39 Cents…

I realize not every newlywed couple started out like John and I almost 50 years ago. Some young couples might have been handed the keys to a business, deed to a farm or home. I don’t know if that properly prepares you for the rest of your life. Hubs and I had to figure our life out the old-fashioned way. The hard way. By ourselves and making a few mistakes along the way. As John’s dad was famous for quoting, “you made your bed, now lie in it.”

John working at Channel 4 in Sioux City, 1969…

We all bring our own luggage (ok, baggage) to a marriage. John and I had dated off and on long enough to know every detail about each other. Not. Geez, he slept weird (head cupped in his hand with his arm bent, his face moving ever so slowly, almost touching the mattress, then he’d bring his head uppright again. Kinda like one of those goofy animals that sway to and fro into a glass of water). Plus he expected me to cook. Holy smoke, what had I gotten into? I had a domineering family with issues up the ying-yang, Hubs was more or less ignored by his. Still, we dove in head first, madly in love, knowing together we were a unit. We would make a family and a happy home. Everything else would just gently fall into place. Or land with a big clunk.

One of our first big clunks was a mountain of debt. Thud. OK, me first. I had just bought a car from a young couple in Sioux City. They had one child, were expecting another and about to have the car reposessed. I don’t think we even went to the bank, just had my name put on the remainder of the loan. The payments were pretty high for 1969, 80 bucks & change, which would prove difficult. The car was a 1968 blue Mustang hardtop which is one of the reasons the couple needed to get rid of it. With one small child and another one due, the 2-door would be a pain for kid hauling. That car caused me nothing but grief. Should have been painted yellow-as in lemon. Passenger seat broke 20 times but was never recalled. Bam, the seat snaps. All of a sudden you’re halfway in the tiny backseat with whiplash. Worse than the seat, that sucker would not start when the temperature was between 25 to 40 degrees. In Iowa, this amounts to about 6 months a year. I still feel awful when I bad-mouth this car, however. Just a few months after I bought it, the former owners, now a family of 4 were all killed when their car was hit by a train. Ironically, about a year later I nearly collided with a train in the Mustang at the railroad crossing in Merrill, Iowa. I was about 5 months pregnant with Shannon. Yikes. Thanks for watching out for me (and Shannon) that night God.

John, not one to stay mad very long…

But it was Hubs who had incurred the bulk of our debt when we started on this journey together. He was paying for a car too. John had a gorgeous 1965 Chevy Impala. Which he completely ruined because he loved to drag race on Douglas Street in Sioux City. So along with his payments he acquired many speeding tickets. And promptly lost his license. Oh no, we’re not even getting started. John and his buddy (Rod Berthelson) had taken a trip that summer. It might have started out as an overnight joyride but lasted a couple weeks. They headed north to Canada, dropped down through Montana to Yellowstone and the Black Hills. In a Corvair. ‘Nuff said.

But I’m still not done with Hubs lengthy spending spree. He worked at KTIV, Channel 4 in Sioux City. You’d think he’d be tired of watching TV cause he had to watch it at work. He worked some pretty lousy hours, mostly nights. Yet he had become a full blown Trekky since that silly show premiered. As soon as he was getting a paycheck, he had to have a humongous flat screen to watch this new fascinating show. Ugh. Mind you, colored TV’s were not yet very popular and were quite expensive. And small. John’s big screen was a 13 inch on a wobbly stand. I believe that tiny TV cost $350. Which was not paid for when we got hitched.

In this union we have me earning a whopping $1.60 an hour as a aide in a nursing home in Morningside. Working full time, my take home pay was under 60 bucks a week. I can’t swear what John was cranking out at Channel 4 but I’m pretty sure his check every other week was about $235. Two car payments (remember, he couldn’t drive), credit card bill for his vacation, plus our Star Trek TV, rent, groceries, insurance for the car. We were in trouble from the get-go.

Me in front of the duplex, 1970 in nurses aid uniform…

We were renting a house in the 32 hundred block of Douglas Street for about 80 dollars a month. The small house was on a slab, had single pane glass windows and when we got our first heat bill, it far exceeded what we were spending on the rent. We couldn’t afford living there very long if we wanted to continue to eat. I needed the car to drive to Morningside, so Hubs walked the 3 miles to work that fall and winter.

We were so broke. All of the time. After paying ‘most’ of the bills, we had about 5 bucks left for groceries, gas and smokes. It was easy to get discouraged and nit-pick each other. But we really didn’t fight very much. Except anything concerning my mom. She was a thorn at times. When Mom was visiting and wanted something from the fridge, if she spotted beer, she would dump every ounce down the sink, without saying a word. This was my fault for sure, I set no boundaries with her. Now John paid probably a buck-fifty for that six pack, but until next payday, it was irreplaceable. Mom and John bumped heads until she died.

With less than 6 months of marriage under our belt, we moved to a darling duplex in Leeds. Maybe a titch more expensive in rent, but I think some of the utilities were included. Cute brick one bedroom and as a bonus a fabulous couple living in the other half named Lee and Carolyn. We would soon find more in common with them than just being freshly married. Both husbands worked nights, while Carolyn and I worked days, thus giving us lots of time in the evenings to visit and bond, while anticipating the births of our babies in a few months. Yup, both of us probably should have been on birth control but were not. We each got an early start to becoming a family.

