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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Pet's Love

We buried my little dog, Cuddles, a couple of nights ago. She had clamored for my attention and indicated that she needed to go outside to "do her business." So I put on my coat, opened the front door, and we both went outside.
I watched her sniff around for the best place to potty, and I enjoyed the crisp clear sky. There was very little wind, and Cuddles was enjoying romping around in the yard, even though it was dark.
Suddenly, a pickup truck pulling a flatbed trailer came around the corner and headed our way. Cuddles, for some reason, has always felt threatened by noisy trailers and UPS trucks, and immediately ran to the street to bark and growl at it. I yelled for her to come back, but she took her protector-status very seriously, and kept chasing the trailer.
In an instant, it was all over. She must have gotten too close to the tires of the pickup, because I heard her yelp and saw her roll under the pickup. She yelped again as the tires on the other side of the pickup rolled over her little body. One more yelp as the trailer bounced over her. By the time I could get to her, she jerked a couple of times and was gone.
I picked her lifeless little body up and hugged her to me. She was still warm, but there was no heartbeat. Her eyes stared lifelessly straight ahead. She made no sound.
The driver and passengers of the pickup pulled over to the side of the street and walked back to me. They apologized over and over and offered to take her to the vet. I told them thanks but she was already gone. I know they felt badly about it and it certainly was not done intentionally. They hadn't even seen her.
I carried Cuddles back into the house and laid her on the floor on a blanket. I tried calling my daughter, Becky, but she didn't answer. I sent my grandson a text message, telling him what had happened and asking him to come and help me bury Cuddles. I called hubby, Dennis, and cried like a baby while I told him what had happened. He felt so helpless, he said, being so far away when I needed him. I reassured him that I would be alright, but was naturally upset at the situation.
Dennis told my son, Jason, who called Becky's husband, Rusty, and told him what was happening. Soon Becky called me and said she was coming over.
While I waited for them to arrive, I did some straightening around the house, just to have something to do. I couldn't sit still for even a moment or I felt like my world would go spinning out of control. I wasn't making a lot of sense, even to myself. Shock must have been setting in.
Soon Becky, her two youngest daughters, and Regan, my oldest granddaughter, arrived. After hugs and a few tears, they asked what they could do to help. I didn't have much of an answer for them. I continued to clean, just to keep busy.
Becky offered to set up my new Christmas tree. She assembled it, and put the little girls to decorating it. It looks very nice, perched up on top of my folding table. But I could find no real joy in it that night.
Rusty and Colin arrived with flashlights and shovels, and we headed across the street to the back of the empty lot we own. The first hole the guys and Becky dug had too many tree roots, so we filled that one back in and abandoned it, and moved farther north. I held a flashlight on the hole so they could see what they were doing. It was getting much chillier, and we shivered as we stood there by the hole. Finally it was deep enough and Rusty laid poor little Cuddles in the bottom. I saw him caress her little head and almost lost it. I felt like I should say something about Cuddles, but the words just wouldn't come. I finally choked out, "she was a good little dog. I'lll miss her."
After the hole was filled with the dirt again, a little mound was left over her grave. Rusty said he and Colin would make a cross to put as a marker. Becky gave me a hug and said "Cuddles is in Doggy Heaven now." Doggy Heaven. That must be a very special place. So many loved ones laid to rest. So many broken hearts to heal.
When I called my mom, she cried when she found out that Cuddles was gone. She has a new puppy of her own. She told me she would give her dog, Peggy, a hug from me.
Since that night, I have cried myself to sleep every night. There is such a huge hole in my heart. My house is so still and quiet. The love and spontaneity are gone. It's like the house misses her too.
I have realized how much that little dog had come to be such a huge part of my daily routine. She slept snuggled up to me in bed, keeping my back warm, or my legs, depending on where she decided to settle down for the night. She kept my toes warm when I was sitting.
Every morning, as my alarm went off, she bounced up to come and lick my face good morning. She would nudge me with her cold little nose until I got up, and then bounce off the bed and lead the way to the bathroom.
She sat and watched as I showered, and when I had lathered up with soap, she was right there to lick it off my legs, helping me to bathe, she thought. When I stepped out of the shower, she was right there to play tug of war with the towel. She'd take off into the other room to find one of her toys and drop it at my feet, wanting to play fetch.
When I was dry, she'd lead the way to the bedroom where I would dress, then she'd lead the way to my desk, where I'd do my blood sugar tests and take my medicine. All the while, she'd be wanting to play fetch.
I had learned that the easiest way to leave her for the day, was to give her a few treats, then she'd let me go without howling and whining. When I'd return, she was always right there behind the door, waiting for me.
Dennis had learned not to say the word "well" around Cuddles. Cuddles had come to know that when he was getting ready to leave, he'd stop what he was doing and say "well--I suppose" and then get up from his recliner and leave. That always made Cuddles very anxious, thinking she was going to be left behind.
Another word we had to use in moderation was "outside". She knew that word quite well. If we said outside, she would run to me, her little ears perked up and a big grin on her face. She'd jump up on my lap, then turn and jump down, run to the front door and bark, then run back to me and repeat the process. She'd do this over and over until I got up from my chair and took her outside.
She loved to wave at people that came to visit. She'd stand on her hind legs and wave her front legs together up and down over and over and over. It always made people laugh. Sometimes she'd sit on my lap and do this at people. She really loved people.
When she was outside, I'd sit outside with her and do fill-in puzzles or read a book, while she'd explore the yard. If someone walked by, she'd have to run to the street to greet them. She'd stay just out of reach, doing her wave, or barking and running around in circles around them, her little tail wagging as fast as it could go.
She loved making friends with other dogs too. Sometimes that got her into a bit of trouble. We have neighbors that have bigger dogs--dogs that aren't that friendly. One day Cuddles ventured over toward their yard when their dogs were exercising in their yard. Suddenly one of them growled and started chasing Cuddles. Cuddles ran back to me as fast as she could run. She had very short legs, but a long stretched body, like a dachshund, only stockier. She could run like the wind, and loved to do it. Even with that dog chasing her, her tail was wagging. She loved it. But I noticed she didn't venture over that far again.
Cuddles didn't like to ride in cars. She'd whine and whimper and although she only got carsick twice, she'd tremble and shake like she was freezing. I didn't take her in the car very often, usually only to the vet and the groomer, but occasionally, I'd take her to my workplace, where her older sister lived as a therapy dog. I also took her out to my mom's farm a couple of times.
Cuddles loved to share my food with me. I was careful not to give her anything that would hurt her, and she'd only get the last bite of my sandwich. I didn't want to make her fat. She loved doggy treats. I'd give her one in the morning, and one when I got home from work.
She loved to snuggle with me in the recliner. If I'd go to sit in the recliner, she'd usually beat me into the chair and scootch herself down between my leg and the arm of the recliner, with her head facing the tv. Sometimes she'd watch tv, but usually she rested her head on my leg and watched me until she drifted off to sleep. I loved those special times with her.
We've talked about getting another dog, but I doubt I'll ever find one that can replace Cuddles. She will always hold a very special place in my heart. I may write a book about her soon. There are so many facets of our relationship that I have not even touched upon yet. I'm not sure if anyone would want to read it. But I'll feel better about writing it.
Goodbye Cuddles, I miss you. I love you. Sweet dreams.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Christmas Whine w.c. 847

