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Monday, January 31, 2005


After spending hours on the telephone working out the details of our new server we are most happy to be online with DSL. I am amazed with the quickness in response time. I am finally comfortable with my new address and although there was a complication with the spelling of our server….centurytel.net…it seems to have worked out the gremlins.

The family is safely home after their trek to George’s home in Shawnee and ultimately the 80th birthday party for their dad. They were pleased to present him with a very sentimental gift…..a paving stone with his name, the years of service and the names of his children…to be put in place at Union Station in Kansas City sometime in May. He worked out of the station in the 1950’s as a railway mail clerk and it provided very interesting work until the U.S. Post Office no longer used trains to carry the mail.

Today Rocky and I are getting back in the groove after our short trip to visit his brother and sister and their spouses. Our visit was too short but the three couples of us had obligations waiting and all to soon it was time for the goodbye hugs.


Getting back to May in 1986.………we continue with our story. Mom’s birthday was May 12th and it was celebrated in the nursing home. Mom was having a lot of trouble adjusting to medication given her from the doctor at the hospital. It was a very unpleasant series of upheavals that took some time to work out. Mom had the amazing ability to roll with the punches and to accept advice. She always looked at peace and rest when we went to see her. In fact, she was starting to look better than I was as I ran from work, home, to the nursing home and to church. Household chores were taken care of by Warren who helped all he could and I managed the cooking and laundry.

It is fair to say it was emotionally stressful. Mom had never had surgery, had all her teeth and enjoyed good health most of her life. When she was 81-years old and had her stroke and heart attack, it was the first of her medical woes. It was sad to look up at her house just about 100-feet from our back door. No light at night and no activity throughout the day. The birds flew to their normal feeding places, supplied by mom, but found empty feeders. We took up the ritual and soon they were happily eating here. It was a love affair that lasted both with us and the birds. They gave so much more pleasure than our efforts to feed and water them.

There were so many ways it began eating in on my routine without mom up the hill. You don’t think much about it until someone isn’t there and then you discover how much you noticed, thought or reacted to the person living in the house next to yours. Her new situation not only affected her but us as well. I began feeling uneasy….that maybe this wasn’t a temporary move for her. Each day I visited there was some new little problem to work out to keep her longer.

I went to see mom every day without fail. It gave her something to look forward to and to give her a little relief from the complaining lady in the bed next to her. Mom was a very quiet person who liked being alone and so we began efforts to get her into a different room. In time we were able to do so.

This May was one of adjustments and reality. Mom’s condition took roller coaster rides to euphoria and depression because of negative reactions to medications given her. It was a fact that mom wouldn’t be going home again to stay. That was hard to accept for all of us…… for different reasons. However difficult, we knew it was the right decision and we would have to make the best of it….for her and ourselves as well. With dad and Louis already gone, I didn’t want to lose mom. It was a struggle that would last for a long time…………

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Saturday, January 29, 2005


After getting home from our little trip to Sikeston yesterday Rocky and I decided to install our new DSL pack. Well……..let me just say this. We were on a trip to nowhere except for dumb luck. It’s like trying to order from a French menu when you don’t speak the language. The terminology used by our son-in-law and then the guy on the “HELP’ line might as well have been Greek. I just know what to do by rote….from what I’ve picked up from John and Becky. Now we were on our own except for the telephone.

We didn’t understand them and they for sure didn’t understand our wordage either. It took quite a while but the nice young man walked me through a jungle of places to click….right or left…….just click. Their tone sounded so rudimentary I felt stupid….well, I guess I am when it comes to computers. The young man’s voice was akin to “talking” a passenger down on the runway after the pilot has suffered a heart attack. His voice was mesmerizing as he traversed where I was from where I needed to be. I was a novice at the control panel of a 707. It felt good. I could see I was going to land the plane and all would be fine.

I felt the wheels touch down and the brakes responded. I was at ground level and I was out of the crisis. I sent my new DSL address to everyone I could think of and when I ran out of names I took a few out of the local phone book. I was so excited I wanted everyone to know I was up and running again after the huge ordeal. I know!! Too many “I’s” but forgive me ……I’m excited.

This morning I decided to put on a blog about our trip to Sikeston on Thursday. It was actually a story in itself. We arrived on time and Rocky drove right to the large Drury Inn sign….made a turn and parked at the entrance. He came back after a few moments, elated because the room was not the $89 he had been told when he called for a reservation……..but….it was only $44. We happily unloaded our van and made ourselves comfy….then called the desk to see if our other family had arrived yet. “No, they hadn’t.”

Surveying the room closer we saw the wall paper was a little wrinkled and torn in places (the light was very dim) and the heating element was damaged. The pieces began falling into place so we decided to call his brother’s cell-phone and see where they were. It had to be another motel. We looked through the luggage for the location of the motel and then for the phone number. We couldn’t find either. By now we weren’t looking at all….we were just digging through our baggage like a couple of squirrels going after a nut. THEN!! The solution came.,…call Becky. She could go down to the house, find the papers I left by the computer, and give us the information.

She wasn’t very happy. She had just pulled into her driveway to run in, change clothes, load her suitcase and head for Kansas City. However, she kept her composure, came to our house, got in………looked….and looked ….and looked. Not in the trash, not at the computer, not in the kitchen…..not….not…..not. We gave it up and wished each other a good trip. She hoped we could find them. Suddenly it dawned on both of us…..maybe this wasn’t the Drury Inn ….it had to be because Rocky turned at the sign. We straightened the room, exited with our stuff and headed for the lobby. We were AT THE WRONG MOTEL!!!! The Drury Inn was at the other side of the parking lot. Duh!!! Yes, we felt stupid …..aren’t all old folks stupid? Rocky retrieved our billing and we drove to the next motel. There sat Marie and Harold and Richard and Helen….looking out the window….looking for us.

Well……..we got checked in, went to dinner and had a great visit back in the motel lounge. I sneaked our sick kitty in to our room by putting her in a basket with a towel over her. In the elevator, a black tail came out from under the towel, swinging from side to side, making noises. That cat….that paralyzed cat…hasn’t moved that much in a year. No one seemed to notice and we got her into our room and comfy for the night. And then people say old folks don’t have any fun. People who say that aren’t old. We know different………..

Today when I proudly sat in front of the monitor to type my blog…..it wouldn’t print. Back to our son-in-law quite a few times….up to Becky’s house twice to get the Word Processor disc and then more phone instructions….from there I followed the wizard and the results are……….what you are reading. I had to get rid of the old before the new would come in…blah.,.blah….but it’s up and running and I don’t know how those little round, flat thingy’s (Ellen’s word) can tell all this machinery what to do…but it did and I’m glad.

Bet you’re wondering about the price of the room. Yes…it was $89 with all the frills. Now as soon as we untangle the room full of wires and “boxes” of power and stuff here at home, everything will be back to normal. Situation normal….all fouled up. Whew!! And that’s the end of that. I know you’re glad. So with no further ado I’ll see you back here on Monday……good Lord willing.

Till then,
Essentially Esther

Thursday, January 27, 2005


Rocky and I will be gone today and tomorrow. We are meeting his brother and sister (and spouses) for a visit at Sikeston, MO. His brother and wife are en-route to Florida from near Chicago, his sister and her husband live at St. Louis and will drive down to meet us. It’s always nice to get together and catch up on news…even if briefly. I shall see you back here on Saturday…..hopefully.

It seems the Strain family is on the move this week-end. Becky is driving to KC and John and Barbara are flying in to help their dad celebrate his 80th birthday. It will be wonderful for them to be together and I know the good times will roll. They have contrived a very appropriate gift and I’m sure John or Becky will be writing about it. Happy birthday to George Sr.

I wish you all a good Thursday and Friday. Take care. I’m packin’ my bags.

Until the next time,
Essentially Esther

Wednesday, January 26, 2005


May came in with mixed emotions. The weather was beautiful and pleasant but my world was getting out of control. I had my 3-days to work and mom to think about in the hospital. She was having mini-strokes and when we saw her a few days later it was a shock. She looked like she was getting worse instead of better. We were driving back and forth and trying to make decisions that would be best for her. Her doctor thought she should be in our local Nursing Home for a few weeks because he knew she wouldn’t be able to take care of herself…..and since I was working, I wouldn’t be able to give her the help she needed. This was something that was hard for me to accept. My parents were from the generation of horror stories in Nursing Homes and neither wanted to end up there.

