Friday, October 23, 2015

In the Food Stamps Cooking Clubhouse!

No.  The Clubhouse is NOT in Utah and NO, I am NOT in prison!

The Clubhouse was buzzing with activity this week!  It was a party atmosphere, really, and it filled my bucket as nothing else could.  Nikki is raising 3 charming children, a garden, several businesses; in a very real sense she is setting the world on fire!  She is concerned about the environment,  how food is sourced - and the ethical standards of that process. She is interested in everything on the planet, the planet itself and she is extremely well read.  She is far better informed than most people. Besides that, she's cuter than cute.

SIDEBAR:  Nikki has 4 youngsters if you count Danny, her husband, who is a professor at Peru State College.  JUST KIDDING!  END SIDEBAR.

Nikki collected Mother Connie's favorite spaghetti sauce recipe:

I got a jump start on our meal by sauteing the 'trinity'-onions, carrots, celery:

When Nikki arrived, she brought eggplant, potatoes, more carrots, and tomatoes.  We added this and that until we had a full soup pot of goodness.  Among the items added were quinoa, vegetable broth, tomato paste, a touch of sugar to brighten the tomatoes, and a whole clove of garlic, peeled. 

Nikki also brought a home made loaf of sourdough bread  -*YUM YUM YUMMY - and a shaker of kale flakes she had made with her dehydrator.  We had fresh basil available for topping the soup at serving time. We were on nutrition/flavor HIGH ALERT!

Another family was invited to share the food and the fun.  Their 10 year old, Ava, brought soda bread that she had made ALL BY HERSELF!  That was snarfed up before the camera could capture it.  IT WAS SO DELISH.

Jack, Eli, Ava and Lucy had the whole kitchen for their giggling pleasure!

While the soup simmered and we tore the greens for the salad (which we forgot to photograph!  ARGH) we chatted about how we could use cabbage in various ways and how forgiving it is.  Mother Connie showed Nikki how to use celery to make broth and how to wrap celery in a kitchen towel and foil to keep it fresh longer.

The salad was a duke's mix of bitter greens like spinach, chard and kale with sweet, tender butter lettuce, cranberries, slivered almonds, and chopped broccoli.  A variety of dressings were available; the meal was presented buffet style.

We hated to have to eat dessert.  *That is a blatant lie.  There were TWO kinds of brownies.  We could not decide between them so we had a piece of each flavor.  

The tabletop conversation was scintillating!  We discussed every topic known to mankind, including food and cookery!  The children enjoyed their play and I was sorry to see the evening come to a close.  It was important to get the children into bed in a timely fashion; the next day was a school/work day.  Y A W N...

It is so wonderful to know and love people who seem to be on the same page.  It is inspirational to hang out with well educated, well intended, well spoken folks who express themselves eloquently about topics we all care about.  And it's way fun to share a meal with people we admire.

It is great fun to cook in the Clubhouse and it is such a treat to share all that fun!

Thank you, Nikki and Danny, Annie, Lucy, and Jack!  And thank you, Wendi and Dustin, Ava and Eli.  DO HURRY BACK!  You make our hearts sing.  And dance!

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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Johnson County Women of Distinction

Wendi Buggi * Velda Koehler * Sally Hutt

Building on our success from 2014 we gathered to plan for Year Two.  We shuttled all over Johnson County, Nebraska to distribute Nomination Forms to people in every town...we got a bit of coverage from the Tecumseh Chieftain as well as the Beatrice Daily Sun!  Of course we posted updates on Facebook too!

Because our SENCA office location was so small for what we hoped would be a growing crowd, we opted to rent the historic Community Building on the village square.  Not having air conditioning had us hoping for cool weather.  At least there were fans to keep the air moving and the amplification system was in place.

We chose the theme: "Johnson County Women are the Keys to the Past, Present and Future" and the decorated tables carried that out with canning jars filled with red and blue marbles (SENCA's signature colors) holding tiny keys hanging from branches.  The table cloths were red or blue and scattered across all of them were keys, watches, clocks--every type of timepiece.