Christmas Whine w.c. 847

It’s that time of year again. My calendar is full. Besides working four days a week at the nursing home, and occasionally picking up an extra shift for someone needing the day off, I have art club meetings, Community Pride meetings, Christmas gatherings, family shopping trips, doctor appointments, and enough housework to last a lifetime. My dog even has a doctor’s appointment next week, for Pete’s Sake! When is a person supposed to find time to write?

I can only blame myself. I have always had a problem saying “no.” I have gotten a little better at it, in recent years, mainly because of my health issues, but that doesn’t stop everyone from asking. When I’m really exhausted, I’m not as easily talked into doing things around town, but when I’m feeling good, I forget that I do have physical limitations and end up volunteering for all sorts of things. I know I’m not the only one that does this, either, because I’ve heard neighbors and family complaining of the same problem.

I do enjoy helping out at the community level. I believe it is important to help your town, and your neighbors in time of need. Small towns are in danger, and many are actually dying because of the economic situation. Volunteers are desperately needed to assist with celebrations, promotions, and community projects.

On Saturday, December 11, we are planning a Christmas project in our town. We plan to have Santa Claus make a visit, and have a photographer lined up to take pictures of all the kiddies sitting on Santa’s lap (one at a time, of course). There will be a shopping section, where the kids can shop for Christmas gifts for their parents, siblings, grandparents, etc. Gifts donated by the community will be available ranging in price from 25 cents to $6 in price. Volunteers will assist the young ones in finding the perfect gift for their loved ones, wrapping their purchases, and handling the money. There will be drawings for prizes toward the end of the day. Volunteers are selling raffle tickets toward the drawings.

Volunteers will also be assisting with handing out goody bags with candy, popcorn and peanuts. Some will be helping set up for the event, and many will be available for the cleanup brigade. It will be a busy, but hopefully rewarding time for all.

Writing has become a large part of my life. I recently completed the F2K course for the second time in Writer’s Village University. It was so much fun that I signed up for the next session beginning in January. I haven’t written for the local newspaper much in recent times, but would like to get back into that, as well. I have eleven chapters written in my Young Adult novel, DOOR IN TIME, and hope to get a few more done before year’s end.

I recently purchased a t-shirt that reads, “Be careful or you might end up in my novel.” That fits the way my book has been written. I fashion some of my characters after people I know. Not completely, but enough that the personalities might be recognized by someone close to the model.

Experimenting with writing styles has been entertaining for me lately. Usually, I take a sentence out of the blue, and just start writing, letting the words flow out of my mind as if I am watching a movie. No outline, no pre-plotting of any kind. Often my short flash fiction stories are written in this way. I love doing that.

A novel, however, needs a little more direction and framework in order to keep on course. I still write by the seat of my pants to a certain extent. Nothing is pre-outlined, other than having a vague idea of what direction I want it to go for each chapter. I post each chapter in my study group at WVU, and the excellent critiques, or nits, as we call them, are printed out and saved in a file for when I have completed my story and am ready to do rewrites.

Poetry is another area where I usually just write on impulse. I prefer rhyming poetry to free verse, just a personal preference. If I have a problem with this free-style writing, it is in ending a piece. I could just go on writing forever, as is evidence by this blog. Be quiet, Benning, I know I’m bloviating, as O’Reilly would say.

Ok, so I’m through complaining. Now, I need to finish this, and get back to my novel. So, I need a snappy ending, right? That is the challenging part for me. I need a punch line. None seems to be jumping out at me. So, I will use a quote. That often works.

I can only hope that my situation will be better than Robert Benchley’s, when he said, “It took me fifteen years to discover I had no talent for writing, but I couldn’t give it up because by that time I was too famous.”

