My Mother’s Christmas Cactus




The first time I saw my mother’s Christmas cactus, it was standing in a pot beside her breezeway door. And she told me the story about it–how her friend had given her a start of the plant. The friend also told her she should keep the plant outside during the warm months and bring it inside in the fall.

“That’s the only way it will bloom,” the friend told her.

So Mom followed her friend’s instructions, and the plant bloomed beautifully over the holiday season.

The following Christmas, I received a picture of her plant covered with beautiful pink blooms. And her letter included a question:

“Would you like a start of this plant?”

Well, I guess so, I thought. I recalled all my episodes with the English Ivy I carried in my wedding bouquet. Mom rescued the sprig–rooted it–planted it–and had it thriving. The start she gave me did well while we were living in Missouri, but it failed miserably in ultra-dry Colorado. But I would be willing to give the Christmas cactus a try. And when we visited Iowa the following May, Mom gave me my start of the plant.

“Remember to keep it outside from April or May until late September,” she reminded me. “Otherwise, it won’t bloom.”

I’ve enjoyed my mother’s Christmas plant over the years. There have been a few calamities, however. One summer night about three years ago, I was awakened with a loud noise. The next morning, I found my plant all over the yard–the result of a battle between two cats who included the plant in their chaos. I had to reroot it and repot it. Amazingly, the plant survived. But after that experience, I kept it inside the house in the basement during those warm months. The plant didn’t like the basement at all. It did not bloom last Christmas. So now, it is outside once again from spring to fall. I also learned how to fertilize it. And this year, it is loaded with buds that will open by Christmas.

Since acquiring my mother’s plant, I have added two additional Christmas cacti to the collection. Howard gave me one about three years ago–a multi-colored variety. He found it in the grocery store–the last one on the shelf. They sold it to him for a dollar because they thought it wouldn’t live very long. He brought it home to me, and I worked my magic with it. It only produced white flowers previously. This year, it also began producing a coral flower with the white and is so full and beautiful.


Then yesterday I added my third cactus plant. Our super market had a variety of colors on sale, and Howard bought me a red one.


I will work my magic with it this spring.

My mother received her start of the original Christmas cactus years ago in the 1980s. We moved to Colorado in 1980, so I probably received my start from her in the late 1980s. I know I have had this plant a long time. And look at it now!

My mother must be smiling!

Remembering Ramsey and Shadow


Nine years ago today, our beloved Ramsey left us. He was born December 4, 1991, and he died November 25, 2005–so that would make him 14 years old. He was originally Debbie and Dee’s dog, and they acquired him from Dee’s cousin. Puppy Ramsey needed a home. Later, when Debbie and Dee moved into an apartment where pets were not allowed, Ramsey moved in with us. He became our dog the spring of 1992. So we had him about 13 years.

Part lab and part cocker spaniel, Ramsey had a black lab face and short cocker legs. He could run like the wind while chasing water sprays. And oh, did he love his ball! He was a wonderful dog!

Of course, he had to adjust to our black cat, Shadow, who had already lived in our house since 1985.

Shadow was born September 10, 1985 and he departed October 27, 1997. He originally belonged to a young couple– the husband, a rookie for the Denver Broncos that year. They had to travel a lot with the Broncos and felt sorry for the kitten when they were gone. So they were looking for a good home for him. Not only did Shadow move in with us just before Halloween that year, but he departed just before Halloween twelve years later.

Both pets looked like a couple of ink spots chasing one another throughout the house. A friend who spent some time with us later reported he heard those two racing after one another during the night. Not only did Shadow pester us about getting up in the morning, he often awakened Ramsey early–and the chase was on.

Their biggest tussle concerned the winter sun streaming through the front window and spreading across the floor. Ramsey would get there first. He would just get comfortable when Shadow would slide across the rug, swat him, and they would take off flying again. Perhaps the funniest thing I saw them do involved a swat Shadow gave Ramsey in the kitchen. Shadow had just awakened from his afternoon nap and entered the living room. He peered around the kitchen door in time to see the great black hulk drinking his water in the kitchen. I saw the ears go back–the crouching position–heard the whack–and the two of them were off flying again.

