It Seems To Me...  

                              *Ouch!*/*That Dog Hates Me*                                     

                                *Thirteen Kids but No Stork* 

What I Learned After Age 85 /Forgetfulness Well/Grabbing the Good /Rows and Row of Books and Corn/The Native Americans’ Ten Commandments/ Navy Yard/Time/Guns/Clutter’s Good


Complaining, it seems to me, is a necessary as breathing, or at least it helps us feel a little better when the well is almost running over with little niggling things as well as big mind- boggling things. For instance:

“. . .your call is very important to us. . . please hold, the next agent will talk to you as soon as possible . . .(long stretch of odd music) . . .”your call is very important to us “. . .(again the odd music) and on it goes.

Ever have that happen to you?  What has happened to the wondrous assistance to our daily lives new technology was going to bring about?

If I tacked all the “minutes” I have “held” onto the stretch of times it takes to wait, I would use up the rest of my life swiftly, especially if added on the time it takes to punch a half a dozen numbers of the keyboard.

I had a typing class in high school in which all the keys were painted over. “Blind keys” they called them. I had to look at a large mock-up high on the classroom wall and let my fingers find the correct keys.

But my fingers didn’t learn the numbers; they learned letters. So that doesn’t make it easy to pick out “punch 3 if you want so-and-so.”

And I have a bone to pick with all the manufacturers who insist on encasing all their products in heavy plastic.  Most of them have no instructions for getting into whatever wonderful thing is inside.

             A friend of mine bought a little gadget made for the purpose of getting into such things. First time she tried she cut a finger badly!  I recall trying to get through to a medicine bottle holding what I hoped would cure a stomach upset. But my stomach pain became so much worse in the process of trying to get the “sealage” off, I went to the kitchen scissors. No good. A steak knife only let me know how dangerous that was.

I may be alone in this frustration, but I failed at its cause, too. I thought those little casual shoes that had no heel covering are so neat.  After all you could jut slip your feet in them and you are ready to go.

But noooo. I took two steps; with the first step that blessed shoe flew off the foot and landed against the TV screen.

I talked to an elderly man recently who remarked one of his pet peeves is people who set a time to meet and never, EVER, arrive on time. “I mean they can be as much as 30 minutes or an hour late!” he stormed.

Another one: Repair people who promise the work will be done the next day, but have a list of excuses for you when you go to pick up the mended item.

“I sometimes think some of them go to school to learn a long list of excuses to tell the customer: and a young man who had taken his auto in to be diagnosed and “I got so much news about my trouble I was afraid to drive home . . . what is a porous rear differential anyway?”

That Dog Hates Me

            Time was, many years ago, we had a dog in our house.  “Many,” here means bout a half a century because around I made the mistake of stirring around in the memory pool in my brain.

            The little white poodle, named Mimi, was adorable and became a darling of our two small daughters and their Dad. Me, however, she didn’t care a bit about. Oh, she hauled her friendly self to my side of the kitchen sometimes, but she didn’t mean it.

           I knew this but couldn’t convince the rest of the family. She was out to get me.  Under that fluffy poodle-do of her hair, an insidious brain worked constantly conceiving of ways to drive me insane. Of course she learned very soon after we brought her home what my work schedule was – I left the house early five days a week.

            My imagination could track her moves afternoons when I came in from work. Somehow, though I strove to clear all loose newspapers, magazines and discarded homework pages away from her reach she was just too tricky. Many evenings I would arrive home, finding 8,324 scraps of paper in all sizes and color figurations, turning my kitchen into a ticker tape parade.

The crazy patterns on the kitchen floor met me minutes after I came in. Looking back these long years ahead of those Poodle shenanigans, I dug out some of my guesses about why she was doing this to me. She simply wanted to make me lose my cool.

Every day, while I was at work she found something she knew would bother me…backing just into the room next to the kitchen to see how I responded to her handiwork.

            She seemed to have ESP to let her know when I got a new pair of shoes. It wasn’t often, but in those days I loved wearing some high heels. She figured that out. Once when our family was planning dinner out at a nice restaurant, the girls and I got “all gussied up,” as one of my sisters used call it. Left shoe, on …beautiful. Right shoe… no heel! I found the right heel far back under my bed chewed to pieces!

