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Bill Linneman

December 22 2016

They Came Upon A Midnight Clear
Christmas Eve—1950. The night was clear and cold. Zero temperature. The stars were brightly shining. Dad and I were driving around Carlock, turning up the heater in the pickup. We were waiting a freight train bringing 250 lambs from West Texas.
The lambs we awaited Christmas Eve were not our first venture with sheep that fall. In September the north eighty had been a blooming field of red clover. “Wouldn’t some sheep look nice out there,” mused Dad.
So he bought some. Three carloads—850 lambs—out of Nevada, white lambs with black faces. Among them were a few that were all black. Shepherds used black sheep as counters, running in one with every hundred white.
I soon found out that lambs were a lot of work. I had to invert the eighty pound lambs on their haunches, while Doc White the veterinarian shoved a needle into them. But as hard as the work was for us, the trauma was worse for lambs.
After one vaccination, I drenched with sweat and lamb-urine drove into the field and loaded the carcasses of ten lambs that had died of fright. There went a lot of profit.
When the people who had been living in the farm house moved out, Dad moved in there. But he came to town on Saturday night, so I replaced him. I took a shotgun. Dogs were a concern.
Neighborhood dogs would run together in a pack at night. Almost every week there was a Pantagraph story about dogs harassing a sheepfold, scaring some to death and causing others to be smothered.
But the dogs didn’t bother us, maybe because Boots our Collie joined up with them. We made a good profit, and Dad decided to get some more lambs. These were the ones he and I were waiting for that cold Christmas Eve in Carlock.
We drove by the Mennonite Church several times. In the brightly lit sanctuary were several relatives. There would be coffee and cake in the basement. But we roughly-clad shepherds didn’t want to intrude.
The train came at midnight and shunted the cattle car to the siding. The truck drivers arrived, and I broke the seal and slid back the freight car door.
I climbed inside and felt for the lambs. “They’ve been shorn!” “I yelled, fearing pneumonia. We trucked them back to the farm where warmed water awaited them.
That night they huddled together out of the wind in the shelter of the barn. Christmas morning I climbed into the hay mow and threw down some hay. We didn’t want to feed them too much at first. They had been grazing on winter wheat fields in Texas. Soon they would begin to get corn.
Those rangy white-faced lambs were the healthiest we ever had. They put on weight quicker. We lost only one. Apparently, a cold Christmas Eve is not a bad time to bring lambs into McLean County.
And I, like the shepherds in Luke, had the opportunity to watch over my flock by night. Whatever miracle leads others to worship and to praise, I’ll  forgo this silent night, so sheep may safely graze.

Capitol Facts
by Rich Miller

December 22 2015
Next Governor’s race will be very expensive
“This will be the most expensive race of our lifetime,” a Republican friend assured me last week about the apparently already begun 2018 gubernatorial campaign.
If Democratic billionaire JB Pritzker pulls the trigger and decides to run, we can expect that significant campaign spending could begin as early as next month - on both sides. And if last week is any indication, this is gonna be one nasty contest.
The Illinois Republican Party began running robocalls on December 13 to elected Democrats, along with their party’s contributors and activists. The calls sought to tie Pritzker to imprisoned former Gov. Rod Blagojevich by using an FBI tape of Blagojevich talking with an aide about getting Pritzker to endow a non-profit organization that the governor could run after leaving office.
The Pritzker camp responded to the robocalls with a statement criticizing Gov. Bruce Rauner for not passing a budget for two years and allowing “human services to be gutted.” The statement from Pritzker’s spokesperson also claimed the governor should have better things to do with his time than to “dredge up the crazy rantings of Rod Blagojevich.” That led to a quickie but rather large opposition research dump that sought to tie Pritzker even more closely to Blagojevich. There was no Pritzker response to that one.
Behind the scenes, Pritzker allies fumed at the absurdly early attack and warned that Rauner was “poking the bear” and would live to regret it. But Gov. Rauner’s people mocked Pritzker for being “thin skinned” and warned that last week’s news dump was “a very small appetizer.”
The aim here appears to be to either keep Pritzker out of the race or take him out in the Democratic primary before he can present a clear danger in the fall campaign with his estimated $3.4 billion net worth. Gov. Rauner has tons of his own money, of course, but he also relies on a couple of wealthy friends for additional money. Pritzker can conceivably fund a race all by himself, although he has recently been meeting with top labor leaders and other party honchos as well.
So, we can probably expect more of this stuff from Rauner’s state party in the coming days as Pritzker makes his final decision on whether to run. Neither side has yet started a proper opposition research book on the potential Democratic candidate. Last week’s attacks were mainly based on Google and Lexis Nexis searches.
But if they’re going to try to get him out in the Democratic primary, Pritzker’s online comments about Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders could eventually come into focus, I’m told. Sanders ended up doing pretty darned well in Illinois’ Democratic primary, so alienating a huge chunk of likely Democratic primary voters would be a smart play.
Pritzker, a loyal Hillary Clinton supporter, referred to the insurgent presidential candidate on Twitter by his initials “BS” and tweeted that Sanders was “outrageously McCarthyite.” Pritzker also retweeted an article about how Sanders “said lack of sex and resenting your mom could cause cancer,” pointed to favorable comments about Sanders by the National Rifle Association, referred to the losing Democratic candidate’s campaign manager as “delusional” and occasionally engaged Sanders’ supporters on the social media platform. And I didn’t even look at the guy’s Facebook account.
Some Democrats pointed out last week that the Republicans’ Blagojevich-based attacks failed miserably in the just-completed US Senate race against Tammy Duckworth. But the Rauner folks say the issue kept Sen. Mark Kirk in the hunt during the summer, before he was overwhelmed with Duckworth cash in the fall. Indeed, Kirk was polling essentially even with Duckworth throughout the summer.
The Republicans also used the Blagojevich issue in several legislative races, including against state Rep. John Bradley (D-Marion), who once had a public fight with Blagojevich after the then-governor referred to him as a “wall flower” and a pawn of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.
“For anyone who has a real association with the digraced Blagojevich - and I think our argument yesterday is that Pritzker’s history was more than fleeting - it is a potent hit,” was how one Rauner guy put it the day after the robocalls were launched.
The question now becomes whether Pritzker is prepared to expose his children to this sort of nonstop mudslinging for almost two solid years. We will probably know more after the holidays. But don’t expect any lull while we wait.

Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and thecapitolfaxblog.com

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Helen Leake's Gardeners Tips
by Helen J. Leake

December 22 2016
How much should I water in Winter?
The most often asked question during the winter is “how often to water my plants?” During the short daylight hours of winter, most plants kind of rest. More plants are killed by over watering then under watering. It depends on several things as to how often to water.
One type of plant depends on the light exposure. If the plant is near a bright, sunny window, it will need to be watered more often than if it gets a lot less light.
Another thing that determines the amount of need to be watered is the soil. Light potting mix won’t hold moisture as good as some types of potting soil. Sandy soil for cactus doesn’t hold water, but the cactus doesn’t like wet feet. Soil containing clay soil holds water longer..
Plants dry out faster in a warm room than in a cool room. Also low humidity in the room causes the need for more watering. Also some plants need more water than others.
One easy way to know if it is time to water, is lift the container, if it is light in weight it is time to water.
You can also stick your finger into the top inch or 2 and see if the soil is moist or dry.
You can also place the container in a saucer that contains pebbles, that will increase the humidity around the plant. Orchid roots draw moisture from the air. You can mist them daily. Also keep the bark soil moist.
 Pour off excess water in the saucer under the plant to prevent root rot.

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by Jim Bennett • jwbnnt@aol.com
December 22 2015
The Most Wonderful Time of the Year?
“IT’S THE MOST wonderful time of the year.”  So goes the traditional Andy Williams song, declaring the Christmas season a period of unparalleled good cheer.
Well, maybe for some, but not so much for many others.  Although the Williams song is secular, Christmas (as we may recall) celebrates the birth of Christ, one of the two most sacred events on the Christian calendar. 
But in parts of the world, there’s very little joy this year for members of the Faith.  Instead, there is desperation and grief.
On December 11, an ISIS suicide bomber destroyed a Christian chapel in Cairo, Egypt, killing at least 25 worshippers and wounding more than 50.  According to the Associated Press, the bomber “detonated a belt of explosives inside a chapel adjacent to St. Mark’s Cathedral, seat of Egypt’s ancient Coptic Orthodox Church.”
“It’s the hap-happiest season of all.”  Unless you happen to be a Christian in Syria.  The widespread terror in Aleppo, fueled by militia death squads and government troops, has left hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians dead or fleeing to unregulated, dysfunctional refugee camps. The city of Aleppo is believed to have the largest number of Christians in Syria, according to Wikipedia. 
But so widespread have been the atrocities perpetrated by Islamic jihadists and other wayward militants that Syrian Christians numbered nearly two million before the ongoing civil war, but now their numbers are estimated at approximately half a million. 
Although these refugees are largely Muslim, those who are Christian have often been singled out for cruelty beyond imagination or comprehension.  Confirmed reports (from the New York Times and other sources) describe beatings, rapes, beheadings and even crucifixion of Christian aid workers who have refused to renounce their faith and embrace Islam.
Christian refugees, branded as apostates or infidels (or both) are often driven from the refugee camps to try and survive somehow with no resources.  And yes, Syria has winter.  It’s below freezing in and around Aleppo.  How will these Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus?  A warm hearth and presents ‘neath the tree?  Yeah, sure.
BUT WE don’t have to go global to know that the “most wonderful time of the year” is anything but for many in our own culture.  We may not have beheadings or crucifixions, but we do have plenty of sorrow and depression this time of year.  
I know personally several women who have lost their husbands earlier in the year.  For them, there will be a hole—a big one—in this year’s Christmas merry making.  I know people who will spend the Season alone and lonely, without the warmth and love of family members and/or friends. 
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), “Christmas time is the most likely time of the year to experience depression.  The suicide rate is higher during December than any other month, which tells us that Christmas depression should be taken quite seriously.”
At the very least, the Christmas season can be stressful.  The typical feasts can mean a heavy, tactical workload, especially for women.  The pressure to buy the right gifts can be profound, particularly affordable ones; but many people blow off any price tag concerns and drive themselves deeper into debt. This is a great way to intensify feelings of stress and anxiety.
 The Season tends to keep us indoors, creating a confining condition that reduces—or even eliminates—the pleasure of exercise.

