Visiting the Federal Reserve STL

 Serious business happens at the Federal Reserve building in St Louis. Guards stop visitors entering its free Economy Museum for x-ray and visitor tags.

You have a pair of scissors in your purse?” the guard asked.

Yes,” I had forgotten them.

We can’t hold for you. You have to get rid of them off the grounds.”

The three grandchildren followed me around the corner to find a hiding spot for the scissors. We returned to the museum. I showed my license. They scanned the purse. We clipped on visitor tags.

Huge doors silently opened us to a room with a wrap around the history of the Federal Reserve. The lights dimmed and flashed, a recorded voice spoke. Sophie, 11, stared, “wow!” She and her brothers watched and listened to the brief history.

I wanted to stay and read all the display, but the lights brightened and the next doors opened to the main part of the museum. Sophie and I concentrated on the section regarding “How people make decisions.” Each touched on a decision’s social and economic impact. No high school diploma? Your chances of low to no income far outweigh those who pursued more education.

Every time you say ‘yes’ to do one thing you are saying ‘no’ to another. Let’s say you have two offers for Saturday afternoon: Mow a lawn and earn $20 or go to the movies with friends and spend $10. Have more cash and less time with friends or less cash to spend when you go with friends. Thought provoking concept for any 11 year-old let alone her 67 year-old grandmother.

We meandered over to the wall of screens presenting short videos. I quickly learned that the Federal Reserve began before World War I to stave off the cycles of economic depressions and bank closings. I did not know that J.D. Rockefeller pledged half his wealth to shore up the nation’s economy in 1907. Other men of wealth also stepped in to stave off the problem. If the banks and stock market failed, the whole nation would be plunged into a massive economic depression.

Once the crisis calmed, plans, programs and laws developed that lead to President Woodrow Wilson signing the bill establishing the Federal Reserve. We visited the Eighth District of the Federal Reserve in St. Louis. It covers the finances in seven states and aims to stabilize the economy against collapses.

Other videos showed how everyone has some connection with the nation’s economy and trade: “Buy a gallon of paint to remodel your room, you have affected the economy.” We smiled proudly when they named the company where my son works.

Henry, 6, stared at documentary then returned to play the Trading Pit game. I tried to compete with him. I lost because I actually looked at the numbers to get the best prices. Henry just kept hitting the buttons quickly and grinning. He always won. I guess that the best choice for keeping the economy alive and going well is to have the reflexes of an athletic six year old.

Sam, 9, glanced at some of the 100 exhibits, pushed buttons and asked “When can I go to the gift shop?” He wanted his free bag of money – finely shredded dollar bills. We each took one before we left. I went around the corner to get my scissors. No one asked to use them to open the bags. Good thing, because I am sure the guards would not have been happy. Confetti makes a mess at parties and those serious guards would want that taken off the grounds.

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I want a baby sister

Pre-schoolers know what they want. Our three-year-old granddaughter Katie does. She recently implored her father, “Dad, I want a baby sister. Everyone has one. And I never got to have one.”

“Who else has a baby sister?”

Katie listed several friends.

Dad agreed, a lot of her friends did have baby sisters and added, “Katie, babies are a lot of work. It’s not that simple.”

“I know! I’ll take care of her! You won’t have to do anything. I’ll do everything. Please! I just want a baby sister! Please!!!” she insisted.

Daddy tried logic, “Do you know where babies come from?”

“Yeah, Dad. God makes them. Just like He made me.”

Her mother posted the conversation on Facebook and concluded, “Nice try, Katie. You have Daddy wrapped around your little finger, but I don’t think he will budge on this one.

One friend commented, “She needs to be talking to God then.”

“It would take an act of God for us to have another baby!” her mother agreed.

Be careful what your children pray for. An older Katie, one nearer my daughter’s age, commented, “This Katie spent 11 years praying for a baby sister, not realizing her mommy had a fertility problem that required surgery to have babies. Here I am with my miracle baby sister. (She posted a picture of both of them). Just saying…. Lol, my parents told me to STOP praying when they found out they were expecting in their 40’s,” she wrote.

Big Katie added that she actually had to keep little Katie’s promise to do everything. “I practically raised my sister,” she said.

Katie’s cousin, Henry “still begs for a little sibling. It’s hard being the youngest,” his mom (also a youngest child) wrote.

Another friend commented, “I begged my parents for a baby sister and may still have some bitterness about not getting one.”

Not every child wants a younger sibling. When my friend’s son told his three year-old about a soon to arrive baby sister, the darling child looked at her parents in disbelief, She screamed, “No! Take her back!” and cried miserably. Perhaps at three she feared something she couldn’t quite put into words. 

