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For us, the Christmas season used to start the day after Thanksgiving. It was long before everyone started calling  it “Black Friday”. It was back when I had a lot of energy and was able to get up at 4 a.m., put on a tacky Christmas sweatshirt, and be on the road with a carload of giggling girls after a traditional breakfast of leftover pumpkin pie with whipped cream eaten out of my hand and washed down with hot coffee. The next day, I would send daughter and husband to get a Christmas tree, always giving specific directons and using hand motions to describe a tall slender tree, not too big around, yet big enough to house all of our special ornaments from the last umpteen years. They  insisted on a “real” Christmas tree, “not one of those artificial things”. They would always return home with the biggest fattest tree on the lot, big enough that we would have to shove the dining room table up against the piano and move the bookshelf into the guest room.  I ate many a Christmas dinner with my back smooshed against the tree, so close that I had to shake the pine needles out of my shirt before serving dessert and would still find some in June as they worked their way up and out of the carpet. My daughter would bemoan the fact that we didn’t have a yard full of blinking lights, waving snowman, and an automated Santa who “ho-ho-hoed” every time a car pulled up in the driveway. “EVERYBODY ELSE has Christmas decorations in their yard,” she would whine. “It looks like we don’t have any Christmas spirit!” I guess she wasn’t counting the spirit of the piles of gifts, dozens of cookies , pans of fudge, and mugs of hot chocolate complete with candy cane stirrers that we made every year,  but wanting all of her Christmas wishes to come true I begrudgingly added a few outside lights one year and a small lighted reindeer the next. Call me a Scrooge if you must, but I would rather enjoy the decorations in your yard rather than mine. That was enough decorating for me, and I reminded her that when she had her own home, she could do it exactly the way she wanted.  This seems like just yesterday, but somehow the years have flown past. HE and I are now the grandparents of the family, and our daughter and husband just bought their first home and have even volunteered to host Christmas dinner. Instead of a huge fresh “real” tree taking up half their living room, there is a lovely tall and slender artificial tree in a corner of the living room.  Funny, but it is about the same size that I used to ask for every year. By now, there is probably a simple wreath adorning their front door for outside decoraton. That’s all. Although I TRY to keep my nose out of their business, I have to admit that I had to tease her about this.  I am very tempted to sneak over one day while they are at work and fill their yard with dancing snowmen, strobe light santas, and blinking red-nosed reindeer. Oh, and if you want peace on earth, you might want to stay away from their neighborhood. I’ve got plans to have the sound system blast out “Jingle Bell Rock” when you push the doorbell.  Never let it be said that I didn’t make ALL of her Christmas wishes come true. 

As I entered the grandmother stage of my life, I was expecting the hot flashes. I also expected the forgetfulness, mood swings, night sweats, and even the middle-of-the-day sweats. What I did not expect was the facial hair. I first noticed it a few years ago as I sat in church, listening to the sermon. Yes, I do listen, Pastor. I may not always remember it (see above), but I do listen, just not at that particular moment. I was contemplative, worshipful, and  absentmindedly stroking my chin when I felt it. THE HAIR. I pulled it, and it stretched. It stretched out longer than a Sunday morning sermon, and when I lost my grip, it bounced back with a “boing” like the curly tail of a piglet. I was horrified, and got up in front of God and everybody and headed for the ladies’ room, where I managed to pull the thing out with my bare hands, since I didn’t  carry a pair of tweezers in my purse. Desperate times call for desparate measures.  In the weeks that followed, I found a few more hairs which seemed to sprout overnight, every night. Worse than the curly chin hairs are the dark hairs on my upper lip. I’ve always been attracted to beards and mustaches, just not on myself. These lip hairs can be pulled out  with my handy-dandy tweezers, but pulling them out can bring tears to the eyes of even the most stoic Farm Woman. Another alternative I have tried  is to have my upper lip waxed by a professional. Warm sticky wax is painted on, special torture paper is applied, and while they try to distract me with talk of the weather, it is RIPPED off quickly, pulling the offending hairs out with it. This, too, brings tears to my eyes, but at least it is a quick torture.  I have researched more natural ways to rid myself of my mustache. One involves mixing turmeric to a paste and applying it daily, leaving it on for 15 minutes before wiping it off “along with the unwanted hair.” Right.  Turmeric is an orange-yellow spice which is used in pickles, Middle-Eastern, and Indian cooking. It is also used as a natural fabric or food dye. With my luck,  I would probably end up with not only a mustache, but a brightly colored orange-yellow mustache which would probably resemble a caterpillar on my upper lip.  I think I’ll pass on the turmeric, even though it is right there in the spice cupboard. However…if any of you brave grandmothers  are thinking about adding a little turmeric to your turkey broth to make the Thanksgiving gravy a nice golden yellow color, put a bit on your upper lip and let me know how it works. 

