Monday, December 26, 2011

A Left Over Ham Sandwich And A Blog

          The halls have been decked, I was pretty darn jolly, I wore all my gayest apparel (even ask the kids ha). There's left over ham in the fridge (minus the piece on the sandwich I'm eating), and Christmas is over fa la la la la! If you're like me you have a lot of anticipation about Christmas early on. The day after Thanksgiving, I was decorating my tree and listening to Christmas music. I even downloaded some new songs…loved the new Michael Buble and Shania Twain’s version of White Christmas (oops a little ADD there). But I had a fun month of getting ready for Christmas.
           By the twenty first of December though, I start stressing full throttle. I have practiced this Christmas tradition for many years so I'm really good at it! Am I going to get all done? Do I have the same amount of gifts, value wise and number wise for the people coming to Christmas Eve? I start thinking of what I’m cooking, and whether I have all the ingredients for sure? Ice, oh ya, ice, for the drinks cooler, Cool Whip for the pie…darn I forgot that…and my car, do I have gas in it to go to church? I do, but I have to clean out all the junk out in the far back seat, so people can sit way back there. I can think of more stuff to stress about, than you have time to read!
          The blessed day arrives on the 24th  when everyone gets here, the food is all in the oven, and we are ready to go to church. This year we went an hour early to church because theres 5000 members at the new Mission we go to; that’s a lot of people already, besides all the extra family they would bring. I knew it would fill up fast and I didn’t want to sit in overflow, so we went that early. I justify to the kids, you stand in line for a concert so it's about time we stand in line for church. They were happy campers about it, everyone just visited and it went by fast. Shortly after I sat down, I started thinking about my scalloped potatoes bubbling over and starting a fire, or smoking up the house, (I am so much like my Mom sometimes, I can’t believe it myself).  I forgot we'd be standing there an we'd be gone two hours rather than an hour. Other years we've gone for one hour and the potatoes are just getting to the bubbling over stage when we get home. Sitting there, I reason with myself next…. I did put a cookie sheet under them... just in case they bubbled over...they should be fine...don't let that destract you.  

          The service was amazing as I expected, but I won’t lie, I thought about those potatoes twenty or twenty five times at least!  With my car full of talkative, spirit filled kids, we drove home. I was rather quiet consummed with potato thoughts. I crossed the railroad tracks. Secretly, I was glad to see no billowing smoke in the direction of my house…and pulling into the yard the tree was lit and the lights were clear and shining. Whew…doesn’t look smokey in there…and once inside it smelled good, like Christmas Eve should...thank you God! They had bubbled over onto the cookie sheet and looked perfectly brown and delicious!
          I enjoyed every single minute of the two days of Christmas with the kids…the gifts, the games, the prayers the laughter, and the joking.  When everyone went home and the door closed, the door closed on Christmas too in my mind, and you know what?  I’m ready for it. I feel good about how it went, I felt happiness about having the kids go home with new sheets for their beds, and some other things they each needed. I’m thankful God provides for our needs… and some wants as well.
          So now what? I shrink at the idea of New Year’s resolutions. I’m not very good at those; matter of fact admitting I have one to anyone, has proven to be a sure recipe for disaster! I do better if I think small and try and build on that. Last year I started this blog because of some books I got from Kathy, (my sister) and her kids. She sent me a book called and And She Sparkled, knowing I’d had a rough last few years.
         I did a lot of things last year to change some things that I was in control of that were bothering me…I finished my bathroom, I redid the laundry room and the pantry, took more classes, and  moved myself up on the page of people I take care of.  Best of all, I GOT A HORSE AGAIN…and Stetson has brought me back to my authentic, real self I was before marriage and kids. I got my Dad’s saddle oiled and redone at Brays Saddlery in Minot, ND., and what joy I get riding in it, and seeing it daily. Don't read into this that im going back to horse shows and barrell racing I'm not that delusional ... just riding for fun.  
         When I say start small with our goals, I mean start small. We don’t need to set ourselves up to be another Mother Teresa. We weren’t all meant to accomplish all that!  She didn’t have a family of her own. We are called to do what we can, where we can. Maybe we can start by simply redefining what richness is? Some of the richest people in the world are those that invest in family and love.  You can do the most good in the world starting with your own family, and circling out from there. I really believe that. There is a saying that is one of my favorites…I have it on a shirt that goes:
One hundred years from now
It won't matter
What kind of car I drove
What kind of house I lived in
How much money I had in the bank
Or what my clothes looked like
The world may be a little better
Because, I was important
In the life of a child.

