Christmas Eve, all my growing up life, was a feast full of family at my Grandma and Grandpa Young’s. Their tiny four room house  filled with Grandparents,  Aunts and Uncles,  cousins of every age and extended members who just belonged to us.

The tree took up a fourth of the living room and there were presents,  collected all year,  for everyone in attendance……somehow we kids seemed to get exactly what we had begged for.  As each family arrived,  the presents swelled with their additions and our anticipation rose exponentially.

Everyone brought their own offerings to the banquet.  The tiny kitchen had food literally everywhere.  My Mom would bring a fruit platter with dip and her cheese spread and crackers – she was the expert with party foods.  Aunt Sally was good at desserts.  My Grandmother had been cooking for days.  Everyone’s contribution was met with anticipation. We ate turkey and ham and noodles and sage dressing and oyster dressing  for Kent, sweet potatoes with brown sugar and marshmallows,  green beans (my Grandma must have given her recipe to Cracker Barrel),  mashed potatoes and gravy and jello salads and relish trays and sweet rolls to die for,  and pies and cookies and divinity,  caramels, pralines, fudge and Carolers fudge my Aunt ‘Cile would make for me.  We did justice to all of it.  My Dad would pile his food, saying “it was all going the same place anyway”.  We ate in the kitchen,  in the living room,  in the bedroom and under the table.

As wonderful as the food was,  it was also “in the way” of some serious gift opening.  Sometimes we drew names.  We wanted to be picked to help pass out presents.  We wanted to watch every single person open their gifts, but we didn’t want to wait that long.  If I could watch now,  I’m sure it was bedlam and we loved it.  My grandparents had a time opening all the gifts they received and we were just as excited to give those gifts as we were to receive.

As things wound down,  more food was nibbled or packaged to take home. The pile of coats disassembled itself as Dads warmed up cars and hauled the gifts out.  Moms corralled kids into mittens and gloves,  with hugs and kisses passed out.  If you were slow to leave, there was plenty of paper and boxes to pick up for burning in the next few days.

It really was a night where Love was passed around, over and over, until we were sure everyone had gotten more than their usual share. We wish you such a wonderful Christmas Eve tonight,  if only in your heart!



If you already make this or something extremely close, just consider me late to the party.

In our family, Mom was the appetizer Queen, our hors d’oeuvre Diva. We had her famous cheese spread for every Christmas. Made with the finest [read that..common] ingredients, it always received rave reviews. Why we didn’t have it other times, I’ve no idea. I have made it “out of season”. It’s good, but the best during the holidays.

She would have liked this recipe I’m about to share, for the ease and taste.  It is “perfect” with regular old saltine crackers, in the same way her cheese spread is only “perfect” with club crackers.

My name for this fab concoction is Chicken Spread. It’s is like I imagine a pate’ to be, having never actually eaten a pate’.  It’s not really chicken salad, in my book, but my Mom might have labeled it so, in her book.

“The thing is” [a fav family saying], it’s just simple and delicious. I’m surprised I didn’t make it sooner.  Surely there are better perks to old age than figuring out something to put on a soup cracker? Maybe…but I didn’t figure this out til a year or so ago.

If you will give it one try, I think you’ll be hooked….for lunch, brunch, early afternoon or late night snack….I love it!


1 store bought rotisserie chicken [pic a store that does them well. Walmart, Kroger – NAY NAY.  Ingles or Publix – YES YES [I’m in the South, duh!]

Celery    Onion [any kind/green,red,white, yellow]     Salt    and   Mayo

Don’t forget the saltines!

Directions:  Debone your chicken – I only use the white meat since I have a dispensary for all the remainder of the pickings, name Mattie.  Using either a food chopper or your knife, chop chicken fine….as in minced. Put into mixing bowl.

Clean and mince [Rachel Zirn, read that as our handy Pampered processor] equal amounts of celery and onion, to equal 2 parts chicken to 1 part veggies.  Mix and salt generously.

Add mayo sparingly, just to barely hold together. It doesn’t take much.

