Sunday, November 30, 2014

Happy Birthday, Daddy

I am thinking of my father today on the day of his birth. Several life lessons I learned I attribute to my father or as I called him, Daddy. One important lesson was to be honest. He taught me honesty by example and also by not tolerating any lying in our family. I lied to him one time as a child when I said I had gathered the eggs, and I had not taken them from under the setting hen. I was afraid of her sharp beak, because she pecked at my hand. He scolded me, and I admitted the truth.

Here Daddy is getting something out of my eye. I am two years old. His beard is for the Atlanta Centennial celebration.
Those are big horses! He is at my Grandad Bane's farm.

Daddy taught me the satisfaction of a job well done. He served his country during World War I. He farmed, milked dairy cows, and also worked at a factory for years, while raising four children. My father had the reputation of being a hard worker.

He also valued education.  Daddy had an 8th grade education, but he was smart in common sense. I remember him multiplying, saying, “Ought times two is ought.” He explained that “ought” means zero. Later, however, when I was studying algebra, he said he just could not understand how a letter could stand for a number. He and my mother were so proud when I finally graduated from college and became a teacher.
A kiss from Daddy after I received my master's degree at Truman.

Another lesson I learned at my father’s side was the love for spouse and family. He fell in love with my mother when she was sixteen, and continued to love her the rest of their days. He also loved his children. As he grew older, and we tried to help out with his housework or cooking, he sometimes asked, “What would I do without my kids? "
A Christmas celebration at our parents' house in Macon. I love how we are all connected.
My family as we celebrate our parents' 50th Wedding Anniversary

My father and I remained close over the years. I talked to him on the phone almost every day, and saw him at least once a week.  I often relied on him for advice until the day he died at almost 92. When he passed on, I was there by his hospital bed, holding his hand. Honestly, I would not have had it any other way. 

Today, my wish for him is that he and Mom are young, happy and healthy in heaven.  My brother, Clayton, is there  at the birthday party as well, along with Daddy's sister and brothers.  Happy Birthday, Daddy.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Going Home

     Last fall I drove through my old country neighborhood and went down the winding road to where I grew up. I lived in one house until I was five years old, then we bought the adjoining farm and moved to a nicer home.  I remember my parents being so excited to be able to buy the new farm. 

     The dirt road I took to my first home looked familiar. I drove by the falling down house of neighbors where my brother (five years old at the time) stayed when I was born. The story goes when he heard the news I was a girl, he was less than thrilled, stating, “Mom knew I wanted a boy!” 
     Although the house and barn were gone from my first home, I could still see where the road turned into the driveway. New fence surrounded the land, and it looked improved from the days when we lived there.

Our house used to stand to the right of the drive.
     When I tried to find my second home, though, the landscape looked totally different. There were houses on the south side of the road, where there had not been before.  I could not tell where my house and barn used to stand. A new metal building was on the land, but the pond was gone, as was the gentle slope that should have indicated the edge of the yard and the driveway.  I felt as lost and confused as people with dementia must feel when cannot find their way home. Recently, I told Blaine I wanted to go on a drive to find my old home place. I hoped he could help me.
      We drove slowly by what used to be our land. I spotted a lilac bush that I was sure used to grow at the southwest edge of our yard.   
The overgrown lilac bush that I think was at the edge of our yard.
     Respecting the “No Trespassing” sign,  I did not walk onto the place like I would have liked.  I started sniffling and blinking back the tears that burned my eyes.  Then Blaine pointed to the north and said, “That is where the barn was,” and told me the new shed was kind of between where the house had been and the old garage. Beans had been planted where there used to be a pasture and the pond.  I am not sure if Blaine was as confident as he sounded or if he just wanted me to feel better, but it worked.  I looked where he pointed and tried to picture the chicken house, the garage, the barn, and the house.
I wanted to walk around, but did not want to trespass.
I tried to picture where the house once stood.

      A few days later, I dug through photos to find proof of my old home place. Birthday parties, Blaine and I on our way to my first prom, our wedding reception at the house, they were all there, safe and sound in my photo box, whenever I want to visit.   
My 12th birthday with Kathy, my nephew Keith, Jana, and Lisa. This is in the kitchen. We drank well water out of the big Igloo cooler behind me. Our house water came from a pond.
My 16th birthday party - My friend Sharon made the cake. I was also proud of the army jacket, a gift from my cousin and her husband. I wore it all the time.

     After all, I realized the buildings were not what made my years growing up special. It was the people in that house who made it so memorable: Mom, Daddy, my sisters, Dianna and Janie, my brother Clayton (who learned to tolerate the little sister who often bugged him), good friends coming over for birthday parties, and the boy who told me he loved me for the first time at the back door before a goodnight kiss. 
Not a very good picture of us, but the big white barn is in the background. Mom made my dress.

