Sunday, March 29, 2015

Pinky Rings & Puzzles

When my oldest sister offered me her pinky ring, which I adored, I knew something was up. It was her way of telling me she got engaged.

I was in sixth grade when Priscilla wiggled her finger at me and then switched her arms around to show me her engagement ring from Rick, a man she had known since her childhood days at Byron Bible Camp in South Dakota.

In the late 70s, when they’d started dating, I asked her why she liked him. Her response was always the same. "Because he's a hunk."

My elementary mind needed a definition, and she readily supplied one. Later, I learned there was more substance to her feelings than that, but for a little kid, the answer sufficed.

Their engagement was happy-sad for me. I loved having my Sissy around, and when she started dating Rick, who lived about two hours away, my fun doubled when he would visit. But I knew after they’d get married, she’d be far away.

Pris & Rick: the early years

Rick was an only child, and I was a late comer growing up as though I was one, so we got along pretty well. When he’d visit, it would be for the entire weekend since he was a farmer. He and Sissy enjoyed putting puzzles together. I got in on that too. Come to think of it, I'm sure I crashed in on their date time a lot when they were in the house.

Puzzle work meant sorting the pieces into pans. Edges in one, colors in another, make the border first. The puzzle would remain set up in the living room if it wasn’t completed during that visit.

Puzzle Time. Pris snapped this picture of me on Rick's lap.

I don't remember the first time I met Rick, but I do remember the first time my 10-year-old eyes saw him kiss my sister. I was sneaking around the dining room doorway, and there they were between the kitchen and the living room smooching.

Doorways seemed to be a place Rick liked, for I remember Mom complaining that he'd leave his shoes in the middle of them. Pris said he still does that.

Pris & Rick in 2012 on their 34th wedding anniversary

After 37 years of marriage this past March 25 of 2015, I’d have to say he's taken pretty good care of my Sissy and continues to put up with me, his pesky little sister-in-law. They raised three children, two boys and a girl. The smooches I see now are with their eight grandchildren. Grandparenthood suits them.

Anybody else remember times when an older sibling started dating? Care to share your antics?

Writer’s Note: For more firsts involving my big sister’s life with Rick, click here and read Curlers, a Bra, and an Airplane Ride. 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Things My Dog Ate & Survived

My first house dog would have reached the age of 20 this past St. Patrick's Day. For a dachshund, that would be astounding.

The elongated creatures are a loyal and lovable breed, for who doesn't love the occasional, "Hey, it's a wiener dog!" But these fur kids are prone to back problems and overeating. And eating is something my dog loved to do.

Lexy with my siblings.
Top left with Priscilla, Brenda on the right, and with Elliott, lower left.

All of Lexy's bad habits were my fault. Diving for food, digging in purses, ripping papers, chewing woodwork. Not a pretty thing for a canine who came from a line of pure bred show dogs.

But I will take credit for her friendly, unabashed nature too. She never feared anyone or anything. She had no reason to. I raised her from the time she was a puppy after getting her from Jacquie Girrens in June of 1995.

To honor her memory this year, here's a lighthearted look at some of the things Lexy ate during the 11-plus years of her life.

Corn on the Cob
Lexy grabbed one out of my brother-in-law Rick's hand when he was teasing her with it at my sister Brenda's house. Lexy gagged on it, and I had to reach down her throat and pull it out. I gave Rick a piece of my mind as he did me about keeping her around the table. But Rick's a dog lover, so I don't hold it against him.

Lexy rests as Rick and I play chess.

She'd jump up on chairs if we didn't push them in. If Priscilla, my other sister who was Rick's wife, had butter on the table, Lexy would eat the entire stick if we didn't stop her in time. Result: loose bowels.

Again, we didn't push in the chairs, so at my step-daughter Brittany's 13th birthday party, Lexy joined in and gobbled some pizza. See, I told you. These were all my fault.

Don't worry. We got her to vomit and she was okay. When I found an almost empty bag of chocolate in the hallway at my sister Priscilla's, I knew what had happened. Lexy had been snooping around in a bedroom where Pris was storing wedding supplies for her son's reception. We called a vet, and they told us what to do so she would foam and then expel it. So we waited. And waited. And waited. And just about the time we were going to load her up and take her in, up it all came. PTL!

Mom keeping Lexy out of the junk pail.

Yes, I used to wear them under my pants. Had to keep warm somehow on cold bus rides during basketball season. Lexy managed to find the nylons and eat the legs. All I found was the waist and butt part. My vet, Doc Mike Herndon, told me how much and how often to give her the goopy black toothpaste-looking stuff that acted as a stool softener. I kept it on hand because of all the stuff she'd get into. Then Doc said, "You need to dig through her poop and puke to piece the pantyhose back together again, so we know all the pieces are out of her." I did that with a big stick. This happened twice. You'd think I'd put them away so she couldn't get to them. Again, all my fault. This is why I do not baby sit.