DONE  [this freezes well in containers that will thaw quickly.]  It keeps for ….. well, I don’t really know how long it would keep ….. cause I’ve never been able to keep it!


Since I mentioned Mom’s cheese spread, it is only fitting to share that too.

Gilberta’s Superb Cheese Spread:

2 lb velvetta cheese block, room temp

2 –  8oz pkgs cream cheese (Mom used 1, but 2 spread easier and taste fine), room temp

2 Tablespoons garlic salt

1 cup chopped pecans

Equal parts chili powder and paprika (start with 1 Tablespoon each) mixed in a flat dish or pie pan.

Mix first four either by hand or paddle in stand mixer. Lightly grease your hands and shape. (Shape about 1 cup portion into a circle or log. I have shaped single serving size of about 2 T for potlucks. After all the shaping is done, roll each in the chili powder/paprika mix to coat. (Mix more if needed). Chill and serve with CLUB CRACKERS.

This is a great holiday gift. Freezes well. I have some in my freezer right now. Wrap your shapes in saran with a ribbon, for giving.

Almost forgot to mention, this stuff is addictive……beware!


I’ve wondered from time to time if we should have a sound track in our lives, music scored to the highs and lows, the events, our moods….the ‘Days of our Lives’….. Oh, I guess that sound track is taken.

In fact, I do have a sound track to my current life.  It is comforting, entertaining and almost magical. It is a fairy tale discovery that is wrapped into the fabric of this house.  It gurgles, trills and tinkles it’s way past my house, reminding me everyday of the gift and sanctuary that we have been blessed with.  It is our own personal sound track, an endless melody of background music. It makes me feel secure in a way that no house ever has before. It may be as simple as knowing my prayers were answered….before i least expected.  It is awesome.

I’ve lived in 15 houses as an adult and nested everyone. I could make any place into a home. The cleaner, decorator and project coordinator in me has gone to work on every house. I wanted to put on a good show for friends, family and public so they could see that we lived presentably.  No pig sty here. No wallow.  I can do ‘trailer trash’ into ‘home interior’ in a few weeks.

This house is so different. Maybe I’m so different. I certainly see that this house is the nicest gift ever bestowed on me, an answer to prayers that I hoped for in Heaven, but not yet earned on Earth.

I feel an obligation and joy in making this house shine as a tribute to the comfort and security I get in return.

One of our last projects was to install corrigated tin to the ceiling of our back deck.  It was a finish detail to the flooring, railings and gates but it’s actually the jewelry to a finely dressed sanctuary. I didn’t realize how necessary it was, till it was finished.

The stream, my sound track, glitters off the ceiling, the whole length of the deck. Sunlight reflects bright white and soft golds as if we had strung lights. There’s movement and sound, continuous and comforting.

The sound track of the stream is mixed with the buzz of hummer wings, distant crow calls and whispers of insects and swishing of squirrel tales with glittery silver edging. It is mixed with shades of green, bold and filtered, shapes moving, swaying against grass carpet and edgy bark trunks.

The air is almost still, willow leaves barely trembling as insects flitter.  Moments later, breezes ruffle through to showcase the glamour of a thousand movements of light and shades of green.

The music of the stream is constant, a background to the shimmers on the ceiling and the hummers landing bravely in a  never ending show of jewel tones and mock battles. Whatever I can do to protect and appreciate this haven is not too much.

This home for our family of 2 and 2 is truly a blessing of the highest magnitude. I’m humbled and grateful. I’m secure and sheltered. Home has never before been so comforting.  My prayers were answered before I believed I was deserving. I plan to care deeply and joyously for the gift.


I understand that Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate the harvest; the field harvest and the garden harvest.  It is a time to relax a bit.  Crops, good or bad, are finished till Spring.  Back in the day, butchering was at hand or done also.  Gardens were gleaned down to stems and turned under for the winter.  Cellars were full of rows of home canned jars of all the abundance.  Jars were tiny jelly jars and pints, quarts and half gallons, even crocks too.  Freezers, as they became common, were equally full of meat, produce, pies and casseroles.  There was no stopping a good farm wife when it came to harvest.