It reminds me of the recent edition of the comic strip “For Better or For Worse.” Elizabeth had just learned she would have a baby sister. Elizabeth asks, “Daddy, when the new baby comes will you still love me?”

I visited a dethroned youngest shortly after the baby and momma came home from the hospital. The new big brother watched his mother pick up the baby instead of him, carry the baby around everywhere and feed the baby. Suddenly reality hit, the little feller burst out, “New baby, take back.”

Fortunately, most siblings welcome the new arrival. Daisy, Katie’s big sister, loved talking to her mom’s ‘big, fat baby belly.’ She called her mom’s belly button, the mic-re-phone to the baby. Didn’t matter where she was, pre-schooler Daisy talked to her baby sister in that belly whenever the mood hit her.

Her mom wrote, “she cracks me up….especially because she insists on doing this in public as frequently as she does at home saying, “Stop, stop, momma. ….hey, baby. You in momma’s big fat belly? Goo goo, ga ga, baby!”

At the store, a half dozen women saw her talking to the “momma belly” and laughed hilariously. It was funny and refreshing to see Daisy eagerly talk with her unborn baby sister. Daisy wanted Katie to usurp her position as the youngest. And, unlike child number four, child number three, didn’t even have to beg Daddy to let her have a baby sister.

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Eat your veggies

I slumped at the kitchen table staring at cake. Grandma shook her head, “You have to eat your food to have cake.” I looked at the meat, potatoes and vegetables. My eight-year-old self protested. Grandma just looked. I would eat the food.

Now, a grandmother myself, I know ‘why’ she insisted. ‘Real Food’ is good for the body. As a kid I didn’t care. I wanted to eat what I wanted, when I wanted. Recently, our pre-schooler and I repeated the scene.

She cried. She pouted. She shook her head, “no!”

“You have to eat vegetables before ice cream,” I insisted and I waited. I waited because it’s important for children to learn to eat balanced meals and a variety of foods. The broccoli is awful, the liver gritty. Or as the three-year-old said, “’That’s ‘a-gusting.” She can’t pronounce “disgusting,” but her body language shouts it plainly.

As I am sure a recently noteworthy British teen said as a child. He made CNN news when he became a case study for a medical journal article on becoming blind.

As a minor, “Jack Sprat” remains anonymous. He is described as an extremely picky eater. Jack ate only french fries, Pringle chips, white bread and processed ham and sausage. He did not like textured foods – the food that follows baby’s Pablum. The baby feels that lump of green beans and spits it out. Mommy scoops it off his chin and shoves the mess back in. The persistent parent pursues the post-Pablum stage with foods in various flavors and textures.

Jack spat until his mother yielded and let him eat whatever he wanted. He ate enough food. What Jack lacked was nutrition.

At 14 he told his doctor, “I’m tired.” His story published in the Annals of Internal Medicine noted that Jack had a normal body weight and appeared healthy. He tested low in vitamin B12 and was anemic. A dietitian talked with Jack about healthy food choices. He began injections of vitamin B12.

A year later the doctor noted that Jack had vision and hearing losses for no obvious reason. By 17, Jack was permanently blind. Doctors found him deficient in vitamin B12, low in copper, selenium and vitamin D. He had low bone density and a high zinc level.

Researchers from Bristol Medical School and the Bristol Eye Hospital concluded Jack suffered nutritional optic neuropathy.

He went blind because he didn’t get enough micro-nutrients. His diet caused a blindness, a problem usually found in children living in poverty, war or drought.

Jack lived in a land of plenty and peace. He spat out textured foods like vegetables, steak and fresh fruit. He lived on chips and sausage on white bread. Medical teams enter war zones to stop the effects of malnutrition and reverse the process before it is too late. Jack’s blindness is permanent.

Although it is an extreme example, it highlights the importance of having a wide and varied diet to ensure that you get the profile of nutrients and micro-nutrients that are needed for healthy development,” said professor of nutrition and dietetics Gary Frost, of Imperial College London. He told CNN that this is an isolated example of individual malnutrition. “Fussy eating is very common in young children and in extreme cases can lead to very limited choice of food,” Frost said.

So here’s to my grandmother and all the other grandparents, mothers and fathers who cross their arms and point at the broccoli. Good for you. Hang in there. I know it’s tough, but in years to come your fussy eater will be healthier and happier because you insisted they eat “real food” every day.

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Typewriter tales

Carrying two small cases, my husband passed a group of teachers as he walked into the grade school.

