All of Us!

All of Us!
Finally! All together with enough time to spare (??) to capture a picture of all six of us in the same spot, same time. Now this is a precious photo! I tried to get one last year for our Christmas card and didn't succeed. So when I had the chance I threw out the lasso and rounded everyone up (at my niece's graduation party) to grab a couple snapshots. My oldest son, Casey, and his girlfriend Nika are on the left; and my youngest son, Brady, and his girlfriend Jenne on the right; that leaves Bob and I in the center. (Bob is the one who doesn't look very happy about having his picture taken!!)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Little Cow Poop Never Hurt Anyone

I wrote yesterday about the farmer’s plight with milk prices and the current unstable market. That just reminded me more and more about my love of the farm I have had since I was a child.

My siblings and I grew up on a farm that had been in our family for over a century. My younger sisters didn’t get to enjoy the “large” farm life as much as my older brother and I did. Family farm life has sort of gone by the wayside. There isn’t as much of a “whole” family on the farm any more as it used to be. Most farm wives/mothers have to work off the farm in order to supplement either income or health insurance.

Growing up on a farm has many pluses but it also means you learn a strong work ethic from the time you are little. My brother and I had to help hay from a young age and learned how to cut wood. We learned how to help milk, do chores, feed the farm animals and found out about the dangers of the farm, too. Our family was probably more over cautious than some, though. My dad was a Type I diabetic (since age 14) so everyone kept watch over him for diabetic reactions (“lows”). We called them sweats because, as I have now learned from my own experiences in being a Type I diabetic, that he would begin to sweat sometimes in more unusual places (arms, legs). That was a tell-tale sign along with slurring of words when the low got more advanced. My brother, Gary, and I would usually be asked to run and check on Daddy just to be sure everything was okay. That would sometimes mean jumping on our bikes to run out into the field. Safety on the farm is a must because of all the potential hidden dangers but when you add in another factor there becomes more of a heightened awareness.

Things on the farm, though, were not all work and no play. From a young age, Gary and I would ride our tricycles and, later on, bicycles in the barn, more so in the summer when the cows weren’t in the barn all the time. We always had one calf pen that was clean that we would play in. That pen would later be used as a “day care” pen of sorts when my sisters came along. Riding your bike in a barn is fun. You can zip up and down the barn alleyways and the driveway, but you always had to be mindful that there might be manure in the gutter and the trick is to play Evil Knievel and still avoid a tumble into there. Sometimes that doesn’t necessarily always work out.

When you are young, there is always a birthday party. For my 6th birthday, I had a party. I was all dressed up and while we were waiting for relatives and my friends to arrive, my brother and I decided to take our bikes for a ride on our “motocross” race track – the barn. We ran over our course a few times gaining speed as we went, zipping here and there. Then all of the sudden off the track I went, plunging into the gutter – and it wasn’t empty! I dove in headfirst and came out head-to-toe covered with manure and in my new birthday clothes, too!! Gary, in between fits of laughter, ran to get my mom. She came out of the house in time to see me waddling toward the house crying my heart out, all the while blaming my brother (whether he was guilty or not, we always blamed each other, just to make ourselves feel better!!).

This was the end of May and, luckily, the weather was nice because my mom saw only one way to handle the situation – the garden hose. She hosed me down and put me in the little shanty we had by the house. The shanty was where we stored our bikes, outside toys, gardening tools, etc., and sometimes it was our hideout and playroom. Today it was my changing room. I undressed in there and, after carefully searching my body for any stray gobs of manure, Mother wrapped me in a towel to take me into the house for a bubble bath and good cleansing. My dad had the duty of going to the barn to rescue my bike which was also covered with a little cow poop. He hosed that down in the milkhouse and it was good as new. By this time friends and relatives had begun to arrive to start my party without me.

After a thorough scrubbing, I was good to go again; to play, rump around the yard and get dirty again. It took awhile before the smell of manure was completely cleared from my smell, but then again, when you live on a farm you are used to that smell all the time.

There was a good lesson to be learned that day -- you need to be careful on the farm. But then again, if you are kid on a farm and you don’t get hurt doing something -- only a little dirty -- sometimes that lesson has to be learned a few times over and over. That would not be my last fall in the gutter, because racing in the barn on our bikes is a fun thing to do. When you are a kid and it is fun and, yes, even if you end up a little dirty, you will keep doing it again and again. You just learn to make sure that if you take that dip again, you keep your mouth shut!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Milking It For All That It is Worth

What the heck is going on? Why does everything in life have to be a domino effect? Today I’m talking specifically about milk prices. The dairy industry has not seen very good times lately. A few years ago we had one good year. It takes a long time to dig out from a few bad years, even when you have one good year. And, those good years are few and far between anymore.

Let me explain more specifically what happens when a farmer has a good year. When milk prices are up and the other prices intertwined with farming are stable and not excessively high, a farmer’s “extra” money is sometimes banked for emergency purposes, or it is spent. Most of the time it is spent. It is spent on the repairs that have been overlooked when milk prices were low; it is spent on the machinery that needs to be replaced because it is broken or has been fixed one too many times. It is spent on things that help a farm run more efficiently, things that may aid a farmer in backbreaking chores, and sometimes on things that were badly needed for the house. When you farm, the house is usually the last thing on the list. Farmers will spend their money locally. They will go to their nearest town to buy feed and purchase supplies or machinery. They will help the local economy grow and prosper. Farmers don’t usually get a chance to take extravagant vacations because a vacation to a farmer means that any time he is gone he is spending hundreds of dollars a day hiring someone else to do his/her work which does not include the money a farmer is spending while on and for his vacation. So a farmer’s time off will usually be spent close by.

My husband, Bob, has not had a vacation in probably thirteen years. After putting in a milking parlor almost five years ago, last summer he had finally decided it was time he should take a milking off here or there. That is one milking out of a seven-day work week – which as it turned out, he only took a couple times. For him (us) to take a milking off, it is a big deal because it costs money to do that.

Anyway, my gripe goes back to the low milk prices we have been experiencing. This last year was a hard year on most farmers. Some didn’t make it through. Those that did have to find ways to improvise, to be thrifty or to find out how to improve production to make up for the dollars lost with the lower milk prices. By the end of 2009 milk prices started to increase, slowly but surely. When milk prices are high, the public hears about it and reacts accordingly when they talk to a farmer. I have heard many a “so the farmers are doing pretty well now since milk prices are high” – all the while gritting my teeth because some will try to blame a higher grocery price on the farmer because of this increase in their pay price. People never talk about low prices. In fact, some only remember the high prices thinking that it is still there when it fell down the well long ago. Farmers are not your typical wage earner where if you get a raise in pay, you keep it. I’m a wage worker out in the real world and I try to inform those around me of the difference.

I look at the milk markets almost daily at the end of the day to see where they settled at. I mark them in my little notebook which I carry in my purse and tell Bob later at night when I get home. He usually watches or tries to catch the markets at noon but that isn’t always a true reading as it can change quite drastically in the next few hours. City folks have heard in the last couple months that milk prices are on the rise again. Well, they were, but they aren’t anymore. Hence, my concern of the domino effect.

As I mentioned before most farmers right now have tried to increase production to make up for the lost dollars and cents on the hundredweight of milk. Here are some facts for you about production in the last few months. Milk production in the 23 major states during January totaled 14.8 billion pounds, down 0.6 percent from January 2009.

