Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Finding a Farmhouse Home


In the summer of 1942, Mom, Dad, and my little brother returned to Kansas City and I was reunited with them. They immediately looked for a place to live. However, thousands of people had crowded into the city to find work associated with the war, and no affordable apartments would accept renters with children.
            Fortunately for them, an army ammunition plant—Lake City—had opened in northeastern Independence. The plant was hiring workers to manufacture small caliber ammunition. My dad’s parents had bought twenty acres of land in the countryside not far from Lake City. Soon we rented a farmhouse just two up from where Grandpa Ready was building their retirement home. Lake City was close enough that our wartime gas ration wasn’t exhausted by dad’s drive to work.


A worker loading canisters of ammunition at Lake City.

            A dirt driveway about eight hundred feet in length led to our one-story, white, clapboard farmhouse. The cattle gate at one end of the drive abutted on Kentucky Road. At the other end stood a white picket fence, the front yard, and a porch entryway to a small farmhouse. It provided us with a kitchen, one bedroom, and a narrow living room that was less than the width of the corridor at Courtney School, where my parents enrolled me as a first grader.  
            The bedroom had a bay-window alcove. The twin bed my brother and I slept in fitted snugly into it. Dad and Mom’s double bed and our clothing armoire filled the remaining space. Like most working-class people, we had little: one set of Sunday dress-up clothes for attending Mass, Dad’s work pants and shirt, my three school dresses, and a few articles of everyday clothing.
            The farmhouse kitchen was spacious. It offered no running water, but had a porcelain sink. Beneath it was a slop bucket that we took turns emptying. Mom and Dad’s oak dining room table with six chairs sat squarely on the planked wooden floor. A single light bulb dangled on a black, electrical cord from the ceiling. Fortunately, the sun shining through two windows helped banish the gloom.
            Mom’s oak buffet covered the west wall of the living room. A pot-bellied stove stood in the far corner of the opposite wall. Next to that was an easy chair where Dad sat when he came home from work. He’d take off his shoes, and I’d pull the end of his socks away from his toes. He’d wiggle them and sigh, “Oh, Dodo, it feels so good to be out of those shoes.” That ritual had begun when they returned from Parsons.
            Each weekday, Dad drove to Lake City in our car.
            I caught the bus to Courtney School, which stood on a hill overlooking the Missouri River bottoms.
            Mom spent her days cleaning, pumping and then lugging water to the washtubs, scrubbing our clothes clean on a washboard, hanging them out to dry, ironing, and preparing meals.
            My three-year-old brother helped Grandpa Ready—a Kansas City fireman—build   his retirement home. On his days off, he’d drive out to our farmhouse and start the day by having a cup of coffee with Mom, whose Irish humor he enjoyed. Then he and my brother would spend the day at the construction site. “He’s a fine helper,” Grandpa always told Mom. “Maybe he’ll end up a carpenter.”
            Within a few short months, Grandpa died and that brought with it three events that imprinted my mind with memories never to be forgotten.
                                                                          (Continued next Tuesday . . .)

Photograph from Wikipedia.

77 comments:

  1. This reminds me of how it wasn't that long ago people could be hard working and happy with not much in the way of material possessions. I loved your description of the little farmhouse and the light shining through the windows. I also remember taking off my dad's socks when he got home. Warm memories! Looking forward to the next installment-

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    1. Dear Shelly, it's true that most people in the first-half of the 20th century had little in the way of material possessions. I'm always amazed to discover just how many articles of clothing my great nieces have today. I think that's happened because now so much clothing is made cheaply in other countries and sold here. Peace.

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  2. Woman! You and Elisa are the queens of cliff hangers! Love ya lady. Hope you are doing well..

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    1. Dear Melynda, yes! a cliff hanger and there will be more! Peace.

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  3. Oh, how sad! He barely got his retirement home built and then passed away. I will wonder what those three events are until you write your post next Tuesday... I have a very good idea of how hard life must have been in those days, your description is very vivid.

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    1. Dear DJan, I can't really remember much about Grandpa Ready except for my realizing, even as a young child, that there was a bond (although I'm sure I didn't know that word) between him and my little brother. They laughed a lot together. Peace.

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  4. All I had to read was slop bucket to know I am glad I was not born any sooner than 1965.

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    1. Dear Mary, yes--a slop bucket in the kitchen for the water there and also one on the back porch that served as the nighttime bathroom. During the day, we used the outhouse! Peace.

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    2. Thank you, God, for the two bathrooms in my house. Isn't it amazing that I live alone, yet I have two bathrooms? I've used outhouses. They're not pretty, and oi! the stench.

