Category Archives: Stories

Over and Over Again

As you all know, I listen to books on CD in the car (and occasionally I drag them into the house as well), audiobooks on my laptop and old-fashioned regular books!   I “curate” my library account so that I don’t have too many things from the library at once and am always happy to find a book that comes in multiple formats.  The format I am still unwilling to embrace is kindle.

A couple of weeks ago the book She Who Became the Sun sparked my interest, so I looked it up and it came in audiobook format.  Since I was getting close to done with my current audiobook and only had one other “up to bat”, I asked for it.  Loaded it and then yesterday morning, hit “Play”. 

I knew in the first minute that I had read this book before.  I was sure of it.  The title resonated but I had assumed it was because She Who Became the Sun is exactly the kind of title that intrigues me.  I looked it up on my spreadsheet and I did indeed read it in 2017!  I can tell you only the vaguest of plot outlines now that I realize I’ve read it, but it’s VERY vague.  I thought about reading it again but decided if I can hardly remember that I’ve read it, much less remember the plot, I’ll move on.  Not quite as bad as having started Devil in the White City THREE times but at least in that scenario I never read the whole book (I always bale when the maggot scene happens in the first chapter). 

Do you ever go to the fridge repeatedly, hoping to find something new there?


On Saturday I went to the Celebration of Life for my oldest friend, Deana.  She wasn’t my oldest friend in terms of age but in terms of longevity; there are folks that I have known longer but they fall into the acquaintance category.  I met Deana in 1977 and we were fast friends from the beginning.

When she met my then-boyfriend, she used to refer to him as “the Greg Person” which eventually became “the GP”.  Once we got married, if Greg picked up the phone receiver and then after a few seconds of silence, he would hand the phone to me saying “it’s Deana”.   She always said she was so surprised when a man answered the phone that she was temporarily speechless.

At one point I took a cake decorating class from a visiting artist and one of the things we made were pink elephants sitting in champagne glasses.  Deana adored these elephants and when her youngest got married, she had me make a groom’s cake covered with pink elephants and tipped over champagne glasses.  It was hysterical.

Deana loved to travel – all her traveling involved throwing her bags and various children/grandchildren/great grandchildren into her big van and heading off down the road.  She even included YA once when YA was about 10.  That trip went to South Carolina and Florida.

She never wanted to retire – she always said she would work until the last minute.  After leaving the food industry, she ended up at a support and housing organization for the intellectually disabled, a place where she worked for close to 40 years.  She also worked at the local grocery store, managing the floral station. 

Once when I visited I discovered all my Ukrainian eggs along with some shiny holiday ornaments hanging from the ceiling in the front room.  She said it was too dangerous to have a tree up that year with her youngest having just learned to stand and walk but she didn’t want to entirely forego her ornaments.

I wouldn’t call her a hippy but she did love bright colors, especially tie-dye.  She actually told folks before her death that she wanted people to come to her service in vibrant colors – no black or gray or, heaven forbid, navy blue.

Deana was a collector of people.  If you wandered into her orbit, her gravity would grab you and never let go. She was very close to all of her family as well as those she considered family.  The house was always full of kids and grandkids.   If you needed a hand, Deana would be there to offer help.

At the service we sang one of her favorite songs, Puff the Magic Dragon.  Normally a tear jerker for me but considering that Deana is gone, it was particularly poignant.  And as always, I did not come prepared with enough tissues.

Who is the friend you’ve known the longest?


Sunday has never been a day of rest for us, Yesterday was particularly busy, and we ended up in very odd but very affirming encounters with other people.

We started out the morning at 7:30 with a run-through of our choir anthem “Hear me, Redeemer” which is written in a gospel style that has a soprano soloist belting out a solo/descant with the choir echoing her lyrics. The soloist was a terrific singer who is a member of the local LDS church but who sings with us on occasion. People in the congregation loved the song, and said it was “inspirational”, something we consider a real success given this is a pretty traditional Lutheran congregation. They even clapped.