Halloween is just around the corner, and I am kind of a wimp when it comes to scary stuff. That is why I stopped watching my favorite TV channel a couple of weeks before staying at our daughter’s house. You know the show:  Machete-wielding neighbors, swamp murderers, and deranged lunatics.  I am dogsitting her two giant lovable yellow labs who think they are lap dogs and have overactive salivary glands. They are lovable unless you are a stranger, so I wasn’t really worried about staying alone,  but stopped the scary TV just in case. When staying in somebody else’s home, there are things to be learned as you settle in, and this is no exception. The light switches are the worst. It is dark every morning when I leave, and I stumble my way through the house,  turning off lights as I go and locking “the boys” in the breezeway with plenty of water and food. The first afternoon I arrived back to my temporary home, I discovered that I had inadvertantly left the hall and stairway lights on. Shaking my head and muttering to myself about getting forgetful, I turned them off. The next day, I couldn’t find the bottle of very expensive hazelnut liquid stevia drops, which are a must for my morning coffee. Looking high and low, in drawers and cupboards, and even in my suitcase, they were nowhere to be found. I gave up looking and purchased another  bottle, and it hadn’t gotten any cheaper.  Unlocking the door and letting the dogs out for a run in the back yard,  I noticed that the light for the hallway and basement was on again. This time it was creepy, as I was certain that I had shut it off before I left. I took the dogs with me as I searched every nook and cranny of that house, looking for machete-wielding neighbors, swamp murderers, and/or deranged lunatics. I made sure all the windows were in the locked position. I wasn’t really afraid, as I was certain my charges would tear an intruder limb from limb, or at least slobber him to death. I slept well, despite the loud snoring from one of the dogs…or perhaps it was the machete-wielding neighbor sleeping on the couch. I left the house again the next morning in the dark, closing the door and feeling along the wall for the light switch and noting that one of the switches in the breezeway needed to be fixed, as nothing happened with I flipped it on and off. When I returned that afternoon,  the lights were on once again. What the heck, was the house haunted? Were the lights on a timer that they didn’t think to mention? As I reached for the light switch to turn the breezeway light off, I accidently flipped the one that wasn’t working, and this time, the kitchen door was open, and I noticed that the “nonworking” switch actually turned on the hall and stairway lights. It wasn’t a swamp murderer after all. Besides, the house is nowhere near a swamp. In fact, I doubt that the neighbors carry machetes, but from the looks of all the Halloween decorations up and down the street, there will be plenty of ghosts and goblins running around in a few days. Oh, do you remember the bottle of  very expensive hazelnut liquid stevia drops? I found it in the refrigerator. Probably right where the deranged lunatic put it. 

