Friday, October 19, 2018

Isabella


When my son came to Iowa it was to take care of his father. My ex-husband was dying of cancer.

There were hospice nurses who came a couple of times a week and he was paying his wife to be there during the day and to take him to medical appointments. He needed someone to be here all the time like when he had to use the bathroom at night.

My husband's family had lived not far from here and I grew up in this area. My son loved it here.

After his father died my son decided to stay. I had always intended to come home when I retired. But I was not quite ready at that time.

My son was all alone. He knew no one except for one aunt and one neighbor.

We have always had a dog. My son loves dogs so he went to the veterinary office in the next town to see if anyone had a dog that needed a home. He got lucky because there was only one dog looking for a home.

She was a female and he wanted a female. She was on the large side of medium and that was the size he wanted. Her name was Isabella.

Isabella was almost 2 years old. She had been rescued as a small puppy. She was found in a empty house with no food and no water. She had been abandoned to die.

Isabella had also been physically hurt. It was apparent that a man or men had hurt her. She really did not like men. At all.

It took a long time for her to warm up to my son. She was smart enough to know that he was the one taking care of her.

Eventually they became good companions. She even learned to know when his blood sugar was not right. Very smart.

Isabella began having problems walking a few years ago. The vet said arthritis and prescribed Glucosamine to help her joints.

Here lately it began to get harder and harder for her to outside to take care of those natural functions. She was listless.

Saturday night she went out with a great deal of difficulty. Then she came in and went straight to her bed.

She did not get up at all on Sunday. She slept in my son's room so he took water to her. When it had been so long since she ate he took her some doggy ice cream that we kept as a treat for her.

Monday we took her to the vet.

Isabella had bone cancer. The vet said he could prescribe pain killers which would make her more comfortable until the end. Or he could give her shot and euthanize her.

My son decided to end her misery. We were both with her until her life ended.

It has been a hard week. I work so hard at not getting attached to the pets but it happens anyway..My son feels like a part of him is missing.

I am sure he will get another dog someday. He has wisely decided to wait until he is over his grief.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

A White World


When I woke up this morning I felt so comfy in my flannel nightgown in my nice warm bed. The nights have been quite cold this past week. At or below freezing several nights.

When I went to bed last night I heard the comforting sound of rain on the roof. It soothed me to sleep.

When I looked out the window the leaves on the trees looked like they were covered with large cotton balls. The weatherman tried to tell me the night before that we would get snow. I thought maybe a few flurries would come before I awoke.

It turns out that we have had our first snowfall of the year. Between 1 and 2 inches of snow covers everything.  The plants are all covered with mounds of white.

And a glorious snow it is. It is suitably heavy and wet. Good for snowmen and snowballs.

Unfortunately it is melting quickly. With each breeze more snow falls from the trees. At times it looks like a heavy snow is falling. Still it clings to the leaves. It will take some time for the trees to be rid of all the snow. They have only just begun to turn from green into beautiful fall colors. 

I have read that the almanac predicts a hard winter. I hope it is wrong.

It certainly is pretty though.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Let's All Go To The Lobby


There was a time when almost every town of any size had a drive-in movie theater. We simply called them drive-ins.

Drive-ins showed all the movies that the walk-in theaters showed. They had concession stands so you could buy snacks and drinks just like a regular theater. But you could also take your own snacks so you could save some money.

Some drive-ins charged by the car to gain admission. Some charged by the person in the car.

The ones that charged per person are the ones who spawned the tradition of sneaking people in under blankets on the floor of the back seat or in the trunk. You see it often in the movies.

When you entered into the drive-in lot you found your favorite place to park your car. There were slopes to park on so that the front of your car was slightly elevated. That way you could slouch comfortably in you seat and see the movie perfectly.

Mounted on a post was a speaker that you hung from the window of the car so you could hear as well as see the movie. If you were really lucky no car parked on the other side of the pole and you could use that speaker too. Stereo.

