Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Adventures in rural living

Chapter 1
Small towns appear about every 10-12 miles along the 4-lane highway that one picks up in Springfield to travel through this area of the state heading to Arkansas. The highway bypasses the towns, but there are plenty of access roads (our town has 3 exits on the highway), so none of these towns have died like what, unfortunately, happened to towns along the old U.S. Highway 66.

Some of larger towns have a Walmart. For us, the nearest Walmart is in any direction is about 25 (give or take a few) miles away, so going to Walmart is not a “quick trip” and is not convenient if we don’t have a lot of shopping to do.

Now the corporation that operates Dollar General Store came up with a brilliant idea: Put a Dollar General Store in each of the small towns along the highway. That way the residents in these small town don’t have to drive so far to go to a variety store.

But then the brilliant idea starts to dim. The corporation has some screwy ideas that can make shopping at the Dollar General incredibly frustrating. The store does not hire people to stock the shelves. The clerks who are supposed to be behind the checkout counter are required to stock the shelves during normal business hours, but they are not allowed to put a bell on the counter so customers waiting to pay for their purchases can alert the clerk. Sometimes you have to stand there at the counter and wait… and wait… and wait… for the clerk (who may be in the back of store) to realize someone is there. Another problem is that is even more frustrating is when something is gone from the shelf, it can be up to 6 weeks before the product is back on the shelf. We have experienced this numerous times.

My husband’s birthday was last Thursday, and on Friday, he asked me to stop by Dollar General on the way home from aerobics class and buy a couple of packages of thank-you notes because he needed to send some. The store has a $5 off coupon on $25 of merchandise purchased on Saturday, but you have to spend $5 at one time to get the coupon. He figured two or three packages of thank-you notes would be enough to get the $5-off coupon.

So I went to the store and looked in the logical places for the thank-you notes. The store has a rather extensive collection of inexpensive greeting cards for most occasions and that is where I buy the greeting cards I send. After wandering up and down aisles and looking on end caps and not finding any packages of thank-you notes, I finally asked the clerk.

“We don’t have any,” she says, “some of the stores have thank-notes notes but not this one. We don’t carry thank-you notes here anymore.”

I stood there a little dumbfounded. “Why?” She shrugged her shoulders. She didn’t know.

Part of the joy of small-town living. A variety store that doesn’t have what one would think is sort of a basic need for polite society. One of the pharmacies in town may have thank-you notes, so I will have to check that out. Otherwise, getting thank-you notes will have to wait until we have a lot of shopping to do at Walmart.

Chapter 2

Our computer guy used to tease Richard that he has more redundancy than NASA. I mean, the man has backups, and then backups for the backups, etc. This obsession of his has gotten us out real messes many times so I am not complaining.

So Saturday arrives and hums along -- thank-yous were tendered by e-mail and he did not shop at Dollar General and spend $25 on merchandise -- until about 5 p.m., when my dearly beloved announces, “I’m going to take my shower now.” He comes back surprisingly quickly. Right in the middle of his shower, the water just stopped. Zip. Zero. Nada. Fortunately, he had not started to wash his hair.

You get that initial panicky feeling. What? No water? You see we are not on city water. Our water comes from well and is pumped into a pressure tank in small well house behind the house.

So he heads out to the well house. He installed lights and a switch to turn them on to keep the interior warm in the winter so the pipes don’t freeze. The lights don't work. So that tells him it is an electrical problem rather than a failure of the well pump or the pressure tank.

He goes to the pole where the electrical meter is and opens the box below the meter and discovers the breaker to the well house is tripped, but the breaker appears to be broken and can't be reset. He very carefully disconnects the wires from the meter to the breaker and from the breaker to the well house, after much struggle (grinding rusted screws etc etc.), is able to get the box apart enough so he can pull the breaker from the box.

In the meantime, I have heated a 2-liter bottle of water (we have numerous bottles of water stored in case of power failures) on the stove and washed my hair.

The True Value hardware in town stays open until 7 p.m., on Saturday so he decides to go to there to see if they have the breaker he needs. He is not hopeful about this. This is a small town True Value, after all. And so he disappears down the stairs to the garage.

My heart goes out to him. He is the man. He is expected to fix these problems. I have calmed down. We were without power for 3 days once after the remnants of a hurricane came through here, so we are prepared. We have 5-gallon buckets of water to flush the toilet with, 2-liter bottles of water for cooking and dishes… we can handle this.

