Monday, December 31, 2007

Our Little Christmas on the Prairie

We had Eggs Benedict for breakfast, right after we opened up our presents. (I got a new Chinese cookbook, among other things).

One of our favorite cookbooks is called “The Little House Cookbook” and it contains recipes based on the Laura Ingalls Wilder ‘Little House on the Prairie’ book series. Emily likes to challenge me with something new from this around Christmas time each year. Here’s what we had for Christmas dinner this year:

Codfish Balls
Creamed Carrots
Fried Apples & Onions

I’ll put the recipes up over at Nellis.

For the Codfish Balls (which, by the way, Emeril Lagasse called “Fritters” and featured on his show a few days ago), we had to mail order salt cod from a store on the East Coast that features foods imported from Spain. In Spain they call it bacalao, but now that I’ve made it I think you could substitute fresh cod from the local market and skip the 48 hour soaking process.

We had oyster stew for supper. I’ve been very disappointed with the oysters I’ve been getting here the last few years. They taste good, but they shrivel up into teeny little bites. I guess that’s the drawback with living in a landlocked state.

Make plans, NOT Resolutions

I just finished reading Dave Ramsey’s “Total Money Makeover” and one of the things he says is, “If you don’t tell your money what to do, it goes away.” And I guess I’ve been living the truth of that for the past half century or so. He recommends making a spending plan each month that accounts for every penny of income you have. So we’re working on that for this year. But the sermon at CBC last Sunday made me think that Ramsey’s statement is also true of my time; if I don’t plan what I’m going to do with it, it goes away. Our Pastor challenged us to try and envision what we want to have accomplished in 2008 when we look back on it, and then make plans to achieve that. He says we should ask ourselves every morning; “What do I need to do today, so that when ‘I lay me down to sleep’ tonight, I can declare this to have been a successful day.” And then plan out your day accordingly. (I’m paraphrasing, obviously. I can’t write down everything he said during his 40 minute sermon).
So, in an attempt to apply these principles to my meager little existence, here is what I want to look back on as successes when I reach December 31, 2008:
I want to have memorized 52 more Bible verses.
I want to be able to look at the pages of my personal journal and see at least 120 new entries.
I want to finish the short stories I started last year.
I have five quilt projects in mind to get finished.
I want to be able to ride Lucy – fearlessly.
I want to have added a certain amount of money to our savings account.
I want to weigh 20 pounds less than I do right now.
With all of these things in mind, I will plan my days accordingly.
Now that I’ve gone public with this stuff, feel free to hold me accountable and bring them up every once in a while for a progress check.

Hey, Joe!
Is it still snowing in Chicago?

Friday, December 28, 2007

Computer problems

Greetings, friends! I hope you all had a lovely Christmas!

I have been unable to blog, leave comments or answer emails due to home computer problems. I’ve been off work all week, will return Monday.

Hopefully, the computer problems will be corrected before then.

Friday, December 21, 2007

One last laugh

My sisters and I stood at the front of the church after the services Wednesday, admiring the floral arrangements and reading the accompanying cards. Curiously, we didn’t find the one that I had ordered on behalf of Shirley, our brother and I, but there was an extra Peace Lily, so we assumed that was it and the card had been lost.

However, the next day, I called the florist and asked about it and it turns out the flowers I ordered had been delivered to a funeral service at the wrong church! The young man I spoke to was very apologetic, refunded my money and groveled quite satisfactorily, so I forgave him and hung up as quickly as I could to avoid laughing in his ear.

I had suddenly gotten an image of another grieving family, standing around admiring the flowers sent in memory of their departed loved one, and then one of them reads a card and asks, “Who in the heck are these people? I didn’t know we had an Uncle Mick.”

And then in my imagination, I thought I heard George chuckling somewhere in the background.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Chicago, Buenos Aires, Chicago, London, the beach, Houston, India, Chicago, Brazil, Cleveland, Miami, Chicago….

Hello everyone, have you noticed my disappearance from OSM? I am sorry I haven’t been around, but I have good reason. I have so much stuff to share with you, but almost need a ghost write to get it on OSM. But here is a feeble attempt. I saw a great Bud Light commercial where the news casters cut a half hour news cast to 9 seconds so they can go get a beer. In that spirit, here I go. I actually shared a slide with my boss to summarize my activities and it went a little like this.

Barabas’ first 90 days [in the new global director role].
Miles Flown – 51,000+
Nights in a hotel – 22
Nights on a airplane – 12
Where did I go and what I did (Leaving work stuff out for OSM Readers). All travel is from Miami by the way.

Chicago – Met the boss for the first face to face meeting
Buenos Aires – had to conduct a strategy session, took a day off went touring. Great steak and wine in BA and one my favorite places (By the way, I did a littel tango while there...
Chicago – Went house hunting with the family, and worked. We looked a forty houses and put an offer on one and got it!

