Friday, August 18, 2017

In The Kitchen


When I graduated from high school I needed to find a job. My friend saw an ad that said one of the hospitals was looking for help in the dietary department. It was a fancy way of saying kitchen help.

We both applied. She took a part time job there. Her parents had a little money so she did not have to work. I was hired full-time. 

I was to work the morning shift. It started at 6:00 AM. Once I was trained I was responsible for taking steam carts of food to the floor that served maternity and then to the floor that served pediatrics.

The steam cart was a heavy push cart filled with water. It would be plugged in to heat the water and then again on the floor to keep the water hot. That kept the food warm. And boy were they heavy and bulky. Not easy to steer.

Carts containing food trays with whatever dishes and silverware necessary had been taken to the floor a little earlier. They also had napkins and a name card with the room number, bed number , and name of the patient.

Special diets were served by a different part of the kitchen staff. Those were meals for diabetics or other patients who needed special foods.

For breakfast I made toast as well as looking at the menu for the day and serving each tray. I made sure that whatever beverage was placed on the tray. Juices and milk were kept in a refrigerator on the floor. I had a large coffee pot to fill individual pots for the trays and hot water if tea was the requested drink.

After serving my floors I returned to the kitchen area and the work really began. The steam carts were pushed back to the kitchen. The food wells were removed and emptied. They were sent through the dishwasher. That steam cart was thoroughly cleaned and refilled with water to heat for lunch.

We took turns operating the dishwasher. There was a pressure sprayer to clean most of the food off the dishes. The dishes were placed in racks. When the racks were full they were sent on a conveyor through the washer. It also sterilized them with extremely hot water.

When the dishes came out of the conveyor they air dried fairly quickly because of the heat. Someone would stack them and carry them to where they were ready for the next meal.

My regular chores were to make coffee in all the big coffee pots for each floor. After they were emptied I also cleaned them. Once a week they were cleaned in a special solution to keep that coffee oil from building up.

I made the Jello that is a staple of so many hospital meals. It had to be done early enough to be set when needed.

Each day we had to get salad ingredients ready for both lunch and dinner. We peeled potatoes. We did have a potato peeling bin that spun them against a rough side that scraped the peels off. Then we had to rinse them and make sure that there were no peels or eyes left.

Then the potatoes were put into huge pots and covered with water. Our dietician wanted us to put MSG into the water to keep them fresher. We finally convinced her that we could not do that because it was against dietary rules.

Then we got lunch ready to go.

After lunch I again made coffee, did dishes when it was my turn, and we cleaned, cleaned, cleaned. The afternoon shift and part-timers would be in soon and we would be going home.

My salary was $240 a month. We were paid twice a month so before taxes I had $120. It was good money at the time.

As I say all the time my family did not have much money. I still lived with my parents and siblings. I gave Mom $20 each time I was paid. That was for room and board. My parents never asked me for it but it was what I wanted to do.

I also gave Daddy $20 to help with the car payment and gas for the car.

My youngest sister and youngest brother were very small. After I got paid I would take them to town. They each were able to choose a toy or something they wanted. Then we would visit the food counter at Woolworth's. They usually had strawberry shortcakes and I had strawberry cheesecake. It was a fun outing for us.

They were both so small that they do not remember anymore. But they were fun days for me.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Nightmares


We all have nightmares occasionally. Some experts claim that we need to work out problems and/or feelings and nightmares help us do that. Others feel that nightmares help to release fears. I am sure there are many other "reasons" for nightmares. I know that I have a bad dream once in a while.

I have also learned that nightmares are common in people who have certain health conditions. Epilepsy is one of those conditions so I qualify.

As I said most nightmares are just bad dreams. When we wake up we may or may not remember the dream. If we do remember it the memory fades and usually we feel better.

Then there are dreams that fill us with terror. A terror so real. A terror that stays with us for much longer than a few moments. I had several of those when I was younger. I even remember them in detail.

Most of the little towns we lived in had railroad tracks running through them. As a matter of fact we usually lived fairly close to those tracks and had to cross the tracks to go to school.

We were told not to get too close when the train went by. Of course that was good advice. But often it was added that the reason not to get close by was that the train would suck us under and we would be killed. Talk about a scare!

I dreamed we were walking to school. It was early morning in the fall. The air was a little nippy so we were wearing jackets. There were just the five of us.

My youngest brother at the time was in kindergarten. You may remember that he acted like he had a sort of "cloud" surrounding his head. He often seemed oblivious to the things going on around him.

As we got closer to the tracks we heard a train coming. We were going to have to wait for it to pass. Trains going through these little towns tended to be very long so there would be a long wait. It was okay because we might get the engineer to blow the whistle and then the conductor would wave from the caboose.

So we were standing there watching the train go by. Then I saw my little brother walking slowly toward the train as if in a trance. He was hypnotized by the movement of the train and getting closer and closer.to it.

I started screaming for him to stop. Over and over and over. But he just kept walking toward the side of the train with that glazed look in his eyes. His face was totally blank. He did not hear me at all.

In the meantime the other kids felt like they were going to run to save him. I had to hold them back while I was screaming at him to come back.

He got too close to the train. It sucked him under! There he was between the tracks looking at me with his big brown eyes full of terror. I then began to scream at him to not try to get out. He was safe as long as he was between the tracks but he would be cut to shreds if he tried to get out.

Boy was I glad when I woke up. At the same time you can see that the dream stayed with me.

My baby sister who was about two years old and I had died. It seems that the place you go after you die was where you were living when you died. Except that the base (or invisible floor) was about the same level as peoples' heads.

I was so grateful that I was there to be able to care for my sister. She would have been alone if I was not there.

So there we were at head level. There was no one there but us. There was no furniture, no anything, just my sister and me. It does not seem too bad. But there was a problem.

We could see our family. We could hear our family. The house was just the same, furniture and everything. That was the problem.

My sister could see and hear our mother, but of course our mother could not see or hear us. My sister could not understand why Mom kept totally ignoring her pleas to be held. She was crying uncontrollably. Nothing I did could console her. The afterlife was going to be miserable for my sister and me.

In high school I seem to remember my biology teacher telling us about a parasite called a glassworm. Whether I remember correctly or not is beside the point. A glassworm reproduces by carrying it's eggs inside the body. Shortly before the eggs hatch the worm breaks open and dies expelling all the eggs so they can hatch and continue the cycle.

Remember that the glassworm is a parasite. They burrow under the skin of the host. When they break open and die they cause a great deal of damage to the host, including death.

In my sleep my husband had gone into a small grocery store to cash his paycheck. We were going to grab a hot dog afterward and go home to watch TV. I waited in the car for him.

While I was sitting there waiting I noticed something funny about my arm. There was an elongated lump just under my skin.

When my husband came back to the car he noticed that I had a strange look on my face. When he asked me what was wrong I told him that I had a glassworm in my arm. In a shocked tone he told me that he had warned me about that. What if it exploded? I would die.

Precisely as he said that the glassworm broke open. I died.

I had always heard that if you died in your sleep you would also die for real. I am here to tell you that I am still here.


I lived in Nebraska. It was a time and not far from where Charles Starkweather and Carol Ann Fugate murdered her whole family then drove to another state killing people along the way. It was a shocking series of crimes. I felt awful about all the murders but the worst of all was Carol Ann Fugate's little 2 year old sister.

My baby sister was close to two years old at the time. We were in the process of potty training with her.

I have to stress that potty training meant that anyone who saw signs of her needing to use the potty would help her to the potty, sit her on it and wait until she was finished. There was no yelling or other punishment about accidents. There was no throwing her in the little chair and making her sit there until she did what was expected of her. It was all a gentle and ultimately very successful process.

It is no wonder that I was surprised beyond belief when I woke up in the middle of the night to find my sister sitting on her potty. At first I thought she was asleep. When I went to pick her up I realized that she was dead. She had been beaten and set on the chair.

My parents were asleep in their bed. I was crushed that they would do such a thing. Then I was angry and wanted revenge. I was going to kill them.

I woke up for real. Unfortunately those raw feelings were still there. I went to my parents' bedroom and woke up my mother. I told her about my dream and that I had (in my dream) wanted to kill them.

She just put her arms around me and held me while I cried. I finally calmed down. Mom suggested that I go back to bed and try to get some sleep. I was still afraid. She said to read for a while and see if that helped. It did.

Would you have been so loving and understanding if your child woke youo and told you she wanted to kill you?

I had several other nightmares that I will probably share one day. The problem with the nightmares was that when I woke from them I could not go back to sleep right away or the nightmare would repeat. I learned to keep a book by my bed. I would turn the lamp by my bed on and read until my eyes were heavy. Then I would slowly allow the book to settle on my chest and I would go back to sleep. I could not even move enough to turn off the lamp.

Mom knew if she woke up and saw the light on that I had another nightmare. She would always find a tactful way to talk to me about it. It helped.

I have since learned that you can train yourself to wake up when a dream goes wrong. It has made my life a lot easier.

Friday, August 11, 2017

What Did You Do?