Shannon, making us a happy family, 1970…

Back to our food issues. Since we were too dumb to stop smoking, tuna was about the only thing we could afford to eat. On sale most weeks 3 cans for a dollar. It was tuna salad or tuna casserole a couple of times a week until I started learning how to cook and got better at grocery shopping. We couldn’t afford to get the Sioux City Journal, which was filled with grocery ads, but I read the paper at work. John had to work until the 10 o’clock newscast was over, then I’d show up to drive him home, so besides running around with Carolyn, I had a lot of free time on my hands. In the paper I noticed a meat sale. But I was torn. Hubs had warned me several times not to go running around Sioux City at night by myself. There were sections of 4th Street which were not safe. Which was exactly where this meat market was located. So I snuck downtown like I was trying to buy drugs or hire a hooker. Peeking around, still in my Pony (the lemon) to see if someone was lurking, ready to pounce on this 19-year-old-mother-to-be. All clear. I slunk in the store, studied the meat counter in earnest, checked my wallet, making sure I had enough cash. Ordered and paid for what I needed. Stopped and looked both ways for the lurkers before heading out the door since John had promised they would indeed be waiting for me.

Hubs has always been a griller. Loves any kind of food cooked outside. It would be years before we could buy a nice Weber gas Genesis grill. All we could afford was a cheap square grill on skinny legs that used charcoal briquettes. The grill was under 10 bucks but had to be budgeted before we could even swing it. And one rarely lasted more than a year because we used it so often. John became an expert in how to light, how to stack the charcoal and what kind of heat he needed for what he was cooking. I do believe he still misses the old charcoal grills. We’ve had several gas grills since we moved to Michigan in 1987.

I smiled all the way home. I hadn’t been mugged (or worse). He’s going to be so proud of me. What a great little bargain shopper I’ve become. It wouldn’t be a fancy meal, but it was, still is about his favorite food on the grill. A big, fat juicy hamburger. I bought buns, onion, tomato and potatoes. We already had dill pickle slices and Heinz (a must in this marriage from the ketchup expert, the Hubs. It had to be Heinz). The potatoes are for home made French fries, my contribution to the meal. Next night, Hubs gets out of work after the 6 o’clock newscast. I’m waiting (in the lemon), ready to cruise home and eat together (not something we got to do very often at night). The grill is lit, the patties are made, oil is heating for the fries which take about 20 minutes. I start them a good 5 minutes before the burgers go on. Condiments are ready, there’s pop for me, Old Milwaukee (the cheapest 6-pack on the shelf) for John. The grill was on the sidewalk close to the side door of our duplex. The fries are cooking and Hubs puts the burgers on the grill, comes back inside for a minute to get his beer.

John grabbed his beer bottle, slaps me on the butt on his way outside when we hear this incredibly loud- WHAAAAAA-UMMMMPHHH! Flames are shooting up the side of the duplex, past the roof!! Holy shit! Hubs sprints out the door, jumps sideways off the cement landing. WTH? There’s not one iota of ground beef on the grill. Not one morsel of hamburger. What happened to our meat? How did this big ass fire start? The smoke is so thick, it’s impossible to see anything but smoke and bright red flames. One of the neighbors runs over to check on the status of the roof in case it caught fire and asks if he should call the fire department? I assure him with, “Oh John’s just grilling!” (Should have come clean that second, John’s always taken great pride in his grilling abilities). Grabbing the lid of the grill, Hubs tries to place it on the towering inferno to douse the flames. Finally drops it kitty-corner on top of the grill. He narrowed his brown eyes (which were also spitting fire-geez, enough with the flames already) towards me. (It was hard to look at him for 2 reasons. I was about to get soundly scolded, but that was a minor annoyance compared to what I was witnessing. The flames had licked John spic and span of much of his hair. He no longer had arm hair, eyebrows, lashes and I’m pretty sure at least one of his nostrils was completely void of hair. It was hard to look at and smelled kind of funky too. Like singed chicken. I was morbidly drawn and repulsed at the same time. If I smiled, it would surely be for the last time-ever). He said testily, “what have you done?” “Umm, last night I went down to the meat market on 4th Street,” I said meekly. “You mean the one spot in this huge city I’ve specifically asked you not to go alone? At night?” “Um, I think you’ve mentioned that part of town to me,” with an appropriate down-trodden face. “What exactly did you buy? How come the meat literally disappeared? What was this?” He can be awfully smug sometimes. Now, maybe with just a tad of defiance I shot back, “it’s just hamburger. I saw the ad in the paper and wanted to surprise you. It was on sale. Only 39 cents a pound.”…

All Aboard the Gravy Train…

It might be in the water, or even in the air. Maybe random, (doubtful) inherited or a complex part of our own unique DNA. Perhaps I’m putting way too much thought in this, yet somehow equate it with my being born and raised in Iowa. The greatest land with the richest black dirt, countless miles of corn and soybean crops. Hundreds of thousands of hogs making the world a better place so we can enjoy bacon with every meal. The rest of the fields not planted to feed the hungry masses are infused with huge herds of cattle, producing the worlds best beef-bar none. I’m all about the cows.

