August Lee. Thank you for inviting me to your birthday party. I wish I could be there. Ally will give you a hug from me.
August celebrating his 3rd birthday in Krizek Park.
August Lee. Thank you for inviting me to your birthday party. I wish I could be there. Ally will give you a hug from me.
August celebrating his 3rd birthday in Krizek Park.
Her now famous Prairie Mustard Sauce in four varieties is available year around. Give her a call at 785.472.7465 to order. Pick up only as she can’t mail the product.
I had a blast yesterday with the Goddesses ….Kim, Carole, Carolyn, Donna and Bev….who shared time with me at the Palace. I met them a year ago during a similar visit and they said they’d be back. I could only hope for a return visit. Good as their word, they are an absolute delight. They made me an “honorary Goddess”. How about that?
Compared to last weekend, this one is laid back. I slept the clock around and only had time for a shower/shampoo, one load of laundry, a quick call from Mackenzie and some nice music by Katherine Jenkins before heading downstairs for lunch with Doris, Margie and Hazel. Now it’s back to the laundry room.
That’s the only thing about living here that I find inconvenient…doing laundry. The facilities here are nice, clean readily available but it’s a fair hike for me to go back and forth to the laundry room although not as far as when I was in my home. Joy is at the far end of the hall and must have to leave on Wednesday to do her Thursday laundry. Usually I do my laundry on Sunday as I figure everyone else who lives here should be in church, but Karen is coming to change my sheets today which necessitated the schedule change. Three loads and I’m done with that duty for a week or two.
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Family: Ally, Karen, Christy, Drew, me, Todd
Family: Ally, Karen, Mackenzie, Drew, me, Todd
It was a wonderful weekend with family….
I live behind this accumulation of “notices”…Cha Cha (top left) made by and a gift from Terry Headrick, room 218, Life is Crazy Good via Marci Penner and a native grass wreath on the door from Cindy McAtee.
Here is the living room shot showing Ally’s park bench which is a favorite among some of my friends here, TV, Todd’s rocking chair and a few of my favorite books….love this spot. I’ve not played the bugle in the hall, as yet. Everyone is waiting.
It looks small from this angle, but my bedroom is 16′x16′….with two big windows and lots of light and air…
You can see our door knocker from the house on the wall above the old farm table. Brit hand carried that knocker in his lap on the airplane all the way from London many years go. I just couldn’t part with it.
I posted this with a lot of help from Mackenzie.
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Left to right: Pattie Kitchen, me, Nancy Morrison and Ginny Frederick at the Salina Country Club enjoying Bloody Mary’s before Sunday brunch. Picture taken by Ally Britton. Ginny and I are Palace inmates. Nancy and Pattie have been visiting me over the weekend. You can’t imagine what a special treat this was…wonderful food and the most delightful company anyone could hope for.
Yesterday I had a very special visit from my grandson Drew and his girlfriend Christy Beckman. We had a delightful visit topped off by a good supply of Mexican food at La Casita.
And, my granddaughter, Mackenzie, arrived from St. Louis Friday night and is staying here with me at the Palace in a guest room a couple of doors from mine. It’s a great arrangement.
Tomorrow we’re getting together for breakfast before Mackenzie, Drew and Christy have to head home and resume their normal activities. Todd and Karen, Ally and I will converge on the north IHOP to give everyone and warm send off.
It has been a wonderful weekend.
Thanks for tuning in…
Rogue State: How Far-Right Fanatics Hijacked Kansas
Gun nuts, anti-abortion zealots and free-market cultists are leading the state to the brink of disaster
Kansas Governor Sam Brownback.
David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images
By Mark Binelli
June 12, 2013 11:50 AM ET
For the past 12 years, the Kansas State Capitol has been under constant renovation. Most recently, its grand dome, which towers majestically over sleepy downtown Topeka, sprung leaks, forcing repair crews to cage the entire building with a blocky, ramshackle grid of scaffolding. From a distance, it looks like painful orthodontia, or perhaps a bad political metaphor.
Inside, though, one can’t help but be swept up by the bustling, civics-in-action buzz of the place. Groups of children on field trips are being led past murals of hearty Kansans surviving a blizzard, grazing cattle, leading kids into a one-room schoolhouse. Politicians and their staffers sit on benches nearby, conducting hushed confabs or chatting amiably with Capitol bureau reporters and red-badged lobbyists. None of this reeks of Machiavellian House of Cards amorality, perhaps because we’re surrounded by so many paintings of pioneers doing various things with wheat. In the gift shop, you can buy snowglobes containing tornados and Wizard of Oz characters.
And look, there’s the governor, Sam Brownback! The 56-year-old, a regular sight on Capitol tours, today happens to be wandering the corridor near his second-floor office. He’s holding a coffee mug and sporting one of his signature sweater vests – such pleasingly Capra-esque touches that one wonders if a wardrobe consultant was involved – and when his eyes alight upon an unfamiliar face, he beams and gives the visitor a pleasant nod.
Just a few years ago, Brownback seemed washed up. A devout Catholic who attends mass several times a week, he’d built a following among the Christian right as one of the most socially conservative U.S. senators of the Bush era, but his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008 proved an embarrassing folly. Unable to raise money or make a dent in the polls after religious conservatives flocked to Mike Huckabee, Brownback wound up limping from the race before the first votes were even cast in the Iowa caucus.
But apparently, the notion of wielding executive branch power had become appealing. Two years later, he handily won the governorship, part of the class of Republicans elected in 2010 on a Tea Party-driven wave of anti-Obama sentiment.
Once in office, Brownback surprised critics and supporters alike with the fervor of his pursuit of power, pushing what reporter John Gramlich of Stateline described as perhaps “the boldest agenda of any governor in the nation”: gutting spending on social services and education, privatizing the state’s Medicaid system, undermining the teacher’s union, becoming the only state to entirely abolish funding for the arts, boasting that he would sign any anti-abortion bill that crossed his desk, and – most significantly – pushing through the largest package of tax cuts in Kansas history. His avowed goal is to eliminate the state income tax altogether, a move that many predict will torpedo the budget and engender even more draconian cuts in spending. “Other Republican-led states have experimented with many of the same changes,” Gramlich pointed out – the difference in Kansas being that Brownback “wants to make all of those changes simultaneously.”
Since Mitt Romney’s resounding defeat last November, much has been made of the supposed battle for the soul of the Republican party taking place at the national level, where pragmatic establishment types are attempting to win over minorities, women and young people by tamping down the most extreme elements of the Tea Party fringe and moderating stances on issues like gay marriage and immigration. The problem is, in places like Kansas (and Louisiana, and South Carolina, and North Dakota), that fringe has become the political mainstream. In fact, while strategists like Karl Rove urge moderation for the GOP, in Kansas, they’ve been taking the opposite tack. Last fall, Brownback and his allies – including the Koch brothers, the right-wing libertarian billionaires whose company Koch Industries is based in Wichita – staged a primary putsch, lavishing funds on hard-right candidates and effectively purging the state Senate of all but a handful of its remaining moderate Republicans. “The Senate was really the bulwark of moderation last term,” says Tom Holland, a Senate Democrat (there are only eight of them left) who ran against Brownback for governor. “With the moderate Republican leadership gone, that just got blown away.”