“What do you have in the cases?” one asked.


“What is a typewriter? and why are you bringing them here?”

“One of the teachers wants them.”

Another teacher remembered, “Ms. Cupp is teaching a unit on writing novels and wants her students to experience how authors wrote novels before computers. She asked to borrow typewriters for the unit.”

Typewriters as a novelty. How fast we have forgotten. My mother, an office worker, insisted my siblings and I take typing as a college prep class. The first day of class, I carried a package of typing paper to school. Sitting at a business desk with a manual typewriter, I folded the cover of my typing class book up over the top of the book. The teacher instructed us to use the correct fingers and practice typing the home keys: a,s, d, f, j, k, l and ; without looking. The arrangement of letters on the keyboard accommodated the differences in key strokes, letter usage and mechanics of a typewriter. Although modern computers no longer need the same engineering, the arrangement remains.

Today computers automatically correct my typographical errors. The typing teacher expected us to type without mistakes. She refused to let us use ‘whiteout’ to paint over our mistakes. Grades depended on skill and speed.

On a computer (with auto-correct) I can type 60 to 80 words per minute. With a manual typewriter, I typed much slower for accuracy and because it takes a heavier stroke to type each letter. We typed every day. I learned to type without looking at the letters. That year for Christmas I received a blue portable Smith-Corona typewriter as did each of my siblings the year they took typing. I carried my portable typewriter to college, loaned it to others, and stomped my fingers across the keyboard when I wrote my papers. After college and marriage, I typed letters to my mother and stories for a newspaper.

I applauded when my fifth grader wanted to use his birthday money to buy a lightweight typewriter at a yard sale and a book with a record to teach him touch typing. We had a record player. We did not have a computer. Within days he could touch type. A couple of years later when we bought our first computer, he knew how to key in information quickly. He settled in front of the computer and hasn’t left since. As a visitor once observed after watching our son spend hours in the lounge chair typing on his laptop, “he is just sort of part of the furniture, isn’t he?”

When we married we began as a two typewriter household. my husband had a typewriter. He took typing in high school, but I have always typed faster. We gave his typewriter to person who needed it. By the time my typewriter needed repair, a computer took its place. We never looked back.

So ‘why’ when Ms. Cupp asked for manual typewriters, did I realize I had three manual typewriters: two portables, and a heavy, old fashion upright? I don’t use any of them except when grandchildren visit and I want them to experience how l used to write letters home every week. Thus, my granddaughter happily spent hours typing a story last summer while I kicked back in the lounge chair with my laptop. My fingers still stomp across the keyboard. Young teachers may not know what a typewriter is but my fingers have known for decades and old habits die hard.

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Temper tantrum payback

As buses began rolling down the streets, Facebook pages lit up with links to a post from Haley Hassell who visited three stores searching for the specific pencil case her daughter wanted for first grade. As a single mom, meeting needs challenged her*** budget, so Hassell could rarely indulge her daughter’s wishes. She eagerly brought the pencil case home expecting an ecstatic “thank you!” when she presented it to her child.

Instead her daughter looked at it, scowled and angrily threw it into the trash. “That’s stupid! Everyone in my class has that.” She left the room slamming the door.

Hassell said she nearly came undone with anger. Before she did, “I checked myself and said ‘Okay. That’s fine. Let me go get the one you’re going to use.’ I came back with her new pencil case which is the good ol’ Ziploc bag.” Hassell wrote her daughter’s name and ‘pencil case’ on the bag.

I told her to get the pencil case out of the trash and that we would be finding a child to give it to tomorrow. One whose mommy and daddy didn’t have money for any school supplies, or someone who may not even have a mommy or daddy.”

She posted a picture of her daughter, clutching the Ziploc bag and sobbing. Too late, the child decided she wanted the pencil case her mother brought her.

I thought I had always taught her to be grateful and know how lucky she was,” Hassell wrote. Mom concluded that one child needed a wake-up call, and it was Mom’s job to give her one.

The posting ends there. The mother heard her daughter’s protest and turned it back on her. Mom was not bluffing, the Ziploc bag went to school. The post went viral. A TV morning show called to talk with the Hassell about her post, and the wide spread parental interest it generated.

Parents of the world unite, do not let the child control the household.”

Been there, experienced that with a child. Not one of my favorite memories. Still, many years ago as we packed our bags for a vacation trip to Florida, including a visit to Disney World, one child suddenly found 101 reasons why it was a stupid idea to go and insisted we should stay home. My husband tried to reason with him. He tried to calmly meet every protest against the trip with an answer.