My Grandmother, Arnetta Young, my Dad’s Mom, was a good farm wife and the expert in our family, bar none, whose home was truly laden with everything needed to eat through Winter and most of Spring till the garden began to produce again.

She canned green beans with bacon in the jar, tomatoes [whole and juice] pickles of all kinds including pickled peaches.  Her cellar was filled with jars of apples, peaches, berries [red, black, goose, straw], and juices to make more jelly another day.  She put up peas, carrots, corn and cabbage frozen or into kraut.  Her freezer was an International, 6ft long, the only freezer she ever owned!  She never baked one pie, when she could do 6 and put 5 in the freezer, most often finished before she started breakfast.  She made noodles and cookies and breads and casseroles.  She canned pumpkin, stored potatoes and onions.  She froze rhubarb and asparagus, canned pickled beets and relish.  Name it and she had it on a shelf or in the freezer.

For many years, she cooked a monthly meal for the local Lions Club and I would get to help set up, serve and of course, clean up too.  Those guys ate with gusto and we hardly ever had leftovers for ourselves unless we dished them up ahead of time.

She never missed cooking in the basement kitchen of our Methodist church whenever there was a need.  She could pull pies and a casserole from her freezer to deliver when someone in the community lost a loved one.  She delivered dry mashed potatoes and chocolate pudding to my bedside when I was ready to eat again after childhood illness.

She made big pumpkin face cookies for Halloween with raisin faces….except for my cookies which had faces made with chocolate chips since I didn’t like raisins.

She made the best noodles in the world, the best ham loaf, the best potato salad, the best chocolate or blackberry pie. She made coconut and banana cream pies. She made scalloped cabbage, German kraut, scalloped potatoes and ham, creamed peas or limas, dinner rolls indescribably delicious.  She knew all our favorites and every family dinner there was a favorite food for each of us. Her fried chicken gravy was perfect.   Meatloaf? Perfect!  Chocolate cake? Perfect! Candy? At Christmas she whipped up homemade caramels, divinity, fudge and peppermint something?  We had home hand-churned ice cream in the summer in peach, strawberry, vanilla and chocolate flavors.

My grandmother was known to let us eat dessert first, since we knew if we waited till after the meal we would be too full to eat the sweets.  My dad piled the food on his plate at every celebration, saying it was all going in the same place.  I like my food separate.  My favs were always noodles, always dinner rolls, always potato salad, always her green beans, always German kraut and always her chicken casserole.

I think of it as Methodist Church chicken casserole.  I can eat it for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.

I am not a cook of her caliber.  I can cook green beans like hers and the German kraut and come pretty close on the potato salad. I’m good at spaghetti and wild rice. I make great oil n vinegar salad.  My corn chowder and chicken and dressing soup are both very good. I make trophy winning Texas chili – I placed 3rd out of 15 in a campground chili cook off and the big trophy was a tad on the overkill side, but fun to earn! Wish I was a good pie baker, but I’m not. It is definitely due to the lack of practice.  When I take a notion, I am good at making the real deal ‘sour dough starter’ and baking some righteous biscuits brushed on all sides with bacon grease and raised over boiling water before baking. The trouble with sour dough baking is the ‘baking often’ and the poundage that occurs as a result.  I need a good ‘notion’ to mix starter.

Oh, I’m also really good at making fried pork chops and pork chop gravy and egg salad and white potato salad, thanks to my first Mother-in-Law.  I’m very good at making chicken fried steak thanks to my second and last Mother-in-Law. I make a great salad of lettuce, sliced onion and sliced boiled eggs in a sweet mayo dressing, courtesy of my Mom.  I can make killer cheese spread like my Mom turned out.

My kids say I am fantabulous at chocolate dessert.  They never had birthday cakes or graduation cakes or hardly any cakes.  We celebrated EVERYTHING with chocolate dessert….and still do when I have a kid around.

