MY REAL JOB by Beth Rankin

MY REAL JOB by Beth Rankin

I graduated from Rutgers College in 1976 and was already working for the Tennessee Supreme Court’s office of administration. They had started a judicial planning office, and since I had a degree in Urban Planning, it made sense to them. I was happy for the job, and my kids are now amused that my starting salary was $6,000. That’s a year, not a month.

I enjoyed the work for the Supremtennessee-seale Court.  I did lots of tasks that often fall to the newest/youngest on staff but finally one piece of my education was useful and I got to be in charge of a project!  I had taken a year of computer programming in high school. I had managed to talk my dad out of the more typical college prep physics class for this newfangled concept. We learned a Fortran language and used the computer across town at the university since the high school only had a card sorter. This fantastic skill was useful to the Supreme Court because it was miles ahead of everyone else on staff and we were implementing a new court information system that was going to use key punch cards. It is pretty funny now.  But I loved it, other than not fully knowing all the court related vocabulary I needed, because I got to travel to all 95 counties in Tennessee and let me tell you, that is one beautiful state.

But a few years into that work experience I realized I was getting further and further from my education and applied for and won a job at an engineering and planning consulting firm. That one also included travel. Some to places like Little Rock, Arkansas and Bossier City, Louisiana, but I also got to spend a winter in Miami and then six months in Europe. Not bad. However, I got laid off when Reagan because President and cut funding for environmental issues as part of his economic program. I will not make a political statement here but it is tempting.39rccce1

The next few years during that recession were difficult. Planners with a masters degree could not get work so I switched gears and started in real estate. I sold houses for a few months and did okay but I never loved it. My broker suggested I start an appraisal division for him, and within two years I bought out his interest and had 12 people working for me in the booming real estate market of the 1980s.

appraisalI loved that job..half in the office writing the reports and half out and about in the beautiful northern part of Connecticut. I learned quickly that the emotional appeal many people feel about their house could be achieved in many properties for me. I also learned that many people react to the way things LOOK, not the way things ARE and pretty finishing hides a lot of shoddy workmanship.  Loved what I did. And it was in the mid 1980s that I deeply learned that THAT was NOT my true job.

My REAL job was to raise my tiny children to be healthy functioning adults.  At that time it was a challenge because my husband was a troubled person. I’ll keep it simple and just say he blamed me for red lights and the rain. I did not buy it, and the time came when I told him, for the sake of the kids, we MUST live apart. He filed for a divorce soon after. Fine.

I have always been a nice person. (There are a few that would argue about that, including him, but all those people have, like he does, a perverted view of reality and the responsibility they have for their life choices.) I listened to the question one counselor posed, “Is it important for your children to know their father?” and decided it was. And that, my friends, was probably where I should not have been so nice. But I am who I am.   So we had numerous wrestling matches over the years and now, we have some major fallout.

I wrote a blog a couple of months ago when I found out my ex had made a choice that is socially reprehensible. He is ostracized and yet, our children are torn. They do not approve of his behavior, but he is their father. And so, they feel a need to be there for him.

Yes, they had good times with him. And he helped them with challenges. But that is nothing above and beyond the scope of normal parenting. We can and should celebrate he had some normal motivations and abilities.  But we need not exaggerate it.estranged

I see the homeless here in our town and have gotten to know many as they hang out on the church grounds where my commercial kitchen is located. Without knowing any of their stories, I recognize that they have made life choices that have left them estranged from their families. And so, I understand that we have many people, operating at all levels of functionality in society, who are isolated and confused why. Few recognize that the choices made in their own behavior and the ways they treated people who once loved them and trusted them caused alienation.  Many blame it on others; it is easier to do that than recognize one’s own place in the divergent pathway.

So, I recognized, over 30 years ago that my REAL job was not what paid for the bacon, but to nurture and continue to help feed the lives of my three children.  All adults now, they are amazing young people and I am super proud of them. They have not been fault-free; that is some fairy tale not based in reality. But they are thinking and caring people who are facing their responsibilities and enjoying their pathways with close and dear friends.annelanders

I am not ready to retire, but I love basking in the glow.

THE JAR HEAD COON by Ernie Tucker

THE JAR HEAD COON by Ernie Tucker

Everyone has at least one raccoon story, usually two or three. How do I know? Every time I try to tell mine I’m interrupted by one of theirs. Raccoons are the quintessential hate-love story. They are pests, of course, but still we don’t want anything bad to happen to them.

raccoon-1000381_1280A week or so ago we heard a clatter on the wooden porch next door. They feed their outside cats there, water-dish-1108311_1280so denizens of the wild drop in from time to time for a snack. This time, it was a three-quarters grown raccoon with his nose and face jammed tightly into a plastic peanut butter type jar all the way back to his ears. His eyes, too, were well into this opaque jar, so he could barely see.