 When I was a child my family had very little money. Sometimes we received an allowance. It depended on my father's job.

I remember when he was the town marshal we got 25 cents on Saturdays. We were responsible to save 5 cents for the collection plate at church on Sunday. The rest was ours to spend as we pleased.

We also did odd jobs. We weeded gardens, mowed lawns, shoveled snow, and just about anything else someone wanted done around their house. We were never paid a lot but it was spending money.

I was 11 years old when I had my first "real" job. By that I mean I received a paycheck. Taxes and Social Security taxes were withheld. I began paying taxes when I was 11 years old.

What sort of job would pay an 11 year old child you may ask. I set pins at the local bowling alley.

This was before automatic pin-setters like the ones that reset pins today.

If you are not familiar with bowling it is a game. There is a long wooden floor called an alley. On either side of the alley is a sort of ditch called a gutter. At the far end of the alley are the pins.

The pins are oddly shaped. They have a flat base. Then they flare out to become wider in the body. The tops are narrowed and long, rounded at the top.

There are ten pins for most bowling games. They are arranged in a triangle with the tip of the triangle toward the beginning end of the alley.

The purpose of the game is to roll a ball to try to knock down as many of the pins as possible. Each person has two tries per turn.

If all ten pins are knocked down it is called a strike. If they are not all knocked over with the first ball the second chance is used. If the remaining pins are knocked over it is a spare. Each strike and spare gives a chance at extra points during the players next turn. If they are not knocked down in the two tries each pin is counted once toward the final score.

Not many people want to run to the end of the alley to retrieve their ball. They also would not like to have to place all ten pins in their formation for the next bowler. So there are pinsetters.

A pinsetter goes back behind the area where the pins are. It is called the pit. Anyone in the pit is not seen by the bowler. The job of the pinsetter is to place the ball on a return duct so the bowler can bowl again.

As far as the pins we had automation, sort of. We pulled a cord and the machine lowered to capture standing pins. When it raised them another piece swept from front to back to clear fallen pins from the lane. Then it set the standing pins back down in place for the second try.

At the end of the second try the pinsetter pulls the cord again and sends the ball back to the front. All pins are picked up quickly and placed into the machine which lowers them down into the correct formation. It must be finished before the machine lowers or not all the pins will be there.

The pits are filthy and dark. At the end of our shifts we would come out looking like we had been digging coal.

Usually we were in charge of two lanes at a time. Between tries we sat between the lanes on a part of the ball return so we would not be hit by the ball.

That does not mean we were completely safe. One time someone threw his ball especially hard when he hit the pins they flew hard too. One of them jumped up and hit me in the leg. Thankfully after being taken to the doctor we found it was not broken.

League nights were the worst. Bowling leagues are groups of people who form teams and meet usually weekly to play against each other.

League nights were quite the social event in our little town. There was a men's league and a women's league.

Not everyone on a league was courteous. Sometimes they were so busy gossiping that there were long lulls between play. We were hot and bored back there. Then there were the impatient bowlers who released their balls before the machine was finished. The balls would slam into the machine.

The wife of the chiropractor was my least favorite bowler. You have possibly seen the type. She was short and extremely overweight. She was loud. Her make-up was overdone. Her eyebrows looked like they had been applied with a paint brush.

When she bowled she simply waddled up to the foul line and set her ball in the alley. It was only the slope of the alley that made the ball roll ever so slowly to the pins.

Several times her ball was stopped by the pins. I hated that. I had to crawl out from the pit in the gutter that ran beside the lane . I had to be careful not to knock any of the pins over. I would retrieve the ball and send it back to her after I crawled back into the pit with it. All the while she would laugh that awful high pitched cackle she had.

A line is the ten sets of tries a player uses to get a final score. We were paid 10 cents for each line we set. It was pretty good money for a kid. Most of the setters were teen-aged boys. It was good money for them too.

That was my first job for which I paid taxes. What was yours?

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Pop Goes The Weasel


I was sitting at my computer. It was fairly early in the morning. I decided to check the news before I began my day.

I keep my computer near the door that looks out into my back yard as well as the back yards of at least three neighbors. There is seldom much movement back there. I see birds hopping around. There is the occasional feral cat. Once in a while I will see a rabbit.

So as I sat here looking across the yards I saw a cat stealthily crossing a neighbor's yard. It moved from a shed to a propane tank.

As it moved I thought that moving that way made the cat look extremely long. Then I noticed that it had a rat's head!

Around here we see field mice an sometimes other very small rodents. I had mistaken a squirrel for a cat. Silly me.

Then I saw that it had a strange tail. It was nowhere near as fluffy as a squirrel's tail should be. Maybe it was a rat. But no, the tail was definitely not the skinny whip that rat's have.

I sat here in amazement. What on earth had I seen?

As I sat here contemplating and gathering my thoughts it came back. The animal retraced its steps. This time I paid more attention and saw it more clearly.  It was a weasel!

Now I had never seen a weasel before at least not in real life in "the wild".

To make sure I saw what I thought I saw I did a search. There were a couple of other rodents that looked similar but they are found in other continents. It was definitely a weasel.

When I was telling my youngest grandson about seeing a real weasel my son was sitting next to him. My son said my grandson's eyes opened wide with interest. Does this mean I am a cool grandma?

Friday, August 4, 2017

Where Were You?

There are few events in our lives that we remember vividly enough to remember exactly where we were and what we were doing. I remember the births of most of my siblings ( I was too young for a couple of them), I remember my graduation from high school, I remember my wedding, and I remember the births of my children and grandchildren. I remember the horrible days that I learned that my brother had been killed in Viet Nam, my niece died, my father died, my mother died, and my other brother died. I remember joyous occasions like weddings and births.

Those are personal memories. Sometimes the memories blur a bit because some things are too painful to deal with all the time. But the memories are there waiting to be acknowledged. All I have to do is call them up and it is like they happened yesterday.

Then there are memories that are shared by most of the world. We watch enraptured as a new pope is elected. We watch as countries elect, choose, or have new leaders forced upon them. We see the atrocities committed for whatever cause is supposed to be the "right" one. We see how people can come together, united for the benefit of most. All of those are so important.

There are those memories that you look at someone and say, " This is where I was when that happened." Usually they are catastrophic events. Usually they change the way our world is viewed from then on.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy was the first "rock star" president. He was the first to use television as a tool to help him be elected. He was photogenic and so comfortable in front of the cameras. He looked like calmness and strength during his debates with Richard Milhous Nixon.

JFK was beloved by his followers and by the people around him. Secret Servicemen and media members all were pleased to do his bidding. "Regular" people had pictures of him prominently displayed in their homes.

The United States as a whole adored the young president and his family. His wife Jackie was lovely and obviously elegant. Women wanted to be like her. His very young children, Caroline and John-John, were beyond cute. We loved to see them interacting with their father... just like he was only Dad and not the President of the United States.

Even though the Kennedys were one of the wealthiest families most of us felt they had empathy for us, the little people. Most politicians give the impression of being born to money and many people feel that those politicians do not understand the day-to day struggles we have.

But not JFK. He understood and wanted to do something about it. At least that was the way most people felt.

In 1963 the US was gearing up for elections the following year. President Kennedy was running again for president so he was in the midst of campaigning as well as running the country. One of his most important stops was Dallas, Texas.

In early August that year Jackie Kennedy had given birth prematurely to a son. The baby did not survive.

Needing to feel close to her husband and knowing that she was an asset to his campaign Jackie decided to accompany JFK to Dallas in late November. They were both still grieving the loss of their baby and being together made sense for many reasons.

While in a motorcade with John Connally, the governor of Texas, and his wife, John F Kennedy was shot and killed.

The phrase "where you when JFK was assassinated" came about years later. The thing is that we all remembered where we were.

I was in Algebra II class. It was a split class. We went for half a period and then went to lunch and then back to class. When we came out for lunch students and teachers were in the halls crying and with looks of disbelief on their faces. The President had been shot. He was rushed to a hospital. We had not yet heard that he was dead.

So that is where I was when I found out. For the next few days all television stations showed and re-showed all things Kennedy.

Lee Harvey Oswald had been arrested for the shooting. Two days after the President died Oswald was being transferred to another facility. As was the practice of the day media was present at all events they chose to attend. They chose to be there when Oswald was moved. It was being shown on live television.

Since the schools were closed and the whole thing was important we were glued to the television watching. Suddenly a man jumped from the crowd in the basement of the police station. He had a gun in his hand and shot Lee Harvey Oswald right there on live TV. We saw it as it happened.

Fairy tales do come true. We saw it happen when Prince Charles married Diana Spencer. It was a fairy tale wedding and we watched on television. She was such a beautiful bride. He was a regal husband.

We were thrilled when Princess Di as she came to be known had two heirs to the throne of England. They were a fairy tale family.

Then things began to ravel. Rumors of infidelities circulated. Eventually there was a divorce. The Prince remarried. The Princess had suitors. The young Princes seemed to be relatively normal.