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    3. Dear Janie, we didn't get indoor plumbing until I was in the convent--sometime in the early sixties. It was only then that the city brought the pipes out that far into the country. And yes, outhouses do have an odor! Peace.

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  5. You have such an amazing memory! I love these stories. Keep 'em coming.

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    1. Dear Kari, I guess I do have a good memory. As a kid I was so sensitive--too much so really. And so things just imprinted themselves on my mind. Peace.

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  6. Slop bucket? Such a brief idyll. I'm sorry your grandfather passed away so soon after your arrival. That must have been very difficult for all of you.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. Dear Janie, see my response to "FrankandMary" above about slop buckets! Peace.

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  7. I am also amazed at your memory! I can only remember bits and pieces from when I was in first grade! Your descriptions are so vivid, I can picture the farmhouse easily, and can imagine what a hard life it was for your mom. I will be anxiously awaiting Next Tuesday's edition!

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    1. Dear Sandi, I, too, can remember only bits and pieces and what I'm trying to do is to string them together into something that makes sense! Wish me luck.

      And yes, a woman's life was hard, especially in the country with no running water.
      The city didn't lay the pipes for running water out in the country until in the early sixties. I was in the convent then, but I can remember Mom--on our one visit during the year--telling me about how wonderful it was to lie in the bathtub and soak! Peace.

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  8. The stove, the big cabinet, and no indoor kitchen plumbing--those are all images of all sorts of possible events! Another era, for sure.

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    1. Dear Susan, it truly was another era. Life has changed so much and yet what being human means hasn't changed at all. Or so I think. Same dreams; fear; aspirations.
      Peace.

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  9. What vivid recollections you have of you house, Dee. I could feel myself at your kitchen table. I know these were simpler times, but, my how much your mother worked just hauling in water. I look forward to hearing more and how events shaped your future in ways you likely could not have managed at the point of today's installment. Thank you for sharing these memories, Dee.

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    1. Dear Penny, I have the next three stories in my mind from those years. Now if I can just weave them into this on-going memoir.

      Yes, Mom worked so hard. All women on farms did during those years when there was no running water. And most housewives had certain things that wanted to get done on each day of the week. I can remember seeing dish towels with those tasks embroider on them. Peace.

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  10. It sounds so straight out of Willa Cather! I am looking forward to more and more!

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    1. Dear Broad, thank you for that lovely compliment. Peace.

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  11. You painted such a vivid picture of how simple and hard life used to be. It is not that life is not hard today also, it is just different. So sad that your grandpa never got to enjoy the fruits of his labor, however, I am sure he had the joy of building his dream.

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    1. Dear Arleen, yes, life is hard today also. I think it's probably much more stressful.
      Peace.

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  12. When we look back we realize how hard life could be. In 1942 we had to move so my father could work in an airplane factory.

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    1. Dear Pam, was the airplane factory in Washington? Boeing? I've been reading books on World War II and I'm surprised at all the names around the country that I can remember hearing as a child during the war. Places were war work was being done. And also places where there were military camps. We surely pulled together during that war. Peace.

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  13. Poor guy, just ready for retirement. :(

    It's such a different world today, isn't it?

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    1. Dear Elisa, it is a different world in some ways, but in other ways it remains the same--people still have the same dreams and needs. Peace.

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  14. Simple times, few belongings but the obvious love of your parents. A blessing worth so much more than material goods.

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    1. Dear BB, I do feel my life was blessed. As the years passed I came to realize that my parents truly loved me. They always told me, "Dolores, you can do anything you set your mind to." They helped me believe that I could dream big. Peace.

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  15. I've just read back through the posts I've missed and realised that this seamingly idylic post comes after abandonment. No wonder it coloured your whole life.

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    1. Dear BB, yes, I thought they had abandoned me during my kindergarten year. So I was so glad to be back with them. Still, as the postings will soon show, I feared all the time that they would leave me again. Peace.

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  16. I think what is interesting about those times is that while we really didn't have much, we didn't notice as long as we ate and had friends who were pretty much in the same boat.

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    1. Dear Arkansas Patti, you have hit the nail on the head I think. All the children in Courtney School seemed to have the same kind of lunch I did and they wore the same clothes again and again just as I did. As you say, we were all "pretty much in the same boat." Peace.

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  17. There were some hard times...but I have a feeling harder times will come

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    1. Dear Tigey, it's true, harder times came. How did you recognize that??? Peace.

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  18. Was that Grandma Ready's husband? The Grandma who told you all those bad things? He seemed like a nice guy though and so sad he would die right before his retirement.

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    1. Dear Inger, yes, Grandpa was building the retirement home for himself and Grandma Ready. I think she wasn't the easiest woman to married to. But I have no memory of seeing any dissension between the two of them. Peace.

