Tuesday, March 29, 2016

What Next?

This will be posted after the newness of the topics. I am so bewildered by so many things.

There has been another senseless bombing. This one was in Brussels.

I understand about war. I do not like war but I understand it. It is an armed conflict between combatants. War includes fighting between armies. It includes bombing. It even includes snipers killing unsuspecting members of the opposing side.

Those are a few acts of war. They are actions between forces that are fighting each other.

Sometimes innocents are caught in the middle and they suffer too. It is not right but it is a part of war.

But what is happening now is the targeting of innocents. People who are shopping. People who are attending sporting events. People out for a nice dinner. People simply trying to get from one place to another perhaps going home to their families.

I am not just talking about Brussels anymore. How often do we hear about a drive-by shooting killing a small child who had the misfortune to be playing in the yard? How often do we hear about someone walking into a celebration and opening fire to indiscriminately shoot anyone and everyone possible? Why would someone go into a place of business and kill employees they do not even know?

People are bleeding. Babies are crying. Families are without loved ones.

The cruelty is unfathomable. When did we become a world of savages? How can some people find pleasure in the pain and hurt of others? What justification can there be for intentionally harming innocent people?

I just do not understand. If someone does I wish they would explain it to me.

Friday, March 25, 2016

At A Loss

I have mentioned before that I often write my posts in advance of actually posting them. In a recent (for us) conversation with another blogger we had a mini conversation about coping with loved ones no longer being with us for holidays.

She and her family were about to experience their first Thanksgiving and Christmas without her mother. Every family goes through this. It is hard to enjoy a holiday when someone who was an integral part of the celebration is missing.

Mom was a great cook. For Thanksgiving she always made a big meal. We were all welcome to come with our families. The only rule she had was that no one get between her and the television during the football game.

I am a decent enough cook. I make Thanksgiving dinner for us. But it is not the same as being at Mom's house.

Daddy loved Christmas. On Christmas Eve we all gathered at my parent's house. Mom would take a picture of the tree before we got there. Then she would take another after we had all put the gifts we brought under the tree. It was awe inspiring to see the sheer number of packages.

Daddy played "Santa". He did not dress up but he passed out the gifts. The littlest one always got the first gift, then on up in age until the oldest person opened one. After that he made sure that the gifts were given out so that each person was a constant part of the action.

After Daddy died my brother happily took over the "Santa" duties. He was good at it and did it exactly like Daddy did. But it was not the same. And we all felt it.

When I was little we went to my grandparents' farm for Easter. Aunts, uncles, and cousins were there. We all brought our colored eggs.

The day would be spent hiding the eggs and hunting them all over again. If it rained we hid them in the attic but on a nice day they were hidden outside. We would hide those eggs until they were nothing but mush.

A big Easter dinner was served. It seemed like there were hundreds of deviled eggs which was fine with me.

Then as we grew up my parents were the ones who had Easter at their house. We were all there with our children and their colored eggs.

My father died on Good Friday. We made an extreme effort to make Easter as normal as possible for the children that year. It was hard enough for them to be without the grandfather they adored.

What we did not realize is that after that year Easter became Easter baskets and a dinner. Gone was the family get-together. Gone was the trip to the park for the annual egg roll. Gone was the fun.

The sad thing was that we did not even know what we had done. Until my youngest son was grown and told me he wanted to make an Easter for his children like he used to have. Would I help?

I was shocked first. Then I felt ashamed for cheating the children in our family of the happiness we had in getting together. The sad thing is that it was not just me. My mother, my sisters and brothers. We just went through the motions.

My son had a great Easter planned. We all took our colored eggs and lots of food. My son hid eggs in the yard at the side of his house. The kids had a fun time hunting them.

After we over-ate we went back outside. I am not sure who started it but I think it was my second son. Suddenly there were Easter eggs flying everywhere. The kids had the best fight ever throwing eggs at each other. It was great.

It is normal to feel the loss especially during a time of celebration. For me it is best to talk about the person missing with the others who miss them too. Perhaps it is my way of making sure they are included. I always think of Daddy at Easter.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Black Jay?