Production per cow in the 23 major (dairy) states averaged 1,782 pounds for January, 30 pounds above January 2009. The number of milk cows on farms in the 23 major (dairy) states was 8.32 million head, 191,000 head less than January 2009, but 4,000 head more than December 2009.

Wisconsin was up 4.7 percent, thanks to a 70 pound gain per cow and 5,000 more cows. Minnesota was up 3.6 percent on a 50 pound gain per cow and 2,000 more cows.

California was down 2.4 percent, due to 72,000 less cows but production was up 30 pounds per cow from a year ago.

New York was down 1.3 percent. Idaho was up 1.5 percent, with a decrease of 4,000 cows, but output was up 40 pounds per cow. Pennsylvania output was down 1.7 percent from a year ago, with 9,000 less cows.

The biggest increase was Washington state, up 5 percent followed by Wisconsin and Minnesota. The biggest decline occurred in Colorado, down 10.4 percent due to a 13,000 fewer cows and 10 pounds less production per cow. Arizona was next, down 10.9 percent with 22,000 fewer cows. Kansas was next, down 8 percent followed by Arizona, down 7.5 percent.

That is a lot of statistics to digest but the bottom line is that we Wisconsinite farmers lead the pack in that we increased our production because we had to. We wanted (and needed) to keep our boat afloat. (It is a simple law among farmers). But the problem is when you increase production it puts more milk on the market and – here it comes, folks, the domino effect – milk prices go down! We work harder to get paid less for the work we have just done. Sounds funny, doesn’t it! But that is life on the farm – you work hard to earn a buck but you are lucky if you get twenty-five cents out of that. One month it might be a quarter, the next a dime.

Remember this the next time you drink a glass of milk. You are drinking something that the farmer sweated over harder and harder each day to get paid less and less for that work.

I thought I would share some fun facts with you about cows and milk, so not to end on such a sour note. These should come in handy the next time you play some trivia game.

There are approximately 350 squirts in a gallon of milk. The average cow produces about 10 gallons of milk a day in two milkings. A cow gives approximately 200,000 glasses of milk in a lifetime.

Cows were domesticated 5,000 years ago. The first cows arrived in the United States in 1611.

Cows can hear lower and higher frequencies better than humans. Cows can see color.
A cow can detect odors up to 5 miles away.

The average cow drinks about 30 gallons of water and eats about 95 pounds of feed per day.

Cows have 32 teeth, but they don’t have any top front teeth.

Every day, a cow spends 6 hours eating, 8 hours chewing her cud, stands up and lies down 14 times a day, and she also has four stomachs.

Boy, now you know a lot more about that glass of milk you are drinking. See, cows are a lot more fun that you thought!!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Life Is As Good As You Make It; I Want Mine With Lemons

When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. Sounds kind of stupid, but I really believe in this saying. No, actually, what else are you going to do with lemons, squeeze them to brighten up something, to clean something, to make something better. Isn’t that sort of what life is all about? If things are bad, can’t a person look for something good to brighten up your day? Is that too much to ask? Is that too hard to do? I don’t think so. Life is too short to go around trying to look for the bad and the ugly in it. Life is so much sweeter, happier, delightful when you can find something that can make you happy instead of sour. Wouldn’t you rather eat a sweeter apple than a sour one? Who really wants something sour when you can have something sweet? Why not live life to the fullest, be the best that you can be, do what you love to do – you have been given life to enjoy not to detest it and shake your fist at. So make new acquaintances, enjoy their company, enjoy old friendships, seek out what’s new, what’s old. I can’t imagine going through life being a sour person. What fun would that be? What joy in life would there be? Why not embrace those people that you enjoy and revel in the joy in their life. Look at how quickly it spreads. You pay forward. You get to do good while enjoying your own life.
As I sat in the emergency room yesterday with my aunt, I watched people. I actually love to watch people. I like to see what makes them tick, what doesn’t. I watched the nurses and the doctors that took care of the sick, the injured, the inflicted. There isn’t a whole lot to do when you sit there for hours, so you might as well make the best of it and learn what you can about others while you’re there. I watched as nurses came in and out, doctors came in and out. The initial nurse tried to take blood but could not find a vein anywhere on Auntie’s good arm. She poked and tapped and all the while, she apologized, she called her honey. She cared about her job. You could tell she liked what she was doing. Another nurse came in to take a stab at it (pardon the pun, if you will). This redheaded ER nurse was so funny. She made Auntie feel comfortable for all the uncomfortable things she was doing to her and about to do. It was way too early in the morning for us and late in her work day, but she was still fresh. She still had love for her job even at the end of her shift. As the sun began to rise, this redheaded nurse was able to tap the tree and find some sweet maple syrup. The blood she was able to draw was as precious as syrup to a tree as it was hard to find. We were delighted; or as delighted as a person can be after they have been poked many times.
I know all too well about being poked and prodded because when I was first diagnosed in the hospital as a Type I diabetic, I was poked every hour to draw some blood for the first couple days. Sometimes they would draw a pint (okay not a pint but sometimes it seems like it) or poke my finger. It was monotonous, it didn’t hurt much after awhile but it was necessary. It’s not fun, but they wouldn’t be doing it if it wasn’t necessary. Of course, I'm used to it now.
Auntie took it all with a grain of salt. When the nurses said "this is going to hurt" she didn’t even wince. I felt bad because usually when I am at the hospital I learn the names of those that are taking care of her. I guess I was just tired enough from being awoke in the middle of the night for a run to the hospital, that I didn’t pay attention at first. I felt bad about it later in the day, so I made up for it, by learning each and every name of the people we dealt with along the way.
When the doctor came in and said they had to try to put in an IV, I told him that she had a PICC line the last time she was in, so they changed their minds and felt the PICC was the best way to go.
The PICC nurse was coming on duty at 8:00 so we had to sit and wait for a while. When Amanda the PICC nurse came in, she was talkative, courteous and just what you wanted when you have to go through this procedure. She asked Auntie questions about herself, got her talking so she wouldn’t have to think about what was going to be happening. In my mind, this is classic procedure if you are a good doctor or nurse. It makes the patient forget about the upcoming trauma their body is going to be enduring. It makes it less painful. She engaged Auntie in conversation but yet along the way kept her informed of every step she was taking. It was poetry in motion, if you can ever consider a medical procedure something like that. But it was fluid movements of the conductor while making her feel she was part of the orchestra and not in the audience looking on. I wasn’t there the first time a couple weeks ago when she had the PICC line put in, so I don’t know if it went as well. I was just happy that we had Amanda doing her part so well. It was obvious she was well rehearsed, as she was a success. She said she does approximately four to five PICC lines a day. That’s darn good preparation for what I thought was her greatest performance ever.
When she was done, we headed upstairs to a room on the cardiac floor as Auntie was being admitted. She was being settled into her room by a couple nurses and we were waiting for her day nurse to come in. Rachel finally arrived. Another redhead. This was our day for redheads. Now was she going to be as good as our ER redhead? This redhead was younger than our first, probably in her mid- to late-20's. Experience was not as much on her side as it was with the ER nurse, but I was not quick to judge.
When I become fully involved in something, I am an inquirer, a learner, a study and researcher of everything that is going on. I did this from the very beginning of Auntie’s journey with getting sick and it wasn’t going to stop now. I know everything that has gone on and so when the nurses would question something, I would answer before they were able to look it up. They soon became aware that I knew probably more than their computer on her past care, etc. But now it was my turn to learn more again. I am always concerned, as every advocate for any patient should be, that the patient – in this case, Auntie – always get the best care. I believe that if you are involved and forthright, but not overly forceful, you can win the appeal of those taking care of your patient, but you will also alert them to the fact that this patient is special and she is not be left to be unattended. I am not saying that that happens (all the time) but I know it does. I just don’t want it happening on my watch. Rachel soon learned what I was up to and engaged me accordingly. I would ask questions about everything she was doing and she reciprocated and was not bothered by my asking. I was then able to explain to Auntie what was going on. This is where you can feel a bonding with the caretaker at hand and if it will or will not be a good working relationship. Rachel was so attentive, and courteous. She was another person who called Auntie endearing names but hers was mostly "sweetheart." You can tell when someone is being sarcastic when they use an endearing name, and you can tell when someone is being caring. Rachel was caring. Auntie and I even discussed this when she left the room. She took the time to sit down bedside and explain things in laymen’s terms, not in the medical terminology that puts a patient to sleep or makes them impatient because they don’t understand a word the medical professional has just uttered. This is a person who cares, who loves her job and who doesn’t take the worst and carry it around with her all day and leaves bits and pieces on the shoulders of people she meets along her day. This is what you always hope for. Hospitals are not nice places to be, only because it means something is wrong. Wrong enough that you don’t want to be there. The best you can hope for is that the people you are dealing with at the hospital can make your stay as nice as possible to help make a stressful situation more pleasant. We found that in Rachel.
When I left last night, it was late. Late enough that as I walked into the parking lot of the hospital, I met the redheaded nurse from the ER. Eighteen hours had passed since we first met that morning and she was returning for her shift again. When I noticed her, I said hi, of course, not knowing if she would remember me from the ER early the morning before. She quickly said, hi and asked if I had been there all day. I told her yes, except for leaving for an hour for a tax appointment that I couldn’t reschedule. She then immediately asked about how Auntie was doing. I quickly informed her and she stated how nice she was and what an excellent patient she had been by not complaining about a thing. I thanked her for the great care she had given my aunt. This redheaded ER nurse took the time out of her day (night) to ask about a patient that passed through her hands in the middle of the night. I appreciated that. That’s a person who loves her job, who doesn’t see it as a 9-to-5, or in her case 8-to-8, job. We were two-for-two on the redheads. When you need help, you can’t ask for anything better than that, can you?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Sad Day on the Farm: I've Lost a Snuggle Friend

