Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Loss of a Pet

Our little black wiener dog honored his predecessor today. He napped on her grave under a tree that commemorates her. It was as if he knew this was the anniversary weekend of her death.
Dan the Man soaking up the 70 degree November sun in Kansas
Seven years ago, I put down my red dachshund named Lexy. She was eleven-years and nine-months old, a little younger than most of the kids I teach. Her back legs went out, something that happens to a lot of wiener dogs due to their elongated bodies and the strain on their spines.

I had raised her from the time she was a puppy. Trained her to ring bells to go out and potty. In a month, she had it down. Later that summer, my niece Jessica helped me train her to walk on a leash by enticing her with food.

Lexy, named after a South Dakota weather forecaster Lexy Hickok, arose at 5:50 am every day when I first got her back in June of 1995. I wanted to sleep init was summer. So one day, I said, "We're going back to bed," and I stuck her under the covers with me. That was the last time she slept in a cage. Then I got married, and she slept alone in a doggy bed.

Lexy and Dad nap ~ Summer 1995

One can imagine the pain of losing a house dog who is a constant companion. My dad said he understood when I told him I cried over Lexy’s death more than I did Mom's.

Shortly after my dog's passing, fellow dog lover Kaitlin Nance, a former student of mine, gave me the book, For Every Dog an Angel. For anyone who’s lost a dog, the words will not seem silly. I knew I wanted another dog; I just wanted to wait until summer time when I could give it my full attention.

Lexy ~ Tank, Kaitlin's dog ~ Pepper in July 2007

But I was. So lonely.
I missed Lexy. So much.

Guilt over all the changes during her last year of life did not help me. I tried to enjoy Pepper’s company, but it was not the same. He was not Lexy. I would walk Pepper at night and just bawl. I bought an iPod to drown out my thoughts.

Some suggested I should get a dog right away, others said I better wait, yet others said maybe I should not get another oneever. After all, we had Pepper. In addition, I feared my new husband would not want another dachshund after the way Lexy behaved at times. But I wanted one. Another one. Another dachshund.

Lexy's second Christmas in 1996. She did not like that doggy coat.
My husband saw my sorrow, and three months later in March, he drove me five hours one way to get a dog from a rescue. It was a black and red dachshund I found on His papers came with the name Daniel, but I wanted a fresh start for this little fella whose story I will tell some time in a future post, so I renamed him Dan the Man. He’s my little love who teaches me about patience and kindness in a way no human can. 

Dan the Man with me in May 2012

How does one move on after the loss of a pet?
It is tough. So tough.

Give yourself permission to mourn. How do you do this besides tears? Create a special memento of your pet. Mine is a box full of pictures and a journal full writings. In fact, that’s when I started writing consistently again. Lexy’s death in 2007 caused me to return to my default mode. In that journal, I wrote messages to her.

Lexy with me on the last day of her life.

Also, realize the time to grieve is different for everyone. You might choose to never get a pet again. Only you can make that decision, but do know that you are not being disloyal to the one you lost if you want another companion. My time ended up being three months because I could not stand it any longer.

One day at lunch, my friend and colleague Jill Weber said, “It helped my mom when she got another one." Her words gave me permission to make room in my heart for another dog.

And room I had.
Dan the Man’s spot is right beside Lexy’s, and today, his resting on her grave confirmed it.

saying good bye

How have you dealt with the pain of losing a beloved pet? What did you do to cherish the memories?

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Thankful to be a Child of the '70s

I set a milestone this week: six months of writing every day. That is 175 days. Whoop-de-do! In honor of being thankful for my progress, I rewound my eight-track tape-type memory back to the 1970s. Enjoy the nostalgia.

T is for
Tic Tac, not turkey. Sorry. Orange Tic Tacs were my third-grade favorite that I shared on the school bus with my best friend, Gail Piper, two years my senior. The sweet treat helped me get a bang out of life just like the TV ad said. Then Dynamints came out as their competition. I stayed loyal to Tic Tacs.

photo from Pinterest and the blog, Long Island 70s Kid
H is for
Holland Rusk. A toasted cracker type item that was put in a dessert. Can't find the stuff in the states, and I do not really want to purchase a dozen of them off an international website. The recipe involved, among other things, chocolate and Cool Whip and powdered sugar. A yummy family favorite.

photo from

A is for
autograph books, a way for kids to make other kids compliment them. Do these even exist today? Maybe it would soften the bullying issue. I do not remember kids refusing to sign anyone's. It was a gesture of kindness.

red one: from 3rd grade ~ big one: from jr. high

N is for
Nebraska—where my Omaha cousins lived. Seeing the Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom building for the first time was a big deal for a little girl who watched the show every week before rushing off to Sunday night church. I thought Marlin Perkins actually lived near Aunt Mary's family in that building. I wrote about these relatives in the July blog posts called Procrastination Pile Removed and Seven Kids and Me.

