Sunday, December 25, 2022

From Our House to Yours...

Merry Christmas everyone. A few years ago all of the grandkids got together and did some Christmas songs. We even got our little 4 year old grand-daughter in Tucson to sing Jingle Bells and we brought that into all the other grandkids singing. It was fun to hear all 15 voices! 

Anyway on the podcast today you can hear the 15 grandkids playing their ukuleles, guitars and the little ones banging the percussions totally out of rhythm. That day watching and listening to all of the grandkids making music was one of my best days ever! 

Here is hoping you all have a peaceful and blessed season. From our house...Merry Christmas to all of you faithful listeners and readers of the podcast and blog.

To hear the podcast go to our website and scroll down to the podcast. 

Go to Solid Rock Minnesota:

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Three Blind Mice...and Then There's Me

Several years ago, after years of working on a computer at work, I needed to get eyeglasses for reading and doing stuff up close. Things like computer work, knitting, and anything else where I would be needing to see 1-2 feet in front of me. 

Up until then I had had perfect vision well into my 40’s and part of my 50’s. I could nail those vision charts at the eye doctor like I had memorized the letters on the chart. I could read right on down to the fine print at the bottom right corner where it said “Made in USA”. My eyes were just that good.

Well fast forward to about 3 years ago when I went to get my eyes checked. Not only did I need a stronger reader prescription, but the optometrist wanted to do a little correction for my far distance. What the heck? And as I listened to the eye doctor tell me it was normal for my eyes to change as I age, I wasn’t in the mood to start wearing glasses full time. But he gave me a prescription for progressive lenses anyway.

Well as time went on, I was spending more time on the computer at work due to changing jobs and having to enter all my nursing charting and much more on the computer. I needed those readers 100% of the time for up close stuff. And the time had come when I was getting tired of either taking off the glasses to see farther ahead of me or worse yet, wearing the glasses halfway down my nose and looking over them like the cranky librarian I remembered as a kid.

So I went on the computer and went to the online eyeglasses place where you can buy prescription glasses for ⅓ the cost of buying in a store. But the only problem is you can’t try them in person. You have to take a picture of yourself and then you can put eyeglasses on your face in that picture. The only problem I was running into was that I needed to take the cheater glasses off to take the picture. So I couldn’t see what I was doing when trying to take a picture on the laptop. I took several pictures on my laptop and most were either too close or too far away, or worse yet they were of me squinting trying to see what I was doing.

After about 7 or 8 attempts I did manage to get a picture the right distance away from the laptop and I had my eyes open and my head straight and not tilted. So I could start browsing through the hundreds and hundreds of eyeglasses they had. After several try-ons I chose a pair of plastic frames with the progressive lens, thinking they would hold up the best. I paid the amount and within about 2 weeks my new “wear all the time” glasses had arrived. 

I put them on and looked in the mirror. Besides taking up most of my face and feeling like I was looking through the bottoms of drinking glasses,, they were lightweight and I could see out of them. I would use them for work and use just the cheap readers at home.

Within 5 minutes of putting them on, I leaned over to pick up something off the floor, and they fell right off my face. So off to Walmart I went to get them adjusted. The person at Walmart in the eye department told me she could do a little adjustment but plastic frames are hard to adjust. So she did what she could and they felt a little better.

I got home and spent the day wearing them. I kept them on and attempted to get used to the progressive lenses. They were fine when reading off the laptop, but when trying to find the spot to look farther out several feet, I wasn’t having too good of luck finding the “sweet spot” of the distant view. I took them off and left them set by my laptop. I was just going to have to go with the cranky librarian look with the readers halfway down my nose.

Eventually I did figure out how to look through the progressive lenses and not feel like a drunken sailor walking, but it really messed with my depth perception. That would take a few more weeks to figure out. So once I figured out the “how” of looking through progressive lenses I decided to order a spare pair. The pair I had kept falling off my face everytime I bent over to pick something up. I decided maybe wire frames would be more adjustable.

So once again I sat down at the laptop and “tried on” glasses online. I found a plain pair of wire rims and ordered them. When I got them they fit much better and for the most part didn’t fall off my face. But I still pretty much only wore them for up close tasks. And that meant the glasses got set down on tables, got put in a pocket and sent through the washing machine, were left on a table in the yard for Max to find and bring to me. He even found them in pieces in the yard after I had mowed the lawn and they had fallen off the top of my head where they were propped while mowing. Unfortunately Max had found them after the lawn mower had found them first and shredded them. But he managed to deliver every piece he found. He does a better job than me when it comes to my glasses.

This has been pretty much my eyeglasses life the past 5 or 6 years. I have gone through about 10+ pairs of bifocals at least. I am careless, reckless and forgetful all in one when it comes to wearing glasses. And yet I find I am needing them more and more daily to get around in life. 

The other day I was outside working and leaned over to pick something up. Off went my glasses and onto a rock in the driveway. I picked them up and saw a huge chip in the lens. They were now pretty worthless. They were only about 5 weeks old and already I had busted them.

I went online to order new ones and got into a chat on the website where I buy my glasses. I told the person I just got them and they got chipped by the rock on the road. She asked me to wait a few minutes and then she came back into the chat. She told me that since I was such a great customer (probably because I bought 4+ pairs the past year) she would send me a replacement pair for free. So I am waiting for the new ones to come in the mail. While I wait I am wearing the old plastic ones when needed. And yes they continue to fall off my face multiple times a day.

I have to say that I have come to have a whole new respect for those who wear glasses daily and can keep them from falling off their face. I am in awe of those who remember where they set their glasses down and can find them right away. And most importantly…I have a whole new understanding for those who wear the progressive lenses and can walk a straight line. As for me and my eyes…we are still learning all those abilities. In the meantime, I just make sure Max is there to remind me that I wear glasses these days. He has taken on the job of being the keeper of my eyeglasses. Good job Max, you are better at it than this human.

Sunday, December 11, 2022

One Year Later

The past week marked the one year of my Best Half’s retirement anniversary. While to most people it probably would just be another day passing. And for my Best Half and myself it was pretty much just another day. But as we were sitting down eating breakfast together we had a chance to review the past year and how retirement is going for both of us home together…every day…all the time…together.

And I have to say it has been incredible to be on this retirement journey with my Best Half. After decades of working hard and trying to find time to fit in all of what life keeps dishing out daily, we finally seem to have gotten to this point in life that we can take a deep breath and ponder the next moves for the next adventure…or relaxation. The beauty of retirement has been being able to pace our lives to do stuff and be in that moment, just enjoying whatever it is we are doing at that specific moment in time. No longer are we rushing through things on the check off list only to get the next one done and then the next.

Are we doing all of the things we had talked about doing before we retired? Those things like traveling all over the country, taking on new hobbies, maybe doing more camping, more fishing and taking day trips just to see things in Minnesota we have always talked about and never had the time? The answer is a definite…sort of.

Last Spring after much storm damage to our house, we spent the good part of the Summer with construction and teams of workers around re-siding the house and putting in new windows. This took a good portion of our short Minnesota Summer, and we stayed pretty close to the house during that time. So our camping trips and cross country trips were put on hold. And then came the aftermath of the construction.

