Thanksgiving 2022

Thanksgiving reminds us to consider our many blessings.

I for one say, “Thank you, Lord, for modern medicine.” Because of it, I am walking after a couple serious bone fractures. In the not so distant past, broken bones could have changed my quality of life. Advances in treatment and physical therapy have allowed me to maintain my independence. Similarly, research and medication enabled the doctors to address the energy-draining heart issues that my husband experienced.

I am thankful for these and other medical resources, especially when I consider that doctors in Sri Lanka, an island near India, have advised citizens, “Do not get sick. Do not get in an accident that requires medical care.” All the hospitals there experienced a shortage of medicines and vital medical supplies. They struggle to maintain a constant supply of essential drugs and sometimes experience shortages of basic items such as gauze and bandages. The shortages in this advanced, modern nation originate from the impact of COVID-19 on this tourism-driven country as well as the rising oil prices, tax cuts, and a ban on imported fertilizers that has devastated agriculture.

We thank you, Lord, for what we have today, having caught a glimpse of how quickly it can vanish.

I am thankful for a full larder at my house and our country. Even during the Covid-19 quarantine, school buses transported and delivered sack lunches and breakfasts to students. Locally, Champagnolle Landing provided a similar service for designated adults. The generosity of other folk’s contributions to food banks and soup kitchens plus government programs provide a hedge of protection. Even with the inflationary prices at the grocery market sending more to these resources, food banks’ doors remain open.

Countries such as Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Sudan, Yemen and other places do not have such bounty. Their children waste away for lack of food since war and drought created a famine. Without leaving our lounge chairs, we hear of their plight in the mid-East, the Ukraine or Africa and write a check out of our abundance.

Our nation enjoys an abundance of everything. The covid-19 quarantine sent us home – to clean out that abundance in our cupboards, attics and closets. Overwhelmed thrift stores began declining donations until they could reopen and deal with the excess of our abundance.

For this our bounty of so much to share, we thank you, Lord.

We know all this because we enjoy instant communication. Our nation’s Founding Fathers had no such luxury as a recent reading of Roger William’s biography reminds me. He left England seeking to worship his way. Setting sail with his wife, he knew months would pass before their family would hear they had safely arrived and were not part of the fourth of the immigrants who died.

That situation is quite incomprehensible to today’s parents who monitor their child’s movements via cell-phone tracking. The texts, instant messages and email whic ensure immediate interaction can be annoying. Still, I am thankful for any and all means I can use to contact friends and family.

Living in the New England colonies, Williams’ persistent quest for personal, individual freedom to worship impacted the local leadership who disagreed with him. They rejected him. However, in time, his views influenced the writing of the first amendment of the Constitution prohibiting Congress from establishing one religion or preventing worship.

Compared to many other countries around the world today, we enjoy this freedom of worship that even Williams could not have comprehended in his time.

Thank you, Lord, for the stand Roger Williams (and others) took at the risk of their lives. His actions shape my options today and bless us all.

For these many blessings we thank you Lord.

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Abundance of acornd

Cracking, crunching and popping noises startled me as I drove down our driveway. I stopped the car. 

“I thought the mechanic said we could drive home even though the car engine light had come on” I muttered as I opened the door to check the car. My foot crunched down on freshly fallen acorns.

Recent storms shook our oak trees. They liberally scattered acorns across our yard and driveway.  Evidently this past summer produced a bumper crop. I do not remember seeing that many acorns in previous years, but we have plenty this year. Hard, shiny little globes without their cute caps.

Nothing wrong with the car. It could not quietly roll over hundreds of acorns without cracking and crushing them.

Twisting the key, shifting into gear, I proceeded to crush parallel rows of acorns as I left for town.

Later that afternoon hubby announced, “I am going to pick up the tree limbs that fell during the storm.”

About 4 p.m. he wandered into the house carrying a basket half filled with acorns, “there are a lot of acorns out there. I picked up this many just sitting in one place,” he marveled.

“Have we had that many in the past?” I asked.

“No. I don’t remember it,” he said.

