Thursday, November 26, 2020

Making Thanksgiving Memories

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you in the United States celebrating and to those outside the US, I hope your day is going well. Has it been a quiet day for any of you? Or has it been an eventful day with family and food and football and lots of noise? It is a very different Thanksgiving this year for many of us to say the least. While we did celebrate with a traditional turkey and all the fixings, we definitely had a more quiet thanksgiving than usual. About 10 days before Thanksgiving our state was issued a new Covid-19 executive order. Restaurants, bars and fitness centers have closed down for at least 4 weeks. And there is a mandate to prohibit gatherings of more than one household. Covid has been ramping up here in Minnesota. It took 6 months for the first 100,000 positive new cases originally. But it has only taken 42 days to add another 100,000 new cases. 

These new mandates had left many in a quandary regarding what to do for Thanksgiving. Do you comply and not allow anyone in and scale way down the cooking and prepping? Do you ignore the mandate that’s trying to keep the hospitalizations down and carry on as usual as in past years? Or do you find a safe happy medium that may still not be in compliance with the mandate, but hopefully will be a safe alternative? 2020 just keeps on being a whirlwind of trying to make sense of all the craziness going on. And this is just one more layer of icing on that 2020 cake. Thanksgiving in the past was never a life or death decision, it pretty much just amounted to figuring out what everyone would be bringing to eat and my mom’s reminder to my dad to not discuss politics with my uncle..

When I was a kid, we always had Thanksgiving at my grandma and grandpa’s house. There were their 3 kids and spouses and then us 13 grandkids scattered throughout the families. We had food beyond anyone’s imagination, turkey, homemade stuffing, corn pudding, gravy, side dishes of vegetables, squash, and pies. Several types of pies, and cookies in the shape of a turkey that my aunt would haul in by the gallon ice cream pails. To this day we all remember the turkey cookies. 

As the years went on and we grew up and had families of our own the numbers multiplied, but, we continued to go to my grandma’s. My grandpa had passed away several years before my grandma. As time went on, there were several friends from various family members with nowhere to go for Thanksgiving, they would wind up with an invitation from Grandma to come ot her house for the day. She never wanted anyone alone on a holiday and she would open her house up to our friends with no family in town. Her last Thanksgiving, there were 63 people in that small house! There were tables on her enclosed back porch, her front porch and every room in the house. We all had a place to sit and for the first time, there really wasn't an official designated “kid’s table”.The younger ones just sat in groups on the floor or wherever they could find a spot.  There were tables everywhere! And there was food, so much food and yet still leftovers for people to take home and enjoy the next day. My grandma welcomed all to her table. We would bless the food (in every denomination’s prayer that was represented. One year I think we had 5 different prayers) and then sit down for hours of eating, visiting, nibbling on desserts, putting away leftovers...and hauling them out to eat again before everyone started making their journey home. You never left my grandma’s house with an empty stomach. It was more like a ready to explode belly full of incredible food and treats.

Grandma has been gone for a long while. All of us that used to go there now have our own generations of families to share the holidays with together. And I do believe through the years we all have taken many of those traditions from grandpa and grandma’s house and thrown them into our own Thanksgiving traditions. There’s even some that still serve up the turkey cookies.

Whatever your day has looked like, I hope it was one that will be put in the memory bank of your mind to pull out in the years to come. Memories to think back on. Hopefully a day of giving thanks, however different it has been this year. Whether it was a great day with family, a quiet day with maybe zoom or skyping family not with you, or somewhere in between, just know today you were making memories that will carry on through the generations. 

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Grandma Always Said, "We will make do"

As I sit here this morning, looking out on the back field, the snow is once again coming down in a furry of flurries. The night before last, we had about 6 inches of an icy snowy mix. Our son was in from California for a few days to visit, so he was able to have a true Minnesota experience. When he arrived it was 67 degrees, when he left it was 27 degrees. 

Most of the family was home the other night for an evening of some crock pots of chili and cornbread. And an evening of playing music and singing with all the grandkids and kids. And along with that, a few innings of baseball in the slush until it got too hard to see the ball with all the snow coming down.

As the evening went on, it became obvious that our daughter and her 8 kids would be spending the night due to slippery and impassable roads. The roads were just too slick to make it the 35 miles north back to their house. Her husband fortunately had left earlier with the truck to get back home to care for the horses, goats and chickens they have.

