Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Writer's Block and Cookies

So after wasting a couple of hours this morning writing and deleting, writing and deleting and writing some more and deleting some more, it is painfully obvious that today I got nuthin'.

As long as the temperatures here are still cooler than usual, I am off to the kitchen to bake cookies.  I watched a video yesterday about sealing homemade cookies in mason jars using a Foodsaver and I want to give it a test run.  The person who posted the video, Deb at "perbain" channel, is one that I have learned much from, and she said that cookies stored this way were just like fresh when the jars were opened a year later.  Normally I will take a day or two, bake a bunch of stuff and freeze it.  But Number 1 Son is looking to get us a hog to share and I want to keep my freezer fairly empty for that.

A freezer full of cookies or a freezer full of pork chops, ham and bacon.  No contest.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

I Want...

to be here...

or maybe here.


Friday, July 26, 2013

Stun Gun Guy

So last evening I'm sitting at my computer writing and minding my own business.  My windows are open as I am enjoying a cool evening breeze.  All of a sudden I hear a sound that I can only describe as sort of electrical, like when a wire breaks and sends sparks in all directions.  This is followed by loud yelling voices.  I thought maybe a street light had shorted out so I go to the window to see if that is the case.

It isn't.  What I see is a crowd of about eight young men on my side of the street.  Across the street are three more, and it looks like two of them are trying to fight with the third.  But the third is holding a stun gun.  That was the sound I heard.  The two are jumping around the stun gun guy like they are in a boxing ring.  The group across the street are yelling, egging them on.  Eventually the guy holding the stun gun flashes it a couple more times, turns and walks up the alley.  The would be combatants are left yelling  all sorts of words that were disparaging to the stun gun guy's ancestry.  I thought that the taunt, "I double dog dare you" wasn't used much after grade school.

But then, it doesn't appear that any of these people have progressed beyond the age of seven.  I really had to laugh when all of a sudden one of them yells, "Scatter!  Here come the cops!"  I haven't heard those words since high school.

I really need to find a more quiet place to live.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Enough Already

To the guy who parks his truck in the street just below my windows and plays his music so loud that the windows rattle and the floors vibrate, enough already.

I don't force you to listen to the country music or the bluegrass or the old rock & roll that I like, so don't feel that you have to share yours with me.  Or things might have to change.

I can show up on your front lawn at dawn with some really good speakers and play Lawrence Welk's Greatest Hits at full volume.  Or if you tick me off any more than you already have, I know where I can lay my hands on some Whoopee John Polkas.


Pictures of Mom

I don't have a lot of pictures of my Mom's younger years.  As far as I know, there are no pictures in existence of her before the age of 6 years or so.  With the exception of this one.

Mom always joked that this was the first picture ever taken of her with her parents.  She hadn't been born yet, but would be in a month or so after the picture was taken.

Mom on the left with her sister Margaret, in the mid 1930's.

This was taken after one of my Grandpa Paul's church services in Nebish in the early 1940's.  Grandpa and Margaret are in front with Mom behind Margaret.  In the back are her brother Duane, Grandma Paul, Duane's wife Mildred and Mom's sister Elaine.

Between the time Mom's family moved to St. Paul and the time she married Dad, Mom worked as a nurses aide at the N. P. Hospital in St. Paul.

Mom at about age 16.

This is my favorite photo of Mom.  It was taken in 1945 before she and Dad were married.

Mom in the back with Margaret and her sisters Elaine and Adella and brother Duane in front.  Taken in the mid-1930's.

This is the youngest picture of Mom that I have.  She is the little girl with the lace-up dress on the far left.  I think this must have been a school or church pageant.

Mom in Blackduck, about 1947.

Mom about 1990.

I love going through the old family photos.  They bring back so many memories.  Sometimes good ones that make me laugh and others that bring tears. And they give me a glimpse of what life was like way back when.  I am glad that I have collected these through the years and that I can show my children and grandchildren a little bit of what their grandparents were all about.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Pictures of Dad

I have stuff to get done the next couple of days while the temperatures here are a bit lower and my apartment is a bit more comfortable than it has been lately.  Yes, even those of us who are retired still have stuff to do.  The laundry lady is on strike and the cleaning fairy quit.  The dogs will be out of food in a couple of days if I don't get busy and make another batch.  And the grocery store has turkeys on sale again so I need to hop on the bus and go get some to replenish my supply of home canned turkey.  I seem to go through the canned turkey faster than anything else on my shelves.

So here are some pictures of Dad in no particular order.  Enjoy.

Dad was about 20 years old in this photo.

Dad at the gas station in Blackduck where he worked in about 1947.