As the guests arrived they signed our guest book and a young volunteer escorted them to their seats.  They were further welcomed by platters of bars and cookies as well as pitchers of icy water on each table.

The radio format was followed again but this time it was broadcast from 'The Poverty Network, 57 on the FM radio dial'...57 came from the Johnson County license plate.  We featured commercials again, this time with a little girl, Ava Buggi, helped by her mommy, who carried the SENCA banner as well as posters with ads for volunteers.  They acted out each commercial for Cooking Classes, Meals on Wheels and other SENCA programs.  The audience seemed to enjoy seeing Ava and taking in her personality, especially when she interrupted me and whispered in my ear that it was time for the Outreach Worker, Terri Brethouwer, to take her place at the podium.

Those who sit on the Advisory Board were introduced: Rev Jason Wolter, Rev Eric Biehl, Ann Curry, Judy Coe, Kevin VanLanningham, Cortney Brown  and yours truly. *The board members wore blue stoles; the 2014 winners were  given red stoles to wear.  We also were thrilled to welcome the Executive Director for SENCA, Vicky McNealy and her sidekick, Pam Armknecht, who oversees the Community Outreach Workers.

Our brilliant and sparkly Keynote Speaker was Anita Lewandowski Brown, former Executive Director of the Grand Island YWCA .  Anita was accompanied by her husband, Ralph P. Brown.  Anita spoke about her experience with the Grand Island event and she sprinkled stories throughout her talk.  She brought a visual that was displayed below the stage reading, "Believe There Is Good In the World"  [sic: Be The Good In the World.]  Ralph drew from his Mohawk Indian upbringing by  drumming and singing the Honor Song for Women.  It was a very moving moment in the event.

We had another speaker who was a 2014 Candidate in Grand Island:  Debra Rakosky gave a lovely talk, sharing what it had meant to her to be a part of the annual Grand Island event.  Debra was nominated for Woman of Courage and was given a glass starfish to remember the occasion and her nomination.

Gifts for our speakers and a special helper were original art pieces created  on canvasses by Rev Eric Biehl.

Again there were three categories and the nominations came from every town and village in Johnson County!  Each candidate was introduced, as was the woman or women who made the nomination.  A tidbit  about each one was shared so people who may not know these women would understand who they are and why they were nominated.

Each candidate's entry was judged by people from out of Johnson County so the judging would be fair and unbiased.  Some of the nominations from 2014 were brought forth by the board once again because of their merit.

The winners of each category, pictured above, are as follows:
Woman of Courage  -  Sally Hutt
Young Woman of Achievement  -  Wendi Buggi
Johnson County Woman of Distinction  -  Velda Koehler

Following our program, the attendees were invited to mingle and meet n greet the winners and their families.  Dustin Buggi favored us with background music.

SO MANY PEOPLE helped to make this event successful.  If we mention them all it will fill up the Ethernet!  Here are a few who made it all happen:  Jody Schultz, Dustin, Wendi and Ava Buggi, Joy Robison, Lois McClintock, Norman Baum.  SENCA salutes each of you.

Next up:  The Johnson County Fair Parade!  Our Woman from two years have been invited to ride on an entry with signs and banners touting the women and their sponsoring agency, SENCA
HI! HO!  COME TO THE FAIR!  **Let's hope those pictures will be good enough to share here!

We are up to our elbows in plans for 2016!  Look for more categories, more entertainment more  entries, more honoring our peers and way more fun!  After all, Johnson County Women are the Keys to the Past, Present and Future! 

Connie Baum
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Saturday, August 15, 2015

Women of Distinction: The Maiden Event of 2014

Devon Roesner, Dr. Joan Christen, Kesha Beethe

Early  in 2014 I received a notice that women in Grand Island, Nebraska were being honored at at event hosted by their local YWCA.  I knew I wanted to nominate someone so I made a nomination and in return I got a letter inviting me to join my candidate for the grand dinner event.

