Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thankful to be a Child of the 70s: Round 2

The 1970s don't get enough credit, so I'm here again this Thanksgiving to point out some of my childhood favorites. To read last year's piece, click here.

My Room Decor

graphic from

When Grandma Katie was put in the nursing home, Mom redecorated the downstairs bedroom for me. Dad purchased a single bed from an auction at neighbor Pauly Walter's. Read about him here and read about Grandma Katie here.

Mom bought a Holly Hobbie bedspread and matching window shades. This was the first bedroom that I remember calling mine. Prior to that, I slept in the living room. A crib was in there, and when I got older, I slept on the pull-out love seat because I was too chicken to sleep alone upstairs.

It was in this decorated room that I developed my fear of lightning storms and Big Foot. Long story.

My First Record Album

picture from
I bought a 45 of the Carpenter's "Top of the World" hit at the Ben Franklin store in Huron one Saturday morning. Mom had given me two bucks spending money while she got her hair done.

A few years ago, I bought a Carpenter's greatest hits album and loaded it on my iPod. When I played the song in preparation for this post, I remembered almost every word.

If someone had told me to write down the lyrics, I'm not sure I could have. But the memories flooded back upon hearing the music. Funny how the brain works. Click here to hear the lyrics. 

For those that don't know, the brother-sister duo of Richard and Karen Carpenter were known for the harmonic tunes. Karen Carpenter died in 1983 with complications due to anorexia. Read more about that here and here. It was during the 80s, my high school years, when eating disorders became a topic of public concern. The Denver Post ran a book review piece about the Karen Carpenter story. Click here to read it.

A Candy My Family Liked

picture from https://s-media
The combination of chocolate and caramel was found in a Rothchild's nugget. The tasty tidbit is similar to a Rolo.

The company's marketing campaign including a silly saying performed in a British accent. Click here and here for a couple of those commercials. I know, corny, but catchy.

My dad and brother Elliott would often repeat the famous line, "Not now, I'm right in the middle of a Rothchild's" to anyone they talked to. They even answered the phone that way sometimes. Read more about my brother's antics here.

The Rothchild's saying lightened anyone's mood. I wish this candy was still around. Don't know what happened to it. Or the Marathon Bar. Or Freshen-Up gum. Or Melody Pops, the sucker with a whistle.

A Favorite Saturday Morning Show
picture from

The time travel show, "The Land of the Lost," started in the 70s, not the early 90s when Hollywood attempted a re-make. I never watched it; maybe I should have. Watch a trailer of the 1970s version here.

The graphics? My goodness. So fake. But back then I didn't care. I liked the story line, or should I say, the older brother.

The music? Too upbeat for what happened to this family.

My husband Chris says the Sleestak creatures still give him the creeps. You can see the critters here in the entire first episode.

What memories do you have of these 70s icons? For my younger readers, feel free to critique my child-of-the-70s favorites.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

My Hotel Pet Peeves

The holiday season brings travel for many of us that require a stay in a hotel. I prefer Holiday Inn Express for their breakfasts, workout rooms, and overall service. But I still have a few pet peeves. Some due to my own quirkiness. Enjoy.

Bed sheets are tucked in military style. My toes and feet prefer freedom, so I go around the bed and pull up the sheets and blankets before I even hop in.

Mirror with no table in front of it. I can't put on make-up by it then, and I don't use the bathroom mirror because it's too steamy if someone has showered. The light in there is too bright anyway. Yes, you read that correctly. If the lighting is too good, I'll start picking zits, a bad-bad habit. Girls at college would tell me, "I never picked zits or split end until I met you!" I'm so over that, but now, due to my age, I look for facial hair—especially those little black whiskers that feel like they're an inch long.

The heat and air. Hard to regulate. And sometimes there's a clicking noise.

No noise. We sleep with the soothing hum of a floor fan at home, so we run the air fan in the bathroom or turn on the manual fan on the heat and air unit. Without that running, if it's too quiet at night, I hear every creak. Or door opening. Or toilet flushing. Even if hotel guests are a bit noisy, the low hum of a fan will drown out the sounds—if the dreaded clicking sound doesn't emerge.