I’ll keep writing. Maybe someday I’ll be famous, too.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

This video is quite graphic and should not be viewed by small children. But teenagers definitely should see it. They often believe themselves to be immune to accidents and death. If this video would save even one life, it would be worth it. This video shows actors, but the accidents must surely be real. Please don't drink and drive this holiday season. Think about those who would be left behind and the pain it would cause them to lose you. We have already lost too many young people in our community to traffic accidents. Buckle up and use a designated driver if you must drink.
Have a safe and happy holiday season.

Thursday, November 11, 2010



Veterans Day means a lot to me.
It honors the brave men in our family.
Who left their homes to fight in wars,
Or flew overseas to do peacekeeping chores.

My husband fought in a faraway land.
He was a Seabee and worked with his hands,
Building and defending for Uncle Sam
In a hot jungle place they call Viet Nam.

My son served in the mid-east strife,
As a parent I greatly feared for his life,
But he came home, proud and strong,
A Marine loves his country his whole life long.

I pray that my grandsons will not have to fight,
And risk their lives to do what is right,
But if the time comes for them to go,
They’ll serve proudly, this much I know.

Many women have served their country dear,
Whether fighting abroad, or staying near
To keep those home fires burning day and night,
And praying for those involved in the fight.

So to all of you Veterans far and wide,
I offer you thanks for being on our side.
And wishing you joy and good wishes as I say,
Please have a peaceful happy Veterans’ Day.

Dixie Barnes

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Attachment: Reflections.wmv

I really worry about our country. We are being fed wormy propaganda in the form of liberalism and expected to love it. Our government, clear up to our President, has decided that those of us who actually work for a living, do not deserve any of the fruits of our labor, but must donate all of it to those who have never worked. Talk about a Chicken Little story!

The following attachment is a video, with contrasting opinions from conservative and liberal politicians. I really miss Ronald Reagan.

Attachment: Reflections.wmv

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Cuddles, the Bashful Puppy

This is a children's story that I wrote as an exercise about my puppy, Cuddles. I've never submitted it anywhere, but it was fun to write. I hope you enjoy it.

Cuddles stopped in the middle of the street. Her leash grew tighter and tighter until her owner, Dixie, realized she no longer walked beside her feet.
“Come on, Cuddles,” Dixie coaxed. “Don’t be so bashful. No one will hurt you. I am here with you.”
Cuddles pulled harder against the leash. Her little body quivered in fear.
“Come on, baby, come to me,” Dixie urged the frightened puppy.
Cuddles whimpered, pulling as hard as her little body would allow against the strong cord tugging at her body. “Hooowwwlll!” Cuddles fought against the leash.
“Cuddles, we can’t stand in the street. There is a car coming. See?” Dixie pointed to the big bright shiny blue car that had just turned the corner a block away and was headed their way.
Cuddles shrank away from the car, trying to run to the curb on the wrong side of the street, right into the path of the car!
Dixie reached down and scooped the bashful puppy into her arms and quickly stepped to the side of the street, out of the path of the car. She hugged her frightened dog close to her heart.
“Shh—Cuddles—it’s ok. You are safe with me.” Dixie held Cuddles close and carried her down the sidewalk to her house.
“I should have named you Scaredy-Cat, I think,” Dixie teased her puppy, giving her a hug and a kiss on the top of her little soft furry head. “You’re such a bashful puppy.”

Cuddles awoke frightened from a bad dream. A big man was scolding her for eating his French fries in the dream. Cuddles ran away, hiding behind her mother’s body. The big man walked closer and shook his big finger at her. Cuddles’ mother growled at the man, who backed away then turned and walked in the other direction.
Cuddles stayed behind her mother, Spot, snuggling up to her mother’s warm and silky coat. Cuddles loved the safety and smell of her mother.
Lately, though, her mother had been cross and turned Cuddles away from nursing. Cuddles felt rejected and hurt and cried much of the time. Dixie made sure that there was plenty of dry food in the bowl by the kitchen door, but that just wasn’t as good as mother’s milk.
A group of children came walking down the sidewalk. One of them was bouncing a big rubber ball. Cuddles peeked out from behind her mother. She wanted to play with the children, but she was afraid.
“Will they hurt me?” Cuddles asked her mother. “I’m afraid of children. They are so loud and they run around kicking and bouncing things. What if they kick and bounce me?”
“Children are fun to play with, Cuddles,” Spot told her baby. “They sometimes get a little rough, but you can usually run away and hide until they forget and go on to a different game. When I was your age, I played with Dixie. She was a child then, and we had some very good times together. We grew up together. You are such a bashful puppy. You are missing out on lots of fun.”
“Really, Mom? What kind of fun?” Cuddle was curious, finding it hard to imagine her mother as a puppy.
“Dixie threw a ball and I would chase it and bring it back to her. This made Dixie happy and she would give me a treat. Sometimes we would lie back in the grass and watch the clouds drift by. Dixie had names for some of them. She’d say that one looked like a turtle, and other looked like a crocodile. I didn’t understand what a turtle or crocodile was, but I enjoyed being with her and spending special times together. You should go with Dixie and let her show you some fun times too,” Spot nudged Cuddles with her cold, damp nose. “Go have some fun, now. I want to take a nap. And don’t be such a bashful puppy!”

