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Monday, January 30, 2006


Here I am with a shiny new Dell computer and everything is up and running. It arrived on Thursday and we sat looking at the big box in our living room until Sunday. Rocky’s daughter and family came for dinner and for Eddie to set up the pc. He had a full afternoon of getting the old one out and the new in…..then programming it with the desired options. Tonight Becky came down with the software to put Microsoft Word Processor in and take out one last thing. With Eddie’s help on the phone she was able to complete the required task and it’s now a lean, mean, running machine.

My thanks to Rocky’s brother, Richard and wife Helen, for the gift of a lifetime….to Eddie for his expertise and willing help….and to Becky for coming down one more time to take care of a “booger” in mom’s computer. I am very grateful for all of them.

Tomorrow instead of playing on my new toy Rocky and I will be leaving for Springfield for a routine doctor’s appointment for me. Hopefully on Wednesday I can resume Essentially Esther. I am missing the writing very much and am anxious to get back in the groove again.

I hope you have all had a good week while I was preoccupied with all this and I will soon be back to read and visit with you.

Until then,
Essentially Esther

Monday, January 23, 2006


Just a short note. I will not be posting this week due to an accident with our computer and the expected arrival of a new one this Thursday…….compliments of Rocky’s brother and his wife for an early birthday present to me. They continue to encourage me with my writing and I am thrilled beyond words……. I’m looking forward to the big jump in technology. Rocky’s son-in-law is coming Sunday to hook up the new Dell and hopefully show me how to use all the bells and whistles.

I will be posting again as soon as I can be back on line.

Until then,
Essentially Esther

Saturday, January 21, 2006


December was a little wilder this year than most. George and I had been urging Jennifer and Marc to come for Christmas and when they said they could…….we decided to make it a big surprise for Becky. Keeping a secret in this family is like trying to tie a sledge hammer to a butterfly……it just never works out. However!! George and I were determined for once in her life she was going to be surprised.

Rocky and I were both working and like everyone else the shopping, gift buying, and cards were worked in with everything else going on. It was a panic operation with getting the baking and candy-making done to have on hand by the time everyone arrived. John and Barb weren‘t able to come which would have made our surprise complete.

The big day came for Jennifer and Marc’s flight and suddenly blizzard conditions hit the Midwest. It was pandemonium as airports delayed and/or shut down completely. The kids had been back and forth over the eastern states several times before they were landed in Kansas City. They rented a car and planned to drive down….we kept current with their situation as they called on their cell-phone every couple of hours to let us know how they were doing. The roads were hazardous to say the least.

We normally open our gifts on Christmas Eve and make an evening of it. Becky was here with George, Rocky and me. We ate supper and I dragged out the KP as long as I could. George kept going to the garage to call the kids to see where they were……..Becky was getting more impatient all the time about opening the gifts. The evening drug on and finally Becky blurted out….. “I think something is going on! Is someone coming? You’re all acting a little strange…..why does George keep going to the garage?”

At first it was easy to pass it off but by 9:00 P.M. I knew I had to come up with something!! Finally I had a good idea!! I tried to sound as disappointed as I could and said, “Well, we didn’t want to tell you, but John and Barb are coming. We were hoping to surprise you but you are so hard to fool!! They are in the ‘Hardy Hills’ area coming through Arkansas and have had bad roads so they didn’t get here as early as we’d hoped.” She studied my face for deception and seemed to be fairly pacified. That lasted for a while……..

Finally, car lights shown in our window as their car pulled into the driveway. We got up and George turned the porch light on……. “Becky said….it doesn’t look like John and Barb’s car….who is that? Is it Marc and Jennifer?” I said, “Heaven’s no……you don’t think they’d make a trip back this time of year do you?” But by that time, they were out of the car and we all came swarming out of the house like bees to grab them up and hug them…..laughing and everyone talking at once. Becky swore up and down she had it figured out but we still think she was surprised.

After our celebration and Christmas was past we had to take Becky to the hospital in Springfield for foot surgery. It was Outpatient surgery so she was released by 2:00pm and we got her in the van and to our favorite restaurant for lunch. There she was, struggling along with crutches in that busy place while we dragged her to our table……..we were in one corner where we could spread out and enjoy the time together with good food.

The next day George stayed with Becky while we drove Jennifer and Marc to the airport in Springfield. We left around 5:30a.m. as their flight was for 7:15a.m. In just a few minutes they were airborne and we were on our way home. We kept Becky at our place so she could convalesce. George returned to Shawnee after the holidays and we settled in for the winter to come. We discovered a broken faucet in the bathroom that flooded into the hallway requiring wet carpet to be removed for the necessary repairs….which didn’t happen until after the new year.

All in all, the year ended well. We were blessed with good health, family times, and employment. Our kids were all working and doing well. We had full tummy’s and food in the pantry so we were amply provided for and happy. This, our second Christmas together, turned out to be pretty eventful……and quite memorable.

Until the next time,
Essentially Esther

Friday, January 20, 2006


November was a pretty sad month for me. My uncle Roger (whom we always called Buster when I was growing up) called from Nebraska to tell me a good friend of his died and his funeral was to be the following Monday. It was sad because Uncle Roger, his friend Bob Plugge and another friend whom I believe was Doctor Grace, flew down to Missouri to go fishing with my mom and dad for many years.

Mom would cook and bake for days to feed dad and the three guys……..dad would drive to the airport when he heard a plane circle their house a few times which was their prearranged signal. As soon as they unloaded their gear and parked the plane they hurried back to the folks place to pick up mom. It wouldn’t take them long to load the camper with last minute supplies, hook on to the boat and trailer and head for the lake.

