It’s Mayor Paul from Sioux Falls…

Sioux Falls was the closest big city when I was growing up. My much smaller Iowa town where I was born was southeast of Sioux Falls by about 40 miles. Back in the early 1960’s, Sioux Falls wasn’t even that big, but compared to Rock Valley (population under 2,000) it was a metropolis. Sioux Falls offered the first of many things for this teen, pizza, fast food (McDonald’s), K-Mart, all night truck stop, plus a bustling downtown filled with fancy clothing stores, movie theaters with amazing architecture. The actual “Falls” for which the city was named alone is worth a trip. The pink/red Sioux Quartzite boulders/rocks which allow the waterfall’s 100 foot drop is stunning. Yup, Sioux Falls was the first city I ever loved.

Can you believe the color of those boulders? Stunning in person…

Sioux Falls was also the first city where I committed a crime. Cliff note version: I stole (borrowed really, stole is so harsh) my host’s family car during a slumber party and drove it to the aforementioned all night truck stop with a load of girls egging me on for hamburgers at 2 in the morning. Then drove back, nestled it in it’s rightful parking spot with nary a dent or scratch, minus a half tank of gas. Ok, I was 14 and didn’t have my learner’s permit yet. Details, meh.

Part of the 120 acre park and Falls in Sioux Falls, South Dakota…

Both the Hub’s and I were fascinated with Sioux Falls and tried to move their numerous times during our long checkered marriage (I jest, we’re good people, well basically pretty good), but never managed to call that city home. The closest we came was in the early 70’s when Hubs had a job offer to work at Litton Industries, making microwaves, which were in their infancy. We wanted to take that job so bad. It all came down to money. We were starving working at Zenith in Sioux City. We just couldn’t take a pay cut to go to Litton, so Hubs turned it down. (Ended up moving to eastern Iowa, making toy tractors for a handful of crazy brothers (I kid you not, they were freaking nuts). Looking back it might have been better to take the cut in pay.

This “Falls” and park are quite impressive…

Lived in eastern Iowa, moved back to the northwest part, back to east side of the state, then the biggest jump of all, the move to Michigan in 1987 which we thought would be temporary, yet remain to this day. Didn’t see that one coming. The allure holding us here are our 3 adult children, their spouses, 4 grandchildren and one great grand, thus Iowa no longer has a very strong hold on us, but it remains number one in my heart.

Iowa (and Rock Valley) will always have my heart…

I would dare say during our 30 plus years in Michigan we have gone back to Iowa to visit relatives 60-75 times. I could count on one hand how many of those visits did NOT include a trip to Sioux Falls, and I’d still have a couple fingers leftover. They have a lot to offer. Usually shopping trips because Sioux Falls built a couple of fabulous malls. South Dakota also deals in both Black Hills Gold and turquoise and silver jewelry which I’ve collected over the years, so that was a definite draw. Michigan might have more colleges and professional sports teams than Iowa, but we’ve never given up on the Hawkeyes (closest thing to a pro team as Iowa’s ever gonna get) so we were constantly looking for cool Iowa clothes.

Hawkeye cheerleading outfit for granddaughter Ari years ago…

So I have this special friend from my home town (one of many I’d like to think). Her name is Alma and she’s one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. (A much, much, much better writer than my nonsense. I’m insanely jealous of her clever style, and her vocabulary is phenomenal). Anyway, I gotta stop on the accolades for Alma or I’ll never get to Paul. Alma had a knee replacement a month before I did last year, so our recovery and progress have been similar. Moving forward with baby steps, hiccups causing a step back now and then.

No we’re way past mayor Pete. This is mayor Paul from Sioux Falls…

Well Alma’s son is the City attorney for Sioux Falls, so he works for the mayor. Now we’re getting somewhere. The mayor is Paul. (Geez, that took long enough). Don’t know Paul, doubt if I’ll ever meet him but I like what I’ve read about him. He’s the same age group as my kids. Side note: Paul’s last name is very familiar to me. When I was a kid, Mom worked at a hatchery in Rock Valley, candling eggs (which involves closely inspecting the eggs. Mom held 4 eggs at a time in a windowless, pitch black room) under a very strong pinpointed light to spot any defects. She worked for a couple of guys, one was named Harold Ten Haken, which happens to be mayor Paul’s last name. I don’t know if they’re related. The name may sound unique but in northwest Iowa it’s quite common (and understated compared to some of the Dutch names).

Looking at a candled egg through a very bright light…

Some of you know I’ve been a pretty consistent walker since 1998. The last 5 years have been injury prone but I’ve rediscovered how much better my life is when I start it off with a walk/music in the morning. After surgery, physical therapy, a fall, more therapy I decided it was time to start walking again “with purpose” as Al Swearengen would say. Bought new shoes, new headphones, developed a new attitude. Got an app to track my steps which has almost been my undoing. Don’t get me wrong, I love it but find it troubling that I’m this competitive-with an inanimate object. The first time I hit 10,000 steps in a day, my pedometer app rewarded me with a periwinkle ticker-tape explosion. “Aww, just for me? You shouldn’t have.”

Very subtle, like I’m not gonna notice the zzzz’s…

But that was just the beginning. The app tracks a lot of data for and about me, most I’m clueless about. Floors, streaks, goals, milestones. But the more I hit the periwinkle daily goal of 10,000 steps (and my ticker tape parade) the more inclined I was to keep going, not break the streak, walking everyday. I have the feeling the person who developed this app has a warped personality. Take my stats for last week. I was plugging right along, hitting my daily goals when Thursday dawned with cold rain and wind. There’s not even a mall open where I could do some laps, but I was desperate, so I snuck into Meijer. (Don’t worry I wore a mask as a disguise, making it much harder to recognize me or breathe, plus it fogged up my glasses constantly. Gotta say, not a big fan of the mask). At the end of the day I had maybe 7,500 steps which shows up in yellow on the app. Next morning I noticed there were 4 tiny z’s in my disappointing slot, acknowledging me as a slacker/sleeper/slug for the day. Nothing like some derogatory implications for inspiration.

Love seeing those blue stacks…

Alma retired after working as an RN in Sioux Falls most of her career so she still has a lot of ties to that city. She reposted a Sioux Falls challenge by mayor Paul. (He’s a fitness nut, does triathlons). His hope that through the Covid pandemic, the folks in his fair city will continue social distancing/common sense but at the same time exercise for their physical and mental health. His challenge is walking 100 miles in 100 days, which started April 20th. It’s on the honor system so Alma posted a selfie when she had reached a certain number of days/miles in a row. I complimented her and asked if you had to be a Sioux Falls resident to participate? (she is not) Could a foreign subject from waaay out east join in the challenge? She gave a hearty, “go for it Denise.”

It’s the fitness guru, mayor Paul with an awesome challenge…

Just when I’m getting this cool daily walking rhythm, a problem niggles in. I don’t know whether to call it my good leg or bad. It’s my left leg which still has the knee I was born with. Started aching all day long, in back, mid-thigh to mid calf. Not debilitating but bothersome, especially if I’ve been “dormant” for an hour or 2, then get up and try to move. Much as I’d like to continue with my frenzied pace, (hahaha) I think I’ve been a bit overzealous. However, now I risk the wrath/sarcasm/bullying issue by pissing off my pedometer app because I’m not hitting 10,000 steps a day.

For now it looks as though mayor Paul is gonna have to compete in his next triathlon (I’m not even quite sure what this event involves) without this great grandma. But I’m hoping to hit my first 100 miles of his 100 miles/100 days challenge way before the end of July. Since I don’t do selfies it’s doubtful he’ll know how many miles I walk before the challenge is over but I’ve started a new album in my pictures so I can keep track of my weekly successes though it’s not gonna total 35 miles a week like the last 2. Gotta be thankful and pleased I’m walking in earnest at all. And I am. Really…

Jimmy…

He arrived on November 13th, 1934, in the middle of the Great Depression. The second child born to Jim & Mag during their marriage. He had a four year old sister named Eleanor who doted on her baby brother. Jim and Mag’s family would continue to grow, adding another 3 boys over the space of a couple decades. Leslie Dale in 1941, Arlyn Carl in 1944 and John Wayne (my Hubs) in 1948. They named their first son James Roger. All of them would carry shortened versions or nicknames through some or most of their adult lives. Elly, Jimmy, Les, Arly and Johnny Wayne. Jimmy and Arly strongly resembled their dad while Elly, Les and John looked like their mom’s side of the family.

The earliest pic I’ve got of Jim, riding his trike with Mag hanging out the clothes, 1939…

It’s kinda weird. I always considered him ‘Jimmy’ when I talked about him, but after Jim Sr. passed away in 1987, Jimmy just sorta morphed into the ‘Jim’ status. He was done being a barkeep and ventured into the field of law enforcement, first as an officer, then as police chief. Jim just sounded older, more professional. You gotta have some street cred, even in a small town like Rock Valley. Now with the Hubs it didn’t take that long. Once he left Rock Valley, he preferred being called John so that’s how coworkers knew him. But Elly, Les and Arly’s names stuck, at least in the family.