This was a great way for a family to see the movie. The children could dress in their pajamas and fall asleep if they wanted to. Bags of popcorn and soft drinks of choice were already in the car.

You could take blankets along. Often they were spread on the roof or hood of the car. The children would stretch out to watch the movie.

At the front of the parking lot below the giant movie screen was a small playground. While waiting for it to get dark enough to begin the movies the children could play. It allowed them to get rid of some of the energy built from the excitement of being at the drive-in. They could also run up there during intermission.

Speaking of intermission those cartoons they show of the hot dogs and buns singing "Let's All Go To The Lobby" have been around as long as I can remember. There are a series of commercials to entice you to visit the lobby located in a cement block building in the center of the parking lot. There you could buy popcorn, soft drinks, and candy. They sold hot dogs and there was a condiment bar with ketchup, mustard, and relish. All were overpriced which made them taste better.

Fridays and Saturdays were date nights. The drive-in made for a good date. There are many reasons. It does not cost a lot of money. If it is a double date the costs can be shared. Probably the most appealing is that there is plenty of opportunity for snuggling.

Often we would have a group of "steadies" (those who were in exclusive dating relationships). We would arrive at the drive-in at about the same time and park our cars all around each other. It kept "outsiders" away. It was like having a movie party.

The best part of the drive-in was on the screen. The action began with a couple of previews for upcoming movies. There weren't as many as you see today because they only advertised the movies coming to the drive-in.

We got to see twice as many previews. The reason is that our drive-in, The Gordon Twin Drive-In, had two, count 'em, two movie screens. They showed different movies so we had a choice.

After the previews we usually saw at least one news reel and maybe three cartoons. That was settling-in-time to get ready for the first movie. You might even get lucky and they would have a short movie .

Did I say first movie? That is because there were three movies. The first was a new movie. Hopefully it would be a good one. The second was an older movie perhaps considered to be a classic even if it was not more than a B western or a sappy comedy. Often the last was a horror movie.

They saved the scary ones for last because the small children were asleep. For the daters it was a good excuse to huddle together for comfort.

It is sad that the drive-in theater is a thing of the past. There are very few left in the whole country. They were such a staple of life in the fifties and sixties.

If you have not been to the drive-in and get the opportunity please go. If nothing else you will be able to say you did it.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Made From Scratch


I am not young. Of course neither am I old. But as all older folks delight in saying, things certainly have changed since I was a child. Some changes have made life much easier. And as I may have mentioned in passing I really like indoor plumbing... no more outhouses for me. But I digress.

Fast food was a thing of the future then. Cake mixes were not used. We started with flour and all the other necessary ingredients and made our cakes from scratch. The frosting for the cake was also made from scratch using a bit of butter, confectioner's sugar, vanilla, and water or milk.

Ready-made cereal was too expensive for a large family like ours. Oatmeal, cream of wheat, cream of rice, and cornmeal mush were the norm. I usually got up before the rest of the kids because I went to a different school (I was older) so I made breakfast enough for all of us. Then Mom could get a few minutes of extra sleep. She had babies to take care of during the night.

For cooked cereals it is just as easy to make a lot as it is to make a little. I certainly did not mind doing it and I had a good hot breakfast to start my day.

There were no tubes of cookie dough to slice and bake. We mixed the ingredients and spooned them onto cookie sheets for snacks. Yum. We could make whatever kind of cookies we wanted to. Every home had plenty of eggs, butter, flour, and sugar. They were what was used in every day cooking.

I always liked to make homemade bread but that was a fun luxury for us. Store bread was inexpensive and a large family tends to use a lot of bread.

One of our favorite snacks was what we called bread-and-sugar. We just took a slice of bread and dipped it into sugar. If we had fresh cream we would spread the bread with that first. It was our favorite treat and so easy to make.

In the evening when we watched TV it was good to have a snack. One of our favorites was fudge and popcorn. We said it as one word because we felt they went together so well.