Lexy & Pepper eye-ball Chris' cereal.

Chewing Gum
My friend and colleague Joyce Foley came for a Longaberger party at my house. I usually took Lexy to my neighbors, Jack and Betty Tracy, when I'd have such events, but Joyce had come later, and I already had the wiener girl back at the house. We went into the kitchen, and when we came back out, Lexy was busy chewing up a wad of Big Red gum from Joyce's purse. She did a similar thing when I stopped for a minute to deliver something to my niece Evelynn. When I came back, Lexy had managed to get into my candy and gum and some Advil. The bugger knew how to unzip bags!

Yes, her own. It's not as uncommon as you might think. I had to give her special pills so she would quit doing it. It was embarrassing when she'd do it in the front side yard. The behavior is called coprophagy. She liked horse droppings, silage, and trash cans too.

My life with Lexy was full of crazy events like this, and I loved every minute of it. For a more serious read on my time with her, read the post called The Loss of a Pet.

What are your house pet's habits? Have they eaten anything weird?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Why I Now Enjoy Spring

The yard. My husband beautifies it each year. Before him, it was an empty lot filled with weedy grass and dandelions.

He has a green thumb. When a guy at work was going to throw away an apple seed, Chris took it, nurtured it, and stuck it in the ground. It’s grown into a sturdy tree. Last year it produced a small apple.

My ungreen thumb doesn't know a purple cone flower from a weed when they peek through the dirt, but I do recognize a morning glory. We’re trying to keep them from taking over the garden.

morning glory fence: Fall 2010

I like the climbing vine on our chain link fence and arbor, but not when it wraps around sunflowers, string beans, and other vegetables in the garden. I picked over 200 of the buggers within ten minutes one time last summer. Yes, I counted as I plucked ’em.

Morning glories are hardy. We wrapped some in damp paper towels and sent them home with my friend Elizabeth Tatge last summer. Later she had a nice little pot of blooming flowers for her patio.

morning glories toppled a climbing pole last Fall in 2014

It’s not just plants and flowers that Chris has filled the yard with, it’s the entire atmosphere he’s created in our outdoor room—that’s what HGTV would call it.

One weekend in the spring after we'd been married a year, I traveled to South Dakota for a surprise anniversary party. Chris and his daughter Brittany stayed home, for she had track practice and music contests.

When I returned three days later, he had built a pavilion over the cement where a clothesline used to be. I had no idea he was doing it and was so surprised. Then that Fall, Chris dug a hole, got some lumber, and designed an above ground pond. When the fountain runs, it adds peace to already quiet surroundings.

Top picture from April 2008. Bottom picture taken July 2009.

After just one season of a garden with flowers (I'd had a veggie garden before), and a yard with trees, bushes, and vines, I experienced Spring in a whole new way. I could actually sit outside and enjoy the scenery. Read a book. Talk on the phone. Pet the dogs. Take a nap. Just be.

If you want to know what I used to think of Spring, click here and read last week's post. But now, with the beauty and joy of Spring brought to my back door, how could I not like this season?

Have you ever experienced a new perspective on something you thought you didn’t like? Who or what changed your mind about it?

Sunday, March 8, 2015

5 Reasons I Used To Hate Spring

I wasn't in track, so as a kid, when everyone came back with tans from getting to be outside all day, I was jealous.

Why didn't I join track then? I am slow, and I hated straight running.

I’ll blame it on elementary PE when we had to run 20 laps around the gym to start class. I’m serious, 25. Every. Single Day. Of PE. Even when we switched teachers. It must have been a district policy. Not my idea of fun. And I liked PE—but not that!

So, my first immature reason as to why I did not like spring: track kids’ tans.

Incidentally, I used to hate spring break too as an adult. Why on earth would a person hate that? Same reason. I didn't go anywhere to get a tan!

Reason Two

Spring in South Dakota is ugly. Piles of brown snow. Puddles and mud reside in the yard and on the playground. Streams trickle down the curbs in town due to the melting snow. As a farm kid, I knew to be thankful for the moisture, but where I grew up, fields were brown. No pretty winter wheat like Kansas. Due to the harsh winters or the ground not getting worked in the fall, Dad planted spring wheat, so it wasn’t until later that green fields emerged.

Reason Three

Basketball season ended. No more high school games and no more college games after the Final Four, only the NBA. And since I was married to basketball, like I wrote about here in last week’s post, I suffered withdrawal.

