Essentially Esther Banner

Monday, March 31, 2008


I want a “rain-check” on March. It came in like a lion and is going out like a lion. Whatever happened to “come in like a lion, go out like a lamb?” If you have watched the evening news you can see that all down the Mississippi valley the tributaries are pumping water into homes, businesses and whole towns are inundated.

Weather the past few years has taken great delight in messing up the boundaries of river flow while parts of the country are burning-up or parched from no rain at all. Did I wake up to a new world and miss the I.O.C.? I’m afraid you will tell me “No! This is just the way it is NOW.” If this is the way it is then I’m convinced I was fortunate to be born into a land of Reason rather than what we have become.

I know we can’t do much about the weather but I do think we have contributed to the results we have now with all the “stuff” we have pumped into our rivers, lakes, oceans……well I won’t make the list longer because we know it’s there and it’s a shame we have to be told how to clean it up. It’s always the best policy to avoid trouble rather than add to it.

We went back to Springfield on Thursday as we wanted a really nice lunch to celebrate Becky’s birthday since we didn’t get to follow through on our plans yesterday. I treated her to a delicious steak dinner and then we made the rounds of the area Flea Markets. We have two booths and a wall of shelves which are now full to overflowing and this Saturday we go to Arkansas to open a large showcase.

This is a way for Becky to have fun away from her “day job” and for me to stay in a business I enjoy. Though my body is old, I still think of myself as the great age of thirty-some. I don’t know how to be old but I do know what it is to feel young. Just listen to your brain and quit looking in the mirror…….it helps!! You’ll be old soon enough so go and do as long as you can….just don’t count the birthdays!

Essentially Esther

Thursday, March 27, 2008


Baby girl: Rebecca Jo Strain
Arrived: 1:15 AM
Date: March 27, 1954
Weight: 8 lbs. 2 oz.
Length: 18 inches

Loved at once by her mother and father and big brother, George. That lasted for about a day or two and then brother George decided it wasn’t a good idea to have a little sister. Life had been really good when he was the only kid and he didn’t want to share with a blue-eyed blonde little cry-baby. However, his wish of returning the baby to the hospital never happened.

Becky was a quick learner and results-oriented at an early age. I found her so much different than baby number one I often wondered if they sent the wrong baby home with me. Surely two babies in the same family would resemble a closer proximity than George and Becky. I had a lot to learn about children and I thank all three of mine for the wonderful education they gave me.

Today we celebrated Becky’s birthday a little different. The Vietnamese couple who do our nails drove 25 miles on their lunch hour to bring a pizza and decorated cake to Becky. Tony, the husband, insisted we light a candle…..any candle would do, so after the pizza, I lit a Wood Wicks candle and the four of us stood around the table, holding hands and singing Happy Birthday to Becky. Kim, the wife, speaks very little English and sang with us in her native language.

Life is funny. The older one grows the more it is realized how we affect people around us. The desire to wish Becky a happy birthday was so great in Tony and Kim they made time to make it happen. Years ago I could never imagine singing the birthday song with two Vietnamese people for any of my children.

That’s one of the benefits of life. The kindness and regard shown to others will always come back at some future time……God will decide where and when…and even the “who.” In the interim, we have the pleasure of giving back some of our blessings to others. It’s such a good idea, only God could figure it out.

So here is to life….and surprises….and birthdays…..

Essentially Esther

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


If you wonder where I’ve been for several days….mostly on the road. Becky surprised me with taking last Friday and this week off…..so we’ve been busy going and doing things to finish up dental work, cataract work and lots of shopping. We made each trip count as we combined a lot of things in each day.

We spent a large amount of time shopping for our booths, un-wrapping, pricing and then wrapping again. If you’re a born junk-ee and like to shop it’s a marriage made in heaven. Of course when something is a desirable piece at a price we can’t refuse it goes in our own collections. We have an agreement…..if something comes in then something must go out. It keeps us from looking like a clearing house for Good Will.

Tomorrow is Becky’s birthday so her choice is to spend the day in Springfield. We’ll do lunch, shop, have a cup of cappuccino, shop and then shop!! We’ve been in most of the winter and it’s fun to get out for a bit. However, I’m anxious to get to serious cleaning that I’ve been side-tracked from for far too long. That will come next week or I’ll be cleaning with a shovel.