Dad would talk for hours about their escapades. They spent more time laughing than fishing it seemed……those were mighty good times for all of them. I was sorry to hear that Bob had died. I called back on Monday when I thought uncle Roger would be back from the funeral to see how he was doing. To my surprise he was sick and couldn’t go and in fact had not gone to work that day….he rarely missed driving his school bus which he did after he retired just for something to do.

I was concerned and called again a few days later and found out that he had gone to the doctor and was admitted to the hospital for severe lung congestion. His son, Roger Phillip, called later to tell me the X-rays showed cancer in the lungs. The news came like a thunder bolt. Not uncle Roger. I loved him like a brother. More testing a few days later showed four brain tumors.

Rocky and I drove to Blair and went straight to the hospital. When we arrived, his wife Phyllis, and some other family members were there……he was resting comfortably and it was great to see him. We had a good visit with everyone until it was time for visitors to leave and we figured he’d had enough company for one evening. We went on to our motel and spent a sleepless night. The next day Hospice care was getting things set up in their home for uncle Roger’s release from the hospital. The whole afternoon was spent getting things packed up at the hospital and moved to their home. There wasn’t much we could do but we helped with what we could.

We thought we should leave the next day because there was a lot of family and visitors and we thought we might be more in the way than any help but uncle Roger asked us to stay another day……and because he asked us to, we did. We had one more good day with him and the family and then it was time to say goodbye. I went over to him and he said, “Have a safe trip home, Esther….” I leaned over and said….. “and you have a safe trip home too, uncle Roger.” His eyes met mine and he said…. “Thank you”… I gave him a kiss and Rocky shook hands with him and we left. Uncle Roger died six days later……..his journey was over.

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Thursday, January 19, 2006


The summer was pretty non-eventful. In June, the high-light was John’s yearly trek back to KU to basketball camp with a car full of boys. This year it was just John, Barb and L.J……then Mr. Roy and son Roy drove their car following them up. As is our custom, we feed them here and the boys stay with Becky. L.J. is allergic to cats and with three in our small home its “red eye time” for him. It’s a shame he can’t enjoy visits to grandma’s house but he has to break up the time he spends inside.

Mr. Roy stayed at a motel and we arranged for John and Barb to stay here with us. They were on the road early the next day and would be coming back the following Saturday. It’s always a fun time when they come and go…….all too short but we pack in a lot of fun. Sitting around the table with pizza and spinning tall tales about days gone by keep us laughing until someone finally breaks it up to go to bed.

We had a sad day in mid-July. Jennifer’s first dog, Dara, stayed behind with Becky when Jennifer went off to college, so Dara spent her life here with Becky. Of course, she was part of the family for many years and was a real sweetheart....a beautiful and spunky West Highland Terrier. Becky needed to put her to sleep as her medical problems left her with a poor quality of life. We all dreaded the last day and wouldn’t you know it was dripping and foggy out….one of those real “down” days anyway, without a grave to dig for a pet.

Becky wanted to bury her in our back yard where Jakie was (John’s dog who was left behind with Bear and me when he went off to college). Rocky knew it would be hard for Becky to do so he got up early and went out back to dig the grave before she came with Dara. Dara was so happy that morning, coming down to grandma’s house as she’d done so many times………and we were all just sick about taking her out to the Vet. However, we went with Becky so she wouldn’t have to go alone and as respect for Dara.

Becky had given Dara a bath that morning so she would be nice and clean…..Mr. Lewis gave her the shot and she was gone instantly. The three of us stood there and cried like babies….it was terribly sad. When we could finally regain our composure I think Mr. Lewis carried Dara to our van but I could be wrong about that. Becky would remember for sure. Anyway, we drove back home and Becky fixed her up nice for burial. She and Rocky carried special large rocks to mark her grave and she rests there beside Jakie. I can’t even tell this without crying all over myself. We love our pet friends and they are family to us.

I was still working several days a week and the summer wore on. Rocky was doing some driving for a wrecker business but there wasn’t enough work to keep him busy. He stayed with it most of the summer but wanted something on a more regular basis. Our neighbor, Dave, put him on to a driving job with a company who transported patients to their medical appointments. Rocky liked it because every day was different…..the people as well as the places you took them. Being a truck driver most of his life he still liked the open road and an accelerator. I was working a lot of hours as the owners of the Barn were building another large store in Harrison, Arkansas and were there much of the time.

September turned to October and we took time off to meet Rocky’s sister Marie and her husband, Harold at their home in St. Louis. We had lunch together and then drove in two cars to Springfield, Il. to meet brother Richard and his wife, Helen. We enjoyed a couple of days together, touring the sights around the area and then going our separate ways. Everyone went back home except us as Rocky wanted to show me the part of northern Illinois where he grew up so we took several days and visited the farms and homes of grandparents etc;……..all a trip into Memory Lane for Rocky. It was very interesting to listen to his accounts of the family and the early life he remembered as a child.

I had not been to Door County so we drove the entire peninsula up and back, stopping at Green Bay. Although I am a dyed in the wool Chief’s fan, I love Brett Farve and wanted to see the stadium where he played. I have enjoyed his enthusiasm for the game and hope he doesn’t retire. He’s good for football and I’ll miss him when he no longer plays. After we looked around the stadium and gift shop we headed south to Richard and Helen’s for a great lunch and tour of their lovely home. Richard is an excellent wood craftsman and his shop is amazing. It was as clean and well organized as their home.

“Home” is the friend that always welcomes you, always provides food and comfort and an open door to those we love. A poet once said, “It takes a heap of livin’ to make a house a home.” It’s a lucky house that becomes a home….and it’s a lucky home where love and peace are found.

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Wednesday, January 18, 2006


I’ve been under the weather a few days so we’ll pick up with the month of May 2002, in Esther’s story…….

