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Thursday, September 28, 2006


Today began with a cold front moving in and feeling very much like Fall. There is a breeze rearranging the clouds overhead and making the foliage dance. It feels like football, mums, hot chocolate and raking leaves……all of which are standing ready.

Yesterday we went to the routine appointment for Rocky’s Avastin and learned his CEA count had risen again. In a month it went from 6.6 to 22.5 which is an about turn from where we were headed. It means the cancer is growing. Just where and if we will know more about next week when we have the CT scheduled by Dr. Suzi.

It could be an accumulation of protein or other factors but we are in an aggressive program so they aren’t waiting to find out. Dr. Morgan intends keeping the control in his hands…….not the cancer’s. I have confidence in the three doctors who are treating Rocky and the staff at the Clinic who are very caring and personal with their patients. I might add they are also very kind to me and the others who wait with their family members as they have their chemo.

The best course to follow is “wait and see” what next week brings. I believe in the “one day at a time” theory for it’s impossible to foresee what cancer can and will do. We have done all we know to do and now we wait for the outcome. Paul says it better in Ephesians 6:13.……….“Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” That’s pretty sound advice.

Mandy went back to the Vet today for another ear treatment. He said her ears weren’t nearly as red today as they were yesterday. She wasn’t nearly as nervous either…..I think she may soon learn to like going there for the staff is good to her and she loves the attention. At present she is sleeping nearby, at peace, with no scratching or shaking her head. The allergy pill she gets each evening should soon make a difference for the rest of her body itching.

I am baking bread today which is wonderful therapy. The smell of fresh bread always makes me think of home and gives me warm, fuzzy feelings. I was fortunate to grow up in a home where bread baking was part of the normal routine. I have many fond memories of my mother’s baking and the joy it brought to everyone. It’s one thing that links us with our forbearer’s because bread baking goes back to Bible times and before. If bread is the staff of life then that explains the universal pleasure one feels when sitting down to taste the wholesome goodness just out of the oven.

Mom is never far away on baking day………..

Essentially Esther

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


Since I last wrote life has been interesting. Becky wrote about the bad storm early last Saturday morning …….I was raised in Nebraska, lived in Kansas and Missouri ever since and I have never witnessed a storm like this one. Flashes of lightening first woke us and then the distant rumble of thunder that sounded like a war zone. (I don’t claim to have ever been in a war zone but I’ve seen lots of movies……)

The way the trees were whipping around in circles and the terrible clouds boiling with fury we knew we were in for a major storm. The amazing thing about it is the fact it never quit flashing lightening or thundering. Just a mass of anger approaching and then directly overhead……..and long after it left us we could hear it rumbling on to the folks East of us.

The lightening display in the rolling clouds is still imprinted in my mind……at times it was so sharp and close we could hear the sizzle of it as the thunder blasted in the next second. Hard to write about something so massive and powerful but Nature sure has the clout to hand it out. I guess it’s one of those things you’d have to go through to appreciate the full extent.

Unfortunately the towns around us took the full brunt and had downed trees and power lines to contend with. Some took the straight wind damage and others had an F-1 tornado to thank. I’m thinking we must have skirted by on the fringe of it all.

I’ve been battling allergies or something that likes my bronchial tubes. I’ve had symptoms of hay fever……and Mandy has slipped back to making a potty mess in her carpet lined cage where she sleeps at night. Not a happy sight when I look in her room each morning. She was doing so well until Tuffy died and now she apparently has some intestinal upset. So I’m on morning maintenance duty.

Ever since Tuffy died the other two house cats have been disoriented in one way or another. They’ve taken up all of his individual habits as if to carry on his memory. It’s strange to see them doing what he always did but maybe that’s the way kitties deal with the absence of a buddy. They say animals don’t “think” but either I’m a silly old lady or they do more thinking than science knows.

