Friday, February 28, 2014

Whipped Cream and Maraschino Cherries

The Kansas Author Dinner, the second event of February for which I was in charge, occurred last night, Thursday, February 27.  We had three terrific authors speak, and the reviews I have received were very positive.  We learned about the writing process from Samantha Bennett, Marci Penner gave a very funny presentation that included interesting stories about how the pictures in her books were taken,  and Robert Rebein read two excerpts from his book that kept the audience enthralled.  Every year is different, and this year was, too . . . and even more different because of this:

I was approached by the woman who runs the Fundamental Learning Center and asked if she could say a few words.  I was not real anxious to allow it until she told me that a man had just walked into our event and donated $5000 to her organization.  He was attending the Kansas Banker's Association meeting, saw our sign, and dropped off a check.

Apparently he is the trustee of a foundation, and his job is to give away money in small increments.  Define small, I guess, as this was huge to FLC and to us.  He suggested that she try to match it, and before she left, she had another $1500+ to go along with it.  Wow!  Now that is awesome.

The Author Dinner has made money for RIF and FLC for 9 years, but never to that degree.  This man's surprise gift made the evening magical.  If our event was the milkshake, this man was the whipped cream and maraschino cherry on top!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


Several days ago, my sister sent me the webcam link for a bald eagle nest on the Berry College campus in Georgia.  I "tuned in" to see how good it is, and I was excited to see a beautiful, clear, and close picture of a mama and her newly-hatched chick.  (She still has an egg that might hatch, though it is looking less and less likely.)  This camera also has night vision, so the nest can be viewed at any time of day or night.

Today I got to see the mama feeding her little one.  We have seen her eat a catfish, a duck's head is very obvious in the nest, and there are pieces of meat spread all over.  She is not a natural housekeeper for sure - can you imagine the smell?  Maybe that is why the nests are so large - to hold all the leftovers.

I did take a screen shot of her feeding the baby today.  Enjoy the picture or go to this link to see it yourself -

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Black Cats

Just after we were married, we purchased our first house.  As we got to know our neighbors and the surrounding area, we discovered that a woman behind us kept wild cats that continued to have babies.  I couldn't stand watching that poor mama scrounge for food, so I began to put food out for her.  Eventually I befriended her enough to take her to the vet and have her spayed.

She lived in our garage (Don cut a hole in a vent so she could go in and out), and we fed her and loved her.  We called her Olga - there's a story there but not today.  She became a part of our family, despite the fact that she lived outside.

One week, we noticed we hadn't seen Olga in awhile.  We never saw her again.  Eventually we found out why.  A man up the street shot her because he thought she was eating his birds.  Yes, he shot her.  With a 22.  In the city.  We didn't find out for several months so we couldn't really do anything about it, but I have always felt bad about Olga.  She was a sweet cat.

Fast forward to this year.  For the past few months, we have had a black cat in our backyard.  He (or she) is well-fed and doesn't need us to leave food out (we wouldn't anyway because of the possums and raccoons that roam around).  But the cat sits under our bushes, waiting for birds to visit the bird feeders.  Needless to say, we do not have as many birds visiting as we used to - I think the message has gotten around.  When I go outside with Babs, the cat comes to see me, meowing all the way.

The cat reminds us of Olga - jet black, slim, friendly.  It brings back fun memories of our first rescued animal.

Monday, February 24, 2014

I'm Stuck

Something that has been happening to Babs with more and more frequency is that she gets into a corner and cannot figure out how to get out of it.  She just stands there.  It is common behavior in dogs with cognitive disorder disease.  The confusion is more than they can deal with.

When we find her in a place where she is stuck, we go retrieve her, love her, and send her on her way.

Last night, she was outside doing her nightly rounds.  When I didn't see her come around in a normal time frame, I went out to find her.  There she was . . . stuck.  But she was standing up against the trunk of a tree - a trunk not as wide as she is.  All she had to do was move her head one way or the other, and she would become unstuck.  But she wouldn't - or couldn't - figure it out.

So I traipsed outside in my slippers and nightgown, picked her up, and brought her in.  Some of our neighbors probably think we are nuts . . . but we will continue to deal with Babs and her aging behaviors until she is clearly suffering - which she isn't.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Close Only Counts in Horseshoes and . . . Hand Grenades?