It’s been nearly 10 years since Thomas Frank wrote about the conservative takeover of his home state in What’s the Matter With Kansas? Back then, Kansas still had a Democratic governor in Kathleen Sebelius. But after last fall’s civil war, Kansas has emerged a more intense shade of red than even Frank imagined. The state legislature is the most conservative in the United States, and now there is absolutely nothing stopping the Brownback revolution – one which happens to be entirely at odds with any notion of the GOP adapting to the broader social and demographic changes in the country. If anything, these purists argue, Republicans lost in 2012 because the party wasn’t conservative enough.
No one can say that about Sam Brownback, who is rumored to be mulling his own presidential run in 2016 – and using Kansas as a sort of laboratory, in which ideas cooked up by Koch-funded libertarian think tanks can be released like viruses on live subjects. At a national level, the GOP remains stuck in a reactive position, pursuing executive branch “scandals” and blocking Obama’s policies with no real power to effect changes of their own, and so states like Kansas have become very important to the future of the party’s far-right wing. Consider it a test, a case study – proof, finally, that an unfettered hybrid of Randian free-market dogma and theocratic intolerance can create, in the bitter words of outgoing Senate President Steve Morris, one of the ousted moderates, an “ultraconservative utopia.” Of course, Morris ruefully added, “It depends on your definition of utopia.”
Back in April, Brownback was chosen to deliver the Republican response to the President’s weekly radio address. He invited listeners everywhere to “join us as we remake our country, not into a place that looks more and more like Europe. We don’t need to do that. We just need to become America again. And that is the rebirth we are doing.” In other words, the Koch brothers may have lost the big battle last fall, but in states like Kansas, they’re winning.
The legislative session in Kansas begins in January and typically only lasts for about 90 days, a holdover from a time when most of the citizen-legislators were farmers who could only make time for governing in the fallow winter months. Two floors up from Brownback’s office, spectators can watch the House and Senate proceedings from a gallery of stiff-backed pews. The chamber is the sort of grand, filigreed hall (fussy cornicework, pink marble columns, chandeliers fit for a castle) that makes you feel like you’re inside a giant wedding cake. The lawmakers work at curved desks that stretch back from the speaker’s platform like rows of teeth.
One afternoon in March, the Senate debated a bill that would prevent public employees from donating directly to union PACs from their paychecks. The wonkiness of the details helps disguise the fact that the bill directly targets public school teachers, part of a larger package of union-busting laws pushed by Brownback. (He’s also reclassified thousands of civil service jobs to eliminate union protection and set up public school “innovation zones” that would basically allow districts to ignore state laws surrounding curriculum, salaries and collective bargaining rights.) In order to finance his tax cuts, Brownback has cut education spending by the largest amount in state history. But in January, a state court ruled the cuts unconstitutional and ordered the government to restore $400 million of school spending. “It seems completely illogical that the state can argue that a reduction in education funding was necessitated by the downturn in the economy and the state’s diminishing resources and at the same time cut taxes further,” the court stated in its ruling. Brownback has responded on dual fronts: by appealing the ruling to the state Supreme Court and by pushing through a bill that would “reform” the way in which state judges were appointed – allowing Brownback, rather than a panel, to appoint judges directly, giving the governor direct power over the one branch of Kansas government that had been out of his control.
As viewed from the Senate balcony, the distinguished body is a sea of older, predominantly white men in navy blazers, their shiny bald spots forming an archipelago of pink desert islands. Ty Masterson, a freshman senator from the Flint Hills, presides over today’s debate. Unlike many of his colleagues, Masterson has a sharp suit and a full head of hair, and he speaks in an odd, husky purr, making even bland statements like “Senator from Wyandotte has the floor” sound more like he’s getting ready to whisper, “Turn over on your stomach now.” A realtor with six children and an A+ rating from the NRA, Masterson was made budget committee chair upon his election – despite the fact that he’d filed for bankruptcy in 2010 after his home-building business went under, ultimately only paying about $3,000 of the $887,000 owed his creditors. “Who better to lead out of the forest than somebody who has seen a lot of the pitfalls?” he told the Wichita Eagle at the time. Today, while Democrat Anthony Hensley, a public school special education teacher for over 30 years, thunders about how the union bill is an effort to silence the loyal opposition, Masterson fiddles with his iPhone. It turns out he’s checking college basketball scores, which he periodically announces to the chamber.
In the end, the bill passes, 24-16. Meanwhile, over in the House, they’re debating guns. A bill allowing public schools and universities to arm teachers, principals and other faculty members has easily passed, along with another bill, likely unconstitutional, maintaining that federal gun laws do not apply to guns manufactured and sold within Kansas’ borders (citing a tenuous argument that the federal power to regulate firearms only applies to interstate commerce.)
Freshman Republican Jim Howell, a trim 46-year-old Air Force veteran who represents suburban Wichita, has now introduced a bill that would force nearly all public buildings in the state to allow people to carry concealed weapons inside – unless those buildings hired armed security guards and install metal detectors, which, of course, would be prohibitively expensive for most cash-strapped municipalities. Gun-free “safe zones,” Howell insists, should actually be rechristened “dangerous zones.”
Howell is soon joined by an ally, freshman Republican Allan Rothlisberg of Grandview Plaza, a retired 30-year Army veteran who is the approximate shape and shade of a Red Bartlett Pear. Rothlisberg goes even further than Howell, arguing that public buildings which banned guns should be held liable for any shootings. When one incredulous Democrat asks if Rothlisberg is familiar with a recent “slaughter of 10-year-olds in Connecticut,” Rothlisberg drawls, “I’ve been familiar with slaughters of people in gun-free zones for years.” Later, he adds that the 2007 mass shooting at Virginia Tech had been “absolutely [the school’s] fault.”
Up next: a shockingly reasonable amendment from retired judge John Barker, another freshman Republican, who stands up to argue that it might be a good idea to ban concealed weapons from court proceedings – say, emotional child custody cases, in which allowing aggrieved parties to carry weapons could be a recipe for disaster. Taking care to stress his bona fides as a “lover of the second amendment” and an 18-year hunter’s safety instructor, Barker goes on, “I’ve been a judge for 25 years and am proud to say I never carried a gun on the bench. Didn’t think I wanted to do that.”
During the voice vote on Barker’s amendment – which, of course, goes down to defeat – the no’s sound like boos at the Apollo. Finally, Lawrence Democrat John Wilson stands up to offer his own cheeky amendment. If gun-free zones are so dangerous, he argues sarcastically, why not get rid of the metal detectors and guards at the entrances to this very building, which wind up costing Kansas taxpayers upwards of $200,000 annually, and just allow everyone to carry concealed weapons in the state capitol instead?
Howell says that sounds like a great idea to him. The amendment passes overwhelmingly, as does the bill itself.