It did not matter. The torrent of protests continued to pour out while the rest of us stood by watching the discussion about our long planned departure.

Finally, looking at the time, I said, “If he doesn’t want to go, he doesn’t have to go. He can go and stay with his grandmother while the rest of us go. It will save us money in the long run. His bag is already packed. All we have to do is call your mom and then drop him off at her house on the way out of town.”

Okay,” my husband agreed. He did not understand the fuss any more than I did. All the bags were packed, plans made, the car gassed and ready. Time to go. Now we had a solution. He picked up the phone. The child’s jaw dropped.

He looked back and forth between us. We would leave him behind?

Nothing more was said. The protesting child picked up his bag and threw it in the car. Looking at his choice of activities for the next two weeks, he chose to drop his tantrum and go to Florida. Lucky lad, we didn’t make him live with his words as Hassell did her daughter.

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How we met and married

One of the granddaughters asked me to do a “grandmother’s story” journal. So this is one answer to the many questions in the book.

How I met your father/grandfather

The Sunday evening before Goshen College closed for the winter break my freshman year, I went to services at First Baptist in Goshen, as I had several other times. Your dad says that he sat down in a pew, a group of women sat in front of him, I sat in in the row behind him with some other co-eds and a couple women came in on either side of him and sat down. His brother Forrest noticed he was surrounded with women, grinned and offered him a mint.

I really think that was another time when I visited, but nonetheless after a service, he introduced himself to me in the hallway as I waited for a ride back to the college. We chatted a bit and he offered to take me back to college, so my rode went on without me. We did not go right back to the college. He went by the drive-in and I ordered onion fries, which totally shocked him. He despised onion as a child, but he ate some that night and made sure I noticed the he was eating onions. Only after years of hearing his childhood stories about disliking onions does that make sense now.

You have noticed how much he likes to talk? Well, he talked and talked and showed me signs he had painted when he worked for the Brown sign company. He talked about how his wife had left him for someone else shortly after the previous Christmas. He talked about the shock, about her moving to West Virginia with someone else and how he went to visit his sons and was refused even a bit of time to share the gifts he had made them for Christmas. He talked about how he was taking legal action so he could see his children.

He talked a lot that night. A couple days later I left to go home to Bagdad, Arizona where I had graduated from high school that spring. He found it interesting that I had come all the way from Arizona to Goshen, Indiana where we met at church.

I found it ironic that I was in the back country of Arizona completing my college applications, going to prom, making my graduation dress and graduating, while he was in northern Indiana being served papers ending his marriage. I was celebrating, he was mourning. I was moving away from my parents; he was moving in with his parents for economical reasons related to the divorce.

I anticipated college for years. Weeks after high school I signed up for a summer session at Yavapai Community College in Prescott, Arizona. They had just completed the first dorm. I was the only student in the dorm that summer. I studied and enjoyed the solitude of an empty dorm and the classes I took. I intended to go to the second session, but not enough students signed up for the second summer session. I went home and packed college and our family’s summer trip back to New York to visit the Hibbard and Waight families. The trunk I had filled for my college dorm room was left at the reception desk at Goshen College.

(A side note. When an evangelist came to our church in Arizona my parents mentioned I would attend Goshen College. “Oh, that college has gone down the drain. It had become so liberal.” he said. My parents were concerned but they did not say “don’t go there.” When we drove up to the college, we saw a sign pointing to a student rec center “The Drain”. My mom laughed, “It really had gone down the drain.”)­

My parents left me in New York with my Aunt Calysta and Uncle Dick. I sewed clothes for my cousin Sara and then took the bus to Goshen. The night before I boarded the bus my stomach was upset from excitement. I was finally getting to go to college!

Registration was a whirl of activity in the gym where stations enrolling in classes., signing up for financial aid, taking out a loan and buying books. College and the promise of learning more swirled around me as each person told me what to do.

I settled into my dorm room with my sewing machine (my high school graduation gift, set up my typewriter (My mother considered typing very important for college students. So we all took typing and we then received a typewriter for college.) I signed up for calculus class and realized I needed trigonometry first.. I changed my major a time or two, tried to figure out what was happening in the classes, wrote my papers and read the books assigned. In Bible class we had one book that the professor wanted read on the side. I wrote myself a note “read a chapter a week and make notes.” I did exactly that. Meticulous notes. The next semester I loaned the book and my notes to another student. She added her note, “I did not read a chapter a week Thank you for such great notes.”

The second semester I asked to live across the street in a private home that rented rooms. I had a bed, dresser and a housemate in another bedroom. I still ate in the college cafeteria – with the early risers. I worked in the college cafeteria for my work scholarship.

