Essentially Esther Banner

Monday, June 30, 2008


Monday is a time to get a grip on the week ahead. Today will be the first of the week but the last day of June. Where did these last six months go? Becky and I had a varied two-day weekend, each having it’s own special dividends and interests.

Friday night is always pizza night here and time to kick back and decompress. A Powerlifting meet was being held at the gym in Rocky’s honor the next morning and after a busy day there we planned going to Arkansas on Sunday to fill our booths.

The gym was filled with a lot of local folks he worked-out with on the team but there were a lot of guys who came from other States as well. He had competed with many of them and it was nice to hear their recollections of good times with Rocky. There was a strong sense of presence in the gym as the guys related their fondest memories with the “Rock-Star.”

You’ve heard the phrase of “all for one and one for all”…….that is pretty much what it is at a Powerlifting Meet. Each person is working for his “personal best.” There is actually little competing between lifters….. that’s what makes it so unique. The bravado and yelling to psych the next lifter into his best pull is sincere. It is a victory for the crowd as it is for the guys…..many times the crowd noise helps make the difference for a good lift.

Whether guys who trained before or during Rocky’s time at the gym or young men from high school who were competing in their first Meet there was a good crowd and cheering section. They were very impressive for the age bracket and weight. Rocky had mentioned several of them to me and said they would be the next generation of lifters. He was correct as we watched them lift massive weights on Saturday……..he would have been proud of them.

Rocky Memorial Scholarships were given to two boys who graduated the local high school in May. High achievers in grades and sports throughout their 4-years of high school they were also active in extra curricular events. One had trained with Rocky a time or two before he died and the other had only heard stories of him. Because of the devotion and respect Rocky is remembered by at the gym they were pretty much in awe to receive the scholarships provided in his remembrance.

The day was bitter-sweet as you can imagine, yet there was a lot of joy. Knowing Rocky competed the last year as he fought colon cancer he left a great legacy for others. He was a gentle giant who loved the sport and the guys he left behind. I imagine he is still urging his team to greater success as he lifted those of us who watched his great achievements along the way………….

Essentially Esther

Friday, June 27, 2008


Good morning from the Ozarks. Drinking coffee and watching the morning news was great until the last levee broke at Winfield, MO. The scene of the water finding a breech and rushing through is sad knowing there are farms and a city in it’s path. The efforts of people from all over had worked tirelessly to save the area from flooding to no avail.

I am always proud of the mid-section of America when disaster strikes. I was born and raised with a good work ethic and the admonition that life could hit you in the face at times but you were to get up, get going and get over it! No one gets a free ride.

Once on my own I learned to value lessons gleaned from my parents. Life can be downright unpredictable and mean……..fairness is not a required element for precautions we may make. However, there is always an end to the worst and a life lesson in each episode. I am a purist with a simple philosophy. There are reasons for everything to our own good.

Do not look back. Do not look around at the devastation whatever it may be. Look forward at all times and enjoy the blessings of the day. The Bible is full of stories about ordinary people who lived through perilous times…..I have never been asked to sacrifice my sons, build an ark, jump into a lions den, walk into a firry furnace or kill a giant…..the list is endless and brutal. When we look at the last page of their story, they come out victorious and better off. Not so for the predators, however.

In a perfect world we would never have to face any adverse obstacle……that world is not now….it is the world to come.

Essentially Esther

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Here it is, Tuesday already. Another day, another dollar as my dad used to say. Actually I feel like it is Monday. Becky and I had a busy weekend and yesterday flew by like a gazelle. One of the “eye-openers” after retirement was that retired people don’t have any more time than the working folks. We keep working and battling for time as we did before, just different. A twenty-four hour day is still a twenty-four hour day.

Becky and I were gone most of the weekend and yesterday I had to finally break loose and go for groceries. I shop at WalMart where the little “happy face” gives you big mark-downs. I was in for a shock. I felt like drawing a turned down mouth on his little yellow face.

I knew groceries were going up because we’d been warned about the domino effect of the gas hikes. I just didn’t think they would jump that quick or that big. Now I will be forced to eat everything on my plate!! Produce is record high here……can’t imagine what it is in the heavily populated cities where it is trucked in. On a happy note I bought my first peaches and bing cherries of the season and they were perfectly delicious. I’m looking forward to eating the rest.