Maybe 10 minutes later he comes back in the house, walks over to the sink, and turns the faucet on. He just happened to remember that he has a bunch of breakers left over from years ago when he did the electrical panel in the house. Guess what? He has the right-sized breaker to go back in the box, and he was able to get that wired up again.

Sunday morning when we were eating breakfast he says, "You know, that had to be God yesterday. He was leading me. I couldn't have figured all of that out by myself..."

Yes indeed.

He leadeth me: O blessed thought!
O words with heavenly comfort fraught!
Whate'er I do, where'er I be,
still 'tis God's hand that leadeth me.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Watershed moments

People who get to know me well will eventually learn that I like spiders. I do not automatically kill every spider that I find in the house. We practice capture and release, unless it is a brown recluse that has is not being reclusive and is out and about (which is very rare). He will kill them, I usually let them scurry back into hiding. I suppose I am being foolish -- I knew someone who had to eventually have plastic surgery to repair the damage from a brown recluse bite.

I like to take pictures of spiders. Rest easy, here are just a few. I won't bore you to tears.


My birthday is very close to Halloween. One year a friend, who is a good with a sewing machine, was inspired to give me a tote bag and some pot holders made from spider web material.

The local market takes 5 cents off the total when customers bring in their own bags to put the groceries in. I have quite a few bags to use for this, and today I happened to grab the spider web bag as I headed out the door. Tuesday is “banana day” at the market, and the price-per-pound drops to 39 cents.

A young woman behind me at the checkout counter noticed the bag sitting on the conveyor

and commented that it was “cute.” So I had to explain that someone had made it for me because I liked spiders quite a bit.

She said she had severe arachnophobia. Her fear of spiders began when she was 5 years old. She woke up and a spider was on her face. That “did it” for her.

My interest in spiders began when I also was about 5 years old. I was out in our yard one day and I noticed this “fuzzy looking thing” on the wooden fence at eye level. I don’t remember touching it, but I must have, because suddenly hundreds of tiny spiders came pouring out from under, spreading out in all directions. I still remember how amazed and excited I was to see that.

Some researchers believe folks are born with an innate fear of spiders and snakes and that it is a “hangover from a survival instinct that evolved in ancient times.” I dunno.  Maybe.

I know that I was never afraid of spiders or snakes, and my parents (usually it's the mom who does this) did not teach me to be afraid of them. I think it would have been interesting to to visit with this young woman more about the topic but the line was moving. I wonder if she would have gone on to grow up to be afraid of spiders if she had not had that experience. Oh well...

In any event, our very different experiences as young children – hers and mine -- were watershed moments -- they certainly affected us for the rest of our lives.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Just another odd moment in the Ozarks

On the bench there was a jumble of oddments such as are to be found in every workshop, bits of cord, wire, metal tools, some bread and cheese which the mice had been at, a leather bottle…

The Wart was familiar with the nests of Spar-hark and Gos, the crazy conglomerations of sticks and oddments which had been taken over from squirrels or crows…

The Sword in the Stone, T.H. White.

When I decided I was tired of the name I had given this blog when I first started writing it, I knew I wanted to include “Ozarks” to reflect the south central area in Missouri where we live (very close to the Arkansas border), but I wasn’t sure what else to add. My friend Judy suggested the word “Oddments.” She and her husband owned a used book store, and when they went to book fairs, they would set up a table with the sign “Oddments,” indicating “these were unusual things that caught our eye that we thought would also catch somebody’s eye and think ‘well, this looks interesting’ and buy them.”

I was familiar with the word “oddment”, which the author T.H. White seems to find quite useful in the first part of his epic, The Once and Future King,  which I confess I have tried to read several times but can’t seem to get past the first 100 pages, despite colorful characters and delightful writing, but never thought to use it myself.

At any rate, all that to say this… I had one of those “odd moments” the other morning that brought home just how appropriate the word is.

I was walking the church loop when I saw something twinkling green on the barbed wire fence separating the asphalt from the goats. Of course I had to see what that was. And what a surprising thing it was!
I did not think this Japanese beetle (and another one I saw further along the wire) accidentally impaled itself or that it decided to sacrifice itself, as did the kamikaze pilots in WWII, as a way to atone for the damage it had caused in peoples’ gardens.