Kansas has a long tradition of producing pragmatic, centrist Republicans, from President Dwight Eisenhower to senators like Bob Dole and Nancy Kassebaum. In What’s the Matter With Kansas?, Thomas Frank notes that traditionally, the Kansas legislature was comprised of moderates, aside from “a small band of right-wing cranks who amused the citizenry by pulling an occasional filibuster on tax legislation.” He argues that the shift in focus came in 1991, during an “uprising that would propel those reptilian Republicans from a tiny splinter group into the state’s dominant political faction… wreck[ing] what remained of the state’s progressive legacy.”
That uprising centered around abortion. Operation Rescue, the fanatical anti-abortion group founded in 1986 by former used car salesman Randall Terry, first decided to target Wichita during its so-called “Summer of Mercy” in 1991 – focusing in particular on Dr. George Tiller, one of the few doctors in the country who provided late-term abortions. In 2002, Operation Rescue moved its national headquarters to Wichita in order to stalk Tiller even more closely; the doctor was eventually murdered by an anti-abortion zealot in 2009, gunned down while working as an usher at his church.
Back in the summer of ‘91, thousands of anti-abortion activists descended upon the city, committing acts of civil disobedience, harassing women attempting to enter clinics and picketing residences of doctors. Protestors outside of Tiller’s clinic waved signs that read “Babies Killed Here” and “Tiller’s Slaughter House.” Operation Rescue’s tactical director bragged to The New York Times that “We know when Tiller’s using the bathroom.” Nearly 3,000 people were arrested; at one point, a quarter of the city’s police force was dedicated to handling the protests, and all of the city’s abortion clinics were closed for a week, until a federal court ordered them reopened.
The protest culminated with a massive rally at Wichita State University’s football stadium headlined by Pat Robertson and drawing a spillover crowd of 25,000. “This was where the Kansas conservative movement got an idea of its own strength . . . ” Frank wrote, “where it achieved critical mass.”
Thus mobilized, conservative Republicans swept into the state legislature in 1992 and never looked back. Four years later, moderate Republican governor Bill Graves appointed his own lieutenant governor, Sheila Frahm, to fill Bob Dole’s vacant Senate seat – but she was trounced in the primaries by the far more conservative Brownback, with the help of an eleventh-hour infusion of $400,000 from the Koch brothers.
When Brownback was elected governor in 2010, there was only one group of politicians standing in his way. Surprisingly, they were not Democrats – whose numbers in the Kansas legislature had dwindled so precipitously as to render them effectively impotent – but a small band of moderate Republicans, who balked at the most extreme elements of Brownback’s agenda and still had enough power in the Kansas Senate to gum up the works. And so when the 2012 Republican primary rolled around, Brownback and his supporters recruited an army of right-wing challengers and targeted the moderates with unprecedented alacrity. Not to mention cash: During the primary, outside spending from groups like Americans for Prosperity (a lobbying group founded by the Koch brothers), the Kansas Chamber of Commerce (run by former Koch employees), the Club for Growth and Kansans for Life totalled, according to varying estimates, somewhere between $3 million and $8 million.
One of the targeted moderates, Jean Schodorf, had served three terms as a state Senator. Her grandmother came to Kansas in a covered wagon as a homesteader in 1883; Laura Ingalls Wilder grew up on the land that would become the Schodorf family farm, and Schodorf and her brother still run a Little House On the Prairie museum. Her family has been Republican “since Lincoln created the party,” she says. But she wound up clashing with Brownback over abortion rights and his education policy; though she opposed a number of elements of Obamacare, she also voted against the notion of holding a statewide ballot referendum to repeal the law, considering the move a waste of taxpayer money since the health care law had already been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
A 62-year-old Ph.D. who works as a speech pathologist, Schodorf had never before faced a primary challenge – but in 2012, in the second most expensive state Senate race in Kansas history, she was defeated by 27-year-old Michael O’Donnell, who had served for a single year on the Wichita City Council, and who still lived with his parents. O’Donnell’s father, a Wichita pastor, was an anti-abortion protestor who was arrested during the Summer of Mercy while protesting outside of George Tiller’s abortion clinic. “Senator Schodorf’s a great lady,” O’Donnell told me. “She’s just in the wrong party.”
Dick Kelsey, another of the senators on Brownback’s enemies list, could not be questioned for his ideological purity. An evangelical preacher and a stalwart member of the conservative wing of the GOP, Kelsey had first entered politics in Indiana, where he helped recruit socially conservative candidates for Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority in the 1980s. He eventually moved to Kansas to open a Christian treatment camp for drug- and alcohol-addicted youth. When local politicos urged him to run for a newly open state legislative seat, he initially demurred. “But God was good,” he says, “and I ran and won.”
Kelsey served two terms in the House before shifting to the Senate, and in both chambers, he maintained a reliably conservative voting record on both fiscal and social issues. Then Brownback came into office. Kelsey figures he probably voted with Brownback 98 percent of the time, but he publicly opposed the governor’s budget after he realized it would lower his own tax burden to zero. “The bill was designed, frankly, to take care of Koch Industries,” Kelsey says. “I could see that it took money from very poor people and benefitted me, personally, too significantly. And I’m not poor.”
Groups like Americans for Prosperity outspent Kelsey by $200,000, a huge number in Kansas state politics. (Kelsey spent about $35,000 on his entire campaign.) Thirteen days before the primary, one poll showed Kelsey with a 20-point lead. “But 17 negative mailers later . . .” he says, chuckling ruefully.
Kelsey was also defeated. Of the 22 moderate Senators targeted, only five survived. It was a wholesale rout, a bloodbath. After the primary, Brownback told reporters that voters made a “clear statement . . . I think what you had is, the market functioned on Tuesday.”
“I think Brownback is fascinated by how easy it is to change things as governor, as opposed to being one of 100 U.S. senators,” a Topeka insider with ties to both parties tells me. “The current Republican legislature watched the moderates get executed by the Brownback machine. They know, and are no doubt regularly reminded of, how Brownback destroyed the career of a solid conservative like Dick Kelsey. And they know he’s capable of killing any one of them.”
The anonymous, single-story building that once housed George Tiller’s abortion clinic sits on an undistinguished stretch of highway service drive in Wichita, just down the block from a used car lot. To get inside, patients entered a gated driveway covered with signs reading “Premises Monitored Electronic Surveillance” and “No Trespassing.” The clinic has been closed since Tiller’s murder in 2009. On the lobby door, a sticker of a gun with a slash through it remains, once posted to let visitors know they weren’t allowed to carry concealed weapons inside.
This spring, Julie Burkhart, a native Kansan who worked alongside Tiller as a spokesperson and legislative activist, decided to reopen his clinic. Since the murder, there have been no abortion providers in Wichita, which has a metropolitan area with a population of 650,000; in fact, the only three abortion providers left in the entire state of Kansas were in Kansas City, 200 miles away.