We then spent a couple of hours doing a fall clean up the church garden with other congregation members, and it was during this that a woman drove up in a car with Florida plates, a missing driver side window, a grown daughter, and four chihuahuas. She asked Husband for help, as they were homeless. Husband found a hotel that would take dogs, gave her the number for the homeless coordinator at my agency, and our pastor found some funds for a night at the hotel and gave her a bag of leftover food from the church brunch we had earlier after our service.

We then went home and vacuumed and dusted the house, dropped some kohlrabi off at a friend’s house, and headed to the liquor store for a well deserved bottle of wine. It was there we encountered the clerk who had worked at the store several years ago, quit due to health problems, and started working again. She said she remembered us, and told us she had married, quit drinking, and was really happy in her sobriety. We congratulated her. I don’t know if working in a liquor store is the best work environment for her, but it was inspiring to hear her success. She teased us that if we stopped drinking, she would be our sponsor.

What or who inspires you? How do you spend your Sundays? What are your favorite choir songs?

Falling Weather

The weekend Farm Report comes to us from Ben.

Rosie and Guildy are still good. They look like they’re finally growing. They’re still spending most of the day hiding under something, but they do come out and go in by themselves morning and night so that’s progress.

We lost one of the creamy colored adult ducks. Still the two black and white, one creamy, one poufy, and 6 mallards. And two guineas. And roughly 52 chickens. Daily egg count is somewhere between 7 and 12, down from summer peak. Newest hens haven’t started laying yet; late October they’ll be 6 months old and they start laying somewhere in there.

This is Rooster #3 — Kelly calls him ‘Top Gun’ because he thinks he’s hot stuff.

Some of the latest batch of chickens have more black around their eyes than other years. They are ‘Black Australorpe’ breed and they have good longevity, but they can be kind of ornery. I like them. Most chickens in a close up just look ornery.

I’ve been busy at the theaters this week. The HVAC being installed brought in a scissor lift and I use it when they’re not. Replaced a bunch of non-functioning fluorescent lights in the theater with LED retrofit kits. Pulled down all the cables for the stage lights so we could redo them. (It just turns into a rat’s nest after a while. Good to pull down and start fresh.)

Created some new doorways and redid other odds and ends over the summer break between shows. On Saturday all the platforms for the seating are going back in place so I must finish the bulk of the work that I want with the lift before that.

I’ve been saying there’s not much happening on the farm. That’s not true. I’M not doing much on the farm, but there’s a lot happening. The corn and beans are both maturing and drying out. Beans are losing their leaves and drying down, corn is turning brown, maturing, and drying out. Birds are migrating, bees are busy, deciduous trees are turning colors, the world rotates, planets are moving, the moon changes phases… there’s a lot happening. Just not by me.

I watch some youTube farming channels; they’re busy getting things ready for harvest. Soybeans could be going in our area in another week or two.

The pod right in the center of the photo has 4 beans in it. BONUS! Most only have 3. Four isn’t unusual, but it’s not the normal either. See the pods at the very top of the plant? Those are the ‘bonus’ pods. Not only because the deer didn’t eat the buds off the top, but the plant develops from the bottom up, so the better the conditions, the better resources the plant has, the more pods it can create. It’s looking like a pretty good year for my crops. Knock on Wood.




Page Turning Pariah

As a voracious reader, I depend a great deal on other folks’ recommendations.    Ten years ago I added a column to my reading spreadsheet – Inspiration.  When a finished title gets added to the spreadsheet I notate where I got the idea for reading the book.  If it’s a specific person, I list their name.  If it’s a bookclub selection, BBC, Illiterati or MIA.  If I actually remember where I first encountered the title, I enter that (Scientific American, Goodreads, CNN).  If it’s book off one of my various lists, that gets written in (Monarchs, Presidents, Banned, Newbery, Caldecott).  And, if by the time I finish a book (that’s a whole new blog topic – my over-curated library account), I don’t remember where I got the idea any longer, then O&A, Out & About, is the label.

All of this to say that I do take book recommendations seriously.  I’m pretty sure that I’ve read 75% of the books we’ve talked about on this blog, not because, as Steve used to say “VS has read everything” but because when somebody mentions a book on the Trail, I write it down or go to my library account immediately. 