Cuddles tiptoed into the kitchen where Dixie was pouring puppy chow into her bowl. Dixie looked up and saw the bashful puppy.
“Oh, there you are, Cuddles. I was wondering where you were hiding. Are you ready to go for a walk?” Dixie reached for the leash that hung from the kitchen door knob.
Cuddles shrank back at first, afraid to go outside where scary things were waiting to hurt her. Dixie sighed and reached for Cuddles’ collar. “Bashful puppy! You’re afraid of your own shadow! I think you need to get outside more often so you won’t be so afraid. Come on, let’s go. I’ll show you some fun today.”
Cuddles shivered with fear and a little excitement. Maybe it would be fun to try doing what Dixie says. She decided to give it a try. She stood patiently, but quivering as Dixie snapped the leash onto her collar. Dixie opened the door and a warm soft breeze blew through the kitchen.
“Oh, it’s a beautiful day, Cuddles! We can go down to the park and watch the kids play ball, and the swimming pool will be open later this afternoon. That is always fun. I used to go there with your mother. We always enjoyed that.
Dixie stepped outside and tugged at the leash. “Come on, Bashful Puppy! We’re off to see the world.”
Cuddles trotted outside beside Dixie and off to the park they went. Cuddles had so much fun, she didn’t want to come home. She watched the children play ball, and chased a butterfly darting this way and that. She played in a pile of raked leaves, pouncing on them like they were rabbits.
She watched the children swimming and laughed at their silly antics in the pool.
When she finally returned home, she was tired but happy. After she told her Mom about her day, she ate a quick supper and trotted off to bed.
The next morning she went to Dixie to find out what fun was happening today. She rode with Dixie to the farm, where she met all kinds of new friends among the farm animals. Farmer Joe had some calves that loved to race around the meadow, and she even got to try some cow’s milk. She thought her own mother’s tasted much better, but it was still fun.
Cuddles decided not to be bashful anymore. There was too much fun waiting for her. From that day on, Cuddles was no longer Bashful Puppy.

Cindy, My Horse

As a child, I was fascinated by horses. I begged to have a pony from the time I was about 4 years old. I think the event that started this obsession was visiting a race track somewhere. I have this flash of memory of meeting a quarter horse and raising my arms as high as I could to pet the huge animal’s nose. The horse put his nose down where I could reach him and nickered softly. My parents stood watching as the owner reached down, picked me up and placed me on the animal’s back. I thought I had died and gone to Heaven! I was so little I couldn’t begin to reach the stirrups, but I was riding a “horsie.” I cried when they took me off and set me back on the ground.
I have a picture of my younger sister, Linda, and myself sitting on a saddle over a barrel in the farmyard. We wore cowboy hats, had a homemade bridle and our little toy six-guns. We rode many a mile on that barrel.
I had a collection of porcelain horses as a child that I kept in a shadow box and on my desk in my room. I had Palominos, Pintos, and Appaloosa breeds, as well as Quarter Horses, Shetlands, and Arabians. I was so proud of those horses. One day we had a family dinner at the farm, and some of my cousins were rough-housing around. They bumped into my shadow box and knocked it down from the wall. I lost about half of my lovely horses. I tried to send the cousins all home, but my parents wouldn’t stand for my rudeness and sent me to my room. So I simply told them all I was going to take a nap and they all had to leave my room.
When I was about eight or nine years old, I stayed with my cousin, Rita, on her farm near Esbon. She had two horses. The one I rode was about 12 years old, named Nifty. Nifty was a Shetland pony. We rode for hours on end. We covered ground for miles around their farm. I hated to come back home, where I didn’t have a horse of my own. I really badgered the folks for a horse after that.
When I was 10 years old, my dad bought me a horse. Well, actually, the horse was for the entire family, but everyone knew it was primarily for me…because I was the one that was nuts about the animals. Linda was afraid of them. (Remember, this is the sister that loved to wear snakes around her neck…go figure).
That first day, I could hardly contain my excitement as I rode the school bus home. I knew it was the day that the horse would be delivered. I couldn’t wait to ride it.
We didn’t have a saddle yet, so I pondered how I would get up on this horse that was half Appaloosa and a mixture of quarter horse and Shetland. She wasn’t a large horse, but she was an adult horse, probably about a year and a half old.
My dad offered his cupped hands as a step to get up on the horse. I stepped into his hand and up, up, up I went…and over and right down on the other side into a pile of fresh manure. My dad laughed. So did Linda and my brother, Tom, who was only about four years old. I cried, not because I was hurt, but because I felt so humiliated. I had reached for the horse’s mane and had missed. Having nothing to hold on to, and given my dad’s mighty push, I flew through the air.
My dad told me I had to get back on the horse, so I wouldn’t be afraid of her. I wasn’t sure I wanted to trust him again, but he promised to lift more gently and give me time to grab the mane.
This time, I was able to sit upright on the horse and was led around the farmyard. I had never ridden a horse this big before, but I loved it. I loved the smell of horses, I loved the feel, the sight and the sound of horses. I loved my horse….at first.
It didn’t take long for this horse, which we named Cindy, to discover that the three children who owned her were wimps. She learned many little tricks to rid herself of these parasites on her back.
She loved to rub us against tree trunks, barn doors, fences, farm implements, whatever offered the opportunity to erase the foreign bodies from her back. Eventually, we got a saddle. It was an old used one, probably dating back to the Civil War, from the looks of it. We learned how to strap it on her back and climbed aboard.
Talk about a rodeo! She bucked, she twisted, she gyrated like a whirling dervish. And if that didn’t work, she had a back up plan. We were totally unprepared when she first got this flash of intuition that if she rolled over on her back, we would jump off. Once it worked the first time, it worked every time. She was a real knot head. And we were…wimps.
One day, I decided it might be fun to have some of my friends over for a trail ride. So I invited a few friends over and we rode around the farm for a while. I soon discovered that I had a lot to learn about horseback riding. Cindy got really excited at having all that horseflesh in her vicinity and when the other girls took off galloping across the pasture, she galloped right along with them. I had not planned on galloping. I was doing good just to trot. I was bouncing all over that horse’s back, hanging on for dear life. That trail ride was not nearly as much fun as I had planned it to be. I never tried it again, either.
Eventually, after I had left for college and no one had ridden Cindy for some time, my parents sold her. I missed having her around, but I really had no desire to ride her again.
I have ridden horses since that time, but have never again owned a horse. I have ridden in parades with the Van Beek family and thoroughly enjoyed it. Horses are majestic and regal creatures, with a grace and beauty that continue to hold my fascination, only now from a distance. I love watching them on television, in rodeos, westerns, and I’ve been to horse shows and cheered on other members of our family who also enjoy them.
I think, however, that my old bones and stiff muscles are too brittle to ride again. My boots and saddle have retired. This cowgirl has been put to pasture for good.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Baby Number Nine

