Monday, December 31, 2007

Frosty the Mailbox......& Books

This morning I found myself humming, "Frosty the Mailbox......was a jolly, happy soul......". Yes, we awoke to a fairyland scene, with frosty artwork gracing tree branches, pine needles, fences, vines.......everything in the out-of-doors. It was beautiful, until the breeze kicked in and scattered nature's fragile lacework. After morning chores, I spent about an hour wandering around outdoors taking photos.

Yesterday, on New Year's Eve Eve, we had one more holiday gathering; my side of the family came over. It was a potluck, and our 4'X5' kitchen island counter-top became covered with yummy food dishes. We had to dodge several little people, as my brother (11 years my junior) and his wife have four young children. What fun to see them! Their 18-month old son, a very solid little fellow, squealed with delight when one of our cats appeared after a sneaky escape from the basement. We had fun watching him chase the cat.

I had wrapped up white elephant gifts to give to my mom, sister, and sister-in-law. I had such fun the other day, browsing in a second-hand shop, looking for the items. And for the kids, I had a pile of books for them to look through and choose from. Some were from the second-hand store, and others from our bookshelf here at home. My sister's kids love to read. Her son needed mysteries to read for school, so he chose some Hardy Boys and Encyclopedia Brown. His sister picked out some Nancy Drew books. Oh, how I remember reading so many of those back in 5th and 6th friends and I would trade them back and forth, along with Trixie Belden mysteries. Ah, yes, the good old days!

While looking through my old books here at home, I had run across two that my parents had given me years ago.........Tom Sawyer and Little Women, unabridged editions. I remember receiving them one Christmas, but I had no idea what year that might be. Inside the front covers of the books my mother had written the date......Christmas 1965. I was seven-and-a-half, and in second grade. I recall that I started reading the books right away......Tom Sawyer was first. I don't many second graders today read Tom Sawyer and Little you suppose? I really failed to challenge my own kids in that way. Possibly, reading is taught in a different, less challenging way, now, too. Unfortunate, if that is so.

But, as a kid, I always was very interested in reading. In first grade, our teacher read from Little House on the Prairie every day after noon recess. I sat there listening, completely engrossed, and couldn't wait until I was able to read the other Little House books on my own, which happened in the next couple years. By third grade, I had read all of them.

Katie John and Homer Price were two other characters I loved reading about back then, and I still have those dog-eared books on my bookshelf. I can't part with them. Another series from way back in early grade school was about a horse named Blaze and his owner, and their adventures. Other animal books I enjoyed were Bambi (the novel) and Brighty of the Grand Canyon. Vaguely, I remember another set of books that I enjoyed very much, but recalling the name is difficult. They had a Mrs. Oldknowe in them, and her grandchildren, and an estate called Greenhowe, I think. They were sort of magical fantasy stories, with a ghost-girl named Linnet, and a alchemist that lived in the woods nearby, and shrubbery in the shapes of animals. I should look it up on the internet to get more information.

A few years ago, my mom gave me my old baby-book. In it she had written that at age 18 months, one of my favorite books was Pitidoe the Colormaker, by Glenn Dines. I don't remember the book at all, and have been trying to locate a copy, but have had no success. I've also left a request for it on eBay.

Yes, reading has been a favorite pastime for as long as I can remember. My younger sisters used to yell at me because all I wanted to do was read. They would say, "You never play with us.......all you do is read!" That probably wasn't very nice of me. And in all my years of motherhood, my constant wish was to have more time to read. But, somehow, it seems I didn't pass the reading passion on to my kids very well. I read books to them, but probably not enough. Sometimes, I'd be so tired, I'd get dozy while reading aloud, and the kids would poke me and yell, "Mom.....wake up!"

I remember we learned phonics in the early grades, but I don't think phonics is taught much anymore. Maybe we learned to read earlier and quicker because of phonics, I don't know. And I do read fast, which is probably just a natural ability. When I was a kid, sometimes my mom would give me an article to read, and I would read it and hand it back to her, and she would act like she didn't believe I had really read it. She'd say, "You couldn't be done that quick." I did have a classmate who read way faster than I did, though. In high school, she read every book in our school library. I would watch her read took her just a few seconds to scan a page. She was our class valedictorian and went on to become a lawyer. The salutatorian went on to become a physician. I was third in the class........and became a farmer's wife!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

A Funeral Lunch

Today was that funeral I mentioned a couple posts back. It was scheduled for 10:30 a.m., so we of the lunch committee needed to be there by 9 a.m. or so to get things ready. We had set tables up yesterday afternoon, along with the centerpieces, coffee cups and creamer packets, silverware wrapped in napkins at each place, etc. This morning we mixed up the scalloped potato dish, filled pitchers with water and lemonade, cut butter sticks, and received all the salads and desserts that were brought in, keeping a list of who brought what. That's traditional at funerals at our area churches------people coming to the funeral bring a dish, usually a salad or dessert. We also call a list of our own church people to bring a dish, too. That way there is plenty to eat.

We serving ladies walked together to the church narthex to view the deceased. He had been in very poor health for a couple years, and had been disabled years ago due to a fall from an apple tree. He had served in World War II, and there was a frame full of medals by his casket, including a purple heart. He had been born on the summer solstice and had died on the winter solstice. I had a chance to quickly hug his wife, an admirable, super-nice lady, before we got seated in church.

We serving ladies always sit in the back at a funeral, so we can duck out early. Today, halfway through the service, one of the funeral home guys suddenly sidled into the pew and started whispering in my ear. He said the truck hauling the vault for the casket had gone in the ditch, so the lunch would start immediately following the funeral, instead of after the committal service in the cemetery (which is right behind our church building). So we got up right away and returned to the parish hall to get the food out on the serving table. Much to our surprise, there were about 15 men sitting at the tables when we got there. They were dressed in American Legion uniforms; they had come to do a military ceremony at the burial service. And that meant they would eat with us, too. Yikes, we hoped we would have enough of the potato hotdish.

It all turned out fine, and we had just enough food. We had to set up a couple more tables in the gym next door to accomodate everyone. There was lots of bustling around, getting coffee pots on the tables, keeping pitchers filled, fielding requests for more silverware or whatever------a typical funeral lunch. The family included several young grandsons, and I got a kick out of watching them choose their desserts.

Clean-up went quite well. A few ladies came late just to help with that. I was trying to wipe tables and kept getting caught up in conversations with various people I hadn't seen for awhile. Husband, much to my surprise, had shown up at the funeral and helped with putting tables and chairs away. I figured he wouldn't get done with barn chores in time.

When I finally got home, I flopped right down and took a nap. Its nice to help with funeral lunches, but it really shoots a day.

Christmas Boredom

Well, somehow I survived Christmas Eve evening, Christmas Day, and Second Christmas. By the time we got to church on Christmas Eve, the pews downstairs were full, so we sat in the balcony where we couldn't see a thing. The little kids sounded cute, as they recited their parts of the Christmas story and sang various solos and duets. There were several congregational hymns, and as is traditional at our church, during "Silent Night" the church lights are turned off and we hold lighted candles. The first verse we sing in German to honor the founders of our congregation.

After that, we came home and ate and opened gifts, and ate some more. It was more fun when our children were little.

Christmas Day morning meant off to church again after morning chores. I sang with the choir------a quintet. We sang from the balcony, and my family told me afterwards that we sounded like more than five people. Hooray! Good thing there were several Christmas hymns sung by the congregation, for our vacancy pastor didn't mention Christmas at all in his sermon.

For Christmas dinner, we had roast beef, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, and rolls. Nothing too spectacular. Husband's uncle and aunt were here, too, and after our meal we spent the afternoon looking at old photos and listening to stories from the past. Some of them were very interesting, and filled in gaps here and there for me, as I have sometimes been confused over the years about certain events, deaths, etc., in the family.