The noises we heard were from his attempts to knock loose the jar, but all he did was push it on even tighter. After a few minutes, we were pretty sure he was going to suffocate, so I called 911, announced that the emergency didn’t involve a human being, but that we needed help, and I wasn’t looking forward to giving mouth-to-mouth to a raccoon. That help never came, so we launched out on our own with not a clue.

We knew that coons had a reputation for being vicious when in danger or excited, so I wasn’t keen on putting my hands or arms in harm’s way. Finally, after about twenty minutes of attempts to dislodge the jar with a broom handle, he made his way down the porch steps, slowly, because he could barely see, if at all.

Thankfully, there was no sign of his being hostile. In fact, he seemed to appreciate what we were trying to do. I rushed to the garage and got a three-foot piece of PVC pipe and some cord, hoping to lasso the jar, but that didn’t work either. He walked slowly, very slowly across the back yard, stopping frequently while we tried one thing after another.

Finally, he went into a grove of Rose of Sharon bushes, and I’d thought I’d lost him forever. I ran to the rear of the bushes, and here he came, blindly creeping along.

chain-87641_1280All of this took about an hour, and I was worn out, emotionally, physically, and probably spiritually! He made it to a gap about four inches wide between the iron post of a chain-link fence and a small garden shack, went through (I thought I might have to jump the fence), stopped, turned around and pointed his nose back through the fence. I grabbed the jar and jerked it off. Interestingly, the coon didn’t run away. He stayed around for awhile. I honestly think he was grateful, in his own pea-brained way, for what we’d done.





During extensive travel throughout Croatia and Europe and a career in the travel industry which spans more than 30 years, I  have always searched out special gems that are perfect for the discriminating traveler who desires to see the Dalmatian Coast not only as it exists today but also as it once was.

Silvana Jakus, in The Thousand Islands of the Croatian Adriatic, beautifully describes my emotions for Dubrovnik, which I hope to pass on to you.



 cavtat-993380_1280The first journey to Croatia is always an adventure, a trip into the unknown. On subsequent explorations, familiarity refines the hidden depths of beauty; personal recognition enhances sights and sounds. Like good wine, true fulfillment comes only after anticipation, cultivation and dedication. You will know when you feel it. It is like an emotional longing, which has suddenly been satisfied.”

My love affair with Croatia, the country of my heritage, began with my first visit to Dubrovnik in 1971.  There was an intense feeling of homecoming, which grew profoundly through many repeated visits.  After a 2007 journey exploring the Dalmatian coast in a small sailing vessel,gorch-fock-261088_1280 I decided to act on this feeling and made my dream come true by making Dubrovnik my home.  I relocated from California in January 2008 and once again walked down the Stradun to my beloved ancestral home and the adventure truly began.

Living a local lifestyle but raised in the United States offers an interesting perspective. While it is easy to miss certain items and foods, it provides a spectacular appreciation of the everyday things here that the natives take for granted. I do not define myself as an American ex-pat; I am striving to fit in and live as a Croatian.

Becoming a local resident has been a series of trial and error. My language skills in Croatian have improved but keeping my small English/Croatian dictionary available helps me through conversations that are more intellectual. I watch the local English language TV shows with Croatian subtitles, which give me insights that sometimes what I heard as one word is actually three!



The assimilation to the Croatian culture continues and it is with this insight, this “outsider trying to fit in” view, I can offer you a unique vantage point. Writing the “Essence of Dubrovnik”, I hope to share things that stand out to make this a very special place, both as a tourist and as a resident. Other travel writers from this area are either lifelong residents or people who have only been tourists. They write about the typical, the things everyone has on some list of things to do.

Come visit with me and we will share what is behind, underneath, and inside this marvelous town…



Yesterday, at noon, I took the Fig Newtons to Eileen sitting on her front porch. I sat down in her chair and almost immediately a little bird landed at my feet. hummingbird-599443_1280Eileen feeds hummingbirds and also feeds two little sparrows, crumbling crackers just beside her chair. I had never seen birds so tame! sparrow-1168522_1280Today at lunch I went out on my front porch to wait for the mail, one of Eileen’s birds immediately few over and landed at my feet. I went in the house and got a cracker. The bird returned, landed, walked up to stand by me contentedly eating crumbs. It ate more than half a cracker. 

