R A

RA is the acronym for rheumatoid arthritis. I have it in both wrists. Meds make life normal.

Acronyms are wide spread these days. All our government departments have been reduced to a few capital letters. Our social media is a jumble of acronyms, enough to make actual typing and spelling obsolete. I think acronyms are reasonably common in our business lives too. Here are three examples to back up my hypothesis.

Example 1]   I do the drive-thru at MdD’s for breakfast. I order two sausage patties, two hash browns and one milk. After I get the sack opened, I discover two sausage/egg McMuffins and milk. So now, I have to park and go inside for ‘the confrontation’. It should go like this: McD employee,”‘Oh my, I see that you are suffering from RA this morning, that you are Rather Annoyed. Let me correct your order and here is a fried apple pie as a sorry-for-the-mix-up token”. Of Course, it doesn’t, but it should! [AND this happens ALL the time at every drive-thru- Ugh]

Example 2]   We were vacationing by camper and stopper overnight at a state park, with signs referring campers to the lodge to register. We asked if we could pick our site and the young lady replied ” you just register here, pay your fee and choose any site available over at the campgrounds.  What card will you be using to pay?” I said, “I am paying with cash” and she said, “in that case, I will need to see id.” And I said, “Excuse me….I think I will need to speak to a manager. You can’t seriously tell me you need id to take cash?”  Along comes a manager who could clearly see that I was in the throes of RA [Really Angry] and assured me that, “No, they did not need id to take cash.”

Example3]   Let me preface this example with some facts. For 16 days in June of 2018 we were without phone service from our local provider. We live in an area without cell reception, so our landline is it. We did have internet and I had numerous online ‘chats’ regarding a repair.  My husband tried calling from work, all to no avail for half a month…..which I refused to pay for, so late charges accumulated.

On with my example. In October, after some serious storms, we were once again without landline beginning on the 13th. Still fuming to get my billing from June corrected, my online ‘chat’ acquaintance said that they could NOT schedule a repair until after October 31. WHOA! I explained this was our only source for emergency calls, said my husband has a pacemaker. Asked how would I call an ambulance, a cop or the fire department? He said ‘no repair till after October 31’.  Breathing fire, of course, I sent an email to the office of the phone company president, then I filed a consumer complaint online with the state. Next I emailed a letter to the editor of the local newspaper. Finally I emailed a second letter to the president’s office with the consumer complaint and the letter to the editor as attachments.

In two days our phone was repaired. Soon after, I got a call from a lady in the president’s office wanting to confirm my billing correction for June and my present outage credit.

She didn’t mention it, but I think my account is flagged RA…….Royal Ass.

BUYING A FINAL HOUSE?

So we are buying another house? The question mark is because, in point of fact, we want to buy another house and our funds are  L I M I T E D and so the buying on our part is  L I M I T E D by the sellers motivation and willingness to sell for less than they want – if they don’t agree to our offer, we are pretty much out the door.

Isn’t that the path of life? What we want is mostly governed by whether someone else is standing in our way.  We want independence and our parents are certainly a roadblock.  We want a car, a particular that-looks-good-on-me-car and the cost skyrockets in direct proportion to our desire – they see us coming a mile away.

We want to date that guy or girl, the one over there, looking really cool and smart and …….oh no, he’s holding her hand or she’s wearing a ring.  Damn! Is there a hex on me?  I’m getting nowhere.

So, I have learned to just plan for second place. I want this, I’ll settle for that.  I want that, this is what I’ll get. It’s life. Like it or lump it.

Move along, play your best hand and accept what comes.  You can live a whole life on the terms of second-fiddle, second-chances, second-string, second-place. It becomes habit. Money is my benchmark. Money over matter, if it matters, money is my deciding factor. Cheaper is my benchmark. Better is limiting. If it’s better, it’s not going to be cheaper and money equals benchmark. Second place is comforting and secure and where I have settled. It is my zone, a very familiar place of protection.

When we moved to our 5th wheel, at my nagging and rationalizing, I hoped to nudge him into retirement. Our chance to explore, travel and have some partner leisure. That was my goal. We sold our house, we moved and 60 days later after a nice vacation, my idea of dual retirement was just mine and he was back to work. I was sitting again at second-string, second-place.  Damn.  How does this keep happening?  Live with it, get busy and “be happy”!!!

