Sunday, January 30, 2022

Monday Morning Music Doing it Solo- Words Get In the Way

I really am looking forward to meeting up with some of the grandkids and playing music with them when we get down to Texas. Our plan to do music with the grandkids up here in Minnesota has kind of been set down by the side of the road due to the older ones working at jobs now and winter freezing cold temps that make me not want to venture out as much. 

We set out to faithfully get together once a week and play music, but the weeks keep flying by and we have only met up a couple of times here at the house to play music. When we do get together, it is always fun watching the littlest 4 year old strumming the mandolin and keeping a beat, and a couple of the younger ones learning the strum stick, an easy to play instrument that adds to the music sound.One of the older grandson plays the banjo and the oldest grand-daughter playing the fiddle by ear. ANd  we have a shy one in the mix who is learning to play the melodica, but it is hit or miss if she joins with the instrument. But she does have an awesome voice she willingly shares.It is always fun and filled with laughs. Once we are back from our trip South I will have to become more intentional at getting us together.

For now, I have been playing some on my own. I am learning how to use the keyboard to put in other sounds besides the guitar. I never knew how to play piano, but a few years ago due to arthritis in my hand, I learned how to stretch my hands and play chords on a piano. It has been interesting trying to figure out how to “play the instruments” on the keyboard. 

This is a song I wrote about how sometimes it is hard to apologize if needed or keep a relationship going, be it family or friends. Sometimes no matter how hard we try, things just don’t work out, there just aren't the right words to say. Or the words will get in the way. Sometimes no matter what we do or say, it just doesn’t work. But never give up, because there may come a time ,when you least expect it, things will change.

To listen to it go to the podcast or our website.

(words and music by Susan McAuliffe)

Words Get in the Way

If I said I was sorry a million times, 

Would it be enough for you to hear

If you told me you loved me everyday, 

Would it take away the fear

Time goes by and people change, 

So much we need to say

Like I love you and I’m sorry, 

But the words get in the way.

If I walked across the earth to find you, 

Would you even remember my name

Would you say hello, would you greet me 

Would you let me do the same…

Well we live our lives one day at a time

Doing the best that we can

If the day should come when I see you again

I hope you understand…

That time goes by and people change,

So much we need to say

I still love you and I’m sorry, 

But the words got in the way.

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Is it Cold Enough For Ya?

There is a saying…”How can you tell a person is from Minnesota?”  The answer…”If they talk to you about the weather for more than a minute.”

I guess due to our incredible ranges in the temperatures and weather, we Minnesotans can always find the topic of weather a safe subject to talk about casually or intensely with friends and strangers alike. It is just one of those things that is bred into our gene pool here in Minnesota. If it isn't a conversation about the heat and humidity, it is talking about the cold, snow and wind chills.

This morning I am sitting at my desk, watching the 20 squirrels taking over the bird feeders and feeding on the ground, while the birds sit perched and freezing in the trees nearby waiting their turn to get at the feeders. It has been cold the past few days with wind chills in the -30 to -40 range and air temps have been in the -15 to -20 range. 

Weather like this causes a few changes in Minnesotans. They will begin putting on their choppers, those wool mittens that are inside the leather pair of mittens. Along with that, the Sorel boots may appear on some people's feet. It just depends how long the person is intending on being outside. If for over an hour, the Sorel’s get dug out in -20 below weather. And to cover the face if outdoors for more than a few minutes, many will use a scarf or neck warmer to pull up over their face to keep the nostrils from closing and freezing shut. It also wipes the snot running from the nose and forming ice crystals on a guy’s beard or mustache.

But before any outer gear is needed, there is a whole new level of dressing under the jackets and boots. It may be a pair of wool socks, or even sometimes 2 pairs, some flannel lined jeans for newcomers to Minnesota and some polar fleece for under the Buffalo Plaid shirt. While these are not absolute Minnesota clothing necessities, the ability to dress in layers is definitely needed for when you get in the truck and need to peel off a layer or two to keep from sweating. Many times you will see someone at the gas pumps in their layers and no jacket. But you know darn well the jacket is not too far away from the front seat, just in case you’re needing to pump more than 10-15 gallons in the truck.

