Sunday, July 25, 2021
Sunday, July 18, 2021
Sitting here at the kitchen table this morning, I’ve been watching some of the grandkids playing out back in the field. At first they were just running around wildly chasing each other, but now it looks like they are organizing some soccer drills and what eventually will become a game I am guessing. Watching the older kids with their 6 year old little brother brought me back to when I was a kid. I am the youngest of three kids. I have two older brothers by a few years. I followed them everywhere I was allowed when I was younger. And the great thing was that they would usually let me tag along with them. They taught me how to throw a ball, catch a ball, get hit by a ball, how to skate, how to use a hockey stick, how to ride a two wheeled bike and crash gracefully into trees and not cry or tell mom. All the important things in life of a kid growing up in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s. I idolized and adored my two brothers back then. And still do to some extent now that we are older. But they are a little more geeky now that we are all adults.
We were raised in the city where playgrounds existed about every mile away, but they were rarely used by the kids in our neighborhood unless they were on a rec team. We had the back alley which literally was an old wagon trail that moved the military troops west in the 1800’s. It was a wide and crooked tarred perfect place to play baseball. At least as long as we only had 1st and 3rd base and home plate, which were pieces of old cardboard boxes cut in the shape of the bases and home plate.
The neighborhood was full of large Catholic families which all averaged about 5-7 kids per family, basically always enough for 2 teams. Most of the kids were boys that were my brother’s ages, at least it always seemed that way from my kid sister point of view. While I didn’t get to go with my brothers every time they went out to play, they did let me tag along often times to go to the alley and play baseball. I’d take my hand-me-down right-handed glove (even though I was left handed) and chase after them with all the other boys from the neighborhood to the middle of the alley where we would play baseball a good part of the day.
There all the wooden bats, and cardboard for bases and the one ball would be dropped in Mr. Hanson’s parking spot. The bases would be set out after discussion about the precise distance and then teams would be picked. I never was picked for a team, because as I was always told, I was going to be ever-lasting catcher. So in a way, I was on both teams.
As awful as ever-lasting catcher may sound, it thrilled me to get to be included. I was about 6years old and the only little kid allowed, and the only girl. Being ever-lasting catcher meant that for hours I would stand behind home plate and another bigger kid that was playing catcher and not let the ball get past me if it got past the real catcher. It was hard work, I mean really hard work. Behind home plate, in that crooked alley was a pretty good slope down to the street a half block away. And the street was sloped down to the corner where the sewer hole was. If a pitch came in hard and fast and the catcher missed and then I missed, I would have to scramble down the alley, in hopes of getting the ball, or it would be to the street, to the sewer hole and get the ball before it went down the sewer! After a few times of chasing the ball and everyone annoyed at having to stop the game, I learned to catch that ball often. And my brothers would practice throwing balls at me to dive for when we weren’t playing in the alley. A lot of ball was played in that winding crooked alley.
When winter came all of the boys were hockey players on school teams and rec teams. Girls weren’t allowed to play hockey on teams back then. But we were pretty fortunate, because we had a neighborhood rink that took up the two backyards of the neighbors next door to us. The neighborhood dads would get together and flood their yards every winter and in the spring others would get together and repair any yard that was hacked up. I was a little older when I was finally allowed to play hockey with the boys at the rink. When it was Winter in the neighborhood, we lived and breathed hockey. When they weren’t at their games, the neighbor boys would all skate and play at the neighbors rink.Everyone was welcome to skate at the rink, even if the kid who lived there wasn’t home. We would just knock on their back door and ask if they could turn on the floodlights so we could play. Imagine 15 or more kids in your yard and not one of them is your own. But that was how it was back then. No worries of injuries and lawsuits. No concerns of destruction. And if you messed up, any parent was free to give you a talking to as your own mom or dad would do.
I would come home from school, get a quick snack, and strap on my white figure skates. My dad drew the line at his daughter wanting hockey skates back then. This was decades before girls hockey teams came into existence, so I once again was the only girl out there with a rink full of boys older and bigger than me. And once again there was a catch to me being able to play hockey with the boys.
