Sunday, September 19, 2021

America...You've Become Such A Habit With Me

We have a daughter that has been in the Air Force for about the last 11 years. Since joining, she has been stationed in a variety of places such as Texas, California (where she met her Marine husband), Okinawa,(where our grand-daughter was born), Arizona and as of right now, Spokane Washington. We have been fortunate to visit her at all her locations, except Okinawa.That was just a little farther than we could go. Over the years we have made several trips to visit her and her family. 

Over the past 3 years we have made attempts to go visit them and several things have gotten in the way. Things that are totally out of our control, such as transfers from Tucson to Spokane, and our biggest hurdle, Covid. Covid-19 confined us to our house for the most part of 2020, if not our home, our state. There was no travel advised or allowed. When we got our vaccinations we had high hopes of traveling again. And for the most part traveling is allowed again. We just carry masks whenever we leave the vehicle. Especially since it has been over 6 months since the vaccine happened and the effectiveness may be wearing out, I am more cautious. As for my Best Half, he wound up with Covid after his vacination and his antibodies are pretty efficient now, so he is feeling fearless, but still cautious.

But finally it has happened. We packed up the van, and set out for Washington state to see the family. Our grand-daughter has doubled in age since last seeing her in person. While Skype and FaceTime are great for keeping in touch, there is nothing that compares to a “hold you tight in my arms while tearing up at how big you are” grandma hug to my grand-daughter. For 4 days we can focus all our attention on her and her parents until we leave to head home. 

The drive out to Spokane was for the most part uneventful, driving all day and part of the night just to get there so we could spend time together before school started and the parents had to go back to work. We drove from sunrise until dark, which now is about 8 PM. At that point it got too hard to watch out for deer and other critters that go bump in the night. That is one of the things a Minnesotan is well aware of, animals on the highway. Every Minnesotan either has hit a deer or racoon on the road, or knows someone who has. It is typical to see several piles of roadkill on the highway by our house. Now picture the open range of North Dakota or Montana and you can see why we stopped driving in the dark. We pulled into rest areas on the way out. Our goal was to drive like crazy to get to Spokane and then take our time heading back home by way of Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons.

Every time we travel, I am always made aware of how incredibly vast and different our country is. And I am humbled at how small I am in the greater scheme of things. To my grandkids I am “Grandma who can do about anything and is really smart”. But looking out on the prairie watching the speck of a deer grazing off in the distance gives me pause to reflect on how small and insignificant I am in comparison to this vastness.

Along the 3400 mile journey, I watched as the woodlands turned to prairie and plains, and after some rolling hills along the rivers it turned into the Badlands which made me wonder if that was what the landscape of the moon may be like with the deep craters spanning the land. As we drove on, I could see the snow capped mountains and again I was just a speck in the greater scheme of this incredible creation. Each mile that we traveled changed in shape and form and color. I just sat there in the van speechless and in awe of the beauty and variety we have in our country. We can go from woodlands to prairie to craters and desert, and then to mountains and the ocean all in a few days' drive. I mean how cool is that. And it is no wonder I felt like such a speck within this incredible creation.

With the ever changing and diverse landscape we found along the journey, so are the people who live in the US. We met many people and had conversations about the price of gas, the changes in our culture since Covid hit, and just friendly conversations about life in general. What did I learn from that? Mostly that although as different as the landscape where we all live, we are all a part of this place called the United States of America. We are all survivors of all we have been through over the years: wars, gas prices, droughts, floods, hurricanes and Covid-19. 

I am reminded of an old Waylon Jennings song called “America          


“Some have said down through history

 If you last, it’s a mystery.

But I guess they don’t know what they’re talking about.

From the mountains, down to the sea

You’ve become such a habit with me.


Stay Safe Everyone

Sunday, September 12, 2021

End Times for the "Guzzler"


   The past 2-3 months have been spent trying to get road ready for when my Best Half retires this winter. Our plan is to take a few weeks every so often throughout the year and do some cross country travel. It maybe will even be a matter of throwing down a dart at a map to see where to go. 

For traveling from one place to another, such as the kids’ homes, we can pretty much take the minivan or conversion van and just drive straight through to get where we are going. Cheaper, faster and less fuss with packing. But when retirement happens, we will have time to stop and see things along the way and maybe even take some detours along the way if we see something interesting. With that plan, we want some type of RV. And so the dilemma continues.

A month or so ago we bought a Class A motorhome that we thought was the ticket to our extended travels. But after driving it 300 miles and spending $200 in gas we both finally realized that with “The Guzzler” as it became known, we couldn’t even make it to the Iowa border for less than about $350. As beautiful as that RV was, it just wasn’t going to work. As one person put it to us regarding driving a motorhome, “ If you have to ask what kind of mileage an RV gets, you can’t afford one”. That person was wise.

The decision was made to sell “the Guzzler'' even before we had the title back from the DMV. So I put an ad in Marketplace and on CraigsList to sell it. The goal was to try to get at least what we paid for it and possibly the cost of the fuel pump repair we had invested into it. There was nothing mechanically wrong with it that we knew and it was in great shape inside and everything worked so hopefully the RV would sell itself. 

I went around and took outside pictures and inside pictures of every corner, nook and cranny from various angles. I was honest about everything and why we were selling it when I put the ad in with the pictures. There is nothing worse than people who leave out or don’t tell the truth about stuff they are selling. But I knew there would be the doubters and just had to accept that there would be those that weren’t really even interested in buying the RV, but just wanting to come “kick the tires”. Anytime you put an ad to sell something, you may as well plan to spend a lot of time answering questions with people messaging you and giving up your time because people want to come out and see it. 

The ad was in about an hour when the requests for more information and pictures were wanted, and there were numerous people wanting to come look at “The Guzzler”. There were the usual ones saying they would buy it sight unseen if I would do paypal or whatever else way to buy online. But I had been specific in the ad that no holds, and cash only was how this worked in my world.

A few days went by and I got about 20 messages a day with interested people wanting to see the RV. But in actuality only about 4 out of the 15 that said they were coming really came out to look at it and test drive it. Because it was a weekend when I listed it, no one had the immediate cash on them. So many said they’d call the following Monday after going to the bank. Of course I have to say, I took all of those people saying they were coming back with a grain of salt. Rarely does that happen in the greater scheme of selling stuff on Marketplace. 

When after the weekend, no one showed up like they said they would, I deleted all my messages and decided to start over fresh on Monday. Meanwhile, my Best Half had a message and people were coming out that evening to look at the RV. Sure I thought, just more tire kickers to ruin my evening waiting for them to not show up.