Elly 14, Jimmy 10, Les 3, 1944…

I first met him in 1965. He was 30, (twice my age) big, intimidating with dark hair, piercing brown eyes. Business owner but not a place (it was just your small town, neighborhood bar) this teenage girl, who had the strictest parents in town should frequent. Mom and Dad always seemed to know where I was. They kept someone on retainer, trying to keep me on the straight and narrow. Not a chance. Actually I was a highly trained professional at dodging my parents on my last known whereabouts through my teens. I knew all the hiding places in that town.

Is this just the cutest? Jimmy, 8, Elly 13 and unknown gal, 1943…

Jimmy married a quiet gal named Eleanor in the fall of 1960. (I know, what are the chances that your only sister and brand new bride share the same first name? But Jimmy’s Eleanor was never Elly, at least not to me. She was always Eleanor). She had black hair and eyes. I knew her for 25 years and I’ve never met a person like her before or since. Not once in those 25 years did I ever hear her say a negative, derogatory, bad remark, or a sarcastic, unkind, hurtful word about another person. Or swear. Ever. Who goes through life like that? I mean there’s always a character or 2 in your life who drive you crazy just breathing air right? Not to Eleanor. (My friend Char runs a close second in this kindness department). Dang I got enough pent up anger issues to make up for the both of them. And then some.

Eleanor (nicest person in the world) in the late 1970’s at Mag’s house…

During our early years of marriage we rarely socialized with Hubs’ brothers, spouses and kids besides family events but it did happen once in a while. They were older, more established (they had discretionary money-we most definitely did not) Both Jimmy & Les were avid fishermen and frequented the countless lakes of Minnesota during the summer. Lake Ottertail and Battle Lake were favorite spots and we got invited a time or 2, once with Jim and Mag who shared our cabin. (Memorable vacation for me because while the rest of the family fished one day, toddler Shannon and I were preparing our next meal. I struck a match to light the oven and there must have been the tiniest of gas leaks. The force of the explosion pitched us all the way across the cabin. We were unharmed but pretty shook up and deaf for awhile). That could have turned out much more serious, we were lucky.

Shannon on vacation with the 1972 Vega and our dog, Tina, 1973…

I guess Jimmy noticed me first. John (the whole town knew as Johnny Wayne back then) had worked for various farmers for a couple summers and saved enough money to buy a brand new 90 CC Bridgestone motorcycle. Yeah, he was bad to the bone alright. Since we were in the early stages of dating, we spent most of our time tooling around Rock Valley, me planted behind him. Jimmy asked his mom, “who’s that girl on the back of Johnny’s motorcycle?”

Mexico, 2018, Jim, Dee, John, me, Les and MJ. Dental work so my margarita dribbled down my chin…

He was 14 years older than John so they didn’t spend a lot of their free time together when Jimmy was still home. He graduated from high school about 1952 and enlisted in the Marines soon after, making Hubs about 5. Jimmy called his mom once and said he was going to Mexico on leave. “Say, ask Johnny Wayne what he wants me to buy him when I’m in Mexico?” Mag relayed the question and was instructed by the kindergartener to please buy him a burro (ha-ha). Instead, Jimmy mailed his youngest brother a leather jacket with long fringe on the sleeves and a sequined sombrero which the Hubs wore until there was nothing left of either.

The hand raised coyote (King?) that Jimmy brought Johnny, mid ‘50’s…

Jimmy had a black 650 CC Triumph motorcycle which he dearly loved, but it didn’t have an electric starter. You had to use the kick starter. One day Johnny went into the house, walked up to Mag and asked, “Mom did you know that Jimmy named his motorcycle?” “He did? What does he call his motorcycle?” “Well every time he’s trying to go for a ride, he puts his foot on that thing and pushes down as hard and as fast as he can. And it never starts the first time. Jimmy says, bitch! He doesn’t think I can hear him, so he pushes down even harder the next time. Then he drives away really fast. His motorcycle’s name is bitch.”

Whole family at Archie’s in Le Mars. Here is Jim, Arly and Vic about 2008…

My first close encounter with Jimmy after Hubs and I eloped was a few months later. I was hospitalized for an infection of unknown origin for a few days. Jimmy drove to Sioux City (about 60 miles) to visit me. He must have stopped downtown at Younkers first. Talk about an ice breaker. He waltzes into my room and hands me a 2 pound box of my favorite candy, milk chocolate Annaclairs. How did he even know? I was tongue tied and a bit embarrassed. Nineteen year old newlywed wearing an ugly hospital gown and still intimidated by Hubs’ older brother. I’ve never forgotten that sweet gesture for his punk teenage sister-in-law.

The Fab 5, Jim, Arly, John, Elly & Les early 2000’s. Only Les and Hubs are left…

Jimmy and Eleanor had 5 children over the course of their 30 year marriage. Their kids were similarly spaced over 2 decades just like Jim and Mag’s family. We love S P A C I N G. Unfortunately Eleanor got cancer and passed away on New Year’s Day, 1991. Four of the kids were adults and on their own but their youngest son had just started elementary school.

Arly, Jimmy, Les & John. Mag, Jim and Elly, 50th anniversary 1979…

The time during Jim’s tenure (mid-80’s & 90’s) as Rock Valley’s police chief ended up affecting me a lot and I was living 750 miles away. Mom had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a couple rounds of chemo treatments which caused a stroke from which she would never fully recover. Both Mom and Dad were too proud/ashamed/embarrassed to seek help (just a few hours of help a week) for several years. The results were pretty much a disaster. Dad was NOT a caregiver for her physical needs. Yup he was a stand up guy if your soul needed saving but baths, laundry, cooking, cleaning were not on his radar. At all. He and Mom were about the same size, 6 footers with lean builds. (what happened with short, chunky me? Who exactly are my real parents)? When Dad was helping Mom get from one place to another, invariably they’d both end up on the floor, more times than I care to remember. Well RV’s fire and police departments would get the call that the Gerritson’s needed help again. I can’t tell you how many times Jim came to their aid, oftentimes right from his house because he lived a block away.

Mom & Dad before they needed Chief Jim’s help at times…

One time I had flown to help Mom and Dad out for a week, mostly cooking in bulk and freezing meals. But without a car I was stranded. Jimmy offered to drive me to Orange City so I could buy a piece of Blue Delft for my collection. (A tradition when I was in northwest Iowa). I can’t remember the name of the store, wasn’t on Main Street and looked like a dark brown barn. Probably something clever like Wooden Shoe Factory. It was winter and frigid so Jimmy came in the store with me, looking like a bull in a china shop. Eyes bulging at the hundreds of choices which I had to narrow down to one. Shaking his head and muttering, “can you believe the price of this crap? You really gonna pay that?” (In my defense I only bought one or 2 pieces a YEAR). I picked a plate to hang on the wall and yes it was a hundred bucks. He shook his head over that for years!

The plate that caused Jimmy’s disbelief…

In January of 2018, the Hubs and I flew to Arizona for a couple weeks. Our time was limited because our grandson Landon, the basketball phenom was in the middle of his junior season and I couldn’t bear to miss many games. Les and Mary Jane had been wintering in Yuma for several years and Jim and Dee (his wonderful lady friend of 20 years) were driving out for a 2 month stay. This trip was the first time in decades Mag’s 3 boys were vacationing together again. (Brother Arly had passed away in 2012 at age 67). This vacation was a game changer in many respects. The small car we had reserved wasn’t available after we landed so they upgraded us to a minivan with all the bells and whistles. The six of us fit comfortably. We went to the desert, casinos, church breakfasts, flea market. Had margaritas, wine, dips and chips on Les’ fabulous deck every afternoon. Met somewhere almost every night to eat supper together.

John, Les and Jim a couple years ago in Le Mars…

But it was after we got back when I really noticed the change between Jim and John. The phone calls grew more frequent and lengthy, always ending with an, “I love you little brother.” “I love you too Jim.” Reminisced about the baby coyotes, raccoon and fox Jim brought back to his little brother to raise during the 50’s after a hunting trip. Things were just different between them and their chatter was nice to hear during their calls.