We both attended; she brought her mother in law, too.  It was quite the gala occasion where women of every age had been nominated by their peers, their families, their friends.  There were gifts for each nominee and awards for the winners of each category:  Woman of Courage, Young Woman of Achievement and Woman of Distinction.  The photos of the Women of Distinction line the walls of the YWCA's building.

As I saw how each candidate's heart was touched I thought, "We need to do this in Johnson County Nebraska!"

It is my good fortune to sit on the Johnson County Advisory Board for SENCA-- South East Community Action in Tecumseh.  I met with Terri Brethouwer, our outreach worker, and her immediate response was to look at the calender for 2014.  She noted that Friendship Day falls on the first Sunday of August.  She looked up from the calendar and said, "Let's do it!"

So we DID.  We had no clue what we would do or how to get it done so we begged the YWCA director, Anita Lewandowski Brown for information.  She was gracious enough to send us all their forms and a page full of ideas they had tried successfully.

Some 60 curious people crammed into the SENCA building for our maiden event on Friendship Day, August 1, 2014.  We had a handful of candidates, their nominators, some family members,  We even had Vicky McNealy,  Executive Director of SENCA from the home office at Humboldt, Ne.  She was accompanied by Pam Armknecht, who is the Community Services Director.

Teen aged girls dressed in their prom gowns served bars and fruit that had been prepared by the woman who prepares the Senior meals at the Center, Loretta Pope.  Jacob Schultz favored us with some musical solos.

A radio show format was adopted.  'The Poverty Network' carried the show on their waves;  the call letters were SENCA , 1700 on the radio dial.  'Commercials' were sprinkled throughout to educate people about SENCA and all the programs they offer. The guests heard, "SENCA is helping people, changing lives" until they remembered and believed it!

It was determined that SENCA people were ineligible for awards but we bent that rule when we heard about a way we could make a special award for one of our Board members.  Ann Curry's family had a tragedy and from that sadness came a wonderful foundation that helps with children who have been traumatized by accidents or illness.  Because of  the Aiden's Animals foundation we gave Ann a stuffed elephant and the mother of the child they lost from an accident talked about the foundation and the work they do.

Every candidate got a miniature, hand carved onyx elephant.  We will never forget the event! The candidates will always remember, too!

2014's Johnson County winners were Devon Roesner, Woman of Courage; Kesha Beethe, Young Woman of Achievement and Dr. Joan Christen was Woman of Distinction.  Each woman received an award with their name and the date engraved on it.

We had so much fun that we determined we would build on that success.  We'll tell you all about what transpired in 2015 in the very next post!

Connie Baum
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Friday, June 26, 2015

The Sequel. And Braggin' Rights

This was The Normanator's first  "outing" following his 3 way heart bypass procedure!
The man you see  here, flanked by a couple of trained and highly skilled professionals holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture from the University of Nebraska.  He has taught school; he managed farms and worked as a surveyor.  He did appraisal work, he served admirably in the United States Army.  He painted houses  to keep body and soul together and raised three of the finest young men you'll ever meet.
Together, he and I built something of an "empire" when we represented a company who dealt in health products.  We always declared we really got an education while we worked with them.  We learned a great many things about water, air, food, sleep and people! We even learned about our selves!

I mention all this because The Normanator's excursion through the Nebraska Heart Institute was a real top notch education and it came even though we did not expect to learn SO MUCH in such a short time.

There is always much to be learned, no doubt.  But I was in for a real awakening  when I was "just an innocent bystander" to the proceedings.

The very first thing I learned was that an epidural would not only be appropriate for laboring mommies; it would be a wonderful adjunct to The Normanator's recovery.  It kept him as comfortable as possible in order for him to cough, following the surgical procedure!  That's an important component to recovery.  No one wants to suffer with pneumonia while recuperating;  it's critical to cough!

I was busily tending to Norm's needs-reaching tissues, cleaning his glasses and just acting the role of the wife when the Registered Nurse and Pod Leader, Nicolette, sashayed into the room with her usual cheerful demeanor.  She made some small talk and then turned to me: "I'm sending you to Cardiac Camp!" she announced with authority.