One afternoon, I met Burkhart at the clinic, still several weeks from opening. An extension cord ran out of the SIGN IN window into a cluttered lobby, where a pile of forceps and a vacuum suction machine sat out from an earlier training. Burkhart is 46, with flowing, abundant red hair and the sort of taste in rings and beaded necklaces that makes her look like a bit of a hippie, which belies a steely tough-mindedness. Tiller’s harassment, she tells me, had been steady since the Summer of Mercy. There had been an assassination attempt in 1993, and she recalls sitting in his office and noticing a bulletproof vest.
“We really didn’t talk about the personal danger a lot, because I felt like it was maybe challenging for him to dwell on it,” she says. “You know, he didn’t set out to do this work. But I think the more he was involved in caring for women, the more he became wedded to the idea, and the fact, that women need safe, legal health care. And then it became a matter of principle.”
Burkhart introduces me to one of the doctors she has hired, a woman who wishes to remain anonymous. She’s been working as an OB/GYN in a small town for the past 10 years, delivering an average of 20 babies a month, and had never performed an elective abortion before. But the rhetoric coming from the right during the last election – “the War on Women, those nasty comments people were making about rape,” she says – made her think more seriously about ways in which she could contribute to progressive causes, beyond simply knocking on doors and asking for money. When I ask if any of her friends and family tried to talk her out of taking the new job, she says, “All of them. Most of whom have had abortions. They all want to see this clinic reopen. They just want someone else to do it. My mother had an illegal abortion before Roe v. Wade. Kitchen-table thing. Both of my sisters, too. All were married at the time, practicing contraception. People take precautions, but sometimes precautions fail. The pill is 98 percent effective when used perfectly – if you’re a robot. But not everyone is perfect.”
The “antis,” as Burkhart calls the local anti-abortion crusaders have already begun casing the building, typically in pairs. They’ve also shown up at Burkhart’s home twice, forcing her to take out a restraining order on one local preacher. She shows me a flyer that’s been circulating with her photograph on it. ADOPT AN ABORTION-HOMICIDE PROMOTER, it reads, continuing:
As an employee of the late abortionist Tiller, Julie Burkhart is responsible for the mass murder of thousands of innocent children. Now she wants to do it again! Adoption is the loving option, not only for babies, but also for adults who have lost their way. Join us in adopting abortion promoter Julie Burkhart who is conspiring to take the lives of precious children in Wichita again.
Chillingly, the flyer goes on to exhort readers to “do a public outreach” at Burkhart’s home – listing her street address – and notes that, “Lastly, please remind her that, ‘God hates the hands that shed innocent blood.’”
Pockets of progressive resistance remain in Kansas, in bigger cities like Wichita and college towns like Lawrence. But despite the inspiring bravery of women like Burkhart, opposing forces back in Topeka seem to have insurmountably marshalled against them. Brownback already signed a bill in 2011 that banned abortions after 21 weeks (claiming fetuses could feel pain at that point). New bills required abortion providers to show patients detailed images of fetal development and explain the supposed “link” (deemed bogus by the National Cancer Institute) between abortion and breast cancer; got rid of an exemption allowing late-term abortions if the woman’s mental health was at risk; and even officially declared that life began at conception. The latter bill was supported by freshman Republican Shanti Gandhi, a retired Topeka physician – and yes, he’s the great-grandson of that Gandhi – who called the point “indisputable.”
The Brownback revolution has not proceeded without hitches. Maintaining control of an insurrectionary movement is notoriously tricky, as is separating out the true-believing foot soldiers from the cranks and nutjobs. The antics of improperly vetted Tea Party candidates have redounded negatively on the GOP on a national level – creating an awkward tension, since the establishment also very much needs, and fears, the useful idiots making the loudest noises from the most unsavory fringes – and the same dynamic is at play in Kansas, where the Brownbackers might be wishing they’d been more careful with their previous wishes.
In the current legislative session, the House and Senate voted to rescind a 25-year-old ban on quarantining people with AIDS, and Rep. Steve Brunk of Wichita introduced a bill that would require cities that put fluoride in their water to inform customers that fluoridation lowers the I.Q. of children. The latter claim, of course, is patently false, but somehow fluoride has become a source of paranoia out in the chemtrail/Alex Jones corner of the wackosphere. A group with anti-abortion ties called Wichitans Opposed to Fluoridation actually managed to pass a ballot initiative last fall that would remove fluoride from Wichita’s drinking water. (”I don’t trust the water, period,” one voter told the Wichita Eagle. Said another, “People should be more responsible and brush their teeth.”) Last year, the state legislature passed a bill preventing United Nations’ Agenda 21 from being implemented in the state. Agenda 21 is a benign, two-decades-old UN resolution that called for worldwide cooperation in fighting economic disparity and protecting the environment, but has since become a black helicopter/One World Government bugaboo for Republicans like Rep. Bill Otto of LeRoy, who argued during the floor debate that since JFK’s assassination had clearly been committed by more than one shooter, well then, why couldn’t the Agenda 21 conspiracies also be true?
Brownback has found it difficult to keep hardcore Republicans in line on issues like wind energy, which has become a $7 billion industry in Kansas – a flat and blustery state well-suited to wind farms – and which Brownback supports. Rep. Dennis Hedke of Wichita, a geophysicist who works for the oil and gas industry (and a climate change denier), pushed a bill that would roll back a law requiring the state to meet certain renewable energy standards. Hedke also wants to ban any public money from being spent on sustainable development.
Last year, Brownback was forced to personally dress down Rep. Virgil Peck, an insurance salesman from southeast Kansas who publicly “joked” about how sharpshooters in helicopters had been so effective in killing feral swine, they should be used to hunt illegal immigrants. A Kansas political insider who wishes to remain anonymous was telling me this story when I interrupted and said, “I can’t believe he’d say that within earshot of a reporter.” My source went silent, then continued, “He said it in a House appropriations committee meeting.”
After the story made national headlines, Peck grudgingly apologized under pressure from Brownback. Still, it hasn’t exactly quelled his willingness to embrace controversial positions. Earlier this session, Peck was the only House member to oppose an anti-bullying bill, which passed 119-1. He later told a reporter from the Topeka Capital-Journal that “bullying legislation has always been a top priority of the homosexual group. I’ve never been a fan.”
When I visited Peck in his office, he greeted me effusively, with an accent that sounds less Midwestern than Deep South. He represents the rural Ozarks region in the far southeastern corner of the state, where he grew up. Around the capitol, he’s known for his loud sartorial choices. Today, he’s sporting a pretty amazing looking shirt-jacket combination, the former electric blue, the latter sherbert green, along with a red, white and blue lapel pin shaped like a cross. Peck tells me he was just writing an email, though there’s no computer on his desk, only a legal pad on which he’s been writing longhand. Sunlight pours through the big window behind him. For some reason, there’s also an overhead light on, so he almost disappears in the hazy brightness as I face him, his thick brown beard floating like the grin of a Cheshire Cat.
“The legislature has certainly moved right,” Peck says. “I’ve always believed Kansas voters were right of center – basically where I am – but in the past, a lot of conservative voters didn’t get out to vote, I think partly because of the choice of candidates.” Nationally, he thinks the problem in 2012 was simple: “We weren’t conservative enough. The establishment is what cost us that election, and Karl Rove needs to go away. As far as the soul searching, it’s like, good grief, guys, let someone else take over. We’ll find our way.”