It was at this little house that Marion Joseph Hershberger courted me and talked about his pursuit of visitation with his sons. In English class we were assigned one of Emily Bronte’s books before a tv stations showed the movie. He read the book and then watched the movie with me and my housemate (Brenda Rafuse). Only novel he ever read as an adult.

He picked me up to go to church. Years later he told others that on the college’s “Girls ask the boys weekend” that I asked a guy from college to go to church with me and he drove us there. I also asked different guys to go to two or three other events with me, probably a concert or play. I went to nd just about everything EXCEPT basketball games. Even though I lived in the state of Hoosier Hysteria, I only went to one college game. It was a date. I sat there beside the guy and watched the game. My roommate sat on the other side of the gym in the bleachers. That night she said, “You did not seem to be enjoying it.” No I really had not. I never have enjoyed loud noisy crowds. I like quiet. I like one on one conversations with people. I like reading books. That was the last basketball game I went to for many years. So, although your dad was pursuing me, I was pursuing the college life from my points of interest.

He took me to church. Thanks for the ride.

I went on with college life. He was just the guy giving me a ride to church – and telling me whatever was happening in his life. Eventually, we began praying together about his family before I went into the house. The woman who owned the house told him he should come inside and not sit in the car. We talked in the living room a lot. One day he took me out to some lake and asked me to marry him. I told him, “I will think about it.”

Okay, he understood, but he did hint about it in many ways. Finally I said, “Stop asking, or the answer is no. I will tell you when I am ready.”

My parents were not too sure about this older, divorced man who had come into their teenage daughter’s life. I listened and read their letters and thought and prayed.

Goshen had a trimester system. I took a short session. Your dad had much to say over the phone every night before I went to sleep.

My parents returned for their annual summer visit to New York. That was about the time I said, “Okay, I’ll marry you.” We picked out a ring. Nothing flashy, he had a lot of legal bills, child support, credit card bills and a car payment and more expenses ahead.

I left for NY. My dad and I talked a lot about that guy. Meanwhile your dad likes to tell that he got off work and drove all the way to New York trailing behind us a few hours. He had the ring for me. Early in the morning he called me from the little motel down the road from my Hibbard Grandparents. My being there was supposed to be a surprise to my grandmother. The phone call ruined it. I figured out that Marion Joseph was not home, from the sound of trucks going by the phone booth. I told him it was early and he needed to spend his time praying.

He came to the house, and talked with my dad. Dad was not happy about him being divorced. People just did not do divorce and remarriage readily 45-50 years ago. Your dad talked about Hosea, he talked about other passages in the Bible. Dad gave his blessing. I was not part of that conversation, ask him about it. Your dad visited the family and then drove through the night to be at work on Monday. I visited the family and went back to Arizona for a visit. And I slept and slept and slept. I was worn out.

I alsp went to Moody Bible Institute that summer so that I would have the right kind of theology for my required Bible classes. Your dad came up to visit me every weekend and we went to church together, visited a variety of churches and saw the sights in Chicago. I think he slept in his car by the lake. I don’t know. I had a nice dorm room and bed. Your dad showed me how to use a camera at to take pictures of the water splashing up on the wall. My pictures turned out much better than his and he turned the camera over to me.

I had intended to return to Goshen for the fall semester. We had decided we would be married on the day between our birthdays. I told someone “well I know the date, I just don’t know the year.” We had some discussion about returning to college. I wanted to go. He did not want the debt. I finally agreed to not go but to find a job. Let’s see, I tried being a waitress at Azars, (He came in as a customer and left me a dime tip in the bottom of his water glass.)

I went to work at a factory that made cheerleader costumes. A very bright cheerful place with older women. I had a job at a factory where I made cushions for RVs. Your dad took a part time job there cutting out fabric. The supervisor told him it was a promising career move. I think we worked a short second shift.

I worked at a factory where they assembled annoying buzzers for new saftey feature: seat belts. First I assembled the parts and spent evening listening to the electronic buzz of half a dozen stations where we assembled the things. I hated that noise. The supervisor put me on another machine where I kicked a lever that slid the copper strips through the rubber sleeving for the buzzer. I could spend my time memorizing. It was a much quieter job, more solitude. I enjoyed people during the break.

So I did not go back to my sophomore year of college, Instead I worked, saved up my money and had enough to pay off my school loans before we married. Your dad asked to use the money for some of his loans with higher interest rates and he repaid me by paying the school loans.

I made my wedding gown. We prepared for marriage and a court hearing.

