About lrvolkman

I am a single mom with four children - three adult sons, one 9-year-old daughter, and one 9-year-old granddaughter! I am a freelance court reporter, avid quilter, and dedicated musician. I live in rural Missouri on an acre, surrounded by acreage that isn't mine and therefore I don't have to deal with the upkeep, but I get to enjoy the view.

A Case of Diplomacy

So I’ve been going to the same Chinese reflexologist/massage magician for five years, and we’ve developed a kind of friendly banter despite his extremely limited English and my virtually non-existant Mandarin. We communicate sometimes via translation apps on our phones. He’s let me know that authentic Chinese food is the best thing out there, and I’ve told him I’m open to new foods.

Last night he apparently decided to begin my introduction to real Chinese food. He types something into his phone, shows it to me, and his message says that he cooked the food that day and would I eat a chicken’s foot? Huge grin on his face. And I mean HUGE. There I am, getting the most divine massage (because he’s truly gifted), and there’s nothing on my mind but the stresses of the day flowing out, leaving behind peace, calmness, and tranquility. Guilt-free pleasure at the hands (haha – see what I did there?) of a kind and funny man. I figure he’s joking, though, so I give him a cheeky grin and a thumbs-up.

The massage continues, and I realize, Whew, yes, thank goodness he was joking! Until suddenly he get up and leaves the room, returning with a small bowl and an even bigger grin than before, if that’s possible. Inside the bowl was, yep, a chicken foot. Toenails and all.

Now, look, I love this man in a “I can’t communicate with you but you know my body better than most people” way. And I’m pretty adventurous in most things. I have no issue whatsoever with the concept of eating chicken feet; it’s just doing the actual eating that gives me pause. I look into this bowl, and I look up with an expression of “WTH???”

Now, the thought behind the quizzical look on my face is actually “You’ve got to be kidding me,” but he interpreted it as “How do I do this, exactly?” So he took the foot and showed me how to eat it. Bite off a claw, eat the meat (what meat?!) and spit out the bones.

I’m weighing my options at this point. I can’t run out screaming. I’m not clothed enough to do that. Modestly covered with a towel, of course, but I don’t want to shock the other patrons. I could say no thanks, but the look of hopeful anticipation on my friend’s face was rather endearing. Native-born Chinese and other Asians in our country experience enough unkindness already from some (many) people that I didn’t want to appear to be critical of his cultural norms.
Chicken foot
I took the third option. After first removing the toenails (sorry, my friend, I’m just not THAT adventurous), I closed my eyes, said a heartfelt prayer for (a) improved Sino-American relations; and (b) my own gastrointestinal system, and I ate that foot.
Afterward, he had the thoughtfulness to inform me via text message that chicken feet are full of collagen, which is very good for the skin. I nearly threw his phone at him. Gee, thanks. I already knew that. I have an Instant Pot and I belong to this great group, and I know all about the wonders of chicken feet and collagen. But my plan always has been to work up the courage to make chicken-foot bone broth, not to jump in feet first (see, I did it again) the way things actually went down. After this experience, though, I must say that the thought of making chicken-foot bone broth isn’t nearly as intimidating as it was…Not sure how long I’ll be picking bones out of my teeth, though…


A Beautiful Mind? Or Just a Brain Tumor?

Music has been a part of my life since before I could form words. My mother says when I was a baby, not yet able to speak, she heard me humming a melody and realized it was the music from a radio commercial. As long as I can remember, I’ve pretty much always had music in my head. Sometimes an actual song, sometimes just random musical phrases or motifs.


I remember waking one morning with the remnants of a symphony playing through my mind – one I’d written in my sleep. To this day it saddens me that it didn’t linger long enough to let me put at least some of it down on paper. It was beautiful music ūüôā

But with the advent of the cold weather, I’ve recently had to ask myself (and a neurologist): Should I be concerned that my electric heater is playing country music and there’s bluegrass coming out of my woodstove?

Stanley Brother

Now, bluegrass is a subset, so to speak, of country music, but my electric heater and the blower in my woodstove clearly have very different tastes. The heater is clearly a fan of music you might hear from Clint Black, Rascal Flatts, Jason Aldean.

Jason Aldean

Yummy. The music, I mean.

But what I hear coming from my woodstove is definitely what you might hear from the Stanley Brothers (see photo above.  No, not that one; the one above it). Classic, simple bluegrass Рguitar and banjo, homespun and evocative of a rural heritage.