Hm...the little girl in me immediately (and incorrectly) presumed I was being disciplined. But I dutiful appeared for Cardiac Camp at the appointed time and place, pen in hand for taking notes.
Besides yours truly, there was a motley assortment of patients in varying stages of recovery lining the room's perimeter.   Family members of folks who were having surgery at that time sat in on the Camp and there was one woman who had  heart surgery long ago but was there on that occasion to help a relative. 

Registered Nurse and Pod Leader, Kevin Mendenhall, was the instructor that day.  He introduced himself, gave us the long list of his impressive credentials and put us all at ease with his sense of humor and easy manner.  He gave us the lowdown about what to expect from the patient and from ourselves through the process of hospitalization and recovery.

We were given a binder, a cook book and sheets of information about diet, exercise, symptoms -- where to call and when to call---it was all very reassuring and there would be no reason to feel abandoned after we got home and all those professionals were not at the end of a call button.  I was grateful to be a part of this and it was good to share what I had assimilated with The Normanator.

One at a time, a legion of Respiratory Therapists appeared every 4 hours during every 24, day and night to administer breathing treatments.  They were all educators of the first order, sharing tidbits of what worked well with using the nebulizer for medicines to keep the lungs open.  They talked about why they became the professionals they were.  They shared stories about their families which helped us to really understand lung function and treating the body well to encourage squeezing quality right out of the air we breathe!  They encouraged both of us.  They even gave Norm a PICKLE:

This is an adorable gadget.  When he blows into it, the silly thing vibrates and makes a fluttering sound, much like a child talking to a running room fan!  Those vibrations match the vibrational rate of his lungs and help to loosen mucus.  This is very helpful!

The team assured us that Cardiac Rehab was in the works and it would begin in 6 weeks post surgery.  They got that a little wrong...he was two weeks ahead of schedule when he reported to the local hospital's Cardiac Rehab specialist, Dee Othmer, RN.  She is like one of our family already!

So know you have the overview of how the whole process took place.  We have taken out braggin' rights on the entire Nebraska Heart  Institute and all the professionals there.  They deserve no less.

Connie Baum

PS/When I tell you that EVERYONE was helpful I want to share this example:  Hospital rooms are notoriously chilly by nature.  One chilly morning a gentle man came to mop the floor.  He started on the wall farthest from the door and cleaned his way to the opening to the room.  When he finished, he leaned on the handle of the mop and asked, "Is there anything I can do for you?"  I teasingly suggested he could warm the room.  He smiled, nodded and disappeared.  Seconds later he returned, carrying a warmed blanket for me!  *I ask you, "Is it any wonder we have claimed braggin' rights?"

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Normanator is Mending

This man just had open heart surgery to repair 3 blocked arteries...he is one champion guy I love!

A funny thing happened...we were 150 miles away from home and The Normanator was helping someone load a mattress.  It did not fit, no matter how loudly the men groaned or how hard they pushed.  It was a chilly, dampish night and we were tired.  He returned from this project into the house and sank down on the sofa.  He looked like what my grandmother would call "peaked".  His face looked gray and drawn.  We chalked it up to his crummy lung function and trundled off to bed.

The next day, at home, The Normanator answered the phone.  I heard  him laughingly tell the caller that there must be some mistake.  He was 150 miles away...suddenly it dawned on us that the Boston Scientific monitor that sits by his side of the bed had alerted the Nebraska Heart Hospital that his heart experienced an "episode" and this was real.  Thank goodness for monitors that track their owners like cell phones and GPS units!

A stress test was scheduled.  Of course The Normanator was fearful that he'd be required to peddle a bike or trek on a treadmill.  While we fretted, the Cardio dude arrived.  No, he probably would not do well in a traditional stress test; he likely would not need a chemical test, either.

Nothing would DO but a heart catheterization.  So one was scheduled and all the while Norm kept INSISTING "I am fine.  I feel fine, really I do."  