Projects come and go, interests take center stage, time fills and I am productive and in my safety zone.

A big anniversary rolls around.  We are getting along very peaceably and a week in Florida with some warm and sunny weather is just what we need after a cold, wet winter. His conversation has been heading in the direction of buying a property where it’s warmer, that we could vacation to and move “eventually”.   When that might be, is certainly not up to me, but hey, if I have a place to visit, I can visit solo on my timeline.

Our fun week, somehow, turns into the proverbial hunt. We are good at the hunt and enjoying our week.  We find a first possibility  – projects galore. We offer. Owner has delusions of value. We pass.  We find a 12 on a 1—10 scale.  It is out-of-the-park, magazine-worthy and nothing we can afford.

Finally, we find the second place slot that matches the money factor.  And would you believe we were shot down because our dogs didn’t weigh 15 pounds. Oh My G.!!!!!! Who would pass on asking if we were prison parolees, bankruptcy pirates, bad check writers, etc. when they could ask “how much does your dog weigh”?

Next, driving home, we saw two places that could have been salvaged with a gas can and matches.

AND THEN, sort of in our backyard, we found the right place, but I say that with lots of reservations. We found a number 9  place, sitting right next to a number 5 place on the 1-10 scale. I am not in the habit of claiming any number over 7.  [It’s that second-place mentality]. Any other number is more my comfort zone and I always say, I can make any place better and money is the factor in my book and hey, we are looking at number 9 at this PRICE and number 5 at this price, so I know where I belong…….and I also know where I want to belong.  This could be my last chance to choose or try for the ‘brass ring’.

We made an offer; it is not lowball, but could be offensive if they are sensitive. It isn’t all our money, but close and we wanted to hold back just a smidgeon for comfort. It needs exterior work…and we can do it, but it will require dollars and labor.  The inside is absolutely perfect…..already scary, just saying that.

I mean, two remodeled awesome bathrooms, a master with a king size bed, which we can replace with a full or queen, a walk-in [walk-innnnnn] closet, another bedroom, both with nice carpet. The main portion, the great room, is dark hardwood with the coolest appliances [they shouldn’t matter so much….BUT THEY DO], a three door stainless fridge, a dishwasher I don’t need, and BOTSCH stack washer/dryer….BOTSCH –stainless tubs; they are lovely enough to put on my Christmas card, he and I on each side, a pet in each tub – what a card that would be with no nonsense writing. Friends and relatives would be relieved. May I add, this is a single wide manufactured home….with lovely front and back porches, a postage stamp yard and the piece de résistance, a noisy mountain branch [southern for trickle] about 4 feet from the back deck.  I AM IN LOVE !

BUT,  the number 5 house is sitting right next door, ogling me, nagging me. It chants “you belong to me – I belong to you” continuously.  ” Remember that price, Deb. Remember your standards, remember..….you always settle”.  It seems to beckon, as if knowing our offer was nigglingly short of what the sellers of the great number 9  will accept and 5 is waiting in the wings. Damn.

Could be my last house ever, discounting a ‘community house’, worst case scenario.  How about I get this number 9? The chances are low, low, low.

What can I do to focus elsewhere and leave this in God’s hands? He handles everything so much better than I, of course.

I will just write an addition to my blog………see where that got me!

 

UPDATE – EMERGENCY UPDATE: as I am proofreading this blog post, my phone rings. It is the seller’s realtor.  Ugh!  I so want to answer and I so don’t want to answer.  She says if we are willing to add in the ‘smidgeon’ we had held back, the sellers will agree to the sale.  I just had to AGREE!  We are going to move to the number 9 house.  It’s NO SECOND PLACE !!!!!!

 

I LOVE BACON

No…. I don’t like bacon, don’t mind bacon, don’t approve of bacon, I LOVE BACON.

Jews who consider Jesus a rabblerouser and do not have reverence for the cross, also do not eat bacon. I don’t think these characteristics are equal in importance but I would put them in the top three reasons I couldn’t be Jewish.