Celebrating something around 1951. Elly, Jimmy with toddler Johnny in the background…

Jim hadn’t been feeling well and finally went to the doctor in mid April, 2020. He called John the next day (Saturday) with devastating news. He had been diagnosed with acute leukemia and the doctor had given him days to live. Because of the pandemic they encouraged him to go home because he couldn’t have visitors while in the hospital. He passed away 3 days later. We decided not to travel home because of the federal restrictions at funerals. But when you don’t attend, you really don’t have closure either. What really helped was because Jim was a retired law enforcement there was a city processional led by local patrol cars, county sheriff’s department and the Iowa State Highway Patrol, plus a 7 rifle volley from the veterans. All of this was recorded by the city of Rock Valley and posted on Facebook, which brought tears to our eyes. What a tribute. End of watch Jim. Rest easy. Hone your shuffling techniques and card skills because we got some serious games of pinochle to settle. He was a card shark (with a bit of a temper when he played) which made my seldom wins even sweeter…

The life of Lakey…

Guert Wanningen was born in Negeloo, Gendwingelo, the Netherlands in 1860. Jantje Frantzen was born in Steingherworld, Overijssel, the Netherlands in 1867. Both immigrated to the United States in 1888 (were they on same boat, did they already know each other? I don’t know) and were married later that year after settling in the mostly Dutch community of Sioux Center, Iowa.

Earliest picture of Gerke/Gerrit/Lakey (my grandpa) I have, 1908…

These immigrations were well thought out by former immigrants, now living in the states. After they became established, found housing, jobs and started learning the language, they in turn would sponsor someone else from the Netherlands who was interested in starting a new life in the states. The most recent immigrants were welcomed with open arms, helped with finding work and a place to live. The newbies would offer their profound thanks and bring a small gift they brought over from the old country. Mom talked about these ‘sponsor’s gifts’ often because she had several in her possession. Not from the immigrants themselves but her grandparents who had sponsored several people from the Netherlands over the years. Now I have a couple of those gifts.

A 1924 wedding gift candy dish, a candy dish of Mom’s and sponsor’s gift from the Netherlands, late 1800’s…

Geurt and Jantje had their first child, a daughter named Jantje (pronounced yon-chee, Americanized to Jennie) December 1st, 1889. A son (my grandpa, christened Gerke-Americanized version-Gerrit) followed on January 17, 1896. My Dad, (who would later become Gerrit’s son-in-law, shared my grandpa’s January birthday. Gerrit was 21 years older than my dad-kinda odd). The Wanningen’s lived on a 20 acre farm north of Sioux Center. In 1918 they sold the farm. The Sioux Center Nieuwsblad (local newspaper) posted this snippet of utmost importance: Geurt Wanningen is going to build a large new house. Joe Van Deest will be the carpenter and lumber has already been purchased. (Ha-ha, I love this).

Gerrit, Jantje, Guert and Jennie on the Sioux Center farm in 1910…

Tongues were wagging, heads were shaking about the Wanningen’s new house since there were only 3 of them living there. Geurt and Jantje’s daughter Jennie got married in 1915, then became pregnant and very ill at the same time. She developed cancer in her eye during her pregnancy. Jennie’s husband Paul brought her to the hospital in Sioux City where she had a stillborn baby boy they named Peter. Jennie died the next day at age 28. Jennie and Peter were buried in the coffin together. Tragedy number one for the Wanningen clan.

Jantje (Jennie) Wanningen Van Donge 1916…

Gerrit had adopted the nickname’ Lakey.’ (How he came by this nickname remains a mystery. Perhaps he was a great swimmer. Maybe the name fit because he was around 6′ 5″ and a ‘tall drink of water,’ or he simply wanted something different because Gerrit reminded him too much of his dad’s name)? He still lived at home and was considered a bit different. Awkward, very tall, gangly and often had ‘words’ with his parents, especially his father. He was not particularly good looking (unlike his dad, my great-grandpa Guert who was incredibly handsome) and somewhat unsure of himself. That would all change when Lakey, now 27 fell head-over-heels in love with a young lady named Coba Berghuis in 1923. She was from a large family and a senior in high school.

My stunning grandma Coba’s Senior picture in 1924…

Coba graduated from high school in May of 1924. She immediately headed to Des Moines for 6 weeks of Normal Training to become a teacher. (Six weeks, are you serious? Yes quite). She started her teaching career in September of 1924 and taught for 2 years in West Branch # 8, four miles south and one mile west of Sioux Center. She married my grandpa Lakey on December 6, 1924. Lakey was working for the Sioux Center Phone Company. Coba taught until the end of the school year, May of 1926. She was expecting a baby by the end of the year. She gave birth to my uncle Floyd and my mom Florence on December 13, 1926. Sioux Center Nieuwsblad, December 15, 1926: Mr. and Mrs. G. Wanningen, Jr. were gladden by the birth of twins, a son and a daughter. (This was a big deal in a small town).

How beautiful is this? Coba’s picture during her pregnancy, 1926…

But my grandpa Lakey’s life was about to take a hit from which he would never recover. The introverted guy who came out of his shell after accepting the love and devotion of a beautiful woman he knew was out of his league, retreated once again. When the twins were 2 weeks old, the light of his world was extinguished. Coba died from birth complications (Mom said it was her kidneys). The twins were motherless and grandpa Lakey was heartbroken and bitter.

Lakey in high school around 1914..

Sioux Center Nieuwsblad, December 29, 1926: Mrs. G. Wanningen, Jr died Monday morning on December 27th at age 20 years. Two weeks before she gave birth to twins. She leaves her husband and both babies. Additional, she leaves her parents, three brothers and three sisters. The funeral will be held Thursday, December 30, 1:30 at the house and 2 o’clock at the Second Reformed Church.

Floyd and Florence 1927…

Sioux Center Nieuwsblad, February 2, 1927: Gerrit Wanningen, with his small babies have moved in with his father and mother. Lakey tried, he really did, but his heart was not in raising the two babies who snuffed the life out of his beloved wife. Lakey’s parents, Geurt and Jantje were not young when this second tragedy hit. He was 67, Jantje was 60-raising 2 month old twins. (Their friends and neighbors now however realized that the “large new house” was exactly what the Wanningen’s needed to rear their grandchildren). Coba’s parents pushed hard to raise their new grandchildren, but Lakey’s folks won this round. Since both sets lived in Sioux Center, the Berghuis bunch, who were younger and still had children at home shared many of the duties.

Jantje, Guert, Florence & Floyd in front of the big house, 1930…

Lakey didn’t spend a lot of time with the babies when they were young. He changed jobs and worked in Rock Valley for IPS (Iowa Public Service). He married Mary Arendson in 1933. I think she was widowed and had a couple of kids. Lakey and Mary encouraged Floyd and Florence to join their ‘yours & mine’ family, but the 7 year olds cried constantly for their grandparents and the way of life to which they were accustomed. Soon Lakey brought them back to the large Wanningen house where they would remain. Guert passed away in 1938.

Jennie 25, Guert 55, Gerrit 19, Jantje 48 around 1915…

I have not found any pictures of Lakey with his twins and I have a ton of pictures. I have numerous pictures of the kids during various stages of their young lives with both sets of grandparents, but not one with their dad. Mom truly believed Lakey blamed her and Floyd for the death of their mom. It was just something he couldn’t move past until he was much older. Thus I believe Lakey’s rejection led my Mom to have her own self worth issues her entire life. Vicious cycle.

The bride’s half of the marriage license for Lakey & Coba, December 6, 1924…

Mary passed away after a decade of marriage. Grandpa Lakey showed no interest in seeking female companionship after that. He got his pilot’s license and flew his own plane. Uncle Floyd joined the Navy, Mom got married and moved to Rock Valley, but still went to Sioux Center (15 miles) to visit both grandmas (grandpa Pieter Berghuis died in 1936) and her dad. I guess it was a case of time heals. Lakey became a lineman for Sioux Center Municipal after they bought the system from IPS. Jantje died in August of 1950, right before I was born.

My uncle Floyd after he joined the Navy…

Mom and her dad did get close the last couple years. As a family, we’d drive to Sioux Center to visit him (in his tiny 3 room house) and grandma Berghuis every Sunday afternoon, often bringing him a plate of food and something sweet. Lakey retired in 1955, grandma Berghuis passed away in March of 1958, six months before Larry was killed. I distinctly remember sitting next to grandpa Lakey at Larry’s funeral. His suit coat was wool and scratchy and smelled like moth balls, but I leaned my 7 year old head against his arm anyway during the service.

Lakey by his own plane…

Grandpa Lakey got stomach cancer late in 1959. He was in and out of the hospital several times. Mom spent many hours and days driving back and forth taking care of him before he passed away in August, 1960. I know he felt resentment towards Floyd and Mom for the loss of Coba but he grew to love and appreciate his adult children and they loved him. It was just another notch in the Wanningen/Berghuis/Gerritson family tragedy…

9,273, but who’s counting…

It was one year ago today since I had knee replacement. I was scheduled to have my final check-up this week but that appointment was cancelled because of the virus. It took months to get the appointment with Dr. Carpenter, then another 90 days to get on his surgery schedule. If I had been scheduled for surgery this spring instead of last year, it would have been postponed.