I worked until a few days before my birthday in May and then George drove down from Shawnee and Becky joined us for a trip to John and Barb’s. The idea was to celebrate mom’s big 70th birthday. Spring is such a nice time to travel south through Missouri and Arkansas, Mississippi and finally, Louisiana. We feasted our eyes on the many blooms between here and there. Our mood was jovial by the time we got to John and Barb’s…….we arrived by 6:10 and soon Brian and Faye showed up to complete the guest list for dinner at a favorite restaurant. We had a fun filled evening and then mom and Rocky faded fast. Lights out.

We slept late the next morning as we aren’t used to late hours…….Barbara had a good breakfast going and the aroma of coffee and food cooking brought us out of a deep sleep. After breakfast we were going to be guests of Brian and Faye’s……they live right on the river in a secluded area and we were going on a scenic boat ride. I can’t begin to spell or pronounce the name of the river but when John reads this he can put it in the comment section.

It was so very interesting on the boat trip. I am used to the blue lakes of Missouri and the rocky hillsides coming down to the water…….the creeks and rivers are clear for the most part. Although this river was muddy looking, compared to Missouri, it had its own beauty and charm. No hills, just flat. The water came up to trees draped in moss that hung lazily from dead limbs, egrets here and there, fish jumping now and then…….logs laying against the waterline where crocodiles like to lay in the sun, however not today. Brian and John were disappointed because they wanted us to see them…….

There is just something about Louisiana that calls you back…..time and time again. The people are masters of relaxation and hospitality. Their lifestyle is to be envied because they are happy in their existence and there is always time for fun. We lost John to Louisiana years ago when he first went there for studies in the Baptist Seminary. He took up every opportunity to learn about his new surroundings and made new friends. One friend from Seminary days is still with him…..Miss Barbara Bryant who became the Mrs. Barbara Strain. When John married a southern girl I knew he was gone for good. I couldn’t have picked a better mate for John if I tried……and I’d be silly IF I tried. That boy has a habit of making good decisions.

He called out the arsenal for my birthday bash. That evening a limo drove up to take all of us and some friends of John and Barb’s (that we have been acquainted with from our early visits) to the French Quarter for an evening of celebrating. The last place of the evening is always O’Flairity’s where there is a bit of Ireland and carefree folks who love a good time. My children had the musicians play the Birthday Song and Rocky pulled me to my feet to dance to it. It was the first time Rocky and I danced since our Senior Prom in 1949.…….well, you have to be our age to know how special that was for us. The moment was full of magic for both of us and I would imagine for my children as well.

We arrived home at a very early hour the next morning after all of our celebrating and the 45-minute trip back across Lake Pontchartrain. After a few hours sleep we headed right back to New Orleans for………..shopping!! We gals always have to go to the French Market and George always has to go to Café du Monde for beignets and coffee (he prefers chocolate). Of course, if he didn’t put it on the “to do” list, one of us would have to. It isn’t a visit until we’ve been to the Café du Monde. We initiated Rocky on his first visit by blowing powdered sugar all over him…….he’s a good natured guy so he laughed along with us when he realized he’d been “had.”

We had to celebrate my birthday one day early as the kids had to go to work and we needed to get home. So the eve of my birthday, we had a nice supper and all of the children gave me a beautiful gold necklace…….Brian and Faye were there to help with the festivities….I was treated like Queen of the Day….truly a royal evening.

The next day we hugged LJ goodbye as he headed off to school….then John and Barb……we gathered everything up in the van and headed north. Once home, George left the next morning and Becky returned to work. We were home in time to decorate my family graves before Memorial Day and the last day of the month Rocky and I met his sister Marie and her husband Harold at Rolla for lunch……then drove on to Cuba, Mo. where the Rockenbach parent’s are buried. It was a little late for Memorial Day but we wanted to take flowers. I have always respected Rocky‘s family and happy to have known all of them in earlier days.

It takes a lot of living to make a life…….and each life is worth living…….

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Friday, January 13, 2006


Time stopped for Rocky and me when we married that first year. However, it didn’t stop anywhere else and before we got used to the idea of it all our first anniversary popped up. We had said we would go down to Eureka Springs every year after our marriage and retrace our steps. I heard once that you can never go back to a perfect place in time……..and we found that was right.

We were in a tornado watch all the way and in some places we could see hail piled up along the roadway. We managed to arrive at Eureka Springs about the same time we did the year before when we exchanged our vows. We checked into the same motel and then drove out to the Chapel of the Angels.

To our surprise, they were building cabins on the grounds to accommodate couples who wanted to stay there after their wedding or to return for anniversaries. It was a beautiful area atop a high Ozark Mountain looking across miles of other mountains, hills or whatever you prefer to call them. The pastor was sweating and in the process of completing another cabin and his wife was busy getting materials to him and the other carpenter.

They were very cordial but we could tell we hadn’t impressed their lives as they had impressed ours……..in truth, it was a special time that could not be duplicated. We took our leave after a few moments and with one last look around, we left. We drove back to town and decided to eat at the restaurant in the motel where we were staying…….and eat in the Gazebo where we ate our wedding supper. The steak and wine were excellent. The waitress we had befriended a year ago was off that night and we didn’t see any other familiar faces.

The next day we took in a couple of Antique Shops and some pictures of the beautiful homes…….then decided to check out and go on to Branson. It just wasn’t as magical as it had been a year ago. When we arrived in Branson we got settled and then called for tickets to see Andy Williams and Glen Campbell. Once into the theatre the storm found us and there was horrendous thunder and noise but the show was terrific and we enjoyed the evening immensely. People say Andy is over the hill and ought to hang it up but we don’t care…..we’re over the hill too so it was great fun to enjoy the two of them who were obviously enjoying the bashing from each other on stage.

