Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Resolutions


It has been many years since I've done this: I'm making some New Year's Resolutions:
1) I will blog every day possible.
2) I will read one non-fiction book for every five fiction books I read.
3) I will add at least a half hour of stretching and/or yoga to my daily excercise routine.
4) I will really, really try to lose ten pounds by the end of May and another ten by the end of October.
5) I will drink my first cup of morning coffee on the patio when weather permits.
6) I will enjoy a beverage on the deck each afternoon weather permitting.
7) I will attempt container gardening.
8) I will do something special with Bud to mark our Silver Anniversary.
9) I will get back into the habit of using my C-Pap.
10)I will sort through the boxes in the garage.
11) I will ride my new bike more than I did last year.

That seems like enough for someone who hasn't resolved for a long time. After yesterday's marathon, I should probably add "not watch so much HGTV", but I don't want to break one before January 2nd!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

"Getting Back Up On The Horse"


Hi, Fans of the "Chances R..." blog. My name is Les Lynam... you might know me as the younger brother, or little brother, or (my favorite) the baby whose head got whacked against the door when a ten year old Ramona was babysitting (if you've been faithful in reading these blogs).

Anyway, since my sister might be having a writer's block moment, I thought I'd offer to do a guest blog.

Family who read this blog already know of my recent adventure. For those who don't, I've just experienced my first ever auto accident. Forty-some years of driving without even a minor fender bender, and then I hit the jackpot. I was smacked nearly head-on at highway speeds by a pickup towing a vehicle that came across a grass median. I'm sure he was already breaking, but he definitely had the mass/weight advantage even if I had the greater forward motion.

It was rather odd. I was in the left lane looking to get back into the right line when my peripheral vision detected motion to my left. I remember thinking, "that's not right", and then it was a series of wham, crunch, crash, wham, crumple crumple, wham (there may have been a few more whams and the crumples might have been in a slightly different order, but I hope you get the idea). The odd part was that the physical impact seemed very much like my memory of county fair bumper cars. Very jarring, and momentarily disorienting, but not what I would have assumed a high speed crash to be like. I then followed that with another first. My first ride in an ambulance. These are two "firsts" that I would have been happy to never experienced, but I guess any experience that one can walk away from must be some kind of learning experience. (Isn't there some quote like, "that which does not kill you can only make you stronger"?) To shorten the story, after several x-rays and CT scans they declared me "very lucky" and said my neck and bones were all normal. Because of the battering and bruising, I didn't feel too normal, but who am I to argue with a Doctor?

So I'm on the road to recovery, still moving very slowly and I have a few muscle spasms that remind me of where the seat belt and shoulder harness restrained me. (BTW, if anyone reading this still doesn't buckle up every time you get into a car, then I proclaim you a fool).

I could go on about mundane recovery and even the adventure of shopping for a new car, but if you recall, the title of this entry had a horse in it. Not a literal horse, of course, but the old adage of getting back up on the horse that just threw you. One couldn't be a decent cowboy in the 19th Century if he didn't know how to to dust himself off when thrown from a horse, and get right back in the saddle. There is one element of that eluding to showing the horse who's boss, but the other element is learning to not let a setback defeat you. It has to be scary to be thrown from a horse, not to mention painful. I was never thrown, but did have a horse lay down and roll over me... but since I never got shook loose from the saddle, I guess I didn't have to face getting back up on the horse.

When I recently talked with my brother (that would be the fellow mentioned here in an earlier blog that is never going to take Ramona to a show again), he warned me that I'd be a little "goosie"when driving for awhile, and that I'd see motion off to the side and wince. He was right. What he failed to tell me was that there would be ten times as many pickups on the road now, and that they would all sneer at me as they passed. Not only are there ten times more pickups on the road now, it seems there is a much higher frequency of pickups pulling something or other. So the first long trip I took out on the road was fraught with little butterflies in my tummy whenever one of those pickups appeared.

I know that there aren't really more pickups on the road now, it's just that there was no reason to notice them before. They'd never harmed me before, so they were just part of traffic. Now, at least temporarily, they are evil emissaries of the devil who shout at me each time I meet one, "we'll get you next time, my pretty, and your little dog, too". (OK, yes, I recently moved to Kansas, but NO, I don't wear ruby slippers... or have a little dog).