Dad at the top of the ladder and his brother Bruce at the bottom - about 1919.

Dad with some of his great-grandchildren - Nicki, Zach and Chris.  This must have been in about 2000.

Dad with his sister, Clarice.  Date unknown.  I like this picture because of Dad's smile, which was so typical of him.

Dad with Mom's sister, Margaret.  I love this picture just because.

Dad with his great-grandson, Zach.

This picture was taken around 1916 at the one room White Pine schoolhouse where the Matheny children attended school.  The three boys in back, from tallest to shortest are Dad's brothers, Keith, Kenneth and Bruce.  His sister Clarice is the little girl in the darker dress and Dad is the little boy in the overalls on the end.

Dad and the Giant Tomato

Do any of my children remember the monster tomato plant?  Dad grew tomatoes on the balcony of his apartment in Blackduck.  He brought this one in the house before the first frost and the silly thing just kept on growing.  There was even a write-up in the local newspaper with this picture.  I teased Dad that it must have been a slow news day when the article appeared.  He was pretty proud of that tomato plant.

That's all for now.  I will post some pictures of Mom tomorrow.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

A Sense of Humor

I sometimes think that the only way to get through this crazy life is to keep a sense of humor in good working order.  Both sides of my family were able to do that, and if I could have inherited just one thing, the sense of humor would have been what I would want.

Dad's side of the family pretty much had a dry sense of humor.  Any of Dad's siblings could say something totally outrageous and keep a straight face until it dawned on you that your leg was being pulled.  They pulled silly little pranks on one another, even when they were full grown adults, like Uncle Bruce stealing a part of a slice of pie off Dad's plate when his back was turned.  They teased one another, but never in a vicious way.  Dad liked to remind his siblings that he was the last child born in that family, so he was sure that his parents had saved the best for last.

They only got into trouble when the five boys got together and plotted some devilment, usually for Halloween.  At that time, indoor plumbing was rare, and everybody had outhouses.  The Matheny boys wouldn't tip over outhouses, as was the custom for boys to do on Halloween night.  They merely moved them over a foot or two so that the hole dug underneath wasn't where it was supposed to be, and if a person stood in the wrong spot, the outhouse might suddenly lean toward the direction of the now exposed hole.

The prank that became legendary in the family involved a Model T Ford car.  There was a man who lived in town who had a new Model T.  He was proud of this car to the point of being a bit obnoxious in his bragging.  This was something that the Matheny boys just couldn't let pass.  They managed to get that car up on the roof of the man's garage, and there it sat when he came out to drive it in the morning.  Dad would barely acknowledge to me that he and his brothers had anything to do with this, saying, "Somebody...I don't know just who..." did this.  And he would never tell me just how they got the car on the roof.  It wasn't until just a couple of years ago when I was talking to my brother that he told me Dad had once told him that he and his brothers had sort of dismantled the car, hauled the parts up to the roof and put the car back together.  They went to an awful lot of work for a joke, but I think it was probably worth it!

Dad's sense of humor stayed with him to the end.  He and his sister, Clarice, both resided in the same nursing home where Mom had lived.  Both were over the age of 90.  It seems that there was an exercise program for wheelchair bound residents, where they sat in their chairs and did arm and upper body exercises to keep up their strength.  Dad and his sister usually sat next to one another.  They would be dutifully doing their exercises when Dad would lean over and gently tap Clarice on the back of her head.  They would exercise some more and Clarice would reach over and lightly punch Dad on his shoulder.  After which he would retaliate, and so would she, until the staff member who was leading the group would say, "Now you two Matheny kids just behave yourselves!"  And they would, but only for a little while.

Clarice and Dad

My mother's only brother was the prankster in their family.  I have been told by cousins that he would wait until his parents had gone out of an evening, and then as soon as it got dark, he would conjure up a story or a creaking door or some crash-bang noises to scare his sisters.  He did this just to see if he could get them to run upstairs to their bedrooms, screaming all the way.  And it usually worked.  I think that must have been his revenge at being the only boy in a house full of girls.

Another time Uncle Duane convinced some of his visiting cousins that it would be fun to go out at night and steal some muskmelons from a neighbor's garden.  He lead them all over town, through back yards and down alleys and got them thoroughly turned around in direction until they came to the muskmelon patch.  It wasn't until the cousins each had a good sized melon in hand that they realized they had just stolen melons from their own family garden.

Mom and her sisters weren't big on playing jokes.  But when they all got together, there was always lots of talk and even more laughter.  I always enjoyed listening to them.

This isn't a very good photo, but it is the only one I have of Grandma and all of the Paul siblings.