Speaking of food…..and love, my Aunt ‘Cile (Dad’s sister) made chocolate frosted, chocolate cookies when i was a kid. It was back when she was a farm wife too. She never made polite rounded two-bite size cookies, she made cookies bigger than my hand, without nuts(you know kids and nuts).  She cooked noodles just as good as her Mom’s and she would make me Carolers Fudge at Christmas – it was a blonde, no chocolate candy. I may still have the recipe.  My Aunt Shirley (my Mom’s sister) always made us chocolate milkshakes at her house – just like you could get at a soda fountain. She had the real deal machine.  I used to make them for get togethers at our house and still make them evenings for us, never without thinking of hers.

One other thing I’m good at is that Methodist Church chicken casserole. You can be too.

Arnetta’s Chicken Casserole                Bake at 400 till bubbly.

2 cups diced chicken [or left over turkey]

1 can cream of chicken soup

½ cup slivered almonds

¾ cup of mayo

1 cup of cooked rice [NOT 1 cup of rice cooked??]

½ cup chicken broth

2 Tablespoons of minced onion

3 chopped hard boiled eggs

1 cup chopped celery

Potato chips, about 25 crushed into the casserole and the remainder crushed over the top.

Mix all.  Spread into 9 x 13 or divide into smaller pans [either to bake or freeze and bake later], sprinkle the crushed chips and bake.

Happy Thanksgiving.. Hope your tables are laden with memories and the familiar tastes of home.

In our family, my grandparents started each and every meal with:

Our heavenly Father, for thy loving care, for food and health, for all things that make this world so fair, we thank Thee oh Lord. Amen.




Can hardly believe that it is time for our 3rd newsy Christmas letter to you.  We have been extremely busy this year.  Naturally, it doesn’t help that December is looming a full two months earlier this year. I have heard that this is in conjunction with the time change. To offset the one hour loss in October, they have moved December ahead two months.  It gives the illusion of a shorter year and we anticipate the longer days of summer arriving that much sooner.

I have been working as office manager of the Chevrolet dealership in Emden for almost a full year now.  It is a fine place to work and their sense of humor has allowed me to keep my position longer than I might have expected.  I doo awl theayre corriespondance werk as wayll as thuu bukkeaping.

John has taken on the touring business single handedly.  I couldn’t be more proud….really.  He is thrilled with the way our bus has turned out and willing to go in depth to explain, illustrate and advise any questions you may have.  Tours are available at the drop of a hat. He continues to be the most outstanding John Deere service manager in the history of central Illinois.  His customers rant and rave to him all the time.  He insists, modestly, [I saw him try to be modest…….once] that he is just doing his job, but I know better.  I truly believe that if they had a TV reality show ‘Assemble this combine in 4 hours’ to win a jackpot bus trip for two, we would never have had to build our own.

Our five grandchildren are delightful; much nicer, sweeter and actually, smarter than any other grandchildren we have ever come across.  Can you just picture how thrilled we must be with them.

Speaking of pictures, I have been overcome with the scope of photography I have accomplished this year. I am trying to specialize in animals, landscapes, portraits, candids, agriculture, nature, pets, children and travel. I feel you cannot get professional results unless you FOCUS!! Oh my, photo humor!

Our holiday decorating, for this season, follows the theme, ‘1001 new uses for your garage’.  We are going with a stable. I have read that had they been ‘Three Wise Women’…they would have asked directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the baby, cleaned the stable, made a casserole and brought practical gifts.  But it was a sweet baby boy, so that explains the gifts and ‘Wise Men’.

Wishing you and yours lots of good cheer, family and friends to celebrate with and plenty of holiday humor.  Blessings to all.

John & Deb



Several years ago one of my co-workers was a great guy with a fab sense of humor. I couldn’t have worked with a better man.  We remain friends to this day. I can’t date this writing, but i would guess 2003.