Our wedding reception at home
      Yes, he is the same young husband at our wedding reception in the dining room, and he is now the gray-haired man who pointed out the landmarks on the old home place. Then we drove away, down several country roads, and finally found ourselves back at our current home, together.
I have lived here for 27 years, much longer than I lived at my childhood home.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Mayo Trip Three - Storms and Rainbows

I almost did not go on the third trip with my daughter and son-in-law to Rochester in November. The third one was going to be a simple surgery in the three-step process – the “take down” to get rid of the stoma and bag and fully reconnect her intestines. They were told they would probably only be there three to five days. Vanita thought just she and Stan could handle it…but the closer to the departure date, the more I felt as if I wanted to be with them on this final step.  A friend told us later that Stan told him, “There’s no way we are getting away without her mother.”  J  Of course, he was right. What he may not have known was that Vanita was thinking of him. “What if something happens to me and he is all alone?” she asked me.
          So, on November 17th we again headed north to Minnesota. The most gorgeous rainbows we ever saw appeared in the skies. “It’s a sign!” Vanita and I exclaimed as she snapped pictures.   
Photo of double rainbow taken by Vanita
 We checked into our hotel and ate dinner at a restaurant called Canadian Honker, recommended to Vanita by one of her students.  The next day we explored the town and ate lunch at our favorite Italian restaurant in Rochester, Victoria’s. I chose the ravioli fungi – so decadent and delicious. Since it was a Monday, Vanita and I both felt a little like we were skipping school.
On November 18th Vanita had tests done, and we met with her surgeon, Dr. Mathes. She explained the process, and reviewed the dangers of the surgery, as required. I think she could tell we were somewhat alarmed.  “But that’s probably not going to happen to you,” she said, patting Vanita’s arm. “You are young and healthy. We just have to tell you about the risks.”  
          With an afternoon free, we decided to go on a road trip to Wisconsin.  The views were gorgeous, with hills and valleys dotted with farms.  We went to Wabasha, where Grumpier Old Men was filmed.

We could see for miles!
We discovered we were close to Pepin, the birthplace of Laura Ingalls Wilder, so Stan cheerfully drove on. 

Ralph and Mary's with the lake in the background. (Vanita's photo)

 We saw the sparkling blue waters of Pepin Lake and ate at a small bar and grill called Ralph and Mary’s. Ralph told us which direction to go to see the historic landmark. I could barely contain my excitement as we drove on curvy roads through tree-covered hills. I could not believe I was actually going to see where an author whose works I have read many times was born.  There it was, on the right side of the road, a tiny log cabin with a sign in front proclaiming it as the spot where the Little House series began. It was so tiny! One room served as living room and kitchen, another was the bedroom and there was a loft over the bedroom. When I think of the excess that has become what people think of as “necessity”, I could hardly believe a whole family lived in such close quarters. 
Vanita's photo of me in front of a replica of the cabin in which Laura was born.
 The next day, November 20th, was surgery day. Vanita had to be at the hospital at 8:45. We did not see her again until 5:00 that evening.  The surgery went as expected.  When the doctors made their rounds and checked the incision in her side, Stan and I admired the slim little line that replaced the stoma.  She slept for a little while, but was not able to sleep much that night.
          The following day, the 21st,, she ate breakfast and lunch, and she felt good, not too sore. At 11:05 p.m.  I wrote in my little book that Vanita experienced nausea and vomiting, and had incision pain. They finally found a nausea medicine that worked at 2:35 a.m. (the 22nd). She was able to sleep until 6. This was the third day. It was the day they had said we might even be able to go home, but Vanita still was sick and ate very little. She became extremely sick and vomited. They had to put an NG tube in her nose, through her esophagus to her stomach. This tube was attached to a pump.  It was relief at a cost – it was uncomfortable, and she was not able to eat or drink anything while it was in place. When she needed to go to the bathroom, it was a rush to unhook the “suction” machine and wheel her IV bag with her. Stan stayed the night, and I went back to the hotel to rest.
          The next morning was Sunday, and the hotel shuttle did not run. The hospital was only a few miles from the hotel, and I considered walking. “How cold is it today?” I asked the desk clerk.
          “It’s 11,” she replied in her Minnesota accent, “feels like 13, though.” She beamed, as if that was a heat wave. I asked if she could call a cab for me, which she cheerfully did. Arriving at the hospital, I found Vanita was still sick.  
          “They said it would be a piece of cake. Where is our piece of cake?” I asked. 
          Vanita showed her sense of humor by quipping, “They didn’t say we could have our cake and eat it, too!”  I quit writing in my journal on this day. We did not go home on the third day or the fifth day. The days and nights are kind of a blur now.  There were days of blood work, scans and talk of possible blockage and another surgery. I remember standing outside the door to her room, breathing deeply.  The physician’s assistant looked at me curiously as she walked by.
          I said, “I’m putting on my game face.”  She nodded, and I saw the compassion in her eyes.  Following the difficult days were dark nights of sleeplessness, no way for her to find a comfortable spot in the bed, and a particularly stressful night of an extremely rapid heart rate which set off the alarm every few minutes. I lay on the chair which folded out into a “bed” and just watched the heart monitor. It was that night we both thought she might not actually survive, but we did not admit it to each other until long after our return home. 
          On November 27th, my Facebook status said, “I am still in Rochester, MN with Vanita and Stan. I told Vanita she is on the right track, we just hit some speed bumps along the way. They even told her she "turned the corner" last night. Please pray that she is able to get the stomach tube removed in the morning. It makes her throat so sore.”
Vanita with the nasogastric intubation tube and various monitors.
          These were long, dark days and nights. However, there were a few bright spots, too. One young male nurse confided that he had volunteered in nursing school to have the NG tube put down his nose to his stomach, so he knew what she was going through. He stood by her side with tears in his eyes when they pulled the tube, only to have her get sick in a matter of hours and they had to put it back in. Vanita will always remember his empathy.  Another kindness I will always remember is that the family-owned restaurant, Pannekuekan, near the hospital offered free Thanksgiving dinner to families of Mayo patients who could not go home for the holidays. Stan and I enjoyed ham, mashed potatoes, corn, a corn muffin and pumpkin pie with whipped cream served by a cheerful young man (about 12 years old). It tasted more like home cooking (which we missed terribly). Vanita was a little better, the tube had been removed and she was able to sip on a little chicken broth.   Back home in Missouri, my sister-in-law Cathy gathered my family together at a Mexican restaurant for an impromptu celebration. Of course, we will always be grateful to the many people were praying for us, calling and texting to see how she was.
          Saturday, November 30 – After 13 days in Rochester, 11 of which Vanita spent in the hospital, we were finally able to come home.  Maybe those rainbows we saw on the way up were a sign.  We would pass through a storm, but there would be a positive outcome. Today, Vanita is healthy and as gloriously beautiful as those rainbows.  We are thankful for our blessings.
Vanita and Stan almost eight months after surgery.