Right at 7 PM a car drove up the driveway and it was the couple that had said they were coming out to look. So far so good I thought. They are actually here and even on time. They probably will look for 10 minutes and drive away. I’ll maybe even have time to watch the baseball game...even if they are bound to lose again. 

They went through and looked at every possible thing they could find, fired it up and took it for a drive and came back. I was all set to head into the house when they actually made an offer on the RV. A ridiculously low offer, but nonetheless an in person offer. I kind of smiled and gave them a price that we could sell it at which was nowhere near their offer. But the Minnesota nice negotiations had begun. They talked about the generator needing fixing and I countered that was why it was priced lower than most in the first place. They wanted to see the awning and while we opened it and they were looking at it from the underside, they started saying it was almost worn out. Being that the awning was only a year old, I knew they were just trying to find anything to bargain with. I invited them to look at the top side of the awning to see it wasn’t even faded. They said’ “Ope, I guess that was water dripping, we thought it was worn spots”. I finally had had enough of their shenanigans and did the most “Un-Minnesotan” thing a person can do. I up front asked them ,” Do you want to buy it for the price we are asking or not?”. I figured I had a list of people interested and someone eventually would take it. I may have surprised them a bit, but the next thing I knew they were counting out multiple 100 dollar bills into my Best Half’s hand. And off they drove into the sunset with “The Guzzler”. 

And on to our next attempt for an RV for us. We found a small ultra-light camper we can pull with about any vehicle. While it is a pull behind camper, we both agree it looks more like a small Minnesota cabin in its style. It has a bed, a kitchenette, a booth and table and bathroom with a shower. It is just all that we really need. Small, easier on gas and looks like a Minnesota cabin. It’s maybe not what we set out originally to look at, but it is exactly what we need. Not sure what we will name this little beauty...maybe the Jagger (from the Rolling Stones song…”You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime, you just might get what you need”). Here’s hoping.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Our 6 MIles to the Gallon Home on Wheels

 Well it has been a few weeks since getting the used Class A RV. We drove it home 140 miles and parked it for a few days while I shampooed the carpet, with the intent to replace it with laminate flooring next year.

The other night we headed up to see our daughter and the little ones while the rest of her family was playing softball for their church league. As we were getting ready to head to their house, I suggested we take the RV. We were going to drop off the minivan for them to use for a few days while their big van was being fixed. So off My Best Half went in the RV and I left in the minivan to first pick up some tacos to bring up to the little guys. 

We arrived about the same time and proceeded to show our daughter and her 3 little boys the RV. They were all amazed at the size and layout of it. The little guys took turns in the driver’s seat pretending to drive it, while my daughter and I were sitting on the couch talking about the anticipated trips we would be taking. Meanwhile the owner of the rare beauty was walking around the exterior looking at it and finding more things it had, like an outside shower and more storage.

We ate tacos and visited for a bit and then decided to head home. I left the van keys with our daughter as I hopped in the passenger seat of the RV and gazed out the massive window. I was excited to drive home and get a feel for the RV. Afterall, I only got to ride in it during our “test drive” before we bought it.

We drove down the mile of bumpy driveway from their place and got on to the gravel road which led us finally to the paved county road. I was just starting to settle in for the half hour drive home when the RV started sputtering and chugging and losing power. We limped to the side of the road just as it chugged one last time. Oh great, already a problem. We just looked at each other, and could read each other's mind…”well here we go, so much for any fun plans with this beast”. It was really hot and humid out and we just sat there a few minutes in silence, an anguished silence.

Trying to restart it was a futile attempt to admit the obvious. Realizing, too late, the gas gauge was not accurate we were out of gas. So I called our daughter and asked if she could bring a gas can and meet us up on the road. She had just gotten the 3 little guys in the tub so it would be a few minutes. That was fine, it gave us more time to dwell on the RV being on the side of the road broken down.

She came charging up in the minivan with the 3 little guys in tow all excited to rescue their grandpa and grandma from any sort of danger that may happen on the side of the road. They all climbed in the dead RV while my Better Half went the 3 miles to the gas station to fill the 4 gallon gas can. 

He made it back and put the gas in, but of course it wasn’t enough for a 60 gallon tank, so went back for another round of gas to put in the RV. Fingers crossed we got in and went to start it. Nope it wasn’t going to start. By now we were thinking the fuel pump was shot. Our daughter, having gone through a bad fuel pump on their truck, told us that banging on it while someone started it would get it going. At least according to her mechanic when they broke down. So she went under the RV with the only thing we had to tap it with...the fire extinguisher. Sure enough the RV sputtered and then started. She rolled away from underneath and hopped in, meanwhile I was in the van with the boys. The RV roared briefly and went about 100 feet before it died again. This time there was no pounding that was going to revive it. From trying to start it the battery was now dead.

It was time to call AAA and get it towed into our mechanic to get a new fuel pump. Out of the wallet came the AAA card and they were called. There was no talking to a real live human, everything with AAA is now automated. So after many directions to push this number for that and press the # button for this, we finally got the call finished with a text back they were on their way. So I drove our daughter and kids back and came back to the RV to wait for the tow truck. It was about 8:00 pm. And so we waited, and waited and a text came that the truck would be there around 10:30. I decided I would take the van home and meet up down the road from our house once it was being towed. I could pick up my Best Half at the shop. Off I went 35 miles home.

More time passed and AAA still showed on the computer that the tow was coming at 10:30. It was now 11:30 and no it wasn’t there yet. I got a text from my not so patient anymore partner. He had finally got in touch with a real person at AAA and was told there would be no tow truck coming, he was “on his own” to find his way out of the mess we were in. It was now after midnight and over 4 hours waiting for a tow that would never show up. To say we were angry is an understatement. We have had AAA for over 30 years and have never been let down. Some choice thoughts were rambling through my brain as I went back up the 35 miles North to pick up my stranded counterpart.

When I got about ½ mile from the RV, I saw the flashing lights and high beamed search light on the Pine County Sheriff’s car parked behind the RV. Could this night get any worse? I was sure we were now going to get told we had to get the RV moved ASAP or we would get fined. I pulled up behind the sheriff’s car and then couldn’t figure out if I should stay in my Jeep or walk out there and stand with the two of them. Doing so would mean approaching the deputy from his back side. I was afraid he would think I was ambushing him. Yes me, all 5’ 4” of me. There has just been so much in the news lately around here about people approaching law enforcement and getting taken down. 

