Sunday, February 28, 2021

Vax Day

I do some part time work at a college in their nursing department. Since I retired from my nursing job as an RN triage nurse, I picked up a job at the college being a state tester for their Nursing Assistant program. It pretty much is just watching the candidates move through random skills that they would perform on a patient. Things like feeding, bathing, transferring them to a wheelchair and things such as that. It is just pretty much making sure the ones testing are going to be safe for their patients and safe for themselves. 

With the health care system, especially long term care being stretched to their extreme limits due to covid and a more aging population, it was determined that the nurses doing the testing to get more nursing assistants out into the workforce were considered essential workers. Along with needing more nursing assistants to provide care for patients, more testing and testers need to be available to get the NA’s into the workforce. So because I am now considered an essential worker, I can get my Covid vaccination if I want. 

While I am not here to judge anyone on whether they are pro or anti covid vaccine, I am going to get mine. I am scheduled to get it tomorrow morning. So stay tuned for a report back on how the system works trying to dose many hundreds at a time, the pros and cons of how the system works and most importantly the side effects of receiving the first dose. Stay tuned.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

When Hell and Minnesota Freezes Over

 I was really foolish thinking that winter being so mild in January, with no below zero temps, would bypass the bitter cold we usually get. I was wrong. It just instead has happened in February, when most of us are starting to plan Spring things for May.

The past two weeks we have been well below zero for several days in a row. A few mornings, I have awakened to -35 below with wind chills nearing -50 below.

Basically to put it in perspective, weather like that, when you’re outside with any unprotected covered skin, will frostbite or freeze within a few minutes. Your eyes will sting and water and then freeze from the cold air, if you have a beard it will frost up and freeze icicles coming off it. And your nostrils will stick together and freeze shut until you exhale out warm air through your nose. It is quite the experience for the senses.

And even then, a true Minnesotan, will be outside doing trying to start their frozen vehicle or helping the neighbor with theirs. Or possibly just hanging outside curbside chatting. And sure enough in the midst of the short conversation there will be a “Cold enough for ya”, with no real answer expected, but possibly you’ll get a “Ya you betcha” or even better a memory of a colder time from years gone by will be shared. Minnesotans are true oral historians when it comes to weather.

I love when it gets bitterly cold, because that’s when the awesome attire every Minnesotan has comes out and is displayed for all to see. Once the temps drop to around -25 to -30 below., the Fargo jackets come out. You know the ones with a million pockets and special pockets up close to the armpits to warm your hands? The hood will zip up high so it looks like a furry periscope with a set of eyes looking out. That is if a non-Minnesotan is wearing it. But for a true Minnesotan, the hood will be down in order to display the Buffalo plaid Elmer Fudd earflap, fur lined hunting hat. Ear flaps will most definitely not be unfolded or chin strap used. To be authentic earflaps up, hat pulled low and straps swinging in the wind. And to add to the ensemble, there may be a scarf handknit by a grandma, chosen from the laundry basket full of scarves obtained over the years. You just never get rid of your grandma scarf, any of them. To finish off the “official” Minnesota winter gear, a pair of wool mittens tucked inside a pair of leather “choppers” as we call them. You know the heavy duty leather mitten that barely bends with the wool mitten inside? I always enjoy watching someone with a pair of choppers on try to open a jug of heet or windshield washer fluid. It becomes a show all in itself. We become more primate looking without the proper use of our thumbs. Most people will take the chopper off one hand before embarrassing themselves trying to do it with the chopper on.

The bitter cold here does something to us Minnesotans. While most would rather bypass the bitter cold spell we get, many of us have learned to embrace it and just deal with it. And to be honest I think it makes each of us a little more kind and helpful to one another.

The other day I was in the Jeep and the power steering fluid got low so I couldn’t steer at all. I pulled into a parking lot and flipped open the hood to see where the fluid went and then waited for my Knight in shining armor to rescue me with some fluid for it. While I was waiting, there were 4-5 cars stop by to see if I was alright and if I needed any help. They were willing to give the Jeep a jump if needed, pour Heet they had into the gas tank, or even let me wait in their vehicle to stay warm in case my heat wasn’t working. They almost seemed let down when I said help was on the way and the heat was on so I was good. I was starting to feel a little guilty not accepting their help. That’s a whole nother Minnesota thing. We look out for each other when the temps get to -30 below.