A housing project on the outskirts of Le Mars, Iowa. Awesome black dirt…

I was a Parish Visitor for 15 years. This job (more of a calling) included visiting the older members of the congregation. Some were still in their own homes, but most had moved to independent, assisted living or were in nursing homes. To help with my vocation, I took all the classes possible to ensure I could spot changes in behavior, physical failings, anything out of the ordinary, depression, change in eating habits, etc.

Several of the classes were on nutrition. A senior, living alone often does not have a very good appetite, sometimes does not recognize thirst, and who really loves or wants to cook for one? As we age, our tastes, habits, and routines change about a lot of things. They might go to bed much later than when they had to be at work by 7 before they retired. Now they’re waking up much later, which might play havoc with their prescriptions and eating habits. Plus they don’t seem to even like the same foods they have all their lives. What’s up with that?

Famous Iowa tradition. The Tavern…

I witnessed this whole food phenomenon with countless number of people I visited and my parents as they got older. The first food group that sort of gets shunned out of their lives is beef. (Hard for this beef fanatic to fathom, but we’ll get to that a bit later). Unless it was a super tender pot roast or something made with hamburger, beef just loses much of its appeal. Part is the taste, but also the texture, the chewy part. Also harder for their digestive system. Usually pork would be next to go, thus leaving chicken, fish and turkey if they craved protein at all. The last taste older folks give up is sweets. Yay! I’m right there with them on this one. And yes, I really am ‘one of them’ at least for sweets.

Crockpot Beef Stew…

All studies show red meat is not very good for us. I can truthfully say, I’ve noticed Hubs lack of bubbling beef enthusiasm lately already. A steak eater since he got his one year molars, we’ve enjoyed steak as part of our menu every week or 2 since we said I do. The last couple years, it’s rare (a bit of steak humor) for John to say, “let’s have steak tonight.” He just doesn’t crave steak like he used to. Yet, I find myself in daily arguments (with myself, it’s not always pretty) I still love and crave red meat. There, I readily admit another one of my many weaknesses and shortcomings. Last week I took out a sirloin for supper. Tossed salad, Texas toast and a pretty good sized hunk of meat for each of us. John had a dozen good sized bites he didn’t finish, unlike my plate which was empty. I did wait to lick the plate clean until I was around the corner. A side note, we’ve gotten just terrible about eating at the table lately. Maybe the last 5 years, the only time we eat at our table was for steak supper, or something that needed cutting or cracking like crab legs. OK the few times we have lobster or crab we still down and sup together at the tabke, but now, even for steak, we take out a cutting board, cut our steak in bite size pieces, then haul ass to the lazy boy chairs. We watch one recorded program while we eat. Not something gross cause well, we’re eating. Then I get up to clean the kitchen, make my lunch for work and do the dishes. I still do not fully understand why we’ve gotten this lazy about sitting by the table.

I use beef brisket for my canned meat a couple months ago…

Although it seems like a decade ago, the reality must be 3 or 4 years ago. Something happened to our cattle herds in the US. A sickness or wasting disease and thousands, maybe millions of the cows had to be destroyed. Causing the price of beef in the grocery store to skyrocket. My go-to bone in or boneless chuck roast that I use for my Vegetable Beef Barley soup, and stew meat which normally runs around $2.29 a pound was now costing over 6 bucks a pound. Outrageous. For soup meat! I fretted and ‘stewed’ over the lack of good old red meat in our freezer. My supply of home canned meat looked pretty meager, and I ran out months ago. For canned meat I buy 2 whole beef briskets which was way too expensive to buy 35 pounds. I trim off all the fat from the brisket, so there’s an awful lot of waste. Since then I’ve bought an occasional roast, stew meat when I was so hungry for comfort food I wanted to cry, but my beef consumption was lower than my mind and body was happy with. Finally a few months ago, beef prices started coming down to a more reasonable rate, making this retired gram a happy cook once again. I canned 20 quarts of spaghetti sauce and sixteen, 24 ounce jars of canned meat. My life and love with beef is good again.

Home canned beef, redskins, green beans, cranberry sauce & GRAVY…

I cook most nights, so every few days I head downstairs to our big meat freezer. It’s not unusual for me to take out 3 or 4 main course packages at a time. A couple of butterfly pork chops for the grill. A package of bite size beef pieces for crock pot beef stew. A package of boneless, skinless chicken breasts (see, I can be good) for Chicken Tortilla soup, and almost always a package of ground round or ground sirloin. Meatloaf, Beef Skillet Fiesta, chile, ground beef-potato casserole, meatballs w/ mashed potatoes, Taverns. Spaghetti, my favorite meal is not included in the aforementioned list because I can my own meat sauce. When I want spaghetti, I just bring up a quart jar. I would eat spaghetti once a week, then eat leftover spaghetti for the next 3 days, Hubs wants it maybe once a month. Sigh, my cross to bear. I routinely hide spaghetti leftovers in the fridge in case the unimaginable happened and John decided to eat some for lunch. Since he’s afflicted with a pitiful illness and cannot spot a gallon of milk in an otherwise empty fridge, not a lot of thought has to go into my hiding process. Honest, my list of ground beef recipes is huge. I fight the urge not to have beef more than twice a week, because I love it and I am weak. Just when I think my menu is done and somewhat healthy, I remember GRAVY. Umm, hot roast beef sandwiches with mashed potatoes and GRAVY. Or pot roast, carrots, potatoes and GRAVY. With a good sized portion of cranberry sauce. I really kind of dread the day (OK, except for the healthier life style and longevity) where a hunk of beef is not my top priority when dwelling on what to make for supper. With some of my lump-free, delicious GRAVY…

