3 Days in Springfield MO

3 Days in Springfield MO

The American Eagle plane touched down in Springfield, MO, a perfect Saturday morning for flying, we met outside security, to connect with my long-time gal pal, Trisha. We picked up my pink overnight bag, and immediately headed down Hi-Way 60 and across 65 to Mansfield, MO, to the site of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home and Museum.

We purchased tickets for the museum as well as tours of the old white farmhouse and the Rock House, a Sears’ plan called “the Mitchell”, both locations where Laura wrote many of the Little House on the Prairie books. Those of us of a certain age growing up in the Midwest remember these books depicting rural life in our neck of the woods — I own the nine volume set myself — as some of the first books we loved to read and reread during our elementary school days.  I would read one book in a setting.  The Rocky Ridge Farm is picturesque with lots of old hardwood trees and rolling pastures; however, the apple orchard described in her books didn’t make it through the dust bowl era.  The museum is new as is the welcome center and of course, they have a great gift shop full of memorabilia, books written by both Laura and her equally talented daughter, Rose.

After the tour,  we trekked on down the road to discover our next great female figure in the literary arts from these parts.  Her name is Rose O’Neill and her homestead, named Bonniebrook, located near Branson, originally built-in stages beginning in 1898, later painstakingly reconstructed from old photos and interviews with family and from the fading memories of prior visitors. The original home burned to the ground in 1947, long after Rose’s death. The replica home, complete with Rose’s studio on third floor,  is now open for tours (closes at 3 p.m. so plan accordingly) as well as  offering a gift shop and small museum featuring the artist’s illustrations and paintings.  Rose O’Neill is most famous for the creation of the Kewpie but I quickly learned that she was a pioneering female illustrator, poet, novelist and activist

The Kewpie museum is a testament to the marketing genius of Rose O’Neill. The museum houses antique Kewpie ephemera of O’Neill’s era. From dolls to door knockers, you will see hundreds of Kewpie items that were sold during the Kewpie boom which swept the world in the early 20th Century.  But of most interest to me were her sketches from greek mythology including fairies, giants and trolls.  Rose wore long flowing velvet caftans to avoid wearing a corset (which she found so disadvantageous to women) and surrounded herself with artists of all types, many not as talented as Rose but she never turned anyone away.

The best quote I read of hers was that she said she was often asked by other artists to critique their work, and she avoided any comments as she said “it was too cruel to crush a kitten.”  Her unconditional love of family and friends and the Depression resulted in her losing all of her money and ending up poor again and her beloved Bonniebrook crumbling around her, unable to pay for basic repairs.

That early summer evening, after driving back to Springfield, exhausted from the day of traveling,  sightseeing, reflection and me, a little bleary-eyed from a cough and congestion, we opted for conversation on the porch, a glass of Merlot and to bed by 9 p.m.

The next day, we ate a healthy, fresh, breakfast at First Watch. If you haven’t checked out this place for breakfast it is always consistently good and fresh.  I opted for the Eggs Benedict Florentine and my friend selected steel oats with fresh fruit and a blueberry muffin.  This fortified us for several hours of touring the Springfield Art Museum which is free to the public and sits next to a pretty park for picnicking if you like.  We toured the temporary exhibit featuring more of Rose’s work called:  Frolic of the Mind: The Illustrious Life of Rose O’Neill

From the curator:  This exhibit takes as its underlying theme the unification of all of O’Neill’s creative pursuits and examines how they each were related, one to the other, from her hundreds of illustrations for the major periodicals of the day to her many illustrated advertisements, from her creation of the Kewpie doll to her more secretive “Sweet Monster” drawings. Each of these are rooted in the singular mind of Rose O’Neill – a woman who created a life on her own terms with sheer will, determination and creative talent. The ability to pursue all of her interests, in spite of the strict social rules placed upon women at the turn of the century, is perhaps the most fascinating story of them all. Rose O’Neill, the twice-divorced suffragist lived a life unbound, an iconoclast, and a rebel among reformers – yet she was beloved by nearly all who knew her.  