              Mimi hovered near the bedroom door, watching.  But I wasn’t going to let her think I was losing my cool.

              No, indeed. It was back to flats!

Thirteen Kids but No Stork

 Do you ever feel some thoughts slip out of the darkness of your brain’s depth into the brightness of memory? If so… I’m going ahead with the following bits from my long ago brain just to see if they tickle similar recollections in my reader’s head.  (When I say “dear reader” I mean it! I love all my readers.)

            I must go far back and blame that mindset on the sight of the lovely height of one tall mountain that stood in all its powerful beauty across the creek from my family home in Leslie County, Ky.  If that brings up scenes of Appalachia, hold onto it, that was my first home, or perhaps I should say that steady stone home sitting in a dugout niche of another such hill which formed the whole world of little ones.

            Okay, okay, one nearly lost memory must see some light here: a confession of sorts. You see during those times I had figured out where the babies came from. A number of times my parents had sent most of the kids across the creek to where our grandparents lived in beautiful acres of garden food and flowers.

            Later, when they brought us home we had a brand new brother or sister. And:  just home in time to say goodbye to Em Shepard who always carried a small doctor’s black bag. Did those babies come from that black bag? Somehow I got to thinking there was some connection. You do that when it happens with a great frequency (13 times!). Mummm … Maybe God gave the babies to Em on that beautiful mountaintop. I was curious where babies came from but we little ones had a lot of playing to do so curiosity would fade until the next time Em came with her black bag.

            There’s a whole lot of “memory” to cover between now and then. Major arrivals of two daughters, grandchildren, great grandchildren and moves from one state to another, but through all the years of good times and bad, there still remains a comforting question from little ones, “Where do babies come from?”

 What I learned after age 85.

Incomplete ... still learning.

Forgetfullness Well

Ever walk into an empty room and immediately turn in a circle, wondering why in the world you came in there. I do that. I know there must have been a reason, but that fact escapes me.

Most of the time I retrace my steps to where I was and try to let the brain settle into normalcy.

But seldom does it let me know the answer.  I imagine there is a “Well of Forgotten Word and Facts and Phrases” constructed in some part of my head. Into that abyss falls all sorts of names, events, names, phrases, places, and words – words that some other part of the brain knows I know, but they won’t come up out of that well. I can’t retrieve them at the time.

I once read a book by Jasper Fforde who wrote a series featuring Detective Thursday Next, who got into books and rearranged the endings, not to mention changing parts of plots as her literary detective agency saw fit to do.

One of the series was titled “Well of Lost Plots,” and featured failed attempts of writers. The plots that didn’t cut the mustard were cast into that place.

I’ve been thinking it’s my age causing me to be so forgetful. But it seems to me it happens to people much younger that I.

I’ll be in the midst of a sentence and suddenly the subject of that thought is simply gone. I know very well I know that word, but it won’t surface. I have to conclude it’s in that Well of the Forgotten…

Or, whoever guards the door to that Well substitutes another term, for instance I’m trying to describe flannel pajamas and it comes out silk negligee.

Politics is in the front of many, many of today’s conversations. When I’m involved in one of these, before the words get heated I’m trying to come up with a certain Senator’s name and within seconds I know for sure that name is at the bottom of the well. (I have a feeling it has a special compartment off to the side for liars.)

The Forgetfulness Well contains more than just words, it hides the location of car keys, scissors, pens and eye glasses. If I could get back all the time I’ve spent looking for lost things around the house, I could years to my life I think.

Why would someone put my keys in the freezer alongside the ice cream? Or drop my garden shoes in the back porch trash can?

The most dangerous theft is perhaps directions. I find myself driving on Symmes Road, but I don’t recall what my destination is. “Do not panic,” I remind myself. “It’ll come to you.” Sure enough, most of the time, before I have traveled another block or two, it does come to me.

I’ve been making a years-long, extended study of the reasons for all these dropped words and other information; I just can’t recall all the results.

Grabbing The Good

It seems to me conversation this country has flip-flopped 10 degrees in the last half a century or so. We have been hornswoggled, brain washed, duped and drained of common sense because of the arrival in our lives of, first, television, then all that followed.