So how’s the leg? Well thanks for asking. It’s doing pretty good. No pain unless I try and bend it farther than it’s willing to go. I still wrap a cold gel pack when I go to bed for a half hour but there’s no swelling or hot spots anymore. My other knee is doing just what Doc C thought it would (it doesn’t have much cartilage either, he asked which one I wanted done first? Such a card). He thought after replacement and therapy my left knee might feel better once I started walking normally. You know when some part of you is causing pain, you compensate for it, which throws everything else off kilter. Now that my gait has returned to something close to normal, that’s exactly what happened. I’m still mindful of lefty, can’t twist or pivot but I haven’t had much pain and hope never, ever to need surgery on that one.

The small gravel section separates my walking path near the pond from the road …

I’ve been an avid walker since 1998, although since we moved to Jackson in mid-2015, walking’s been sporadic. I can visualize how I used to walk. Swinging my arms like a in-a-hurry pendulum, thrusting my momentum forward with nice long strides. Looked like a windup toy soldier. Nary a care in the world and didn’t have to watch the terrain. Who am I kidding? I’ve always been mindful of where I was walking. Since the onset of Meniere’s almost 2 decades ago, my balance has been seriously compromised. I’ve fallen several times over the years, breaking the same elbow-twice. A stone the size of an almond under my shoe can put me on the ground. But I wasn’t fearful/cautious like I am now. I know my age has something to do with that. In 1998 I was 47 and there was much less likelihood of me getting seriously injured if I took a spill. Twenty years ago, I could get lost listening to my music while I walked. Not literally, but I’d look up at the surroundings and be surprised how far I’d gone.

Daffodils looked better before 2 days of snow and wind but they make me smile…

Hurt my left knee walking in 2016 which took a year to heal, then fell hurting the right one which eventually led to surgery. After surgery and therapy I finally started walking again last fall when I took another spill landing on my brand new ceramic knee, slowing my recovery and warranting another round of physical therapy. Oh my word.

Scar looks pretty good at the one year mark…

For Michigan, this was one fantastic winter for those of us who despise snow. (Me-me) Temps weren’t bad and not much of the white crap. Think Hubs used the snowblower 3 times, which in a normal winter could mean 3 times a day, not a season. So I started walking outside again but our streets are just shit. Pot holes larger than where the Titanic rests. These are filled periodically with stinky black pebble stuff by city workers. Those smelly black jellybeans soon find their way everywhere but said pothole. Our large neighborhood has no sidewalks, thus I must walk on the street to get to our relatively new walking/bike path, which is 3 blocks away. But then it’s clear sailing for several miles.

The section at the end of our block is hopeless…

My first goal was a tiny Nazarene church just over a half mile away. The last block before I get there is quite an incline and I was puffing by the time I stopped at their driveway to turn around. On the way is a McDonald’s which has a separate entrance and exit. Walking towards home the first dozen times I noticed the “s l i g h e s t” incline from the entrance surface to the sidewalk. More than once I’d look ahead and think, hope I can make it up this steep slope. I was really in horrible shape.

This was my first goal. Perhaps I should venture inside sometime…

Next I pushed myself to hit the one mile marker before I turned around. During the next few weeks I added an extra quarter mile-twice, so on good days I was walking about 3 miles total. Not every day though. If the weather was bad I stayed home. On days where I was getting groceries, running errands or standing by the stove to cook for awhile, I’d shorten my walk to 1-1/2 or 2 miles. But on days where I wasn’t doing much besides walking (and eating) I went as far as I could. With the speed of slug.

About a half mile from home. What a great walking path…

There’s not much I do on my iPhone or iPad without getting tech advice from my go-to-guru-guy (middle kid Josh who’s now one of the leading statisticians on the Covid stats in the state). There’s about 100 apps on my phone and I use maybe a dozen. Tops. I’m leery, overly cautious, and skeptical. I know deep in my heart every one of those little bastards contain a virus. But being a hip, brave woman of the world, I threw caution to the wind and got an app without Joshua’s 5 minute approval/disbelief speech, his patient sigh, rolling his eyes until only whites are visible or his exasperated “Ma.”

Just past an assisted living facility. Looks like farmland…

Seeking said guru’s approval I texted him with, “guess what? I just googled ‘stopwatch’ and can you believe it, my phone has one already built in?” (Who knew? He sighed) “But I want to know more than how long I’m walking, I wanna know how many steps I’m taking, so I got a pedometer app by myself!” I’m deaf but definitely think I heard him chewing through his lip to keep from responding on the receiving end of the return text. I plunged further into the rabbit hole with, “once the app was installed I thought they sent me an example of how my daily steps total might look. Upon further inspection it seemed to be the actual record of what I’d really walked for a week because I missed a couple days for bad weather. How could my new app possibly know that already?”

My tech guy, Josh…

He summed it up with his usual nonchalance, “mom, your phone already does that for you. You’d be surprised how much stuff they keep track of.” (I found that somewhat creepy) “It’s in health and fitness, in your settings.” Am I the only one who doesn’t pay attention to that never ending list in my settings? I manage about 4 of them. So now I’m tracking how many steps I take a day. On days where I stay in it’s pretty hopeless. Our house is small, I don’t carry my phone around with me as I maneuver this large facility. If becoming deaf has taught me anything, one of the most important is keeping my phone in a specific place. When it’s ringing I have no idea where that sound is coming from. For that reason I put it in a very specific place when I go to a room-and leave it there. Then I know exactly where it is.

My wonderful vegetable stand…

Thursday was unseasonably cold and windy, but since we had snow showers on Wednesday I hadn’t walk and wasn’t eager to miss another day. Out with the wool long johns, scarf, gloves and winter coat. Again. Started my favorite playlist, grabbed my walking stick and away I went. (I don’t see me walking without my stick in the foreseeable future-but I’m ok using it for balance. Hubs informed me I wore a hole through the rubber tip on the end. This shouldn’t please me but it sure did. He’s already replaced it). Walking west was frigid but eventually I warmed up. Got to my 1-1/2 mile mark (the farthest away from home I’ve walked in several years) but did not turn around. There’s an important point that has some relevance here. You’re feeling good, walking fine, but every single step you take further from your house has to be repeated going back. Only difference is you’re already tired. (I have some issues with this but it’s vitally important to remember). I was looking for my next walking milestone. It turned out to be the vegetable stand where I buy cucumbers and tomatoes called Tyluki’s. And I did turn around and start back home but not without a wistful glance towards Sutton’s Road-my next goal.

My pedometer app. Hopeless if I don’t walk. Wonder what floor means?

Turns out Tyluki’s is just over 2 miles from my house, so my walk was 4.2 miles which includes another hill (dear Lord I didn’t need another one). I did some laundry (up and down the stairs several times) and made sure I took my phone with me, resulting in a little celebration on my pedometer app at the end of the day because I hit 10,000 steps. First time in over a decade. Yay me! My walking time is pathetic. Twenty minute mile but I can’t afford another fall either. However I would like to decrease it by a couple minutes per mile sometime this summer. And I’m determined to decrease some of my steps inside the house. My never ending trips to the kitchen cupboards and fridge have really got to stop…

This little piggy…

I was born with an acute fondness for the ‘other white meat.’ Mom made pork chops every other week. We’d have bacon for supper with eggs, but more often in addition to lettuce, tomato and toast. But my favorite cut of pork she bought came in a large egg shaped tin with a metal key stuck on the bottom of the can. The ‘key’ unlocked the ultimate prize. A ham. She’d carefully strip off the lid, turning that unique key, which got thicker with every crank. Slowly winding its way around that odd shaped can. Snugly nestled within (amongst globs of gelatin) was a pink ham, ready for the oven. One of my favorite meals.

As a kid I thought ham came right from the hog like this…

With Mom’s affinity towards homemade pea or bean soup, I assumed she would have preferred a shank or butt ham with a nice bone for added flavor, but as far back as I can remember she usually bought the ones stuck in the egg shaped can with the hidden key. A couple nights after our ham/baked potato supper, she’d dice up a goodly amount from the leftovers and make scalloped potatoes. A single layer of potatoes sprinkled lightly with salt, pepper, dotted with butter and chunks of ham, repeated several times. Then she’d pour a can of cream of celery soup that she’d mixed with a can of milk and plunk it in the oven. Another favorite meal of mine. (How in the world did I marry a guy who doesn’t like scalloped potatoes and ham)? So we pretty much had 3 suppers from that canned ham growing up, and I loved them all.

The secret key which unlocked damn good ham…

Naturally when I got married, I clung to the age old Gerritson tradition of canned hams to feed the family. I distinctly remember having a 5 pound canned ham as the featured entree for Shannon’s baptism celebration. This was the first time we invited a large group of family from both sides over to our 3 room rental house in Hinton, Iowa in 1971. We were 2 years into our marriage and I had finally moved past the ‘can’t boil water’ stage, though not by much. The canned ham was the only part of that expensive meal (we lived on Starkist tuna most of the time) I was responsible for at the baptism dinner. My mother-in-law Mag made potato salad, my Mom brought baked beans and I don’t know what was on the menu for dessert but I was not to the point of making cream pies or German chocolate cake yet.