The neurologist says that in his 30+ years of practice, he’s never run across anyone experiencing such a phenomenon, but I appreciate – sincerely appreciate – the fact that he didn’t immediately write me a script for a week-long “retreat” at 4-North or whatever they call it at the hospital in St. Joe.¬† He was intrigued and suggested reading Oliver Sacks’ works, the neurologist upon whose work the movie “Awakenings” was based.¬† A wonderful movie, as I recall.220px-Awakenings

Dr. Sacks has a book entitled “Musicophilia:¬† Tales of Music and the Brain.

From a description of the book:¬† “With the same trademark compassion and erudition he brought to The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Oliver Sacks explores the place music occupies in the brain and how it affects the human condition. In Musicophilia, he shows us a variety of what he calls ‚Äúmusical misalignments.‚ÄĚ Among them: a man struck by lightning who suddenly desires to become a pianist at the age of forty-two; an entire group of children with Williams syndrome, who are hypermusical from birth; people with ‚Äúamusia,‚ÄĚ to whom a symphony sounds like the clattering of pots and pans; and a man whose memory spans only seven seconds-for everything but music. Illuminating, inspiring, and utterly unforgettable, Musicophilia is Oliver Sacks’ latest masterpiece.”


I’ve ordered a (used, of course) copy – not with any expectation that it will solve the mystery of what could be referred to as my brain’s preoccupation with “electronic music,” but it sounds like a good read.¬† My sister and I think maybe my brain is just picking up on¬†musical frequencies of the heater’s and blower’s motors and “filling in the blanks,” kind of like the ubiquitous e-mail that starts out:¬† “If You Can Raed Tihs, You Msut Be Raelly SMrat.”¬† (Here’s an interesting article, by the way, on that e-mail):


Perhaps my brain is picking up on electronic tones in the motors that are vibrating at the same frequency as musical notes (like big, heavy tuning forks), and in sequences and combinations that my brain is interpreting as, in the one case, country music (thank God it’s “new” country, not the old stuff), and, in the other case, banjo music and, therefore, bluegrass is born in my brain.¬†

I kinda wish I were hearing a little light classical or smooth jazz sometimes, just to change things up a bit, but it could be worse Рa lot worse.  Even for a diehard opera lover like myself, it could be far more invasive to be constantly turning my head to look for the fat lady, as opposed to merely wondering who let the banjo player into my dining room.

Well, my toes are getting cold, so I have a couple of choices:¬† I can go throw a few more logs on the fire, or I can turn up my heater.¬† Time to make some music…keith-urban-interview-magazine

About that pioneer thing…AGAIN

It’s official: I am NO pioneer. Neither is Olivia. My brilliant idea about using wood heat exclusively this winter officially came to a FREEZING HALT this past weekend. I had ample oppotunity to reflect upon just how cold Missouri can get as I waited out the arctic blast from the relative comfort of the Travelodge in Platte City until Ferrellgas opened up Monday morning.

I didn’t run out of propane because I was inattentive to my tank gauge. That’s something my ex-husband would do. Seriously. And what made it worse, he owned a propane company and was supposed to be my propane supplier. Thanksgiving Day it took my turkey all day to cook – two hours for baking time and another four to send Robert out to the plant to get the bulk truck to bring me my fuel, and another four to finish roasting both the small turkey in the oven AND the large one who let me run out of propane on the cooking-est holiday of the year.

No, I ran out of propane a few weeks ago because I determined that (a) my wood stove was sufficient for heating my house; (b) it’s a whole lot cheaper than propane (especially when you’re not married to your supplier); and (c) if I had propane in the tank, I’d get lazy and not build fires. So I let myself use up what was left in the tank and was proud of myself for taking this step to ensure that I wouldn’t take the easy way out.

Friday, when I got home from work, I immediately built a fire, knowing that the temperatures were expected to plummet. I’d already left all my faucets trickling, since I didn’t want a repeat of last time when all my water froze.

But FOUR HOURS LATER, after burning a small forest in my wood stove, the thermostat only read 55 degrees. At bedtime, I heroically stoked the fire with as many logs as I could fit, and Olivia and I put on our warmest jammies and snuggled together for warmth.¬† She wasn’t cold all night, because she got to sleep instead of staying half-awake to make sure the fire didn’t go out.