Princess Di was the darling of the paparazzi. She was beautiful and went to the most chic and fashionable places with the most in demand people. The paparazzi all wanted to get that picture that no one else had in order to make their names.

Leaving a nightclub Princess Di was besieged by the usual photographers. Her driver tried to get away from them and had a terrible accident. Princess Di was killed.

I worked the night shift locked away in the cash office of a major department store chain. One of the cashiers came to the little window they used to communicate with us for whatever reason. She asked if I had heard about Princess Di. I said, "noooooo?" and waited for the punch line. I thought she was going to tell a joke.

At first I did not believe her when she told me that Princess Diana was dead. Finally she convinced me. I was in shock that something so terrible had happened. That is where I was when I learned of the death of Princess Di.

My sister and I worked together in the cash office of a major department store. We rode to and from work together. After a long night at work I dropped her off at her house and went home. I still had to drive my son to work. He could not drive at the time for medical reasons.

When I returned from taking my son to work I laid down on the couch to watch the news. I promptly fell asleep.

What woke me I do not know. There was a talk show on TV. They were talking about an accident involving an airplane. As I watched a plane flew right into the building they were showing on television.

The World Trade Center in New York City had been attacked. Two airplanes flew directly into the towers. I saw the second one as it happened.

I called my sister and asked her if she was watching television. She answered no. Why? I told her, "Somebody just declared war on us." I could not believe it. But there it was in front of me.

Both towers of the Trade Center were hit by planes. Both collapsed causing many deaths. The devastation did not end there but that was the beginning. Today everyone on the globe is trying to deal with terrorism.

I actually called off work that night because I was mesmerized by the coverage on TV. The downed plane in Pennsylvania and the crash into the Pentagon only added to my need to understand. Unfortunately I still do not understand. But I know where I was when it happened.

I was watching the launch of the space shuttle Challenger. I do not want to go into space but the space program has always fascinated me. As I watched the Challenger exploded. All seven people aboard were eventually declared to be dead.

I just remember where I was. I was sitting cross-legged in the middle of my bed.

Is it strange that I have such vivid memories of such unhappy things? Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that none of them should have happened. They were all preventable. Most were the actions of someone trying to harm someone else. Why?

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Castle On The Hill



Have you ever felt like you belonged to a building or that it belonged to you? It sounds strange maybe. I have two such buildings.

The first is the house my family built. We built it from the first to the last bit. We chose colors and decorated the inside. We put something of ourselves into it. It instilled something of itself into us. I still drive by once in a while just to look and make sure everything is good with it.

My second building is a castle. Actually it is my high school. The Castle On The Hill.

Long before I was dreamed of (even before my parents were dreamed of) the city recognized the need for a new and larger school. Plans were drawn up and construction began.

The very best materials available were used. Marble floors and stairways. The finest of sandstone for the outside. Classrooms were extremely large. There would be no crowding. Students would have enough room to work in comfort.

The Castle was furnished with the most up-to-date features. Thermostatically controlled heating meant no more feeding a wood stove or coal stove by the boys who were students. Electrical bells to mark the beginning of school, the beginning and end of classes, and the end of the school day.

It was built to look like a castle. It was beautiful. But as the city grew so did the number of students. The school was too small.

At great cost an addition was built. The reason for the cost was that they wanted it to blend with the original building. You cannot tell where the original was as opposed to the addition. Still the number of students grew. A fourth floor was added and blended to keep the look of a castle.

The picture above is the way the building looks today. It is so majestic, so royal looking. Just looking at it brings so many feelings. I feel pride, honor, love, and belonging just to name a few.

The basement of the building was the original gymnasium. It was called (naturally) The Dungeon. By the time I attended The Castle it was considered too dangerous to hold sporting events there. An annex was built across the parking lot.

The annex contained several gyms, the swimming pool, band and choir rooms, auto shop facilities,  wood shop classrooms, and a few odd classrooms. Besides crossing the parking lot there was a tunnel we could walk through so we would not have to wear coats in the winter. It helped to stay warm after swimming classes too.

The annex was a modern looking building and does not look like it belongs to The Castle at all. But it was useful to handle all the athletic features needed. Gymnastics classes could be held at the same time as basketball practice, volleyball, modern dance, swimming, and other gym classes. There were enough gyms to handle them all.

The year I was a senior they reopened The Dungeon to allow us to have a place to relax after we ate lunch. There was even a jukebox for dancing. Of course there was no touching allowed and all music had been deemed acceptable.

We were not required to stay at school for lunch and often went a block away for fast food. But the cafeteria served delicious food. There were choices. You could have a salad, hot or cold sandwiches, soups, stews, hot meals of your choice from the meals offered that day, choice of desserts. Each had its price and you simply paid the cashier when you had made your selections.

There was a giant auditorium. We gathered there for Christmas programs, student council meetings, and other things where the entire school was expected to attend. Occasionally there would be speakers who would give inspirational talks. We had some really big names. For instance Dear Abby and Ann Landers were alumni of the school. They spoke often to the assembly.

There were some outstanding teachers there as well. Math teachers strictly taught math classes and nothing else. I remember two quite well. The geometry teacher taught what I thought was a totally useless subject but he taught it very well. Second year algebra was taught by an older woman who needed to retire. I am afraid that what little we learned from her I forgot until college.

The chemistry teacher was from Greece. I loved to hear him talk. With his accent he said kostyens instead of questions. It was cute and he looked good too for an old guy.

My homeroom teacher was the biology instructor. Homeroom was where we reported at the beginning of the day. Attendance was taken and any announcements were dispersed. Then the bell would ring and we were off to classes.

Anyway the biology instructor was brilliant. He really knew his subject. He also expected a lot from his students and it was a difficult class. I feel better (and smarter) for having taken it.

Besides giving us the opportunity for an excellent education we had our sports teams as well. Our teams were the Little Maroons. We had good seasons and not so good seasons but we cheered them on just the same.

As students at the castle we were expected to act with the honor and dignity befitting us. We were after all the Knights and Ladies of the school.

Each graduating class made a gift to the school. During World War II The Castle donated two cannons to the war effort. My graduating class replaced them. After more than 20 years the cannons were back to protect The Castle.

Eventually as the city grew so did the student population. Talk began of building a new school. The Castle On The Hill was old. The beautiful stairs were worn and shiny with age. Some were deemed so dangerous that we were not allowed to use them.

The city decided that three new high schools would be erected to take the place of The Castle. The Castle would be closed and probably eventually demolished.

Luckily The Castle On The Hill is now a National Historic Site. It cannot be demolished. It has not been a school for more than 40 years. It has gone through a lot of changes as far as what goes on inside. There have been Indian Affairs offices and various business concerns. The mural that graced the wall across from the principal's office has been restored.

There is a small area set aside for a gift shop selling items that commemorate the school. And now it provides apartments for low income housing.

I must admit that I have mixed feelings about that. I miss seeing the hustle and bustle of students at the school. That is why it was built. The Castle On The Hill was meant to have students learning and enjoying being young.

At the same time the apartments mean that the building does not just sit there deteriorating. People who might otherwise have trouble finding a place to live can live in this magnificent castle.

The annex has been sold. I have no idea what it will be used for. It was not the school to me anyway. (It was recently decided to make more low income apartments in the annex It is being remodeled now.)

So I feel that pull of belonging every time I drive by The Castle On The Hill. It sounds strange to love a building but I love that building. And I show it to anyone I can hold hostage long enough to drive by. I do it with pride.

Friday, July 28, 2017

It's Just Like Riding A Bike

My mother was a remarkable woman. When she decided she really wanted to do something she learned how to do it. She just put her mind to it and did it.

Mom grew up on a farm. When they went somewhere of any distance they rode horses. She rode a horse to school.

When Mom was about 50 she decided she wanted to learn how to ride a bicycle. She did not have the opportunity when she was a child. When her children had bicycles she was busy raising us and did not learn. So she never learned to ride a bike. Now she wanted to.

She went out and bought a bicycle. It was a bike made for a female which I felt was a small mistake. For some reason boys' bikes seem to balance better. But that was what she wanted.

Every day Mom went out for a period of time and attempted to learn to ride. Sometimes she had family there and sometimes not. But she kept at it.

Mom finally got to where she could ride a bit. She was wobbly but she was riding.

My sister had just bought a brand new car... not used but brand new. It was her first new car. She drove it over to show my parents because she was very proud.

Mom was practicing her bike riding but stopped to ooh and aah over the car. My sister went into the house to get a drink before Daddy came home from work so she could show him. Mom kept practicing.

Soon Mom came into the house. My sister was sitting in there where it was cool. Mom looked a little pale. Maybe this bicycle stuff was too much for her.

Mom had to tell my sister that she had been riding her bike in the street. She was doing so much better but was still not in complete control of the bicycle. Mom had a "little" accident.

My sister was concerned that Mom was hurt. No she was not.

She had been riding up and down the street. She was feeling pretty good. Then when she was almost finished she was in front of the house. She lost control and started to fall.