My left eye is down to one drop three times a day for the last two weeks. My right eye is finished and I can see a wart on a flea at 300 feet. It’s amazing how they do that and I’m very grateful to live in an age where they can. I will have my follow-up April 16th and then my cataract saga is over.

As for the weather……we just had a hail-storm. It covered the ground in minutes and is approximately dime size. Since the van was out I would imagine I have damage to that and maybe the roof to the garage and house. I will let you know later how it comes out.

Have a great day and I’ll be back when I can inbetween Miss Becky’s list of things she wants to do. Happy Wednesday to all…….

Essentially Esther

Thursday, March 20, 2008


There hasn’t been much to write about the past few days. It began raining Monday night and it rained night and day until yesterday morning about 10:00 am. We were not in any danger where we are but in Southern Missouri there are a lot of hills and valleys which became torrents of water seeking a lower level of earth. The Missouri Dept of Transportation closed 200 roads across the State.

When the rain stopped yesterday I made a walk around the yard and was amazed how the natural rain and warmth pushed early bulbs and buds out everywhere. By morning my Flowering Quince should be in full bloom….there are three bushes across one side of our front yard and I enjoy them so much. They were brought to me in a coffee can and I’ve watched them from babies to fully mature bushes. Hard fought, I am so happy they made it.

I didn’t venture out except to care for Napoleon and the cats who depend on me for feed. Napoleon was good and hungry when he showed up after the rain….he is so pretty now…his tail is a foot longer than last year. I have been collecting Japanese vases with peacocks hand-painted on them along with a floral motif. I never cared for Oriental artwork but one day I woke up and decided I did. On our tours through Antique Stores I have stopped to look at them and they are in and of themselves a piece of tremendous beauty. I am finding a wide variety of colors and shapes which makes the collection worthy of it’s praise.

Remembering the promises made when retiring, I did the things I like the most about a rainy day. Reading, sorting through things, watching it rain…..and rocking away in Rocky’s glider……enjoying the fact I was inside and dry…..it is a blessing to be quiet, undisturbed and content. I wonder why we don’t do that more often as it is good medicine.

By now you have figured out that I truly am at a loss for news but I want to thank you for writing to ask if Becky and I were safe. I hope you all have a blessed Easter week-end with those you love and in the spirit of the day………..

Essentially Esther

Monday, March 17, 2008


Good morning and Happy St. Patrick’s Day!! Becky and I are celebrating this evening by having guests for dinner…..and yes!….I am having corned beef and cabbage. Our friends have 4-children who are home schooled so we decided to offer them the opportunity to answer some questions about Ireland. We’ve planned a fun evening and bright green will be the color.

With the dental work and cataract surgery over it will still be a busy week. I am in the process of re-doing but also keeping basic things the way they were when Rocky was with me. We all handle grief differently and this works for me.

I once read that Bobby Kennedy’s wife insisted on a place-setting at the table where he always sat. She also carried on a conversation with him during the meal. Of course I was much younger at the time and very opinionated about many things. Being young and inexperienced to grief and life’s lessons, I thought it sounded crazy.

Now while I don’t set a place at the table I am aware of the empty chair and at times find myself talking out loud instead of “thinking” what I’m feeling. It is a good plan to respect others going through any kind of loss. Death is not the only loss in our lives. It may be a relationship that died, a good job counted on and now being passed over, a divorce unexpected or maybe your health.

In most cases it is beneficial to talk less and listen more. It is my belief that the best solace we can give another is eye-contact and hugs, cry with them and be silent…..whatever works for the one grieving.

Today is a day when the Irish celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Here in America there is a little Irish in all of us so today I celebrate that little bit in me. “Top of tha mornin to ye and have yerself a gud dey.” May you all find the pot of gold before the sun sets and may the wind always be to your back……and all the other stuff the Irish prayer says like……

“And may you be in heaven an hour before the Devil knows you’re dead……Amen!

Essentially Esther

Thursday, March 13, 2008


My cataract surgery and dental work went without a hitch. I am home today after being a patient for a couple of days. While in Spfld Becky and I had lunch at the Steak and Shake Restaurant and always enjoy the ‘50’s kind of atmosphere. They still make a pretty good cheeseburger, fries and malt. High praise coming from me since Rocky thought I was the best Soda Jerk in the land. (Of course he never knew his were made special because I had a crush on him.) Come to find out, he had a crush on me but the rest is history.