On the day after Christmas, "Second Christmas", as the old Germans used to call it, between chores we sat around and watched TV. Nobody seemed to want to play any board games. My new son-in-law must think we're the most boring family on earth. Husband had to keep going out to do cow chores, and when he did come into the house, he fell asleep in his chair right away. Well, that is the normal routine on this dairy farm, 365 days a year!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve Day

Well, its midday of Christmas Eve, and I'm sitting down for a few minutes to take a breather and blog. Otherwise, the day has been taken up with calf chores, walking to the mailbox, shoveling snow, straightening the house, fixing food for tonight. Not to mention, Husband and sons needed a substantial noon meal, so that had to be attended to, also.

At this point, I need to go upstairs and put up a new shower curtain and make sure the bathroom is clean for company coming, our daughter and son-in-law. I cringed the first time he came and stayed here, figuring his mother probably keeps an immaculate house, and that he might change his mind about our daughter after he saw my housekeeping. But, he stayed around, so I guess he's comfortable with us.

I also need to attend to myself and do something with my stupid hair for tonight. It needs a coloring job, so maybe I'll do that this afternoon, too, while I'm working in the bathroom. Actually, I wish I could just stay home from church tonight, and get all the food out and ready. My mother and stepfather will come to our church service and then to our house to open presents and eat. Things are not as much fun as they used to be, when the kids were little, excitedly ripping open packages from "Santa" on Christmas Eve. What fun it was to watch that. And tonight we will also be without Father-in-law/Grandpa/Dad for the first time, and that will be hard.

Because our children are older, and not a part of the Christmas Eve church service anymore, I have sort of lost interest in it. That's terrible, I know, but its just the way it is. It used to be a really big deal, to see them up there in church, rosy-cheeked and singing, taking part in the nativity scene. For a few years, when I was a Sunday School teacher, I was very involved in the Christmas Eve service, too. But, after a time of head problems last year, I gave up SS teaching and other church activities, including Ladies Aid and choir. I wish I could get interested in them again, but it is difficult, knowing that people know about my breakdown, and wondering if they think I'm a complete weirdo. There's no one else in our church who's had mental a mental breakdown, at least that I've been aware of in the last 30 years.

Last evening, I got a phone call from a lady at church telling me that we have a funeral coming up on Thursday, and wondering if I'd be available to help at the lunch. I said yes. The man who died had been in bad health for a long time, and had been living in a nursing home for several years. He was a really nice guy. His wife would spend time with him every day. Father-in-law would visit him, too. So that is another person now who has passed on in the few weeks since Father-in-law's death. Maybe his passing has helped some others to let go and move on, too. Actually, a few nights ago, in a dream, I saw a man from my church, and he was dressed in a vivid sky-blue shirt......the same color as our town's funeral home vehicles. The man is a brother-in-law of the man who died, so the dream was off a bit, as is the habit of dreams.

"Be the peace you wish to see" tonight on Christmas Eve, as you remember and contemplate the meaning of Christmas, the coming of God to earth as a human baby, to provide a way for us to Heaven. Some of the theologians put it this way......that God broke through from eternity into time, to be our Savior, to eventually take us out of time into the eternity of Heaven. Something else to ponder......the difference between the world of eternity and the world of time. Leads one then to think about Einstein and his concepts of space-time.

Anyway....."Be the peace you wish to see".

Happy Christmas Eve, 2007!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

An Obtrusive Visitor

Our area of Iowa has been taken over by an obtrusive visitor.......the weather! Just in time for holiday travel, several inches of new snow has arrived, along with plenty of strong wind to blow it around. Our church service was cancelled this morning, as were many others in the rural areas of our corner of the state. We probably wouldn't have made it to church anyway, with a driveway full of snow that can't be cleaned out until Husband gets done with all the livestock chores.

Yes, Sundays can be difficult on the farm, even in good weather. Cows don't take the day off------they still need to be fed, milked, and cleaned up after. By the time Husband has seated himself in church on Sunday mornings, he has milked 80 cows, and fed them and all the other cattle on the place. I can't swallow the idea that our eternal salvation is dependent on having passable roads and a driveable vehicle to get us to the church building at a certain time so we can hear the pastor's voice proclaiming the Word of God to our ears. But, orthodox Christianity seems to teach that in a roundabout way. Praises be for the internal combustion engine and well-maintained roads! Orthodoxy works best when people live closely in a cluster right around the church building.

We know many dairy farmers who, while being church members, rarely make it to church services. Over the years, as the numbers of livestock farmers has dwindled, church services have been scheduled at earlier times to satisfy the majority of church members, who don't farm, but have many leisure and social activities to go to.......sporting events, golfing, etc. And do you think a city-raised pastor is going to have any comprehension of a livestock farmer's responsibilities and lifestyle? No way.

Anyway, enough of that belly-aching, and back to the weather........we have been effectively snowed-in all day. Of course, we can still walk to the barn to do chores, but driving anywhere is pretty much out of the question. After our noon meal, the guys were watching the Bears vs Packers game on TV, and Daughter and I covered up with a blanket in the chilly north room and watched a DVD movie, "Flight 93". I had bought it for the family for Christmas, but we opened it early so we'd have something to do on this snowy afternoon. We knew the movie would be sad, and it was, but it was very well done, telling the story in a matter-of-fact way. Clearly, I remember that morning of Sept.11, 2001, being glued to the TV watching the burning World Trade Towers and listening to speculations on where that final hijacked plane might be headed. Then we heard of the plane crashing in western Pennsylvania, and the incredible facts that emerged. In the movie, the air traffic control room scenes are intense, as, of course, are the final moments on the airplane, when the passengers stormed the cockpit. Truly, I consider it one of the most moving and heroic events of my lifetime.

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. I wouldn't really care if we were still snowed-in, although my married daughter and her husband are supposed to drive up here from the Des Moines area, so I guess I should be praying for the snow and wind to subside.

B the Peace U Wish 2 C

Interesting little experiences came my way the day before yesterday. I had to take a long drive in pea-soup fog, on two-lane U.S. 63 in northern Iowa and southern Minnesota. For over sixty miles my Envoy rolled along in the fog at about 50 mph, hemmed in by two pickup trucks, ahead of and behind me. The two glowing red taillights ahead of me became beacons of constancy, security, and comfort in the midst of the murky cloud of fog. Maybe I became almost hypnotized by them.

When that pickup ahead of me suddenly put its blinker on and turned onto another road, I felt momentarily disoriented and cut off from my secure moorings. I was uncomfortable not having a leader ahead of me. Soon, for some reason, I suddenly felt like I had missed my turn toward Stewartville, MN. I signaled, slowed down and pulled off at the next intersection, thinking it was where I needed to turn, but it wasn't. I happened to glance in my rearview mirror, and saw that the pickup following me had pulled over, also! As if we were somehow connected! I pulled back onto the highway, and the pickup did the same!

Maybe that driver behind me felt the same way I had felt about the vehicle which I had followed for so many miles. Like it was my friend, someone to depend on to lead the way through the fog. Thus, when I veered off the path momentarily, he instinctively did the same. It was an interesting little moment of perception.

In Stewartville, the city of many, many white-globed streetlights, an electronic sign proclaimed this message to passersby: "Be the Peace You Wish to See". Yes, truly, that is as much as any one of us can accomplish in this life. Start with your own self, and the place that self occupies in the world.......pray for grace to be a peaceful bit of space, wherever you happen to be, whatever situation you find yourself in. Don't fret about the chaos and confusion......(or fog!) around you...... just "B the peace U Wish 2 C". Be the Peace. And then maybe you can be a faithful beacon of God's comfort and constancy to those who happen to be in your vicinity.