The next morning, after dreaming all night about fires that needed tending, water lines that wouldn’t stop freezing, and propane deliverymen that looked¬†frighteningly ¬†like my ex-husband, I checked the thermostat – we were in the 40’s somewhere and the fire was all but gone.¬† ¬†I can’t say what the exact temperature was, because at that point my eyeballs froze and I could no longer see.

Whereupon, Olivia begged me to “take us to a motel,” and I got right on the Internet and booked us into the Travelodge. Her first question about it wasn’t her usual about whether or not it had a pool. It was “Does it have a heater?”

I’m a hotel snob, and I hate paying for what is essentially a bed for the night. For $68 we got two nights with a bed, bath & shower, internet, cable TV – and a heater.¬† It also had a very nice continental breakfast AND an indoor pool.¬† And it was clean.¬† After a (warm) dinner in Weston, my mood had risen, as had my body temperature.

So all in all, we had a very nice unplanned getaway. Until at 9:00 p.m. last night, when¬†I was watching the news and realized a snow storm was due to hit my neck of the woods in about three hours. So we packed up and left right away so we didn’t have to deal with winter driving in the morning. We took refuge on my sister’s sectional. I hate her – her house is twice the size of mine aend is WARM AND COZY – and all from wood heat. Every wall is covered with windows, but they’re “good” windows, and there’s enough insulation in their house to keep a small town warm. Plus they have a wood stove that is as efficient as they come. Like I said, I hate her ::sigh::

And I nearly kissed the propane delivery guy when he was able to come this morning, but that was probably just the uniform (ex-husband used to work for Ferrellgas decades ago). I am now both running the furnace AND the wood stove, determined not let get lazy and depend on propane alone. At $400 for a minimum fill, I’m dreaming of the days when I paid about 1/4 that cost because I WAS kissing the propane guy.

So all’s well – my water isn’t frozen, the house is relatively warm, and I am free, independent, self-sufficient – nearly broke, but grateful that my lips are my own to command and the only chapping of¬†them will be as a result of the cold weather…I wonder if it’s just me, though, or does that Ferrellgas logo look kinda like a pair of blue lips?

Olivia’s birthday – almost as painful as the day she was born…

I’ll take another opportunity, another day, to wax nostalgic about the day Olivia was born ten years ago today. Fortunately, she’s having her party this Friday. Because today didn’t go quite as planned…

Problem No. 1: Aunt Carrie, who picks Olivia up from the bus when I’m working, called and said Car #1 had a good battery but a flat tire and no spare. Car #2 had a flat tire, a spare, but needed jumped. And the air compressor to air up the tire(s) was smoking. And Car #1 couldn’t reach Car #2 to jump it. Yeah, even I can’t sort all that out.¬†¬†Bottom line:¬† Carrie can’t pick up Olivia.

I got ahold of Olivia’s classmate’s mother Sandy, who very cheerfully offered to pick Olivia up and keep her until I could get home from the city.

I’ve been to Sandy’s house about three times. Most people wouldn’t have any trouble going someplace again if they’ve been there three times already. But I have the directional sense¬†of a bag of marbles. Put me down anywhere – in the town, in the country – and I’ll roll about aimlessly, trying to get my bearings.¬†¬†¬†

But no problem – I have Sandy’s location in my GPS. That’s how I get there. And everywhere.¬† I get lost in malls.¬†

Now, mind you, I am¬†not the type of genius who obediently turns left¬†when “Cletus” says “Y’all go left now” even if doing so clearly sends me into a ravine. I like to think I’m smarter than “Cletus,” my redneck GPS.

But honestly, Ponderosa Road didn’t look¬†that muddy to me. If that was the way to go, so be it. By the time it got really muddy, I felt committed. I was doing fine in the muddy track-ruts. And then… I wasn’t. I had no worries about anyone coming along and hitting me while I sat there, disabled (the car, not me), in the middle of the road.¬† Because¬†no one else was out driving on that road!!!¬† Hmm, maybe I need to revise that part about who or what is disabled….

Thank God for cell phones. So I sat and did a little knitting while I waited for Sandy, who has a four-wheel drive truck and a chain (and a hearty chortle, I might add), to come pull me out.

She had the grace to stop laughing, though, once she arrived, saw my car, and¬†drawled “We’re gonna need a tractor.”