Mom did, however, like to get one up on Dad every now and then.  This was a time when Fuller Brush and Kirby Vacuum Cleaner salesmen went door to door.  Dad went to work early in the morning, so he usually got home in the middle of the afternoon.  One afternoon he was greeted by Mom calling out as he came in the kitchen door that he should come into the living room, as there was a Kirby Vacuum Cleaner salesman there.  Mom later told me she knew how Dad would react and she wasn't disappointed.  He thought she was joking and called back to her that he didn't want to see any durned old salesman and that he had better hightail it out of there if he knew what was good for him.  And then he entered the living room and found himself face to face with the white-faced, wide-eyed salesman, vacuum in hand.  Dad told me later that he just sat there meekly through the whole demonstration.  He figured he owed the salesman that much for scaring him.

I don't know how some folks can go through life all grouchy and cranky.  Life, after all, is full of absurdities, and if you can't sit back and just laugh at yourself and the world around you, then it seems to me that you are in for a long and miserable life.  I'd rather laugh.

Friday, July 19, 2013

About Mom

My mother's upbringing was very different from my father's.  Where Dad's family was just a bit rowdy, Mom's family was more reserved.  They say that opposites attract and I think in my parents' case, it was true.

Mom was raised in Blackduck where her father was the depot agent for the railroad.  My grandfather's first wife had died the day after giving birth to their daughter, Dorothy.  A couple of years later he married my grandma, Gladys Morehouse.  Mother had one brother and four sisters besides Dorothy, the fifth sister being stillborn.  She was next to the youngest in age.

Born in 1924, Mom grew up during the Great Depression.  The family was fortunate in that my grandfather had a job and was able to keep it during that time when so many were out of work, and was able provide for his family.  They lived a life typical for small town America with all of the children going to school and graduating from high school, where many other less fortunate children had to quit school and help out on family farms or look for other means to financially help their families.  Mom's family was not rich by any stretch of the imagination, but neither were they destitute.

My mother's family was musically inclined.  All of the children except the youngest played the violin and some played piano.  Mother learned to play violin, cello, guitar and piano.  I was lucky to have been born first in my family, for I was able to hear Mom play all the instruments before the crippling in her hands made it impossible.  My sister may have heard her play, but my brother who is 15 years my junior, never did.

In addition to my grandfather's work for the railroad, he was a lay minister.  To my knowledge he was never ordained, but he held church services in the nearby community of Nebish for many years.  My mother and her siblings, who all had good singing voices as well as a talent for playing instruments, went with him to provide the music for the services.  As a side note, my Grandfather Paul preached the funeral service for my Grandfather Matheny in October of 1936.

Sometime in the early 1940's, the family, with the exception of the two oldest who had married, moved to St. Paul.  Mom's father had problems with his heart (I don't know what the actual diagnosis was.  At that time it was just referred to as "heart trouble.") and because of his employment with the railroad, the logical place for his treatment was the Northern Pacific Hospital in St. Paul.  It was there he passed on in October of 1947.  I was only 16 months old when my grandfather died, so I have very little in the way of memory of him.  I once asked my Dad what Grandpa Paul was like, and his description was that he was a stern but fair man.

Mom and Dad were married in St. Paul in July of 1945.  Mom's father wanted her to wait until she was 21 years of age before marrying, so she honored his request by setting the wedding date for one week after her 21st birthday.  Mother was married to Dad for nearly 51 years.

My mother was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis shortly after my birth in 1946.  It began with swelling and pain in her hands and eventually spread to her entire body.  I find it sad that so much of her life was defined by pain and doctors and hospitals, ending in a nursing home.  We were so blessed to have her in the small facility in her hometown, where she was known and loved by family and staff alike.  Mom and Dad had moved to an apartment within a block of the home, and after she could no longer live there, Dad was able to walk over and spend his days with her.

Mom loved pretty things.  I remember watching her crochet beautiful doilies to adorn the backs of chairs or table tops.  She did fancy embroidery and taught me this skill.  Holidays were her favorite times.  She took a small tree branch, painted it white and attached red and pink paper hearts to the branches with gold thread, for a Valentine's Day centerpiece for our dining room table.  She did the same at Easter, using the egg shells that we had blown the insides out of and decorated.  She was always crafting something pretty out of practically nothing.  Christmas was her absolute favorite time of year, and there was hardly a surface in our home that wasn't adorned with pine bows, brightly colored glass ornaments and candles.  Even when she could no longer do the decorating herself and was in a wheelchair, I remember her sitting in the middle of the living room, directing the decorating of the room by the rest of us, like a queen on her throne.

