List Your Top 10 by Heidi

February 21, 2011 by Heidi (picture is Heidi playing w/chicken’s on Grandma’s farm)

Work at the oil gate has been slow, so I’m sorting. I must have always liked lists. The other day when I was cleaning out my backpacks full of journals I found a list that my grandma had “translated” for me on the back of a magazine ad. There were some wiggly lines and drawings, then Grandma’s handwriting.

Grandma kept everything. (She had a handy stack of note paper under the lamp on the kitchen table. It was years before I understood people meant something else entirely when they talked about note paper. Hers was torn blank corners of ads, newspapers, envelopes.) Here is the list I found:

Things I Love:

  1. cows
  2. baby chicks

Pretty concise. Very accurate. I stayed at Grandmas farm sometimes for a week at a time. My favorite things were, as mentioned, and if it were really cold in the spring when the chicks hatched she brought them inside and placed them in a box with a blanket behind the wood cook stove, which was located handily beside my favorite step, explained in an earlier post: Steps.

I progressed to writing my own lists that don’t need translation. For instance, I used to play school and I had a list of all the kids I knew and loved- or not. I gave grades to them based on how I saw their class performance. If they were nice, they got good grades, If they were indifferent, they got the average C and if they were mean to me, they flunked. Again, easy.

I started keeping some lists all year. Christmas list ideas, for instance. I’d keep one in my billfold and add to it constantly. The trick was coming up with something uniquely suited to each person, meaningful, but costing very little. I never had much money and I’m not one of those handy people that can make things out of wood or cloth or beads. I’m scared of a glue gun! (Just give me back my .22, please Galen!) Below is a picture of the work from my .22 and those of my best friends at Mama Sue’s farm.

Evidence of the "gang"

I work with words. I make lists.

When phones got smarter than people, I started keeping lists in them. I use the recording sometimes for random things like article ideas or things to tell my mom. I use shopping list applications for my groceries and supplies. That works so much better than the scraps of paper I grew up using. You know from experience what happens to odd pieces of paper just as well as I do!

Not all technology has improved the use of lists, however. I have noticed a little bit of competitive spirit in people and their Facebook or Twitter lists. Some people seem to have befriended the universe! I realize these are not really friends, but if not, then why would I want to communicate with them every day? It’s not for me. I have around 30 friends on my list and I really care a lot about each of them or they’d be off the list.

The other thing about lists on Facebook is that you can group your people into lists and categorically determine who is your “Best Friend” kind of friend and who is not. Competitive friending, I’m not into.

Here’s a current list: things I don’t give time or energy to now that I’m almost 60


  1. Makeup
  2. Regret
  3. Bad relationships
  4. “Live” TV
  5. Guilt
  6. Boring books
  7. Nail polish
  8. Pleasantries
  9. Worry
  10. Competition

How about your top 10? Share a top 10 list of anything with me. I still like lists. I’d love to see yours. That’s a challenge!

Steps in Life

January 18, 2011 by Heidi

My main goal this morning was to add oil to the generator. It was low by half a quart the last time we checked it. I was able to remove the cap to the generator by using a hammer for a little leverage. It started right up again. The instructions for any work with the generator include doing that early in the day so if it doesn’t restart, we have several hours for help to arrive. No need for help today.

Yesterday I made room in the belly of the RV for gallons of drinking water. I had visions of one of the dozen or so containers breaking in the Jeep on the washboard approach to our little gate on the ranch.

We have enjoyed our stint on the ranch. It has been a manageable flow of semis and pickups. We still don’t know what we’re guarding. Each person just has his own chore to do and doesn’t seem to have much overall perspective. Thus, we don’t know how things are going.

They took the large 12 inch diameter pipes out today and just now a pickup came in to remove the flood lights. It seems to me that we are drawing to an end of something. This industry is a mystery to us.

As I type, Debbie is in Pleasanton getting our signal booster. We’re really hoping that this will mean we can start uploading this blog. If you’re reading this, we were able to make the air card work, or we gave up and are posting once a week from McDonald’s 45 miles away in Pleasanton.

While I was waiting for another semi, I took a seat on the steps and started thinking of the past.

My mom was raised on a farm and while this ranch is a thousand acres, hers was just 80. I remember being entertained by watching my Grandma cooking breakfast eggs on the wood cook stove. It made Grandma smile when I sat beside the stove watching her from the stairs. She told me my mom used to sit in that very spot when she was little.

My perch was the two walnut steps that went from the living room area to the old farm kitchen. They were unpainted, concave and worn smooth as the new face on a smart phone! You’ve heard of the comfy chair? These were comfy steps and I’ve tried all my life to find another pair to compete with them.

In my grade school years, I sat on the house steps to the back porch. Concrete steps. Icy cold in Northeast Iowa winters or scratchy in the summer sun while I ate fudge sickles. At school I sat on the edge of the fire escape slide. The aluminum was burning hot in the sun but offered protection in the wind. We weren’t supposed to play in the fire escape slide, but that never made any sense to me, so on weekends I’d sit there, mildly defiant, knowing I couldn’t get into trouble since it was Saturday.

In junior high school, I sat on bleacher steps and watched the high school girls practice 6 on 6 basketball. I memorized the movements, hoping to someday be a star. Honestly, after spending 2 years on the top bleacher…it only led to my sitting on the bottom most step for four years in high school as a bench warmer.

In college I escaped the chat in my dorm room and the smell of weed in the hallway by sitting on the back steps of the dorm. Hardly anyone used them and it became a good study place for me, cool like the porch steps and public like the bleachers.

In my twenties, I remember leaning against the railing on back steps of my house and praying earnestly, feeling that the little house couldn’t hold all my petitions. The steps were wooden, familiar and comforting.

In my thirties, I sat many weekends on the concrete platform outside a one bedroom apartment and waited for people to choose my garage sale items while I did my best to make a few extra cents. I found people stopped by if I was wearing something unusual, like a red hat with a feather in it. I had a collection of hats and they were props, not sale items.

In my forties, I sat on hay bale steps and drank champagne at Our Lady of The Mississippi Abbey every fall and celebrated a week of creativity and contemplation with the dear Sisters of OLM.

In my fifties, I sit on the two steps in my RV in Texas as I wait for the trucks to come to the gate I’m guarding. I was sitting there watching some long horn cattle in the lane when it occurred to me that I might be looking for the same old farm feeling I used to enjoy on those walnut steps! My grandma would smile if she knew!