Author Archives: Andrea

Bad Bosses — I Had My Share, And You?

The other night I got thinking about all the bosses I had over my lifetime of employment.  I am grateful to be retired and not have some boss deciding my fate, what I get paid, how I do my work, what I need to change about me, or even covering for their ineptitude.  Every boss I worked for was far different from the other, but I can count on one hand the really good ones.  That is kind of sad, because I know that on the whole, people leave their jobs because of their manager.  It is sad to see so many bad managers out there who have no clue.

One of my early jobs was when I first became a single mom.  I was at a school soccer game watching my little one play, and one of the moms came up to me.  She said she heard I was looking for a job, and her husband had just started a business with two partners and they needed an office manager.  

I took the job working for Sid, Ted, and Frank.*  They were an odd combination of partners.  Sid was the professional one who had come from a sales position.  Ted and Frank were from the repair part of the business.  They repaired computers.  Ted started his career out in a typewriter factory, and now had moved to be a “board swapper” in the early days of computers.  Sid would sell the company a maintenance plan for their computers.  All these customers were Savings & Loans.  Ted would swap out a bad board for a good board in the computer, so there was as little down time as possible.  Then there was Frank.  He was a country boy teddy bear, but he was a brilliant electronics technician.  The bad board would be delivered to the office, and Frank would make the needed repairs so it could be used in a future swap.

I set up all their office procedures, and did their bookkeeping.  As they opened new branches on the east coast, I would work with the branch manager to set up his procedures and documents to be consistent with our home office.  I was there about three years, and loved the independence I had in the job and the ability to create procedures and documents.  Work was getting busier and busier by the day.  I could use some help but didn’t think we needed more than a part time person.  Sid, Ted, and Frank went on a search for help for the front office.  Well, they really didn’t search.  They called an old friend, an older lady (to me back then) who had worked with them at their previous company.  They called me into the office one day to inform me that they had found me help.  Okay, it wasn’t really help.  This lady, Hilda* (she even had an old lady name), said she would take the job if she was made the office manager.  Oh, yeah, and if they put a stove in the  break room, she would cook fresh lunches for everyone.  Really?  They just hired a mom, and demoted me as child. Hilda would tell me daily what good work I did at setting up these procedures and documents  She didn’t change a thing I did, but she took over and I was now her underling.  Time to go . . . .  

My next job I found through a friend of this trio bad bosses.  He told me about a company that was hiring all the “secretaries” from his company that was shutting down.  It was a large coal company moving some of their business to the midwest.  I got hired as the secretary of the Vice President of Finance.  Kurt* was only 33 years old, and had moved himself with his wife and baby from Portland, Oregon, from where the majority of the executives where transferring to St. Louis.  Kurt had two rules for me.  As I came into the office at 8:00 a.m., I was to have on his desk for his arrival at 8:30 a.m., a fresh pot of coffee and the Wall Street Journal.  Kurt was a tyrant.  The job was pretty boring.  The only work I really had to do was answer his phone, and monthly put together the financial spreadsheet—oh yeah, and do the coffee and newspaper thing daily.  This was before Excel.  I was working on a Wang computer.  This computer was actually a word processor.  As I was not busy most of the day, I became quite proficient, and started programming my own forms.  I actually made a document for our monthly spreadsheet.  It was a lot of macros, that filled in the  column headings, and then would stop where I had to input data.  It would then automatically move to the next spot to continue data input.  This program worked like clockwork, and the headquarters in Portland heard about it.  They called me and asked if they could publish in the “Secretaries” newsletter how to set up this program.  I still have a copy of that newsletter that shares this program with the other secretaries.  

0 noteKurt was not well liked by anyone in the finance and accounting department.  He was a little boy in a big boy’s job.  He would yell at people and put them down.  People worked well when he was not around.  Even the Director of Accounting would make the rounds of his area to announce that Kurt was coming into the area, so that the accountants would act like little robots rather than people.  One time Kurt came to my desk and asked for his phone messages that he received while he was out to lunch.  Remember those little pink slips of paper, “While You Were Out” that were used to record phone messages?  I told him he didn’t have any messages.  He got mad and yelled at me.  He said I was not writing down his messages or I was throwing them away.  I so wanted to tell him that no one liked him and did whatever they could not to call him!  I was wise—I kept my mouth shut!

0 boss babyOne day I made my way to Human Resources and asked if there was any other department where I could work.  I had my fill of this little boy spoiled executive.  They had an open position in our Administration department. This is where all facilities functions and purchasing occurred.  It was a fun and friendly department.  We worked hard, and we partied hard.  This midwest branch of the coal company was very profitable.  Every time we had a great month, the CEO would tell us to plan a party.  We catered in food and alcohol. We hired a temp to come in and answer the phones, and at about 3:30 in the afternoon, the whole company stopped work and celebrated.  