Ramsey didn’t know what to do with himself after Shadow died. We didn’t get another cat. And so Ramsey spent the rest of his days with us, getting older. He lost his vision before he died, and I’m sure he had cancer.

I remember the day we drove him to Boulder to have him put down. I rode in the back seat of the car with Ramsey, who was excited to be going somewhere even though he didn’t feel very well. The goodbyes were difficult. I grabbed him and held him for a while before Howard took him inside. It was one of the hardest things we had to do since Shadow died.

Shadow’s cremains are in a small container I keep downstairs. Ramsey was carried home inside the cover of his bed. I had to unzip the cover to retrieve his leash and collar. And then I remembered the treats and his ball I planned to place inside the cover with him. It wasn’t his favorite ball. Howard wanted to keep that, so he switched balls on me. I still have Ramsey’s favorite ball and am glad now that the switch was made. Ramsey was buried in one of his favorite places. We placed a concrete marker on his grave, and I later provided the inscription.

Today the marker has settled. The inscription vanished after several winters. I know where the grave is located and visit it from time to time. And I smile when I remember something.

Shortly after Ramsey was buried, I looked up toward the sky. Two seagulls flew overhead–one following the other.

Shadow and Ramsey! I thought. They can fly!

Time Travelers: A 50th Anniversary Celebration


Fifty years ago today when Howard and I stepped out of this church–we had no idea what was in store for us. We were married in the old Sinclair Memorial Presbyterian Church in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I remember it was a cool late April day and slightly windy. Shortly after this photo was taken, my veil flew straight up in the hair. Fortunately, it did not fly off my head!


We would have two wonderful children. Brian Scott Beall was born August 6, 1968 in Louisville, Kentucky.


Deborah Lee Beall was born January 12, 1971 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Our lives were filled with school–


–more school–


–more school–


–more school–


and finally–more school!


And just think–we did all of that schooling together and were able to pay for it ourselves with no bailout from our parents! The secret here is that we worked together using our own resources. And we paid it all off as we progressed through the levels.

Our children grew up and married. Brian and LuAn were married in their front yard March 9, 1991 in Broomfield, Colorado.


Debbie and Dee were married in our back yard August 22, 1992 in Broomfield, Colorado.


Today, we have a large group.


This photo was taken in 2005. Since then, we have more people who are not pictured here. Briefly–this is our family:


Brian, LuAn and Brandon. Brandon is all grown up now with three daughters of his own.


Dee took this photo of Debbie, their children, Josh’s girlfriend, and a younger cousin.


All in all, I would say these fifty years have been wonderful!

For a full picture show, please go to the following link:

Undecking the Halls


Christmas 2013! The sun is just beginning to rise, and I can tell that it is going to be a beautiful, sunny day. It is 25 degrees right now, with a projected high of 45. Needless to say, there is no snow on the ground. All of that melted quickly, but then most of our Christmases are dry here in Denver. I think it snowed in the mountains yesterday–but not here. Oh well–maybe next year.

Our celebrations with family have already taken place. We went to our son’s house on Monday (the 23rd) for a celebration there, where we saw some excited little girls who were thrilled with the dolls I gave them. Yesterday morning (Christmas Eve), we traveled to Littleton for a get-together with our daughter and her family. Traffic was very light as we headed down there, but really increased on our trip home.

Then, last night we did something we haven’t done in years: we went to a Christmas Eve service at the little Presbyterian Church we plan to join sometime in January. It was like going home again, something Thomas Wolf once said you are unable to do. We joined this little church over 30 years ago when we first moved to Colorado and were members there a couple of years. Then we began exploring and probably traveled full circuit before finding ourselves at the port of origin. For Howard, it is like returning to his roots. We was born and raised a Presbyterian. I was raised a Baptist but became a Presbyterian when I married Howard. And since we are celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary in the spring, it’s like returning to my roots as well. The service was beautiful, culiminating in the holding of small candles at the end during the singing of “Silent Night.” After the service, we drove around town and looked at the lights before heading home.