We’re farmers. On farms you have cats. These are farm cats. Farm cats come and go; some are born on the farm; others are strays; some are dropped off at the farm. Every cat on our farm gets a name. As long as they are a nice cat, I get attached to them. It’s my nature. I can’t help it. In fact, the boys when they were younger got to a point that when a kitten was born, they wouldn’t give it a name at first until they knew they were going to survive. Otherwise, they thought they were jinxing their life. I lost one of my cats yesterday and it makes me sad.
The bottom line is: I love all my cats. Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m not one of those "cat ladies" where you will find 50 cats in their house. The cats stay out of the house. They hang in the barn, hay mow, shed, calf hutches, garage (if they can sneak in) when it is cold and when it is warm they hang around me when I am outside.
I have made one exception to the "no cats in the house" rule. Well, actually it was three - Pinky, Gizzy and Bootsy; sorry, correction, it was six – Gizzy had three kittens. Okay, now I’m sounding like a cat lady. Here’s the short version (but by now you know my stories aren’t short!).
A couple years ago late one summer, we got a semi-load of hay from Nebraska and after the semi-trailer left, Brady, who was getting ready to leave to play baseball, noticed a small orange ball over by the bales. It was a little kitten who was scared to death. He had the cutest, pinkest nose of which the color stuck out so prominently against the orange fur, that he was named Pinky (or more affectionately known as Pinkers). Brady picked him up and brought him over to the house. I was outside doing some yard work and watched as the other cats surrounded him and let him know that they weren’t the Welcome Wagon. Feeling sorry for him, I took him into the house and fed him some milk. I tried to put him outside and the other cats still were mean to him. Not allowing that kind of behavior to a new member of our family, I thought I would put him in the house for a while. Pongo, our dog, took to him right away; although for a while Pinky was scared of him. House kitten #1.
About two weeks later early on a Sunday morning, I was down at the park in town getting ready for a family reunion. It was a nasty, rainy morning. I had unpacked things, had to set up the coffee pot and then was going to run home to get the final things for the reunion. Rick, who oversees the park upkeep was walking around checking the things over when he and I both spotted a little Calico-colored kitten wandering in the rain closer to my picnic tables. The ones that I had just cleaned off and put nice cloth tablecloths on. I was afraid the kitten would climb on everything and leave little muddy paw prints. Rick said he thought the kitten looked lost. No other cats around, no mother crying out its name. Rick said why don’t you take it home; after some coaxing, I caved in. Rick grabbed a box out of my SUV and off the kitten went to find a new, dry home. I thought, great, I can leave her in the house with Pinky but I will be gone all afternoon and was a little afraid of what I would find when I got home. I unpacked the kitty, showed her the litter box (oh yea, I bought a litter box), the food and Pinky. Pongo sniffed and then his fatherly instincts (??!!) took over as they did with Pinky and he gave me the okay that she was okay to stay, too. Bob had his reservations about having Pinky in the house at first and now I was adding another to the mix. I left for the reunion and when we returned all was calm and the kittens were sleeping with Pongo keeping watch over his flock. House kitten #2.
Remember, I said that farm cats come and go. We had a momma cat that had kittens. All but one survived. They hung in the barn and ran around the cows feet and got stepped on and didn’t survive. All except Bootsy. Then Bootsy’s momma died. Bootsy would crawl up onto the water heater to snuggle since Momma and his sibs were gone. Bootsy got lots of attention from Bob in the barn and he started to get round and fat and grow out but not up. The cold Fall weather was setting in and Bob informed me Bootsy shouldn’t be hanging in the barn by himself anymore. Yep, you guessed it. House kitten #3.
So, now I had a whole array of colored cats in my house – Pinky was orange, Gizzy was Calico, and Bootsy was our farm-standard gray and white. All our farm cats at the moment were either gray/white or black. The kittens and Pongo became the best of friends. They would eat Pongo’s food, and he would eat their food. They would chase each other in circles between the rooms. First, Pongo would chase them all in a row; then, they would stop and turn around and chase Pongo. The kittens were growing fast. The three would snuggle up into one big colorful ball at night on a blanket. It slowly became a house divided – each with their favorites. Gizzy became mine because I had rescued her; Brady’s was Pinky since he had spotted him first; Bootsy, of course, was Bob’s since he was his little buddy in the barn; and, Pongo, the dog was Casey’s. Gizzy got bigger and would crawl up on our bed at night. When Casey wasn’t home, Pongo would slip into his spot under the covers by my legs. Gizzy would sneak up and curl up by my head; Bob got the other side of the bed that wasn’t taken over by the animals. How did we end up like this? We were never a house full of animals? Yes, when the boys were young they had gerbils (boy, that’s a whole other story!!); then Casey got a turtle and then two turtles. Then, we inherited Pongo (still another story). Now, I’ve got Pongo and three kittens slowly developing into cats.

