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.