The next day we packed up to leave and stopped for a good breakfast before heading home. We talked about how different it was a year ago and although it was not the same…. it was good to come back and see how far we’d come. Our main interest now was our little home and our pets……..and of course getting to know each other in the process. The young Rocky and Esther had changed over the years and the changes appeared now and then….in a mature Rocky and Esther.

We found you can’t go back…. like they say…..but it’s OK. No one should want to keep going back to the same place as if things could never be better…..it should be just a starting line for a long journey. A marriage doesn’t stagnate so that you have to keep returning to a place on the map and the calendar……it’s a journey that keeps finding new understanding and appreciation for each other..... with the promise there will always be that special connection whether you are near or far from each other.

Love is not a time and a place……it’s a matter of the heart.

Until the next time,
Essentially Esther

Thursday, January 12, 2006

JANUARY TO APRIL 30.....2002 

I began working more days at the Barn and things were pretty quiet until March when we took a long weekend to go to Kansas City to visit George. Becky went with us and we had our usual good time. We spend a lot of time shopping and visiting old friends.

Later that month, Rocky and I took time off to drive to California for some business and to visit his daughter and family, before coming home. It was a learning experience for me because Rocky had driven the route so many times in all his years of trucking. He told me stories of things that happened all along the way…..things that would come to mind as we traveled in and out of each State. He enjoyed taking different roads so he could see places he wouldn’t normally see on the Interstate roads over the years…….he loves nature as I do and had a few places he wanted to show me which were spectacular.

Rocky wanted to go by Las Vegas and Boulder Dam. I had been through there once before but it was a favorite area of his and so we took time to do that. We were surprised when we approached the Dam area because the trucks, vans and vehicles that could possibly carry explosives were detained and searched. It was a new precaution since 9-11 so we were slow getting through there.

Once getting to the coast in California the traffic was grid-lock most of the time. It was crazy driving at top speed and then slam on the brakes and wait for all kinds of problems up ahead. I don’t know how people can deal with that every day but I guess it’s a normal thing for them and they don’t think about it.

We were there over Easter Sunday so Rocky took me to the Crystal Cathedral to walk around the grounds and see the building. It was beautiful and well landscaped. We didn’t get there in time for services but it was still nice to see it in person. The next day we were able to get to Janet and Tim’s home so I got to meet Tim and Zach, whom I hadn’t met before. Now I had full knowledge of the Morand family.

They took us out for dinner and we had a good visit with them. We stayed as long as we could but we were leaving for home the next day so we said our goodbyes and drove back to the hotel for our last night’s lodging. The next day we were on our way as early as we could get packed and headed for Arizona. Rocky and I graduated with a good friend of mine who lived in Mesa, Arizona so we planned to get to her home around mid-morning and spend the rest of the day with her, stay over night and be on the road the next morning.

She was waiting for us and had a lunch fixed…..she lives in a nice mobile home park and had lots of living area. We gabbed non-stop and then went antique shopping…..her birthday had been the day before so we took her out for a steak dinner. After that we went back to her place and watched her favorite Diamond Backs get beat….after that it was lights out.

The next morning we left early as Rocky knew some unbelievable scenery that I would enjoy and he was so right. The Salt River Canyon is nature at her best…….it was beautiful to behold. We stopped and picked up as many red rocks as we could pack in the car….I’ve always been a rock hound and love bringing them home from every trip. (As if the Ozarks doesn’t have enough rocks….but there are always different ones to enjoy.)

Rocky is a good traveler as he is very willing to stop and look at scenic places or some of the shops he thinks I would enjoy. He took me to a Zuni Indian Trading Post where some earrings came from that he gave me once and we looked at the jewelry they were making by hand. I picked out a ring and earrings with Charolite stones from Russia. The lady who sold them to us said they were trying to incorporate different stones in their jewelry to make it more universal and the lavender color and hardness of the stone made it a good choice. It was very interesting to look at the pieces as she told us about each one.

A couple of days later we finally made it back home. We covered a lot of miles in a short time but yet the trip was fulfilling and highly interesting. It’s fun to go and see everyone but it’s always a good feeling to come home again……especially when you have pets that are so very glad to see you. April passed and on the 30th we left for Eureka Springs to celebrate our first wedding anniversary…..but that’s a story for tomorrow.

Until then,
Essentially Esther

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


Fall passed quietly. Rocky was hauling pipe from Pittsburg, Kansas to all points and I was working part time at the Barn. In November we had an early Thanksgiving and three birthday celebrations in our home for Rocky’s family….we then spent Thanksgiving in Shawnee with George later in the month.

December came in with cold and rain…..Rocky and I drove over to Branson to see the Christmas lights and to see the Gatlin Brothers perform. They put on a good show. We met Rocky’s brother Richard and his wife, Helen, where they were staying and we had a nice day together before we all left for other places. Somehow the gifts and cards were finished and after several Christmas parties here and there we got ready to go to John and Barb’s for Christmas. A real Cajun Christmas. George drove down to go with us and Becky came along.

After a long day of driving we arrived around 6:30pm and we unloaded the van…..then piled back in to meet some of John and Barb’s friends at a restaurant. They all had a regular Friday night thing at this one place “where every one knows your name” kind of an atmosphere. John introduced his mom and her “new husband who got her pregnant and had to marry her” to the table of people amid gales of laughter. Everyone knows John and his sense of humor….anyone is fair game….even his mother. I knew everyone at the table and Rocky fit right in with the frivolity of the evening.

The next day we toured around the city to see things we hadn’t seen on other visits. One very interesting stop was the newly opened WW 11 Museum….Rocky and I were kids when all that was going on and we shared memories of it all with each other as we walked along and looked at the displays. In the evening we were able to take in one of LJ’s basketball games which was nice. In all the time he was growing up and playing, it was the only time I was able to see a game. It was nice to see some of his friends again that we had kept overnight on some of their trips back to the KU basketball camps.