Today I’m actually too warm to feel comfortable. The furnace is off and I have some windows open…..please don’t tell me we’ll go from winter into summer time. I like spring too much to pass it over.

Becky and I hit the Flea Markets after the dentist was finished with me and we had lunch. We bought things for our booth(s) yes, plural. We always start out with one and before I know it Becky wants more space. So!! We rented 5-shelves in an aisle with a lot of traffic……we filled them in one trip. Becky then decided we needed a small one to showcase the “Art Deco” period……the good ol’ days of the 50’s and 60’s which were the years she was growing up. I’m like a sheep…….dumb and a good follower. Although when Becky isn’t around I manage to create my own artistry. The kind she grew up with and still enjoys. We actually work very well together as we have the same sense about what we like….what will sell and what won’t.

After watching “Clean Sweep” shows on TV for a while I find I am ready to scoop out some of my collections. After a while even they become boring……so I wait until that invigorating mood hits me so I get it boxed up and out before I change my mind. At present I am even getting rid of some furniture. More room in a small world is good.

I’d better hurry along here as I need to wash, mark and have things ready to go when Becky gets off work…..she will have to mark her things quickly to get to the Barn before the 5:30 pm closing. There is one thing I would like to share. I found a plaque with a verse I absolutely love……

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.” (R.W. Emerson) I hope you like it as much as I do. It’s a good thought to chew on for a while……..

Essentially Esther

Monday, March 10, 2008


After a busy week-end it’s nice to catch up today. Becky and I went on a buying trip for our booth on Saturday and spent the whole day in the Flea Market our friends own in Arkansas. It is large and full of interesting things, nicely displayed. The building itself is only about 6-years old, well lit, and clean. Some places are cold in winter, hot in summer and very poor lighting…..this building is a #10.

Since I have one good eye now, I notice a lot of things I never paid attention to before…..meaning the cataracts grew so slow I kept adapting to the vision I lacked. One never realizes how far out of whack he is until he suddenly receives correction. I go tomorrow morning to have the left eye surgery and I’m very excited to get it done. If it’s as good as my right eye I’ll be in tall clover.

On Wednesday Becky and I will go to Springfield for extensive dental work. I was told it will take about 3 hours to clean, fill a cavity, and remedy the bone loss between all four double molars. I seem to be one of the statistics where there is damage to the jaw-bone from using Fosamax. All I know is half of my head and face will be relieved after they’re through with me.

Like most of the nation we have had tornado alerts, freezing ice and snow….hail, you name it. Thankfully we have always been on the edge and didn’t get the full brunt of any of it. Poor Ohio!! I don’t know when I’ve heard of such snowfall that they have had. Record snowfalls everywhere…..did someone say global warming?

How many of you out there are feeling like you lost an hour’s sleep? I hate the first month of Daylight Savings Time…..my body clock doesn’t “spring ahead” like the way we turn our clocks up a notch. It’s definitely a bummer where I’m concerned.

Since I lost an hour I have to get around here. Much to finish today before my date with medical folks the next couple of days. I hope your teeth are hanging tough so you don’t have jaw problems……I’m sure I’ve talked enough in my life to wear out a normal jawbone but the time being, I can blame it on Fosamax.

The fun part of tomorrow will be breakfast after the surgery……shucks, I may even be able to read the menu without glasses……or is it glasses for the menu and none for the distance? I am still amazed that immediately you have great vision after the 5-minute surgery. Becky is getting good at improving her nurse technique…..I catch her sometimes treating me like she’s the mama and I’m the little girl. It’s OK…..little girls have fun and aren’t expected to know anything…it’s actually a pretty good gig……so off I go until the next time………

Essentially Esther

Thursday, March 06, 2008


Yesterday was IRS day here. I got that out of the way and then took care of some errands. Number one was to go to the feed store for Black Oily Sunflower Seeds. I was in for a shock as I used to buy #100 for near the $30 dollar mark. The last trip was near $40 and yesterday it was a few cents of $50.

With our bad weather lately I feed the birds more often as the feed is critical when the ground is snow-covered. It is beautiful to see 25 to 30 Cardinals at the feeding stations, in the trees and on the ground picking up the seeds dropped from above. Birds in this area have been fed faithfully by my parents first and then at our house since we moved here.