             It’s so true. The real lasting difference is one we can make in childrens lives. How we parent, teach or befriend a child, will affect what kind of parents, teachers and caretakers they will be to the next generation. Of course, I know this is simplified, but I really like it. I also urge you to include yourself on the list, and wish kind things for yourself when you’re working on that radiating circle of love for everyone else.
                I have no big new plans for 2012 other than to keep doing what I am doing.  Living an examined life, not taking  my life or the life of those around me for granted, enjoying new experiences with my family and friends, get more involved at the mission and take time to relax my mind and body (relaxing my mind is almost next to impossible… big task).
             I did not accomplish my weight loss goal again last year, and if I have any regrets in my life it’s that I can’t get that obstacle in my rear view mirror and keep it there!  I’m mad at myself for that, that I let one more year go by being a fat person. I have given so much of my life to that. It’s not about vanity for me, it’s about health.  I have no idea how I’m going to accomplish it again this year,  but when I think of riding my horse and balancing 100 pounds of dog food or something up there I think, oh my gosh, how much better and how much less effort it would take for me to ride if I dumped the dang dog food!  Will that thought be enough to make me do it, I don’t know, I wish I could assure you it would. But, if I  am going to really treat myself like I would other people, I’d say don’t let your past define your future and keep trying, so that’s my plan for me too. I’m going to keep working on Stetson too, he has made so much progress in the last few months and I hope next year I can victoriously claim that he’s  a well broke horse now and take pride in all my work with him, and that I dumped the dog food along the way ha.
                I think it’s time we get ready for a great start to a New Year! I’m planning to pack up the Christmas cds and break out Auld Lang Syne, buy some sparkling cider and wish you all a Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

It's All In The Details

   What was your Christmas like as a child? Does it bring up good memories or bad memories? I don't know, aside from a visit to the North Pole, how mine could be topped. My parents went through such elaborate Santa antics, that both of my sisters were devastated when they found out the truth about Santa. I don't know why I wasn't, but I don't even remember how I heard or was told!  
     We always got about eight packages from Mom and Dad, so our real tree was always overflowing with packages and Mom decorated everything and anything. The Saturday before Christmas, the Regis theater in Stanley, would have a free movie and when you came out of the movie Santa would be there, fake beard and all! With a ho, ho, ho he handed all of us kids a brown paper lunch sack with peanuts, chocolate drops and hard candy. I always looked forward to that! Kerry, my husband, was probably at those same Santa days as me but I didn't recognize him for good reason. Kerry had a jacket when he was about six that was reversible. He wore the checked side and got a bag of candy, then went back with the solid blue side and got another bag. He called it his "recognize jacket", because he didn't think Santa would know he was the same boy. Must have worked because I didn't recognize him either(Kerry trying to beat the system at six!).

      My Dad's birthday was the twenty third of December so he would always put Kathy and I up to asking "mummy" if we can all open one package from under the tree. She would always act a little exasperated, but give in to it. He was like a kid himself, very fun loving and she had to be the adult when it came to Christmas! She always did alot of baking cookies and lefse( a Norwegian potato tortilla of sorts, that I still make with my children every year). 
        A day or so before Christmas Eve we exchanged gifts with Thelma and George Olson and Trygve and LaVina Stave. My Dads sister and brother that lived close by. It was so fun taking out the packages they'd packed in a brown paper bag or two, finding our name on a package, and placing it under the tree! We spent holidays when Dad was living with George and Thelma and their family.  
        On Christmas Eve we never went to Church when my Dad was alive. He wasn't a big church goer in the first place, and the roads to Coulee where we were members of Hope Lutheran Church were always full of snow drifts. Short drifts across the road you can make it through with some speed. However long drifts without any tracks where someone else had blazed through, were scary and iffy as to whether you'd make it through.

