Sunday, October 30, 2022

Minnesota Weather

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 23, 2022

A Trip to the Audiologist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Season of Change

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 9, 2022

43 Years and You're Still the One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 2, 2022

Minnesota Nights

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

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

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

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

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