As most small towns across our country we have a Farmer’s Market on Wednesday’s where we can buy home-grown fruit and veggies. It is cheaper and fresher. I praise gardeners because I’ve attempted gardening before. It’s hot, hard work and by the time you come in for harvest the weeds get ahead and it’s just an itchy mess. The first garden I put out (as gardeners say) I asked the lady across the street if I could plant a garden in her back yard. She was elderly (probably my age now) and a real sweetheart.. She gave permission and I couldn’t wait to get to the Feed Store to buy my seed.

Now to get the proper impact of this I had a baby in a baby buggy for transportation. These days a one-car family is considered down on their luck. It is typical to see two, even three or four vehicles per house any more. We were without a car at all to pay for our unexpected baby at the time. It’s a good way to get exercise and wave at your friends as they pass by in their cars.

I got the seed and relied on advice from anyone older than myself on garden management. Daily I wheeled “Punky” in the buggy, park him in the shade and hoe the weeds that were growing faster than my food. When he woke up he would cry and I had a bottle ready for him…….then go back to my hoeing.

As you can imagine, I played out before it ever came to fruition and soon realized it was much easier to buy from farmers who knew what they were doing. It was so cheap at the time I would relish those prices now…….but that’s a story for another day.

Essentially Esther

Thursday, June 19, 2008


In 1993 when the 500-year flood came spilling water down the river-ways to the Mississippi, I thought I would never see such devastation in my lifetime again. My grand-daughter, Jennifer, was in college at Canton, Missouri and helped fill sandbags along with other student volunteers.

Here we are, once again seeing the power of nature and man’s inability to do much about it ….but trying to do something. I scanned the crowds filling sand bags and they were every age. The elderly sat on chairs which made it possible for them to help. Even after this, the second time around…..where farmers see their whole life floating away, their dead animals, the crops….all their buildings, their losses would feed the world for years. Still, they do not complain.

Years ago our pastor at the time told a story about farmers who were flooded out. The farmer stayed with his crops and animals as long as he could but eventually gave in to rescue. As he was in the boat looking at water that claimed his present life, he put his hand in his pocket and took out a handful of seeds. He looked at the seeds for a while and then put them back in his pocket. He was already looking forward to the next planting.

People who farm are tough. Nature stands between them and their vision of a good crop at the end of the growing season. Sometimes it is locusts, drought, too much rain, not enough rain, prairie fires, lightening strikes, diseased animals, an economic turn for the worse on Wall Street, sickness, death, injury from the farm equipment, terrible straight winds that lay the crops down, tornados that can suck up everything they have and toss it like a spoiled child at play…….as you know the list is endless and the farmer is at the mercy of all.

The farm is the last bit of Americana that doesn’t answer to unions, politics or any other influence. They decide things on Main Street down at the coffee shop where they discuss the possibilities and probabilities. They know each other, farm after farm, after farm. They respect each other and the brotherhood they exhibit is not in legal papers but a handshake and their good name.

God bless the farmers……they are special people and none of us could feed ourselves as well as the produce and products they bank their lives on. Show me a farmers face……it is chiseled from the wind, cold and heat. They don’t worry about the name of their clothing, they don’t worry about the lines that are embedded in their faces but they do worry America is getting too soft and corrupt.

Most all in America have come from the farming community. Some have gone to the cities, the Service or traveling it’s roadways. There is an old saying that is very true. You can take the boy out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the boy. They need our prayers and our help before Spring planting.

Essentially Esther

Monday, June 16, 2008


The past few days have flown by with good reason. Rocky’s brother Richard and wife, Helen, arrived on Thursday late afternoon. Becky got home from work just before they came and we had a nice time visiting. We spent most of the next morning just gabbing and keeping the coffee pot busy. We knew Becky was going to leave work early so we decided to drive down to the next town and visit a favorite gift shop before she left work. It was our intention to go to a new steak house for an early dinner not far from us. We hoped to escape the large crowds….and we did. It was where Becky took George and me for a steak dinner on my birthday.

The food was excellent but our meat was overcooked……however, all things considered, it was a fine meal and a great improvement over our usual fare. We only have a Sonic or McDonalds and most folks that are past 30 don’t choose to eat in a fast food place. We went early for dinner and managed to escape the large crowd coming in for Friday night steaks.

After an evening of visiting, Richard and Helen left for their motel after we all said our goodbyes. Their motel was already 10 miles or so on their way towards home and they wanted to leave early the next morning. Becky and I drove to Harrison the same morning to fill up a double show-case and single booth. It’s hard work to load our plastic totes as they are heavy and cumbersome. Becky’s back has been bothering her and I have my share of aches and pains too. It’s always so satisfying to set the booths up and finish the job. After closing, Steve, Sherri and their two youngest children suggested we drive over to the Branson Landing and have dinner.