Because I had girls figure skates with the jagged front edges, I was only allowed to play... you guessed it...ever-lasting goalie. They insisted my skates chopped up the ice too bad. Try as I did, I couldn’t convince them that I didn’t skate or stop on my jagged toes. My big brothers would have been appalled if I did. But I wanted to play hockey so bad, that I resigned myself to ever-lasting goalie every day all the time. The boys were really good skaters, and players. They skated so well and dribbled that puck so fast it was hard to see it sometimes. But that isn’t too incredible, afterall, all of us were on skates about the time we could walk. We were from MInnesota where hockey was a big thing.
While I was happy to not have to chase a ball down the alley to the street and catch it right before it went down the sewer, being goalie had its own challenges. Mainly it was how to keep taking hit after hit from the puck to my shins. The boys didn’t cut me any slack and they would fire their slap shots at me all night long. I had welts and bruises the size of a hockey puck all over my shins. If it was nowadays and I was in school, there would be someone asking me if I felt safe at home. I looked pretty beat up. It was pretty painful, but I wasn’t going to say anything so I could keep playing. Then I got a great idea.
I was sitting at home and looking through my dad’s Field and Stream magazine and it came to me. I knew since I wasn’t allowed hockey skates, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be allowed shin guards either. So I grabbed a couple of National Geographic magazines and black tape we used to tape our hockey sticks with and taped the magazines around my legs as shin gaurds. I took my goalie stick and started hitting my shins, and it worked! I put on my snowpants and skates and went to the rink next door to take my spot as ever-lasting goalie.
I became fearless with my new protection. Let those slap shots nail me over and over again, it didn’t hurt. And then it happened. One of the older boys who was really, really good started skating in to shoot at me. I followed him, I moved right and then left to protect the net and then he took his shoot. It was the hardest slap shot ever and I got my stick out in front of me, but forgot in all the excitement to hold my stick straight up and down like my big brothers taught me. And it happened...the puck hit the stick and slid right up in the air into my mouth. While I had a moment of excitement that he didn’t score the goal, I then immediately saw blood all over the rink and my jacket. It was mine. No one ever thought of mouth guards back then for backyard hockey. The neighbor kid grabbed some snow and put it on my mouth. He commented that it was a good save but I had slanted my stick and that’s why it went into my mouth. I just nodded my head.
We sat there for a few minutes and the bleeding didn’t seem to be stopping. My lip had swollen to the point where it looked like the puck was lodged in my mouth. I tried talking and it sounded like the puck was in my mouth. Luckily my teeth were all still properly located and not loose. I had to run to the house to get the bleeding to stop. By the time I walked across the two yards and was coming in the back door, the bleeding had pretty much stopped. I was met at the door by my Dad who had just gotten home from work. He took one look at my lip and said it was time to hang up my skates for the night. In my swollen lip, hockey puck still in the mouth sort of way, I begged him to let me finish out the game until supper time. He looked at my lip, checked my mouth and teeth and let me go back out for a little longer. And he told me not to slant my stick.
That night after I came in, as I was sipping some soup through a straw and watching the Minnesota North Stars play hockey. I thought about how cool it would be to play on a professional team...or any rec team or school team for that matter. I was disgusted that girls weren’t allowed to play hockey. Although I never got to live that dream because I was a girl, the one who slammed that puck in my mouth that day did go on to play for the University of Minnesota and then the Minnesota North Stars and the New York Rangers.ANd that is my only claim to sports fame. Yep, I knew him when I could stop his goals with my goalie stick...and my mouth.
Sunday, July 11, 2021
Sunday, July 4, 2021
I’ve realized as I gotten older how much my dislike for shopping has intensified. While I have never been an enthusiastic shopper for anything, over the past few I have realized how much I hate going into stores to shop. I just have no desire to get into the minivan, drive 20 miles to the nearest store and walk around aimlessly looking at stuff. It pretty much is the last thing I want to do, aside from cleaning the toilets after the little grandsons have been around for the day.
For me to go shopping it is more like a hunting expedition. I go into the store knowing what I need, I spot it, claim it, bag it, tag it and go home. Done deal.