Dolpins - Bills Football Game - Went there with a friend, great seats. Dolpins lost of course. Was actually home for a week! (I am on the left)
London – What’s the point of saying anything about work, my highlight was clearly dinner with LaDawn and Marc and getting her mom’s pissed off about my ballet comments. But I also worked a lot there.
Thanksgiving at the beach – Again, home with the fam. Lovin life, we took little joe to the beach and dinner on the patio. High was 83!

Houston – This trip sucked, I had to go to Houston at the last minute to get my visa for India. I took a 6 am flight from Miami and came back the same night. Houston is great. The airport is of course George H.W. Bush International. That was a warm welcome to me. I also had lunch at the hardrock café and did a little sight seeing. But most of the day was spent working and doing conference calls from a starbucks while waiting for my visa. By the end of the day, I was getting free coffee! Rest assured, I sent Leah a pic of the GWB statue!

New Dehli – Wow. 8 hr flight to Frankfurt to Mia, 8 hr layover in Frankfurt – I hopped on a train and went downtown Frankfurt to get a bratwurst and beer of course, then back to the airport for an 8 hr flight to Dehli. The Market is unbelievable, the poverty is almost indescribable and the contrast is very stark. Every spoiled American (even the Americans who think they are poor but have cell phones, cable tv’s and cars) should spend a day there and appreciate the homeland
Chicago – had a global meeting, for the first two days. On the third day I had to close on the new house. My wife stayed in Mia. I had power of attorney so I had to sign everything three time!! Flew into and out of a ice storm
Brazil – Went to Sao Paulo on Sunday night (12/14). My 9:00 flight was canceled, I had the 11:45 which took off 2 hrs late. I landed, went straight to the office.. Off to dinner after a revised agenda. Checked into hotel and went back out with the team. Trafic in SP Sucks! Has to be worst on planet (actually India is worse). Flew home Tuesday night and home by Wed 5:45 am. I met another blogger at the airport and we exchanged (maybe she’s reading now?).
Cleveland (12/19) – I landed this morning, slept an hour kissed the baby who I miss. Got up around 7. Got ready, took my wife and son to the airport. I am at work now to take care of some responsibilities. Have to go home, finish packing and back to the airport I go to spend Christmas in Cleveland.
Miami – Back to Miami on Dec 28th
Chicago – Movers come to pack our house up on Jan. 8th and load on the 9th. On Jan 10th, I am no longer a Floridian and back to a Chicagoan.

Its gottent to a point where I actually am beginning to recognize flight attends, customs agents and most scary other passengers. So OSM friends and family, forgive me for my absence. I warned Janelle that I do this from time to time. But I miss you all dearly and Merry Christmas!!!!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

I want to share a brief memory from last summer:
We had a big family reunion in June. Near the end of the day, my two grand-nieces, Jaydee and Kendra, were being shuttled off to a week of summer camp. The pre-teen daughters each took their turn giving kisses and hugs (enough to last a whole week) to their dad, George. I happened to be sitting across the table from George during this family ritual. I saw Kendra, in her NY Yankees baseball cap, as she threw her arms around his neck and covered his face with kisses. Then she put her head against his chest and rubbed with all her might.
“HEY!” George reprimanded, “Get that Yankee stuff away from me!” (I guess he was a Red Sox fan). Kendra giggled and George laughed out loud, and she skipped away to camp.
I feel blessed to have witnessed this loving moment between father and daughter.

I have faith that no one – not even George at age 44 – lives one second less than God intended them to live. His work here was done.

Even though our hearts are breaking, we trust George is home for Christmas.

(George’s wife blogs at
His mother-in-law, my sister is on )
Dear friends;

Due to a death in the family, blogging has been put on hold.
While I have not lost the Eternal Joy that is rooted in my relationship with God through His Son Jesus, it is necessrayto process the grief that is a part of this life “on the green side of the sod.”

Please keep Cindy, Jaydee and Kendra in your prayers.

I’ll be back.

Monday, December 10, 2007

During the last ice storm, we discovered that our satellites become unreliable, especially the internet receiver. Since all available sources are predicting ice and snow for approximately the next 24 hours, I thought I’d check in with a short joke so everyone would know I’m (probably) still alive and kickin’.

A guy gets in a terrible car accident and is taken by ambulance to a nearby Catholic Hospital. In the emergency room, the admitting nurse is a Nun. She asks him if he has any way to pay for his treatment.

“No,” he replies, “I’ve been out of work for six months and I’m broke.”

She asks him, “Well, do you have any family members who could help pay?”

He shakes his head again, “No, I only have one old maid sister and she’s a Nun.”