I began to feel like Jesus! I tried to get the bird to eat out of my hand. He got very close but did not. When I saw Eileen I asked her to keep her panhandling birds at home. She said she told one of them when he needed to have a bowel movement to fly over to DO IT on my front porch!


I sat down on a stool at the counter at Bob Evans restaurant. It was a cold day, blustery. There were a few people sitting in booths and tables, but no one I knew. winter-523961_1280Waitresses were hustling trays, paying little attention to anyone. It was noisy, not voices, not music, just sounds. Something distracted me, caused me to look up, I set my cup down and looked toward the entrance.

There was my old friend Bill–Bill Walker, big as life, walking straight in, straight toward me. I said, “Why hello Bill, I don’t believe this. You’ve been gone, yes–been dead–for fifteen years!” He grinned that sheepish grin and started to say something. His eyes twinkled, his mouth moved but he made no sound. I reached out toward him, extending my hand and rising from my stool. Suddenly he began to fade, to drift out of sight. He melted into the background. I eased back on my stool, hand still extended. I was gazing at the empty place where he stood, and then,–and then, his voice–delayed by a minute or more, came to me, loud and clear…after he had disappeared! “Why hello Dave. Are you still here? I’ve been looking for you a long time, you never showed up.”invisible-13955_640

I was jolted! Did anyone hear? I looked around to see if anyone was watching–or heard. I remembered him speaking, several seconds after he faded away, that’s when I heard his voice! It was Bill’s voice, the same old Bill, clear, penetrating, sounding like it was coming from far away. I doubt anyone else could hear. Did I see Bill? I heard his voice! The voice doesn’t change, it was like yesterday–twenty years ago. I put my hands on the counter and glanced around to see if anyone was watching - if anyone had seen or heard. When I looked again toward the door, it was the same scene as it had always been.

I am writing this down just the way it happened. I want to remember it distinctly. I am a writer. I write novels. I write this event down because it was so remarkable and had such a striking effect. I want people to know what happened, how it all came about - just in case I start seeing things, or hearing voices. I turned ninety-three last January. This has not happened before.




[David C. Williams is the author of several novels, including Two Old Men…and God, Sumarny River Bridge, Shylock Holmes and the Royal Crown Caper, Dear God, and The Ashland Story.  His books can be purchased through, or, by ordering through AMSMILT, P.O. Box 913, Ashland, KY 41101.  Please enclose a money order in the amount of $24.95 made out to: David C. Williams and indicating the book you are ordering.]

DANNY by Beth Rankin

DANNY by Beth Rankin

“Danny……Danny! Please stop dancing around and put down the microphone!”microphone-380017_1280

My five-year-old was excited. It had been an eventful day so far and he really was being an extremely good little boy. He and his three-year-old sister Lisa were dressed nicely, she in a princess dress of dark blue velvet with white lace and him simply in a white button down shirt, dress slacks with belt, and a red tie.  I had told him, like Halloween, certain other days needed special clothes.  He had agreed to wear something other than a tee-shirt and sweat pants.  It was, after all, my wedding day to Dave.

Things had been going very well. Oh sure, it was raining. And yes, Danny had taken some scissors to Lisa’s long hair the week before so she now sported a very cute bob.  At the ceremony they had stood beside Dave and me, each holding a ring inside its ring box, just a precaution so if they dropped it, the ring would not roll away.  Danny clicked the box open and shut a lot and Lisa lifted up her dress a time or two, typical little kid behavior.  The judge had invited everyone to witness the marriage of David and Lisa but we straightened him out that my name is Beth and Lisa was my daughter.  All was well.

Dave’s dad had purchased a camcorder for Christmas two months before and he proudly brought it to document the wedding. At the ceremony he set it up on a tripod.  The remote mike was placed on the judge’s bench to capture our vows.

ring-1167514_1280After the ceremony we went over to Dave’s office building where he had reserved a room on the top floor. Twenty floors up, the view of the Mississippi River was beautiful and my father-in-law recorded the scene inside room and out while we did the last adjustments getting the refreshments set up. He placed the remote mike on the table where we were pouring glasses of champagne and ginger ale.  That’s when I noticed Danny had grabbed the mike and was dancing around, singing.

He responded to me nicely and then he and Lisa helped serve the cake and all was

It was only a couple of days later when we had a few minutes to watch what Dave’s dad had recorded that we discovered that the microphone had recorded the ceremony fine, but at the reception, it never recorded sound, and Danny, in his exuberance, had turned it back on.


Sometimes, when children are misbehaving, they are not being bad.