My home canned Spaghetti Sauce. My favorite meal…

May 5, 1990…

Twenty-seven years ago. Hubs and I were on the cusp of something huge! Two biggies, actually. We were a few months away from becoming first time grandparents. Yikes, we were young. And we’d been gearing up mentally and emotionally for a difficult moment for months. No years, really. Why May 5? Well, I didn’t know it would be exactly the 5th, but had decided Tareyton’s had ruled this chick’s life long enough. Over half of my life at that point, about 25 years. I’m still convinced I was born to be a smoker.

Exquisite Ariana in 1992…

The 5th dawned like a perfect spring day. I warned John, “this is it!” From my last carton, down to my last pack, I had about 10 cigarettes left. Then we were quitting for good. I was worried about Hubs cough and so sick and tired of listening to him hack 24/7. Only one of us quitting was not the answer if this marriage was to continue on it’s merry path of longevity. I knew to ensure success we had to quit together. I nervously tried to space and enjoy my last day of smoking.

Pretty sure I was the only smoking cheerleader in RV, 1966…

It was odd the different way we smoked. Hubs was a nervous or unaware smoker. If he finished his meal before anyone else, he thought nothing of lighting up at the table. And he was not loyal to any brand. If he stopped at a store for smokes and they were out of what ever brand he was laying claim to that week, he’d just ask the clerk to hand him a pack of anything. No loyalty what-so-ever. He’d switch from Marlboro to some weird off brand menthol and not think anything of it. What kind of dedicated smoker does that? Freak. Where the heck were his taste buds? Probably dead or smoldering in purgatory after smoking 3 packs a day. Plus he smoked weird. He might be working on a project in the garage and light up a cigarette, only to realize he already had one lit and half gone in the ashtray. Me, on the other hand was more, this is my relaxation time. I made it a point to sit down somewhere, take a load off for ten minutes. And I was true to my brand of Tareyton’s until the day I quit. (I rarely ran out of cigarettes. If a 3 day blizzard was in the forecast 6 months down the pike, I was prepared. With enough Tareyton’s and food in the house for a small army. Although I’d happily cook and share any and all food, just try and snag one of my Tareyton’s and you’d likely be missing several digits off that offensive hand. If for some reason I was running low, I would have stopped at a dozen stores looking for my brand, rather than buy another. There was no switching brands gene in me. Hokey pete, I’d rather fight than switch.

Might have packed on a few pounds, 1997…

I don’t believe we even had a cordless phone yet. Plus my hearing was still spot on and I loved yakking on the phone. If the phone rang, I always wanted to be ready for a possible half hour conversation. Since I was born wearing a flannel shirt, I always kept my pack of Tareyton’s in my pocket. I’d tap my pocket as the phone was ringing to make sure my BFF (Tareyton is better-charcoal is why. I was a big supporter of the coal industry) were where they’re supposed to be for a possible long-haul call. My left boob suffered immeasureably after I quit smoking, getting smacked where my trusty pack of Tareyton’s resided for years. I should have bought a boob-pocket-protector.

We can smile again, 2000…

I calculated I would run out of Tareyton’s around supper time. Didn’t think about John’s numbers, but he sure was smoking a lot that day. Why? Because he cheated. He always smoked 3 cigarettes to my one. He knew he was gonna run out way before me so he snuck to the gas station. What a low down, lousy thing to do. I was so ticked, I could have popped him one in the nose when I realized he had bought another pack. Still, Hubs with a whole pack and me down to my last 5, we ended up running out about the same time. You seeing what I’ve had to deal with for 47 years?

Lip balm folks, not a Tareyton, 2003…

Some form of hell was in store for this mostly happily married couple after our last meal without a smoke for dessert. We were insufferable to each other for a big share of 1990. Insomnia was the worst side effect for me. It lasted for months. It was truly amazing however, how fast my sense of smell returned. Considering I never knew it was gone in the first place. It was like getting a dog’s sensitive nose for the first month. I could smell someone 4 houses away fart and tell you exactly what they had eaten. Kinda gross really. Not the best conversation starter at the block party either that summer. Neighbors all thought I was stalking them because I knew what they ate and if they were gassy, when I hadn’t seen them for 2 weeks. Along with my super sensitive sniffer, my lackluster taste buds started multiplying like backyard bunnies.