Once the house was done with the construction, there were several little things that needed to be done by my Best Half. Things like building a new flower box for under the picture window out front, painting that and all the trim around the two garage doors. We were changing up the color of the trim so it all needed to be done. And once that was done, my Best Half looked to the big shed out in the front drive and decided to paint that the color of the siding. And of course the trim.

When it was all said and done, we pretty much have a new looking house. And we both are really happy that we can go into our getting old years and not have to think of doing all of that work again. But it did eat away our first Summer of retirement. We did get to do some local fishing and bike riding, and even a few days up North camping. But some of the bigger plans got put on hold until all the construction was accomplished.

So here it is Winter. No camping locally on our horizons, but we are starting to plan to take a Winter trip for a few weeks later on this Winter. You know about the time cabin fever starts setting in and you start thinking you can’t take one more day on below zero temperatures. With the price of gas coming down, we actually feel like we can maybe take a nice long trip South. While we aren’t sure exactly where or when, we know it will be to warm weather. It may involve getting up the morning we leave and looking at where the warm weather will be. And that is just one more advantage of retirement. We can leave when we want and be gone until we come home.

Some have asked us if it has been hard being together day after day since retirement. You know, you always hear horror stories of couples who retire and are just not as compatible as they were in their working full time days. For the most part, it has been an easy transition from us apart and now together every day and sometimes all day. But we have our moments.

There are some times, such as this morning, when my Best Half tells me I’m really “on a roll”, meaning I am finding anything and everything to say that is annoying me. And you know, he is right. There are just some days, I look and see things I wish weren’t so oblivious to my Best Half. I’m sure anyone living with another person can relate.

Some of the nuisances are things like not wiping up the counter from his coffee mug or sitting at the kitchen table away from the table, with the dog lying sprawled out next to him…blocking the walkway from the hallway to the kitchen. These I will mention after having to suck in my gut and negotiate my way around them. And they will both move without saying a word. It is not a big deal and I guess it has become more of an expected response for both of us.

But there are 2 things that have cause for some frustration and annoyance on my behalf. And these are not negotiable.The first is putting mixing bowls on the top
shelf above the stove and microwave. While my Best Half is 6 feet tall with long arms for reaching, I am about 5’4” on a good day. I can reach the microwave and the shelf right above the microwave. And even that is on my tippy toes and maybe having to make a “jump and grab” maneuver. Everything else above that shelf is only obtainable with a chair or step stool. And I have awesome balance and usually will fall off what I climb 75% of the time.

The other thing that has caused some riff in the household is putting my cast iron pan in the dishwasher. Not once, but a couple times. To the point that I stopped using it. But this has been remedied by having a cheat sheet on cast iron care hanging inside the cupboard. And for the most part I have taken over cleaning the cast iron after use. But I have to say, at times, he has started caring for the cast iron pans and has been keeping them clean and oiled without any nagging from me. He really is a good guy.

Without asking my Best Half what things have bothered him regarding living 24/7 together since retirement, I will venture to guess there are plenty of my habits also. But he is too smart to say anything. No need to have both of us “on a roll”.  I can name several of my idiosyncrasies that even annoy me, so I am sure he could rattle off several too. But again, he takes the high road in this area of our marriage. A wise man.

All the little annoyances aside, retirement for the two of us together this past year has been an incredibly fun time. Sometimes we will look at each other late on a Sunday night and just grin, knowing we don't have to go back to work Monday morning. And when Monday comes along, who knows, we may even take to the highway for a drive to somewhere we have always talked about going to visit and never had the time. Yep retirement this past year has been pretty awesome for us both. 

Sunday, December 4, 2022

Rusty, Crusty and Trusty

The other day I was cleaning out where we store the pots and pans. It had become a towering mess of all sizes pots and pans and their lids teetering in a drawer. Each was strategically resting on the other in order to be just the right height so the drawer would close.

I was sick and tired of ramming and cramming those things constantly and fighting to get the drawer to close. Considering it was a whole collection we were given for our wedding years ago I realized we only used a few of them. The others just kind of sat in the drawer taking up space.

While I was taking everything out to organize it, I came across the old cast iron skillet that belonged to my mom. She had left it with me when they moved to a smaller house and she didn’t have room.

When I took that cast iron pan out and held it in my hands, a flood of memories came back to me. Memories of Sunday morning bacon sizzling in the pan and my mom standing over the stove flipping the bacon as it fried. I could smell the bacon as I sat there remembering those moments of my mom cooking. I could remember fried potatoes and pork chops, freshly rolled out homemade donuts that were my great-grandma’s recipe. All those things that my mom used that pan for.

It got me to wondering why that pan had been tucked away deep down in the pots and pans drawer. Why didn’t I use it l daily like my mom and all my grandparents did with their cast iron cookware over the years. I only used it once a year to make the donuts at Christmas time. It was the pan that I used so it would keep the temperature more even than the other pans.

And then it dawned on me. I remembered why it didn’t get used often. It was because since my Best Half does the clean up after meals it means he cleans and stacks the dishwasher. And not knowing how to care for cast iron, he automatically put the cast iron pan in the dishwasher with all the other pots and pans. Well it did come out shiny clean with all of the seasoning to keep it nice scrubbed off from the dishwasher. No one told him about seasoning cast iron, He was just doing his job.

So rather than hurt his feelings, because he thought he was doing a bang up job getting that old black skillet shiny clean, I just tucked it away except for the once a year donut making. And then I would try to just sneak it back into the bottom of the pots and pans drawer. Better to bury it under the stuff that can go in the dishwasher than hurt my Best Half’s feelings about cleaning the kitchen. Sometimes it is just better to choose the battles and let the tiny ones slide.

But that day as I was looking at the cast iron pan, I made the decision to start using it and learn how to keep it seasoned. I wanted to learn how to cook with cast iron just like my mom and grandmas did. I would season it and from here on out keep it face down in the oven after cleaning and wiping it down with oil. Just like they did for years and years. And so the YouTube search began on how to restore cast iron skillets.

While it didn’t seem like it would be terribly hard, it did seem like it would be time consuming at best. And I figured as long as I was doing one skillet, why not find a couple more to make a set. So I went on Marketplace and found some really old rusty and crusty cast iron pans and Dutch ovens. 

After a bit of negotiating and getting them for almost free I drove across the countryside and picked up the old rusty pans and even 3 dutch ovens. They were all in terrible condition and I had little hope they would be usable. But since they didn’t cost me much other than driving to get them, I was going to give it a shot.

I got the pans home and washed them out so I could look at them closer. Well, the rust was pretty much on the surface, and  there weren’t any cracks. They just were pretty crusty and needed a lot of work before they could be re-seasoned. While I was not sure exactly how to restore them, I decided to try and put them in a self cleaning oven. After hours in the oven, there was just ash left to wipe off. But still there was rust. So off to the sink I went and scrubbed and scrubbed with baking soda and let it set with vinegar soaking on it. Little by little the rust came off and I was looking at actual cast iron.