I didn't realize how far Mother's love of pretty extended until much later in my life.  The family had gathered for the celebration of some event - perhaps a special birthday or anniversary.  For special occasions she would often serve as part of the meal a shrimp salad that contained tiny pasta rings, baby shrimp, diced celery and sliced olives in a dressing.  I loved the stuff.  When someone offered to get a plate of food for Mom and asked if she wanted some shrimp salad, Mom replied no, that she did not like it.  When I asked her why she served it for occasions if she wouldn't eat it, she said that the only reason she had made that salad was because it looked pretty in the bowl.

Over the years, the disease that ravaged her body slowly became worse.  She had surgeries to replace joints that had worn away and eventually had a permanent trach tube in her neck so she could breathe after bones in her neck disintegrated.  Where a cold is an annoyance to most of us, it often was the cause of another hospital stay for her.  Mom was a very religions person and I think it was her faith that kept her going when most would have given up.  After the surgery on her neck, the doctors told her to go home and get her affairs in order.  Twenty years later, she was still thumbing her nose at them.

I am so grateful to her for all that she taught me.  How she had the patience to deal with a semi-rebellious tomboy of a daughter, I will never know.

Mom died in April of 1996.  I felt great sadness, but also relief that she was no longer in pain.  I will always miss her.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

For Your Viewing Pleasure

At 8:30 this morning the temperature in my little apartment was already up to 84 degrees.  My computer is located in the warmest room and as it is not a laptop, I can't move to a cooler spot.  Writing about my mother seems to be taking some time, so I will give you some random photos to look at until it cools off a bit in here.  Personally, I have had enough summer now and am looking forward to the cool breezes of fall.

Mom at about age 16.

Mom and her sister Emily in 1945.

Mom making a face at Dad for taking her picture in about 1953.

Mom, Dad and me in Blackduck, 1948.

Dad with his cousin, Eleanor Lindsey in 1925.   Dad was 13 or 14 years old.

Mom and Dad right after their wedding in July of 1945.

Mom and Dad nearly 50 years later.

Mom with puppies at Grandma Paul's house in St. Paul.

Dad.  I don't know when or where this picture was taken.  Anybody recognize it?

Dad Being silly, trying to make Mom laugh.  Early 1960's.

I'll be back with more stories as soon as my apartment cools down a little bit.  If you like the pictures, let me know and I can post lots more.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

About Dad

Dad grew up in a large, poor farm family.  He was the youngest of nine children.  As soon as the children were old enough, they worked, and my grandparents worked right along side them.  The boys fed the hogs and milked the cows.  They plowed the fields behind a team of horses.  They cut hay by hand and loaded it onto hay wagons with pitchforks and stored it in the barn.  In the winter they cut and split firewood to heat their house.  They cut blocks of ice from the lake, hauled it home on sleds pulled by horses and covered it with straw in the root cellar that was dug into a hill near the house, so they would have ice for the ice box to keep their food cool year round.  They couldn't go to the corner grocery and buy ice then, for there was no store within 10 miles, and no ice and no money even if there had been ice.  They had no refrigerator as that was a luxury.  Whatever they needed, they pretty much had to figure out a way to do it or get it themselves.

When the girls were old enough, they took care of the younger children.  Their mother worked hard every day just to keep food on the table and keep her family clothed.  She washed clothes in a washtub, rubbing the dirt from them on a washboard.  She ironed the clothes with a flatiron that she heated on her wood burning kitchen stove.  I can't even imagine how many loaves of bread she had to make each week for a family of eleven people, and sometimes twelve, when my great-grandfather or one of her brothers was staying with them, as they did frequently.  The girls worked in the garden.  They picked wild raspberries and blueberries in the summer, along with whatever other wild fruits could be found.  They helped with the cooking and the cleaning and the canning of vegetables from the garden and the preserving of fruit and the making of jam and jelly and pickles.  They churned cream to make butter and gathered eggs from the chickens.  My Dad's oldest sister once remarked that she didn't have a childhood, because she was taking care of her baby brothers and sisters while she was growing up.  That was no easy task in itself, for there were two sets of twins in that family.

When the boys were young men, it was in the middle of the Depression.  Money was scarce.  So some of them headed west to the Dakotas and Montana to work.  Dad and his brother Kenneth got jobs picking potatoes in Montana.  Dad told me that there was a machine that was pulled by a team of horses or mules.  That machine dug the potatoes out of the ground and deposited them on the surface.  He and Kenneth went behind, bent over and picked up the potatoes and tossed them into a large wagon.  It was a backbreaking job, but it provided money for the family.  Dad and some of his brothers rode a train to the Dakotas to work on wheat thrashing crews.  Riding in a passenger car was out of the question as there was no money for tickets, so they rode in empty boxcars.  There were huge machines that did the same job that a combine does today, but there was a lot more physical work involved.