Not missing all those cartons of smokes much…

Yowsa, food tasted good after I quit. Everything tasted so good. And I ate it all. All the time. I don’t know if Hubs taste buds were on the same page as mine, although he ate with the same gusto as me. Since he had been a different smoker, he was a different quitter too. He needed something to do after he quit. Kind of a nervous quirk. Chewing gum became his drug of choice. I guess I should be happy he wasn’t chewing tobacco. You know the term ‘hangry?’ I think it’s when you’re hungry and angry at the same time. Or being hungry makes you angry. That was Hubs after he quit. He was hungry like me all the time, but angry too because he couldn’t smoke. He chewed gum (with gusto and very angrily) until the inside of his cheeks looked like raw hamburger. It would take months to break that nasty, painful habit. He even chewed gum when he drank a beer. Yuk. But he never had trouble sleeping at night like I did. So we both gained some unwanted pounds, me about 40 over the next 2 years. Took about that long for John to get rid of his horrible cough too. Still, one of the best things we ever did for ourselves and each other. Never realized how hard quitting would be for either of us. Just don’t see the ramifications when you’re young and dumb and start those deadly, expensive habits.

The year after we quit, we bought a hot tub with the money we would have spent on smokes as a bonus for a job well done. Finally. And we still celebrate our extra anniversary by going out for supper. That date has always been bittersweet for me. One of my dearest friends, Mary Ellen’s birthday was May 5. I did my very best to sweet talk, beg, cajole, tease, and plead with her to stop smoking. But she was never able to give up her life long addiction to smoking and died from lung related issues 4 years ago. I’d like to think she’d be very proud I’ve never fallen off the wagon since quitting that beautiful spring day in early May, 1990. Sadly, Mary Ellen, (biggest diehard Cub fan ever) never had the chance to watch our beloved Cubs win the World Series last November. I’m sure she watched it on the big screen with The Man upstairs. In the smoking section of course…

Mary Ellen about 1990…

High-Tops & Onesies…

I never realized the numerous changes that’s occured in child rearing until I started working at the daycare over a year ago. Mind you, I’ve not given birth in closer to 4 decades than I’d like to admit. But still. Some things you know will just NEVER change. Until they’re seen as hopelessly outdated, antiquated and obsolete.

Josh with some spiffy white high tops, 1976…

Let’s start with under shirts. As babies, Shannon and Joshua wore 2 different kinds. One was a pullover. All babies hate having anything pulled over their head. The other type was more expensive but easier to use and baby-friendly. It resembled a vest, but with short sleeves. There were usually 3 snaps, one underneath to help keep the shirt in place. Plus 2 with the material that overlapped the bottom snap. Dang that’s hard to explain. Harder to visulize I’m sure. Sorry. Baby under (t) shirts came in a wide range of colors and fabrics, as long as they were white. And cotton. Back in pre-historic times, ALL babies/toddlers/pre-schoolers/ elementary kids/even bigger ones wore undershirts at least 6 or 8 months a year growing up in Iowa. Until they hit puberty. Or got their period.

Old fashioned snap t-shirts. Ended up around their neck…

With the modern invention of the onesie, mom’s all over the world now had time for another load of laundry, or whip up an extra course for their supper menu every day. Why? Because 47 minutes per day were saved by not having to tuck babies t-shirts in 153 times! Imagine, a t-shirt that stayed neat and tucked in by itself. Without velcro attached to their hides. I jest. Velcro had not yet been invented. We were still losing 38 minutes re-tying shoes 72 times. More on that in a minute. Adam, my last baby wore onesies. I could not believe how convenient and cute they were. And they came in pastel colors. Mint green, soft yellow, baby blue. Why? Because pregnant women did not know if we were having a boy or girl until those little parts were displayed and announced by the doctor delivering your baby. Your layette consisted of pastel, gender friendly one piece sleepers if you had a shower before the baby was born. While you were in the hospital after giving birth, that’s when you got girl or boy clothes. Nursery’s were usually done in soft pastels too.

The usual way white high-tops looked. Scuffed toes. Thanks Patience…

Under shirts/onesies must not be considered a necessity anymore. Very few babies at daycare wear them, even during the winter. Just doesn’t seem right. I lay a baby down on the changing table (plastic covered foam), unsnap, unzip or tug down their sweats, skinny jeans (so cute) or sleeper. A little gasp escapes me when I spot their bare belly. Don’t they get the shivers? If wearing a shirt and knit pants, the crawler’s bellies are actually cold to the touch because their tummy is on the bare floor much of the time. The other extreme is what I nicknamed double onesie kids. Self-explanatory, they might have a long-sleeved onesie under a long-sleeved onsie. But most wear a sleeper, or just knit shirt and pants. And a diaper, maybe socks in the younger babies sleeper feet.

No white high-tops, but look-rubber pants! Adam, 1980…

There once was a woman/wife/mom with no name (seriously), who never got credit for a pretty fantastic invention. Let’s call her Patience. She was going about her daily chores (cooking/cleaning/laundry/kiddos) when her (pretty famous) husband waltzes in through the door of the tent. “I’m almost done with the boat. The planer broke so the floor boards are full of splinters. Don’t tell me to buy a new one, there’s no time and I’m flat broke. Cost of living, inflation, the exorbitant cost of new power tools, everything’s so expensive. By the way, we have to be ready to go in a couple of days.” This little conversation almost made Patience lose hers. Not one to give Hubby any lip, Patience pondered what on earth she should do. Stuck on a boat for several months-with her flock of kids-(Hubs was not high on birth control either) and those bare little tootsies on that rough floor.

Ariana, 2. Another generation of white high tops. Yay..