I have a friend in Indianapolis who reads as much as I do and although we don’t always gravitate to the same thing, I’ve found most of his recommendations fascinatingly good reads.  (For example, I would never have picked up Countdown Bin Laden by Wallace & Weiss of my own accord, but since he spoke highly of it, I gave it a shot.  It was excellent and is likely to make my top ten this year.)  When he suggested a title that I had heard of from a few other folks, I picked it up from the library.  That’s when I found out that the title is also an Oprah Pick and has either won or been a finalist for just about every literary award out there.  93% of folks who have reviewed on Amazon have given it one or two stars.  Just 1% rated it with only one star.  This is unprecedented so I was really looking forward to getting into it – I even suggested it to my other book club.

I didn’t like it.  I didn’t like it to the point that if it hadn’t been a book club title, I might not have finished it.  It was WAY too long; it’s really two stories, related but distinct enough for two separate treatments.  Then there was the jumping around in the timeline, which I didn’t find to be well-handled. Too much repetitiveness; probably could have trimmed 50 pages by leaving out all references to “collard greens”.  But the biggest problem was that there wasn’t one likeable character in the entire book; 400+ years of story and 900+ pages of book, that’s a LOT of unlikeable characters. They ran the gamut from heinous to slightly sickening, but really not one really decent person among the lot of them. 

But it’s really hard to dump on a book that appears to be universally loved and admired.  REALLY hard.  And because I like to think I’m a discerning reader, it has made me wonder what’s wrong with me. What have I missed. In fact, I’ve been writing and re-writing this blog post in my head for two weeks trying to decide whether to name the book or just ruminate on feeling so out of step with what feels like the whole of humanity.  I do feel out of step a fair amount.  I’m not interested in fashion. I think reality TV is an abomination. Much of what is generally valued by current culture leaves me “meh”.

That’s why I am extremely grateful that I have found niches where I feel like I fit in, with good friends who think a bit more like I do.  This is one of those places, of course.  Thanks for all of you in my life and on the Trail who leave a place for my quirky self at the table! 

Tell me about the last book that you DIDN’T like.  (And if you’ve read the book I’m talking about and liked it, that’s OK… you’re in good company!!)

Out & About

The home health care team was pretty adamant that Nonny not go out while she is “convalescing”.  She got permission for church and for her weekly shampoo and blow out.  (While I was there, she also convinced them that she should be allowed to go to a 90s birthday party with her PEO group, where she is one of the honorees.  She shamelessly used tears to get this dispensation.)

Wednesday morning, we got her out of the condo, down the steps and into the car.  Her walker folds up easily so we were quickly on our way.  The hairdresser is in a neighborhood called Old Orchard, which is located in Webster Groves but actually was around before it was swallowed up by Webster.  When I was in the 5th grade, we moved to Old Orchard – we lived in the house on Sunnyside for five years – the longest of any of the houses I lived in until I was on my own.    Since we were right there, we drove over to see how the house was doing.  It looks just fine, although it’s white now; when we lived there my folks had it painted a deep gray and we had yellow trim.  Then we went a saw my grandparents house which is 2 blocks away (they lived there before we lived on Sunnyside).  Then we went looking for the elementary school I went to in 5th and 6th grade.  We didn’t find it and an internet search shows when it was built and when it changed names but nothing about when it closed.  I’m just curious enough that I might call the school district in the next couple of weeks and ask them.

By this time, we were on a roll.  We found 2 of the schools Nonny went to as a kid, the house she lived in back then and then rounded off our trip down memory lane by driving  by the house on West Cedar where we lived when I was five. 

I learned to ride a bike when we lived here.  Nonny had scarlet fever when we lived her.  I played with Bobby and his matchbox cars and was just about to go into kindergarten at Bristol school when my dad got a job with Missouri State and we moved to Jefferson City. 

When my sister Sally came over later on Wednesday, we regaled her with all the places of our past that we had visited.  She was quite upset as apparently the permission to get Nonny’s hair done did not include joy-riding.  In fact, the home health care team had specifically said Nonny shouldn’t be accompanying anyone on any other trips than her allowable outings.  Oops.

Neither Nonny or I mentioned our gadding about when the physical therapist came the next day.