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  19. I was thinking while reading of your reunion with your family and your life with few possessions that you must have felt incredibly blessed because you were together again at last! Your post also evoked memories of my grandparents' first farmhouse where they lived for many years without indoor plumbing or running water. I remember Grandma pumping water and warming the iron over a wood stove. Those times really weren't so long ago. I'm looking forward eagerly to the next installment!

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    1. Dear Kathy, yes, I did feel so much relief that they had returned and that I was with them again. But the truth is that I spent many years thinking that they might leave me again. I never truly felt secure. And that's just how it was. Mom and Dad never would have left me behind if they'd known how their leaving would affect my personality and security. Peace.

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  20. Why is it so often people are almost to retirement or newly retired and they up and die! So strange. Now I am waiting for the rest of the story. :)

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    1. Dear Rita, I've wondered about that also. I bet it's called some kind of syndrome.
      I'm waiting also to see just what I'll be writing in the next few weeks. I never know until I sit down at the computer on Tuesday morning and put my hands on the keys! Hope all is well. Peace.

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  21. Thank you Dee for coming to my blog. With traveling I am behind again but I did go and read your post The World turned upside down as you suggested. It made me so sad. I was with my grandchildren last week – the oldest is 5 years old and I just cannot imagine saying anything to hurt him, he is so sweet. You must have been so happy when your parents came back. After I am caught up reading all my friends blogs I’ll come back and read all the posts you wrote about your early childhood.

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    1. Dear Vagabonde, you know any time you stop by to visit my blog is fine with me. I know that you travel a lot and so I'm just happy to read your wonderful postings, so filled with history that they delight me,

      I was happy when Mom and Dad and my brother returned to Kansas City.

      Peace.

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  22. Thank you for taking the time to write on this topic.

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    1. Dear Butik, thank you for stopping by my blog. Peace.

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  23. Dee, You describe a farmhouse not unlike the one I grew up in: no running water, but a porcelain sink and one bedroom. Your descriptions are so good. I can easily imagine the scenario. It's really amazing how parents seem unable to grasp how their actions will affect their children, and how children survive difficulties such as you were faced with in your childhood.

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  24. Dear Teresa, as a child I didn't think of things being hard. I didn't know anything else. And when I learn today--reading the newspaper or watching television--about the horror in which some children live, here and in war-torn countries, I find myself grateful that my life has been so blessed. For ultimately, I did know that my parents loved me. Peace.

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  25. It is amazing to think of how little people (including myself) had to live on in the past and the excess with which so many of us live now. You and your little brother sleeping in a twin bed. A single light bulb hanging from the ceiling. Thank you for helping me not take my comfortable home for granted.

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    1. Dear Michelle, like you, I find myself often astounded at the home in which I now live. I even have air conditioning. Of course, one of the reasons I'm astounded is that when I left the convent back in 1966 at age thirty, all I had was a breviary, a prayer book, and a rosary. My sister-in-law was pregnant and loaned me the clothes I wore home and my mom bought me a winter coat. So I went from having nothing to having so much that I have to store some of the things in boxes. A plethora of "stuff." Peace.

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  26. Hi Dee, my thanks for stopping by and leaving a kind comment.
    Keep cool.. be well.. be happy :)

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    1. Dear Pam, I'm going to take your advice and keep cool by staying inside the houise. It's supposed to get to 108 today! Peace.

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  27. your discription is so good! I'm amazed with it. I can imagine every single detail! :)

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    1. Dear Baiba, I'm glad you liked the descriptions. Thank you. Have a good weekend. Peace.

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  28. You are bringing me back to early times. I was in the poor group too since the war changed everything. But we were give a chance to move ahead like no other group before us. Likely very few after us!

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    1. Hello, I hope all is well with you and your husband and Buddy. I think you are so right that things changes after the war and we did move ahead--into what became known as "the middle class." Peace.

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  29. Dee, this reminiscent post took me straight back to when I was rising 6 and my parents bought a small cottage in the country with no running water, to get me out of the smoke of the town which was making me ill. Parents in one tiny bedroom and sisters in the other.... You have a wonderful gift of conjuring up the past - your own and other people's. :-)

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    1. Dear Perpetua, I'm pleased that I can conjure up the past for you and others. Like you, I'm remembering that farmhouse and those long-ago days. The doctor told mom that taking me into the country would kill me because of my asthma. Years later, Mom told me that she said, "There's four of us in this family and I've got to consider all of us. And I'm not leaving her behind again." There's an old saying--something like "Whatever doesn't kill us will strength us." Or something like that. Well, in the beginning I had lots of trouble with asthma, but finally, it all went away. Peace.