In order to communicate with our fellows we must know how to sort through the raging cacophony of Hannitys, Blitzers, Behars, Limbaughs, Palins, Colberts, Lenos, and hosts of others of their ilk, to find a quiet spot to express our thoughts to each other.

Lord knows, we’re not blasting television here; with all its capabilities it has a stellar method of teaching. Listing the good things that come to us via of TV and all the other electronic gadgetry would take more space than is available just now. 

It’s addicting. From the weekly gripping tales of NCIS to th rapidly disappearing soap operas keeping us fascinated through years and years of Erica’s problems;

(She has been in car crashes, stranded on islands and died at least once.

It’s no wonder we get caught up in life amid the flickering screen scenes.

The heart can hardly bear the loads upon loads of bad news streaming our way from everywhere on the globe. Starving babies, murder, wars, cruelty, tsunamis, storms all float into our consciousness if we dare try and keep up with what is happening.

Closer to home, we have learned distrust from our governmental entities. It is enough to make depression overcome our senses.

However, however, all is not lost. We are a nation of individuals, souls who crave some silent solace to slip into our days. Around the edges of our lives are millions of good happenings, neighbors who help each other, church loads of good works bringing assistance to needy, thousands and thousands of words aimed at lifting spirits.

Patriotism flows like a strong silver cord through tangled lives; love blooms and glows in overwhelming cascading rivulets over and among us. Our freedoms fly in the face of adversity. Hope races in and around the everlasting political struggles that seem to be rotting from the center.

But we have our own ways to survive: centering on the positive paths interweaving our society, pushing back the darkness with what one president has called “points of light,” holding our own conversations aimed at bringing about peace and grabbing onto the good.

Even as I write, a television show is instructing me about how to plant mosses in the shady parts of the lawn, and I’m left the idea of planting Ajuga between all the stones paving walkways in my garden. 

 Rows and Rows of Books and Corn

When Old Dad and I with our kids first came to Fairfield, we wound up in a home on Dee Alva Drive. Because I was at that time trying to write newspaper stuff, I began to refer to him in columns for the paper as “Old Dad.” He has been gone from us for a number of years now, but, as I recall it, he never minded when I called him by that nickname.

He laughed when folks in Butler County within reading range of the Journal News began calling him, “Old Dad.” He didn’t mind. Anyway, soon we turned an extra bedroom in our home into an office-library for me.  After all, my husband, John G. Eaton, an accountant, worked at General Motors Fisher Body, and his workday was longer than mine.

My brother, David Stidham, made bookshelves lining two walls of that small room. I was delighted and started storing all the books I had brought along. Over the years and long after my husband was gone I placed every book I could get into those shelves, even Dr. Seuss children’s books and dozens of other books written for kids went into those rows and rows of everything from World War II history to E.E. Cummings’ poems and when I could afford some other books from my favorite authors.

Poking around for story ideas, or trying to research articles, I would wander into that book-lined space and, not paying much attention to the title or the author, I would lift some reading matter from a handy spot. That’s how I came to find a quote from one of Jesse Stuart’s short stories the other day.   

Titled “For the Love of Brass,” that story was about a farmer who hired a homeless man “Bud.” who swore he could hoe corn faster than anyone and that included Thorny, the farmer. Thorny, who couldn’t find out any background on Bud, took the bait and Thorny offered him a job if he could fulfill his bluff.

Here’s the sentence that caught my eye: “No man on this river or any other river that I have worked with has ever took a row of corn and raked weeds down on me!” It rang bells of memory as I recalled my days of hoeing on steep farmland with my father and brothers and sister.

What that sentence meant was whoever took the lower row had to be able to hoe faster than the guy in the row above (It kept hoer in the upper row from digging weed and dirt onto the worker below.) I was hardly ever fast enough to take the lower row- -that was usually Pop.

I have 11 brothers and sisters and one of two of us still grow little garden patches of sweet corn, but they do all the hoeing themselves. Yet they will know immediately what Thorny was saying. They all remember the pecking order of choosing which row you took.

(It depended directly how fast you could take the row as it curved around the hillside.)