One by one I put light coats of oil on each pan and cover and let it sit for a bit before putting it in the hot oven for an hour to have the oil bake into the pans. I did this 3 or 4 times for each item. When it was all over, I had cast iron stuff that looked brand new! I was absolutely amazed.

Over the past couple weeks, I gave my daughter the Dutch ovens and a pan. She always cooks with cast iron and was excited to get the Dutch ovens as they have a big family and 2 is better than 1 in this case. As for me, I kept my mom’s skillet, a deep pan and a dutch oven. And I got a pizza pan. I have been using all of them in some way or another. As for the cleaning of them, I do it myself. After my Best Half saw all that was involved in maintaining cast iron, he turned the cleaning of the pans over to me. 

After I got all the new pans I realized if I was going to be using them daily, I needed to have them within reach. So off to Amazon I went and got some stacking pan holders for the countertop. And then I realized that to make cooking even easier, I need a spice rack on the counter so I wouldn’t always have to be searching through the “working” Susan as we call it in our house. Trust me, there is no such thing as a “Lazy” Susan in our house. If you call it that, you will be sorry.

Out to the wood pile I went and found some boards that would fit perfectly and hold 24 spices right next to my cast iron stash. I just would need to measure twice and cut once and nail it together. How hard could it be? 

It wasn’t too hard, but that measure twice, cut once rule didn’t work on my first attempt. I had forgotten to leave enough  space for spice jars on the top rack. I was ¼ inch off from them fitting. So back to the garage and the sides of the rack were cut longer. A little paint and there were spices right by the stove where they will be used. And no longer will we buy more Basil because we didn't see the full jar in the cupboard. I actually have 4 full jars of basil. I will never need to buy it again in my lifetime.

After everything was put in place I stood by the counter and admired the handy work of the past week. To me it was more than just reorganizing and cleaning some pots and pans. It was more like a tribute to my mom, my grandma’s and probably their mothers. All were hard working cast iron cooking women in their day. I am proud to say that finally after many years, I can join them in the ranks. Tonight’s meal…Chicken and Dumplings in the Cast Iron Dutch Oven

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Thanksgiving 2022 Ever Changing

Well it is a few days past Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday. I like to cook for a crowd and I love that we get together with no super scheduled plans in the day, other than to eat. The only real objective is that everyone coming needs to come by the time we eat. It usually is an early meal around 1 pm with leftovers dug out of the fridge around supper time before everyone goes home. It has been that way forever, since I was little and going to my grandparent’s house to be with all my cousins and family and those outside the family who would join us to celebrate the holiday. My grandma’s last Thanksgiving there were close to 65 people at her little house. She always had a heart to take in all who wanted to stop by. And somehow she always had room in her little house.

In the past years we have usually had our kids and grandkids and possibly a few people who had nowhere to go because their family wasn’t located close to them at our house. Our house has always been open to anyone wanting to come join our family for the day. There have been years past where we have had close to 30 here at the house to feast on a few turkeys and all the sides. And of course pumpkin pie and other sweet things to graze on throughout the day. Somehow there is always plenty of food as everyone usually brings something to share. There is never a lack of food, no matter how many people show up.

The year that Covid left so many home and alone, we managed to have our kids and grandkids that were living in Minnesota over for the day. It was still a fun time to let all the grandkids race around the house and outside if the weather permitted. There was noise and lots of activity while the grown-ups sat around and visited about the sales on Black Friday and scoping out their plans for shopping. For me, it was a time to sit back and watch the flurry of activity from the grandkids and listen in on the strategic shopping that would be happening the next day. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. When I was a kid, getting to see all my cousins was always a great time. And once grown and having to “adult” my way through Thanksgiving, I have come to work my tail off getting everything ready and then, just  like my Grandma, the day comes and I sit back and watch the flurry of activity. It is at that moment I realize all of the blessings surrounding me. There are many.

One by one, I try to get some time with each grandkid and visit with them. They might tell me a funny story or sit on my lap while they eat their 3rd or 4th pumpkin bar. It is always safe on my lap because the parents are busy chatting and not paying attention to what the grandkids and I are doing. It usually is safe territory. As I sit there and listen to them, I am made aware of how much they are growing into incredibly great people. Just one more realization of what a great life I have been given. 

This year, while being another great Thanksgiving, it was different compared to others. The past 2 years, while only having our daughter and her family here, it has been more subdued. The other kids and their families are all out of state and do their own thing. It has been well over 4 years since all 4 of the kids and their families were all back here at the same time. Between Covid, jobs, travel expenses and just trying to get everyone on the same schedule to come home at the same time, let’s just say it is somewhat like herding a bunch of cats. I am pretty sure it may never happen again in my lifetime, or at least while I am coherent enough to appreciate it. If I were to think too hard about that, it could make a person downright sad.

Even with fewer people together and less family gathered around the table this year, I still found myself sitting back and taking inventory of all of the blessings that continue to surround me. As I was sitting next to the 4 year old, he looked up at me and asked me if I was happy he came to my house to eat turkey? I got a little choked up for a second looking down at him beaming from ear to ear. This is the grandson who was in the NICU his first 5 months of life due to being born too early. He weighed in at a little over 2 lbs when he was born and now is 35 lbs and a typical 4 year old little guy. I scooped him up and held him tight and all I could say is, “Yep you made this grandma’s favorite day”. He just smiled back and grabbed another pumpkin bar. 

Sunday, November 20, 2022


A few weeks ago My Best Half walked in with a present for me for our anniversary. It was a beautiful light weight, high powered electric chainsaw! He placed it in my hands and I was mesmerized by its beauty and power and ability to down large branches and limbs like a knife through hot butter. I do believe it was one of the best gifts ever received given to me by him.

I am not much into gift giving or for that matter gift receiving. Especially when it is from my Best Half. Over the years, if there is something I need or  think would be good to have, I buy it when the finances can afford it. I am not much for getting stuff that isn’t practical or will sit on a shelf and collect dust. It just isn't really my style. I am more of a Fleet Farm and Menards kind of girl. And I really feel bad when my Best Half will walk in with a gift that is so far out there from being what I would use or want. I used to think he really didn’t listen or think things through when he bought me gifts. Especially in the earlier days of our marriage.

But in all honesty, I can’t really fault him for giving me gifts in the early days that were so far removed from what I wanted. I never dropped hints and never was in need of much. But that didn’t keep him from trying to find me a present for special occasions over the years. I received gifts that would include big bouquets of expensive flowers, books I would never read or gadgets for the kitchen that would get put up in the cupboard and never used. This was never his fault, I realized I never let him know what types of things I would want or need. That all changed about 10 years into our marriage when I finally spoke up and said I really didn’t need gifts from him. His gift has always been to just tell me to get what I need be it a special occasion or just on a whim. 

But he is a giver of gifts no matter what. It is what makes him the person he is. So he has continued over the years to give me gifts that were welcomed. But most women would probably shake their heads if they saw the list of what he has given me.

