what does Elizabeth have to do with Christmas

The winners of the Christmas alphabet game called out their words for each letter.

“E is for Elizabeth.”

“Elizabeth! What does that have to do with Christmas?” Steve sputtered.

“She was the wife of Zechariah. Gabriel the angel told him he would be the father of John. That promise came before Gabriel visited Mary,” I said.

Steve looked at me dumbfounded. “How do you know all that?

“Because I tell the Christmas story to kids every year. Read it. It’s in Luke 1.”

A couple days later, I saw Steve and asked, “Did you read Luke 1?”

He hadn’t. So, just for Steve, I am writing a short version of the role Elizabeth, Zechariah and John play in the full Christmas story.

The story begins as Zechariah offers up sacrifices in the temple. The angel Gabriel suddenly appears, startling him. Gabriel says, “Don’t be afraid. Your prayers are going to be answered. You will have a son. Call him John.”

Zechariah scoffs, “Me? Have a son? I am old. And Elizabeth is way too old to have a baby.”

Gabriel put Zechariah in his place, “I stand before God. Because you do not believe, you won’t be able to speak until he is born.” Well, that shut up old Zechariah for a long nine months.

He went home. Elizabeth became pregnant.

Six months later, in Nazareth, Gabriel appears to Mary, “Don’t be afraid! I come with good news. You are going to be the mother of the promised, eternal King.”

Mary, she believes him, but she wonders, “How can that be? I am a virgin.”

Gabriel tells her that God will make it happen and then to prove it, he says, “your cousin Elizabeth, the one who is old and never had a baby? After all these years, she is having a son. See, with God nothing is impossible.”

Gabriel did not say, “Go check her out! See for yourself!” But Mary did.

As soon as Mary walks into the house, the baby inside Elizabeth jumps with joy. Unborn baby John recognizes that Jesus has entered the room.

Elizabeth excitedly says, “You are so blessed. You are the one! And my baby knows it, too.”

John’s job was to announce, “God With Us has arrived!” He began doing that even before his birth.

Mary spends a couple months visiting Elizabeth – two mothers who are miraculously expecting special sons. Mary goes home. Elizabeth has her son.

A week later, the neighbors all come over for a circumcision ceremony and the naming of the baby.

The neighbors all insist, “of course, his name will be Zechariah.”

“No, no, no,” Elizabeth says over and over, “His name is John.”

“No one in the family has that name,” they argue.

She insists. Exasperated they turned to old Zechariah who could not speak his opinion. He motions for a writing tablet. They grab one. Zechariah writes, “His name is John.” Suddenly he can talk, and he can not stop praising God. He lets everyone know it all was exactly as the angel Gabriel had said. As promised, the baby boy was born to old folks. That’s the last we hear of Zechariah or Elizabeth.

The next chapter begins with Mary and Joseph going to Bethlehem. They stay in the stable because there is no room at the inn. The Shepherds hear about his birth from angels. Thirty years pass. And John, now called John the Baptist, announces, “One is coming; I am not even worthy of bending down and tying up His sandals.”

In John chapter one, John first appears as “the man sent by God whose name was John.” Later he baptizes Jesus. So yes, Steve, all three, Elizabeth, Zechariah and John, definitely belong in the story of the Christ of Christmas.


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Growing up to help

I blinked and did a double take last fall when I saw Elijah, then 13. In the few weeks since our previous visit, our chubby grandson had stretched up into a tall, thin teenager. I barely recognized him with his new haircut and body.

“Wow! have you measured yourself lately? You have shot up!” I said. We looked at the hash marks on the door frame. He was definitely inches above the last one. In the year since then, he has continued to grow. I watched this child enter the world 14 years ago; now I see him entering adulthood.

“Eli, come here and help. You need to grab hold of that side and lift,” his mom said pointing to the end of a heavy couch. The lanky teenager ambled over and lifted. No sweat, not even a grunt from the former “little boy,” reaching his arms up for comfort when he fell down.

The toddler who wanted to ‘help’ now does so easily: whether he is watching his little sister, doing the heavy lifting or doing the laundry.