Prices for coal was high and our group landed several lucrative contracts with large corporations and government operations.  One day the whole administration department was called into Human Resources.  The director informed us that the state of Wisconsin had just sued us over their coal contract.  Prices of coal had fallen, and Wisconsin wanted out of their long term contract.  They took the 1.5 million dollars they owed the company, put it in special account held by the bank while they sued.  All of a sudden we had a money problem.  Cash is king, and our cash was sitting in an account that could not be touched until the lawsuit was settled.  The coal company laid off our whole department.  Our work would transfer back to the headquarters in Oregon.  I was in shock.  None of us had jobs the next day.  What was I to do?  I had just started going back to school to get my MBA, and this company paid the tuition in advance.  According to their promissory note, I owed the money back if I did not complete or pass the class, or if I left their employment.  I was majorly panicked.  The director asked that I stay after the meeting.  My head was spinning, and I was totally frightened.  He told me that he was aware of my tuition issue, and then handed a copy of the promissory note in which he had written “Paid in Full” across the front.  Not only did this company, give us a severance package, they sent us all (no matter what level employment we had) to outplacement to help us find our next jobs, and paid in full our health insurance for the next three months.  This is where I learned about companies that take care of their employees.  

The company continued on for a while.  There were three waves of layoffs, that eventually closed the midwest office completely about two years later.  During that time, Kurt, the big baby boss was transferred back to Oregon.  Less than a year from my layoff I got a call from one of the accountants to tell me that Kurt got fired in Oregon—he actually had the nerve to tell off his boss at headquarters!  What comes around goes around!  Five years after our first layoff, Wisconsin lost the lawsuit.  Had they won, it would have put all contracts in danger, and made the paper meaningless.  The money due the coal company was paid, too little too late for those of us who had lost our jobs.  Time to move on . . . .

Next I had a boss named Micky.*  He was the Executive Vice President for Domestic Sales at a medical equipment company.  This was in the early to mid 80’s, I think.  It’s really hard to remember.  One of the things that one may have a difficulty doing when interviewing for a new position is to run a background check on the future boss, unless you know someone who works within that company, so I was out of luck there.  After acquiring my position as an Executive Secretary, I discovered that Micky had interviewed over 20 candidates and kept rejecting them.  That sounds like I must be special that he hired me.  I don’t think that was the case.   First of all I think that Human Resources was tired of sending him candidates that he kept rejecting.  I think he liked that I was going back to school to get my MBA.  The funny thing is, if I am getting an advance degree in business, wouldn’t that tell him that I don’t want to be an secretary all my life?  

Micky was new to the company.  He was part of an acquisition of a medical company, and moved to the midwest from Connecticut.  Many employees were not familiar with him.  Sometimes at lunch, one of them would ask me which one was my boss.  I told them he was the one who looked like a Ken doll.  No kidding!  He was tall and nicely built, and his hair was in a perfect coif.  As soon as I gave that description, my coworkers would smile and nod their heads.  They realized the description fit him, and they knew exactly who he was.  Of course, if you watched him walk from behind, you realized he wasn’t Ken, because he was ever so slightly bow legged!  

Micky had OCD to the nth degree.  His clothes were perfect.  He even confessed to me once that when he was a sales rep, he owned five pair of the same dress shoes, and that over the weekends he gave them a spit polish.  While he was on the road selling, he brought them all, and each day could put on a newly shined pair of shoes.  Who does that?  He also told me that all the clothes in his closet where hung according to color.  What a lovely idea, but for a girl who is trying to hold her life together as a single mom of four little boys, I was glad if my clothes made it from the laundry basket to the closet.  Micky was divorced and was now engaged a lady who he said just throws her clothes around.  I wonder how that marriage turned out.

Micky’s life was about Micky.  One day we had a major snow storm coming through downtown St. Louis.  As we looked out the window, the roads were quickly filling with snow.  Micky walked out of his office and announced to me that he (and his buddies) had an off site meeting, and they scooted out about 3:00 pm, and left us underlings there to stay the rest of the day, and slowly crawl our cars home through the snow storm.  When he planned his wedding, I became his social director.  I was required to make a document listing all the interesting places in St. Louis to take families, since his siblings were coming with their children for the wedding.  I also rented luxury cars for them on Micky’s nickel, so they had transportation as they arrived at the airport.  My peers were impressed with all the prep work I had done for his wedding, and no, I was not invited with his “friends” to attend.  When his family came to his home for Thanksgiving, he told me that he walked around the house with a bottle of Windex and a rag, to clean up after sticky-fingered nieces and nephews touched his stuff!  I wonder how many times his family came to visit after that.  One time I got a call from my children’s elementary school.  One of them or many of them were sick and running a fever.  They needed to be picked up.  I walked into Micky’s office and told him that the school called, and his reply was, “Do you you gotta do.”  I wasn’t wise enough to ask him what that meant, but I pondered on what he said—do I gotta get my kids or do I gotta stay at work?  I went to get my kids because they needed me.

It was a relief to not be working for him any longer.  He was extremely high maintenance.  I am the first to admit I am not a good secretary or administrative assistant, because I think grown ups should act like grown ups, and I shouldn’t be their caretaker.  In those days, the secretary/administrative assistants were their caretakers.