Lack of towels. I want three. One for hair and face. Another for body. One for my pillow—to catch the drool and soak up my wet hair. Front desk personnel seem perplexed whenever I ask for more. 

A True Story
Recently, the place didn't have any extra towels. All used up in the pool area. Guess what they gave us? The extra bath mats. Kind of stiff for a towel. 

I can't remember where that happened. Maybe it was the hotel in Effingham, Illinois. Yes, that is the name of the place. We were on our way to Ohio to visit Lawrence and Tammy, Chris' brother and his wife. It took us an hour and half and nearly ten stops in three different large towns to find a hotel in the middle of July 2014. The hotels were booked. All due to a bagel festival.

Yes, a bagel festival. Don't believe me? Click here

Any hotel pet peeves to add to the list? Or how about sharing one of your funny hotel stories with our readers?

Sunday, November 8, 2015

His CB Handle was the Auditor

Veteran's Day is special in my family, but not for the usual reason. It's my brother Elliott's birthday. 

He was college-aged by the time I was born. And my sisters were young teenagers.

When he moved home to farm with Dad in April 1971, he lived less than two miles away from the home place. I was 5-years-old then.

Elliott is the one sibling who saw me almost every day of my growing up years—unlike my sisters who came and went throughout their adult years.

May Elliott's wife, five children, and thirteen grandchildren enjoy these memories from his three little sisters.

Tidbits from Childhood 
Priscilla's said 
Elliott kept the Sunday bulletins. He stored them in cigar boxes in his bedroom. He collected the eraser end of pencils. He drowned out gophers by pouring buckets of water down the hole.
Brenda said
When Mom & Dad would leave us kids home alone for a few hours, Elliott and I tended to pick on Priscilla, the middle child. Guess we got away with it because she never fought back.
 Melodie said
My earliest memory of Elliott is when he and his fiance came home and gave me a doll. I have no memories of Elliott without Doris, his wife. I turned four a few days before their wedding. I wrote about that in this post.

Doris and I were in a roll-over car accident before they had any children. As Dad made phone calls to authorities about it, Doris cooked lunch, and I sat in Elliott's lap with my arms wrapped around his neck. I can still see our reflection in the glass of the china closet in the dining room.
That's the tender moment I remember with my brother, 20 years my senior. Soon after he had his own children to provide affection to. 

Elliott, a Tabor College graduate, congratulated by sisters Brenda & Priscilla

Farm Work
Brenda said
I would drive the small tractor, and as I slowly drove past each bale in the field, he would use two hooks to hoist those heavy alfalfa bales onto a flat wooden pallet of sorts called the stone boat. Strange name, but Dad confirmed that's what they called it. After a full load, the bales were placed on a conveyor and sent put into the barn loft. Elliott worked up a sweat stacking those heavy bales.
Priscilla said
I would drive the tractor when we made bales. When, not if, I would plug the baler, the bale hook Elliott had in his hand would go into the air. I don't remember what he would yell.
Melodie said
I too have have memories of Elliott's yelling at the hogs or cattle. He never cussed. Never. Instead, he made up his own crazy words when he was mad—especially at the hogs. Things like, "You stupid, flyswatter, snot-driven, pan of no-good slime." That wasn't exactly what he said, but it would be crazy nonsense like that.

At top: Elliott's birthday in 1971 with me on his lap. Bottom: Elliott in July 2015.

A Numbers Guy 
Brenda said
Elliott was and is such a math wiz. He'd try to help me, but I think he had a hard time coming down to my level of understanding.
Melodie said
I earned good grades in high school algebra and geometry because Elliott and Dad would take turns yelling at me. I say that light-hardheartedly because they both just talked loud. I'd hear, "It's just like the other problem. Do the same thing!”
Or if a new concept emerged, Elliott would say, "Do it like the teacher did in class? He showed you, didn't he?" And yes, Mr. Frank Podraza showed us.
the family, long before me (not sure who the fella is in the back)

Melodie said
Playing Scrabble with Elliott is a maddening endeavor. He uses words that no one knows and is able to put them going vertically and horizontally—and they all match up as words!
Elliott has always been academic minded. He's well-read, loves a pun and a play-of-words. Mom was always proud of her son who could tell a joke and never ruin the punchline.