Now, it is Christmas morning, and all is quiet in the house. We are spending a peaceful day at home. I have planned our feast for later. We stopped at a super market on our way back from Littleton yesterday so I could get my annual grapefruit. I love grapefruit, but Howard doesn’t. And now experts are warning us we shouldn’t eat too many of them for whatever reason. I figure one grapefruit a year won’t harm me! In fact, I will really enjoy it. I don’t know whether we will watch a movie today, but we may find one later. So far, we’ve already seen “White Christmas”, “It’s a Wonderful Life”, and other favorites. Will wait until later and count that as a surprise.

Sitting here now in the quiet of this early Christmas morning, I become keenly aware of the fact that the time of undecking is upon us–the time when I take down the tinsel, holly and bells and put them all away for another year!

Undecking the halls is always as eventful as the decking of them, especially since I have increased the decorations over the last half century. Every year, I get something new in the way of decorations. The trick about undecking the halls entails putting all of this stuff away so I can retrieve it all without difficulty next year! No doubt I will begin the project inside the house and save the yard and front windows for last. It will take a week putting away all the interior items! By saving the yard and windows for last, I will have some of my display through New Year’s Day. Actually, this display has become like an old friend since it has been up since early November. I will miss it when it is all boxed away.

From our house to yours: have a very Merry Christmas 2013, and a wonderful New Year 2014. We wish the best for all of you.

Peering Through The Fog


An eerie fog greeted me when I awakened this morning and peered through my front window. Grabbing my camera, I scurried outside to photograph the event in 18-degree temperatures. My solar lights were still blinking. The fog obscured the fact it was daylight. I took the pictures quickly since it was cold, and then I dashed into the house where the warmth welcomed me. The fog is no stranger since I grew up in Iowa and lived in other parts of the Midwest. Mornings in Pennsylvania frequently began with fog the summers I spent there. Viewing the fog this morning reminded me of some of those classics.

I remember one November about 1973. I was working as a paraprofessional at the College Community School District on the edge of Cedar Rapids while attending Mount Mercy College. Being a paraprofessional sometimes entailed activities no one else wanted to do. I worked at Prairie High School, and the one and only copy machine was located in the junior high school across the way. The trek to the junior high required an adventure across the parking lot–definitely a nightmare when the fog engulfed it. Over the years, I have worked several places where one individual deemed my colleague always took it upon herself to be my boss. I can still remember the sweet smile on her face that morning as she said, “Would you mind running over to the Junior High and copying this?”

Ever taste a fog? I tasted it all the way across the parking lot that morning! It was so thick, I could not tell the direction I was going. Hopefully I wouldn’t end up in Iowa City. And if I took another turn, I would be in downtown Cedar Rapids. The return trip to the high school was no less adventurous. I can still feel that cold fog brushing against my face. Funny that I should remember all of that while photographing the fog this morning!

My favorite encounters with a fog occur when I’m inside watching it through the front window. Occasionally the fog matches my mood at such moments. I worked for an attorney in Cedar Rapids after graduating from high school in 1961, and I can remember one such encounter with a fog. It was a late September afternoon, and I was about to head out for home. I was the only one in the office at the time and had finished typing a number of documents. The office was located in the Higley Building in downtown Cedar Rapids, and we were on the 8th floor. When I carried the papers into the attorney’s office and placed them on his desk, my attention was suddenly drawn to the window. A heavy fog descended upon the town with street lights casting eerie shades of red up into its fingers. I stood there looking at it for a while, and then braced myself for the trek home.