As Christmas rapidly approaches.......Be the Peace!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

College Graduation

The week following the funeral found me at exhaustion level and battling a nasty cold. I worked on keeping up with thank-you notes for the memorials that continued to trickle in by mail. Many of the sympathy cards included personal notes with kind words and memories of Father-in-law, helping to keep him near in heart and mind. Amazingly, too, since his death, several other area folks have passed away, like a domino effect.

Then last weekend arrived, with a whole slate of activities on tap. On Saturday, my son graduated from Iowa State University with an Electrical Engineering degree. His girlfriend, my younger daughter and son, and I, made the journey to Ames for the commencement program at Hilton Coliseum. Husband stayed home to take care of the cows, as usual.

Once in Ames, though, before we went to Hilton, we had to get our Envoy hooked up to a U-Haul trailer at a business east of town. That took awhile because we had to go back into Ames to buy an adapter for plugging in the cord for the lights. Finally, we had the trailer attached and lights working, and off into Ames traffic we went. We parked way out on the edge of the Hilton Coliseum parking lot, and followed the crowd of graduates and families streaming into the huge building.

The Commencement program lasted around two hours. The graduates came in by disciplines......Agriculture, Engineering, Education, Design, etc. Engineering graduates wore orange tassels. Simon Estes sang the National Anthem. Iowa Govenor Chet Culver gave the Commencement address. Then graduates lined up and received their (empty) diploma folders as their names were announced.

Once that was finished, and congratulations and photos were done, we had to hurry back to my son's apartment to load his belongings into the U-haul. We had quite a time getting the trailer backed through ice and snow into a position for convenient loading. The first and worst thing we had to load was the large sofa. Once that was in we could fit everything else around it. It took us a good two hours to get everything packed in; by then it was almost dark, and we had a four hour drive ahead of us.

To my pleasant surprise, the Envoy pulled the trailer with seeming ease-----I just needed to adjust my braking and turning to accomodate the size and weight of the trailer. We zipped south on I-35 and then headed east on I-80. I decided to stay at 55 mph and let traffic zoom past us as it wished, for I had no desire pass vehicles while I was pulling a trailer.

We rolled along without incident until just east of Iowa City, then the weather conditions started to subtly take a negative turn. The windshield seemed to gather a fine mist, which worsened every time a semi went zooming past us. We started to see DOT salt trucks out and about with their yellow flashing lights. The visibility through my windshield was getting worse and worse, icing up with gunk every time a semi went by. We soon had to reduce our speed to 40 mph, and I could tell the road was slippery. We also started seeing vehicles in the ditch, some being ones which had recently zoomed past us, as my daughter pointed out.

Finally, we came up upon a line of brake lights reaching far into the distance. We sat in the line-up of vehicles, crawling ahead slowly every now and then. Finally, I realized we were nearing an exit, the one to Durant, so I told my daughter to look on the map and see if we could get to Davenport by that route instead. Yes, there was a road from Durant to Davenport, so we turned off and went that way. By then, the roads were completely ice and snow-covered, and we had to drive slowly the rest of the way. Our hotel reservation was on the east end of Davenport, so we had to drive all the way through town, too. It was after 11 p.m. when we finally got there, and I was completely done in, exhausted by the long day and the nerve-wracking driving conditions.

The next day, Sunday, was not much better, although it began peaceful enough for me, as I sipped coffee in the hotel lobby and watched political commentators on TV. By noon, we were in our vehicles again and heading for my son's new apartment. He had hurriedly chosen it a few weeks ago after being offered a job in Davenport. Once we got there, I was disappointed in his choice, and managed to not keep it to myself. Its hard sometimes, standing by and watching the launching of kids into the world, and feeling anxiety for them. I can't live my son's life for him......he'll just have to figure some things out for himself.

Getting the U-haul unloaded was more hard work and trudging through snow and ice. Then we had to find the place where the trailer was to be returned to. Looking for it took us along the riverfront of Davenport and Bettendorf, which was interesting. It looked like a nice area to come back to in better weather, like in the summer.

By 6 p.m., we were ready to head for home, another 2 1/2 hours of driving. Fortunately, the roads were good this time. It was a relief to finally get home again, and I was thankful for traveling mercies granted.

The next day, on Monday, my mood was completely in the dumps. I was worried about my son, but mostly I was exhausted. After morning barn chores, I came in the house and curled up on the couch and bawled. My daughter brought a cat over and it snuggled in at my side for a nap, making me feel better somehow. We slept most of the afternoon, Kitty and I.......probably just what the doctor ordered.

Young children are alot of work, but big kids can be alot of work, too. And, the anxieties are worse, in my opinion.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Day After Funeral

December 4 was the day after Father-in-law's funeral. Everyone gathered here at our house to open cards and write thank-you's. Six sons, their wives and an assortment of grandchildren filled our house. My father-in-law's twenty grandchildren range in age from 33 down to five years, so that was a wide variety of lifestages represented!

An assembly line for opening the sympathy cards and memorials was set up. Those present with good penmanship were drafted to write thank-you messages and address envelopes.

My main focus of the day was to keep enough food available. It turned out that we had just enough of everything to make it through the day------ two meals and various snacks for in between. Keeping a smile pasted on my face was also a priority, and being cheerful no matter what I felt like inside.

After finishing the day's thank-you's, the sons went to their dad's house and brought back several boxes of old family photos. These were sorted and each son took a pile home. The really old photos were left here at our house, meaning we'll probably be looking through them all winter. Some are over 100 years old and are really a hoot, with the severe facial expressions and hairdos, and clothing of the era.

By the time evening barn chores were done, I was completely exhausted. Thankfully, everyone had remained in remarkably good spirits despite all the time we'd spent together the last few days. Father-in-law would be happy about that. Let's hope that feeling of love and goodwill can continue through the upcoming process of settling the estate.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Day of Funeral

The day of Father-in-law's funeral dawned crisp and cold, with several inches of fresh snow on the ground. We were at the church by 10 a.m., greeting another long line of people filing by the casket one more time.

Right before the funeral service, the immediate family was allowed one last moment by the open casket. I had brought along a small stone engraved with a cross to put in the casket before it was closed. At the last minute, I handed it to Husband so he could put it in. He tried to put it behind his dad's shoulder and then suddenly we heard a loud "clunk"........the stone had fallen down into the hollow bottom of the casket, where it will stay until the Resurrection, obviously. We all started laughing and sobbing at the same time. I'm sure Father-in-law would have slapped his hands to his legs and laughed heartily, too. One of Husband's brothers quipped, "Well, that's one rock he'll never make us pick up!", referring to the many rocks their dad had made them pick up in the fields over the years.

The funeral service was meaningful. The hymns sung were "It Is Well With My Soul", "What A Friend We Have In Jesus", and "Great Is Thy Faithfulness", all from the Lutheran hymnal, but all three also very familiar to the Baptist side of the family. So, hopefully, everyone was satisfied.

The burial was in a cemetery about ten miles away, where Husband's mother is buried. The roads were slippery, so the procession of hearse and follower vehicles moved slowly. It was a special time, though.......I had happened to throw a Relaxing Christmas CD into my purse, so we listened to that on the way. It provided the perfect background for the meaningful little journey.

At the cemetery, we trudged through the snow to stand under the canopy by the grave. Since Father-in-law had been in the Marine Corps years ago, three relatives did a flag-folding ceremony at the grave. It was very solemn and somber. Then the pastor had a committal service. After that, we all stood around and hugged for awhile, then headed back to the church for lunch.

Husband and I had just sat down at the lunch table and taken about two bites of food, when his brothers came up and said we should take pictures of all the families now, before people started leaving. So we spent the next hour or so taking photos. We never did get back to our lunch plates.