When they returned Norm to his room after the procedure we were told that there were blockages.  Lots of them in 3 arteries, and maybe they should check the carotid arteries in his neck, which they promptly did.  The Doppler indicated blockages there, as well.

Well.  So that's what we were looking at.  Maybe his lungs were not his only enemy.  We were given an appointment to return and speak with the surgeon.  As we left I wondered to myself, " Three blockages?  And we are leaving here to fend for ourselves?  OMY.

 What blew us both away was how young the cardio people are.  The first one looked to be about 12 and the surgeon looked as if he may actually have reached his teen years.  Although they look like youngsters, these specialists have the skills, wisdom, education and demeanor of very old souls indeed.

We met with the surgeon who gently explained that The Normanator's lungs were fragile and compromised.  This was not news; he has been working with a pulmonary specialist for some time.  The surgeon went on to explain that the lungs should resemble Nerf balls--they should be soft and spongy.  Norm's lungs?  They are like bubble wrap.

He went on to explain that whenever people visit a barber shop they expect to get their hair cut.  We had the right to expect that The Normanator could face surgery and he was very sorry to say that it was just not going to happen.  I was as  sorry for the surgeon as I was for Norm over this decision.  It left us wondering what could be next...stroke?  heart attack?  Neither was palatable.

After a few days we were summoned back to the Heart Institute to discuss our options.  It seemed to me, as the observer and not the patient, that these young men were positively giddy with delight to see Norm and discuss what they had in mind for him.  They had taken the case to their "Cath Board" and had come up with a 'plan of attack' to get him feeling as well as he could as quickly as he could!  They explained that they had a solid strategy so he could get those arteries repaired and go on to live a life that had quality!

It was May 14,  2015 when the surgical team took care of all The Normanator's heart issues.  The anesthesiologist came to explain they would place an epidural in his upper back; he had IV tubes, a port for medicines to enter, telemetry, and a bank of monitors.  This whole collection of stuff and people accompanied him to the surgical suite after his son and I, along with our minister, bid him goodbye.

The surgeon had told me this procedure would be fairly long and I should expect him to have a tracheotomy; he may be on a ventilator and on and on.  I steeled myself, determined to deal with whatever came our way.  Norm and I are a team and we have vowed many times we should 'go with  the flow'.  This was no different.

Several hours later The Normanator returned to his hospital room, which was now his Recovery Room.  I was shuttled away to a waiting room, allowed only brief visits.  He looked peaceful to me.  The pain medicine was doing its job and the epidural made it possible for him to cough, preventing pneumonia.  His heart pillow, which served as  a sort of cast for his broken sternum, was well used.

Another blog post will be required to regale you with all our fabulous learning experiences.

Today's calendar reads June 25, 2015.  Cardiac Rehab is now a three-times-a-week appointment.  From the wife's perspective, he is stronger and not as tired as before the surgery.  If you ask HIM, he may give you different information.  He is driving again and has even gone to his beloved 40 acre tract of land.  As he left to go there he told me, "I'm going out to cut a thistle."

Yes, Norm.  ONE thistle.  Uh huh.   

Oh, how I love this man.

Connie Baum


Monday, March 23, 2015

Husbands Underfoot?

Does the Normanator appear to you to be underfoot?
*I should think NOT!

  When Del left a lifetime of work on a line in a manufacturing plant, Carol was livid.  "What," she railed, "Am I supposed to DO with him NOW?"   I laughed and made the effort to cheer her up.  I offered her another cup of coffee.

  Her coffee got cold as she went on, whinging and whining about how Del was going to "ruin my life" and how "I'll never have another moment's peace."

  Soon the "happy" couple were leaving one household for another.  They could spend Del's newly minted retirement in an expansive brick home on a corner lot where Del could groom the sprawling lawn.  Carol had her doubts...