“So what are you going to do with them?”

“Maybe they can be eaten.”

I looked at him skeptically. “Really? I don’t know of any recipes using acorns.”

He sat down at the computer, researched and found plenty of information for making and using acorns.

Finally, he pushed away from the computer. “You can make acorn coffee,” said my avowed anti-coffee man. “The guy who did it ended up adding coffee to the mix. You can eat the nuts if you first soak them to get rid of the tannin. Then they have to be spread out one layer at a time and dried in the oven on a low temperature.”

I nodded and walked away. I had no interest in making acorn anything.

But he did.

He took over my kitchen. No problem for me. He often takes care of the dishes and loads the dishwasher.

He soaked the acorns to release the tannin. 

About 8 or 9 p.m. I noticed he had taken the shiny new stainless steel cake pans I recently found and proudly used in baking. They are the nicest I have ever owned. He arranged a layer of acorns in each pan and set the oven for 175 degrees.

“The instructions said to wash them twice, but I did it three times to make sure all the tannin was out,” my overachiever confided before I went to bed.

Around midnight, I woke up smelling food burnt in the oven. A few minutes later he came to the bedroom.

“So you made acorn coffee?” I yawned.

“I was going to make acorn coffee or make them edible, but they burnt. I had them in the oven toasting. I knew it would take time so I sat down to play a game. I got involved and forgot the acorns. I tried cutting off the burnt part but it was not worth it.”

I sighed, “Did you clean the pans?” 

“I will,” he promised.

At 1 a.m. he began scrubbing the scorched pots and pans. 

When I walked into the kitchen in the morning, clean counters greeted me. He had placed all his harvest of acorns by the trash can at the door. He never mentioned any other acorn recipes found online, and he left the rest of the oak seeds for the squirrels to gather and the car tires to crunch.

 

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to have and to hold a smart phone

Our children push and prod us into modern technology. Not that we drag our feet. After my first college course in computers, I insisted we buy a home computer. Their college years introduced us all to email. I opened an account and flooded them with emails. Working at the newspaper I had to keep up with technology. At his job, my husband embraced the efficiency of well written computer programs. We do not fear technology. Yet, when it came to cell phones, we did not see the need for adding that expense to our budget. Still our adult children insisted, “Mom, we want to know where you are and when you will get here. If you had a cell phone you could call us on the road.”

I rolled my eyes, shrugged and did not buy a phone. Goodness, my parents traveled back and forth across the continent with phone booth calls every day or so. Our ancestors traveled across the ocean and survived on sporadic mail service and our children wanted us to have a cell phone handy all the time.

Finally one of the children gave us a tracphone with a number that someone else had recently owned with their answering message still responding to the number. It caused enough confusion that our persistent geek spent a couple hours calling, talking and explaining until all the previous owner’s leftovers disappeared.

Despite my professed indifference, the technology caught my attention. As we zoomed down the Interstate, the daughter-in-love needed make a call. She called information, connected and took care of business without having to stop, find a phone, call the operator, write down a number or have enough coins to call. ‘

“How convenient,” I thought.

Eventually, another of our adult children declared our flip phone inadequate and gave us a smart phone with all the upgrades: camera, touch pad, Internet access and a healthy monthly bill. They paid the bill for a year. 

The phone even had voice recognition. A very handy tool we discovered one day as we sat in the car planning a trip. My husband wondered, “How far is it to that city?”

I tentatively touched the picture of the mic and asked the phone its first question, “How far is it to …”

“Four hundred and seventy-eight miles,” the google lady quickly answered. It startled both of us. We laughed. We had expected an answer written on the screen as happened every time I typed in a question.

Oh, we relished our new toy. My husband has many questions as we drive down the Interstate. “Where did president Garfield live?” “What company designed …” any topic that pops into our conversation or his brain that needs an answerhe expects the smart phone to tell him  including the traveler’s perennial “how far is it to…?” He asks that question a lot.

Initially the pre-loaded apps puzzled me.  “What do I do with it?” I asked.

“Just try it.” they said.