The parent birds bring their young to show them the food and water supply and once the babies get the idea…..mama and daddy have a little quality time together. The poor things wear themselves out caring for the brood before they are capable of making it on their own. I couldn’t tell the times we have watched the little fledglings get their “wings…… it is so worth the feed they eat.

Cardinals and Bluebirds are the favorite of everybody and all the other songbirds are part of the equation. I love them all. I am getting to the age where it is work to care for them but as long as I can carry a bucket of feed and the hose I will provide for them. Becky will assume that chore when I can’t get out.

I had to break down and buy large bird feeders as the last one Rocky made finally cracked and showed mold inside. I took it to the garage and will keep it as long as I am here. Both Bear and Rocky loved birds and our kitchen window is perfect for watching them. One time we had 24 Bluebirds at one of our bird baths but Bear was too sick to see them. It was January and he died in February.

When I married Rocky, he was fascinated with the number of Cardinals. He had not seen that many where he lived though he coaxed them with everything he could think of. I have sweet memories of watching both husbands carry feed to the feeders and fresh water for all. We read in a bird book that water was as important as feed for them to survive. If they can’t find water when it’s either a drought or frozen water they have to travel miles until they find water that‘s drinkable. Since then I have made it essential to keep fresh water in the bird baths. Becky found small heaters to keep the water from freezing and we have used them since. It’s a wonderful aid.

One of my favorite “Rocky” stories concerning birds was shortly after we married. He used to park his truck in a nearby parking lot of a restaurant. No matter if he was gone for the day or longer this Cardinal would immediately fly to his truck upon his return. Rocky began to notice the bird always went to the large side-mirror on the right side of the truck.

He would stare adoringly at himself and put kisses on the mirror. The mirror would become sticky from those ardent kisses and Rocky figured it was mating season and Mr. Cardinal was looking for a mate. This went on without fail until Rocky sold his truck. The pleasure he garnered from that little bird episode was worth the time he spent watching it.

Be it birds or dogs or cats we fed them all and derived pleasure from their personalities. Napoleon is the most unusual bird to come along and this June will be the third year he has roamed our yard, hanging out with the cats or to give me summons that he’s ready to eat. I’ve often mentioned his preference for sweets. He will pass up anything else to feed his sweet-tooth. I’ve often wished I could get a video of me taking the wheel-barrow full of “burn” things to the back corner of our acre.

I take the lead, then Callie, Chevy and Lovey in a single line behind me with Napoleon bringing up the rear. I swear Peacocks are every bit as nosey as cats are. He is always at my elbow when I’m outside to see what I’m going to do. If I stay at one job for a while he will find a nearby windbreak and settle into the flowerbed just like an old hen. He lays with one foot stretched out behind him and the other curled up under him.

The pets Rocky and I have taken in to give them a “home” are now a great source of comfort to me. Without a loving God to watch over me and Rocky’s presence still felt by me I would become desolate. It is the little critters who perform antics for me and continually show their love and need of me that keep me happy.

People are basically in two groups. Folks who love critters and folks who don’t. There is no gray area….it’s all black or white……and those who love God’s creatures somehow bond together to share the passion they have for pets.

When the world turns sour, when you’re lonely, or sick…..when the tide turns against you there is no therapy like a little four-legged ball of fur to hop onto your lap and offer their consolation. They love us whether we deserve it or not. I find that very rewarding……the Cardinals are worth $50 worth of feed and the rest? Well, as you might guess……..they are worth it too……

Essentially Esther

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


Old man winter didn’t wait long to let us know we had another good snow coming. Watching it fall was relaxing and the kitties enjoyed watching from their windows. My children, who used to love going out to play in it, have lost their fascination and dread going out in it for their drive to work. It’s true that some things we once experienced as favorable have now lost their charm.

I am becoming the person I never thought I would be….and I don’t need second helpings anymore because I’m eating a lot of my words. When my grandmother was old and no longer able to care for herself as she should, my mother’s sister Mary stepped up because she and grandma lived in the same house.

On visits I remember my poor aunt trying to coax grandma to eat. She made a pretty little tray with small dishes that were attractive……in season, a fresh flower in a vase and a tiny bit of wine. The doctor thought it would help grandma’s appetite.