Think back: it was a time when work was important and that feeling flowed from parents to kids. A farm on the steep slopes required many different kinds of chores.

Cows to milk, chickens to feed, horses, hogs and lambs also got hungry. Homework, any games we kids had in mind, and other outside chores had to wait until the work was completed.

They never punished us for not working. We knew. Grew up knowing. Work is important. Never doubted that for a minute of our lives.

 The Native Americans’ Ten Commandments.

Every time I turn to the news on television I hear something about this country’s sad economy. And the word “Depression” slips in on a regular basis.

That word gets my attention every time. Not that I remember the onset of those drear days, I can check my birth date and compare it with the snap and crackle of banks failing that year. (I was born Oct.26, 1929.)

I admit I was too young to remember the beginning, but as childhood came along, certainly I heard conversations about my grandparents’ losses. Our family was snuggled in a stone house tucked into the side of a mountain deep in the Appalachians.

We had food from the farm, warmth in the house and a toddler had not much to be unhappy about. When I search for those early memories only those sweet things rise, like learning your first poem.

Someone sent me in the U. S. Mail a copy of the “Indian Ten Commandments,” and since I’m always interested in the Native Americans’ way of life, if there’s room, we’ll use it here.

In the meantime, here’s piece of poetry written by Frank L. Stanton which fits those early days of Great Depression like a glove: It’s titled: Keep a-Goin. 

If you strike a thorn or rose, Keep a-goin’! If it hails or if it snows, Keep a-goin!

‘Taint no use to sit an’ whine, When the fish ain’t on your line,

Bait your hook and keep a-tryin,’-Keep a-goin’!

When the weather kills your crop, Keep a-going’! Though ‘Tis work to reach the top, Keep a-goin’!

S’pose you’re out of every dime, Gittin’ broke ain’t any crime, Tell the world you’re feeling prime-Keep a-goin’!

When it looks like all is up, Keep a-goin’! Drain the sweetness from the cup, Keep a-goin’! See the wild birds on the wing, Hear the bells that sweetly ring, When you feel like singin’, sing. Keep a-goin’!

See, encouragement leaps from every word. Makes a person want to start rhyming on the spot. I like poems. I like Ogden Nash, James Whitcomb Riley and Annie Dillard especially “The Shape of the Air” from her book of poems titled “Tickets For A Prayer Wheel.”

Okay, Okay, here’ are the Native Americans’ Ten Commandments.

I’ll separate them with periods.

Treat the Earth and all that dwell there in with respect. Remain close to the Great Spirit. Show great respect for your fellow beings. Work together for the benefit of all Mankind. Give assistance and kindness wherever needed. Do what you know to be right. Look after the well being of mind and body. Dedicate a share of your efforts to the greater good. Be truthful and honest at all times. Take full responsibility for your actions.

Poetry is filled with good things for the soul, it seems to me. Whatever comes to us with encouragement helps.

Navy Yard

Sounds of pain infused the sentence uttered by one of my good friends: we talked on the phone the evening of the day a gunman entered the U. S. Navy yard in Washington and shot to death 12 Americans.

“Ercel,” she said plaintively, “has our country gone so far down we can never, ever, get it back?”

I had no answer for her. I had watched the long TV hours of coverage occurring after the first newsbreak said a shooter was in the Navy facility, not far from the White House.

I couldn’t turn off the news. I couldn’t keep from thinking of dozens of little elementary kids in Newtown, Conn., Gabby Giffords and a parade of other innocent Americans who lost their lives at the hands of their countrymen.

 “When the human race learned how to kill each other and to know the awful consequences, “ said a teenager I know, her voice rising with passion.  “You think we’d know how to stop all this gun trouble in our country!”

But before we could process the Navy Yard tragedy, another massacre happened in Chicago where the addition of more cops on the streets seemed to have cut down the killings since last year, yet here was another report of killings. Speaking of killings, the news brings an almost daily report of shootings in Cincinnati.

And that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Wherever people gather the topic is likely to come up. Does the trouble lie in the proliferation of Americans with mental health issues? How on earth can we as a nation deal with the ease with which guns can be purchased?