While at the pumps, it is guaranteed that a conversation about the weather will develop as the pumps are running. Many times it will be an understanding  nod to the other person as they are dumping a can of Heat into their vehicle’s gas line, but oftentimes it will start with the questions, “Is it cold enough for ya?”.  And pardon the expression, but this question will usually break the ice. It seems to give the other person the permission to, well…complain a little about the cold. While Minnesotans aren’t big complainers of the cold they may say things like, “yeah, it’s getting old”, or “ yeah my outdoor faucet is frozen solid probably til April”.

Whatever the complaint, it is met with a nod of the head and an understanding that it is getting old having the -20 below temps and -30 to -40 below wind chills. But then usually someone will be the voice of reason and say, “Well it beats 90 degrees and 100% humidity”. And both will head on into the Kwik Trip and grab some hot coffee together and be on their way back out into the cold, knowing they are not alone in their Minnesota cold snap.’

Stay warm everyone!

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Old Friends, Olive Garden and a Visit with the Tootsie Sister

I have a very good friend from my high school days that I have told some stories about before here in past episodes of our Solid Rock Minnesota Podcast and Blog. She is a friend that goes back to our teenage years, when we attended an all girls Catholic High School together. We have many great stories about Catholic school and the nuns. We graduated together way back when.  After High School we were the first ever women to work at gates at the Minnesota State Fair together for about 20 years (that is how we got the name the “Tootsie Sisters”), and we were in each other's weddings over 40 years ago. And through all we have been through together in the span of 50 years or so, we only manage to see each other in person maybe 1-2 times a year. Try as we may, but time, family commitments and life just seem to keep plowing down the road and keeping us from making time to physically get together. But yesterday that finally changed and I was able to meet up with my old friend the Tootsie Sister for a long overdue in person visit at Olive Garden. That has become our spot to meet up over the years, just because it is a halfway point from our houses…and we both can indulge in salad, breadsticks and pasta that someone else serves us.

It was a few weeks ago when I got a text from my friend saying it was time to try again to get together. We had made previous plans to go kayaking last Summer, but Covid, work schedules, and tornadoes kept it from happening. And so here it was a year since our last visit and we made definite plans to meet up at Olive Garden and catch up on life. 

Saturday morning came and I was up early, ready to get stuff done before I left for the Cities to drive down to Olive garden. I was excited to finally get together. It is always a good time when we get together. We can get caught up on things going on in our lives, our kids and spouses and have some good laughs at ourselves as we grow older.

11:30 came and we both pulled up to Olive Garden at the same time and after a few bear hugs and the discussion if we needed masks or not, we masked up and went and got our table. As we were walking in, my friend let me know she had had a cold, but went and got tested for Covid. The test was negative, but she still had a bit of a tickly cough she was dealing with. Jackets off, masks off, water delivered, the conversation began. The waitress came by and got our orders for the salad, soup and breadsticks and we went back to filling each other in on family and life the past year. 

While she was talking she kind of swallowed wrong and began coughing. You know that feeling when the tickle in your throat won’t stop and you just start hacking away like your lung is going to pop out of your mouth any second and land in your salad? As much as she tried to hide the hacking cough, she couldn’t. 

In this age of “any cough is Covid”, people around us began to stare, a few with not too appreciative glances. It is so crazy these days when a person sneezes, coughs or sniffles in public, a wide path is made and people scatter away like field mice when the barn cat shows up. My poor friend, after trying to stifle her cough, turning beet red and not getting any relief, decided to run to the bathroom for a few seconds. When she came back she was fine, but was feeling pretty self-conscious as people kept glancing over at us. Our waitress pretty much stayed clear of us the rest of the visit too. 