B A C O N is wonderful. It has become expensive,  but I can stock up when I find a bargain. It must be cooked correctly, not limp, not super crisp, but absolutely done. I gave up, long ago, trying to fry flat strips of bacon. It is meant to curl as it creates fat and the water steams out and the edges begin to crisp and the turning starts, to get it to the perfect degree of done.

Bacon sandwiches are my favorite…and the hardest thing to order in a restaurant. I want bacon and whole wheat bread…fresh bread, not toast, never white, and not cut …. The bacon belongs on one side of the bread, then you fold the bread in half and smash nicely with your hand and eat. Two will make a perfect breakfast. Restaurants want to toast the bread, cut it in half for you or offer bread that was fresh last week. Their bacon is always suspect as well, either too crisp or not crisp enough. It is because they fry it on the grill instead of in a skillet where the grease actually fries the bacon, not the heat. I can fry bacon perfectly! I can make the perfect bacon sandwich. I can make a bacon and egg sandwich although that seems a waste of a good egg and almost the ruin of a bacon sandwich. The reason being that I love the bacon. Why spoil a perfect food!

The other reason I love bacon….wait for it….is the bacon GREASE. I know, I know, I know. Yes I use EVOO, well mostly, OO, but I also use walnut oil and peanut oil. I am adamant that cholesterol is not the be-all, end-all to heart disease.  Some doctor, somewhere said so and I believe him/her. It is not in my dna to make a pot of green beans without adding bacon grease. I make delicious pinto beans that require bacon grease. Good gravy for mashed or boiled potatoes starts with bacon grease. My first wonderful Mother-in-law taught me the art of gravy and I learned well. My American potatoes are fried in butter [don’t go there either], but the scrambled or fried eggs to go with, need bacon grease seasoning. How about biscuits? I am not a biscuit fan, but I certainly know how to turn them out and I learned from a sourdough cookbook that they need bacon grease brushed on all sides and to rise over boiling water for 30 minutes before baking. If you doubt the wisdom, you should taste my biscuits.

I just put a pot of pinto beans on for supper. The smell is as good as the beans will be later today.

Food is absolutely part of the love affair with life. Some diet people and health experts recommend that we should view food as fuel and eat accordingly, forgoing the flavor, texture, delight and occasional binge. I know a kid or two who thought gasoline smelled pretty good and we know where that can lead. I’m 70ish, I don’t plan to abandon bacon. Its too good and I’m not.

 

A MEMORY FOR TRAVIS AND MISTY

This story is for my children.

When I was very young, my Dad’s two brothers were living at home on a tenant farm and still in high school. The house seemed big and old. It was a two-story, surrounded by a large garden, an outhouse, a pig lot, a barn for hay storage and milking, outbuildings, cribs and fields farther out. Both boys’ rooms had shelves of trophies and ribbons from 4-H adventures at the county fair. I went to the fair and watched with envy. It was my dream to be just like them.

When I was older, I joined 4-H, but we were town folks and girls were only encouraged to cook and sew. I did a bit of both, but it wasn’t what I had envisioned.  I wanted livestock and trophies and ribbons!

Years later, when my young family moved to a rented acre in the country, I determined my kids were going to have what I had longed for. They were going to get a taste of 4-H and farm.  So we embarked on the 4-H / homestead journey of raising animals, growing gardens, learning self-sufficiency and earning those 4-H badges, as proof of their achievements. We had farm neighbors who understood our enthusiasm and offered help often. We enjoyed growing our kids as they grew their interests and we met great 4-H leaders and other families who spent their vacation days herding, kids and animals alike, to the local county fair each August.

Our family tried lots of homesteading projects in those 4-H days and my farm bible was “Carla Emory’s Old Fashioned Recipe Book”. If my grandparents instructions left out a step, Carla could be counted on to fill in the blanks for every endeavor necessary to survival on the farm. I still have a comforting copy of the “Recipe Book”.

All this information is an introduction to the following story. I wrote it a hundred years ago, late one night, and kept a yellowed copy that was obviously typed on a real typewriter. With a bit of rewriting and editing, this is for Travis and Misty.