One of his not-so-little sisters, Daisy, also switched this year. As a toddler, she stuck her foot out and said, “tie my shoes, please.” I bent down, tied and double knotted. She ran off to play. This year, after a partial hip replacement, the instructions included, “do not bend to tie your shoes.” Turn-about is fair play. During a visit, I motioned Daisy over to me one morning, “Come, tie my sneakers, please.” She came over, bent down and proceeded to tighten the strings, tie a bow and double knot.

“Oh that’s okay, I don’t need a double knot. Thank you.” I won’t be running anywhere.

Having the younger generation insures plenty of helpers during busy times. My son Nate moved his family this summer. We arrived in time to help them move out of the apartment into the new house. Looking at his 80 year old father, Nate refused to let him carry boxes on the stairs. Instead, he turned around to his 12 year-old daughter Sophie and said, “Grab that end and help.”

She grinned and grabbed hold.

Where did the once-helpless infant go? No squabbling, no huffing and puffing. She enjoyed being treated as one of the adults, capable of pitching in and doing her part in the “adults only” moving event. I watched amazed. She had become strong enough to lift and move the furniture and carry the heavy boxes.

I should have known the transition time had come. During Cousin Camp at Grandma’s in June, she and the other granddaughters closed the door to my sewing room and took over. After the one time I showed them how to thread the machine, they proceeded to do it themselves the rest of the time. For two days they chopped fabric, mixed up thread and emerged with machine-stitched creations – with no help from me.

Even the youngest, little Katie, surprised me last week. She sat in my lap to use a real sewing machine. I stopped to re-thread the machine with a different color. I showed her where to put the thread through the tension, the uptake bar and thread guides down to the needle. I tried and tried to thread the needle. “It’s hard sometimes,” I said.

She looked at the needle and turned to me, “let me.”

She astonished me and quickly threaded the needle a couple times.

“I need to take you to thread my needles,” I said.

I once helped them, now they help me and their parents as our roles reverse. And that is just how it should be.


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To Mask or Not to Mask

This pandemic has my mind in a whirl. Before school started, my daughter posted pictures of her children wearing the newest addition to their wardrobe – face masks. “Wear a mask. Go to school. Study there.”

Inconvenient. Yes. Mandatory, Yes. Well, except for Katie, who is only 4. She does not have to wear a mask unless she wants. Mostly the child does not want a mask. Not until the day she pulled one over her entire face covering her eyes. Her mother and sisters lead her through the store with her face totally covered. She found it funny that day and never wanted to wear any other time, not in any way, shape or form.

She is quite unlike Famous Wood, 10, who decided to wear a mask all the time in school to protect himself and other students. Such a noble idea. An idea that the staff at his school in Smethwick in Great Britain did not honor. So every day, since school reopened, he has been turned away at the door for – get this – wearing a mask. according to BPM Media. The school insists he can’t come into the school with a mask. “They say he can’t wear it because the Government guidelines say kids under 11 don’t need to wear one and they just made it a rule.” his father said.

To mask or not to mask, that is the question. Whether tis nobler in the human mind to suffer the discomforts of the disease or to take arms against the pandemic and wear a mask. The resolution to that question confuses me when I consider the football players. Sitting quietly in a classroom, the players must wear masks. Put them on the football field, have them run like crazy, pant in each others’ faces as they huddle over the next play and no one wears a mask.

For me the issue comes every time I approach a store. I have heard more people remind me to put on a mask than tell me I don’t need to wear one.

This year, we have gone to stores with and without our face masks. Sometimes it takes seeing the sign on the door “Must have mask” for us to remember. We turn around and go back to the car for the neglected mask. I have seen stores with roped off doors mandating one door for entrance and the other for exit. Monitors made sure we walked as instructed. A couple weeks later the ropes disappeared and a box of masks might sit on a window ledge for anyone who wanted one. No one monitored entrances or exits.

Recently we traveled to Detroit, Michigan and ate in several restaurants. Of the four we visited in Michigan, three treated our visit as if there were no pandemic except having fewer tables. The fourth insisted on masks, had roped off benches and asked that we leave our names, phone numbers and time of entering the dining room to assist contact tracing if a customer developed Covid.