I told my friend we needed to finish up and go out to the car and finish our visit. Although it was sunny, the wind was blowing and it was about 12 above. We got in her car, turned on the heated seats and blower and continued our visit for the next 45 minutes with no worries of people staring at us.

We talked about so many things and there were new conversations for us…Social Security and Medicare…401K’s and when is a good time to call it quits from the job and retire. We agreed her time is getting close for her to retire. There was a slight pause in the conversation as we both watched people going in and out of  Olive Garden. In that moment of silence, sitting in her car with the heated seats, I realized as I looked at my friend, the Tootsie Sister, and she looked at me. We both just laughed out loud as we said at the same time, “God we are getting old!”. After 50 years together this friendship only grows deeper as our lives grow older. Until next time my Tootsie Sister!

For Previous Tootsie Sister Stories got to 

12-18-20 The Tootsie Sisters
3-7-21 Tootsie Sister on Ice

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Catching Up, A Little at a TIme

We have spent many mornings either on the phone or at the financial investors office the past 5 weeks trying to get all of our finances in order so we can officially say we are retired. It is hard to imagine that after many decades of planning, of sometimes making decisions between a gallon of gas or a gallon of milk, we finally are getting to reap the benefits of an income without going down the road to work. It is a weird feeling just having money go into the bank accounts like the paychecks used to go in. It almost feels illegal. 

It has been a little over a month now since my Best Half retired and no longer has to get up at 4 AM and travel 50 miles one way to work each day. Many have asked us how it is going and if we are adjusting. So I thought maybe a little update was in order.

Week one left us both a little dazed after many get-togethers and retirement parties for him at the clinics he worked at. His last week of work was spent finishing things he had going at the clinics and then saying his good-byes to coworkers and supervisors alike. For 38 years he worked at these clinics with many of these people. His very last drive up North and back home on his last day left him a bit reflective…and a little freaked out too. The wondering if he made the right decision to retire a year earlier than he had planned. 

For the first week many hours were spent quietly processing his decision and beginning to adjust to a new sleep schedule. The first few days he finally stayed up past 9 PM and woke up about 8 AM. When the third morning came and it was getting a little past 8 AM, I suggested we maybe needed to get on a little earlier wake up than after 8AM. Afterall, there’s things to do, places to go and people to see. So week one was pretty much a quiet week of letting him kind of process all the changes that have come with retiring. Phase one of retirement as we call it.

Week 2 of retirement passed with him up and at it by 7 or 7:30 every morning. He really did have things to do and places to go and people to see. The garage furnace was turned on and he spent a good part of his days out there reorganizing his space and tools and such. And he spent time finishing up fixing things that got kind of set aside when he was working full time. We now have a well organized garage that 2 vehicles could easily fit in if we wanted. But I really have never seen a Minnesota garage that cars were actually parked in. It’s usually the more important items like boats, and snowmobiles or the snowthrower or ATV with the plow. But he now has space, “his space” that he can work on things like the snowblower and the vehicles. The Jeep, van, truck and Big Eddie all have washer fluid filled and all the levels of oil, brake fluid, and antifreeze are where they should be. And I usually have a list of things needing his attention. So for me, his retirement has so far been awesome, because things are getting done that he never had time for when working. 

Week 3 was spent going down the road to the neighbors house a few times a day to take care of their German Shepherd while they were down at Mayo doing medical things for a few days during the week. Annie, the dog, and my Best Half had fun playing Frisbee and chatting together. It was a good thing for him to do as he has always been a little scared of other dogs. When he was a little guy, he was attacked by a Collie and had stitches in his head and face in which he still has scars. So Annie did a good deed by being his buddy that week. The only problem was that his girl, Zoe our Lab, got Annie’s scent on him and was a little more clingy to him. 