Then after that, the funeral home director reminded us we needed to divvy up the flower arrangements and plants. So that took another hour or so, trying to decide what should go where. We sent large sprays to all the churches in town, and plants home with close relatives who wanted them. One of my close friends had given a lovely white ceramic angel, so we brought that home to our house.

Finally, it was time to go home. Milking cows and feeding calves actually sounded like fun at that point, for I was so weary of being surrounded by people, even though they were all very well-meaning and kind. Enough is enough for one day.

Funeral Home Time

Two weeks have flown by since my last post. The day after that post, an ice storm descended on us, leaving treacherous roads for traveling. I was getting rather panic-stricken, realizing how much food would be needed for the visitors arriving for Father-in-law's funeral. Thus, my daughter and I braved the icy roads and drove slowly and carefully to town to get groceries.

We went to Sam's Club and bought lots of thin-sliced turkey and cheese, bulk boxes of hot cocoa and apple cider packets, and paper plates and cups. At HyVee we stocked up on small buns for sandwichs, bags of potato chips and Doritos, bags of tiny carrots, cookies, and several 12-packs of soda pop. My goal was to have easy food to serve, knowing there would be little time to cook anything. Our vehicle was pretty well filled with food by the time we started to creep home again on the ice. If we'd have gone in the ditch, at least we'd have had plenty of food to munch on!

When we got home, there were already visitors here.......a nephew and his family from Tennessee. Four cute little kids-----what fun to spend time with them! Their dad and mom are serious Baptists and are committed to homeschooling. What an undertaking! I could never have done it.

The next day, Husband's aunt and uncle graciously hosted a noon potluck for the entire family in their large farmhouse. After that it was time to go to the funeral home for the family's private visitation. Father-in-law.....Dad.....Grandpa......Great-Grandpa.....Uncle......Friend.......there he was silently in his casket, ready to put up with an afternoon and evening of people peering at him. The many flower arrangements added lovely, bright, colorful relief to the scene.

The pastor led a devotion service for the family, after which the funeral home doors were opened and the room became jam-packed with people. Evidently, everyone wanted to be there early due to the roads and weather. Any hope for an organized receiving line vanished when the crowd moved in, and that was fine-----it didn't matter. I ended up spending quite a bit of my time arranging food items on the table in the corner. It would be a long evening for the family, and they would need sustenance-----especially, all the little kids needed food to snack on.

By mid-evening, when I had been standing so long that my feet were numb, I found a seat to plop into for awhile, next to one of my younger sister-in-laws. We both shook our heads in amazement at the mass of people around us. Eventually, one of my best friends from high school days arrived and we sat and talked until the crowd thinned out. By then, it was time to clean up the food table area and get everyone bundled off for the night.

Before we left the funeral home, I had a chance to walk over to the casket by myself, and contemplate things alone for a few moments. I had always had a difficult time knowing how to address my father-in-law. I couldn't call him "Dad", and I couldn't bring myself to call him by his first name, so I didn't call him anything to his face over the years. So I stood there by his casket and said his name several times------finally I could do it.

The most comforting thing to know is that he was ready to go.......he had said that many times. He wanted to die in his sleep, he said, and he almost got his wish, for his death had been peaceful, like simply falling asleep. He had been a lifelong, church-going Lutheran. His type does some drinking, swearing, telling of off-color jokes, and the like, but always attends church on Sunday morning, and would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it. He was a good-hearted soul, flown now to Heaven, thanks to a gracious Savior.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Funeral Preparations

Yesterday morning, the first after Father-in-law's death, I awoke early after a fitful night's sleep. My eyes were still full of tears and my legs felt like they were made of lead.

After morning barn chores------death doesn't disrupt that routine------I headed to Father-in-law's house and spent most of the day alone there, straightening things up, doing his last piles of laundry, washing his last dishes, and picking up his shoes sitting forlornly here and there. Many tears were shed, and somehow I felt closer to him than when he was alive. He had been somewhat difficult for me to get close to; he was kind of prickly, and had the tendency to interrupt people and jump from subject to subject. Also, I was exasperated years ago with the way he dealt with his wife's illness, but I'd managed to shove that to the back of mind in recent years when his own health started failing.

In his closet I had no trouble locating a suit for him to wear for burial. It was if he had it picked out already. It was hanging right in the front and had a tie on the hanger, too. In the inside pocket of the suitcoat was a program from my daughter's wedding in August. He had often stated how much he enjoyed being in attendance at her wedding. On the lapel was a tiny gold butterfly tack pin. He must have liked butterflies, for his house has several walls decorated with them.

Father-in-law had remarried only a year after his wife passed away in the mid-1990's, stating over and over that he couldn't stand to be alone. That second marriage didn't go so well. He had always been dead-set against people getting divorces, but he ended up getting one several years later. He was still basically miserable, always pining for the old life he'd had with the mother of his children. Recently, in the last couple years he did keep company with a widowed lady who was an old friend. Husband just rolled his eyes at first, but the two were a comfort to each other and brought reminders of the old days. I've noticed that myself as I get older........I tend to feel younger when I'm around old friends I knew from my younger years. It must be a common human experience.

Actually, I feel more sympathy for that grieving ladyfriend of his than for us, his family. I've been trying to phone her often to keep her updated on things. She was important to Father-in-law and she deserves respect for that reason.

Yesterday afternoon, Husband and some of his brothers, and one sister-in-law, met with the funeral home director. I had made up my mind early on to not get involved in that. Husband was a bit irked that the one sister-in-law went along. Ah, well.....I'm just trying to keep a smile pasted on my face and be pleasant to everyone. The funeral is not until Monday, so it will be a long weekend. I will try my best to hold on to my little bit of sanity.

More and more family members will start pouring in from other parts of the country------Montana, Tennessee, Virginia, Minnesota. I pray for travelling mercies for all of them.

Today, the family met with the pastor who will do the funeral. We have no permanent pastor right now, just a vacancy pastor who has never even met my father-in-law, so we asked a pastor from a neighboring town to do the service. He had visited with Father-in-law on occasion, and Father-in-law spoke positively of him. Today's meeting was interesting, though, because one of Husband's brothers is Baptist and he kept insisting that the pastor not use written prayers, but instead "pray from the heart". I just chuckled to myself since I am familiar with the views from both the Lutheran and Baptist angles. There's good and not so good aspects on both sides. The pastor kept trying to be pleasant about everything while at the same time indicating his view of things. He said he would try to read the prayers as if they were "from the heart".

The pastor also listened to the family relate memories of Father-in-law, and he took several pages of notes, saying he would try to incorporate some of the stories into the sermon. That I was impressed with, for many confessional Lutheran pastors will not consider doing such a thing.

After the pastor left, we sorted through piles of old photos that had been lugged down from upstairs. Such a lump came to my throat as I gazed at photos of a young, strong father-in-law, newly home from service in the Marines, smiling happily at his lovely wife-to-be. And then there they were in their wedding picture......and then a small white casket holding their infant daughter......and then there they were with three little boys on their laps........and then surrounded by six handsome sons.

Husband's mother always mourned for her lost little daughter, however......she would talk about that occasionally. Today I learned that the little girl had died three days after birth of a navel infection that went undetected there in the hospital. So very sad and unnecessary. Things might have gone quite differently had that baby girl husband would probably have not been born at the time he he probably would not have become my husband!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Death of Father-in-law

Well, I won't need to worry about going to Rochester tomorrow. My sister-in-law phoned early this evening to say that things were going downhill fast. Father-in-law had been growing weaker all afternoon, and the doctors felt he must be bleeding internally somewhere. That heparin he had been receiving by IV the last few days probably hastened the final outcome. He passed away a little after 9 p.m., peacefully, quietly, with no pain, so that is a blessing. Believe it or not, today was his birthday! Quite an amazing feat-----to die on your birthday! He had said so many times that he wanted to die in his sleep some night, and he came pretty close to doing just that.