I did and found all the time wasters.

Twice this past year we have been left with grandchildren as their parents flew off to celebrate 20th wedding anniversaries. One went hundreds of miles east. One went hundreds of miles west. Both called, texted and sent daily pictures to their children. I sent pictures of the children to their parents. If I had any questions, I could reach the parents quickly.

Thus, my original lack of interest in carrying a phone with a computer, camera, gaming system, Internet, newspaper and library changed. Now I am thankful for this annoying convenience and my children’s insistence that we join the 21st century and own one.

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Moving dilemma

It caught me by surprise a couple years ago when my son Nate turned to his 12 year-old daughter and said, “Sophie grab the other end of this chest and help me move it.”

Say what?! This kid who still needs daily parental guidance can help her parents move heavy furniture? 

The same day whenever my 80 year-old husband said, “I can help you move that.” Nate refused his offer.

“They won’t let me do anything,” my husband sulked.

After decades of helping with everything, his time had come to see that our role on moving days had changed. Our current  status reflects our progression through the various phases of life.

First was the era of being too young. My parents often moved their family of five children born in six years.The first few moves my siblings and I woke up in house A, spent the day with our 60 plus year old grandparents and were surprised to be tucked into bed in house B. 

The year that Nate and Joy moved with Sophie’s help, her two younger brothers spent time with us. Their parents needed the little boys out of the way. So the boys went away and played at our house. Sister Sophie stayed and worked with her mom and dad.

One time my parents stayed in one place for five years. The next move found us old enough to be included in the decisions and packing.

“Go sort out your toys. Get rid of ones you no longer want. Pack the rest and your clothes.”

The discards included the big Teddy Bears Mom had delighted to give us years before. She sadly agreed to let them go. That one decision underscored how we had grown and changed through the years.

With several more sessions of packing up through the next five years, I learned many practical techniques and tricks. So many tips that at 52, even though I had not moved in 35 years, I startled my daughter before her first big move when I said. “I can get you rolls of paper to pack the breakables.”

She had not considered that. Her young husband Jacob and friends also obviously needed our advice about securing loose boxes in the U-Haul. 

Their looks said, “oh, I had not thought about that.”

A few years later, with preschoolers of their own, Jacob urged Sharon to leave town while he and friends packed, lifted and shifted everything to the next house.

This year, while he worked, my daughter directed her three eldest to help pack and clean the old house. Adult family friends moved the heavy stuff. The kids’ friends then eagerly volunteered to come to a moving party at the new house. One by one the teens emptied the new garage of all those boxes and larger pieces of furniture. With teen power, each box went to its assigned room in one day.

Meanwhile my husband and I sat at home, took phone calls and listened to the saga of their moving day. 

“At our new house, the previous owners and others were still there this morning. They are all in their 60s and 70s working on moving. It’s Moving Day and they are not moving! They are sitting down and resting! It takes longer if you sit down,” she exclaimed.

For weeks beforehand she repeatedly said, “I am not asking you and dad to help us move.”

That’s when I began realizing, grandparents watch grandkids during a move. They don’t carry heavy furniture and boxes.

So I have come full circle. It’s moving time again, and I have been relegated to the grandparent house once again.

Believe me, I am not complaining one bit about that, not one word.

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whatever the weather

“Whether the weather be cold. Or whether the weather be hot. We’ll weather the weather, whatever the weather, whether we like it or not.” This old tongue twister recited in the middle of an otherwise unmemorable lecture caught my attention. I sat up and scribbled it down quickly and since then have quoted, especially at home with my husband.

Wandering out in the morning he asks, “what is the weather today?”

“Look out the window,” I suggest.

He walks across the room and looks at Google’s window.

“It’s going to rain today.”

“I already knew that. I looked out the window.”

Or he asks, “What’s the temperature today?”

“Why?”

“I am trying to decide if I need a jacket.”

“Open the door. Go outside. Look at the thermometer on the wall beside the door.”

He opened the Internet. “It’s going to be hot today. I don’t need a jacket.”