Before Bootsy moved from the barn to the house, we had Pinky fixed and declawed. Gizzy just got declawed. They had to be as long as they were in the house - they were starting to scratch on the furniture. I kept telling myself this was going to be temporary. Yea, right. Then Gizzy started to get the itch!! Yes, boys and girls, we know what the itch means for a! She was in heat. Whenever she came into heat and if there was some testosterone around (the three men in my life) she would wrap herself around their legs doing the crazy little pole dance. No, it is not nice to see a desperate woman. The boys kept threatening me they were going to throw her outside so she could be entertained a little. Finally, I gave in and awhile later we had three little kittens. From the looks of it, Gizzy might have had fun with more than one of the farm boys because we had Grady who was a puffy soft gray, Sunny who was yellow and white and Midnight who was all black with a little sprinkling of white around the paws and his face. None of them looked alike but they were brothers true to the core. They were snugglers and didn’t want to be separated. They took after momma and loved to chase around with Pongo.
Finally, though, they all had to go outside. It was Spring and I had gone through a horrible Winter with Gizzy getting too ambitious. She started jumping up on my kitchen counters and then on top of the cabinets where over the holidays and winter I have my Village collection of houses and statutes. A lot of them ended up on the floor because she thought she could tiptoe through the winter gardens in my Village without disturbing anything. Gizzy made a good mother and the kittens stayed by her side wherever she went. Unfortunately, Grady ended up meeting a tragic death (he got tangled up in a basketball net that was laying on the ground and strangled himself). I found him and tried to quickly cut the net loose but it was too late. I bawled and bawled. That left Sunny and Midnight to snuggle with Gizzy but you could still see they missed Grady.
Gizzy had another batch of kittens this last summer or at least one kitten, Simba. Simba has made it so far through the Winter outside making his little nest in the shed on some straw bales. He is not as friendly yet as what Sunny and Midnight are, but he will need to come around now. Yesterday, Gizzy was run over. Bob found her late in the afternoon and thinks she was probably run over by one of the guys who stopped out to give us estimates on our barn and house roofs. Gizzy would sit on some bales of hay by the driveway and then when I (Bob or the boys) drove in, she would run along side the car. I would always stop when she did that because I was afraid I would run over her. I know I didn’t do it, and am glad because it was hard enough to take the news when Bob told me on the phone when I was coming home from work last night. He said do you want the bad news now or when you get home? I didn’t really want to hear it either time. I knew in my heart that this might happen. I never like it when any of our cats have run out of their nine lives; but that is life – it’s the cat life on the farm. I’m sad. I’m going to miss my friend, my snuggler. Simba, Midnight and Sunny are going to miss their momma. You and I both know mommas are hard to replace.

Now all we have is a farm full of boys. They and I both don’t have a snuggler – I have to find me another momma.

It's a Love Weekend

Valentine’s Day is one of those days celebrated by many and celebrated in many different ways. Whether it be little children trading cards at school, lovers anticipating their first or many Valentine’s Day together, parents and children gifting each other, or couples together for years celebrating in various, unusual, romantic or monotonous ways. Bob and I always go out to eat; he always gives me flowers (roses) and he always gets candy and something else special, but practical. The boys usually always get candy and a stuffed animal of some sort. This year I took the boys gifts "out of the box" and gave them something different and more useful. And, yes, they still got candy. I can’t say now what they got because Casey still hasn’t come home to get his and I would hate to spoil the secret. He has been in New York all week for the National Toy Fair and promised he would be home to the farm this weekend to visit, but his plans can always change fast. So, I won’t spoil the surprise.

This year Bob gave me a different version of the dozen red roses; instead, I got a dozen multicolored roses. I was surprised and elated. Don’t get me wrong, but I’ll take a dozen red roses any day. But I like life, I like a little variety. They were gorgeous. He ordered them from a local floral/garden shop that I adore - Blumenladen. They were delivered out to the farm (which he paid extra for because he thought it would be more of a surprise). There were two of each; red, white, pink, yellow, salmon and peach. And they came just the way I like them – unopened. If you get flowers that are already opened – especially roses – they won’t last that long. This way you get to go through a little "life span" with them. My passion for roses is that I like to watch the whole bloom to deadhead process. From the time the buds open to a full bloom to the slow dying process, it is a road I love to travel. That’s why I have quite a few rose bushes in my yard. But, don’t think I’m stupid; even though I have some in my yard still doesn’t mean I’ll turn them away if they are hand-delivered once in awhile.
Our usual stomping ground for Valentine’s Day is Red Lobster. We both love shrimp and through the years have chosen this as our love snack shack!! Hahaha!! This year since Valentine’s fell on a Sunday, we figured we would not take the chance of going to eat on Sunday but would do it Saturday instead. So off to Red Lobster we went. The only one around is on the eastside of Madison and for us that takes some planning. By the time Bob gets in from chores, etc., and gets showered and ready to go, we had better be on the road by noon at the latest. To the east side it takes us an hour to drive, plus you need to figure two hours for the restaurant because by the time you possibly wait to get a seat, peruse the menu, order and eat, it’s two hours easily. That takes us to 3:00 and another hour drive back which is then 4:00 and he needs to be back by 4:30 at the latest to change and head out to do chores. We arrived at Red Lobster and there is a half-hour wait. We knew it upon arrival as the parking lot was filled. So, we opted to go next door to Outback. I’ve been there before, but Bob hasn’t. We had a great meal, although Bob’s medium prime rib spoke to him when it was first delivered; he sent it back for another shot at the cooking process. We heard it moo as it entered the kitchen. I had the Victoria’s filet and some crab-stuffed shrimp. I let Bob enjoy my little cut of meat (7 oz.) while he waited for his 18 oz. slab to return. Return it did, not bloody, but still pretty pink. I wouldn’t call it medium-well, more like rare-rare-medium. I tried not to watch him eat it.

We did, however, have a delightful waitress. She was Scandinavian of some sort, I assume, because of her accent and her name was Elsa. But she knew her stuff and anyone whoever has to wait on us, finds out pretty soon that Bob is always full of questions. She caught on right away that he doesn’t like onions or anything spicy and made appropriate suggestions to him to follow those lines. If there is one thing I (we) love, it is a good waitress/waiter. It makes your dining experience a whole lot better and we are more than happy to tip them accordingly. She was attentive and not in a bugging way (you can get some that hang on your table). My meal was great but as usual I ate too much. Bob ate all his meal, too, plus a little of mine. You know, I think I actually heard Bob "beller" a little when we got in the car.
On Sunday, actual Valentine’s Day, I wanted a day at home. So I took out some round steak, thawed it in the microwave slightly, pounded/tenderized and seasoned it, cut it into pieces, floured them on both sides and fried them slightly in EVOO (thanks, Rachel Ray!). Next, I poured a half carton of beef stock in a casserole dish and then added some to the frying pan. I took the pieces out and lined them up in the dish and then sliced up one Vidalia onion into big slices/rings, put that into the fry pan with two handfuls of sliced mushrooms. Next, I added about a half cup of beef stock and about a cup of Cabernet wine (leftovers from when either my sisters, Brady’s girlfriend, Jenne, or my niece, Tracy, were at the farm!!). I let the onions and mushrooms cook a little and let the wine reduce down and then poured it all over the steak --who were laying in wait of a little happy juice. Off to the bottom oven with it. Next, I threw together the California Blend Vegetable casserole and it joined the meat to bask in the warmth for a few hours. In the top oven , I threw in some baked potatoes. I chose Goldens, washed and dried them off, poked a few holes in them, spread some butter on the top and the bottom, sprinkled them on both sides with a little garlic/parsley powder, wrapped them in tin foil and off to the top oven for a couple hours. Lastly, I threw together some scotch-a-roos (chocolate – it’s Valentine’s Day, right!?!). Lunch is in the oven, dessert is done and I’ve got a DVD afternoon planned. Once we finished eating, we jumped to the recliners and we did a Vince Vaughn marathon. We had just enough time before chores to watch two movies and my Netflix plan worked out perfectly so that we got to watch Four Christmases and Couples Retreat. I loved them both; Bob wasn’t as enthusiastic about "loving" them, but he said they were okay.
Just as we finished up my youngest son and his girlfriend, Brady and Jenne, arrived at the farm. I had texted them (and Casey, my oldest) that morning wishing them a Happy Valentine’s Day and that their V-day gifts were waiting at the farm for them. (Nothing like a little present bribery to get the kids to come visit! LOL!!). They had gone out to eat in New Glarus. Their first choice was the Glarner Stube (where my niece, Maci, works) but they were closed for vacation, so they went to the New Glarus Hotel instead. While in New Glarus they visited my fav store, Blumenladen, (yes, the men in my life are all learning!) and picked up a Cyclamen plant for me. I love this plant and am thinking that now I might need to give it some friends. I think that means I need to make a trip to see Brenda at Blumenladen’s to find some accompanying pals and a pot for them all to hang out together in. Hey, we wouldn't want the little girl to be lonely now, would we! Any girl will tell you that you put her and some pals together in a cute little hangout spot -- give 'em a drink or two --and we're happy campers!