Consistency might help. In April, South Korea introduced what was considered one of the largest and best organized epidemic control programs in the world, along with Singapore, Taiwan and Vietnam. They used masks and contact tracing. In 2003 while in Taiwan, I saw the epidemic control program at work during the SARS epidemic. We had checks before boarding public transportation, face masks at the airports and temperature readings. Evidently it worked. With all the consistency I knew what to expect every time. My mind did not whirl in confusion and we arrived home healthy. Something we definitely need to consider in this country.


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New puppy fever

    A flood of Facebook pictures announced the newest pet in the family: a French beagle puppy. (Okay, it has a fancy name, but that will do for now.) Long soft ears, big paws and an eager spirit to explore the house and meet the family.

    “Someone is about to get her dreams. That someone is me,” my daughter-in-love Joy announced. She had watched the animal rescue group looking for a smallish dog with a cute face. She expected to get a two-year old dog when she applied. To the delight of our three grandchildren, the animal shelter offered her a puppy with all its shots and treatments.

    “What shall we call her?” she asked. After a flurry of names from Facebook followers and her children, they settled on Nutmeg.

    “They warned us that having come from a puppy mill, she might not like toys or playing,” Joy said as we watched the reddish-brown puppy dash around the house with the children. Nutmeg licked hands, picked up a ball, snuggled up against the teddy bear that Henry given her from his collection of “stuffies” and inspected everything, including the cat’s food.

    “No, that’s the cat’s food,” Joy reached down and removed the bowl She pointed the little dog to the bowl in her cage.

    Nutmeg arrived during one of the two days that our grandchildren actually went to school building that week. By the time the oldest arrived home, the puppy napped in its cage. “Ohhh, a puppy,” Sophie dropped her books beside the cage and cooed, “Are you sleeping in your beddy bye?”

    She persisted talking baby to the puppy for the next several hours, “Me go outside and play. Me like to sniff shoes.” What is it about puppies that triggers the baby talk in otherwise, perfectly normal people?

    Sophie’s and Joy’s initial excitement and pleasure had barely settled enough to let the puppy rest when Henry and Sam arrived. “A puppy! We have a puppy!” A grin stretched from ear to ear on Sam’s face. “That smile says it all,” Joy wrote on Facebook.

    That smile remained intact the rest of our visit. The excitement slowed only when Nutmeg walked into the cage and laid down. Joy stopped the children from pulling her out, “Let her rest. She is a baby. She needs to sleep.”

    Sam sat on the floor a foot away from her cage, smiling and staring at her. Henry jiggled the latches hoping she would wake up and want out. Sophie sat at the table, watching and celebrating, “We have a puppy!”

    Not that the children lacked pets. Two cats reigned in the house until Nutmeg arrived. The oldest, Pickles, asserted her authority with a hiss and a swipe of open claws at the little dog.

    “No Pickles.” Joy reached out to stop the cat. The much younger cat Chewie stuck her paws between the cage wires and snagged kibble from the puppy’s dish.

    When Nutmeg walked outside the cage, Chewie and Pickles reminded one pup that they owned this house. My son pulled them back. “The puppy just wants to play.”

    The cats ignored the dog or stuck out their paws from beneath the couch by the time we left. Two days later, Joy posted, “They are friends,” and showed Chewie playing, “Catch me if you can.” They circled the table with Nutmeg stopping frequently to tease Chewie to keep going.

    The jury is still out on Pickles, the older, more dignified cat. We will give him a bit more time to adjust to this new invader who just wants a snack from the cat’s bowl and a game of chase.


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Going back home

Our recent journey along the Interstate back to my husband’s home state refreshed our memory of cold and barren holiday months in the windy north. We traverse frigid states to re-kindle warm feelings among kin who live too far away for frequent visits.

Unlike previous trips taken over this highway, this time we have long stretches of road to ourselves. No convoys of trucks compete with us for the asphalt. It is not the breeze from passing trucks bouncing our car today. No, today it is the fierce wind. My husband grips the steering wheel to hold the van steady as gusts of wind push us along or slam against the side of the car.

At a rest stop, the wind leans against my door as I open it. I inch it open and the wind swoops around, slamming the door wide. I slide out and fight the wind to shove the door shut.