Of course, for strategists like Rove, loose-talking Republicans like Peck – who casually refers to the president as “Barack Hussein Obama” during our conversation – are precisely the reason swing voters are being spooked by the GOP. Peck remains unmoved. “What bothers me is there are places in America that have gone so far to the left that they’d look at us as nutcases,” he says pleasantly. “I consider us in Kansas mainstream America – normal, red-blooded Americans who believe in the Constitution of the United States. Yes, we’re conservative, but we’re not a bunch of gun-toting cowboys.” A few moments later, he slides his chair back, and the wheel makes a loud cracking sound when it hits the plastic floor coaster. “That wasn’t gunshots, by the way!” he cackles.
Brownback himself made his name as “God’s Senator,” to quote the headline of a 2006 Rolling Stone profile – becoming infamous for doing things like holding up a drawing of an embryo during a Senate debate on stem-cell research and asking, “Are you going to kill me?” Last December, he made an official proclamation declaring a “Day of Restoration” on which Kansans should “collectively repent of distancing ourselves from God,” and staged a massive prayer rally in a public park near the governor’s mansion, telling the crowd, “I stand before you today, a leader of Kansas, and a sinful man, remorseful . . . Forgive me God, and forgive us.”
This can obfuscate the fact that Brownback has been equally zealous when it comes to the sort of free-market extremism pushed by monied and business interests – Brownback grew up on a farm, but married into one of the wealthiest families in Kansas – and represented most baldly by his radical, deeply regressive tax scheme. In many ways, the dust-ups over abortion and AIDS are distracting sideshows; though Brownback is certainly a true believer, a certain amount of distraction might even be the intent. What’s really important to the people running the show in Kansas – wealthy patrons like the Koch brothers – is the tax bill. Last year, Brownback hired widely discredited economist Arthur Laffer, who has been peddling supply-side theories since his work in the Reagan Administration, as a consultant on tax policy and drew up a budget that Republicans and Democrats alike considered precipitously austere. When it came to the size and swiftness of the tax cuts, the budget was also clearly financially unsustainable, a near-instantaneous deficit-bomb. The moderate Republicans who still controlled the Senate balked – until Brownback promised that if they just passed the bill, its problems would be fixed in the House. The Senators believed him, and allowed the bill to move to the House. Paul Davis, the leader of the House Democrats, remembers assuming there was no way his House Republican colleagues wouldn’t fix the bill, “Just because the fiscal note was so massive, and it was so irresponsible.”
Recalls Virgil Peck gleefully, “They passed something they didn’t think we’d pass. Basically, it was, ‘You won’t shoot the hostage.’ ‘Oh? Watch.’ And we did.”
Now that the bill is law, though, experts are predicting a $267 million deficit by the end of 2013 – down from a $500 million surplus. To mitigate the damage, Brownback was forced to ask conservatives to vote for a tax hike, making a temporary sales tax increase permanent. On the eve of the Senate vote, it was unclear if the governor had a full-scale revolt on his hands. Republicans were summoned to a secret, off-site strategy session held in a conference room in an office building in downtown Topeka. Brownback, looking peevish, showed up to rally the troops, despite the fact that it was his daughter’s birthday. “I know there’s a lot of history here,” he pleaded awkwardly, as the Senators feasted on barbecue from a buffet. “The sales tax, and the tax package last year, all have histories and legacies, and a lot of emotion goes into that. I’m asking you to look at the situation now, and what’s in the best interest for us, as a state, on a go-forward basis.”
Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal had floated a similar “glide to zero” tax plan, but he recently threw in the towel after his approval rating began gliding in a similar direction, with voters reacting angrily to the deep cuts in services required to make the tax breaks feasible. Brownback might face similar problems – at the state level, Republicans have to balance their budgets, so they can’t just offer massive tax breaks and allow the deficit to balloon like their hero, Ronald Reagan. But for the moment, he’s hanging firm. Many, in fact, remain convinced that all of these experiments are being conducted with an eye toward 2016. “I very much believe that he wants to run for president,” posits Davis, the House Democratic leader, who is said to be mulling his own run for governor. “I think he is attempting to build a resume that will give him the ability to compete in a Republican primary. And I look at a lot of these initiatives and I think they’re more targeted towards appealing to Republican voters in Iowa and South Carolina than they are to the betterment of this state.”
Brownback’s ideas aren’t the only ones being studied carefully by national audiences. His Secretary of State, Kris Kobach, garnered national attention last year as the creator of “self-deportation,” the immigration policy adopted by Mitt Romney, in which laws impacting undocumented workers would be enforced so punishingly that the workers would choose to return to their home countries. “Self-deportation” wound up on a long list of punchlines generated by the Republican primary circus – Kobach says he now prefers “attrition through enforcement” – but the Secretary of State remains a potent figure, handsome, articulate and very smart: Harvard undergrad, Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, Yale Law School, a stint in the Bush Justice Department under John Ashcroft.
In other words, the guy doesn’t seem crazy. He’s actually quite charismatic, even likable if you ignore some of his policy arguments. And yet when we met, he scoffed at the way the Republican establishment has been looking to soften the party stance on immigration, calling that approach “simplistic and ahistorical.” Part of this has to do with his own bottom line, of course: He’s been drumming up a healthy side business hiring himself out to states like Alabama, Arizona, South Carolina, Oklahoma and Missouri as a consultant and helping them to craft their own self-deportation laws.
But like many Republicans on the far right, Kobach also sincerely believes the GOP’s problems have more to do with image than substance. “You know,” he says, “the instinct of the talking head culture in media, the TV people who are pontificating about what the Republicans should or should not do, is always to say, ‘Well, it was an issues-driven thing.’ Because they live in the world of issues! To them, the whole world is framed that way. But in fact, every four years, the size of the American electorate almost doubles. Think about that. And the people who vote only once every four years, they’re likely to be much more driven by personalities, and by community efforts to mobilize them and say, ‘Hey, we really need you to get out and vote.’ Voters probably just saw Barack Obama as a more likable character than Mitt Romney.”
Jean Schodorf feels differently. After leaving office, in fact, she did something she’d never thought she’d do: She left the Republican party. “It was a very hard decision, harder than I ever thought it would be,” she says. “But I thought it was hypocritical, when they no longer stood for any of the issues I believed in.” Schodorf is fairly certain she’ll return to politics at some point, though she’s not sure in what capacity. “We’ve got to get through these next two legislative sessions,” she says drily, “and hope there’s still something intact.”
As for Brownback, well, his State of the State address in January seemed pitched not only to voters at home, but to a potentially broader audience. “When our country seems adrift, Kansas leads,” he said. “In an era when many believe that America has lost its way, Kansas knows its way.”
After three tours in Afghanistan, Tyler won’t be going back. Following another year or so in the Air Force, he’ll set his sights on new horizons.