As a widower, he was not a happy man------we all knew that. There was nothing we could do. He missed his wife and the life they once had together.

Husband had spoken to him on the phone around noon and said that his dad sounded "very tired".

We will miss him very much. He was often grumpy, but had at times a wicked sense of humor that could really grab your attention. He had a headfull of stories from the old days, about farming with horses, driving with horses, milking cows by hand, etc., etc. We won't hear those tales anymore from tears are coming fast and hard now.

Thanksgiving & A Heart Attack

The Thanksgiving season whirled its way in and out of my life once again. Although, every day of the year should be full of thankfulness!

I thoroughly enjoyed preparing our Thanksgiving meal. Maybe because the menu requires no fussing and fretting over. Just fix turkey, dressing, potatoes, gravy, cranberries, rolls. My stepdad, who is a wonderful baker, provided the dessert, a rich layered carrot cake.

Three of our four children were here, along with my mom and stepdad, and Husband's father. After the dishes were cleaned up, I sat with Mom on the sofa while she showed me her church's photo directory, pointing out the people she's acquainted with. Somehow, we ended up talking about her uncle who committed suicide many years ago when Mom was about ten years old. She said she clearly remembers the morning......her parents received a phone call and then hurriedly left the house, saying that the uncle was sick. Mom said she went into her room and knelt by her bed and prayed for her uncle, but she had the feeling that her prayers were simply bouncing off the ceiling, not reaching onward to God. We discussed how interesting that was, because the uncle actually was already dead when Mom was saying those prayers for him. Maybe Mom somehow intuited that.

During the Thanksgiving afternoon, Father-in-law complained of a little shortness of breath, but he attributed it to his asthma acting up. By late afternoon he had headed for home. The following morning, on Friday, we received a call saying Father-in-law had been taken to the ER by his brother. The doctors there believed he was in the process of having a heart attack. After doing some barn chores, Husband and I headed to the hospital, about 20 miles away. Father-in-law had been placed in ICU, but was conscious, and we were able to spend time with him. He was stabilizing, as IV tubes containing saline, potassium, heparin, and antibiotic for suspected pneumonia, dripped into his veins. He was talkative, complaining about this and that, which means he was acting normal! That was good.

On Monday, I met with his cardiologist who stated his opinion that Father-in-law should be transferred later in the week to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, for more specialized treatment. His heart is weak, the doctor said, and it has several blockages. Bypass surgery is needed, but will be risky. Any option for Father-in-law is risky at this point, with his age and his heart's weakened condition. Oh, my.

Then yesterday, Tuesday, all of a sudden in the afternoon we received word that Father-in-law was being prepared for immediate transfer to Mayo by ambulance. We made and received many phone calls, trying to figure out whether someone needed to make the two hour trip to Rochester tonight already. Husband's brother and wife who live in Wisconsin were able to go, thank goodness. That sister-in-law is an RN, so she would be a good one to be there.

This afternoon, Husband and I attended his great-uncle's funeral in a nearby town. On the way home, we stopped and checked on Father-in-law's house, and got his mail. My brain is slowly realizing all the little things that need to be attended to for him. Sister-in-law phoned from Rochester, saying that they had met with a cardiologist, and were going to meet with a surgeon. Tonight she will call again and let us know if a plan of action has been formulated yet. I told her I'd be glad to drive up and be with Father-in-law tomorrow, but if surgery is planned then some of his sons may want to go up. Its more complicated for all of them, because they have jobs to worry about, so we'll see how it goes.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Constipated Mind

My mind feels constipated------I've had no chance to walk, read, or blog the last few days. Just too much going on, and it affects my outlook.

Our high school football team won the state championship over the weekend! We were back at the Dome for the big game------a tough defensive struggle which we won due to a couple plays that went miraculously well.

Out in the Dome parking lot after the game, traffic was so congested that we sat for an hour before even being able to back out of our parking spot. Our two daughters were with us, so it was a nice chance to visit with them. As we sat watching the vehicles crawl by, one shiny sports car suddenly pulled into the line, out of turn, and sat in the way of several other vehicles. Obviously, the driver was impatient to get going, as we all were, and we could hear him swearing into his cell phone. We recognized him------he's not someone we know well, but we know who he is. He probably wouldn't have known us. Husband commented, "Wow, I didn't know he was such a jerk."

It was a thought-provoking little moment, and it made me realize how important it is for each of us to be aware at all times of the impression we are giving to other people by our behavior, language, etc. Each of us has the potential to be a "jerk", and we need to keep tabs on that tendency.

Maybe I'm a jerk in some of my blog writings. Could be. And here I go again........

We had a new vacancy pastor in church yesterday. His preaching style was like a machine; he spoke in a rapid cadence, which, actually was quite easy to stay in step with. Some pastors pause alot as they preach, and don't develop a consistent rhythm for us pew-sitters to follow along with. As always, the sermon consisted of the same old "Lutheran Load", as I've decided to call it-----"You can't choose anything only can choose the bad." Yes, yes, outside of Christ that is true. They never preach like we're actually "in Christ", though. The negative is dwelt on........just like when a person constantly runs him or herself down........they think they're being humble or something, when actually they are keeping the focus selfishly on themselves.

After an unusually busy Sunday afternoon------we had to rush through our noon meal so our son could go somewhere; then I had to write out bill payments and make a hot dish for the football banquet which started at 5 p.m., effectively shooting the whole afternoon. The banquet was nice, if you're into such things. Due to Husband milking cows in the late afternoon and evening on a daily basis, I end up going solo to activities held at that time of day, which means that over the years I've attended many, many events by myself.

Thankfully, I found a kindred soul to sit by and chat with at the banquet, since I don't really fit in with the tight jeans/dark eyeliner crowd that was there. And here's my old standard complaint about small town school districts: If you didn't go to school there yourself, then you never quite fit in with any of the cliques. Which is fine, since I can't stand clique-ishness, anyway. Most of those people, however, have never left the security of their hometown, and they have no idea what its like to join a new community. I hail from only a few miles away-----in a neighboring school district community-----but sometimes it seems like from another planet.

My son was pleased to have earned a varsity football letter, and his mother was tickled that he also received a district academic award.

There now......I've released some of that mind constipation, and I feel much better!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Mom Stress

Yesterday, my two sisters and my mom and I met at a restaurant to celebrate a birthday. It was great fun to reminisce and laugh, laugh, laugh. My sister gave Mom a ring with a gigantic sparkling stone-----Mom liked it so well, she says she wants to wear it in her casket someday!

Today, I saw Mom again-----she and my stepdad were here all day so he could work on a small remodeling project in our basement. I love my mom dearly, but having people around the house just throws me off. I can't do my normal stuff, like having the radio on, singing and talking to myself, etc. My stepdad graciously helped us with a major remodeling project last year. He and my mom were here nearly every day for a year! It was great to have the help, but it took a toll on me, and I ended up in a hospital psychiatric unit for several days. Someday, I will write more about that; the psychiatrist diagnosed me as "Bi-Polar, type 2", but who knows, really. I feel it may have had something to do with all the wood stain fumes I had been breathing in. The psychiatrist, in his fancy foreign accent, said, "No, no, that couldn't be possible." Sometimes I wonder if they really know much of anything; all they seem to want to do is charge huge fees and prescribe expensive pills!

Now that I'm more tuned-in to my weaknesses, I mentally construct a barrier between me and people who cause negative reactions within me. Learning to not deny the reality of those negative reactions is crucial. Being aware and watching over my mental state is a high priority.