In the winter the boys would work in the woods.  They felled trees and loaded them on horse drawn wagons or sleds to be taken to the sawmill where they were cut into lumber.  Dad was working in one of these lumberjack camps when he hurt one of his arms.  The boss was going to send him home, but Dad convinced him that he could cook, so they kept him on.  He said that he had to learn how to cook in a real big hurry, as a room full of hungry lumberjacks could get mean really fast!  He must have figured it out because he was one of the best cooks I knew, next to Mother.

Three of the girls became teachers to earn money for the family.  At that time a college education wasn't necessary.  All they needed was a teaching certificate.  Each of them taught in country schools until they married.

Even though all of Dad's family worked hard, they still had time for fun.  In the summer they would go swimming in Twin lake close to their home.  There was a small river that ran about a mile from the house, and they would go fishing.  They would go to barn dances and house parties.  My grandfather had a good singing voice and he could play the piano, so he entertained his family in that way from time to time.  In the winter they would go sledding on the hill in the pasture across the driveway from the house.  They visited relatives and relatives came to visit them.  There was no television and I think it was after most of the kids had left home before they had a radio.

My Dad and all of his siblings had wonderful senses of humor.  Dad has told lots of stories about the pranks they would play, and I will tell you about those later.

My Dad had a work ethic second to none.  He worked in a filling station in Blackduck after he married Mom.  He drove a gas truck, delivering gas or fuel oil to farms in the area.  He drove a school bus for a time.  He and Mom moved to St. Paul and stayed with my Grandma Paul when it became clear that Dad just couldn't make a living in the North.  He worked for a time in a factory that made refrigerators and then found the job as a grain sampler in Willmar, where he worked until he retired.  Even when he took on extra work in order to take care of Mom when she needed so much medical care, I never once heard him complain.

There was a day that Dad came to see me while I still lived on the Eddy farm.  I was hot and sweaty and dirty from working cleaning the hog barn.  And I was roundly complaining about being so dirty.  He just looked at me and said, "There is no shame in being dirty from hard work.  The only shame is for being dirty from laziness."  Another time when I had a job that I really disliked, he told me that even if I was digging a ditch, I should dig the best ditch that I possibly could.  And that I should not do it to please a boss, but I should do it for the satisfaction of a job well done.

I think that pretty much sums up my Dad.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Seamstress Extraordinaire

My Mother had a talent for sewing.  I am not sure where she learned to sew, for she never said, but I suspect that it might have been from her mother, although I have never heard it mentioned that Grandma sewed.  I just assume so, because at that time girls were taught homemaking skills.  Most folks, particularly those who lived on farms or in small towns where clothing stores were scarce, made most everything they wore.  This was in the Great Depression years and for many, there just wasn't money to spend on clothing.  It was much more economical to buy or barter for fabric and sew what one needed.

Mom didn't make quilts, but turned her talent to sewing clothing.  I don't know what sewing machine she might have had in the early years of her marriage to Dad, but in the mid 1950's while we were living on the farm, I remember that Dad bought Mother a new Singer Sewing Machine.  That was an event in our household.  The sewing machine came in a wooden cabinet.  The lid opened up and the machine was lifted up into place.  The lid folded out so that it provided work space for holding fabric while it was being sewn.  I still have that machine, but during the years it sat in storage, it has rusted some.  I sure would like to get it refurbished, as it worked better than any machine I have had since.

Mother and I were once looking at old photos.  She pointed to this one and told me that she had taken an old coat of hers, ripped the seams apart and used the fabric to make me this little coat and bonnet.  She remembered that it was sort of an aqua blue.

She sewed these little dresses for me as well.

I don't recall having any store bought outer clothing until I was well into high school.  Each summer Mother would buy fabric and patterns on sale and sew my school clothes.  One year when money was really scarce, Dad bought flour in cloth sacks that were printed fabric.  Mom washed the flour sacks and made skirts and blouses for me to wear to school.  At that time schools had a dress code and skirts were required for girls.  Below are some photos of the dresses she made for my sister and me.

After we moved to the farm, my family became involved in 4-H.  Mom had taught me to sew, and she must have had the patience of Job to do it, as I would much rather have been out climbing trees or catching frogs or digging worms for fishing than sitting inside sewing.  But teach me, she did.  My 4-H projects each year were always sewing and gardening.  One of the requirements for the sewing project was to make an outfit, and then there was a "fashion show" where 4-H members modeled their creations.  Mom didn't sew a single stitch in the skirt and blouse that I made one year, even when I whined and cried that I couldn't do it right.  She watched me sew, told me just what to do and made me rip out seams and sew them again when I didn't listen.  That outfit won a blue ribbon at the fashion show and went on to win another at the State Fair.  I gave the ribbons to Mom because I figured that she had earned them much more than I had!