Dennis and I are very proud grandparents. Number 9 grandchild arrived on Tuesday morning, May 6, 2008, in a big hurry. Mom, Dyan, thinking this would be like her previous 3 pregnancies, believed she had plenty of time before the baby arrived, and called Dad, Josh, home from his job in Clay Center to their home in Concordia.
Apparently, Baby had important things to do and was in a big hurry, because the trip to Salina was interrupted by an emergency stop at the Minneapolis hospital for the birth. Unused to delivering babies because of the proximity of Salina Regional Medical Center, a powerhouse of maternity care, the ER staff at Minneapolis handled the situation with professionalism and amazing calm assurance.
Five minutes after arriving at the Minneapolis Hospital, Baby Gunner Machiel arrived. After a short rest period and essential paperwork, the couple and baby were once again on the road to Salina, where Dyan was admitted for postnatal care.
This made 7 granddaughters and 2 grandsons for Dennis and me. We were thrilled to finally get another grandson. Colin, 12 at the time, told his Grandpa Dennis, “Grandpa, we’ve got to get another fishin’ buddy!” Of course, Dennis told him that we were no longer in control of that situation, and in fact, never were in control of that aspect of our lives. He recommended that Colin discuss it with his parents and uncles.
We were thrilled to welcome Gunner Machiel into the family. The name Machiel, pronounced Michael, is from the Johnston side of Dyan’s family, and is the actual spelling of her dad’s name, just in case you are thinking it is a typographical error. Josh always wanted to have a “Gunner”, even from before he was married, so you can imagine how thrilled he was with his new son.
Today, Gunner is a robust little two year old boy with a temper to match, who can stare you down with his “evil-eye look” that always tickles his grandpa. We don’t get to see Gunner or his three sisters as often as we would like, but we certainly enjoy them when we do get together.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

White Lies

This was an exercise in a Writer's Village University course that I enjoyed writing. It's a tongue in cheek set of 4 letters written to different people to cover for a forbidden outing. Definitely fiction, so I hope no one is offended. Keep your sense of humor as you read it. Have a great day!

October 29, 2007

Mr. Hugh Hefner
2345 Playboy Lane
Los Angeles, California 01107

Dear Mr. Hefner:

Thank you so much for inviting me to pose for your expose on former Playmates. I have missed the “life” for a long time, but since marrying 35 years ago, I have been very busy with my own magazine, True Confessions.

While my figure is not quite the same as it was back in 1972, I have tried to stay in shape by doing aerobics and swimming. My tan is only starting to fade, so it will only take a little touch-up to get back to a healthy glow.

My ten children are fully grown now, with children of their own. My husband believes they are all his. He has no idea that one of them is actually yours. I am confident that you wish this to remain a secret between us. The proceeds from my posing will go toward Little Johnny’s education.

As per your instructions, I will be at the Mansion promptly at 7:00 a.m. on November 5, 2007. Please make payment in cash. I do not wish to explain this “job” to the IRS, if you know what I mean.

It will be a pleasure to work with you once more.

Until we meet again,

Anita Gray

Dear Gary,

Just a note to let you know that I won’t be home the weekend of Nov. 5. Mom called and invited me to go to a wedding with her on Saturday in St. Louis. I know you hate to go to these things, and besides, you have that big golf tournament in Chicago that weekend.

The dog will be at the vet’s being spayed over that weekend. If the kids call while I’m gone, give them my love and tell them to call my cell phone.

I have several meals in the deep freeze ready to microwave if you get home before I do.

I’ll miss you,


Oct. 29

Dear Mom and Dad,

Hi, how are you? I hope you are both taking your medications. Dr. Newman said it is vitally important that you take your pills every day. You know I worry about you.

Gary’s birthday is coming up in a couple of weeks, so I am trying to plan a surprise gift for him. It will require my traveling to Los Angeles to buy a special gift I have my eye on for him. But I need your help in keeping the secret. He will be going to a golf tournament the weekend of Nov. 5, so that would be the perfect time to pull this trip off. I told him we are going to a wedding in St. Louis together that weekend. Will you help me by telling just this one little white lie? I’ll be eternally grateful.

If you need to reach me, you can call my cell. I’ll have it with me the entire weekend.

