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. 


“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. 

We recently took our annual anniversary road trip. Last year I suspected something was going on, but this year I was certain that HE, my husband of 39 years, had another woman  in his life. I knew it to be true when the computerized female voice on the GPS unit said “In point seven miles, turn right”, and he said “Yes, dear.” When she directed him to “Turn right here”,  HE answered (and quite cheerfully, I might add) “I heard you, Baby.” Baby? And right in front of me, too!  After driving to our hotel in downtown Cleveland, Ohio, with HER directions and HIS answers for every twist and turn, I accused him of talking to her more than he talks to me. What’s worse, he wasn’t crabby to her at all.  I try to be a helpful navigator when we take our trips, even though most of the time I can’t find my way out of a wet paper bag on a rainy day.  I just don’t understand it. For some reason, HE never says “Yes, dear” to me when I offer helpful directions, comments about the speed limit,  possible missed turns, and gentle reminders of the red lights coming up ahead. In fact, if the truth REALLY were to be told, HE can be quite the old grouch. Sheesh. At least this other woman has a little bit of maturity on her, thank goodness, which is probably why she is not quite up to date on her maps or directions. At one point, she had us going around in circles in downtown St. Louis, Missouri, so he promptly pulled the plug to stop the persistant “Turn around when able” to shut her up. I almost pointed out the red light ahead and the fact that HE might miss it because he was going too fast, but thought better of it and kept my mouth shut. The 39th annual anniversary road trip was really nice, and I don’t want the plug pulled before the 40th. 

I’m beginning to feel like I should be on an episode of “Hoarding:  Buried Alive.”  You know the show…through the wonders of “reality” TV, we visit someone who has a house full of garbage and Lord only knows what is buried underneath.  We watch people climb over mountains of stuff and follow narrow pathways through living rooms into kitchens piled with dirty pots and pans. No, my house isn’t anything like that, thank heavens, but I do admit that watching it makes me feel a little better about my housekeeping skills.  Although HE may tell you that I have too much junk, my garage sale finds will be worth something someday and are carefully and artfully stuffed into the closets. You’ll be perfectly safe as long as you don’t open any doors. The buried alive part of my life that I’m talking about is the garden. Once the weeds started coming up faster than I could pull them, I threw in the trowel…and the hoe, for that matter.  I gave up. The weeds won. In reality TV, teams of helpers in hazmat suits clean up the mess and the homeowner always argues about what should stay and what should go. The only drama around here is that I can’t find the rake, and I know it is in there somewhere. The surprising thing is that buried in the waist-high weeds there are tomatoes, and lots of them. The ones I planted are easy to find because they are caged. Due to all the rain and warm temperatures,  there are also dozens of volunteer tomato plants growing tall,  some of which are even  bearing fruit. Getting a ripe tomato from a directly planted seed doesn’t happen very often in northern Minnesota, so I’m thinking that perhaps I’m a better gardener than I thought! The pumpkins and squash are growing like crazy, over and under and around the weeds. I’m not sure exactly what is there, but come first frost, I will either have two or 102 to harvest. There are cabbages, too. I know because I tripped over one, and it is ready to pick any time. I can’t find the celery, there were only a few cucumbers, and the green beans died an early death, but all in all, if there are veggies to pick, the gardening season was a success. Now if I could be just as successful with cleaning out these closets before the people in the hazmat suits arrive….


When we bought our little farm nine years ago, the large yard was filled with many weedy perennial beds, and I must admit, it still is.  Flower gardening is not my forte, and from the looks of the weeds in my other garden, neither is vegetable gardening. My colorful array of chickens are like flowers to me, and although I haven’t trained them to pull weeds, they love to scratch up the perennial beds looking for worms and bugs. Despite their digging and my lack of both skill and time, I have a riot of colorful flowers every spring and summer that outshine the weeds by far.  Old Mum, the oldest and my most favorite chicken died today. You knew her too, from the stories that I write, which are true, or at least 90% true. Sometimes the names must be changed to protect the innocent.   I would often find Old Mum peeping out from among the tall hollyhocks, their large leaves and flowers offering a bit of shade from the hot sun.  This summer, slowing down a bit, she stayed pretty close to the coop, watching for me out the window,  and if I didn’t feed her quickly enough, the feisty little banty would fly up on my shoulder and tell me to hurry it up. Due to a malformation in her beak, her food had to be in a dish or in a pile so she could pick it up, so I fed her separately from the others.  Old Mum preferred cracked corn and cottage cheese to layer mash, and the other chickens left her food alone most of the time, seeming to understand her age and disability. Either that, or they were afraid of her, as she tended to get a little feisty with them, too. The purple irises and Asiatic lilies are in full bloom in several beds in the front yard, but can’t compete with the hollyhocks in the back, which at their peak were as tall as the roof. Although slightly past their prime, they are still putting forth huge blooms of white, pink, and red against the back wall of the house and attract dozens of bees. I am so thankful that an old farmer and his wife planted these lovely flowers many years ago,  probably never dreaming that they would still be enjoyed years after they were gone.   The simple task of breaking open the seed pods each fall and spreading them along the south-facing wall ensures a spectacular show each summer, if Mother Nature cooperates. I buried Old Mum under my bedroom window, near the hollyhock garden, and covered her grave with the biggest and pinkest blooms I could find.