I watched the body language of the 2 guys and it looked pretty relaxed and engaging so I started yelling “Hi I came to pick you up” all the while with my hands up and out beside me. We have had enough trouble in Minnesota the past couple years, that even me, a 60+ year old short white woman could be seen as a threat out of the corner of the deputy’s eye.

I got within 6 feet of them and the deputy was chatting with my Best Half and telling him it would be ok, he wasn’t in trouble, and things happen. He was on patrol overnight and would drive by the RV over the night to make sure it was ok. He gave us his disatcher’s number and his name and told us to call when it got towed so he knew it was us doing the moving of the RV. All we could do was say thank you to this guy for looking out for us and putting us at ease to be able to go home and deal with it in the morning.

We got home, slept fast and got up early in the morning to go back up to the RV on the side of the road. All was ok, so Deputy Sell must have stuck by his word to us to watch it and make sure the other deputies coming on duty didn’t ticket us. We would be giving a shout out to Pine County Deputy Sell when we got back home. And we would be giving a not so good shout at AAA for leaving us stranded.

We discovered that finding a tow for a Class A RV is not easy. It requires heavy duty trucks, even though it is a pretty small RV in the greater scheme of the RV’s out there on the roads. Ours could fit inside most of the ones we pass by. We finally called a place that said they could tow us and they were AAA approved. The only catch was that AAA had to approve it first. We thought no problem, we will call AAA and have them call and get it approved. We will be on our way in no time. While we were on the phone with AAA, they called the towing place. A few minutes later the person from AAA was denying the tow. The only thing we could figure is the cost was out of what AAA wanted to pay, even though we have their RV gold plan that tows everything. Well now we were, let’s just say, ticked off even more with AAA. I was fuming.

We finally found a place to tow us and we would have to pay out of our own pocket…$600! With no alternative we waited for the tow truck and off it went to the mechanic. Once there, our diagnosis was confirmed. It needed a new fuel pump, costing $1000. With no alternative we got the repair done and picked it up. The trip home would mean a stop at the gas station so off my Best Half went to Fleet Farm to get gas, and I went to Menard’s for some supplies. I walked out of Menard’s and got a text from Fleet Farm across the street…”the drift shaft is lying on the ground underneath the RV”. The towing company had disconnected it. We were 3 miles from the repair shop and they came over and crawled underneath and put it back together. Really? We don’t even have 100 miles on it, I thought. 

With everything fixed and $100 worth of gas in the tank we decided the next morning to go for a drive and make sure it handled well. It 6 mpg, our house on wheels runs just fine. After a lively discussion about how cool the RV is and how we will go broke just driving it around the state...we may be selling it. We will decide when cooler heads prevail...mostly mine. 

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Thou Shalt Not Steal

Years ago my brother and his family and me and my family were up at the cabin for a few days of fun with the kids and some fishing. It hadn’t been too many years before that our parents had died and the cabin was kind of a place to go that felt like coming home. Our dad had built the one room cabin many years before we were born and my brother had added two more rooms to it so it was plenty big for our two families to stay. Many of our relatives still lived in the tiny town of Grey Eagle, population 368, of which half were probably related to us. To this day 40 years later, the minute I see that water tower in Grey Eagle, I feel like I have come home.

One night after the kids were sleeping we got to talking and reminiscing about all the adventures and times we had been at the cabin when we were kids. Looking around there were many items that had been there since the cabin was built. The old pot-belly wood stove from my great-grandma’s farm, her huge round cast iron  griddle where stacks of pancakes were made, and my favorite cereal bowl and spoon. The bowl was a transparent cobalt blue bowl with a picture of Shirley Temple at the bottom. These were given away in sacks of flour at one time according to my mom. The spoon was a heavy wood handled and painted one from probably the 40’s  or 50’s.There was a whole set of silverware like that. As we were talking, my brother started talking about our great-grandma’s house a few miles down the road. I was only about 6 months old when she died, so I have no memories of her, but my brother’s always had stories about her. She lived in a tiny one bedroom place with an outhouse and a hand pump outside her house. The house had had other people living in it years ago after she died, but it was now empty and the land was owned and farmed by the neighbor next to it. My brother had heard that the house was going to be leveled by a bulldozer and the land farmed.

It was about midnight when we started talking about how sad it was that the place would no longer be around. We drove by it on the way in and out of town. And then it happened. My brother had the brilliant idea that we should go to the old homestead and take the pump that was in the yard. Afterall, it was going to be plowed under shortly, along with the house.

So we got into my old ‘64 hand-painted blue Plymouth Valiant and headed out to the highway and to the house. We had a big heavy pipe wrench in tow and the plan was to take the pump and run. We had reasoned that it was going to get demolished anyway so it wasn’t like we were stealing or anything, right? It wasn’t really trespassing because it once was our great-grandma’s land right?

We got to the driveway of the property and parked the car kind of behind some bushes. There were a few cars on the road at that time of night. Most were those coming home from the local bars. We had a flashlight with us, so before taking the pump we went into the already almost demolished house. The windows were punched out, no doors going into the house. The inside was pretty much filled with furniture and debris and even a few trees starting to take root inside. The house had been left and abandoned with someone’s possessions still in it. There even was a compost toilet in dire need of being plowed over. We went back outside and headed in the direction of the pump. 

The grass and weeds were almost waist high and it was a challenge to locate the pump at first. The mosquitoes were buzzing all around us and sucking the blood right out of us. Our arms and legs were covered with them biting us. One of us had forgotten to bring the bug spray. To this day it is still in debate whose job that had been.

My brother made his way to the pump and decided the only way to get to it was to lay down and begin dismantling it. I stood above him and swatted mosquitoes as they landed on him and me. Just then a car drove by slowed down by the driveway. The flashlight was turned off and we stayed there not moving at all. The car then sped up and headed back towards town. While we couldn’t be seen, the old blue car was probably pretty visible from the highway.

It was decided that my brother would stay there and continue to dismantle the pump and I would just take the car and drive up and down the highway until he was done and met me in the driveway with the pump.

Off I went through the tall grass to the car. Me and at least 10,000 mosquitoes sticking their stingers into my flesh. At that moment I made a mental note to myself. If there were ever any more midnight thievery, I would wear long pants, long sleeves and not leave it up to my brother to bring bug spray.

I must have drove up and down that stretch of highway over a dozen times waiting for my brother to appear in the driveway with the pump. I would get close to the driveway, slow down and look for him, and keep on going down the road to a  place to turn around and do it all over again. I figured it was a good sign not seeing him, it must mean he is getting the pump off.