Well we have a few more days of the bitterly old stuff and then it is supposed to warm up into the teens and then possibly 35 above! The Fargo jackets, Elmer Fudd hats and choppers will all be buried away in the way back of the closet until next year. They will be replaced with hoodies, baseball caps and possibly shorts for a few that want to believe Spring is near. After all, the temps will be almost 70 degrees warmer than last week. Ahhh…..MInnesota winters, always changing and leaving us challenged in what to wear.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Life Goes On

With all of the news and various orders coming out of the Federal and local government regarding CoronaVirus, it’s been busy around here. Actually it has been pretty much status quo here at Hillbilly Holler. That is the name neighbors down the road call this little corner of the dead end road

We now have 8 extra people living with us the past month. Our son, daughter-in-law and 6 kids moved into the downstairs about a month ago. They had been in North Carolina the past 3 plus years.

You would think that life would be full of changes with the kids and getting them adjusted to their new life in Minnesota. Here in Minnesota, all the K-12 schools have been closed, for at least another week, but some are predicting much longer. But it has been an easy transition as they are homeschooled and nothing has changed with schools being closed. Their days continue to be well organized full of the curriculum they are all working on for their grade. The kids are age 5-15 so it is a wide range. Their parents and my other grandkids’ parents do a great job at homeschooling and staying on top of their studies. 

Reading the news and seeing FB posts from parents forced into having their kids home during the school days, with the shutdowns, has been interesting to say the least. Some seem to have a mighty itinerary they plan to get thru and others seem to be as lost and worried as a horse in a wildfire. To all of you, I say, take a breath. You will be doing the best job you can and your kids will be OK, no matter what. Just be available to them and talk to them. This is a perfect chance to really get to know your kids and their individual personalities.

I am by no means an expert, but I have raised 4 great humans, have 15 grandkids that I am very close to. Your best made plans may collapse in a heap. In that case, just visit with your kids. Making a double batch of cookies and having the kids do the math for doubling fractions, counting the cookies, dividing them into the number for each person in the house has always been a good standby for the young ones. Also Spring is coming, start some seeds indoors and see how big they get by the time we can resume our normal lives again. For the older ones, I suggest making journals to write in about the pandemic with the intention of keeping it for their children. Sort of a diary of what it was like.

I am pretty much a person who loves being home doing stuff around the house. This social isolation is not a new concept. But this could all change in the coming days, weeks, or months we are all being asked to hunker down in place. This is what we are being asked and called to do, minimize physical contact with others. This is one thing we each can do for the cause of health for others, keep a physical distance from others. 

But in doing this, let’s not forget our family, friends, neighbors and people we may not even know, that might be having a harder time isolating themselves. Remember to wave from a distance, call, message, text, email or write a letter to those that may be scared, or having a hard time, or maybe all alone. Whatever you can do to make distant contact, please do it for one another. We are all in this together for the duration. 

If you or someone you know is in need of a friendly contact and check-in, feel free to email us at We will gladly be in contact.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

I Know Where I Come From

The other day someone had listened to our podcast and sent me a message, saying, “I like your accent” I messaged back and asked what accent? And he then said he liked listening to my Minnesota accent. I had to laugh, because compared to those living up on the Iron Range and closer to the Canadian border, where it is much more pronounced, I have a minimal Minnesota accent. Most people that are not from around here think that a Minnesota accent sounds much like the people in the movie Fargo, which by the way is in North Dakota. It’s on the Minnesota border. But North Dakota claims Fargo as theirs.

I mentioned the message I had received to my kids and of course they had to remind me of the family trip out to Maryland and Virginia to see the love of my life’s relatives. We took a 3 week vacation to drive a monster size RV we borrowed from friends and headed East and South. The minute we got past Chicago is when the trouble began. Southern Illinois is where the little hint of a twang started and it was all downhill for me from there. Pop is soda, or Coke. I was in my 40’s and everyone 39 and younger called me Ma’am or worse yet Hon short for Honey I guess. My husband having lived in Virginia and Maryland many years basically had to take over any communication concerning directions or campgrounds nearby. AMazingly, his Southern twang reappeared as if he never left the South.

When we got to the relatives the teasing began, but not just me, my kids also. We were clumped into the group..” those who speak Minnesotan”. I didn’t notice it at first, but as the days went on it became more obvious to all of us that we had communication differences. Aunt Jean asked me or my youngest to hand her the pocketbook on the table behind us. We searched high and low on the table, on the floor nearby and could not find her pocketbook, only to have her get up and walk over and pick up her purse. Pocketbook...something you stick in your pocket, like a wallet. Not a full fledged purse! My kids and I were foreigners in a foreign land.