Trisha hosted an intimate cocktail party that evening in her home to introduce me to some of  her Springfield girlfriends — which I all quite adored.  Of course, several were fellow Kansans and Texans so what’s not to love.  The shrimp cocktail and wine pairings were sublime.

The final morning  of my long week-end in Mizzou was spent at the Wonders of the Wild, a brain child of the founder of Cabela’s, headquartered in Springfield.  My friends are volunteers and spend Monday’s shepherding guests through the indoor swamp area and around massive salt water tanks including a look at a shy octopus and beautiful coral.  Trisha is dubbed the Octopus Lady by many returning guests for her knowledge of all facts — octopus-related.  If you love aquariums, you don’t want to miss this one.

My short flight back on Monday was on time and I was back in the Fort by 6 p.m.  Even though I was fighting a bad cold, this trip was memorable in that I learned more about our history, our marine environment and the importance of staying connected to friends, both old and new.

Thank you to my Springfield hosts, Trisha (the octopus lady) and Mike.  I also appreciated all of the resilient women I learned about, from Laura Ingalls Wilder who published her first book at 65, to Rose O’Neill who grew up poor in Nebraska but at 13 won her first prize for her drawing talents and brought her family out of poverty to Bonneville, to the ladies of Springfield who shared their life journey’s with me over wine, and to my dear friends Trisha and Mike, the most resilient of all.

“My scars remind me that I did indeed survive my deepest wounds. That in itself is an accomplishment. And they bring to mind something else, too. They remind me that the damage life has inflicted on me has, in many places, left me stronger and more resilient. What hurt me in the past has actually made me better equipped to face the present.” -Steve Goodier 

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Fried Bologna Sandwich

Fried Bologna Sandwich

After reading a Rick Bragg short story in Southern Living magazine in which he describes in salivating detail the assembly and devouring of fresh garden tomato sandwiches, my memory returned to lazy summer days eating fried bologna sandwiches with my brothers.  My mother worked as a county social worker so when we were home alone on summer vacation, she left lunches up to us to prepare.

Sandwiches were our specialty including:  tuna melts, peanut butter and jelly, and margarine, brown sugar and cinnamon — all slathered on soft Wonder white classic bread.  Later, mom learned about the importance of fiber and switched us to whole wheat.

One of my favorite combos in those days was a fried bologna sandwich with mustard and catsup (my mom always spelled it catsup, not ketchup). We didn’t toast the bread, it was better soft so it could absorb the grease.  We took pre-sliced bologna, usually Oscar Meyer (those ads even got to our frugal Mom), melted margarine (no real butter existed in our home in those days) in a frying pan, placed the bologna slices carefully in the grease to fry gently on both sides.  We made tiny slits on the edges of the bologna with a knife so it would lay flat in the pan and not curl.  I liked my bologna very crispy (SPAM too but that is for another blog).  We put one or two slices of fried bologna between slices of bread, spread liberally with mustard and catsup, and enjoy.  I liked mine with a side of baked beans or fruit cocktail (always wanted the single cherry in the can) if we had any in the pantry and always a dill pickle spear.  It is not a prize sandwich without a pickle on the plate.

bologna
Delicious, yes?

I don’t eat bologna sandwiches anymore in fact I don’t remember the last time I ate one.  Most likely, I last consumed one in my youth or maybe in desperation during my college days when I lived off bad dorm food and free happy hour tacos.

I doubt if I made a fried bologna sandwich today it would taste as good as I remember.  Like in Rick’s experience, when he described his tomato sandwiches to kids today, they say “yuck”.  They would rather slather avocado on multi-grain toast, top it with flaxseed and microgreens and call it a meal or go by Starbucks and order a latte with a tomato basil panini.  We couldn’t even purchase avocados in Kansas in those days, they were not part of the produce section, neither was kale, flax seeds or microgreens. And we made our own coffee, on the stove, in a percolator.  What the hell is a panini?