The other day he asked, “Has it rained?”

“If the driveway is wet, it rained.”

“I was thinking of mowing the lawn, but if it has rained, I will wait.”

I mutter, “You will weather the weather …”

I ought to know. I have dashed outside in short sleeves and no jacket often enough and wished I had known I needed a coat. Instead, I weather the weather whatever the weather, whether I like it or not.

When we visit family in the north. I frequently fail to remember that our temperate southern weather does not extend beyond the Mason-Dixon line. I pack the short sleeves and capris that work in southern Arkansas. Meanwhile, everyone up north still sports leggings, heavy coats and earmuffs.  There is no question about whether the weather is hot or not. It is cold.

Since I do not want to weather that much weather, I go to a thrift store and buy a sweater or jacket to wear until we return home where I donate that extra layer. I have plenty of coats for our yearly two weeks of winter cold. I have a choice, weather the weather, or run quickly to the car and turn on the heater. Which is the other truth about the weather. I don’t have to weather the weather. I can stay in a climate-controlled environment and never feel the weather.

Been there, did that the spring and summer I sat with my broken leg propped up except when I went to physical therapy sessions. I went from the air-conditioned living room to the air-conditioned car, to the air-conditioned physical therapy clinic to the air-conditioned store and home again.

I heard folks complain about the hot weather. I never felt it. I assumed they exaggerated. I had no clue about the weather, except for the occasional thunderstorms I saw through the window.

Early one morning a storm descended, I opened the door to listen to the wind. I sat by the window and watched the wind sweeping rain across the yard, rocking the trees back and forth and knocking down those loose limbs hidden high in the tree.

Eventually the storm roared away, and birds began their morning greetings. I left the window so I could hear them as I read a book.

My husband awoke long after it had all settled down, came into the living room, and asked, “why are the doors open?”

“I was listening to the rain,” I said.

But whether the weather be cold or whether the weather be hot, he does not like to share our inside weather. He walked over and closed the door and we did not weather any weather, whether I liked it or not.

 

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Aunt Erma departs

            A bright spot of joy left our family recently when my Aunt Erma slipped into eternity last week. 

She married Bert, my dad’s twin brother, and settled onto his family farm. My mom and aunt often visited. Toward the end one visit, Aunt Erma exclaimed, “Whew! I don’t know when I have talked this much!” With several preschoolers between them, she needed those chats. They practice “it takes a village to raise a child.” Aunt Erma gently scolded a toddler carrying a doll, “Don’t hold your baby upside down.”

Being the children of identical twins who lived close to each other, we visited her often. One visit included a traveling photographer with a portable screen and bench. He arranged each set of siblings on the bench in front of the white screen and captured a moment in time forever.

With her children in school full time, Aunt Erma enrolled in the beauty school an hour away. One day, she took me to school with her. She wrapped a cape around me, tucked in the paper at my neck and cut my hair. Maybe it took her an hour. The rest of the day, I waited and watched students roll the color-coded curlers, snip hair, and wrap towels around wet heads.

Aunt Erma set up her beauty shop in the largest room of the old farmhouse. It takes a certain artistic touch to be a good hairdresser, and ling before beauty school, Aunt Erma demonstrated that artistic flare with the cakes she decorated for birthdays. She was the only one of our relatives who went to that much bother.

She enjoyed company and customers. When I visited, she greeted me with her elfin smile, “Hi Joanie.” As the only one who ever called me that, I cherish that endearment. During our visits, my cousin Sue and I chatted and took turns twirling in the salon chair in the bright, cheerful pink room.

Later, my parents moved far away from farm country. My aunt and uncle stayed even after a fire heavily damaged the old farmhouse. They settled across the street in the old store – expanded into a house – that my great-grandfather had built. At some point the financial realities of farming forced my uncle to find a job outside the farm. The abandoned outbuildings slowly sagged from lack of repairs.

The day I arrived to introduce my future husband, Uncle Bert sat at the kitchen table right under the cabinet eating before leaving for work. When he asked for salt, my aunt hopped up, reached over and around him to get the salt. She waited on him as cheerfully then and as she did through the many years Parkinson’s Disease took over his life.