Finally about the 15th time I came back to the driveway I saw him in the shadows. But there was a car behind me so I kept going past him. The bars must have closed and everyone was headed home, because all at once there was a line of cars behind me and coming towards me in the oncoming lane. I just kept driving until I was almost into town and could turn around.

After making my way back to the driveway, there were still cars coming back into town. I finally found a place to turn around discreetly and headed towards my brother to pick him up. There he was hunkered down in the ditch flashing his light at me to stop. I turned in and he hopped into the car. Off we went to find a place to turn around and go back to the cabin.

When I asked where the pump was, he explained it was pretty rusted on and he couldn’t loosen it to get it off. And he had a skunk near him the whole time he was working on it. He said he had almost hopped out onto the highway when he saw a car coming, but realized that my car had a headlight out so it was easy to recognize. He was just hunkered down in the bushes until he saw the Valiant with the one headlight.

When we got back to the cabin and were telling the story of what had happened, it was decided we never ever were to tell our Grandma about our plan to steal the pump. We figured she would be upset with our antics and potential thievery 

As luck would have it word did get out about that night and our midnight adventures. My niece was singing like a canary to grandma all about how we went to steal the pump to bring to her as a remembrance of her mom. Grandma sat quietly as we explained our rationale for trying to “re-allocate” the pump. She listened carefully, not saying a word. And when we were all done and feeling a little guilty for what we had attempted, grandma looked at both of us right in the eyes and said…”Haven't you two ever heard of a Hacksaw?”.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Selling the "Damn Camper"

A few weeks ago, we wound up going to Wisconsin to look at a Class A motorhome. After much discussion, we agreed that an RV was our best bet for traveling once my Best Half retires. And that is coming soon, hopefully in just a few months or so.Our plan is to load up the dogs, hop in the RV and leisurely do some traveling cross country. For the past two years we have had a travel trailer that was fine and yet I just couldn’t bond with it and make it feel homey. In fact I nicknamed it the “Damn Camper”, not because anything was terribly wrong with it, but because I just didn’t like towing a travel trailer for a vacation. Just hitching it up to the van caused friction in the marriage, not to mention any backing up with it that had to happen. And worst of all, important things get left behind when you tow a trailer, such as the boat for fishing.

With getting the RV, the time has come to sell the “Damn Camper”. We got home with the new RV and parked it next to the old trailer and proceeded to empty out the contents into the new RV.The kitchen supplies and tool box and such were put in their new spots in the RV. It was now time to sell the “Damn Camper”

I put an ad in Marketplace on Facebook on Saturday night. And within about an hour of posting messages started charging in. The standard, “Is this still available” to more specific ones like “Does the toilet really work”. And my favorite from a man asking for the fridge measurements. When I messaged back what the dimensions were, he then messaged me back, “No that’s not right. It looks way bigger in the picture”. I then asked him to bring his special tape measure and he could check my work. I never heard back.

One by one, I answered multiple questions and set up times for people to come look at the “Damn Camper” I soon realized that listing something expensive on a weekend is kind of dumb, because most people don’t have that kind of cash lying around their house. And due to so many people messaging me, I decided to not hold the camper, or take any down payments  to hold it. It just seemed that full cash and drive it away immediately  was the way to go in order to not have people showing up just to “kick the tires”. While I am no bull rider or rodeo queen, this isn’t my first rodeo and I have had people promise to come back if I hold an item, only to never hear from them again. 

Even though I put in the ad that there would be no holds and it had to be full cash payment, people still messaged me requesting I take their downpayment and keep it if they didn’t return. I hate selling expensive things online. There is just no good way to do it where you don’t have people angry. There just isn’t a good way for people to message you, and set up a time to see it. I mean what if a person says they will come at 5 and you agree, but then another can come earlier. What if the first person buys it and the second person is on their way to look. Marketplace and Craig’s List are set up for the perfect storm. Eventually it will happen that you will have several people angry because you won’t accommodate them and sell to them.

By Sunday night we had several people that said they were going to go to the bank and stop by and pick up the “Damn Camper”. They were all advised that whoever had the money in hand for the full price and was at the house would drive away with it. As much as I wanted to accommodate people it has never worked out to my benefit when I least with selling stuff online. Yeah as much as I hate shopping for stuff, I think I hate selling stuff even worse.

Monday morning came and once again the messages started coming in fast and furiously. There were the “tire kickers”, but there were ones who had the money and wanted to look at it. Again I stuck to the “first come, first served” strategy. Just as I was about to message back a time of 5 pm for a few that were wanting to come, I got a message “I can be there in an hour to look at your camper. I have the full amount of cash if I decide I want it”. I gladly responded to him to come as soon as he could. I said a silent prayer that this person would want the “Damn Camper”.

He showed up within the hour and looked around at everything. All the while he was looking, he was on his phone conducting business. We chatted between his calls and finally after taking a ladder to look at the roof he came down, called his wife, and said he would buy it. All the while my phone was actually overheating with all the messages coming in. I was so overjoyed when the guy handed me the cash and I was able to mark it SOLD.

As the guy hooked up the trailer to his big truck, I took one last look at the “Damn Camper” trying to muster up some type of bittersweet feeling as I watched the tail lights flicker down the driveway. And yep there it was...nothing but the joy of being able to mark it sold. Good-bye “Damn Camper”, hello new RV.

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Operation: Go to Your Room!


About a week ago, my Best Half had a little tickle in his throat and a dry hacky cough. Figuring it was his allergies flaring up, he took an antihistamine and went about his day. During the night the cough turned into some congestion and a little wheezing which was not unusual for Allergy Man. He woke up the next day congested and sneezing. We figured he had the start of a cold he was dealing with. By Sunday night, it had been 3 days of him coughing, sneezing and congestion. I suggested to him that when he got to work in the morning he should see about getting a Covid test. Not thinking he really had Covid, but figuring if he got tested he could get another 2 days off work and rest up. He had been dragging the day before with feeling run down and fatigued. So what the heck, he has 4 months or more of sick leave that he won’t get compensated for when he retires, so he may as well take a couple days and use it. At least that was my reasoning.

Monday morning came and he went to work. He still had the cough and when his co-workers heard him they sent him away to get tested for Covid. The plan was working just like I had hoped it would. He would be home until the results came in and then he would be back to work mid-week. It was all going just the way I had hoped it would. And then he got the results.

Tuesday morning he checked his email and there were the results from his Covid test. He had tested positive for Covid. Stupid Covid had hit our house. Fortunately we both were vaccinated last Spring. His symptoms are mild like a cold with a little more fatigue, but manageable. 