Napoleon has been coming up on our front porch and looking in the door mornings and evenings as if to ask for his bread. The cool weather brought on by the Perfect Storm has given him a bigger appetite…..last evening he was at the garage before I noticed he was around so I grabbed two slices quickly and called him……he turned and came on the fly……guess he was pretty hungry. Rocky told me he had been on the porch, waiting, but I hadn’t seen him. It takes a neighborhood to raise a peacock.

There is never enough sad, bad or terrible things that go on without something being a real joy. As you know I’m an avid football fan and last night was just wonderful to watch the happiness in the Super Dome as the Saints came marching in and took their fans to an emotional level that rocked the city. It was a win-win time for all and I don’t think the Falcon’s were even bitter about losing on such a historical night.

At times it seems that justice is blind and lady luck has turned her back….prayers seem unanswered and life gets hard. But ever so often, the right guys get the breaks and life looks hopeful once more.

Last night I was one of the biggest Saint’s fans. God bless ‘em.

Until the next time,
Essentially Esther

Thursday, September 21, 2006


When I am sad I go back to poetry I’ve written earlier. I know the sorrow that drove the pen in each line and I respect the honest grief. Life doesn’t always turn out the way we want and sometimes even when it does it doesn‘t bring the happiness we had hoped for. There are days of grief but as surely as they come we know we will get beyond it and life will again be rich and meaningful.

Loss is something we all share……some more than others but we all plumb the depths of emotion when a loved one or a pet is taken from us. We know they are past all pain and fear….uncertainty….and our reach. But we ultimately know a loving Savior has them in His care. That is enough to give us hope again………

Tuffy, this is for you!!


For every dark and fearful hour
God calls on us to bear,
He gives us ways to praise Him
And blessings we can share.

He only takes the sun away
So we can see His stars….
The glory of His heavens
And the beauty that is ours.

He hangs the clouds along the sky
Because we need the rain,
And then He sends a rainbow
Till the sun comes out again.

So look for stars and rainbows
Forget the clouds of gray,
They’re only with us for a while
And soon will roll away.

Our loving Father is sure to give
More faith if we believe….
But even He can send no more
Than we are able to receive.

Believe with all the faith you have
And always look above,
He’ll send you stars and rainbows
And His showers will be love.

Written January 13, 1998
Essentially Esther

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Many of you already know that Tuffy died on Monday. I haven’t been able to write until today……I don’t want it to be all about ‘me’ but rather all about Tuffy. Had I written the first two days it would have been my grief pouring out That isn’t fitting for such a brave little cat.

Tuffy came barging into my life September 17th, 1994. Becky and I were taking our walk with our usual companion, Boots. Boots was a very large sheep dog and gentle as the lambs she was born to protect but her breed is fearless and ferocious if an adversary appears……..she was sort of the neighborhood greeter……made her rounds routinely every day and knew all of our schedules. Many times I would be in the yard working, look up, and Boots would be sitting nearby , enjoying the company. She knew everyone’s walking schedule and accompanied several of us at different times. Boots belonged to a neighbor and has since died also.

We were walking several blocks from home that day and suddenly on a very busy stretch of road a little gray kitten came out of the weeds crying loudly. It made a bee line towards us and the huge size of Boots didn’t keep him from coming. He was on a mission for help and nothing was keeping him back. I said, “Oh oh…..hurry up Becky, there’s a little lost guy. If we don’t hurry up I’ll have to pick him up.” We stepped up the gait but the kitten struggled to keep up, winding in and out of my feet as I walked. Boots was getting very nervous and nuzzled the kitten with her nose, looking up at me like, “Do something…..he’s afraid and lost.”

I seemed to be the person of choice and I stood there a moment thinking of all the reasons I shouldn’t pick him up. I heard a car coming and I knew what would happen if we left him there……I couldn’t walk away without helping him. I picked him up and rubbed noses with him…….”I’m your new mama, kitty. Come on, Becky, I’m going to take him home.”

He earned his name, Tuffy, because he had to literally fight off Morris who was not happy having another male cat in the house. He liked being the boss cat and this intruder was not acceptable. After a few days Tuffy grew tired of the harassment and since he had claws and Morris didn’t…….the fight was soon over. Morris had new respect and the little 6 week old kitten was therefore named Tuffy.

