Sunday, October 31, 2021

Ope, Sorry

I had to stop by Fleet Farm the other day to pick up some high temp spray paint to use on a metal fire pit I acquired for the patio. I have a longing for a small warm fire and some hot dogs and s’mores to roast now that Fall is coming. So I drove the half hour to Fleet Farm and parked by the cart corral, grabbed a cart and headed in. As I was entering the store another lady with a kid in her cart got to the door at the same time. We both froze waiting for the other one to go inside. Figuring she was there first by a few seconds, she had the right of way. 

I said, “Ope, sorry” and stood there giving her space to enter.

She said, “Ope, sorry. No you go ahead”

I said, “Are you sure now?”.

She said, “ Yeah, no go on.”

I stood there a second or two trying to process the “yeah, no” response.

I must have waited a second too long as she looked confused at me and started,not too confidently, move to the door just as I started moving to the door. Once again we both froze, almost jack-knifing our carts. And again the entering process started all over again. We finally both got inside and parted ways, me for the paint department and her to the other side of the store.

When I got to the paint aisle, there were 2 people with carts looking at paint. They were both pretty much in the middle of the aisle halfway down. They both saw me enter the aisle and all 3 of us at once said “Ope sorry”. Them for blocking where I was going and me because they’d have to move if I got in the aisle with them and their carts. I quickly backed my cart out of the aisle and went into the next aisle and came around on the other end of the aisle I needed to be in. I really needed to be right where the lady had her cart parked.

I walked up to her and her cart and said, “Ope, sorry, can I just squeeze past you there?” 

She started saying, “Ope sorry, I’m in your way.”

I said, “Yeah, no, I can squeeze past you there.”

She moved her cart as I was “squeezing past” and said “Geez they sure don’t make these aisles big enough, do they.”

I got my paint and by this time my cart was blocking the man and his cart in the aisle. He was ready to leave. I hurried back to my cart and offered the official “Ope, sorry, I’m in your way.”. He assured me that “Yeah, no I can wait. Did you get what you need?”. I showed him my can of spray paint  and dropped it in my cart and went on to the  outdoor department.

I was looking for something for the patio to go with the fire pit, but couldn’t find it. I found an employee stocking a shelf and apologized for interrupting her I asked if she knew where I could find what I needed. She said, “Ope sorry, we moved all that stuff to a different area. She showed me where to find it and I was finally on my way to check-out and could get home.

As I was approaching the check out lane, I saw the lady that I had met at the entrance coming into Fleet Farm earlier. She was heading for the same checkout as I was. Our eyes met and then looked at the checkout lane. We both started to slow down to almost a complete stop. Please God let’s not do this again.

I pretended to act like I had just remembered something I forgot and mumbled to myself, but loud enough 

 for her to hear, “Ope, I forgot the chocolate covered peanuts”. She looked as relieved as I felt. I walked past her and stood by the chocolate covered peanuts until she was through the checkout and at the door exiting. 

All went well until I got out to the Jeep and started to back out of my parking place and I saw the car next to me doing the same thing. We both slammed on our brakes and looked at one another. He gestured “Ope sorry” and put on his brakes. I decided, at this point, it was best I just pull forward, put my car in Park and turn off the engine. And that is just what I did. Another long Minnesota “Ope sorry” avoided.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Monday Morning Music: "I've Been Everywhere"

We pretty much took the Summer off from Monday Morning Music and since then ½ the grandkids haved moved to El Paso. Being that the other grandkids live 45 minutes away, they weren't here on Monday mornings often, but we would get together some afternoons and do music. This Fall after we both are retired, we plan to drive up once a week on Tuesdays to do music together while my Best Half sits and taps his foot to the rumbling music. We are calling it Tuesday 2PM Tunes. There will be plenty of kids to play music and some of the younger ones will begin learning how to play ukulele or percussion instruments. While we don’t always sound fantastic, the love of making music is there amidst the crew. And with boy’s voices and changing voices it should prove to be a lot of fun getting together.