Do your siblings have any quirky childhood collections like my brother? Any games you avoid with them because they are too good?

Friday, October 30, 2015

Take the Long Way Home

It's Halloween. Time to admit what scares me: nighttime driving on the gravel road directly south of my dad's farm. Here's the reason.

I was in the backseat dozing after a Sunday evening in town with Mom and Dad. We'd often go in to visit relatives or to hear my sister Priscilla sing in "The Power and Light," a Christian singing group from the Huron Mission Church that performed in the Lewis Drug parking lot. 

I heard footsteps on gravel and Dad asking someone if he needed help. The voice grunted a reply.

Dad returned to the car with a report. "He's lost, but he said to leave him alone. Doesn't want any help."

Our car lights shined on a lug wrench in the middle of the road and an open trunk as Dad drove on the shoulder to get by the vehicle. It was dark already, so I didn't see the man.

But I sure did that night in my dreams and every time I woke up because I had heard Dad say the fella's name and that the guy was drunk.

This man lived a few miles from our place, and he was obviously confused, so my pre-teen brain imagined him getting passed our dog and mistaking our house for his and yelling his daughter's name up the stairway to me. And when I wouldn't come, he'd drag me down thinking I was his disobedient daughter and beat me up.

I never dreamed or imagined my parents intervening, or our dog taking care of him. A child's imagination and fears are not rational to adults.

But this adult still refuses to drive down that road at night. I go the long way around.

What incident stands out as a scary memory that impacts your behavior now? Do your child's fears change your routine?

Sunday, October 25, 2015

9 years with my man

To recognize nine years of marriage this past October 21, I reflect on what's made my first-married-at-forty marriage work.

Do simple things together. Take a walk. Share a hobby. Go shopping. Eat meals together. We pick a series on Netflix or on television and watch it faithfully. It's a free date if you're at home and your hubby likes your cooking, but don't talk too much during the show. I tend to do that. Chris figures stuff out and gives it away. He's got bruises on his arm from his daughter Brittany for doing that.

Make desserts for no reason. My mom only made cakes for special events, so I don't know how I figured out this one. My husband and I both have a sweet tooth.

Let him have his money and you have yours. I know, very non-Dave Ramsey. But when two people get married at 40, this is one thing you don't want to argue about.

Early in our marriage, I got Chris to agree that if we spent more than $200 on anything other than food or clothing, that the other person should be consulted first. This came about after he walked out of Best Buy and told me that my birthday present to him would be to pay for half of a camera that he just bought. I did it, but that didn't go over too well with me, thus came the rule.

Each spouse needs and deserves a hobby that doesn't involve the other person. You can support each other and agree to help finance it, but let the person enjoy it. Making one feel guilty about it will only lead to resentment.

I learned this the hard way when I accused Chris of loving landscaping more than spending time with me. I'm so over that. And now I have a nice backyard to enjoy. A hobby makes life better and makes work time more enjoyable because you've gotten to do something fun during the off-hours.

I enjoy going with Chris on his photo shoots once in awhile, but I don't like to go every time. In return, he's hauled me to a writing event in Kansas City and will do so again soon. View the hobby as that person's outletnot as a way to be away from you.

Have a sense of humor. This is why I fell in love with Chris to begin with. He made me laugh. He can usually get me out of a funk when I'm a grump.

Keep short accounts. Say I'm sorry but more importantly, ask for forgiveness. And say it again. Even if you think the other person never says it. I know, it's hard not to keep track.

Ask first when doing something out of the ordinary regarding your hobby. Sometimes your spouse can point out a concern you don't see. It's not to hurt you. It's to protect you.

Attend each others' family events. Know that the time together won't be like the time at your family's. At my brother Elliott's place, we always play table games and get competitive. At my mother-in-law's, we visit, eat, read, watch television, and play on our devices. That's just the way it is, and it doesn't bother a soul. The point is that we are with Mom. It took me a couple Thanksgivings to understand this is how the Harris clan operates.