      We always did a little extra chores Christmas eve night. Dad would have us bundle up and come outside. He always helped us carry a small bucket of whole oats and dump it in a pile by the house. It was of course feed for the reindeer when Santa made his stop. It was always really cold and the snow crunched under your feet like it does up there, in the North. Mom made ham and lutefisk or meatballs and lutefisk( cod fish soaked in lye a Norwegian tradition)and scalloped potatoes. 
       After supper, she cleaned up and we went to bed early, like seven thirty. It was always freezing cold up stairs where we slept.Jack frost was on the all windows, and frosty nail heads all around your room. A "nippy" place to wait for Santa to come to say the least. But bundled up under about six big thick wool quilts and blankets, it wasn't so bad after the initial shock wore off!  We HAD TO SLEEP too, or Santa wouldn't come,(he knows when you are sleeping he knows if you're awake, darn that song)! Being an insomniac by nature was bad enough, but I shared a room with Marcy and she was determined I WAS going to sleep. One Christmas eve, I remember she pinched my arm... hard too, and I wanted to tattle and cry to Mom but she wouldn't let me out of bed. In her defense, I'm sure I tossed,turned and whined for an hour or so before I got pinched! I'm persistant by nature! I don't remember a lot of Christmas's with the big kids but I do remember that one!  
      The tradition on Christmas eve after we finally fell asleep was about midnight, we would awaken to sleigh bells ringing outside(same ones Dad used to take us on sleigh rides over the holidays... we know that now). Mom's yelling up the stairs, "kkkiiiidddds, Santa's been here"! Hearing that, our feet would hit the cold floor and we'd thunder down the same steps that I creep around on these days, because they are narrow, no... beyond narrow, those steps are more like splinters of wood and steep too! 
       Mom sewed all my Dads pajamas. He was short, a little stocky guy, not fat, just stocky and only 5'2.05". The tops of the pajamas always came down to just above his knees. He never wore the bottoms except at Christmas. So he'd usually come out of the bedroom in his nice new bottoms with a washed out top of the same flannel print! Of course we couldn't wait to go out and see if the reindeer ate the oats we left! Dad put his boots(careful not to wear overshoes because those would look like Santas), coat and cap on over his pajamas. We'd go out to check. Sure enough, there were reindeer hoof prints all around the mostly eaten pile of oats! ( took us years to learn that deer hunting season is in Nov. in ND and he'd always save a leg or two for this Christmas ritual). 
       After Santa had been there the tree looked the same, but we each had one package standing against the door in the living room and a stocking bulging with nuts, peanuts and the biggest delicious apple you'd ever seen! The package and the sock had been stored outside because it had to be cold like it just came off Santa's sleigh(details Syd). Our freezing fingers, opening our cold stiff dolls( I almost always got a doll, or a sled) just added to the excitement.        
       Once the thrill of Santa died down a little, Mom would make Cocoa and we'd eat Christmas cookies and calmly take turns opening our packages showing each other everything we got! After having a chance to play a little we'd go to bed at two or three in the morning and wake up to a house filled with the smell of turkey roasting. That was the day relatives were coming! Usually George and Thelmas family, my Dad's sister. After a huge meal, the adults always played Whist and the kids played feather dust or rummy.
      Later after my Dad passed away, Christmas was spent with Grandpa and Grandma Bruhn and Juluis Bruhn and Sonny and Phyllis and the kids, Kathy and I and eventually our husbands and kids. Sometimes Florence and Chester came too, depending on their kids and how they all got together that year. Marcy lived a long ways away so there was only a couple times they came back for a frigid Christmas!
      When my kids were small and the big kids teens even, we had our Christmas at our own house on what ever night Kerry was going to be around for sure. Working on the railroad is a 24 hr seven day a week, on call job. So we had a special supper and opened our gifts on the twenty second or twenty third. Christmas Eve was always celebrated at Mom/ Grandmas then and if Kerry was home he went along, or if he was on the road he didn't go. 
       Our tradition then was to go to church with Kathy and her family in Berthold. Klinton Hanson always sang Oh Holy Night, and we loved it. It was only fourteen miles to Moms farm. Wasn't so far but sometimes the weather was downright perilous, but come hell or high water we were getting there! One time Brendon drove and I had my head out the window the whole way just trying to guide us along the yellow line in a complete whiteout blizzard. I think prayed the whole way. I still get teased about it from the kids. One year we got stuck in a snow drift and Mike had to pull us out!