She drove him to the appointments, checked his medications, and finally set up a bed for him beside the big picture window. He lived long enough to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. My cousin Sue helped on weekends and after work. She said that sometimes when she and her mom talked at the kitchen table, Uncle Bert would call from his bed, “Be quiet.” She chuckled at the memory.

When he passed, the doctor said, “he lived five years longer than he would have in a nursing home.” Through those years, Aunt Erma kept an open door and a cheerful welcome for everyone. Perhaps that explains why the Bible Club teachers asked if she would prepare a meal for them each week after they taught children in the area.

In recent years, I learned that Aunt Erma prayed for each of us and our families. That blessed me. She may be gone, but her  prayers and impact on my life will last forever.

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Use it up

Some days my cooking requires innovation as I apply the adage: “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

Take the day I grabbed a can with a green label to make green beans for supper. I cranked it around on the can opener, pulled off the lid and saw potatoes. Not what I wanted. I returned to the pantry, carefully read the next green label and we ate green beans.

Still that can of sliced potatoes needed a purpose. I didn’t want to make soup. I had just made “refrigerator soup.” My recipe for Refrigerator Soup requires anything leftover that stirs together for a tasty dish. This time I decided to make my first turkey chili con carne as an experiment.

It began with half a can of spaghetti sauce, an open jar of salsa and leftover turkey from the freezer.

I did not use the potatoes.

Turkey in October?

Of course. Because last year my husband found a super deep discount on tom turkeys labeled as hens. He brought home nine, count them, NINE huge, heavy turkeys. Some he planned to give to the church food drive, but a few went into our deep freeze to stretch our food budget this year. Turkey is protein that we like. I have many recipes for leftover turkey.

To all the mix I added that odd can of jalapeno black-eyed peas. I guess I purchased the strange food item because it was super cheap. By themselves they never would have made it to our table. I added more stewed tomatoes, a can of chili and and kidney beans: After a couple hours in the slow cooker, I tasted it.

My taste buds stood up and celebrated. I decided it just needed a package of corn.

It definitely did not need potatoes.

I described my innovative soup to my daughter.

“Mom, it sounds like you made taco soup.”

“Well, I guess I like taco soup.”

I also like cornbread, which goes well with taco soup and provided one way to deal with some of the honey I found in three bottles. I poured as much as I could into the largest, empty bottle. The rest I used in a recipe I found online for honey cornbread. That stuff tastes like dessert!

Still no use for the potatoes. I didn’t want to be that innovative.

My husband fixed his piece of cornbread like his mom served it. He poured milk on it. “This milk is starting to sour,” he announced and suggested,  “You can use it to make a big batch of pancakes.”

“We don’t eat that many pancakes that often,” I said.

I wish I had known about the sour milk before I made the cornbread. But I didn’t. So I researched and discovered that I could use sour milk in a cake mix. ‘The acidity makes the cakes fluffy.” according to the website.

I didn’t use the potatoes in the cake either.

I pulled out the carton of eggs a friend had given me from her hens’ abundant production. I began making cake with sour milk. I also put half a dozen eggs on to boil just because I might want them.

As I peeled the eggs, I looked at the potatoes and knew what to do with them.

“I’m going to make potato salad,” I called to my husband. He smiled. He likes potato salad.

He smiled even more when I cleaned out the cereal cupboard and mixed the red, white and blue colored Rice Krispies with the open bag of marshmallows. Two more open containers emptied and another dessert in the cupboard. I don’t think we will have to “do without” for a while, especially after all that “use it up, make it do.”

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Nostalgic memories found in Ebay

As a retirement hobby, my husband and I sell on Ebay. It gives us an excuse to buy and gather items that interest us and then pass them along to someone else.

While I enjoy the shopping, my husband enjoys packing. He wakes up many mornings asking, “Did we sell anything?” He really likes to fold, wrap, build a box and ship.