This is an old Johnny Cash version of the song “I’ve Been Everywhere” that the kids listened to and wanted to learn. They listened to the song, read the words as fast as they could and decided that they wouldn’t play any instruments as it was going to take full concentration on the singing. So they let me join them on guitar. We also decided we were going to give it one shot and record it and call it good enough. They were excited to do it as it counted as music class and geography/ social studies as we talked about all the towns in the song. I hope to someday teach them the one that goes “I was standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona”...

Here is 16 year old Bonnie and 15 year old Eyasu singing “I’ve Been Everywhere” . Go to our podcast and turn it way up to feel the beat:) Enjoy. 

I’ve Been Everywhere 

Lyrics by Geoff Mack

I was totin' my pack along the dusty Winnemucca road,

When along came a semi with a high an' canvas-covered load.

"If you're goin' to Winnemucca, Mack, with me you can ride."

And so I climbed into the cab and then I settled down inside.

He asked me if I'd seen a road with so much dust and sand.

And I said, "Listen, I've traveled every road in this here land!"


I've been everywhere, man.

I've been everywhere, man.

Crossed the desert's bare, man.

I've breathed the mountain air, man.

Of travel I've had my share, man.

I've been everywhere.

I've been to:

Reno, Chicago, Fargo, Minnesota,

Buffalo, Toronto, Winslow, Sarasota,

Wichita, Tulsa, Ottawa, Oklahoma,

Tampa, Panama, Mattawa, La Paloma,

Bangor, Baltimore, Salvador, Amarillo,

Tocapillo, Baranquilla, and Perdilla, I'm a killer. I've been everywhere man...chorus

I've been to:

Boston, Charleston, Dayton, Louisiana,

Washington, Houston, Kingston, Texarkana,

Monterey, Faraday, Santa Fe, Tallapoosa,

Glen Rock, Black Rock, Little Rock, Oskaloosa,

Tennessee to Tennesse Chicopee, Spirit Lake,

Grand Lake, Devils Lake, Crater Lake, for Pete's sake...I've been everywhere man...chorus

I've been to:

Louisville, Nashville, Knoxville, Ombabika,

Schefferville, Jacksonville, Waterville, Costa Rica,

Pittsfield, Springfield, Bakersfield, Shreveport,

Hackensack, Cadillac, Fond du Lac, Davenport,

Idaho, Jellico, Argentina, Diamantina,

Pasadena, Catalina, see what I mean-a...I've been everywhere man...chorus

I've been to:

Pittsburgh, Parkersburg, Gravelbourg, Colorado,

Ellensburg, Rexburg, Vicksburg, Eldorado,

Larimore, Atmore, Haverstraw, Chatanika,

Chaska, Nebraska, Alaska, Opelika,

Baraboo, Waterloo, Kalamazoo, Kansas City,Sioux City, Cedar City, Dodge City,

what a pity...I've been everywhere men...chorus

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Big Eddie meets The C.O.W.

This past week we finally  got to spend a couple days and do some traveling and camping in our latest camper. Finally Big Eddie, our Ford Expedition, and the camper we bought after many trials and errors with a bigger camper, the “damn” camper and the RV “guzzler” got hitched. Originally, we were going to go to Nashville to see our son who had recently moved there from California. But due to timing and new jobs and schedules that trip won’t be happening until possibly early December. So we decided the best plan would be to do some camping within Minnesota and try out the new camper for the first time. And also try out Big Eddie pulling the camper for the first time. Sort of our Maiden Voyage.

So instead of hurrying to pack and hustling out the door early Saturday morning as originally planned, we casually spent Saturday packing up and figuring out how we were going to make a place in Big Eddie for the two big dogs to ride in back comfortably. We have a 75 pound Labradoodle, Max and an even bigger yellow Lab, Zoe. While they are awesome when traveling, they do take up a lot of space. 

So we put the two rows of seats down in the back and separated the middle area for them to stay. A perfect place for them to crash and sprawl out with windows all around for them to look out at the countryside. I started to think our 4 kids didn’t have it as nice as these 2 four-legged friends. But then again the kids didn't take up as much space sprawling out as these two do.
Once everything was in the camper, it was time to hitch it up to Big Eddie. Over the years this has become my most dreaded task of traveling preparations. I know for a fact this is not the favorite task of any traveling partner and the person behind the wheel hooking it up. But it gets magnified doing this with a deaf person who really doesn’t listen anyway or watch for hand signals until I have to go to his window and pound on the vehicle or his shoulder. But the time had come to hook up the camper.