When it came time for her to be dismissed I knew it had to be. She was weak and needed constant monitoring. She had moved out of my protective care to a phase we feared would have no return. Warren was working so our pastor brought us home. He had been at the hospital to visit a family whose son was in a horrendous car accident. He and two teen-age friends were out late, driving fast and crashed into a tree. The two boys were killed on impact and Derek lived but faced months of rehab and his life was messed up for several years. He was an only child and almost broke his parents with his indiscretions.

We arrived a little past time for the office to be open at the Nursing Home but they had been informed we were bringing mom in and waited to process her. Warren met us there and took care of the necessary paper work while I followed mom to her room. Mom was tired after the drive back and was anxious to lay down. We came home, knowing she would rest well, and be observed through the night. Bed looked good to us as well for it had been a long week.

The next day I gathered clothing and personal things mom would need for her stay at Willow Care (Nursing Home) and when I arrived she had been to the beauty shop, been bathed and looked rested and relaxed. It was wonderful to see her so after the past few days. She seemed chipper and talkative so I was optimistic. I went back to work the next day because the Supervisor on our crew was retiring and the Court House at Houston (where we would be working) was having a pot luck dinner in his honor. I had worked with Mose over six years and he was unique and original. They say retirements are stressful for the retiree but it is also stressful for the ones left behind with a hole to fill.

One of the younger Examiner’s was promoted to be Supervisor in his place and was well qualified. I had applied for the position he left, never dreaming I would actually get the job. Reason being, there had never been a female Driver Examiner in our Troop. I had been content working as a clerk and since I didn’t expect to be hired I gave it my best shot when I went before the Oral Interview Board. I was questioned about hypothetical situations and common sense situations and finally asked why I wanted the job.

One week later I had a phone call from our Sergeant who asked how I would like to wear a brown uniform. The job was mine. The men were happy because they had worked with me the six plus years and knew what they were getting. Now all that was left was to hire another clerk in my place. That worked in a strange way. For a few months we had a young woman from Nebraska in the position but she and her husband moved back to Nebraska. The job was open once more. Becky was still managing a 7-11 Store in Springfield and was wanting to move back home. In fact, she had been home to visit when all this transpired.

She dropped by our office to tell me goodbye and Pete, my Supervisor for the day, asked why she didn’t apply for the clerks job. Mainly, she didn’t think she was eligible since I was already working with the crews but Pete told her the position was only 3-days a week and she would not be supervised by me. That made it possible. On her way out of town she stopped at Patrol Hdqrs. to inquire about the position and filled out her application. There were 64-other people who had applied before her…..and it was the last day they were accepting applications.

As fate would have it, she got the job. We were both on a long road of service to our State and the two crews we would be working with. Six men who became as brothers over the long haul….and very special friends, indeed. They watched out for us and paved the way through many times of trial. I couldn’t have picked six guys I’d rather spend 17 ½ years with….they were the best……

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Tuesday, January 25, 2005


April opened up with a friend having surgery and one of my co-workers lost a good friend due to a heart attack. We were short at work because Joe took off to go to Kenny’s funeral, which left Mose and me to work the station alone. Somehow we worked through 38-written and eye tests and 22-road tests. This was accomplished within a 6-hour time slot. For two people it means you aren’t one of those State people sitting around drinking coffee on the job.

It amazes me to come face to face with the attitudes people have for Federal or State workers. I have been both and I worked along with people who were dedicated to their jobs….worked through lunch and left work late. Those are the folks who are never held up as examples. The few you see leaning on a file cabinet or hanging out at the water cooler set the stage for the whole. I heard an interesting thing in a commentary the other day. The man was saying, “Two words you should forget, are: always and never. Things are not ‘always’ nor ‘never’ Do not lump classes or situations into groups. Everything is individual and should be regarded as such.”

If you don’t think you are guilty of that….try listening to yourself. I hadn’t realized how often I use the two words….even in my writing, when I edit the blog of the day, more often than not I am deleting both words from overuse. They shouldn’t be used at all. While I’m at it….there are some other repetitions I over use that I’m working to eliminate. Reading what you write sometimes leaves you wondering….did “I” write that? Little phrases and words lead us astray and we end up writing dribble we didn’t intend to. Editing is more beneficial to me than writing for that very reason. I can jerk the plug on thoughts or words that need to be discarded.

Did I mention chasing rabbits? I seem to have jumped the fence here and run away with a thought. I NEVER do that because I ALWAYS try not to. So much for humor. Aunt Beulah came early in the month for a visit at mom’s and I got to enjoy her company as it was one of my days off. Becky was having to go to St. Louis for a sales meeting so we took mom up to watch Jennifer and Jonathan for the time she would be gone. Mom really enjoyed Becky’s water bed and claimed she slept better and didn’t ache the next day.

The 14th of the month the news was all about the bombing of Libya in a brave attack to hit military bases. One plane and 2-crewmen were lost. The strike was to put an end to the brazen threats and open defiance along with their acts of terrorism. The attack killed some of the royal family members and was successful in stopping further bullying. It was a highly successful mission.

The 19th of April was little John’s first birthday. How we wished we could be part of the big celebration and watch his reactions to all of the fuss. I knew he would be well supplied with love and affection….and certainly a lot of presents. When grandparents live away from the grandchildren they miss so many of their activities but it’s a fact most of us have to live with. John was good to take pictures and film special occasions so we knew we would get to view them at a later date.

Becky needed mom to watch Jennifer and Jonathan the next week again so we drove her up after church on Sunday. Becky and the kids just came in from Kansas City and were worn out from their trip. Everything went well until the following Thursday when mom fell. Jennifer somehow got her to the bed and called immediately to tell us that grandma was feeling dizzy and had fallen. We made the 80-mile drive to Springfield as fast as we could….Jennifer had taken charge very well. We called for an ambulance to take mom to the hospital where she was taken to the emergency room.

They were able to stabilize her but she was still dizzy and had a terrible headache. They admitted her and gave her a shot to ease the pain and to help her rest. We left the hospital around 11:00pm and none of us had eaten so we took the kids to eat at Steak n’ Shake for burgers before leaving for home. We brought them along with us….it was 2:00am before any of us got to bed.

Somehow we managed to keep things together until Becky came back. We went back to the hospital to visit mom, I worked my required time, and in the midst of that, the Sergeant over the Driver’s Examiners told me I should apply for a position that would soon be vacant. I had a lot to think about and not much time to make some decisions……………April brought more than rain for May flowers this year.

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Monday, January 24, 2005


February started out nicely and then got out of hand. Several of our friends had birthdays and we had dinners to honor each one. I bought some yarn and a new pattern to make little John a birthday sweater to give him in April. It was fun working on something so little again and also to knit for a change.

Mid-month we drove to Springfield for some shopping and then to Becky’s home in Ozark to visit before coming home. Warren woke up this particular morning with his right eye watering and feeling irritated. He had been driving a little deaf girl to school for special education and she came down with pink eye. He figured that was what he was getting and brushed it out of his mind. He had asked me to drive because his eye was bothering him so much.

By the time we got to Becky’s he couldn’t blink his eye, the right side of his face was paralyzed and it was difficult for him to eat or drink. She thought we’d better get him to an emergency room so I drove straight to Fort Leonard Wood and got him in to ER. I sat in the waiting room two hours while they had him on monitors and later diagnosed him as having Bells Palsy. They gave him prescriptions and instructions and sent us on our way. I drove home…..it was 9:30pm when we stepped in the door. I had driven over 300-miles that day…..it was long and tiresome…….and we were glad it was over.

They treated him with steroids and drops in the eye. He had to wear a patch over it since he couldn’t close it. His mouth was affected as well and the right side of his face was pulled downward from the stressed nerves. Two days later I drove him back to Leonard Wood for a check-up and he was coming along OK with the medications. By the end of the month he was back to normal and it was just a topic of education for us. With every negative we deal with in these bodies of ours, we learn a little more about the way they work and what they can and can’t handle. We were thankful the Palsy didn’t leave any evidence of the ordeal once it was over.

March is active because of the family birthdays which always seemed to happen in this month. John was 29-years this time. My baby….almost thirty. None of us could have imagined the changes this night would bring. Becky called in the early morning hours, between midnight and daylight. George Jr. had called to tell her their step-mother died sometime after midnight.

It seems she had retired from her long-time job and she and George Sr. had been to her retirement party. Irene hadn’t felt well and was battling some kind of a flu bug. Upon reaching home she went straight to bed and George Sr. stayed up a while to watch TV. Hearing a “funny sound” that came from the bedroom, he went to the doorway to see if she needed something but she made no response. He couldn’t find a pulse and frantically called an ambulance but by the time they arrived she was gone. She had suffered congestive heart failure.