Having lost the battle of the door, the wind nudges and pushes me hard as I walk toward the plaza. I grab a post to steady myself. This spot is a few miles outside Chicago – also known as the “Windy City.”

I shiver and pull my jacket around me and whisper, “Baby, it’s cold outside.” Thankfully, I listened when my daughter insisted I add a jacket to my wardrobe. I have worn it most of the time inside the car. I also added a pillow on my lap to warm my legs. Gotta love this van, it has seat warmers. At home in southern Arkansas I rarely think about the buttons to heat my seat. Today, I quickly remember the luxury.

It’s a windy day, and yet we pass field after field of frozen modern windmills surrounded by harvested fields.

“Look, they are not moving,” my husband muses repeatedly.

Then far off to the right, I spot five windmills in a row performing a perfectly synchronized spin. All the blades in matching positions twirl up and down. And then they are gone.

I spy a long-neglected building. The small, weathered barn has lost enough boards to see through to the other side. It once sheltered animals and hay. Now it cannot even keep its inside dry.

Lonely farmlands accentuate our solitary expedition. An old towering brick house stands high above the dried corn stubble of the Illinois farm field. It soars three and a half stories above the harvested fields and trees barren of leaves. The house reflected a more prosperous time and full household.

Today it looks lonely and neglected. The windows appear devoid of curtains. No smoke curls from the chimney on this cold day. No cars, trucks or toys litter the yard. Silently staring out the window, I wonder what happened to the family whose finances once flourished enough to build such an impressive home. Its many windowed rooms overlook a yard with trees planted to provide shade in the summer. The only remaining sign of life is a pick-up truck parked near a small, solitary metal building. We will never know the answer to, “What happened?”

“That’s a perfect place to hold a haunted house,” my husband said as our view of the one time status of success faded to be replaced with modern ranch houses with tight siding and central heat. No one in those houses crawled out of bed on a cold wintry day to stoke the fire in a coal furnace.

Time wreaks havoc with everything left untended, which is precisely why we make the long drive north and back home. We need to re-connect with folks and stoke the flames of friendships one more time.


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SCOTUS and the Girl Scouts

    Everything I need to know I learned in kindergarten – including the exclusivity of tight knit groups. In kindergarten I watched two or three girls become best friends to the exclusion of others whom they snubbed. As an adult, I have seen the same thing happen among family, friends and co-workers.

    Within one adult circle, outsiders could not even cough appropriately. Any cough annoyed those who excluded and scorned others. Within the select circle, anything the accepted ones do – even if it is a major faux pas – is brushed aside as “everyone makes mistakes.” Outside of the circle, anything the unaccepted ones do – even if it is a minor faux pas – is identified, labeled, scorned, repeatedly reviewed and chalked up as further evidence of their unworthiness to be included in the “inner circle.”

    I weary of the same routine in today’s politics: left vs. right; Democrats vs. Republicans. Every thought, word, action or twitch immediately goes under the other side’s fault-finding microscope. Obviously, both have differences of opinions on how to improve America to meet their standard. And just like in kindergarten, if the other side proposes a major bill, it is automatically rejected by the other side – even if they proposed a similar bill in the last legislative session.

    In the last couple decades, the polarization has intensified. Last week we hit the epitome with the nomination of the fifth woman to be a Supreme Court judge. She reached the highest position possible in her chosen field. She entered the nomination process with an impressive list of credentials.

    Ruth Bader Ginsburg received many accolades for her accomplishments in improving the opportunities for women through her career. When Amy Coney Barrett walked through the same doors as Ginsberg, the other party viewed her with great skepticism and scorn. She could not possibly be good enough for them, no matter how many credentials or accolades accompanied her, simply because she leans toward the conservative right. Everything she did, including adopting children from Haiti, received negative comments.

    Still, Barrett made it through a door that used to be firmly shut against women when I was in kindergarten. She established a record for her skills in the law and held her own before the legislative committee reviewing her nomination. Any woman should be congratulated and recognized for reaching that pinnacle – so the Girl Scouts of America did. They prepared a twitter recognizing this fifth woman to be appointed to the Supreme Court since its inception in 1789.