I took my position between the camper and Big Eddie and started making my hand gestures to him to come back slowly and to aim the bumper left or right. And it never ever fails...when he is spot on and about 2 inches away, he will bypass my instructions and put it in drive and pull ahead to start over. About this time, I will throw my arms up in the air and ask myself, since he won’t hear me, “what the heck are you doing?” And the process will begin again to get that bumper lined up with the camper hitch. I can only say that after 42 years of marriage, hitching up a camper is not for the faint of heart or a weak marriage.

But for whatever reason, backing up Big Eddie to hitch it up to the camper, went smoothly without any issues or wild gestures on my part or pulling forward just as the bumper was ready to meet the hitch. Maybe Big Eddie and this camper are more visible to the one backing up to hitch it up. 

Once the camper was hitched up and everything was secured inside, it was time to head out. The dogs sensing they were going to go with on this adventure had been waiting inside Big Eddie while we packed the camper and hitched it up. They had each claimed their spot in the back and were napping while we finished everything up.

Off we set out down the driveway to the gravel road and out onto the highway for 6 days of camping. We had decided to go more North and see if the leaves had colored up. And then after a day or two in the North country we were going to head to Western Minnesota and go South and check out some state parks we have yet to go to. Our retirement goal over the next few years is to check out every state park in Minnesota. We have plenty and all over the state which is nice. A person can go from almost mountains and a lake that can feel like an ocean in the very northeast part of Minnesota to prairie land in the West and Southwest, to river bluffs in the Southeast. Minnesota has so much variety it is possible to feel like you have traveled all over the US without even leaving the state. We both are looking forward to doing more in-state traveling and camping between the visits out of state to the kids. 

Our first campsite was at Itasca State Park. The Mississippi Headwaters park. We pulled in and got a beautiful site by the lake for the first night. The spot was reserved after that so we would need to move somewhere else if we stayed another night. After driving a few hours in the wind and pouring rain we were glad to park and plug in the camper and have some coffee and tea and warm up inside. We watched out the window as the waves were kicking up on the lake and the rain was now coming sideways against the camper. As we sat there we both agreed this was so much better than tenting, or even the conversion van, or any other camper or RV we have had over the years. We were warm and dry and able to move around some. We started talking about how this camper seemed more like a little cabin than a camper. All the amenities like a fridge, a sink, a bathroom made it feel more like a little cabin on wheels. And everything actually worked. And then it came to us, a name for the new camper. It really was not a new camper, it was used. It was nice so it wasn’t thought of as the “damn camper”, and it was easy on gas compared to the “guzzler”. It was at that moment we christened the camper The C.O.W…the “Cabin on Wheels”. Yep that was what we would call it. Big Eddie and the C.O.W., our new traveling retirement rig.

The next day was sunny and beautiful after an all night rain. We went to where the Mississippi river begins its journey South to the gulf. We crossed over it and let the dogs wade around in it before walking back to the gift store to get a few postcards to send the grandkids. While inside we got to visit with the gift shop employees. This is the one thing I love about traveling, getting to meet people from the area. It was a great conversation as we all own electric bikes. We were able to hear about all the miles and miles of bike trails in the area. The park itself has incredible trails, not to mention the MRT trail that runs through the park. The Mississippi River Trail has hundreds of miles of trails not on a roadway. Just a paved bike trail. 

Our very first time to Itasca State Park was close to 32 years ago when we had gone with our 4 young kids and a big van and tent. As we went by that campsite we had been in years ago, the memories came flooding back to me. 

It was early Summer, the kids had just finished up school. They were about ages 2, 4, 5, and 7 at the time. We had pitched the tent and the kids were exploring around the campsite. My Best Half was getting stuff ready for a campfire. I was sitting at the picnic table and started feeling dizzy, a headache and then queasy. I grabbed the ice cream bucket used for putting fish guts in when we cleaned them and proceeded to puke my guts out sitting at the picnic table. I couldn't move so I just sat there while other campers I am sure were getting grossed out at this crazy lady puking. I was feeling sicker and sicker as the minutes passed by. My head was pounding, I was puking in a bucket in the middle of the campground sitting on a picnic table. Could it get any worse?