THE FIRST FARROWING

If you live in the country and harbor secret thoughts of self-sufficiency [and 4-H trophies], your thoughts will eventually turn to pigs; mortgage lifters they used to be called. Cheaper to raise than beef, they require less space and are barely more manageable. And you can fill your freezer with fresh, home-produced meat as was your intention all along. Those 4-H kids soon latch onto this pig idea as if it was their own and they are beyond excited to buy a handful of newly-weaned feeder pigs. These lovely pigs grow, well, like pigs and travel to the county fair and garner some 4-H awards and our freezer fills. Not entirely self-sufficient, but at least self-produced.

A year or two goes by in this way, projects completed and freezer refilled. I even survive the days I long for any steak that isn’t pork. One day, when listening more closely than usual, I pick out words like heat, breeding, farrowing and litter. I don’t think they are talking road-side cleanup either. I casually mentioned that their conversation was boring and they immediately exclaimed over my enthusiasm.

Before I know what has happened, one of the shapelier gilts in the pig pen has been carted off to meet a reputable and discerning chap with a staggering track record for producing offspring.  From the reports home, it seems the gilt was no happier with this idea than I was. In a couple of months, she is back and doesn’t seem to be harboring any grudges.

She is now due to produce her own family of squealing, pink, perfectly formed, I-just-love-baby-piglets in about three months, three weeks and three days. This lady becomes royalty. She gets special feed and plenty of it and she blossoms considerably.  With this wait [and weight] on our hands, talk turns to birthing arrangements; pen vs crate, a-frame vs barn, day vs night, etc., etc. Nothing could be left to our mother-to-be and the conversation was periodic and seemed unresolvable. I was for A-frame, pen, daytime. The WINNERS chose crate, barn, anytime.

The due date is Friday, Feb 18. Apparently no one bothered to consider arranging for a birth sometime in warm May or probably that didn’t jive with county-fair-in-August timing. All advice regarding farrowing early [or late], determined that she should be in-the-crate a few days prior, to get adjusted, so we decided the Saturday before the 18th would be moving day.  Just withhold food that morning and she will graciously follow the feed bucket into her new quarters that afternoon, so “they” advised.  Hah!  After more than an hour of thin patience and an inappropriate amount of her food, goat food, calf food, chick food, apples and milk, she graciously entered the crate. It was not a second too soon, for all concerned.

Now if we could have just worried that litter of piglets out of her, everything would have been a snap. She got more attention and poking and prodding than a woman delivering triplets by cesarean. She was inspected by each of us a dozen times a day and by every visitor to the farmstead, whether they had ever even seen a crated gilt before. Our mailman inspected. My Mother inspected and she was NOT farm oriented. The school bus driver waved off when we mentioned “farrowing” to her.

The 18th came and went, no piglets. We endured thru the 19th and the 20th all while our ‘Miss Piggy” was literally wallowing in the attention. We checked her morning, noon and night. Sunday night at 8pm, my husband came on the run, from checking, bursting in the house with the shaky news that we had a disaster in the barn. She had killed the first three piglets she’d had so far. I headed to the barn, as he phoned a more experienced friend for help. Everything we had read, all the advice we’d heard and all our questions asked, hadn’t prepared us for this situation. Even the gilt had lulled us into a sense of security with her docile nature and cooperative temperament. I removed the three piglets, before the kids got to the barn. I was quietly trying to get the gilt to lie back down, but she wasn’t having it. The friend determined that if she wouldn’t lie down, we could tie her down. At this point, I am appreciating that darn crate.

As new piglets began to emerge, Misty was busy scrubbing them clean and dry, while Travis was busy counting arrivals, with the marketing potential gleaming in his eyes. By 1 am, 7 lively, darling piglets were nursing eagerly while we supervised, never letting them near their Mother’s head. She would snap and grab for each that dared in her direction. She was definitely a force to be feared; thank goodness for the crate.

By 3am everyone was exhausted, the now-sow [having a litter transitions a gilt to a sow – it’s a farm thing] was no more loving and we decided to move the babies to another stall and heat lamp to get a little sleep ourselves. And little sleep is what we got, as we were back in the barn at six am for another round of feeding. The great mother was still not interested in mothering those babies and I had visions of being a round-the-clock nursing supervisor for 8 weeks. Daytime supervisor wasn’t entirely out of the question, but night supervisor didn’t flicker on my radar. This obstinate and very capable mother was not going to dictate sleepless nights for me.