            The Girl Scouts found another woman praised Barrett as an example for girls across America. They did the same four years ago when Hillary Clinton became the first woman nominated as a national party’s candidate for president; at that time the Girl Scouts tweeted a post recognizing Clinton’s accomplishment during election season.

    The Barrett tweet quickly received an onslaught of negative comments from those with viewpoints opposing her appointment. Although Barrett is officially sworn into the Court and her position not up for election, it was seen as a politically+slanted post. The Girl Scouts took down the tweet. Her opposition on the left refused to acknowledge the achievements of a woman with leanings to the right. The Clinton tweet stayed through the election and after.

    And we are back in kindergarten, “You are not part of our circle. You are not good enough for that job or our acceptance.”

    Grow up already, people. Being a women strong enough to lead means accepting that you cannot please everyone. The Girl Scouts should have left the tweet and underscored that they acknowledge the achievements of every woman who enters once-closed doors and pushes aside barriers that in some cultures even forbids girls from entering kindergarten. 

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Hoarding Cantaloipes

Hoarding is fed by yard sales. I shop the sales searching for items for my hoard and often ask, as a I did at a recent sale, “Do you have any Christian literature?”

“We have the Bible Dad had,” The Son said. He walked over to the book table and returned carrying a huge paperback Bible. It looked brand new.

“Great! I could take that to Love Packages in Butler, Illinois.” Love Packages sends Christian literature to less fortunate English speaking countries. They especially need Bibles.

“Dad is in the nursing home. Someone offered free Bibles to the residents. Even though he already had a Bible, he took one because it was free.” He laid the Bible on the table.

“He is still a hoarder even in the nursing home,” The Mrs. said. “We clear things from his room that he has collected and hoarded. Let me tell you how much of a hoarder he is.”

She and her son looked at each other and laughed fondly at the memory of their once energetic, active hoarder of a husband and father. Over the years his collections stocked many yard sales. The business suits he once needed for his job hung in the closet for many years past his last day at the office. Once his health required residential care, his suits finally appeared at a yard sale.

Back in those days of wearing a suit, The Mr. visited a farmer. The two stood beside a field of ripening cantaloupes. The plants had begun to shrivel and die. The ripening orbs nestled on top of the leaves that had nurtured them.

“I am about done with this crop. I’m gonna have to plow it back under soon. I’ll try to get a few more to market but there is no way I can gather all those cantaloupes and sell them before they spoil,” the farmer shook his head. He knew the seasonal routines.

The Mr. looked askance at the farmer. He could not comprehend plowing under all those perfectly good cantaloupes!

“Would you sell some to me?” The Mr. asked.

“You can have all you want for five dollars,” the farmer said.

The Mr. grinned. “Can I get a basket of them?”

“Get all you want.”

So The Mr. did.

Carrying the basket, he entered the field, gathered up a basket of cantaloupes and dumped them into the pristine bed of his pick-up truck. It didn’t look like very many. He went back and gathered another basket of fruit and dumped them into the truck. He could use more than that.

Like the sorcerer’s apprentice, he returned to the field again and again, gathering baskets of cantaloupe and dumping them into the back of his truck.

“He loaded that pick-up as high as he could heap them,” The Mrs. recalled with a laugh. “I gave cantaloupes to all our neighbors, friends, folks at church and work. Anyone I knew I offered cantaloupes.”

They still had too many cantaloupes.

Around that time, The Mrs. held a yard sale to clear the house some of The Mr.’s hoarded goods – including that hoard of cantaloupes.

“We put out a sign offering four or five cantaloupes for a dollar,” she recalled. Very few people even looked at them, let alone bought them.

“Not everyone likes cantaloupes,” The Son murmured.

“Finally, we just had to throw them away,” The Mrs. said. Lesson learned. The Mr. never returned with another load of cantaloupes

I laughed at the memory, thanked them for the Bible and bought a couple items. Too bad they didn’t have any of those cheap cantaloupes, I might have purchased a couple.

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Adult ADHD

    My friend’s husband Mr. B arrived late for his appointment to be assessed for Attention Deficit Disorder.  “He got lost – as  always. He turned the wrong direction and had to get more directions.”  