He was commander for an American Legion branch and was expected to give a speech for their Veteran’s Day event. He asked me if I could write something for him. After working together for quite a while and knowing his heart was in all the right places, it was pretty easy to write what I thought he would want to say. It was just what I would have said too, if we had exchanged places. I wrote:

It is an honor to stand and speak as a representative for all veterans today. We are not noted as public speakers.  We are noted for coming to the aid of our country. We are noted for doing whatever was asked to defend freedom and our constitution. We are counted on to protect our homes, our families, our communities and our nation. We have always been one of you. We are someone you know, someone you went to school or church with. We are a friend of your son or daughter, your boyfriend, fiancé or husband, your brother or sister, your son or daughter or your dad. We are all the men and women and boys and girls willing to do the right things in times of wrong. We have always helped the underdog,  stood for high principles and believed in our country…ONE NATION…..UNDER GOD.

We have thousands and thousands of veterans to thank and to remember, today.  We want to say thank you, with all our hearts, for all the brave and selfless deeds performed. We can never forget soldiers who gave up limb or life to protect us and our homes. Those soldiers of WWI and WWII and Korea bolstered the backbone of a young industrial country. They believed in duty and commitment and respect. They believed in the honor of proving themselves and their might for the safety of freedom and the future of our United States.

Thoughts changed during the era of Vietnam and soldiers weren’t held in very high esteem. I lived through that time ….participated and sacrificed…. through the criticism, indifference and resentment on my home ground.  Some of you, today, may feel we have cussed and discussed that era enough. It is not my intention to stir old wounds, but it is imperative that we use today, Veteran’s Day, to polish up the “thank you”s to those veterans and buff off the anger and discord they have suffered. We need to remember that through all the ridicule, the demonstrations, the lack of a united front at home, our veterans did, again, what was traditional and right. They presented the world with the UNITED states. They did all that was asked and more. They suffered the loss of innocence, dear friends, and comrades, even their own lives, following the example set by soldiers from the past. They were veterans in the truest sense of the word. It is always hardest to follow the least trodden path.

It is a wonderful display, in this troubled time, to see the renewal of patriotism for our fighting men and women overseas today. It is my belief that when war came to our shores, we finally understood what the soldiers knew all along.  War is brutal, it is awful, it is suffering we can’t ever comprehend and none of our veterans ever wished it to reach home.

The world is no longer faraway places. The children and families in the midst of war, today, are suffering much as we suffered from the 9-11 attack. How fortunate that we do not endure the pain day in and day out. Many, many people on this earth are not able to put war and terror behind them. Most have no one willing to commit to ending violence in their lives.

We can be proud, honored and humble, today, that we have had soldiers and the veterans with us, set the standard for what America means to the world. The United States owes its existence, its persistence and its leadership in the world, to our soldiers and veterans. They fight for all that we cherish. They comfort the children of war. They protect their families and your family, their friends and your friends, their church and your church. They proudly proclaim to the world ONE NATION, UNDER GOD, INDIVISIBLE, WITH LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL. It is our duty, our debt, to say thank you. We keep you in our prayers, we bless your objectives, and we are overwhelmed by all that you do for us. Let us never forget and forever embrace our soldiers and veterans today and every day. May God bless and keep every single one.


John’s Aunt passed away last month, at 88 years old.  She was a farm wife and mother, a quilter, genealogist, a community figure and keeper of tradition. She and her late husband had a great sense of humor and long lives, well lived.

The meal following her funeral was at her home.  It seemed the most fitting place to congregate for food, memories, laughter and love.

It was my first trip to this newer house of hers, built next door to the ‘home place’. It was built with her in mind and wouldn’t have been built with her late husband’s blessing.  He would have thought it wasteful and just unnecessary.  I could see that it was probably delightful for her. The main floor and garage were her domain; the basement belonged to her farmer son and family to be near ‘just in case’.

Her area had a quilting room full of sunlight and sporting a closet large enough for her abundance of fabric.  The room had space for supplies, machines and her quilting frame. It sat with a last, almost finished quilt designated for her farmer son – he would finish it himself.  She had another room about the size of a large bath room; I would call her library room. It had shelving of binders and ledgers, a lamp and small desk. It smelled like a library cubby and served her genealogy pursuits.  Higher ceilings, a harvest table, quilted projects, scores of family photos all welcomed you as surely as if she was there to do it in person.

As I wondered around visiting her home, I ran across a book in the quilting room. It was one that I had seen or maybe even picked up somewhere and I opened her copy and read a few pages.  I was hooked and here’s where my story is headed.