I’m planning on being there for Thanksgiving dinner. What would you like me to prepare and bring to eat? Are you having turkey or ham? I could bring the pumpkin pie or those homemade cinnamon rolls you love?

Give me a call if you have any questions.

Dear Fr. Mancino,

I’m sorry, but I will be unable to play the organ for the Mass on Nov. 5. I am going with my mother to a wedding in St. Louis. I have arranged for Mary Gilbert to take my place that day.

I should be back in time to teach catechism on Nov. 10.

You can call my cell if you have any questions.

Friends in Christ,


Cobwebs and Mementos

I wrote this essay about 5 years ago.

There’s nothing like cleaning out closets and junk rooms to bring back memories. That is the project of the week for me, and it has brought a roller coaster of emotions along for the ride.
Jason’s old room is full to the brim with empty boxes, old bedding, old furniture, old stereo equipment belonging to both Jason and Josh, and old toys. Many of these items will simply go to the garbage, but a few of them made me sit down and reminisce for a few moments. Cobwebs cover the corners and ceiling, a reminder that I’ve waited too long to tackle this project.
Take Jason’s old G.I. Joe toys, Transformers, and high school prom pictures. Jason didn’t do much dating in high school, so a nice prom picture with him in it is a treasure to me. I plan on keeping one of these photos for myself.
I found Teresa’s nursing license certificate and card. This brought out a few tears, remembering Teresa’s last days alive. I’ll put these in the scrapbook we started about Teresa to give to Regan. She is old enough now to need some mementos to remind her of her mother.
Becky’s old Cabbage Patch Doll will make a nice gift for her daughter, Karsyn. I was delighted to see those are still popular. My girls certainly enjoyed playing with theirs.
Josh had a lot of stereo equipment stored in that room. I have no idea what some of it even is or what it does. I found an old photo album from when he was in Okinawa. I think some of those photos are better left lost.
I found motorcycle helmets, beer signs, lots of sweaters and boots that will go to the Thrift Shop. Some of Regan’s baby toys she outgrew can be sterilized and put in the toy box for Whitley and Karsyn to play with, or fight over, as the case may be.
Josh has a huge wooden trunk that is full of uniform parts, sports memorabilia, and other assorted mementos of time gone by. I’m hoping he’ll want to take those home with him. But they’ll be ok for a while in the trunk. It’s all the loose items that are bugging me to be disposed of. Lots of CD covers with no disc in them. Do I recycle the covers? Do I search for the CDs? Not likely. Gun cleaning kits, and parts of guns, boxes that once held rifles, weedeaters, and other “man stuff” will all find homes elsewhere.
The floor is looking pretty rough. I’ll have to put down a large area rug to cover splintered areas. The walls definitely need a coat of paint. All of that will have to come later. Right now, it’s back to the “bat cave” to finish sorting. If I don’t emerge in a day or so, please send out a search party. I may have been bitten by something rabid.

God's Baseball Glove

Wind sways the weeping willow tree
And its seeds fall down upon me.
I shake my head from side to side,
But in my hair the seeds will hide.
I think about Life's precious truth,
My soul God's Love begins to soothe.
The Glory of His Wondrous Love
Is like a baseball catcher's glove.
The Glove is spread out on this earth
To capture souls that feel the worth
Of God's enduring, precious Love.
Inside that magical symbolic glove.
I hope someday that I will find
Some comfort for my troubled mind,
And then I'll climb into that Glove
And feel the safety of God's Love.
Dixie Barnes
Copyright ©2006 Dixie Marie Barnes

Remembering Teresa

Many years have come and waned,
Years of sadness,
Years of pain.
Months of watching your daughter grow
Months of wishing you could watch her grow.
Weeks of remembering your smiles,
Weeks of wishing you were here for a while,
Days of laughter
Days of tears
Hours of each and every day
Hours that pass slowly away
Minutes pass sometimes so slowly,
Minutes that make us feel so lonely.
Seconds that take our breath away,
Seconds of memories of you today.
Time has passed and so you, too.,
Help us find our way to you.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Another Trip Through Time Via Music

This was an article that was published in our local newspaper a couple of years ago. At the time, I was writing a weekly column for the paper that covered local events, as well as my own thoughts and ramblings. I was impressed by the spring concert and displays put on by our local high school students.