Each trip "back up on the horse" has been a little easier, but I have to wonder how long it will be before I don't think about the time I was thrown.

Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed the guest blog... and perhaps we will soon get back to Ramona's tales that I (and I believe others) have come to enjoy each day.

Bye for now,

The Baby Brother

Les sent the above guest blog to me the 18th - 10 days after his accident. I did not know how to move it from my e-mail to my blog until he helped me with it tonight. Likewise the pictures of his demolished car were on Facebook for 10 days before I saw them. But once I saw them I realized how lucky I am to still have my baby brother. What an autumn it has been for him!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Ghosts of Christmas Past

"It's the most wonderful time of the year..." That's what the song says. For me, it is the worst time of the year. The only thing good about the time is the winter solstice which means the days will once again become longer - more daylight.
I do not know why I dislike xmas so much. Perhaps if I visit the ghosts of xmas past, I will discover the reason:
As a child I looked forward to xmas to see what Santa had left under the tree. I don't remember any specific xmas as being the most memorable. Our tree was always one we had cut out of the pasture or along the road. Stockings always held an apple an orange some nuts and a bit of candy.
Christmas dinner at Grandpa & Grandma Ridnour's were the most fun. By the time we all packed into their little house there were 24 of us - 8 adults and 16 kids. We drew names for the gift exchange plus the gift from the grandparents. One year Grandma sent away for pencils with our names printed on them. Another time we got Lifesaver Books - they looked like a book on the outside, when opened each side held five rolls of lifesaver candy. That was something I had always wanted.
I don't even remember any special christmases with my own children. Once again it seems like it was more fun when we got together at Mom & Dad's with my siblings and their families. We drew names for several years then finally settled on playing "the game". Each one brought a wrapped gift, numbers were drawn, #1 went first, chose and opened a gift. #2 could choose a gift or steal from #1 and so on. Really good gifts could be stolen up to 3 times. Some years it made for a lot of fun. Some years it made for "cheating" to get a certain gift which resulted in bad feelings for another year.
One year which was special was the one when my ex-daughter-in-law allowed my oldest grandson to come for xmas. We hadn't seen Brock for six or seven years. I didn't tell his Dad he was going to be there. The look on Doug's face was all the present I needed. It was a good day.
Maybe the reason I dislike the season has to do with unmet expectations. I was never in a position financially to give my kids a lot for xmas. That may not have hurt them, but it hurt me.
Have I hardened my heart against disappointment for so long that I can't let myself enjoy xmas?
It does not seem the ghosts of christmas past hold the answer.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Grandma's Feather Bed

"The best darn thing about Grandma's house was her great big feather bed. We didn't get much sleep but we had a lot of fun on Grandma's feather bed." John Denver
One of our presents to ourselves arrived yesterday just in time for the start of winter. I had been thinking of getting a down comforter for several years but put off purchasing one because of the cost. This year when the weather turned cold and I added another blanket, it seemed like I was achier upon arising. Could it be the weight of the covers? Then Kohls made me an offer I couldn't refuse - they marked their comforters half off then gave me a 30% off coupon and free shipping. (Plus $20 Kohl's Cash on a future purchase.) Other than the times we have stayed at hotels, I hadn't slept on or under a feather bed since childhood. Ah-h-h-h.
The old farmhouse I grew up in did not have central heat until after I was grown and gone. Even then, only the downstairs rooms had heat ducts run to them. The two upstairs bedrooms still had their original registers; their only heat what rose up the stairway and through the small grills in the floors.
As a kid, you wanted the west room in the winter and the east room in the summer. The west room register was directly above the old oil burner stove. We would leave the warmth of bed and sprint over to stand on the register to dress for school. In summer the west room was stifling from the heat of the sun and no breeze. The east room was shaded plus had windows on the south and east sides.
The feather beds came out after fall cleaning was done. They went on top of the mattress. We slept in the feather ticks rather than having them over us. Over us we had umpteen blankets. Those old farmhouses weren't insulated and the windows didn't fit very tight. You could actually feel cold drafts wafting through.
I don't remember when nor why we quit using the feather beds. I believe the last of them was used to make pillows. I might complain about the heating bills in winter and the cooling bills in summer, but I am grateful for central heat and air conditioning. And after only one night, I already love the lightness and warmth of our new down comforter.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Old Neighborhood