Shannon, 1971…

For the first few years, a canned ham supper was my go-to meal for company, until I learned how to make homemade spaghetti sauce and roast a stuffed turkey. Just as suddenly, canned ham fell near the bottom of my menu repertoire. I still liked ham, it just wasn’t special anymore. The ‘other white meat’ had literally been replaced by the other white meat.

The pecking order of favorite meals was won by the Butterball…

This change happened coincidentally when we moved to Michigan. It was no longer a six hour road trip to visit our parents for every holiday, the drive time was doubled, requiring us to stay home for certain holidays and start making some of our own traditions. One of those traditions was replacing the ham supper for special meals. It just sorta happened. Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn or green bean casserole, cranberry sauce (served all year round at our house) dinner rolls became the meal I served when the whole family got together. At least 3 times a year. Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Easter. To supplement the nine dry months (where a scheduled turkey feed wasn’t in the forecast) I’d stuff a chicken occasionally or buy a 10 pound turkey and have it when one of the kids came to visit for a weekend. (I’m seeing a pattern here. I think I’m addicted to stuffing).

It’s not like my turkey meal is that much work. (Well it is kinda) It is a lot more work than sliding a ham and baked potatoes in the oven however. The turkey clean up though takes this meal to a whole ‘nother level. It’s the pots, pans, bowls, silverware, crockpot involved in the turkey dinner that makes it a lot of work. The cleanup just kills me. Freaking dirty dishes everywhere. And that’s before we eat. I stuff the bird before ‘he’ (always a Butterball. Not going through all that work and mess and try and gnaw a tough piece of meat) goes in the oven, then put the rest of the stuffing in the crockpot about 2-3 hours before we’re ready to eat. Gives me extra oven space.

Peyton & Jovi’s dance moves in one third of Shannon’s kitchen…

Since we moved to Jackson almost 5 years ago, our traditions have another slightly different twist. We did a major downsize, giving up a thousand square feet, so 15 people in our house (eating) at one time is really a stretch. All 3 kids have much bigger homes than we do so we just started rotating holiday feasts in their homes. I usually cook the bird and stuffing but they handle the rest of the meal. And somehow I’ve been eliminated from the cleanup crew. Yay me, not complaining. (The downside is not having leftovers! Major bummer. At our house I always make a couple extra meals on divided plates, which I look forward to so much that I hide from the Hubs. Don’t judge).

Lately our beloved country and our ordinary lives have been at a virtual standstill. This virus movement is kinda like waiting for the other shoe to drop. Or this ominous cloud that’s hovering right above our heads and we gotta wait for it to pass over. Like when God said, “hey folks, mark your front door with some blood so this death/plague/destruction will pass over your household.” Um, I might not have that exactly right, you get the jest, right? That’s what the quarantine feels like to me.

Yeah, I knew it was in the Bible…

Knowing none of the kids could come over I asked Hubs what he wanted to eat for Easter? (I silently began praying to myself, please, please say, “why don’t you make that little 10 pound turkey and let’s do it up right!”) ‘Fraid not, it was more like, “you’re not going to go through all that work making a turkey supper just for the 2 of us. That’s crazy. Let’s have ham.” (That’s what I get for praying to myself. This request demanded divine intervention. I blew it.)

Ariana…

I did have a shank ham in the freezer. But of course. Always be prepared for the likelihood of an apocalypse or pandemic. That’s me-the quantities provider. (No I haven’t bought toilet paper, paper towels, Clorox wipes, napkins, soap or coffee since this began. I only need the staples, fruit, vegetables, milk, bread, eggs like everyone else, though I did buy some extra flour and sugar since I have a lot of yeast on hand and enjoy making bread and rolls).

Landon # 3 (Drew to the rest of the world)…

I baked the ham, made twice baked potatoes, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce and dinner rolls. Sigh. Gave some serious consideration to the baked pie shell I have lurking in the freezer. The logical pie choice would be lemon because I have at least a half dozen lemons in the fridge. (I don’t drink enough water for a cactus to survive in the Mojave. The only way I can gag it down is with a slice of lemon and gobs of ice). But there’s only 2 of us and a meringue pie actually lasts about a day. What are we gonna do with 6 slices of pie between us? Well besides take one for the team and each eat 2 slices and throw away the rest. Probably not the best idea. So I put the kabosh on that silly notion. (Though it stills sounds awfully tempting after Easter).

Graham and Charlie…

I’ve decided when the quarantine is over I’m gonna invite just the grandkids (and our great-grand, Jovi) over for a turkey supper. Feels like we all missed out, celebrating Easter by ourselves. Roast that nice 11 pound Butterball, (heck, 19 year old Landon is quite capable of devouring that much turkey by himself though he prefers dark meat. All of the dark meat. All.) Make a delicious cream pie which won’t have any leftovers for the weak who live here without willpower. That sounds about pritnear perfect…

Good Friday, 1964…

First a disclaimer. Not positive about the year but it’s a moot point. This was the way my immediate family and my church family celebrated the days leading up to Easter Sunday in my small town of Rock Valley, Iowa during the 1960’s. Not sure how the First Reformed Church celebrates Holy Week some 50 years later but there’s no doubt much of the world has changed a lot since then, so my home church might have changed some of their Easter traditions too.

The Communion table Hubs and I refinished for a start-up church 35 years ago…

My family belonged to one of the larger congregations. I’m trying to remember how many churches we had in our town of about 1,600 at the time, (bigger when counting all the surrounding farmers). One each; Catholic (big congregation and beautiful church right by my house), Methodist, two Lutheran churches (one was about 4 miles south of Rock Valley but the pastor’s son was in my class, so they belonged to our town too) and then the rest of the churches where the Dutch folks worshipped. Netherlands Reformed (the strictest of the bunch, 3 services on Sunday, one in Dutch), Calvin Christian Reformed (the smallest congregation and the one we belonged to when my brother Larry was killed in 1958. They were amazing with my parents), First Christian Reformed (don’t know much about them although the church was only a block away from First Reformed. I think most of their congregation sent their kids to the Christian school) and First Reformed (we all went to public school, and our church was the least strict of the 4, lucky for me). (I think when 2 Reformers got into an argument, one just went off in a huff and started another Reformed Church). My family joined First Reformed in 1960.

The entire town went to one church or another on Sunday mornings. It was expected. Most people revered the Sabbath (although not even being allowed to ride my bike past the swimming pool on Sunday was extreme). Nothing but the swimming pool was open on Sunday. No stores, no restaurants. Christians seemed to be respected, admired, looked up to. Churches were packed, ladies belonged to woman’s groups, choirs, catechism, youth groups, prayer groups. I think Christianity has been in decline since I became an adult. So much change.

No more than from Good Friday to Easter morn…

For me, these were the years of junior high and high school. I don’t remember it being called “Holy Week” but remember Maundy Thursday services. The church was packed and I vaguely recall the sanctuary was dim/dark through at least part of the service. I was in the youth choir and this might have been a service where our gang sang a couple special numbers. (Keeping the youth somewhat contained behind the pulpit and facing our folks, gulp).

The RCA (Reformed Church of America) served Communion 3 or 4 times a year. (I’ve held onto this belief my whole life-by limiting the number of times this ritual is held has always added to its significance for me). The Maundy Thursday Service was held at night and Communion was served. Significant because Jesus celebrated the Last Supper with his Apostles. I wasn’t partaking of Communion during most of these Maundy services because I had not yet made my Profession of Faith (a story for another day). And our church did not dispense Communion by lining up in the center aisle and dipping the bread (signifying the body of Christ) into the cup of wine (really grape juice, which signified Jesus’ blood). The Consistory, made up of Elders and Deacons served the flock. (Elders helped the minister with visitation/policies while Deacons took up the responsibility of the financial needs of the church).

Shiny round silver discs which resembled fancy tire rims were either filled with tiny squares of Wonder bread (crusts removed. I know this because my Mom, being an Elder’s wife had the job of cutting up several loaves of bread for Communion. She was probably in complete agreement with the Reformed Church’s policy in the number of times Communion was served every year. The rest of the tire rims had numerous small openings where minuscule glasses (yes real glass) were filled with grape juice. (Mom got the job of washing and drying those little glasses after Communion too).

Ok, not exactly like the rim of your tire…

These were passed down each long pew, an Elder or Deacon on each end. As a child I was never allowed to even pass the bread held discs, let alone the ones holding the glasses filled with grape juice. This was a very solemn occasion. The organist would quietly play hymns. It actually took quite a few minutes for the whole congregation to be served and no one (absolutely no one) ever partook of the bread or cup before the minister said the litany. Something like, “this is the body of Christ, broken for you. Eat ye, all of it.” After you quietly chewed and swallowed the morsel of bread, our preacher would hold up a cup and say, “the blood of Jesus, shed for you. This do in remembrance of Me. Drink ye, all of it.” (One of my fondest memories is right after everyone drank from their cup. A couple hundred (at least) tiny glasses would clink in unison as everyone placed their glass in the wooden cup holders attached to the pew ahead of you. Hundreds of clinks in unison. I loved that).