They knew of a restaurant where they serve excellent Mexican food. We got to the parking lot around 6:30 or so and strolled up the walkway to the restaurant. Cement walks on both sides with a wide center walkway of brick were prettily decorated with huge pots of bright flowers. It was such a pleasant atmosphere with families and friends sitting on benches along the way or walking along as we were. Music flowed out of the street lights and there were fountains that danced to the music. Crowds were gathering to watch the water show with the music and huge blasts of fire coming from monstrous pipes that shot high in the air.

We walked along the river’s edge going back to the car and the evening breeze had cooled so it was pleasant. Stars overhead after a fine meal and music playing along the way was an end to a perfect evening. It is such a pretty place to relax and enjoy. It will be a good place to take guests when they come as it is truly a delightful experience along with excellent food.

I hope your weekend was as special as ours, however, we were deeply saddened by the death of Tim Russert. He was always an honored guest in our home anytime he was on TV. The next few weeks would have been gloriously enjoyed by him as one of the most unusual political seasons is about to wind down.

It isn’t so much what we do in life as it is what life does to us. No one walks away from tragedy or great loss without finding a meaning to it all. Tim Russert was a giant of a man with a big heart. His joy spilled out all over him with dancing eyes and the way smiles lit up his face…….and ours.

I shall miss you, Tim, and I shall be better for the time I’ve spent with you……..

Essentially Esther

Thursday, June 12, 2008


I had a visit from my grandson today. Nothing going on…no family dinner…no other family member here. Our visits are usually family gatherings or at least Becky would be here when he came.

I have not had much time with any of my grandchildren. Mostly because they lived elsewhere. In his adult years, Jonathan has lived closer than the other two. I have learned that being present is not a requirement for love. I have pictures, I have a phone and a computer. It has never been easier to visit with loved ones no matter where life takes them.

I have always loved one-on-one visits. When the children were little, I used to take turns giving them a few hours away from our usual routine. They could have me all to themselves for that time. I cherish the private talks we had just the two of us. When they were a little older, their father and I would take the three of them out to eat at a real restaurant where they learned manners when eating in public. It was a pleasant break for me but they would have preferred McDonald’s.

I still like a “special” time with my children and grandchildren. George and John call regularly and we have good long visits. I love hearing their laughter and I know them well enough to envision the look on their faces while they are talking to me. Becky living so close for many years is now the only family in our town.

Rocky’s three children and six grandchildren have been very good about keeping in touch and sharing their family news. Again, the distance doesn’t allow for many visits but we manage.

It was nice to listen to Jonathan’s “take” on things. He’s got his head on pretty straight and loves his family. He is getting over neck surgery and they are expecting a little girl in July. His family means everything to him and he works at parenting.

As a senior I think the younger folks are coming along just fine and are setting standards to be proud of. They all make me very proud and I think their parents have done very well by them……probably because I wasn’t close enough to spoil them all………..

Essentially Esther

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


It takes a while to learn what everyone likes. First it’s your mate, then the children and finally it comes down to the pets. Through observation and diligence it is possible to give everyone what they want.

Of course, I am an empty nested widow, so pets are important to me. I like everything about them except for the three times Mandy wandered down to the highway and I had to fetch her from the Animal Clinic. One time she stopped traffic in both lanes with a circle of motorists trying to coax her off the road. Becky retrieved her that time and was pretty unhappy about the commotion.

It got so bad that a lady who works in the clinic across the road from ours puts her in the car and brings her to me. Actually, she doesn’t “put her”…..Mandy willingly jumps in her car and would with anyone else.

However, that is another story. I intend to write an update on Napoleon. He has been with us now for three full years. At first, he came strolling across Becky’s yard like he’d lived there all his life. He came from the back woods and we assumed he would disappear as he came. But that wasn’t the case.

Becky, Rocky and I tried everyway we could think of to feed him. Rocky bought wild game-bird feed which looked like chicken mash. He had nothing to do with it so the expensive food sat in the garage. Becky thought to offer bread and would break it up in bite sized pieces which he relished……so for months that was his feed along with what he could graze from our yards. In south Missouri that isn’t hard. We have every kind of bug, insect or worm you can think of.

In his first winter Becky noticed he would eat the left-over canned cat food that she put out for her cats. It soon became his habit to appear at feeding time, chase the cats away and eat their food. As time went by he began following me around the yard with the cats in parade. They were a nosey bunch who inspected everything I did outside. They love to be talked to and I can do that because I’m alone all day…..everyone in the neighborhood tolerates him though he can be messy at times on porches or cars.