Back in the day, bologna was so cheap, lasted forever in the fridge, and filled the bottomless pit of my brothers’ tummies with salty, fatty, cured meat parts. The catsup added sweetness and mustard that spicy, tart compliment. It was all we had at the time. Which explains why we learned to love bologna sandwiches

If you want to read more by Rick Bragg, check out some of his stories and books at Rick Bragg Southern Stories

Casserole Queen

Casserole Queen

Not everything retro needs to return and the highly processed casserole or hot dish is one that needs to remain in the past.  My mom was the casserole queen of Main Street (we really did live on Main Street) in Anytown, USA in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Give mom a pantry stocked with Campbell’s Soup, a freezer full of Birds Eye vegetables and a protein and she had a hearty meal on the table in 30 minutes or less.  Oh, yeah, don’t forget the carb (rice, noodles, or biscuit).

casserole2
Queen of the Casserole

Casserole was her nightly “go-to” for this busy working mom due to its versatility, as well as the time-saving aspect of literally throwing everything in the ingredient pool at once. But most importantly how economical these oven-baked creations were for her raising a family of four kids, three of the growing boy, eating machine variety.  Casseroles were everywhere back then.  In school lunches, at potluck dinners and always at church suppers. Taste was never the point, it was how quickly and cheaply, it could get to the table.  These dishes were so full of salt and other highly addictive, unnatural, preservatives that we soon grew to love, crave, the comforting taste of the goo.

Recipes from Attendees at my Wedding Shower

I still love the stuff. Green bean casserole anyone?  But I no longer use canned soup (RM still tries to slip celery and mushroom soup into the pantry), use more fresh vegetables and limit the fat, sugar and salt content in our dishes. I still make some of the old dishes especially the ones from my hand-written or typed recipe collection but I have found ways to lighten them up and get rid of all the preservatives.

The first dish I learned to make in my youth was a goulash casserole.  Mom’s recipe went like this:

Brown two pounds of ground beef.  Add one can of tomato paste, one can of mushroom soup, one can of corn, 1 /2 lb. of Velveeta, liberal dash of salt, pepper, paprika (it’s why we called it goulash) and cooked egg noodles.  Place in your Corningware French White casserole dish (still have one) and bake at 350 degrees until hot and bubbly.  What’s not love?  It’s a heart stopper!

Other favorites from her recipe box included tuna casserole with canned peas, tuna, celery soup and generous amounts of Miracle Whip with those same egg noodles and bake it until heated through. Or my personal favorite — hotdog casserole made with cut up hot dogs, chopped bacon, canned baked beans, dollops of catsup, mustard and Worcestershire (say that three times fast) sauce, and topped with slices of American cheese. Bake until processed cheese is melted and browned. Takes less than 30 minutes. Good gracious those hot dishes were good. Good eating!  Easy fixing! As the ad below reinforced. And so bad.

To my mother’s credit, she learned that cooking like this was harmful to our health and she changed our diets considerably in the late 70’s with weekly, scratch made bread, Czech-style noodles and yogurt, seeking out local, farm raised eggs and chickens, and lots of dark greens from her garden including tons of fresh herbs.  So like her, let’s leave these greasy gratins and other overly processed colon clogging combinations behind us, where they must stay, for the sake of our hearts, and only in our memories.

What would Mom say?

What would Mom say?

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Mom worked full-time while raising four children and she wanted it to be easier for me than it was for her. When I was in high school, she bought me a t-shirt that said, “A Woman’s Place is in the House and the Senate” and I recall both positive and negative remarks from teachers and classmates when I proudly wore it to school. Mom was a proud feminist, subscribed to Ms. magazine, and referred to herself as a member of the “women’s libber movement“.