Becky made arrangements and drove straight to Shawnee to be with her dad through the planning of the funeral and to help with what other needs he may have. George lived close and John flew to KC later in the month, thinking it was good to stretch the visits out a little. During the first few days one is always in shock more or less so he thought it would be best to “be there” for him a little later in the month. It was tragic to die immediately after her retirement party…Irene hadn’t even had time to open her many cards and gifts. It’s a reminder that we should always have our souls in readiness to meet our maker. As with her, death may come suddenly at any time.

Becky’s birthday was the 27th and Easter was the 30th this year. We had been working on the Easter Cantata for weeks and sang it for the morning worship hour. It is always inspiring and something I looked forward to. It also meant there would be no more extra choir practices which was a relief to most of us.

Becky had moved to Springfield and was working so Warren and I drove to Springfield to enroll Jennifer and Jonathan in the school district where they would attend. We stayed with them until time for Becky to come home and then drove back to Willow Springs. The long winter was over…..and buds were popping everywhere. Nature yawned and stretched and decided to come out of hibernation to bring life to our beloved hillsides once more. We always waited for her to arrive with open arms………

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Saturday, January 22, 2005


After a busy December it is always nice to fall back and regroup in January. It’s a good time to organize the year ahead after reviewing the past one. Sort of a mile-marker, if you will. One way for me to do that is to catch a little R&R watching football wind down with the playoffs while I crochet or knit. Observing two teams knocking themselves silly trying to win a game puts my real life in prospective. Thus, plans are made for the year ahead. What is important, what is not.

It was on this first day of January that a news bulletin flashed Ricky Nelson died in a plane crash the night before while homeward bound after a New Years Eve gig. A private plane was involved, killing all aboard. Ricky, attempting to make a comeback, was 45-years old. My mind raced back to a stage door at the Orpheum Theater in Omaha, NE. I was in the 8th grade and a girlfriend, Marilyn Anderson (no relation….my maiden name was spelled with an “en”) talked me into going down town on a street car to get autographs of Ozzie and Harriet Nelson who, with their band, were performing there at a matinee. We were stage struck little girls who were very impressed with big bands and movie stars.

As the years evolved, I watched them in “The Nelsons” which Ozzie, wrote, directed and starred in. It was as ‘home town’ and apple pie as you could get and boy, do I wish we had good, clean shows like that to view now. We watched him grow up, get married and ride a popular wave before his downward spiral. Drugs were the demon that entered his life and robbed him of anything worthwhile, finally taking his life. It was a public loss for fans but a very personal loss to the family. I don’t think the Nelsons were ever able to get over the tragedy.

As for football that year, the Bears shut the Rams out 24-0, and the Patriots beat the Dolphins. The Super Bowl was played in New Orleans at the Super Dome with the Chicago Bears winning over the Patriots by a large margin. It was a thrill for Warren to see his team win the Super Bowl. He loved the Bears.

On the 28th of January we had another tragedy that affected the whole country. The 25th Space Shuttle was to be launched in late morning but a malfunction blew it apart shortly after lift off, before it was able to get into orbit. I was off work that day and while we watched in horror, we saw explosions and huge trails of exhaust with pieces being torn from the Shuttle. The excitement in the stands where the families watched soon turned to concern, then fear, as they knew something was very wrong with the launch. Television stations had been broadcasting information of the flight for days because it was the first time a civilian, a teacher, was along to give her class on earth detailed information of her experience. It was not to be. Christa McAuliffe’s life ended with all six of the other crew members.

Classrooms around the country watched the Shuttle break up and begin falling back to earth. The announcers who had been routinely describing the launch tried to keep the anxiety from their voices but gave way to their own concern to authenticate what we were watching. We had been so successful with our Space Programs it was unthinkable that such a disaster could happen. Yet we were all spectators of the impossible.

The month ended quietly and the whole country was quiet…. as if contemplating the next move after such a major disaster. Sickness and foul weather kept most people indoors as Nature had her way with the elements…. but no one seemed to care. It was a time of sorrow and respect for those lost on the Challenger.

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Friday, January 21, 2005


How did we get back to December already? It seems I just wrote about that…and wrote and wrote. I guess it comes around once a year so here goes the one for 1985. We put the tree up the first of the month because we were in Vicksburg for Thanksgiving which made us later than usual. It’s always nice to get out the ornaments and go through them. After the tree is set and arranged, and the lights are put on….then…..and only then, comes my favorite part. The ornaments.

It’s very special because they have come from everywhere…and no where. The family is well represented by what we put on the tree. It has been George’s custom ever since he came home from the Navy to give each of us a few Hallmark ornaments every year. When Hallmark realized the sales-ability of “series” they must have made a fortune. We all had our favorites.

George was pretty tuned in to the ones we enjoyed the most and then he would continue with them, completing the series for us. After all these years, I have quite a few of them, plus the ones given to my mother, which I have saved. There are ones the grandchildren have made, friends have made and so on. I’m sure the idea is repeated over and over in the Christmas season….taking them out of the box, pausing a minute to remember where they came from…and then going to the tree.

The tree. Isn’t that the most spectacular part of our decorating? I had friends who did ‘theme’ trees and others had them all over the house. They were always lovely to look at but I stay fairly conventional because of all the memories connected. I still enjoy riding around town at night to enjoy the trees in the windows and the outside decorations.

Of course the cards, the gifts, the wrapping….all of the church related functions…my favorite was always the one left up to me….the choir party. After singing the Christmas Cantata the Sunday evening before Christmas we made our way to the basement which was decorated and over-flowing with finger food. We were always on a “high” after the cantata because of the adrenalin pulsating through our veins and so there was lots of laughter, food and fellowship. The focus being, the presenting of gifts to the organist, pianist and the choir director.

One nice thing about living in a small town is the fact that you know everybody and know quite a bit about them. We cry together, laugh together, face defeat, illness, death, together……we welcome a new baby, attend weddings and send our kids off to college….together. That factor makes it so satisfying when you pass out gifts and accolades because you’ve seen the hard work leading up to the accomplishment. The hours of practice behind the scenes; the sacrifice of time they are willing to give. I wish everyone could be presented with an “atta boy” award for the good things done beyond themselves. I think if people were noticed and thanked once in a while the world would be a better place.

George had his 35th birthday on the 22nd and we talked on the phone with each other. He met us at Becky’s on Christmas Day and we celebrated in her home this year. Mom came with us and we had a very nice day together. We visited with John and Barb via the phone and exchanged lists of the gifts we had received. George came on home with us for a few days and then drove back to Shawnee.

Soon it was time to put the decorations in their boxes for another year. Three or four new ones were added and acknowledged….then carried to the garage for storage. There was just one last thing to be done to complete the season. We drove to the cemetery and sat a few moments by dad’s grave. Time goes so fast, it was hard to grasp the fact dad had been gone for 11-years. Bright red poinsettia’s marked the spot where so much life and knowledge slept. A few flakes were coming down and a slight breeze ruffled the flowers……

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Thursday, January 20, 2005


Gene and Rose Fowler arrived for a short visit on the 3rd of November. We had lived across the street from each other for a long time and they were like family. Our visits with them were few and far between now that we lived in Willow Springs. Rosalie and I gabbed all afternoon about our crafts and passions. Normally we shared the same but she fell in love with genealogy and that was something I just couldn’t get interested in. I knew quite a bit about my family history and was content with that. Our stitching and crafts bound us together, however.

They stayed over night and after breakfast and a trip to see some local crafts, they were gone. I missed Rose a lot. I was busily getting the house in order when mom and aunt Beulah dropped in. On a spur of the moment visit, aunt Beulah decided to drive up from Arkansas and surprise us. I loved her free spirit and unorthodox life style. When a mood hit her….off she went. If she spied something interesting on the way to “wherever”…she stopped to check it out. With my scheduled life she was always like a breath of fresh air. Miss that woman.

Mid month we had a torrent of rain which flooded half the town and caused power failures and damaged a lot of property. The following night a small twister took the roof off one house and hit a barn on the next road over, then the outdoor theatre. The concession stand was totally ruined. We slept through the whole thing and discovered it on a trip to town the next day.

We had a nice visit to Becky’s in her new home over in Ozark. She had it decorated nicely and was almost finished with her unpacking. I took one of the geese I’d been stuffing for decorative purposes and it looked nice on her hearth. We had a fabulous meal, a good visit with Jennifer and Jonathan and wished them all a happy Thanksgiving, soon to come. They had plans to visit friends and we were going to Barbara’s parents at Vicksburg for a couple of days. Mom and George had arranged to go with us and John and Barb were coming up from New Orleans with little John. It made a good meeting place for all of us to be together.