Today, Mom and I watched the new DVD movie, "Amazing Grace", and the extra DVD that came with it at Target, "The Search for Lincoln's Assassin". I missed out on most of that one because a church friend phoned and we talked for the better part of an hour. She's ten years my junior, and in the midst of having several children in grade school at our Lutheran school, also with a couple preschoolers at home, so she's in a much different stage of parenthood than I am. Its always fun to hear her talk about the current happenings at school.

Mainly, she called today to invite me to come back to church choir, which she directs. She says they need another alto. Choir was one of the activities I bowed out of last year after shifting into semi-hermit mode after my experience of being in the psychiatric unit. I told her that, yes, I would try coming to choir again, and penciled it in on my calendar. Being around people is just difficult sometimes, and draining, so we'll see how this goes.

After lunch, I sat and chatted with Mom a bit. She tends to lead conversations down depressing paths. Today, she suddenly asked, "Would you want to be cremated?" And she wondered where she should be buried. (She's in good health, as far as I know.) She brought up cancer, too. Arrgh. I was relieved to finally get outdoors for a walk, leaving Mom reading her book, Countdown to Jerusalem, a look at the "end times", by author John Hagee. She wondered if I wanted to read the book when she was done with it. I said, "No, thank you." Believe me, I heard enough about the "end times" in our household back when I was growing up. It affected my life, bringing in unnecessary fear and anxiety. Nobody knows whats going to happen in the future and nobody knows the true meaning of Bible prophecy, in my humble opinion. And, for sanity's sake, for the grown-up me, that's the final word on the subject.

The dogs and I had a pleasant walk out in the cold sunshine. Along the road, we startled a rooster pheasant in the ditch-----he rose suddenly from amongst the dry weed stems, with a honking squawk. He must have been sitting deep in some thick weeds, for several stems hung from him as he flew low to new hiding place on the other side of the road. Actually, he's the first pheasant I've seen around here all summer and fall. Hopefully, he'll avoid the hunters!

After walking, I dealt with the day's frustrations by whipping up a batch of gooey Mississippi Mud bars. (Mom loves chocolate!)

And, of course, funneling thoughts into a blog post is a great way to vent frustrations, also!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Hooray for Dirt

What a lovely sky in view this morning! I was awake a bit earlier than usual in order to take my son to an orthodontist appointment. Actually, I simply rode along.......poor kid, he can't drive alone yet-----he has to have the mother go along. Going to the orthodontist's office is relaxing, though------I just sit and read a magazine, enjoy a treat from McDonald's on the way out of town, and try not to think about the $$$ wrapped up in those tiny wires surrounding my son's teeth.

Newsweek was the magazine I happened to pick up in the waiting room. I had time to read one article------it was about the increasing incidence of food allergies in children. I've heard this before, but one of the reasons they cited is that our living environments are "too clean" nowadays. The article said that kids raised on farms get plenty of exposure to dirt and animals, and rarely develop food allergies. Hooray for farms.....and dirt!!!

The article also mentioned that research is being done to see if children delivered by Caesarean section are more susceptible to food allergies. In a normal delivery, the baby is exposed to beneficial bacteria on the trip through the birth canal, helping to ensure a properly-functioning immune system. I also wonder if breast-feeding helps protect against food instincts say it probably does since breast milk is full of important antibodies. I nursed all four of my babies and feel its one of the best things a mother can do for her child......(Don't tell the formula manufacturers!).

We were listening to the radio enroute; at one point the announcer was cheerily listing several famous movie stars who are currently pregnant. Most are unmarried, of course. Its touching to hear of rich women having babies out of wedlock------they set such a great example for teenage girls------very impressive. I suppose I should be thankful it isn't abortions being announced over the radio airwaves.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Bovine Photo Op

"Hi" from the cows. They want you to know they're enjoying the warm sunshine of this November morning.

Now that I've figured out how to upload photos onto the blog, you'll get to see some of the sights around here. Wow.....isn't that exciting?!

Cows are curious by nature-----they will jostle forward to oogle anyone who is oogling them!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Edmund Fitzgerald

"The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down.......". Do those words ring a bell? They're from the opening line of Gordon Lightfoot's 1976 song, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald", detailing the true story of the sinking of an iron ore ship on Lake Superior, occurring on today's date in 1975. Twenty-nine men were lost. "Superior, its said, never gives up her dead, when the gales of November come early", are the closing words of the song. "Canadian Railroad Trilogy" is another historical story-song by Gordon Lightfoot, who is from Canada.

I enjoy historical songs, whether folk, country, rock, or whatever style it takes to tell the story. Al Stewart had some good ones in the 70's......"Roads to Moscow", "Lord Grenville", "Merlin's Time", "On the Border". A couple more that come to mind quickly are "Vincent" and "American Pie" by Don McLean, and "Trail of Tears" by Southern Pacific. Surely, there are many more historical popular songs that I'm not aware of.

The gales of November are coldly blowing today here in Iowa. No rain or snow, fortunately, but plenty of gray clouds. My son caught a ride to Cedar Rapids for the state volleyball finals this evening in which our local team has earned a berth. Yes, our football AND volleyball teams are in the state finals, as they were last year. Too much fun and commotion! I will be totally satisfied to watch the volleyball game on TV tonight from the comfort of my recliner.

I chaufferred my son and three of his friends to Cedar Rapids on Thursday afternoon for the volleyball quarterfinals. After dropping them off in front of the arena downtown, I went and browsed at TJMaxx and Barnes & Noble. Fun! Fun! Found some Christmas gifts for relatives and a great book for me......The Science of God by Gerald Schroeder.

Truth is, I've never even attended a high school volleyball game or match, whatever its called, since my daughters didn't go out for volleyball in high school. They played in 5th through 8th grades on our Lutheran school team, so I watched my share of volleyball in those days. (My toddler son, at the time, called it "bolleybally".) Some of the rules have changed since then------rally scoring is used all the time now, and also there is a new player called the "le barrow" (sp?), and net serves are allowed.

Thursday evening, after getting home from Cedar Rapids, and doing chores and supper, I could hardly wait to start reading my new book. One of Gerald Schroeder's other books, The Hidden Face of God, is a favorite of mine. He's able to bring the Bible and science together in fairly peaceful union, without upsetting beliefs too much on either side. He goes back to the original Hebrew words of Genesis, and shows where biblical literalists, as well as scientists, may be in error.

Anyway, I settled in to read after supper, and completely forgot to watch my current favorite TV show, "Silent Witness", the British CSI show on PBS. Its the only show I've been watching lately. The main character is Dr. Sam Ryan, a female M.E. in Oxford, England. She's great, always digging, not only in bodies, but also in the situations that produced the dead bodies, in order to get to the truth. She often gets in trouble for caring enough to get to the heart of the matter. This episode was the last one of the series. I woke up in the middle of the night, suddenly realizing I had forgotten to watch the show! Darn. Who knows if the network will run it again. Darn. Did I mention that Dr. Ryan's detective partner, played by Nick Reding, is quite easy on the eyes. Sometimes I take notice of such things. The other characters are interesting, too, and down-to-earth in that low-key British way, unlike in most American TV shows, where women are unrealistically gorgeous and slim, and dressed provocatively. Also, "Silent Witness" utilizes many close-up facial shots, so you really feel like you're getting to know the characters.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Football Playoff Fun

Today, some great fun......attending a high school play-off football game, the state semi-final, at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls, on the campus of the University of Northern Iowa. Husband and I hurried to finish up barn chores in order to leave in time to make the late morning kick-off. We often comment on how fortunate we are to live fairly close to the site of the state play-offs......many teams and fans must drive several hours to get to the Dome.

Our community has been blessed-----if you want to call it that-----with much success on the football field over the years. I attribute most of that success to the coaching; we have three coaches with over 30 years of experience apiece. They have developed a winning formula and never seem to lose their intensity. The community has soaked up the glow of victory, and seems to will it to happen year after year. Today, our team was up against bigger guys and stronger ball-runners, but somehow, with risky passes and gutsy plays, we came out on top. Of course, for our team, that also means another week of practice in the cold weather to prepare for next week's state championship game.