The nurse indignantly says to him, “Nuns are NOT old maids, sir, we are married to God.”

“In that case,” the man says, “You can send the bill to my brother-in-law.”

(Well, I thought it was funny.)

Saturday, December 08, 2007

If you are praying person, please visit here and be ready to pray on Monday.
If you enjoy reading biographies, you should go here: and read Apr 24, Apr 27, Jun 14 and Dec 14 in that order. Terriffic writing about a great man.

Friday, December 07, 2007


Copy it and fill in your own answers, either here or on your blog.

1. WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE? No. Mom once told me she combined the first half of Dad’s name (JAck) with the last half of her own (RachEL) and stuck the ‘n’ in so it would work. I believed her until the first time I met a girl with the same name as mine – and discovered I am one of two people in the US who spells it without the “e” on the end.

2. WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU CRIED? Wednesday afternoon, 12/5. (I was at a funeral.)



5. DO YOU HAVE KIDS? 1 Son, 1 Daughter


7. DO YOU USE SARCASM A LOT? I try to, but I’m not very good at it.






13. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM? Vanilla swimming in hot fudges and caramel.


15. RED OR PINK? Red


17. WHO DO YOU MISS THE MOST? I don’t know if I miss him the most, but I’ve missed Dad the longest.

18. WHAT COLOR PANTS AND SHOES ARE YOU WEARING? Black pants, grey & white New Balance walkers


20. WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW? Sod field trucks, tractors, graders & machinery rumbling around and getting put away for the winter.




24. DO YOU LIKE THE PERSON WHO SENT THIS TO YOU? Yes. (I wonder if anyone every says no?)

25. FAVORITE SPORTS TO WATCH? Thoroughbred horse racing; Nebraska football

26. HAIR COLOR? Brown with streaks of grey. (I like my grey hair – I worked hard for it)

27. EYE COLOR? Brown


29. FAVORITE FOOD? Mexican


31. LAST MOVIE YOU WATCHED? Can’t remember the title!? (It was on satellite; starred Diane Keaton as the ‘old maid’ who is dying of leukemia. She is the estranged sister of Meryl Streep who was the mother of Leo DiCaprio… Best line to come out of Hollywood in years, when Keaton’s character is talking about how good her life has been in the area of love and Streep says, “Yes, a lot of people love you.” Keaton’s answers, “That’s not what I meant. I have been so blessed to have such people in my life to love.” I should also point out that Keaton’s character is the caregiver to her invalid father and his elderly, eccentric sister.)

32. WHAT COLOR SHIRT ARE YOU WEARING? Black sweater under a red sweatshirt.



35. FAVORITE DESSERT? The next one.

36. WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING NOW? The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey

37. WHAT IS ON YOUR MOUSE PAD? An art deco coffee cup and the words “Le Café.”


39. FAVORITE SOUND? Four-part a capella harmony

40. ROLLING STONES OR BEATLES? Neither: Martina McBride




Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Working in the hog barn

There will be a special place in Heaven for my husband, Randy. For 17 years, he supported our family by working 7 days a week for a farrow to finish hog operation. For you city folk, a farrow to finish operation means we raised pigs from birth to market weight.

If I recall correctly, Randy’s main areas of responsibility included the farrowing house, the nursery and two other buildings that held feeder pigs. There was another guy who was in charge of the boar yard and getting the sows pregnant, but that is another story entirely. I went to work with Randy in about ’93, helping him in his buildings. As I did my work, I often wondered how the business of hog-raising might change in the future. I don’t know that it has very much, but this is how we did it in the 1990s.

A sow is one of the most predictable mothers in the animal kingdom. She will go into heat 33 days after being weaned and she will give birth – or farrow – exactly 3 months and 3 days after she gets pregnant. A few days before her litter was due to be born, we loaded her onto a cart, I gave her a bath with the power washer and she was moved into the farrowing house and settled into her own private farrowing crate. Pregnant and nursing sows are kept separated from each other to prevent them from killing each other’s babies.

The farrowing crate is also designed to prevent a sow from savaging her own young, which sometimes happens (and it has been happening since long before hogs were domesticated) for reasons yet to be determined. The sow has room to lie down and stand up, but she can’t turn around. In order to eat or drink or poop or pee, all she had to do was stand up. The crate is designed so that the waste falls through the cracks in the floor into a pit, where it drained into a cesspool outside the building. Part of my job was to go around behind the crates with a shovel and scrape out all the poop. Every day. They can really generate a lot of poop.

Anyway, after the litter was born, I helped give them each a shot of iron and a shot of penicillin, to prevent any infection from the umbilical chord. They also had to have their teeth clipped – they are born with four “fangs” (I think they are actually called ‘wolf teeth?’) two on top and two on bottom, that had to be clipped so they wouldn’t hurt each other.