         Whenever we arrived Mom was cheerful,dressed up in a dress, nylons and a Christmas apron. Table was set beautifully,with her white china with the silver rims on a lace tablecloth.  All the holiday candles lit and the tree dwarfed by all the packages. Leslie and Shannon would be waiting at Grandma's door to grab the younger kids and unbundle them to reveal their new Christmas dress of the year or Brendon's new sweater and pants.
        Mom got an artificial tree soon after Dad wasn't there to put up a real one. She had the same tree with the same multicolored lights the rest of her life. The stuffed Rudolph(we got him when Kathy and I were small) held his stance amongst the packages, waiting for his photo op with the kids. 
         Mom still made that icky Lutefisk for pretty much Sonny and herself, maybe Mike and Kerry ate a little I'm not sure. The rest of us let our German side( we were half Norwegian and half German) take over and turned our noses up at it! I tried it again this year at the Hostfest, a huge Norwegian celebration in Minot, ND and didn't like it any better. Marcy liked hers and all I can say to that is... oofda! 
         We had many, many wonderful Christmas's at the farm with our families together and Mom at her best. When I think of my Mom that's the way I want to remember her. I miss my parents, but its something you just push back most of the time, but Christmas time I always thank God for such good parents. Christmas was made so special due to their effort. All of our families are really close still today, bound by the memories of those wonderful days. I try to make Christmas a wonderful time for my kids too. When I'm messing with some time consuming thing and Syd says why are you doing that just for the day? I say it's all in the details Syd, it's all in the details.   

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Merry Christmas not Happy Holidays!

           Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays, is that just a technicality or worth fighting for? Is it making a big deal out of nothing, just looking for an axe to grind or something to complain about? Should I be fired up and doing everything I can to protest this idea?  America was founded on Christian principles, by Bible believing people, by the Pilgrims and the Puritans that followed. They created little Bible-based divisions of how they interpreted the Bible. There were Congregationalists, Quakers and Catholics and Protestants but they were all based on Christian principles. But then...what about the Native Americans, what was their belief before the Europeans took over?  
           The religious Pilgrims were followed to New England by the Puritans, who created Bible-based commonwealths. Those commonwealths practiced the same sort of representative government as their church covenants. Those governmental covenants were the foundation for our Constitution. Aside from the Native Americans that were here before us who weren’t Christian, I don’t know what everyone else is complaining about. Everyone who has come here from another country since then knows they are coming into a Christian, English speaking country. It was on every document they signed and was even on our money. 
          Over time people from the Muslim, Hindu and other religions have come here. So many that some feel we need to change our country to fit with them instead of them do the adjusting. We now have to press one for Spanish, two for French, three for English and so on when you call any institution. When you buy a coffee pot, the instruction book looks like a Bible itself, because it’s the same instructions in four languages. I am happy for the diversity, happy for the people who found a better life here, but I don’t know why we have to cater to them. It's like inviting someone into your home, and then they take it over and now I am operating by their rules. Is it me just sounding like an old person not willing to change or do I have a point? Nothing gets me mad faster than calling a call center and no one speaks English enough so you can make your point and you have to repeat everything you say several times!
           I admit however, that I am somewhat apathetic about doing much about it because I don’t know how I really feel when it comes right down to the core of it. Here’s what stops me. Right after the call center non English speaking people, Christians who are constantly self- promoting are next on my list of what bugs me. I don’t want to be that. This Christmas I don’t know how many Facebook posts I have seen about people who packed for the poor, bought things for this organization, worked at this downtown shelter etc! I thought the things you did in Christ’s name were to be kept quiet. You talk about it at church or in your home, and plan for it, but then you do the work it takes and while you’re there, minister to people you can help(they help us as much as we help them) and both people are rewarded. Instead the Christians go home and post on Facebook world what they did for the poor or bought for charity? Seems contradicting to me, I’m sorry.  So, I kind of shrink back about speaking up about the Christmas tree becoming a Holiday tree. I don’t feel good being a shrinking violet either, because even using Xmas is something I would never do even making my own Christmas list for my own use,  because it takes Christ out.
           There’s something I like about changing with the tide too. We have people here of all denominations. Times have changed, diversity is educating and fun, so let them worship who they want and what gives them comfort and I’ll worship my way. Will that work though? Can we be one big loving family of Americans that value each others diversity without trying to change each other? I doubt it. That’s what scares me about this. One group always tries to take over another.
          I’m going down memory lane here, bear with me. When I was a child, life was home, school and Church, and it was all going the same direction. We heard the same values at school that we heard at church. Held Sunday School on Fridays after school in the school,  so as not to have to heat the church building in the frigid winter time. And by the way(my ADD is kicking in) If children don’t get to Sunday school and many don’t these days, where are they learning morals and right and wrong? Parents before you say from us, are you really taking time to do it? Regularly taking time to do it? Some call it guilt what Christian principles teach, but I call it a conscience. You learn that from scripture. If we got in trouble in school it came down to basically what would Jesus do, way before WWJD was popular? What’s the right thing to do? The right thing to do was based on the Bibles teachings.  A lot of kids don’t know anymore it’s become a world of entitlement and material things.  
          I’m reading all the posts and enjoying the pictures about Christ in Christmas on Facebook. I wholeheartedly agree, yet I do nothing. I don’t repost it because I don’t want people judging Christian behavior by me, because I’m lost a lot on my journey. I don’t want to hold myself up as an example because unless you are a really good example, you do more damage to people’s faith than you do good. People think“ they say they are a Christian but then they”….swear like a trooper, listen to Lil Wayne, or cut people out of their lives which I don’t but for example I’m using it... or brag about their Godly life until it’s a turn off rather than something people aspire to be.  If I read about the Pharisees and the description of them in the Bible, I think well I sure don’t want to be a modern day Pharisee! All the Christians I hold up as examples in my mind are, or were, humble people. That’s why I like the Mission I attend so far. It’s founded on Micah 6:8 and I naturally try to act justly, love mercy and  walk humbly, so I’m open to it.  
         Maybe I don’t outwardly stand up for my faith enough. Maybe I should be outraged about the Holiday tree change because I don’t really like it. However, I know that God is in control EVERYTHING and I just want to be left alone to worship my way, and I guess I will let other people do the same, even if it pains me a little and I wonder if it's not a step in the wrong direction. I don’t like the change because I’m old school in alot of ways. As far as inviting all the religions of the world into my home and seeing how that plays my Mom used to say, “We’ll just take it like it comes”. Ditto.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