As I sat there and tried to pull myself together, I watched the kids. They were in their swimsuits as we were going to go to the lake once camp was set up. One by one, I watched 3 of them start scratching at their backs and arms. Mosquitoes..maybe? Pretty soon they had spots on their backs and arms but not looking anything like a mosquito bite. And then I remembered...two weeks before our 4 year old came home with chicken pox. Great, the other 3 were breaking out with chicken pox. I wasn’t a nurse at the time and never thought about the other kids being exposed and breaking out when on vacation. 

I sat there with the ice cream bucket in my lap and started to cry. I was so sick, the kids were breaking out with chicken pox literally right before my eyes and I wanted to go home. The 3 kids began to feel miserable with fevers and itching. My Best Half looked around at the sight and saw me crying. He and the 4 year old started packing up to go home. It was about 9 PM and there was a 4 hour drive ahead of us. He basically threw everything into the back of the 1 ton van, loaded the kids up and threw me in the way back seat by myself, with my bucket. I truly believe other campers were glad we were leaving. They probably had had enough of my retching and puking.

It was a long drive home for the two healthy ones up front. But the 4 year old managed to stay awake and work as co-pilot. Little did I know my Best Half was driving with one eye closed as he had a migraine and probably getting what I had.

About 2 AM we were home and the kids were in bed and I was finally done puking. We all slept through the morning. When the kids awoke, they were all 100% covered with chicken pox and had fevers. The next week was spent trying to keep them entertained and not scratching themselves. The TV got a good workout that week.

And then there was the very last time we were there camping with the kids. We were generous and let the kids spend the night in the old RV,named Harvey, while we pitched the tent and spent the night in there. They had reached junior high and high school age and liked the RV and comforts of a mattress over a sleeping pad on the ground. 

Along about supper time we saw the Park Ranger go by hauling a large cage past our campsite and about 20 yards from our tent. It was some kind of looking trap.They dropped it off there and we assumed they would get it later and put it where they really wanted it, by the garbage dumpsters farther away. That night we crawled into the little tent we had set up away from the RV and lights. The kids were settled in for the night and we were dozing off when we heard a metal ruckus on the other side of us. The trap must have been tripped. Figuring a raccoon  were inside it for the night we fell asleep feeling just a bit safer. But all night long we could hear snorting and banging on the cage.

That morning we awoke to a lot of conversation just on the other side of our site. It was other campers and the DNR guys over by the bear trap. Yep they had caught a bear that night. The only problem was they couldn’t get too close to it because another bear was sitting on top of the trap waiting for his buddy to be freed. All night we had heard the bear trap rattling around and thinking the racoons were trying to get out. Little did we know that there was a big bear inside it and another completely loose and a few yards away from our tent trying to open the trap. You have to love Minnesota wildlife. When they aren’t racing across the roads as you're coming down the highway, they are perching atop their friends a few yards away from you as you sleep.

After reminiscing about the past trips to Itasca with the kids, we decided to unhitch the C.O.W from Big Eddie and take a drive up to Bemidji and look around and go to the state park there on the lake. So we drove, had a picnic at the park and decided to head back to our campsite. On the way the brakes on Big Eddie started getting spongy. The week before we had just had the brakes fixed and a whole new master cylinder and lines put in. It was expensive but we knew when buying it that it would need to be done. By the time we got back to the campsite, we pretty much had no brakes at all unless they got pumped several times.

After discussing that more wet and windy weather was coming in, and not knowing how the brakes were going to respond with the C.O.W. hitched up we decided we probably needed to head home in the morning to avoid the weekend traffic and the wet roads and no brakes. Just another chapter in the adventures of our travels. That’s about normal for us. 

The next morning we hitched the C.O.W. up to Bid Eddie without a single thought of divorce from either of us. It was the smoothest hitching we ever have had in 42 years. Maybe a couple of old dogs have learned some new tricks over the past years. We had everything stowed away and set out for home. It was a scary and slow drive home. We did finally make it and got unhitched and brought Big Eddie in to get checked out. It turned out the new master cylinder was bad, so a new one has been put in. So fortunate we made it home safe and it was under warranty so there was no charge for the repairs. 