Osil Steadman Mitchell's funeral is today, December 16, 2009, the sixth anniversary of Mom's death. Osil and Mom were neighbors east of Guss when they were teens. The Ridnour's lived in a big house on the west side of the road. (Where Walter Johnson's later live(d) for many years.) Steadman's lived south about 3/4's of a mile. North of Ridnour's on the east side of the road was the farm of Lee and Ruth Mitchell. They had two boys, Alvin and Paul. Mom's sister, Lois, married Alvin and Osil married Paul. Eventually Osil's brother, Byron, moved to the same neighborhood as my parents. (Byron & son, Bryan farmed Mom's land after Dad died.) Paul and Osil moved to Iveyville half a mile from where Joe & Delphia Ridnour had moved to in the 40's.

Further North on the west side of the road was where Firkins lived. One of their girls, Verlene, and Mom were lifelong friends. I took Mom and Aunt Lois to Sharpsburg for Verlene's 80th birthday celebration ten years ago.

George and Bessie Lynam and their 12 yr old son, Louis, and 4 yr old daughter, Leona, moved to the Ralph Harvey farm in 1929. That was about four or five miles NW of the Ridnour's. Louis attended Spaulding School 3/4's mile west of the Lynam farm. Ruth went to Mt. Pleasant school a mile north and a mile east of the Ridnour farm. The Ridnour's and Lynam's had lived in close proximity in Adams County. I'm sure they knew each other.

One of Dad's lifelong friends from his neighborhood was Art Kapple. They ended up living in the same neighborhood after their marriages in Jasper Twp. back in Adams Co. Art's brother, Roy, was also a friend and neighbor for awhile, moving to Council Bluffs in the early 50's.

One of the entertainments of my parent's teen years was putting on plays at the school houses on the weekends. Or they might have a visiting speaker. That would draw attendance from other school districts as well as their own. That might be where Mom & Dad met. Or maybe they met at one of the many "house parties" in the neighborhood. A family would host an evening of card playing and or music and dancing.

However they met, Ruth had at least two dates with Alvin Mitchell before she started dating Louis. From her diary of those years, it seems that once she and Louis started dating, that was it for both of them.

(You can see I did not finish this post when I started it. It wasn't going where I wanted it to go. I'm still not happy with it. But I will go ahead and publish and move on. I did not attend Osil's funeral, but noticed they used a picture of her from her younger years on the funeral program as we did on Mom's.)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

"What You Don't Know.......

Can't Hurt You." That was one of my sweet Mama's sayings. I'm trying and failing to remember an instance when she used it.
I can think of times when that is true, though - the worst being when you hear someone you love has died. One minute your world is hunky-dory; the next it is spinning out of control.
I had a double whammy when Dad died. I wasn't home when Mom called with the news. Doug talked to her then called me. When he said Mom had called and that Grandpa had died. I assumed he misunderstood. Dad's Mother, my Grandma, had been in ill health and expected to die. I just thought he heard wrong. I waited awhile before calling my Mom back - thinking about my Grandma Lynam and her long life and how I would miss her.
Finally I called Mom, told her the kids had called me to let me know, asked her how Dad was taking the death of his Mother. "Ramona. It was your Dad that died." Suddenly what I knew hurt very much.
I think about famous people - how their lives are scrutinized every minute; how the paparazzi hounds them looking for that perfect shot worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to a tabloid - all the better if the photo can be misconstrued and used to make it look like the subject is involved in something sleazy. I would not want to be famous.
Or the politicians who the minute they announce they are running for an office are vetted by the dirt diggers. (Nor would I run for office.) Or the performers who are trashed by the media if they sing one wrong note or forget a line. No wonder so many of them say, "I don't read the reviews."
Mom had another saying about the only ones who can really hurt you are the ones you care about. And isn't that true? It can even be done thoughtlessly; innocently. Early in my relationship with my new sister-in-law, Ruthie, she asked if I had seen something funny on the Johhny Carson show. My reply was something like, "No, I never watch that crap, fool, idiot" --insert your own epithet.
I didn't know it until years later but I had hurt her very much. By criticizing something she enjoyed, I had inadvertently criticized her intelligence in choosing what to watch. She got even though in the same way - innocently - when she made some remark about how OLD one of the guys I dated was. I think she simply said he was the same age as my Mother. I took it wrong; got so mad at her I was heading for my car; probably would never have talked to her again. Bless her for grabbing my arm, actually restraining me, and saying, "You're not leaving! We are going to talk this out."
It used to be easy not to be hurt by things we didn't know, we never heard them. Now, in this instant communication age we live in, it is almost impossible to not know everything - from the local and national news to what appears on Facebook or is Tweeted or Blogged. One person's unintentionally hurtful remarks can cause someone else pain.
From the time I was little and teased by the other kids my way of dealing has been to withdraw back into my comfortable shell. I have always appreciated my own company. Only caring about others do I get hurt.
There were times in my life when I felt as though I was smarter than my Mom. I had more education. I had been out there in the world where reality occurred. Deep down I always knew though that by far she was the wisest.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