For instance, I have been given a miter saw, a pvc pipe cutter, rubber wheels to make a kayak hauler, a small row boat to take the kids fishing when they were little and a kayak when I started going by myself once the kids were grown. He has actually given me at least 2 kayaks, 4 canoes and 2 motorboats over the decades of our marriage. And multiple fishing gear. He has also given me handguns, a conceal and carry class, and a Henry .22 rifle that I drooled over when I was a kid. That was the year he declared our anniversary the Guns and Roses year. Along with the rifle, there were a dozen red long stem roses. And now here I was holding an electric chain saw. 

I took that chainsaw out to the fire pit and surveyed the job that had been staring me in the face all Summer. There had been much tree trimming over the Summer by my Best Half,and there was a huge pile of brush and larger tree limbs lying directly on the fire pit. For some reason, still unknown to me, my Best Half had just kept piling brush and large branches and tree limbs on top of the fire pit. It was now about 15 feet wide and at least 8 feet high. All sitting in our 4-5 foot wide fire pit just off the side of the house about a few hundred feet away. 

So with my new chainsaw in hand, I set out to clear all the brush and timber from the fire pit in order to safely put it all back on the fire pit in small bundles to burn it. I spent the entire day slicing through the brush and chopping the 8-10 foot long tree limbs into 2-3 foot lengths. Slowly but surely I was able to get some of the thick stuff stacked for bonfire nights and I got the brush in little batches to toss on the fire pit. 

It has been a couple weeks since getting the chainsaw and all the brush and wood is cut and stacked. The brush is just waiting for a safe day where we can sit down at the firepit and burn it all. Unfortunately, I am not sure when that day will come. We are pretty dry and the winds have been blowing hard and steady for weeks. No burning is allowed until there is some good rain and the wind dies down a bit. But in the meantime, I continue to use this treasured gift…my chainsaw. My Best Half has been staying clear of me when the chainsaw is running and I am yelling “Timber”.

 Along with being a smart gift giver to me, he is also a smart “stay out of my way when you hear timber” kind of guy. As I was surveying the dead 40 foot pine tree the other day, he gently took the chainsaw from my hands, saying it needed re-charging. Carrying it back up to the garage I heard him mumbling and shaking his head. Probably one of the times it was best I didn’t hear what he was saying.

Sunday, November 13, 2022

If I could Turn Back Time

Another Season has passed by and it has been a week or so since turning back the clocks an hour. While I should be celebrating adding an extra hour to my life I am once again looking at myself in the mirror seeing reddened eyes with bags under them from lack of sleep. It is the end of Daylight Savings Time 2022. We have turned back time officially.

It amazes me that as the day to turn back our clocks approaches, some of us here in Minnesota seem to prep for it. Not in the way we prep for the fishing opener or deer hunting. No not in a large scale way, but more in a subtle hardly noticeable stealth way.

There are of course the usual things like setting the clocks back an hour. But also there are some things it seems we do, maybe unconsciously or with full knowledge, to ease our way into the new time zone. A week or so before we go back in time, I have found myself delaying the supper time for us. Instead of the usual 5-5:30 supper time, I start moving the meal times a little later each day until it is a good hour later or more than the “normal” time we eat. I figure that way, when the clock reset happens, I won’t be starving at 4PM. I try to maintain meals around the same time my body is used to. Does it work…kind of.

A few days before setting the clocks back I have noticed my Best Half staying up later than his usual 10-10:30 and sleeping a little later than normal. I realized that was his way of trying to get his sleep cycle in sync with the time change that lies ahead. Does It work?  For him maybe, for me, I wouldn’t know. I am that person that sleeps 6 hours and then is awake and ready to face the day. So depending on what time I want to wake up will usually depend on what time I go to bed. That has been my alarm clock for many years. To be honest, I don’t even know how to set the alarm clock by the bed.

And now on to setting the clocks throughout the house. We have 7 or so that need resetting twice a year. And that becomes my Best Half’s job. While I will just spin the clock randomly to what I think the time is, he will look at his watch and precisely set each clock to the correct time. And all 7 clocks will show the same time. 

My job is to reset the clocks in all the vehicles, 3 of them to be precise. And I will spend a good 15-20 minutes in each machine resetting the time. I think my Best Half gets off pretty easy just having to do the 7 clocks in the house. Afterall it’s not like we have a VCR anymore that needs resetting. Me on the other hand, I have to dig out the owner’s manual for the radio and figure out how to set the clock for each vehicle. Each one requires a different way to reset the clock. And it usually involves a paper clip. Trying to find a paper clip around here is like trying to find a pack of peanut M&M’s in the candy jar after the grandkids have been around. I usually wind up using a toothpick.

But eventually I find something to use to stick in that tiny hole of the radio in the vehicles. And I will poke something sharp in the hour button with no results…until it will start racing numbers forward like the spinner on Wheel of Fortune. I will go around the 12 hours a few times until I can get it exactly on the right number. Halfway done, I’m thinking. And now on to the setting of the minutes, because somehow they got all jumbled up while I was messing with the hour. 

While it should be the same process setting the minutes, for whatever reason I can never get it to go slow enough to get to the right number. So I will make several attempts and finally stop and chalk it up to “that’s close enough”. Usually I manage to come within about 5 minutes of the correct time. And for me, that’s good enough as it usually is 5 minutes fast so no worries of being late for anything.

Well that process usually will take me a good hour to cycle through the vehicle's clocks. For whatever reason it also usually involves it being a cold, blustery and a rainy day. So who knows how much gas I burn up sitting there running the heater to stay warm while I do it. The only good thing about being in charge of the vehicle clocks is that I am the only one who really uses them and knows the correct time after adding or subtracting the minutes messed up when I was resetting. Everyone else seems to pull out their phone. And that is usually when I get told my clock is off. I always respond that they are free to reset it correctly. So far I have not had one taker on wanting to set my clock straight.

Once we are all prepped and ready to set the clocks back, the change over to Winter seems to happen pretty dramatically. The sun goes down and it is dark by 4:30. By 7 PM it feels like midnight with the surrounding darkness. It is now night for a good 14-16 hours a day it seems. And I have to focus all my energy on trying to remember that it is not hibernation season for us humans. Although, I think the bears have a pretty good take on all the darkness…just sleep it off til Spring. Might make it not seem like forever.

Well, a week or so has passed since we reset our lives an hour earlier. I always feel I have gained an extra hour of my life’s journey the night the clocks go back. As I age, each hour seems to count more and more in the greater scheme of living. I guess I will take all the free extra moments I can get. Another week and I am sure I will be into the time change once again for the season of winter. At least until we spring ahead come March. As for right now, I am staring out the window into the dark Abyss listening to the wind blowing and the faint sound of a coyotes howling out in the back field. And it is all of 5PM. Here's to all of us holding off the cabin fever for a few more months.

Sunday, November 6, 2022

Reunion Time

Last week I had a chance to meet up with old high school friends that I haven’t seen in about 40 years. While many people don’t like Facebook and are not part of that community, I find Facebook is a chance to stay in touch with family and friends that are scattered all over the world. For me it is a way of staying connected with my kids and friends that I don’t see often. So I log in daily and catch up on what is going on in my world. That being said, I also don’t let myself get sucked into the politics on Facebook. I realized a long time ago, before Facebook, that no one can really change another’s mind once they are set in their beliefs and thoughts regarding controversial things. Doing that has saved me many a hassle in life and it keeps my blood from boiling over memes and comments that I don’t agree with.