That night a bulb went off as she drifted to sleep. In the morning Patience put everything, packing food and clothes, forwarding their mail, on the back burner. She now had one (sole) purpose. Inventing white leather high-top baby shoes before breaking that bottle of champange on the bow of boat. Using only the best leather, she fashioned each one of her kids under 5 custom white high-tops. FYI, 2 of her children would become rather well known in their own rights. Shem joined a vaudeville act after adding a ‘p’ (after his dear mum) at the end of his name. Middle kid started ‘acting out’ in high school, but in a positive light and was deemed ‘the class clown’ or Ham. Patience used white leather because cheap white shoe polish was readily available and she signed an exclusive deal for 20% of the profits for 99 years). Patience was very proud of herself. She wanted to gloat/mass market/advertise/patent (oh good heavens, another light bulb-‘patent’ leather shoes for the Sabbath) but now she was seriously behind with her chores and the clock was ticking. OK, sundial. Whatever.

The skies were definitely clouding up. A frown crossed her brow and she bit her lower lip, deep in thought. Something was troubling Patience. What was it? Bingo. The animals. That’s it! Why did I make the bottoms of the shoes leather? I should have used something grippy like a Vibram sole. Shoot, no time to invent that before the floodgates open. The kids will surely slip and slide through all the pig-horse-cow-zebra-antelope-lion-unicorn-bear-pigeon (I’m gonna stop here, you know where this is going) poop. Another time-sucking trip to Walgreens for stupid white tape that hold bandages in place for big boo-boos. Patience carefully placed white tape strips on the bottoms of her dozen pair of assorted sized white high-top shoes. There, that ought to do it. From what I’ve learned reading this interesting piece of history, Patience’ husband was very impressed with her cleverness. Her hand stitching would have won a blue ribbon at the fair, except for the Weather Channel’s (on the 8’s) forboding indication of impending rain. Heavy at times. And now you Noah the rest of the story.

Lugging Josh on my hip, white high-tops thumping against my leg, 1976…

This was a tried and true tradition for thousands of years. As a new mom, I never gave baby shoes a second thought. Everybody knew when your baby wore white high-tops for the first couple of years, they would certainly be less likely to suffer from foot issues as adults. Duh. Now just a few decades later, white high-tops are not what’s used to help babies master the art of walking. Glimmer, glitz, sparkles, velcro, and Nike are all the rage to adorn your babies feet. Blech.

Daycare babies glitzy shoes. White high-tops mom, white high-tops…

If the babies wear shoes at all. Most don’t. They do wear socks which stay on for about 10 seconds. Lots of problems with babies and their socks. It seems to be their yummiest chew toy. They all like to chew on their own or other baby’s socks. This is a favorite baby past time. We pick up wet, soggy socks off the floor constantly. Plunk them on a heat register to dry, then they’re hard as little bricks from the spit. For the older babies, slipping their socks off helps with self-preservation. As they develop and start trying new things, pulling themselves up, standing, (or clinging to your leg when you’re standing, holding someone, my fave) or start walking around furniture, it’s down right dangerous when they’re wearing socks. Socks cause more slips, slides, spills and splits than you can imagine. Everyday.

Adam & Joshua, 1980…

In my time on the ‘force’ I’ve not encountered one new mom who uses cloth diapers. Well, why would you if you bring your special little one to us? We supply Pampers. No joke. I’ve not heard of another daycare that provides diapers and wipes. I know there are still cloth baby diaper services out there, but that old school tradition has been put out to pasture too, I think. Another
lost art of intricate diaper folding (think origami) as your baby’s butt got bigger. Fun times.

Sunday morning before church. Shannon, Josh with white high-tops and John, 1977…

The safety of infants is tatamount these days. It’s not that we didn’t care deeply for our children, but raising them was a little more loosey-goosey. Hubs and I were just talking about a trip we took to Minneapolis in 1979. We went with John’s sister Elly and her husband Dewey to antique and see a Viking’s game. Shannon 8, Joshua 4-1/2, stayed with my folks, but Adam was 6 weeks old. And the only baby I nursed. (Loved it, BTW). So leaving him was out of the question. Dewey drove a 1972 Chevy Caprice station wagon which is the approximate size of the house we now own. (Huge for a car, a house, not-so-much-but it’s perfect). We put our bassinet in the back of the station wagon and Adam slept in it. All the way from Iowa to Minnesota. On his belly. Oh boy. Adam’s our only kid who had a car seat (and I use that term loosely). It reminded me of one of those old time carnival rides. Remember the swing ride? Like a safety swing at the park with a bar across your middle, a rod in between your legs so he wouldn’t slide out. And it had 2 big u-shaped hooks that went over the seat. Of course it went in the middle of the front seat. How else could you keep an eye on him or take him out to feed or change him while Hubs was tooling down the road at 60 or 70? I didn’t think we took any big chances with our kids when they were small. But they rode bikes, skate boards, and roller skates without helmets or pads. They rode in our cars and trucks unemcumbered by any safety measures. Sometimes laying in the back window or the bed of the truck. Amazingly, all three lived through their perilous childhoods and continue to thrive…

For your daily smile. Jovi, 4 months at bath time, just because…

A Calendar of Memories…

Hubs handed me a purse-sized calendar he got in the mail a few days ago. “You want this or I’m pitching it?” Although I have calendars on my iPhone and iPad, there’s something about glancing at a whole month’s worth of days at one time. On real paper. Like books and magazines, the way God intended. Yes, I’m hopelessly out of touch. Guess I prefer it that way. A FB friend recently put up a thorny post about waiting behind someone in line who was using a debit card. One of the comments was, “I was just behind someone WHO WROTE A CHECK! Are we back in the stone age?” Yup, I still write checks.