    The doctor shrugged, “We always schedule the ADD folks an hour before their appointment. We know they run late.”

    After decades of marriage and ministry as missionaries, Mrs. B had insisted, “Something must be done. Go find out what is wrong that you forget important events, arrive late and cannot take care of details,” she told him.

    To illustrate, one day she asked him to pick up their son after school. School ended. No dad. Their son called. Her husband answered, “Where are you?”    

    “I am at school.”

    “Why are you still at school?”

    He had forgotten and not even the phone call reminded him.

    The problem began early. “As a child he had trouble concentrating on anything for very long. He repeated first grade. There were things he really wanted to do but he forgot and missed them.”

    “I never dared leave the little ones at home with him. I had to take them to the grocery store.” By 2007, the stress severely affected her health. She told the mission director, “If you cannot help with this, I can’t go back. It is affecting my health.”

    “We tried counseling, but nobody hit on the real problem. I had to carry all the responsibilities for paying bills and keeping appointments. He was supposed to read ‘Driven to Distraction – Loving and Living with ADD.’ He didn’t. There is a chapter about spouses. It says ‘you have a secret suffering that no one can ever see or understand unless they go through it.’ I knew he was responsible, not irresponsible. I realized his forgetfulness was a real mental problem. Getting a diagnosis really helped us on our journey as a couple.”

    Mrs. B recalled that when he entered the ministry, “People enjoyed being around him. When he forgot important things, they thought he was irresponsible and talked to about it spiritually. That made him feel worse.”

    “Whenever we had an international move, he would zone out. He could not handle the changes or the paperwork. I was ready to quit.”

    Their first clue that Mr. B may have ADD came when they talked with the school psychologist about their daughter. The psychologist said, “She may have a mild case of ADD.”

    As they researched that, her husband recognized, “she takes after me.”

    The difficulties came to a head when Mrs. B had to have surgery. “I was doped up and in terrible pain. He had to take care of the insurance and call the mission headquarters: all tasks that he usually left to me.”

    Frustrated with his floundering at routine tasks, she insisted he make an appointment with the psychiatrist who assessed him, “You don’t just have ADD, you have ADHD – ADD with hyperactivity.”   

    He agreed to try medication. For him, Ritalin worked, and he learned coping skills. “We feel like ‘thank God.’ He learned to make lists, to check the lists and keep them in one place. He had to quit denying that this was the way his brain works.” They also found that for him select natural supplements worked.

    “It made a big difference in his work. For the first time in 30 years, I could relax. We have always loved each other, but I had begun to lose respect for him. I could not trust him to do anything.”

     The struggle was real. The diagnosis was not desired. But finding a solution allowed my friend to relax and enjoy her marriage and ministry as she never had before the ADHD diagnosis.

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The log cabin that Dad built

Building a log cabin “the old fashioned way,” appealed to my father in 1975 until he chopped down a few trees with an ax. Quickly he embraced the invention of the chainsaw to harvest trees for the logs for his dream house.

The Hibbard log cabin became the family project. As dad cut trees on the old home place, my long-retired grandfather sharpened chainsaws for him. His twin brother provided the tractors and wagons needed to haul rocks and logs and the muscle to move them. My younger brother Burnie recalled recently on a family Facebook page. “Mel (our brother) did all the wiring, sanded the floors and a lot more. The day the logs went up, there were quite a few of us around. The notches were started with chainsaw cuts but finished by hand with a double-bit ax. In the top corners, Dad had spikes made that were very long: 24 to 36 inches. He worried about them staying in place. It was a pretty big deal when they were put in.”

“One day while trimming logs with an ax to get the top log to fit right, I slipped off the top, did a reverse 360 in the air and landed on my feet on the ground. Mom talked about guardian angels often and that was one time in particular,” Burnie wrote.

Dad built the first fireplace using creek rocks gathered from the Hibbard farm and carried to the house site on Uncle Bert’s hay wagon. That fireplace proved too heavy for the foundation.

The center beam supports came from an old building on the farm place. Dad installed a front porch of heavy planks and a maple wood floor inside.