Over time I completed my MBA.  I moved my career into Human Resources, and I found my niche.  These are only three examples of my bad bosses.  I had a couple really good bosses, who respected me, what I did, and allowed me to do my job using my creative talents.  One of the things I am grateful for is that when I became a boss, I knew how not to treat my staff.  They have different personalities, and bring different qualities to the job.  As long as they accomplished what we needed, I allowed them to use their personalities and creativity to do their jobs.  When one came in to tell me the school called and their child was sick, I would look and them, and say, “Go home, take care of your child.”  You could see the look of relief on their face.  If the weather was getting dangerous, I would send them home, if I thought I needed to go home.  

The best boss I had was at my last job.  He wasn’t my last boss because he retired, and then I got the boss from hell.  Richard was a quiet, kind man.  He respected my knowledge of my field of Human Resources.  We had a lot of discussions on employee relations and other aspects of Human Resources.  He took to heart what we discussed.  He never acted like he knew my job better than I did.  I will never forget his kind heart when my dad was dying.  He told me that when his mother was dying, he couldn’t cross the pond to see her one last time (He was British).  He told me to go make airlines reservations to Phoenix and take a few days to see my dad.  I told him that I couldn’t afford to take more vacation, and he said, “This is not vacation.  You go see you dad.  You will be paid.”  I flew out Friday morning and returned to work on Tuesday.  Tuesday night my dad passed away.  I am so grateful that Richard sent me to see my dad one last time.  The following Friday, Richard retired, but I will never forget his kindness to me.

What did I learn about bosses over the years.  They are all as different as fingerprints and DNA.  Some are selfish, and only think of their career and their bonuses at the expense of their employees.  Some are great at their expertise, but were promoted to management with no clue how to manage.  Some felt they know more than their employees’ expertise, and some respected and used their employees’ expertise.  Some just knew how to do it!

What about you?  Are you someone’s boss?  Do you respect your staff’s knowledge and skill?  Do you realize they are a human with a much bigger priority called family?  None of us will die wishing we spent more time at work, but many will wish they spent more time with family.  Every person you work with is God’s creation.  Some are easy to be with on a daily basis, and some more difficult.  How do you deal with the difficult ones?  How do you deal with a difficult boss?  I wish I could say that with time things are better in the employment world, but I still hear horror stories about bad bosses.  What can you do to make your workplace better?

*Names changed to protect the guilty.  I did not change Richard’s name, because he was one of the good guys!  Yay, Richard!0 quote

She Would Have Been 100

This past weekend marked the anniversary of my mother’s birth 100 years ago.  Although I have written about her in a past blog called, Women of Distinction, I decided since this tombstonemilestone date has arrived that she deserves to have her story told.

My mom, Dorothy Tomich Nothum, died in 1995, and had been ill for quite some time.  I think I knew we would not have her around for long, and I did not want to lose the stories she had told us of her life.  In 1994, I interviewed my mom for four evening, asking questions about her life.  I put together a book written in first person (her telling her story), and I had her read it, make corrections to anything, especially the spelling of the foreign names.

for family tree 009Dorothy was born on November 17, 1918 in St. Louis, Missouri.  She was name Darinka Tomich.  Her nationality was Serbian, and later “Americanized” her name to Dorothy.  She had no middle name.  She was born at home, although shortly after birth, her mother began to hemorrhage, so they both were taken to City Hospital.  Dorothy was named after her paternal grandmother, whose name was Darinka Paunov Tomich.  Mom&Sibs1923Although she was a very loving grandmother, she was the matriarch of the family, was very domineering and directed everything in the family.  I actually have stories from Dorothy’s mom (my grandmother) about the domineering character of this matriarch.  Such stories may make an interesting future blog.  Dorothy was the second child of four children, Angie, Dorothy, Gus, and Mary.

At six years old, Dorothy’s family moved from St. Louis, Missouri, to Granite City, Illinois, just across the Mississippi River.  My grandfather was not a good business man and he struggled for years, and even losing their home during the Gus, Mary, Dorothydepression.  Dorothy said they were never in want of food, because of the huge garden they had, and canned food for the coming year.  After the depression, my grandfather started working as a salesman for Hobart Corporation selling scales and meat slicers to butchers.  He seemed to make an adequate living doing this.

Dorothy and her siblings went to public school.  She talked about how she was shy and felt really poor around children who were talking about their family vacations.  What opened up the world for my mom was discovering the local library.  She loved to read and write poetry.  She attended one day of high school.  The students were required to purchase their books.  Dorothy’s father was against girls May 2009 051going to high school.  He thought they would all get pregnant attending high school (I guess I missed that class when I was in high school)!  Knowing that her family was poor, and her father opposed to her attending, she decided it was a lost cause and never returned.  I do know that was something she always regretted.  She would tell me how she envied her younger sister, Mary, who told the principal that her father would not buy her books, so the school supplied them, and Mary got her high school diploma.  Dorothy always wanted to have the courage of Mary, but my mom was the quiet one in the background.