We celebrated George’s 51st birthday while we were there and the next day went to John and Barb’s large church. It was beyond large but there was a very warm and vital feel to the service and we enjoyed the sermon very much. The pastor was a former professor of John’s at the Seminary. In the afternoon couples began arriving to join us for an evening in New Orleans. John had arranged for a limo to take all of us for some night life down in the “Quarter” which we always enjoy. We had never been there at Christmas time so it was a totally different atmosphere. We were driven through a large park decorated with millions of Christmas lights like a fairy wonderland…..simply beautiful….and then stopped at a few of the large hotels to look at the decorations of the season. Brian, one of the friends who grew up in the area, clued us in that this particular hotel was where all of the “prom dates’ headed for. It brought back lots of memories for him and made it interesting for us as he told “how it used to be.”

We ended up at John’s favorite place, O’Flairity’s. It had the air of an Irish pub with an Irish musician sitting on a stool playing a guitar and singing ridiculous Irish songs with crowd participation. We laughed our sides out at the silliness but it was good natured and fun. Becky slipped up to the musician and had him play a lovely wedding song for us……..we were introduced to the crowd and he sang a very nice song of blessings to us. It was altogether lovely.

The next day we were back at the French Quarter to have beignets and chicory coffee at Café du Monde……a place we simply have to frequent at least once a trip. It is George’s favorite of New Orleans and big on my list as well. I love to sit and watch the people go by and enjoy the sounds, the smells and the gaiety of the city. There is no place on earth quite like New Orleans. People are so free and uninhibited….it is a perfect place to have fun and celebrate life.

From there we went through the shops and the Flea Market to finish our stocking gifts and then home to prepare for Christmas the next day. We opened gifts the morning of the 25th after breakfast and then Barbara and Becky insisted I join the guys to watch movies while they fixed the Christmas meal…..Cajun style. I think I could get used to that…it was actually pretty nice to be ‘one of the guys’ and let someone else do all the work.

We had a wonderful dinner with all the trimmings and the girls did a fantastic job. It was the perfect finish to a perfect visit………the next day we had to come home and John and Barb had to go back to work. However short our visits are, they are always….but always….memorable. George left the next day from here and we drove to Neosho to meet with Rocky’s family for a Christmas celebration at his daughter, Holly’s home. Rocky’s youngest daughter, Janet and her daughter Jessica, came back for Christmas (from California) and so all the Rockenback kids were together which doesn’t happen very often, either. Rocky’s son Michael who was still living at the farm was also there.

…..and so we spent our first Christmas together, shared with my family and his. We were getting to know each other better with each passing day and getting acquainted with the families we brought to each other. It takes a lot of stretching to pack it all in but one thing about the heart….it has no boundaries. It can be as big as we let it be……….

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


The first of September Rocky, Becky and I drove to Springfield and went a little crazy. She came home with a new computer and we came home with a new mini-van.

……..and after that, on the 11th day of the month the unthinkable happened. I was getting ready for work and turned on the Today Show. They were talking about a plane flying into one of the World Trade Towers and at first it was supposed a pilot made a tragic error…….then as we watched, a second plane flew into the other tower. There is no way to adequately describe the rest of the terror that followed when a third plane flew into the Pentagon and a fourth was diverted by a brave bunch of guys in the plane who had anticipated where they were headed and stormed the cockpit, causing the plane to crash before it reached it’s destination. The young man who bravely took action behind the words, “Let’s roll!” was killed in a field with the rest of the crew and passengers somewhere in Pennsylvania.

The stories of bravery and treason were endless as the facts began surfacing across the weeks and months that followed. The devastation was beyond any War of the Worlds images a Hollywood filmmaker could produce…..the loss of lives touched many countries that day, Americans weren’t the only ones who died. Becky’s daughter, Jennifer, was working in New York at the time and her office window looked out on the scene. The Empire State Bldg. was between her office and the Towers and as news traveled fast she looked out in time to see the second plane plunge into the second Tower.

No one could believe their eyes…..and they watched helplessly as people waved from windows above the burning impact below them….some holding hands and jumping, others scrambling, trying to get down before the building collapsed…..it was all horrifying for the onlookers. Jennifer said their building was closed immediately in case someone tried to enter from the street to do harm….and while brave men and women were trying to get the injured out of the buildings they collapsed and fell upon all who were racing up stairs to offer aid.

Later in the day, Jennifer joined the hoards of people who walked to leave the city and try to catch a commuter train home. She reached the Station and was able to catch the last train to Connecticut. She cried in seeing the vehicles parked at the stops en-route home because many of them would not be driven home again. It was a day none of us will forget but more so for the people who saw it first hand and was privy to the sights and sounds that marked the devastation. Our nation mourned the dead, the dying and the bravery of so many.

On the 20th of September we planned a trip out to Connecticut to see Jennifer and her husband, Marc. We got the pets to boarding, picked Becky and her luggage up, drove on to St. Louis where we met George in a parking lot and the four of us headed east. We stayed at Washington, PA. our first night and drove hard to get to New York by late afternoon the next day to see the skyline and Statue of Liberty. There was a lot of traffic but we were not involved with any tie-ups or grid-locks. We crossed the bridge that the children’s grandpa Strain helped build….the George Washington Bridge….and on to Jennifer’s by suppertime. It was a hard two day’s driving but the excitement made the trip go quickly.

Jennifer and Marc had made a lot of improvements on their home and it was very attractive and well cared for. We had a nice week of sight seeing throughout the New England area and a good visit with Jennifer and Marc. We met his parents and liked them very much……we were made welcome and enjoyed their home.