I know that I have “arrived” in Missouri, because that sounded perfectly logical and actually presented¬†no challenge whatsoever, as¬†I have “Farmer John’s” phone number in my cell. I’d have it on speed dial, as much as he helps me out, but I’m afraid I’d butt-dial him; and I don’t think his 67-year-old never-been-married bachelor heart could handle the thought of anything to do with my butt.

Sandy drove me home to change clothes and shoes, although I kind of liked tramping through ankle-high mud in my brown tweedy skirt and pink wool jacket. Mud is the new black.  And I look fine in black.

There is nothing as beautiful as the sight of¬†my kind, neighborly farmer pulling up on his tractor (and yes, I do think his tractor’s sexy) to save the day.¬† I’m going to have to knit that man some gloves or something.

He got me out, but not without, uh, a little damage.

I figure my “Missouri Trifecta” is almost complete. Since moving to rural Missouri, I have (1) gotten stuck in the mud my sister warned me about.

(2) I have hit a deer:

So much for resale value. 

The only thing missing to make things complete is a tornado. Maybe that’ll come for¬†my birthday in June…

Happy birthday, Olivia!

Thrift shops – part 2

A lot of the time I feel like a failure as a parent. God lost 1/3 of the Host of Heaven, and I tell myself that my 1/2 is acceptable, since who am I to think I can do as well as or better than God? My friend Gordon says that if there’s a way to make something my fault, I’ll find that way. So I’m pretty hard on myself about all things, mothering included.

But there are days when I feel like Mother of the Year, and today was one of those days. Olivia’s birthday is Monday; she’ll be ten years old. And as part of what will be a week-long celebration (I’m working Monday, so her party will be Friday – a good excuse to draw out the festivities all week), we began the day with a drive to Chillicothe, where we had breakfast at McDonald’s – inside; no drive-through today. Then we went to the movie theater and caught the 10:00 special showing of the “Barbie in a Mermaid Tale 2,” which I confess I actually enjoyed.

But the best part was taking Olivia to Goodwill and telling her: Pick whatever you want. I was a little concerned that she might fancy something like a 1980s coffee table or something equally unwieldy, ugly, and too big for my car. But no, she immediately lit upon a television. A transparent television — see-through.

When she turned to me with eyes shining as brightly as I’ve ever seen them and said, “Can I have it, can I have it?” of course I had to say yes. I explained that it wouldn’t be hooked up to “real television,” only our VCR. Somehow that seems appropriate – outdated video system, outdated TV. A match made in, well, Goodwill, actually.

For a mere $15, I got to hear myself called the “best mother in the world,” was given repeated hugs for the next ten minutes, and was informed that “this is the best day ever!”

I was curious, though, about the way the television is see-through. Just curious. So I did a quick google of “transparent television. Here is what I found:

This is a Zenith 13-inch CRT TV, and I’m sure you probably don’t want it.
However, there was a time when prisons needed stuff like this for ‚Äúin-cell prison entertainment‚ÄĚ. You see, the prisoners can smuggle contraband in this TV, but not if the shell is completely transparent.
Well, you can get it for about $400 on eBay at this present time.

I admit to having been a little curious about the various numbers scratched into the top of the television.¬† And there is a correctional center in Chillicothe.¬† Just sayin’…

But Olivia is sitting in her room watching “Shrek,” which we also got on VHS for 99 cents at Goodwill today, wearing my cordless headphones (we can’t get the sound to work without headphones – maybe the TV doesn’t have external speakers?), and she’s giggling louder than normal – probably the headphones making her extra loud.¬† It is sweet music to my ears, this little girl of mine who thinks that outdated prison-issued technology makes me “the best mommy in the world.”¬† And at least for tonight, I’ll allow myself to believe that I am.


About that pioneer living thing…

Personally, I don’t see the problem with plugging into one single outlet (two plugs):¬† ¬†two computers, two monitors, two printers, one transcribing machine, one cordless headphone base, one lamp, one phone charger, and one electric heater.¬† Apparently the outlet thought otherwise.¬† Go figure.¬† Actually it did fine until I added the heater, and even then it gave it a valiant try.¬† It took days, even weeks, before two days ago, with absolutely no fanfare at all, that little outlet decided it was time to quit working so hard.¬† Actually, it quit working completely.¬† I wonder if that’s in its union contract.