To Cruise Or Not To Cruise

                If I were to go on a cruise ship would I get motion sickness? Would I feel trapped on a ship, with nowhere to get off? There would have been a day in my past, when I struggled with Panic Disorder that,  that idea alone would have kept me from even entertaining the idea of boarding a cruise ship! But along with my three kids and their three friends, we boarded Royal Caribbean’s Majesty of the Seas sailing out of the port of Miami, and was soon Bahamas’ bound.

              We flew into Miami the night before the cruise because I didn’t really trust the airplane connections and wanted to be sure we didn’t miss sailing time the next day. It was hard to plan where to stay in Miami ahead of time, because I wasnt sure where the Port was for sure.  I chose the Dolphin Hampton Inn. The room was nice, breakfast good, people nice; however, it took nearly two hours for the shuttle to come and get us from the airport and take us to the hotel! Besides the long wait,  the man only spoke Spanish so there was no way to communicate with him!  By the time we got to the hotel, the only real place to grab something to eat was the hotel grill which ranked right up there with the shuttle service! So we were not so crazy about Dolphin Hampton Inn.
             The next morning, passports in hand we were excited to start the day. The hotel arranged for a different late shuttle service to take us to the Port of Miami. Dropping  us at the curb, porters took our bags. Finally the chance to snap that boarding cruise ship picture of the whole group in the blue shirts, I made us. Some of my travel mates put them on happily, and others muttered but wore them anyway ha.  

The blue shirts...Shelbey took this

          The ships embarking process was smooth and relatively easy. We boarded the ship, dropped our bags in the room on deck ten and went to the Windjammer buffet for lunch. The food was ok… nothing to brag about, and nothing to complain about. Next we went up to the pool deck and listened to the Caribbean house band until we set sail. Was quite the experience setting sail. The scenery, the Caribbean band playing...that part was really fun and beautiful as we cruised past all the skyscrapers and scenery of Miami. Later that first night we went to some of the ships entertainment such as Finish the Lyrics, and watching Sydney and Mike take a salsa dancing class and they did really well! By now however Melissa and Sydney were sick enough to be taking Dramamine. I felt wobbly and off balance but not sick at least.  No one got sick enough to vomit or anything just woozy feeling and off balance.
              The next morning with sunscreen, iPod’s, sunglasses, towels and beach bags taking up as much room as we did (well some of us ha), we boarded  the tender boats and rocked back and forth over the huge waves, to the island of Cococay. The island and all that’s on it, is owned and operated by Royal Caribbean.  It was a bit windy and the sun was intense! We lounged on the chairs, and hammocks while Sydney and Mike snorkeled. I think they thought that was fun, we had bought a cheap fifty nine dollar underwater camera and it was well worth having with us.