Marlin Perkins, host of Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom
K is for
Kinney shoe store. We bought my soft-soled shoes for marching band from there. Since they were brown, we spray painted them black. They sold the cans right there. Kind of crazy.

photo from

S is for
steam rollers. You know, the electric kind. The contraption would steam up and then one would have to quickly grab a roller and shut the lid, get it wrapped into the hair, and connect it with a funky pin. In upper elementary, Mom would fix my hair in the evening, and somehow the hairdo lasted a couple days. 

picture from Pinterest

G is for
gashtel soup. It is a smashed noodle with ridges that is quite tasty. It's a Hutterite tradition to eat gashtel soup'em in cold weather, summer time weather, or anytime weather. Mom served me gashtel when everyone else ate vorscht. Gashtel, yum. Vorscht, yuck!

gashtel ~ from my freezer

I is for
Ironside, the show whose detective worked from his wheelchair. Great theme music and plot. Mom and I enjoyed watching it. Not many shows in the '70s showed the productive lives of people with disabilities. Click here to watch part of an episode.

Ironside ~ picture from Pinterest

V is for
Valerie Bertinelli in One Day at a Time. Probably the first show of its time to depict the lives of a young divorcee and her daughters. And everyone loved Schneider, the super of their apartment building that little girls like me fantasized about living in some day. Enjoy part of an episode by clinking here, and you'll see how cool the apartment was.

picture from

I is for
the I Like You apple. Everyone but me has seemed to have forgotten this icon. I had an I Like You tablet, pencil, pin, bedspread, and even bib overalls. Here is proof below that it did exist.

cover off my notebook

N is for
newspaper from fourth grade. Looks like I was the page one editor. Check out the letter from the editor, Barbie Schwan, about overshoes and snow boots. I bet this purple printing brings back memories. For my younger readers, this was not off a colored printer.

a page from Mrs. Schneider's 4th Grade Newspaper

G is for
Gilligan's Island, my all-time favorite TV show. The seven castaways were my after school entertainment. I blogged all about them on their 50th anniversary in the post entitled A Three-Hour Tour: A Lifetime of Memories. This is one love I know I have passed on to my nieces and nephews—and even some of my greats.

picture from
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Maybe you would like to comment on some of these '70s icons or think of others to add to the list.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

5 Savory Tips for Delightful Cooking

My husband is spoiled. He married a woman who likes to cook—and serve leftovers. I am spoiled too, for he never complainsand I mean never. Here are my five tips for the cook who wants to find her way to her husband's stomach.


A good set of knives. I have Pampered Chef. I do not store them in those wooden knife holders. Used to, but one time I pulled one out and found a smashed up bug on the knife. I promptly bleached all the knives and threw out the wooden block. Sorry sister Brenda, I think you gave me that thing. But I made up for it by showing her how having a large butcher knife to chop up onions and veggies is a lot easier that digging out a chopper and having to clean up all the small parts. I store my knives on my counter top in a Longaberger crock so I can grab them.

homemade jam


A great cookbook. It helps if it is a three-ring—a cook does not need the frustration of trying to keep the pages flat. My husband bought for me, or should I say for him, a Taste of Home cookbook for my birthday at my request. He does not mind me trying new recipes, but I will not be buying anymore $50 sides of beef like I did one year. Tried to make beef Wellington. Total flop. But that setback did not stop me from continuing to try new things. Chris and my step-daughter Brittany and I have a long-standing joke about recipes and me. I have a hard time making simple things like fried eggs, tomato soup from a can, and mac and cheese from a box. Go figure.
Harris time 2013 ~ Chris' b-day: Joe & Val's brisket in 2012 ~ Nikki's family in 2009


The desire to learn. The Pioneer Woman’s website has great recipes and easy instructions for a cook at any skill level. Ree Drummond’s pictures make cooking fun. Her TV show does the same. Because of her, I have these items available each week: garlic, onions, heavy cream, cumin, Italian seasoning, crushed red pepper, fresh mushrooms, bell peppers of all colors, and of course, butter and olive oil. Her show is on the Food Network on Saturday mornings. I had never heard of The Pioneer Woman until our neighbor, Travis Ball, who has had business dealings with the Drummonds, told me about her being one of the top bloggers in America. This was back when I did not even know what blogging was. Ironically, my husband graduated with one of the Drummonds from Pawhuska High School in Oklahoma.