It would be impossible to write of the long and happy relationship we enjoyed so I’ll just say he was a very special cat and definitely one of my favorites. Tuffy was always ‘my’ cat and claimed first in every way. I simply adored him.

We tried for a year to find the reason for his weight loss. We spent a lot of money and many trips to the Vet for symptoms, tests and hopefully answers. He always tested normal through it all. Yet after much weight loss he began throwing up anything he ate and it continued until he was fur over bones and he finally quit eating. I think he was just tired of it all and decided if he didn’t eat, he wouldn’t throw it back up.

The Vet told us some cats are just predisposed to “shut down” when they become a certain age and nothing stops it or explains it. They were always as confused as we were about how to treat him for his malady. Our clinic had an old Vet with a lot of experience……and a young Vet just a couple of years out of school. I figured their combined experience and fresh knowledge would find an answer but they couldn’t. Eventually any medicines they gave him came back up as quick as the food he ate so after that we didn’t hold much hope.

Tuffy lived out his last days at home, listening to the familiar sounds of the household and making his rounds each day as long as he had strength. He died on September 18th, 2006.…..just one day past the anniversary date he came bouncing into my life. I wanted to be with him when he died but it wasn’t to be. While Rocky and I were in Springfield for a medical appointment, Tuffy slipped away.

We dug his grave together as the sun hung low in the western sky and put our little friend next to the other pets we have lost. It was almost sundown when we finished but if the sun goes down where we are we know it will rise in the morning once more. Tuffy is free of earthly bonds and joins our other pets and family in a grand reunion. I believe that. God made all and will provide for all in death. We will celebrate his life and honor him in death.


September 17, 1994
September 18, 2006

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Saturday, September 16, 2006


I have not written for several days for different reasons. We have been in a state of saying goodbye to things that have been tough to let go. Along with that are the regular things that must go on in daily life and sad as it is, the priorities take over and the others must wait. Blogging was one thing I had to put on the back burner.

Wednesday I wrote about Rocky’s numbers going up seven points and although that isn’t a crisis point, still it is a wake-up call. I think we were getting a little too used to seeing the numbers go down and when they spiked in the other direction we have to take it seriously. It isn’t just a game of numbers…..it’s Rocky’s life that is at stake. Reality check, loud and clear. Vigilance alert!

That seemed to begin a series of downers as we had a dinner for our neighbors who pulled their Uhaul out of the driveway around 7:30 this morning. With the past few days of seeing their friends and relatives retrieving things out of the house and yard that wouldn’t be moved…….the reality of them leaving finally hit. And so the grieving period began early as we prepared to say goodbye to people who are more like family and have lived next door to us for over a decade.

Then it was time to attend two parties for my long-time co-worker, Fred, who was like one of my boys. I wrote of the first in my last blog and last night we attended the second. Retirement parties are intended to be happy occasions but watching him choke up over several emotional accolades at the gift table told me volumes about his state of mind. It’s a big step leaving a vocation after 27 years. While we look forward to that as employees it is somewhat like the thrill of the chase. It’s more fun thinking about it in the distant future than meeting it face to face. It is then that you realize you are “at” the future…….there were no plans after that……so what do we do now?

I watched him go through the motions of cutting the umbilical cord……the separation point of the past 27 years…….a history shared together for over 17 years. Memories flooded my mind and others as we watched a friend, family member, co-worker, husband, father, grandfather, say his last words as a Missouri Highway Patrol Driver Examiner. And then it was over……..the evening ended with a lot of hugging and tears and love flowing all around the room.

Today I am on a death watch for Tuffy. At times today I thought he was breathing his last. He lay perfectly still with eyes staring……very shallow breathing. I cry and cry and then when I look up he is looking at me like, “What’s wrong, mom? Why are you crying?” God alone has kept my special cat friend alive the past two weeks. He is a miracle to be breathing this long…….but he is at peace and surrounded with love…..he is not in pain so I continue to allow him to write his own departure. It will be when God and he decide it is time to go.

