Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sock chat

Hello socks, how was your summer? You all look so nice and neatly arranged. I hate to disturb your symmetry.

Yes, what’s that?

Oh, you’re welcome. It was way past time to get rid of the riff-raff. The crowding had gotten out of control and I knew you all needed your space. I’ve forgotten all those ratty-looking unhappily single specimens that have gone to the great sock drawer in the sky. It’s a new day.

No, I will not be wearing any of you with sandals—but are you ok with lime green crocs?

Sorry I even brought it up.

I’m feeling a little sad right now—don’t take it personally, but I really am not all that crazy about wearing socks. Sandals are so much fun—and don’t even get me started about how much I love my new Nike flip-flops.

Well, here we go. I’ll try to be fair and work out a rotation that will be satisfactory for us all.

And above all, I will do my best to do my duty to keep you all neat and folded so help me God.

Monday, September 28, 2009

A love lesson

Sam and I arrived at church just as the service was starting and went right to “our” chairs. It was good to be back—we are at the lake most weekends in the summer and miss our church family. I took a quick look around and enjoyed seeing all of the familiar faces.

Across the room, I spotted Esther Stenberg, Carol Sands mother, but wondered who that was with her. I’ve known Carol’s parents, now retired and living in Northern Minnesota, for years and the man seated next to Esther was not Pastor Jerry. Pastor Jerry has a full head of dark gray wavy hair. This man was completely bald.

It took about three more surreptitious looks for me to come to the realization that the man seated next to Esther was indeed Pastor Jerry. Of course, the first thing that came to mind was cancer and chemo—but it was odd that I hadn’t heard about it.

As the close of the service, I made my way over to greet them. Esther gave me a hug and I couldn’t help but remark about Pastor Jerry’s new “do.” At age 85, he is truly a handsome man—with or without hair. Inside I was dreading hearing the reason for his hair loss but asked about it anyway.

Esther explained that Jerry’s hair suddenly began to fall out and he was diagnosed with alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks its own hair follicles.
“We are so fortunate because sometimes this disease can be more serious if the body starts attacking internal organs. Other than the hair loss there have been no other problems,” Esther said.

Lines formed in Jerry’s forehead as his facial expression and voice took on a serious tone, “Oh, but there have been complications.” I turned towards him and focused my attention as he continued, “We’ve been married for more than 60 years and for all that time Esther has kissed me on my lips. Now she keeps kissing me on my head.”

Her eyes twinkled and Esther laughed, “I can’t help it. He’s sitting there at the table when I walk by, I just have to kiss his head.”

That brief moment offered me an intimate and profound glimpse of a couple still madly in love with each other. I could not have felt more strengthened and encouraged if I had read every self-help book and attended a dozen relationship seminars.

Love and laughter—a life-changing message.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

It all comes down to one thing

Name that movie

In my case, it is three things. This is what I purchased at the drugstore today.
With the exception of the Tylenol, I had to ask where the mineral oil and jumbo sized pill dispensers were located.

The mineral oil is for Sam’s ears--swear to God. He had his CDL physical last week His ears are plugged up with wax and he’s supposed to put this in for a few days and they’re going to try to flush it out later this week. (At least I think so--after his appointment, he told me that he was supposed to put mineral spirits in his ear. Ummm, are you sure they didn't say mineral oil?)

*Pauses for moment cringe at usage of “flush”* Sorry, it really is for his ears. Did I say that already?

The new pill container is to accommodate a Prilosec dosage increase related to bad news from Sam’s EGD on Friday. Next stop, Mayo Clinic. The Tylenol is for shoulder and hip pain. (Appointment with orthopedic PA to coincide with fasting blood work for cholesterol)

I deposit my purchases on the counter and wait for someone to check me out.

“So, did you find everything you need today?” the clerk asked cheerfully.

I looked at my purchases and replied, “Can you give me a moment?”

I should have bought a candy bar or at least a trashy magazine—but realized that would not have helped the situation.

She works in a drug store, get over yourself. “Yes, I think this should do it.” I replied.
“Do you want a bag for this?” she asked.

Oh, no. Let me try to cram this in my purse and subject myself to the possibility of having it spill out as I pass through YOUR CONVENIENTLY LOCATED LIQUOR STORE on the way out.