Sunrise

There was a spectacular sunrise one morning as I started my drive to work, but I missed most of it. It was the perfect kind of sunrise that only God’s paintbrush can create, filled with pastel-hued pinks, purples, and blues. I coasted to the stop sign, pulled off to the side, grabbed the phone and fumbled for the camera setting, but the perfect Kodak moment had passed. Darn it! I wanted to share it on my Facebook page! The colors followed me for the rest of the drive, and although enjoyable, were not nearly as perfect. The memories of that beautiful sunrise stayed with me throughout the day, and I needed that feeling of peace and contentment as I overheard heated discussions and navigated through the ugliness of politics on social media. It seems that one cannot express a political opinion anymore without being harangued by those who might have another opinion. I appreciate the passion, and think that it is much better than apathy, but things are getting out of control. Some of you might be planning to vote for the politician whose nose should be as long as Pinocchio’s by now (Insert name here:__________) and others might be planning to vote for the politician who is a few peas short of a Sunday hotdish (Insert name here:__________).  Really, if you think about it without prejudice, the names can be interchangable. The mean talk seems to be urged on by our own esteemed politicians, who hold a strange belief that they will garner more votes by talking smack against their opponent than by telling us their plan for a better America. I was falling for it, too, and for weeks have had a feeling of unrest and a churning in my stomach that almost bordered on fear. I was glued to the news and to the computer.  I have my own plan for a better America:  STOP IT, PEOPLE!  Stop being mean. Vote for the person that you want, but let your neighbor vote for the person that he wants. Listen to what your neighbor has to say, and if you can’t do that without arguing, talk about the Vikings.  (That works, unless your neighbor is a Packers fan.)  These days, I am watching fewer news shows and scanning social media less often. I am trying to listen more and talk less.  I am reading more books. I prefer REAL fiction to political promises. When the sun rises on the morning after the election, I’m not going to miss it while I wait for the perfect moment. In the grand scheme of things, each of us has been given just so many sunrises, and the list gets shorter every day. I will enjoy all the beauty it has to offer, no matter who wins. Now, how about those Vikings?

We just returned from our inaugural motorhome trip, which was a four-day visit to South Dakota’s Black Hills, including Mount Rushmore and Custer State Park. Mount Rushmore was something on HIS bucket list and mine included owning a motorhome, so we took care two of them in one year. I carefully planned which clothes to pack and our food  right down to the last crumb, since RVs don’t have a lot of storage space. I even remembered Barney the Chihuahua’s doggie bed and his favorite snack of peanuts. As  I cleaned and packed the motorhome, Barney sat in the passenger seat, enjoying the view and the sunshine from the wide windows. He was kind of surprised to find out that was MY seat when we started our adventure. The first few hours were not fun. We chose the windiest day of the year to leave, and it took brute strength to keep the motorhome on the road. HIS brute strength, not mine. My bucket list included owning a motorhome, not driving a motorhome. It didn’t help that with each mighty gust of wind, he would either say “Whoa!” or “Oh, @$&*!”  I held the little dog tightly in my arms, both for his nervousness and my own. Our first night was spent in a Walmart parking lot because overnight campers are welcome there and it was free. We like free. The next two nights were spent at a real RV park. After a morning at Mount Rushmore, we decided to explore the area. Did you know that there are mountains there? I didn’t, either, although you might think that the word MOUNT Rushmore would have given me a small clue. The roads were steep, narrow, and filled with tight tunnels that had been blasted through granite. There were hairpin curves everywhere, and I do mean really tight hairpin curves. The kind of hairpin curves where you look out the window and see gravel falling down the side of the mountain. The beautiful vista seen through the large windows of the RV is not quite as beautiful when looking straight down  while praying there would be no wind gusts to take us over the edge and into the abyss. I kept Barney tightly in my arms, because he kept trying to jump over and  sit on HIS lap, and for sure, HE needed both hands on the wheel. Despite a little nervousness on my part (HE wouldn’t admit to any), we had a wonderful trip that was way too short, and we learned a few lessons along the way: 1) The cost of gas for this short trip equalled the cost of staying in a  fine hotel, but was worth every penny. 2) The miniscule hot water tank in a motorhome does not give you the pleasure of a long shower. Be sure to wash the soap out of your hair first, or you may freeze to death before you’re finished. 3) There is almost nothing better than sitting around the campfire with your loved ones and  a warm sleepy  Chihuahua zipped up in your jacket. 4) If you feed the Chihuahua lots of peanuts, be prepared for more gas than what can be held in the large tank of a motorhome.  Not too pleasant, especially if the Chihuahua is zipped up snugly in your jacket. 

