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My husband, not usually known to be a social butterfly, has always said that he is happy when we are getting company because he knows the house will be clean. Very funny. Now, before you get your knickers in a knot about equality and such, HE and I have a deal: He does the outside chores (not including the chicken coop) and I do the inside. This works out quite well and I am usually pleased with the system except for two exceptions:  1) If it is not a freezing cold/icy/snowy winter, I draw the short straw, at least according to my logic,  and  2) I hate to clean. Oh, I like a clean house, and I do clean it, but there are usually about a dozen things that I would rather be doing. On my day off this week, I stayed in my pajamas, which consist of faded yoga pants and an even more faded oversized T-shirt. Too much information, I know, but it is all part of the story. It was 10:30 in he morning, and so far I had managed to unload the clothes from the dryer, catch up on email and Facebook and watch an old Doris Day movie that I had recorded. I was halfheartedly sweeping the kitchen floor when the dog started barking and I saw an unfamiliar pickup truck in the driveway. Eek. I quickly ran to the mirror and ran a comb through my hair. I knew I wouldn’t have time to change, but luckily I had already brushed my teeth. I swept the week’s mail and papers into a pile and got everything out of sight. Whew! The unfolded laundry was scooped off the couch and tossed on my unmade bed behind a tightly closed door. Looking outside, I could see that the visitor was a neighbor who owns the property behind ours, and he was walking his dog out by the woodpile. I ran to the bathroom, wiped everything down, and hung fresh towels, just in case. Rushing over to look out the window, I noticed that the truck was no longer there. He probably thought that nobody was home. Well, the house was clean, anyhow. In a backhanded, kinda sorta  way.  Today, HE decided that the hardwood floors looked a little dull. I don’t get my bustle in a bristle over this one, either. He’ll do it, and I’ll be thankful for it. After all, I am busy cooking, writing and watching an old Hitchcock movie. I will have to say, though, if you want to come over for a visit, now would be a good time, because the house is nice and clean. 

“Although I cannot lay an egg, I am a very good judge of omelets.” ~ George Bernard Shaw  

You have often heard me whine about the lack of cooperation from my chickens when it comes to their egg production. This little farm is certainly not a big egg producing corporation, and even calling it a farm is a stretch of the imagination. I’ve suffered lean days and lean weeks in the egg department around here.  Don’t let the word get out, but I have even been known to buy eggs at the grocery store, always hiding them beneath the jumbo-sized package of toilet paper or the bread. My reputation as a Farm Woman is at stake, after all. The number of eggs a chicken lays depends on circumstances such as the age and breed of the hen, food and water, and time of year. Around here, it gets dark very early in the wintertime, and with the lack of light, there are fewer eggs. Some folks have lights in their coops to keep the egg production up, but I give the girls a break and turn on the lights only to prevent me from tripping over a chicken and falling. I have to do that because HE, who insists that he is not getting hard of hearing, keeps the volume on the TV so loud that he would never hear me screaming that I’ve fallen and I can’t get up. I will say that after an hour or two and if it were during a commercial break, he might start to wonder where I was. When the thermometer starts dipping toward 10 degrees above zero, I set the timer for the heat lamps to come on. These days, that is most of the time, so they are off and on throughout the day and night. This creates the perfect storm: My mostly young flock, well-fed and content in their coop with lots of water (I use a heated dog dish so it will not freeze), and plenty of light,  are giving me as many as a dozen eggs a day. Unfortunately, my homeowner’s insurance frowns upon me selling the eggs. The IRS thinks that bartering or trading the eggs is the same as selling and wants it documented.  Since I have always been a rule-follower,  I won’t admit to either of those, but I am happy to report that my friends and family are pleased with the gifts they receive. We eat a lot of eggs, too. Scrambled, omelets, fried, boiled, shirred, and devilled. If a recipe calls for two eggs, I add four. I might even attempt an angel food cake since I have never used my pan and was going to move it to the “donate” box. Yes, I know this windfall will stop before long. In the meantime, I need to make some egg salad while the sun…or the heat lamp…shines. 