As I do every morning I was looking out my bedroom window. Today there are wind advisories but there was only a gentle breeze every now and then. That is when I spotted a curious thing.

It landed in the neighbor's cedar tree. I paid little attention thinking it was probably a blackbird or crow. Goodness knows there are a lot of them here. But no.

I saw the distinctive crest. I saw the longer beak. It flipped its tail up. Except for the black color it looked and acted like a blue jay.

After I saw that black deer a while back I wondered exactly what it was that I was seeing. When I finally got up and got dressed I went to my computer to see what information I could find about black blue jays.

Blue jays are corvids. They are members of the family that contains crows, ravens, nutcrackers, and magpies as well as several other birds.

Corvids are considered to be among the most intelligent animals. The total brain to body mass ratio of corvids is equal to the brain to body mass ratio of great apes and slightly lower than that of humans. They make and use tools. They recognize themselves in a mirror. They mimic sounds including human speech.

Blue jays are easy targets for the birds of prey because the jays fly so slowly. The jays are beneficial to other birds however. Because they have such a piercing scream in times of danger they give a warning to other birds that need to find safety.

Blue jays eat seeds and grain. Their strong black bills are iseal for cracking nuts. They will eat food scraps left by humans. it is rare but they will sometimes even eat eggs from unguarded nests. Theyhave at times caught small insects as they are flying.

This is the time of year that blue jays mate. From the middle of March to as late as July is their nesting period. They mate for life but it is the female who sets on the nest. The male provides her with food until the chicks hatch.

The nest will contain from 3 to 6 eggs in a cup shaped nest. They use whatever materials are available. They prefer evergreen trees but nests have been found in odd places like mailboxes. They will also appropriate nests of other birds.

In about 2and 1/2 weeks the eggs hatch. That parents feed them for another 3 weeks. After that they fledglings go their own ways.

So back to the bird I saw this morning. A black blue jay?

A blue jay's feathers are black!

There are color producing units in the barbs of the black feathers. There is a dark layer of cells containing melanin. Those cells are covered by box cells which are covered by a colorless transparent horny outer layer. There are air filled cavities of irregular shape and they scatter the light.

When sunlight shines on the feather it passes through the transparent outer layer of the barb and hits the air filled cavities scattering the blue light and absorbing red wavelengths. The blue light is absorbed by the melanin and that is what we see.

The reason I saw the blue jay as black is because of the distance and a lack of sunshine this morning. I was too far away to see that gorgeous blue color.

Friday, March 18, 2016

To Catch A Thief

Although she no longer does this line of work my daughter worked in fast food operations for more than half her life. More than half that time was as a manager of pizza take-out stores.

In the big city where we lived robbery was a real danger to any fast food store. Especially a pizza store. Part of the training to work there was learning what to do in case of a robbery.

The lobbies of the stores are open but the entire work area including the cashier is behind bullet proof glass. The pizzas are either placed in a revolving delivery after they are paid for or slide under a slot. Customers never come into contact with employees or any part of the working area.

Only small amounts of money are kept in the tills. Large bills and accumulations of cash are deposited in envelopes directly into the safe.

The safe is opened using a combination known only to management. It is set on a timer so that it does not open immediately in case someone is forcing the manager to dial the combination. There is a false front of sorts so a certain amount of money can be used to buy change for the cash register.

Most robberies are found to be "inside" jobs. Former employees, present employees, and people who know employees are the most common culprits. They are the ones who know routines and can cajole someone into letting them in through the back door. That is why no one who is not supposed to be there is supposed to have access.

If somehow the store is robbed it is to be immediately closed. The police will be called. No one is to be let in or out except police and store officials. Only after the police have taken statements can people go home.

Eventually my daughter was transferred to a suburban store. All the stores operate the same. But this one had no bullet proof! She felt quite vulnerable for a long time.

My daughter is an extremely careful (and at times suspicious) person by nature. She was often the last to leave the store after closing. She had paperwork to do and money to balance.