This is a photo of Mom wearing one of the dresses she sewed for herself and Dad wearing a shirt she made for him.

I have always been in awe of Mom's sewing skills.  What seemed to be easy for her were the things that I struggled to do.  I will always be grateful to Mom for having the patience to teach me a skill that I learned to love.  I have spent many happy hours at a sewing machine, and will probably continue to do so until I can't any more.  Thank you, Mom.

Monday, July 15, 2013


There is a blog that I found recently that is written by a man who writes well on a variety of topics that I find interesting.  He has been kind enough to comment on this blog, particularly expressing his good wishes after the fire in my building.  He is going through a difficult time right now, as his mother is deteriorating in both physical and mental health and decisions have to be made.  He remarked that he has come to the realization that he has only memories left.

This caused me to think about my Dad.  I think of him often.  The last time I saw him, he was near death and didn't know who I was until I told him, nor did he recognize his grandson who was with me.  That memory is not what I want to keep in my mind and heart, for at that time he bore little resemblance to the man who raised me.

The man I choose to remember is the one who came home with a new lawn mower and had me convinced that it was my birthday present that year, before giving me the softball glove that I had been hounding him to get for me.

This same man who, when I took the family car for a drive at age 16 and ran it out of oil, frying the engine, didn't get angry and yell, but patiently explained the inner workings of engines and that checking the oil was a good thing and those red lights had meaning that I needed to pay attention to.  He then made sure that I knew how to check all the fluids in a car and how to change a tire, skills that have helped me since.

This same man instilled in me the love of gardening.  He worked along side me, tilling and planting and weeding.  He sat with me in the middle of the tomato patch, salt shaker in hand and with me, ate tomatoes until we could eat no more.  He showed me the fun of trying new things, and each year that we had a garden, we tried some new plant that we had not grown before, just for the fun of seeing what would happen.

This same man took me fishing, renting a boat for the day and using the old, temperamental motor that he kept in the trunk of his car all summer long.  He showed me how to choose tackle, how to bait a hook and taught me the patience needed to catch fish.  And in the process, he showed me the beauty of nature around me.

This same man took me back of the grove of trees at our home in the country and into the field, set up targets and showed me how to use a gun.  He laughed at me when his old shotgun that I insisted I wanted to try set me back on my butt and he praised me when I hit the target.  Although I don't hunt, he showed me how to safely carry a gun, how to make sure there was nothing beyond a target that a bullet would damage and to make sure I knew exactly what I was aiming at before I fired.  He taught me how to cut up a deer and I have used that skill many times over the years, for sometimes, venison was all that we had to eat for meat.

This same man kissed me goodbye every morning before he left for work, for the entire time I lived under his roof.  And when I no longer lived close to him and communicated by telephone, he never failed to end a conversation by saying, "I sure love you, Sis."

This same man worked sometimes three jobs at once to care for my mother who was so badly crippled with arthritis.  And the same man who cared for her at home for many years after his retirement until she required more specialized care than he could give.  When I once asked him how he could do this for all those years, he replied, "I love your mother."  That was the only reason necessary for him.

This is the man I remember, much more than the frail one in the nursing home.  I think I may have to take the time to write down more of my memories of him, for myself, for my children and for my grandchildren who didn't have the privilege of knowing him.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Easily Amused

I don't have to watch TV or go to the movies for my entertainment.  My neighborhood has four bars - one next door, one behind my building and two more in the next block.  On any given night, but especially on the weekend, I can sit in my rocking chair next to a window that looks down onto the street below and be entertained.

One of the establishments just recently added one of those rolling bars that is set up like a regular bar with a bartender and bar stools, except it is outdoors and the patrons on the stools sit, drink and pedal like mad as if they were on a bicycle.  I don't know what the name of the contraption is, but it is the silliest looking thing.  It gets even more silly when the patron sitting in the back forgets where he is, slides off his stool and winds up sitting in the middle of the street watching his ride and his drink disappear around the corner.