our backyard eating spot back ~ this is when Ev met Erik in July 2008

The desire to serve others. On more than one occasion, I have crammed many people around two tables in our tiny house to enjoy a meal I prepared. Sometimes we end up in the garage or outside under the pavilion. These are the best of times to me. Family, friends, food, and a reason to get together. I even made my own 40th birthday meal when family came down to Kansas in 2006. My brother-in-law Rick could not believe how I was up at seven in the morning preparing ribs for the noon meal. Sometimes, I flub up, like not knowing the lack of power of a borrowed crock pot and the food is not ready, but that's when a sister-in-law like Tammy steps in to save the day. So humble yourself and ask for help.

preparing one of my birthday meals in my pajamas


Color. In a couple weeks when we will all be loosening our belt buckles a bit after the big meal, remember that someone is planning right now on how to make your Thanksgiving feast enjoyable. Not every meal can be a spread like that, but presenting an attractive plate full of color, as my high school home ec teacher Kathy Olsen taught us to do, is just as important as the taste of the food.

my pretty plate of Aunt Grace's lasagna ~ a favorite of my brother-in-law Lawrence's

Do you have any words of advice as we enter the holiday season of eating and entertaining? How about short cuts or tips for not getting stressed out about it all?

homemade buns

Saturday, November 8, 2014


Cliff hangers. I ended last week's post, Seven Silly Tidbits, with an unanswered question. Which deceased relative would I choose to spend time with if I could?

My answer?

Grandma Elizabeth.

Grandma Elizabeth sitting where the kitchen sink now resides in the family farmhouse.

She was dad's mom who died long before I was born. She was the writing type. Kept five-year diaries that no-doubt influenced my Aunt Mary Ruth, the niece she raised like a daughter. My middle name, Beth, connects me to her, the woman whose house I grew up in.

My dad, Aunt Mary Ruth, and Grandma Elizabeth standing on the west side of the house. The window behind my dad used to be the front door. This is the only picture I have seen with that in tact. Now it's the bathroom.

One of Grandma Elizabeth's silly sayings has endured. Many times, people broke down with flat tires or cars would just stall. So whenever the family turned the corner near the farm, she'd say, "Now if we had to, we could walk." I find myself saying that whenever I return from going out of town.

Her life was not void of tragedy. Grandma Elizabeth miscarried twins years before my dad was born. The stillborn girls were buried on the family farm. No marker served as their grave. I think that's sad, but Dad said that's how things were done back then. 

My dad Waldo doesn't look too happy about this family picture.

Grandma Elizabeth also had rapid weight gains and losses. She battled depression to the point where she received shock treatments—twice—at the state hospital in Yankton, South Dakota. My dad, who watched the first treatment, said it lifted her entire body off the table. He did not watch that again.

Afterwards, Grandma Elizabeth spent a couple days in the hospital. My mom stayed with her. She embroidered tea towels to pass the time as Grandma slept. Because of this family history, I am cognizant of my own thought life and find any study of the human mind to be fascinating.

Grandma with Grandpa drove this car during a parade in Hitchcock.

Grandma's furniture is still around. My mom used her China closet and matching server until the house was remodeled in the '70s for the first wedding in our family. Read more about that in my post entitled Curlers, A Bra and an Airplane Ride.  

Mom would often stick pictures behind the wooden inlet in the China Closet. When Mom got her new China closet when I was around seven, this old one was a three-level Barbie doll townhouse. For more about how those dolls kept me company on long road trips in my blog post, Seven Kids and Me.

I now have that China closet. It holds my best Longaberger dishes.

Grandma Elizabeth's China closet

writing on the back of it: Feb. 27  ~  1941      $31.95      Gamble

Why the handwriting on the back? Seems that was the thing to do. Write the price and the purchase year. The matching server resides in our garage. Needed more room in my house for the piano.

Another piece I have of Grandma's is what we call the game chest. It stored the table games. I use it now as an armoire. It is solid wood and houses our bedroom TV on top. When Dad, my sister Brenda, and I were moving this heavy piece downstairs, Grandma's writing on the back revealed something. What we saw made it even more special. 

the game chest

Grandma wrote ~ Our Father gave this dresser to me in 1929 ~ which he made himself ~ Mrs. Pete ~which I appreciate

It took us awhile to decipher Grandma's spelling. I thought she wrote apricot, but it was appreciate. My Great Grandpa, Michael Hofer #2, made the game chest. He was a blacksmith and a carpenter of sorts.

Precious. Just precious. Just like time with Grandma Elizabeth would be.

Some day, I hope those five-year diaries of Grandma's will be mine. And maybe someday, one of my greats will cherish mine. 