I remember conversations with my Mom about discriminatory work practices that were so common in her generation and still in mine.  I was sexually harassed when I was younger.  I was french kissed by one boss while still in high school and in another, whistled at and catcalled every time I walked out on a factory floor. Female co-workers would warn me about certain male bosses not to accept lunch invitations from.  When I had a joint banking account with my husband at a local credit union in the 80’s, I wasn’t allowed to conduct certain financial transactions because he was listed as the “primary” on the account.

Mom shared a ridiculous story about when she smoked in her early twenties, which was in the 1950’s, that she had to do so in the basement of her own home because good wives of teachers didn’t smoke in public or were even seen smoking through their own home windows.

Mom was my role model.  She showed me how to  juggle career and family on a daily basis, how to get organized, how to manage my time, how to carve out small moments for self-care, how to stand up for myself and how to ask for help and get it. She helped many women and children in her career in social services trying to reduce barriers, provide support, and improve the human condition.

I know Mom would be surprised by today’s attacks on human rights and would support a renewed wave of support for all to include policies to:

  • pay the same as men do for the same job
  • recognize and value doing so much of the hard work required or expected of raising children
  • become much better at supporting working women, and mothers
  • support choices
  • control our own destiny in this world, without regard to our gender, race and physical appearance

Mom died a long time ago when I was in my 30’s. What would Mom say if she was alive today?

I know she would be shocked at current events especially the hate talk, backtracking on human rights and loss of decorum in our government leaders.  She would say – you can do and be better.

Colored Pencils

Colored Pencils

When I was a little girl, left in the care of my father, he would often take me along with him to work on week-ends and during the summer months.  His job at the time was principal of small rural high school. About the size of Brock for those readers from Texas.

I tagged along behind him trying to keep up with the strides of a 6’4″ rather imposing figure as we entered the empty halls of the deserted school building.  Dad’s job entailed it all — from distributing the mail, to scheduling the basic repairs and maintenance for the building during down time, to hiring all the staff, and to communicating with parents about future school plans and concerns. He would point me in the direction of an empty desk in the office, give me a box of colored pencils and some white copy paper to keep me quiet while he completed his tasks at hand, often leaving me alone in the office while he was in other parts of the building or chatting with the custodial staff or coaches.

My dad, before his job as a principal, was a biology teacher.  He loved to explain to me why my eyes were blue, just like his,while mom’s were green.  While he was not an especially artistic person, he did show me how to draw amoebas which I did with great attention to detail using many different shades of color and combinations.  I didn’t know at the time what all these amoeba parts were called or their function but I imagined chocolate chip cookies, suns and planets inside a lake.  My dad encouraged my creativity and gave me the gift of time and an important parenting technique that I call,  benign neglect.  I spent quite a few hours drawing amoebas of varying sizes and shapes, often stopping to sharpen my pencil on the wall-mounted sharpener next to my desk.amoeba-coloring1

Practicing benign neglect as a parent is not about abdicating responsibility, ignoring limits, or letting go of all boundaries. On the contrary. It is about creating clear limits and boundaries, which all children need (I knew not to leave the office except to go down the hall to the bathroom) allowing for enough freedom within those limits for true learning to occur. It is about watching and waiting and being intentional in the ways we intervene. It’s about allowing our children to feel some discomfort, letting them struggle, and helping them work through it. It is about loving them enough to let them experience the world in a way that lets them grow and learn, even when, with every fiber of our being, we want to shield and protect them from the bumps and bruises they will get along the way.

So in 2017, give a kid a little benign neglect (the only love I know): a packet of colored pencils, blank paper, a quiet corner and see what they create.

Happy Birthday, Michael

Happy Birthday, Michael

It’s your birthday!  Hope your day is grand and sorry I won’t be there to celebrate with you, in Alabama,  but wanted to tell you how much I love you.  You may not know this but I always compared the boys I dated … to you.  Were they kind?  Were they thoughtful? Did they look like Mark Spitz like you do?