We have all the wonders of speed-of-light technology; why can’t compile a list of the mentally ill among us; why can’t we fashion some rules to insure that those who are homeless and have no health care could be named in a database, including those who “fall between the cracks” a phrase I hate. 

On television I saw a news clip about Giffords and her husband, retired astronaut, Mark Kelly, devote much of their time traveling the country. Kelly, who said he owns several guns, but he wanted to illustrate how easy it is to purchase one. And they televised a clip of his stop at a gun shop and completing a “background check “ in two or three minutes.

I grew up on farmland and in our big family there were guns. Hunting provided some of the food for our table. Here is how it was. I have 11 brothers and sisters.

Our- stern preacher father laid down the law to his children about certain things.

No matter why you handled a gun it was NEVER, ever pointed toward a person.

Guns were kept in safe places the older family members had to have permission to take one out.

However, to this day I don’t want to be around guns. Their death-dealing barks scare me more than the copper heads and rattlesnakes I also grew up with.

My friend, who is just as concerned as I am about the path of our nation, simply asks to be heard. Her voice is soft and pleasant, still, it carries her message of worry.

“With all we are and all this nation has accomplished in its history, it seems we could solve this problem that is picking off so many . . . and the children!!!!”


Time is a word that should begin with a capital letter. Every time we use it. See? The computer yelled at me the first time I tried to use it in lower case! Okay! 0kay!

Anyway, they’re messing with it again. Come March 10 and we’re supposed to “spring forward,” just as we do about this point every year. After that we hold that admonition in our heads and our clocks until we must “fall back.”

Have you changed your watches and clocks?

Time is a tender topic. It has no color, no shape; you can’t spill it on your shoes. Yet we obey its every whim. We get out of bed when we’d rather stay in the cozy nest; time tells us we must go to work and what we must do when we’re there.

 ‘T’was not ever thus. And I’m not going back to the Stone Age for answers; I’ll simply slip backward enough years to picture myself as a kid hoeing corn on a steep-sided mountain. My siblings, my father and I braved the hot summer sun to chop weeds from the rows of shin-high corn.

When growling stomachs notified us the day was nearing noon, we would lean on our hoe handles and try to make them leave almost no shade. If that happened it was time to go down the hill to Mom’s kitchen where the table would be ready for lunch.

We went through our days without too much attention to clocks. When morning and afternoon sun paths traced their way across the patch of sky we could spot above our heads, we could read time by the shadows on mountains bracketing our home.

Later in our lives of course the tendrils of time became more and more prevalent. My mother, when she became older, needed a clock within eyesight day and night.

Our family farmed. Daylight and dark spoke the edges of our days.

Time sneakily took years away. My first job was in doctors’ offices. Next, I was a secretary in the office of the president of Cumberland College at Barbourville, Ky. That came after the U. S. Army drafted my husband.

Time ticked off my husband’s tour (most of it in Japan) while General Motors held his place on their workforce. Time worked his magic. We landed back in Fairfield, Ohio and had another daughter. The first one was born shortly before her father was drafted.

Why is it the older we become the faster time finds its way to jerk us around, here and there, up and down, happy and blue; his speed, however is geared neatly toward what we’re feeling. Ever try to measure how much time a kiss takes? Or the first long drink of water you have when you’re dry as a bone?

I remember the first time I spotted about a six- foot snake on the other side of a fence I was following up hill. I tell you, I thought I was flying up that hill but my legs felt as though they weighed at least 100 pounds each. Don’t ask me what kind of snake it was; I didn’t stop to find out. Must have taken me at least two or three hours to get up that slope.

At the top, snake streaked right. I made it a couple of steps to the left before I collapsed.

No doubt, time (and that snake) won that battle. Maybe that time, but I think I have a little TIME in me.


I’m going to repeat something I cut from an old newspaper. Goodness knows I’ve clipped and clipped over the years.

Here’s the Associated Press quote: “The New York legislature began a special session Monday to consider banning assault weapons, and activists in Ohio marched on Klan leaders’ homes, as people around the country marked Martin Luther King Day with a burst of activism.”

Right this minute, if I stopped writing and turned the television on, I would hear again the horrible news of deaths of 20 little children and six adults in an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.