But back to meeting up with friends from high school. A couple of them that live out of state mentioned they would be in MInnesota for a bit and it would be fun to get together. After many messages back and forth, we finally had a plan made to meet up on a Friday afternoon halfway between the Southernmost and Northernmost people. All of this was planned and reservations made long distance thanks to our Colorado buddy. She always was the best at getting things planned and organized.

So text messages were sent to those not on Facebook and everyone was planning to come that day which was a week away. It gave me a week to think about what it would be like getting together after 40+ years from seeing one another. All those dumb questions running through my brain…Would we still have things in common?,Would the whole time be spent just talking about the glory days?, Where had life taken all of us after all this time?

Back in high school we were all pretty closely connected and did many things together. Mostly it consisted of hanging out together and maybe a few times getting in trouble with things like skipping school, smoking in the girls room (not me…I wasn’t a cigarette smoker), and of course our famous Senior Skip day down at Minnehaha Falls. It was all fine and fun until the police found us that day. But being we were from an all girls Catholic high school and not being too loud, the Minneapolis police just had us gather our stuff and leave. Back then most of us were 18 and that was the legal drinking age. And I don’t think they wanted to deal with 30-40 high school girls with no female police officers there. 

Well the day came and off I set driving an hour into the Cities to meet up with everyone. We had reservations made at a sports/family bar and restaurant, the halfway point for us. It was a nice place, and we had a table for the 7 of us. Drinks were ordered and as our waitress left lots of greetings and hugs were passed around. Other than gray hair for some of us and bifocals to read the menu, there wasn’t much change in anyone’s physical appearance. Amazingly, we pretty much had all gracefully aged without much change. I would have known each of them at first glance had we run into one another somewhere else.

The next few hours as we had lunch together, we did talk about the “glory days” of high school. We had some great laughs over some of the things we had done and of the escapades we had gotten away with back then. We got to remind each other of the times spent in the principal’s office and having to speak with the guidance counselor a few times throughout the high school years. And honestly, we all pretty much spoke of gratitude for being educated in an all girls high school by the Dominican and BVM nuns. They truly cared about each of us and we all got a good education, even if we got in trouble here and there along the way.

As we sat there together we shared pictures of our kids and grandkids, and talked about our careers that have recently ended or are about to end with retirement. Each one of us had a story to tell of life together when we were teenagers and life pursued into our adult years. There were stories of sadness and loss and there were stories of accomplishments and not losing sight of where we all have come from. It was a great day to get together and be grateful.

As the time came to an end, we all walked outside and decided we needed to find a spot to take a group picture before we all parted ways once again. You just never know how long it will be until the next time we can be together. We walked around until we came to a place that had a bench in front of the building. But it was in the shade and not a great photo spot. 

So what would the “younger” us do to get a good picture? One by one we walked over  to that bench by the building and picked it up and hauled it over to near the parking lot where there were some trees and sunshine. As people watched and thought we were stealing it, they started coming our way. We let them know we were bringing it back in a few minutes. So they just watched us. We assured them that 7 women in their mid-60’s weren’t stealing their bench. I mean how far could we carry this bulky bench anyway?

One by one we each found a place to sit or stand behind the bench. A person that had been sitting in her truck watching us got out and came up to us. She asked if she could take the picture for us. After hearing this was our first time together in 40-some years she took a bunch of pictures for us. 

When we were done and the bench returned to its proper place, a group hug and many promises to get together again were made. Off we all went in different directions, back to our homes out of state, to our lives and families post-high school years. As I drove home there was a big smile on my face. I have a feeling the smiles were on all of our faces as we drove home. Safe travels until we are together again, old friends.

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Minnesota Weather

Last week was our wedding anniversary and we had a nice day even if nothing went as we had planned a few days before. But sometimes, I have found, best made plans are best left by the wayside.

A week or so before our anniversary, we had started to make plans on doing something fun on that day. So like any Minnesotan, we were watching the daily forecast and would then decide what to do. The 5 day forecast was looking like it could go either way for cold and wet, or sunny and warmer. So our planning was all over the board.  

We had it narrowed down to going to Duluth and along the North Shore around Lake Superior or going South towards Pipestone, Minnesota. Either way we were planning to take our bikes and hit some fun trails either along the lake or out in the prairie land. We just had to watch which way the wet weather was going to travel.

Well, anniversary day came and we woke up and got the forecast for Southern Minnesota and Duluth from Alexa. The weather in the South was pouring rain and windy. The forecast for Duluth, in the North, was chilly and possible snow. I swear even following the radar map and listening to the forecasters the weather forecast for Minnesota is never accurate.

We got up and discussed what we were going to do. We decided either trip was not going to involve a bike ride more than likely, so we wouldn’t even bother to load up the bikes. Our day would involve taking a drive, looking at the Fall leaves in full color and going to lunch somewhere on the drive.

Deciding that going South was more driving than either of us wanted, we chose the road North to Duluth, Since Duluth was a bigger town, we could at least find some indoor things to do, like hit some stores for stuff we needed. And there would also be a bigger variety of places to choose for lunch.

So we set off to Duluth for a day of fun and looking at the leaves and lunch somewhere fun. It was about 8 AM when we set out. We went up town, gassed up  the minivan  and set out for a fun day together, and a drive around the shores of the great Gitchi-Gami, Lake Superior. 

It was a chilly morning,with clouds threatening rain or maybe even some light sleet or snow, but what the heck, it was still good to be out on the road heading to some place that didn’t involve more projects around the house preparing us for Winter. We had both been busy the past 2 weeks doing just that and it was time for a break from it all.

About 25 miles up the freeway and it started to sleet, icing up the windows. The wind had picked up and the windows were icing up enough that the defrost couldn’t keep up with the ice forming on the windshield. We drove another few miles and I finally mentioned this was a stupid idea. As we drove another 5 miles or so, the sleet turned to big thick heavy snowflakes that were starting to accumulate on the ground. Once again I mentioned this was probably not in our best interest to keep driving.I could see in his face, my Best Half, was thinking the same thing.

Although most Minnesotans are pretty proficient in driving in winter conditions of sleet,  ice and snow, the very first snow of each season always seems to bring out the need for a basic review of how to do this. It always seems like there are some out on the road that first snowfall that lose all common sense of their Minnesota driving ability. They will have to be reminded of how to come out of a fish tail, how to adjust your speed on an icy road and my favorite…how to remember to keep some distance from the car in front of you, You just never know when they will slam on their brakes because of something, such as a deer popping out crossing the road.

What the heck were we doing? The sleet and snow were coming down fast enough that it was getting harder to see what was in front of us. When the next exit was in view, we both decided heading to Duluth just wasn’t as enticing as it was when we first woke up that morning. It now just seemed like an inconvenient drive… like back in the pre-retirement days making the commute to the Cities for work. And there was nothing to prove anymore, we didn’t need to be out on the roads.