This should be so easy….

We had school on Good Friday. No long Easter weekends for us. Unless you had a note from your parents excusing you because you were attending afternoon Good Friday services. You could miss a half day of school with no repercussions (as if that made a difference, not for me). Big decision for teens, I usually opted for church. The service was about an hour and you were done with the rest of the afternoon free. I don’t think there was any special churchy thing on Saturday but Easter Sunday was huge.

Easter sunrise service held at the crack of dawn. Think I slept-walked through most of it (I could attend sunrise service with some of my friends). But I was always there and amazed how beautiful an Iowa sunrise really was. I think this service was held outside. The ladies of the church made a huge breakfast feast which was served in our church basement after sunrise service. Long tables lined up everywhere. It was wonderful. I believe most of the townies went back home for a bit before our 9:30 Easter service. Might have changed clothes too. I always had a new special outfit for our Easter service.

Thanks God…

The best part of Easter services? Anyone familiar with me knows. It was the hymns. The old hymns we sang in unison. Say what you want about Advent (Away in a Manger, Silent Night) there’s nothing in this world that measures up to the hymns explaining the love and ultimate sacrifice that Jesus suffered to save us from our sins.

I serve a risen Savior, He’s in the world today. I know that He is living, whatever men may say.

I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer, and just the time I need Him, He’s always near.

He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today. He walks with me & talks with me, along life’s narrow way.

He lives, He lives, salvation to impart. You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart.

Low in the grave He lay, Jesus my Savior, waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord.

Up from the grave He arose, with a mighty triumph ‘ore His foes.

He arose the victor from the dark domain, and He lives forever with His saints to reign.

He arose, He arose, Hallelujah, Christ arose.

On a hill far away, stood an old rugged cross, the emblem of suffering and shame.

And I love that old cross where the dearest and best, for a world of lost sinners was slain.

So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross, til my trophies at last I lay down.

I will cling to the old rugged cross, and exchange it someday for a crown…

You can’t actually like that…

My opinion matters very little. But I’m bored so you’re bearing the brunt. At first I read the caption wrong. I thought you were supposed to list your pet peeves (everyone should be in harmony with mine, right)? But the way it was worded, the actual gist of the survey is supposed to be ‘things’ I dislike but other people like. Can you visualize Richard Dawson, pointing his finger while he turns around and says, “top seven answers are on the board, survey says?”

Had this been listing my pet peeves-I could have written a book-under an hour, but this-what I don’t like but others do is gonna be harder-until I gave it some thought. You’re supposed to list 10 in no particular order. There were no instructions for listing any explanations/reasoning/justification/. But where’s the fun in that? And why stop at a 10? So here goes.

1961 Canton, South Dakota. Dad, Mom, me (w/o a dress) & Mona…

1. Taco Bell: several years ago I was stranded in an elevator for about an hour before the fire department was called for a heroic rescue. On the elevator with me was the Hubs and a sad sack (not the Hubs) of fetid, greasy, reeking Taco Bell. Can’t describe that nauseous segment of time any differently. My stomach still does flips (not the good kind) when I come within a block of their malodorous restaurants ever since.

Good grief I swear I can smell the picture…

2. Curtains: God didn’t invent windows so they’d be all covered up and I wouldn’t be able to see out. I used to hang curtains when we were starting out 50 years ago. Everyone did-curtains or drapes. (never had drapes, they remind me of a funeral parlor). Have to say moving to Muskegon Lake cured me of the curtain fetish. What’s the advantage of living on a lake with a stunning view if you’re not viewing the lake? Made no sense. I do have valances on some windows, shades in the bedrooms and family room for nighttime but nothing on my sliders or bay window in the living room. Nope, I’m no longer ‘drawn’ to hiding behind some dreary cloth covering up my windows.

3. E-books: I get much more enjoyment out of holding a book in my hands when I’m reading. It’s personal. Would if I want to go back 20 pages because I want to reread a paragraph or look up a new character’s name that I’ve already forgotten? I’m not going to that little swipey thing 30 times. I have 50 books on my iPad I’ve not read, yet I regularly shop at a used book site and order a half dozen books a month for a pittance. Same goes for my newspaper. I like holding the paper, hearing it rustle while I turn pages. (However I think newspapers will be extinct soon).

I want to hold the real thing as I read…

4. Peanut butter fudge: although I like peanut butter and love chocolate, the 2 should not be in close proximity of each other. Just chocolate fudge with nutmeats for me please.

5. Artificial SQUARE nails: ugly and disgusting. And that pointy stiletto shape isn’t any better. You’re quarantined at home with nothing to do after the kiddos are sleeping. Grow out, file and polish your own nails.

Hideous…

6. White gold: there’s just something so rich looking about yellow gold jewelry. White gold, silver, platinum, titanium all seem kinda harsh/cold/formidable.

7. Diamond clusters: as long as we’re on the subject of jewelry, those cold, white gold engagement rings with 100 microscopic sized diamond chips clustered closely together to give the illusion of one large stone sucks big time. Looks like one big cluster-well you know where I’m going. For the first and only time in your life-man up. Buy her the biggest, best quality solitaire you can afford. Dude. On this topic, size really does matter.

This is cheating guys. Buy one (1) diamond of decent size..

8. Beer: smells like shit and tastes worse.

9. Yogurt: surely we can make and keep our ‘gut’ happy and healthy without this horrible, bland, thick, icky paste stuff.

10. Praise worship: I’m not worshiping God by singing a monotonous, repetitious modern tune with my arms flapping in the air, side to side causing a stiff breeze. I yearn for traditional hymns, reciting the Lord’s Prayer/Apostles Creed in unison. Using a hymn book and a Bible for the scripture lesson. No big screens. Repeat. No. Big. Screens.

11. Dresses: just say no. Always. For the rest of your life.

12. Scary movies: occult, horror, I know they’re not real, I know it can’t really happen but I just can’t watch these genres. That’s odd because I like psychological thrillers which really can happen. I change the TV station if the floor creaks during a Hallmark commercial. No explanation, just how I’m wired.

Put him down…

13. Snow: do not succumb so easily to the misinformed who falsely believe big, fluffy white flakes are in any way, shape or form-beautiful. They lie. Every year. That stuff is pure evil. It’s horrible and much worse than scary movies. I. Hate. Every. Flake.

How can this be considered beautiful? Yuk. Really, yuk…

14. Peanut butter and jelly: who ever thought of putting this odd combination together? Warped mind right there.

15. Dress shoes: men’s or women’s. Narrow, pointy toes, several inches of pain inducing heels which add strain to every step should be outlawed. The feet God gave us for the ‘sole’ purpose of walking around for decades should not ever be submitted to this kind of torture. Ever.

This should be outlawed. Never do this to your precious feet…

16. Sour cream: a glop of this crap on top of anything, soup, potatoes, Mexican is a sin. And a shame. (I do use it in a couple recipes though-the taste however is masked by other good stuff).

17. Buffets: all of them, breakfast, lunch, supper or the worst offender-Chinese. First off I’m worried the foods are not being kept up to the appropriate temperature. That alone can curb my appetite (which really is a good thing right)? There’s too many choices and I want to try all of them so I overeat. Chinese buffets present a whole new set of issues. One of things I like best about Chinese food is how crunchy the veggies are when they come piping hot out of the wok after a couple minutes of cooking. So let’s plop them on a buffet table with a questionable heating device until they’re completely limp like a noodle in overcooked soup. No thanks. I always ask for a menu.

18. Gender reveal parties: not much of a fan, but I can see some advantages. Sure you can paint the nursery, buy appropriate clothing, toys, furniture when you’re still 6 months pregnant. But those months of wonderful anticipation throughout your pregnancy (back in the day) were second to none. When someone gave you a shower, the gifts were consistently gender neutral. Pale yellow, mint green, snow white soft sleepers and receiving blankets. Baby rattles, teething rings, cloth diapers, bottles, bibs, crib sheets. There were lots of choices for gifts which weren’t dedicated specifically for a boy or girl. Those gifts you got after giving birth in the hospital or when you were back home. And you had to pick out boys and girl’s names, making it twice as hard. I did know the sex of one of my babies before they were born-by a couple hours. I knew a month ahead that the baby was breech-feet first. So when a little foot poked out during labor, a nurse checked to make sure the cord wasn’t causing problems she blurted, “I feel a little scrotum, you’d better pick out a boys name.”