He misses most of the messages I receive from buyers about items listed. Sometimes the messages entertain me as much as collecting the items.

Recently, I acquired a few vintage cut-and-sew fabric panels of a Bassett hound puppy. I remember cutting, sewing and stuffing similar animals for my younger cousins. I researched to find the usual selling price. I took pictures of the fabric and listed them on Ebay.

A couple weeks later Paula B. found my posting of the puppy panel and began the following series of messages.

Paula: Hi, Joanie, I hope you are doing well. I know this is a fair price for this item, but would you consider less? It’s a long story, which I won’t bore you with unless you’re interested. It would mean a lot to me if you could consider $20 plus shipping. And if you want to hear my story, I’ll tell you! Thanks for considering. Best wishes, Paula B.

Joanie: Sure I will take $20. Tell me your long story. I like stories. Meanwhile here is the link to one of these puppies.”

I sent her a link to a unique listing as per her requested $20 sale price.

Paula: So here’s my story! My dad’s older sister, my Aunt Oreta, was loud and funny. I loved her to pieces when I was a kid (still do). She loved crafts of all kinds, sewed, did embroidery and painted ceramics. She joyfully gave them all as gifts (which my mom kinda looked down on as some of them were a little slapdash). I still have some cute embroideries in my bathroom that my aunt made. The ceramic kitty that she made for me lives at my daughter’s house now. She made one of these basset hounds for me when I was probably eight or so.

I slept with it well into college, when it was in shreds. I finally tossed it.

This last week or so I just became OBSESSED with finding one! I have been casually looking for a while but lately I HAD to have it. I found one on Ebay Monday. It came today, and I washed it with cold water and no soap in my tub. All the black dye bled out – so it looks all faded and weird.

The strange thing is, she died last Sunday. I was obsessing over finding this puppy pillow like my old one. The one I bought is pretty much ruined and I would like to have another.”

Paula thanked me for the link, ordered and paid. My husband folded and slid the fabric into an envelope. We mailed it that day.

I messaged her, “I received your payment. We have it packed and shipped. Happy sewing!” I thought that would be the last I heard from the buyer. But no, this is a woman after my heart. She likes to write.

After she received the fabric panel, she wrote me the rest of our story.

Paula: “Hi, Joanie, thank you for the puppy pillow!!! It’s sooooo cute and makes me so happy!! I sewed it up last night. Happy selling!!”

I didn’t make as much money as I might have. I. did make someone happy, fulfilled their quest for a nostalgic item and found a fun story to share with my readers.

 

 

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Just like mom and dad

    The big 4-0 creeps ever closer for my darling daughter. The calendar does not measure the big event so much as the change in her mindset. She called me this morning to say, “I am becoming my parents.” and proceeded to tell me a couple stories.

    Yesterday afternoon she was headed to the church where Katie attends Mother’s Day Out. She stopped at a red traffic light and reached over to spit her gum into a paper. “It didn’t take more than a couple seconds,” she said. During that brief glance away, the light changed to green.

    “The person behind me honked her horn at me to get going. No one else had left the intersection; she did not have to wait long. Still she honked her horn. I drove on and went to the church. The person in the car behind me zoomed ahead, went around me, and wove in and out of traffic. We were going the same direction. In fact that impatient lady went to the same place to get her child from the very same Mother’s Day Out.

    “She whipped around looking for a choice parking space. I parked and was inside, picking up my daughter a bit ahead of her. I just had to laugh. So much impatience. I am becoming my parents. I’m like an old lady getting her laughs from watching ‘young whippersnappers’ get their ‘just desserts.’ It was just so much fuss for such a short distance.”

           My daughter is probably thinking about all the times my husband has refused to pass the car going a mile or two slower than he wanted to go. “I am about to turn off the four-lane. It is ridiculous to hurry up and pass someone just to turn off the highway a few seconds later,” he has always insisted while my impatient soul urges him, “Pass ’em!”

   In the same conversation she admitted to copying her parents’ gas saving secret. “I went to fill up my tank at the grocery store station that gives a discount with purchases of groceries. When I got to the gas tank and punched in my numbers, I realized I had 90 cents off per gallon of gas this time!”

