My last post flashed back 40 years. We were young, and didn't even realize how young at the time ... me still a teenager at 19, and Brian hanging onto his early 20s.
I wasn't even a full year into paying from a full-time job into Social Security and Medicare benefits. Brian was only a few years into those deductions.
In fact, those far-off benefits were so much a part of the distant future that they merited zero thought or discussion; just numbers that lessened our pay.
It may have been four decades ago, but still, it's just like that, and one of us is all signed up for both now.
After months of letters and packets from insurance companies wooing Brian with their Medicare-enhancement products, months of wondering when to get busy on this topic, months of wondering about the complexity of the process, just like that, after 20 minutes with our local Social Security office rep, he's signed up with his own ID number.
Perhaps we should celebrate. If that seems a bit odd, you're probably too young to relate to this post. After all, aren't Medicare and Social Security topics that our parents or grandparents should be talking about, you say? Old-people stuff?
But we found that a funny thing happens on the way to 65, something that begins surfacing at about age 62. You (or your better half) start to anticipate the day when these two retirement components kick in. There's no two ways about it here: the money is a release from the considerably higher cost of health insurance premiums . The Social Security payments help from delving so deeply into our retirement savings. These are the safety measures against "running out" of money.
The points I'm trying to make are these: Americans are blessed to live in a country with these programs. Some will say, "But you paid into them." But I'll say it again: it's a blessing. The same with Social Security. You don't see people lining up to leave this country. These programs are two of countless reasons why.
I didn't anticipate, I suppose, how emotional I feel to have Brian all signed up. But emotional in a good way. I feel as though congratulations are in order.
Also, if you are getting close to this age and stage, a few things we didn't know until recently: You do pay some money monthly to be on Medicare:
1. For us anyway (and I imagine for you, too), it is a huge savings over previous health premiums. Your Medicare payments can be withheld from your Social Security checks.
2. Talk to a health insurance professional about your options for a supplemental or "Advantage" plan for your Medicare. They will explain it. I won't attempt. It may or may not cost a thing. And you can change your mind or your plans. It's not one and done forever.
3. You need to decide if or how much you want for tax withholding.
4. I thought that Social Security payments came into everyone's accounts the same day each month. They do not.
5. If someone randomly calls from "Social Security" or "Medicare" asking for your Social Security number or other personal information, tell them you will call them back. Immediately then call your local Social Society office. If these entities are trying to reach you, they will send information via U.S. mail -- not through random phone calls. Fraud alert here!
6. The process isn't so bad after all. Don't let the piles of mail intimidate you.
Brian just left the house, bound for his gym. I'm going to the grocery store.
It's not a party we're having here, exactly, but more a feeling of quiet satisfaction, this day. Besides, Brian can now whip out the line, "I'm on a fixed income."
It's the new way we roll.
Forty years ago today, Brian and I were officially engaged!
In the winter of the Blizzard of ’78, this day was cold with plenty of snow on the ground. For several weeks that season, I slept nights on the living room sofa of my brother and SIL Tim and Jeannie in Liberty.
Brian and I had been talking about marriage for a while, and were privately engaged. The ring was selected after Christmas. It needed sized, and what better time to make things official than with a Valentine's Day debut!
After work that day, I arrived at the home on East Seminary Street in Liberty where Brian rented a spacious apartment in the upstairs of landlady Mary Snyder. He was visiting downstairs with Mary.
“Your ring’s upstairs,” he said when I arrived. I went up, found the box, and brought it back down for the two of them to admire.
There was no band, no knee proposal, no asking my dad for my hand. But I knew that we loved each other and all these years later, there's no one I would rather come home to.
Forty years ago it was official, and soon came the engagement photo in the newspaper, obligatory back in that era.
Come October, God willing, we’ll be celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary. But on that February day so long ago, I couldn’t imagine the double-digit anniversary numbers that we have today. It was simply too far into the future to even imagine. I couldn’t anticipate that four decades from that day, on our mind would be Brian’s signing up for Medicare and Social Security this week and I’d be wrapping my mind around the idea of turning 60 this year.
Last night I helped friend Patti decorate Valentine cookies that she planned to put out as a surprise for her coworkers in the teachers’ lounge today. By the time I got to her house, she and her little niece had decorated most of the hearts in bright colors. I added a few to the stack. Life is full of pattern and color and the unexpected—like those cookies that are no doubt by now gone!