Seriously, though, your virtues are ones to admire.  You are patient, you are thoughtful, you grow great vegetables, you are wise, you take care of family business like a champ, and you like to drink peppermint tea and wear a Henley-style cotton night-shirt to bed every night. How sweet is that?  You love your wife and children and put them first in all you do.

We are family.  You understand why we I can’t tolerate wearing turtlenecks because you can’t either, you like tuna melts, and remember dinners of pink bunny or chipped dried beef (do they make that crap, anymore?) over toast. Good god, no wonder in our later years we have to watch our cholesterol intake.  Hard to believe you are a grandpa and living the life of a retired, gentlemen farmer along the Tennessee River now.  Thank you for being my big brother, so much older than I, and Happy Birthday and many more.  Can’t wait to age gracefully, and healthfully, together with you.

Go Cubs Go!

Go Cubs Go!

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Curse of the Billy Goat

My long departed grandfather Hauck and my dad, H.H., are definitely in our family’s thoughts, memories and hopes as we are glued to our screens and devices (no longer tubes), spread out across this great nation, cheering on the Cubbies, each and every game, of the 2016 World Series between the beloved Cubs and the Cleveland Indians.  Game 5 in Wrigley Field was a nail biter played on a bitter cold night but last night, with much balmier conditions for baseball in Cleveland, the Cubs came out swinging and hitting the ball out of the park, for the first time in the series. The Cleveland Indian pitchers have dominated to this point but Bryant, Rizzo and Russell came out sizzling last night like young boys just released from school for a summer of sandlot baseball on the near North Side.   Who knows, who cares, why they came unleashed last night to score nine runs, just that they are finally hitting the ball and getting on base to make wins happen for their loyal fans and for once and for all, to dispel the Curse of the Billy Goat.

My dad loved the tell us the story of the curse.  It goes like this:  Due to the wartime travel restrictions, the first three games of the 1945 World Series were played in Detroit, where the Cubs won two games.  The final four were played at Wrigley. In game four of the series, the curse was allegedly laid upon the Cubs when Wrigley ejected Billy Sianis, who had come to game four with two box seat tickets, one for him and one for his goat. They paraded around for a few innings, but Wrigley demanded the goat leave the park due to its unpleasant odor. Upon his ejection, Sianis uttered, “The Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more.” The Cubs lost game four, lost the series, and did not return until this year’s series.

The Cubs this season are in good company with other teams in the playoffs that have suffered droughts nd share curses.  The Indians have a legend of the curse of Chief Wahoo which they too are trying to live down.   While the Cubs have not won the series since 1908, Cleveland’s last world series win was in 1948, the year my dad graduated from high school. So whatever the outcome of the series, the winner will no longer carry a curse and their long-suffering fans will celebrate in the streets of their home town.  Let it be Chicago, this time around. Grandpa and Dad will be watching and cheering them on.

“Go Cubs Go” Lyrics

Baseball season’s underway

Well you better get ready for a brand new day

Hey, Chicago, what do you say

The Cubs are gonna win today.

They’re singing …

Go, Cubs, go

Go, Cubs, go

Hey, Chicago, what do you say

The Cubs are gonna win today

Go, Cubs, go

Go, Cubs, go

Hey, Chicago, what do you say

The Cubs are gonna win today.

They got the power, they got the speed

To be the best in the National League

Well this is the year and the Cubs are real

So come on down to Wrigley Field.

We’re singing now …

Go, Cubs, go

Go, Cubs, go

Hey, Chicago, what do you say

The Cubs are gonna win today

Go, Cubs, go

Go, Cubs, go

Hey, Chicago, what do you say

The Cubs are gonna win today.

Baseball time is here again

You can catch it all on WGN

So stamp your feet and clap your hands

Chicago Cubs got the greatest fans.

You’re singing now …

Go, Cubs, go

Go, Cubs, go

Hey, Chicago, what do you say

The Cubs are gonna win today

Go, Cubs, go

Go, Cubs, go

Hey, Chicago, what do you say

The Cubs are gonna win today.