"It's A Wonder, Joe"

My grandpa Joe Ridnour died when I was 16, so Bud never knew him. Grandma Delphia lived into her 90's, so Bud did know her. He sometimes refers to her as "Delphia the Destroyer". That's when he is comparing me to her. Grandma did have a reputation for being mean and outspoken.
One of the things I didn't like about staying with Grandpa & Grandma during the summer when I was a kid was the way they would bicker back and forth. One day as we drove down their lane on the way to town, Grandma looked over into the pasture. "Joe, that windmill is a wonder." I imagine Grandpa thought, "Now what?" "What do you mean it's a wonder?" he asked her. "Well, it is. It's a wonder." This went on back and forth for awhile each one getting a little more petty. He thought she was belittling his windmill. Finally after a few miles Grandma said, "It's a Wonder, Joe. That's the brand name on the rudder".
This is one of the Joe & Delphia stories I've related to Bud. Now sometimes when he and I get into a peevish argument, he will say to me, "It's a wonder." That's usually all it takes for me to realize I'm acting like my Grandma Delphia. Often I'll say, "Yes, Joe" and our bickering will cease.
Wonder windmills were first manufactured in 1912 by the Elgin Wind Power and Pump Co. "It's a wonder that you don't have to climb up and grease it every week," was one of it's advertising quotes. The Wonder was the first successful widely distributed of the self-oiling windmills.
Windmills were essential to farmers and ranchers before electricity was available. The windmill business was extremely competitive between 1890 and 1920. There was a 'windmill war' between three companies. One of those companies was Aermotor. Of the nearly 100 different companies, it is the brand I remember seeing the most.
Grandpa & Grandma Ridnour had lived on their farm more than ten years at the time of their Wonder Windmill exchange. I can't believe they hadn't noticed the brand of their windmill before that day. I think they just liked to bicker; kind'a like Bud and I.

Monday, December 7, 2009

"A Date Which Will Live In Infamy"


Sixty-eight years have passed since the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the United States entrance into WWII. My Dad did not serve in that war. I think the only time I asked why I was told he was deferred because of being in a necessary occupation (farming). I'm sure he could have enlisted. I'm glad he didn't.
A few years ago my older brother and I were looking at some old photos and talking about some of Dad's cousins who were in WWII. The pictures were of young men in Army uniforms. Ron said, "Who was the one in the Navy? The one Grandma Lynam always kept an 8x10 picture of on her dresser"? It took us awhile to figure out it was Harley Dean Figgins - the youngest son of Grandma's sister, Agnes.
Aunt Agnes (they called her Babe because she was the baby of the family), died young in 1935. We never knew her. We didn't remember Harley, though we both knew his brother, Ronald. It wasn't hard to figure out he must not have come home from the war, but we did not know any details.
A while after that, Bud and I watched a documentary on the Discovery Channel about the USS Indianapolis and the tragedy surrounding its sinking by a Japanese submarine July 30, 1945. The ship sank in less than 15 minutes, taking approximately 300 of the 1,196 lives aboard down with it. The remaining nearly 900 men faced exposure, dehydration and shark attacks as they waited for assistance floating in the water.
The real tragedy occurred when a series of errors left the knowledge of the sinking unreported. All but about 300 of the sailers died during the four days afterwards. It was only when pilots on a routine patrol flight August 2nd spotted the survivors floating in the water that help was dispatched.
I was putting flowers on my grandparents' graves at the Quincy cemetery Memorial Day weekend after I had watched the documentary. I remembered the conversation my brother and I had about Harley and decided to walk over to where his parents were buried to see if he was buried there, too. That was when I learned that no, he isn't buried there. But there is a stone and a bronze plaque with his name and birth and death years. And the fact that he served aboard the USS Indianapolis.
I doubt I will ever know if he was one of the lucky ones who went down with the ship or one of the ones eaten by sharks as he awaited saving by help that did not come in time. It is another thing I think about during those wee hours of the morning when I can't go back to sleep.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Books, Books, Books, Etc.


