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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Let the Building Begin!

By Stephanie Bearce

For over two years we have been juggling two houses.  One the home we lived in, and the other the home we WANT to live in.  Crazy you say.  Definitely.  Especially considering that the two houses are in the same town.  It’s not like we are moving to the beach or a mountain cabin.  No, our little dream house is in Frenchtown, St. Charles.  And it is a wreck. 

An adorable wreck, but still a wreck.

Darrell and I have both lived in old town St. Charles.  As a matter of fact, the first house that Alan and I owned is only a block and a half from my third street house.  So Darrell and I both know the neighborhood, and we love it.  That is our primary reason for moving.  We want the charm of an old neighborhood.  We love the history of the buildings, the architecture of the past, and the fun of walking to restaurants and events.

BUT it has taken a herculean effort to get here.  We found our Charming little house in the middle of the housing market crash.  By the time we got it, the house had become property of a bank.  The exterior was in decent shape, but the inside was something seen only in horror movies.  Really bad horror movies.  Our daughter, Nichole, is still convinced the old coal bin was used to hide bodies.  She could be right.

Darrell spent much of the past two years gutting the house.  He donned a face mask and safety glasses and with the help of his trusty crowbar pulled down 25 TONS of lath and plaster and hauled it out of the house to giant dumpsters.  He’s on a first name basis with the dumpster delivery men.  I’m not making that up.

While we gutted the house, we watched the housing market s-l-o-w-l-y improve until this winter we knew it was time.  We started fixing up the house we live in to sell.  If you haven’t sold a house in a few years you have no idea of how hard this is.  I love HGTV, but I swear all those “fix it to sell it” shows have left the buying public with some unrealistic expectations.  I won’t go into all the painful details.  Let’s just say that I know the Lowes employees by first name and what shifts they work.

We were rewarded for our hard work by selling our house in three weeks. Yippee!  Oh wait – that’s when the work really began.  Packing boxes, trips to Goodwill, selling on Craig’s list, more trips to Goodwill, more boxes and finally a POD.  We stuffed that POD full of furniture and boxes and moved the rest to our temporary residence; a tiny little duplex just two blocks from our project house.

It feels like we are back in college.  Our pantry is the bookshelf I had in my office.  My clothes are stored in the buffet.  (It has drawers therefore it is now my dresser.)  I have lost the cereal bowls and most of my books.  Probably in that POD, unless they accidentally went to Goodwill.  I won’t know until we move – Again.

But now we are ready for the fun part.  The reconstruction of the interior of our house.  Currently we are getting the building permits, which is not easy in a historic district.  We have promised and signed in blood that we will not change the exterior of the house.  That seemed like a silly request to us, since the whole reason we bought the house was for the EXTERIOR! Our contractor is getting all the final signatures and soon, very soon the old house will hear the sound of hammers and saws. 

Meanwhile I am training Lucy that her yard is at 1001 North Third Street.  She loves terrorizing the neighborhood dogs on her morning walks and bonus – she has already found and killed a snake.  Four pound Yorkie – 1.  Snake – 0.  The adventure has begun!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Old-Fashinoned Drug Stores--A Thing of the Past

By Valerie Battle Kienzle

“The times they are a changing…”

The words to Bob Dylan’s song were accurate in 1964 and they’re accurate today.  Our society and culture experienced dramatic changes during the 20th century.  And the changes continue with the passing of each decade. 

I grew up in the 1960s.  In those days, the local drug store or pharmacy was truly LOCAL – locally-owned and locally-managed.  Pharmacists usually lived near their stores and sometimes used a mortar and pestle to combine ingredients and make their own capsules.

Drug stores weren’t just a place to find medicines and first-aid supplies.  They were a place to eat a hot breakfast at a counter and to grab a made-to-order sandwich for lunch.  They were a hang-out for teens wanting a cool ice cream float, milkshake or soft drink. Kids with a quarter could buy a lunch sack full of assorted candy. They were a place for old-timers to meet each morning to drink coffee and solve the world’s problems.  They were a place to catch up on all the latest community news – who was having a baby, who was visiting out-of-town relatives, what crops were going in, who was leaving to join the military.