1939~Mary, Gus, Dorothy (on Tire), and their Aunt PaulineWhen I was a kid my mom would always say that we were not allowed to do the kind of mischief she did as a child.  Of course, that raised our curiosity, and we would ask her what she had done.  When she would tell us her stories, we would just roll around laughing and not believing this was the quiet unassuming mom of ours,  Here is a sample, in her words of some of her shenanigans:

  • When I was about 5 years old and Gus was 3, he wanted to bring the horse in from the field.  He wanted me to ask our father if it was okay.  I didn’t go all the way in to ask, but I returned and told Gus that Dad said we could bring the horse in.  We began to tug on the horse’s leg.  All of a sudden the horse kicked and Gus flew into the air about 50 feet up.  A neighbor saw this happen and ran over and caught Gus before he hit the ground.
  • When I was about 9 years old I thew a lit match into an empty gas can.  The can exploded and flew up in the air about 100 feet.
  • When I was about 10 years old, my Uncle Walter came to our house and took the Sunday funnies away from me as I was reading them.  I thought it was rude that he could just take it away from me, so I picked up a waffle iron and threw it at him.  I missed him, but the waffle iron sailed though the plate glass window.

Now you can see why we girls would laugh so hard about this—this is not the lady we knew who was such a rule follower, but back in the day, watch out for Dorothy and possible projectiles!

Most folks you ask today how they learned to drive, they would tell you that one of their parents or a driver’s education class taught them.  My mom was 14 years old when she learned to drive, and she was taught by her 12 year old brother, Gus.  Good to know he survived the horse incident to give her driving lessons.  Dorothy stated that when their parents would attend long members meetings at church, the kids had to wait for them outside.  What else should one do, but get driving lessons in a Willys Knight automobile by your 12 year old brother.

wreckAt age 16, Dorothy experienced a life altering event.  She was in an automobile accident, in which her aunt, who was her same age, her Uncle Walter (the annoying teenage uncle who took her funny papers), and his wife of less than 24 hours were killed instantly.  Only Dorothy and her mom survived the accident.  I won’t go into the details here, since they are published in Accidents Happen.  I suggest you click the link and read that blog.  It will give you an idea how our lives can change in an instant.

IMG_0014Dorothy was raised in a very religious family.  Her mother was raised as a Catholic, and her father was raised in the Orthodox Christian tradition.  I suppose as a compromise, they became protestants!  They were members of the Apostolic Christian Church Nazarene.  The church is a European based church, and in the United States tend to be smaller churches around major cities where Eastern Europeans have emigrated.  Her father became a lay minister of the church.  When her Uncle Walter started going to Ohio to court Anna, my mom and her family would travel with him, and she

wedding color copy

Wedding Photo

had many life long friends from the church who lived in Ohio.  Dorothy met my father, Andrew Nothum, at church in St. Louis, Missouri.  Dating was something that was not in their vocabulary.  They had a lot of get togethers with the other young people from the church.  They made many outings with this young group of friends all around St. Louis, especially at Forest Park.  When my mom started working as a bookkeeper, Andrew came to visit her at work when her boss was on vacation and stay there for hours.  I find this extremely funny, because my dad became a business owner, and in my lifetime, if some young man came to company to visit a young lady, he would have put a stop to that!  He was all business.  But, when you are young, those are not in your Mom&DadFla 2thoughts, but courting the sweet young lady are!

Dorothy and Andrew married in 1942.  They started their family with the birth of my sister, Marilyn, in 1943.  Then Andrew was drafted into the army.  His first assignment was Miami Beach, Florida.  We girls used to chuckle about him spending 18 months at the Battle of Miami Beach.  He had it pretty easy, exercising each IMG2544morning on the beach with the military, working the rest fo the day in a clinic and as an ambulance driver.  Dorothy moved to join him when Marilyn was a baby.  When my mom would talk of those 18 months, you could tell that this was a really special time in their lives.  Dorothy got pregnant with my sister Judy, about the same time that Andrew was now being shipped overseas.  She moved back to St. Louis and lived with her sister, Mary, while my dad’s brother, Joe, who was married to my mom’s sister, was also sent overseas.  My dad did not meet my sister, IMG_0023Judy, until she was around 9 months old.

I wasn’t born until 1948, and by that time, my dad was building our first home, on the property of his parents’ farm.  I was 6 months old when they moved to this home.  We stayed in this home until I was 6 years old, and we moved to the home in a subdivision my dad built in southwest St. Louis County.  My dad by this time had become a building contractor.

Dorothy, with her bookkeeping background, became my dad’s business partner and office manager.  I recall that years later one of my uncles told me that he attributes a lot of my dad’s IMG1832success as a building contractor to Dorothy.  He said she was a very smart and good business woman.  I was very proud to hear my dad’s brother share those thoughts with me.

My parents’ business office was in our home until I was in the 7th grade when they finally moved to a separate location.  Although, my mom worked full time with my dad, she was always home when I got home from school.  The only days that we girls could not run in and out of the offices was on “Bid Days.”  My dad would be bidding for the construction contract, usually a school edition or a church (the two specialties his company became).  Those days the subcontractors would telephone in their bids.  Dorothy, was a meticulous bookkeeper, so on bid days, she would have separate papers for each sub (masonry, plumbing, excavating, etc).  She and my dad would take phone calls until 4:00 pm, at IMG3248which they quit answering telephones.  Dorothy and Andrew would sit down and go over each subcontractor’s bid.  They would select the ones they wanted to use, and of course, then add their cost and profit to the total.  We girls would be upstairs from their basement office, getting dinner prepared, as Dorothy is typing the letter perfect bid.  The bid was complete, dinner was on the table, and we had our meal together.  There was always an excitement in the air on bid days. 