“Yes, please.”

Gone are the days when a trip to the drugstore was for something fun—like makeup, shampoo or band-aids.

Welcome to the gates of hell.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Cat and Mouse Game--With a Twist

A sliding glass door off our bedroom leads to a screened-in deck area. In the late 80s we put in a hot tub and over the next 10 or so years used it often. I’m not sure when exactly we quit using it--probably about the time that I went back to college in 1995. We found that it was more work and expense than it was worth. So now it sits empty.

Well, not quite empty, rain water from a leaky skylight overhead along with rain that gets in through the surrounding screen accumulates in the bottom and it’s not always a pretty sight.

And this is not a pretty story—but one that may make you laugh and cringe as I unload a significant share of my dignity along the way.

There’s no easy way to say this so here it is: We have an ongoing problem with mice getting into the hot tub. And drowning. Not just one at a time either. From the looks of things, I can only think of a group of mice out in search of a good time and before you know it, things get out of hand and somebody ends up in the water. The other mice watch in horror and another one ends up jumping in thinking he’s going to save his buddy. Sometimes it ends there, other times, the scene resembles the grisly ending of a horror film massacre.

Protocol for cadaver removal involves a verbal report to Sam usually something along the lines of “We’ve got some floaters!” In a perfect world, they would be disposed of within minutes of said notification. End of story.

However, this is truly a case of out of sight, out of mind. Factor in a week or two (or three) of hot humid weather and, well, that’s as much as I can say about the situation. Eventually they are removed, but now there are large amounts of Clorox Clean-up and gagging involved.
Perhaps someday I will summon the courage to tell you what happens in the winter--but for now two words: Donner Party
This past fall, two feral cats started hanging around outside. We noticed a marked decrease in the mouse problem—inside and out—and embarked on a concerted effort to encourage the cats to stick around by putting out fresh food and water daily. The calico moved on but a handsome black male has taken up residence. I’ve been calling him Salem because he reminds me of the cat on Sabrina the Teenage Witch.

A few weeks ago, I noticed that there was a dead mouse in the hot tub again—the first in a really long time. I reminded Sam a couple times and even tried to talk Zac into getting it out. When I checked it the other day while in the porch putting some clothes on the rack to dry, it was gone and I assumed Sam had finally gotten around to dipping it out.

The following morning, I was making the bed and looked out the bedroom window overlooking the hot tub and noticed Salem sitting in the hot tub looking intently into the murky water. Something about the scene made me uneasy….surely he didn’t….did he??? And if so, how???

You know what I’m going to tell you now, don’t you. No, Sam did not remove the dead mouse. Zac did not remove the mouse. I did not remove the mouse.

Salem the cat's valuation has soared--and if I could ever capture his fishing technique on camera, Hollywood here we come. We may upgrade his brand of kibble. And I’m thinking about getting him his own little fishing pole and hat just like Fluffy’s.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


I landed this big bad boy last week. It was a fight to the finish as I struggled to maneuver this warm juicy specimen through the small opening in the tomato cage. Sam and I took it along to the lake this past weekend but I didn’t have the heart to eat it until I’d shown it to Mom.

When we were all back home on Sunday night, I showed it to Mom. Even in its “must-go” condition, Tomatozilla wowed her. “It must weigh a pound,” she said.

“Oh, it has to be more than that,” I replied, “I’m thinking closer to two.” I took one more quick photo and then added it to my kettle of soup.

One of these days, I need to go back to garden and see if Tomatozilla has any competition lurking in the bush.


I picked Mom up from her house late yesterday afternoon and we drove to Fairmont to pick up my prescriptions. Driving through this country at this time of year is about the best thing one can imagine. We took old Highway 16 there and the Huntley road home. Several fields of soybeans have already been harvested and the rest look ripe and ready.

Even though the leaves are only starting to turn, the rich auburn soybean fields offset by the still vivid green ditches and farmyards creates a striking contrast. In the absence of any significant moisture for the past month, the corn is rapidly drying also.

We stopped and grabbed a few more fresh ears of sweet corn from Curt’s field on the Springer place. I hadn’t really decided what to make for dinner, other than it had to involve a significant amount of the vegetables that had accumulated on the kitchen counter.