Antiquated and obsolete and still used by me…

I might have blushed (in shame) as I was reading his post. It got worse. His next comment was something like, “let me guess, it was a senior citizen?” Geez, guilty as charged. But why do I feel guilt? When reading the news on your tablet noting 42 million people were hacked using their card in Target-what’s the majority of your private information stolen from? Debit cards. Enough on this rant, back to my love of new paper calendars, even if it’s May already.

This free calendar is actually from a worthwhile organization called the DAV, Disabled American Veterans, and I probably should send them a donation. But then I’ll be forever hounded with multiple daily mailings begging for more. Skeptical, callous creature that I am. Calendar oddity # 1, the first month on it is April, 2017. The DAV is up to date on its mailings, I’ll give them that. There’s a row of pretty backyard birds on the bottom of each month, though all the months have the same picture. But it was the small blank rectangular spot randonly placed on each month that caught my eye. And got me reminiscing. On each month’s top were a few words. OK I’m game. Let’s play.

April-“My most memorable childhood friend.” Well, start me off with a no-brainer. Charlene Faye Schelhaas Bay Jackson. What a mouthful! One of the cutest, sweetest, most talented, down-to-earth girls in Rock Valley. She was everything I was not. Coming from a large, happy family. Again, the opposite of me. Normally, I didn’t invite scads of girls to my house. It was just too quiet after Larry died. I preferred going to my friend’s homes because there were sibs, commotion, energy, lots of noisy life. But Char spent quite a bit of time at my house and was included when we went out for supper on Saturday nights, day shopping trips, even vacations. Though their family was much bigger than ours, often times I was included (happily, I’d like to believe) when their family went fishing at Lake Benton, Minnesota. And I was always invited to Char’s house on Sunday nights. There would be about a dozen people around the supper table because Char’s oldest sister, Audrey was married with children and lived a few miles away. I remember Char’s mom, Esther made her mashed potatoes with a mixer, something my Mom never did. Oh, Mom made mashed potatoes, but always used a masher. Just like I do now. But I do remember Esther’s ultra smooth Sunday night potatoes. There wasn’t a lot of dawdling time. The kitchen needed cleaning, dishes had to be done, because we were expected back at church for the evening service. Many of my fondest childhood memories included this wonderful family.

Char, forgotten girl from Canton & me about 1962…

May-“My most memorable time spent with my Mother.” Around 1985 Mom and I went to Chicago for a few days to watch some Cubs games during a long home stand. As I recall, not a cross word was spoken by either of us. Two things instantly popped in my head about the trip. First was a rather foolish decision to ride the El to the end of the line from where we were staying on the Northside, heading south. Way south. At night. We were fine, but it was a little scary at the time. The second was a fabulous afternoon (all Cub games were held in the fabulous afternoons back then) at Wrigley Field. The weather was perfect, the Cubs were winning (think we might have just recently acquired Sandberg, Sutcliffe, Durham, Eckersley, and were almost kinda good). The 2 dudes sitting next to Mom were smoking pot (remember the year here, this was a heinous crime-ha-ha) and she asked me what that funny smell was? OH MY WORD! PRICELESS! She wanted to call the cops. Good times Mom.

Mom looking pretty around 1985…

June-“My favorite summertime memory.” The luxury and blessing of small town living. I could ride my bike anywhere in Rock Valley (except Hi-way 18, where my brother had been struck and killed while riding his bike). That feeling of complete freedom was unsurpassed. Wow.

July-“My favorite place to watch fireworks.” North Muskegon, hands down. We enjoyed the city’s fireworks every 4th of July but for a couple years during the late 90’s, the American Pyrotechnics Association came to town. With a BOOM. We lived on Muskegon Lake. This freaky-lit-up-group would set up on a barge in the lake for several days, right across from our house. Near a park called Heritage Landing. Testing and trying out new complicated pyrotechnic shows. Which we enjoyed. Free. They were supposed to be done by 11 each night, but in the Eastern time zone during July, darkness doesn’t come early, so they always went past the time limit. You’d hear car alarms going off, the windows in our house would shake and rattle. And you’d witness fireworks that made New York envious. The APA wanted to utilize the Muskegon area every year, but the local politicians got involved. One year ‘the city’ wouldn’t issue the APA their needed permit in time, so they went elsewhere and never came back. With them flew hundreds of thousands of dollars in tourist money. So dumb.

Fireworks across Muskegon Lake. See how the lights shimmered right to our backyard…

August-“My favorite way to cool off in the summertime.” The best ‘cee-ment pond’ in the world. The Rock Valley Community Swimming Pool. Doc Hegg was instrumental in city’s process to build a pool, I think it was around 1960. As opposed to the poopy pit (though I remember loving it at the time) we were using. Two diving boards, shallow and deep end, separate baby pool, showers, rental baskets, season pass, snack counter, lifeguards. It was all good. Life guards who seemed to sit so high they almost reached heaven. Once in a while I dared climb the lowest wrung of the life guard’s chair to say ‘hi’ to Tom Manning. He was polite, but really no-nonsense while watching all the patrons in the pool. He was more apt to chat or tease me as he walked when he was done working or on a break.