The office of Nothum Bros. Construction Co., & Grover Machine Co.

My dad would leave the table, and get cleaned up and dressed up to drive to the architect’s office for bid opening.  Dorothy would line us girls up at the front door to give Dad a “good luck” kiss as he was exiting.  Our parents instilled into us how important this bid day was.  If they did not win the bid from another contractor who competed, we would have no income.  It was a celebration atmosphere if Dad walked in later that evening and announce that Nothum Bros. Construction had won the bid!  My parents always made us feel part of the business.  It was very exciting for me, and still gives me as sweet feeling as I write about this.

6000-45th Wedding Anniv - March 1987The years moved on and Dorothy served as a great mother, great office manager, and a wonderful mother-in-law and grandmother.  In December of 1972, shortly after my first son was born, she had her first medical crisis, and had to have a kidney removed.  She was also diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes.  Shortly after that, she retired from working full time with my dad.  I am not sure she was really comfortable letting some other woman become the office manager.  By this time my dad’s business was phasing out of construction to a manufacturing business that manufactured and sold the seamless gutter machine.

Dorothy became the grandmother who took the grandchildren to every Disney movie that came out.  She fed my kids lots of McDonalds, Steak ’n’ Shake, and Danny’s Donuts.  Her health was declining but she never declined an opportunity to be with all her grandchildren.  

IMG_0048My mom, Dorothy Tomich Nothum, was my biggest ally.  When I was going through the worst years of my life, when I didn’t think I could do another day, my mom never left my side.  She encouraged me.  She always told me that she loved me and that she was praying for me.  

Dorothy was a quiet unassuming lady.  She never took center stage, nor would she have wanted to.  She was a prayer warrior.  Her faith ran deep and she was not afraid to talk about it.  She was never pushy, and she never tried to tell me how to live my life or how to raise my children.  She was generous with her time and her money.  She never forget anyone’s birthday.  I can recall many, many times she came to my house to help me with sick children, babysat my kids on a school holiday when I had to work, and bring me groceries when I had none.


Dorothy and Mary

Dorothy had a small but loyal group of good friends.  Her best friend had always been her sister, Mary.  They both married into the same family, my mom marrying Andrew, and his younger brother, Joe, marrying Mary.  With such a close family relationship, my sisters and I were able to enjoy years of relationship and fun with Mary & Joe’s seven children.  We were one big family.  When my mom died, my Aunt Mary took me under wing.  We spend many evenings going out to dinner, watching movies, and talking for hours.  

Dorothy Tomich Nothum was a great lady.  She did not do anything earth-shattering.  She just lived her life with deep faith, loving on everyone she met.  She had a servant’s heart.  She never expected anything in return for what she did.  She liked if someone reciprocated, but she never did her deeds for that reason, nor did she expect repayment.  Because of her faith in Christ Jesus, and her love for me, I found my way back.  She was the most instrumental person in my life.  

Thank you, Mom, for all the love you poured out on me.  If I can be even half the loving mom to my sons, I will have done my job!2proverbs

The Hip Is In! It’s Not What I Expected. . .

1 hip jointI am behind on writing my blog, because last week my bad hip was replaced by a supposedly good hip.  Everyone encouraged me to have this surgery, and all I heard was praises about this surgery from those who have had it or from friends and family of those who have had it.  The one thing missing from all their dialog was what it was like during the recovery time.IMG_9123

I was fully prepared to have this surgery done.  I walked in a tired patient (got up at 3:30 am) and they hauled me into the operating room at 7:00 am.  I woke up in the recovery room complaining of shivering with my teeth chattering.  The nurse said this was normal coming out of the spinal anesthesia, as she laid another heated blanket on top of me.  

I had never had a spinal before.  My recollection of past surgeries was being wheeled into the operating room, helping me move from the gurney to the operating table, the anesthesiologist putting a mask over my face and telling me to count backwards from 100.  I never got past 96 that 0 sleepI can recall.  Of course, I was given some pre-op medication in my IV, which made me super relaxed.

This time I had something put into my IV that apparently really relaxed me, because I cannot remember being taken to the operating room, no mask put over my face and telling me to count.  I don’t remember saying good-bye to Dennis as they rolled me away, although he says I did.  I do remember that the anesthesiologist told me I may not remember anything, and that is about last I remembered!

I was in my bed in the recovery room.  They rolled me out and took me to my room where I was to stay for a couple days.  There was no moving from a gurney to a bed—I was in the bed in the recovery room.

0 walkerThat day is pretty much a blur.  I had not slept well for weeks.  The pain in my hip would wake me up, and I would have to move, but moving in bed at night meant sitting up and maneuvering my body to a new position without rolling on my hip.  Sleep, especially after surgery, was a welcome friend.  By afternoon the nurses were ready for me to get out of bed and stand, and possibly walk.  That was not to be.  The first time they got me to sitting on the edge of the bed, walker in front of me, I looked at them, and then my head started spinning.  I was about to faint.  They laid me back down, and said they would try later.  Back to sleep I went.  The second try wasn’t much better.  I did get to a standing position, but nothing beyond that.  Therefore, the doctor said I needed to stay another day.  Yes!  I was no where ready to go home.