The fog can be a friend sometimes when I’m in the mood. I enjoy walking in fogs when not being told to do so. At other moments, it becomes an audience when I am inside and focusing on other projects. It sometimes becomes an inspiration for my writing. I don’t mind walking in a fog, but I will not drive in one–too dangerous. Other drivers do not respect it.

Glancing through the window, I noticed the sky awakened and the sun broke through, making the fog a brief memory. One thing about fogs in Colorado–they arrive early and lift quickly–a phenomenon probably stemming from our lack of humidity here.

I glanced through the window one last time, wondering why our weather goes “wacky” a few days before Christmas, then only to change for the better and appear like spring on the holiday. Perhaps I shouldn’t complain. I have to admit I prefer a white Christmas. Some snow is falling in the mountains today–but with a forecast of 50 degrees by Tuesday and 49 Christmas Day, I don’t think we’re going to have it this year.

Stormy Weather


No, we don’t have this much snow this morning–but we do have cold temperatures and a light skiff. After several days of almost 70 degrees, my body needs to readjust to the change. 70 down to 19 is quite a plunge!

We live in the Denver area. Snow events aren’t all that common here around Christmas, although we have had some “big blasters” over the years. One of the most memorable events was the Blizzard of 1982. I was working for a law firm downtown at that time and had ordered a new file cabinet for Howard as his Christmas present. The company was scheduled to deliver it the day before Christmas. However, after listening to blizzard warnings on the radio, I called the company and asked them whether they could deliver it that day.

“Yes, we can do that!” the man told me.

“Well, I was just thinking that if this blizzard happens, you may not be able to get up the road tomorrow!”

He laughed and laughed. After all, it was 60 degrees. A blizzard? Come on!

The storm blew in that night, and we were snowed in for about a week. I had never seen so much snow! It was nice having a week of vacation, however!

A year or so later, we had a Broncos Blizzard–one of those night games in October when a blaster arrived. Fans turned the stadium steps into slides and were shown sliding down the steps shirtless on national TV. I think they had a little too much Christmas cheer and it wasn’t Christmas! We WON, by the way! Can’t remember which team we were playing, but I think it was one of the California teams.

Since those wild times, we’ve had some storms that topped the Blizzard of ’82. I was still teaching in 2007, and we had reached the end of the semester. It was Finals Week and my last day on campus until late January. The sky was a brilliant red that morning. And the forecast? Heavy snow to arrive sometime that evening!

Well, I went through my usual procedure. Early that morning, I boarded the bus and headed for Denver where I returned papers to students and turned in the grades. As I recall, it was a mild day. Is it really going to snow that hard? I wondered as I left the campus for the bus station. The temperatures were still mild!

The rain started sometime that evening and the next morning, we were buried in snow. I think I heard the other day that December 2007 was one of our greatest snow events over a 24-hour period! And that was the year when we had a blizzard every weekend from December through February–not bad while I was still on vacation. But it was a nightmare when I had to return to campus late January and then deal with it for over a month!

Snow storms just don’t happen around Christmas. March is our snowiest month of the year. I remember March 1990 when I was working for another law firm downtown. The snow started falling when I left the house for the bus, and it fell steadily through the day. I was working in a sky scraper, so I really couldn’t see how bad the storm was becoming. Then at 4:00, our office decided to close–way too late for anyone to get home on time! It took me a half hour struggling on foot to the bus station. Then I had to wait in a mile-long line to get on a bus. With the arrival of each new bus, we inched our way forward and stopped, waiting for the next one. Finally, I boarded a bus and actually found the seat. The bus did not arrive in town until 12:30 the next morning! I had been on the bus since 5:30 the previous afternoon! The driver had to plow through strange streets and byways in order to get us home. Whenever we got stuck in a drift, brave passengers got off the bus to push it.

“Don’t miss Happy Hour at Bennigans!” the radio announcer advised.

“Uh, I don’t think we’re going to make it!” one passenger commented.