I always say it doesn't matter to me whether we win or lose, but there I was today, hands clenched nervously and whispering a prayer that our team would make it into the endzone for that last-second, winning touchdown. As if God would take sides in a high-school football game! Its easy to get caught up in the emotions of the crowd and the moment.

Our son, being a sophomore, doesn't see much varsity action, but he goes in on special teams. We tell him to try to enjoy the whole experience......the great majority of players in the state never even get the chance to stand on the sidelines as part of a squad that's in the state tournament.

Here's a little tale of something goofy that happened last year when Husband and I attended this same semi-final game: It was a morning game, just like today's was. Husband and I got to the UNI-Dome and bought our tickets and walked over to the ticket-takers. I had a small purse with me and the ticket guy, a sporty college jock type, said he had to look in it. I handed the purse over, thinking they were checking for weapons or something. He peered in and then took out a couple tiny boxes of Hot Tamales candy that I had thrown in to snack on. He said, "You can't bring food in here." I said, "What?" That's just a little bit of candy!" "No, you can't bring food in", he repeated.

I suddenly felt completely ticked off......he was treating me like I had a purse full of hamburgers, or a casserole! I looked at Husband and he, suddenly morphing into the ticket guy's buddy, said to me, "You can't bring food into the Dome." I gaped at him, trying to figure out if he really was my husband. I turned to the ticket guy and gave him a piece of my mind, saying, "I probably would have spent money at your concession stand, but now after this incident, I certainly will not! Enjoy the Hot Tamales!" And then I stalked off to find a seat, and didn't speak to Husband for awhile, who was snickering in amusement at the whole thing. Sheesh.

Today, I was more intelligently prepared with my contraband was stuffed into my jeans pockets. I had considered bringing a large purse full of sanitary pads for the ticket guys to search through. That would have been a hoot!

Go, Team, Go!!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Discover Magazine

The new Discover magazine arrived and I read through it last evening after supper. On page 19, there was a small article, "The Origin of Schizophrenia", which cited a new study suggesting that the disorder is related to "the process of neuron creation". A disrupted gene causes new neurons to migrate to the wrong places within the brain, causing connections between parts of the brain that shouldn't be connected to each other. Interesting. It may explain the feeling that the world is speaking to notice too many little things in the world around you and you take them too personally. Your brain simply has mixed up wiring. But, then again, maybe some of the greatest human creativity over the ages can be attributed to mixed up brain wiring.

On page 24, there is a fascinating map of disease connections, developed by researchers at Columbia University. They gathered info from 1.5 million people with 161 different diseases. Here's one of the findings: "......some diseases were found to compete with one another. Women with breast cancer, for example, were not likely to have schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, and vice versa."

And on page 58, an article entitled, "Can We Cure Aging?", talks about the ongoing research into inflammation as the root cause of the adverse effects of aging. I remember studying the inflammatory process back in nursing school years ago. Here is my view: The inflammatory process is like the fire department of your responds big time when your body is injured in any way, large or small. Think about fire they rush along on roads and streets, over time those byways will become worn out from all the traffic. Combatting aging will involve maintaining the infrastructure of the roads and streets in our bodies. The key to good aging may be to protect the body from the effects of its own protective mechanisms!

Discover magazine is always informative and interesting!!

Whoa......the Schwans truck and the milktruck are in a traffic jam out in our farmyard, and the vet just arrived to possibly do surgery on Barbie the Barbarian's twisted stomach.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Watching: The Astronaut's Wife

A day of not much to say. Husband had a really bad morning. When he got to the barn, a cow named Freckles had delivered a stillborn calf. A water pipe had broken to the cows' drinking cups. One of the silo unloaders stopped running. Just typical dairy farm stuff.

Husband sent me to the general store up the road to get a new piece of water pipe. The store owners had left a note on the door, they were gone for a couple hours. When I got back home, a hawk was floating, wings out, back and forth, keeping watch over our

After a long walk in the cold wind, I fiddled around the house this afternoon, folding laundry, washing and trimming my hair (I do my own haircuts.....saves $$$), and thinking about balancing the checkbook. I ended up baking Mississippi Mud Bars while watching a movie on my daughter's little portable DVD player which she didn't take to college with her. The movie is "The Astronaut's Wife", starring Johnny Depp and Charlize Theron. I wasn't too impressed with the first part, but now its starting to get a bit interesting. Her husband may not be her husband......he may be a space alien or something. It's getting creepy........I'm not usually into creepy movies.

The only other time I've seen Johnny Depp in a movie was in "What's Eating Gilbert Grape", there's a film with some interesting characters, particularly the mother, and what took place at the end. A most unusual gesture of a son's love and respect.

I'd better sign off.......its time to go out for evening chores.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Silly Squirrel & Dreams

I'm so totally amazed this photo loaded that I can hardly type these words.......

I did end up missing the mailman and this silly, apple-munching squirrel is to blame! As I left the house to walk down the lane to the mailbox, this squirrel was right there staring at me, so I ran back in and grabbed my camera. We don't often see squirrels around our farm due to the surveillance of our two alert Australian Shepherds. As I was taking the pictures, the mailman's vehicle went by-----meaning I'll have to waste fuel on a trip to the post office in town.

All in all, I think my early morning dream (detailed in the previous post) sort of came true. Instead of being too late to talk to my friend, I was too late for the mailman, who also is my friend. And this morning while feeding calves I had to walk to the house to wake up my son, and on the way I happened to see the schoolbus stopped at the neighbor's place, which was unusual-----normally, I never see the bus. That's how dreams seem to work for me.......they're a bit off the mark. In the past, when keeping dream journals, I noticed this many times. I would dream of a certain person, and the next day in real life, I would run into, not the person in the dream, but a family member of theirs. Also, as this story indicates, dreams usually concern themselves with the trivial and the humdrum, because that's what our lives mostly consist of, and dreams are usually about our own lives. Occasionally, dreams will give you insight into someone else's situation, but not very often, and only if there's a reason you need to know.

Woolgathering & Sick Cow

Anyone who receives the "Doctor Dictionary Word of the Day" by email knows that yesterday's word was "woolgathering". Its definition is "indulgence in idle daydreaming" or "an absorption in daydreaming". I've gone 49 years without ever hearing that word, though its been part of my life all that time. My report cards in grade school used to show checkmarks under the category of "makes good use of time"........I tended to dawdle and daydream, and still I do that on a daily basis. We are who we are. Probably blogging is a symptom of being a "woolgatherer"! I've added it under Interests in my Profile.

This morning in my waking up dream I was seeing a deceased friend of mine get on a school bus at a house a few miles from here. I was hurrying to talk to him, but got there too late.......he was on the bus, heading south......I could see only the back of his head. Also in my mind was the song "Hard Times" by the Desert Rose Band, a band now defunct, but one of my favorites----fantastic vocal harmonies and guitars-----Chris Hillman, Herb Pedersen, John Jorgenson. I actually saw them in concert at a county fair years ago. I had forgotten to include them under Favorite Music in my Profile, so I remedied that this morning.

Why "Hard Times" came to mind, I have no idea.

Hard times can't hold us down forever
Hard times are gonna fade away
Hard times, we can't let them stop us, darlin'
There will be a better day............