Hmmmmm, Spring might just be appearing in my window sooner than I think!

Spring May Not Yet Have Sprung But I'm Preparing For It

Why does it seem like when life is busy, it gets even busier? Or it's similar to when you put a little on your plate, then it looks real good, you get hungrier and pile more on. Some people are like that, I am one. I’ve always liked staying busy and that will probably never change. Hence, I haven’t been able to write for a few days. But, I’m back.

Spring is coming. I can feel it. I’m making it come. I’ve order perennials and at the first signs that Spring may be coming – not matter how far off – I’m ordering plants. I placed an order the other day for some two-for-one deals. I like these and am always choosing when and what I order by what is on sale. If it is something I want and it doesn’t go on sale, then I will finally order it before it is too late and may go out of stock. But this order consisted of 2-for-1's or buy 3 get 3. I usually always order my plants in three’s anyway. If you are going to add a splash here or there, it needs to make a statement. Threes make a statement and adds a sense of balance. If they are smaller plants, I’ll do six.
My order the other day consisted of Mixed Dutch Iris, Cinnamon Ferns, Jacob’s Ladder, Toad Lily Mix, Cloth of Gold, Maiden Pinks, Red Rocket Carnations, Corina Lilies and a double Red Perennial Garden Collection. These are all fill-ins, which means they are going to fill-in spots in some of my other garden beds where I need a color of this or a color of that, or I’ve got a bare spot. As for the Red Perennial Garden Collection, I haven’t got a spot picked out for that yet, but don’t worry – I’ll find it. I have ideas but I need to wait until I can walk around the yard some to get the right spot. The problem is when Bob sees me walking around the yard with a tape measure and old garden hoses (I keep these and use them to lay out garden plots which makes it easy to visualize them) – he starts thinking that maybe it is time to pack his suitcase. Just kidding, of course, because he’ll stand in the window and watch for a few moments, then come out and want to know what I am up to and what kind of work that means for him. This is my subtle approach to telling him, hey, Honey, I’m planting some more flower beds.
My next order is waiting for me to say go. It's in my "shopping cart" and is patiently sitting there, pleading for me to hit the "checkout" button. This order consists of Blue Bird Rose of Sharon, Freedom Rose of Sharon, Blue Fringe Daisies, Blue Fusion Everblooming Hardy Geraniums, Chinese Lanterns, Clara Curtis Daisies, Diamond Grass, Double-Decker Coneflower, Fiesta Daisies, Little Business Daylily, Maximilian Sunflower, Northern Lights Grass, Purple Love Grass, Red Hot Poker and Super Aster Daisies. Some of these are fill-ins but some are replacements for along the front of the house. I’m pulling out a bed that I have had for about ten years that I am just not happy with. It is mostly greens and it definitely needs color. So I’ve got some digging out and replanting to do. Plus I also want to do some landscape blocks along this area.
My plans last year were to do some landscape blocks around some of my beds. I got carried away with quite a "few" new, big flower beds, so I put that on the back burner. It is now pushed to the front. But we are also putting out bids right now for a new roof on the house and the barn and I know that will cause some chaos in the yard whenever the roofers come to do the house, so I am going to have to time this perfectly. I’ve got to draw up some plans for the front because it will have to also incorporate my 50th birthday present from my sons. They gave me a sentimental gift which to some may seem foolish or of no consequence but to me it meant a lot. It was the old dinner bell from my family farm. The farm was in our family for well over a century. When my dad’s health deteriorated, my parents decided to sell the farm and one of the things that got sold was the old dinner bell. A cousin of mine bought it and he planned to keep it in his family thinking it was a family heirloom but then realized it was the wrong side of his family. With his health deteriorating and knowing that I wanted it, he decided he would sell it back. I hadn’t gotten around to getting it and my boys jumped on the chance to get something that really meant a lot to me – especially for my 50th birthday. (I now realize that the bell has a date on it of 1869). With that said, Bob was supposed to do something with it – as in make a stand where it could be mounted outside. That hasn’t happened yet – so I’ll have to remind him it is now on his Spring project list. I’m sure he will quickly try to forget it. It’s funny how swiftly that "selective Alzheimer’s" comes and goes.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snowy, Blowy Day

Life in Wisconsin in the Winter is either snowy or cold. We never get both at the same time. We like variety. On Tuesday, we got the snow.
Initially, they were predicting 4-8 inches. We got 8 inches by 8:00. Most of all the schools around the area were closed. I couldn’t get up the hill by our driveway, so for me that meant a snow day. I love snow days because you can feel like a little kid again. Sure, I have to shovel, but that just is part of the territory. I was up and wondering about the weather by 4:30. Our dog followed so I let him out to see if he could navigate through the mass of snow on the sidewalk or if he was going to be buried alive. He isn’t stupid. He went out the door, peed on one of my flower pots on the front stoop and turned around and came back in. One doesn’t venture very far when you only weigh about 8 lbs. and are less than a foot off the ground. In addition, Pongo is a Miniature Fox Terrier, which means he seems to shiver all the time and if you mix in the cold and snow it just adds to his shivering antics.
It was so white outside that I figured I better go out and shovel so I could gauge how much we got. I always say, if it is during the week and it is going to snow, either snow just a little or a lot – nothing in between. The "lot" or "little" is a better determining factor for me if I am going to be able to make it to work or not. Of course, if the winds are blowing pretty stiffly that is another consideration because most of the country roads I drive during my 35-mile trek to work drift very easily. I went out through the garage and grabbed the shovel and started plowing through. Okay, more here than really meets the eye. Some of the cats came bounding out because if I am out there, they think it is time to get fed. Well, I had thrown their cat dishes in the garage the night before so as not to be buried under all the snow. I grabbed them and scooped out a bucket of cat food and divided it out amongst the dishes. My little kitten, Simba, came scampering out, too, but stopped short when he ran out of the shed and saw he had to be very cunning about getting from the shed to the house this morning. He hopped, bounded, skipped and pounced his way to the house, a little more snowy than he started but a good shake got rid of that. Next, I let out a few yells of "kitty, kitty, kitty" and I looked up toward the barn and saw some of the older cats starting to find their way down from the hay mow. Cats are like mail carriers – no sleet, snow, rain, ice will keep them from getting to food. Although I have seen some very funny stuff go on when they are trying to get to the house on ice.
With the shoveling done, I was able to take in the beauty of the winter wonderland. It is always such a sight after a fresh coat of snow. But gazing at the snow wasn’t a smart thing to do when you have just finished shoveling and you are standing outside in just your robe and tennis shoes for extra cover. Brrrr, there may be snow but it was still cold out. Yep, it is going to be a snow day.