Reason Four

Pressure of music contests. Spring was the competition season. Guild for piano was especially taxing. If I am remembering correctly, it didn't need to be memorized, but performers had to announce the key, play the cords and arpeggios, and then perform the piece. The fancy certificate was well worth it though and so was the pride of my piano teacher. Click here to read about her and here to read about my mom and me and my piano playing.

Reason Five

School was almost out. That meant that I wouldn't be around people my own age for three monthsexcept for church events. The telephone and an occasional sleep over barely met my social needs back when parents didn’t chauffeur their kids all over the place. So again, a rather sad and lonely time for this farm kid.

The Used To Part?

Now I do enjoy spring. I’ll write about my transformation in next week’s post.

Right now, you probably hate winter, but are there characteristics of the other seasons that put you in a bad mood?

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Jump Balls & Four Corner Delay Game

Between Spring, Summer, Winter, and Fall, I used to say my favorite season was basketball. And basketball was my spouse.

I fell in love with the sport in 1978back when jump balls occurred at every tie-up. The set-ups often looked funny if a tall player jumped against the feisty guard, but you jolly green giants should not have brought the ball down for us pesky rat terriers to grab it.

The first basketball team I ever played on. I was in 7th grade.
I'm number 33 standing by Coach Ruth Hausemann.
Tinted glass were in style.

I know I am in the minority, but I wish we still had jump balls. That possession arrow determines the winner in close games, and shouldn't the defense have a chance at getting the ball back if the offense didn't take care of it?

Our superintendent, Dale Schneider, a member of the South Dakota Activities Association in the 70s and 80s, would ask us thought provoking questions like that during government class. I could never tell which side of the question he was on.

A change I did like was the smaller ball. It came out during my junior year in high school and helped me shoot and dribble better. I also remember experiments with a shot clock. Didn't like that one bit.

I still do not like watching games with a shot clock. It eliminates the stalling tactic, yes, but it put a new spin on the game delay tactic that I liked. Sure, some coaches, unethical in my opinion, would run a delay game when they were way ahead. But when it was a nail biter, shouldn't the better ball handling team or the well-oiled delay game team win? Isn't that part of the strategy?

I know, some of you are like my mom used to be. She hated how the offensive guards would put on a clinic as the defensive guards darted back and forth hoping for a steal. But oh, when their persistence paid off with a steal and a bucketwhat a game! Besides, to be a guard, one needs to be little bit of a show-off, don't you think?

Running a delay game is a big risk. And every basketball fan from South Dakota in the late 70s to early 80s will remember when the Huron College Tribe ran one. The college was only thirty minutes from our farm, so Dad and I went to many of their games.

picture from South Dakota Sports Hall of Fame

Eddie Boyd, Mel Smith, Spinkle, and Coach Bruce Carrier were household names in east central South Dakota. Sprinkle would tick off Carrier so bad he'd get sent to the showers in the first half, sit at the end of the bench in street clothes, but then after half-time, Sprinkle would be back in his jersey playing. Rumor had it some of the little old ladies in town attended games just to yell at Carrier. 

And boy did he get criticized for his delay game tactic in the NAIA playoffs one year. Our teachers let us listen to the play-by-play on the radio during school, but I believe this particular game was in the evening, so we listened at home.

The Tribe literally stalled the entire second half. One player stood in the corner of the court and held the ball. It didn't even pass the hashmark (not a Twitter term). That rule wasn't in place yet. They wanted the last shot of the game to win it, but they flubbed. I can't remember all the details of it except that it was another one of Carrier's controversial coaching maneuvers. It would be interesting to know whatever became of him and his players.

What experience do you have with the old jump ball rule or the four-corner delay tactic? And for my South Dakota readers, what's your favorite Huron Tribe memory?

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Circle of Life

This week, welcome Amy Wallace, the
1995 Miss Kansas runner-up, as my first guest blogger. She
writes a real tear-jerker here, so grab your box of Kleenex and prepare to meet one of the many who influenced this professional woman, wife, and mother of three.
Read more about
Amy at the end of this post.


Circle of Life  by Amy Wallace

“Hey kid!” I can still hear his booming, gruff, yet tender voice. The voice of Ray Donald Jones, RD, or Don, but just Grandpa to me.

In my upper elementary years, he was the lunchroom monitor at my school. That didn't last very long. I think he called a kid a piss ant. That was one of his favorite things to say. I’m sure his loud, gruff tone didn't sit well with the grade school parents!

I love this picture because it shows his sharp-dressed style, fabulous
hair, and him looking at me with such adoration.

Each summer Grandpa would come out and help with harvest at our farm. His job was to drive the wheat trucks. When I first learned to drive, I did the driving and he was my co-pilot. He cussed me up one side and down the other about how fast I was driving. He was probably right.