On Thursday, Don and I went to visit Harry Percy in Clinton, Oklahoma.  Unbeknownst to us originally, his daughter Cathy, is still in town so we were lucky to be able to see her, too.  We had a delightful four hours, discussing everything from the Holy Ghost to child rearing.

During a portion of our conversation, Cathy told us that she had gone to the cabin in late October to see what damage had occurred to their cabin.  Between the time that we had been in the Canyon, which was the first of October, and the time that she went, the road had been fixed to accommodate cars.  Even the huge ravine in the road above the Percy's had been filled in.  We thought that was impressive.

While she was there, Cathy had plenty of time to scout around the areas that had been uncovered by the flood.  When she got to the ravine below her cabin, she noticed an interesting object:  a hand grenade.  Yes, a hand grenade.

Well, Don and I both looked at each other as bells went off.  But we let Cathy finish the story.  She knew it was a hand grenade by the dimpling of the metal.  What to do now?  After talking with several people, she called the police.  When the police officer got there, his comment was, "Well, that's a hand grenade."  He then suggested they call the bomb squad.  Of course, the closest bomb squad was in Albuquerque, so three hours later, the bomb squad showed up.

Confirming that they had a hand grenade on their hands, they carefully pulled out their laser rifle, and it wasn't long before they had disabled the grenade.  Indeed, it still had gunpowder in it, and although it is doubtful it would have gone off, one never wants to take a chance.  They broke the grenade into pieces and left.

Don and I then added what we knew about the hand grenades.  When I was writing my book, A Stroll Up the Canyon, Mel Kurth had told me a story about the cabin in front of the new ravine.  When he was a young man (in the early 50's), he found a box of hand grenades under the porch of the cabin.  He and his friend showed them to Mel's father, who told him to put them back and not ever touch them again.  Mel told me he always wondered what happened to the grenades.

Don knows that back then, most people just buried their trash in holes behind their cabins, so he suggested that perhaps that was what happened here.  The Gersbachs just buried the grenades, not ever expecting a flood of the magnitude we had to uncover them.

Cathy thought this was plausible.  She said she found a lot of trash in the area - shoes, bottles, rags and the like - and the grenades were about two feet deep in the ground.  It was quite possible that they had been buried long ago, just to raise their heads now.

So how many are there?  Where are they now?  Although the mystery of where the grenades are has been solved, we still need to figure out the rest.  In May, you can bet we will be checking out the area, and I assure you, if we find them, we will be calling the bomb squad!

Friday, February 21, 2014

A Close Encounter of the O'Possum Kind

Babs has given me many different experiences during her late-night gigs wandering outside.  The latest is what I call a A Close Encounter of the O'Possum Kind.

It was warm enough for me to go outside with Babs to make sure she did what she was expected to do.  As I was standing in the yard - at 2:30 a.m. - I noticed a movement to my right, and looking over, I saw a medium-sized possum walking along the garden under the Japanese Tree Lilac.  I moved, and he (or she - how do you tell?) stopped.  He stared at me, not moving.  I decided I would scare him away before we had an innocent encounter of the Babs kind.

I stepped back and ran toward him.  Nothing.  No flinch, no hissing, no movement.  Nothing.  I did it again.  Nothing.  No reaction.  I threw sticks at him.  Nothing.  I threw bark . . . oops, no, dried dog poop (hey it was dark!) . . . and actually hit him.  Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  In the meantime, Babs wandered closer and closer.  When I moved toward her to pick her up, the possum decided s(he) had enough and very slowly . . . .v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y . . . backed up, turned around, and ambled through the fence.

I do not think the possum would actually hurt Babs, but it would certainly scare her.  I didn't want that to happen, so I didn't wait to see what an introduction would do.  Instead, Babs and I came inside, and the possum went on his or her merry way.  Fun times late at night.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Mr. Romance - or Not!

Don has had his moments of pulling off amazing surprises.  Having the kids join us at the cabin for my birthday last year is just one example of his occasional big surprises.

But, he has also had his share of flops.  Now, those who live in glass houses can't throw stones, I know.  But I believe that, although I have not had as many great surprises, I also have not had the bummers.