Our trip down was pleasant. I crocheted all the way and we arrived a little before 6:00pm….everyone was surprised to see George as he was a last minute surprise. Mom always made trips like a trooper….she could ride longer than I could before needing a stretch. Barbara’s sister and husband were there when we arrived and there was a festive air about the whole house. Southerner’s really know how to make you feel welcome and comfortable.

The next couple of days were spent shopping, having Thanksgiving dinner and surprising Bear with a birthday party. We got rid of the guys in the morning and John stayed behind to blow up balloons and help decorate. We also had our Christmas gift exchange at the same time since none of us would be able to be together at Christmas time. It was a wonderful evening….just being together and enjoying the moment. Is there anything more wonderful than dancing eyes, laughter and smiles from dear friends and family members? I just don’t think so.

Mary insisted on packing a lunch for all of us to eat on the road home the next day. She wouldn’t hear of us leaving without something to eat on the way. We had our goodbye hugs and left for home. The balmy southern weather was soon behind us and it became colder the further north we drove. At each rest stop it was noticeably cooler with a raw wind blowing. The roads were dry so we were fortunate in that respect.

Once home, we called back to let everyone know we arrived safely and John called to check in with the same results. George had to leave us the next morning and so our trip was officially over when I reported back to work. Christmas would soon be here and there were still a lot of stitches to make…………..

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Wednesday, January 19, 2005


Becky and I have routine doctor visits today in Springfield and Rocky is going along to drive and to help us eat a good lunch. He has $20 worth of quarters he wants to spend….there’s a story behind that. I don’t think he will put a $20 dollar bill in the car wash place again….it spit out his change in quarters. He came home with them in a sack……..us old timers wake up in a new world every day. Laughing, laughing all the way.

Since you won’t be spending a lot of time reading my blog today, please remember Ellen Crush who has her hands full with a big battle she’s waging on cancer. Take a moment to stop by her site and let her know you’re thinking of her. She doesn’t ask for sympathy and isn’t a whiner.

Stay in touch, don’t run away…..she’s taking it on the chin and I think the least we can all do is be half as tough as she is. I’ve seen too many people hide when someone close to them is diagnosed with cancer. That is cowardly. Buck up and “be there” for them……and pray a lot.

For new readers who may not know how to get to Ellen’s site, just go to Brain Lint on my reader’s list……..she’ll be glad you stopped by.

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Tuesday, January 18, 2005


Labor Day came and went without much fanfare except to give me a day off work. I always appreciated an extra day to get things done at home. We did our traveling last month and mom had stayed in Blair to return with the Powell’s when they headed back to Virginia. There were always friends, church, dinners and so on that filled our days to the brim. One sad thing…..we were made aware of…. Bill Shelton, a good friend, had cancer and it wasn’t going well for him. We went to see him at the hospital and were told it was terminal.

Bill was a neat guy. He had been a teacher and a good one. He was retired and had been working part time at the small Post Office where they lived. He and his wife, Billie, had well trained voices and sang in the choir at our church. He was always willing to sing a solo for any program I might be in charge of. When our pastor and wife returned from a visit to Israel I asked him to sing, “I Walked Today Where Jesus Walked” for a missionary program…. but in their honor. I never heard anyone sing it more beautifully.

On September 11th, Pete Rose broke Ty Cobb’s record in Cincinnati…..he received the largest ovation I’ve ever witnessed. I’m still bothered by the way he ended up and is not allowed in the Hall of Fame. I have mixed feelings about it. He earned the right by his good playing but I do not think rules are made to be broken. I’m glad I didn’t have to make the call on the outcome of it all.

Mom and the Powell’s came home on the 13th of the month and we had cake and coffee waiting when they arrived. They were here for a day and left the next morning. It was still a long drive for them from Willow Springs to Virginia. They made that trip for many years, every August, to be at the Stricklett Reunion. It was always held in that month for aunt Mary and grandma both had birthdays in August.

Moving from Rock Island to New OrleansThe 29th of September was very special. John, Barbara, little John and Barbara’s parents, Bob and Mary arrived by 7:30pm. Becky and family and mom joined us and we had lots to eat and lots of visiting. I had a sign with balloons to greet Mary….it was her birthday. They were a tired bunch as they had packed and loaded John and Barbara’s things in Rock Island to move back to New Orleans. It had been a long hard day for all. They stayed one day and we certainly enjoyed having them. Becky and her family were moving to Ozark, MO. so we had two big moves going on at the same time. They left early the next morning and we sure hated to see them go. It seems we never get to visit enough with any of them.

Mom came for lunch with us on the days I didn’t work….it was always nice to have her…..we quite often did some stitching together and shared coffee for an afternoon break. Living next door meant we could run back and forth and it is something I still miss. I don’t think we ever get over missing our mothers.

We received news that Bill Shelton died on October 13th. We knew it was coming but never ready for the final call. Heaven got a really nice guy when Bill went ‘home.’ We had enjoyed many dinners back and forth and it was nice in another way because Billie’s sister, Blanche and my mother were old friends and always joined our dinners. We had shared many Christmas times back and forth along with gift giving. A part of our life that had a big hole in it now.

John, Barb and Becky were all looking for work in their new surroundings and we stayed in touch enough to see how it was going with them. We didn’t want to be a distraction, for their lives were picking up speed and ours were beginning to slow down…..well…..maybe a little.

October in the Ozarks makes every artist reach for the pallet and brushes. With a sky as blue as tropical waters and big, puffy white clouds, leaves of all colors to dazzle the hillsides…. and a date that will live with infamy in George and John’s minds. The Royals won the pennant….October 27th….the famous Series of I-70 between St. Louis and Kansas City. The month ended and left everyone happy….at least those of us who love the Royals. We still talk about the hoopla when the subject comes up……..and sadly, memories is all we have to talk about. The poor Royals have had it tough ever since. I wonder….did the Cardinals put a curse on us??? I think I’ll have to think about this………

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Monday, January 17, 2005


August was traditionally the month for the Stricklett reunion in Blair. We made plans to attend and were making special efforts to get all of the grandchildren there, this year. We were a group of seventeen and great-grand-children were increasing right along. Before we headed for Nebraska, we had a one-day trip to Arkansas to see aunt Beulah. Our visits with her were always fun and we looked forward to going there as well as her coming here.

The trip to Blair had to be on my four-days off so we loaded mom and all the luggage….then got away by 7:20am on a steamy Friday. After four stops we arrived at 5:15pm and headed right for the motel close to the Stricklett home. After unloading and freshening up we went up to greet the family and see how many had arrived. Uncle Tom and aunt Inabelle, Louis, John and Barbara…and George had just arrived on his motorcycle.

After greeting everyone we drove to the Pizza Shop where other local family met us, Uncle Roger, aunt Phyllis and their daughter Julie and family. We had quite a bunch by the time we were all seated and accounted for. The laughter and story telling went on until late when we finally broke up to go our separate ways. There was a full house at aunt Mary’s and several of us were at the motel. Louis had the room next to ours, which we shared with George.

The next morning Bear and George went after doughnuts and coffee so we ate in our room and then got ready to go back to aunt Mary’s. Another cousin, Mary Powell and her three boys had arrived by the time we joined the family for dinner. Later, we took John and Barbara to Omaha for some shopping and that evening most of the grand’s and great-grand’s went back to the Pizza Shop….while mom, aunt Mary, the Powell’s and their daughter, Mary, went to Calhoun for their evening meal.

Sunday morning we attended church where I had gone with grandma and my aunts as a little girl. John and Barbara and George were with us and it was nice to worship in that little church after all those years. It had grown very small in reality for I had always envisioned it much larger in my memories. Memory plays a lot of tricks with the pictures you carry in your mind for a long time. I suppose that’s what they mean when they say, “ You can never go back….” Nothing holds true to the pictures we place in our mind.

That afternoon we joined everyone at the park and there were a great number of us when the roll was called. We had wonderful food, picture taking, games and visiting. It was a time to touch each others lives for a day and then we all scattered in different directions.

We came home on Monday, I worked two days and then we left for Rock Island. We drove from work on a Wednesday evening and ran into a bad rainstorm between St. Louis and Springfield, IL. Due to the hazardous driving we didn’t get to John and Barbara’s until 12:30am but they were still waiting up for us. We visited a little before turning in …..Barbara had to work the next day but John was off. He worked on my typewriter and got a gothic head for it which made me a happy camper. When Barb got home we fixed a good supper and I finished up a country goose I had been crafting for Barbara. It turned out to my satisfaction and she loved it.