The book is The Farmer’s Wife 1930s Sampler Quilt by Laurie Aaron Hird.  The Farmer’s Wife was a magazine began in 1903 featuring a wide array of topics aimed at the American farm wife.  Its early publishing rate was 100,000 + copies a month at a subscription rate of 5years for $1.00.  It grew to over a million copies a month and eventually was sold to the Farm Journal, still familiar to us today.

I am imagining a hard and sometimes harrowing existence for farm families in the beginning of the 20th century.   By the 1930s the depression was upon our land and hard work and perseverance wasn’t always enough to pull through.  I’m a reader and a magazine is as good as a book. For wives with limited funds, limited modes of travel, limited social opportunities and endless claims on their ingenuity, supplies,  hours-in-the-day and home and farm chores, I bet that magazine was absolutely precious.

This book, The Farmer’s Wife 1930s Sampler Quilt, is a collection of 99 letters from farm wives, published in the magazine under the column ‘Letters From Our Farm Women’.  The author chose 99 classic quilt blocks with a woman’s name, or term like ‘Grandmother’, in their title, one to accompany each letter.  The blocks were then assembled into a Sampler quilt in their honor.  The book includes a CD of the block patterns to copy and build your own similar quilt.  I will never know if our Aunt had pieced all the different blocks at one time or another.  Maybe she just collected any interesting ‘quilt’ book.  She had a treasure trove of finished quilts and pieced tops waiting for quilting, so it is probable she knew most of these classic patterns.  Me?  I’m no quilter.  I might be a piecer. I am thinking about it.  I have tied a comforter or two and I am not nearly the perfectionist an expert quilter would be.  I saw a couple of ideas in her house that I will try.  What I found in her house, in this book, are the letters.

My kind of reading!  Real life lines shared with the world, about life on a daily basis during the hardest of times.   I first read for curiosity, but after a few letters, I was reading for the striking similarities between the stories of 1930 something and the stories and thoughts of 2019.  Oh My!

A lady from Wisconsin saved pennies, nickels and dimes till she could buy another book.  She was saving for A Lantern in Her Hand.  I’ve known this book intimately since 8th grade; have two copies, one of which is literally worn apart from rereading.  Some were young just starting life. Some had never been on a farm, till they wed.  Some left home for the city, to learn that they weren’t made for the city and going home really meant ‘coming home’.   Some were past 80 years and remembering lovingly how they got that old.

One lady had finally saved enough to get a radio in her home.  She felt connected to the big world with access to all she missed.  She learned that what she really missed was the connection to her home and community.  She was too enthralled to notice the loss of things she had taken for granted.  Doesn’t that sound exactly like the internet/facebook today?

There were women who immigrated to become American and cherished all that included.  There was loss of a son at age 16 and not knowing how to continue – I know that story.

The women talked of neighbors of generosity, children more important than chores.  They talked of men welcomed home at the end of the day, kids who helped willingly, work shared and blessings counted.

Their words offered me comfort and comradeship across the years, continuity and a better outlook on things to come, long after I have lived my due.

If I could offer you, my reader, a nice gift of encouragement and be able to point out the sturdy foundation we have built our own lives upon, I would ask you to head to the library or Amazon or a local book store and buy your own copy of The Farmer’s Wife 1930s Sampler Quilt.

If you quilt, consider it a two-fer!


Dear Family and Friends,

In order to keep you entertained, we are resuming our annual holiday newsletter.  There are exciting things happening with the Schmalshofs in GA.  Following the sale of our house and retirement to the lovely land of campfires and cheap living, we traded our years-long, tangle-fraught relationship with DirecTV in favor of no-commercials, instant-choice Neflix [cheap also].

We became obsessed with medicine before we realized what had come over us.  We started innocently with Nurse Jackie.  Following 60 plus episodes we were no longer innocent, in every way.  Wow, those TV medical professionals have a lot of on-the-job leisure to “engage”, so to speak.  Next we took a sampling of British medicine with Doc Marten.  His bedside manner really appealed to Deb. She is not your first choice, or second or third, for sympathetic medical attention.  Following an ambitious run with Grey’s Anatomy, then Private Practice and Royal Pains, we realized we had actually earned an Associates Degree in Medicine virtually by osmosis.