My husband recalls a funny memory from when he was a boy. Sean and some buddies were hanging out at the local gas station where Grandpa worked. The boys were looking at the magazines when he surprised them shouting, “Hey you kids, this ain’t a [gosh darn] library!” Oh Grandpa, he wasn't known for his grace or tact!

My favorite photo of us is framed in an old rusty horseshoe. When I was competing at Miss Kansas, he had a gorgeous bouquet of flowers delivered to me, and in the arrangement was a horseshoe for luck. Included with it was a card addressed to "Amy Graber Futere Miss Kansas." Spelling wasn't his strong-suit, but I loved it and still have the envelope today. The frame holds a photo of us after the parade at the meet and greet. There wasn't a more proud Grandpa in the place!

top picture: my favorite picture with Grandpa Don in the lucky horseshoe frame
bottom picture: proof of his spelling skills

One afternoon I was painting my bedroom. I had the door closed so I could paint behind it. He threw the door open and marched straight in stepping on the tray of paint right at the edge flipping it over. Paint went on the wall, the door, his pants and shoes, the carpet—everywhere. Graceful he was not.

He came off as pretty rough and tough, but he had a sensitive side. If I ever stayed home sick from school, he would stop to check on me. When I moved to college and he couldn't see me all the time, he called just to check on me.

Once married, we moved to Garden City. Grandpa decided to send us valentines in the mail. How sweet! But he didn't put enough postage on them, so we had to go to the post office and pay to get them. We had fun teasing him about that every chance we got.

the Valentine's Day debacle
In April of 1997, I was student teaching and we celebrated Grandparent’s Day. Grandpa came to school with me. This is one of my last good memories of a healthy man. I was so proud to have him there, and he was so proud to have been invited.

I don’t recall the exact time I was told he had cancer, but I specifically remember when I realized he wouldn't get better. They were moving a hospital bed into his house. This was it. It was coming to an end, and there was nothing that could change that.

As we celebrated Christmas in ’97, we knew it would be his last. He was thin, weak, and tired. He gave my mom a tree to plant in her yard, and I knew that he knew. The end was near.

It was February. We started a round-the-clock vigil at his bedside. In anticipation of his upcoming birthday, we requested a card shower. It was a treat each day to retrieve the cards and read them to him.

On a Wednesday, I emptied the mailbox mid-morning. Once again, our tiny town didn't disappoint. The box was full of birthday greetings. I sat next to his bed and read each one. His eyes were closed, his breathing loud and rattly. Suddenly we realized the mail had just been delivered. The cards we just read were from the previous day. Now we had a whole new batch to go through!

We read the new batch of cards and his breathing got slower and farther apart. And then, just as gentle as a soft breeze, he was gone. And there was peace. He left that sick body with his family at his side. There was no more suffering. It was finished. It was 1:18 pm on his 74th birthday, February 18, 1998.

4 Generations:
my mom, Peggy; me, the baby; Nellie Jones and her son Don, my grandpa

If someone had asked me if I wanted to be in the room as he passed from this life to the next, I’m not sure what my answer would have been. But as God must have intended it, I was. And I will forever be grateful for that experience. 

Death was not scary. It was quiet. It was peace. It was sacred. It was a moment, one last moment, that could be ours. Something we shared. I was there for him, and he was there for me. And I will cherish it for the rest of my life.

About a month after his passing, Sean and I learned we were pregnant with our first child. When she came into this world nine months later, we gave her his name, Macy Dawn. He would have loved her compassionate heart and fiery spirit. She wears his name well, but that is a story for another day.

Does Grandpa Don remind you of anyone in your family?  Have you ever had the opportunity to be with someone as they moved from this life into the next?

About Amy Wallace

It is my great privilege to be a guest writer for my good friend and colleague, Melodie Hofer Harris. During the summer of 1994, I was at a bit of a crossroads in my life. I had just completed two years of college at K-State, and the love of my life (now my husband of 20 years) had graduated and was moving on to the real world. I wasn't sure where I fit into that picture, or for that matter, the big picture of life. To help pay for my schooling, I was competing in the Miss America Circuit.

That summer I participated in the Miss Cheney Lake Pageant held annually each July in Cheney as part of the Sedgwick County Fair. I was getting to know my home-hostess, Paula Voth. As I explained my lack of direction and uncertainty about school, work, and life in general, she encouraged me to apply for a position that was open at her school. I filed my application with Superintendent Don Wells and landed a job which changed the path of my entire future. I was hired as a teacher’s aide at Cheney Jr. High where Melodie Hofer was a teacher. 

Two years later when I married, Melodie presented me with a handmade crosstitched “Wallace” that still hangs on my refrigerator. In 2001, I returned to Cheney to work as the curriculum director and three years later, became the principal at Cheney Middle School. Today, Melodie and I remain co-workers, but more than that, friends.