I headed to the electrical panel located in the spare bedroom, hoping to find a flipped breaker.¬† No such luck.¬† Then, thinking of the rumors that there’s a separate panel for the “new” part of the house (which predates my entrace into this world), I went in search of such, even braving the basement with its assorted wildlife (real or imagined).¬† Spiders and mice are the usual suspects.¬† I didn’t find another electrical panel, but I did find the fabric I’m going to use for my next online quilt swap.¬† No small feat, considering my fabric is all in garbage bags heaped up in a pile under the stairs.¬† I figure that’s a good place for it – a comforatable place to hang out should Olivia and I have to head to the basement in case of a tornado warning.

Back upstairs and outside.¬† No electrical panel.¬† So I began the task of moving my office to the living room so I can continue working so I can earn more money so I can hire an electrician to come out and tell me how moronic I am.¬† I thought maybe it was just the actual plug itself that I killed, but since the back porch light doesn’t work either (and it’s on the same wall as my much-abused office outlet), I suspect something more $$$-intensive than just replacing the plug.¬† Unless somewhere I find that elusive second electrical panel…

So now I’m (a) living without propane; and (b) living without electricity in my bedroom.¬† I ran out of propane a week ago or so, and I decided to protest the required 200-gallon minimum by saying “up yours” to the propane companies and doing without for a while.¬† I have my wood stove for heat and about a gazillion electrical appliances for cooking.¬† Microwave, rice cooker, chicken-shaped egg cooker (eat your heart out, Evelyn – or my eggs up), toaster oven, tabletop roaster oven, and crockpot.¬† The only thing I was missing was an electric frying pan or griddle.¬† I thought about getting one of each, but then I realized that all I needed was a hot plate, so I went to www.overstock.com and found this awesome infrared burner (I don’t know why it seems so awesome – maybe it’s the pretty color of red it turns when fully heated) for thirty-something dollars (refurbished), so I ordered that, it arrived day before yesterday, and I can now cook anything that requires using a pot or skillet.

Between that and another load of firewood, I’ve spent about $120, as opposed to the almost $400 I’d have spent on a minimum 200 gallons of propane.¬† I confess it’s a lot easier to push a button and immediately have propane heat than it is to build and maintain a fire, but there is a lot to be said for the appeal of a fire – the heat, the coziness, the warmth it gives, both physically and emotionally.¬† Olivia and I love to pull our rocking chairs up to the wood stove and just sit and enjoy the feeling we get in our “cozy cottage.”¬† I’ve lived in more “refined” homes¬†– this one needs a lot of work – but I’ve never lived in one that felt more welcoming (curious, considering the violent demise in the house of the previous owner).

And I remind myself that there are a lot worse things than¬†having to move¬†my office and building fires.¬† Walking to school uphill both ways in the snow, for example.¬† Or losing a child.¬† Or going blind.¬† Or having no home, albeit so humble, made possible by the best of old friends.¬† I am so blessed to have this home that is just the right size for me and Olivia, with its beautiful acre of park-like yard, my wonderful neighbors, near to Olivia’s incomparable school, and a basement large enough to hold my rather large fabric stash.¬† I am sitting at my desk in the living room (my new office), and the sunrise out the window is beautiful.¬† Life is good.

And now I’m going back to bed.¬† Because the view of the back of my eyelids is far more enticing than any sunrise…

If You Can’t Say Something Nice…

I grew up being trained like Thumper from “Bambi” – if you can’t saying something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all. Or something like that.
So…after depositions from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., most of which were video, no lunch, attorneys who know they talk too fast, blah, blah, blah, I have nothing nice to say.

And unlike my daughter, who gets actually quite irritated with me if I suggest she’s tired when she gets grumpy and cranky, I have no problem stating :
I AM TIRED!!!!! This could be because I fell asleep at a decent hour, only to be awakened minutes later by the Hordes of Hell cavorting in my back yard – okay, it was actually our kitty Myla, soundling like she was in a battle for her very soul. And after I got her safely back in the house, that was it – no more sleep for me until I finally gave it another try at 2:00 a.m. I was just on the verge of falling asleep again, when I realized I hadn’t put the garbage cans out. And the garbage truck comes so early…And I’d missed it last week. Shoes back on, garbage cans out, me back to bed. Up at 7:00 a.m., and then to work.

I AM TIRED!!!! Did I mention that?

Good night.