I always have a melancholy soul in the Fall. I’ve never known why but I know I am not alone. Others feel the same thing. It seems you hear a distant call that you cannot answer…….the time isn’t right somehow. Yet, you know you will hear it one day and you know you will go. I think Tuffy is waiting for that too and will soon say goodbye and follow along. I know that will be a very sad day for me but Tuffy will always be as close as my heart.

Until the next time,
Essentially Esther

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


Well, we knew sooner or later it was bound to happen. The CEA number was up seven points this time. It was like, OK, now we can relax…….the other shoe has finally dropped. Cancer isn’t a fair partner and we have been looking for some reversals somewhere……now it’s happened so it’s time to dig in and get primed for a hard month ahead.

We had run low on most of Rocky’s Integrated Medicine so he was about 3 weeks with partial doses. Also, we’ve been very busy and didn’t get to the juicing every day like we had been so there was another factor…….lastly, he’s been feeding his sweet tooth a little too much so I guess Esther will have to make sure she doesn’t bake anything. Nada. We are neither one very good at the occasional treat.

The sum of it all was we were getting a little too used to the numbers coming down and assumed we were doing well enough we could cheat a little. The problem with that is…..one cheat leads to two……you can’t just cheat once!! Had I made the rules for this I would have allowed a lot of cheating but cancer doesn’t see it my way.

Since Dr. Morgan didn’t look alarmed it didn’t scare us. He sort of looked at us like my teacher once who had to give me a “C” instead of my usual “A”……she didn’t need to tell me my work had slipped a little……I knew. So, back on our heads and on with the show…….we know the plan by now.

Rocky’s brother, Richard, called to tell us he had tickets for a Chief’s game in November. We will meet them in Kansas City and it will also give us a chance to see George. I need to write for our weekend reservations. It is a prize to look forward to as we work towards better numbers next month. Richard and Helen are treating Rocky to a special birthday present......and it will be great to see them again.

Hoping your numbers turn out right for you!! Win the lottery or something…….

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


I was invited to attend a luncheon for the last of the “old timers” I worked with today. It was good to see Fred arrive at that happy place where he will soon be out of uniform and free as a bird. He is young to be retiring……but then when you’re my age every one seems to be young. I guess Fred is 55.……and I worked until I was 65 so he will have time for a second retirement of something else.

There is much joy at a retirement luncheon or dinner and everyone enjoys telling stories of the “good old days”………..the retelling gets bigger as the years roll by. Some of the biggest goof-ups, initially, become treasured tales that are told over and over down the span of time.

As with any vocation, the young people in the organization don’t get the connection with a lot of what goes on because work changes over the years. People change and work changes. They both take on other personalities that is foreign unless you’ve had a big part in it. A traveling crew becomes family because you spend a lot of hours in the vehicle going to and from the Examining Stations in the nine different counties our Troop serves. You learn to read each other and when someone is having a bad day you cut them a lot of slack. Your day will come along and they’ll do the same. You get very good at carrying each others burdens.

We’ve been there for births and deaths, happy occasions and sad occasions…….from graduation to marriage, divorce……whatever. It is a tight knit group of people who care about each other. That’s why when we meet at these retirements it is bitter sweet. The old days are gone……the days we spent together, but it is also time for new beginnings. The time we’ve all planned for and looked forward to. It is the culmination of hard work and dedicated service to the public.

At so…….we welcome the last member of the old crews as they were and hand the torch to Becky. She inherits the position of longest in tenure with Fred’s exit. She will be the next to go and has been part of the old and the new with her tenure. A bridge between two eras.

I was the first female Examiner in our Troop in 1989 and there have been many changes since…………but pride, honor and duty will never change. Those three things are the standard for the Missouri Highway Patrol.

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Monday, September 11, 2006


There are always a few momentous happenings in each person’s life that stick tight, no matter what. I remember my parents harkening back to the “big crash” when America’s banks hit bottom and began the great depression. When I was a little girl there were still some WW1 veterans around and with each passing, some of our living history faded away. It is the same with any war.