Sometime in the fall, the judge heard the issues: That there had been no court approval for the sons to be moved out of state and away from the father. That the visitation promised had not been fulfilled. Other issues were heard, but those two were the deciding point. I watched from the visitors seats. The court ordered that Randy and Tim be brought back to Indiana to live with their dad because their mother did not honor the divorce decree and had denied visitation.

So Randy who was in kindergarten in Indiana while I was a senior in Arizona. Like me he attended three first grades. West Virginia, Goshen, and, after we married, Wakarusa. Tim was just sorting out speech, bathroom habits and learning to draw and color.

We married on a Sunday afternoon several weeks after Randy and Tim returned to Indiana.

I made my dress for my wedding. We did not have a reception because no one offered to give one for us and your dad said we could not give ourselves a reception. So no reception, no cake. Years later, on our 15th anniversary, he bought a fancy tiered cake for me. That came as a result of going to a niece’s wedding. Nice reception, lots of food, but no cake. The bride said, “You don’t need all that sugar.” On the way home, your dad said something like “well we had one.”

I looked at him, “No we didn’t. We could not give ourselves a reception, remember? So we did not have a cake.” (His mother did make a simple white cake for us. We opened the gifts people brought to the wedding at his mom’s place while my cousins, aunts, sister and mother watched.)

He did a double take when I said that, took his foot out of his mouth and the next anniversary, our 15th, he ordered a three-tiered cake, had it hidden in the back of our van. He presented it to me at the restaurant where we ate (just the two of us). I was pleased with the cake and embarrassed to have so many people looking at us. I wanted to leave right then and there. So we did. And I sat in the back seat and looked at that cake all the way home (a 45 minute drive). We did not eat it for a few days because I wanted to just admire it.

We cut up all credit cards, gave our tithe and a generous offering, lived modestly on his income, paid off the legal bills, and saved for retirement. (and made a few financial mistakes along the way, but that is another story)

That was our beginning. Since I turned 20 the day after we married, I was officially a teenage bride. In two short years, I went from high school in Arizona (my junior year I was in Cedar City, Utah) and two years later, having one year of college behind me, I marry a man 12 years my senior whose wife left him for someone else.

The summer we delivered my college trunk to Goshen College, his sons moved out of state to West Virginia. About the time I changed my major, we crossed paths at church.

After listening to him talk about the college he needed and had missed I urged him to go. He went and finished up remodeling the house and his degree about the same time. Then we moved south and a couple years later I plunged into finishing my degree.

That’s how we met and married.

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A new hobby for hubby

We used to have a dining room. Then I saw a pink sewing machine labeled, “Does not work, make an offer.” I definitely needed a pink machine.

“I doubt you want what I have to offer,” I said pulling out a five. She took it. I lugged that heavy, all metal machine home. It really did not work. The gears had frozen in position.

“Would you like me to try to fix it?” hubby asked. Thinking of the price I had recently paid a professional, I gulped, “You can use this machine to learn. It only cost five.”

A friend advised, “drench it with penetrating oil.”

That’s when I lost the dining room area. He placed the sewing machine on the dining room table and drenched it. Oil dripped onto the table and floor. The house smelled of oil. We twisted the wheel. The needle moved. I threaded it and tried sewing. The upper thread did not pick up the bottom thread. A Youtube video said adjust the shaft holding the needle. He did.

It stitched! We high fived until we realized it could not sew in reverse.

He puzzled over that for three days. I asked about a little compartment under the bobbin. He opened and cleaned out thread, lint and grease. Still no reverse. Over the next couple weeks he learned about the cams, timing and the workings of the stitch length regulator. I threaded the machine to test it innumerable times.

It did not quite work right.

“I don’t have to have a pink machine. I just want one,” I sighed. We found a video on cleaning the age stained plastic top, “Apply hydrogen peroxide, place in a plastic bag and leave in the sun.” Three days of sun bleached out the age. It did not fix the stitch.

I found another machine frozen from years of disuse. Hubby agreed to try again. He sprayed on penetrating oil, cleaned, oiled and greased it. It worked beautifully.

“Way to go!” I said.

I received a free machine in a cabinet. I hauled it inside our living room. Three weeks of penetrating oil and it did not move until Hubby got out his big screwdriver.

My cousin called, “Do you want Grandma’s sewing machine?” she asked.

With four vintage machines that work and the three that did not, of course I said, “Yes.”

Grandma closed that cabinet before 1982 and no one has opened it since. Layers of dust became layers of dirt. Bugs and rodents found it and added their debris.