Back inside, Bob is saying he better get out to the barn because it is going to be a day of extra plowing. I’m making myself some breakfast and trying to think what I want to make for lunch today. I’m always like that. When I first get up and it is a day I’m going to be home, I think what I want to make today. Sorry, cook by nature. Aaahhh, yes, it is a lasagna kind of day. I had been threatening the last few weeks about making lasagna. Bob is not much of a tomato-based dish kind of a guy. Although he loves his pizza, he’s not much for tomato sauces, so I usually stray away from them. But there are times when I get such a craving for them, and this was such a day.
I whipped up some breakfast, did my treadmill, tossed a load of towels in the washer and then zipped around the kitchen checking the pantry and fridge for the staples I wanted to throw into my lunch creation. Lasagna noodles, check; tomato sauce, check; tomato paste, check; crushed tomatoes, check; crushed garlic, check; ricotta cheese, check; mozzarella cheese, check; cheddar cheese, check; eggs, check. Except for double-checking the seasonings, we were good to go. Started water boiling for the noodles and then threw in nine noodles; semi-thawed 1-1/2 lbs. hamburger, crumbled it up in the fry pan, seasoned it with salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder, and fried it up. Next, the sauce. I opened up a can each of crushed tomatoes, tomato paste and tomato sauce and dumped them into the blender; followed that up with a couple tablespoons of sugar, some Italian Seasonings, garlic powder, crushed garlic, onion powder, oregano, parsley flakes, and hit pulse and blend a few times. Once blended, into another pot with the browned hamburger and I let it simmer for an hour. Now the filling. I grabbed an egg and beat it, dumped in a container of ricotta cheese and 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese; mixed it up good and put it into the fridge for a rest. Once the noodles were done, I drained and rinsed them and then hung the noodles over the side of the strainer to wait for the layering process to begin. While the sauce simmered, I constantly taste tested. After adding a 1/4 cup of sugar, some paprika, some more garlic powder, it got the go ahead sign from my taste buds. I next began to layer; a little sauce on the bottom then noodles, filling, sauce, and mozzarella/grated Parmesan/cheddar cheeses; the same process again and into the oven we go at 350 for 45 minutes. Next, dessert. How about Devil’s Food Cake. Always need a little chocolate to cut the tomato taste, so I threw that together quick. That is an old family recipe from my grandmother and I know it by heart. And, into two layer pans and off to the oven with that. I next sliced and buttered upped some French bread and sprinkled on some garlic powder and they were ready to toast up when the lasagna was just about to come out. Finally, I pulled out some pears in sauce and put them into a bowl. Oh, yea, I’m liking the smells already. Time to hurry up to sit down and eat.
Bob even made the comment that he liked it very well. He felt the sauce was a little sweeter thus not having such a tomato aftertaste. See, I can make him come around one way or the other – all I need to do is sneak a secret ingredient in and he is all mine!! Satisfied with a meal I thought I better go out and catch up on some shoveling. I shoveled and then let Pongo out so he could get to the sidewalk while it was still clean.
Okay, it’s a snowy day and what should you do on a snowy day. Cuddle up in a chair with either a book or a movie. I had three new Netflix DVDs that I hadn’t seen yet so I asked Bob if he wanted to watch one with me. He had already seen The Proposal and Inglorious Basterds, so I queried if he wanted to see Up. I knew the answer before it came out of his mouth, but still had to ask. But he did want to see The Proposal again. Great, I’m in the mood for that one as well. Wow, that was so good. He had to go out to the barn, but I still wanted movies, so I slipped Inglorious Basterds in for a complete afternoon of DVD overload. I didn’t realize beforehand that it was 2-1/2 hours long, but worth it. As I love animated films, I’m saving Up for a little speck of time for myself this weekend.
Once Bob came in from the barn, I fixed some tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. We ate while we watched The Good Wife. We both really like that show.
I noticed when he went out to the barn, it had started snowing again and when I let Pongo out for the last time tonight, it is still snowing. Lightly, but snowing. Hope the roads are better in the morning.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

When The Drama Queen In Your Day Is Inanimate

Boy, it sure is nice when the weekend gets here. It is time for cleaning, laundry, cleaning, laundry, cooking, baking, cleaning . . . okay so maybe I want the week back! Hahahaha!

My husband, Bob, and I got up bright and early, only to find we have something new on our plate for the day. Bob opened the fridge before I did and noticed the milk just didn’t seem very cold. Oh, no, not another appliance purchase. I just couldn’t bear the thought of it. I wanted to spend a day at home, a day of relaxation with cleaning, cooking, baking and laundry. I really needed to pray to the appliance gods. In 2009 we had already purchased a new dishwasher in January, dryer in June and water heater in October. In addition my stove was going so my sweet hubby surprised me with a new glass-top, double oven stove a couple days before Xmas. Don’t get me wrong. He didn’t go into that purchase blindfolded. This is a major purchase to get for someone who thinks of the stove as another limb. It has to be just right, it has to fit me and if it doesn’t, it is gone. I guess he was paying attention to the times we were looking at other appliances and I would wander over to the stoves to check them out.

Our fridge, on the other hand, she (yes, she, because she can be quite the drama queen sometimes!) has been informing us for the last 1-2 years that she wanted to take a permanent vacation, so I shouldn’t seem surprised that she was getting cantankerous again. In the past, we would take out the back panel in the freezer, defrost her with the hair dryer and put in a new part. Sort of like botox for the fridge. And she was good to go for another few months. We were hoping today would be the same.

Bob had to go out to the barn to milk cows and informed me to get the freezer cleaned out and he would deal with it when he came in. I pulled stuff out of the freezer and started packing it into a cooler. Hopefully, I would be able to put it back in and not have to take everything out to the big freezers in the garage. Then I put it in the back of my mind for the next couple hours.

As I made my breakfast (consisting of orange juice, skim milk and a ham/cheese omelet sprinkled with peppers and mushrooms and whole wheat toast), I surveyed the goods in the freezer and fridge to figure out what I wanted to put together for lunch. I pulled some chicken breasts from the freezer and decided I would make some stuffed chicken breasts for lunch. So I threw together some stuffing, thawed, split and seasoned the breasts, filled them, skewered them shut with toothpicks and put them in an oblong Pyrex dish with some chicken stock and cream of chicken soup. I positioned the chicken in the center and added frozen mixed vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, carrots) around the outside, seasoned them, covered it with tin foil and stuck them in the oven at 375.