So at the next exit off the freeway, we got off and pointed ourselves South. We decided to head back down the freeway and head towards the Cities to do the same thing we planned for Duluth. At least it was just raining down that way.

When we got back to the exit for home we both just kind of looked at each other and decided half the day was over and we would just plan for another day to head out bike riding. Hopefully there would be a few days left before we had to put the bikes away for the Winter.

We stopped in town at a great Mexican restaurant and had our anniversary lunch and then headed back home with enough leftovers of food to have for supper. I was happy knowing I wouldn’t have to do any cooking the entire day. Always a treat for both of us, since I cook and my Best Half always cleans up afterwards.

We got home and went inside. It was still drizzling and sleeting and there was a good chill in the air. The little electric fireplace heater was turned on and we both sat down on the couch and hit the recliner buttons. Outside the wind was howling and blowing and all the leaves were falling from the trees. Just one more reminder that there was nothing we could do outside so we may as well take a breather. 

It wasn’t long until I could hear my Best Half lightly snoring, both the dogs were nearby doing the same. I watched out the window as the snow and sleet subsided. Slowly the sky turned blue and the sun was shining down. The temperature started warming up into the 40’s. I sat there for a minute or two thinking we could have probably gone to Duluth and the roads would have been melted. That thought stayed in my brain all of about a minute. But like the canines and my Best Half, I gave into that afternoon nap. When I woke up, once again it was sleeting and snowing and the wind was howling. Yep Minnesota…don’t like the weather…wait a few minutes. 

Sunday, October 23, 2022

A Trip to the Audiologist

About a month or so ago, I made an appointment for me to have a hearing exam and talk to the audiologist that my Best Half has seen for the past several years. Over the past few months, it seems, I was having trouble hearing and understanding my Best Half when we would be talking to each other. While it is totally “normal” for him to not hear me often times, it seemed that the tables were turned and I was the one having trouble hearing him. I chalked it up to him mumbling more and not articulating his words well. I kind of figured because his hearing had gotten so bad that he couldn’t hear himself saying the words and they were coming out mumbled. That was my take on it. That and the fact that he is from the South and still has some twang in his conversations. Being I am born and raised 64 years a Minnesotan I don’t speak Southern at all. And I’m a nurse, I can assess these things. But at the request of my Best Half, I made an appointment for myself to get my hearing checked.

A few years ago, I had a hearing exam because it was covered under our insurance and I was having some issues with tinnitus, you know, ringing in your ears for unknown reasons. I have had it for as long as I can remember. But it’s not so much ringing in my ears, it’s a chirping, like a million cicada bugs like they have down South. In fact one time down South they were especially loud and my Best Half mentioned that even he could hear them chirping really loud. I was so glad he had said that because I thought the tinnitus in my ears had just exploded. It turned out along with the choir always in my head, there was an extra special loud chorus going in the trees.

Anyway, the hearing exam a few years ago showed a bit of hearing loss in the high pitch ranges, most probably because the “chirping” in my ears was blocking the sounds during the hearing test. But it wasn’t bad and I had told the audiologist I just used a lot of background noise to ignore the chirping. It involved things like music or the TV on in the background, earbuds at night with music or an audio book until I fell asleep. So basically I was dealing with it without needing the $3000 hearing aids that would mask the chirping possibly.

Well, the day came for my hearing exam so we headed down together to the Cities for the appointment. My Best Half thought he’d go and wait in the car and then we would go to lunch after the exam. We got to the appointment and I wandered up to the hearing floor to sit and wait with the other masked people in the lobby. With all the masking that we have done the past couple of years, I have realized how much I have come to rely on lip reading. I know for a fact I don’t understand people when they are masked as well as being able to see their mouth as they are speaking.

Eventually, my name was called and I was in the exam room with the audiologist. I explained what was going on and pretty much told her it wasn’t me, it was my Best Half that was mumbling and not articulating his words so I could understand him. I could tell she was smiling under her mask and told me that very well could be part of the issue. He may not be hearing himself saying the words and they are not coming out clear. I felt a bit relieved that she kind of agreed. But as long as I was there she wanted to check my hearing.

So into the little soundproof booth I went with the earbud things in my ears waiting for the beeping sounds to start so I could click the button every time I heard any beep. While waiting for her to set up in the other room, I thought my head was going to explode from the loud chirping happening in that soundproof room! It was way too quiet and it allowed me to focus on the chirping. 

A few minutes later and she began the testing. First the left ear, then the right ear. I was punching that button like a mad woman…there was nothing wrong with my hearing. I could tell, I’m a nurse, you know. After a few more minutes the testing was over and I stepped out of the booth able to hear the whirl of the computer fan and people in the hallway. It was good to have the background noise instead of the chirping in my head.

The audiologist printed up the hearing test and proceeded to show me the results. It would need some explaining since it was a graph that started up and gradually scaled downwards. Hmm…I had a hunch I knew what it meant. And as she explained, it showed just what I was thinking as I looked at the graph. I have significant  hearing loss in both ears, but moderately severe in the right ear. Pitches that were right around conversation level and higher pitches weren’t coming through as well as they did a few years back. The audiologist explained it more than likely was the pitches that were in the same running as the chirping from the tinnitus. What the heck?!

We went over options to help my hearing, including trying on a pair of hearing aids. While I could hear a pin drop, I also had feedback when I spoke, kind of like wearing headphones and speaking into a microphone when recording. It was loud. That along with being $1800 (the cheap seats hearing aids) made us discuss other options. Mostly wait until I am 65 in a few months and also when over the counter hearing aids will become available. She was willing to have me send her any I may find and critique them for me and the tinnitus.   

I was ready to leave, but she continued to talk with me about “our” options…meaning my Best Half and me. She knows him quite well from working together over the years and understands the frustration probably happening between us as I now have to admit that I have hearing loss and it is not all his fault. I was really grateful for the tips and time she took to try and solve the issue. I thanked her and left with the promise to touch bases later in a few months.

I got out to the car and when my Best Half asked how it had gone I told him that he needed to quit mumbling when he was speaking to me. He had to articulate. He wasn’t falling for that solution one bit, so I fessed up and told him about the appointment and possibly needing hearing aids. And how we should be in the same room when talking, and probably facing each other. And that we should get each other’s attention before talking. And when all else fails…he should turn up his hearing aids. Ok that last one was my suggestion, but it can’t hurt for him to hear me. Just won’t help me hearing him.

Since the appointment, I have been more conscious of using the tips I was given. And while it isn’t perfect, it is better. At least until I get my ears wrapped around the fact that I probably need hearing aids. Again, this aging stuff, not for the faint of heart. Here's hoping we can keep the lines of communication open in whatever way possible…either hearing aids for me or…maybe it’ll be two times cans and a string. 

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Season of Change

I woke up this morning to a light dusting of white fluffy snow in the field. You know that first coating that reminds us all that Winter is just around the corner, maybe in a few days or another month. But we know it is coming.

The first part of the past week it was 80 degrees out and I was on the lake in my kayak casting out my line. It was one of the last days of warmth I think we will be seeing for a while. That morning I was wading in the water in my flip flops launching my kayak. The sun was shining, there was a light Southerly breeze and I was in my happy place, on the water paddling. 

As I was on the water and drifting along trolling for some fish, I couldn’t help but notice the changes over the past week in the leaves on the trees. As I looked over on to the shoreline I saw the bright reds and oranges and yellows from the birch and maples mixed in with the deep forest green from pines. It was a sight to behold that morning. I was truly grateful for one more day of good weather before putting the ayak away for the season.

Looking out on the snowy field this morning as I sit wearing shorts,with Muk Luks on my feet and the buffalo plaid shirt over a T-shirt (the dress of the day), I am rudely reminded that once again it is time to face another Minnesota winter. But before the actual cold and wind and snow come, it is that time of year to ready the farm for the season change. 

I have to admit that prepping for Winter around here is really not my favorite thing to do each year. This year there is a bit more involved with the winter prepping. Since we had the house re-sided there is painting and some repairs needed around the garage doors and doors leading into the house. And that doggie door on the little garage door needs replacing. After several years of huge dogs going through it, let’s just say it is worn out and last winter we had to hang a blanket in front of it to keep the winter wind from howling in. Before Zoe and Max, who are about 90 pounds each, we had a Newfoundland that would try to squiggle her way through the dog door. She was about 150 pounds of lumbering muscle and fur. She could barely get her head through, much less her big furry body. She had managed to tear the rubber shield right off the frame. Makwa, the Newfoundland, never quite knew she was a huge dog.

Along with the painting and fixing of doors, there is also having to put away stuff into the shed and barn. Having acreage, this year, I decided to place some rocking chairs and regular chairs out around the place. Some down by the barn and garden, some on the deck and patio out front, and some by the barbecue shack we had fixed this Summer for my Best Half to have all his grills and BBQ stuff in one place. This pick up will probably require throwing the yard trailer behind the tractor and going around and loading the stuff up to drag to the barn. 

And then there is the prepping for snow removal…getting the tractor/snowblower attached back together. This is one of those tasks I know nothing about, so my Best Half is on his own for that one. Along with any winterizing of the C.O.W. and boat motor. I will gladly get the kayaks tucked away from the winter elements, but all other mechanical stuff…well I don’t have a clue.

This is the first year we are going into Winter with both of us retired. It has been a nice feeling being able to work together around the place and get ready for winter. In the past years it was always a mad dash literally hours before a winter storm was coming. And we would be racing around like chickens with our heads chopped off. Which reminds me…we need to get the coop ready for winter.

Last year, because we were going to travel during the Winter, I rehomed the chickens. I just didn’t want to make the neighbors have to trudge through ice and snow in -30 below temps to collect 2-3 eggs each day. It seemed like too much of a chore. But this year we were in no uncertain terms instructed by our neighbors, Mr. And Mrs. Egger (no lie, that’s their real name) to keep the chickens and they would care for them if we did any Winter travels. So, the electric water bucket and some lights for the coop will need to be put in over the next few days. 

As I sit here going over the list of what is done and what is left to do, I am not as overwhelmed as in past years. Maybe this retirement gig is panning out and to our benefit. No longer do we need to get it all down on a weekend. We can stagger it out over a few extra days as long as the weather keeps working in our favor. But as you know, if you are a Minnesotan, the weather here can go from 80 above to freezing temps in just a few hours. So I guess we may have to hustle to get it down sooner than later. 

But for now, I’m just going to sit here in my shorts, MukLuks and Buffalo plaid shirt, looking out the window and watch the snow and sleet come down with a gusty North wind. It is managing to blow all the leaves from the trees down today. Just one more thing to add to the list…raking the yard. Oh WInter…I’m not sure we will ever be ready for you to blast through here for the next 6 months?

Sunday, October 9, 2022

43 Years and You're Still the One

This week my Best Half and I will celebrate our 43rd wedding anniversary. It is so hard to believe that we have been together over 4 decades. We have gone through so much of life together, it is actually hard to remember life before we were together.

Many people have asked us what is the secret to our marriage success and continuing to enjoy each other’s presence after all these years of living up close and personal. I can’t say for sure as I am no expert on marriage and relationships, but I do have a few tips that have helped us over the years. They seem to boil down to about 4 really basic tasks that we have tended to live by over the years. And I think they have helped us.

The first one that I learned early on in our marriage was to have way more underwear than my Best Half. Splitting household chores was never an easy thing for us as I am a little more picky about how to clean the house and keep things in order. I think I can do a better job than my Best Half. That isn’t true, it is just that I am more, let’s say efficient in getting it done. Some people call it organized and a little detail oriented. My Best Half would say it is more like OCD and obsessed with a clean house. We have learned to agree to disagree on this one.

But back to having more underwear than he has. I did let go of me doing the laundry years ago when I realized he always ran out of underwear before I did. That caused him to have to do the laundry and keep up with all the laundry messes from 4 little kids and us two adults. I eventually turned over the laundry detail to him early on in our marriage. It freed up lots of my time to do other things around the house like, clean toilets and vacuum up massive amounts of dog hair (and Legos) throughout the house. Just a few of the things that were always needing attention. The trade off came when I realized I would never have white underwear again, or any white clothes or sheets or towels for that matter. Luckily, being a nurse, I was mostly in the RN colors of navy blue scrubs and I just bought things that weren’t white for around the house. Problem solved.

The absolute other thing that we both have held onto for the past 43 years is the concept that divorce is not an option. At least in our relationship. There are many people who have had to use that option in relationships due to possibly physical violence, verbal assault or infidelity. But fortunately, neither of us have ever experienced that. We have had our shares of good old shouting matches and disagreements, but it has never come to acts of verbal or physical violence. 

I have always had this vision of our marriage as a table set for the two of us. Kind of like a candlelight Thanksgiving dinner of all the foods imaginable. But instead of the turkey and stuffing and delicious side dishes, there are the daily things that married couples go through. There are your vows from the wedding day, the happy things like having kids and maybe some side dishes of new jobs and stuff. And then there are the typical marriage “problem dishes” out on this Marriage table…like too many bills, not enough paycheck, being in a job that maybe isn’t satisfying anymore. Just those typical life things that can get the best of you. And each thing set out on the table gets passed around and one by one these ”side dishes” in a marriage can get set down in the middle of the table and become the centerpiece between the lit candles for that moment. It will become the main focus of the set table, while all the other dishes are set to the side of the table. And it will stay there until another dish is passed around. 

For us the Divorce Dish has never been set out onto the table. Because it was never set on the marriage table, it never was a dish passed between us. It was never allowed on the table,so it never became the centerpiece between the glowing candles. Since it wasn’t on our marriage table, it was never the focus of our lives. Which has always meant we would need to find other options to take from the table.

That may be a simplistic view of our marriage considering all of the things a couple will go through in 4 decades together, but for the past 43 years that analogy has worked for us and kept divorce off the table for us, even if I can never have white underwear again. Even if we have to get a big heaping side dish of something we don’t want to stomach. We both have survived eating liver in our lives, I think we can survive a dish of dividing up the household chores or figuring out how we are going to manage paying the bills as the grocery and gas bills rise. Or how we are going to deal with one another as we physically age and can’t do things as we used to be able to do. You know those “dishes of life” that are bound to be put on the table.

Through it all, I would have to say that learning to laugh at ourselves and laugh with each other has kept our marriage in perspective. Keeping things simple and trying not to complicate the “side dishes” on the Marriage table hopefully will keep us going for many more years. And having a Best Half in my corner all these years…well that is just the icing on the wedding cake. 

Sunday, October 2, 2022

Minnesota Nights

Several years ago we were up in the BWCA, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. For anyone who has never been there, it is a vast wilderness of pine trees, water and solitude for the soul. It borders Canada and the Quetico Provincial Area. It requires packing your supplies in and out by backpack and canoe. Portaging a canoe can be short little hops across land into another lake, or miles of portaging through rough steep hills up and down to the next put in at another lake. When people speak of God’s country, the BWCA is in the top running.

We have been there and on the outer edge of the area many times camping and a few times actually in the BWCA. And I have never been let down by the beauty of the sights and sounds around me. This is a song I wrote when we were up there one night and I sat by the campfire and took in all that was around me. It was a clear night and the sky was filled with the Northern Lights dancing all around in the sky in all different colors. Enjoy
To hear the song please go to the website and download the podcast at:

Minnesota Nights
Susan McAuliffe

Been up to the mountains, walked down by the sea
Home is where I put my heart, the place I choose to be
Sometimes my life’s been lonely, but it taught me how to cry
Now I’m lying ‘neath the Northern Lights of a Minnesota night.

The moon shines down on the lake tonight, the loon calls out her plea
The pine trees tall in the forest deep, have set my heart free
Sometimes my life gets crazy, but I’ve always gotten by
Standing ‘neath the Northern Lights of sa Minnesota Night

The lone wolf howls in the darkness, trying to find its way
Walks beneath the Northern Lights into that promised day
I’ll reach my destination, just keep looking to the sky
Walking ‘neath the Northern Lights of a Minnesota night.

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Catching a Dinosaur

Last week my Best Half and I loaded up the boat and trailer onto the minivan and set out for an early morning fishing adventure. If you haven’t figured it out by now, this time of the year is one of my favorite times to float on the water and wet a line in hopes of catching some fish. Not always do we keep the fish we catch, it always depends on the ambition I am feeling towards fileting fish on that set day. Many times we will go out fishing and just return them to the water after the thrill of hauling them into the boat and seeing how big they are. 

That morning we did set out to catch some nice sunnies for supper that night. The plan was to catch enough to have for supper and hopefully freeze enough for another meal this winter when we are gazing out the windows at the frozen dark tundra and -30 below temps. That always is a special treat in the dead of winter.

We got to the boat landing and backed the boat into the water and within a few minutes I had my line cast out with one of the wooden fishing lures I had made a few years ago. People laugh often when they find out I make my own lures out of a chunk of pine wood, a hook, and some $.50 Walmart hobby paint. I always receive a smile from the person looking at one of my “lucky lures”  and the look of “you’ll never catch anything with that”. And imagine the surprise when I have them take a closer look at the teeth marks on the lures from past catches. They kind of stare in disbelief.

We had just launched the boat and were slowly trolling out from the boat landing and about 30 seconds into the boat ride, I told my Best Half to put the boat in neutral as I was hung up in weeds already. So he complied and I started to reel in my line with so much resistance I was pretty certain I would snap the lure right off the line and leave it in the weeds beneath the water. But slowly it felt like maybe the weeds would give up my lucky lure as it became less resistant as I reeled. 

A few seconds later I felt the gentle but firm tug on my line and realized I had a fish on my line. The way it started to tug on my line, I figured it was more than likely a bass yanking around. For a few seconds it sat on the bottom of the lake deciding what to try next to get the hook out of its mouth and be free. I continued to casually reel in my line knowing it was a bass and I’d release it back as soon as I could get the hook out of its mouth.

After about a minute of trying to reel the fish in, I finally got it up close enough to see what was on the end of my line. There next to the boat a few feet from the surface was a ginormous Northern. I took one look at the fish and let out a squeal Iike  a little kid entering a candy store! 

This fish was well over a few feet long and as fat as could be. It came to the surface long enough for me to get a glimpse of it and then dove back into the deep water. Imagine my disbelief. This was the absolute biggest fish I ever had on my line. I was so grateful I was using a heavier duty rod and real and not my ultralight I use for sunfish and crappies. At least I had a chance of landing this bad boy.

I let the monster fish have some line and go back down into the deeper water while my Best Half and I figured out how we were going to get this dinosaur into the boat. I yelled at him to get the net and he gave me the strangest stare. Then I realized why he was staring at me. The only net in the boat was a net I used when in the kayak. It’s a small collapsible net used for panfish and trout. The head alone on this monster Northern wouldn’t even fit in the net. The regular fishing net was down in the chicken coop hanging up. We had used it for rounding up a few loose chickens and never got it back in the boat.

So with no other means of landing this fish I continued to play it out. I would get it up next to the boat and ready to pull it in by hand and it would race back into the deeper water. This went on several more times and finally after about 5-6 minutes I told my best half to just reach down and grab the metal leader the lure was hooked to and haul the monster into the boat. So after a few more attempts he grabbed the leader and hoisted the fish into the boat. Just as he got it into the boat the Northern released the death grip he had on my lure and dropped into the cooler that was being used as a livewell. 

The fish immediately started jumping and thrashing around in the cooler that was about 6 or 8 inches shorter than the fish. I slammed the cover down and began filling it with water. After a few minutes passed and my adrenaline rush had subsided, I opened the cooler and took a good look at what I had just caught. It was close to 3 feet long and had to weigh 6-7 pounds I was guessing. The absolute biggest fish I had ever caught in my life! 

I took a look at my lucky lure that had been in this fish’s mouth and only then realized that my lure was completely stripped of the hooks. That fish had somehow ripped the hooks right out of the lure, spit them out and had been holding on to the lure with clenched teeth around it. What are the chances of that happening, I thought. My lucky lure had done its job and then some. I had caught bass and even a few large sunfish off that lure and similar ones I had made, but never the size of this beast. As I looked at the lure I could see teeth marks indented into the pine wood, encircled all around it from the Bad Boy of Summer, my northern. 

We got home with our catch and I fileted them out by the cleaning table, down by the pump. I had made a fish cleaning station years ago to teach the grandkids how to filet fish they caught. That Northern was way too big for the kitchen sink. It took up the length of the 4 foot table. I had weighed and measured the Northern and it was just under 36 inches long and a titch over 7 pounds. Definitely the catch of a lifetime for me.

As I said before, I love to go fishing, especially in the late Summer or early Fall. There is just something about the cool crispness of the morning air and the fog sitting just over the lake and the stillness that surrounds me. For me…it is the closest I can get to my Creator. It is in that stillness way down deep in my heart that I can feel the Presence and stir of what brings me joy and happiness and peace. Catching some fish is just the bonus.