LOSSES AND FAILURES can be magnified at Christmas.  We’re supposed to be joyful, but we may be dejected instead.  NAMI says, “It can be especially difficult to cope with a Christmas depression because everyone else seems so joyous; we don’t want to bring down those around us, we don’t want to feel ‘different’ or alienate ourselves and we don’t want to draw attention to ourselves either.”
If you bring seasonal affective disorder (SAD) into the mix, the result can be a full-blown clinical disorder that begs for professional help.  “Not all holiday depression has anything to do with loss or failure or death, or even anything obvious,” continues the NAMI assessment.  “Yet those without an obvious ‘reason’ feel that they really shouldn’t be depressed and are least likely to reach out for help.
“It’s as though people who have experienced trauma have more of a ‘right’ to experience holiday depression than those who appear to have everything they could need or want.”
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year” is a line that repeats itself eight times throughout the song.  The thing is, things aren’t always what they’re s’posed to be.  I know the Christmas season is always depressing for me, for a variety of reasons and for no reason.
NAMI offers a word of encouragement by saying, “Over the past ten years there has been a great awakening, so to speak, that has illuminated the issue of Christmas depression.  People have become more educated and more understanding about the phenomenon and often already know that someone they love is suffering from depression before there is any actual confession.”
“Joy to the World?”  Maybe, and then again, maybe not

Classic Colcalsure
The Rest is Still Unrwritten
by John Colclasure of Lexington

December 22 2016
A visit from St. Nicholas
The Christmas season comes but once a year, but for many folks it is Christmas all year around. The planning, the purchasing of gifts, the wrapping of same, the music, sifting and sorting through what seems like hundreds of totes and even checking the forecasters prediction of a White Christmas. Three hundred and sixty-five days of getting ready for that special day.
But for some of us it is the reason for the season that inspires and transforms us into eager anticipation of His coming. The celebration of the birth of the Christ Child in a manager in the little town of Bethlehem over 2000 years ago.
However, as for me, it hasn’t always had that meaning. After all Christmas is all about giving and receiving is it not? Isn’t it supposed to be better to give than to receive? And at the age of about ten, I specifically wanted to receive much more than I was going to give. Nickels and dimes were hard to come by back in the mid-1950’s for me anyways.
Remembering those days back in 1955, when “the three largest local retailers, Klemm’s, Livingston’s, and Roland’s, were located on the courthouse square, holding their own against national department stores Montgomery Ward, J.C. Penney and Sears, Roebuck and Co. All six competitors were within three blocks of each other, which made for crowded downtown sidewalks come December.”
I can still picture those two giant Santa’s standing some 13 feet or so in height strategically placed at opposite ends of the overhang at Livingston’s. Oh, and who can forget the “Toyland” at Klemm’s, “a favorite destination for area children.” This long-forgotten department store of yester-year: featured dolls, carriages, gun-and-holster sets, Lincoln Logs, tricycles, pull toys and other “happy gifts.” Down town Bloomington, Illinois was a place that many small-town boys dreamed of.
As it is, each year that passes we long for those days where life seemed simpler and less complicated and those memories warm our hearts on cold and wintry snowy nights. One thing has not changed in this every changing world, the promised Savior of us all, that little babe in the manager that is still the reason for the Season

Till next time…john
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