Obedience

“If you obey all the rules, you’ll miss all the fun.” ~Katharine Hepburn

I have never been one to follow all the rules 1oo%. Growing up, I was never really too naughty, I just liked to make my opinions known and to take things right to the edge and perhaps just a teeny tiny hair over that fine line between obedience and disobedience. I could tell you stories. I could, but I won’t, especially since by some miracle, I turned into a fine upstanding citizen, a fact that probably caused my parents to give a huge sigh of relief.  I even managed to argue with the rather conservative pastor of our church many years ago, who insisted I attend our pre-wedding classes BY MYSELF because my fiance was living 1000 miles away. I was supposed to envision how my husband-to-be would respond to different scenarios, then discuss and sharpen my problem-solving skills. Kind of hard, without the potential problem sitting in front of you. HE got off easy. I learned that he doesn’t necessarily follow the rules, either,  especially after confessing that he had his little brother fill out the initial questionnaire that the pastor mailed. I was supposed to call HIM and discuss matters after each class. I was supposed to…but I didn’t, and didn’t even worry that I would probably  head straight down to H-E-double-toothpick for lying to a Man of God by saying that I did. The main controversy between the pastor and I, after an initial smaller disagreement about my choice of songs for the wedding, was that I didn’t want the word OBEY anywhere in the ceremony. Pastor thought I should comply with the more traditional approach, but I insisted that I wasn’t going to obey my husband or anybody else. Back and forth we went, until we both gave in.  I agreed to make my songs a little more appropriate, he agreed to leave the offending word out of the vows. Compromise at last! Fast-forward to the happy day when in front of God and everybody, the pastor slipped in THAT WORD  during the Question of Intent. You know how it goes:  “Do you, future Farm Woman, take HIM….to love, honor, and OBEY…” What? Did I just hear what I thought I did? HE, knowing exactly what was supposed to be said, turned to me with a twinkle in his eye and waited to see what I would do.  I could have made a scene or even could have refused to answer until it was reworded,  but instead, I bit my tongue and meekly said, “I will.” To this day, 39 years later, HE can diffuse a disagreement in a second by reminding my of my long ago vow to obey. Right. Like THAT’s going to happen. We both start to laugh at the absurdity of it all, and that is a sure-fire way to stop an arguement in its tracks.  What HE doesn’t know is that right up there in front of God and everybody, standing at the alter, and hidden underneath that big bouquet of fall flowers, I had my fingers crossed. 

Many years ago, while picnicing with friends in Florida, I borrowed a metal detector and a treasure hunter was born. I had a wonderful afternoon sweeping the park area, coming up with a dime, two nickles, and a metal label from an old barbeque grill. When treasure hunting, it is sometimes more about the anticipation of finding a treasure than the actual treasure found.  It was all fun and games until the park rangers came and made us stop, and they were quite serious about it. Apparently, treasure hunting on state-owned property near the nation’s oldest city is frowned upon, and they threatened  confiscate our detectors as well as our finds.  Just like that, my dreams of finding a cache of ancient Spanish coins were gone in a poof of exhaust smoke. They were kind enough to let me keep the twenty cents, by the way. After that day, I was hooked. I researched and bought my own metal detector, reading testimonials from those who “paid for their metal detector in the first hunt” and from those who “found Civil War relics of museum quality.”  I found nothing, and by nothing, I mean NOTHING.  I brought it to the beach, hoping to find jewelry and coins from shipwrecks or at the very least, careless tourists.  I hauled it to the family farm property in Kentucky, hoping for Civil War relics, or even old pieces of metal from HIS ancestors. Nothing. I considered selling or donating the metal detector before we moved to Minnesota, but kept it because we bought an old farm, and I just knew there were treasures to be found. It took me a few months before I had the time to treasure hunt again, and decided to sweep the garden area before I planted one spring . Even though there were no beeps from the metal detector,   I managed  to trip over the rusty tine of a long-ago plow before I gave it up once again. This summer,  I decided to pull the old detector out of storage, this time to explore an old foundation on our property that at one time was an old barn. I’m not sure if the old barn fell down or burned down, but surely, there was something…ANYTHING to find, even of it were a handful of rusty nails. I spent a good hour sweeping the area with the metal detector, and although it was beeping loudly for a few minutes, it turned out to be nothing. At least I think it was nothing. I’m not done digging up the back yard yet. If anybody asks, I’ll just tell them that I’m putting in a new garden. It will be a lot more believable than saying that I’m hunting for buried treasure.