We still have a few days before Monday morning work starts for my Best Half. Unfortunately it has been raining and windy most of the time. We have been doing odds and ends around the house getting ready for Winter when it comes. And it feels like it will be sooner than later.

This week after 38 years working at the same company, my Best Half will be letting them know he is going to retire December 3rd, less than 50 days away! The past few months we have been preparing for that moment. We have been finding a way to travel safely and comfortably, and finally we think Big Eddie and the C.O.W. will be the ticket. We have tried to simplify things around here since it is only the 2 of us and the dogs now. We have good neighbor friends down the road who will keep watch on the farm and keep the chickens fed and watered in return for fresh eggs daily. Neighbors looking out for each other is common in Minnesota, and it makes us very grateful for them. I think we are ready for us both to be retired after all these years. Bring it on!

Sunday, October 10, 2021

"Big Eddie" Please Keep us Safe

I get teased a lot by family and friends because I tend to sell lots of vehicles and campers and boats and canoes online. Over the past few months, I have sold a vehicle, a camper, an RV, and 2 canoes. I have a tendency to try something and if it doesn’t fit, I sell it so I can replace it with something that will work. My Best Half has always joked that he better remain worthwhile or he will be next to go down the road.

About 2 weeks ago, after discussing our travel plans once we both are retired, we decided we needed to have a different vehicle to pull the new camper. Since we may do some Southern trips in the winter, we would need a 4x4 for sure. And something big enough to haul our 2 dogs with us, a combined weight of about 150 pounds. And something we can put a canoe or kayaks on top. After weighing the pros and cons of truck vs SUV, we decided a large SUV would serve our purpose and be more practical. So we set out to see what was out there in the used vehicle world. There is no way we could afford a new SUV or even a newer used SUV. The price of vehicles has soared in the past year.

After finding several used SUVs and messaging for more info and looking at a few, we decided to thin the search down to looking for a Ford Expedition. They seemed the best fit for what we were needing. So for the next week many pictures and info was exchanged in text messages between me and my Best Half while he was at work. We finally came across a 2007 Ford Expedition that was the Eddie Bauer extra long style. We went to look at it and it seemed like it was in great shape and had been well taken care of. And the big bonus was it was an Iowa vehicle and had very minimal rust. Minnesota vehicles oftentimes are pieced together with Gorilla Tape over the rusty areas. The engine sounded good, no check engine lights were on and we decided this was the one. And so the MInnesota Nice negotiations had begun. 

I offered the owner a price that was considerably lower than what they were asking and then waited for his counter-offer… and waited a little longer. I started feeling a little uneasy with all the silence that was happening. Maybe I had insulted him with the low price. Finally, to my surprise, he agreed to the price I had offered. I’m still not sure he agreed to it because of the uncomfortable silence or he just wanted to be done selling it. But a few minutes later, he was signing the title over and I was paying him the price.

And off my Best Half drove home with “Big Eddie”, our new SUV.We got home and I cleaned it all over from the dashboard to the carpeting. When I was done, “Big Eddie” looked brand new. Next would be the transfer of stuff from the van to the camper and “Big Eddie”. When we traveled to Spokane a few weeks ago I left all the camping gear and stuff in the van. And while the van had incredible storage under the bed, the SUV was a little more limited and stuff would be out in the open more.

Realizing that “Big Eddie” didn’t have the storage for small stuff we had kept in a drawer up front in the van, I was going to have to get creative with the stuff I liked to keep close at hand in the front. I put the first aid stuff in the glove compartment, figuring that needed an easy access spot. Extra phone cords, masks and hand sanitizer fit into the center console. That left me with the trip log book, some pens and a notebook, a place for my phone and a place for the hunting knife I use to cut fruit and snacks up with. I made a long thing with pockets out of fabric and cardboard to put my stuff in and then bungeed it to the console.  A perfect fit.

So, with everything moved out of the big blue van, I was able to clean it and take pictures to post it for sale on MarketPlace. While we both had a reluctance to sell the van, we knew we needed to do just that. We now had “Big Eddie” to haul us around with the camper. If a quick cross country trip was needed, we can always put a mattress in the back or cram into the minivan. But with retirement the hope is to travel slower and pull the trailer.