Tyler, Ally, Todd, Karen and I had dinner last night at Martinelli’s. They all love pasta so it was right for them. All I can ever find to eat that I like is their chopped salad and cappuccino gelato, which is absolutely heavenly. I’m sure you can eat there without having pasta, but I just haven’t found the right thing on their menu. I fail to see what it is about pasta that others find so interesting.
Tyler will be back through here next week and I’m looking forward to that. I’ve rounded up a few friends….Doris, Dale, Joy, Ivy and Perry…to have lunch with us on Wednesday. He’ll stop in St. Louis to see Mackenzie and have dinner and spend the night before returning to Cincinnati.
Today we had Mexican casserole for lunch…which is my most favorite meal that they serve here. Well, that is after I “doctor” it up. To start with, it’s a mess of flavorless beans and ground beef on a plate with a few corn chips. I add shredded lettuce, sliced olives, grated cheese and diced tomatoes from the salad bar then top it all with a lot of La Zapata hot sauce. When combined it’s attractive and very flavorful. I wish it were an optional dish as I’d have it often if it were.
Starting the first of the month, they are going to one entree menus. We always have selections we can make off the alternate menu, if we choose. I often order off it as they offer bacon and eggs, bacon cheese burgers, chicken filets, hot soup and several kinds of sandwiches. I know the prices of groceries have skyrocketed and that coupled with all the waste is troublesome.
My medical alert button was activated last night. I’m not sure how, but I must have arm wrestled or rolled over on it. It’s hard to turn on so I was surprised and pleased when one of the nurses came to check on me. I’m glad to know it works although it doesn’t work every where in the tower where I think it should.
Memorial Day weekend is going to be eventful for me. Among others, long time friend, Nancy Morrison, and her daughter, Pattie Kitchen, are coming here from Colorado Springs and will be here overnight for a visit. I’m very much looking forward to that.
The “elevator” guys are beside themselves. They try to tell inmates how to push the buttons, and in which order, but the inmates “already know” everything. It’s one of those situations that is rather hopeless but drives the elevator guys to distraction. People get in and push B for basement then proceed to push all the other floors where someone might want off. They can’t seem to get it that once you go to the basement the schedule is erased and you have to reenter all the floors. Sometimes I’ll get off where I want to go and later reenter the elevator only to find all the same people there trying to get where they want to go. You know how it is trying to teach old dogs new tricks. Well, as far as the elevators go, we have a lot of old dogs riding them.
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Mother’s Day turned into a very nice day for me. Todd, Karen and Allyson came from Ellsworth and joined me in #218. Karen baked a wonderful coconut cream pie for us and brought the queen some new clothes. Ally brought her usual assortment of very appropriate greeting cards. And, I had long calls from Mackenzie, Drew and Tyler. Life is good.
We had dinner at Diamaru, the Japanese restaurant by Lowe’s. For me, it’s tricky getting in that place. We’re in blinding hot sun and the minute I go through their door, it’s like walking into the blackness of of the bowels of Mammoth Cave. I am struck blind and can only see a vague form of Ally walking ahead of me. My night blindness must be getting worse. I don’t know why they can’t put some lights in that place. By the time we get to our table, my eyes have somewhat adjusted and I can see more forms around me but I still eat with partial blindness. And frozen. You could hang meat in that place, it’s so dang cold.
We had assorted appetizers, noodles, miso, spring rolls and tempura. I tried the soft-shelled crab tempura and should have known there would be too much on the tempura side. I’ll go back to the Las Vegas roll next time as I prefer it. And their miso is out of a Kikkoman package, just like the kind I make, and readily available at Dillon’s. We were saved by a very cute, very nice waiter.
We came back to my apartment and I called my neighbor, Hazel, to come join us for pie. Karen makes excellent pies and we all enjoyed hers a lot. Todd and Karen fixed their humidifier that I’ve been using and until they repaired it, sounded like a truckload of pots and pans falling six flights down a stairwell. Now it just purrs. I can sleep over a purr.
My neighbor, Carolyn, showed The Butler the other night. Carolyn issues a blanket invitation to the residents of our wing so Hazel and I went. It’s perfect. It’s only a few steps from my door so it can’t be any more convenient than it is. She serves great popcorn and we can talk and yell during the movie if we want.
I’m really catching up on my movies. Netflix has improved greatly in their offerings since I belonged years ago. I love their science and nature documentaries and watch at least one a day and work in a movie now and then as well.
They had a gathering here at the Palace for Mother’s Day on Saturday. I didn’t go last year at the suggestion of other inmates and forgot that this year…and went with Margie, Doris and Hazel. They had a great turnout as the dining room was packed. All the residents of the memory unit came. The staff served their infamous fake cheese cake topped with peach puree after serving the same kind of fake cheesecake for lunch that had chocolate chips in it. (MfD said they served the rest of the peach puree over fruit cocktail for dinner.) The entertainment was terrible, as it usually is. I was the first one out when it was over. I think I am very empathetic with the residents of the memory unit as I know I might be there some day…but all the entertainment here (and food) is geared toward them. I go to events occasionally while believing things have to improve some day. But they don’t and there is no point in going. I’m surrounded by pretty active, smart people, but activities are geared to the lowest common denominator. I provide my own intellectual challenges and don’t rely on them. Not everyone is successful doing that. This is still the best place in the area to be and I love living here. Things could be greatly improved with just a little more thought and effort put into planning.
Ally called to say she is making me some tapioca pudding. Yay. I’ll call Ivy to join me for a bowl, as I did the last time Ally made some for me. Ivy loves tapioca pudding….and chocolate, and wine, and…
My grandson who has been deployed for the past six months should be here any day. I can hardly wait. He won’t have much time, but I just need to see him, give him a hug and tell him I love him.
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My friend Doris, after eating her dinner last night: Well, that’s all there is. We might as well go home.
H: I’m not leaving until I get my oranges.
MfD: You’ve already had your oranges.
H: No I haven’t. They haven’t brought my oranges yet.
MfD: H! You’ve already eaten your oranges.
H: Look!!! The orange bowl is empty. They haven’t brought them.
MfD: The bowl is empty because you’ve already eaten your oranges.
H: Well, you go on without me. I’m waiting for my oranges.
Georgann Eyler, Jeanne McClanathan, Jerry Lemon, Ivy Flora, Peg Baker, Jere Dunbar, Shirley Drawbaugh, Shirley Nichols, Pat Howard and Phyllis Johnson. I know that Georgann Eyler Dreher, Jere Dunbar ?, Phyllis Johnson Patrick, Pat Howard Koenig and Shirley Nichols Greiner are deceased. I’ve lost contact with Jeanne McClanathan Schwarz Miller and Jerry Lemon Peterson. Ivy Marsh, Shirley Drawbaugh and I are happily situated in Presbyterian Manor in Salina….along with five others from our class….Louie Reynolds, John and Katie Weckel, Loren and Margie Walter. Life does take some interesting twists. I remember well the decision that went in to us having this photo made at Majorkurths Studio.