We stopped at Uncle Tom’s in New Hampshire for about an hour and a half as we were hoping to get home with just two more nights on the road. It was good to see him in his surroundings with his daughter Mary and her husband. The drive through northern New York was so very pretty. The best color of the trip was seen in that area and the foliage was at peak color at that particular time. We were impressed with the clean farms, fields and the color contrasted with the bright green of the pastures.

We dropped George off at St. Louis and he would drive on back to the Kansas City area as we drove south towards home. The trip was filled with good food, wonderful scenery, new landscapes and premier family time. It was good to be home but we certainly enjoyed our trip. The only things missing were two beautiful towers that had once upon a time been part of the skyline in a city that never sleeps……..

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Monday, January 09, 2006


We arrived home in time to get the kitties out of boarding and they were happy to come home. On the following Sunday, Becky had the neighbors in and had a beautiful wedding cake for us. We enjoyed that with some coffee and spirited visiting.

Next came all the red tape that has to be done with a name change and change of address. It took us quite a while but eventually it was all taken care of. In time, Rocky got his big Freightliner moved in the lot next door, along with his trailer and a few of his pets. It was tough to divide them up as he had to do but we were fortunate to find good homes for the ones he couldn’t sell. With all of our happiness there were a few kinks in letting the animals go from the farm. It was not an easy choice……..we both love animals and neither of us wanted to see them go. Sad.

I was getting acquainted with Rocky’s daughter and family and his son who came back home to help Rocky with the animals. It was a 3-hour ride back to the farm and family and that summer we made the trip several times to finish up the loose ends. Rocky began hauling plastic pipe out of Pittsburg, KS. again and I made several trips with him just for the company. It was interesting to me to see how it all worked from loading to unloading.

Becky and I had a shock the end of May. We went out to the Barn to work our booths and were told that it had been sold to another couple. We were just heartsick over it. We were very fond of the original owners and of course, any changes in business are upsetting. On the 28th, I enjoyed my 69th birthday. We dropped by the Barn to take some things out and John, the owner, was ill and asked if I would work for him. Of course I did and Becky and Rocky picked me up at closing time. We came home and fixed steaks……..later the Hockings came over for cake and ice-cream.

We were saddened in June to get a phone call that Jonathan’s fiance, Becky Waggoner died on the 12th at 5:00pm. Jonathan had been with her until the end and was terribly distraught. She had become so thin and weak but even so, the last time we saw her, she was very interested in all that was going on and never once mentioned her illness or gave any indication how gravely ill she was. It was hard to believe her young life was over. As my aunt Mary told me when she was dying of cancer……. “Death is a big part of living and a natural thing. Don’t grieve long because the dead are where there is no more pain or sorrow.” Aunt Mary, the teacher, faced it calmly and gave me no reason to pity her.

Becky and I went to the visitation night for Becky Waggoner one town up the road from where we live. There were about 400-500 young people who filled the place and spilled out over the lawn and into the streets around. Jonathan and Becky had a lot of friends and they came to show their support of both. We stayed a short while and then came home.

A terrible storm came up as we left the funeral home that evening and continued raining into the next morning. By the time we left for the church conducting her service it cleared off and the sun came out in time for the procession to get to the cemetery. It was a sad day for the whole town.

John, Barb, LJ and three extra boys came towards the end of June on their way to basketball camp at Kansas University again. A week later they came back on their way home. We fed and got them all bedded down between Becky’s and us…….fixed a big breakfast the next morning so they could be on their way south. We always enjoyed the carefree fun between LJ and the other boys. It was their first time to meet Rocky.

July was uneventful and August came with heat and dry weather. I agreed to work for the new owners at the Barn part-time. I had enjoyed working there and part-time work is nice for retired purposes. I became the owner of a used computer the last part of August…..Becky saw one at work that was going to be sold and told them I might be interested in it. I wasn’t but Rocky and Becky talked me into it. Rocky had one when he moved from the farm but I had them take it up to Becky’s since I had no desire for one. Little did I know the world awaiting me in the vast reaches of space.

Rocky talked me into turning our spare bedroom into an office so we worked on the changeover and liked the results. Next came serious sessions with computer technology. At first I was dumb as a rock but eventually it began making sense and I was able to write emails which was profoundly rewarding. Once I grasped the convenience and speed of emailing, I was sold. I had no idea that I would ever be blogging as John was so interested in……..but then, you never know until you try something new just how much fun it can be. Hello world….I’m blogging now!!

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Friday, January 06, 2006


As planned, we were up early the next morning to get over to see “Jennifer In The Morning” at one of the theatres. Rocky had seen her bounce around on a couple of TV stations advertising her show and became vastly interested in seeing her. So off we went to see the show.

Now I know old age has a way of changing viewpoints but try as I could, it was hard to swallow all of the sweetness poured out on the stage. She apparently loved her grandpa a lot because she called grandpa’s of every kind up on the stage and carried on until they felt plumb silly. However, I wasn’t there to be a critic but to accompany Rocky to a show of his choice.

Half-way through, he said, “Boy, I’m sure disappointed in this. I thought it was going to be different.” She took 10 minutes to tell us how great this comedian person was and what a great dancer…..yada, yada, yada…….we were basically unimpressed when he catapulted on stage and went into hyperbole. OK….scrap that show and on to the next.

Some of the other shows we wanted to see were sold out so our options were getting smaller all the time. Finally we decided we’d go to the Bobby Vinton Theatre and take in the Irish Dancers. I had been a fan of Michael Flattery, the original leader of the dancers and (here’s where Miss Gullible comes back) I thought HE would be there. Well, it turned out it was the B-team and it just didn’t have the zip and drama (or the sex appeal, ladies) that Michael gave it.

