. Ah, success. AAA voice mail wants to tell me where their office is and give me its hours of operation. What that company doesn’t understand is . . . I . . . don’t
. . . care. I’m calling for road service, not trip-tiks. After waiting on a free agent for three minutes, I get a good one.
He wants to know the name of the road where we are. Problem is, I haven’t a clue. GPS doesn’t work when the car won’t start. The road is all but deserted. Then a young couple in a shiny black Toyota Prius drive by, stop and back up to see if they can help. The man removes jumper cables from his trunk and the woman informs me we are on Wild Horse Road. I don’t know how that road got its name, but Ray — who grew up riding a horse sans saddle — would have welcomed a wild horse to ride for help had one been handy.
Although the young man tries valiantly, the Prius doesn’t have sufficient power to jump start our Lincoln Town Car. Meanwhile, I lose the cell phone signal and am disconnected from AAA. As I try to retrieve a signal and redial, the couple decide to get another vehicle and bring it back to jump start our car. Watching them drive off, I bless both of them as well as the sainted mothers who birthed them.
They don’t drive far when one of their friends approaches. They ask her to use her Honda SUV to start our car. After a couple of minutes of revving her engine, our car starts. Cheering (all of us) and profuse thanks (ours) follow.
Epilogue: We exchanged names and, although they are the world’s three nicest people who were in the area to tend their community gardens at the University of Kansas field station, I have already forgotten their names. On the way to town to buy a new battery, I remembered we had a couple of Applebee’s gift cards in the car that we could have — make that should have — given them.
World’s three nicest people: You know who you are and I will recognize your names as soon as I hear them again. Contact me through this website and the Applebee’s gift cards are yours!
You know you are in the boondocks when Wild Horse Road is intersected by Snake Farm Road
When traveling by air, timing is everything!Have you ever checked your tickets while you and your husband were driving 60 miles to the airport and noticed that your flight was an hour earlier than you thought? Or been standing in a long security check line and heard last call for boarding for your flight? Don’t you just hate that?
Our $10/each early bird status on Southwest Airlines did us no good when we were the last two people to board … even though we shunned the cheaper satellite parking and left our car in the expensive center parking lot. We made our way down the aisle to the back of the plane. Only middle seats were left. I have nothing against middle seats (that’s where I’m always parked) as long as Ray is beside me . . . because it is absolutely essential that I have a death grip on him during takeoffs and landings.
Turning around, we walked to the front of the plane where two men occupied aisle and window seats at the bulkhead. We must have looked pitiful, because, without our asking, the man at the window stood up and graciously relinquished his seat. I could
have kissed him!
The only other time we almost missed a plane was on the last leg of a flight returning from Cancun with sister Lesta and brother-in-law Dick. We had a bit of a dust-up with security in Mexico when they unpacked my new embroidered tote filled with protectively wrapped purchases because they were curious about a souvenir at the very bottom. I blame the little guy resting on the tote in the above photo.(Click on photo for larger image.) Once the guard examined the small stone jaguar I had purchased in Tulum, he astonished Dick by following Ray’s admonition to carefully repack the tote in the same order.
We breezed through customs in Houston, flew to Chicago where we had three hours to wait until our flight to Kansas City. Dick and Lesta weren’t flying to California until the next day so we accepted their invitation to wait in their hotel room instead of at the airport. Near time to board the bus back to O’Hare, Ray — the only one among us who hadn’t been a victim of Montezuma during our two weeks in Mexico — learned that he hadn’t escaped the emperor’s revenge after all.
I frantically pounded on the bathroom door, exclaiming, "The bus is LEAVING!"
And Ray replied, "I . . . DON’T . . . CARE!"
A second bus took us to the airport with minutes to spare. We hurried to our gate where security agents decided they, too, needed to look at the jaguar at the bottom of my tote. Once they examined him, they left repacking up to me. I tossed my treasures in the tote and we took off running. Out of breath, we boarded our plane, found our seats, buckled in and were airborne.
Later, we speculated why my jaguar sparked so much interest from both Mexican and American security agents. I thought they may have suspected I was smuggling an artifact, but a law enforcement friend guessed that they believed I had drugs concealed in him. You would think security agents would recognize that I was too much of a goody-two-shoes to do either. However, I’ve never met a smuggler so perhaps they all look like me.
Click HERE if you would like to read a column about my first commercial airline flight.
A Bathroom Surprise!I am the mother of sons whose frequent question when they were growing up was, "Hey, Mom, have you seen my snake?"
Thus, there was no panic when we returned home from a six-day trip to find a surprise in the bathroom. The luggage was unpacked, the first load of clothes was in the dryer and the second in the washer, when husband Ray loudly exclaimed, "You’re not going to believe what is in the bathroom!" (Click on photo for larger image.)
Sitting on the toilet seat was a tree frog, who wasn’t at all disturbed as I snapped photos of him (or her, hard to tell). After the frog’s photo shoot, Ray released him on the deck. We believe he entered the house on the big Boston fern we keep in the bathroom which Ray gave a good soaking on the deck before we drove back East.
Much later I realized that one of us (guess which?) might have sat on the frog during a nighttime toilet visit. It would have been a shocking experience for me and a crushing — likely fatal — experience for the frog.
One long ago summer, as a preteen chasing my sister in our yard, I landed on a frog with my bare foot, instantly sending him to frog heaven. It is disconcerting to think I might have killed another innocent frog with a different portion of my anatomy, so I plan to flip on the light to avoid any future frog surprises.
Note: Click HERE if you would like to read the original column, "And now, a Moment of Silence as we Remember . . . a Squirrel," in which I wrote about squashing a frog with my bare foot.
It might have been worseI recently received an email from a friend that makes my tree frog toilet story seem tame by comparison. Here it is:
My wife, Julie, had been after me for several weeks to paint the seat on our toilet. Finally, I got around to doing it while Julie was out. After finishing, I left to take care of another matter before she returned.
She came in and undressed to take a shower. Before getting in the shower, she sat on the toilet. As she tried to stand up, she realized that the not-quite-dry epoxy paint had glued her to the toilet seat.
About that time, I got home and realized her predicament. We both pushed and pulled without any success whatsoever. Finally, in desperation, I undid the toilet seat bolts. Julie wrapped a sheet around herself and I drove her to the hospital emergency room.
The ER Doctor got her into a position where he could study how to free her (try to get a mental picture of this).
Julie tried to lighten the embarrassment of it all by saying, "Well, Doctor, I'll bet you've never seen anything like this before."
The doctor replied, "Actually, I've seen lots of them . . .I just never saw one mounted and framed."