I was nine when the Japanese invaded Pearl Harbor and the words of Franklin D. Roosevelt still rings in my ears as clearly as he spoke that day over the radio. I didn’t realize the impact of the situation because it was half a world away but the look on mom and dad’s faces told me it was grave. The lines of young men signing up to fight and defend our nation were amazing…….their youthful bravado called a nation to arms and the iron wheels of production turned out tanks, ships, aircraft and all the other war materials men use to kill each other.

There have been other wars since and bad times……unrest on campuses, the shooting of people trying to make a difference…..personal losses and national losses. Every soldier we lose on foreign soil is valor beyond imagination. If we could be that brave and sacrificial in the safety of home and freedom, what might be accomplished? We saw bravery beyond comprehension on 9/11 as firemen and policemen rushed up the stairs to help victims down from the Twin Towers that morning in September, five years ago.

They were able to save some, not as many as they hoped and were unable to save themselves. They knew that as they rushed up the stairs. They knew they would not be coming down…….and still they went. That says more about honor, duty and country than any history book ever could.

May they rest in peace…….them and the victims they tried to save…….

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Friday, September 08, 2006

TGIF Y'ALL...... 

My cousin Dale asked if I took the day off yesterday. Yes, I did!! I never thought of it before but I learned how from Dale. (Ha!) That is I took the day off to do some serious house cleaning. Also, I’m spending lots of time with Tuffy……he’s had a couple of good days where he kind of perked up but this morning he has gone to the closet to sleep. That always worries me because then he doesn’t eat and apparently doesn’t feel like socializing. I worry too much about him but the language difference between us leaves me having to second guess everything. I let him take the lead and I try to follow. Sometimes with a lump in my throat.

Rocky has two days under his belt with his driving and today is number three. He is faring OK so far…….and with the weekend coming after today he will have time to regroup by Monday. I am having a friend over for our weekly lunch date……the day of the week varies and sometimes we don’t make it for family reasons, doctor visits etc; but normally we make time.

I thought about writing late yesterday afternoon but Becky stopped in and Rocky came for supper…….then…….the FOOTBALL game got my full attention. The first game of the season!! I couldn’t miss that. Sorry! You can see I have commitment difficulties……I knew I should get a blog on but the game lured me away…….which is why I don’t write on weekends. College games on Saturday tell me who will be our next draftee’s to the pro games and of course Sunday and Monday Night Football follow………I also enjoy watching the baseball playoffs and the Series will have my sit-down-and-watch-full-attention. Then I love Tiger Woods and he’s been going crazy on the fairways and greens lately……what a kid!!!

Now I know that sounds irresponsible to waste that much time but I worked until I was 65 and promised myself I would never miss a game when I retired. Of course, I’ve had to but when it’s possible, I’m front row center with cookies and coffee in hand. I hope when you retire you can do the same……..that is…….the thing that you love the most will at last be yours to do.

Well, I’d better be getting to the kitchen to fix that lunch I told you about. Have a great weekend everybody and I hope it’s weather perfect, it goes beyond your expectations and your rich uncle dies and leaves you a fortune.

Well, if that doesn’t happen………just enjoy the weekend!!

Hope to see you on Monday, unless MY rich uncle dies and then I’ll be out shopping!!!

Essentially Esther

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


With most of my news being about Rocky, Tuffy and the weather lately I thought I’d catch you up on Napoleon. He is a bird with an attitude, let me tell you. I fear I’ve spoiled him too much because he has been munching away on all the new growth of our Japanese Maple tree that we put in our new berm last year…..or was it the year before? Time gets by me too fast to remember but I digress……anyway, back to the tree it was a pricey little thing to buy but in one of my grander moments we splurged for the main attraction to the front of our house.