Woman who moves as “slow as molasses” is waiting for the Gurneyvator. Inmate from behind says: the elevator is here. Woman says…Oh. Woman creeps to open door and then stops and refuses to get in. Man from behind says: the door is open, go on in. Woman: edges past the opening and stops. Man from behind impatiently says: GO ON IN! Woman who is half way in and half way out and who is deaf as a doornail says: but it doesn’t sound right.
A new couple who moved in recently had just returned from getting groceries which is a major event for them. The woman says to her husband: You sit right here while I go get a cart. Man sits and waits. Doesn’t move. Woman takes the cart to the car and loads up the groceries and comes in without the cart. Where’s the cart?, she asks her husband. I don’t know, he says. Well you had it, she says. Where are the groceries, he asks? I don’t have the groceries, she said. You were supposed to watch them. I don’t think I ever had the cart, he says. Well, where are our groceries, she asks again. Finally, a lobby sleeper from the other side of the room says…”Lady, you were the only one with the cart. Well, where are our groceries, she asks again. Lobby sleeper: Why don’t you look in your car.
I heard a story today about one of my friends who lives here at the Palace. She’s a lot of fun to be with and her stories are a riot. This one, however, was about her and took place many years ago when her husband was alive and they were living a couple of miles from here. Her then neighbor who also lives here was telling me the story over lunch, where all great conversations occur around here.
It seems that Becky (that’s not really her name) was very tired and wanted to take a nap. Her husband never stopped working, ever. I knew him and he was always moving, always doing something. He had more energy than any one person was entitled to have and sometimes he just drove her to distraction wanting her to do things with him when she was dragging and all she wanted was a nap. He never quite understood that everyone was not as energetic as he. This was one of those times.
She tried to relax and take a nap on the sofa, but he kept talking to her, wanting this or that. She just became more weary. She’d been this route before.
Finally, she drew a line in the sand and told him she was going to the bedroom and he wasn’t to disturb her under any circumstances. “ I’m shutting the door and I don’t want to be disturbed, even if the President calls or the house catches on fire”.
So, she went to the bedroom and closed the door. She was pretending she was asleep so he wouldn’t bother her.
Soon he was calling from afar, then knocking on the bedroom door, wanting to talk about something or go some place. She decided if she didn’t respond and pretended she were asleep, he would go away.
He was persistent, the noise continued as he made endless requests, then he came in to the bedroom. Finally, he was nudging her on her arm trying to wake her. He wanted her to go some place with him. She didn’t respond and at that point, she wasn’t about to give in. She was going to get that nap or else. Pretending that she was sound asleep was working. He would go away and she could finally get some sleep, or so she thought.
Things were quiet for a while as she dozed off, smug about her success.
The next thing she knew, the EMS crew was beside her bed, shaking her out of a sound sleep. She had pretended too well and her husband, thinking she was unconscious, called 911 for help. After all, he’d always managed to wake her up before.
You don’t want to know how this story ended.
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with Anu Garg
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“Growing up, I was raised as a Hindu. Not very devout, but one who went to the temple on special occasions. Also, I was told that all religions lead to the same god, even if they take different paths, just as many rivers merge in the same ocean.
I believed it all. In India, many Hindu festivals are official holidays (from holy + day), as are Christian, Islamic, and those of other religions. Schools, offices, and banks are closed on Diwali as they are on Christmas and Eid. Who can complain about the extra days off, after all? And if you have 330 million gods and goddesses already in the fold, what’s a few more? Bring ‘em all — it’s one big happy family.
Fast forward several decades. After I lost my religion, I read books of other religions. I read the Bible from cover to cover. I was shocked at what was in it. That’s when I understood why scientist and writer Isaac Asimov once said, “Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived.”
If you disagree with Asimov, please don’t get mad. Just read the book, the whole book, not a few cherry-picked verses. If you don’t have time to do that, check out this very readable summary by a man who read every single word of it and then wrote about it.
My reading of the book wasn’t in vain. I did get something out of it. This week we’ll look at words that originated in the Bible. Say hello to the five biblical characters whose names have become words in the English language. ”
There are many interesting things to learn about on this website. Take a look. It’s free.
Life at the Palace is wonderful and ever-changing. Or, maybe it just stays the same with the inmates stepping into new personalities for the day. My endorphins get kicked into high gear on a daily basis as this is a fun/funny place to be and I love it. You just laugh until you leak!
For the past month or so, they have been working to replace the elevators that service the basement and six floors of The Tower. There are two “lifts”, one larger than the other, and better for accommodating people with walkers and wheel chairs. I call it the gurney lift as a gurney won’t fit in the smaller “vator” without folding the victim in half. The gurney lift has been out of commission for a couple of months as they replace all the parts of the mechanism, to the consternation of management.
They should have a required course in elevator etiquette for inmates before they are allowed to move here. There are some people who just don’t get it that you have to move back in the elevator in order to get more people inside. They walk through …or wheel through…the door and skid to a stop. So, you have to nudge them to the back. The same people just stand there at the front of the elevator, blocking the door, when you’re at the back trying to get out. They’ve forgotten how to MOVE.
Moving the masses is frustrating when you are trying to “catch” an elevator. Since they are in short supply, you don’t want one to pass you by. Some people walk like Tim Conway and their snail like movements are hardly discernable. The elevator often leaves before you can throw yourself at the door, past the pokey puppies, so it won’t close and leave without you.
So for the past couple of months, we’ve been dealing with moving everyone in the tower…residents who live there, the maintenance crew, housekeeping with their various and sundry carts of laundry, cleaning supplies, sweepers…and people moving in and out with furniture, artificial plants and assorted paraphernalia… in one SMALL elevator. My friend, Joy, has taken over as the self-appointed elevator loader and won’t let the lift leave until it is overflowing with people, piled one on top of the other. It’s like…”how many people can you get in a phone booth” type of operation. “Come on”…she’ll say….”we can get everyone on”. You won’t get left behind when Joy is the operator, but you might lose a leg or two. No matter.
To digress a bit….when I was room shopping here, before I decided to move to Salina…I looked at the rooms on the 6th floor. I was awe-struck with the view out the windows. It’s breath-taking. My friend, Ivy, lives on six and I was tempted to move up there too. Then I thought about the elevator time I’d have going to and fro and decided against it.
I’ve joked with her about what would happen if the power failed and the elevators wouldn’t work. Well, yesterday we found out what that was like. She was in the lobby when the failure occurred. She had just returned from the grocery store with a stash of groceries and neither elevator worked. She had no options so stayed downstairs for dinner. After that, a couple of staff members helped her walk the six floors to her apartment. She said they were most helpful, walked slowly, had her rest a lot and got her safely to her apartment. But, she said she was pooped and going to bed. I don’t know what happened to her groceries.
I haven’t heard whether or not we have elevator service this morning, but I would bet that we do. If we don’t, I’ll take a day off from sittercize as there isn’t any way I can do even one flight of stairs except in an extreme emergency. I’m not going to tackle them to get to sittercise, I do know that. I’d enjoy a day off from the boring bumps and grinds.
Staff….the staff members here are wonderful. Every last one of them. That makes it especially nice living here….people who work here are fabulous. I feel very fortunate to have made such a good choice in coming here. Amazing decision for me, wasn’t it? I couldn’t be happier with my choice.