While the 14 grandkids were ecstatic that a sleepover was going to happen, the adults were figuring out the logistics of it all. Where do you put an extra 9 people? We found all of the blankets in the house and doled them out to all of the kids. After a little conversation, we settled the 3 younger boys with their Uncle on the floor. They were ecstatic to sleep by the window and watch the snow coming down, pretending they were cowboys out on a cattle drive sleeping under the sky.

The girls all went downstairs to where our other son and family are currently living. There they shared beds and bunk beds. Most of the night they stayed awake and did makeovers on each other until they were told that 1am was a good time to call it a night.

The older boys commandeered the family room and tv, watching movies all night until they fell asleep around 2 am.

With everyone in their sleeping spot, I crashed into bed around 10, content to have almost all of the family home under one roof, and exhausted. I never woke to one of the little guys waking up looking for his mama. Luckily  his uncle walked him into where his mom was sleeping soundly with the 2 year old. We made it through the night with just a few minimal disturbances.

Morning came around 6 am, and I could hear the chatter and laughter coming from the other rooms. I sensed that it was going to be a long day with some really exhausted kids. But to my surprise, all was well and the kids were all in great moods, despite the lack of sleep they had. They’d get through being here and probably melt down when they got home. And at that point, not my problem.

Breakfast happened and the only thing I could find to make stretch for 18 people waiting to eat was a box of chocolate Malt-O-Meal cooked in the largest kettle I could find. Along with some chocolate chips, ice cream (to cool it down) and a squirt of whipping cream, it was their best breakfast ever. All sugar and minimal nutrition to be sure, but everyone got filled up in spite of being out of bread, milk and other breakfast food. We just had to make do as my grandma would say about living in the Depression years.

After everyone got shoveled out and left, and I dropped our son off to head back to California, I sat in the quiet of the house reflecting on the past few days and whirlwind of activities. I started to think all of the things that 2020 has brought to us in regards to having to “make do”. We’ve been on lockdown for several weeks at a time, wearing masks everywhere we go, and keeping 6 feet away from those we want to be around. We have been enduring a pandemic that is running rampant. We have stayed away from those that are at higher risk of getting Co-Vid to keep them safe. We have definitely been inconvenienced for a good part of 2020. But to be honest, for the most part, our family and friends have been riding it out just like we do in a typical Minnesota snowstorm or blizzard. We have made the best of situations we now find ourselves in and have hunkered down as needed.

We’ve settled for a bowl of Malt-O-Meal with some sugary toppings instead of the prime rib at a fancy restaurant. We have learned to make do.

What lies ahead for all of us in the future? It seems hard to know. Will there be another lock-down coming our way for a long period of time? A lockdown to try and flatten the rising curve again until a vaccine is readily safe and available? It is just too hard say what lies ahead for 2021.

The only thing I know for pretty certain is this...if it is asked of us, we can do it. 

Let’s make do with what we have and together ring in 2021. It has to be a load  better than 2020 going out. 

Under the Mask

I live with a partially deaf person. The love of my life was born with hearing in only one ear. And as the years have passed and with the daily wear and tear on his hearing, he has about 60-70% hearing loss. He does have bilateral hearing aids which are only as good as the person that will WEAR them. 

I have Tinnitus (the ringing in the ears), more like constant chirping in my ears. I have likened it to having about a million cicadas chirping right next to your ear. What I am finding, as I age, my hearing certain tones has diminished significantly. The audiologist report has shown that it is progressively getting worse. Hearing aids may help, they say, but at the cost of $3000, it is not a sure guarantee. Health insurance does not cover Hearing Aids. But that is a whole nother agenda as we boomers age.

So I have learned a few tricks to give me some relief from the chirping. Earbuds and music help in the wee hours of the night when the house is quiet and the only sound is the annoying chirping. During the day, there is usually enough white noise around that will distract it enough. Only when it is quiet as in the quiet of nature, will it be somewhat aggravating.

And then it is actually painful to hear that constant noise in my ears.

I have discovered that with my hearing loss, I have unconsciously relied on lip reading when in a place that I can not hear a person. I will look at their mouth and read their lips. And I never realized it until the age of Covid-19 and masking, how dependent I am on lip reading. My husband, at an early age, in school for the deaf and HOH was taught to rely on lip reading at a young age. Me, I have picked it up along the way as my hearing deteriorates.

With the virus running rampant and masking in public being required, this has presented a few problems for us. And I am sure many others who have hearing loss may be able to relate. Negotiating around in public with people masked is a challenge. No longer can you lip read what they are saying. With half of the face covered, along with the mouth covered, much of a person’s outward personality is no longer visible. The person talking to you, are they happy, are they upset, are they just hanging on by a thread…it is just hard to know.