On Monday, my Bible Study Fellowship group leader had old-fashioned Valentines for all of us. Not only Valentines, but red suckers attached. I don’t know how long it’s been since someone gave me that combo. The little card took me back to the fun we had in elementary school on this day.
Whether your Valentine’s Day comes with candy, hearts, a diamond engagement ring, or not, may the day remind us all of special loves, past, present and sometimes, those that are one and the same.
If you haven't been to Weight Watchers ever, or particularly for a while, there are plenty of surprises.
I can't give away the program (people PAY for that) but I can tell you that it's not your mother's WW program.
The new Freestyle Smart Points gives you options in the form of FREE FOOD you don't have to count. And the cell phone app has a bunch of cool tools, including a scanner so you can use to check out the serving points on foods still on the grocery-store shelves. It also has a guide for looking up points on foods and even restaurants replacing the thick manuals from days gone by.
As someone in the honeymoon phase of this adventure, I'm approaching grocery-store trips as someone would stalk the woods or streams for game or fish. I scour the shelves, meat and produce sections.
Friday's score was finding Extreme Wellness wraps -- 1 point each -- at Walmart. Brian even liked them and since we've been around the house most of the weekend we've had them with turkey breast lunch meat and also with homemade fajitas. My friend Sandy told me about them and the only place I've found them is Walmart on the bottom row of a shelf on the bread aisle.
On Saturday morning I used one of these gems to create a fabulous burrito. I started with a couple of scrambled eggs, onions and peppers and then grabbed some leftover bean and turkey chili that needed to be eaten. Quite nice if I do say so ...
The baking aisle produced the best find I've had on this round of Weight Watching. Truvia. It's by far the best alternative to sugar I've ever tried. Not only the taste but the texture nails it for me. I've been enjoying it in no fat, plain yogurt and on very tart pink grapefruit, which I am enjoying nightly, thank you.
I also found a delicious peanut butter powder AND a chocolate-mocha one that I put in the yogurt or in unsweetened almond milk and it is not only low in calories and points but it's delicious.
Ever check out ground 99 percent fat free turkey? Make it in patties, fry in Pam and it's a killer sandwich with your favorite condiments.
If you are on safari in your local grocery store, what have you bagged lately?
It's nice if you can have something special to look forward to on a Monday.
This week, it was special, all right. My friend Sandy cooked for me in her charming rural New Castle farmhouse!
For many years, Sandy sat across from me in The Courier-Times newsroom. Although she is retired, loving it, and busier than ever, Sandy's writing career is going strong. She is author of two children's chapter books, Sadie's Search for Home and Doodle's Search for Success. She also writes a regular column for her magazine for women.
Sandy is active with the DIVE program for kids in New Castle, with her husband, Mike, and more family, including her granddaughter Carly, numerous friends and caring for the Moore home and horses.
Sandy and I have more things in common than I can count from being farm girls at heart to Bible Study Fellowship, of course writing, and also we're both Weight Watchers! Sandy has been serious about it for a while and I just got serious again after, well, let's say a lapse.
So Monday, lunch included a four-point meal and boy was it delicious. While four points won't mean much to you if you aren't a Weight Watcher, it simply means that it was a very healthy and low-cal meal. We even had appetizers of shrimp cocktail.
Then we enjoyed chicken fajitas, vegetables and low-fat dip.
Then, strawberry dessert.
The meal was amazing but of course it's the friendship that is the bigger blessing.
Thank you, Sandy! What a refreshing time! I appreciate you more than you know.
The Brownsville, Indiana Lions basketball team, 1929-30. It's in the Depression, in my father's high school sophomore year in a tiny town between Liberty and Connersville. My dad, Huburt Jobe, is in the middle row, far right, leaning in. He'd be 106 now. He died at 79. We talked about his basketball days a lot. Why did I never ask him to write the names of his teammates? If you have cherished old photos such as this one, ask your loved ones to ID everyone.
It's the last day of January 2018. My dad was born in January 1912 in the tiny town of Brownsville, Indiana. The separate gym, and the three-story brick school, built the same year he was born, are gone. He's been gone a long time, too.