While he was on the phone with his Employee Health person going over time frames of being off, she had instructed him to make sure I get checked also, even if I didn’t really have any symptoms. I was very tired, but that comes with the territory of sleeping next to a person who is coughing, sneezing and snoring like a freight train all night. But off I went down the 35 miles to the clinic for a Covid test.

On my way down, I started thinking about all the scenarios that could happen. I finally came to the conclusion the easiest thing would be if I tested positive too. At least then we could quarantine together and just keep away from everyone else. Way easier than me isolating from my Best Half in the house and both of us quarantining from everyone outside the house. I started thinking we could even find a spot in the remote national forest for a week and go camping. I was getting excited to get my test back.

The results came back late Tuesday night and I was negative. Along with the results came a large email file with instructions on what to do and how to isolate and quarantine. I have to say that the instructions from the CDC/clinic were about as clear as an algae filled lake during the dog days of summer. The instructions discussed the amount of time needed for quarantining. After faithfully reading the first 3 pages of instructions, at the very bottom, was the one sentence that read: “if you have been completely vaccinated, you do not need to be quarantined.”. Huh? 

So there it was, the confusion setting in this nurse brain of mine. Am I free to not quarantine since I am fully vaccinated? Do I still need to be quarantined from the public as I am still surrounded by the “Big Walking Germ”? Do we need to isolate my Best Half from me and I still need to quarantine myself from going out in public? It was late when I was reading the directions, so I set it aside until morning when I was more rested and my brain was functioning better.

Morning came and I re-read it. Still I had uncertainties of what to do. I am vaccinated, no symptoms, but still surrounded by the love of my life carrying around the Covid germs. Try as he may, he isn’t the best at quarantining. And even if he did put his hearing aids in,I still would need to come close to him so he could  lip read or hear me if we needed to communicate. I needed to come up with a game plan we both could live with the next week or so.

After re-reading the guidelines for the 4th time I finally figured out that if I am no longer in contact with the person with the virus then I wouldn't need to quarantine at all since I had a negative test. But since the covid virus is living and taking up residence all over my roommate’s body, I would need to quarantine and somehow isolate him from me. 

I can remember when Covid first was coming into the mix of all of our lives, we came up with a game plan. That was close to 2 years ago. We had talked about how we would separate ourselves from each other in the house if one of us got Covid. While back then it was a real and scary reality, I have to say, I thought by now we were over all that drama. Afterall we did our due diligence and got vaccinated. But as the virus mutates and more people come in contact with it, the numbers of positive cases and even deaths have risen dramatically the past month or so. Covid is once again rearing its ugly horns at us and laughing.

During the beginning of the pandemic, we had come up with the plan that if one of us got Covid we would separate and the sick one would stay in the “Damn Camper” to ride out the quarantine days. The healthy one would keep the house running and deliver meals to the sick one. It was a great plan until the temperature dove below zero. So then we decided that we would block off the family room, laundry and small bathroom from the rest of the house. That was our plan almost 2 years ago and now we are needing to put it into play.

It has been a week since we started “Operation: go to your room”. At best it will last another 4-5 days and we can crawl out of our hole to live another day. It has been an experience I hope to never have to repeat. I have washed and sanitized everything that the Covid germ may have come in contact with. There are disinfectant wipes strategically located throughout the house, and bottles and bottles of hand sanitizer all over the house on every table possible.

We are doing the best we can to be responsible Covid positive people. The last thing we would want to do is give it to someone else. Daily we are grateful that we made the choice to get the complete vaccinations, because looking at the statistics it could have wound up so much worse. For right now we are content to look out our separate windows on opposite ends of the house and watch the corn grow in the field.

Stay safe everyone in the best way you know how!

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

VOTE VOTE VOTE! Bumper Sticker Contest

Hi this is Sue from Solid Rock Minnesota. I’d like to take a moment to thank you once again for listening to our podcast and reading our Blog. As always it is fun to see where all the listeners are tuning in from. We now have listeners and readers in all 50 states, along with Washington DC and 31 countries around the world! Along with the written Blog, our group is growing larger every day. 

I am hoping all of you listeners will go over to the Solid Rock Minnesota FaceBook group and vote this week for the best bumper sticker photo. Just go into the announcement with the bumper sticker pictures and pick a picture and comment on it or hit the like button. It is as simple as that. The person who took the winning picture will receive a $25 Amazon gift card. The winner will be announced Sunday August 15th. 

Thanks so much again for joining us! Many Blessings to all of you!


Sunday, August 8, 2021

Banking in a Small Town

The other night as I was looking at campers and motorhomes for sale, I finally came across one that looked like it might be “The One” we have been searching for the past few months. After the last trip out with the “Damn Camper”, the trailer I could never seem to like, we decided to start looking for another means of travel.

Through much discussion and a whole lot of tossing around a million and one possible camping scenarios, we decided our best bet for getting from point A to point B is the ‘99 conversion van. We have put on over 8000 miles with it in the past few years, sometimes on its own and other times pulling the “Damn Camper”. For the times we would travel the country and not have a designated destination, we decided to start looking for a motorhome, either a class C or a Class A. My two requests were that it had a double bed in the back and I would be able to drive it without feeling like the back of it was so long  that it was in another time zone than the front.

My Best Half is planning to retire soon, after working in large Metro clinics  as a building engineer for the past 37 years. He is ready and I am ready to have him retire from that job. For several months we have been browsing Marketplace and Craig’s List for RV’s. But none of them ever really stood out as something we wanted. Or if we did see something it was out of the budget we had. I can’t tell you how many ads we have sent to each other over the past year or two. And then it happened.

I found an older, but well kept up Class A RV. It didn’t look to have any issues. No leaks, no mechanical problems, and about the size we were looking for. So I contacted the guy over in Northern Wisconsin and said we would be there in the morning to look at it. It was a 2 hour drive one way, so I wanted to get there as early as we could before someone else close by maybe came and grabbed it up. You always run the risk of losing a good deal on sales sites if there is someone else close by with the cash. It happens.

Saturday morning came and we hurried to the bank to withdraw the asking price of the RV in case it really was what we wanted and could then buy it there on site. We walked in and fortunately (or so I thought) we were the first ones in the bank. The first and actually the only ones in the bank, we could get in and out quickly and be on our way North. The two tellers at the counter and the one teller working at the drive thru area all greeted us a hearty good Saturday morning. They were all smiling and perky and if I didn’t know better, I would have thought we were long lost family. I went to fill in the withdrawal slip as my Best Half chatted with the teller taking care of us. First it was about the weather and heat and lack of rain this year, and then it was about what fun we had planned for ourselves this day. Jokingly, we told them we were going to take it all to the casino and try to double it. They all laughed, as our teller started pulling all the info up on the computer. We then told them our plans of maybe buying an RV.