I’m going back to that old newspaper clip . . .  it is dated Jan. 18, 1994. Coretta Scott King, who was speaking that day, said: “poverty and injustice do not justify violence and brutality.”

The carnage three days ago in a small town in Connecticut has unleashed a firestorm that swiftly circled the globe. The practice of 24-hours-a-day news broadcasting brought to us in real time every detail the news people could gather as great numbers of the media poured into that small town.

In order to fill all those hours, much of the news was repeated and sometimes a mistake was made as the wrong information got loose in the air waves.  Soon folks could talk of nothing else. Scenes of the little five and six and seven year olds slaughtered with an assault weapon in the hands of a madman, was more than anyone could bear to think about.

Gradually, as the days passed and I continued to watch, gun control advocates began to appear on TV talk shows, some changing their minds. The conversations ran rampant on channel after channel. All around the country, folks began to gather around the grieving little town. Flowers and expressions of concern poured in, vigils took place.

How many of us were not touched by the unbearable thoughts of the little ones’ bodies being riddled with more than one blast. Colin Goddard, survivor of the Virginia Tech shooting some years ago, spoke on a TV show of the Newtown tragedy, urging lawmakers to act.  “No one can stand to see little children hurt like that,” he said, “we can do better than that in this country.”

Reasonableness and decency should find their way into the conversation. Changing such an important aspect of our culture should not cause division. Surely, surely we can overlook politics just now and deal with this terror that affects us all with such grief.


 Clutter’s Good

Leave me alone I like clutter. People have written, talked, preached and sang about cleaning up your life. In other words, make your house neat.

Now, “things” get to mean something as you tread life’s highways. Maybe they shouldn’t, but well. . .I have a tiny wooden plow, hand carved by a Lindenwald man who was the subject of a story I wrote. It rests on a little shelf alongside some wood works turned out by one of my brothers.

Could I get rid of them? No!

My granddaughter went through a phase of building with small wood pieces that came in kits. Meticulously she put together hundreds, perhaps thousands, of those. In various parts of the house are the London Bridge, Buckingham Palace, a Tibetan structure and a hanging, three-dimensional decoration featuring a dragon.

Could I get rid of them?

And books. It’s as though a living thing has moved in and stacked various kinds of reading matter all over my house. At the end of a couch in the family room a little table groans under such titles as “The Backyard Bird Feeder’s Bible,” “River Horse,” by William Least Heat Moon,  20th Century Journey by William L. Shirer.  “Thunder and Lightning,” by Natalie Goldberg and “Come to Think of It” by Daniel Schorr. These I can see without leaving my chair.

Could I get rid of them?

Twenty-four framed photos of family members rest on the piano; origami designs  decorate every open space on shelves and tables. Two daughters, two granddaughters and two little great-grandsons require a lot of memory space.

A gaggle of precious rocks hides somewhere. A couple of wonderful sculptures made by a Fairfield High School student decades ago grace a hallway bookshelf. And, speaking of books, they have sneaked out of shelves and now have taken up residence on dining table, hearth, corners on the floor.

Every time my eyes light on one of these things, a slew of memories washes over me. I am not mentioning the walls. Art works by the daughters from years ago adorn various spaces, along with some from local artists.

Some years ago we dedicated a space in the front hall for visitors to sign their names and add the date. As the years passed the space grew so that we finally outlined a large area with decorative paper. We continue to do that: asking our visitors “Have you signed the wall?”

One of the bedrooms in my house is totally furnished with pieces from the home of my in-laws: An iron bed frame, a chair, a dresser and a marvelous black picture frame into which I put a mirror.

Could I get rid of any of them?

By now you are probably sick and tired of reading this, especially the neatniks among you. But it seems to me our stories of our lives are written in the things we keep, precious pieces of paper and stone and glass speak of moments, months and years passing. I open our family Bible and find my mother’s handwriting. Although she has been gone many years, her children know the slants and shapes and curls of her handwriting.

A friend of mine said: “You’d better not call 1-800-Got Junk, they’d take away your entire house!”  Well my house is my scrapbook.

To repeat: I’m keeping all of it. So sue me.

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