Now, what to do for another side dish. Pasta or potatoes? I was more in the mood of just putting everything in the oven and let it all bake, so potatoes it would be. I took out some golds, peeled, chunked and rinsed them, and put them in a bowl. Next, the sauce. I seasoned the potatoes with salt/pepper, poured a little chicken stock in the bowl, grabbed another can of cream of chicken soup, cut up some Velveeta cheese, added a little horseradish sauce, Dijon mustard, skim milk (got to cut the calories somewhere!!), onion and garlic powder, Parmesan/herb seasoning and mixed it all up. Then poured it into a buttered oblong Pyrex dish (love these dishes), topped it with some paprika, covered it with tin foil and into the oven with its neighbor Mr. Chicken. Now, onto to dessert. I feel the need for one of my favorites – angel food cake; so threw it together in the mixer, beat it and into the angel food tin and the lower oven. Set the timer and away we go. Aaaahhhh, lunch is just a few hours away and it will be a no-muss, no-fuss, pull-it-out-of-the-oven kind of meal. Hurrah! And this is exactly why I wanted and love having a double oven. I’ve got lunch and dessert working at the same time, different temps, different timers. Sometimes – even for just a moment – life is good!

Off to cleaning and laundry. Bob decided to pop into the house before doing chores to get a head start on the fridge – just in case I need to run for a part or, heaven forbid, we need to run for a new fridge. It is not like I haven’t done my homework on refrigerators. I have. I know what want. It is just that age-old thing of money. We didn’t really want to have to do it now, but if you have to bite the bullet, you have to bite the bullet. He called the small town dealer where we bought the fridge 16 years ago. Nope, they didn’t have the part on hand, and they would have to order it; wouldn’t be in until Tuesday at the earliest. Bob tinkered with the fridge, got it defrosted, put it back together and it started up again – but for how long? We are hoping until at least Tuesday. Okay, off he went to do chores. Off I went to, once again, try to get back to my laundry and cleaning. I put in a Rascal Flatts CD and cruised thru the house.

Lunch came and went. Everything turned out great, with the added touches of some warm rolls, a tossed salad and angel food cake for dessert. By late afternoon, tired of cleaning and laundry, I knew I had to check in on things at the nursing home which is a 15-20 minute drive. I cleaned up and headed out. Since I was going to be getting there right at supper time I decided to make a run into Madison first to pick up my niece’s birthday present and return a sports coat I had gotten for Bob. Shopping accomplished, I headed to the nursing home. When I got there, she was sound asleep, so I sat bedside for a half hour, tidied up some of her stuff, then went out and talked to the nurse for a little bit. Nothing more for me to do here, so I went home.
Walked in the door, checked the fridge; good–still running and not hopefully my the antics of my attention-seeking whiner are over for the time being. Grilled ham and Swiss cheese sandwiches for supper once Bob got in from the barn, we were content for the night. We caught a little TV, let the dog out for his evening duties, I did a little reading of Heat Wave and found myself tuckered out. The bed never felt so good.

Hope it’s a better day tomorrow. I could use one that is not sprinkled with the inanimate objects in my house wanting some serious one-on-one interactions.

Long Day, But An Old Friends Catch-Up Day

Yes, life is busy, but yet we need to stop and take time for conversations with old acquaintances and friends who we haven’t seen in awhile.

When I went to bed Thursday night, I had my Friday all planned out. But life never seems to go along with the plan. It was a new day and, apparently, a new plan. My aunt was being discharged from the hospital and my original plan was to pick her up between nine and 10, speak with the doctor, have her to the nursing home an hour later, get her settled in and then meet my mother for another aunt’s mother’s funeral at 2:00. Unfortunately, things didn’t seem completely right with my aunt in the hospital when I got there, so the doctor wanted to run another quick test and said she could be discharged in 3-4 hours. Oops, crinkle in the plan. Okay, I can adapt to these types of situations. I called my mom, made plans to attend the visitation prior to the funeral instead with her and then would return to the hospital. So, after ordering my aunt some lunch and watching her eat some of it, I hit the road running, met my mom, visited with the family, my uncle and cousin and then returned to the hospital.

Upon returning, I dropped my car off at valet parking and was walking through the lobby. Someone called my name and saw it was an old friend, Spencer. I knew that his father was in the hospital and in grave condition. The kids, who are all older than I, except for one who is a year younger, were or had flown in from all over the United States and one from England. Spencer is the only one who still lived in our hometown. Earlier that morning I had wanted to stop by the family to express my heartfelt concern for them but didn’t see anyone and certainly did not want to intrude on this time. While talking with Spencer (who was on the grandchildren watch as the sibs’ kids were also trying to get there from out of state as well), two of the other siblings came down to catch a bite to eat and we were able to chat for a brief moment. Time goes by so fast that sometimes as we age, we feel that others would age beyond recognition. All three hadn’t and I was able to recognize them immediately and felt good for having been able to touch base with three people I hadn’t talked to in a long, long time, even under such stressful conditions for all.

Now my mind needed to change gears and shifted to the process of taking my aunt from the hospital to the nursing home and so we headed out. Unfortunately, she was starting to not feel good and I wasn’t sure if the whole move back to the nursing home for rehab was beginning to cause anxiety or what. Now I am beginning to feel anxious. I got her settled in and then decided to check into a private room. They have one available and I toss the idea out to my aunt to contemplate over the weekend. Maybe this will help, maybe not, but some things are worth a try.

By this time I am tired, hungry (hadn’t eaten since breakfast) and knew that I need to do something about it. I figure my liver must have kicked in with a little "something extra" because I hadn’t fallen into a low yet. I tracked toward home and then thought it would be a good idea to stop at one of the local bar/restaurants owned by an old friend of mine to pick up one of the area’s finest Friday night fish fry. I walked in the door but didn’t get too far as was greeted with concerns over my aunt, haven’t seen you in years, etc. I ordered up the fish for the hubby and chatted with the owner, my old friend, Dawn. I commented about how her mom, having suffered a stroke a few years back, looked good and she had even questioned me about whether I had five or six sisters. I was amazed, but then again she is only 72, Dawn said. Her dad was just as funny as ever. This is a couple who for years have enjoyed card playing and still do. Many years ago, when my dad was still alive, I would join in on a few of those cards games with him downtown and certainly miss that at times.

During my wait for the fish, I ran into many I haven’t seen in a long time. A couple that were old friends in my "circle" years ago, he is now my tire guy and a good one at that. We all have new circles but we still remain friends. We were able to catch up with each other and about our families and it is refreshing to find out what each sibling is doing, and what new worlds their kids are now branching out into.

Then another old friend (probably 20 years my senior) and old card-playing buddy, who, when I inquired about his wife, told me that she was now diabetic amongst a mix of other problem. I asked how that was going and I became concerned with our conversation from that point on. She’s a type II diabetic, I’m a type I; big difference in some ways, but others are still the same. Your diet is paramount to the disease. She, apparently, drinks about 100 cans of soda a week. One can of soda is probably the equivalent of what a diabetic should have for one meal. She is on a total carb overload. Her husband told me he didn’t know much about diabetes. I told him he needed to get informed, gave him a 10-minute synopsis and said take it very seriously because she is on a trip that will only end up with crashing into a wall. I know that for some people this disease is befuddling and its murkiness make people look the other way instead of hitting it straight on. I hit it straight on, because I wanted to live another day, keep my limbs while doing so and I always need to know what makes the cogs turn. Yep, I see another mission in my life. Why is it when the plate is already full, some people (okay – me) seem to put a little bit more on the plate? Oh, well, that’s my personality and it’s too late to change it now.