Living in Indiana at the time I missed all the construction.. When we did visit, our children romped through the upstairs loft and played with cousins while my mom told me, “I have to put all the food in metal boxes or the mice and other creatures who come into the cabin will consider it their next meal.”

No food sat on the counter to feed any creatures passing through the house. Fortunately, the black bear that wandered by ignored the house and my mom’s scrambling to snap his picture.

My parents lived there for a short while without plumbing before they moved out to the Wild West. They returned with a list of things to do, including adding modern plumbing.

Mom passed, Dad moved again and self-financed the sale of the cabin to a man who failed to pay. He made no payments to Dad, but many to himself as he stripped the cabin of the fireplace and its inserts, the maple floor, the front porch and the quality kitchen appliances. Dad moved back east and lived in the cabin for a few months before he settled into residential care.

My Colorado sister and her husband took the New York cabin as their inheritance. Her family began replacing items and changing the loft into the originally planned three bedrooms. For a while, my New York cousin used it as her main home. On the new front porch, she set up a gazebo tent with a bed and slept in the woods every night.

Colorado sister realized her family would not return. She sold the Hibbard log cabin to Burnie who also lives out west. He returned to begin a renovation which contractors say will be completed this fall. I don’t know who will live there when it is completed. I do know that on our next trip back East, we will visit the updated “old fashioned” log cabin that dad built.

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Election today and Truman then

Serendipity had me reading the history of Truman’s campaign for the presidency during this year’s Democratic and Republican national conventions. As the national media emphasized the current poll ratings of today’s candidates, I read about Truman’s low ratings. Pollsters assured everyone he would not, could not win. Dewey had the election won hands-down, according to David McCullough in “Truman.”

Dewey proceeded with a low key campaign. Truman, his family, staff and an entourage of reporters piled onto the train “Magellan” for a whistle stop campaign traversing the country. Stopping in little and big towns along the way, Truman made up to eight speeches a day. If he did not have time to stop, he would stand and wave at the folks who came to the station to watch the train pass through their community. Newspapers and radio coverage of the day negated the crowds as “folks who want to see a seated president.” They saw the president. They heard the president. They cheered him on.

The Republican party knew that they had the farm vote securely tucked into their back pocket and ignored them. Truman, as a farmer for three decades, went to the farmers and talked.

When election night came, the commentators said, “once we have the farm vote, Dewey will have the election settled in his favor.” It did not work that way. Truman’s time with the farmers had left them thinking. He knew their issues and presented a plan for those issues. On the other side of the political aisle, Dewey also boarded a train to campaign in across the country. He did not travel as extensively or as exhaustively as Truman. McCullough noted that Dewey often pulled the curtain on his coach and did not even wave at the crowds as his train passed through communities.

The predictions all said Dewey would win by a landslide, even though few really liked the “aloof” Dewey, and he did not discuss the issues or present solutions. On election night as the votes rolled in, reporters continued to expect Dewey would win.

Truman went to bed with the election undecided saying, “Wake me if anything significant happens.” At 4 a.m. his staff woke him. “you have won.” More than one newspaper already had set the front page headline for a Dewey victory. One photograph summarizes the upset: A broadly grinning, victorious Truman holds up the “Dewey Wins” headline.

He won because he listened to the people. A voter who had talked all summer of voting for Dewey told a reporter, “When voting time came, I just couldn’t do it.”

An Ohio farmer said, “I had the feeling he (Truman) could understand the kind of fixes I get into.”

Truman easily carried enough votes to win the electoral votes. His nationwide, grass-roots campaign of meeting folks face to face and talking with them put him in the White House for another four years.

Four years later, the Republicans, with Eisenhower as their man, took the White House. Ever the man aware of his responsibility to serve the country, Truman did everything he could to assure a smooth transition.

In these final weeks before the election, the talk shows focus on difficulties related to mail-in votes, election fraud and a delay in final tallies. It may take days or weeks for the final vote to be determined. I can only hope we will again see a peaceful waiting and acceptance that “the people have spoken.” I don’t predict the outcome of the election. I do expect to be like Truman and head for bed at the end of election day saying, “Wake me up if something significant happens.”


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