    Her gas light was on, so she needed to fill up without delay. She was ready to start filling her tank, but 90 cents! This was too good not to share! She called her husband, “Hey, do you need gas!? We can get 90 cents off a gallon if you do!”

    “I am not too sure. I will have to drive there,”

    “I will pump the gas slowly to give you time to get here.”

    He left for work and met her saying, “My gas light just came on.” They had two vehicles in need of filling. 

    “And if you had had the gas can for your lawn mower, you could have topped it off as well!” I said.

    “Well, you can only get like 35 gallons of gas at the discount rate, and we got almost 34 gallons. This was so much like what you guys do that all the time: Drive up to the gas tank and fill both cars at the discount. I am becoming my parents.”

    “Hey! You saved enough to pay for your whole family to go out to eat,” I reminded her.

    Eventually that child of mine will tap into even more of my favorite ways to stretch a dollar. Meanwhile, her mindset  realizes that sometimes we cannot save money or time. So we may as well sit back and enjoy the ride.

Joan Hershberger, former News-Times Staff member, writing with her daughter Sharon Schulte.

       

   

 

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Then and now from the checkbook

Nothing like clearing the clutter to provide a trip down memory lane. During a recent purge of the desk. I filled a bag with carbon copies of used check pads.

“Why write checks with carbon copies?” you ask.

“Because we often forget to record every check,” we answer.  After trying to recall yet another check, I ordered checks with a carbon copy for each. Eventually, we started using credit cards when shopping and write one monthly check for all purchases. 

 We considered no longer using carbon copies until we discovered their safety net. As my husband balanced the checkbooks, he discovered a check we had sent in the mail that did not match our records. He pulled out the carbon copy and called the organization, “We have a problem. We wrote a check for much less than the bank paid on it. Our carbon copy of that check says we did not make a mistake.” 

The receiving organization began investigating that check as well as another one that we found later. The carbon copy helped save us money.

So yes, we toss the pads of carbon copies in a drawer to keep for a while, but the time had come to cull them. I spent an hour flipping through check pads for dates. I tossed most into a pile to burn.

I probably should have done the same to our shoebox filled with check registers, but I can’t. They record a financial glimpse of our past.

I mentioned to my husband, “we only have one register from our first ten years.”

          “I tossed those years ago,” he said.

I wish now that he hadn’t. 

We do however have all the check registers for the last 40 years of our marriage plus the one partial year from the early 1970s. That sufficed to remind me how things have changed once I quit purging and began remembering.

The registers reminded me that in the early 1970s we filled our car’s gas tank for about five or six dollars. We pay more than 10 times that now. Back then, gas cost about 25 cents per gallon, and we grumbled about the rising cost of gasoline. Now we pay more than 10 times that and grumble about the rising cost of gas.

I thought we paid at least $100 in mortgage on our first house. The register said, “$62.80” per month for the old home in need of repairs. We lived in that house through ten years of renovations and a salary about a fifth of my husband’s current Social Security Check. We said “no” to a lot of things back then: eating out, television, a phone in the house and steak.

I see checks recording that moving into a recently built house in El Dorado quintupled our monthly house payment and kept us saying “no.” The year we got the mortgage was the year interest rates soared to double digits. It was also the year I discovered garage sales. All the salary increase from hthe new job went to pay the higher mortgage payment.

It is all a matter of proportion and perspective. In the 1970s our monthly phone bill hovered around $7. To keep it there we got up early, called family just before daytime rates went into effect and talked for an hour at the night time rates. It really shocked our budget when AT&T closed that loophole without forewarning us. My monthly cellphone fee now costs five times that of the old landline fee.

Weekly school meal tickets were $3. Last month eating lunch with my grandchild cost $4. We paid cash. I still wonder why we didn’t pay cash the day my husband wrote a check for 52 cents for “milk.”  Whatever the reason, for now we have a record of his stupendous purchase and nowhere near as many carbon copies of checks they record.

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