Not very long ago we had a hard rain that left a big puddle in the middle of the alley that is across from my window.  Folks use that alley to walk from one of the bars in the next block to the bar next door to my building.  As I was sitting in my rocking chair in front of my window enjoying the cool evening breeze, I noticed two men walking my way.  The walking part may be exaggerated.  They were more shuffling along, holding each other up, taking extreme care to avoid the rain puddles, right up to the point where they came to the aforementioned big puddle.  One man went to the right and the other to the left.  Now that each no longer had the other to hang onto for support, both started to weave and side-step and both tried really hard to maintain balance.....until both finally gave up and sat down - in the middle of the puddle.  The last I saw of them, they were happily splashing each other like a couple of kids in a bathtub.

My all time favorite happened a couple of winters ago.  Snow had been falling steadily all day.  I like to watch the street below, with its old-fashioned looking street lights, turn Christmas card pretty with the snow.  A fellow came out of the bar next door, made his way across the street and started to clean the snow off a car.  He was meticulous about it, making sure the headlights and tail lights were clear of snow, getting the ice off of the windshield wipers and making sure that there was no snow on the hood, roof or any of the windows.  It took him a while, as there had been about a foot of snow on the car, and he was having a time for himself, trying not to slip and slide.  He had just finished, having done a really good job of it, when another fellow came along, looked at the first man, then at the car, shook the first man's hand, slapped him on the back, got into the car and drove away.  The fellow who had spent so much time removing snow from the car just stood and looked at the empty parking space for a time, then put his hands in his pockets and slowly walked away.  I wondered if he had forgotten that he had walked downtown and left his car home in his garage.

I have always enjoyed people watching and my location makes it just that much more fun.  I guess I really am easily amused.

Hot and Humid

It is hot here.  Not Texas or Oklahoma hot.  Or desert hot.  But hot for Minnesota.  But then we whine when temps go above 85 degrees.  We are heat wimps.

And my air conditioning doesn't seem to be working all that well, due to the wiring that burned in the fire.  I won't complain, however.  I still have a home and it is a bit cooler in here than outside.

My landlord's insurance people have been here.  One of them ran a finger over the top of my freezer in the kitchen, which I had already washed down, and another checked out the top of my kitchen table.  Did they really think that I would eat my meals on a table covered in gray smoke film for the four days that passed before they arrived?  My living room got the worst of the smoke, and the gray film on the walls and woodwork is thick enough to write my name in, but that was ignored.  Sigh.

They declared my apartment in perfect condition so there will be nobody coming in to do any cleaning.  I had hoped to at least get my carpets done, but it isn't to be.  So I clean in the early mornings and after sundown in the evenings.  I am way too old and too fat to be climbing up and down washing walls during the heat of the day.  Which gives me a really good excuse to take a nap or read or sew or to do something else that is quiet and doesn't expend a lot of energy.  I can live with that!

Monday, July 8, 2013


Fear is a strange thing.  I have found that over the years, I am one of those people who is pretty good in a crisis.  A friend is in a fearful situation and I can find the calming words to help.  A kid comes into the house with blood dripping and I know just what to do.  And I do it.  And when the crisis has passed and the fear is gone, only then will I quietly fall apart.

I have also found that as I get older, my reaction to the fear in a crisis manifests itself in altogether different ways.  Time was that a few tears would dissolve away the fear, but now, my body betrays me.  This was brought home to me this past weekend.  I thought I was just fine, although my apartment building was on fire.  One of the other tenants was in hysterics and another seemed to deal with the fear by becoming angry.  I was calm.  I had escaped the smoke that had threatened to take away my ability to breathe and had survived to see my grandchildren grow up and I would probably achieve my goal of living long enough to be a problem to my children, although some of them might say that I have already attained that goal.  (I once told my youngest daughter that my goal in life was to live long enough to be a problem to my children.  She replied that my work here was done.  I love her sense of humor.)  And then, while I was standing with a police officer, discussing options should I be unable to return to my apartment, my legs began to shake, uncontrollably.  You remember those old Saturday morning cartoons where the hero is afraid and he stands there with his knees knocking?  Yep, I found that it really happens.

I think that my children were a bit fearful as well.  Since the fire, they have been calling often, sometimes a couple of times a day.  Checking up on Mom.  Making sure that I am alright.  The daughter living closest to me brought fans to help remove the smoke smell, as well as my supper so I didn't have to worry about cooking anything.  She asked if I wanted to go home with her, but I declined even though I appreciated the offer.  They have all offered to come and help with the scrubbing and cleaning and I know that if I needed help with that, they would be here.  They have all done things like this for me in the past.

I won't ask for help this time.  They all have kids to care for and jobs to deal with.  I am retired and have all the time in the world.  And I think that the physical work of getting my apartment back to normal is a good way to work through any lingering fear.  My legs no longer shake.  I am calm.  But my body is still reacting by waking me up a couple of times during the past two nights, telling me that I have to get out of bed and check to make sure all is well.  I expect this will go away after a time.  I have learned a lesson about fear.  It enters my being unannounced and unwelcomed.  The trick is to not allow fear to take control.  I  refuse to live a life in fear of what might happen, for that is probably worse than the actual event.  Now if I can just convince my aging body that all is well, I can get back to working at being a problem to my children!