Drug stores, like today’s pharmacies, carried newspapers and magazines, an assortment of cosmetics, school supplies, greeting cards, holiday decorations and last-minute gift ideas for loved ones.  Years ago, some even carried Timex watches and fine jewelry. 

Pharmacies were once a neighborhood social hub.  And they were noted for personal service.  If you couldn’t find what you were looking for, someone working behind the counter called you by your first name, asked how your family was and helped you find just the thing you needed. 

Instead of punching access codes into key pads, pharmacists walked through swinging wooden half-doors to get to their compounds and drug supplies.  This was before the days when cookie-cutter big-box stores like Walgreen’s and CVS popped up on seemingly every other street corner. 

Pharmacology was a popular career choice in Mom’s family.  Three uncles and two cousins became pharmacists.  Four of the five owned and ran successful drug stores for decades in their respective communities.  They were esteemed residents in their towns, holding various appointed and elected positions.

They continued to own and work in their drug stores until age and infirmities forced them to sell their stores and retire.  Their individual departures from the pharmacy world were lamented by community residents who’d known and depended on them for several generations.

Refilling a prescription was easy in those days.  Customers brought in their empty bottles and containers, and then the pharmacist refilled them, usually while they waited.  There were no questions about insurance coverage, allowable refills or possible drug interactions.  If you didn’t have the cash to pay, the pharmacist kept a running tab, asking only that you pay once a month or when you could.  Some even took dairy products or produce as trade.  My grandparents raised dairy cows.  Grandma provided fresh cream to her brother’s drug store for use in the milkshakes at his soda fountain.  Such a thing would never happen today.

I thought about all of this the other day as I walked into my nearby Walgreen’s.  I chose to go inside rather than go to the drive-thru, which I find to be a totally impersonal experience.  Yelling into a microphone from my car just doesn’t do much for me.

I’ve been in Walgreen’s stores in various states.  The layout is almost always exactly the same in every store, so I know where to go to find whatever I need.  I’d used my cell phone to scan the bar codes on my previous prescription packaging.  The scan of those tiny bars told pharmacy personnel everything they needed to know about me, the prescription and other medications I take.  I was able to select a time to pick up the prescription via my cellphone.  No personal interaction needed. 

Earlier that day, I’d loaded images from my camera to Walgreen’s website.  In less than an hour, I received an automatically generated e-mail telling me my printed photos were ready for pick up. 

No one greeted me, much less recognized me, as I walked through Walgreen's automatic doors.  I went to the back of the store to pick up my prescriptions and was told that the pharmacist could provide only a partial refill as the store’s supply had run out.  

I didn’t need cash.  I pulled out a Flexible Spending Account card to pay the amount due that hadn’t been covered by our insurance.  I swiped it through a machine and an attendant who seemed distracted handed me a bag with the medicine.  Attached to the bag was a lengthy sheet with tiny type informing me of possible problems I might have while taking the drug.  If I wasn’t sick before, the possibility of experiencing one or more of the side effects shown on this extensive list of negative reactions was enough to make me question how I felt.  Also listed was the amount of money our insurance coverage had saved me – almost $100.00.  At that point, I wasn’t sure whether to feel ill or thankful.

So my trip to the pharmacy was quick, efficient and took very little interaction with other human beings.  And in case I was concerned about touching something that someone with germs might have touched, a bottle of hand sanitizer was conveniently located at the pick-up window.