Of course fudge was a process. You had to mix the cocoa, sugar, butter, and vanilla with water. Then you had to cook it to just the right consistency. When you dropped one drop of fudge into cold water and it made a soft but definite ball it was done cooking. Then you had to stir it continuously until it hardened. Then pour it into a cake pan and it was ready to cut into pieces to eat.

This was also before microwave popcorn. It was even before Jiffy Pop. To make popcorn we heated a bit of lard in a pan until it was very hot. Then we put the popcorn kernels in the pan, placed a lid on top of the pan. Holding the lid in place and shaking the pan over the heat until the corn was done popping could be tiring for your arms but it was worth it. A little salt and Voila there was popcorn to go with the fudge.

One year Daddy decided we could save a lot of money and have some good family fun by shelling our own popcorn. He bought a couple of bushels of popcorn on the cob. We made a night of it. We all had containers to hold the kernels of popcorn that we removed from the cobs. All we had to do was hold the cob and use our thumbs to push the kernels off into the container. I had a blister at the end of the night that I remember as being almost as big as my thumb. Maybe a bit of an exaggeration but it did hurt and it was big.

Mom cooked all sorts of things and taught us all (boys included of course) to make all these marvelous things from scratch. Cookies, candies, cakes, pies, breads... you name it we probably made it.

Then she found a recipe in a woman's magazine for some cookie bars. They were delicious and quickly became a family favorite.

She kept playing with the recipe until she had the best cookie bars ever. We all wanted to learn how to make them. She always said she had too much to do right then but next time she would show us. Next tiem there was another excuse.

My sister was helping Mom make Christmas cookies once and Mom was making her specialty. She had a recipe written. My sister sort of glanced over Mom's shoulder and Mom quickly closed her cookbook.

My mother died without ever sharing her recipe. And the recipe has never been found. We have all tried to make those cookie bars but they are never quite right. And somewhere my generous, giving, unselfish mother has a sly grin on her face.

Another fun family event was making taffy. It is another candy that needs to be cooked until the ball is the right consistency. Then we would put butter on our clean hands and as soon as the candy was cool enough to handle we would pull it.

We would take an amount of the candy and stretch it and fold it over until it hardened. It was such fun.

My granddaughter wanted to make rock candy. I remembered those science classes where we used strings to collect crystals of candy and make strings of candy. I was not looking forward to it. Then I found a recipe online that solved the problem.

We make the mixture of sugar, light corn syrup, and water. It is cooked until it reaches the hard rock stage. I use a candy thermometer now because it is so much easier than testing for the right consistency.

When it is ready we add whatever flavoring and colors we want and stir them in quickly. Then we pour it into a cookie sheet sprinkled with powdered sugar. It takes no time at all before it is ready to break into small pieces. It is the best hard candy ever.

When I was pregnant with my first baby my husband was working as an assistant candymaker. He enjoyed that job and was anxious to show off his new talents. He was going to make peanut brittle.

I was thrilled. I like peanut brittle and my husband had never cooked anything before. I sat back and let him go to it.

He cooked the candy and then he poured it out onto the kitchen table. Big mistake.

At work they had a huge marble slab to pour hot candy onto. Marble is not porous. My formica table was.

Armed with wet towels, spatulas, trowels, chisels, and several friends it took us hours to remove the peanut brittle from the table.

If I make a cake which is seldom these days I use a cake mix. It is easier and to be quite honest it is cheaper. But they do not have quite the same taste as the ones from scratch.

Friday, October 5, 2018

For The Second Time


We have had a wet summer. I told you about the flooding we had in the spring. That all went away.

A lot of farmers lost large portions of their crops. It took a long time for the flood waters to go down because it kept on raining.

Then came summer. The flood waters receded and the farmers replanted where they could.

Now it is autumn. Guess what. We have flooded again.

Just as it was almost time to harvest, the fields filled with water again. Once again this year the river has flowed over its banks.