The second day, the physical therapist and occupational therapist were determined to have me moving.  There were three goals I had to accomplish before I could be discharged.  They were:  

  1. Walk (with a walker) 100 feet; 
  2. Get up and go to the bathroom on my own;  and 
  3. Be able to get myself out of bed and into bed.  

0 carActually the third task is the hardest, and still is the hardest.  Once I accomplished all these tasks, I knew they would kick me out that afternoon.  Now the occupational therapist showed up to inform me that I was going to learn how to get in and out of a car.  She rolled me down three corridors to a room that had a simulated car. She asked me what kind of car Dennis would be driving to pick me up.  I said he had an SUV, and she hit a button and 0 cross feetthe car raised a few more inches.  She demonstrated how to get into the car, and then she had me do it.  It was as hard as getting into the bed.  

There are also three things one is not allowed to do, once they have HipPrecautionPhotohip replacement surgery.  They are: 1) cannot cross legs or feet; 2) the foot on the surgical leg cannot be turned in or out—must leave the foot straight; and 3) cannot bend more than 90 degrees or is it 70 degrees.  I’m not good at geometry so any bending scares me!  I know I cannot bend over in any way whatsoever.

Here I am 10 days post op, and I am not sure how I am supposed to feel.  I finally did my hair and make up today.  Dennis said I must be feeling better.  He stated he was concerned because I always do my hair and make up.  I must have felt well enough that when I looked in a mirror yesterday it scared me.  I looked old and haggard.  I decided last night I would do my hair and make up to feel human again.

I don’t know to whom I should ask questions. I am done with the pain medications.  I didn’t want to take them because they are some pretty nasty strong stuff, but the doctors and nurses said that I cannot let the pain get ahead of me, so I took them faithfully.  Now I am done, and I hope I have no more pain because they didn’t tell me what to take once I stop the big ugly drugs.  My best pain relief so far is to get back in bed and take a brief nap.  Actually, that does work.  

I think the follow up care by home health is a joke.  The nurse came the day after I got home.  She declared me no longer needing a nurse.  That was last Thursday.  By Sunday I was on melt down mode because I didn’t feel great, and I didn’t know what to do.  Why did everyone say this surgery is great?  It hurts!  It scares me that I might move incorrectly and throw my new hip out of joint.  My leg is sore and uncomfortable.  Who do I ask?  I limped (no pun intended) through Sunday, and Monday morning I was feeling really down.  Dennis called the home health company.  The nurse gave us her name and number and said if we had any questions or concerns to call them, and they would have the nurse call me.  Ha!  What a joke.  When Dennis called, the home health people said that he should call my doctor.  What kind of care is that?  I would like to know how much they charged medicare for that one?  The doctor’s office was surprised when I told her that the nurse is done seeing me.  They told me that I probably overdid it feeling good on Saturday, and to stop pushing myself, and take the day easy.  So, I guess getting back in bed and snoozing for a short time is the answer—it worked that day, and has other days when I feel overwhelmed by all of this.

I still will believe that this is a surgery I will be glad I had—once the healing is complete.  I will be able to walk without pain.  I pretty much walk without pain now.  It’s the getting up and down stuff that is still painful.  

I am still planning to drive out to Arizona the end of December.  I am not sure I will be hiking the mountain trails for a while, but the weather is better, and there are a lot of sidewalks to walk on level ground around my home.  I am confident I will continue to heal and strengthen over the coming months.  I am hopeful.

It’s a joke, okay?  I’m good with the surgery!0 horse hip

The Centenarian In The Family

IMG_9074This past Sunday my mother-in-law, Alberta, turned 100 years old!  I’m impressed.  She was two weeks older than my mom—my mom would have been 100 years old this year, but she passed away 23 years ago.  Both women lived most of their lives is Missouri, my mom raised in the St. Louis area, and Alberta, in the Kansas City area.  Although they were born 13 days apart, their lives were extremely different as Kansas City and St. Louis are on the opposite sides of the state.  My mom (Dorothy) was a first generation American.  My mom was educated until she reached the 8th grade.  Alberta was an all-American girl who went to high school, and lived a very middle class life.

IMG_9077Alberta was born in Creston, Iowa on November 4, 1918.  Her father, Paul Allen, worked for the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad, and her mother was a homemaker.  Alberta was the younger of two daughters.  08-Nelly-Don1Her mother was enamored with Hollywood, and as Alberta was growing up in Kansas City, MO, she became a model for the local department stores and other businesses.  As a teenager, Alberta modeled for Nelly Don women’s clothing, one the of largest and most successful women’s clothes designer in the United States, headquartered in Kansas City.  She modeled for several different businesses, and beauty contests.