We have had out of state friends and family visit and when planning what to do for adventure, it always seems that a visit to the Mall of America is on their list. Yep, the biggest mall in America with over 4 miles of store fronts, a place that can fit 7 Yankee stadiums inside it. They always want to go see that. For me...I’d rather clean the toilets after a solid week of the little boys using it.
But it never fails, we load our visitors up and take the trip down to the Cities to see MOA. We find one of the 12,550 parking spots, leave a phone with the “Find My Friends” app on it in the car so we can find our way back when we are done. We have literally spent a tortuous 9 hours going from store to store to watch people shop or just browse. Meanwhile I will volunteer to wait in the mall area with all the bags that accumulate. At least there I can people watch and see everyone mesmerized by the vastness of the place. And every once in a while, a fellow non-shopper, bag watcher like me, will sit down and just give me the knowing look..like “yep out of towners are visiting, so here I am too”. There’s an unspoken bond that forms for those few minutes of non-verbal interaction.
I have over the past 3 or so years become an avid online shopper. It is the ultimate thrill for us non-shoppers to be able to pull up a seat at the kitchen table with a mug of tea and a laptop. It is almost magical to be able to sit there all alone in my sweats “shopping”. There is no one blocking an aisle, no need for ankle guards from those who ram their shopping carts into the backs of my legs. No need to mask, or worse yet, be around those who don’t mask and are hacking up their lungs alongside you. There is a certain amount of joy in sitting at the kitchen table shopping for the groceries. No longer do I buy stuff because I can’t remember if we are out of it or not. I can just go to the cupboard and look.
No longer do I have to unload all the groceries to check out, and then bag them all up, put them in the cart and pile them into the minivan, only to do the reverse once I am home. Nope, I order, I drive up and it is all bagged and loaded up for me. I just have to get it all inside the house and unload and put away just once. How cool is that? When I started doing this about 3 years ago it was a game changer in the way I go shopping.
And even better there is Amazon....my non-grocery one stop shopping experience. Just type in what I am looking for and a long list of items with descriptions and prices will come up. I have become a browser. Once again from the kitchen table I can look at the choices of what I need, read the reviews and see if it is what I am looking for. Heck I can go and google the item for in depth reviews. In 2 clicks of my mouse I can order an item and a few days later it is in my hands.
Once the item is delivered and I have opened it, I can still decide if I want it or not. This is the greatest part of Amazon in my opinion. I can return an item, no questions asked. Just 2 clicks of the mouse again and drop it off at UPS. Returning stuff to stores usually makes me feel guilty somehow. I feel like the store people maybe think I stole it or broke it or whatever. I’m sure my body language says all there is to say about how insecure I feel returning stuff. Over the years I have to say that I rarely if ever return stuff to stores. I have convinced my Best Half that it was in our marriage vows that he would do all store returns and I would teach the kids to drive. This has made for a long and happy marriage albeit a little scary taking curves with the third born child in the learner’s permit days.
Amazon seems to work pretty well with ordering stuff, getting it and deciding after you receive it if it is worth keeping or not. When I return stuff, I usually just put it on a balance on the account. I figure I will eventually use it for something. And the return is quick, usually within an hour of dropping it off at UPS.
The other day as I was doing an Amazon return, I started thinking...wouldn’t it be great if life was like an Amazon account? Just order up your life experience, have it delivered to you without any work or fuss. Decide if you want it or not. If it fits you comfortably, keep it. If it is not what you thought it would be, 2 clicks of the mouse and it is out of your life.
But then I thought the better of that. There are so many things in life that maybe started out as a struggle only to make me a better person in the end. For it really is because of the “no returns” in life that we all have to work on becoming better than the original purchase. Here’s to life experiences. May we all learn and grow from them and not be able to make an easy return...just like EBAY.
Thursday, July 1, 2021
Hi It’s Sue from Solid Rock Minnesota wishing you all a happy July 1st. Summer is flying by fast and soon it will be State Fair time. Heck we are only a few weeks away from the snow season.