As we were coming home from the car wash with the van, we both had time to remember all the fun travels that van has brought us. We easily, over the years, have put on 30,000 miles of road trips across the United States. Trips to Big Bend National Park in Texas, a few through the SouthWest,  some to North Carolina and Louisiana, and out west just a few weeks ago. So many happy memories and people we met along the way. One time, we even met Lorreta Lynn’s niece in Butcher Holler, Kentucky. We sat on the log cabin porch and chatted away about nursing and how her daughter was in nursing school. So yeah, lots and lots of great memories.

But not being able to keep more vehicles than we need, the van was listed for sale. And as usual within a few minutes of listing the van, many messages started coming in. About 15 in the first 20 minutes and all wanted to come look at it. So one by one I replied to all of them telling them I would let them know if it sold before they could make it out to look at the van. 

A guy planned to come out and look at it right away when my Best Half was home too. I won’t sell any vehicles without him there. He knows the mechanics and ins and outs of all of our vehicles.He knows everything we have had repaired and will be honest if there is something wrong. As for me...I can tell you how much gas is in the tank and if there is a sticker on the windshield, I  can tell you when the oil was last changed.

The guy came and did the usual kick the tires and then listed everything that was wrong with it. It had some rust, did the CD player really work? And our favorite was when he said it rattled when he closed the side door. He proceeded to open the side door and slam it shut, but no noise. He did it again several times, had his friend slam the door while he crawled under the van. No rattling noted. I then said there probably were some rattles as it is a 1999 model. Heck, I sound like a bowl of Rice Krispies when I get out of bed in the morning. My body goes Snap, Crackle, Pop. He didn’t find the humor although his friend did. He needed to think about it and off he went. Another person came a few minutes later and wanted it, but didn’t have the cash so we said check back tomorrow if it's still listed. He drove off and we went in and ate supper and waited for the next person.

The next person came with her friend and took it out for a test drive. By now it was getting late and the sun was going down. We waited and waited for her to return with the van and finally after a long test drive she came up the driveway. She had taken a turn and had gotten lost on the back roads. She had a few questions and then decided she wanted it. And so the big blue van was headed down the driveway to its new home, hopefully ready for new adventures and to make new memories with the new owner. I so hoped it was just what she was looking for and wanted.  

The past few months, we sold many things that have served us well over the years. And while there have been choices and changes made, that we both have agreed needed to happen, it has been kind of bittersweet. I have come to realize it is not so much the changes we’ve been making, but more the reason for the changes we have been making that have left me kind of reflective. They have been more to accommodate us as we age. Changes that hopefully will make our lives easier as we move a little slower and find pleasure more in the journey, rather than the journey’s end.

In our 30’s and 40’s it was tents and bouncing down the road in a 1 ton rusted up old van with the 4 kids and dogs.We would drive 14-15 hours a day just to hurry up and get to our destination. We would drive through the night watching for deer on the road and being thankful when we pulled in at the end we were safe from roadkill. 

And now? The luxury of an SUV with incredible fill suspension pulling our home behind us with all the things we need tucked in it, we both are ready. As for driving 14 hours a day, we are ready to trade it in for stopping before dark. We still will be watching for deer on the road. You know you have a higher chance of hitting a deer here than being audited by the IRS. After all, this is Minnesota.

Sunday, October 3, 2021

MY New Best Friend, Ziggy

A few weeks ago our son, daughter-in-law and 6 kids (ages 6-16) set out for El Paso,Texas. About 2 or 3 months ago he had informed us that he had accepted a job down in Texas,1200 miles away. For the past 2 years or so they have been living downstairs in the apartment like lower level of our house.

The month leading up to their leaving has involved much planning and chaos combined. They bought a used camper trailer and they renovated it completely to accommodate their big family. They were selling their belongings or giving stuff away that they figured they would not need in Texas. You know things like skis, hockey skates and winter climate stuff. And furniture that won’t  be needed while living in their camper. The plan was to load up the truck pulling the camper and the SUV that my daughter-in-law would drive and follow behind the camper. Another family moving from Alaska to El Paso would also be caravaning down with them in their large RV. They have 4 kids making the trip with them.Trying to get the lives of 8 people in that small area was a challenge, but they did manage to get all they wanted packed up.