There is a big dam in Yankton, South Dakota. Because of the heavy rainfall to the north they have opened the flood gates to release all that excess water from the reservoir.  With all of the rivers in the south are getting all the extra water in their already full beds.

The autumnal flooding is not as bad as what we had in the spring. The fields began to drain almost immediately.

Now it is raining again. It has been raining for two days and the weatherman says probably into next week. I feel that the flooding will begin again.

Never before have I personally seen it flood like this twice in the same year. Crazy, crazy weather...

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

I AM RELAXED!


 I am a hardened criminal! Yes I have been arrested. By the police. For being a terrible menace to society.

We had recently moved back to Detroit. My parents and brothers and sisters were still living there. We were fortunate enough to be able to rent the house next door to theirs.

My mother had a meeting one day and had asked me if I could pick up my sister from school because the high school she attended only had half a day of classes. My husband had the day off from work but our car was not running so I told her I was happy to help her but I had no transportation.

My father had an old pickup that he used for doing manly things. I could drive that. So I said I would.

My sister had been riding her bicycle the day before and took a really bad tumble. Her arm, leg, and side were covered with the results of the scraping on the street. Mom did not want her to walk all that way from school.

The day of picking up my sister I overslept. My daughter was a baby who also slept late but she was awake. When my eyes popped open I realized that I was going to have a hard time being there for my sister.

I grabbed my daughter from her crib wet diaper and all. We ran out the door and I drove fast to try to get to my sister's school. I was a bit late.

I saw my sister walking on the sidewalk near the school with a couple of her friends and pulled to a stop next to her. She asked if I could take the other two girls home too. I knew that would be too many people sitting in the pickup but it was only a short distance. What could it hurt?

I was pulled over by the police for having too many people in the truck. And I had run out of the house so fast that I had no driver's license with me. Not to mention that I had not transferred it from the state I moved from to Michigan.

Michigan expects you to take care of your driver's license practically before you move there so I was in big trouble.

The officer decided I was a flight risk so instead of giving me a ticket he arrested me. He left my baby daughter, my sister, and her two friends standing on a sidewalk in an unsafe area. They drove my father's truck around the block to park it in a safe place.

Daddy kept some old tires in the back of the pickup for weight in case of an emergency. The police carefully placed all those old scrap tires inside the truck so they would be safe. They left the girls standing on the street in an unsafe area.

They took me to a holding cell at the local precinct house. I had never been in jail before except as a joke when my father was a town marshal when I was a little girl. I settled down to wait for someone to come get me.

Now we had not been there long enough to have our telephone connected. It took a lot longer then because the phone company had to come out to hook it up. So my sister could not call my husband. My mother was at a meeting. Cell phones were not a thing then so she was not available. My father could not be reached either.

Somehow my sister finally got a call through to my mother. Mom started calling her house hoping that someone, anyone would answer.

My husband had gone to my parents' house looking for me. The boys were hungry. When the phone rang he answered and told my mother he would take care of everything.

He arranged for someone to rescue my daughter and my sister as well the other two girls. He called his brother and asked him to drive my husband to the police station to rescue me. Then he called the police station to tell them he was on the way with my driver's license.

In the meantime the police suddenly came to my little home away from home. They had received the call from my husband. They whisked me off to the main police station in downtown Detroit.

I was escorted to a place where they took a mug shot of me. They frisked me. Do you have any idea what is involved in being frisked?

Frisking is not a mild pat down like they show on television. Oh no. They check everywhere. I have had visits to the gynecologist that were less invasive. By this time I was becoming annoyed.

I did not know where my baby was. I did not know where my little sister was. I was being treated like a big time criminal. I forgot my driver's license and was giving some girls a ride home from school.

Then I went for fingerprinting.

The matron inked up my fingers and thumbs. She had the page where my fingerprints are to be stored forever. Then she said, " Relax."

Through clenched teeth I said, "I AM RELAXED!"