Nope. This is the work of a bird—the Shrike—which impales the prey it catches on barbed wire or thorns. I have never seen a Shrike on the wing, but I did find a dead one that had crashed into our plate glass window, so I knew a little bit about the bird and its habits.

I was just surprised to learn that they also catch and impale insects.

I don’t think anyone is going to shed a tear for these dead beetles.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Splendor in the grass

Even though it is a couple of months too early for fall colors, the big cottonwood in the front yard has started dropping its leaves because of the drought...

and the ground is covered with them.

Had I been walking in the front yard, I probably would not have noticed anything else golden or yellow in the grass besides the leaves.

The other morning though, I had just finished the straight mile portion of my morning walk (I leave the house at 5:45 a.m.) on the frontage road picking up trash and had started up the hill at the “church loop, ” the asphalt driveway that connects with the frontage road and circles around a large pond in front of the church. I happened to be looking down and noticed something yellow in the green grass.

As I said, it is a bit too early in the season for fall colors, and besides, the fence line (5 strands of barbed wire and two hot wires), which keeps the herd of goats next door off the church grounds, has been cleared of everything that could have turned yellow. So I had to stop and look.

I am glad I was paying attention.

Otherwise I would have walked right by.

I did not have my camera with me, so when I finished walking the loop, I drove home, thought about it a while, and then decided I had to try to get a picture of it. It was still there. I had to get down on my hands and knees to get level with it--and then get up again--which might have provided some amusement to anyone speeding by on the highway who might have seen me.

I had no clue what it was, and so I had to enlist the help of my friend Judy, who has several insect identification guides, and eureka, the mystery was solved: Eacles imperialis.

What a lovely, splendiferous thing to see.

Tuesday, July 03, 2018


There is no more lovely, friendly and charming relationship, communion or company than a good marriage--Martin Luther

I meant to write about this last Tuesday (June 26) because that was our anniversary.

In years past I have had trouble remembering the date of our anniversary. My parents' anniversary was a week earlier than ours and I often got the dates mixed up. This year I remembered okay, but really fell down on the job in other ways.

We were married in 1971, so this makes 47 years.

Weddings—at least in our social circle—were rather simple back in 1971.

My dress cost $80 off the rack at JC Penney. The bridesmaid’s dresses were homemade from patterns and material we bought at the fabric store.

The reception was cake and punch and, of course, the ubiquitous mints and mixed nuts in the church fellowship hall. It did not break the bank.

We normally do not do anything very extravagant for our anniversary, mostly being content to have a good meal in a nice restaurant. This one happens to be a Mexican restaurant, and as usual, the meal was excellent. I am sure that practically all Mexican food in the United States is a fusion of American and Mexican tastes, but the woman who owns the restaurant is actually from Mexico, so I feel like the food is perhaps a bit more authentic. At any rate, I tend to order something that I don’t usually make at home; in this case, chili relleno. I have tried a couple of times to make chili relleno, but I don’t do well in trying to neatly stuff ingredients inside something else and then dipping it in a batter and frying it. So I am happy to order it at the restaurant.

But to backtrack just a little: The situation here over the weekend before our anniversary was rather hilarious (depending, of course, on your sense of humor). He is hard to buy presents for because if he wants something, he just orders it right then online or buys it when he is out and about. I always know what I am getting because I always ask for a book, which he buys me, so there is no surprise there.

He did give me a suggestion about what I could get him, which was great – and I should have thought of it myself because it is has always been the “go-to gift” when I need to get him something.

However, he had to go to town and said there was no point in me making an extra trip to town to buy the present, so he ended up buying his anniversary present and giving it to me so I could give it to him.

And then last Monday when I did go to town for the usual—aerobics class, post office—I forgot to buy him an anniversary card, so he found a really funny one on the Hallmark Cards program he has on his computer and printed it and gave it to me so I could give it to him.

So Tuesday afternoon when we got back from our lovely meal, I gave him his bottle of Harveys Bristol Cream Sherry

 and the silly card he gave me to give to him, and he gave me the book  I asked for..

and a lovely romantic card.

It was a really good day. But somehow, this was just sort of...wrong; funny, but wrong. I am definitely going to do better next year.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

A spoon full of sugar

Him: What is this? Room service?
Me: I want to get some pictures of her outside. I am going to do a blog post about the kitty.
Him: I didn’t know you could put swear words on a blog post.