He has become so tame he will hop up on the front porch, look in the door and call me. He is an excellent trainer. I come to the door and ask what he wants, then disappear to the kitchen to find something to feed him. He has a sweet tooth and loves chocolate. He will eat a can of cat food in one visit and finish with a drink from one of the bird baths.

He can be heard through the night, calling for a female but none ever come. I know he is lonely for his own kind but with his habits none of the neighbors would ever tolerate another peacock. They know he is a rarity and enjoy his visits in the evening when they are home…..but he always comes to my house for his last meal before flying up to his tree of choice.

This morning he dined on some fruit cake I dug out of the freezer. With all the nuts, candied cherries and pineapple…..dates and raisins, he ate with gusto. Please don’t send me any fruit cake jokes, I’ve heard them all. I like the recipe very much that Barbara’s mother gave me years ago. It is actually called Nut Cake as there are two quarts of pecans and other nuts besides all the candied fruit.

Mary was a lovely Southern Belle that I met through Barbara when she married John. Much to our sorrow we lost her too early in life but she left her mark on all of us who loved her.

Her recipes still feed us........and Napoleon as well.....

Essentially Esther

Monday, June 09, 2008


One year ago today my cousin, Dale, was found in his mobile home. It has been a long journey since then and the cause of death will never be known, other than the fact it wasn’t self inflicted. He had been watching one of his many videos as he lay on the couch and it appeared he just went to sleep.

When the East Alton police called my home I left the next day to identify and take charge of his body. When we entered, the TV set was still on video, it had never been turned off. His body was at the morgue and I summarily had him moved to a funeral home for cremation. I was told he had been dead for several days.

Rocky’s brother and his wife met me at St. Louis at the home of Rocky’s sister to help with all of the things that needed immediate attention. I rode with them to Dale’s mobile home which wasn’t too far from St. Louis but on the Illinois side. Their help during those first few days was gratefully appreciated.

Since then I’ve been through a mountain of paperwork that accompanies a tragedy like his. He was never married, never had children and didn’t leave a will. It left many questions that I did my best to find answers for. He was 10 years younger than me but we were always close.

Dale had lifelong friends and he kept up with them on the computer. He was gifted in so many ways and left certificates of excellence from his Navy days to his flight training and eventual license to fly, along with outstanding trophy’s from his work with the Federal Aviation Administration. He was liked by everyone for good reason…..he worked hard and was a team player.

He always loved the water, his first experiences were boating on Carter Lake and the Missouri river. Eventually he joined the Navy and his electronic abilities took over which gave him 30 years with the Federal Aviation Adm. He owned his own plane at one time and a sailboat which he enjoyed until as he said, “it got to be more work than fun.” He was never one to complain or discuss his health…..he was private in that way.

Through his death I have come to know his maternal cousin, Deanna, and enjoy hearing from her…..also a friend of Dale’s who more or less grew up with him. It is nice to hear from him also about all the wacky things boys do growing up.

Dale was loved by all who had the good fortune to know him and I shall always miss his humor and pleasant manor. He was a first-class guy.

Essentially Esther

Thursday, June 05, 2008


I am thinking about writing the last chapter of Essentially Esther. In the beginning it was to record the family history for my children…..but to do it right I had to start with the ones who came before me. It was a huge undertaking as I wasn’t and still am not proficient with the computer. John and Becky had to save me from little mistakes of every kind until, like a trained monkey, I have been writing ever since.

I first wrote of Dad’s family immigrating to America from Denmark. Some of the Andersen’s migrated later and some stayed behind in Denmark. I wanted to write about each grandparent and the uncles to give my children a “story” about a real person rather than a face looking back from a book with a couple of dates under it.

Some have read the journey from beginning to where we are now. A lot of living has been used up in the four and a half years it took me to write about each person. I have lost many loved ones over the years and tried to keep them alive with my thoughts. Thank you for reading and commenting when you felt led.

I feel I am without much to write about now other than those memories. Reading the daily routine of an elderly lady in a small town can’t be that interesting except to my family. I am not sure if there’s anymore writing in me or not but I’m giving myself a little more time to decide.

I won’t leave without saying goodbye……

Essentially Esther

Wednesday, June 04, 2008


For starters, the weather is positively dripping outside from humidity. I do not know anyone who enjoys humidity……..myself included. I have been working in the garage to make order there and also to clean it up. Before I can finish what I’ve started, some things are going to have to go.