We did a lot of shopping when Barbara wasn’t working and on Saturday we drove over to Davenport to a craft festival on the river bank. A large paddle boat was docked at the location and made a nice addition to the festive air. After we wore ourselves out looking at all of the hand made articles we ended the day with a steak supper at a nice restaurant.

Of course we enjoyed little John….he became 4-months old on our visit and was beginning to do lots of cute baby things. He was all snuggled down in his bed when we left the next morning so we didn’t wake him. It rained all the way home and I crocheted on some Christmas items I was making. We made it home by 5:30pm and unloaded the car. It seemed we’d been living out of suitcases the whole month. Summer ended unceremoniously and our travels were now over for a while……

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Saturday, January 15, 2005


Our first morning in Mississippi was spent having coffee on the patio while Mary fixed a breakfast fit for a king. We plowed through everything she had on the table which was akin to a Shoney’s breakfast bar. I can assure you….it tasted much better. We got ready for an afternoon to look at the sights around Vicksburg and our first stop was the Civil War Battlefield and Museum. We watched a mock firing of the cannon from the parapet by Reb soldiers dressed in the uniform of that day and time.

The site was extremely interesting. The men only spoke of matters concerning the era and their camp was realistic to a fault. Relics were everywhere to authenticate the experience. I will never forget the cannon firing. We were told to cover our ears because the volley would be loud. I thought it was silly and almost didn’t comply…when I noticed everyone else had done so, I covered mine at the last minute. Good thing. The volley landed over on a hill with a charge that shook the ground and sounded like a jet crash. (Not that I’ve ever heard one.) I have learned to respect instructions and old cannons.

We heard a narration how the North had starved out the residents of Vicksburg and when they tried to surrender, at the whim of the North’s General they had to wait several days until the fourth of July, to make a point. More women and children died during those days and it isn’t one of the finest military conquests by the North. I was exposed to information I hadn’t read in text books as a girl in school and I was better able to understand the deep emotions on each side of the war.

That evening Bob announced he was treating us to a Southern catfish dinner at a restaurant called “Top of the River.” As you can imagine it was on a high hill overlooking the Mississippi and very scenic. The food lived up to Bob’s description as we were treated to fried catfish, served home-style on tin pie plates. He ordered side dishes of turnip greens, slaw, fries, hush puppies and fried dill pickles. Fried dill pickles? I’d never heard of them. Bob just laughed and said…. “Try one.” I’m sure my eyes lit up with the taste. Yum, yum….wish I had some right now. They were wonderfully delicious.

Mom, who loved fresh fried fish, enjoyed the meal more than anyone. It was a real treat to see her enjoy food like that. She immediately decided Bob sure knew what he was talking about in that good ole Southern drawl of his. I think mom would have gladly stayed with the Bryant’s forever if she had the chance. They were so good to make sure she was included and most considerate of her physical limitations.

One thing I remember about that evening….when we got back home from the dinner, we got Bob’s giant piggy bank out and started counting all of his pennies. Once seeing it when we arrived…I couldn’t stand it….I had to get those pennies out and make rolls of them. Mary helped me on the last half….it took us four hours to do it. Between us we found 40-wheat pennies, 5-Canadian pennies and some nickles and dimes. There were about 15,000 pennies when we finished. Now THAT is some piggy bank.

We had a good Sunday with them…attended their church, visited with Lisa (Barb’s sister) and did a little mall shopping in the afternoon. John and Barb called and we had a nice round robin visit with them on the phone. I know they would have loved being with us all. We left the next morning and certainly hated to go….it was such an enjoyable week-end that would live on long after the miles took us North……

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Friday, January 14, 2005


Where was I when my mind jumped over the fence? Back in July, just home from a visit with George….the days were filled with work, chores at home, church activities and sewing. On the 19th we loaded mom and all our luggage in the car and headed for Vicksburg to visit Bob and Mary…..Barbara’s parents. It was so easy to love those people. They were the world’s best hosts and no one short of heaven was as generous as they were. Mary was an excellent cook and a Southern cook at that….her tables came right out of Southern Living.

Barbara’s dad worked for R.G. LaTourneau and their primary function was building deep sea rigs for oil drilling. Their finished products were so huge they were taken by barge in several sections down the Mississippi to the Gulf. There they went to all points around the world. The one they were building at the time of our visit would soon be on it’s way to the north Atlantic.

Bob took us to see where he worked, and the Rowan-Gorilla 1V which was their present project. It was an amazing concoction of metal and steel…..the men who worked on it looked like ants in proportion. Bob was foreman of the job and Mary worked in the office of the company.

R.G.LaTourneau came to our church one time, in Shawnee, Kansas. He had been asked to speak at a dinner and give his testimony. He had been raised poor and came through a lot of hard times. He quit school at the age of fourteen and went to work in an iron works factory shoveling sand and gravel. Even then he was thinking how to make the work go faster and easier. He had a Christian upbringing but the rowdy bunch he worked with got his mind away from his faith.

One time at a week-long crusade in Portland, OR., he gave his heart to the Lord and said he didn’t see lightening or hear thunder but he knew a presence was there. He continued on a financial spiral, ending up in debt, married and lost their first baby. He was able to borrow money and he never looked back. He often said God was his partner and he gave 90% of his income to God, operating and living on the remaining 10%.

When the allies landed on Normandy Beach in June 1944 an impressive display of equipment from the R.G. LaTourneau company was amassed to begin landing supplies on the beaches. Earth movers, transporters, missile launchers and portable off-shore drilling rigs emerged as time went on. He was a big man with a big heart for God.

He spent time going around the country talking to churches and students, often telling them….“I’m just a mechanic God has blessed and it seems He wants me to go around telling how He will bless you too.” He believed there were no big jobs…just small machines and small thinking. He died in 1969. (Information partially taken from the R.G.LaTourneau website.)

Bob and all the men who worked in the Vicksburg plant were giants as well and I wrote a poem in their honor after the tour.


Once men dreamed of islands and brave men went to find
Land rising from the sea of every shape and kind.
Never would they dare to make a giant thing of steel
To walk across an earthen path and float her christened keel.

Hail to the men who dream and light the mists and plan,
Who fire the ore and make a shape like the Rowan IV-Gorilla Man.
Earth-born of men and sweat, baptized in water far from sea,
She rises like the Ancient Ark to mock the doubters plea.

Gray island of hostile waters, magnificent creature of the deep,
We say goodbye to Gorilla-Man, your tender cargo, keep.
We say farewell with loving pride, few men have touched her span,
The bond of those who made you will not forget…Gorilla-Man.

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Thursday, January 13, 2005


July and August in Missouri are usually miserable months. The humidity rises to unbearable heights and most of us exist in the close company of air conditioners. Any outside work must be done early or late in the day and then you must fight the mosquitoes who are looking for a juicy bite for breakfast or bedtime snack. There just isn’t any way to enjoy July or August. For Driver’s Examiners….those were always the months we got the cars that came limping to town from out in the woods where ‘they’ lived. It was torture to ride in them.

You could spot them as you walked to the curb with your applicant…..the open windows were the first clue. The rusted fenders were an indication of gross neglect and the rain last night told you the seats were probably wet. The absolute worse “Mars car” (as I called them) offered me a good view of the pavement as my feet looked for a place to rest. The floor had a large hole on the passenger side and I made a note not to dangle my feet during the exercise.

As I worked to ignore the obvious displeasures of the vehicle I began feeling extremely hot. The fire wall was gone and so the heat from the engine was belching hot breath in my direction….need I tell you our uniforms were wool gabardine? Short sleeves, yes, but material like an oven. No matter the 16-year old had started the ignition with a screw driver, no matter that the emergency brake didn’t work, no matter the car looked like a flop house for seven people….I was literally burning up!! Short trip.

We rode in cars with torn pillows and feathers flying around in the vehicle leaving a wake behind us, cars that had been a birthing place for dogs or cats in the back seat and oh yes!! Snakes. Now I like rural people so this is not personal…..but many folks had the habit of leaving their cars parked in the yard among the old demolished washers and refrigerators and beer cans with the windows rolled down. It wasn’t their fault exactly….the windows quit responding to the cranking many moons ago.