When the bus finally arrived at the park-and-ride, a number of police jeeps awaited us there. I slid inside one of them beside the deputy driving it–my one and only ride ever in a police vehicle of any kind, and I got to ride on the front seat! He took us to a church, where a lot of busy activity was underway. Those going to Boulder were not going to make it, so the church people were putting up cots. I was only a few blocks away from my house. The snow had stopped falling, and I could walk there safely. As I opened the front door, a chorus of voices greeted me:

“Where in the hell have you been?”

Needless to say, I did not go to work the next day!

Then, of course, we experienced a huge March blizzard in 2002. We had two weeks of spring break that semester–something I didn’t mind. I can’t remember how much snow we got, but I do have pictures of it somewhere in my collection.

Snow on Christmas will be a light event this year. We’ve had temperatures in the 70s. Today it is 19. A light skiff touched the streets and the roof tops. We’re supposed to be cold and dreary. But then our weather will take a sudden swing upward. We will be in the 50s or 60s by Tuesday, with a light snow on Christmas Day!

Doctor Visit, Daniel Boone, and the Big C


Early yesterday morning, we were on our way to Denver for Howard’s all-morning appointment with the eye people and an opthamologist.

“Be prepared to spend the whole morning,” he was previously told.

I took that instruction to heart. Since I would be sitting in the waiting room most of the morning, I didn’t want to spend it staring at the wall. Waiting room magazines only go so far, especially since I’ve read most of them. The others are of no interest. So I armed myself with two companions that would see me through the morning: Daniel Boone and the Big C. (No, I didn’t take two books. I included the one with Daniel’s picture in my photo here so that he would stand out. The other book and my coffee mug and thermos were my actual companions.)

Fortunately, the drive to Denver was without incident. Denver early-morning rush hour can be a nightmare–something I’m familiar with. For thirty years, I traveled to and from Denver each day on a bus. There was once an area north of town called “the Mousetrap” where traffic would come to a halt and then inch forward. The Mousetrap is no more. But drivers must know where they are going and keep moving. There should be no sudden stops. The most difficult part of our trip was the area around the hospitals where a great deal of construction is underway. We last traveled this route over a year ago when Howard went in for his heart procedure. It was a mess then, and it is a mess now. We finally found the parking ramp and fortunately located a parking space near the elevators. Thank goodness for the wonderful angel lady who said she would show us the way. From that point on, we followed a blue line to the correct building, and we arrived on time in opthamology.

My situation was quite easy. I settled down in a comfortable chair and opened my book, How the West was Lost by Stephen Aron. I also poured coffee from the huge thermos I packed. (Never go on these excusions without coffee! I am a bear without it! Will save that story for another time.) Once settled, I glanced at the back cover of the book, reminding myself that I purchased it several years ago and was just now settling down to read it. Kentucky has become of recent interest to me since I discovered some of my ancestors pioneered the state. Funny thing about it is this: Howard and I lived in Kentucky for 2-1/2 years–first in Louisville and then in Bowling Green. Our son was born in Louisville. I didn’t know about my ancestral connections when we lived there. As the monotony of the waiting room proceeded, I was soon lost in the pages.

“Barbara–would you like to come back for your husband’s exam?”

I had just finished reading about the greediness of the early hunters with the Pennsylvania long rifles. They shot every animal in site and took more meat than they could ever store or use. And I was just embarking on the section dealing with “land speculation”–another aspect of greed–when the nurse summoned me back to reality.

“I’ll take your coffee!”

She grabbed my thermos and coffee container. I grabbed Daniel Boone, etc. and followed her down the hallway to the exam room.

“I have her coffee!” the nurse announced.

“Oh, she won’t go anywhere without that!” Howard stated.

And I have Daniel Boone, I thought.

After the exam and consultation, we were back on the blue line, heading in the direction of the parking garage. Then we were back on the interstate heading north to Wendy’s and then to Christmas shopping. Once home, I settled into my comfortable chair and looked at my book.

Now, about those greedy land speculators!