I began noticing beautiful new dark red leaves, though tiny, coming all over the top of it this Spring and when the rains quit I watered faithfully because my focus is on our investment, shall I say. Well, anyway…..a week or so ago I really stopped to give it a good look and I noticed all of the new growth was gone and there were bare little twigs all over the top. I noted the difference and didn’t think too much about it……until…..until…..I was in the living room the other day and I saw something move in the direction of the tree.

As I watched, Napoleon’s head came up out of the center of it like a snake and his long ole neck was stretched to the max, nipping away at the tasty leaves. I was instantly sick. That explains why the tree hasn’t lived up to my expectations. Well, at this time of year I figure we’ll do something about it in the Spring, like maybe a big fence around it. I’ve chased the cats out of it who used to love romping all over the variety of neat branches and now I have Napoleon to deal with. He has less intelligence than the cats for he continues to munch away.

He comes on the run when he sees me come outside with something in my hand…..he comes right to my feet to eat the home made breads I bake and he really loves cookies, muffins and rolls. When I went out to put the outdoor kitties up this evening, there stood Napoleon in the garage eating the dry cat food. I leave the big door up about 18 inches to make it a little cooler in there and I have to chain the small door with a gap only big enough for the kitties. The neighbors up the road have a large Lab who loves to catch the door open so he can devour all the food out of the free flowing feeder we have for the cats. He doesn’t go under the big door but I see that Mr. Napoleon does. He also likes going in there mid-day to roost on top of our van……..and leave his little calling cards.

You see, he is very special and since he didn’t ask to get lost and has had to figure out what works for him and what doesn’t I give him a little wiggle room. The poor creature had some pretty miserable nights last winter with the sleet and freezing rain to contend with so I figure he deserves a break here and there. I am amazed at how he has survived in a world he never imagined.

Along with Napoleon we have some new residents I’d like to get rid of. One afternoon I noticed a huge Armadillo rooting around in my flower bed. Chevy and Callie were sitting a little ways off just looking at him in amazement……..I went out to scare him away and he obliged me. However, that was only the beginning of a long siege on their part to burrow under the house, dig huge pits in my flower garden, make holes everywhere in the lawn…….the list is quite long. Rocky has flooded holes with water, pounded big rocks into the holes….watched the holes to whack anything that came out and is presently considering traps. I have visions of Caddy Shack as he plots his evil ways to destroy our invaders.

Well, life is never dull here at the Rockenbach’s acre…….if anyone has had success with Armadillo’s I would appreciate any suggestions. And I always thought they were just a dead animal upside down on all the highways……they really do exist and are living and breathing.

From where I see it……that’s not a good thing.

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


This will be short but it will bring you up to date on Rocky and Tuffy. Rocky has been growing increasingly restless around home since his cancer is almost down to zero. These past months we have both concentrated on getting him to the point where he could pick his life up again and run with it. Mission accomplished!! Between God and good doctors he is looking and feeling great and has the medical reports to back us up on that. Tomorrow he goes back to work transporting patients to their doctor appointments. He is excited to be back in the groove as a wage-earner and to be driving again.

About Tuffy……he has had a very good day. He was up most of the day, enjoying his sunny window in the kitchen and even ate some tuna and ice-cream. So far, he hasn’t thrown it up and I’m really hoping he can keep it down. It seemed to be the meal of his choice. He was outside a while in the fresh air and sunshine and it did him a world of good…….thank you for the prayers, concern and love shown to Rocky and to Tuffy as well.

Me? I’m a happy camper. When my boys are feeling good and doing better I’m always 100 lbs lighter in the heart. It’s been a long road for Rocky who has surpassed all expectations and although I know Tuffy isn’t out of the woods yet, to see him have one good day out of so many bad ones makes me very happy.

I hope your day has been as hopeful and good as mine has been and I’ll see you back here tomorrow…….

Essentially Esther

Friday, September 01, 2006


I am having my neighbors and Becky over for supper tonight and am in the kitchen cooking up a storm. I hope you all have a wonderful holiday weekend…..a safe one for you and your loved ones.

Rocky and I will be checking in with you after the three-day holiday.

God bless……….

Until then,
Essentially Esther