January in Indiana means basketball season, and in my father's heyday, basketball season was the time of his life. Two years after this photo, he was recruited to play college basketball. I can't help thinking it wasn't so common for a boy from the sticks during the Great Depression to continue his basketball career at Earlham College. He went, and for a while, that's how the ball bounced.
Three years after this photo, Dad's father bought a farm north of Brownsville. For the next half century, my grandfather and then father farmed it, and for 32 of those years, Dad was also a school bus driver.
My dad was more than meets the eye. He was an inventor, could make or fix about anything -- because that's what you did as a farmer. He also studied art both on his own and by taking classes, and he painted pictures. He played chess with a passion, and as a young man, played the violin. He loved to roller skate and taught me.
But basketball was his game. He loved to watch Indiana University play on TV, and whenever something was on television that he really wanted to see (such as IU basketball), he pulled his easy chair close to the TV for a front-row seat in our living room. He always followed our high school basketball team.
By the time I came along, born when Dad was nearly 46, the Brownsville Lions would soon consolidate into first Short High School in Liberty, then Union County High School, which is where I graduated 41 years ago.
My father was something of a perfectionist, or at least that was so in the subjects he cared about, such as math. I hated math and found it difficult. When Dad tried to teach me what my schoolteachers couldn't get through, the sparks flew.
Much to Dad's disappointment, I didn't want to play chess and had no particular artistic talent. So on those topics, I couldn't be his companion. But we had our mutually favorite topics. We both loved our swimming and fishing pond where dad taught me to swim and fish. We both loved having ponies and later, my horse around. He set me up well with those and taught me to ride.
But our favorite shared topic was basketball. In the 1970s, our high school had some fine teams. One year we were undefeated. My senior year and the one after, the Patriots won the Connersville sectional. That was big potatoes for us.
I rarely missed a varsity basketball game in high school, and never a home basketball game. My parents had season tickets, too.
Back at home, Dad and I sat up late and talked over each game. Once we thoroughly rehashed the key plays, shining moments, and outlook for what was ahead on the schedule, then we talked about Dad's years as a Brownsville Lion basketball star.
Those were years still precious to him. We talked about his games, and how the game itself was different back then. We discussed how a big shot from a Connersville factory tried to get my grandfather to move the family to Connersville, complete with a job offer, so Dad could be -- horror of horrors -- a Spartan! Why, that was in the late 1920s and here it was the mid-1970s and we were still outraged by the very notion of such a treasonous offer!
I remember quivering with excitement in the chilly house in the wee hours of the morning over dad's tales, and imagining him at the age of the boys who played for my high school. I never felt closer to him or happier in his presence than those winter nights discussing basketball.
The advice he offered, not what I had expected, is something I've never forgotten.
One year I learned that the Patriots would take part in the Richmond Holiday Tournament. The tourney was a whole year away when I heard the news. This was exciting! What's more, the tournament would include a large Indianapolis school that had a star player. It was as though the rural country kids from Liberty were finally going to get their due and be noticed!
When I heard this, I was babysitting at the neighbors' house. I called Dad to tell him. "I wish it were next year right this minute and we could play in that tournament right now!" I told him.
His reaction took me by surprise. "Don't wish your life away."
Simple. Profound. I have never wished away time since. Not even wish away a bland day in January. Life is too precious and time passes too quickly to miss out on a single moment.
Do you remember where you were 40 years ago today? Gene and Deb Miller sure do. Here's a feature story I wrote for today's New Castle Courier-Times. This is our HOPE edition, a once-a-year project where we pack the first section of the newspaper with good-news stories. If you are in the greater Henry County, Indiana area, consider picking up a copy. Meanwhile, read on.
by Donna Cronk
KENNARD — Exactly 40 years ago, residents of Henry County – and the rest of Indiana – were snowed in or digging out of the worst snowfall in recorded state history, known as the Blizzard of 1978.
But few were as disappointed by the weather as Gene and Deb Miller. Their Friday-night wedding had to be canceled.
“So I had picked Jan. 27 to get married and then the blizzard happened,” Deb said.
Still, Gene, whose career was spent as a carrier with the New Castle Postal Service, didn’t fail to deliver for his bride. Forty years ago today, Jan. 28, 1978, he was able to get to her home in Kennard and the marriage took place.