We were delighted at all we felt qualified to offer any time an emergency occurred.  You can imagine how relieved the paramedics, called for John, became when we gave symptoms, diagnosis and treatment options for the drive to the local ER.  If you had seen their faces, you would have really enjoyed their enthusiasm.

As we immersed ourselves in Royal Pains, we came to realize that all those expensive hospital machines were as portable as a power tool but quite a bit more expensive.  It was a light bulb moment for us when we decided to DIY the ones we deemed most useful.  I mean we ARE project people.  Why not build our own mobile units?  No need for manuals or training, we can just adjust as we build, trial and error.  [trial and error – MAGIC WORDS].

Our defibrillator is fantastic [and they use them so often on all those medical shows], one of John’s new favorite tools.  Deb wasn’t as enthusiastic during the trial phase, sort of on and off, so to speak.  She’s more enthusiastic now……well, more alert.  The design is quite simple for any DIYer.  You need a 12V car battery [Any brand is fine. John adds that for kids, you probably should use a lawn mower battery – size is important], jumper cables modified with metal kitchen spatulas [the BBQ kind are great, again find smaller versions for the kid size unit], in place of the alligator clips, an adjustable volt meter wired between the jumpers and the battery and a tester.  Deb recommends an inanimate object if at all possible.  Once you have it adjusted, it works great.  I mean it really makes the patient jump up and take notice.  We can ‘save’ several people at a time if we lash their wrists together ‘in series’.

We are currently [don’t you just love puns!] working on a portable Xray machine.  It is not fine-tuned, but close.  John used some microwave components, an oscillator from one of his golf club greens fans, a couple of small hydraulic cylinders and just for visual effect [no help to the patient, but they are a bit dazzled] a portable strobe unit.

We have resourced a large animal vet sling to modify for our mobile CAT scan.  We are searching for a used global altimeter/boat propeller/gyroscopic potentiometer John can incorporate onto a ramp style open trailer for portability.  We thought of using an enclosed trailer, but realized right away that the radiation wouldn’t be able to escape, so an open trailer was the answer.  Just need to think these things through and we are great at that.

We had Joan and Robert [cousins on the Schmalshof side] visit this summer on their way to Florida.  Knowing they were coming, we were excited to try a couple of our DIY devices on them – just for demo purposes.  Surprise, surprise, Joan explained that they were the ‘perfect picture of health’.  Most people have an ache or pain somewhere, but she was right.  We took them out for Thai food and to get ‘ions’ off some huge waterfalls while driving the most curvy mountain roads and they didn’t even get a tummy grumble.  Sadly we didn’t get to show off our projects.

We are going to finish the mobile CAT scan and take on a couple more things.  If you are traveling and feeling poorly [or want to], please stop by.  We will be ready and waiting.  We are DIY specialists and cannot take insurance. Cash or personal check is fine.

Merry Christmas,

Lots of Humor and Love……Lots of Love,  Deb n John

WARNING ! – Nothing Subtle Ahead!

[Preface: Living away from the home and family crowd has it’s share of missing out on a lot of things. It has it’s perks too. I’m a pretty happy person and I spend time wondering about the lives of people in my circle. Are they also happy? No worries? Are there big life events like new twin babies this week? Are they excited, successful, even missing me?  How do I connect? Well I read FB and message some.  I mail pillowcases or small gifts that make me think of them. I wonder if something I know will help them with something they are struggling about. Should I say or not? How will they know I think of them, if I don’t say.  I was brought up short this week by a pronouncement that apparently “I think I know everything and always have”. At almost 70, I know a little about a lot, but not everything about anything. I know how to be helpful and KIND and honest and truthful. I also know that saying you’ll do something is a far cry from doing it. I know that I was raised with “you’re in charge” and “work everyday [there was a list]” and I often wish someone had offered some advice or a good book, that might have saved me grief.  Advice offered is not advice taken. But it might be ” thinking of you” advice. I’d rather someone thought I cared enough to spend some time on them as opposed to never giving a rat’s ass [as Carrie would say].