Saving time is important in today’s fast-paced world.  Efficiency is a good thing in a world where so many demands are placed upon our time.  But some days it would be nice to be greeted, to have someone interact with us, to encounter someone who cares.  I can think of few places where social interaction takes place as it once did at the local drug store.  And I miss those days.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Memories in Miniature

By Valerie Battle Kienzle
Confession time.  I’m sentimental and I’m a collector, but I'm not a hoarder. 
The collections I enjoy have no real monetary value.  The words “treasured trash” have been used to describe them. Perhaps their only value is in my head and heart.  
My favorites include various paper ephemera – match book covers (smoking restrictions have made them almost extinct), vintage postcards, postage stamps from throughout the world and vintage advertisements.  The dated graphics and muted color printing of years gone by are works of art to my untrained eyes.
We moved last year, and the task of packing and transporting all this stuff was mine alone.  Couldn’t get anybody to help me with those boxes and bins! 

I carefully wrapped things when we first began the packing process.  But as time and patience grew short, I simply placed things in boxes, labeled then and carted them to the garage for transport.  As the boxes piled up, I told myself this was a great opportunity to pitch and purge.  And I did get rid of lots of household unnecessaries, but not the collections.
By the time I got to the old shadow box on an upstairs wall, I no longer cared how things were wrapped for the move.  I remember grabbing the still-full shadow box from the wall and stuffing it into a large shopping bag.  I placed it on a closet shelf at the new house and there it remained for months.

One day after our household was moved and the furniture unpacked, I spotted the shadow box.  Remembering that nothing had been individually wrapped, I attempted to keep it flat as I pulled it from its bag.  Amazingly, nothing was broken. 

I hadn’t really looked at its contents in a long time.  I sat down with it and realized I have yet another collection.  Like the other collections, it contains nothing of monetary value, but what it does contain is an assortment of tiny trinkets -- items symbolic of various ages, stages, people and moments of life. Here are a few items from the collection:

·        Beaded American flag made by my daughter’s friend after Sept. 11, 2001.

·        Bible that was part of a flower arrangement Mom got the day I was born.

·        Bassett Hound figurine (I’ve shared my life with three so far.)

·        Great-Grandma Smith’s pocket watch.    

·        Tiny typewriter and dictionary from Journalism School days at MIZZOU.

·        Bicentennial doll from 1976.
·        High school ring and graduation tassels.

·        Matchbox Miata convertible from a friend who died with brain cancer.

·        Mugs with the kids’ names on them.

·        Cooking tools from a long-ago Barbie set.

·        Beer stein from college friends who moved.

·        The world’s smallest Santa.

·        Great-Grandma Ogilvie’s souvenir pin from the 1896 Nashville, Tenn., Centennial celebration.

·        Bottles of 7UP from my days working for The Seven-Up Company. 

The items most likely would be tossed out as trash by others, but each and every one represents a tiny piece of my life.  The shadow box now has a place of honor on my desk.  I look at it sometimes and am thankful for the visible reminders of special people, places and events.



Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Spring Dreams

By Stephanie Bearce

I need spring NOW!  Unfortunately my yard is still full of snow and the forecast calls for below normal temperatures. So much for that global warming idea.

My fingers are itching to dig in the dirt and my eyes are longing to see colors that are not 50 shades of gray.  So what's a winter weary girl to do?
 Make plans for container gardens, of course!

I scoured the web to get new ideas for spring containers.  I found some that I really want to try.

And I found some that are uhm... well... let's just call them interesting.

Take a look and feast your eyes on a preview of spring color.

I love the use of wagons, wheelbarrows, and bicycles for creating a backdrop for lovely gardens.

But my yard is small, so hanging baskets and window boxes may be a better option for me.

But honestly - if I can find some of these statue type pots - I am going to have some FUN...

Ahh spring... you can't come too soon for me!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Open the Door

by Stephanie Bearce
I love beautiful doors.  When I go on vacation I am always snapping pictures of doors and wondering what lies behind them.  What lovely places are hidden from view?  What amazing adventures lie behind those walls?  What would happen if I snuck inside?
I've gathered a few pictures of incredible doors.  Take a look and find your favorite.  Which door would you like to enter?  And what door are you waiting to open in your life?