When was the last time you went joy-riding?

I Missed It

Boris Johnson resigned?  When the heck did that happen?

I know I’m not thrilled reading the news these days but I do check in every few days.  Yesterday I saw a couple of things on Facebook that drove me to CNN.  Lots of news about the Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s assassination but nothing about Boris.  So I thought I’d check out  Absolutely nothing.  Thinking it was a fool’s errand, I just typed “Boris Johnson” into Google and finally found the news.  Seems as if four days later, it isn’t a headline any longer.  Like you shouldn’t blink or you’ll miss big chunks of what’s happening in the world.

The year after I graduated from high school, I spent 8 weeks living with a family in Mexico (their 2 daughters had spent the summer with us the year before).  Back then – yes, when dinosaurs roamed the planet – no, no, no streaming.  Just the daily newspaper, which in that corner of Mexico really did not carry any international news at all.  I felt a little cut off from the rest of the world while I was there – I’m assuming it’s how those bio-dome folks must have felt.

I came home from Mexico on a bus through Nogales to Albuquerque – stayed in a hotel one night and then flew home the next day.  That morning in Albuquerque I took a long walk and before returning to the hotel, I stopped at the corner drugstore and bought copies of several news magazines (Time, US News & World Report, Newsweek, even the Atlantic Monthly).

Apparently while I was in Mexico, there was a problem between Greece, Turkey and Cyprus.  Despite having the top news magazines of the day in my hands, I couldn’t really figure out what had happened.  If you don’t read the first news stories, it’s hard to “catch up”.  To this day, I’m not really 100% sure exactly how it all played out although I know that Cyprus is divided by a Green Line with the Greeks in the south and the Turkish in the north. 

I’m a little worried that this is how it will be for me and Boris Johnson.  I’ve found a few op eds and I THINK I’ve got it down, but am still a little surprised at how fast the story came and then went!

Anything gone missing in your world this week?

Checks & Balances

When I went off to college, my mom helped me set up a checking account.  (Up until then, although I did have a savings account at the bank, most of my financial dealings involved a jar of cash in my underwear drawer.)

She dutifully showed me how to balance my checkbook which I did EVERY MONTH for decades.  Then when the bank card came into play, I wrote every transaction into my check register and continued to balance the checkbook.

Then at some point in YA’s young life, I only got to balancing every few months and by the time she was seven or eight, with the advent of online banking, I gave up putting any bank card transactions in the register and shortly thereafter gave up balancing the checkbook.

I only write about five or six checks a month these days – one each week to the milkman and during the summer, one a month to Bachmans.  Very few others – even the Girl Scouts will take your money electronically in 2022.

Yesterday when I wrote out the weekly check for the milkman, I realized I was getting really close to the end of the register.  In looking back through it, I noticed that it is almost six years old.  Hard to imagine I’ve used the same check register for that long.  I expect that when I quit having weekly dairy delivery, my check register will last at least a decade!

Do you still balance your checkbook?  Do you even still HAVE a checkbook?

Reduced, Reused, Re-Reused

Today’s post comes to us from Clyde.

I am aware, in a way few people are, of an historical change. An age died in America, with some very few small pockets left, in about 1957-1960. This age started thousands of years ago in Europe and came to America with the first immigrants, although I suspect the Native Peoples practiced it.

I call it the Age of Reduced, Reused, Re-Reused

It was an age by necessity of self-sufficiency. Time Team, a British archaeology show I enjoy, often discovered how even the Romans would reuse, as did the stone age and iron age peoples. The age died slowly. In the early and mid 19th Century people recognized it was passing. Thoreau and Emerson commented on its dying. Thoreau’s Walden experiment was to some extent about self-sufficiency. His cabin was built of reused materials. I think the experimental communities of that era that interest Bill were strong on self-sufficiency in reaction to this change.

In much of rural America the age was still very much alive through the depression and the two post-war eras. I lived it as a child beside my parents and our neighbors. We lived reduced lives, reduced in the material sense. Ready cash was rare. Toys were few and often handmade. It is the reuse and re-reuse part that strikes me now.