So let’s enjoy Summer.
We have started a contest over on the Solid Rock Minnesota website. We are mailing and giving away free Solid Rock Minnesota bumper stickers around the country. To enter the contest all you need to do is take a picture of where you have your bumper sticker and post it on the website. Around the first week in August we will have you all vote on the best location or picture of your bumper sticker placement. The winner will receive a $15 Amazon gift card from Solid Rock Minnesota.
If you need a bumper sticker, just message us here or over on the website at www.solidrockminneosta.com and we will mail you one out free of charge. Just our way of saying thanks for listening, encouraging and supporting us.
Take care everyone and for those in the USA, have a safe 4th of July!
Sunday, June 27, 2021
Sunday, June 20, 2021
We were pretty excited that after a long year of being homebound, due to Covid, we can finally head out and do some traveling. Our first venture out post Covid, we decided, was going to be to take the camping trailer to a State Forest up near the Canadian border. There is a beautiful place right on a lake that we had been to several years ago. Warm days and cool Northern nights, no better weather to be in after the incredible heat of the past 3 weeks.
Way back in April my Best Half put in for vacation time and the preparations began once the snow was off the ground in May. We have a smaller camping trailer we bought used 3 years ago for a much anticipated trip to the Big Bend National Park in Texas. We knew there were a few things needing to be worked on in the trailer and we set out to fix them one by one. Fortunately the air conditioning was not one of them as the heat was in the triple digits most of our time down in Texas. We could at least have some cool relief while sleeping at night. You really don’t want to mess with a Minnesotan that has not slept because of temps being over about 75 degrees at night. We can get pretty sleep deprived and all out ornery. It is best to just stand back or walk away for your own well-being.
While we were there, at Big Bend, we discovered more “fixes” were needed just to make the trailer liveable and not just a metal box where we were sleeping. There were water lines to the shower not working, the hot water heater leaked, the siding had fallen away from the front of the trailer on the way down (Gorilla tape is an awesome temporary fix for many things and it worked for the siding). And on the way home in Arkansas we had a tire blow out. That wouldn’t have been too bad, but at the time “Mr. Fix-it” had a cast on his right hand and was totally unable to get the lug nuts loosened. We were on an entrance ramp somewhere 10 miles from the nearest town when along came Arkansas Jim. He was an elderly man who took pity on us. Seeing the casted hand he took the socket and cranked on the lug nuts and got them off, only to realize the tire we thought was the spare didn’t match up with the trailer. While I stayed back at the trailer, with the 2 dogs, the two of them went up the road 10 miles to Walmart to get a new tire. In the hour or so they were gone there must have been 15-20 people stopping to see if I needed help. Arkansas, you have my vote for friendliest state in the US. Thanks to Mr. Jim and his kindness and efforts we were back on the road and eventually home with no more trouble from the “damn camper” as it had been nicknamed.
By the time we were home, we had a good sized list of “fixes” the camper needed to be safe and road ready. The entire kitchen side had no electrical power working, more hose lines for the water needed looking at, the hot water heater needed replacing and worst of all, the fridge did not work on any power source, electric, battery or propane. All were fixed except the fridge as the cost to replace was really expensive and it was decided to just use it as a cooler and put buckets frozen with ice in it. So over the past year,while stuck at home due to Covid, we got all the fixes done. I should say My Best Half got all the fixes done, I just watched from a distance to stay out of the way.
So the other day we were all packed up and ready to go on our maiden camping trip of this year with the fixed camper. We set out about 6AM hoping to get to our destination about noon, with a few stops along the way. The drive was beautiful and there was a cool breeze off the shores of Lake Superior. There were tons of fishing boats out there and I reminded myself of my longing to someday go salmon fishing out there with a hired guide. It was beautiful and slowly all the hassles of the “damn camper” seemed to melt away. And we both sat back into the van and got lost in conversation about what we will do and where we will go come December when my Best Half retires after 38 years at the medical facility where he works. As we got further North the scent of the pines filled the air. It was like Christmas time when you bring the Christmas tree in the house and the deep natural pine smell permeates the air. Just like that only magnified 1000 times. I don’t think there is a better scent than that.