While we were in a bit of a hurry to get on the road for the 2 hour drive, we continued to visit with them all and waited while the teller finished what she was doing on the computer and went to the vault to get the money. The conversation was mostly about traveling and how Covid messed up many plans last year. Then the teller at the other window started telling us about her great and inexpensive trip she booked during the Pandemic. And then the teller at the drive in window got on the subject of the airline violence that has been happening. We listened to them both while we were anxiously awaiting our money to be handed off to us. We were now starting to run late as we had been there about 10-15 minutes listening to them tell about their past vacations and how it is now with traveling. We all agreed the “just wear the stupid mask” plan was the best to prevent issues on a plane. 

My Best Half looked at me when the tellers weren’t looking and pointed to his watch. I nodded and we both for the most part stopped talking so the tellers could work and finish up our transaction. I started wishing that more customers would come and need help so we could get our business done and be on our way. But no such luck. 

Our teller was back and once again documenting in her computer holding the money. We were inches away from getting our money, finally. She held the money, ready to count it out, but first needed the other teller to co-sign for it. And that teller was finishing her story with us about how hot it has been running in the mornings and she now is up earlier before the heat hits. So we waited…

When there was a little silence, I asked if there was anything else they needed on our end to finish up the withdrawal, our teller said there wasn’t. There was an awkward few seconds of silence, and I mean really awkward. I’m not sure but I may have been guilty of being rude in terms of “Minnesota nice”. I was walking a pretty thin line at that moment.

It had been a good 15 minutes or more since handing the withdrawal slip to the teller. Our teller finally handed the other teller a slip to co-sign and then proceeded to count out $100 bills. All the while doing this, twice, she cautioned me that they were new bills and quite sticky, so be careful not to pay more than we should. I agreed I would be cautious and she put the money in an envelope and finally handed it to me. We then started the Minnesota good-bye as we walked backwards towards the door. We got in the van and both of us breathed a huge sigh of relief to get on the road. As I sat back and settled in for the now 80 mph drive to get there on time, I thought about how different it is to live in a smaller town where everybody really does know your name. I am convinced that if possible one of them would have walked us to our vehicle to finish off the Minnesota good-bye with “See ya soon, watch out for deer”.

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Hello , Goodbye, Hello, Goodbye

We have 4 grown kids and 2 currently live out of state, a son who just moved from California to Nashville and a daughter who is in the military and stationed in Spokane, Washington. And right now at this moment our daughter and family live about 30 miles North and our son and his family have been living downstairs for about the past 2 years. I only mention the locations of all the kids because it is about to change once again.

Our downstairs basement, which is a walkout style, has never been truly vacated for more than about a year. Our kids all left home shortly after high school and college and started their own careers and families. It was bittersweet to see them make their way in the adult world and be successful, while at the same time a little sad to see some of them living so far away from us.

About 13 years ago our oldest daughter and husband with their 5 kids, (3 that were recently adopted at the time), asked if they could move in downstairs.They were hoping for a little time to regroup and eventually buy a house and move to Duluth about 90 miles from here. Of course we agreed and plans were made to finish off the downstairs into a separate dwelling for them. It pays to have a son-in-law who is a cabinet maker by trade, as not only was the downstairs finished off, but I got a whole new kitchen makeover upstairs. He came to me one day and said, “You don’t want the downstairs kitchen to look better than the upstairs kitchen do you?”. I kind of looked at him and said I guess I didn’t, not knowing where the conversation was going. He had decided to take all the upstairs kitchen cabinets and put them downstairs in their kitchen. So my upstairs kitchen was gutted and new cabinets were made, along with a wall being torn down to open up the kitchen to the living room,and I had the most beautiful and functional kitchen I have ever known. And they had a 4 bedroom place with a kitchen, bathroom and laundry. They soon sold their place and moved in downstairs.

They stayed about 2 years and then they started looking for a place of their own. They now had 6 kids as our daughter had gotten pregnant for the first time and had our grandson while here. It was at times structured chaos and the noise was always a welcome to what would otherwise be a pretty quiet house if they weren’t here.
The day they moved out, my son and his family asked if the downstairs was open for them to come live for a bit while they regrouped and found a place to buy. Of course I was excited to fill the downstairs with noise and have the grandkids close to see daily. So they moved in the weekend after our daughter and family had moved out. There really wasn't a chance to miss the structured chaos, it was alive and well once again.

My son and family stayed just about 2 years also and then packed up the now 6 kids and moved to North Carolina where he took a job. They bought a place and we got to visit a few times. And we were living the life of empty-nesters for about a year. It was different compared to what we were used to over the past 4-5 years. There was no one here but the two of us. The downstairs was completely vacant and empty. I made a point of not going downstairs for anything because I would get sad longing for the noise and family. 

About a year into our empty nest, My daughter told me they were talking about moving back downstairs to save up and regroup once again. They were going to buy land closer to us and build. She asked if they could come live here again. Of course we agreed they should come live here for a while. Visions of noisy kids swinging in the backyard, dishes clanking downstairs in the was all coming back and I was excited. So one Friday night they pulled into the driveway with all their belongings packed up and ready to unload downstairs. 

I often believe them moving home the second time was more Divine Intervention than them wanting to leave Duluth. They had 7 kids now and my daughter was a few months pregnant. A few months after moving in she started going into pre-term labor with the baby. She wound up being hospitalized for several weeks to prevent her from going into labor early. Between my son-in-law and me we managed to keep the 7 kids and house functioning relatively well. We both had to work at the time so we adjusted our work schedules to make sure one of us was here at all times with the kids. Our grandson was born about 3 ½ months early and it was 5 months before our daughter and grandson would be home from the NICU. And within a few months of that, they were moving out to their new home, that my son-in-law had built, just 30 miles North of us. Them moving back home at that time was truly a God thing in my mind.

Shortly after our daughter and family moved out, our son in North Carolina called and said he accepted a job in Minnesota. He was asking if they could stay in the downstairs since it was now empty. Of course, once again, we agreed to let them move back. A few months of silence was about driving me crazy, the more the merrier was my thought. So soon they were pulling into the driveway late one Friday night with their moving truck and all their belongings. The plan was once again to stay maybe 2 years to regroup and save up for a house.