After working three shifts over the weekend, the last thing I wanted to do was attend a school concert. A quick hot meal and my recliner in front of the TV was closer to what I had in mind. But my grandkids were in the band, so of course, I was expected to be there. What I didn’t know, was how much I was going to enjoy a trip back through time.
As I entered the gym, the array of art and industrial arts projects drew me over for a closer look. I saw some amazing pieces of art on the bleachers, and the far end of the gym floor was covered with some very nicely crafted furniture, including coffee tables, computer desks, entertainment centers, a bed frame, a few dressers and many other items. Walking through them brought me back to my own high school days, when I had music concerts.
I played tenor saxophone. Not particularly well, but apparently well enough to be in the band from 5th grade through college. I knew just enough piano to be able to plink out a tune with one hand. I was never coordinated enough to be able to handle both hands on the keyboard. I admire anyone who can play well.
The picnic table brought me back a few years to when my boys were in high school and creating their own projects. One made a nice picnic table, and one made an entertainment center. They made other projects, of course, but those were the ones that really stand out in my memory. My daughters were involved in furniture-making, too.
As I wandered over to the bleachers, I remembered Becky’s art work and other projects. She is a better artist than I am, but doesn’t use her talents in that direction any more, but rather decorates her home and other rooms. I can paint a picture, but please don’t ask me to hang it straight, or come up with an attractive display of items to decorate a wall. I don’t have the imagination to handle it. The art on display tonight had won awards. As I was snapping pictures with my digital camera, a pleasant lady seated at the end of the bleachers asked me if I was getting some good pictures. I told her I hoped so. She introduced herself as the art teacher. We shook hands and I introduced myself as President of the local art club and invited her to attend one of our meetings. Unfortunately, she is in school while we meet on most months, but I told her if she could attend a summer meeting, we would welcome her.
I snapped a few pictures of the projects and artwork, then found my seat in the bleachers across from the artwork. People were starting to pour into the gym by this point, and I watched for family members.
The 5th grade band started out the program. Beginning bands can be hard on the ears sometimes, with a lot of squeaking clarinets and missed notes. But I found this group to be quite enjoyable. I recognized the songs they were playing, which is always a plus, and they were very well behaved young men and women.
On Top of Old Smokey has been played for school concerts for generations, but is still a favorite. It was followed by a few other numbers not as familiar to me, except for Kum Bah Yah, which was a song I remember singing in high school with an organization called Y-Teens, a youth branch of the YWCA.
My grandchildren played in the 6th-8th grade Band, as well as several other family members. I thoroughly enjoyed their rendition of The Andy Griffith Show theme, and the Winchester Chronicles song. Their session was over before it had even started, it seemed. However, the bleacher I was sitting on was starting to get quite uncomfortable. Why can’t they make bleachers with bucket seats and padding? Oh well, it wasn’t long before the kids were finished. I was disappointed to see them leave the floor so soon. After all, they were the ones I had come to watch.
The next performer is always impressive. Anna Rogers is a piano virtuoso. The first song was almost like a lullaby to my sleepy eyes. It was relaxing and my mind started drifting back to my own high school days, and to other talented pianists I have known. I found myself imagining myself back in the time of Mendelssohn, drifting along a canal in the back of a gondola, while a gondolier pushed my boat along with his long stick. My eyes were just about ready to close when the song ended.
The next song was as arousing as the first had been soothing. Rondo, by Mozart, is a flurry of fingers flying on the keyboard, making tinkling sounds in some spots, alternating with pounding crescendos. It was a total delight. If I hadn’t been wedged in so tight between the end of the bleacher and the little boy next to me, I would have given her a standing ovation. Bravo, Anna! I’m sure you will be on the Grand Concert Tour someday. I am always truly amazed by your talents.
After the thundering applause for Anna settled down, the CCHS Band gathered in place for their turn in the spotlight. They gave a beautiful rendition of the Military Escort, the song that is often played while troops are marched in revue for visiting dignitaries. The Invicta song was not one I was very familiar with, but it was very nice. But, the Beach Boys Medley was what really got my blood stirring. I grew up on the Beach Boys and their music. It always brings back memories of summer nights spent with friends at dances, and fun driving around our home town, with the radio blaring Beach Boys music. It had my toes tapping in rhythm very quickly and was over far too soon. Good job!
The CCHS Choir was a mixed group, but rather slim on the male section. Only two males sang in the choir, but they held their own quite well, and made very nice music with the girls. It was very refreshing to hear music that praised God. With all of the political correctness these days, few music teachers have the courage to include faith music. I thoroughly enjoyed it and hope to hear more in future concerts. The last two numbers were very good also. A few bout of giggles among the girls threatened to disrupt the performances, but it was all quite nice.
We are very fortunate to have excellent instructors in the arts in our school system. I certainly hope they plan to stay for a long time. I hope to get to know them better in the future. I hope my grandkids will continue to take advantage of the opportunities to develop their artistic and musical talents. And I hope to be able to attend many more of their concerts.
Great job to all of you--very well done. And thanks for the trip back in time. I enjoyed it.

Just Another Fossil

This is the essay I wrote about the Living Fossil. I hope you enjoy it, and that it will be food for thought in your own life.

Just Another FossilIn my mind I can see myself fading, my skin decaying and eroding, my bones turning to dust. This has been nature’s way for millions of years. Why do I think immortality should be my due? A trip back home to the family farm has caused my thoughts to turn to my future. What legacy will I leave when I am gone?

It feels good to be standing here and remembering a time when my worst fear was missing a phone call from my boyfriend or wearing something that wasn’t cool. Life was relatively simple back then. We raised cattle, hogs, and a couple of horses. I didn’t mind chores much, except when the weather was really bad. It was then that I would fantasize about being a famous writer or artist in a nice warm cozy studio with my typewriter, easel, and paints surrounding me.

My years at the local community college were somewhat different. I dated regularly during my first year of college. Then one magical night I met a young man who had just returned from Vietnam. He was in the Navy and was home visiting his family before reporting to his next duty station. It was only a short time before I knew I was in love. We spent hours on the phone and exchanged letters for more than a year before we were married.

Three months after our wedding, I discovered I was pregnant. However, my excitement turned to dismay when I began spotting and eventually lost my baby. We came back home to Kansas to get away from my depression and to cure my homesickness. I named the baby David Wayne. There is no grave for my child and no one remembers him but me, and perhaps my husband occasionally.

Our sadness didn’t last long, however. I was pregnant three months later. We named him Joshua Dean. Joshua was followed by Jason Wade, then Rebecca Ann, then Teresa Marie. Our little family was complete. I was happy raising my babies. I was primarily a stay at home mom. We didn’t have much money, but we had plenty of love.