We squeezed it in beside the other cabinet sewing machine in the living room. Hubby wiped off the grime. Trash fell on the hard wood floor. He baptized it with penetrating oil. Our living room rug will never be the same.

“Come and check this out,” He said. I threaded the machine. It hummed but did not move. He fiddled with it again and still nothing moved. Three hours later, I pushed the foot pedal and it slowly chugged a stitch.

“That does not make sense. It should work,” we said. I pressed the pedal. It chugged. I held it down, watching it slowly chug for 30 or 40 seconds. Suddenly it took off like a race car and made a perfectly formed stitch.

“It’s fixed! Time to make something with it.” I headed to the sewing room for fabric.

Now as soon as hubby figures out the glitch on the pink sewing machine sitting behind the couch, finds the part for the free machine and looks at the one hiding in the garage, we will have a living room again – until the next time a frozen machine calls my name.

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Praying over the little things

Frustrated as I searched for something, I grabbed my phone and texted a short message to my son, “Please pray that I will find this lost item.”

He believes in the power of prayer. At least he does now. Years ago, he seemed skeptical. A couple months into the school year I realized he needed more slacks. On our “Stay-at-home-mom” budget, I worked hard to stretch the dollars so that we could live on one income. That meant that shortly after we moved to El Dorado, I visited all the grocery stores with a page or two of basic items written on the lines. I went through the stores filling in prices on my homemade spread sheet. I wanted to know the lowest place to purchase each. I also shopped sales and stocked up when possible and haunted yard sales for clothes, fun stuff and basics.

So as I prepared for a morning of yard sales that day, I told the my son, “you need more slacks for school. I am going to pray that I find some for you at the yard sales today.”

He looked at me as if I had a hole in my head. I could almost hear him thinking, “New jeans come from the store, not yard sales.”

I can pray about that,” I assured him.

I could also go to the store and pick up the slacks if necessary, but, as I said, I considered it my job to stretch the impossible budget. He left for school. I gathered up my list of Friday yard sale addresses and my purse.

Before I ever crossed the city line, I spotted a yard sale alongside the highway with tables of clothes. I hit the brakes and pulled over.

I spotted a stack of boy’s jeans in various colors. Today jeans only come in blue, torn blue and shredded blue and now some companies are actually charging top dollar for deliberately dirty blue. Back then stores sold whole, clean jeans.

Do you have any little boys’ jeans?” I asked.

Yes, we do. My son just went through a growth spurt right after I bought him plenty of jeans for the year. I think he wore them maybe once, and then they did not fit.” She walked over to the edge of the table where she had laid seven pairs of neatly folded jeans.

I picked up the top pair, read the size and the price. All seven pairs would cost as much as one pair of new jeans from the store. They looked and felt brand new. I didn’t usually buy seven pairs at a time, but such a bargain he could have an extra pair or two. God provided above all that I had asked or considered.

I’ll take all of them,” I said.

I didn’t find anything else at that sale. I didn’t need to. I already had found more than I had requested in my prayer.

So when I texted him recently, “Pray that I would find something I need to have it by tomorrow afternoon,” he prayed. Later he texted back, “did you find it?”

Good question. I had looked high and low, emptied out drawers and straightened closets. I even cleared the cubbies in the car and found nothing.

After I sent the text, my husband mentioned, “Did you look in the laundry room on the shelves?”

I walked in, looked up and there on the overflowing shelf my search ended.

Thank you, Lord,” I whispered, then I called and told my no longer skeptical son that God does care about things like school clothes and lost articles.

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House on the Rocks

Some people go to museums We went to the House on the Rock in Spring Green, Wis. built on a mountain pinnacle by Alex Jordan. We went to see his house and his collections of collections: dolls, circus dioramas, church organs, carousel horses, guns, armor, model ships, books and more that I have forgotten.

It takes two hours to simply walk through, more if you sit and enjoy the carousel or mechanized musical machines. Jordan collected player pianos and designed an entire orchestra with mannequins that played instruments. The mechanized self-playing violas intrigued me. The violas stand in front of chairs with an arrangement of pulleys, levers and springs that pull the bow across the strings or hold the finger positions. Bladders behind the saxophone expand and contract to push air as mechanized fingers press keys.

The House on the Rock began after Jordan realized he wanted more than a tent to enjoy his favorite spot on the mountain. He backpacked the tools and lumber he needed to began building in 1945. The lay of the land dictated the architecture. He finished a sitting room and added rooms until he had 13 including the infinity room: a long hall of windows that appears to go on forever. That might have been the end of his build but folks wanted to see it. In 1959 he charged the exorbitant price of 50 cents admission. Folks paid and loved what they saw.