Parents were put on this earth to embarrass their children, and I know I did my share. My darling daughter will be 32 this month, and hasn’t rolled her eyes at me for a long while. That will come again in time, perhaps as I get older and lose that “filter” that makes one think before opening one’s mouth, or perhaps it will be today. Teenagers don’t have much sense of humor when it comes to their parents. She didn’t appreciate it when I would snatch the phone off the hook if the time was even one minute after 10 p.m. to tell her friends that she wasn’t allowed phone calls after 10 p.m. She appreciated it even less when I wore rubber hillbilly teeth to pick her up from middle school and gave a big smile and a wave to everyone in the parent pick-up area. She refused to get in the car one morning when I was wearing my sweat pants and slippers to drive her to school.  Sheesh, you would think we were going to visit the queen or something! She hasn’t heard the story about the cake, which happened exactly 32 years ago this week. I was near the end of my pregnancy when my coworkers invited me to a surprise bachelorette party for one of our friends.  I lived just down the street from a wonderful little neighborhood bakery which was known for delicious cakes as well as the best cheese danish this side of New York City and sausage biscuits that could bring tears of joy to a pregnant woman’s eyes. I was in there a lot. They made special order cakes, too, for bachelorette parties. They baked and decoated them fresh to order, and stored them in the back room until they were picked up, because they were….er…let’s just say they were anatomically correct. We all signed up for a dish to bring, and since I lived the closest to the bakery, I told everyone about the special cake and said it would be my treat for the bride-to-be’s party.  They tried to tell me it would be too much trouble for someone in my delicate condition, but I insisted. I made arrangements with the bakery to pick it up the morning of the party, never thinking that the doughnut and sausage biscuit crowd would be lined up that time of the day. There were a lot of smiles that morning and probably talk around the office water coolers about a hugely pregnant woman who picked up a large cake box with a peek-a-boo window showing what was inside. I mistakenly thought it would come wrapped in plain brown paper. I barely made it out of the door with the large belly, that cake box and a bag of assorted goodies for my breakfast. After all, I was eating for two.  Even more embarrasing was when I got to the “bachelorette party”only to find out that it was actually a surprise baby shower for me. The table looked lovely with pink and blue streamers and that cake in all his glory. There are pictures, but you’ll never see them. She wasn’t actually around to see it, but when my daughter reads this story, she might laugh, she might roll her eyes, or she just might tell you that this is not half as bad as the time I made her boyfriend drive me for miles (so I could make sure he was a safe driver) before I let her get into a car with him. Believe me, I made sure the brakes and seat belts were in working order, too. 

We got home yesterday after spending a fun few days with friends in Las Vegas. Besides some good memories, the only thing I came home with was a nasty cold. I really was certain that I would come home with something, but was hoping that it would be a million dollars rather than this. Airports, airplanes, and any casino in Las Vegas are like giant Petri dishes of germs from all corners of the world. This cold is so bad that it is most certainly a man-cold. I am self diagnosing, but I have been a nurse for 35 years, so I have a good instinct about these things.  My friends describe man-colds as something that their husbands get, with stuffy heads, coughing, whining, and body aches and pains worse than anyone has ever had before.  They want to be served hot soup, grilled cheese sandwiches, chips, and perhaps a cold beer to ease their discomfort. My man is not someone who complains when he gets sick. In fact, HE can be quite the opposite. He almost died about 15 years ago after getting food poisoning from eating bad oysters and although burning up with fever, kept saying, “No, I’m fine,” and asked for nothing but saltine crackers and red Kool-aid for two days. When he finally dragged himself to the urgent care center, they told him it was lucky that he came in when he did. Last summer, while I was dogsitting in the next town over,  I got a call from HIM requesting some “really strong flu medicine”.  Again, he gave his usual “I’ll be fine” speech while burning up with fever. Even though he refused to have his temperature taken, I knew it was high by my superpower instinct and my hand on his forehead. I made a clinic appointment, he cancelled it. I remembered a tick bite a couple of weeks before, and he was certain it wasn’t that. He ate the super-duper cold/flu medicine like candy, and I threatened him with the side effects such as liver failure,  kidney failure and/or death. Defeated, and too sick to argue any more, he finally went in, only to find out he indeed  had one of those nasty tick-borne diseases, and a round of antibiotics did the trick. I didn’t say, “I told you so!”, but I sure was thinking it.  So, here I am, sick with this man-cold, huddled in bed  under a quilt and the electric mattress pad is on the warmest setting. There’s no cool hand on my fevered brow.  Nobody has offered any hot soup or cool drinks, but when I got up to get a drink of water, HE did offer me a leftover hot dog. *sigh* I’ll be fine. Really, I will. 

Several years ago, when our daughter was a teenager, HE surprised us both after a Sunday morning family brunch by stopping at a local big box store for a shopping excursion. I am using the words “shop” and  “excursion” rather loosely here. We were surprised because he  1) Hates to shop. 2) Hates big box stores. 3) Really, really hates to shop. Our quiet,  soft-spoken husband and father suddenly turned into a drill sergeant. “YOU!” He said sternly, pointing to me. “We need toilet paper and bread!” (I am admittedly exaggerating a teeny bit here, but it makes for a better story.) Pointing to our daughter, he said “You go get dog food and garbage bags, and I need to get some new tennis shoes and a belt.” Looking at his watch, he said, “Meet me back here in 10 minutes.” Both of us, not the follow-my-orders-and-obey type of women, were too surprised to do anything but scurry down our respective aisles. We were back in the car, start to finish, in 15 minutes flat, and HE was quite pleased with himself. Never mind that we could have found $100 worth of other things with our usual method of wandering up and down the aisles looking at everything. Now THAT is shopping. I did go back the next day to get everything else we needed. I can think of another shopping trip HE made around that time. My daughter and I have always agreed that he is really difficult to buy a Christmas gift for because he never tells us what he wants and/or needs. Ever.  He always says “I will like whatever you give me.”  Do you see what I mean? Difficult. We often put our heads together are quite jealous when one of us comes up with the first good idea. That particular shopping trip was done somewhere around the first of December. Prime Christmas shopping time. He came home with several bags of clothing that day. “I bought myself a few things like pants, shirts, socks, and even a new wallet. It made me remember how much I HATE shopping!” Sigh. I don’t even remember what we got him that year. This year  was different. HE actually told us that he would like to visit his sister in Florida and would like to have a plane ticket. Done! While he was gone, I cleaned out cupboards and cabinets. When all the dust settled, I decided that there needs to be a lot less shopping done around here because we have too much stuff.  HE certainly won’t argue with that. 