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PS The elevators still aren’t fully operational. I waited a while for one of the repairmen to come retrieve me from the second floor and deposit me in the basement. I waited a while longer. Then I decided I could take a day off from bumps and grinds and give the guy a chance to fix his elevator. They’ll never get them fixed if we keep interrupting their work. I’m not sure what they’ll do when the hoards want to go to the dining room for lunch, but I won’t have to wait long to find out. The drone of locusts heading toward food can be heard from far away. Once assembled, they start the business of musical chairs and heaven forbid you should move one of them an inch. The table-moving operation the other day didn’t work and they returned the table to its original position. I don’t care where I sit as long as I get fed.
I don’t know quite how the Davidson’s website jumped up before me but I suspect it was while I was googling for organic and free trade teas. I’ve bought tea on line for a long time now and love milling through the many varieties that are available when you shop on line. There are good books on the market about the tea trade that I’ve enjoyed. Tea is to me like coffee is to others. I feel better after a cup of tea than I do a cup of coffee, so I switched to drinking tea a long time ago. And I drink a lot of hot tea.
My first major online tea purchase was from Arbor Teas, a great source for Fair Trade tea - which is hard to find. It’s one of the best of the sources I have researched. It has one of the largest catalogs of USDA certified organic teas around, nearly three-quarters of which are Fair Trade Certified®. Ally called them to order tea for me for Christmas a few years ago and found them to be most helpful and informative. It’s a mom and pop shop that offers a lot of personal attention. Along the way she learned to pronounce puerh and rooibos, varieties of tea whose names we stumbled over.
Mackenzie has also given me tea from the Republic of Tea and I have also ordered tea from them. They have a blackberry-sage tea that is not only Rich Vargo’s favorite, it has become one of mine as well. It’s a lovely tea to serve guests. I keep that variety on hand plus a half dozen other types of green and black tea.
Tyler sent me a canister of green sencha tea flavored with lemon from Brugges. It’s a local favorite in Belgium and certainly one of mine. Sencha is a very popular Japanese tea and it is the type that Izo and Yorika drink. Izo said he’d never had it flavored with lemon but that he’d see if he could find some to try.
My friend, Dorothy Inoye, has sent me literally pounds of green tea that her Japanese in-laws and family have drunk for generations. When they were interned during WWII in California (the shame of that…as they were every bit as loyal Americans as either you or me) they ate the leaves as they didn’t have enough food as it was. Dorothy is the one who really got me interested in tea.
I’ve also bought pounds of tea from “Enjoying Tea”. They have a wide variety of puerh teas, particularly puerh touchas. I’ve very fond of their puerh and specialty teas. The tea that I buy is usually the “loose” variety rather than in tea bags. For some, the individual tea bags are more convenient, but I like strong tea and sometimes when I make it is as black as strong coffee. I like to use loose tea for that reason.
So, earlier this week I was browsing the net heading for Enjoying Tea when I stumbled across Davidson’s Teas (and here), which was new to me. Maybe that’s because they don’t have a user friendly website. Davidson’s offers some of the world’s freshest, purest and delicious organic teas- both directly from their own gardens in India- as well as from other small organic tea farms, all over the world. I also found their loose teas to be less expensive than some of similar quality. I bought Davidson’s Tea, Loose Leaf Bulk, Orange Spice, 16oz bag List Price: $16.99 sale: $14.68 Davidson’s Tea Bulk, Herbal Classic Chai, 16oz List Price: $16.99: sale $14.99. Tea has taken over a lot of my kitchen storage space. I love it.
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HAPPY MAY DAY.
Joe Snuffy’s Restaurant and Bar in Abilene is, plain and simply, a nice, home-owned place to eat. They are good, accomodating people. The food is good and they serve generous amounts of everything. You won’t go home hungry. Most of us from the Palace who went there last night for dinner chose the only steak they serve…a very tender, well-seasoned 8 oz sirloin topped with mushrooms and onions. It’s the kind of steak, lean and tender, where there are no scraps.
We ordered dinner before we realized they had a bar. Duh! It’s called a “Restaurant and Bar”. They had a special on any number of margaritas so we all (except the drivers) ordered mango margaritas that were very tasty. Large and tasty.
With the steak comes a very fresh, ice cold tossed salad with your choice of dressing and a wide variety of “two sides”. They have wonderful American fries that are toasty brown, a real treat for us. If you go, have the American fries. We never have browned potatoes here at the Palace. They also have flavorful baked beans, macaroni and cheese and cole slaw… baked potatoes, veggies of other kinds. I ordered the American fries and a baked potato, as my sides and brought home the baked potato for another meal. They also have rolls that were the size of half a loaf of bread.
Their dessert specialty is homemade peanut butter pie, but they were out of that. They also have wonderful cinnamon rolls so I brought one home for my breakfast.
Snuffy’s came highly recommended by my friends Patti O’Malley and Ann Headrick. They were right on about it.
I really enjoy our Taste and Travel nights. I don’t attend all of them, but I make an effort to participate in those where I know the food is going to be good. It also gives me an opportunity to visit with people over dinner with whom I don’t usually meal-sit at the Palace. I love it here but I think everyone needs a break from the routine. I have some friends who haven’t left here since they moved in except to go to the doctor. They have very little to talk about and they age quickly.
Changes are coming in our exercise groups and I’m looking forward to it. Karen told us last night that she’s taking over the 10 am sittercise class that I attend on a daily basis. I’m looking forward to the change as I’m bored stiff with the same old routine of exercises every day. Instructions come from a very old recording that is annoying to listen to and not at all encouraging to stretching and bending. I thought everyone knew you were supposed to inject variety in whatever exercises you do, but our inmate leader is resistant to change or “fun”. As you might know, I don’t follow the canned instructions and work a lot of swishes and flourishes into my routines. I will give her a lot of credit for starting each class promptly on time, something that is yet to be seen by the activities director who is a lot of fun but notoriously late and unprepared. We’ll see how this story unfolds.
My youngest grandson saw his final break of day in Afghanistan a couple of mornings ago. He will never have to go through that again. He’s in Qatar on his way back to the U.S. where freedom awaits. After some debriefing time in Ohio, he’ll return to KS for a few days. He’s a man on the move so we see him as he dashes by before he returns to his post in Cincinnati where he teaches at the University of Cincinnati Trauma Hospital.
Lunch is always an interesting and fun experience. Today, as is often the case, I sat with my good friends, Doris, Hazel and Margie. Doris is 105 years old, as I have mentioned many times. She’s a fabulous person and has the quickest wit of anyone around. And, she remembers everything and everyone. Today they moved one of the tables next to us to a new location, which works much better for the wait staff and anyone sitting at “our” table, but it caused grief and consternation to those whose table had been relocated. They were flopping around like fish out of water trying to figure out where to sit…and with whom. It was like Sheldon on the Big Bang Theory when someone took his place on the couch only this involved a dozen flip-flopping people. I love this place. It is a source of constant amusement.
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