My baby Teresa was a very independent spirit. Sometimes her waywardness got her into trouble. She had a baby when she was 16. She planned to raise her child by herself. While she was attending classes for her nursing degree, she moved out of our house and into an apartment near the school. She moved a few times from house to house trying to find one that suited her and her child. She found a little wood frame house near her sister Becky and moved in. The house was not a very nice house in my opinion. But she seemed content there, and it was one she felt she could afford.

Teresa turned 21 on January 12, 1999. On January 28, Teresa and I had photos taken. They were glamour shot photos and we had a lot of fun doing it. In mid-February she took her nursing exam in Topeka. Her daughter, dad, sister, and I rode along with her for moral support. We went shopping while she was in the exam room. It was to be our last outing with her as a family.

At 4 a.m. on Sunday, February 21, 1999, our phone rang. Teresa’s friend Windy was calling to tell us that Teresa’s house was on fire and she could not find Teresa. She was hoping Teresa was with us. By the time we reached her house, it was totally engulfed in flames. The fire department was having numerous problems extinguishing the fire. When we saw her car in the driveway, we feared the worst.

No one can imagine the fear, the grief, and the frustration we felt as we stood there watching her house burn. Our dreams for her future and our hopes that she might have escaped faded like the smoke drifting up into the sky. We were not surprised, only filled with a deep never-ending emptiness and numbness, when the firemen came to tell us they had found her body but could not get to it because of the intense heat emanating from the still burning house.

We drove home in silence, dreading the chore of telling her brothers the grisly truth. Her sister Becky was in Colorado with her future husband meeting his parents for the first time. We had to call her. We called my parents, his parents, and other family members who began appearing on our doorstep to give us moral support and comfort. It wasn’t long before a steady parade of grieving neighbors and family were coming to our door. It was a day I will never forget.

We buried our daughter on my Dad’s 76th birthday. One week later we received the photos Teresa and I had taken together in January. A week after that, we received her nursing license in the mail. Her dream had been to be a good nurse. She never got to realize that dream.

Her daughter Regan keeps her mother’s photo on her dresser and talks about her frequently. Regan loves to hear stories about Teresa and occasionally takes items home with her that once belonged to her mother.
So that Teresa’s friends and classmates would always remember her, we started a scholarship fund in her name at the local high school. It is not a big scholarship, but will help to buy a much needed school textbook or help with other expenses.

When we visit Teresa’s grave, we often find a pack of cigarettes and a lighter or a full, unopened bottle of beer left beside the stone. It is then that I know her friends have not forgotten her. These are their love offerings to her. We quietly clean the gravesite and remove the items, knowing that the next time we come they will have been replaced again. We don’t mind. We want her to be remembered by her friends.

I look down at my feet and see the rock where I sat so many years ago and carved my name and date into the top of the fossilized stone. The rock is covered with moss now. Moisture, the ravages of time, and wind have deleted most of the etchings we created, as well as the top layer of fossils. It is a grim reminder of how expendable we humans are. These fossils were created so very long ago when the entire region was part of a vast sea. I can pick out seashells and small, fossilized fish skeletons. But the fossils are fading and being worn away by the wind and other elements. Will I be fossilized some day, too? Will memories of me last for a million or more years? I highly doubt it.

That is why I write, paint, and spend time with my precious grandchildren. They will be my fossil imprints on time. My writings and paintings will hopefully last long after I am gone. My grandchildren will pass on stories about their crazy grandmother who liked to hike up on hilltops, shout into the wind, and paint pictures of animals, people, flowers, and landscapes with mountains and waterfalls.

This grandma took lots of pictures with her many cameras and put them on the Internet so that if there was another devastating fire like the one that took her daughter away, the pictures would never again be lost. This grandma was afraid of dying not because of the pain and suffering that often accompanies death, but because she was afraid she was not worthy of being remembered.

As I spin slowly around, my camera quickly taking pictures of each panoramic view, I am awestruck by the beauty of the quiet Kansas prairie that stretches far beyond my vision. It is told that somewhere in this pasture is an Indian burial ground, unmarked and invisible. Is this the way that people will remember me?

Will my grandchildren some day recall that there once was a woman in their ancestry that was a little off her bean? She took pictures, painted, and wrote silly stories about her life and her family’s lives just to be remembered. My children and grandchildren are a large part of my immortality. They will continue onward after I am gone. Their children will pick up the torch and carry it into yet another generation while I will rest with the knowledge that I did the best I knew how to be worthy of their love.

Is this my destiny? If so, then bring it on. I’d rather be remembered for being a little eccentric than not remembered at all. I reach down and pick up a small fossil. I realize the time is growing late, so I take the fossil back to the farmhouse. I’m going to keep this poor fossil with me to remind me of my own mortality.

I do not know when my life will end. I only know that I will have lived it to the fullest. Hopefully, I will have accomplished something worthwhile during my stay here on earth.

Living Fossil Images

Ok, so now I've decided to create my own blog. I've done this before, but sometimes I lose interest. However, I plan to use this one for my writing, and needed a place to post pictures online, so here I go again. I tend to get carried away with religion and politics lately too. If you are offended by what I write, I am sorry, but I stand behind my opinions, even when they are wrong.
You might ask why the Living Fossil title? That came from an essay I wrote years ago, after visiting the family farm and hiking up to the top of the bluffs behind our home to search for fossils for my grandkids. That essay will be the first to be posted on this blog. I welcome comments on my writing, but please keep comments clean and constructive. I refuse to be a target for flamethrowers of any age.
I hope you enjoy my blog.