My father’s parents were the children of immigrants.  Neither spoke with an accent, although they probably grew up in households where their ancestral tongues were used more often than not. Dad’s parents liked modern ways, and in fact, he told me that the old languages weren’t allowed to be spoken around their dinner table. They were proud to be American citizens, and felt that English should be used at all times. I am sorry for their decision, because  Dad never learned Finnish or Norwegian, and therefore, could not teach his own children the language of their ancestors.  He said an occasional Finnish swear word when things weren’t going well, but that’s about it. Little did he know that all the kids in our strongly Scandinavian town knew how to swear in Finn, so he wasn’t getting anything over on us. Among his belongings was a letter from Finland written in 1946 to his  isoaiti , or grandmother. Her name was Elizabeth, and she died before I was born, but for years I thought her name was Aiti, because that’s what my dad and his brothers called her, but  aiti actually means mother. I was lucky enough to find someone who can still read Finn, and although the dialect was a little different and the writing was faded, I was able to have most of it translated. Things were hard for the European people during the war years.  Finland had been at war with Russia, but the relations between the two countries were improving. Some Finns were Communists, and some were not. Strangly enough, it was the same on the Iron Range in northern Minnesota, where my family lived. Nothing was ever said about their political beliefs, so I cannot say for certain that they were not Communists, but I doubt they were. Isoaiti had mailed a package to her relatives and they were sending “heartfelt thanks” for the gift of trousers and other items. Specfically mentioned was coffee, which was a very scarce commodity during those years. What a treat that must have been!  Her wish for the relatives in America was “strength and health and happiness”. Our family was not wealthy, and I’m sure the cost of even a simple gift like that made things harder, but not nearly as hard as those with the memories of war right at their doorstep. The world is a crazy place these days, too. We don’t know for certain that our own doorsteps are safe from harm. Times have changed, but maybe not so much. My own isoaiti was a modern woman, her aiti was a Farm Woman,  and I am a combination  of the two, perhaps with a little bit of the writing gene and propensity for swearing in Finnish (or any other language, for that matter)  from my isa , or father. I must have a little bit of that long-ago relative thrown in, too, because I dearly love coffee and I wish for all of you to have strength and health and happiness for the new year. 

“I have only one superstition. I touch all the bases when I make a home run.”   ~Babe Ruth

I will admit to having one…or maybe two…superstitions. No, I don’t throw spilled salt over my left shoulder, nor do I open all the doors and windows at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve to let the old year out and the new year in. Truthfully, I haven’t seen a New Year’s Eve midnight in several years, and besides, it is usually too cold here in northern Minnesota for all that nonsense. I do hang on to a few old nursing superstitions: Never use or let anybody else use the “Q” word during your shift. My fellow nurses cringe at the sound of that word, but since I am not at work I feel comfortable in using the example of “Gee, it sure is QUIET around here!” That most certainly means that the shift will go to Helsinki in a handbasket, and in a hurry, too. Another nursing superstition is that death comes in threes. Sadly, I have seen that one come true more than once, especially in my old ICU days. There are plenty of New Year’s superstitions all over the world. Did you know that kissing your sweetheart as the clock strikes midnight means you will have a loving and happy year? My sweetheart was in warm and sunny Florida for the holiday, and since I was sound asleep here in the frozen tundra, I didn’t notice if Barney gave me any puppy dog kisses or not. In Italy, folks throw old things out the window to make room for the new. Here at home,  I cleaned out cupboards and came up with a big plastic tote filled with unused stuff and hauled it to the garage rather than throwing it out the window. Living in the south for many years, I learned that black-eyed peas cooked with a ham hock and served with greens would bring good luck and prosperity,  but I also learned that my Kentucky born and bred husband hated black-eyed peas and rarely ate greens, no matter how prosperous he could become. I guess we were prosperous in a way, because there were always plenty of leftovers for me to take to work and hopefully, I would get a lunch break unless someone used that nasty “Q” word. The Pennsylvania Dutch often ate pork with sauerkraut on New Year’s day. Why sauerkraut? Because cabbage leaves signify money and prosperity, and sauerkraut is made from cabbage, and also the because the Pennsylvania Dutch are not Dutch, but of German descent. That makes about as much sense as not allowing a cross-eyed person, someone with a unibrow, or someone with flat feet to be the first person to step across your threshold in the new year.  Even though it defies my sense of logic, I ate lots of bacon for breakfast and had leftover coleslaw for lunch. Hopefully, my right palm will begin to itch and that means that money will be coming my way. You never know.