The next day, my oldest daughter and I ran into the local grocery store for a few items we needed. All went well until we got up to the checkout and I was going to sign a traveler's check. We ran in so quick neither one of us looked at the sign outside of the name of the place. When I asked who to make the check out to, the clerk said “John’s”, I said, “John’s?”, she said no it is “John’s”. This went on for a few more seconds and there was a line starting to form behind us when my daughter decided to run outside and look at the sign. She came back shaking her head and quietly said, “Mom it’s called GIANT’s”. People behind us were shaking their heads and the clerk just looked at us kind of strangely. I signed the check and we high-tailed it out of there.

Our next trip was to the post office across the parking lot. We had explained what happened in the store to Uncle Bud and he just shook his head. When I got out to go into the post office, he offered to go in with me. I assured him there was no way I could mess up buying stamps and would be right out. I got my stamps and as I was leaving I asked the post office worker if she had an extra rubber binder I could borrow. I had some things I wanted to put together. Once again I saw the look I had gotten in the grocery store….kind of one of pity and one that said “you’re not from these parts are you?”. Like at the grocery store, the exchange went on for a minute or so back and forth, me asking for a rubber binder and her offering me a manilla envelope and some paper clips. I thought hard about what the relatives might call it, and then asked for a rubber band. The look of relief on the post office person was priceless. She said. “Well sure enough hon, all you have to do is ask.”. She handed me a handful of rubber bands.mProbably in hopes I wouldn’t be back.

The next day we went to Rehoboth beach for a day at the ocean. We spent a whole day at the ocean, watching the waves and dolphins. Sunburnt and exhausted we then went to the local Cracker Barrell for supper...or dinner as they called it out there. There were about a dozen of us gathered around a long table. I was on the far end by the wall. The place was packed and loud and the waitress was at the head of the table taking everyone’s orders. I was last and when she finally got to me, I realized she had asking me for my order and I was sitting there and staring at her talking to me. Between being tired from a day in the sun and the loudness of the restaurant, I was just zoned out, unable to process her thick accent. I looked at those around the table and at that moment, they realized, I had no clue what the waitress was saying. I made a quick decision to pretend I knew what she was asking me regarding my order, and just agreed with whatever the first choice was she was asking and writing down. 

When the orders all came to our table they looked delicious. Uncle Bud had a thick steak, along with a few others. A few of the kids had huge hamburgers and fries. And a few more had some shrimp and sides of salads and some kind of hotdish. Although I was corrected when I said hotdish, it was a “casserole”. It all looked great. I was starving. The waitress was unable to deliver my plate due to it being so crowded so she had to hand my plate to a cousin who had to pass it down one by one until it finally got to me. I watched as each of their faces looked at my plate and some shook their heads. My plate finally got placed in front of me and I looked down and saw a few catfish fillets, some greens and a big huge bowl of grits. Well the laughing started slowly coming from a cousin and then the entire table was laughing. I had to ask what the bowl was and what should I do with them? I had never eaten grits in my life and no matter what I put on them as suggested by the Southern grit eating relatives, they had no flavor, just a weird texture. The greens were pretty sitting on the plate where they remained for the remainder of the meal. The catfish were good enough and crispy. They reminded me of the bullheads we would catch up at the cabin when I was a kid. We would fish late at night and catch a bunch and fix them up for a midnight snack. 

That trip and the several others we have made South, have always, always found me in a language dilemma of some sort. I am fortunate that most people are kind or take pity on me. I am always glad to get back home to the north country of Minnesota and hear a “Ya” instead of Yes or :you Guys: instead of Ya’ll or instead of “yes” an affirmative hearty “You Betcha”  And when asking for a pop, not getting a strange look. Ya, maybe I do have a bit of a MInnesota accent.

Our Niece in North Dakota is from the Lakota tribe. She works with elders and young kids trying to keep the Lakota language alive. She will be one of the first Lakota speaking people to receive the Covid vaccine along with the Lakota elders, a way of preserving the culture and language of the Lakota people, making it a priority.

As many people leave Minnesota for other states and many transplants arrive, I can only wonder if the Minnesota accent that many of us have here will begin to fade into just a memory. Maybe as a gesture of preserving the Minnesota accent, I should be one of the first to receive the Covid vaccine, along with others who speak Minnesotan. All they can say is no….or maybe even “You betcha”.