The past 2 years have been fun having them downstairs of us. There is always noise of kids chatting, playing soccer outside and dishes clanking in the kitchen. I have grown accustomed to it over the past 13 years. And having daily, and sometimes hourly, visits from grandkids is what this grandma’s life is all about. There is joy in all that noise and commotion. And both me and my Best Half wouldn’t change a thing if it was just our decision. If it was our choice we would build a big compound here on the farm and have all the kids and grandkids living here. But that is what headline news stories are made of… so maybe it isn’t the best idea.

The other day, our son came upstairs to visit. He was letting us know that he accepted a job offer in El Paso, Texas. They will be leaving here for Texas in mid-September. While we knew they were here for a short bit, we were hoping moving meant more like just moving a few miles away, not 1424 miles to be exact. So now once again we will have 3 of our 4 kids and families 1000 miles or more away. I’m not sure why, but when he told me they were moving, it made me feel...old. Life keeps moving on and changing, nothing ever stays the same. And change seems to come a little harder as I get older.

While I am sad they are moving so far away, it is just another lesson in learning to let go of all the things I have no control over. Once again, we will have to learn to get used to the silence from the downstairs and backyard, no more spontaneous visits from the grandkids coming up to visit or play music together. Now we will once again have to shut the windows if it looks like rain when we leave and lock the doors. No longer can we text someone at home to do it for us.

To be honest, I am not looking forward to the once again empty downstairs, but it is what lies ahead for us. I keep telling myself I just need to endure a few months of being alone here during the day. In a few months, my Best Half will be retiring. Then we can fill the house with us shouting back and forth to each other because he doesn’t have his hearing aides in. And I may get to a point of enjoying a few hours here and there of silence as much as he will too. Fortunately, my oldest daughter and family are close by and we can find time together as we always do. That hasn’t changed.

Who knows how it will all pan out with having kids all over the country. Retirement will hopefully mean traveling the country and stopping to see them along the way. As for the empty basement...well just like Motel 6…”we’ll leave the light on”. You just never know who will pull up in the driveway with all their belongings and need a place to stay.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Sisters of Another Mother

The other day I finally was able to meet up with one of my friends from the old days…   I mean the really old days. Because of Covid and work and just plain busyness it had been almost 2 years since seeing each other. We were going out to celebrate her retirement.
We grew up together in the MIdway area of St Paul. The neighborhood was right smack between Minneapolis and St. Paul, just up the road a little from the neighborhood known as Frogtown. It was pretty much right at the middle class level of neighborhoods, and mostly Catholic with large families. It was a  great and safe place to grow up. There was even a candy store a few blocks away and lots of pop bottles around to collect and return for 3 cents to buy Banana Flips, candy, and baseball cards with the stick of powdered gum in the pack.
There were many kids in the neighborhood, most families had 5 or more and there were always kids out in their yards or in the alley playing, or riding bikes up and down the street. And true to any neighborhood at that time, we all played outside all day except to go eat. And we all were inside when the street lights came on. No texts, no cell phones, just the neighbor moms watching over our antics and keeping us safe without intervening much.
There were many boys in the neighborhood and along with my 2 big brothers, I got my fill of being a tomboy and playing sports and doing daredevil things along with them. The boys seemed to outnumber the girls at least 5 to1. But there were a few girls close in age to me and from the time we could go out and play we were friends. Our moms would get together for coffee sometimes when we were really little. And being that my mom was a beautician, every major Christian holiday the girls in the neighborhood would come to my house to get their hair permed and curled by my mom. My mom enjoyed doing it for my girl friends that had stick straight hair. She could never do my hair because I had massive curls and pretty unmanageable hair.
There were 4 of us girls that were pretty close to each other. We were all within a year or two in age. And the fascinating thing was, we all were the only girls in our families. None of us had any sisters, only brothers. And because of that it seems we became closer than just friends. We became more like sisters as the years went by. We could get along, do stuff together and fight like only sisters could fight. At least from what I had seen real sisters do. Once out of high school we all went our own ways and started our own lives. There would be years between seeing each other or hearing from one another. Word would come what was going on if you saw one of the parents or siblings. The 3 others had left the neighborhood and state for that matter and life went on for me still living in Midway. I had gotten married and we then bought the house from my parents who wanted to downsize. All 4 of our kids were born and spent their early years living in the house I grew up in. My friends' moms would stop by at times to visit. By this time my own mom had passed away, so it was always nice to see my friends’ moms. It occurred to me when they stopped by and I was watching my own kids playing with the neighbor kids that I had reached adulthood. I was doing what they had done years before.
Time passed quickly and I would get word of my friends’ lives and updates on what was going on. There were marriages, a child for one of them and divorces over the years for all of them. There were moves back to St Paul from California and Iowa and other places, and life went on without really having much contact at all. They were busy with their careers and I was busy being married, raising my kids and going back to school to become an RN. There was barely enough time to carry on with the daily tasks, much less find time to get together. We had grown apart in our lives and mostly it was due to changes in our lifestyles. Facebook kept us in touch to a point, but as we all know, Facebook can sometimes make life crazy with friends’ posts. Especially when it gets into the political realm of memes and pictures. 
While loving these 3 women as sisters, a few of us really have different points of view from one another when it comes to politics, and sometimes just life in general. It has been a journey and a challenge for all of us to look beyond our differences at times and just accept each person for who they are and the person that they’ve become. Afterall, we have a huge history together growing up in the ‘hood. While our lives have all taken a different path in this journey called life, we still have a 60 year history together that can’t be changed or unwritten in the book of Life.
My friend and I sat for over 4 hours catching up the other day at a local Thai restaurant in the neighborhood. We talked, we laughed, we even cried some together. When we went to stand up and leave, we both caught our balance and gimped the first few steps as we walked. We just laughed and realized that 60+ years of a friendship does have its kinks, but mostly it has been a good journey.
I was reminded of that old KT Oslin song called “80’s Ladies” it goes…

“We were the girls of the ‘50’s
Stoned rock and rollers of the ‘60’s
And more than our names got changed as the ‘70’s slipped on by
We were ‘80’s ladies and there ain’t too much these ladies ain’t tried”
Here’s to my 3 sisters from a different mister, those sisters from another mother...I love you all. 