Mom sat in her chair and we visited over a glass of wine. I settled on a skillet pasta dish using whole wheat penne pasta, Italian sausage, garlic, onions, tomatoes and peppers topped off with mozzarella and parmesan cheese and fresh basil. Peeling the fresh tomatoes while the meat cooked was rather tedious but at the same time I wanted to savor every moment of the pleasure of cooking with such perfect ingredients.

I broke the large ears of corn in half to cook them and we enjoyed yet another feast from the garden—feeling thankful to live in an area of God’s creation that will grow just about anything anyone would ever want or need.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Learning curve

I'm not sure what happened but my Twitter update box was violated/spammed/whatever.
Disgusting. I removed it. Wondering who might have seen it.

So sorry.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Paging Dr. Oz

*In my best anchorwoman voice* "Now that the conversion from analog to digital is complete, more channels are available to the average television viewer."

What this means to me—a lowly rabbit ear antenna accessible viewer—is that I now have 5—sometimes 7-- channels to watch while I’m at the office.

Yes, that’s right, I watch tv at work. Sometimes I even watch Netflix movies on my laptop.

I live a sad little solitary life.

Made even worse by a daytime schedule consisting of Judge Joe Brown, The People’s Court, Divorce Court, Judge Judy, Judge Alex and Judge Hatchett. I remember reading an obituary once that mentioned how much the deceased loved watching her court shows on tv. It haunts me every time I watch.

I don’t want to be that person.

But wait, enter Dr. Oz. I loved him on Oprah. He made it cool to talk about poop, sweat, odors and other distasteful bodily functions. I guess in the same way Judge Marilyn Milian presides over a whole sackfull of crazy in her courtroom.

I tuned into his first show expectantly. Oh yeah baby, his first topic was sex. Excellent. I bit into a tomato (good for libido) and kept watching. Hmmm, fibroids, interesting. Mental note to buy some tofu.

Next he examined the purses and their contents of four women from the audience and went into a graphic description of the germs, bacteria and fungus growing on them. Holding up one embarrassed woman’s phone, he announced that they found traces of feces on it.

Now I don’t know a lot about television or the creative process associated with putting a show like this together, but for a moment visualize a roomful of people tossing out ideas,
“Hey, how about this, let's do an anatomy segment and have audience members come up and touch preserved human organs!"

Hello studio audience, welcome to the Dr. Oz show— Here hold this spleen while I look for an ovary.

Oh and you have poop on your blackberry…

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A life, a death and daisies

The woman was walking across the lawn pushing a cart. Sam and I had just parked outside a St. Paul church to attend the funeral our son-in-law Tedd’s father, Chuck Cheney. At first glance, I assumed she was the janitor. The funeral director asked that Sam re-position the vehicle and as I stood on the sidewalk and waited, I took a closer look at my surroundings--the houses, cars and people on the street--and began to feel a bit uneasy.

I watched as the funeral director walked up to the woman with the cart and started a conversation. My attention was distracted for a moment as I turned away to watch Sam back onto the lawn. When I looked back, I saw the woman hug the man in the suit and continue across the lawn pushing her cart—and taking a closer look at the contents of her cart, realized that her cart did not contain cleaning supplies. It was filled with plastic bags containing probably everything she owned.

I was just beginning to tell Sam what I saw when the funeral director came over to thank Sam for moving his vehicle. He motioned towards the woman with the cart and said, “She is homeless and has been sleeping on the steps of the church for the past month. I gave her some money to get something to eat—she didn’t want to take it. She said she was fine.”

He continued to tell us about a recent conversation with a priest serving a parish nearby. The number of homeless women has risen exponentially—and even more heartbreaking is the number of them who are pregnant. He must have read my thoughts when he said, “It’s a beautiful day today. What will happen to these women in the winter?”

We continued into the church and joined a large group of people to mourn the loss and celebrate the life of a remarkable man. Sons Tedd, Paul and Jed all spoke lovingly and eloquently of their father. In her message Pastor Joy mentioned the woman living on the steps of the church saying, “She feels that Jesus lives here.”

I must admit that several times during the service, I wondered if the contents of our vehicle would be intact when we emerged from the service.

As we stood in the cemetery after the committal service, I related incident with the homeless woman to Tedd and Addie. Tedd remarked that his dad would have done the same thing as the funeral director but as a CPA would probably have asked for a receipt. We all laughed and I felt some of the heaviness of grief lift for a few moments.