Do you have a relative you've never met that you wish you could spend time with? What traits have you inherited from them?

Writer's note: this is a continuation of last week's post, Seven Silly Tidbits, written in response to a challenge from my online friend, Shelli Littleton. She tagged me to post random facts about myself.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Seven Silly Tidbits

Do you possess any unique abilities? 

I can squat so that my elbows touch the floor without lifting up my heals. Try it: put your feet in a V-position and squat. When kids attempt it, they fall over or almost rip their pants. I thank my jr. high basketball coaches, Ruth Hausemann and Cindy Borkowski, for my flexibility. They required stretching of hamstring, quads, calves, and more before we did a thing in practice.

Me at 40. I can still do it eight years later.

What ability or skill do you wish you had?

Operating a hair dryer to style my hair. I just don't get it. Hair stylists have patiently tried to teach me. I can't do it. For those like me, here's how to solve this problem: go to bed with it wet so it will puff up by morning. I place a towel on my pillow to absorb the moisture. It also serves as a drool catcher.

If you could live anywhere in the world and afford it upon your retirement, where would that be? 


In my childhood home in South Dakota renovated by my HGTV favorites: the Property Brothers, the Fixer Upper couple, the Love It Or List It duo, and the Flip or Flop couple. I have fond childhood memories of that house, and it would be the best place to grow old—just like my dad. At 89, he's living in the house he was born in. Parts of the house are ready to fall in, so all those HGTV reinforcements and remodeling gurus would be necessary. I would need lots of money to pull it off.


Believe me, it looks even worse now. This was back in 2011. Paint alone would do wonders.

You can only keep one modern amenity in your home. What would you pick between the microwave, the Internet, and the television? 


I have always loved TV. As a little girl, I got in trouble for sitting too close to it. As an adult, I do housework and exercise while watching TV. I do enjoy cooking, so I could live without a microwave, and I can get Wi-Fi at work or in public places, so unlike my husband, I could survive without the Internet at home. There is nothing like sitting down with my doggies and watching television. TV is like another person to me. It talks to me and I talk back to it. No, I’m not Mildred from Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. I don't have three walls of it, but I do own four televisions.

What is your greatest fear?

A tornado or some other disaster destroying, not my house, but all of my computer generated documents. So for years, I have had a tornado file. I coined the term a long time ago when Esther Mayer, one of our school's maintenance employees, caught me running off papers and stuffing them into manilla envelopes at the end of the school year. I told her I was making copies to store at my sister Priscilla's in South Dakota. Thus came the term, tornado file. Now I just switch out jump drives when I go up for a visit. But I do have back-ups in my house on an external drive, on my home PC, and on another jump drive. I keep a jump drive in my desk at school too. No, I do not trust the Cloud, Dropbox, or Google Drive for my back-ups. I want access without the Internet. A bit overkill? Maybe, but this is a fear I can do something about, so I will do everything I can to prevent losing over two decades worth of work.

Biggest regret?

I should have taken a basic economics class in college. If I had, I might actually understand the difference between stocks and bonds, an annuity, a 401B, and a Roth IRA. I might even be able to explain what the heck a mill levy is. My oldest nephew Michael has given me countless lessons on these terms, but I do not retain any of it. Taking an economics course might have stopped me from making money mistakes. To learn more about those, read my post entitled, Dollars and Sense: A Lesson in Interest of a Different Kind.

Future wishes?

I have been an aunt since I was 6-years-old, and I want to be healthy enough to live so I can be a great-great-great aunt. I am already a great aunt with my oldest great, Leah, being 12-years-old. So if she marries in eight years and has a child soon after, I will be in my mid-50's and become a great-great. Then if her child gets married around 20 and has a child right away, I'll be a great-great-great and be in my mid-70s. That's possible. Now, if I have to depend on the youngest great, the one to be born this November to my niece Suzanne and her husband David, I'll have to make it well past a hundred years old for it to all work out using that have-a-kid-at-20 formula. 

I am in the middle surrounded by my nieces and nephews. From these 8, come 19 greats.


You are given a chance to meet and spend time with one of your relatives who is no longer living. Who would it be?

After I wrote my answer, I decided this person deserves more than a few sentences. Will it be one of my second cousins, my grandparents, my mom, one of my aunts or uncles, or my state wrestling champ cousin? Stayed tuned for a future post about this person.

Writer's Note: I was tagged by my online writing friend and fellow blogger, Shelli Littleton, to post random pieces of information about myself. So I interviewed myself and had fun writing this post. Thanks, Shelli, for the inspiration of this post and some others to come! The link for Shelli's list is here.