By noon she was no friendlier and I was a lot more tired, so I decided that if I could shut her mouth and keep it that way, she might learn to put up with her adorable babies and they wouldn’t get hurt. It was her job to do the providing and I intended for her to provide.

I fashioned a muzzle of sorts using a goat collar, part of a calf halter and some baling twine. Ever grateful that she was in that crate, I ver-r-r-y carefully slipped the makeshift muzzle onto her and tightened it down. Next I got one daring little piglet by his back leg [which triggers auto squealing] and let him squirm in the general direction of her head. She snorted and grunted, but that mouth was secure. Lunch time kids; I let them all in to latch on and watched.

We think she was so isolated on our place; she was after all the one and only queen gilt, that she didn’t “know” other pigs, especially newborns. After 24 hours, we were able to remove the muzzle and she was the wonderful mother we had expected.

With 7 babies to choose from, Travis picked his choices for county fair exhibition that fall. He took Reserve Champion Chester White barrow at the Illinois STATE FAIR that year. It was a wonderful outcome for newbies to the farrowing world.

More farrowing was mentioned but we must have sensed once was enough. We did have more pigs. We were all suckers for baby pigs!

BERT AND EILEEN

Today is Eileen’s birthday. Bless her heart always!

My first husband was born in 1948. I was born in 1949.

My paternal grandfather was born in 1898. My children’s paternal grandfather was born in 1884. Read that again and think on it. Not my kids GREAT grandfather, but THEIR grandfather was born 14 years before MY grandfather.  The math in that statement floors me everytime I think on it.

My first wonderful Mother-in-law was married twice, the first to Albert Tackett.  Bert, as he was known, was born in 1884 and she was born in 1920. [More math – that means he was 36 years older than her.] She was his second wife. Eileen was 22 when she married 58 year old Bert. He was a longtime family friend and had actually dated one of her sisters before he and Eileen became an item. It was love. In pictures, she is sweet and young and he is swarthy and good looking.

[When I was in high school, my history teacher, Phil McCullough, was a trivia buff, before trivia was a particular thing. Not sure how much actual history I learned from him, but I did learn the answer to “what is a Gandy dancer”? A Gandy dancer is a railroad section worker. Turns out it was a necessary bit of information to my future.]

Albert “Bert” Tackett was a Gandy dancer. Who would have ever believed it.

He and Eileen lost a first baby daughter shortly after birth. They went on to have three more children, Mike, Danny and Alice, the youngest. Pictures show they were a very happy family.  Bert died of a heart attack in 1955, age 71, when his young wife and family could have used his care and companionship for many more years.

Because Bert was a Gandy dancer, a railroad employee, Eileen had benefits from the railroad. One that served her well was flagging down the train. Eileen, in all her life, never drove a car. The family lived in a country house near the interurban tracks between Armington and Minier, Illinois.  As a railroad widow, she could put out a flag near the tracks and the interurban train would stop, in those days, and pick up the young family so they could ride to Lincoln for groceries and errands. At the end of the day, she could corral her brood onto the train for a return ride home.

It is a story of different lifestyles, remarkable to us, normal to them, in times gone by. The story is all the more interesting and unique when told and considered in 2019. In many, many ways we are worlds away from the 19th century and yet, our family is still, pretty darn close.

THE HARDEST LOVE STORY I Ever Knew

  Jacob Travis Bowersock – Our Oldest Grandson

     February 24, 1998 – June 27, 2014

The new text on her phone read “Goodbye Mom, I love you”.  She just knew. The knowledge was in her dna.

He was feeding the dogs, in the country a few miles away, for his Dad and stepmom, while they vacationed. After the text is a blur of exact moments of clarity, never to be erased, never to dull or fade.

She reached him. It didn’t matter how, but she reached him, alone and longing to trade places. A tear rolled down his youthful cheek. She reached to sweep the tear into her heart as a sacred offering. He was 16, the middle child of three, oldest son, father’s irreplaceable favorite, speeding to the nearest hospital.

She was the first to ever hold him and the last. It was courageous, but hardly more than a pittance of what was battling within her heart, her brain, her body.

In the days ahead, coherent thoughts came and went. She realized there was never a hospital or ambulance bill. She had other mundane thoughts. She prompted herself to focus, plan, sort and comfort just to fight off the injustice and searing pain that engulfed her for endless moments. She rationalized. She scoured her heart for every good deed, every sweet moment, every spoken word, every single memory in a 16 year file, that might erase or ease that last day.

We all love our kids. We love them from the first breath. We love them through all the firsts, through all the tantrums, through all the ages of growing, all the way to gone from home.  But not gone like this. This way-of-going rips at all her sacrifice, all her prayers, her hopes and dreams. This way-of-going stomps on her heart with spikes of judgement and selfish indifference, with no hope of reconciliation ever.

If she is to continue breathing, with no hope ever, the breathing will be shallow and weak and fiery and explosive and barely life sustaining.

One foolish deed, one simple tear, one empty heart, will forever be their love story.

 

Robert

THEY WERE OUR NEW NEIGHBORS, out tending their garden, when we stopped to introduce ourselves and ask about the ‘neighborhood’.  They appeared at least ten years older than us and they were. The garden surely started out straight-rowed and had evolved into a crowd of plants and weeds. They were dressed in what can only be described as ‘raggedy’ clothes and shoes, hard-used, but still sturdy enough for their needs. They were pleasant enough, but busy, and we didn’t stop long.  As we drove past their place, we could see patches of gardens anywhere there was a plot of ground. Their house was centered [hard to determine its age] amid outbuildings, equipment and tall bamboo, with the sound of running water reaching us as we drove by.

We were to enjoy the friendship of these neighbors all the time we lived ‘just down the road’. They had two sons, two daughters-in-law, six grandchildren and they were landowners, landlords and much more than we had judged by first impressions. And, they were old school.

We gardened, we chickened, and we shared. They GARDENED, advised and shared. It was a mutual arrangement.

Why would I write about them in LOVESTORIESANDLIFE? Mostly because of his delight in telling about marrying his bride some 60 plus years before. Mostly because he was not so retiring as you would first guess and he loved to visit;  about machinery, about gardening, about local political leanings, about his projects, about his youth. I suppose we all reach that point, when we spend a lot of energy or just plain delight in recalling our younger days. Not that they were spectacular or even happy, but they allow us to choose the good or interesting parts and share them again before they lapse into the dimmest recesses where recall is lost.

He had been a self-employed man most of his life and had worked with heavy machinery, road graders, that sort of thing. He had worked with men who thought they were big shots and I can imagine their surprise to find he wasn’t the backwoods boy or man they thought they were dealing with. He earned the respect of many and he and his wife were well known and appreciated.

They were old school family too. Their oldest son worked the same as he was brought up; same machinery, same work ethic, same long hours and his two boys were coming up the same. It was a delight to meet kids with manners and respect for their grandparents and parents.

Robert’s family ethics and love were never more apparent than when the oldest grandson graduated high school with plans to attend diesel mechanics school in Ohio. This is a boy who had never been away from home without family and family made the commitment that this boy would not graduate under a load of debt. Everyone was required and glad to participate in the expense of schooling and room n board to see him through. Not only that, but the boy himself understood their sacrifice and did his part as well. He schooled full time and worked at a truck dealership 30 to 40 hours a week. He was an asset the dealership was proud of as well.

It is a love story. all its own, to know they raised a boy after their own hearts; his work ethic matching that of his parents and grandparents. The boy actually knowing in his heart how they loved and supported him and he was selflessly willing and glad to acknowledge their part in his life. Makes my heart swell just writing about their family dynamics. Would that we all aspire to their example?

Robert liked to tell of his wedding day. Wish I had asked more questions about finding his bride and how he asked her to be his wife, but the days are gone and he remembers the important stuff….like being married on a North Georgia Winter day in January and it being such an important day, he took his soap and towel in the early morning down to the river to bathe…..for his young bride and all the life they had before them.