Great-grandson, Rodney, is finally going home today. I am so happy for him and his mama. He was born Nov. 15, seemingly healthy at 7 1/2 lbs. Within two days he went into the NICU with suspected Hirschsprung's Disease.
That was confirmed. It was a matter of waiting until surgery could be performed. Last Wednesday the Dr. performed "pull through" surgery. Katrina & Brad were told if all went well - if he started eating and pooping on his own - he could go home in 7 to 10 days. Little wonder man; it's day 5. Can't wait to see you in person, Rodney.
Yesterday I mentioned that I had never gone to college except for a few courses at the community colleges. I think I've done o.k. without a college education, but I'll always wonder what I could have been/done with one. Many times I have been embarrassed about admitting to no degree. It always made me feel "less than".
The worst of those times was probably when I belonged to PRSA (Public Relations Society of America) and we had joint meetings with PRSSA members. (Extra S for Student) Invariably two or three students would ask my alma mater. Cringe.
I was signed up to go to college after h.s. graduation. In July I became affianced to Doug's dad. Kenny did not want me to go to college. He was afraid I would meet someone else and break up with him. He was probably right - not because I met someone else - but because my eyes would have been opened to a wider world.
I cancelled my plans for college, but not because of Kenny. I was signed up for a secretarial course. I had gotten a full time bookkeeping/receptionist/secretary job right out of highschool. I reasoned it was silly to spend money to go to college to learn to do what I was already earning money to do. Goodbye college.
Those were the etc's. Now, the books, books, books. I read alot. It is what I always said I'd do when I retired. Mostly I read fiction - but well-written, entertaining fiction. I used to like those period romances. The ones set in the 1700-1800's. I hadn't read any for a long time until this week. One of my reading weaknesses is feeling as though I have to finish a book just because I start it. I kept reading the 'bodice ripper' (isn't that what they're called?) even though it was the same drivel all the way through. I really dislike myself for wasting the time to read it to the end.
Now I'm on to Kathleen O'Neal Gear's "Thin Moon And Cold Mist" about a woman who fought in the Civil War and then moved west to Colorado to work a gold mine claim on her own. A novel, yes, but a well-researched one based on historically accurate stories of women who lived in the American West before 1880.
I've read most of the "People of the ...." novels written by O'Neal and her husband Michael Gear. They are always entertaining and educational. I've just begun this book. Already I feel better.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Gamma Delta Phi?

You know how when you wake up in the middle of the night and you can't go back to sleep your mind wanders all over the place?
Sometime between 2 and 3:30 this morning I thought about this Gamma Delta Phi (if I'm reading my Greek letters correctly) necklace. When I'm dead and the kids are going through my jewelry boxes, won't they wonder about this necklace? They know I never went to college, except for some courses at three Iowa area community colleges. (Kirkwood, DMACC and SWCC)
Well kiddies, the necklace is from a sale I attended in Brooks many years ago. The possessions being auctioned that day belonged to a former school teacher. I don't know where she went to college, but I can't find anything on the net about Gamma Delta Phi. Delta Gamma Phi, yes, so maybe I am reading the symbols incorrectly.
The closest I got to any society was being inducted into the National Honor Society as a senior at CHS. The Library pin and the Quill and Scroll are also mine.
Kari & Preston's Dad did join a Greek society when he got his Master's at Northeast Missouri State in Kirksville. I don't remember which one or if he had a pin. Maybe one of them has it now if he did have one.
Do you ever wonder what will happen to all your stuff when you're gone? Not that it will matter to you. Maybe instead of leaving things to be divided and perhaps squabbled over, we should take them out and bury them somewhere. Let someone a hundred years from now dig them up and wonder about why they were buried there and who they belonged to. I love a mystery.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Charybdis and Scylla