According to the National Weather Service, the storm began Wednesday, Jan. 26 and continued for days with snow, high winds, blowing and drifting. Indianapolis set a record that January of 30.6 inches of snowfall. Indiana Gov. Otis Bowen declared a snow emergency for the entire state on Thursday morning. That afternoon, Indiana State Police considered all Indiana roads closed.
The snow had begun during the rehearsal in Greenfield that Wednesday night when the minister and musician were unable to make it to the Church of God in Greenfield, where the wedding was scheduled. The rehearsal dinner was at Gene’s parents’ home in New Castle following the rehearsal. She returned to her family home in Kennard following the rehearsal dinner and Gene stayed in New Castle. The blizzard hit in the night.
Her parents are the late Cecil and Vonda (Darling) Keesling and his are the late Lawrence and Hazel (Buck) Miller.
WEDDING IS OFF
On Thursday and Friday, nothing moved. The inevitable calls came on Friday: the preacher, caterer, florist and others were unable to get out for the wedding. The church preferred that the wedding be canceled. So what did the bride do then?
“Cried,” answered Deb, whose planned wedding night was spent in her family home, snowed in.
The night they were to be celebrating their new marriage, the couple was on the phone together for hours.
“When we finished talking we agreed to talk the next day, that being Saturday, and would try to figure something out, but little did I know he was making plans to come and get me to go get married on Saturday,” recalled Deb.
On Saturday, 10 to 15 feet of stacked snow lined each side of Ind. Hwy. 234. But the postman would not be deterred. Gene took off from New Castle for Kennard. He made it to Deb’s home that morning, knocked on the door and said, “Let’s go get married.”
She woke up those in her household and everyone got busy. Gene’s dad called the New Castle Church of God Pastor Elwood Evans. They got a cake and a gallon of punch from Kenny Eaton’s grocery store. Gene tried on his dad’s old suit and let the hems out on the pants. There were no flowers, but Gene’s dad gave his soon-to-be daughter-in-law a Bible to carry during the ceremony. Gene’s brother Bob Miller was rounded up as best man.
Deb’s neighbor played the wedding march and her mom taped it to be played. The rest of the wedding party made it, including maid of honor Kathy (Keesling) Riley.
And they had themselves a wedding in the basement of the family’s Kennard home. At the time, there was between eight and 12 feet of snow outside.
Today, on their 40th wedding anniversary, the couple has no big regrets. In fact, Deb said, “None at all.”
Gene is now retired from the New Castle Post Office. Deb, a nurse, is the public health director at the Henry County Health Department. They went on to have two daughters: Kelly Warrick and Jennifer Braun, who have now given the couple four grandchildren and two step-grandchildren.
It is hard for the couple to believe that it’s been 40 years since they experienced a blizzard – and a wedding – to always remember.
Christmas 1976. My gift from sister-in-law Jeannie? An oversized afghan, crocheted in various hues of blue, a sturdy pattern designed for extra warmth, created by the hands of Jeannie's mother, Evelyn Jackson of Brownsville, Indiana.
It was luscious; so much so that I folded it up and assigned it to my hope chest. I think the girls of my generation were the last to have these large, legged boxes that were for their mothers and grandmothers standard fare among young women. They were meant to contain beautiful linens and dishes that a girl “hoped” to enjoy in marriage.
Just a year and a half later I married Brian and the cedar chest and its contents went into our starter home. We wed in late October so it took no time for the afghan to make its entrance and remain on various sofas in our lives for the next 35 years.
Its wonderful size spread comfortably over all of Brian’s 6’3” frame, and for me, allowed more than enough room for napping in warmth with a toddler at my side, or a cat, or dog or even two of the three at once.
On especially cold nights, it was added on top of the bed blankets to my side of the bed only as it provided one too many layer for Brian’s.
New Year’s Eve 1980: Our friends visited for what would become the first of the next dozen years of new years seen in together. Pam was expecting their first baby, Jenny, and wasn’t feeling well that night. We insisted that she bundle up in that blanket.
Another few years later, it swaddled a sleeping niece for her ride home with parents after a too-late visit to our house.
I joked with Brian, sort of, that if I died, he should bury it with me.
All the while the blanket washed and dried beautifully in our appliances on standard settings.