She made sure all her employees were safely on their way too. She would watch until their cars were moving out of the parking lot.

When she left she looked all around before she even left the store. Then she went purposefully and quickly to her car. No chances taken.

My daughter began to notice a car parking in front of the pizza store for several nights in a row. No one ever got in or out of the car and it just drove away each night.

She notified the police that a suspicious looking car was coming every night. They made a notation of it but there was not much they could do.

One night very late as she was getting ready to go home she saw the car parked directly in front of her store. She waited about half an hour and it stayed. Finally she called the police.

As the patrol car passed through the parking lot the car finally left. She waved to the police as she got in her car. She never saw the car again.

A few years later my daughter was managing another pizza store.  She was pregnant and having severe problems with her blood pressure. As a matter of fact she was days away from being placed on medical maternity leave.

Late at night she received a phone call from her store. It had been robbed.

She went immediately to the store. The police were on the way.

The two employees were a brother and sister. The brother was in charge and his sister felt safe with her brother.

The thief had managed to grab the 16 year old female employee and held a knife to her throat. She was hysterical when my daughter arrived but not hurt physically.

After comforting the girl the best she could my daughter surveyed the store to see what was taken. Then she called the girl's parents.

Calling the parents was totally against the rules. My daughter knew that I would have been more than upset if it had been my daughter and I was not notified. She also felt like she would want to know in that case too. When the parents arrived she let them in to comfort their daughter and son.

There were two reasons she did not consider the son when she called the parents. First he was an adult. Second he was not hysterical.

The police were not happy the parents were there and neither were the higher -ups of the company but they understood why she did it. She was not disciplined for it.

As so often happens it was an inside job. The young man's friend was the robber. He was also a former employee. The young man had let him in after the store closed. The sister knew nothing about it.

The young man had no idea that the robber was going to grab the sister either. Once he finally confessed he cried that he did not mean for his sister to be involved in any way.

The next time you hear on the news about a robbery at a fast food place... remember it was probably an inside job.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Pick Pick Pick

I abhor a bully. Bullies are those creatures who pick on others in order to hurt them in some way. It might be physical like a punch to the jaw. It might be emotional like making fun of the way someone looks.

Bullies usually have a group with them. If they are alone they usually behave themselves. Whether the audience is because they need the applause or the security is open to interpretation. Either way bullies are usually only bullies when they feel safe being so.

With the evolution of social media the group is often those at other computers who feed egos with their comments. The anonymity of being at a computer makes them feel that they are in a solitary environment. I believe they feel free to say things that they moght not say if other people were not physically with them.

But they are still bullies. They intend to make someone feel less than. Ir is wrong.

All of us have been teased at one time or another. I remember when I was in say 3rd grade my mother packed my lunch for school.

At that time everything was wrapped in waxed paper. It was what was available. I ate my sandwich and whatever else was lunch. But the was a nice surprise there. Mom wrapped a nice piece of cake.

I unwrapped the cake. I had to eat it with my fingers because I had no tableware since I had not purchased my lunch. No problem.

The problem was that all the frosting from the cake was stuck to the waxed paper. For me no problem. I simply licked it off.

Someone from another lunch table saw me and started to make fun of me. "What are you doing? Eating the waxed paper?"

My feeling s were hurt but I pretended it did not bother me. It was over as soon as it began. I was going to say that it did not bother me but it must have. Otherwise I would not remember it 60 years later.

When I was in the second grade there were 5, count 'em, 5 girls in my grade. Of course we broke off into "cliques".  Three girls would be "in". Two girls would be "out".

It was not the same groups all the time. Things would change at the drop of an eyelash. And the two girls were not often the same either. It was just that two must be on the outside and three on the inside.

I have no reason why it was that way. It just was.

Life was good as one of the three. I belonged. I could be carefree. I was"in"!

As one of the two life was spent trying to once again be one of the three. I was miserable.

I have to be honest. The three did not pick on the two. The three did not make fun of the two. They simply ignored them.

That situation is a good example of my second statement. I understand that children need to establish a "pecking order".