Can’t you just wait until the baby is born? Patience people…

And yet another snippet of what goes on in the mind of Neese. You’re welcome (or apologies)…

Thank you for the music…

I’ve discovered something odd about myself. (No need to pile on, I don’t need your input on my shortcomings or we’ll be here for a month). I never would have connected the dots if it weren’t for Facebook. Blame them. All those goofy memes asking silly questions. I actually don’t answer those questions very often because they seem too nosy/invasive/personal/inquisitive. I do however read some of the comments on these posts to get differing viewpoints/opinions on how others feel. Umm, hide behind anonymity much? Why yes, yes I do.

Some of these posts are about music which holds a special meaning for me. No, I can’t sing but that doesn’t mean I don’t like music. Through the biggest share of my life I was rarely without a radio blasting 1960’s and 70’s tunes every hour I was awake, in the house or car. Until I started going deaf. Music lost some of its luster for me because my head was suddenly overflowing with obnoxious, inexplicable, constant noise. Whooshing wind, power lines crackling, chain saws, dentist’s drill, yikes. One would assume deafness would mean total silence. Not in my case. My head is filled with so much noise, which in turn causes me to misunderstand or mistake what’s being said or sung. Add more noise to the mix (yes even the greatest music from my formative years) and it puts me on edge instead of being enjoyable or relaxing for me.

Jim Morrison, lead singer of The Doors…

Since my hearing loss (starting in 1998) there has been one exception where music’s concerned. Listening while I walk in the morning. Music keeps my feet moving and puts a smile on my face. But I’ve evolved. After several years of Walkman’s, MP3 players, portable CD players and iPods, a dear friend gave me a pair of Bose headphones which has made a world of difference.

With these extraordinary headphones it’s been much easier to determine the words in lyrics. But my music preferences have changed somewhat too. Nothing’s going to change my love or loyalty to Neil Diamond, The Beatles or The Doors, but I got to the point where I simply couldn’t listen to the same music day after day. I thank Josh for that one. He was in charge of locating, buying, taping, transferring all the songs I wanted to whatever piece of equipment I was using at the time. After a few years of daily walks, he sent me a couple of surprise tapes with Offspring, Train, Lady Gaga, P!nk, Black Eyed Peas, Christina Aguilera, Flo Rida, Gary Jules, Jlo, Ke$ha, Maroon 5 (who are these people?) and more and I was literally off to the races. He’d finally spent enough time fiddling around making music for me and set me up with a Rhapsody account (before iTunes) and taught me how to acquire music without him giving up 3 frustrating hours in the process. Slacker.

Ladies and gentlemen, The Beatles…

So it could be the lyrics that give meaning to my old and new favorites, but my pull to a song often has to do with the melody. That definitely can suck me in. And don’t forget the beat. To a hearing impaired person the thump-thumps of the beat determines if the song is worthy of spending my money and something I’ll enjoy on my walking playlists.

Now about those crazy questions on memes. It’ll start out like this: What’s your favorite song by The Beatles? Or CCR, The Doors, Johnny Cash, P!nk and so on? Ok this is where I usually take a sharp right turn when the majority of comments are headed down another avenue. I’m just gonna blurt it right out. My favorite songs by groups or individuals are rarely the most popular choice of the masses. Anybody else feel this way? You have a favorite song by a group but it’s definitely not as well known as their top 10. Many times my pick is not even in their top 20. And if the group or solo artist are clearly recognized by a certain song, (Kenny Rogers’ The Gambler comes to mind while my favorite of his is Ruby), it’s never the one I particularly care for.

Neil Diamond concert in 2017…

What does this mean? I’m an individualist? I swim in the opposite direction of the masses? I have odd taste in music? Don’t know. Here are a few of my picks. Ok, start shaking your head.

1. Neil Diamond: Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show/Desiree

2. Johnny Cash: Sunday Morning Coming down/I Walk The Line

3. 3 Dog Night: The Show Must Go On

4. Simón & Garfunkel: Richard Cory/Cecilia

5. Everly Brothers: Walk Right Back

6. The Beatles: Ob la di/Ballad of John and Yoko (kinda ironic because I believe she ruined him)

7. Wings: Mull of Kintyre (although it’s kinda slow for walking I love walking to it which is odd)

8. Abba: Angeleyes/Chiquitita

9. The Doors: LA Woman/Roadhouse Blues

I still select a few old favorites for every playlist, but also use a wide variety of music on most of them. There are a few tunes that are on every playlist such as Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s Somewhere over the Rainbow, 3 Dog Night’s, The Show must go on and Snoop Dog’s, I just wanna make you sweat (I know, I know, Snoop Dog??? but you’re not gonna make me feel guilty, it’s my favorite walking song. The only one I still hit repeat numerous times while it’s playing).

I haven’t walked “with purpose” (bad knee) for a couple years, so I’m just getting back in the swing of things. Since I only play music when I walk, hearing my old favorites is like a surprise visit from an old friend. I smile as the words come back to me and life feels fantastic. Those dang endorphins, gotta love ’em. On the other hand, I have not bought any new music in 3 years and in dire need of some new tunes. Really. Same old, same old. My granddaughter Peyton has been given the task of finding some new song suggestions so I can buy some tunes to add to my library. This old favorite from ABBA explains it best…

ABBA. So I say, thank you for the music, for giving it to me…

I’m nothing special, in fact I’m a bit of a bore,

If I tell a joke, you’ve probably heard it before.

But I have a talent, a wonderful thing,

‘Cause everyone listens when I start to sing,

I’m so grateful and proud, all I want is to sing it out loud.

So I say thank you for the music, the songs I’m singing,

Thanks for all the joy they’re bringing,

Who can live without it, I ask in all honesty?

What would life be? Without a song or a dance what are we?

So I say thank you for the music, for giving it to me…

Life in Limbo…

I use a nearby road when I need groceries or head into Jackson. My new walking path runs parallel to this road which also runs parallel to interstate 94 (busy-busy). While I don’t encounter many walkers/bikers/joggers when I’m on the path, I’m amazed how busy both roads are as I lumber along. It’s common for me to sit in my Jeep at the Ann Arbor stop sign for a couple minutes while cars zip both ways doing 50 before I get my chance to sneak in. Until about a week ago. Now neither road is busy. Semi’s yes, cars-not so much.

Limbo. Not a word I like very much. I prefer my life to be in an orderly fashion. I’m not comfortable when my life’s in limbo. I don’t think many of us are. I tend to wear a perpetual frown trying to figure out how to get myself right. Waiting on word whether your offer on a new house was accepted or if your loan application was approved. Waiting to hear if you got the job. Passing the time praying about your test results. Waiting. Transition. Uncertainty. Limbo.

Most of us are feeling this about now…

Our lives changed dramatically recently-all beyond our control. Others are making decisions about my welfare, (and yes I’m still of sound mind) what’s best for me. Social distancing, self isolation, quarantine. I can’t really get any less social unless I find a cave to live in on a deserted island. Life in limbo.

I did this rhyme with my kid’s little toes all the time…

It’s been kind of unsettling. Never in my life have I experienced finding empty grocery shelves. Why that’s so unnerving I’ve not figured out yet. Streets without traffic, special allotted times for folks my age to grocery shop. Cars in the driveway during the day for the young couples living (now laid off) in our neighborhood. Restaurants with a few workers tending to the orders of their drive through customers, but without people milling around inside, enjoying their friend’s company, getting refills, running after kids. Not anything I’ve ever given a passing thought about-until recently.

Anyone who’s familiar with me or my blog knows I’m a loner and big time homebody. I love being home. My home is my sanctuary. Three or 4 days into a vacation and I’m so ready to come home. I want my own bed, my own bathroom and my own cooking. I have no problem being here for days on end. I bake, read, blog, stare into space and putz around. Clean when the dust gets too thick. But there’s something mildly sinister/foreboding about someone ordering me to, “stay home for cripe’s sake. You’re old and vulnerable.” It’s creepy.

Preach…

I’m home 75% of the time, but after so many days I’m hit with an urgency compelling me to get out of the house. I’ve found 2 cures for this dilemma. An easy remedy is wandering through Meijer for an hour (which I’m now strongly discouraged from engaging in, although I am encouraged to shop from 7-8 a.m. two mornings a week so less people are in the store). My other fix is walking. An easy way to rid myself of the doldrums. I smile and sing funky songs as I walk. It’s highly unusual if I don’t return home in a much better frame of mind than when I left. A cheap, healthy upper for me.

You know if we’d been born back in the pioneer days, slowly making our way west across the country, isolation and social distancing would truly be our way of life. Whatever family was with you in your wagon before you staked your claim was pretty much your social circle too. It might be months before you made it to the nearest town or see your neighbor. Now that was some serious isolation right?

Hard to compare living in the 1800’s to this Corvid 19 virus driven isolation. But just check some of the benefits of being home quarantined in today’s world as opposed to ‘wagons ho’ isolation. Literally everyone I know has: a house or an apartment, heat, electricity, food, hot and cold running water, indoor plumbing, shower, toilet, refrigeration, appliances to cook on, readily available healthcare facilities, doctors, cars, TV’s with hundreds of channel access to help pass the time, Internet to stay connected with friends, family or shop, grocery stores, a variety of takeout food from restaurants, pizza, tacos, when we don’t feel like cooking. The list is endless.