Then in about 2010, the year Ben and buddies rented a house together in college, it apparently went off to live with him. Or at least that’s what we think. We didn’t see it again at home, and with a sigh, figured it got lost or abused beyond use in the world of college life and a household of young bachelors. I marveled at what a useful life it had led. That was that.
Until last weekend.
I was going through some things upstairs. I decided to clean out the antique cradle that holds pillows and extra blankets. You know what’s coming ...
The long-lost afghan surfaced at the bottom of the cradle! I couldn't believe our good fortune! It was back in our lives. I unearthed it and whisked it off to the washer for a good cleaning, then to the drier. As it had done every time for decades, it came out soft, clean, and perfectly intact.
One would be hard-pressed to give or get a more useful and better made gift than that afghan.
Thank you again, Jeannie, and thanks to her mother Evelyn, all over again. It will be making regular appearances again for the rest of this winter – and beyond.
Do you have a handmade staple in your life like our afghan? Also wondering if any of you ladies had hope chests and if you still have them?
The laptop I’m typing on now is several years old. It’s probably closer to 10, and 10 may be a larger number than several. I just know that all the popular keyboard keys are worn to a frazzle, their letters a mystery had I not taken Ethel Sharp’s typing class my freshman year of high school.
The laptop is so old (How old is it?) that when the power cord stopped holding power, I was in a fix. Its replacement cord is obsolete. We found a makeshift one that will work with the addition of the right plug, specifically with the last plug of its kind known to mankind. (Or at least to central Indiana just days before I had to leave on a special work assignment last year.)
Revived with its new plug, the computer did not disappoint me, allowing the production of words and the transmission of photos, news stories and blog posts I needed, and all the blog posts, Facebook likes and email notes I could muster since.
Brian told me I should transition to his laptop. He bought his own right after he retired, thinking that he would need it. Turns out he upgraded his phone and favors it over getting out the laptop.
He keeps asking me how I’m liking it.
I am trying to like it, I tell him, but it isn’t this one. His is jumpy whereas this keyboard is steady. His has a clean face with crisp letters whereas this one looks, well, comfortable.
I don’t know, but this old keyboard may have set some kind of record for number of documents produced. On it I wrote and published two novels, two-and-a-half years of blog posts, endless web searches, occasional news and feature stories and a bazillion emails.
While I enjoy nice things, I don’t get especially excited over those that are pricey, shiny, and new. Things can be nice and old. There’s zero chance, for example, that I’ll trade in a century-old (or older) pie safe for a new piece of furniture or that because honey oak is not the popular wood of the day, that I’ll paint my Seller’s Cabinet.
I like my old friends and my old husband. I like my older car and my job that is anything but new. I'm not inclined to give any of them up just now.
But I should take Brian’s advice, I suppose, and learn to love the much newer laptop; should make sure it’s loaded for bear should this one go kaput. I should.
Yet if his laptop is so smart, why does it always greet me with, "Welcome, Brian!"
Shouldn't it know I'm not Brian?
And wouldn’t it be ha-ha funny if the new one gave out before the old one did?
Have you ever gotten your signals crossed? That happened to me today, and I’ll tell you about it shortly.
But first, I want to tell you about another time I pulled something like this. OK, there have been more than two times, but I’m only sharing the two. This older one happened in 2002.
I hadn’t thought about the 14-year-old incident for a long time until two weeks ago when Pendleton icon Steve Cherry died suddenly. Mr. Cherry was a lifelong bachelor and the right-hand man of numerous coaches, administrators and probably teachers at Pendleton Heights High School for decades. One speaker at his funeral said that he is survived by the Pendleton community. I’d say that’s about right.
He was a mentor to our younger son, Ben, as Mr. Cherry was the former director of the school radio station and he selected Ben as the WEEM radio scholarship recipient his senior year, the award being endowed by Mr. Cherry.
Among Mr. Cherry’s many duties, yet another one involved the school’s drivers’ ed program. This is the 2002 story.
Word came that there would be an informational meeting about the summer drivers’ ed program during a particular school day. Attendance was mandatory. A freshman, Sam would be taking drivers’ ed that summer and we didn’t want to miss out on the mandatory meeting.