In any group of people there is a leader. One makes decisions and the others agree.

In the best groups the leader changes depending on the situation.

In order to function in a society a person must know his/her place in the pecking order. He/she must also know that place can be changed.

Some of the childish bickering that we see is simply jockeying for position. It is normal and healthy (most of the time). Adults have the responsibility to allow it to happen without getting out of control.

So I know bullying is bad. It is a fact.

I believe that learning to get along with others sometimes involves differences of opinion and learning how to deal with the opinions. The arts of acquiescing and compromise are important tools in life. Another lesson is learning not to abuse the power of leadership..

So conflict can be instructional as long as it is resolved peacefully. Bullying is always bad. Our lesson for today.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Loess Hills

I am going to write a bit of history about the area where I live. That will be some time in the future. But in order to have a feel for the area you will need to know about the Loess Hills. 

Loess is a German word meaning loose or crumbly. It is pronounced luss.

The last glacier that descended onto North America ground the rocks into "glacial flour". That is a very fine powder-like sediment.

As the weather warmed and the glacier receded the "glacial flour" was washed away by the rivers and eventually deposited on the flood plains of the Missouri River. Then the air dried and the winds came. Those winds blew large amounts of the silt back up the way it had come down.

Some of the dust clouds deposited coarser and therefore heavier particles along the Missouri flood plain. While silt was blown everywhere When it fell next to the river it formed sharp high bluffs.

Scientists believe that there were three major waves of dusts clouds over the centuries. With each wave the hills grew and became the Loess Hills. The first layer is known as the Loveland Loess and is aproximately 120,000 to 159,000 years old. The Pisgah Loess is 25,000 to 31,000 years old. The the Peoria Loess is 12,500-25,000 years old.

Between the layers the history of the area shows many changes. For instance in some places the is a fifteen inch layer of volcanic ash. This is from volcanic activity in nearby Yellowstone.

The Loess Hills range from lower Iowa up to Westfield, Iowa, where I live. The only comparable hills in the rest of the world are found in Shaani, China. The hills in China were actually higher at one time but erosion and agriculture have taken away from the qualities we still see here in Iowa.

So hills made from loess are extremely rare. The Loess Hills are constantly evolving and changing. In the beginning they were smooth much like sand dunes. Now the water and wind have caused erosion. Loess soil has little or no clay particles so the soil erodes quickly.

Now the hills have irregular shapes. The irregular shapes are called saddles and  peaks because they resemble an animal's back. Catsteps are

There are several federal and state parks located along the Loess Hills. We would like to preserve them as much as possible.

Stone Park is the nearest state park. It is located in Sioux City on the northwest edge of town. It has hiking trails, picnic areas, a small lake, and driving trails. There are campgrounds too.

Hickory and oak trees are native to the Loess Hills. Red cedars like the environment there too and are threatening the stability of the soil. Prairie grasses found in the Loess Hills include big bluestem, little bluestem, pasque flower, yucca, Indian geass, lead plant, and sideoats grama. The prairie Moonwort was discovered in 1984.

There are many birds and animals native to the Loess Hills. The great plains skink, badger, bobcat, spadefoot toad, white-tail deer, red and gray foxes, coyote, pocket mouse, and box turtle. Prairie chicken, bobwhite, red-tailed hawk, ringneck pheasant, prairie rattlesnake, wild turkey, mule deer, gray wolf, elk, bison, and even mountain lions. Some of these are being kept in preserves of the Loess Hills to allow them to live in natural habitat.

This part of the United States is also important to bird migration. When winds blowing across the floodplain hit the Loess Hills thermal updrafts are formed. Raptors use these updrafts to travel to and from breeding grounds. Some of these are osprey, bald eagle, Swainson's hawk, re-tailed hawk, ferruginous hawk, Cooper's hawk, sharp-shinned hawk, American kestrel, peregrine falcon, and northern harrier.

Raptors form "kettles" which is a funnel-like formation to use the thermal updrafts. The Broken Kettle Grasslands in the northern Loess Hills holds Iowa's only home to nesting black-billed magpies.