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Big Brothers, Baseball, Hockey and Firgure Skates

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

A Mormon, A Jehovah's Witness and a Nurse Walk into a House

I retired about a year and a half ago. For close to 30 years I was a Registered Nurse. When I was in my early 30’s and the 4 kids were in school and with the encouragement and financial support from my Best Half, I started nursing school. To this day, nursing has been one of the most challenging and rewarding jobs I could ever have done in my life. Over the years I have held several nursing positions, from long term care to teaching, care management, to triage and clinic work. But my favorite of all was working as a Home Health nurse.

In 1998, after a stint in long term care and then a few years teaching Health Occupations classes, I got a job closer to home. It was as a home health nurse with the local hospital/ clinic. It involved doing nursing visits in people’s homes. The patients were those that were just being discharged home from a stay in the hospital, or maybe those that maybe were deemed by the clinic to need supportive services in order to stay at home, or mother-baby visits to new moms and babies. Put the wide range of variety of patients to be seen and combine it with the rural traveling from house to house and it was pretty much a perfect job for me and how my brain works.

While it may not sound like a lot, I’d usually see 6-8 patients a day and put on about 100 miles a day between houses. Home visits would consist of about 30-60 minutes per patient and then a 20 minute drive to the next house. Visits were always varied for the most part and that kept this ADD brain from getting bored at the job. There were basic skills like med setups, maybe simple wound care to a little more time consuming skills like wound vacs, IV and Central Line care.

My days were filled with seeing patients one person at a time and then driving onto the next patient. For 10 years this job was a good match for me. I had a great Team Leader who knew me well and my love for fishing and the outdoors. Whenever there was a possible pending visit needed, she would call me and tell me to find a nearby lake or river and stand-by. That was code for go fishing until you hear back. So I always carried a rod and reel and tackle box in my vehicle. And I would fish until I heard back from the Team Leader. We had an awesome boss-employee relationship. In my eyes, it didn’t get any better than this, it was a dream job. And to this day, I still carry a rod and reel and tackle box in my vehicle. You just never know when the need will arise to have to pull over and fish.

I met so many local old time Swedes in the community. Many with the last name of Johnson, Olson, Peterson all with the S-O-N spelling I was told the not S-E-N as those were the Norwegians. Many were out in the country on farms that they had been born on. Many had never ventured out much past where they were raised. Oftentimes, because I didn’t have quite the Scandinavian look about me, I would get asked the question by the old-timers, “What are you?”. Meaning what is your heritage, are you a Swede or something else? Because most of the elderly in the area are 100% full blown Scandinavian, I was at first pretty offended and thought they had a lot of huspa to be asking that question in this day and age. I mean did it matter? Haven’t we gotten beyond all that? 

By about the 10th time being asked, I finally got to where I would blurt out every ethnicity I could think of that my parents had claimed. And I would eventually throw Swedish on the list, right after Hungarian, Dutch and French Canadian. As time went on I realized it wasn’t so much they wanted a Swede to take care of them as much as it was they were interested in a person’s culture and ethnicity just because...well they just were interested. Much like  most Minnesotans discuss the weather, these old timers discussed heritage and ethnicity along with it. Over the years I learned there really wasn’t a need to be offended by most of the people who were asking. 

Doing Home Health in a rural setting is quite an experience. Besides distance from town, patient’s homes and lifestyles are also different. There were those that were kind of off grid out in the country and there were those living in the small towns around the area. But the one thing they all had in common was that they needed help in order to keep living in their homes independently. And the Home Health nurse was just one little piece of the big puzzle.

One day, as I was making calls to set up the next day’s schedule, I called one of my younger patients. She lived nearby the Catholic church in town and I knew she went to Mass most every morning. So I knew any visit I would make would have to be late morning or early afternoon. She just needed her vital signs taken and a med setup. I got her on the phone and asked if 11AM was ok to come over. She agreed, but said I would need to leave by noon as she had someone coming out to her home. I thought, Ok, no problem on my end, see you at 11.

Most of the people in the country I saw still got up early as in their farming days. I always tried to take advantage of that so it would get me off early in the day. There were some that wanted a 7 AM visit. When I got to one of the farms one morning, the patient met me at the door and said she couldn’t sit for a visit until the kids were all fed. I was there to see how she was managing around the house with COPD. I was there to check her activity level and breathing status. I was totally confused when she said she had to feed the kids. She was elderly and it was just her and her husband at the farm. Was her oxygen low and making her confused? I came into her kitchen and saw 4 bottles of milk heating on the stove. I was by this time pretty dumbfounded not having a clue what was going on. As she went about heating the bottles I did my assessment of her. She was up and moving about comfortably and not short of breath at all. She gathered up the 4 bottles and handed me 2 to carry to the living room. When I entered the room, there in a play pen were 4 tiny newborn goats bawling to be fed. So we sat down and fed the goat kids. All I could think was, no one is ever going to believe this one.

Well, 11 AM came and I was back in town after making all of the out of town visits I needed to do early in the morning. I got to the house and did the usual vital signs, depression questionnaire and med setup. As we were talking, I asked my patient what her afternoon plans were and she told me she had company coming. I was pretty impressed as she didn’t socialize much and I thought it was great she was having company at her house. She proceeded to tell me that at noon, two young men that were missionaries from the Mormon church (or Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints as they now call themselves) were coming to rake her yard and prune her hedges and take out her garbage. She told me they came by every week and she would have a list for them of chores to do. When they were all done they would sit on her porch step and visit and tell her about their faith and church. Then they would leave and come the following week for their new list of chores and more conversation.

She then went on to tell me that this day she wouldn’t have much time to talk to them as she had 2 women coming out from the Jehovah’s Witness church that was out on the edge of town. They were going to wash all of her windows. She had an inside list of chores for them. I must have had a pretty perplexed look on my face when I finally had to ask the question. I said,” I thought you were Catholic and went to mass every morning? Are you thinking of changing religions?”. She just gave me an incredulous stare for a few seconds and then said, “Well Hell no. I’m Catholic all the way through. I was born and raised Catholic. But the Mormons will do my outside work and the Jehovah’s Witnesses will do my inside work and clean my house, they even do windows. I sat there for a moment and thought about it. She had a pretty good thing going. Free labor that was keeping her able to live alone at home. Then I got up and went to her closet as I had done over the past few months. I got out her vacuum cleaner and started vacuuming her rug. She had a good thing going.

When I went to my next visit, I found my patient sitting out on his docked pontoon boat fishing. I ran back to the truck and got my rod and reel and cast out a line and then proceeded to take his vital signs and set up his meds which his wife had brought out to the pontoon. Yes, in my tackle box I always carried hand sanitizer and gloves. You just never knew when you may be called on to do your home care visit on a pontoon. Best job ever.