When I was growing up in northwest Iowa during the ’50’s and 60’s, Sunday’s reminded me a little bit of this recent isolation. No stores or restaurants were open. We got up, ate breakfast, went to church. When we got home we had a big dinner. Then Mom and Dad took naps (so boring, I couldn’t watch TV or go swimming). When Mom and Dad got up, we’d go visit my grandpa Lakey in Sioux Center, about 15 miles away. (Dad’s parents lived in Rock Valley and he’d stop in to see them every day). After an hour visit we’d drive back home and have a light supper or I’d head over to Char’s house. They had a huge family with a lot going on and probably didn’t notice me most the time. After a big supper and cleanup, it was time to head to church again. Youth group in the church basement then up to the sanctuary just in time for the sermon.

Yes it’s serious, but humor helps us cope…

As far as self isolation goes, not much in our daily lives has changed. We were comfortable with our lifestyle, now it’s simply a requirement for a few weeks. Our weekly supper dates with Ari and Jovi have stopped. That’s been a definite downer but it’s an unnecessary risk.

Until a couple of days ago, I did not know one person with Covid 19. I still don’t but my son Joshua does. He texted me one of his poker buddies had contracted it, has been in the hospital for several days and was not doing well. He had no other health issues and had not been traveling. He died yesterday. He was married, 43 years old with 2 small children. It just puts in perspective how deadly serious this spreading virus is.

Still I remain hopeful and optimistic. I’m more careful (don’t touch your face-do not touch your face), far more cautious staying farther away from people (not in my realm, so anybody besides the Hubs) but I’m determined not to let this temporary way of life totally control every aspect or make me unreasonably fearful about my future. We’re gonna get through this and be stronger for it. But please don’t be lackadaisical about washing your hands. Frequently. With gusto.

Jovi can help us all smile…

Here’s one of my favorite walking songs by American Idol winner Phil Philips called Home…

Settle down, it’ll all be clear,

Don’t pay no mind to the demons they fill you with fear.

The trouble-it might bring you down, if you get lost you can always be found,

Just know you’re not alone-cause I’m gonna make this place your home…

Oh Ruby, don’t take your love to town….

We were living on the farm near Cascade, Iowa. There was nothing about us which remotely resembled farmers. Just a decent rental house, one of many during our decades of drifting. We moved there when Joshua was almost one, so it was spring, 1976. The house was empty except for a very dead Christmas tree with a few sparse, dull green needles still clinging to its branches. The rest were hard as steel and just as deadly, strewn all over the carpet.

How my days on the farm were spent-Shannon, Joshua and me, 1976…

Farm living wasn’t easy for this life-long townie. We were miles from anywhere and our one car was driven to Cedar Rapids (45 miles-one way) daily by Hubs for his job. I was 26, mother of 2 and stuck in the boonies. On the positive note, I learned how to cook pretty good, and discovered I loved baking. We didn’t buy a loaf of bread for 2 years because I made my own every couple days. Along with cinnamon rolls and pies. Once I mastered pie crusts I simply could not stop making (and eating) pies. All kinds, but the farm’s orchard supplied the best green apples I’ve ever made a pie with-to this day. Yep, we each gained about 20 pounds on farm living.

Mommy and Joshua all day, everyday. Life on the farm, 1977…

It was a lonely life though. Days slid by without seeing anyone beside John and the kids. Shannon was in kindergarten so for most days it was just toddler Josh and me. We walked the long driveway at least twice a day (I pushed Josh in a cheap stroller. We literally wore the wheels off, the driveway was nothing but rocks) to get Shannon to and from the bus and fetch my priceless mail. The mail was my lifeline. I wrote and received letters daily from Mom and my friends.

Horrible driveway, poor Shannon. The long & winding road…

I think it was spring, 1977. One night when Hubs got home from work, he coyly said he had a surprise for me. Tickets. For a concert. Our very first concert since we’d gotten married (we were 8 years in and thought it might last by then). I don’t know where he got the tickets or if he paid for them. We were pritnear destitute and our discretionary fund sat at a constant zero. Zip. Nada. I think someone from work had a conflict and couldn’t go so John snatched them up.

Kenny…

I was beyond excited. Oh happy day. But the next issue was what to do with six year old Shannon and Joshua 2, while we were out for a long overdue date night. The thought of leaving our 2 kiddos with a teenage babysitter out in the sticks gave me the willies. The number of people on the eastern side of Iowa I trusted implicitly could be narrowed down to my ring finger and pinkie. On one hand. Both were married and had kids of their own. One was a former neighbor in New Vienna about 20 miles away, (the wrong way from Cedar Rapids) the other couple lived in Cedar Rapids. The husband worked with John and we knew them well. They had one kid Joshua’s age, so it would be much easier to drop off and pickup after our concert. Yay, I was going to a concert.

Ruby…

You painted up your lips an rolled and curled your tinted hair.

Ruby are you contemplating going out somewhere?

The shadow on the wall tells me the sun is going down,

Oh Ruby, don’t take your love to town.

Poor Hubs. He had to drive 45 miles to work, drive home to pick up his little family, turn around and go back to Cedar Rapids, drop off the kids at the Thomas’ home while dealing with a giddy wife who had not been in the presence of any adults besides him in weeks. Then try and make the concert on time, drive back to the Thomas house to bring everyone home for a very short night. No wonder our 1969 Chevy Nova was in the shop constantly. And by shop I mean Hubs had to work on it himself-nightly (outside) just to keep the beast running. But that one special night, all the miles just didn’t matter. A real date and a live concert. Goosebumps.

Lucille…

You picked a fine time to leave me Lucille. Four hungry children and a crop in the field.

I’ve had some bad times, lived through some sad times, but this time your hurting won’t heal.

You picked a fine time to leave me Lucille.

Kenny Rogers was on tour with a stop in Cedar Rapids. He had recently broken up with The First Edition and was going solo. I was kinda stuck on Rogers, Glen Campbell and Neil Diamond for awhile after the Beatles broke up and The Doors’ Jim Morrison died. Different music that what I was used to but I enjoyed all 3 and none were too twangy for me. But Neil’s always been my favorite. FYI: remember the television series, Fantasy Island with Mr. Roarke and Tattoo? I was insistent with anyone who would listen that if I was ever flown on “Ze Plane, Ze Plane,” my fantasy was a Neil Diamond concert- with one fan in attendance-me.

The Gambler…

The Gambler…

You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away,

know when to run. You never count your money, when you’re sittin’ at the table, there’ll be time

enough for countin’, when the dealings done.

Opening act for Kenny was-unusual. Anyone remember Gallagher? He was a comedian but relied on props for his humor. He did this spiel, including corny jokes which spoofed some cheesy commercials featuring products made by ‘Ronco’ called the Veg-O-Matic which was a legitimate non-electric vegetable slicer. Only Gallagher called his (sledgehammer type tool) the Sledge-O-Matic. He’d start with small items like apples but by the time he was in the heat of the moment, the people in the first 6 rows were covered with watermelon slush/seeds/juice. What a freaking mess. Probably the only time I was thrilled not to have front row seats. But he was pretty funny.

Gallagher-the goof…

She Believes in me…

And she believes in me, I’ll never know just what she sees in me.

I told her someday, if she was my girl, I could change the world with my little songs, I was wrong

But she has faith in me and so I go on trying faithfully, and who knows, maybe on some special

night, if my song is right, I can find a way, while she waits, while she waits-for me.

The Kenny Rogers’ concert was fantastic. With his endearing down home charm, warm voice and fabulous storytelling songs I was drawn in, hook, line and sinker. He sang several songs with a female singer that night but I don’t remember who she was. Just who she wasn’t. My concert didn’t include Dolly Parton.

Lady…

Lady, I’m your knight in shining armor and I love you

You have made me what I am and I am yours.

My love, there’s so many ways I want to say I love you

Let me hold you in my arms forever more.

Kenny grew in popularity over the years. He starred in several made for TV movies based on one of his more popular songs called, The Gambler. No matter what Kenny dabbled in, people were drawn to him, including me. About the last time I can drum up anything on Kenny it was a magazine article when he got married for the I-lost-count-how-many-times and his wife just had twin boys.

The cool dudes, daddy and Joshua, 1976…

Reuben James…

You still walk the furrowed fields of my mind, faded shirt, your weathered brow,

Your calloused hands upon the plow, I loved you then and I love you now-Reuben James.

I’m saddened by his death and sorry I hadn’t given Kenny Rogers much thought lately. Grateful I saw him in concert and appreciate his legacy of great music. I’m embarrassed to admit I don’t have any of his songs in my iTunes library, but that’s about to change. Kenny, in your own unique way, “you decorated my life.”…