The Turin Man prehistoric archeological site can be seen in the Turin Site. It is 7440 acres of the Loess Hills National Natural Landmark. A good example of the topography of the Loess Hills is at the 2980 acres of the Little Sioux/Smith Lake site. These are the two National Natural Landmarks in the Loess Hills.

All along the Loess Hills are hiking trails and places to camp. There are also preserves many of which have been donated by families to preserve the hills they love so much. You will find signs in the middle of a little fenced-off plot of prairie grass for instance. You cannot explore many of these but they are nice to look at.

During the Woodland Period from 900AD to 1300 AD the Glenwood Culture lived in Mills County in southern iowa. They lived in earth lodges. They were farmers and grew fields of the native plants found growing in and around the Loess Hills.

When Lewis and Clark were on their expedition they held their first formal meeting called a council with the Native Americans. The city of Council Bluffs, Iowa, honors that council meeting.

Sgt Charles Floyd was a member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. He became ill with what many historians believe was a ruptured appendix and was the only death of the whole expedition. He was buried on a bluff in the Loess Hills overlooking the Missouri River. His monument is the first designated National Historic Landmark in the United States.

Looking out over the Missouri River at the other edge of Sioux City is War Eagle's Grave. The monument honors a native American who was admired by the people settling in the area. The Loess Hills showcase all of these and more.

When the Mormons were on their way to finally settle in Utah they traveled through Iowa. One of the elders broke away from the main wagon train and led 50 or 60 families to Kanesville which was renamed Council Bluffs. They then moved on and founded Preparation which was a town named for "School of Preparation for the Life Beyond".

The elder saw the value of the fertile land of the Loess Hills and published a newspaper article telling the faithful to sign over their deeds and possession to him. He became Father Ephraim. When people decided they wanted their property back he escaped.

Claims have been made that the notorious James gang used Joy Hollow near Westfield as a hideout for a time.

Abraham Lincoln visited the Loess Hills. Fairview Cemetery in Council Bluffs was where he was briefed on possible locations for the First Transcontinental Railroad.

All along the Loess Hills are museums. You can find animal fossils and pelts. Arrowheads and stone tools are on display. Wildlife is abundant. And if you want scenery all you need to do is open your eyes... there it is.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016


 My family was quite poor. As I was growing up I know my parents did not find it easy to make ends meet. Daddy always worked but his jobs did not pay much. Mom made most of our clothes and was a good cook.

So we scraped by a lot. But we never went hungry. Our meals may not have been our favorite foods all the time or fancy but they were filling.

The thing I am most grateful for is that we were loved and knew it. We never felt like we were burdens or nuisances.

I feel I am a generous person. My family can count on me to help in any way I can whenever they need me. And I like making other people feel better.

That being said I have a few things to say about "giving".

There are so many ads on television about poor children in other countries who do not have a regular source of food. Many of them starve to death. My heart breaks for them. I see mistreated animals with big soulful eyes who have been mistreated and abandoned. I can almost feel their pain and confusion.

All of these ads plead for me to send money so they can help. If they are reputable organizations I applaud those who send donations.

After all I live in what is considered to be the wealthiest country in the world. Most of us wish that no one would have to suffer. No one should have to be hungry or cold or not have someone to give them a big hug just because.

I have worked hard all my life. My children and their children work hard. None of us are rich.

If I have something extra to give it goes to my family first. Extended family comes next. My neighborhood follows, then my city, state, country. After that I can think about other countries.

Many pious religious people tell me that it is my obligation to try to help others. I believe that too. But the Bible tells us that charity begins at home.

If my home is not healthy and prosperous I have no business taking from my family to give to non-family.

When I lived in Detroit I saw many homeless people. They are on the streets begging for money for food. Many have substance abuse problems. I have taken these people into a diner and bought them a meal. That is not a lot. It only means that they have one meal that one day.

But I will not give them money. I will not support a drug or alcohol problem. But I really dislike seeing someone be hungry.