As soon a pig is able to breathe, the first thing it starts to do is look for something to eat. They are a little shakey when they first stand up, but they get over that in a matter of minutes. The second thing they start to do within minutes of being born (actually, I think the struggle probably begins in the womb) is fight their siblings for the best nipple. This created a fatal disadvantage to the ‘runts.’ Since we usually herded in about 10 sows at time, who all farrowed within a few days of each other, Randy was able sort the piglets and foster them between the mothers so that each sow had about 8 babies of all the same size to nurse. Within a couple of weeks, the male piglets were castrated, both genders got their tails clipped off and Randy would examine each gilt (girl) to see if she might be kept for breeding stock. If so, she got her ears notched so that she was numbered. I can’t remember how to read the notches – it’s been too long. Randy probably does, though. He has a much better memory.

Within a few weeks, the piglets were weaned from the sows and moved into the nursery, where their job for the rest of their lives was to eat and grow. Most of them undertook this career with gusto. Meanwhile, the sows were moved back out into the boar yard to eat and get pregnant. At that point, my job was to wash out each of the vacated farrowing crates with a power washer and then disinfect each one. If you ever find yourself in a position where you have to clean up hog poop with a power washer, I have only one piece of advice: never, ever under any circumstances whatsoever should you ever lick your lips. Ever. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

Our farrowing house had 40 crates and we had about 120 sows in the breeding herd who rotated in and out all year round. The nursery had 6 rooms with four pens each that held 8-10 piglets each. As the weanlings grew into feeder pigs, they were moved into larger and larger pens in other buildings around the farm. After they were moved out, it was my job to wash each of the vacated nursery rooms with the power washer. I don’t know how many hogs we would have had at one time on the place.

One thing I remember about the farrowing house was that, even though we didn’t have a furnace, it was hardly ever cold in there. We used heat lamps over the crates that the babies could sleep under, but the rest of the heat must have come from the animals. In the summer we ran fans and had exhaust fans on the roof to help pull the heat out.

Each of the buildings had a waste pit underneath it that had to be drained regularly. I would go around the buildings and pull plugs and run scrapers in order to make that happen. Like I said before, they can really generate a lot of poop. (And Ralph can vouch for me on that.)

That’s all I can remember about that for now. If more comes to me, I’ll post it as I think of it.

(Sue will probably be able to add some memories to this procedure. She and Jerry did this for several years.)

Monday, December 03, 2007

If you feel like being inspired, go to and do a search on "Iris Doolittle." This is one of the better stories I've read about her. (I'm showing our age, but I've known Iris since about 1964.)
Take the time to listen to the video of her playing at the end the interview.
I deeply regret that I wasn't able to attend the concert she was playing last Saturday.
‘Tis the Season

It started coming down around 1 Saturday morning. I heard it hitting the window. Sleet sounds just like somebody’s standing outside aiming a sandblaster at your house, only colder.
So the first weekend in December, when we had three events planned: a family dinner at noon on Saturday, Community theatre production Saturday evening and a church supper Sunday evening, begins with an ice storm.

And so it goes…

Sue, the sis who was hosting the family dinner, had the good sense to postpone the gathering for a week, so we were spared the hitonius 70 mile drive through the sleet in the morning.

But everyone knows that “The show must go on.” Like the postal service, “Neither rain nor sleet nor dark of night” nor even the threatened lack of audience can cancel a small town community theatre production. So we went on. I thought it a good decision, considering the number of people and their schedules involved, it would have been nearly impossible to reschedule and keep everyone in the show. It was a bit of a white-knuckle drive to town from where I live, but slow and easy does it. One conversation concluded with, “No matter how many or how few people we get, we’ll just do our best and have a good time with it.” The little old city auditorium was set for 60 people and, by golly, we had over a hundred! Silver Creek Vineyards provided a selection of wines for our attendees and the Right Next Door Coffee Bar offered concessions of decaf, hot cocoa, teas, etc. By some miracle, the sleet had switched over to rain at some point in the late afternoon, so the drive home was a lot less treacherous than the one in and the whole day ended with a big PHEW!! (Note to Beverly - thanks for getting me involved. I enjoyed it tremendously! Note to Cliff: You're the best.)

Early Sunday morning, I awoke to a thin powdery snow falling on the place. So after morning chores, I just snuggled down with hot coffee and went to blog church, which requires no driving, instead of church in town.

We spent the evening at the church supper, which was not your ordinary potluck. Randy is serving on the Elder board and a small group of people puts on an appreciation dinner for elders, Pastors and church staff. But the great thing is that they make a gourmet prime rib dinner. I’m telling you, one of the cooks is an amateur chef and what he can do with a prime rib roast is absolutely DIVINE!

All in all, not a bad weekend, considering the icy start.