All-in-all, it was a long day; a fun day which included running into many people, in the oddest and vast array of situations. It was a planned day but turned into a whole new day. Oh, and by the way, Dawn, the fish and the accompanying side dishes were excellent. I guess you might see me again, soon.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

When You've Got a Full Weekend, You Make Soup

This weekend is going to prove to be another filled-to-the-brim variety of days. My elderly aunt may be coming home (or going to a nursing home for rehab, is more like it) tomorrow, so I will need to transport her there and get her comfortable. Next, will be to rush from one town to another to meet up with my mother for a funeral. It is for another aunt’s mother. This aunt, in particular, passed away 3 years ago at age 61 of a heart attack. No one saw it coming. She was healthy and active. Her mother outlived her. It is sad when the parents outlive the children. My aunt (my mother’s sister-in-law) suffered a massive heart attack one night before going to bed. She was out planting flowers that night (the week before Mother’s Day), came in shortly afterwards and didn’t feel good. When she died, her mother, who has now passed away, didn’t know her as she was suffering from Alzheimer’s/dementia. It makes you ponder which is sadder – the fact that a parent outlived a child or the fact that the parent didn’t know she has outlived a child.

The other part of my weekend is going to be filled with a birthday party on Sunday for a 9-year-old niece. The nieces and nephews in our family are all growing up. I think all my siblings are done adding to the population, so we are now waiting for the next generation. The span there at the moment runs from four in their 20's, six in their teens and five under the age of ten, the youngest being two. It might be awhile. By my calculations, my oldest niece is the closest prospect -- all her and her husband's married couple friends are getting pregnant. This kind of thing is contagious and she might get the itch.

On Saturday I plan to spend the day cooking, baking, cleaning, laundry, and reviewing/ordering some more plants. When I got home from work last night there were three new gardening catalogs, two regular cooking magazines and my Family Circle waiting for me. I have a lot of bedtime reading to catch up on. Which means I have to put aside my recent book purchase, Richard Castle’s Heat Wave. It isn’t that large of a book but I haven’t been able to get totally captivated by it yet. Some catch me the moment I open the book, others take awhile. Certain authors take me away when I simply say their name. Which reminds me, I have to make a stop tonight to pick up James Patterson’s Worst Case. It just came out on Monday and I have been so busy lately I have had to put it off. I love his books and am never disappointed. I've always loved to read and can zoom through a book if it latches onto me right away. I have to give thanks to my mother-in-law for this as she has helped feed this addiction and guided me toward new authors that I might not have thought I was interested in.

I think that if I am going to try to spend some time reading this weekend, it calls for homemade potato soup. The Wisconsin Winters makes me soup crazy and just about every weekend I try to throw together a batch of one or two soups. We’ll have it once on the weekend and then my husband and I eat the leftovers during the week. I can take it to work every day and not get sick of it. My husband can only do it a day or two but then, again, he usually consumes bigger quantities at one time than I do.

With such a crazy weekend, it looks like the hubby and I are out of luck for our weekly try-to-make-one-day-for-a-day-lunch-date. I don’t work on Fridays so sometimes that is our day to head out around noon to catch lunch somewhere and then do any shopping we need to do, which usually means Farm & Fleet. Since we are also dairy farmers (well, he is anyway), we need to be back for chores & milking and, well, we just aren’t night people anymore. So our lunch is our "dinner out." Our usual haunts will take us to Red Lobster, Boston’s Sports Bar & Grill, Olive Garden. This weekend doesn’t look too promising unless we do it on Saturday and then that means I have to juggle around all my house chores and squeeze them into open time slots. Well, that has happened before and I am sure it won’t be the last time.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Spring of Your Life

Living in Wisconsin and when you are in the dead of Winter, you yearn for any little speck of something that indicates Spring is on its way. Yesterday, Jimmy The Groundhog didn’t see his shadow. We are now expecting an early Spring. Yippee, Skippee!! The alternative, which Punxsutawney Phil in Pennsylvania experienced, is six more weeks of Winter. By most calculations, we will more than likely have six more weeks of Winter. But there is hope. Jimmy gave us hope.

For the last few weeks I have been dealing with an elderly aunt who has been hospitalized. She is a spit fire, is 86 but not a normal 86. Until before Xmas, she was still mowing her 3 acres of lawn, shoveling snow, snowblowing, climbing ladders – all the things we tell her she shouldn’t be doing, but she still does. She has just experienced a new Spring in her life and she doesn’t want to head into Winter. After 60+ years, she has reunited with her high school sweetheart. They have both lost their spouses after years of fulfilling marriages. He retired out West but came back to look up an old love; to share some coffee, some conversation. A spark reignited and they had entered a new phase in their life. So he has helped her with tending to her home, leaving the warm weather for the cold. They are the version of an older flower bulb that fights every year to come back bigger, stronger, more beautiful. But now they have a hard time to get through because they both want to get onto the Summer of their lives – just a second time around.

Some cousins of mine and I are looking for our own little sparks of Spring. With sharing the cold days of the Minnesota and Wisconsin Winters, we are searching our recently received gardening magazines in search of the sunshine that comes with planting the seeds and watching them grow. One recently helped add to my gardening addiction by pointing out a company that I had not dealt with yet. It is van Bourgondien and I am now simply in love with this company. The one daylily in particular my cousin Carol mentioned is a reblooming daylily called "Exploded Pumpkin." Now, I love lilies of all sorts so this started to help warm me up. I ordered a book from this company (and a few others) and I could feel Spring thriving in my veins.

We all need something that helps spark the warmth, that brings the sun shining in. Mine started the minute I ordered plants for spring planting. I have some more garden beds in mind and every Spring I undertake a new one here or there. Last year I was too ambitious and planted five huge ones – a huge butterfly/hummingbird garden, a rose garden, a shade garden, a 3-season cutting garden and an endless bloom perennial garden. My husband dutifully dug some dirt up for me out of a composted area that we use for my flower beds and after quite a few skidloader buckets, I had my blank canvases to fill. I ordered plants, I planted, I mulched, I weeded. The first year the plants aren’t always as ambitious as the one who tends them so I have learned to be patient - to wait for the reward. They will come back – a little stronger, fuller, more beautiful than before.

This year, I plan to put in some more beds. I’m feeling renewed with the thoughts of Spring, because Jimmy said it is right around the corner. If my husband finds out what I am planning, I am sure he will start praying for a longer Winter.

First Day - New Day

Okay, I wasn’t sure of myself and if this is something I really wanted to do. But, hey, we all should try new things. And, if we fail, we fail. But if we succeed, then it was all worth it. Each day is a series of steps, some up and some down. Today, this first day of a new day, I am going up. Anyone care to join me?

First, let me start off by saying my life is pretty normal. Normal but busy. I am no longer the "soccer" mom – although it was never soccer in my life. It was baseball (I coached little league and my youngest son was a star in high school), and football (I started a youth football program for my area and became the first female director in the league – truly a man’s world), and track (my oldest son was a high school star, too). Now I deal with life after the boys have flown the coop. It is just me and the "old man" (even though he is younger than I am). I entered a new world almost 3 years ago when I was diagnosed as a Type I diabetic (its in the genes, inherited from my father) but I was a rare case being diagnosed at 47. So now I deal with 5 insulin shots a day and a weight gain of 60 pounds. I’m a paralegal and my husband is a dairy farmer. We have a full life. I am also the family "go-to" person. My mother is still alive, but as the oldest daughter, I don’t mind being that person. Living life for and with my family is what makes me – me. I thrive on having a full day – it’s my day and I want to live it to the fullest.

I’m like you, you’re like me – maybe in different ways but every woman starts out their day with new paths, new journeys.

So, this is my journey. These are my days and if you care to come along, you can see what it is like to experience a new day with an everyday woman. We can talk, we can share. Let the journey begin.