This made an interesting haunt for any self-respecting snake that came along. He would be remiss to pass by without taking a look to see the interior…..and too often would get a free ride into town for a driving test in a car eaten up with “Ozark cancer.” Once Becky opened a door to get in and a copperhead fell out on the pavement. I was not overlooked. One time as I left the parking lot at our examining station a 6-foot black snake dropped down from under the car and I never knew it. A crowd gathered in the parking lot in my absence and as the applicant and I returned, they were all talking about the big snake. A co-worked grabbed it and hauled it to the back….he said… “to set it free.” His sly wink gave me the impression the snake would not be seen again.

Life was always interesting in my work and listening to the old stories the senior examiners told was a delightful incite to the past. Now the new generation doesn’t concern themselves with “the way it was” and the camaraderie experienced and lived in the past will be lost except to those of us who enjoy musing over it once in a while.

As I was saying before I took a hiatus from my original subject….July and August in southern Missouri is miserable. We took mom and drove to KC to visit George over the 4th of July and always have a good time there. It’s a chance to catch up with all of George’s activities and his home improvements. Many of my old friends live in the area so we made contact with them before coming home. George is an excellent chef and his specialty is with a grille on the deck so we always look forward to one of his king sized burgers with all the trimmings. His Westie….Mac dog…was always fun. Westies have unlimited energy and refuse to let you ignore them. He was great company for George.

Since I have drifted afar from my original intent, we shall continue tomorrow where we left off. It’s always fun to see where the mind will take me when I open the door and roll back the time-line. I’m always surprised where we end up….but I’ll tell you a secret….that’s the fun of being an old timer. It’s a magic carpet to instantly fly away to another time and place….see? Growing old isn’t so bad……..

Until then,
Essentially Esther

Wednesday, January 12, 2005


June came in with bad storms and tornado watches. We live in tornado alley as we are directly in the northeast track as they come up through Texas and Oklahoma. We had quite a bit of dark rainy weather but we always appreciate the rain in June and July because things dry up in late July through mid-September. The ground gets so dry it cracks open and then we begin praying for rain again.

The folks who move in from other states grow weary of our fickle weather and quite a few sell out and return to their native state. Those of us who have weathered the cycle for many years are grateful for a break in lawn mowing. Rain will come again and make the hills green and lush. Patience, like the good earth, is shaped by many changes.

Aunt Mary and aunt Sally, my mother’s younger sisters, arrived on the 6th of June. We always enjoyed their visits and went up to mom’s to see them…..we learned the sad news that their cousin, Sadie Lebbert, had died that morning of a fatal heart attack. Sadie had joined them several times on previous trips and was a true Annie Oakley gal. Shot down opposition and never missed.

She had worked hard all her life and earned a good and interesting living with her husband who preceded her in death. I had visited at length with Sadie many times and though she was “tough” she was not without feeling. She brought me several pieces of milk glass once “to remember her by.” I still have them. It was so like Sadie. If she liked you she was very generous….if not…you could drop dead. Some feared her quick appraisals of them because she could spot a phony a mile off and detested them. I found that refreshing.

The aunts stayed until the 15th of the month. We had a lot of dinners back and forth, visits with Becky and family….and lots of table games. The gals all liked to play cards and they usually had some kind of stitching to work on if they weren’t involved with other things.

The rest of the month was busy with heavy cleaning, church activities and doctor’s appointments. Mom had missed a step on some stairs as she entered the sidewalk at church, and had a bad fall. Her right knee took most of the brunt and it was some time before it was back to normal…….sending her bad messages every time it rained. Thankfully it didn’t hinder her ability to walk.

June is always a busy month for Driver’s Examiners. Kids get their permits and do all their practice driving so when school is out they can take the physical driving test. It’s a highly emotional time for new drivers and physically challenging for those of us who processed them from application to final testing. Our crews had little time to relax between road tests. As we always said…. “job security.”

The month closed out much the same as it began. Dark and rainy with flood watches everywhere. It would soon end to begin the dry season……

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

THE END OF MAY....1985 

I worked the next three days after coming home from Rock Island and each night Bear and I went to pick strawberries at a friend’s who was overloaded with them. We picked and cleaned until we couldn’t stand the sight of them. However….later on that freezer jam looked (and tasted) mighty good. Our fist day home, mom, aunt Beulah and her sister arrived to bring mom home and spend the night. Aunt Beulah and Mildred were going on the next day to visit Dale. Mom was looking fit and with better color.

Jennifer was singing in a Spring Concert at school so we attended that the next evening. We always went to anything she was involved with from her very first “Grandparent’s Day” in elementary school. Living in a small town we knew a lot of the kids and had many of them in Children’s Church. It was gratifying to see them growing in talent as well as physically.

This was a period when George owned a motor-cycle. I was never comfortable when John owned one and now George was sitting in our driveway on a Yamaha. He arrived shortly after 8:00pm and hadn’t eaten so I whipped up a pizza and we visited till late. The next day was Saturday and Becky was having an early birthday dinner for me so George, Bear and I drove over at the appointed time. We had a superb meal, gift opening and cake….but the most fun was being with the family. John is always too far away to be able to make special occasions and we have certainly missed a lot of theirs. Distance is not a friend.

A family favorite is always a cook-out so on Sunday after church we cranked up the grill while I made potato salad, baked beans………and some of those good strawberries. Whenever George came, it was mandatory to make him a cherry pie, which was his favorite. Bear used to laugh and say he was always glad to see George come because he knew he’d get some cherry pie. George left after dinner on Monday and I was glad when he called later that evening to tell us he had arrived safely. I was secretly praying he would tire of the Yamaha and get rid of it. Mother’s prerogative.

I had to work on my birthday but a friend brought some cookies in to enjoy with coffee throughout the day and the guys I worked with went together and had roses delivered to my desk in the afternoon. My friend, Pete, who recently passed away, was the instigator and always the one to remember. Those are fond memories of a crew and a job I enjoyed for a lot of years…….. So May came to an end and summer was upon us.

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Monday, January 10, 2005


Words cannot describe the pain we all felt for John and Barbara and the baby. It was such a shock from the news two days earlier when there was so much joy and anticipation. It was too tragic to take in and we feared the news might get worse before it got better. John promised to keep us informed and I could sense the heavy load he was carrying. His voice had lost all of the excitement from his earlier call.

Mom, Becky, Warren and I coped with the news in different ways. I promised to let mom and Becky know if we heard any update about little John. He had already been through a lot in just a matter of a few days….traveling from Rock Island to Peoria in a helicopter….and now in a much larger hospital with a team of specialists around him. It was hard not to think of the whole affair as tragic and yet we knew we had to hang onto our hopes. Mom stayed by the phone, Warren and I went about our chores at home in silence, each with our own thoughts. We spent a good deal of time calling friends and other family for prayer….that made us both feel better.

Tuesday, April 23rd was a long day. John previously said he wouldn’t call back unless there was a change one way or the other. I worked that day and went to a ladies missionary meeting that evening in a private home. John called Warren (at our home) to tell us there was improvement enough the doctors thought the crisis was over. When I relayed this to the group, we all had one big sigh of relief. Warren had called the good news to everyone by the time I got home. We immediately started making plans to go to Rock Island as soon as John and Barb and the baby were able to go home….and after Barbara’s parents had gone back to Mississippi (out of respect, so they could have quality time with their first grandchild.)

On the 6th of May we left for Rock Island. It was a happy occasion for us to visit knowing the good conclusion to little John’s crisis. However, now I was a little concerned about mom. When we told her goodbye I didn’t think she looked too good and she was complaining of being tired. She had tried to do some cleaning and wore herself out. I asked a neighbor to look in on her while we were gone and after supper that evening, they called to tell us they had taken mom to the doctor….he thought it was pneumonia and sent them to the hospital with her. There was nothing to do but get a little sleep and come home the next day.

I had looked forward to being with John and Barb a few days to help out and enjoy little John. It was not to be on this trip. We left at 8:00am the next morning and it was a gloomy drive home on a dark and rainy day. We arrived at the hospital by 5:15pm and found mom doing better. They ruled pneumonia out and treated her for a urinary track infection….she was hungry after being on liquids all day so we talked the nurse into giving her solid food. She was there another few days and released for us to bring her home. I went back to work the next day.

Mom’s 81st birthday was on a Sunday this year….May 12th. I fixed a dinner for the occasion and Becky’s and aunt Beulah came to help us celebrate. George called and planned to come on Memorial Day. Aunt Beulah stayed over with mom, and Mildred (aunt Beulah’s sister) came in on the bus the next day. Mom went with them to Arkansas to spend a few days together with lots of board games and cards I would imagine. They always had great times together.

The 15th of May I worked a half-day and Warren loaded the car and picked me up to make another try at getting to Rock Island for our visit with John and Barb. The trip seemed short after making it so recently and we arrived in good time. There was clearly a difference in little John in just one week….he was so good you hardly knew a baby was in the house…and of course, very cute.