I arranged to miss work for a few hours so that I could attend the meeting, held in the “pit,” an auditorium in the high school where the stage is sunken and the audience is at ground level with rows tapering down, not up.
So I arrived prepared to pay whatever fee was involved and took my seat in the front row, putting me basically on the stage. Soon, the freshmen students started filing in, filling the audience. But something odd: Where were the parents? I wondered. There was not a parent in sight! I was the only parent among my son and hundreds of his peers. I spotted Sam but thankfully, didn’t catch his eye.
I couldn’t get up and leave, climbing dozens of rows with every eye in the place on me. So I sort of sunk down in my seat and vowed not to turn my head or turn around. Obviously, I had messed up; this meeting was only for the students.
Mr. Cherry picked up the microphone and started addressing the students, just inches from me. Maybe if I just lay low, the whole thing would be over before my son or his peers saw me, the lone parent, front and center.
In the middle of Mr. Cherry’s presentation, without missing a beat, he looked right at me, and into the microphone he said, “Can we help you with something, ma’am?”
I shook my head no, mouthing the word to match, my face no doubt a brilliant red. Thankfully, he didn’t press the issue and continued talking.
Once it was over, I explained to Mr. Cherry that I thought parents were supposed to attend and I was sorry. Still, I didn’t turn around, praying that no one was laughing at Sam or at me.
Once the coast was clear, I got out of there and drove to work.
I feared Sam’s arrival home that night, that he would tell me I humiliated him and what was I doing there anyway. But he said nothing. I said nothing about it either.
Fast forward to today.
On my list of errands was to secure tickets for some friends and me to attend a 20-year celebration of the local Christian Moody radio station that we enjoy listening to. There will be a national speaker and music. The party will be held at a local large church 10 minutes or so from my house.
I decided to just pop into the station and pick up the tickets. As I pulled into the parking lot, I noted that there was a staff entrance, and what appeared to be a front entrance with the sidewalk cleared off nicely. I got the front door half open when a man walking through the lobby looked at me and said, “Can I help you?”
I told him I was there about tickets. The receptionist then took over. “Oh, we don’t have them here. You need to order them online.”
I told her I’d figure it out and turned toward the door.
Maybe I hesitated or simply looked pitiful, but she offered to go ahead and process the order for me online and print the tickets. “Oh, that would be great,” I told her. As she worked, I leaned over and knocked over a knick-knack on her desk. Twice.
Still, she completed the task, took my money and handed me the tickets. I thanked her profusely.
“So, do you have a lot of people stop in here for the tickets?” I asked.
“No, you’re the first,” she answered.
Seems about right.
We had plans for a cross-state day trip Friday. We probably should have canceled Thursday but we thought there was at least a 50/50 chance that the weather media was freaking out prematurely, and the bread shelves were barren needlessly.
Early Friday we decided that since there was ice on the ground and snow coming in, we wouldn't take the chance and rescheduled.
Once all the cancellations and rescheduling were finished, we had ourselves a snow day.
There's something cozy and comforting about a snow day. It feels as though you've been gifted a block of "free" time to spend however you want, within the boundary of your home or your farm.
I'm a new year's cliche -- back on Weight Watchers. After the act of slithering back in there, I quickly learned that WW embraces such creatures as myself and I'm back in the fold. This time, I was most pleasantly surprised to learn they recently rolled out a new program, and there are aspects that so far, are satisfying to my taste buds like no other program I've been on. Of course the test is if I feel that way writing here a year from now.
Around noon, we went to the grocery store with no problem, and came home with ingredients for WW-friendly mini pizzas, shown above. Not half bad. In fact, Brian liked them too! Boom! A new go-to recipe.
Along with cooking, I most enjoy cleaning on snow days. Yes, cleaning! I feel driven to make the house as cozy as I can and that begins with cleaning (at least on a snow day). So the kitchen got a good scrub, cabinets organized, 2017 papers to keep bundled up and put elsewhere, and more cooking: butternut squash sliced into spaghetti-like strips and flavored with spaghetti sauce. Crunchy, bulky, boom!
Next came straightening laundry-room shelves, bathroom storage and I even scrubbed under the kitchen sink.
Tonight, I'm grateful for a warm home, a cozy house and for a fresh start, and a pantry and fridge full of food. How did you spend your snow day or days?