After that pleasant experience I was taken to my cell. I sat on the edge of the bed. The sheets were not white as I think they were supposed to be. The pillow had no covering. When I told my husband about the cell he was shocked. He said, " At least you got a sheet and a pillow. In the men's cells they often don't even have a mattress, just a slab of cement."

I dutifully paid my fines when the time came for me to come before the judge. I was guilty. I knew the laws and broke them.

However... I did file a complaint against the arresting officer. He knew the situation with the girls and did not see to their safety. They did take excellent care of my father's junky tires.

I received a letter from the department. Basically what they said was that it was an unfortunate situation but since I did break the law there was nothing more to be done. That was not what I complained about.

I received a phone call from one of the members of the city council. She was very nice. Then she asked me if I was satisfied with the decision. Of course I was not satisfied. She offered to help.

It was the beginning of a wonderful friendship that endured until she died. She was older than I was (my mother's age and they became fast friends also) but I valued her friendship and she helped me in many ways.

With her help I pursued the matter. Eventually after a couple of years of hard work some changes were made.

It seems there was a young father who had dropped his wife off at work. He had his toddler daughter with him when he was pulled over for a minor traffic violation. When the police informed him that they were arresting him and he had to leave his baby he began to fight. Another charge against him.

At least my sister had my baby.

There were already provisions on the books for taking care of minor children if the parent was arrested and no other responsible adult was available. There were other provisions added. And the arresting officer was instructed to issue a written apology to me. Of course I never received it.

So relax. If you are arrested, the police like it if you just relax.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Farewell


Today is Saturday. It is the first full day of autumn and our fields are flooded once again. And Victor Martinez retired.

Baseball is my favorite sport. The Detroit Tigers is my favorite team (and I live in Sr Louis Cardinals country).

Of course, we have two more weeks of baseball left in the regular season. And I will watch. I pay an astronomical fee to be able to get the Tigers feed on my television.

The team is in rebuilding mode. That means a lot of players are gone. They have been traded to make room for newer, younger, and hopefully more energetic players. In some cases maybe better.

We expected a losing year. That is the way it is with a rebuilding team. It was a poor year but much better than I expected. Certainly it was better than the sports media gleefully predicted.

The thing is I get very attached to the players. From 1968 when we won the World Series to 1984 for another World Series win to being the American League champions in 2006 I was there. I was in the stadium to see Mark 'the Bird' Fidrych pitch in his first Major League game.

I loved Norm Cash and Bill Freehan in '68. Mickey Lolich belongs in the Hall of Fame. Al Kaline is a special player and special person. Willie Horton was not born in Detroit but grew up there. He still lives there and is still an avid Tigers booster..

Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker were the greatest up-the -middle team ever.  Kirk Gibson had the most go-gettum I have seen. Sparky Anderson was probably the most beloved curmudgeon as our manager.

Jim Leland gave Sparky a good contest in the curmudgeon department. We have had such great players as Joel Zumaya, Max Scherzer, Maglio Ordonez,  Placido Polanco, David Price, Rick Porcello, Gary Scheffield, Aurelio Lopez, Aurelio Rodriguez, Cecil Fielder, Prince Fielder, Pudge Rodriguez, J.D. Martinez... there is a long list.

I purposely separated Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander. Each is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of player.  Miggy is still with us but has been injured all year. Justin Verlander was traded at the end of last season and helped the Astros win the World Series.

Now back to Victor Martinez.  He was with the Indians for 7 years. Then he was traded to the Red Sox. He has been with the Tigers for 7 years. At the age of 39 he retired today from active playing. He will finish the season with his team but no more playing.

He is still an impressive player. His health has caused problems and he still has a lifetime batting average of close to 300... from each side of the plate. He is a switch hitter which means he bats both right-handed and left-handed. His batting average is almost the same from both sides which is almost unheard of.

Victor will be missed and at the same time we all wish him the best.