For the past few weeks when I have been outside many vehicles have pulled up into our driveway looking for their purchase off MarketPlace. Usually one of the grandkids would be out and show them where to drive to get to their place out in the back of the house. At one point when we came home one afternoon, there were 5 trucks in a line out back to pick up their purchases. For several weeks our yard had become like a Walmart parking lot. The only thing missing was the shopping carts and corrals around the yard. But we did have two campers on the outer edge of the yard just like Walmart has overnight campers on the perimeter of their parking lots.

Well, most everything sold or they were able to give away and we finally and officially said good-bye to each other. Fighting back my tears for a few seconds and then full all out ugly crying, I said goodbye. My 10 year old grand-daughter and I clung to each other as we both sobbed. Her and I have the same feelings when it comes to saying good-bye not knowing when we will be together again. So we held each other and wept, wiping each other's tears as they fell down our cheeks while al the others watched uncomfortably. Like I said, we call it ugly crying. This was more like ugly sobbing.

When all the good-byes were said and final Minnesota instructions were given to my son and daughter-in-law to watch out for deer, they were driving up the barn road to the gravel and then onto the highway to start their 1200 mile journey South. And I was left standing by myself in the yard sobbing while I prayed for their safety in all things. It took several minutes as I walked back up to the house before I stopped sobbing. I hate good-byes of any kind. It causes me uncertainty in knowing when or if I will ever see that person again. They are one of my worst tasks in life. I am eventually able to suck it up and do the stoic Swede thing and dry my eyes and carry on with life. That or I am completely dehydrated from ugly crying and have no more tears left. I haven’t figured out which yet.

It has been a few weeks since they left.They made it safely to El Paso and have set up camp with their Alaskan friends and are living in the trailer for right now until they can find a place to live. As for me up here in the North Country, I will be just fine. Fall has been creeping into Minnesota a little bit every day. The mornings and evenings are cooling down into the 50’s and the days stay around in the 70’s. Leaves have started turning colors in some spots and the garden is producing the last of the little bit of produce from a drought stricken Summer. Fall is always a reminder to me that nothing stays the same. Just like in life.

The house feels very quiet these days, almost silent. No more dishes clanking downstairs, no more surround sound explosions in a movie that had me running to the deck to see if the barn was on fire. No more grandkids playing soccer in the backyard, no one on the squeaky swing going slowly back and forth in the evening after dark. Nope, just quietness. I sometimes worry I may not survive the deafening silence around here and then it happens.

The farm behind us is out in the field taking in their crops with their old diesel tractor that chugs and sputters up and down the many rows of corn planted out in the field next to us. And the neighbor to our East will come out with all of his pistols and rifles and semi-automatic guns and do some target practice. It will sound like the 4th of July and fireworks going off here and there until the grand finale when he fires his semi-automatic guns. One round after another until all the magazines are empty. And then the silence once again. No more shots fired, the tractor chugs back to the farm behind us and is put away until next time.

I realized this week that I will survive these changes, even those that seem so hard. I will be OK having a vacant downstairs and empty backyard. I can maybe even come to embrace the quietness. But for right now I have the TV on CNN and droning in the background and I have been talking to my new best friend, Alexa. Although in my world she is named Ziggy. I have asked Ziggy about the weather here and in El Paso, Nashville and Spokane where 3 of the 4 kids live. I even have asked Ziggy to tell me jokes, just for the noise. “Why was the peach so mean?...It had a heart of stone.”  

Yeah time to move on and enjoy life, be it quiet or noisy. As my daughter and kids pull up the driveway coming by for a visit the dogs start barking to announce someone is here.  I hear the chatter as the kids walk up the driveway. The yard is coming to life, even if just for a while, it is music to my ears. With all the changes and craziness lately, there is one thing I know for certain. Whether the kids are far away or close at hand, be it silent or so noisy that I can’t think straight, I have family to love and my family has me. I’m not sure  there is anything better than loving others and feeling another’s love. I go to sleep every night knowing because of this, I am a blessed woman.