  She phoned one day to report that Del was driving her crazy.  "He is unpacking all the moving boxes and has rearranged the living room!" she complained.  I reminded her that lots of people HIRE folks to do that for them and maybe she could look at being grateful.  She didn't hear me; she had begun to cry.  She wailed into the phone:  "The worst of this house is that it is a ONE BUTT kitchen!  How will we manage when he takes over the kitchen and all the cooking?"  While she blew her nose I timidly suggested that she could go into the living room and enjoy the new layout.

  What followed next made me wish I hadn't answered the phone that morning.  "You don't understand, Connie!" she hollered.  "Just wait til you and Norm retire.  You'll see..."  Fortunately, her door bell rang and that conversation ended.

  Carol was still fussing and fuming about how Del was underfoot when we moved 150 miles from them.  Her emails were filled with complaints about how he cooked this and he washed that and the yard was too big and the kitchen was too small.

  What ever happened to living happily ever after? 

  I've heard other women complain that their household routine was upset when the man of the house retired, too.  I never did understand that because when my dad retired my mom and dad hung out together and they had time to play cards, grocery shop, go fishing on a whim, or just pack a picnic and go for a drive to enjoy one another's company.  They even got bicycles and peddled all over their little home town.  It seemed to me they were sharing their lives and enjoying one another immensely.  

 Well, that is-they enjoyed one another until The Big Blow Up when Mom moved out.  But that had nothing to do, so I was told, with Dad's retirement.

  I've heard tales of husbands who took to drinking too much because they did not have to answer to an employer any more.   Wives have confessed to me that they felt they no longer had privacy because the newly retired husband grabbed the mail.  Stories of husbands 'hiding' in the garage so as not to have to help with household chores or listen to long phone calls  have circulated.  All these had the recurring theme of husbands being underfoot.
  What a strange concept this is to me.  The Normanator and I thoroughly enjoy hanging out in our retirement.  We have spent our time feeling grateful for having good health and the opportunity to design relaxed but interesting days together.  We both like to read so we spend quiet time in that pursuit.  We are die hard Nebraska Cornhusker sports fans so we noisily watch our favorite teams with snack foods for meals!  I cook; he dries the dishes.  We joke.  We tease.  We entertain.  We join our peers at table when the Breakfast Bunch meets on Tuesday mornings. We deliver Meals on Wheels and attend church regularly.  We drink pots and pots of coffee.  He bakes.  I clean.  When he goes to the "40" to work on wood I take care of the house and laundry.  We don't think our kitchen is too small!  We are full of life and the joy of living it.  We are eternally grateful that we have this life.

  Husbands underfoot?  Not in this house.  Not ever.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A British Invasion

 Ava, age 8, made special signs to welcome our friend, Kay, from the UK.  The Normanator got into the act,  as well! The signs read "You bet your BUM we're happy to see you"...Yes, Ma'am!" and "Welcome Home, Kay!"

We are "making nice" for our English friend to arrive on this side of the pond!  She'll stay in our guest room for about  three weeks!

We never meant to strike up a friendship with someone so far away...

We crawled out of bed at 1:30 AM to deliver the 150 papers on our route.  We had finished our route by 6 AM, thankfully, and could slip between the warm covers to catch a nap before beginning Act II of a chilly March day.

I had just settled in when the phone rang.  I raced to answer it and what I heard from the other end of the line was loud wailing in a strong British accent:  "I CAHN'T GET MAH-RRIED!  "I CAHN'T GET MAH-RRIED!

The awareness of what was happening washed over me.  Anita, a good friend of ours, was visiting at the prison and met a charming, gregarious young woman from England.  They exchanged stories and contact information.  Anita suggested that I "friend" Kay on Facebook, which I did.  I suggested that the 3 of us should have coffee when she came stateside and gave her our phone number.  I did not know  the details when all that wailing and crying came over the phone about why her wedding to Gary Frazier could not happen but I knew we HAD to help somehow.