Greet with a kiss and leave with a kiss. A little peck will do just fine. When departing, always say I love you. Let your children see and hear this. I saw my parents kiss only a couple of times in my life. Different generation, I guess. It warms my heart when I hear and see my step-daughter Brittany do this with her husband Nathaniel.

Closing Thoughts
I know my friends thought I was nuts to get engaged to a guy I only knew for two weeks—let alone a guy I met on the Internet, and I wouldn't advise it for younger people. Ironically, my family never questioned me once—at least not to my face. But I think everyone that knows Chris would agree that I done good. 

Took me long enough, but I done good.

What makes your relationships or friendships last? How do you manage the give and take? Anything you've learned the hard way?

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Sentimental Shirts Reveal Relationships

I was destined to be a Tabor College Bluejay. This picture of me from the '70s proves it. That shirt ended up in the rag drawer after I wore it out. It cleaned glass and mirrors.

Another favorite childhood top was one of those "happiness is" t-shirts that bore my dog's name. I was already in high school when Hitchcock Boy became my puppy, but Mom and Dad ordered a toddler sized shirt, so I never got to wear it. I know, Hitchcock Boy is a long name for a dog.

My sister and her husband Rick lived near Bridgewatersome two hours away. Their dog, Rambunctious—yes, another long name, had puppies.

Pris picked a puppy out of the litter for me and dubbed him Hitchcock Boy since that's where he'd be living. I was a Hitchcock Bluejay, living on the family farm 12 miles east of the town. Hmm, I see a pattern here with bluejays. And I don't even like birds! Read about that fear here, here, and here.

I do own another bluejay shirt. The coveted Tabor College Intramural Champ T-shirt. Earning one of these in the '80s was a big deal. Maybe this post will find its way to a current TC student and I'll find out if that's still the case.

I couldn't have earned one of these my freshman year because I played, or should I say warmed the bench, on the women's team, so I wasn't eligible to play intramural basketball. But one of the following years, my team won. I remember Maura Janzen and maybe Darcie Wilkins being on my team.

Back in those days, Maurice's was my clothing store of choice, and I still fit into a loose top from there. I think Mom paid $15 for the sleeveless, two-pocket, curvy collared shirt. It's super short on me now and shows my belly button, but it sure is comfy.

I use an old Florida sailboat T-shirt in the same way. Got that from my sister Brenda after one of her trips there with her first husband John. She knew I had a thing for sailboats. I collected figurines and enjoyed pictures of them. A strange interest for a landlocked girl who's never been on a sailboat.

The last shirt of value to me is now my painting shirt. It was a graduation present from my high school friend Bruce Pageler. It's of Garfield saying, "I'm not just another pretty face." Bruce, two years my senior, was the first guy who ever referred to me as pretty. That shirt will never end up in the rag drawer.

Any sentimental clothing in your drawers? What made you keep it? Can you fit in it? Do you own a t-shirt quilt displaying all the teams you've been a member of?

Friday, October 2, 2015

The Creative Soul Who Cleaned My Classroom

We honored our maintenance staff at work this week, only one of them wasn’t there. 

My friend, Robert Gillett. He died February 2014 after a battle with cancer. Robert and I shared two common interests. Writing and politics.

He wrote prolifically. Poems. Essays. Letters to the Editor. Letters to elected officials. Emails to radio talk show personalities.

It seemed to just pour out of him. He’d often ask me to proofread, and I gladly did so. It served as a refreshing change of pace for this teacher of middle school students.

Some days I’d return to school to find a poem on my desk.

I miss that.

Other days I'd find a short story or a quote about one more thing he wanted to say in our discussion about politics or religion.

I miss those too.

And now during this political season, I really miss my friend. He’d be having a ball since the three GOP candidates leading in the polls are non-career politicians.

So today, National School Custodian Day, I honor Robert. He was my co-worker, but most of all, my friend.

I miss him.

Do you have a memory of your school's maintenance crew? For those that knew Robert, share a memory of him.