Yes you can see into a person’s eyes and get a feel for their emotion, but without the lower half of the face you may never know. You miss out on their smile, their grimace, even their clenched teeth.

I have found myself, these days, trying to listen to a person speak under a mask. I’ve tried to not keep asking them to repeat themselves, unless I think it is important. I also find myself extremely on edge and tense trying with all my being to actually hear them and understand what they are saying. And I am finding this to be an exhausting task. I have gained much new empathy for people who are hearing impaired or totally deaf. 

Wouldn’t it be nice if all masks had a clear shield around the mouth so those that need it could see the face and read the lips? Or if all of us were taught from the moment we could learn, American Sign Language as a second language? But I have digressed.

What I really have been concerned about is our lack of being able to see the person in front of us as a whole person. In this day and age, we are separated enough. I want to be able to see a person’s smile again, see their total emotion on their whole face. I want so bad, to be able to see and hear what a person is saying to me without exhaustion setting in. WIll this come soon?  I don’t know.

But for now, I am hoping we all can abide with the masking mandate for the good of all of us. It is an inconvenience for many and an actual disability for others. I hope we can all be on board as a nation to knock down this awful, debilitating and life-changing virus.

Let’s all pitch in and do our part. And if you come across a person that looks confused or maybe aloof as you speak to them, please understand it may be that they just aren’t hearing you as you speak. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Election Day in the USA

Today is election day here in the United States. We are voting to re-elect the current president or vote in a new one. This is a day that sparks so much emotion for me every time it comes around. And this year is no different for me, except the possibility that I am watching history being made in a new way. Voter registration is up alot this time around. In Illinois alone, it is reported that voter registration is up 400%! Is it just that more people are out telling people to vote and assisting them to register? I’m not sure.

I tend to believe more people across the country are seeing a new urgency and are being called to vote this year. Maybe in past years, there wasn’t such a feeling of this urgency.

The news is filled with Rallys, speeches, town hall discussions, and commercials stating why we need to vote for a certain candidate. This candidate will lower my taxes, but so will the other one according to their commercial. This one can’t be trusted...but neither can this one. And on and on it goes until my head is spinning out of control. It is no wonder that most of us can’t think or talk about anything else these days.

Over the past several months, as the candidates ramped up their campaigns, one thing is for certain, I needed to do some homework as to who I wanted to vote for. There are many openings besides just for the president of the US.

This year as a result of Covid, and the thought that there were going to be many more people voting, we decided to vote absentee ballot style. We vote in a tiny little old school house that just a few years ago got propane heat instead of stoking the woodstove. It can hardly  hold 20 people at a time pre-Covid days. But now with social distancing the maximum capacity would be closer to 10-12 people. That, along with a premonition that it is going to be  a record turnout this year got us voting absentee. We just din’t want to have to wait in a line outside that angled its way to the highway. Not in November, with cold and snow.

A few Sundays ago, me and the love of my life, pulled up to the kitchen table with a mug of our favorite hot drink,, our laptops and our ballots  in hand.  We had all the time in the world that morning to figure out who we were going to vote for. We were able to look each candidate up online and get a feel for what they stood for. We did this from presidential candidates all the way down to members of the school board. While we both had an idea of who we were going to vote for on our ballots, it was nice to reaffirm what each candidate stood for. 

When it was all said and done, we filled out our ballots, put them in the designated envelopes and took them to the mailbox in town. And we were able to track them to make sure they will get counted. Just as when I would pull the voting arm in person, the emotions began to flow through me as we mailed our absentee ballots.

Everytime I cast my vote for how I would like my country to be run, I get teary-eyed and full of goosebumps. I am reminded of my two grandmas who didn’t have the opportunity to vote in their early years because they were women, but then got the right to vote when the 19th amendment was passed. That was not that long ago. My one grandma always told us grandkids that we must vote and if we didn’t we would have to keep our mouths shut and not complain how the government was run. My grandmas both were wise women. I vote because I honor them in so doing.

And I think of my family members who fought in the military to keep our country free and working for all of us because we have the right and the duty to vote. They all came home from the wars, but some are still fighting inner wars from their tours of duty.

And lastly, I have grandkids that count on me and their parents to vote to keep this country working for all of its citizens, regardless of our views and walks in life.

So yeah, voting makes me emotional, it is just that important. 

If you haven't already, please go out and vote for a better country and a better world. Tell them Sue sent you.