1975_Walker_0039_aAlberta talks about being poor when she was young, but from my perspective, she was far from poor.  Her father worked for the railroad and during the depression, he couldn’t cash his paycheck because the Kansas City bank didn’t have enough cash to cover it.  She also had a horse, Gold Dust Tony, when she was a teen.  I am not sure who she was comparing herself to, but she was one of the fortunate comfortable people during the depression.

MsMuehlebach'sWhen World War II broke out, Alberta took a job in a munitions factory.  There she met her future husband, William R. Walker.  W.R. was a few years younger than Alberta, and I suppose, that was a thing back in those days, so for years, Alberta lied about her age, so that W.R.’s family would not be aware that MsPontiac1she was older than him.  When she had her first child, my husband Dennis, she quit working and became a stay at home mother.  W.R. was a salesman, and had a tendency to look for greener pastures, so the Dennis Walker Album 6family relocated several times, living in Memphis, Tennessee to Wisconsin, before coming back to Chillicothe, Missouri years late to live the rest of their years.

Alberta was a very put-together woman.  From the time she was young, she got up every morning, made sure her hair and make up was done to perfection.  She said she earned many modeling jobs because she was LineupMomalways ready for that last minute request.  

To be perfectly honest, I felt in bit intimidated by her when I first met her.  She was 94 years old, and looked fabulous.  She was dressed to the nines, and would comment how she ran into an old friend, and then she might make a comment about how they let themselves go.   Being a girl who has had to deal with weight issues my whole life, I felt like she was Alberta Bill Jr Travel 16judging my looks.  I have over time gotten over that, but at the beginning it was uncomfortable.

Alberta and W.R. had three children, Dennis who was born in 1946, and twins William (Bill) and David who were born in 1949.  She raised her boys to be respectful men, to treat everyone well, especially their wives.  

Photograph (1)Their lives were chaotic as they moved from Missouri to Tennessee, and then Wisconsin.  They came back to Missouri when W.R. decided to take over the family farm.  Along with her husband and boys, Alberta helped in all the farming endeavors.  She ran tractors, grain trucks, and did whatever was necessary to make this farm work for the family.  She still owns the farm today, although none of the Walkers are farming it.  All her children have their college educations and have been in professional positions.  The farm is now rented out by a local farmer who raises crops on the land. this has allowed Alberta to have a nice little income in her later years.   While Alberta was working on the farm, she was also the Acting Superintendent at the Chillicothe Industrial School for Girls in Chillicothe, MO, a treatment center for delinquent girls.  Alberta worked the farm in the morning, made the lunch for the family, took a shower, and drove off to her evening job.  She worked with and counseled girls who had gotten in trouble with the law.  She was a no-nonsense counselor and helped many girls get their lives back on track.  

W.R. passed away suddenly in 1988 from an aneurysm.  He was the love of Alberta’s life.  She was 70, and has lived these 30 years without him.  A few years later Alberta decided to leave the farm and move into town.  Being in her 70’s didn’t stop her from being the strong, creative women she had always been.  She found a builder and along with him, helped design and build her new home in Chillicothe.  She lived in that home until 2014 when she came to Columbia, MO, to live in an assisted living facility near two of her sons.  She traveled the world with girlfriends who were much younger and had a harder time keeping up with her.  She has outlived most of these friends.  She has traveled all over Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.Alberta Albums7 78

When Alberta turned 90 years old, she hosted her three sons and their wives, to a week in Mexico to celebrate.  She was still very active.  A newspaper photo in the Chillicothe paper showed the 90 year old working out at the gym.

When Alberta was 92, she would drive from Chillicothe, MO to Trenton, MO to attend church services.  She decided to add a little excitement to her life, and pushed down on the accelerator to 89 mph.  Out of nowhere came the local law enforcement and pulled her over.  The officer asked her if she knew how fast she was driving.  She said she did.  Then he asked her why she was in such a hurry.  She stated to him that at her age there weren’t a lot of exciting thing to do.  The officer proceeded to give her a speeding ticket.  Alberta decided to keep this a secret, but much to her surprise the following Sunday, all her friends at church knew about the ticket because the small town of Chillicothe, Missouri, publishes all tickets given in the local newspaper.  Busted!

In 2014 Alberta moved from Chillicothe to Columbia to live in an assisted living facility.  She has had a few medical set backs, but she seems to bounce back.  in 2016, she took a bad fall, that caused major bruising down the whole side of her body and a brain bleed.  That isn’t enough to get to Alberta.  After a few weeks of therapy, she was back to her old self.  She is one amazing and tough woman.

Alberta has been living in a skilled care facility for the last few months.  Her mind is sharp as ever, but her body is slowing down.  She loves to be surrounded by her family and friends.  Her 100th birthday celebration brought out family and friends from her lifetime.  The nursing home also gave her a party where she danced with her physical therapist.

Happy 100th Birthday, Alberta Walker!


Alberta on her 100th birthday with her sons, l-r: Bill, Dennis, & Dave

Not My Favorite Holiday

I am not a fan of Halloween.  I liked it as a child, but it wasn’t my favorite holiday by far.  We had some sort of lame Halloween party at school in the afternoon.  We had to bring our costumes and dress up sometime during the afternoon before the party.  None of these were memorable.