If you’re suspecting that it was getting towards leaving time, you are right. We’d been gone since Monday morning and by Saturday morning, our thoughts turned towards home. As we were packing and making ready to leave, Rocky said, “I sure hate to go back to the real world again. This week has been absolutely perfect.” Finding each other again was so remote we realize there was a lot of help to bring it about. Miracles don’t happen every day….and sometimes not even after 52 years.

And so we are in the ongoing process of making sure our marriage stays as fresh and special as it was this first week in May, 2001. People are about as happy as they make up their minds to be and after that…….it’s a piece of cake.

Homeward bound………..

Until next time,
Essentially Esther

Thursday, January 05, 2006


The next day we decided to walk around the town and take in more of the flavor and so we visited shops, took pictures of the beautiful plantings around many of the homes and enjoyed some of the local restaurants. We planned to leave Eureka Springs the next day and go to Branson so we tried to soak up as much of the atmosphere as we could this last day.

When we tired of walking, we drove to the outer limits and found many places we would like to come back to. The three days we spent in Eureka were memorable. It seemed for once time stood still and we were lost in a place called happiness. It was beyond anything I had ever experienced before. That evening we enjoyed a steak dinner and wine, vowing we would return every year on our anniversary.

The next morning we took our time and drove through the hills which afforded vistas of natural scenery in every direction. The roads were winding and steep and we ended up at Branson around noon and had some lunch, then got tickets to go see Yakov, mid-afternoon. We were both impressed with his show and took turns laughing and crying throughout his performance. He was so proud to be an American and told why in his many stories, all of which were beyond comprehension when you have lived in a free country all your life. I dare say everyone left the theatre with a renewed patriotism and thankfulness for our heritage.

After dinner we tried to see Bobby Vinton’s show but he wasn’t there anymore. The Irish Dancers were at his theatre while he took some time off so we drove around a while and decided to go back to the hotel and see an early show the next day. We had been invited by the management to return after the evening show to have an ice-cream social time in the lobby. Becky loves this story so I can’t leave it out. She has laughed about it so much at our expense that I’m thinking everyone in our end of the State has heard the story.

My love for ice-cream is legendary in the family. Growing up in the 30’s ice-cream was the greatest treat you could have. For a few wonderful moments you could spoon the frozen ambrosia into your mouth and feel it melting as it slid down your throat. It was the manna that this little girl craved. All too soon the bowl would be empty and you would have to wait until the next extravagant moment when dad would buy it again. We just had an ice-box which didn’t keep ice-cream at all. Dad would send my brother to the ice-cream parlor to buy it and he had to ride his bike fast to get home before it melted. Mom would put bowls on the table and dad would dish the ice-cream……..we had a can of Hershey’s Syrup that dad always called “goop”………I didn’t know any better for most of my childhood. “Goop” it was as long as dad lived.

This one night, I called Becky to see if everything was all right at home and I told her about the ice-cream social at the hotel after the shows were out….around 10:00. I of course, told her we were looking forward to it and had made sure we got back in time for it. Now I was a soda jerk in the local drug store my Junior and Senior years of high-school and I was privy to how ice-cream was dished up. I could imagine all sorts of delicacies to go on top…….offerings of delightful taste….my mind conjured up all sorts of fantasies.

Becky was not so impressed. “I don’t know,” she said…….“it probably won’t be much more than an individual cup of ice-cream…I can’t believe they’ll come up with anything like you’re talking about….I hope you aren’t disappointed.” I assured her she was wrong and we hurriedly made our way to the lobby. That was when the air went out of my fantasy. A few people were lined up at a folding table as a couple of teen-agers dished up some Blue Bunny in a Styrofoam cup…….and there by the gallon of ice-cream was………yep…..the can of “goop.”

People disappeared to their rooms as fast as they got their cup of ice-cream……it wasn’t complimentary…..there was a ridiculous charge for what we got….so we took our little cups and disappeared to our room. I would never have told Becky about it but, of course, she quizzed me at our next phone call. With my description of what happened, she went into gales of disrespectful laughter and never hesitates to remind me of the event.

Well, I only have this to say……when you have just married the man of your dreams it doesn’t hurt too much when the ice-cream thing doesn’t work out so good. Of course, I’ve given Becky fodder to tease me about it occasionally but I don’t mind…..it was pretty funny when I stop to think about it. I’ve always been so gullible….but I guess that’s OK too……I always think the best will happen, and it usually does…….

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


Today marks my second anniversary of blogging. Along with all of you, I am amazed at the friendships made and the horizons I’ve traveled through cyber space. Somewhere in the great expanse of space and words we have connected and I am the better for it. Thomas Jefferson once said, “Though an old man I am a young gardener.” I take his thought and echo, “Though in the sunset of my life I am forever young in blogging.” You have added much pleasure to my life. Thanks!

To continue with the story of Esther,

We arrived early for the Passion Play, secured our tickets and then we had time to go to the Potter’s narrative. There was a wooden porch overhang and a man came out of the small door. He was dressed in a robe and sandals and looked amazingly like the pictures of Christ that we are all familiar with. He began talking to the crowd assembled on a small bleacher as he began to make his clay.

He talked slowly and audibly as he worked the clay with his hands and told us how you had to have just the right kind of clay to make a strong vessel. We were lost in his story as he was shaping the object he wanted to make….what he looked for and how it felt in his hands. “The clay didn’t resist or ask to be made into something else,”….. it was supple in his hands to be formed as he worked. Sometimes he didn’t know in the beginning just how he would fashion the piece but as he worked it, his perfect plan formed.

His potter’s wheel turned as he peddled with his foot….and he could run his hands up and down the clay making it into many shapes. If he wasn’t satisfied with it he would remove it from the wheel and pat it into a lump once more…….then begin all over. The end result was the finished product. The substance and the shape were there but it would be very fragile until it was fired to make it strong.