This month is going to be busy with doctor’s appointments and other dates we have marked on the “to do” list. I am making good headways in the changes of the house and I’m pleased with the progress so far. Lots to do yet.

My bunion is screaming at me for being on my feet so much and I have to stop until the pain gives up. It seems to like it when I’m sitting down. However, my drive is stuck in “go” and I hate having to stop. With our temps near 90 today and the humidity like it is I am grounded in the house but thank goodness for air-conditioners. I don’t know what I did years ago when we got through the summer without a fan, even.

When I think of picking beans, stemming, canning, washing the jars and the kitchen being like Hell’s Kitchen in July and August I have to applaud myself for that great feat. Pick and stem at night, get the jars washed and sanitized, blanch the beans and pack in jars to go in the pressure cooker. I don’t know a soul who does this anymore and I’m in a small town in the Bible Belt. We have given up so much for convenience……beans never taste as good as those did years ago.

Becky is working the desk at the Houston office today and I have lots to do here. I am so glad the nominees have been decided (if truly they have) so the ranting will subside on the TV. I had Dish Satellite put in a system for me and it has so many stations, free installation, $50 dollars free gas and $10 less a month than my old cable. I couldn’t imagine how bad the cable was until they hooked me up with the satellite……..I had the same reaction coming out of cataract surgery. Amazing how my life has cleared up.

Jonathan is doing OK……it’s slow and go but everyday seems a little better. His wife (Aimee) will deliver their little girl in July so they have a busy time coming up in the worst part of summer. Youth!! All I can think about now…….is my comfort zone. I hate being shut up in the house winter and summer but where we live it’s the only way to survive. When summer comes, I think about all our men and women in Iraq with temps hovering around 122* God bless ‘em.

Well, guess I’ll go spin through my 100 stations and pick something to entertain me while I’m working in the kitchen. Some things never change and some changes never last long enough. Yah, I know…..I would never have built Rome in a day! I would sip Italian wine and throw coins in the Tivoli fountain. I guess I could turn the sprinkler on and run through it like I used to do as a kid. That would be quite a feat here in the neighborhood………

Essentially Esther

Monday, June 02, 2008


After a busy weekend it is good to be home again. Jonathan had some rough times with his neck surgery as with the repair the nerves transferred to his back and shoulders. Since the surgery and dismissal from the hospital he is recuperating at home…..and cannot drive for a month. It’s been a slow grind for him but youth will prevail and he will soon be out of the woods.

Becky and I drove to Harrison Saturday morning and began work on the new booth. This is double work since it’s a double sized booth. The intent is to deal in furniture to expand our business which is something we’ve been wanting to do for some time. Our inventory was taken to Harrison in the large trailer of Steve and Sherri (the owners of both Barns) as there was no way we could transport that much inventory in my little mini-van.

Becky had been at the hospital with Jonathan several days and didn’t get home until Friday night so it was up to me to finish the boxes. Steve and his two boys, Troy and Tommy, loaded the heavy crates and I finished up the packing. It saved a lot of time once we got to Harrison. They had unloaded the trailer and all of the boxes and tubs were in the empty booth.

The rest of the day we went to work on emptying the tubs and Becky made the booth attractive with swags of cloth to accent the items placed on them. It’s a work of art and she does a beautiful job. Consequently it causes aches and pain for both of us but in different ways. We were laughing at the end of the day as we commiserated over our aches.

For me, I had an ingrown toenail, two corns, a bunion…..all on the big toe I broke years ago that likes to keep complaining to me about it. Becky had surgery for a bunion some years ago and it still telegraphs from the scar. Not to mention our aching backs, shoulder stress and pressure on our feet and legs after 8-straight hours of being up and down on the ladder etc;

Crazy, huh. It would be worse if we didn’t like doing it. Some people just have a weird way of having fun, I guess. Sunday we worked all day and left for home sometime after 5:00 pm. My first priority on our return drive was to stop at a great ice-cream shop for a chocolate milkshake. I ordered two LARGE chocolate shakes at the drive-up window and gave the wheel to Becky. We both worked on the shakes for several miles……..my idea of a shake!!!

Today is great because I’m home and can begin some of the projects I left to come back to. All the kitties were excited to have me home…..and Napoleon as well. Mandy was boarding at the Vet’s clinic and will come home tomorrow after her grooming. So here is to June and all her glory…it’s great to be home again.

Essentially Esther