My sister's brand spanking new car broke the fall. The handlebars of the bike went right through the windshield of my sister's brand spanking new car.

Now when I heard about this the loving big sister in me took over. I laughed so hard that I almost could not breathe. I could not laugh at Mom... it just is not done.

Mom did learn how to ride and was a good rider after much practice. To my knowledge she never "took out" another car.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

How Do You Eat Apples?


What smells better than something baking or cooking? The good smells permeate the house and make everybody hungry. The smells often make a person feel good. They might invoke memories of a happy occasion of something from childhood. One of the things I like to smell cooking is apples.

Most people immediately think of apple pie. I love it myself. But there are so many other ways to use apples. I would like to share a few with you. Perhaps you will share a few of your favorites with me.

Here is one of my favorite snacks. It makes an interesting thing to serve with tea or drinks. It is also something the children can easily make and they love it.

Cut an apple into four or eight pieces depending on the size of the apple. Cut the seeds from each section. Fill the space left with peanut butter. You can use smooth or chunky. Or you can use cheese. Children like those spray cans with cheese spread. Arrange attractively on a serving tray.

I like apple dumplings. The way I make them is to take pie crust dough and roll it out. Instead of the round crusts for a pie I cut them into 6 inch squares. Into the center of each square place a large amount of apple pie filling (homemade is always the best). Pull opposite corners of the crust together and pinch them tightly. Then pinch the sides so the juice will not run out while cooking. A few fork marks will allow steam to escape.

I sprinkle the top with a bit of cinnamon and sugar with a touch of nutmeg. Place them in a long cake pan or on a cookie sheet and bake just as you would bake a pie.

My favorite way to eat apple dumplings is to put one in a bowl and pour milk over it. The hot dumpling and cold milk make a fun feeling in my mouth. Some people like ice cream on top of the dumpling while others like cheese. You can even eat them plain.

Cut into bite sized pieces apples are a tasty addition to any salad. They add a nice crunch to fruit salads and a sweeter flavor to garden salads. Here is my favorite fruit salad.

I mix apple pieces with bits of grapes, oranges, pears, bananas, or whatever fruit I happen to have. Then I mix a chunk of cream cheese with Cool Whip or whatever topping of that type is on sale. When it is evenly mixed I add nutmeg (you could use mint instead) for flavor and pour it over the fruits. Gently combine. This is so good it can even be used as a desert.

Apple sauce is good by itself. It is a good fruit for babies. It mixes well as a side dish with meat.And it is easy to make.

Peel, core, and quarter 3 or 4 pounds of cooking apples. Add 4 strips of lemon peel, 3 inches of cinnamon stick, 1/4 cup of dark brown sugar, about 1/4 cup of white sugar (depending on your taste), 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1 cup of water. Cover the pot and bring to a boil then lower to a simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. After removing the cinnamon stick and lemon peel mash with a potato masher. If you want to make it even finer for a baby food you can mash it through a sieve. Serve it hot or cold. It can be frozen.

Really the only limit to using apples is your imagination. If you gave my mother apples the first thing she would make is apple butter. It is so good on a warm slice of homemade bread. You can line the bottom of your cake pan with apples coated lightly with cinnamon and sugar before your pour in the cake batter. Apple upside down cake. If you want to mix a few small pieces of apple in with the cake batter I am sure no one will complain.

If you take bread dough and mix apples with cinnamon and sugar and deep fry chunks of it you have apple fritters. Place a few apple slices in the pan when you are cooking meat and it will add just a touch of flavor and juice. You can even mash an apple and add it to meatloaf. The list of deserts is too long to show here but I believe you get the idea. If you are the really ambitious type you can make jelly and can apples for later use.

Raw apples are probably the best nutritionally and they taste so good. But they add so much to almost any type of dish.

Friday, July 21, 2017

It's Too Darn Hot


The heat is getting to me. Even though I am inside most of the time with the air conditioning I feel wilted. I think it is a good time for me to take some time away from blogging. I will repost some of my older posts. I hope you enjoy them.


Landholder


Great-grandpa, father of my grandfather, owned several farms and almost all of town. He wanted to have a farm to leave each of his sons. It turned out that he also left each of them a business in town.

You might think he was wealthy. Not so. My great-grandfather got his holdings in an unscrupulous way. He traded whiskey to the Native Americans for their land. It was not ethical but at that time it was legal.

My grandfather inherited a farm and I believe the assay office. He eventually sold the assay office because it was not his area of expertise. He lived on the farm and raised his family there until he decided the grass was greener in Oklahoma.

The only great-uncle that I knew still had his farm and house when I was a child. I would not know how to find the farm now but if the house is still there I'm sure that it now has indoor plumbing and electricity.

His house in town is still there and looks exactly the same as it did then. I saw it a couple of years ago.

Another great-uncle is listed on a monument in front of the City Hall. He died of illness during World War I and was listed with the war dead.

Great-grandpa did not feel the need to supply the same inheritance to his daughters. I guess he felt that when they married their husbands would provide for their needs.

None of the land or businesses are owned by family any more. I can only imagine what all that land would be worth today. I could be independently wealthy, for goodness sake.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Staying Strong


When I talked to my sister the other day I was left feeling sad. As you know she had a stroke a couple of years ago. She has been in a nursing home for several months now. She hates it but realizes that it is the best option.

She is still undergoing physical therapy. She wants desperately to be able to sit up and eventually walk. After such a long time that does not seem likely.

At least her mind and speech have returned. We have nice conversations about our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. We catch up on news about other family members. We talk of memories of our childhoods.

We were talking about making mulberry wine this time. Our grandparents had several mulberry trees on their farm. We would pick as many as we could.

Then we squeezed part of them into glasses of water to make our "wine'. The rest of the mulberries were in small containers. We ate the berries and drank the wine. They were fabulously glamorous tea parties for the sophisticates we pretended to be.

Somehow the conversation turned to longevity of life. I have already lived a longer life than either of my parents. My sister is getting close to the same.

I mentioned that I plan on living to at least the age of 81 years. I have always wanted to be one of those crotchety old women who say exactly what they are thinking. 81 seems to be the age I would be able to do that.

My sister told me she would hold me to that.  Then she said that she had the feeling she would not be here much longer.

I asked her why she felt that way. Is there something someone has said? No. It is simply a feeling she has.

I was taken aback. I worry that she will give up. Her life is so difficult right now.

Her husband and son love her. Each visits her every day. My nephew told me she is doing well but sometimes she has bad days.

She also has a new roommate. The woman has dementia and is often delirious. She wakes up screaming all through the day and night so my sister is not getting much sleep.

Her husband is working to get her another roommate. I hope when she gets adequate sleep she will feel more positive.

Friday, July 14, 2017

A Love Story



My aunt was dating my uncle. No, silly, they were not brother and sister. My uncle's older brother had just returned from serving in the Navy during World War II. My uncle wanted to show his brother a good time so he asked his girlfriend, my aunt, if she had a friend they could double date with. My aunt's best friend was her sister who agreed to the blind date.

The brother was a good-looking young man of 20. He was glad to be home after the horrors of war. He had an outgoing personality. People liked him immediately upon meeting him.

The sister was beautiful. At the age of 17 she had just graduated from high school at the very top of her class. She was shy but confident.

The two hit it off immediately and began to see each other regularly. My aunt and uncle eventually went their own ways and married other people. The brother and sister married each other and had a long and happy marriage. You have already guessed that the brother and sister are my parents.

My father worked as a truck driver for a time. As was the custom at that time my mother stayed home and took care of domestic things.

For their honeymoon they actually spent some time at my mother's family's farm. One day as an activity they decided to go hunting. I'll never know why because shooting was not something that interested Mom. It must have been love.

Anyway off they went. Mom had a shotgun, I don't know what kind of gun Daddy used. They had been gone for several hours before they came back. Daddy was carrying Mom. Somehow she had shot her self in the foot. She was not seriously injured but I can remember seeing her through the years picking a little BB of shot that would surface from her foot every once in a while.

Daddy was a sports fan. Again because she loved him Mom would watch or listen to and sometimes even attend a game. She soon because as avid a fan as he was. When we were older and had families of our own Mom would say, "You are welcome to come over for New Years Day (or most other holidays). I'll be cooking and there will be plenty to eat. Just don't get between me and the television while I'm watching football."

Daddy on the other hand never really understood why we did not live at home when we started our own families. He said there was plenty of room. He really did not understand it.

My parents had seven children. There were also 6 pregnancies that did not make it to term. Can you imagine a family of 13 of us?  I was the first. One year later came a brother, next year another brother, two years went by before I had my first sister. After another two years came another brother.

My youngest brother was getting ready to start school and was worried about who would take care of his mother while he was at school. My parents took care of that by giving us another sister. Then five years later our youngest brother was born. There are fifteen years between me and my youngest brother.

When my father came home from war he brought a kimono for his wife and a kimono for his daughter. He did not know about either of us at the time. He wanted a little girl and I was it. You can only imagine how special I have always felt because I was truly the twinkle in my father's eye.