Family and friends then gathered at Kozlak’s Royal Oaks Restaurant for lunch and a time of sharing stories about Chuck. Coincidentally this was the place where Sam and I were first introduced to Chuck and his wife Arta.

Arta picked up a microphone and explained that the room was filled with daisies, Chuck's favorite flower. They reminded him of the outdoors and the splendor of nature. He was a man saw common beauty in an extraordinary way. She then encouraged anyone to take the take the mic during the meal and share stories and memories of Chuck

There was much laughter and many stories of adventures with Chuck—with the common theme of a man who lived his life to the fullest and cared deeply and passionately for his family, friends, neighbors and co-workers. We all left with a small bouquet of daises.

A sense of humor and a love of adventure combined with compassion—Chuck’s legacy. And for me, an unforgettable encounter with a woman whose life briefly intersected with mine.

To read his obituary written by Tedd, go to

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Forced Relaxation

Last night as we were getting ready for bed, I asked Sam what his plans were for the weekend. "It's going to be nice so I'd like to go for a boat ride--but I also want to get some more painting done." We decided to try to head for the lake in the late morning.

But first I wanted to freeze some corn. Sam ran to Curt's field and brought me 3 dozen ears. While he painted, I froze 16 pts of corn and had the kitchen cleaned up-- by 11:30. We were on the road shortly after noon and on the lake before 3:00. It was 80 degrees, sunny, warm and perfect. We anchored in Miller's Bay.

After about an hour, I developed a severe case of what my niece Ingrid refers to as AIP (Ants In Pants) Kind of like what happens to kids confined in a car too long.

Should relaxing be this hard? I had my computer, the new Pat Conroy novel and two past issues of Mother Earth News. It just didn't work for me today.

We went out to dinner with Dick and Marlys--always fun.

And I do believe I might have felt relaxed.

It's been a busy week--I'm working on a couple new posts that hopefully will be ready tomorrow.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

"Do you want to feel my sweat?"

This is what Sam always says when he's accomplished some serious manual labor.

He continues to work on our ongoing house construction-- staining the exterior, getting ready to build the deck and moving really big rocks around. A couple weeks ago, he built this--I don't really know what its called. It's going to be a flower bed I guess -- but if you know Sam, you know he has to build a bit of his personality into it.

Sam and the Bobcat made many trips between the rock pile and the house. I was busy cleaning and doing laundry and didn't pay much attention to what he was doing other than to look out the living room window a couple times to see what was going on.

Late in the afternoon, he summoned me to see the finished product. He was so proud.

I call them our Fred and Wilma Flintstone recliners.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

State Fair

Looks like this guy has had his share of fun at a few (too many) social gatherings.

Addie snapped this photo with her blackberry while she and I were eating our pronto pups and Sam was eating a hunk of bacon on a stick. The streets were filled with people but the crowds seem to part as he passed by.

Kind of like a toasted Moses.

The State Fair

I have yet to figure out a better way to upload photos and captions--but because August is so doggone cute, I can't wait to get the pictures posted. I'm going to just plop them in here.
Sam and I recently made a trip to Addie and Tedd's. Sam fixed their roof and sealed the chimney while Addie and I made a quick trip to Trader Joe's. After Augusts' nap, we headed to the fair. The next three hours were mostly spent eating and drinking.

It's been several years since I've been to the Minnesota State Fair. However I do remember my first trip well. One summer (I was probably 15 0r 16) I walked beans with the Walker kids whose aunt lived close to the fairgrounds. They invited me to go with them, stay there and go to the fair. I felt rich--I probably had about $35 saved up from three weeks work.