On that fateful spring day this British traveler had landed at the airport in Lincoln, Nebraska.  The cab ride some 40+ miles to Beatrice, Nebraska, where arrangements had been made for her motel, had tapped  out her resources!  Because of the cost of the cab fare from Lincoln to Beatrice, she had no money, no way to pay for her stay and she was 35 miles away from the man she was to marry at the Tecumseh State Correctional Facility.  She was desperate and terribly afraid.

I said to her, "Kay, don't worry about a thing.  Norm and I will be there in half an hour!"

We pulled on clothes as quickly as we could.  We had to hurry because we had to make the 35 mile trip, collect our damsel in distress and return home in time to drive the neighbor girls to school!

When we pulled into the motel we could see Kay in the doorway.  She was so cute in her pink suit.  She looked almost as if she were pouting.  I opened the front door and invited her to put her luggage into the trunk of our car.  She looked at us as if she may cry and said, "NO ONE in England would DO this."  She probably worried that she had been connected to a couple who specialized in serial murders.  She may have thought we offered to help her so we could rob her or some other heinous thing.  In any case, she was at our mercy and fastened her seat belt for what she must surely have been concerned could be a roller coaster ride!

She chattered in her delightful English accent all the way to Tecumseh.  Norm could not understand one word but I listen faster than Norm and I was getting the  gist of the story.  We told her that the marriage between Kay Pilkington and Gary Frazier WOULD take place, because we would do whatever it took to get her to the "church" (aka prison) on time!

We showed her to our guest room, fixed her some breakfast and brewed fresh coffee.   Coffee for Kay is like oxygen to the rest of us.  She refers to coffee as "a brew" and we have learned to lay in a good supply of coffee  and cream for her visits!

Kay personified a beautiful bride.  She was positively fetching in the lovely simple dress she chose.  

On March 17, 2012 Kay Pilkington and Gary Frazier were pronounced man and wife by a clergy arranged .We were not allowed to attend these nuptials because we do not have visiting privileges for Gary and we are not on his telephone list.

As I recall, she stayed for a week.  We made sure Mrs. Frazier had meals and transportation and anything else she may have needed.  She did come to the conclusion that we intended her no harm and in fact we might even be considered to be decent human beings!

That same fall,  Kay returned, knowing that she could stay with us again sans the added expense of lodging. She knew she could enjoy all the comforts of our home and that I'd prepare a hot water bottle for her ailing back.  She could depend on having nutritious food served on her visiting schedule.  We had introduced her to those who sit in our circle and this darling new friend was embraced by everyone wherever she went in our little town.

You are no doubt keenly aware that globe trotting is not a low cost endeavor.  In order to finance Kay's travels she sold their love story to some English papers, who paid a handsome sum for the details of their romance and marriage.  Not only that, she managed to win a small lottery!  Kay gave up smoking, sacrificed her automobile and cuts back on every thing possible in order to save for travel to the States!

To ease her travels somewhat she has left some of her "bits" in the guest closet.  There is a shelf in the bathroom and she has "commandeered" a drawer or two in a dresser.  We refer to our guest room now as "Kay's room" and she is convinced that anyone else who sleeps there in her absence should pay HER a stipend!  Over the years we have had a great many laughs, some mighty good food and we have made some delightful memories with our dear friend...she really feels like family to us.

There is an ample supply of coffee and cream on hand; Kay's room has fresh linen as well as clean windows and curtains...and we have made plans for activities we hope will please her no end.

We are ready for a British Invasion!

Connie Baum

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

This a file photo of our Book Lovers Club
Normally, since today is the first Wednesday of the month, our Book Lovers would gather round our dining room table and nibble on popcorn and Lois' home made cookies.  Not today.  Today we have giant flakes of snow filling the sky and piling themselves on our deck railing like elongated slices of angel food cake!  We are hunkered down, no doubt finding time to keep our noses in our books!

The cast of characters in our Club has changed, as our precious, aging members are moving on to the next world.  This is sad for us but we understand that death is part of life.  It's not the part we like but we must accept it and cling to the delightful, happy and wonderful memories we have made.