As we pulled into the campground and started driving the circle of campsites, we realized that over the past few years they had started taking reservations. All the sites were reserved, each one that we came to. Just as we were discussing Plan B (which we didn’t have), we found the last site and it was open for the days we would be there. And it turned out to be the same site we had stayed at years before. I was thinking, it must be Karma, a sign it was going to be a great few days. The site was huge, tucked in beneath the towering pines with the shore of the lake right by the fire ring. There was a path right into the water and the beach area was sloping out with no drop offs, just a pebbled beach to wade into. Absolute perfection.
We grabbed the site before anyone else came along and started the process of backing the camper into the site. After many hand signals and me waving my arms on which way to go, and my Best Half just throwing his hands in the air as I tried to guide him into the site, we made it. Backing a camper as a couple is not for those in a weak or vulnerable relationship. Many a marriage has come close to reaching the breaking point with trailer backing. Over the years, I have seen many a marriage teetering on domestic fighting throughout campgrounds in the US. And I am not ashamed to admit it that in our early years it could have been us. But now we have a system that consists of my Better Half stating, “Remember if you can’t see me, I can’t see you”, and me flailing my arms with directions knowing they won’t be taken into consideration at all. We have perfected our method and it works.
So with the camper in place, the chairs set out by the fire pit and the dogs having a well deserved swim, we went to the camper. I made lunch and then we decided after getting up early a nap was in order. Afterall we were on vacation. For an hour or so the only noise you could hear was the Lab snoring. I couldn’t take any more of the doing nothing so went down to the lake and cast my line, again and again only to catch a perch about the size of a goldfish. I love to fish, but at some point, I love to actually catch fish. I had enough casting time so went on to get some firewood for the campfire and suppertime.
In the State Forest you need to gather your own firewood, unlike the State Parks where they sell it by the bundles. We went across the road and looked at the downed firewood...and all the green that surrounded the downed firewood. The forest floor was covered with leaves of 3...poison ivy. Yeah, it was covering the entire area. We looked at each other and agreed I should try out the stove in the camper. So the steaks I had brought to flame broil over the fire got put in a pan and fried. With no seasoning as I forgot to pack that. And forks, I forgot to pack forks. The only thing in the camper were “sporks”, you know those things that look like a spoon with jagged edges on the ends? KFC sporks. Our supper consisted of soupy watery rice and not too tender steaks eaten with sporks.
I started to clean up and turned on the water in the kitchen sink. As I was washing the plates my feet began to feel wet and then soaked. A water line had burst open under the sink and water was gushing through the cabinets and under the sink. It was soaking wet on the carpeted area. Two bath towels couldn’t contain all the water. Yep the “damn camper” had done it again...another fix needed.
We sat there in silence with our soaked rug and feet and then the question was asked, “A penny for your thoughts?”. Trying to gather my thoughts, I finally blurted out, “I’m not really into camping much anymore. We live in the country, surrounded by nature, not much noise to speak of and no business around us. We have space with no one around us except deer, bears, coyotes and eagles to look at when sitting out on the deck. If I want a campfire, it is right by the house with a load of wood stacked ready and waiting to be burned. I can see the stars and the milky way on a clear night. I can canoe or kayak a few miles down the road and go fishing and catch all the fish I want. I like to travel and see new places and then move on. I’m just not sure I am wanting to sit here for the next 3 days when I could be home doing the same thing with running water and a dry floor.
Leave it to my Better Half, he looked at me and said he kind of felt the same way. He loved hanging out at home on his days off and doing stuff around home. In a matter of minutes, we packed up the campsite, loaded up the dogs and at 7 pm headed home. We got home, showered and were in bed sleeping by midnight.
I guess the last year of hunkering down at home because of Covid we learned to be ok and content in our daily surroundings. We have more here than we could ever wish for out on the road. We still want to travel and explore when retirement comes in December, but for now there is a contentment knowing that everything we want or need is right here. For the next few days, we are on vacation and will enjoy every minute of every day here at our home.