It was my first time in the city and somehow I managed to find my way back and forth to the fair--with no inkling of fear as I walked the dark streets back to the house alone after a Three Dog Night concert at the grandstand. The late August night was hot and steamy so all the windows in the house were open. Sleep was impossible--traffic on the busy street continued into the early morning hours. I was used to sleeping with background noise consisting of cows, cats, crickets and birds.
I ran into a boy from my Sunday School class and we quickly became a couple. For those two days only. When we returned home he acted like nothing ever happened. I wasn't too upset--because without the smell of cotton candy and mini-donuts and the pounding music of the Midway, he didn't look all that great anymore either.
I returned home broke, sunburned and sleep-deprived, but I had kissed a boy--so nothing else mattered.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


In the absence of a scratch-and-sniff application on my laptop, wherever you are, whatever you're doing right now, please step outside and take a deep breath. Hopefully you're in an area where you are able to detect the distinct smell of a changing season.
Sam's at the lake so it's just Mom and I here tonight. I fixed a simple dinner of a salmon patty, creamed green beans, potato and a salad. After we ate, I stepped outside to water a few of my flowers on the deck. Sensing an opportunity for an evening stroll, Gus dashed out the doggie door as soon as I grabbed the bucket.

Hopefully optimistic, he headed down the driveway and kept looking back to see if I was following him. This old dog (and I AM talking about Gus here) sleeps 23 1/2 hours of the day so I figured a little exercise would do us both some good.

I picked 5 more tomatoes from Blackie the tomato plant and headed for the mailbox. As I walked, I became increasingly aware of the subtle changes around me. Bright red sumac peeked from under the heavy brush. A gentle breeze shook loose a few acorns that would momentarily be spirited away by an industrious squirrel.

It feels like summer--but the smells in the air are conflicted. It's a transitional aroma--a blend of the fertile, rich smell of summer and the sweet, ripe aroma of fall.

As different varieties of grapes, coffee and spices are blended to create rich, new flavors, so it is with the seasons.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Tasting Summer

It’s that time of year—fruit and vegetables galore—more than we can eat. I want to roll in the fresh basil until I’m human pesto.

I’ve stopped exhaustively searching the cucumber bushes to find enough for a batch of pickles. Now I’m flinging swollen discolored specimens into the adjoining woods.


That row of beets, so promising and colorful last month, has morphed into a row of pulsating purple fruit-- their swollen dirty shoulders crowding themselves into a disheveled scene.

But nothing says summer more than the sight of a tower of peach crates in the grocery store.

At least for me.

These peaches are modest and prefer to remain hidden away in their cushy little home as they ripen and await their syrupy destiny. Not like those show-off over achievers on display in the produce case. No, canning peaches know their place in the pecking order of produce.

I saw them in the Spirit Lake Fareway and impulsively bought a couple cases. Mom really loves canned peaches and they were quite reasonably priced. It only took a couple hours in the evening to fill the canner with 7 jars and we did 7 more the next morning. We peeled and halved the rest and Mom canned another 14 pints.

They’re so pretty, I hated to put them away. Now to give myself permission to eat them. Because for me, home-canned peaches are an almost sacred food—administered to settle an upset stomach or calm a fevered soul.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Monkey Byte

Olivia's nickname is monkey--so her stories here on the blog will be "Monkey Bytes." She was with me at the office on Tuesday and Friday this week so I have several...

Friday afternoon we were getting ready to meet Amber in Mankato because Olivia had a dentist appointment. After her nap, I helped her change into a dress. I told her how pretty she looked. Olivia then watched as I quickly applied some lipstick and announced, "You look SO much better!"

All things considered, it felt like a compliment.

Rough Patches

It should be simple, shouldn't it. You find the hole in the roof and patch it. Someone pays for it.

Again, simple. The way it was when Sam's dad, Bob, started this business. He went out and worked and Louise took care of the family and the bookwork. It was a hard but satisfying way to make a living.

Not so much the case in the world I'm livin' in these days. Our world consists of:

  • Material suppliers who intimidate and confuse our customers in the quest of complying with our state's lien law.
  • Aging equipment
  • Cutthroat competition with little or no profit margin
  • Dire cash flow problems created by a contractor's inability to pay us
  • Sleepless nights and moments of overwhelming discouragement (speaking for myself here)

On a positive note, I am grateful to have a son working alongside us whose resiliency, hard work, sense of humor and eternal optimism keeps me going. Those of you who know Zac know exactly what I'm talking about.

This past week has been, to put it mildly, especially challenging. I have some really fun stuff in progress to post here, but I have been too wrapped up in trying to "fix" things that I haven't been able to do it.

We're at the lake now. The coffee is hot and strong. A mist appeared on the lake as I watched the sun rise this morning. A new day for which I am grateful.