The original rooms have low ceilings, few windows and sparse furnishings because Jordan actually only slept in the house four nights. He lived in a modest two-room apartment in Madison, Wis. He spent his days designing his massive hoax including a huge collection of vintage European armor, all made in America. Although he never went to Europe, the house displays replicas of the English royal crowns – in glass cases. The instruments play themselves with the back-up of synthesizers. The constantly circling carousel has not one horse among the 269 animals. Guests never touch or ride on the 80 feet-wide platform but we watch it or study the hundreds of carousel horses that covered the walls and ceiling around the carousel. A few rooms later dolls rode a multi-tiered small carousel. He had so much of everything including a long hall filled with elaborate doll houses of every size and era.

After opening the door for the first customer, Jordan spent the rest of his life developing more ideas. Once he opened a new display, he watched visitors’ reactions. If the room did not trigger a “Wow!” factor, he reworked it. Amazingly he used only the money generated from showing the house to buy, build and expand.

His final display of 200 model ships surrounds a massive squid fighting a whale. It’s longer than the height of the Statue of Liberty. Shortly before he died in 1989, he sat in the mouth of the whale for his last photograph. Walking around the display, I read the placards for each model. Most had sunk.

Some of the stuff is odd. For instance, the massive room filled with vats and mechanics from boilers and factories interspersed with three of the world’s largest church organs collected from around the world. We strolled down a replica of an 1800s cobblestone street peeking in windows of fully furnished shops and homes.

Even the bathrooms and in-house cafes include displays of dolls or dioramas. Building sized posters advertising magicians loom over the tables in the active snack shop where we had lunch. We came, we saw, we checked it off our list of things to see, photograph and remember.

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A breakfast conversation

Bored after the night shift at the hotel desk, the night clerk “Mack” eagerly greeted us as the first guests arriving for breakfast.

I have three sons and three jobs,” he said. His list included three nights a week at the hotel desk and part time, light work on construction sites.

I can’t do heavy lifting since I nearly lost my leg 10 years ago,” he said.

What happened?”

He related the following.

I worked for a company that went around the country putting together tongue and groove log cabins that use big lag bolts and screws to hold them in place. The contractor insisted that his crew be provided a house with a bedroom for each man.

“We ate breakfast at the house, had lunch meat in the refrigerator for lunches, and his wife would make us a supper each night. I didn’t have to pay for room and board. I was making good money and enjoying it.”

The contractor took the crew to an island off Maine to build and live during the build. They had no way to leave the island. Since the men spent their days building, it worked well. Or it did until Mack developed a pain in his leg. He could barely stand it hurt so much. The contractor insisted he was faking to get out of work.

I wasn’t. I was literally curled up in misery,” Mack said.

Still he forced himself to try to keep up with the job until he could not stand on the leg. It hurt so much. 

I need to go to the mainland. I need to go to a doctor,” he pled with the boss.

The contractor negated him as a shiftless, lazy bum.

When the contractor left, the man’s wife quietly said, “Come, I’ll take you to shore.”

She took him to the door of the emergency room and left him saying, “I have to get back.” He hopped in alone.

I was like an episode of the TV show ‘House.’ They could not figure out what was wrong with me. The diagnosis they gave me basically meant that they did not know what caused it.” He could see the red streaks of infection creeping up his leg and medications did not help.

If this does not get better we will have to cut off your leg to save your life,” the doctor said.

Mack got scared and mad. He called the doctor names. He threw a fit. He picked up the phone and called his own doctor back in Indiana.

I know what you need, you need prednisone,” the Indiana doctor said after hearing the situation.

Mack told the Maine doctor he needed prednisone.

The doctor rejected the idea. Mac called his Indiana doctor. The Indiana doctor talked with the doctor in Maine. Mack got the prednisone and the infection subsided.

The Indiana doctor gently scolded Mack, “You were rather rough on the doctor.”

Yes, I was, but it’s my leg and my life we are talking about. She was not listening.

She is a young fairly new doctor don’t be so rough on her.”

Mack improved, hired a taxi to take him to the airport and flew home to Indiana.

He spent the next three years in therapy rebuilding the leg. “I could not take a shower for three years. When I finally took a shower, I crumbled to the floor in pain. The doctor said it was because the damaged nerves felt all the water droplets.”

Now, every time I see my doctor, I thank him for saving my life,” Mack concluded.

His days of heavy lifting jobs in construction are over, but Mack is alive, has both legs, three sons and a story to tell travelers in the early hours of the day.

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