September-“My most memorable school teacher.” This is a tie. The best teacher was Mrs.Torkelson in junior high (when I still cared about grades). She managed to make the term, ‘conjugating verbs’ fun. Yup, she was a miracle worker. My favorite teacher though was Mrs. Ver Hoef in second grade. Tough year for this little girl after losing Larry. Maybe to her, I was just a kid who needed a bit more attention that year, but to me she was almost a savior. Funny that I should be writing about Myrna on May 2nd. Rock Valley kids celebrated May Day, when about 99% of the population was Dutch. Bringing May Baskets is a Russian tradition but most of Rock Valley’s children in the 50’s and 60’s happily adopted this tradition. May Day of 1959, Mom went out of her way to make and help deliver beautiful, tasty baskets. The object was to deliver by being sneaky. Then you run away without getting caught. Mrs. Ver Hoef ran out of her house, caught me and gave me a big kiss. Highlight of that year.

Myrna Ver Hoef and me in Yuma Arizona, Feb. 2017..

October-“My fondest memory of autumn.” When I was younger, it was going to Halloween parties at school, because they were in the early evening. Bobbing for apples, games with our classmates. After the party, we’d go all over town trick or treating. No pins or razor blades, no x-raying of treats, and most of the treats were homemade. As I got older, it would be the Bonfire, Parade, Homecoming dance and football games.

November-“Favorite place to spend the holidays.” My house, with all the kids and grandkids here for a turkey dinner (Thanksgiving-Christmas-Easter) with all the fixins. Odd as it was, for quite a few years Mom, Dad and I went out for Thanksgiving Dinner in Sioux Falls. And I never thought it was that unusual, but realized not many of the families I knew went to a resataurant for holiday meals.

December-“My most memorable gift.” Have to say my diamond ring. When Hubs and I eloped (with nary a dime in our pockets) we had pretty plain wedding bands that would serve us for about the first 15 years. All the serpentine was wearing off so we brought them to a jeweler to have redone. He butchered them, so we wore nothing for a few years. Around year 20, John sprung for a nice-little-over-a-carat-brilliant-cut-on-a-wide-band which has served me ever since.

Still like yellow gold, one more telling thing on my advancing age…

January-“My most memorable winter activity.” This is a joke right? Nothing. I repeat, nothing. Winter is about as wonderful, well there is nothing wonderful about winter. I didn’t even like it as a kid. Guess winter blizzards got me out of some days at school. Yeah, there was that.

February-“My most memorable Valentine’s Day.” Oh boy. Not going to be something sappy or very romantic, but it was memorable. The year was about 1999. Hubs had a hundred dollar Christmas gift card burning a hole (in my pocket). Adam was about 20 and had a date, so we brought them along to this fancy restaurant called Rafferty’s. It was right on the water, across the Lake from our house. I had made the reservation weeks ahead of time. It was snowing, cold and windy (surprise-surprise) and Friday or Saturday night if memory serves. Should have known better. John drops us off because he has to park far, far away. The place is packed, people milling around waiting to be seated. After we’re seated, and have perused the menu long enough to memorize it, a waiter takes our order. Our object here is to use up as much of the card as we can. I opt for prime rib, John chose the biggest porterhouse on the menu. What the love birds ordered I haven’t a clue. The place is short on help and long on customers. Our order finally arrives. There’s a slight problem. John’s whopper of a porterhouse has a filet part the size of a DIME. And the steak is much too done for his medium rare tastes. He sends it back, hoping for a normal looking rare steak the next time around. The rest of us have about 3 bites left on our plates when Hubs gets his second porterhouse. This time the dime size filet has disappeared completely. John loses it. Completely. Refuses it, says he doesn’t want anything to eat. The waiter takes the non-porterhouse off our bill and we snake our way through the throng of people. Hubs is furious. Luckily for him, the owner (a real Payne-yup that was his name) is running the register. Payne gets an earful on his slow service, less than quality meat, over-booking and possibly the bad weather. Payne too has had his fill of unhappy customers and SWEARS at John. A lot. By now, the waiting room and half the restaurant is privy to this sweet evening’s conversation. To top it off, since there was no big-ass expensive porterhouse on the bill, we still have credit. Payne will not give Hubs the leftover 25 plus dollars, instead issues another gift card. John explains it will be a cold day in hell before he ever steps foot in this shithole again. In a huff, he throws the gift card on the floor and stomps on it. I slink out the door, wisely tugging on John’s arm or someone will need the cops or an ambulance. Or both. Adam and his date follow us. But not before Adam retrieves the gift card off the floor. Another free supper for them.

Holly & Adam…

March-“My fondest memory of springtime.” Winter’s over. Thanks God. Crocus, lily’s of the valley are blooming. My legs are getting brown. Fragrant lilacs which remind me of Larry. It’s what I always brought him at the cemetary when we lived in Iowa…

Larry about 3 in 1949…