Daughter Kari's car turned over 100,000 miles on her way to work this morning. She Tweeted about it and posted the proof on Twitpic, which involved the following exchange via Twitter:
Me to her: "Congrats. 11,000 more miles and you catch up with Scilla." (The name of my little Ford Escort Wagon.)
Kari to Lynamri: "PLEASE remind me to name my next car Charybdis. (Hee hee -- CARybdis)"
Naturally I had no idea who/what Charybdis is/was. Thank goodness for Google and Wiki. After reading about Charybdis and Scylla, I caught on. (Scilla (my car) is so named because her previous owner was a Priscilla plus I like the flowers. Not because I misspelled Scylla.)
Kari always did love her myths. When she was in grade school at Corning, she joined the 4-H club a couple of her friends belonged to. At one of the first meetings, the leader asked Kari to present a report at the next meeting "on anything you are interested in".
Kari wrote up a comprehensive report on some of her favourite mythological characters. I suggested to her that I didn't think that was what her 4-H leader had in mind. That perhaps she should do a report on cooking or sewing or her pet. "No, Mom, she said I could do it on ANYTHING I was interested in."
Kari presented her report at the next meeting. It was way over the heads of the other members. I've forgotten just what the leader said to Kari, but my daughter decided 4-H wasn't the club for her.
Having misunderstandings over verbal communications is an everyday occurance, I'm sure. I have made an arrangement with the daughter of my former next door neighbor to use her carport this winter unless the property gets sold. (We can't park on the street due to snow removal.) Rather than send the nominal monthly rent each month, she said to figure it from when I start using the carport until when I'm done and just send one check.
I'm not planning on parking in the carport until we have our first plowable snow. So, if we get this forecasted snow and I start parking there the 6th, I'm figuring on using the carport Dec 6-Jan 6 -- Jan 6-Feb 6 -- Feb 6-Mar 6. Hopefully by then the snow will be over, if not, then til Apr 6. Three, possibly four months.
Bud thinks of the rent being on a calendar month basis, so, assuming it will snow sometime in December I should already be parking there since I am going to be paying for the month anyway.
Isn't it interesting? I have no idea whether Deb thinks as I do or more as Bud does. It isn't a big deal either way. Just another example of errors due to communication. No wonder we have courts jammed with lawsuits. And wars.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

From Massage Parlor to Massage Therapy


Remember when "having a massage" made you think of dirty old men visiting massage parlors? (If not, you're too young.)
When I worked as an information specialist for the engineering firm doing the SE Beltway study (now Hwy 5 By-pass) for IDOT years ago in Des Moines, my office was in a building where in front there was a travel agency and in back a massage parlor.
My office was next to the massage parlor. It was not unusual to see scantily clad young women in the hallway. The back door of the building led to the massage parlor door. Men came and went all day long. One day I saw a man from my hometown of Corning going into the massage parlor. (He didn't see me.)
What a long way we have come from those days. Now when you see massage advertised it is for legitimate massage therapy. I had my first massage in the late '80's in West Des Moines. It was wonderful. The therapist (Judy?) had offered some special rates to help get established and build her clientele. The room was dim, new age music played in the background and a scented candle burned. Relaxation was practically guaranteed.
Unfortunately, affording regular massages was not part of my world at that time. Not until I moved back home in the mid '90's was that possible. One of the hair salons in Corning began offering massages. A young woman originally from Corning had trained and worked in Kansas City and decided to move back. Stephanie is a wonderful person. I don't think she would mind if I describe her as an Amazon. She is six feet tall, muscular and gorgeous. Her theory of massage was that if it didn't hurt a bit, it wasn't effective. She was my therapist until a pickup vs. gravel truck accident smashed her left arm. She tried to go back to MT after her arm healed, but was unable to.
The young woman who took her place at the salon was her antithesis - petite, quiet, (but also gorgeous), [and the daughter of one of my cousins]. At first the differences in massage style seemed too great. I did without for a while. Neeley left the salon and opened her own business 20 miles away in her hometown of Massena. Eventually I began making the journey north. I became a regular. We became friends as well as client/provider and relatives.
After moving to Creston, the commute for a massage got a bit further. I tried one therapist in town but she didn't work out. A new combo chiropractic/massage therapy clinic opened - a husband-wife team. The wife joined the book club I belong to. I decided to try a massage at their clinic expecting a masseuse. I think I masked my surprise well when it turned out I was going to have a massage with a masseur.
Gabe is wonderful. I no longer have to drive 70 miles round trip for a massage. My only problem now is telling Neeley. I can't just stop going to her with no explanation. I know she will understand. But I will miss her and keeping up with what is going on in her life. Perhaps there will be a way to have a masseuse and a masseur. I wish I were rich.
(P.S. I just realized I attended both Stephanie's & Neeley's wedding showers and weddings. That is how much a part of my life they became.)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Chop Wood, Carry Water

"Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.
After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water."
--Wu Li
At the Y this morning George Washington was chopping down a cherry tree. OK, it was Mike Richardson chopping down the apple tree at the front entrance of the Y. The pieces were going into the back of his pickup which made me wonder if he was going to perhaps burn them in his fireplace. (If he has one.)
Which is what led me to remembering when I used to burn wood. Apple wood was said to be one of the most fragrant woods to burn. I didn't come across too many apple trees needing to be cut down, but if I did get any I saved it for 'special' occasions.
I still remember how thrilled I was the first fall after we moved back home in '78. I purchased an old pickup truck and a new chain saw and wood burning stove. Doug was still living at home then and helped me cut some wood. Then a neighbor gave a friend and me permission to cut some dead trees in his timber. My co-cutter swore by Red Elm as the best burning wood. I had never heard of Red Elm - Elm, yes; Red Elm, no. (And I thought I knew my trees!) A large dead elm gave us both plenty of wood.
Burning wood helped cut down the cost of heating our big old farm house with fuel oil. It also gave me a great sense of being self-sufficient. I wanted to be more attune with nature by raising my own food and braving the elements to obtain a source of heat. For me, cutting and hauling the wood was the easy part - splitting it was something else. Even with wedges and a large maul, it was hard to do. I longed for a log splitting machine but never got one.

I was also searching for a spiritual connection which is what "Chop Wood, Carry Water" is about. (Subtitled: "A Guide To Finding Spiritual Fulfillment in Everyday Life") While the book suggests we find joy and honour in the everyday chores of life - washing dishes, cooking, cleaning as well as chopping wood - I always found more of a spiritual connection while in the woods. True, the noise of the chain saws was distracting. When they fell silent, so did the woods. Sitting on a log, drinking hot coffee, soaking in the silence, worshiping the trees, filled me with an all encompassing reverence.
When Grandma Ridnour was in her 90's, she wanted a small wood burning stove like the one she once had put back in her kitchen. Mom kept talking her out of it. She was afraid Grandma might set the house on fire. Grandma said she wanted it so she could get warm enough - nothing like wood heat to warm a person. I wonder if she wanted it to remind her of when she was able to chop wood and carry water.
I wonder if that is why I am feeling nostalgic about burning wood and wishing I was headed to the timber lay in a winter's supply?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Miss Manners


Growing up on a farm was a wonderful childhood. The fact that our closest shopping area was a small town was also a plus. Once we were old enough to know our way around, be careful crossing streets and mind our Mom, we were allowed to do some things on our own.
Before we were old enough to earn an allowance, Mom might give us a nickel. I remember her tying the coins in the corner of our handkerchiefs so we wouldn't lose the money. Often we would go into the drugstore, climb up on a stool and order a small cherry coke.
There were two drugstores in the same block on the west side of Main Street - McClelland's and Dunham's. McClelland's was where the big kids hung out. Dunham's was quieter; safer for little kids. If we wanted an ice cream cone for our nickel though, McClelland's was the store of choice because they had more flavors.
One summer afternoon Mom stopped to talk to someone. Betty and I asked if we could go on ahead to get our ice cream cones. Up the sidewalk we went. Outside McClelland's we met up with another little girl we knew slightly. She went into the drugstore with us and we got our cones. Back out on the sidewalk Betty and I were licking and enjoying our ice cream while the other little girl gazed at our cones longingly.
Mother came up and saw us eating in front of the other girl. She didn't bawl us out in front of her. She hustled us back to the car. "You never, never order ice cream and eat it in front of your little friends again. If you don't have enough money to buy them something, too, then you don't buy anything for yourself", she warned us.
That was one of our early lessons in manners. It is one I have never forgotten.