And finally in the past few weeks, I do believe he is settling into retirement and beginning to enjoy the lifestyle of not having to go up and down the road to work daily. He has developed a sort of routine which involves getting many things done around the house he has wanted to do, getting into his hobbies like rock polishing, jewelry making with the rocks, and running errands without me. We have discovered that as long as I hate shopping so much, he will take on that responsibility. Sometimes I go with and just sit out in the Jeep watching the people and reading. Sometimes I will go in and shop with him, but I love the fact that I no longer will have to go into stores and shop. Yes, I hate shopping that much. 

While we both have hobbies and things we like to do separately, it has been so much fun being able to drop what we are doing and take a drive, or do a project together, like the Christmas baking. Of course that involves me baking and him taste testing the stuff coming out of the oven. He calls it quality control. It has been fun to be spontaneous with our plans. 

Each morning after he feeds the dogs  and I do my Tai Chi stretches we meet up at the kitchen table for breakfast and chat about the day ahead. It may be about the weather for the day and some news we have read online or just chit chat . It has become a habit of ours this past month, the two of us just doing some catching up, a little at a time. We haven’t really been at the breakfast table together over the last 38 years. I think we both are getting into this retirement journey we have set out on. That day in the financial planner’s office when we were rolling over the finances and setting up stuff, we just looked at each other in excitement and absolute amazement…we did it…we are retired!

Sunday, January 2, 2022

Be A Better Friend

To quote Paul Wellstone, " We all do better when we all do better". Such a simple statement with such a powerful message. Let's all work at being a better friend to those around us and hope it circles the globe.

I want to wish a Happy New Year to everyone that has become a part of the Solid Rock Minnesota podcast and blog group. Believe it or not we are starting our second year doing the weekly podcast and blog. It just doesn’t seem that long ago I was trying to record my trembling voice and playing it back only to hear my “up North” Minnesota voice. And wondering who on earth would want to listen to this podcast of stories, music and odds and ends from Minnesota? I was scared enough not to tell a soul I knew about it. It would just be for myself and maybe a few strangers that may happen upon it and listen for a few seconds and turn it off.  

It wasn’t until several months into doing a weekly podcast that my family and friends found out that I was doing a podcast. Yes, as I have admitted before, I was a closet podcaster. That was until the sister of my very dear friend, the Tootsie Sister, outed me to one of my cousins. And my cousin in turn outed me to the whole family. There are only a few things that will travel faster than our family sending out news about another family member. 

As a result of a request to do a blog so that our deaf and hearing impaired friends and family could be included in the stories, the blog was created. And here we are today with over 5000 listeners and more than 1500 blog readers! 

I am truly and totally amazed at the response from people nationwide and worldwide that have become weekly listeners or blog readers following Solid Rock Minnesota. You all have been so kind and encouraging this past year. There are those family and friends that I have known for a lifetime and then there are those that I have come to meet through Solid Rock Minnesota. To all of you, your comments and encouragement are never unnoticed. 

I was sitting playing my guitar the other day and started thinking about the past year. So much is going on around the world and close to home in our own communities. I started thinking of the New Year and ways to make it a better year than last year. And honestly, I don’t have any magical words of wisdom other than to just keep putting one foot in front of the other and do the best we are capable of doing. For me, I decided I am going to try hard to keep encouraging and building friendships and relationships with those around me. Old friends and new friends.

Thanks to all of you for your encouragement and continuing to listen to and be a part  of the Solid Rock Minnesota podcast and blog. 

To listen to the song go to our website and scroll down to the podcast.

This is a song I wrote called “Be A Better Friend”. 

Be A Better Friend

Life can seem hard in this crazy world

And sometimes I just pay the cost

I think about all the life that I've  lived

And then I don’t seem so lost


I’m going to live my life one day at a time

God Lord willing and the time don’t end

I’m going to sing my songs, and love my dogs,

And be a better friend

I’m going to spend the day, do the best that I can

Looking for the good all around

I’m going to take the time to help someone

Going to plant my feet on solid ground...

It’s time to save this world one day at a time

It’s time we love someone we may hate

For the time will come, we may stand alone

Let’s do it before it’s too late...

music and words by Susan McAuliffe