Oh, and I learned that BE KIND is way more “crap” than caring!]



“In  a world where you can be anything, be kind.”

“You never know what people are going through. Just remember to be kind.”

“Be thoughtful, be genuine, be thankful, be kind”

“Life is difficult for everyone…just be kind”


BE KIND ….  is code word for  “Say ONLY what I want to hear!”

BE KIND – I’m having a bad day, so pat me on my back and whisper platitudes of adoration. [ You spent time thinking of me and wondering about me? And you think that counts? Wake up!]

BE KIND – Encourage my bad behavior with abundant and gushing pride in me. [ You don’t think I’m great when I can’t tell the truth or keep my word, so what!]

BE KIND – Shower my inexperience and stumbling with praise so i can ignore any outside help or concern. [Better yet, who are you to help me?]

BE KIND – because being kind is a one way street and I will mow you over if I don’t think you are “kind” or “kind enough”!

BE KIND is plastered on Facebook. I see it on billboards, shop signs and marquees. “Be kind, you never know what someone is going through.” It’s a plea. It’s a reminder. It’s a request. It’s actually a WARNING! BE KIND or else!

It pretty much means, coddle me, stroke my ego, pamper me with praise and comfort, don’t say anything that might offend me today or yesterday or tomorrow …. or else!  Be Kind doesn’t mean “that’s what I can do for you”, it means “that IS WHAT you can do for me!”

On the Phone:  I’m not interested in you as a customer. I’m not interested in your service need. I’m not interested in even returning your call and I am not interested when you are upset with my lack of concern – BE KIND!

On Facebook:  I’m having a rough week, life is cruel, I’m not going to even post the details, but believe me, I need help and prayers. You just need to hear me whine cause life is sooooo hard and no one understands what i can’t talk endlessly about – BE KIND!

In Business:  I’m a professional but i expect exceptions for anything that goes wrong. I know exactly how things work on my terms. As a customer, you have no idea how hard this is. I’ll get it right when i get it right and DO NOT offer help or concern – BE KIND!

In Families:  Sure we’re related, bottom line, but that is all. I can lie to you about anything AND everything and you don’t get to call me out. I make no apology for my insincerity. I can hurt you, exaggerate, dismiss and shit all over you and you ….. you can just BE KIND!

See a pattern here? I do!

BE KIND, the latest catch phrase, means YOU BE KIND and I’ll dictate the terms and parameters and if you get it wrong, I certainly won’t remember the term “KIND”.

BE KIND….my ass!



What I miss most about “home in Illinois” is Fall.

It is marked by the turn of the crops and the maple trees flashing their riot of color. Fall means farm equipment moving about in preparation for harvest. Fall is long sleeve mornings that turn to t-shirt afternoons.  Wagons and combines move from field to field. Lights glimmer in the fields, late into the night, as the harvest pace holds steady. Farm wives hold supper or carry it to the field.  Farmers no longer tarry at the café for lunch. Parts lines are long and sometimes short-fused. Hurry is in the air and you can smell fall as the crops being to fill the wagons. Drivers wave as they sit in the elevator lines. Fall means happiness when things are dry and breezy and nerves when the rain is endless or the wind is mighty.

Fall in Illinois is piles of leaves of every crayon color. Fall is mounds of snap, crackle and pop, raked and raked and raked to be scattered by kids and winds, in a burst of delight, during cool weekend afternoons. Fall is sitting on the steps or rocking on the porch in the early evenings.

Fall starts when the high school band spends practice hours outside before or after school. Fall is homecoming and festivals, parades and hot dogs and marshmallows and pumpkins and bales of straw and roasting sticks. Fall is the last few tomatoes, crisp red apples and piping hot chocolate. Fall is football and bundling up to watch the game.

Fall is all I love about home and my heart is there come harvest season.

The last two mornings in Georgia have been cooler – it’s a sign to start missing my Illinois Fall days