Saturday, July 6, 2013


How quickly a persons  life can change.  One minute I am washing a sink load of dishes and the next I am sitting across the street watching our local firemen fighting the fire in my  building.

I first smelled the smoke.  I didn't think too much about it.  I live in a downtown apartment and all sorts of smells reach my windows from time to time.  But then I could see the smoke pouring out of the vents in my floors, so I ran into my bedroom to call 911 and get dressed.  By the time that was accomplished, the smoke was so thick that I couldn't find my dogs, who were at the other end of my apartment.  I could barely breathe and I had to leave them.  Once outside, a policeman was asking me about the other tenants, as some weren't responding to knocks at their doors.  When all of the people were accounted for, I told them that I'd had to leave without my Yorkies.  Bless them, they went upstairs, found the dogs and brought them down to me.

Even before the smoke had cleared, there were firemen in my apartment looking for my cat, Kizzie.  They looked everywhere, as I have since, and so far she is nowhere to be found.  I don't know if she is really well hidden or if she got out of the building.  All I can do is keep looking.

I am extremely fortunate that my apartment is still usable.  My daughter went to the store, bought box fans and brought them to me.  They are in my windows as I write, trying to get rid of the smoke smell.  I will have to wash everything down, but at least I still have walls to wash.  The poor lady in the apartment where the fire started has nothing.

I have learned a couple of things from this experience.  I don't have a cell phone to keep family phone numbers handy, so I need to write them down and put them, along with my most important papers somewhere near the door of my apartment.  I need to make sure that there is enough cash included to get me through a few days.  I have put the dogs' harnesses on them so if I should ever again have to leave quickly, all I have to do is snap on the leashes and go.  And as soon as I finish washing the smoke from my walls, cupboards, etc., I will get all of my photos onto DVDs and give each of my children a copy.

I thought I was prepared, but it only took one incident like this to point out to me that I had left my home with only my keys and the clothes I was wearing.  I had no phone numbers, no money and no pets.  I will have to do better than that.

P.S.  About midnight, Kizzie the cat turned up.  I have no clue where in the apartment she had been hiding, but she is alive and well with no apparent problems from all of the smoke.  So all of us in my little Home Sweet Home are accounted for and are doing just fine.  Thank you, God.

Friday, July 5, 2013

What has America Become

I recently ran across this letter to the editor.  I don't know the gentleman who wrote it, but in my opinion, he is spot on and expresses much better than I can the thoughts I have had since I stopped looking at the world through rose colored glasses and started paying attention to what is going on around us.

"What has America Become?


Has America become the land of the special interest and home of the double standard?

Lets see:  if we lie to the Congress, it's a felony and if the congress lies to us its just politics;  if we dislike a black person, we're racist and if a black dislikes whites, it's their 1st Amendment right;  the government spends millions to rehabilitate criminals and they do almost nothing for the victims;  in public schools you can teach that homosexuality is OK, but you better not use the word of God in the process;  you can kill an unborn child, but its wrong to execute a mass murderer;  we don't burn books in America, we now rewrite them;  we got rid of the communist and socialist threat by renaming them progressives;  we are unable close our border with Mexico but have no problem protecting the 38th parallel in Korea;  if you protest against President Obama's policies you're a terrorist, but if you burned an American flag or George Bush in effigy it was your 1st Amendment right.

You can have pornography on TV or the internet, but you better not put a nativity scene in a public park during Christmas;  we have eliminated all criminals in America, they are now called sick people;  we can use a human fetus for medical research, but its wrong to use an animal.

We take money from those who work hard for it and give it to those who don't want to work;  we all support the Constitution, but only when it supports our political ideology;  we still have freedom of speech, but only if we are being politically correct;  parenting has been replaced with Ritalin and video games;  the land of opportunity is now the land of hand outs;  the similarity between Hurricane Katrina and the gulf oil spill is that neither president did anything to help.

And how do we handle a major crisis today?  The government appoints a committee to determine who's at fault, then threatens them, passes a law, raises our taxes and tells us the problem is solved so they can get back to their reelection campaign.

What has happened to the land of the free and home of the brave?

--Ken Huber
  Tawas City"

I'm not sure just when this was written, but in light of the many government scandals of late, I'm thinking that the rabbit hole into which we are falling has been dug much deeper recently.  God help us all.