The animals I see on television who have been abused need someone to take care of them and care about them. I cannot take all of them in.

Whenever I do get a pet I take an animal that is not wanted by someone else. Some have been physically harmed. Many needed extra care. Some needed extra time to learn to trust. All were good pets.

Starving children around the world touch my heart. It is painful to see them and know that they do not have the proper care. I am happy to know that people help them.

We have children in this country in the same sad situations. They do not have adequate food, clothing, and shelter. Schooling is hit and miss for these children.

We have children whose parents do not take proper care of their children. It may be through small fault of theirs but the children are suffering nonetheless.

As bad as I feel about the suffering children from other countries I want the children in my country taken care of first. Take care of home then we can move on to others.

I do not denigrate those who do give to others. Far from it. My own cousin is active in digging wells and teaching water management to areas in Africa. I am proud of him. He is making a difference in the world.

These are strictly my views about giving. I think we should all help when and where we can.

Friday, March 4, 2016

For A Song

"Musick has charms to soothe a savage breast," is the first line of the play The Mourning Bride by William Congreve. Put into today's language that simply means that music makes us feel good.

I listen to all types of music. Some I like better than others but I never want to be limited because you never know where you will hear something that really touches your soul.

Now I have NO musical ability. If you locked a nice tune up in a briefcase and locked it I would not be able to carry it. But that does not stop me from singing. I sang to my babies and their babies. I sing along with the radio and my favorite recordings. I sing along with commercials. I have learned to stop if my children or grandchildren begin to look uncomfortable when I sing in public when I am with them.

When I was managing the band I was lead singer whenever they did a group of us on stage. The song was "Doo Wah Diddy Diddy" originally by Manfred Mann. I would sing, "There he was just a'walkin down the street singin" and the rest of the group would sing "Doo wah diddy diddy dum diddy doo."

It was great fun. Being the natural ham that I am I was not bothered at all being on the stage. The band tried to do it a couple of times each month. When it was over everyone felt good.

That is not the only job I had where I would sing. I did it at all of them.

I was a telemarketer. Yes I was one of those terrible people and it does not pay as well as they lead you to believe... another story.

One day I was in charge of the office. Everyone seemed a little depressed and listless. Being told no and being hung up on so many times can do that to you. We always had the radio on to try to combat the weariness we would sometimes feel.

That day the song "Do You Love Me?" by The Contours began to play. I turned the radio up high. We all stopped our calls and just sang along at the top of our lungs.

When the song was over we turned the radio down and started dialing again. But we were all smiling.

I worked at a factory making industrial shocks. We did so many things to keep away the boredom. Word games and riddles were popular. We even told fairy tales. But singing was the most fun. Because I am not shy I was often asked to start the songs.

I chose songs that we all knew. After all it is not much fun to try to sing a song you do not know.

We had a new member on the line. He was a young Puerto Rican kid. He was so quiet and shy. I often tried to get him to sing along with us but he would just smile and shake his head.

One day I began to sing "Iko, Iko". I know the version done by the Dixie Cups. I sang "My grandma and your grandma were sitting by the fire". I looked up in shock. Fidel was singing with us! When the song was over I told him I was surprised that he was singing. He said, "That is the first song I knew." He felt good and was finally a part of the group.

Eventually I was transferred to the laser room. I worked in there all by myself because the laser was considered to be dangerous to those whose eyes were not protected. I loved the job for many reasons.

The only problem was the boredom of being alone with no noise of any kind except the laser for 8 hours. Naturally I would sing to myself. Harmony was difficult that way. But I enjoyed myself.

If you are feeling a little down or lonely start to sing. You will feel better. And if you really want to feel good dance along with the song. It is good exercise.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

A Whirlwind Of Tales

There have been so many stories of tornadoes this year. And it is only February!

It seems as if the outbreak of tornadoes started early this year. I remember late spring and summer as being the time to have to watch. We are seeing them pretty much all year here lately.