High as the wild birds fly
Wild and free, that's how I dream
I gotta keep on dreamin'

We can have what we cannot see tomorrow
On the highest mountain
On the highest mountain
We can watch those wild birds fly

Find our own blue sky
As long as you are with me
I'll never stop dreamin'


Husband had to call the vet out this morning for a cow named Barbie. (Husband calls her Barbie the Barbarian.) She's been acting like she doesn't feel good.....not eating, and going off by herself. The vet diagnosed her with a bad case of peritonitis due to an infected uterus......she had calved back in mid-October. Her treatment is a high dose of penicillin for few days to see what happens. The vet says its a serious case, so she may not get better. He says she may also have a DA-----that's a displaced abomasum, a twisted stomach. Poor thing. She earned her nickname because she's a fighter, so hopefully that trait will help her survive this illness.

Now, I need to cease this woolgathering and hie myself down the lane to the mailbox with a letter for my daughter, so I don't miss the mailman.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Buying An SUV

Everything seems out of kilter this morning......due to daylight savings time ending and my routines being thrown off over the weekend. On Saturday morning, Husband shocked the heck out of me by announcing he wanted to drive to Winona, Minnesota, to look at a vehicle. For the past several weeks, we've been searching online for a midsize SUV to replace our beat-up '90 Dodge Ram van. We browsed on and When Husband started typing in searches of over 100 miles away, I laughed and said, "There's no way you will drive that far to look at a vehicle!" He proved me wrong, bless his heart!

We hurried to get barn chores all done, and then headed for Winona. The day's weather was sunny, making the two-hour drive a pleasant one. We stopped for lunch at Subway in Spring Valley, MN, and arrived in Winona by 2 p.m. Quickly, we took a test-drive in the SUV, crossing the Mississippi and going into Wisconsin a few miles. We had test-driven a few SUV's in our local area, so we had an idea of what we were looking for----leather seats for sure and an exterior color that will hide the dust from our gravel road. Plus low miles and a good price, of course! This one seemed to have everything we wanted, so we took the plunge and purchased it.

After an hour or so of paperwork with the business manager, we were on our way home by 4:30......with lucky me driving the SUV! A great pleasure! Husband followed in the pickup. We decided to take a different way home, heading straight south on two-lane roads toward Mabel, MN. The wooded, winding roads led us through the little burgs of Hart, Choice, Rushford, Bratsberg, and Prosper, MN. Interesting names! At Decorah, Iowa, I turn off to get groceries at Walmart, while Husband continued homeward to see how our son was doing with the milking chores.

In Walmart, I suddenly felt completely exhausted, and in slow-motion mode. Everyone else seemed that way, too! Maybe it had something to do with all the fluorescent lighting in the enormous store, I don't know. It felt like I was in a trance. The Christmas music playing overhead seemed bizarre. The check-out clerk moved very slowly and deliberately. I decided that maybe my problem was that I hadn't eaten for several hours, so I ordered a Big Mac-to-go at the McDonald's that was inside the Walmart, on my way out. I had never seen a McDonald's inside a Walmart before!

To test the SUV's CD player, I had bought the new Eagles' CD, "Long Road Out Of Eden", that was in a big display there at Walmart. Joe Walsh sings of solitude in track 5 of disc 2, in "Last Good Time in Town"......that describes how I feel most of the time, too! Staying home is great!

While driving up our farm drive, I pressed the CD eject button. Whichever Minnesota radio station that had beened tuned in came crackling through and the first words I heard were, "Get your copy of the Eagles' CD, "Long Road Out of Eden" today......exclusively at Walmart!" I laughed and thought, "Funny thing.....I just did!" You've got to love those cool coincidences!!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Wasp Attends Church

Today in our church service, All Saints Day was observed. Glancing at the list of hymns in the bulletin, I was dismayed to see that I would have to somehow survive singing two hymns that always bring me to tears. "For All the Saints" and "Behold a Host Arrayed in White". During verses 4, 5, and 6 of the first one the tears started flowing and I had to stop singing to avoid making blubbering sounds which might cause my pew neighbors to think I was sinking into another nervous breakdown.

During the sermon, the pastor droned on, reiterating the power of the rituals of Baptism, Absolution, and Communion. About halfway through his message, my eyes closed-----don't worry, I was still listening, but also praying. My reverie was broken by the sudden crying of the baby in an infant seat next to me. I opened my eyes to see a wasp hovering near the baby. I swiped it away and it swooped into a pew where several little girls were sitting. A woman batted at it with a bulletin. Then the wasp landed on the edge of the pew one row ahead of us. It walked slowly along the top of the pew's back.......I wished the man ahead of us would slap it to get rid of it, but he didn't. Then a ladybug landed a few inches from the wasp. They walked towards each other, stopping seemingly to exchange insect greetings, and then they flew away in opposite directions. By then I was laughing, in silence, of course; it lightened my mood enough to get me through the post-sermon hymn, "Behold a Host Arrayed in White", with no tears. Hooray!

Maybe my sappy emotionalism is a midlife thing. There's not much I can do about the feelings that come during certain hymns. I'm a poor Lutheran.....they're not supposed to have feelings in church. I've tried to ignore the hymn words and think about something else, but it never works. Today, maybe an angel of tearlessness took pity and sent the wasp and ladybug to my rescue!

Friday, November 2, 2007

Recipe for Synchronicity

Today is All Soul's Day, established by the ancient Catholic Church to remember and pray for souls in Purgatory, if you believe in such a place. Purgatory......a place of purging, cleansing, purification......maybe the belief developed from the ancient myth of the river Styx which the dead must cross. Maybe if your unconfessed, unforgiven sins make you too weighty to ride the ferry, you must have those sins washed away by going through the water itself. Good thing Jesus took care of all that on the Cross.

For the sake of All Soul's Day, I will light Jack-of-the-Lantern's candle this evening, just to see his goofy, glowing expression one more time. His lid has shrunk and his teeth are shrivelling inward, but no matter.

Yesterday afternoon, a fun little synchronicity occurred. My sophomore son had arrived home from school earlier than normal-----he had a one-day reprieve from football practice after the big win the night before-----and he, in starving mode, raided the pantry and refrigerator. I asked him if he wanted me to bake bars or cookies, and he chose cookies. So I riffled through my recipe box to find a favorite, pulling out a card hand-written many years ago by my church friend, Andrea.

When I joined my Lutheran church nearly 30 years ago, Andrea was, of all the young women there, the most welcoming to me. Probably because she herself had been a newcomer, too, shortly before I arrived on the scene. Not to complain, but our church had been very insulated there in a community of exclusively Germans, and the members seemed somewhat stand-offish at the time I joined. And, of course, I was an alien of sorts, having come from a Baptist Church, and a rival high school community. Admittedly, too, I'm naturally an introvert, though I've learned to act extroverted when that is called for.

Andrea was from another part of Iowa, and she had been raised Catholic. She was like a breath of totally different air. We shared many fun times over the years, cheering our kids on at games, carpooling to far-away Lutheran school events, etc., and enjoying many good visits. Our now eighteen-year-old daughters played together often as toddlers, as I babysat when Andrea started working outside the home. Also, we attended a Bible Study together years ago, with some of my old Baptist was then that she gave me the recipe.

Anyway, I had just pulled out the big bowl to mix the cookie dough ingredients in when the phone rang. It was Andrea!! She was stalled with a flat tire on her way home from work. At first I thought maybe she needed some assistance, but she said that her son was coming to help her. She had called me so she could get the phone number for the church basement......she was going to be late for the Ladies Aid potluck. I looked the number up in the phone book for her, and we chatted a bit. I said, "Andy, I was just thinking of you because I'm about to make your good oatmeal cookie recipe!" She sighed and said she hadn't made cookies for a long time, being so busy with going to work everyday. We agreed that we don't see enough of each other anymore, and that was that.

What a chuckle, though, to have her call right then, when I was about to start her cookie recipe! Fun, fun! Synchronicities are scientific fact, something to do with quantum physics and nonlocality.......impossible to understand, but most of all they are great fun when they occur!