Instead of embracing it as my aunt hoped, grandma would make a face and fuss about all the things she didn’t like on the tray. One or maybe two swallows of wine left her staring at the meal with distain. “Mary always has to put all that stuff in my food. She can’t just leave it plain.” Aunt Mary tried everything she could think of but no use. Grandma frowned through the whole meal and finally refused any more. Observing this I thought “I will NEVER be like that!” I will always eat and be grateful for the meal fixed for me.

I felt sorry for aunt Mary because she tried so hard to please grandma. It’s a fact that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. My turn came when my mother’s last years were much the same. She took the role of grandma and I took the role of aunt Mary. I faced the same scowls and had the same results. I finally learned that it does no good to make yourself sick because some family member won’t eat.

I will be 76 soon and I can see “it” happening. I have lost my taste for meat and many other things I once enjoyed. I think part of it is the pills older people end up taking as doctors try to rev up our appetites, exercise and brain focus. We end up with bad breath, minimal effect on our frailties and a loss of social and physical activity. Many like me have found the high priced medication I was taking caused other problems that have to be addressed. My problem is solved because I threw the culprit in the trash and not only won’t finish it….I won’t have the prescription filled again.

Younger people need to know that we are aging….it does not mean we are stupid or another pill will make our lives golden. We have lived through some pretty tough times and we know you can’t escape a lot of what makes us seem “different” now. I am not in a frenzy to be “cool” or look younger. I wouldn’t be caught dead in some of the clothing “they” wear…..never when I had a good body would I expose myself to such degrading apparel. I sat with great sadness as the Victoria Secret models strutted up and down the cat-walk at the finish of a program I was watching. The lack of modesty bandied about as the anorexic looking females displayed themselves for all to see is pathetic. These women are not the ideal for most men who are embarrassed at their exposure.

Ever wonder why your seniors don’t mind the thought of “leaving” this old earth? Mainly because the rules we were taught no longer apply. Because integrity is just something for someone to take advantage of….trust no longer exists with a hand shake or a friendship. Cheating is the new norm…….you’re stupid to achieve by doing the time and research on your education, but God is not asleep or dead or even blind to the ills of each of us.

There will be a pay-off for our attitudes, good or bad. There will be happiness for some who leave this life with relationships, friendships, hard work and charitable living in good shape. Folks who have spent a lifetime helping others, not expecting too much or assuming too much.

Am I down on young people? No, I like young people. Am I judgmental and pessimistic? No, I believe in optimism and encouragement. Do I believe in grabbing all the money I can, even if I have to come by it dishonestly? No! Money is just a bargaining asset. You spend your most valuable commodity for it…..your time. You exchange your time for money which you exchange for “things.” Money should never be the focus of life! Too much leads to sorrow and eventual loss. One just has to look at Hollywood to see what too much money can do to many.

I believe in God, I believe life is good. The choices we make affect so many others it is important to make good decisions. Stay away from what is offensive to you, “do unto others” and always do the right thing. You will live a good and happy life and now that we’ve had this visit, I am resolved to be a good patient for my personal doctor, Miss Becky. She tries so hard and goes out of her way to make sure I’m “on track.”

Here’s hoping the elections go for the way that is best for our country. For whoever is the winner, there is going to be a big job to serve our land and our world.

The snow has stopped and so must I…….

Essentially Esther

Sunday, March 02, 2008


I know you are suffering from a bad cold, John but I wanted to share that perfect moment in 1957 at St. Mary’s hospital …..Saturday at 9:15. You drew your first breath and I looked in your face for the first time.

Our journey together has been long and eventful with you giving all you had to be a “normal kid”……your Dad and I tried to make that happen because we loved you. Your birth will always bring back a flood of memories for me ……a much overstated word is “completeness” but that does say it for me in this case. You made our family complete.

I hope this day of rest will help your cold go away and you have a wonderful year unfolding before you. New ground to travel and footsteps left behind. If we have accomplished one smile in our life we have had at least one smile back…..you always leave people better for being with you and I hope you will always be our family clown. It’s hard to be “down” when we’re laughing with you, not “at” you.

You’re one of the most humble and prideful persons I know. Humble because you never feel the necessity to brag on yourself or take undue credit. Prideful because you have pride in all the right things. You may play a clown but your heart is always where it needs to be.

God bless you in this next year and please, don’t change a thing. We love you just the way you are…………

Always proud to be,

Your mother