I have memories of three Halloweens:  

  • The first memory of going out on Halloween was when I was somewhere between kindergarten and 2nd grade, because it was at the first home we lived.  We went around the corner and knocked on the door.  The lady of the house opened the door, and all I remember is that the piano in her living room was playing and no was sitting at the piano.  My eyes must have widened when I saw that because the lady of the house pointed out a ghost was playing the piano.  I had never seen or heard of a player piano before then, so she had me convinced!
  • My sister and I went trick or treating together.  She was four years older than me, 00 Smith Brosso she must have been about 12 years old, and I was about 8 years old.  We dressed up as the Smith Brothers.  Who are the Smith Brothers?  They were the cough drop people.  We would buy a box of cherry flavored cough drops made by Smith Brothers.  Back then I think the only competitor they had was Luden’s, and Smith Brothers were so much more tasty.  Actually, I think they were nothing more than cherry flavored candy.  The Smith Brother’s picture was on the boxes, and they were old guys with beards.  We found fake beards, and wore our dad’s clothes with pillows stuffing them to make us look rotund.  Judy took a department store coat box (yeah, who see those any more), and she covered it with white tissue paper and then drew the design of the cough drop box on this giant box.  We lived in a small neighborhood with about a dozen homes.  We knocked on the door, and we were asked if we had a “trick.”  Back in those days, we had to sing a song, tell a joke, or something to become the recipient of the candy.  So when asked what our trick was, we proceeded to do our “Smith Brothers” thing.  One of us would cough, and the other would hand over a cough drop.  It was quite a hit.  We also always wore a 0 andreamask, even if  it was just to cover our eyes.  You know like the Lone Ranger mask.  I thought that our neighbors wouldn’t know who I was if I wore the mask.  The Millers lived next door to us, and they had two yappy chihuahuas who would start barking as soon as we rang the doorbell.  Back in those days in our neighborhood, we also came inside the home to do our “trick” and receive our treat.  Mrs. Miller would act like she didn’t recognize us, and would hem and haw over who we might me.  I was feeling really proud that I could disguise myself so well, and then she would exclaim, “Oh my, it’s Andrea.  I can tell by those eyes.”  I could never hide my big browns from behind the mask no matter how much I tried!
  • 0 candyThe third Halloween I remember was when I was about 11 or 12 years old.  My cousins lived in large neighborhood, unlike my small neighborhood.  They bragged about all the candy they got when they go out on Halloween, and they invited me to go with them to the multitude of homes in the area.  Yes, my bag was filled, but it was all filled with penny candy.  In my neighborhood of only a dozen homes, everyone there gave full size candy bars and boxes of Cracker Jacks.  Full size back in the 50’s was much bigger than full size candy bars today.  I realized I loved the few large quality candy bars better than a bag filled with penny candy!

0 boysAs the years have gone forward, I took my kids out for Halloween.  As a single mom, I didn’t have money for fancy costumes. Some were handed down, used through brothers and cousins, some were just put together with what we had.  The boys didn’t know any different, and they were happy.  When I took them out, no one was at home to answer the door.

Haunted houses and adults getting into the action were just beginning at that time, but not for me.  When my kids were finally out of the house, and I was home to answer the door, I was disappointed that these kids don’t sing songs, tell jokes, or anything.  They just knock on the door and say, “Trick or Treat,” and then I am supposed to hand over the candy.  Where was the fun in that?  I loved the little bitty ones, still too young and shy who came with their mommy or daddy.  I would stoop down eye to eye with them and talk to them, and happily gave them candy.  The older kids, with no desire to show their comedic or other talent were no fun.  My living room was in the back of my home, and answering the door was inconvenient, getting up, going back and sitting down, getting up again, and over and over.  I found myself protesting the holiday by not being at home.  I would work late, go out to dinner, or go shopping, and come back home when it was too dark for the kids to be ringing my door bell.  

Now I live in the country in a private neighborhood, with about twenty homes, each on acreage.  The first year I was here, I bought candy and was ready for the door, and to my disappointment, not one single kids goes out in our neighborhood.  I no longer buy candy, and I am prepared for the one or two kids who live here who might show up.  Usually, they go into town to celebrate Halloween.

My grandkids think I am a Scrooge when it comes to Halloween, but I just don’t get it.  I don’t get the haunted houses and the creepy stuff.  I don’t get trying the scare the living daylights out of children.  I don’t get kids not singing or doing something to get a free candy bar.  I guess I am getting old.  I do love to see my grandkids and children of my friends in their clever costumes, and if they came to my door, I would happily treat them.  I just don’t get the rest of it.

One year I baked skeleton cookies with my granddaughters.  We let “Larry” join us for our baking adventures.  Larry has moved on and is no longer in this house (he has found a new closet to live in), and now my grandkids in Missouri are too big to celebrate with me.


It ’s okay if you enjoy Halloween.  Just don’t scare the cute little kids.  And, if you have a good trick up your sleeve, sing your heart out or tell a good joke—it might get you an extra treat!

Here are a few photos of my grandkids over the years on Halloween.  Now on to November, and preparations for my more favorite holidays!


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