I showed you awhile back me wearing a hand-me-down coat from my sister. In most of the pictures of me before the age of about 12 I am wearing baggy clothing cut down as best my mother could from my brother’s clothes, who was 7 years older than me. People gave my mother old woolen coats, as all coats were then, which she cut in strips and hooked or braided into rugs. My sister still has a rug or two. Her quilts were made of recycled cloth or from remnants she purchased in bundles from Sears Roebuck. The only things she threw away to be dumped on our rock pile were a few cans and bottles. No foodstuff was tossed.

However, it was in the world of my father where I was more aware of the reusing and re-reusing. In the early 50’s people in town were giving up their backyard sheds and now too-small garages. We would demo them, often with other men from the valley. Once we brought one home whole, but I do not remember how. It was my job to remove the boards as carefully as possible. From an early age another of my jobs was to straighten the not-too-rusted nails to reuse. It is a tricky business which gave me a few purple fingernails. We shared the lumber and nails with others or used it to build our own sheds. We built a large machine shed using only recycled wood for the walls, not the roof.

And there were the vehicles. In my very early youth many jokers could be seen around the valley. Jokers were old trucks cut down and rebuilt to serve as tractors or utility vehicles. The header picture is my rendering of the joker my father and my uncle built out of an old logging truck when we lived in the Superior National Forest. The joker moved us down to our farm. After I drew this as best I could from memory, a clearer picture emerged in my memory of a shorter box and chains hanging on it and lots of grease. But you get the idea. This was our tractor for the first year or two we had the farm. Then my father bought a 1923 Farmall and overhauled it, three times. Compare that with Ben’s picture of his tractor in his most recent blog. I am, of course, envious of that tractor of his. That joker became the frame for our all-purpose heavy-duty trailer, which hauled our hayrack, logs, and things like rocks in a box built for it.

By the way, I long thought joker was a local term. However, my research says it was widely used.

The men of the valley in my childhood had many skills, or they traded them. My father had a buddy Martin, who was a genius with engines, but weak at carpentry, plumbing, and electricity, which my father could do well. Martin was often in our workshop working on our vehicles or rebuilding engines of older cars to sell.

Let me tell you the story of our 1936 Chevrolet four-door sedan, which was our family car until about 1953, with its suicide back doors and with both front and back pneumonia holes.

At that point Martin overhauled the engine and transmission while my father cut it down into a pseudo-pickup, always called the puddlejumper.

When I was 12 my father took me down in the mowed hayfield and showed me the basics of how it drove differently than the Farmall. I then spent an hour or more driving around practicing the techniques of using a stick shift.

A few years later the engine died for sure. Now my father turned the box on the back into a dumping trailer, with a hand crank to elevate the front of the box to dump it. I have a story about that, but I will let it pass.

Such men and women still exist in very small numbers, often in the most rural places. Otherwise the only reuse and re-reuse commodity I can think of are children’s clothing passed from family to family.

In 1960 we started to talk about planned obsolescence. The last two years have shown how weak we are at self-sufficiency. I doubt very many people think about it in those terms.

I suspect this community is stronger than most on recycling, retaining, reusing and maybe even re-reusing. Are your roots strong on self-sufficiency?

The Donut Guy

At Cub last week, in the wee hours, I decided to go through the regular check-out instead of the self-serve.  I didn’t have a lot of items but I had several non-baggable items and those always make the self-checkout problematic.  As I was unloading the last of my stuff onto the conveyor belt, a guy started a line behind me.  He only had a couple of things including a big box of assorted donuts.  I smiled (although he probably couldn’t see it since I was masked) and said “Oh, you’re the donut guy this morning!”  He laughed and said yes.  Then he said “You know, I tried that Kato diet (that’s how he pronounced it) and I just can’t take it anymore.  I didn’t realize until now how much I love bread.”  I laughed too because when I tried keto, I didn’t make it long either for exactly the same reason.  I asked him if he wanted to go ahead of me since he just had two items and he answered no, since I already had all my items out of the cart.  We both left Cub at the same time and he said “have a great day.”  It was such a nice encounter in the pre-dawn hours.

Do you talk to strangers when you’re out and about?