For example, I think I shared several years ago that, taking a suggestion from his physician, Don purchased a book for me for Valentine's Day - Healthy Aging.  I guess it is better than the his/her colonoscopies that the doctor also suggested.

This year, I was in charge of a conference the week before Valentine's Day.  As a part of the conference, Rotarians placed red roses in a vase as a memorial to someone who passed away during the year.  After the conference, Don brought home the roses.

On Valentine's morning, sitting on the table was a card.  That is pretty typical.  But next to it was a rose.  Not a new, beautiful rose, but one that had been plucked from the vase of now-dying roses.  "I took off all of the dead leaves," he rationalized.

Now I only got Don a card.  But I didn't give him a dying rose.

Good thing he is a good guy, great dad, and fun person.  His good qualities make it possible to forgive his less-than-romantic flops!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

When Drawing Doesn't Work!

As I sat in the Gaskill's basement preparing for the KU-K-State game, I pulled out my drawing pad and pencils, anticipating a blow-out game, with us being the losers.  I had a very fun picture started and was looking forward to drawing it.

As the game began, it was clear KU was not at its greatest and that we were going to compete.  I did well, and going into halftime only a point down, I was encouraged but not pacing, which is my normal MO.

As the last few minutes counted down, we were ahead and I felt pretty sure we were going to win.  And then . . . and then . . . OH NO!  Several stupid plays and suddenly the game was into overtime.

Drawing was no longer doing it.  I could not stand it.  Put the drawing up, piled it on the table, and went to the stairway.  Push-ups, plugging ears, walking the steps, occasionally checking in on the score - I was a wreck.  The group made me stay away because every time I walked into the room, we got behind.  With the final minute to go, I was finally allowed to come back . . . but I paced and paced.  It wasn't until the final few seconds that my blood pressure came down and I was able to calm down.

I thought drawing had helped me, and it has . . . to a point.  But when the going gets tough, the drawing is out the window!  Do I need therapy?

Tuesday, February 4, 2014


A year ago, as a Christmas present, Diana gave me a sketch book.  I loved the thought but really did not know if I would really benefit from it.  But I decided to begin drawing.

It did not take long to get hooked.  I drew during basketball games and found that I did not get as stressed.  I drew in the Willie while we were driving - it made time go faster.  I drew in Alaska.  I drew on the porch at the cabin.  I drew when it was snowing, and when it was too hot, and when Babs was up all night.  And I loved it.

Tonight I finished the last page of the sketch book.  I don't know if my drawing is any better, but I have learned a lot.  I have learned about perspective, though I still struggle with it.  I have learned about shading.  Did you know that shadows have a lot of purple and blue in them?  I have learned about backgrounds and foregrounds and watercolors and colored pencils and acrylics and chalk . . . and there is so much more to learn.

My very first attempt was very a serious piece.  It was a still life.  And it was hard.  Very hard.

By the middle of the book, I was trying to draw landscapes.  The perspective killed me.  But I have kept at it.

By the end I was focusing on flowers.  I have found I can draw them.  My first attempt at this picture - which was last April - turned out all right, but I really like this one that I finished tonight.  It is much more accurate than the first one.

Art is a constant learning process, and I am at the very beginning.  But Diana gave me another sketch book for Christmas.  So here goes!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Heavy Times

I know that sometimes difficult things happen in threes.  Unfortunately, some of those things happened this week.  They did not directly affect me, but they affected my friends, which affected me.

First one of my friends' mother passed away.  It was long expected, but still sad.  Then on Friday, a friend came home from work and found her husband collapsed on the floor.  He had had a massive heart attack and passed away.  Then Saturday a friend lost her mother to an aortic tear.  She had talked to her at 10:00 and everything seemed fine.  At 11:00 she was going to the hospital, and she passed away at 9:20 Saturday night.

All of these people are friends from church, which meant that our new priest was ministering to them.  She had a busy, busy weekend.  Thank God she is here.  I could not have handled this if we did not have a priest on board.

Two of the three of these events reminded us to live every day to the fullest as we never know when things may change.  Tell your loved ones you love them.  Every day.  And thank God for the blessings we have been given.  He is indeed a great God.