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    2. How interesting, Dee. I too was (and still am) asthmatic and used to get dreadful bronchitis and even pneumonia whenever I caught a childhood ailment. The doctors were unanimous in saying I had to live in the country, away from the smoke of the factories, and indeed my parents gave up a lot to enable the move to happen. Still, the main thing is that we both grew up and are still here. :-)

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    3. Dear Perpetua, I,too, am still asthmatic. When I was about four, the doctor did a series of weekly tests on me to see what I was allergic to. He pricked my back in rows--I don't know how many things he tested me for each time. I went to his office for several weeks, being tested. The outcome was--Mother told me later--that he discovered I was allergic to all but nine things he tested me for. It was all the hay and grass, etc., on a farm that he was worried about when, three years later, my mom and dad decided to move out into the countryside.

      So the doctors gave totally different advice; yours wanted you out into the country; mine wanted me out of the country!

      Peace.

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    4. Ah, there's the difference, Dee. I too was allergic to lots of things, but thankfully not to grass and pollen, so no hay fever for me.

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  30. An absolutely gorgeous and compelling scene you've set here. I feel like I opened a door and stepped right into your life at the time. I love your stories.

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    1. Dear Deb, I so admire your writing that when you compliment me, I'm inordinately pleased. Thank you. Peace.

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  31. When my mama and daddy got married, their friends saved up their gas ration tickets and gave to them so they could go on a little honeymoon.

    My grandmother had a slop jar too....we thought that was awful! :)

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    1. Dear Nancy, what a wonderful story from those World War II days! Thank you for sharing it. What I thought about the slop jar that took the place of the toilet is that it was smelly!!!!!! Peace.

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  32. Ah...I've been away for too long as my attention has been on the release of my book. Coming back and reading your words is like a breath of fresh air, Dee. I love your writing.

    Hugs,
    Linda

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    1. Dear Linda, how kind of you. I have your book on my nightstand and will be reading it as soon as I finish several other books there. The cover is so moving. Peace.

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  33. I agree whole-heartily with Linda, Dee.. your wonderful way with words is a breath of fresh air.

    Hope your summer is going well.
    Be happy :)

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  34. Dear Pam, except for the heat, summer is going really well. I'm writing in an air-condidtioned home and walking in an air-conditioned gym at the senior citizen center. And I'm so grateful that I have the money--from social-security and an annuity--to be able to afford to keep my AC running during these three-digit heat days. Hope you are staying cool also. Peace.

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  35. Such simpler times, some that sound quaintly nice and some I'm glad I don't have to deal with.


    Lee
    Wrote By Rote

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    1. Dear Lee, Yes, simpler times and yet they demanded a dedication, just as our times do. Peace.

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  36. I've had such a difficult time keeping up lately Dee, but tonight I'm trying to do a little catch up and I'm so glad I read this post. You have such a charming voice in your writing, and I can reach back with you to see what an important time in your life this was. You have a unique family story, I think, and your experiences within the family contributed to your unique perspective on life and all you do. Now I get to read on... :-) Debra

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    1. Dear Debra, you've been on vacation and life gets busy, so don't ever worry about leaving a comment. When you do, I'm always grateful and gratified, but I so understand this time element of blogging! And yes, this was an important time in my life and I'm grateful that in the past several years I've come to great piece with my childhood years after I entered kindergarten. Peace.

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  37. I'm reading your posts backward! I'll have to see about getting to the earlier ones first, or maybe continue like this as a challenge to my feeble memory ;)
    Dee, I saw your comment on my site - I so hope you're feeling better now, whatever was ailing you is long gone!!
    Thinking of you, wishing you well and a glorious day, Kim

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    1. Dear Kim, I'm fine, just a little cough left of a real asthma attack! I had them as a child and they really affected me then, but all is well as an adult.

      I'm glad you are wanting to read the postings. And I'll appreciate any comments you have. Going back and reading the past ones is really above and beyond what I'd ever expect from another blogger! Thank you. Peace.

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  38. I forgot to include - this post was one I somehow could really personally relate to, simply because of how life has been these days since the Great Recession. My kids and I live very meagerly, in a rundown small house. A divorce leaving me to raise 4 kids alone meant tight budget in the first place! A couple of outfits, needing to be careful on how much gas is required and used, a small and shared space...we look forward to better days. I'll bet your parents did, too.

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    1. Dear Kim, I'm sorry to learn that times are hard for you right now. I'm retired and so I have a fixed income of social security and an annuity that keeps me solvent and fairly worry-free about money. But oh, you have four children and so you must have so many concerns. I hope that every so often the five of you treat yourself to something that lifts your spirits. Peace.

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