The small crowd was mesmerized as he told his story. He continued working the clay on the wheel and when he set it aside, he showed us the finished product. It had been fired, painted and fired once more. It was now useable and had a purpose. The hands of the potter had made a piece that was complete and beautiful. When he was through talking we sat there for a few minutes, not wanting the moment to pass.

We did walk over to the items on display and I purchased one for us and one for Becky. I still have it and I love the piece. The Passion Play was to begin at 8:30 so we bought a program and took our seats. We noticed that the man playing the part of Christ was our Potter. I could not imagine a better person for the part.

The night was balmy with a hint of a breeze from time to time. Our seats were in a large amphitheater and the semi-circular stage was carved out of the opposite hill. The set was made up of buildings and there were live sheep and goats, camels, horses and such things as doves to depict a natural scene. The story of the Passion of Christ was acted out before our eyes in the most believable way. We had no trouble hearing…….the acoustics were excellent. The grand pageantry of the Roman officials and the sad trial that sent Christ to the cross was overwhelming. In the two hours we sat there….with many small children in attendance with their parents; we didn’t hear a sound or have any disturbing distractions at all.

Rocky and I sat in silence, occasionally looking at the crescent moon that hung over the Christ of the Ozarks……..an enormous figure that stood on one of the highest points so that it is seen from a great distance. The stars twinkled overall to make a most inspirational evening. With the words of the pastor who married us still fresh in our minds and the play we just witnessed, we were full to the brim with emotion. It seemed God had a plan from the beginning to bring us together….but it would not be in our youth. He would have us wait until we had journeyed far…….and then we would understand his gift of being together.

It is in losing your life you find you can live it……..in living your life you find you can give it…..

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Tuesday, January 03, 2006


The day after we were married, we decided to take in the local sights. Eureka Springs, AR. is called the “Little Switzerland of the United States” along with other notable names. One hotel boasted five floors that all had a ground entrance. The reason being, it was built against a steep hill which made their claim possible. I had not been to Eureka Springs before. It was springtime and that much further south everything was in bloom. The heavy scent of flowers was everywhere and they cascaded off balconies, bluffs and walkways. There seemed to be magic in the air.

Well, there certainly was for us. We couldn’t believe, after all these years that we were actually together. It was like walking through a dream that you’ve had so many times it seems real…….but it isn’t. This time, the dream was real. We rode the trolley bus into the main part of town and got off at the Court House and had our Marriage License notarized. After that we decided to ride another that would tour the large hotels and give us the tourists shot at what they had to offer.

The town is built up and down steep hills so the streets are exceptionally narrow and have sharp turns to negotiate. At one of the streets the bus tried to go up, a large 18-wheeler was stopped at a corner.....the driver couldn’t make it through. A beer truck was parked right at the sharp curve so he was boxed in. We couldn’t get by and neither could the cars backed up behind all of us. It was funny because the people in our trolley were giving directions and people came out of the shops to help the situation. The driver in the semi was young and didn’t have a clue where he was or how to get out…..he lost the bypass and happened into the city route. Something a trucker never wants to do in Eureka.

After all of the commotion we managed to by-pass each other and there was a good natured applause when we were able to continue. The largest hotel sits on the high point of the town and is reported to be haunted. There are enough stories around to make true believers and some of those dark and narrow halls would be a reasonable place to expect a ghost. I am always amazed at the luxury these old turn of the century buildings are dressed in. The murals, the elegant furniture, lamps and all the rest are beautiful and shadow a time long since gone.

Once ending the tour we walked around the shops and enjoyed the artistic feel of the place. Of course it is full of craftsmen, artists, and authors who display their work from their front porches. The Victorian homes are painted all sorts of pastel colors that accent the gingerbread design with pretty round window seats to sit and enjoy the view. Architecturally they are so inviting…..they are settled into the hills they stand on like a big ole setting-hen on her nest. They just look so comfortable and majestic….

That evening we planned to go to the Passion Play which has been a main attraction of the area for many years. We decided to eat and then drive out for the tickets towards time for the play. We found the grounds were offering small side attractions that were very impressive. Tomorrow I will tell you about the Potter.

Until then,
Essentially Esther

Monday, January 02, 2006


I used to think old folks were funny who used to tell me…. “the older you get, the faster the time goes.” There are so many “truism’s” that come back to visit me these days. Now that I am the “old folks” I understand a lot more than I used to. If you don’t understand things now, I can assure you…….down the road a ways it will become amazingly clear. We can’t fully understand anything until we’ve experienced it.

The old stories mom and dad used to tell us about how hard it was when they were young as compared to children in my generation didn’t mean a lot. Now that I am looking at grandchildren and great grandchildren I see their life is perceptively different than mine was. I can’t say it is better. It may be easier in some ways but socially there are pressures I never had. There may be a lot more “gadgets” now that kids have access to but I don’t think they improve learning.

From the small slates and chalk we had at our desks, the ink wells and wooden pens we used, to the calculators and computers…….. learning is still done with billions of little electrodes busy in the brain. To those who want to learn there is no limit. To those who skip out and bypass the process……they learn too late, how important it was. I am considered old now but I still get excited when I learn something new. I hope I continue to learn more with each passing day and make it more than a fact….putting it into practice is the “homework.”

Wherever you are in your journey, I hope you travel with great expectations and accomplishments in your new year. The old year is gone and we enter a place where we can erase mistakes of the past….. and wipe them away as surely as I used to wipe the chalk from my small slate. The key has been passed to a newness of time…….let’s see how good we can make those pages look.

Esther’s journey returns tomorrow.
Essentially Esther