Friday, May 30, 2014

The First Day of Summer Vacation

“What are your plans today?” Blaine asked on my first day of summer vacation.
“I don’t have plans,” I replied.
“You want to go fishing?” he asked.
“Sure!” I said.
“That’s how we will start if off!” he said. After breakfast, he loaded up the red Jeep with the needed gear and off we went to Long Branch Lake. The lake was beautiful. 

I wondered about the wisdom of the two of us rock climbing, but we survived.

“Careful on the rocks,” he warned. “They are kind of dangerous.”  We made it down to the edge. He had packed cushions for us to make sitting on the rocks more comfortable. We began with stink bait. Its name needs no further explanation.  Then he switched to shrimp, which the catfish preferred. Can you blame them?  
Blaine doing what he enjoys!
Blaine caught several catfish, until he ran out of shrimp.  Although I had a few bites, I failed to land a fish. My husband's expert advice was that I had too much slack in my line.  For me, it was not about catching the fish, anyway. It was about spending time with my husband.

I am not that experienced with "selfies" so I did not get the whole fish. 


Saturday, May 3, 2014

Grandma Judy Day!

My daughter said the first words out of 5-year-old granddaughter Megan's mouth today were, "Today is Grandma Judy Day!" Since mommy was coaching sister Madison's basketball team, and brother Jaron was acting as assistant coach, Megan was coming to my house for the day all by herself. Here are some of the fun activities we did. We let Grandpa Blaine in on the fun, too.  It was a good day!

We picked dandelions. She picked a large one, and I said, "That is a pretty one!" Megan said, "They are all pretty!"
Megan helped Grandpa Blaine pick out the plants from his greenhouse for the garden.
Our son's old golf cart turned into a garden cart
She did a great job adding the right amount of water without getting it on Grandpa's hand. He had to tell her what "Whoa!" meant.
Where was Grandma Judy during all of this? Taking pictures, of course. Megan also helped make supper. We wound down by watching the movie Frozen. She has all the songs memorized and sang along, to our delight.  After a few days of rest, we might be ready for another Grandma Judy Day!

Monday, April 14, 2014


Several people whom I met online recently expressed an interest in my husband Blaine's greenhouse, so I thought my blog might be the easiest way to share the story. Every year my husband saves seeds from two heirloom tomato varieties that we can not find in seed catalogs: Red Wolf and German Giant.

Here is the greenhouse. It is just a lean-to built of clear siding on our garage.  He recycled a door that was in the shed. You can see our garden spot in the right background.

 He starts the seeds all together in a couple of covered plastic containers in the house. When the seedlings came up, just about and inch or so tall, he takes them to the greenhouse to be transplanted.

Using a butter knife, Blaine scoops up the individual plants and plants them in their own little compartments in the plant containers, which he recycles from year to year.
Fans blowing on the plants make their stems sturdy, an  exhaust fan automatically comes on if the temperature is too high in the greenhouse, and a space heater keeps the temperature from getting too low.
There are mini blinds on the south side that he can also close if he needs to. These little baby plants will grow into large plants that will produce big, juicy red tomatoes.

Feel free to comment or ask questions below.