Too soon it was time to get back to work and it was really hard to leave that sweet baby. John and Barb had everything under control and we left them with the confidence that they were going to be OK now. To see little John so healthy and normal was a great relief after the rocky start he got. You certainly wouldn’t know it now. We said our good-byes and headed back south towards home and for me…. work the next day.

They say “all’s well that ends well”……and this was one of those times that ended well.

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Saturday, January 08, 2005


The days following our visit to Rock Island were filled with yard work here and up at mom’s place. April was popping out all over and we were trying to keep up with getting the flower beds cleaned out and planting some new shrubs. I no longer worked at Fas-Serv as Becky had some good help now and I needed more time at home. Mom’s health was getting to the place where we were needed more and more to care for her lawn and heavy inside work. Washing windows and all that were too hard for her to manage anymore.

On one such day of chores, on the 19th, John called about 8:00pm to tell us their baby boy was born at 5:45pm that afternoon. I could hear the joy and excitement in his voice. He had been with Barb throughout the ordeal and I had to give them credit for taking the classes to have a natural child birth….in the days when I had my three children I would have shot any doctor unwilling to give me anesthetics. I believe Barbara’s words were (much later)…. “I’m never doing THAT again! Next time I’m taking all the stuff they can give me.” One of her funny stories was that while she was getting down to the nitty-gritty heavy pain stuff, John was watching Bugs Bunny (or something on that order) on the TV in her room…..and she’s like…”John, John, ….help me breathe!!!!” Of course I probably have incorrectly stated this but their story is accurate and very funny …..maybe you get the drift.

But I digress. Back to the announcement. They named him John Bryant Strain after daddy John and mama’s maiden name of Bryant. Pretty clever, I thought. He weighed 7 lbs. 7 ozs. and was 20 ½ inches long. John said he had blonde curly hair and long fingernails. John had been in the delivery room during the whole affair and got to hold him after the dramatic entrance into their world. Of course we sighed a sigh of relief that the birth was over, Barbara was OK and the baby was fine. John’s capacity for pride was overflowing and we were happy for all of them.

Two days later was Sunday and John’s birth was announced in church with everyone voicing their congratulations. Unknown to us the day in Rock Island was going very different from our happy announcements, locally. Little John began running a temperature early in the morning and the watchful nurse began to take notice. She alerted the doctor and insisted he come to check little John out. It was discovered a type of meningitis-streptococcus B (infection of the brain lining) was present and they were fighting to keep it in control…..the hospital at Rock Island wasn’t able to handle the care he would need and a medic-helicopter was obtained to take him to Peoria to a larger hospital. There he would be given white blood cells to fight the infection. The fear was that if not caught in time he could have brain damage.

Barbara’s parents and sister had arrived from Vicksburg, MS. and were there to drive John and I believe, Barbara, to Peoria to be close to little John. It was a blessing they were there to do so and they all stayed until the baby had passed the crisis and was able to come home. John later wrote of his feelings as they watched the helicopter lift off the pad and fly out of sight with their newborn son. It is in one of his former blog entries.

There is no pain like a parent having to watch a child endure a crisis they have no power over. I know, for I am a parent. It would be much more bearable if we could endure their pain for them. God would have it otherwise….we are each to bear our own pain for there is a truth to be gained in suffering. And so…..John and Barb were the first ripple of the pebble in the pond and the rest of the family and friends became the connecting ever widening circles………

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Friday, January 07, 2005


The first of April we were making plans to visit John and Barbara in Rock Island. I worked my days and on Friday the 5th we dropped Jakie off at mom’s (he loved going to grandma’s house) and headed north, northeast. The excitement of our visit made the trip seem short and we arrived at their apartment by 4:30 pm. We had driven in dark rainy conditions all day but I didn’t mind as I was putting the last stitching on the teddy bear quilt while we traveled along.

We reached their apartment with no problem. John has always been great in his directing us to wherever he lived, supplied us with maps etc; Barbara arrived just minutes after we did and John and Warren (incidentally, Warren’s nick-name was Bear) were getting the luggage out of the car trunk.

At any rate, we took steaks with us and John grilled them that night for supper. We were surprised at their toughness…..the kids didn’t mind, steak was steak. They were having pretty lean times living on the salary paid for their missionary efforts. The area had gone into deep financial depression due to the fact the John-Deere Plant which was the paycheck provider for most of the citizens in the quad-city area had laid off hundreds of workers that winter. Rock Island, Moline, East Moline, all in Illinois; and Davenport, across the river in Iowa, were feeling the pinch. All four cities were dependent on the salaries that had dried up. With money so tight, people were too preoccupied with their finances to be interested in a young Southern Baptist couple trying to start up a renegade church in a predominately Catholic area.

This, of course, didn’t stop John and Barb from giving it all the energy they had. The “mother” church who called them into the missionary endeavor was to provide money and help. With a harsh winter and the big John-Deere lay-off they had to put their efforts into keeping the flock they had. Instead of helping John and Barb with people and finances, it ended up that they were helping the first church keep it’s doors open. They worked against odds that made their existence far from what had been offered initially.

John, ever being the harbinger of things to come, bought a computer (with a credit card) to help in their efforts, realizing the benefit it could be to a new program. He knew the sponsor church could not afford them one but was convinced it was a great tool for growth. He bought a book on computer operation, assembled and set it up in their apartment. He read and labored until he knew it’s every working by trial and error.

In his enthusiasm he tried talking Bear and me into getting one but we both thought it was something we didn’t need. I didn’t want to get involved with learning a whole new concept of typing and storing information. In my days of working at the Office of the Inspector General back in Kansas City, I had been sent to IBM for a course on the MTST……I had loved that but it was a real challenge to remember all of the memory steps to be used in the beginning. I now know it was the forerunner of home computers. The ‘real’ computer in the bowels of our building was a huge mass of metal with bells and whistles. The men operating it looked like geeks from a different planet. I couldn’t imagine a modern computer being a ‘simple’ operation, coming from that mindset. I secretly decided I would never, never….go there.

Instead, we bought John’s old typewriter, which was actually a word processor. Bear liked it so much he had to have it. Typing I loved…computers were a threat….we bought the typewriter. (OK, John, quit smirking. I know, never say never.) That next night we went to a German restaurant for dinner and it was excellent. Bear had been stationed in Germany several years in the military and also came from German heritage. Being half-Danish I loved the food as much as he did. Leave it to John to hunt up places of interest to see when you visit. He should have been a tour guide…..he enjoys the ‘difference’ in any place he lands….then enjoys exposing it all for your pleasure. If you ever vacation in the New Orleans area……call John.

John preached the next morning to his small congregation in a rented building. He gave a sermon worthy of a cathedral filled to the brim and as his mother I had hoped for a larger crowd….but he was not discouraged. “It’s a starting place,” he said. We dined in a Chinese Restaurant as a treat from Bear and later that evening John told us about a place called Whitey’s where they made milk shakes with all kinds of stuff thrown in. Candy, fruit….whatever. Guess what? It was the first Blizzard I ever ate. I kinda think Whitey’s had an original idea that someone stole from him….maybe not…anyway it was love at first bite. Wonderful stuff.

Monday morning Barbara was first off to work. Bear and I finished packing and loading the car…saying goodbye is always the worst part of a trip for me. When we made our next visit to Rock Island we would have a new family member to get acquainted with. Barbara was ready to make that happen….she was in the last days of her pregnancy…and about to have a Yankee baby. Kinda strange for a true Southern Belle………

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Thursday, January 06, 2005

FEBRUARY 1985.... 

This was an exceptionally cold month with snow coverage for over 28-days during parts of January and February. That’s unusual for our section of the country. We were all beset with cabin fever and the public was complaining every time they came through the door. Bad weather brings bad tempers and bad breakdowns. The car, the pipes….anything that can freeze or break usually does. Bad weather is expensive for everyone.

Becky had a torn muscle in her abdomen so missed a few days work. I made a chocolate cake and a strawberry shortcake, then we drove down to have supper with her. I taught her how to crochet doilies as she had only worked with yarn before. She had some spare time to get the hang of it. I did a lot of soup making, baking and such the next couple of days and took some to mom to warm up for quick suppers. Lima beans and ham, chili and stew. The next day I fixed split pea soup, applesauce bread, pie crusts to put in the freezer and a buttermilk pie. I have to laugh as I type this. I have lentil and bean soup with ham simmering on the stove as I write.