Our parents loved us. there was never a doubt for any of us We didn't have a lot of things. Money was scarce. But time was spent with us and we always knew it was because they wanted to not because they had to.

A short time after my father died I dreamed that he came in the door at 4:00 like he did every afternoon. Only this time he had been gone for a long time. He was carrying a ditty bag like sailors carry.  I was so happy to see him that I threw my arms around his neck and held on for dear life. Everyone else in the family was looking on with their mouths open in shock.

All except Mom. She stood and stared for a while then she walked over and examined his neck (that I still had a lock on). She backed up to the wall, crossed her arms, and said, " I hope you know I spent all thst money." She was talking about his life insurance.

Of course she had not spent it all but that was my mom. She was practical and Daddy was more impulsive.

I was a little hesitant about telling Mom about my dream but I told her. She started to laugh. It turned out that she had dreamed about him recently too. He had come back and all she could think about was how she was going to repay what money she had spent for his funeral.

I hope you can understand what good parents I had and how lucky I was that I was their daughter. I used to hear my friends complain about how terrible their parents were. I truly never felt that way.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Aunt Tony


I briefly met two of my husband's aunts and and an uncle on his father's side. I did not know them enough to be able to write about them. Most of the aunts and uncles on his mother's side were gone by then so I did not know them either.

Then there was Aunt Tony. She was Mom's older sister. Mom was the baby of her family. Tony was a nickname but that is how we all knew her so I will not bother with her real name.

Aunt Tony was a real character. From what I have been told she and her husband Jack loved to fish. Their usual companions were another aunt and uncle. My sister-in-law has told that they were all very close but on several occasions Aunt Tony and the other aunt would get into physical fights. I can almost picture them rolling around and pulling each other's hair.

They always made up immediately and were best friends again. I have many photos of them showing off the catch of the day.

Aunt Tony had no children. I heard a rumor that she had a baby out of wedlock way way back in time. If it is true she gave it up for adoption. But it could just be a rumor too. I do not know.

Aunt Tony married Jack. I believe he had children from a previous marriage but I never met them. He was not liked by many in the family. I did not know him well. He died shortly after my husband and I married.

Aunt Tony worked at the same factory as my sister-in-law Shirley. They were both hard workers and highly thought of.

Jack did not have an outside job. With Aunt Tony's earnings he purchased three apartments buildings. They were all in a row. Jack and Tony lived in the first floor of the first building. He saw to all repairs and managed the tenants.

Family hated that Jack was a huge baseball fan and attended the World Series every year. He saved all his tickets, score books, and signed baseballs from each one..When he died each nephew was given a signed baseball from the collection.

That was also the year Aunt Tony gave each family a nice 8x10 picture of the two of them as a Christmas gift. I still have it. It is a good picture. Some people were offended by it. I think she loved him so much and wanted the rest of us to feel the same way. It was a piece of herself she gave. I appreciate her for it.

She liked to cook and to entertain. Several times she invited us newly-weds for a meal. We would sit in the kitchen and talk to her as she cooked. She was good company.

Aunt Tony also liked to drink. As far as I know it was only beer but she often overdid. Mom often clucked her tongue and said things about Aunt Tony "high stepping" when she walked. Mom did not approve of drinking. Too many of her family died as the result of alcohol.

We went back to visit one year when our two oldest sons were very little. Of course we went to visit Aunt Tony. She proudly gave them each a quarter. My husband looked at the boys and said, "Now what do you say?" My oldest son looked at her and said, "Where is my penny?" She laughed and went to get them each a penny too.

Aunt Tony was generous. Her husband had been frugal with her money and invested it well. She was careful about spending because that was her habit. But she liked to buy things for others.

Once my husband and I were visiting from the big city. She invited us in for the afternoon.

When we got to her house she insisted we walk downtown with her. She bought several small items for us. None were expensive and she chose them. She also chose cowboy hats for us. They were the most costly of her purchases.

Aunt Tony had been keeping company with a nice man. She cared a great deal about him. She was telling us at that visit that he was taking a driving trip through Colorado and Wyoming. If she paid her own expenses he wanted her to go with him.

She was agonizing about whether to spend the money. I finally told her that she should go if she wanted to. That is what her money was for... to enjoy her retirement.

She decided in the end not to go. She was worried about spending the money. He went alone.

Two weeks after he came home he died of a heart attack. I think the lesson is to take your opportunities when you can. She could have had memories of the trip with a man she cared about.

Aunt Tony died. She still had the apartments but they had run down a bit. There were all sorts of treasures found in her attic when they went through her things. My mother-in-law was her beneficiary.

The buildings were sold and are still being lived in. She was a giving and loving woman.


Friday, July 7, 2017

The Great Hunter


Isabella is our dog. She is getting older and has a tough time getting around but she still fancies herself to be a great hunter.

When I first moved here my son and Isabella had been here for quite some time. Even though we live in an extremely small town we keep her on a chain outside. It is for her own safety. She likes to chase (after a fashion) cars. She does not have the sense to stay far away from them.

In the back yard she has a shorter tether. It keeps her from running into the neighbor's yard. He is a little afraid of her even though she is mostly bark.

My son likes to tell the story of her chasing a cat.

There are feral cats all over town. I see fewer here than when I first moved. That is probaly because of Bella.

My son had fastened her collar to the chain in the back yard and he was talking to the neighbor. One of those feral cats sauntered into the yard. Bella took off after it barking and snarling as she ran. The cat was running for its life.

The cat ran at its top speed. Bella was fast on its tail. The cat ran. Bella ran. Then she came to the end of her chain. Just like the dog in the cartoons Bella abruptly jerked to a stop. She flew into the air with her legs still trying to run. She landed hard on her back as my son and the neighbor laughed.

In the front yard there is a cable that my husband strung between two trees. They are the length of the yard. There is a small chain that slides along the cable that we attach to Bella's collar. She can run the length and width of the yard freely.

She likes to argue with the squirrels that climb around in the trees and they like to argue with her. We often hear the barking and chattering until we make her come inside because we cannot stand to listen any longer.

When I was new here Isabella liked to chase birds too. We had to keep a close eye out because she would catch them and kill them if she had the chance.

We were watching the baseball game one evening and heard an awful scream. She had caught a bird and it was screaming in fear and pain. My son tried to get it away from her but she finally put it out of its misery.

But she is older now and her legs do not work well. Some days it is all she can do to climb the steps to get into the house. No more bird catching... or so we thought.

The other day my son heard a bunch of chattering out front where Bella was. Thinking the squirrels might take advantage of her condition he went to check on her.

There were no squirrels. Odd. But there was a goldfinch raising all kinds of a ruckus.

My son looked again at the dog and saw that there was a female goldfinch in her mouth. After she let go of it we gave it a proper send-off.

The thing is that she does not eat them; She just enjoys the chase.

She knows she is not supposed to. It is almost comical the way she slinks into the house. Of course my son yells a bit at her to make her let go of the bird but otherwise we recognize that she is an animal with animal instincts. But if you could see her looking so guilty you would have to laugh too.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Fourth Of July


Before you enjoy your barbecue and fireworks take some time to remember what we are celebrating. And remember all the men and women who have served to preserve the freedoms all through the years. We are grateful.


Friday, June 30, 2017

Mary

Mary is the only sister of my husband who is still living. She is 12 years older than I am.

Mary is still extremely active. She walks every day. Until recently she was working part time for something to do with her time. She volunteers for several places. She helps clean and shop for an older woman from her church. There is no way I could keep up with her.

When I married my husband Mary and her husband had three small children. We used to go to their house often to play cards. It was a good time for all of us.

One night while we were playing cards the conversation turned to cars. My husband liked his Fords and my brother-in-law swore by his Chevrolets.

The conversation became more adamant as time went on. Finally my husband said, "Okay. You go out and drain all the oil from your Chevy and I will drain all the oil from my Ford. Then we will drive until one of the motors blows up. That will show which car is best."

Thankfully my brother-in-law had sense enough to just chuckle. I suggested it was time for us to go home.

As Mary walked us to the door we all smelled smoke. It seemed to be close. Mary laughed and told my husband that his car must be on fire. We all laughed. She closed the door and we went to the car.

We opened the doors and saw that the front seat consisted of nothing but charred springs. Apparently a cigarette had started the fire. Fortunately it was winter and the windows were rolled tight. That allowed the oxygen to all be used up and the fire went out. Lucky for us?

My husband replaced the seat the following day but it took a long time to get rid of the smell.

Mary is a wonderful cook. I loved being invited for dinner. My favorite was called taverns. In this part of the country taverns are a loose meat hamburger. They were invented in a bar here many years ago. They are the loose meat burgers they featured on the old Roseanne show.

Mary and her husband took dancing lessons and went dancing often. Her husband died suddenly around the same time Mary's father and two sisters died. It was a hard time for her.

It has been many years since he died and Mary does love to dance. There is a friend of theirs who is widowed and he escorts her to dances. They have a good time together.

Mary also kept her husband's 1953 Chevy. It was a show car and they enjoyed the shows together. She still shows it several times each summer.

All of Mary's children live fairly close by. Most of her grandchildren are also close. She has a beautiful family.

I recently told you about her falling and breaking a vertebra in her neck. She is finally able to rid herself of the collar she had to wear all day and all night.

Mary's kitchen was one of those large old kitchens. It even had a little nook with a window that overlooked the backyard. Once she decorated it in pink and white checks. It was very nice.

After her husband died Mary decided she no longer needed such a big house. She sold it and bought a newer home clear across town. As she always does she made it cozy and welcoming.

Last winter the woman she helps from church wanted to go to Texas for the winter. She told Mary she would pay all the expenses if she would go along to help her get around. Mary jumpad at the chance. She had a wonderful time sightseeing and enjoying a warm winter.

It is so nice having Mary close by. In half an hour we can visit each other or meet for a meal at a restaurant. That is when she has time.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Shirley


Shirley is the second of my husband's sisters. Shirley was the fun and fun one.

Shirley never married. Mom told me she used to date often but when her younger sister married she just stopped. She never moved away from the farm.

We sometimes called her Shird. I am guessing that one of the little brothers could not say Shirley and said Sjirdy instead. Over time it was shortened to Shird.

Shirley bought a mobile home and parked it across the driveway from the house on the farm. It was large enough for her to have people who came for visits to have plenty of room to sleep. She also had an indoor bathroom which for many years the house did not.

Shirley liked pretty things. She had many little glass figurines that she picked up here and there. Cats were her favorite.

I remember going with her one time to the store. She found a lovely figurine of a woman in old-fashioned clothing with a parasol. When she looked at the price she decided it cost too much. She told me, "Watch this."

She hit the edge of the shelf with the bottom of the figurine. A chip came off. Then she went to the manager of the department who gave her a hefty discount. She happily bought her little chipped lady and displayed her proudly.

Shirley liked going to "the rummages". That is what they called the second-hand stores. She knew the best days to go to each and every one. Those were the days they put out new merchandise or had bag sales. Her Saturdays were spent happily browsing the rummages. She did not always buy anything but she enjoyed looking.

Shirley loved her nieces and nephews and they loved her as much. When anyone came to the farm on vacation the first thing Shirley would do is pile the children into the car and off they went. She would show them the sights of the area. Or if they were old enough she might take them to the rummages.

She made sure there were treats in the kitchen for them too. Most of the time those kinds of things were not kept on the farm because they were considered to be a frivolous and unnecessary expense.

Shirley was a hard worker. She went to work in a factory that mad tire patches and other rubber items. When my parents-in-law and Shirley would come to the big city on vacation she always brought a bag of patches and glue so the kids could repair the inner tubes of their bike tires.

As a matter of fact when I moved back to this area I was walking to get into my car to go somewhere when I saw something on the pathway. It was one of Shirley's tire patches. She had never been here and to my knowledge none of the children had any patches left.

I picked it up. It fits perfectly into the cup holder by my seat in the car. It has been there ever since.

Once when we went back to visit the farm for a vacation Dad's dog had puppies.  At the time we only had the two older boys. So each was getting one of the puppies as a pet.

Shirley was running to town to pick up something for supper. As she was backing out of the driveway she watched carefully for children. She watched the children so carefully that she did not notice my oldest son's puppy as it ran behind the car. She ran over it.

She was a lover of all animals especially dogs and was as hurt by it as my son was. Of course there was a glorious funeral and we went home with one puppy for the boys to share. For years whenever my son was with her my son would ask, "Shirley, why did you run over my dog?"

Shirley worked at the patch factory until she decided to retire. She enjoyed her retirement. She was free to do as she wished. What she wished was to stay on the farm and help her parents. After Dad died she was there to take care of Mom.

Then the doctor discovered stomach cancer. It was advanced and the was not too much they could do for her. Mom had to watch another child die.

The man who bought their farm finally tore down Shirley's trailer last year. I was hard to drive by and see it coming down pieces at a time.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Pat


Pat was my eldest sister-in-law. She was so pretty and very efficient about everything she did. She was a take charge type of person who liked things done her way even if she had to do it all to get it that way.

I first met Pat shortly before my husband and I married. She immediately took us into the kitchen. I felt at home.

Margaret was her real name. Where the Pat came in I have no idea but that is how she was known.

Pat was the mothering type. You felt safe and cared for when you were with her. Her home was usually being remodeled in some form or another. Yet it was always welcoming and comfortable.

One time we went to visit and she was re-doing all the woodwork in the house. She had an appliance that heated the paint on the wood so that it bubbled and was easier to scrape of to prepare it for refinishing.

Paint was her friend. Once she painted her kitchen in colors I had been taught were not to be used in a kitchen. It was all oranges, browns, and yellows. It is probably the most beautiful kitchen I have ever seen. The warm colors did not make me feel overly warm as I had been told they would.

Pat's husband was a short man who tended toward being overweight. Pat was a statuesque woman so sometimes they looked mismatched. From what I understand they had a turbulent marriage but I did not see it.

They had four children. The oldest was a girl who was older than three of her uncles. My husband was one of those uncles. She was only 9 months older than I was so we became good friends. She was married with a baby boy at the time.

Then there were three boys who were several years younger than their sister. They were in grade school and junior high then. They were fussy eaters as many of the family are. For instance when Pat made meatloaf she made three different loaves. One of the boys did not like onions so she made him one wit no onions. One liked cheese on top so she made one with cheese. I cannot remember the difference in the third one. I would have rotated the kind I made at any one time and whoever did not like it could make a peanut butter sandwich.

My husband and I moved to the big city. Sometime after that Pat and her husband divorced.

She decided to move to Washington state.All her children including my niece who was also divorced now moved with her.

My niece remarried and had a few more children. The boys grew up and had relationships of their own Washington was good for them. My niece recently died but my nephews are all doing well.

Pat also remarried. Her husband was a nice man who had children of his own from a previous relationship. He took good care of everyone.

When my mother-in-law became older Pat and her husband moved back here. Mom deeded Pat one acre of the farm. They put a nice house there. They were a great help by checking on Mom and keeping things in decent repair.

Pat was diagnosed with brain cancer. She and her husband had divorced. His other family needed him at home. They felt it was the easiest solution.

It was a hard time for my mother-in-law. Both of her daughters who lived on the farm died within a few months of each other. The husband of another of her daughters died in that time too.

Pat's children came to take their mother home after her death. They sold the house to someone else.

Pat lived a full life. There were glitches here and there but I believe that it was mostly the life she wanted to live.


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Uncle Mickey


Mickey is the final uncle. His real name is Michael. I told you we managed to nickname all of them.

Mickey is barely 3 years older than me. As a matter of fact for four days each year he is only two years older. I was born four days before his third birthday.There are two cousins older than I am and one of them is actually older than our uncle.

We pretty much grew up together. Until I began having little lefties of my own Mickey and I were the only left-handed people in the family. In the 50's left-handed baseball gloves were hard to find and a bit more expensive. Mickey got one as a gift. If we were picked to opposite teams we each used his glove to play baseball.

Mickey was not as "into" all sports as Keith and Donnie. Baseball was what he played. He liked watching them all on television when he was older though.

So Mickey was often with us when we played. We went exploring together, played hide-and-seek and kick-the-can together, and caught snakes together.

I remember one Christmas when we went to the farm to visit after opening our presents from Santa Claus. I rushed in to ask Mickey what Santa gave him. He told me he was too old for that. I was really confused. How could he be too old? He was my age.

Mickey married a very nice young woman. They had two sons. Both were diagnosed with muscular dystrophy. So was his wife. The boys were poster children for the Jerry Lewis campaign in their state one year.

Then Mickey was in a terrible car accident. His legs were both severely injured and the doctors were not sure if he would be able to walk again. He does walk but it is not easy and he uses canes to help support himself.

His wife suffered terribly and eventually died from her disease. The boys were teenagers and had been living in a facility that helped them learn to function on their own. They both did well even though they were not on the same level developmentally.

His younger son died many years ago. Complications of his disease. The older one died about two years ago. Again complications of that horrible disease.

My uncle remarried about 15 years ago. His wife is really sweet. She cares so much about him.

For a while Mickey worked in the stands at the Cornhusker football games. It gave him a chance to be among people and sort of watch the games.

For the past few years he has been battling cancer. It is a rough fight. So far he is ahead.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Uncle Donnie


Again since I never called my mother's brothers "Uncle" I will just refer to him as Donnie. His given name was Donald. My grandmother hated nicknames. "Why give a child a name and call them something else?" We managed nicknames for most of her children.

Donnie was born on Christmas Eve. He had two teeth at birth. They fell out at the normal time so they were real teeth.

He was active even as a baby. Before he was old enough to be able to roll over (supposedly) he managed to roll himself out of bed and broke his arm.

When Donnie learned to walk he also learned to run. He was a fast runner and liked to race his brothers and sisters. He always won. They stopped racing him because they always lost. Finally he agreed to run on his hands and feet instead of upright. He still won.

Donnie was a trial to Grandma. They were farmers and the boys were needed to help with the farming. Donnie did not like to get up in the morning. This was especially true when he had been out the night before and had too many beers. He was not old enough to drink but he did it anyway.

Grandma would be so frustrated at trying to get him out of bed.

They had no electricity or running water on the farm. If we stayed up past dark we used light given off by kerosene lamps. Water came from the pump outside. Grandma kept warm water in the well of the wood cooking stove. And there was always a cold pail of water with a dipper for drinking.

As a last resort when Donnie would refuse to get out of bed Grandma would take a dipper full of cold water and dump it on his head. He got up.

Donnie was good looking too. He always had his pick of the girls. Of course it helped that he excelled in sports. He played football and basketball as well as track.

In track he participated in all the running events. Relay, hurdles and all the different meter classifications. Remember he was fast.

We liked to go to the track meets he was in. He would run like crazy, win, and then lay down on the grass. Often he was hungover but he won anyway. Then off to the next race. He was fast.

He set many records for speed in the state. This was in the 1950's. The last of his records was finally broken around 1990.

After all the cows were milked all the buckets of milk were taken to the kitchen. They were poured into the separator to sparate most of the cream from the milk. Cream was worth more than just milk. Sometimes we would catch a bit on a slice of bread and sprinkle sugar on it. Yum.

One day I had been aggravating Donnie. Something I did made him really mad. I ran into the kitchen for the safety of Grandma's watchful eye.

Donnie slammed into the kitchen with murder in his eyes. I knew Grandma would not be able to stop him. I backed away from him with my hands in a gesture to hold him back. My legs bumped into something and I suddenly sat down... right into a full pail of milk.

Of course the milk had to be given to the hogs because it was contaminated. It is the only time I can remember seeing Grandpa mad and he was mad at me. And just as mad at Donnie.

I do not think Donnie shared Grandpa's love for horses. If he could get out of going to bring in the cows for milking he would. If it was raining or if he could get someone to agree he would take the Model A Ford Grandpa had. Then we could ride with him to get the cattle.

As with everything else he went fast. When he would go around the corners of the dogleg leading to the pasture he went fast. Often coming back when he would take those corners he did it on two wheels. We loved it. I would hurt him now if he was doing that with my children in the car..

When my Uncle Raymond was married Donnie was his best man. He had more than enough to drink at the reception. He danced and drank the night away. Finally Grandma made Grandpa gather him up and take him home.

Donnie married a very pretty girl with the same name as Raymond's wife. So we called them Ray's JoAnne and Donnie's JoAnne.

Donnie died last year after a battle with cancer. He had a full life and lived it to the fullest.

Uncle Keith


Keith is one of a set of twins. His sister Carol is my aunt who recently died. Twins were expected for two of Grandma's cousins but Grandma was the one who had them. Just like Carol Keith was 5 years older than me.

I told you of Grandma's dislike of nicknames. How could you make a nickname of Keith. We did it. One of the kids could not pronounced Keith. It became Deke. After that Deke was what we called him.

Keith had a hard childhood. Or maybe it was just bad luck.

He had to have his appendix removed in emergency surgery. Back then that operation was a major one. He was in the hospital for several weeks because like most families they tried to treat the pain at home until it was too late.

He missed a lot of school while he was in the hospital. He fell behind.

Keith had not been out of the hospital long when he heard the whistle of a train of in the distance. He quickly climbed a tall tree to see if he could watch it. At the top of the tree he lost his grip and slid all the way down to the ground.

He was severely burned all down the front of his body. His arms and hands as well as his legs were also burned.

It was another trip to the hospital. He was there for months. I cannot remember if they did any skin grafting. I am sure he needed it. He still has scars where his skin has puckered while healing.

Keith was also active in sports at school. He played basketball because he was tall. Football is a sport most young men play in this area. He also was a track star. He did some running but he was usually used for pole vault, long jump, and shot put.

He married a seemingly nice girl. They had two children together. Their marriage ended in divorce.

Keith loved his children and made sure he visited and kept them as much as possible. Suddenly he was not allowed to see them.

Someone had found cigarette burns and bruises on the children.  When questioned the children said Daddy did it. The mother's boyfriend was also called Daddy. To make sure the children were safe they were removed from their mother's home and only supervised visits were allowed while the case was investigated.

Finally it was determined that the boyfriend was the culprit. The mother did not like the ruling. She stayed with the boyfriend. After some legal wrangling Keith was awarded custody and raised them.

He is now married to a very nice woman. She came to the marriage with children and they have one together. It is a nice big blended family.

Keith and his wife only live about 100 miles from me so we are able to visit. It has been hard for him to lose his twin sister. Other than that he leads a good life.


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Re-Tale



Here are some stories from my time working at a retail store. And I still cannot believe the first one myself.

I worked the midnight shift. Our store was open 24 hours. I was Authorized Cashier this particular night.

An Authorized Cashier or AC is the cashier who assigns which cashiers will work which lanes to check out customers. The AC also assigns cleaning duties and schedules breaks and lunches so there is some sort of order and the work is evenly distributed.

We had a busy evening but things slowed down after midnight as they usually do. Even so there was suddenly a bit of a rush as several customers were ready to pay and leave. I was helping one of the cashiers by bagging the purchases for her in order to move things faster. Her final two customers were two nice looking young men.

They were buying a vacuum cleaner and trash bags. They said they had a party and there was a lot of clean-up needed. They seemed to be in a jovial mood.

A few days later we saw on the news that a young woman's dead body was found in trash bags dumped somewhere. There were other trash bags there with her and in one of them they found the receipt showing where the vacuum cleaner and trash bags had been purchased. Guess where that was.

A cashier's receipt has so many identifiers on it. There is the time, date, store number, as well as lane number and cashier number. Those things told the police that the items were purchased at our store and which cashier checked them out.

The young men had indeed hosted a party. They slipped a drug into the young woman's drink so that they could rape her. Unfortunately she died.  They decided to try to clear all evidence of her being there but it did not work.

The cashier was called to testify at their trial. They were found guilty and sent to prison.

One of the cashiers did not feel well. I was working in the cash office that night. The AC called me to tell me that he was vomiting into his waste basket and continuing to wait on customers. I told her to send him home. He did not want to leave.

I went out to talk to him. He was violently ill but refused to go home. I had to get the store manager to go out and send him home. Can you believe that one? But it is true.

A woman who worked in another department was called into her manager's office one morning as she was ready to punch out to go home. Apparently she had been coming to work every night and punching in. Then she would leave with one of the men who worked in another department who was going home for the day. She would stay with him all night until it was time for her to punch out for the day.

As was the practice of the store at a time like this she was given a drug test and tested positive for cannaboids (marijuana). She claimed it was because she was in a car with people who were smoking and must have breathed some of it.

She contacted me in my position as union steward to try to keep her employment. I did my best but of course she was out of a job.

Most of the year there would be two people working in the cash office on the midnight shift. Only during the holidays did we have more.

I was working one night with the absolutely sweetest person who worked in the store. She never wants to be unkind to anyone.

We were experiencing some mild allergy-type symptoms. Our eyes were irritated a bit. As the night went on it got worse. I finally called the night store manager to see if there was something in the air of the store that could be causing it.

He sent security in to see if they could find a problem. Nothing. But it kept getting worse.

I called again because by this time our eyes were red and itching. We were both on the verge of allergic tears. They went up on top of the store to see if there was anything wrong with the air conditioning. Nothing. They checked the air ducts. Nothing.

The other woman and I were taking turns leaving for fresh air every so often just to get some relief from whatever was causing the problems. Finally the night store manager came in and said they could not find any cause for the irritation.

When I asked him what we were supposed to do he got testy with me. He said, "I don't know what you want from me! What do you think I can do?"

So I calmly replied, "As a union steward I could ask you if you were willing to leave your employees in a dangerous situation." The other woman looked at the manager with red teary eyes and said sweetly, "Well I think maybe Emma is more uncomfortable than I am." Grrrrrr.

He finally decided to put us in a more comfortable environment even though it was potentially more dangerous. We propped the doors of the office open and used fans to circulate the air. Now we were vulnerable to robbery.

We never did find the problem and it was not like that the next night.

There were few people who were able to work in the cash office. It was a specialized job. So we were a closely knit group. And we delighted on playing pranks on each other.

For Halloween we were decorating the cash office. The woman working with me and I planned all sorts of fun. We took those plastic worm fishing lures from sporting goods and planted them in drawers all over the office.

We had some ghosts from the holiday department. Some of them would make haunting noises when movement activated. Some were rigged to swoop down towards the person opening the door. There were all sorts of fun surprises for the unwary.

As we were gathering supplies the AC came to see what we were doing. He got into the spirit of Halloween and offered to help. Because he occasionally worked in the office we could allow him in.

He went and got a long black robe and a mask with that "Scream" face. Shortly before the day shift came in he would put on his disguise and sit in the walk-in safe to catch the person who counted down the safe in the morning.

The first person in that day was the head of the office. She began her counting of the safe drawer and we all chatted a bit. The AC was sitting silently in the safe. The she began to compliment us on the decorations.

She proceeded then to tell us what a chicken she is. She cannot even go to a haunted house because she is too afraid. I began to frantically find a way to call this whole thing off.

I needed to confer with my co-conspirators and there was no way I could do that. My mind was still racing as she made her way into the safe.

She went in. Nothing happened. No screams, no shrieks, no giggles, nothing. I moved over that way to find out what had happened.

There was an ear-splitting scream as she came running out of the safe. Her clipboard went one way and her pencil went another. She was racing toward me so I braced myself to stop her and calm her down. At the last second she veered to the side and grabbed the coin counting machine for balance.

Once she caught her breath she went on and on about what a good prank it was. Then she threatened to get me good one day. I called the AC and told him he could come out of the safe. He said he would as soon as his legs woke up enough so he could stand. (By the way she never was able to return the favor.)

My least favorite place to work in the store was the service desk. At the service desk we sold stamps, sent faxes, sold money orders, and in the beginning we accepted utility payments. We sorted items that were left throughout the store to be returned to the proper departments. We also processed the dreaded returns.

Most people are good when returning items for a refund. They bring the item in the original packaging with the receipt of purchase. Their identification is ready so we can take care of them quickly.

We need to know the reason for the return. If the item is damaged we will make certain it is not returned to the floor.

Without a receipt, a certificate for store merchandise can be issued under the right circumstances. If we are unsure or if the cash amount is too large we must have approval from a manager.

A woman came in one night and wanted to return a lotion gift set. It contained a bottle of lotion and a bottle of perfume. Each was only half full. I refused the return.

The woman became irate, insisting that I call a manager. I did. Then she began to call me vile names and trying to insult me in any way she could think of. I tried to stay calm because I knew she wanted me to return her anger. When the manager arrived I was still speaking calmly but I was shaking from anger.

The manager noticed and quietly asked me if I was okay. After I said I was she turned to the customer who told her how very rude I was about refusing her return.

The manager handled the whole thing so well. She told the customer that I was doing my job and that I had done the right thing. Then she turned to me and said, "I am going to allow the return but thank you for following the rules." Managers always approved the returns but at least she acknowledged in front of the customer that I was correct. After that I would have done anything for that manager.

You would not believe some of the returns approved by managers. Once we refunded money for a Christmas tree that was obviously from the previous year. The needles were all completely brown. We refunded money for a bicycle that "was a gift" and not needed. Inside the box was a very old bike, the kind that had those little balance springs under the seat. It was completely rusty.

My daughter-in-law refused the return of a vacuum cleaner. It was an older model than was supposed to be in the box not to mention that it was a brand that was no longer being made. Her store manager refunded the money. Then he told her that he was just trying to keep the goodwill of the customer.

At a later meeting the store manager was telling employees that they needed to watch costs. My daughter-in-law, bless her little heart, stood up and said, "One of the ways the costs are so high is the managers giving refunds on merchandise that is either not ours or is no good. As soon as that is stopped then you can talk to us about cutting back on our expenses." Meeting adjourned.

The manager in our toy department was liked by everyone. She was so friendly and had a really nice personality. She treated her employees well. She even made life a little easier for them when she could. For instance, turning in the cash drawer at the end of a shift is time consuming. She often took that task herself.

Imagine our shock when she was fired. It seems that she would help herself to a few dollars from the drawer before it got to the cash office.

Often the security force on duty was all male. If they apprehended a female shoplifter they liked to have a female present to try to prevent any accusations of impropriety. So there were a few of us who they trusted enough to take care of that task.

The suspected shoplifter needed to be searched. Weapons might be concealed and could be a danger to the security people.

Before searching the person we would ask if they had any weapons they wished us to know about. Then we would ask if they had any sharp objects such as needles on their person. Only after negative replies would we then pat them down.

Then we would have to wait until the police arrived. All we had to do was report that we had searched them and found nothing of danger or incriminating on the person. Then we were excused while they readied a trip to jail.

Most of the security personnel were former police officers or officers in training. They knew the laws for surveillance and apprehension. They also had the take down moves if the suspect did not want to be stopped.

Many times there were some very large people who gave a good fight before being subdued. A security person might even end up with a few bruises.

One night there were two huge men who decided to fight. From what I understand there was a lot of rolling around on the sidewalk and a few punches were thrown. I was in the cash office and saw none of it but even employees went out to watch. By the way non-security employees are never allowed to interfere.

Finally one of the men was cuffed. The other was still fighting to get away. Then he bit the security person. And drew blood.

The man was caught. The police took both of them to jail and shoplifting charges as well as various assault charges were filed. The security person went to the hospital. He would have to undergo testing for AIDS for a period of time.

The man who bit him did apologize in court. The security person said, "Apology not accepted."

We often saw the sweet little old lady who came in regularly on our shift to buy food for her cat. She might have been five feet tall and she was of slight build. Her hair was that fly-away gray that so many of us have as we get older.

Most of us felt that she was probably buying the cat food for herself to eat. We felt so protective of her. When security took her into their office we hoped that she had just passed out from hunger and that she had not had a heart attack.

Imagine our shock to learn that she was the front for a large shoplifting ring! She was the brains of the whole thing.

In large stores like the one I worked in there are more emergency situations than a person might think. And the store has codes and procedures for all of them.

For instance in case of a fire you will hear "Code 100 deli department, Code 100 deli department, Code 100 deli department," over the store speakers. It is repeated exactly three times. That sets things in motion.

All department heads and security personnel grab fire extinguishers and go directly to the deli department. Authorized cashiers go directly to the front doors of the store to facilitate traffic if necessary.

The store manager, the head of security, and the cash office each call the fire department. We report that there is a Code 100 in the deli department. After the third call the fire department dispatches fire trucks and personnel. It is all orderly and calmly done.

So one night I was in the cash office when I heard a frightened voice announce a Code 100 for the grocery backroom. He only said it twice but I recognized the voice of the grocery manager and I head the fear in his voice. I called the fire department and explained what had happened. They sent someone out.

The other woman in the office left to use the bathroom. I knew she just wanted to see what was going on. She asked the greeter why he was not headed to the back room with a fire extinguisher. He was certain there had been no emergency call.

Security had gone to the back to see what was happening before calling the fire department. The night store manager was somewhere...

The fire chief came to the front of the store to ask someone to let them into the back of the store. The greeter was still arguing that there was no fire. The store manager was called. She went into high hysterical mode. She took her keys and fumbled her way to the back of the store.

Once there she could not figure out which key opened the doors. She was screaming at everyone to fix it.

Finally one of the security members took the keys and opened the doors.

The Hi-Lo that the grocery manager was operating had caught fire in the motor directly under where he was sitting. He panicked a bit when he issued the emergency call. He was not hurt. The fire sort of put itself out. The fire department made sure everything was safe before leaving.

The fire chief did come up to the front of the store to thank me for making the call. No one else called but they felt that I explained the situation so well that they needed to check it out.

So here is taste of life in retail.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Gone

It was a busy holiday weekend for me. My age tends to show when there is so much going on. I was tired and needed to rest a couple of days when it was over.

Of course you have read about my sister-in-law taking a fall. We did check on her and her children made sure she was taken care of.

My son was busy getting his things more organized than he usually has them. And he is very organized. He was getting ready to move on.

He has had a monitoring device since he left the halfway house to come stay here. It was removed Friday. He was happy to be able to move around freely. With the tether on he had to have permission to go anywhere. Usually he had a time limit of 4 hours and then he had to be home.

And of course he had to report periodically for drug testing. It is standard procedure for all prisoners. Technically he was a prisoner allowed to stay in another place. I was surprised they did not send out the person who makes unannounced home visits for one last check. He did not come.

The counselor at the halfway house made sure my son had a refill on his medication. He called the pastor of the church my son helped with work while he was in town. The counselor asked her if she could help my son get a pair of dress pants and dress shoes to go with his suit jacket that she had previously given him.

She was happy to help. She made sure to arrive while my son was having the monitor removed. She wanted to personally say goodbye. She is a nice lady.

Then we had some furniture to move around. We only have two bedrooms. Because he had to have a room of his own I was glad to give him my room for the duration. We set an extra bed in the living room for me. That is now gone and a sofa is back in its place.

My daughter and her husband came down from the big city. Both of their children had to work. I wish they could have come too.

We spent a day visiting cemeteries again. We also went sightseeing a bit too. Then there was a day we spent visiting with my sister-in-law. My daughter had not seen her aunt for a long time. My nieces were visiting their mother so we spent a pleasant afternoon together.

Then came the day I dreaded and knew was coming. My daughter and her husband went home. My son went with them.

I knew from the beginning that he would not be here forever. His children are where he is going. Oddly enough children beat out moms every time.

So now it is just my oldest son and me again. With the dog of course. I will miss the kids and hope that they will be able to visit again sooner rather than later.