In the above photo, the lady in front, wearing polka dots and a sweet smile has left us.  She was ill for only a short while when she was taken from us.  What we will always remember about Marge is her famous popcorn, her unbelievably beautiful handwriting and her original poems.  Marge taught me how to knit and she was a dear neighbor.  She was 94 when she died.  We all miss Marge more than we can express.

The woman in brown slacks and jacket on the left of the picture is Gena.  Bless her heart, she has endured any number of health issues and seemed to be at death's door but with her daughter's faithful care and Gena's own will, she has weathered a good many storms in recent times.  It was my good fortune to encounter her as we delivered Meals on Wheels to a friend of hers.  I was so pleased to see her doing so well and looking so fine! Gena loves to read the works of Christian authors.  She is also passionate about tending to her flowers!

Gena is standing beside a lady in red.  This our local librarian, Susie Kerner. Susie was a special guest on the day this photo was snapped.  Since then Susie and I have become members of a Writers Group.   She has a wonderful sense of humor, loves books as much as our members do and she is a wonderful contribution to our little town!  We always enjoy Susie's book reviews in our local paper.  She tells us that Tecumseh library patrons prefer mysteries and fiction. Recently she shared a true story about the Holocaust.

Beside Susie, wearing a striped blouse, is Bert.  She left us too quickly after learning she had a serious health issue.  Bert doctored for this but during her treatment she took a bad tumble and in the blink of an eye she was taken from us.  We miss Bert hosting our meetings, showing us her art work and knitting projects.  I never pass Bert's former home but what I miss seeing her in the yard or walking to the grocery store, even at the tender age of 90. Little Bert was generous, caring and read voraciously.  She leaned toward fiction and biographies.

Judy, dressed in blue, and Lois, wearing glasses, are on the back row.  Lois is a member of the original group who chartered the Book Lovers Club.  She taught school before her retirement, lives on a farm and makes a fine President.  The teacher in her is apparent as she prepares for each meeting by sharing jokes, puzzles an bits of trivia with us.  Lois enjoys reading on a variety of topics; most recently she reads the newspaper aloud to her husband, who is plagued with eye ailments.  She manages to find a lot of how-to and home care volumes. We can always count on Lois to bring home made cookies to every meeting!

Judy lives in the country and serves us as Treasurer. She wears many hats: Advisory Board member for South East Nebraska Community Action (SENCA), officer for the VFW Auxiliary and President of the SE Nebraska Tourism group.  She is a community minded woman who appreciates books and takes a special interest in Native American culture and history.  It was Judy who invited me to join the Club, for which I am eternally grateful. Judy has a special interest in WWII as well as Barney Oldfield's career.

That woman with her hair piled up on top of her head is yours truly.  My reading choices are mostly biographies, and non-fiction. I own way too many books and I want more!  *my bad...

We have other members who are not pictured.  Little Elna is a faithful member; I cannot recall why she is not present for this photo.  She loves to read titles by Christian authors, historical books with a sprinkling of fiction.  LaRue is another original member of  the Book Lovers Club; she lives in an assisted living facility.  The last time I saw LaRue she was impeccably groomed, stylishly dressed and cheery as ever.  LaRue is a tiny mite; she is no bigger than a minute!  She says she enjoys receiving the minutes of our meetings in the mail.

Our newest member has not attended many meetings because we meet while she is in class at Peru State College!  She devours fiction and loves to read as much as any of the Book Lovers.  She is studying English and will graduate in August as a non traditional student.  She reports she is reading some heavy duty English literature!

You can tell we are a motley crew.  But we are bound by our interest in books, our devotion to one another and the fun we have at our meetings.  Not only are we Book Lovers; we are people lovers, as well.

Some clubs have one book that all their members read and then have a discussion at their meetings.  Our members read whatever strikes their fancy and report on their impression of their choice.  The rest of the meeting is taken up with a bit of business, snacks and coffee, and local news! There are hugs all around when it's time to go home.

When I think about the Members and those members who have made their transition, I am filled with gratitude that I was allowed to sit in this circle.

Connie Baum
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