On Valentine’s Day I finished the last block of the bedspread while at work. That evening I stitched it onto the rest and it was finished. It took me two years to make it but one block at a time completed the project. A beautiful “popcorn” stitch in hexagons with a pale peach color to go beautifully with the flowers in the drapes. I always feel a great satisfaction in finishing a large task.

On the 23rd we took mom and drove down to Arkansas to see aunt Beulah. I took meat and an apple cake that we decided upon during an earlier phone conversation. Mom really enjoyed being out as she had been stuck inside ever since a week after Christmas. We had a good visit and made the trip back by 5:00pm. Visiting aunt Beulah was always a joy. She would have some new craft she was making or some stitching….she could make something out of nothing and it would look good. She was not given to gossip or negative talk and neither was my mother. It was good medicine for all of us to see each other.

In March, John’s 28th birthday rang in on the 2nd. I tried to call them all day but didn’t have any luck. Mom and dad’s 60th wedding anniversary date rolled around on the 16th which made mom alone for 10 ½ years. We took dad’s place and invited mom out for a nice dinner….we always rehashed their wedding day and the crazy mix-up of it but missed dad’s rendition and his laughter.

Becky’s 31st birthday came on the 27th and we celebrated together with a nice dinner here. The end of the month it rained all day to herald in the month of April, I suppose. Everything was so saturated there were creeks overflowing everywhere and mass flooding. That always meant someone would get washed away and drowned trying to drive over a low water bridge in these parts. It’s very dangerous in our hilly area to be in the lowlands when it rains hard. People do not realize the power of moving water and it’s especially bad when the victims are children.

April is always a beautiful month in the Ozarks and this special year we would welcome a new little member to our family. John and Barbara were expecting their new arrival later in the month and they were so excited about it the rest of us caught their emotions. Spring would be welcome after such a long and cold winter……

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

JANUARY 1985.... 

January 1985 was much like every January as far as weather expectations. Very warm and then a jet stream brings the frigid air from Canada which quickly makes snow and/or ice for our area. I always begin the New Year with sorting, clearing out and organizing. After the holiday decorations are put away, the new gifts are incorporated into the household and then…….the cleaning begins. I get a spurt of new energy after the first of the year so I make it work for me while I’m in the mood.

This particular year I was still working at Fas-Serv 4-days a week and as clerk for the Driver’s Examiners 3-days a week. The little time I had at home was savored. Warren did the heavy cleaning for me and ran all of the necessary errands…did all the bill paying. When I could be home we spent the time together…often with him reading to me the three evenings I had at home while I crocheted on a bedspread. George gave him a new book for Christmas…. Hunt for the Red October. It was the first Tom Clancy book we became acquainted with. Warren read some during the day after his “work” was finished…. then in the evening would read it aloud for me. We simply couldn’t put that book down. All day at work I couldn’t wait to get home to hear what happened next.

I had never seen or been on a submarine in my life, but through the descriptive writing of Tom Clancy I could see, hear and smell that sub. We fell in love with his books and went on a search for more. Warren had served on a sub in WW11 in the south Pacific and never talked much about it but this book with the new nuclear and larger “boats” (as the Navy calls them) fascinated him as well.

During January my work hours (as before) allowed the time for me to attend Sunday morning church and choir practice on Wednesday nights. January 12th, John called from Rock Island and told us they were going to have their first church service the next day….Sunday. He was full of enthusiasm and had worked very hard to do calling and try to gather up a congregation. Barbara was 6-months pregnant with LJ and had helped all she could. We had a good visit and wished them well.

The weather got ugly by the 18th of the month and so we didn’t have a lot of applicants for driver’s licenses. During those times there was a lot of coffee drinking, visiting and story telling about “the old days.” We would laugh our heads off ….most of the guys I worked with should have been comedians for they could impersonate each other so well it was scary. I always enjoyed hearing about past times and respected the men for their hardships endured. In our rural area, there are two traveling crews that go to 9-counties and 13-license offices to give written, eye and driving tests. You rode to your location with the crew…worked with them all day…ate with them at lunchtime…and rode home with them. We were like family to one another and actually spent more time together than we did our families.

This was in the days before PC’s were a household item and cell-phones were just something on Sci-Fi. Therefore, we exchanged a lot of phone calls with family and lots of letters were being written in this time frame. We were concerned about John and Barbara, especially since she had rarely, if ever, been out of the South. Here they were in Rock Island, IL. in a very bad winter. Being pregnant on top of it, she was away from her family at this special time. I busied myself making a crocheted baby afghan for their expected arrival at John’s request. He had seen one I made for Becky’s first baby, Jennifer, and he wanted one just like it for their baby. Of course I was happy to oblige. Then I set about making a Teddy Bear quilt as well.

The 20th of January we watched the Super Bowl. We had -14* below zero with windy conditions and blowing snow. The 49er’s beat the Dolphins bad. The month finished out with terrible weather but with one month closer to Spring….and that’s a good thing.

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Tuesday, January 04, 2005


Today is my first anniversary of blogging. I can safely say my world and my life has changed considerably since I began. I have learned a lot, laughed a lot and shed tears with all of you…….in the process your comments left on each post went from strangers to friends I feel I know very well. I may not have a face to go with the name but we have touched each other’s hearts in many ways.

My thanks to John and Becky…….and all of you for your encouragement and help. I finally became independent enough that I no longer had to make frenzied calls to John to help me out of a jam. Becky was available after working hours to steer me away from mysterious places I found myself in. The computer has become a friend and is no longer the puzzle it once was, at least for the basic needs. As I post today, the site meter had 7,787 registered. You have amazed me with your interest in our family’s history……and some of my editorials here and there.

I have a lot to learn and I love learning. So with that said, I’m re-posting the blog written a year ago and I’ll see you back here tomorrow….good Lord willing.


By way of introduction I am John and Becky Strain’s mom. When events happen I reach for a pen. I hope to leave a light along the trail for all who follow. So come along as we light the fires of inspiration…..

What a wonderful way to start a new year. I am finally joining John and Becky with my own blog. You may know me as “Mom” from comments made in their comment section. I hope in the months ahead we will all grow to know each other better.

I am a retired Driver Examiner from the Missouri State Highway Patrol. I enjoyed 17 ½ years with them as a clerk and then examiner. I retired when I was 65-years old, having been widowed earlier that year. After retirement I worked part-time at a local Antique Barn when an unexpected event took place in my life.

I met my high-school sweet-heart at a class reunion after forty years. We later married and have been very happy. One never knows what fate will produce even in the most surprising circumstances. Life has a way of surprising us with choices we never dreamed of. Take hold and hang on……..

Since this year has just begun I would like to close with a poem I found in one of my mother’s diaries. She made the entry on January 1, l974. Later that same year she lost my Dad and her own mother. Her inspirational readings gave her the strength to accept the inevitable.

A year is but a moment as the
Ages reckon time,
With us it is a volume, be it
Real or pantomime.
There is so much we must record
Before the hour grows late,
Of love, friendship, trust or doubt
But let’s forget our hate.

My mother lived 87 years and was a gentle spirit.
Essentially Esther

Monday, January 03, 2005


I am starting the New Year out on a bad note. Not the way I’d planned. We have a dark and dreary day here….too warm at 65*…and I know this will not last….soon we will get that Canadian Clipper rushing at us with the fury of the Ice Queen and we shall be freezing and miserable. What does that have to do with me? Well, because of the rain….for some reason, the power went off when I was trying to blog earlier. Now, my time is gone and I can’t come up with a 1985 blog….I can’t even come up with a 2005 blog. In fact, I’m late for the next jump this old gal has to make.

I’ll just say we have been incredibly busy……I know, so have you…….and we have had lots of family (for which we are grateful and happy about)…moved our upstairs booth down and into our lower booth at the Antique Barn where we have been dealers for about six years. Trust me….it was a back breaking job and we’re still feeling it in our muscles. Becky’s computer died…….it is in the hospital waiting for a new hard drive. Becky is devastated….lost…almost crazy without her computer but she is coming here to read her emails so it’s a band-aid for her problem.

We are all well, very happy….had a wonderful holiday season all the way through, but I must confess…I won’t be back tomorrow, either. Becky, Rocky and I will be driving to Springfield for dental check-ups. I decided it was not productive to start 1985 one day and be gone the next….I’ll just skip Tuesday and see you on Wednesday……..we are really in a blog crunch here for different reasons.

I shall bore you all with the “good old days” of my life on Wednesday (and if I can’t come through on that promise you ain’t gonna see me again.) I can’t stand the humiliation of broken promises….I like to deliver.

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther