Sunday, June 26, 2022

Surgery Minnesota Style

A few months ago I went to the dentist for my yearly check-up. Never much of an issue, I usually wind up with me getting my teeth cleaned, splattering water from the little sucking spray thing all over and being told to come back in a year. But this year’s exam was a little different. The dentist found a growth on my uvula. You know that little “punching bag” that hangs in the back of your throat? She told me she would make a referral to an oral surgeon and I needed to make an appointment. And without another word she left and let the hygienist finish her job. The dentist was not from Minnesota and was pretty abrupt and lacked the traditional Minnesota good-bye. She left just making her rounds and doing her job. The Hygienist on the other hand was from Minnesota and began to chat about the weather, the family and Summer.

I am a retired nurse and there are two things that are true for me in my life. The first is as a nurse, and a Minnesota nurse, I have learned that bedside manner is about as important if not more important than how knowledgeable you are regarding your trade. There is a saying “The patient doesn’t care if you know until they know that you care”. Pretty true words for those of us that become the  patient, but are also in the healthcare field. And the second thing for me…I freak out when I am the patient. 

I left the dental appointment with my head spinning with many unanswered questions…like what is the official name for this thing in the back of my mouth? And what will they do at the oral surgeon that the dentist couldn’t do? And the really big question…is it cancer? Being a nurse I knew enough to scare myself with all the worst case scenarios of what was the matter in my mouth. I am my own worst enemy as a patient. On my medical record it is listed as a diagnosis on my chart as having “White Coat Syndrome”. Yes me, a Registered Nurse for 25+ years, is terrified of going to the doctor…and now the dentist it seems. It always happens when I go in for a routine thing, feeling healthy and fine, I walk out with an “issue” that needs a follow up. I guess maybe it is the aging process in its full glory.

A few days after the appointment the clinic called me to schedule a time to see the oral surgeon and take care of what needed to be done with this “thing” attached to my uvula. As is most healthcare appointments, they were booked out over a month, so it would be almost 6 weeks before I could get in to be seen. Just another 6 weeks to wonder what it was, to google throat things and watch YouTube videos of what they do for stuff like what I had. And to let the words surgeon and surgery ponder through my brain at all hours of the night when I would have rather been  sleeping.

The day came to see the oral surgeon and after a sleepless night worrying they were going to tell me I had cancer and were going to have to remove my head and neck, we took the 50 mile drive to the Cities to the appointment. I was roomed by a good Minnesota nurse who knew my Best Half from his days working at the clinic, so we chatted while waiting for the surgeon. We talked about the usual stuff, how retirement was going for the two of us, the cold Spring weather, fishing, camping and the family.

After a few minutes of chatting the oral surgeon walked in. And not to be judgmental, but I swear she was only about 15 years old. A female Doogie Howser. Not to sound too ancient, but wow the medical people I have seen in the past year are really really a lot younger than me. Just another reminder I am getting older whether I feel like I am or not.

The oral surgeon examined the spot on my throat and did a thorough exam of my neck and lymph nodes and teeth and tongue. All the while chatting and visiting with me about plans for the Summer, did I plant a garden, how do we like living so far up North, and finally a chat about the growth in my mouth. She felt it was nothing to worry about, but it should probably be removed surgically and biopsied. But then she apologized Minnesota style a few times over saying she couldn’t do it as it was too far back and close to the throat. So she would have to make a referral to the ENT doctor because that was in the territory of the throat. The thought of the Border Patrol came to mind as she was telling me this. The area in my throat crossed over into the other border of ears, nose and throat at the point of the uvula. My brain was spinning once again with another appointment and possible surgery.

The oral surgeon chatted with me while she made out the referral and assured me it wasn’t urgent but I needed to get it looked at soon in case it was to grow. And then Minnesota nice style, she made me promise I would follow up and see the ENT doctor within a month. I promised and headed out to the parking lot where my Best Half was waiting. And off we went back home, my mind in a frenzy about all the what ifs. 

This time I had to call and make the appointment, they weren’t calling me. So I went online and first had to find the group of ENT doctors in the system. There were literally dozens. All well qualified I am sure. After looking at a few of them I chose one that was housed in the same clinic where I had been to with the oral surgeon. I made the call and got the appointment which was another 5 weeks away and the earliest they had. So another month of some sleepless nights wondering what the heck was this thing in my throat that I didn't even know existed until being told by the dentist. 

The 5 weeks passed and the day came to see the ENT doctor for a consultation. I wasn’t as scared going this time as I figured it was just a consult and I was sure I’d be making another appointment in a month or more to have it removed. 

I got to the ENT waiting room and was called in by the nurse and she asked the usual questions like “what brings you here today, how are you feeling…are you having any symptoms and how’s the weather outside, is it hot enough for you?”. After a few minutes discussing the heat and humidity, she got up and said the doctor would be in shortly and then left me in the exam room. 

When the doctor walked in, she greeted me with a hearty hello and we chatted for several minutes about Summer plans I had and she had and then she looked at previous notes from the other doctor and had me hop into the exam chair. She immediately said that reading the previous notes she could about guarantee it was not a big deal and was not cancer. With that I let out a huge breath I think I had been holding in for about 2 months. She did the exam and assured me it was just a growth and there were 3 options we could do.

The first she offered was that she could remove it right then and there and send it down to be biopsied because that is the protocol. I didn’t wait to hear the other options. I was there at the moment, I was semi-calm (as calm as I can be at the doctor) and she said it would just take a few minutes to do. The other options…didn’t listen too closely, but I think it was to wait and see if it causes trouble and grows or make another appointment to do it surgically.

I told her I just wanted to be done with worrying and wondering what would be done. She agreed it was a good decision and started to set up the surgical tray to get down to business. I texted my Best Half, who was waiting in the car, and told him to come up and he could wait in the room with me if he wanted. 

With each step of the process, the doctor visited with me and told me what she was doing. There was a numbing spray she shot in the back of my throat, there were a few shots of Novocaine to numb the area. What a weird feeling it was to not know if I was swallowing or not. But she assured me I was. I looked on her tray of tools and there sat what looked like needle nosed pliers, forceps, some kind of metal hoop and a few long Q-tips. Alll stuff you could probably get at Fleet Farm.

She continued to talk and visit while the numbing stuff kicked in and then I opened my mouth and she told me I would feel some poking…and then she held my chest with one hand, planted her legs against my knees and gave a firm yank. It was done and over. Up until the yank, she had visited and been very thorough on what she was doing. When the yank came there was a quick silence. I let out a “damn woman what did you just do”.

 I felt like a fish when it swallows your hook when fishing. You know you have to give it a yank and half the throat and guts come out attached to the hook? But it was done and over just like that. As I was spitting lots of blood into the sink and she was getting the cauterizing stuff ready to stop the bleeding, she apologized for not telling me that part of the procedure. She said she found it caused people to jump, freak out and make it worse. I told her it was a good move, because I probably would have done all three. 

I left the appointment feeling so relieved that there was no need to go back, no more sleepless nights waking up at 2AM and wondering what would happen. It hopefully is over and won’t grow back. and a clean biopsy report came a few days later; no cancer. An all because we did surgery Minnesota the office with some pliers and other gadgets. The only thing missing was a shot of whiskey instead of Novocaine and the doctor telling me to “watch out for deer” as I was walking out. 

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Hi this is Sue from Solid Rock Minnesota. Thank you once again for taking the time to listen to our podcast or read our blog or check out our website. As always it is fun to see where our listeners and readers are from. There are many from all 50 states and close to 50 countries all over the world. 

Never in our wildest dreams did we anticipate more than a few followers. We are amazed. Our hope is you all will tell a friend to check us out at the podcast or blog or on the website at where you can always find the links to the podcast and blog. 

We would love to hear from you, so please feel free to drop us a message when you visit and let us know where you are from. And if you’re needing a Minnesota connection, send us your address and we will send you an official Minnesota postcard or a Solid Rock Minnesota bumper sticker. Yep an official Minnesota souvenir, yours for free. 

 Until next time may you be surrounded with life, laughter, family and friends… people who truly know you. 

 Many Blessings, Sue and My Best Half

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Top Hat and Chicken Math

About 2 years ago one of the Grand-daughters and I turned an old metal falling down shed into a chicken coop. While neither one of us knew much about construction, we did figure out what we wanted the coop to have in terms of housing a dozen chickens or so. 

We set out one early morning and found a bunch of used lumber in the barn and bought some hard mesh wire at Fleet Farm and set out to make the “ultimate” coop. Remembering the old saying of ‘measure twice, cut once” we got some old 2x4’s cut to make a wall and a door for the front of the coop. We partitioned off the back 4x8 feet of the metal shed and then proceeded to put the mesh on it. 

After patching up our cuts on our legs and hands from the sharp wire mesh, it was time to make the nesting boxes. While I like to watch the chickens and gather the eggs daily, I do not like walking into the coop to get the eggs. So with the help of the Grand-daughter, we made a big wooden 3 sided box, with the top being hinged and able to open it into the nesting area from outside the coop that wasn’t partitioned off. Then we separated the box into 3 areas so the girls could choose where they wanted to lay their eggs.

We finished the 2 day project and painted the nesting area and put down vinyl flooring in the coop for easy cleaning up the floor mess of shavings and chicken manure. We then put a chicken wire fence 6 foot high around the coop for a run. We don’t free range the chickens due to dogs and coyotes and weasels and other chicken grabbing critters out in the yard.

About a week after putting the 3 month old chicks in the coop they were let loose to forage in the fenced in area. And then one night it happened…something got into the pen and grabbed 2 of the hens we had. I came out that morning to feathers all over the yard and the chickens left in the coop all huddled in a corner. Something had gotten to the run. 

Beyond being upset that we could have gotten the whole flocked wiped out, I was determined to fortify the area so nothing could get in there again. I found an old chain link 6 foot high dog fence on Marketplace and with the help of the Grand-daughter once again, we got the start of Fort Chix set up. I then found an old electric fencer from when we had goats and horses. I strung up 4 strands of electric fence around the run from 4 inches high to 6 feet at the top. After accidentally bumping into it, I knew it worked just fine. And then came the outdoor lights on a timer that would go on at dusk until dawn each evening. The coop was set, with the exception of security guards posted on the corners of each side, it was fortified for anything that may try to hop the fence. I had to hope nothing would fly and swoop in the small area.

That night I had the window open and was awake most of the night on and off listening for any ruckus down at the coop. I was dozing off when I awoke to a yelp and a yip. Just once. I went down to the coop to make sure everything was ok and found the chickens all tucked in safely in their coop on their swinging perches. I didn't see what caused the yelping but figured a coyote as I had heard the pups in the field earlier yipping. The wire worked and since then we have never had an invasion since. 

Last winter, before we left for Texas for a few weeks, I decide to rehome the chickens we had so that we didn’t have to have our neighbors out in -30 below weather caring for them. It was a good decision at the time, but eventually we got Spring here in Minnesota and I was missing having the chickens. I was especially missing a crowing rooster in the morning.

So I cleaned out the coop and plugged in the electric fence and off I went to a nearby farm that had a few chickens and a rooster. I was able to pick out 4 hens and a silly looking crested rooster with feathers missing off his supposed to be fluffy head. He wasn’t the only rooster at the farm and he obviously was last in line for the lutefisk as we say here in Minnesota. He was picked on by the other rooster who outweighed him by a good 5 pounds. I took him out of pity.

We got home and got the flock settled into their new coop and run and immediately the rooster started to crow, strutting and puffing out his chest. I was glad we chose him, as goofy as he looks right now. He was officially named Top Hat and hopefully will grow feathers again and live up to his name. We have been enjoying his crow in the mornings.

A few days later as I was looking at the 4 hens, I realized that we could house a few more hens for more eggs. This for all that haven't heard the expression is called…chicken math. One is probably too many and a dozen are never enough. So I convinced my Best Half that a couple more wouldn’t be any more work than what we have already.

Off we went to another farm where they had some chickens to rehome. They were about the same age as the ones we had already and all were laying already. So now we have Top Hat and 8 hens in the area. Once again eggs are starting to show up in the nesting boxes. I feel like we have a bit of a farm once again. As for Top Hat, he crows every morning and a few times throughout the day. He is happy and content to be the only rooster and is taking care of his girls making sure they are safe.

As for the flock of 9…..I still have room for a few more…according to my chicken math!

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Well Life on the Farm is Kind of Laid Back...

It seems it is finally Summer here in the North Country. The trees have all their full foliage, the grass is growing like crazy and needing mowing every week, the corn has popped up and maybe it will be knee high by the 4th of July. The mornings are cool but heat up quickly into the day and maybe for the next few months we won’t have to worry about frost in the garden…or worse freezing temps and snow.

Sitting here this morning looking out on the back field and watching the turkeys and deer wandering in the soybean field, I am amazed by all that is green and all the life surrounding our farm. The sounds of Summer echo all that is good and all that is abundant outside while I sit here listening and watching. It really doesn’t get any better than this for a morning of reflection into my surroundings. 

I’m listening to the sounds of silence mixed with a woodpecker knocking on the tree in the front yard. It sounds almost like morse code coming through the tree bark. I wonder just what he is saying. Meanwhile out on the ground in the front yard, a few bunnies hop around near the woods and a bunch of squirrels are chasing each other in what seems like a game of squirrel tag. The birds are chirping and sweet sounds are coming from the trees. Out in the back field there are turkeys and pheasants squawking back and forth while the deer walk across the field leisurely with younger ones following close behind. It is truly a picture to behold while I sit at the kitchen table with my mug of tea, looking out this morning.

Sitting here each morning always gives me a few minutes to wake up and to be present to the day that is headed my way. Soon it will be filled with the dogs barking at the bunnies and deer, a car or two or the mail truck going up and down the dirt road kicking up dust and noise. Or the sound of tractors in the fields nearby and lawn mowers going again and reminding me it is once again time to mow here too. But for this moment, this present moment I am sitting at the kitchen table with the windows open and breathing in the fresh air and watching and listening to the yard and field come alive with the new day. I am grateful for sitting here and taking in all of life’s blessings that surround me. Today is my best day ever.

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Up North to the Cabin...A Simpler Place in TIme

Over the past several months I have taken to looking at the Zillow app for lake cabins and land by a lake that we could buy for what we could afford…like a dollar or two. I have surfed the internet with Zillow and looked at so many properties up North of us that I could become a real estate agent and tell you all the good and bad parts of the properties I have looked at virtually. I’ve looked at just that many.

The really neat thing about Zillow is the virtual tours they have and the satellite photos you can look at. I love to look at the lay of the land on satellite. You can see if it is high ground, marsh or surrounded by swampland. Or even worse, surrounded by mansions and glorious manicured yards.

The past few weeks I found some more remote lakeshore properties, which we can’t ever afford, but it sure has been fun looking at them and daydreaming. One was an old fishing camp with 2 small cabins set back from a small lake. Unfortunately the 4 acres was only about ½ acre that wasn’t swamp and marsh. But looking at the pictures brought me back to a way simpler time in life…summer's up at the cabin when I was a kid.

My parents and a few of my aunts and uncles owned lakeshore property that once was part of the farm they grew up on. My one uncle owned the main land with a typical Minnesota farmhouse, barn, pump house and other outbuildings. They ran dairy cows and some crops.  Another aunt and uncle had a farm on the other side of Grey Eagle and also were dairy farmers.

Our cabin was a one room building, not insulated and no indoor plumbing. The outhouse was out back and water was hauled in with a 5 gallon metal cream can that had a spigot on it. The cabin was partitioned off into a few bedrooms by way of some wire strung across the rafters with curtains hanging down that you could pull closed. There was a kitchen area with a propane stove and a small electric fridge in the corner. And a big round kitchen table off to the other side. And one of my favorite spots, the chairs that sat near the pot-bellied wood stove. There also was a front screened in porch overlooking the lake where you could always hear the waves lapping up on the rocky shoreline. Here was a big overstuffed chair in the corner of the porch where I would sit sometimes and listen to the water hitting the shore and fall asleep for a while, usually with a dog on top of me sleeping. It was some of the best times of my childhood spending Summers at the cabin. It was the only time I got to be a free range kid…you know, no real rules and hardly any boundaries.

For the most part the cabin was surrounded by the lake on the front side and pasture land with dairy cattle grazing all around the one side and back of the cabin. On the other side in later years my uncle Ray had a trailer next door where his in-laws spent most of their Summers. Down the road and across the creek (or crick as it’s called up North) was my Uncle Ed’s farm and more pasture between us. Down the other way along the road were a few cabins from other people and at the very end was Doug and his family who had kids the same age as my brothers and me. And his in-laws Grandpa and Grandma Louie and Clara. They weren't cousins or even relatives. How did non-relatives get to be down the road from us? Well Doug was my dad’s partner on the police force where they both worked. They were as good as brothers and each looked out for the other and their families. So all up and down that dirt road was family and friends. A mile long road where everyone knew you and looked out for each other.

Summers at the cabin were always fun because there were really no boundaries for me, even at a young age of 8 or 9. I could wander around up and down the road looking for agates, or head out to the pasture when the cows were in for milking. Out there my brothers and I would catch big frogs and bring them back to the cabin. Our Grandma Grey Eagle ,as we called her, would skin them and fry the frog legs up in a pan for a special treat for us. And yeah they taste like a sweet chicken. To this day I will choose frog legs over shrimp any day. A casino near us used to have that on their buffet menu on seafood nights. Not only was it good eating, but it flooded my mind with all memories of the cabin. Unfortunately, Covid kind of wiped out the buffet and it hasn’t reopened yet. I keep hoping.

Up at the cabin, I always woke up early with a cow staring in the window chewing its cud. The smell of the cow manure, alfalfa and lake water and the feeling of the sun warming up the cabin in the morning was one of the greatest things ever to experience, even to this day. I would jump up, get dressed, and head with my Zebco fishing pole down to the shore. There I would sit and cast my line and catch big sunfish that would pull my line out to deeper water. And sometimes a big bass or Northern would sink its teeth in my nightcrawler and would break my line, hook, sinker and bobber. And I would watch the unattached bobber swim out to the drop off on the other side of the bullrushes. I would sit on the dock for what seemed like hours with my feet dangling in the water waiting for someone to wake up to take me in the boat. You can imagine my thrill when my day came and my dad told me I could take the boat out by myself. At first it was only rowing and not going out past the rushes where the drop off was, but eventually I got the tutorial on how to start and run the Johnson 5 hp motor on the row boat. It was such an incredible feeling to be zooming with my hair blowing and the water splashing my face. Granted I was still only allowed in front of the cabin and not out in the deeper part of the lake, but it was a feeling of immense power and excitement for a kid about 10-11 years old. Even though the boundaries were set on where I could go, I was free to take the boat anytime and fish…as long as I could be seen from the front porch of the cabin.

In the afternoons I would take my BB gun and go “hunting”. I do admit a few barn swallows lost their lives perched on the electric poles. But I realized pop cans were a better target since I could put them anywhere and shoot the same one until it was too full of holes to hold a BB. I would wander the fields pretending I was on the frontier scouting for buffalo, the black and white Holstein cows were the buffalo. The only concern running through the fields was the electric fence and making sure I didn’t zap myself touching it as I crawled under it. In later years my cousins and brothers would dare each other to touch it. Looking back now after being a nurse for decades…it reminds me of when a patient is cardio-converted…a zap sent to the heart to get it regulated and beating normally. Wonder if any heart trouble was warded off by the electric fence?

My biggest thing I didn’t like back then was the outhouse, I always had a fear of my big brothers locking me in there, or worse dangling me head first over the toilet hole. I would run in there as fast as I could and run out before they knew where I was. Being the only girl with two big brothers sometimes had its disadvantages. But mostly my brothers were always looking out for me whether in the Cities at home, or up at the cabin. And because of them I learned to stand my ground and take care of myself pretty well. I do love those 2 knuckleheads I call my brothers.

I probably will continue to look at Zillow properties on a lake, knowing affording it is a dream, but it sure brings back memories from a simpler time in life up at the cabin. I’ll always remember the family, massive numbers of cousins and aunts and uncles doing a picnic next to the lake, my uncle Al and Uncle Ray playing a polka song on the accordion. And my aunts singing ”roll out the barrel, we’ll have a barrel of fun”. Here’s to that simpler time in life.

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Canine Merry Maids

We have 2 dogs here with us. Zoe, our 6 year old Yellow Lab and Max, our 3 year old Labradoodle. While both are great dogs, each definitely has their own personality and agenda. 

I like dogs and I like training them to do odd jobs for me and feel like they are contributing to the household. Dogs are awesome companions for most any person that is willing to take one in and feed and care for it. Dogs have that unconditional love for their human that in my opinion outshines many people’s love and respect for their fellow humans. 

We have had many dogs over the years and every one had a certain job they did for us. Whether it was doing rounds down at the barn and henhouse or chasing after the kids when they went hiking by the river and out in the woods, all of our dogs learned what they were needed for at a really early age.

I guess over the years there have maybe been favorite dogs we have had. The ones that got a little deeper into our hearts than some of the others. For my Best Half it was definitely, Rainey, his Aussie, that was also his ears for about 10 years. She was a gentle soul that eagerly helped him through parking lots with cars coming up behind him that he couldn’t hear. She was a one in a million dog.

I have had a few dogs that have left their paw print on my heart over the years too, but I have to say, the 2 we have right now are in the top running for best dogs ever. And both couldn’t be further apart in personality and learning.

When I got Zoe 6 years ago, the plan was that she would help me with some of the things that I wasn’t fond of doing, the things that hurt my back. Mostly it was the laundry and picking stuff up off the floor. Being a Lab, she was all about retrieving any and everything she would find. And so I put her retriever brain to work at doing the laundry with me. From the time she was big enough to put her paws up and stand against the washing machine, she was grabbing the dirty laundry from the floor and putting it in the washer. For her it was a never ending game that she loved to do. When the dryer would shut off, she would reach into the dryer and get all the clothes out for me and either give them to me or drop them in the laundry basket. She was like having a Merry Maid at the house, only she just was paid in scruffs and a piece of salami here and there.

She also learned how to open the fridge door and fetch bottled water for me. I had a rope tied to the fridge door and she would put it with her mouth and tug on it until it opened and then grab the bottled water off the shelf. I eventually had to put the kibosh on her fridge skills as she started bringing me the salami for her treat. She was taking it upon herself to surf the fridge for any snack that seemed appealing to her at the moment. And as we all know, there isn’t much a Lab won’t eat.

Zoe still helps with the housework, she will pick up toys left by the grandkids, and every morning will bring us her and Max’s bowl after she eats. But lately, since Rainey is no longer with us, she has taken it upon herself to be at my Best Half’s side all the time. She will sleep on the floor right next to him if he is out at the kitchen table, waiting for him to make a move so she can 

follow him. At night when we are kicked back watching TV, she will place her head on his lap and doze off while he strokes her soft velvety head. They have developed quite a relationship the past few months. 

While never being specifically trained like Rainey was to be a hearing dog, Zoe has picked up where Rainey had left off. At times, I think Rainey and Zoe worked out a deal that Zoe would take over once Rainey was gone from us. It was almost immediately after Rainey was gone that Zoe picked up the job and became a new support for my Best Half. After 6 years of having Zoe more or less as my dog, she decided to join allegiance with my Better Half. A concern we had when Rainey left us was who would be his ears when I wasn’t with him was fixed by Zoe taking on the role. So I am OK with her doing that. She just intuitively knows to alert him when someone is calling his name. Or turn around when there is a car behind them in a parking lot. The same things we had spent teaching Rainey to do. While I could feel a bit sad handing Zoe off to work for someone besides me, I have Max. For good or for bad I have Max.

Max, our 3 year old Labradoodle, came to us when he was about 12 weeks old. I had been looking at Goldendoodles and Labradoodles for a few months and was planning to get one eventually to train as a hearing dog as Rainey was getting older and possibly would be retiring as age was starting to show. The plan was that it would take about 3 years to train a new hearing dog and by that time Rainey would be close to 11 and probably ready to kick back into retirement.

It became pretty clear that after we had Max for about 6 months he was not hearing dog material. For a dog to be a hearing dog, it must be able to react to sounds quickly and consistently. Max had a thought process that seemed to be slow at best when asked to do basic stuff like sit. He would look at you with his head tilted to the side, then look beyond the person making the request to see if there were any better offers out there. After about 5 seconds he would comply and do what was being asked of him. Max is just a really laid-back dog. So much so that even when he is getting clipped and groomed, he will fall asleep and I will have to lift him and move him around like a rag doll in order to get the other side of him clipped. Because of Max’s extreme calmness…or laziness (I haven’t figured out which) we disqualified him as a hearing dog candidate. We figured by the time he saw a car in the parking lot coming his way,and figured out what to do, it would plow the two of them over. Max just doesn’t have the quick decision making ability needed for a hearing dog.

So Zoe is now officially teamed up with my Best Half and they continue to work together with the hearing and her alerting him. And that leaves Max to be teamed up with me as my partner. While he is slow moving to process things in his brain, he is an incredible dog and actually pretty smart. He is about 75 lbs of muscle and has begun bracing his long tall body to help me up off the floor. I call him my “Help, Ive fallen and can’t get up” dog. Whenever I am down on the floor doing something like picking up or rearranging a bottom shelf, Max will stand next to me the whole time waiting for me to pull myself up with him. He is solid and strong and when I put my arm around him he will walk backwards and assist me up to standing. His one command that he doesn’t have to process for any length of time. I just say “brace” And he gets in position. He is constantly by my side. He knows how much I hate picking stuff off the floor because of my back and balance, so he will bring me anything I point to. There may be a few seconds process delay, but he always comes through. So while he would have made a terrible hearing dog, Max is an awesome Merry Maid housekeeper helping around the house with those things that are hard for me to do. He earns his keep right along with Zoe.

While we have always had a few dogs around the house, Max and Zoe seem to be the ones that have found it in themselves to help take care of us. They have unconditional love for both of us, while at the same time bonded to one they want to assist. They are always willing to help us out. Now if I could just get them to team up and do the snowplowing and empty the dishwasher and vacuum.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Minnesota Fishing with My Friend Wayne

Down the dirt road from us we have neighbors that we visit back and forth. They are our friends Karen and Wayne. Over the past few years we have had the chance to get to know one another and share many interests and activities living on the same road for the past 20 years or more.

Last weekend was the fishing opener for us here in the Minnesota North country. It is one of the few things in Spring that offers a glimpse of coming out of a long winter and the beginnings of entering into the mosquito and thunderstorm and tornado days of Summer. While usually around the opener it is cold and rainy or a mix of sleet and snow and some of the more Northern lakes not even having ice out, this opener was an exception to the rule. It actually was warmer than it has been and there were sunny skies. Oftentimes, being that we are close to lakes and can get out on the lakes anytime, we skip the opener and leave it for those that drive up from the Cities and make the trek out to the busy lakes on opening day. 

My Best Half and I had a chance recently to meet up with our friends Karen and Wayne out at one of the lakes around here to do some fishing for some crappies and sunnies the day before the opener. It was a chance to hit a lake before the crowds of pontoons and bass boats came lurking around the fishing piers and shoreline. 

We made plans to meet up at the lake nearby and do some shore fishing and see if we could catch a few fish coming into shallow warmer water to spawn. The plan was to meet around 7:00-8:00 am and spend a little time together. 

We got to the shoreline around 8 and Wayne and Karen had already been there since about 6:30 scoping out the shoreline. Wayne had caught some small stuff. We decided to go and try the actual fishing pier since there was no one there fishing. Everyone was on the shoreline as we had had several inches of rain and the water level was pretty high. And no one wanted to walk through the water to get up on the dock, except for one other person. So Wayne and I schlepped through the water and hopped on the dock while our spouses stayed on shore and visited with each other. Unlike Wayne and me, our spouses aren’t as intense and into fishing as Wayne and I are. 

Once there we casted out our lines and we came upon lots of huge plump fat crappies and sunnies. One by one with each cast the fish were chomping on our hooks. First a few, then a dozen and then pretty soon the bucket was full to the brim with the huge panfish. All around us few were catching the fish like we were. We were enjoying reeling in some big fish. 

This was my first time fishing with Wayne. I like to usually fish alone, often just because I can go where I want and not have to keep a conversation going with another person. It becomes more of a time of a quiet solitude with nature and my surroundings, a chance to re-energize my soul. 

That day out on the dock, I realized fishing with Wayne was like looking in the mirror. His fishing style is much like mine. There was no fancy equipment and tackle that he was changing out every few minutes to try to get that elusive Walleye, there was just him and his simple rod and reel with a hook and bobber, slamming and hauling in fat fish one after another. 

Our conversation on the dock that day was bits and pieces of other fishing memories we shared as kids and places we had fished. Nothing urgent, nothing that even required a response more than a nod or an occasional “yeah”. There was a quiet solitude and friendship there between Wayne and me. A time to just gaze out on the lake and watch our bobbers dancing up and down on the water. A chance to reel in some nice fish. 

It wasn’t too long after setting up on the dock that we had enough fish to call it a successful

morning. It was time to go and walk back into the reality of our day. 

As we were leaving Wayne and Karen loaded up the fish and invited us for a fish fry. I’m not sure it could get any better than that first morning fishing this year. Not only did we catch some nice big fish, but we got invited to the fish fry…and it wouldn’t involve me having to fillet any fish! Or really do any frying of the fish. Talk about a win-win situation. That never happens to me. I always have to fillet them and fry them. And it is a lot of work when you have so many panfish.  

We headed down the road to their house in the evening and were welcomed into their home with the smell of fresh sunnies and crappies in the pan and a feast that left my stomach full and my heart filled to the brim with gratitude for our friends down the dirt road. Here’s to some more great fishing times. Tight lines, everyone!

Sunday, May 15, 2022

We Have A Winner!

Amazon Gift Card Drawing! We Have a Winner!

Thanks everyone who entered the drawing for the Amazon gift card. You are all appreciated. 

And the winner is:

Joan Love Cieminski!

Check your email for the gift card.

It's That Time Again...Cemetery Clean-up Day

It’s that time again for me and my extended family…it is Cemetery Clean-up Day. That time of the year on the first Saturday of May, my family and I will drop everything we may have planned and make the trek Northward. It is time to rake and clean the family cemetery. Yep every year since the early1900’s (or earlier), my family has reported for duty at Bearhead Union Cemetery. When I was a kid, it was my grandparents,parents, aunts and uncles who would rake the pine needles off the grave sites for a few hours. And I am sure back then the cemetery was much smaller than it has expanded to today, as now most of those generations have been laid to rest beneath the pines at Bearhead. When we were kids my cousins and my brothers and I would run around back and forth playing until it was time for the potluck lunch. But for the past several decades, it has been our generation and those after us that are doing the raking. 

After all the raking there is a major potluck lunch that follows, along with the Cemetery annual meeting. Each year, we will get a letter from the president and president’s husband, Cookie and Skip, that lets everyone know the day is set aside and the clean-up, potluck and annual meeting will be happening. The only year it has been canceled was 2020 due to Covid. Not a bad track record for over 100 years of the cemetery’s existence.

The potluck consists of grilled burgers, brats and hot dogs that Cookie and Skip set up, and then all the sides of salads, chips, and desserts imaginable. There is always an ample supply of food for the 80-to over 100 people that show up. We all get our plates of food and sit under the gigantic white pines and then the meeting will begin. It is run pretty formally in a not so formal way. Robert’s Rules of Parliamentary Procedure are followed and the minutes from last year are read and agreed upon and voted on. The new order of business is presented and this usually involves voting for new Board Members. 

While there are several Board Members, with 2 or 3 year terms, I don’t think there has ever been a time when there was a need for Board Members to do anything. Cookie and Skip and a couple of others that live near the cemetery have kept it running and have kept the finances in really good order. So every year, whether they want the job or not, they are voted back into the role of President and Husband of the President. It is the Up North way and it has worked for many generations.

While cemeteries, for many, are a sad place to be, I find much peace and happiness at Bearhead. Yes, many of my family is buried there, and sometimes there may be a new family member that made the trek before the first Saturday in May to go rest under the pines. But each year when we can all come together and honor and celebrate those lives that have gone before us, I always cherish that time together. 

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Catholic Church, Family and Mother's Day

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you who are moms, who are in the role of mom to someone, or are about to be a mom for the first time. Today is the day set aside for you. Sitting here the day before Mother’s Day, I am thinking back to past days when I was a kid celebrating Mother’s Day. 

When I was a kid, Mother’s day was always spent going to Catholic church, listening to the story of Mary, Jesus’ mom, and her sorrow as a mom when they crucified her son Jesus. As a 10 year old kid, it never did much for me, I just remember sitting there, starving because we had to fast before Communion, and feeling like I was going to puke from the smell of the incense the altar boy’s would give to the priest to swing around in the little incense holder. I was only thinking about the fun to come going to my grandparent’s house with all my cousins and Grandma’s chicken and mashed potatoes and cole slaw. Church seemed to last forever with all the anticipation of what was to come.

But eventually church would end in a benediction and prayer for all the moms and we would be outside, me breathing in all the fresh air I could to relieve my nasal passages of the incense from church. We would all hop in the station wagon and off we would go to Grandma and Grandpa’s for Sunday dinner and a day with all my cousins. We would pull up to the house and you could smell the chicken baking long before you got to the house. Even though it was Mother’s Day, my grandma, my aunts and my mom would do what they always did…work their tails off to get the meal on the table, get everyone fed and then do the clean up of the meal for over 20 people. But then they would sit at the dining room table with coffee and dessert and visit the rest of the time. The women in my family were all about giving, even on Mother’s Day, they were taking care of their families amidst celebrating “their” day.

My mom died when I was 23 and pregnant with our oldest daughter. Mother’s Days after she was gone were spent visiting my grandma and after she was gone it was just having a day where my Best Half took me to Walmart and let me pick out flowers and seeds for the garden. We didn’t have much money, but this was one of my favorite things to do on Mother’s Day. He would patiently push the cart and follow me as I looked at each and every flower in the rows and rows at the store. I would find some packs of flowers and seeds and off we would go home where I would plan and begin to plant a flower garden. After 42 years of marriage, we tend to still make it an annual trip to pick out flowers on or close to Mother’s Day.

When all the kids were little, it was always a fun day on Mother’s Day. The kids would each have some little art project they had made in school especially for Mother’s Day. It would usually be made out of popsicle sticks or yarn or both. And I would find a spot to display each one for as long as it held up with Elmer’s glue and tape.

Life was really busy with 4 kids, especially when they were so close in age,only 5 years apart from the oldest to the youngest. One year as a gift for Mother’s Day, my Best Half gave me the luxury of a hot bath for as long as I wanted without any kids at the door interrupting. He stood guard at the bathroom door for the entire time, fielding questions from the kids, handing out snacks at the door and making sure I got time to have a leisurely bath. Best…Gift…Ever!

As the years flew by and the kids got older, Mother’s Day became usually more of moments rather than an entire day. We would have breakfast and sit and visit for a bit, but eventually the kids would wander off and hang out in their rooms or meet up with their friends. And we would gather back for Sunday supper which usually consisted of what my mom made back when I was a kid, a beef roast with onions, carrots and potatoes around it. A super easy dinner that always got everyone to the table at the same time. No work for me on Mother’s Day and the family all together for a meal. I see now why my mom did that on a lot of Sundays. No work, and everyone showed up. 

Mother’s Days now, with the kids scattered all over the country, aren’t anything what they used to be when they were young. It pretty much consists of a phone call at some point in the day from the kids and grand-kids, or a text if they're at work. With the ones who have kids of their own, it is their day to honor and celebrate the mom of their family. Maybe it will be a trip to the store to buy flowers for the yard or house, maybe it will be a special meal where they all can sit down together and celebrate, or maybe new traditions will arise for each of them. All I know is, after the calls and texts, I will be at the store, with my Best Half following with the shopping cart, picking out my flowers for the yard and garden. And I’ll be throwing the traditional beef roast dinner in the oven. Happy Mother’s Day everyone.

Thanks once again for reading or listening to Solid Rock Minnesota. Don’t forget to go over to our website at and sign up for our drawing for an Amazon gift card. Just let us know your favorite episode of our blog/podcasts and where you are from. The drawing will be held May 15th, so get your name entered by midnight May 15th. 

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Possums, Trolleys and Fancy Places to Stay

We just got back from Nashville this week after spending a few days with our son who lives there. We got the rental car and headed out early on a Friday morning. Not planning to be in Nashville until Saturday evening, we stayed in the town of Keokuk, Iowa the first night. While we were traveling, I thought I would be all into online booking the motel. And so while we were driving I was searching for an affordable decent motel for a decent price. I found a great one in Keokuk, only $58 a night. They were running a special so it was about half what the other places nearby were charging. Looking at the pictures and reading their description it sounded incredible for the price. It had a heated indoor pool, breakfast buffet and updated rooms. I’m always hesitant to do stuff like book motels, car rentals and such online.

When I booked the car rental online and it was for $385 for the week I was excited we could afford it. When we drove to downtown St Paul to get the rental, and the clerk started ringing us up for the insurance, sales tax, rental tax, and all the things that were not in the online price the total came close to $700 and that wasn’t even the $300 damage deposit ! Talk about sticker shock! I asked what the heck happened to the quote of $385, the clerk said that Expedia online didn’t give us the total costs up front. We canceled the rental and headed towards home figuring for that price it wasn’t any cheaper than taking the minivan. On the way home we stopped at an Enterprise rental and walked in and told them what happened. I asked the guy point blank how much for everything, keys in hand and out the door. Their price was almost half of the other company. So they lead us out to the cars available and let us choose a car. We took the Hyundai Elantra since the gas mileage was the best at 40 mpg. It was actually cheaper to rent the car than take one of ours.

But back to online shopping for a motel room. I had the reservation ready to hit the reserve button, but got hesitant thinking back to the car rental escapade. I sat and re-read the description, looking for loopholes for extra charges. There were none and all of a sudden a flashing warning was on my screen saying: “Book Now, Last Room”. So I hit the non-refundable button and booked our one night stay at the motel in downtown Keokuk, Iowa. 

When we pulled up to the place there was a giant parking lot…with not one car in it. We were across the street from a bail bond place and a few bars up the street. The motel clerk was sitting out on a bench outside on her phone. She looked a little perplexed as we started walking towards the door. She scurried around and went behind the desk and smiled and welcomed us. The entire lobby was stacked floor to ceiling with boxed toilets and plumbing supplies. Where the buffet was located were more boxed toilets. I was getting pretty leery about having hit the non-refundable reserve button. When I asked about the pool, we were informed it was empty with not a drop of water in it, because of construction. When asked about the free breakfast we were told they had a few things they'd put out for breakfast. I was having reminiscent feelings of when I booked the car online. The old bait and switch routine. When I showed the clerk the online pictures and amenities they were supposed to have, she told me they just hadn’t updated their site recently. They were in the middle of bringing the place up to code and remodeling. Being we did the non-refundable booking, we just decided to stay. We just needed to sleep for the night anyway. So we got to our room and it was clean and seemed ok for the night. 

The next morning we found lunch bags with a granola bar, an apple, a bottle of water with a pouch of  lemonade powder taped to it…breakfast. Our continental breakfast compliments of the motel. We got in our car and off we went for a day's drive to Nashville.

Down the road,in Missouri, we found a small town cafe to get an actual breakfast. It was a busy place and everyone knew everyone. So we got the looks from the locals as we entered. We got a table over in the corner with the family of the server. They were having breakfast with mom. We ordered and waited about 45 minutes for our meals. Our waitress, Rhonda, who was the grandma of the kids at the table by us, was making the rounds pouring coffee and of course was visiting with all her neighbors. The food was good and plentiful. I heard the lady behind me ask for a take home box so I figured I’d do the same. When the lady got her box, she and Rhonda started talking about her taking the box to her new neighbor, the possum under her porch. She started telling Rhonda all about the possum who lives under her porch and is so afraid it will “play dead/possum” everytime it sees the lady. When Rhonda brought me my leftover box, I almost gave it to the possum lady for her fearful neighbor, but decided best to move along before Rhonda and her start talking again.

The rest of the drive was pretty uneventful and we got to Nashville about 7 in the evening. We picked up our son and headed to get some supper. Our son works in Nashville so knows his way all over the downtown area. We had so much fun after supper looking at the sites. It was almost like being at the state fair with the crowds of people and the noise. Every cafe had live music going, crowds and smells of fried foods or barbecue. We drove around and made our plans of what to see on Sunday morning.

Sunday we had breakfast and set out to see the sites. We had tickets for a trolley that you can jump on and off all over the city.  The driver told us all about the different places and history of places we were going by. So much history in the town and so much music to listen to. 

We had one night, compliments of our son, at the historic Hermitage Hotel. it’s a really really fancy 5 star hotel where they charge about $550 a night. It was kind of fun because when we walked in it was like Ma and Pa Kettle come to the Big City. It was a night of being pampered and eating chocolate covered strawberries and looking out over the Nashville skyline. 

Our last night in Nashville was a quiet night at our son’s apartment. We made dinner and afterward sat around and made music together. I had brought my guitar, my ukulele and my strumstick. The night was filled with bluegrass and the old country gospel music from the area we had visited the past few days. It was an awesome ending to a great short vacation to Nashville. There’s nothing I love more than playing and making music with my family. 

The next morning we were up and on the road home at about 5:30. We had a long ways to go and a short time to get there. A good 14 hour drive home. As usual it was a tearful goodbye for this mama. I have yet to get comfortable with having my kids living across the country from where they were brought up.

The drive home was long and uneventful. No motels to deal with, no cafes with people homing possums under their front porch, just the open road and the long drive back to Minnesota through God forsaken Iowa. We got home where it was 50 degrees colder than Nashville and raining. Exhausted from the 14 hours driving straight through, we got home in the evening,showered and fell into bed, both of us grateful to have made it home…and to have gotten through Iowa. 

Thanks once again for reading or listening to Solid Rock Minnesota. Don’t forget to go over to our website at and sign up for our drawing for an Amazon gift card. Just let us know your favorite episode of our blog/podcasts and where you are from. The drawing will be held May 15th, so get your name entered by midnight May 15th. 

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Monday Morning Music on the Way to Nashville

We are headed to Nashville, Tennessee this week to see our son. Due to Covid and traveling it has been about a year and a half since he was home. We are going for just a few days, but have a bunch of stuff planned in those days. He has an itinerary of places to go and things to see. 

We decided to leave the canines at our daughters for the time we are gone. We are hoping they will enjoy the change of scenery and mob of little kids to run with. Our good friends and neighbors are again stopping by and watching the house for us. And we are doing something totally different for our traveling adventures. We have rented a car with great gas mileage.

We have never left for a trip without hauling the tools needed in case of a breakdown. We have always done that and we have always needed to repair something it seems. And over the past few years, I have carried the title for the vehicle we were using…you know in case it broke beyond repair and we had to sell or junk it. I wanted to be prepared. But this time we decided since it was a short trip we were going to do it with someone else’s vehicle. No worries of breakdowns or theft of the vehicle. It is covered with the insurance from the auto rental. We can just walk away from any trouble if it comes up.

I did a lot of calculating and finally realized that with renting a fuel efficient car and not having to do any repairs, it probably will come out about even in terms of cost to drive there and back. It was kind of like a win-win to rent the car. 

I am anxious to pack my guitar and strum stick and probably a mandolin or ukulele to bring down to Nashville. My son plays guitar and he is one of my favorite people to play music with. When he was about 10, I handed him a guitar and showed him 2 or 3 chords and he took off and became a really good accomplished musician. Him being in Nashville has been fun for him to go and listen to so many musicians around town. And he has also been playing here and there with friends he has met. 

Here is a song I attempted with filling in with the mandolin, ukulele, guitar, harmonica and my newest instrument the strum stick. It is much like an upside down dulcimer. For me it is much easier to learn because it is not held in my lap and constantly sliding down to the floor. 

This song is one I heard by Josh Turner’s kids. My intention is to teach it to the grandkids to learn and play.  But for now it is just a solo Monday Morning Music.  Enjoy

As always you can listen to the song on the podcast over on the website:

RIVER OF HAPPINESS by Jennifer and Hampton Turner

There's a river way out yonder

Beyond the valley, across the plain

There's a river where I'm goin'

When my Savior calls my name

No more cryin', no more weepin'

No more sad or lonely days

'Cause on that river, I'll be smilin'

When my Savior calls my name

And we will sing sweet hallelujahs

Praises to our glorious King

Won't you come with us

To the river

The river of happiness

The river of happiness

Sunday, April 17, 2022

April Showers and My Not So Green Thumb

This week we have had the typical Minnesota weather, rain, sleet, snow, thunder, lightning and 50 mph wind gusts. If the saying that “April showers brings May flowers”, well we should be in good abundance here come May.

Each day it is getting closer and closer to planting season here in the North. Because the season is so short here in Minnesota, many of us will start plants indoors in hopes of them thriving and ready to be planted outdoors come late May or early June when the danger of frost is supposedly over. There are no guarantees that we won’t have a freeze or snow at the beginning of June, but usually it is safe to assume Summer is here.

The other day we were at Fleet Farm and I was looking at seeds and trying to figure out my garden this year. I have a raised garden that is about 4 foot wide and 20 feet long. Luckily it is down by the old chicken coop and pump where no one can see it unless they walk down there. I always try to plant the usual tomatoes, beans and onions and then will add the space consuming zucchini and squash. And it always starts out great, everything has a place and everything strategically located for the best sunlight and moisture needed. And then it happens.

I will have a beautifully growing garden, tomato plants staked, pole beans climbing the tripod poles I have made for them and zucchini and squash starting to sprawl and cover the open ground. It looks perfect. The warmth of the sun and my gentle watering gets them going perfectly. I actually begin to feel like I know what I am doing and it is going to work this time. Until we get a 2-3 day rain and I am not out there to pluck up the weeds that grow faster than the plants. By the time the rains stop and I wander out to the garden, the weeds are now embedded around all the vegetable plants and towering towards the sky. It happens just that fast. And it becomes a 4 x 20 foot jungle of tangled weeds and a few vegetable plants.

I have realized that I have not inherited the gardening gene from my parents or grandparents who could stick anything in dirt and it would grow and flourish. I remember my dad growing beautiful rose bushes when I was pretty young. He had all kinds of colored roses in the yard. And my mom, while not as much of an outdoor gardener, she could grow anything in a pot inside. She had beautiful African violets that were full thick with deep purple blossoms. She would always give me one and within a few weeks it would be dead. 

My grandma had massive flower and vegetable gardens all over her yard. In her later years when the arthritis was so hard on her back and the rest of her body, she would lie on her side with her elbow propping her head and that was how she weeded her garden. I remember the first time seeing this was when we pulled up to the backyard and grandma was sprawled out next to her strawberry patch, not really moving. It was a sky blue warm sunny day.  My first thought as I was rushing to her was , “well at least she died peacefully in her garden where she loved to be”. But then she popped up and was sitting there with a big bowl of fresh strawberries that she had picked to have with our lunch she had ready. 

But back to my gardening ability. I have none. I can’t even grow rhubarb which should come up yearly without doing anything to it. Nope, I may get one stalk from the year before planting, but it never turns into more than stalk. The rhubarb that I planted a few years ago, still only gives me one stalk. And as easy as everyone has told me asparagus is to grow, saying it will take over everything, I have tried the last 4 years to plant it. Last year I actually had some coming up that I had just planted a month or so before. But bless my little grand-daughters hearts for “weeding” the garden for me. All the weeds were still there, but they pulled up the asparagus, baby tomato plants and some radishes. This year we are alone here so it is only me and hopefully my Best Half working in the garden. I am so hoping he takes an interest in the garden because between us, he has the green thumb. It may not be a deep forest green thumb, but it is at least not the black thumb of death that I seem to have.

It is now about 6 weeks or so before we can start to safely put out some of the plants for this year’s garden. I chose Brussels Sprouts, Eggplants, Spaghetti and Zucchini Squash, Rutabaga, and of course Tomatoes, and Beans and Onions. The Sprouts and Eggplants are just popping up in a seed tray. They look spindly and like if I breathe on them they will wilt and die. So I am just leaving them alone in a warm spot by a window. We shall see if they even make it to the garden. But like every other year during gardening season, I have a Plan B…the Amish vegetable stand up North of us, and the produce department at the grocery store up town. Stay tuned.

Friday, April 15, 2022

A Huge Thank You to All

Hi this is Sue from Solid Rock Minnesota. I just wanted to give a huge thank you to all of you who either listen to the podcast, read the blog or jump onto the Solid Rock Minnesota website and follow the Podcast or Blog from there. You all are amazing! 

This morning I was looking at where all the downloads are coming from and realized that we have gone from about 6000 downloaded visitors, listeners or readers to just under 13,000! All 50 states and DC and about 45 countries have been tuning in over the past few months. That never ceases to amaze me, as I am just a retired RN, wife, mom, and grandma telling stories. Thanks you so much for your interest.

As a way of saying thanks, we will be holding a drawing for a $25 Amazon gift card. To make it fair and inclusive to all, you just need to go on our website at and send us a message telling us what your favorite episode either in podcast or blog form. That’s it. May 15th we will draw the name of the winner for the gift card and send you an email with the gift card email. Pretty easy and anyone can enter that listens or reads the Solid Rock Minnesota episodes.

Again, thanks for faithfully listening and feel free to spread the word to others to have a listen or a few minutes to read. 

Many Blessings,

Sue and My Best Half

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Eenie Meenie Minie Mo

The Fred Flinstone Fleet of Trusty but Rusty Minnesota Vehicles


We have an accumulation of vehicles around our place as a result of being commuters over the past few years and needing different vehicles for various jobs. For instance, while he was working over the years, my Best Half, has had a truck that he has gone up and down the road using. He needed something to haul ladders and equipment in from clinic to clinic, and so the truck was the logical tool of transportation for him. It also was big,comfortable and noticeable on the freeway when all the other crazy commuters blew past him.

We also have a minivan (Baby Blue) that I use for hauling grandkids with the seats up or my canoe or kayak with the seats down. Or for solo camping a bed fits in back comfortably to stay warm and dry. I love my minivan and the convenience it has with the stowaway middle and back seats. It is big enough to be seen and yet small enough to maneuver around pretty easily. It is such a multipurpose vehicle for us. We have owned a minivan of some sorts for the past 15 years. That’s how much I like them and find them multifunctional.

For the Minnesota snow and Spring mud, we have a Jeep Liberty (Hi Ho SIlver) that will take us pretty much anywhere without any problems of getting stuck or spinning out. It is a bit smaller but for me,I love tooling around in it. The heat and AC rock. But it is a rare beauty with all of the rust and missing pieces that have been stacked in the garage for when it gets warmer and some body work can be done on it.

And lastly, of course, we have Big Eddie that pulls the C.O.W. cross country. Big Eddie is roomy for 7 people or with the 2 dogs, it gets around well in the winter snow and mud. And has an awesome heater and warm seats for the winter. It feels like a luxury vehicle…as long as we don’t look at all the Minnesota rust over the side panels.

While all of the vehicles have met our needs the past few years, it is becoming very apparent that we no longer need 4 vehicles for the 2 of us. While none of them are even close to newer, the newest being Big Eddie, a 2007 model, they all have been kept up and all are running well. They are all full of good old Minnesota rust from the road salt in the winter,and like I said pieces have literally fallen off of all of them. So none of them are anything to look at. Sometimes I feel like my feet will fall through the floorboards and I will be traveling like Fred Flintstone with my feet running through on the road under the vehicle

But back to the dilemma we are finding ourselves in, it is time to get rid of 1 or maybe even 2 vehicles. With the price of gas and keeping a fleet of vehicles insured, it doesn’t make sense any longer. It is expensive. The dilemma…which ones do we keep? 

The other day we sat at the kitchen table looking out on the fleet of vehicles consuming our driveway and had the conversation about which one to part with first. It was a relatively heated debate as we both have reasons for wanting the vehicles we want. After discussing it and reaching no conclusion, we tried a different approach and discussed which vehicles serve our purpose best? While it wasn’t much easier, we were able to eliminate the minivan from leaving our driveway. Baby Blue is the most versatile of the 4. It holds lots of people or the canoe or kayak without hauling a trailer, and it has the least amount of rust and  body parts missing.

That left the Jeep, the Truck, and Big Eddie to remove from the driveway. After more debating and discussing and probably a sense of ``the lesser of all the other evils”, the Jeep was allowed to stay in the fleet for the time being. While it literally has the most body parts sitting in the garage waiting to get the body work done on it, it also gets the best gas mileage compared to the truck and Big Eddie. And it has 4 wheel drive for mud and snow season. So a decision was made to keep Hi Ho Silver, the Jeep. And that was about all our brains could figure out for the day. 

Today Big Eddie and the Truck sit on the sidelines of the driveway awaiting the fate of their future. While Big Eddie hauls the C.O.W. so well, the truck could also do it as well. Big Eddie looks nicer and is way easier for my short legs to get into, but it doesn’t get as good of gas mileage as the truck. A factor to figure in as gas prices are about $4/gallon. On the flip side, the truck is very big and tall. My Best Half usually sets a step stool next to the door so I can climb in a little more gracefully than reaching for the grab bars and hoisting my 5’4” self into it. That usually does not end well. Besides looking like an old woman retired from the Flying Wallenda”s trapeze show, I have lost my hand on the grab bars and wound up on the ground in mud. No safety nets to catch me when I fall.

So for right now it is pretty much a toss up on what we are going to do? Just 6 months ago gas was cheaper, and we were using all the vehicles for getting around and commuting. But now it is time to let go of one of the big rigs we have. I am feeling like those reality shows that show you 3 islands and you have to decide which one you’ll take. In our case it is which one are we going to sell and send down the road? Which one will it be? With maybe a few more kitchen table discussions, we will come to a decision, I guess. But who knows we may just do “eenie meenie minie mo, which one should we let go”…I guess time will tell.


Sunday, April 3, 2022

Monday Morning Music: Love Can Build A Bridge


The other day I was going through some of the music that the grandkids and I have done the past year. After watching the news and seeing all the sadness going on in Ukraine, I just needed a little happy time. And that usually can be found playing music with the grandkids. But it was a day when that wasn’t an option, so I dug into some of the past songs we have done together and recorded just for the fun of it. There were lots of rowdy songs and old bluegrass songs they have been taught. Some like Rocky Top, Mountain Dew, and the classic gospel ones like Amazing Grass and Nothing But the Blood of Jesus. And there are the old rock classics like, Sloop John B and Brown Eyed Girl. All done in the classic off key, rowdy guitar, ukulele, banjo grandkids’ style.

But I came across this song we did in a quiet moment when it was just a couple of the older kids singing and playing instruments. It is the old Judd’s song, “Love Can Build A Bridge”. I stopped and played it a few times, remembering that night we were together singing it and how the grandkids' voices blended together. There were the girls and then Eyasu with his adolescent changing beautiful deep sound. It got me thinking of the world today and all the bombing and destruction that is going on in Ukraine. We so need a bridge of love in Ukraine. We all need “to whisper love so loudly, so every heart will understand, that love and only love can join the tribes of man”. Here is from a special night of music with the grandkids. It is Love can Build a Bridge. Enjoy.

If you want to hear the music go to our website and scroll down to the podcast.

Love Can Build A Bridge

Songwriters: Paul Overstreet / John Jarvis / Naomi Judd

I'd gladly walk across the desert with no shoes upon my feet

To share with you the last bite of bread I had to eat

I would swim out to save you in your sea of broken dreams

When all your hopes are sinking, let me show you what love means

Love can build a bridge

Between your heart and mine

Love can build a bridge

Don't you think it's time?

Don't you think it's time?

I would whisper love so loudly, every heart could understand

That love and only love can join the tribes of man

I would give my hearts' desire so that you might see

The first step is to realize that it all begins with you and me

Love can build a bridge

Between your heart and mine

Love can build a bridge

Don't you think it's time?

Don't you think it's time?

When we stand together, it's our finest hour

We can do anything (anything)

Anything (anything)

Keep believing in the power

Love can build a bridge

Between your heart and mine

Love can build a bridge

Don't you think it's time?

Don't you think it's time?

Don’t you think it’s time?

Don’t you think it’s time?

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Electrifying Biking

The past week has been awesome with the warmer above freezing temperatures and the snow gradually melting away. Our driveway is no longer covered in half a foot of ice. No, with the rains we have been having, it is now rutted deep in mud for the next 3-4 weeks until the sun is out long enough to warm the ground and dry it up.

While some people may be a little dismayed at the muddy mess we have going in our driveway and yard, I am ok with it. No longer am I having to do the ridiculous penguin walk to keep from face planting on the ice. I can now stride down the driveway and take running leaps over the pools of mud scattered about down to the mailbox and road. My only worst case scenario is to jump and not clear the muddy puddle of cold standing water. But so far it has only happened once. My shoes luckily were able to get hosed down and thrown in the washer with all the other muddy messes we have made this week.

Once past our driveway, the road up to the highway is fairly thawed and drying with less ruts and mud in the way. And once down to the highway, it is ice free and fairly dry when it isn’t raining. Which leads me to why I am giving these road reports. It is now officially biking season for this winter weary woman! 

Last Fall, right before the snow started falling, I bought a new electric bike, an E Bike, as they are called. I have had one the past several years due to  back and arthritic leg issues. But last Fall I bought one that fits my short height, is comfortable to ride, and is good for pavement and gravel roads or even a little off-road riding. And the really great thing…I feel safe on it, because I can let my feet touch the ground and still pedal and stretch my legs out. Before the snow and cold temps came I was able to test it out and put a little under 100 miles on it. But then the freezing Minnesota temps and snow came so my baby was parked downstairs. At least until we went to El Paso last month. I did fold her in half and stash her in a tote in the back of Big Eddie. 

The plan was to stop along the way and take the bikes out and explore through some of the towns we went through. But the 2 big dogs with us and a long winter of lying around after eating everyday, made Max and Zoe…let’s just say…out of shape and kind of lazy. I had high hopes of just letting them run alongside us on their leashes while we rode around and explored. Last Fall they were both traveling up and down the road next to me while I rode. But I guess 4 months of eating and lying around watching Lassie and Rin Tin Tin turned them into couch potatoes. And I will admit, the long winter got me lazy too.

As for right now I have charged my bike battery, polished up my bike from the dust of Texas, and am ready to ride solo until it dries up a bit more out there. A few weeks maybe? Who knows? But then I will hit the rails and trails (bike paths made from old railroad routes) and state parks and dirt roads around here. Sometimes solo, sometimes with the dogs, and sometimes with my Best Half. He has an E Bike too. And we go out riding sometimes together. But to be honest it is more of a challenge riding with him than the 2 dogs trotting next to me. 

Remember he is very hard of hearing to the point of almost deaf in certain situations. And biking just happens to be one of those situations. With a helmet on, the wind blowing in his ears and not being able to read my lips because I ride behind him to watch for traffic, let’s just say it usually winds up me shouting to him. I wind up yelling “turn left”, ``there's a car behind you”, “wait up” or my favorite, when he is talking ahead of me and I can’t hear him…”What’d you say”? I am sure we are not the quietest or most relaxing people to come across on the bike trails. The quietest thing about us are our E Bike’s silent motors. 

Last Fall, I had a brilliant idea to use the 2 walkie talkies we have and hook up the earpiece/microphone to the helmet to easily chat back and forth. I showed my Best Half how it would work and how it would make it really safe biking together because I could tell him when a car was coming up behind us. I got everything set up and we set out on the bikes to try it out. I was so convinced it was the best idea I ever had. We got out there and started riding, our walkie talkie radios clipped on to our shirts and the earpiece in my ear and clipped right next to my Best Half’s “good ear”.

I pressed the mic and started to talk to him. No response. I tried again, and no response. So I put the throttle down and cruised up alongside him and realized his radio was turned off. Of course he couldn’t hear me! So I turned it on and we started out again. I pressed the mic and remembered I had to count to 3 before talking or only half the message would go through. No response…I tried again and said “please answer me if you hear me”. My radio clicked on to my Best Half midway through a conversation. Throttling on, I zoomed up to him and reminded him to count to 3 before talking or I’d only get a part of what he was saying. By this time he was getting perturbed that I kept telling him what to do. Guys don’t like that. That’s not just a Minnesota thing, it is global.

Off he went ahead of me, and my radio came alive with his voice saying something, but it was muffled and the wind seemed to cancel out his voice. I throttled back up to him once again. He stopped and asked what was wrong this time? I took the radios off of us and put them in my bike bag. I realized this was actually worse and probably louder than no walkie talkies at all. 

Last Fall before we put our E Bikes in storage, I went and bought us a pair of helmets with intercoms built into them. The speakers are built into the sides of the helmets and there is a microphone in the top of the front. And there are 3 buttons on the side for communicating or listening to the built-in FM radio. It’s bluetooth and syncs with a cell phone and is quite simple to use once the buttons are figured out. I got them both set up and we sat at the kitchen table going over how to use them. We went to different rooms in the house and talked to each other. It was working! So we took them out and up the road to test them out on the road.

To my surprise they were clear and working well. I had them set up for just the intercom and instructions were given to not press any buttons or it will cancel the intercom. A few minutes went by and my Best Half pulled over alongside the road. I came up alongside him. He took the helmet off and had me take a listen. It was the FM radio going. He had accidentally pushed the radio button. It got set up for the intercom again and we finished the ride. We got home, happy we figured it out, and put the helmets in their storage bags and the bikes downstairs for the winter. 

Only now that I have pulled my bike from downstairs do I realize that I will have to relearn how to use the helmets all over again. I have forgotten. But that is not the worst thing to happen. What is worse…I will have to show someone else how to use it all over again too.

So if you are out there on the bike trails and you see a couple of E-bikers yelling back and forth, remember to allow us some grace. We are learning once again how to use the helmets.