She is old and the end of her days on earth is probably coming sooner than later. But who knows? She is going downhill, but her quality of life has not deteriorated so much that she needs to be euthanized.

She became our son's cat when he was living in a house in the Boot Heel, and he really loved her.

Then he moved to an apartment in St. Louis in 2001 or 2002, and because she was not suited to be an entirely indoor cat, he took a cat I had rescued from being put to sleep that had been de-clawed and who hated us (but she loved him) and we took Squeaker in trade. She was about 2 years old then.

We sort of have a love-hate relationship with her. Sometimes she is just adorable...
and sometimes she is incredibly irritating and we say mean things about her. But, we are committed to taking care of her as best we can.

So, she is at least 18 years old now. She has never been a robust cat, but her weight has dropped to barely 6 pounds. Her backbone is prominent through her fur.

She started coughing. I took her to the vet, but her lungs were clear. He gave us a liquid antibiotic just in case. What a struggle we had to get the medicine down her. Half of it would end up all over us. We had a few days left to give it to her before I figured out we could mix it in with her morning tablespoon of tuna and get it down her that way.

Then, a few weeks ago she started having seizures, and the frequency was increasing. The vet did a thyroid test to see if that was causing the weight loss. Her thyroid is fine.

He prescribed phenobarbital at 0.5 mL twice daily for the seizures. Apparently this formula is for pediatric patients, and the vet said it has sort of a cherry flavor.

After the struggle we had with the antibiotic, we knew we weren’t going to be trying to stick the syringe in her mouth and squirt it in.

Fortunately, she likes ice cream and especially strawberry cheesecake-flavored ice cream. 

The ice cream masks the taste of the phenobarbital, and she licks it up.
The medicine has worked well. She hasn’t had a seizure since we started giving it to her.

 So she gets a spoon full of ice cream twice daily to help the medicine go down.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Wait!! I am not done yet!!

I am not always comfortable talking on the telephone, so I have a tendency to wait for people to call me first. Last night, however, I did call my brother Daniel. I needed to know how he was.

Daniel was diagnosed in 2016 (?) with olfactory neuroblastoma, a very rare type of cancer that lives in the sinus cavity and likes to attach itself to nerves and bones.

After the third operation to remove “spots,” his physicians brought up the possibility of radiation therapy because the cancer kept coming back, but radiation therapy in that area of the skull is not without significant consequences. At the top of the list:  loss of an eye, loss of teeth, brain damage, including the brain stem, from radiation scatter… so Daniel decided he wouldn’t do it.

Then the cancer came back again, and he needed a fourth operation, and that time a nerve that provides feeling to his cheek had to be removed.

Daniel decided he better have the radiation therapy after all. He thought he could live without an eye if it came to that.

It was a grueling schedule -- I think he had to go 5 days a week for 6 weeks. He finished the final treatment last week.

And God was merciful.

Yes, one of his eyes got a little irritated and sore, but the hospital gave him some stuff to put in it and it is getting better every day.

Yes, sores developed in his mouth from the x-rays bouncing off the crowns on his teeth, but the hospital gave him solution to swish in his mouth and the sores healed. So far his teeth seem okay.

Yes, he did have some “fuzzy thinking” problems, but that seems to be clearing up.

They gave him pills for nausea that developed, and he actually gained a couple of pounds. He has not had any sinus infections.

We had a really nice visit.

I had sent him some pictures of “sights” around our place...

 gray tree frogs showing their ability to camouflage to the environment

a green snake I found in the honeysuckle by the garage....

 a large Promethea moth (about 5 inches across)...

a woodland fishing spider that was living in our basement (this is a very big spider --the board it is next to is 4 inches wide)

a toad and with an ant crawling on it...

 and he thanked me for the pictures and asked me to send some more.

I thought it was time to wind the conversation down, so I threw back at him the phrase he always uses when he is having a party at his place and wants to bring it to end “Well, it’s been real nice havin’ ya’,” (see previous below), only he immediately said

Wait!! I am not done yet!!!!

It was hilarious. I laughed and laughed. He actually did have some business to tell me about. He is the executor of the family trust our parents set up, so we wound up the conversation with that.

I am so blessed to have this delightful man as my brother.

Please God, let him live long and prosper.

He needs to see this little guy grow up.