When my children and I lived in Tennessee we liked to sit on the porch and watch the rain. One day as we were enjoying a thunderstorm I saw a tornado over the Cumberland Mountains. I readied the children to take cover in the center of the house as the tornado looked like it was headed our way. Then I saw it sort of back up and disappear behind the mountains again.

Pardon me while I knock on wood... I have not had a personal loss from a tornado but have had close calls. Family members have also had problems but thankfully no injuries.

My parents had friends who lived in the country. We were spending the weekend at their farm because they had a pond for swimming. During the middle of the night a sudden storm came up. The noise was unbearable.

The next morning when we woke up we saw the path made by a small twister. It was only a few feet from the house.

When I was 9 years old my father had taken a job at a dairy farm in Washington. Mom took care of packing our things and selling what we could not take with us on the train.

Our final day at our house my aunt and uncles came to help. Mom had to run into the next town to pick up a few last minute things. We kept on working.

When Mom returned we took some time to rest. It was a warm  It was late in the afternoon but the sun was still out. We were sitting on the hood of the car and noticed a tornado in the distance. We watched it for the longest time. To a child it seemed like hours.

We later found out that we had been watching a tornado that decimated the town of Milford, Nebraska. And we saw it from that far away.

My aunt who lived in Cleveland told about the time she heard what sounded like a freight train rumbling past her window. The next morning she found out that a tornado had done a lot of damage on the other side of Cleveland.

While living in Detroit I was fascinated by the color of the sky. It was not just the sky I suppose. Everything looked an odd green color.

There were several small whirlwinds or tornadoes in Detroit that night. All were near us. One of them went down Fort Street swirling the trash that normally lies in and around the street. It never looked cleaner.

Another time there was a tornado that followed the path of one of the freeways for a couple of miles to the amazement of motorists who also wished to use the freeway.

My son and his family live in another part of Michigan in the country. For some reason they are affected by tornadoes often. Just last year there was a tornado out their way. A huge tree in my son's yard was torn out of the ground by the roots. Luckily it did not land on the house.

My grandson lives right across the road from his father. He lost a part of the roof from his house.

My granddaughter lives in a small nearby town. Electrical wires were torn from her house by the same storm system.

When my daughter-in-law worked for the same superstore chain as I did she called me at my store. A tornado had torn the roof off her store. The produce department gave an open view of the sky.

During the same time as that tornado another tornado attacked a strip mall across the street from my store. While people were in the stores shopping the front window of a store that rented and sold movies was ripped right off the store. No one was seriously hurt.

A year later as I was pulling into the parking lot to go to work the siren began to shriek. I parked my car and went to the front of the store looking everywhere to see what the emergency was. Store security was herding people into the store but I was an employee so I kept looking... until they herded me in too.

I went to the cash office where I worked. We had always been advised to go into the walk-in safe in case of any emergency because that is the safest place to be. The acting manager of the store panicked as she so often did. She forced all of us to go to the back storeroom of the store.

That was where customers and employees all huddled away from the storm. The power went out and we were in the dark for a couple of minutes until our auxiliary power source took over.

That meant there were a at least 100 people in cramped quarters with dim lights and NO air conditioning. There were several children in our group. We found some toys in the merchandise there and gave them to the children to ease their fears and keep them busy.

We actually heard the tornado go over the store. We were fortunate that it did not touch the ground.

Two years ago I decided I did not feel like cooking so I suggested fast food. It is really an extravagance because we have to drive about 25 miles to get it.

I was watching a nasty looking sky as I drove. I saw what looked like it could turn into a funnel cloud. It was huge but quite a distance from us.

I gave the order at the speaker for the meals we wanted. When I pulled up to the window they informed me that we were the last customers they were serving because of the tornado that was on its way. The tornado did not make it as far as the fast food place after all. But it did some serious damage in Pilger, Nebraska. Pilger is quite a ways away.

There have been numerous tornadoes all around where I live. I have seen the results of several of them. I am fortunate because I live in a small town that is kind of nestled into the hills. The hills provide a lot of protection.

Still I pay attention to the watches and warnings. I would rather be safe than to be flying toward Oz.