                After being at Cococay all day, we tendered back and set sail on the high seas at five o’clock for Nassau, the next stop in the morning.  We all showered and dressed up for dinner at the Starlight restaurant. The food there was wonderful! After dinner we went to karaoke where we whooped it up for Shelbey and heard a lot of good singers.  After that the kids formed a family feud team calling themselves Team “Top Shelf” and won the game! We finished the night at the top deck pool dance. They danced the conga line, Macarena, cupid shuffle and more but some of us finished the night when it was still night, and some came in towards morning.  

The Top Shelf Team :)

              The next morning we got off in Nassau, (some of us more frisky than others I might add) Beautiful weather, a little hot and humid but sunny and no wind.  Our excursion with the dolphins on Blue Lagoon Island made lifetime memories for all of us. Everyone enjoyed the boat ride over and the dolphins were amazing. They were so well trained! Sydney and Mike actually did the float out in the water and two dolphins come and propel them through the water. Sydney was trying to figure out how to get propelled through the water and not lose the bottom of her swimming suit. They did though and it was fun to see. Something I won’t forget. We ask the locals if any of the other boats leaving stopped at the Atlantis.  They happily shared  which one to board so we could save time as time was limited.  We walked around the Atlantis and the surrounding shops.

The Incredible Atlantis

       Brendon, Melissa and I were tired so we took a taxi back to the port, while the rest shopped longer and ate pizza at a local shop. After being dropped off by the taxi Brendon, Melissa and I bought some conch fritters which is one of the local Bahamian foods people say to try on all the travel sites I'd read. They were really good and I’m glad we did. They are made from the meat from a conch shell mixed with vegetables and dipped in a batter. After deep frying for several minutes they are served with toothpicks and a pink spicy sauce. They were good, we all liked them.
A Conch Shell

Conch Fritters

                After we all got back to the ship we were tired and hot. We showered and almost all of us took a nap…such a good nap, that we over slept our dinner reservation at the nice restaurant and had to eat at the buffet which was just “ok food” again. Later that night we went to karaoke again,  then a Michael Jackson name that tune activity, a comedy show that was really funny, and ended the night with a dance on the top pool deck again.  
           The next morning we left the ship about nine thirty. They practically throw people of the ship when it docks. They were knocking on our door at nine thirty and we weren't set to leave until ten.  We took our bags to the Intercontinental, where a nice Hispanic man named Luis took our bags for the day. He charged us three dollars per bag to keep them for the day. We then took taxis to South Beach and used some groupons I had purchased for Go Cars. They were the cutest little two seater cars that had GPS systems in them and they navigated where you were going and took us on a narrated tour of South Beach. We saw Ocean Ave, Lincoln Ave, the beach area etc. and walked around South Beach. Later Luis had a driver pick us up with our bags all loaded and take us to the airport. For that reason I would highly recommend staying at the Intercontinental if you ever cruise from Miami. You don’t find honest people like Luis very often. He got us to the airport in plenty of time and we were as happy coming home as we were leaving.
The Go Cars

                Would I cruise again? Well, the sickness wouldn’t hold me back I felt fine after the first day or so. The food that everyone raves about I didn’t find that appealing, and we certainly didn’t overeat. What was appealing about cruising,  is the price to travel all inclusive, the entertainment was great, and the rooms were clean and well kept. What I didn’t like was the all the alcohol drinking. I like to have one drink or two but I don’t like to see people drink to excess and especially my own kids so that part I didn’t like.  I would go on another cruise and I enjoyed it for the most part. I love anything that makes memories with my kids, that’s what life is about for me.
          Here are some cruise tips I have for you if you should choose to go on one.
1.       Bring lots of hand sanitizer. That’s a lot of people from many places and a lot of germs on board.
2.       Bring some cheap lanyards and a hole punch so you can punch your card that you need for everything on the ship and wear it and keep it handy.
3.       I bought some magnetic metal hooks that we put on the door and at the end of the night we hung our lanyards there to head out the next day.
4.       Bring some mini water bottles in your suitcase because they are expensive and ship water sounds less that appealing.
5.       Spend the extra money to have a balcony on your room. If you do feel sick the ability to get fresh air and look out onto the horizon helps a lot. It’s pretty besides.
6.       Be sure you remember sunscreen and a visor ( a hat would be even better but they take room in your suitcase).
7.       Make up a little first aid kit, because if you get a cut or something (which Brendon did) you have some Neosporin and a bandaid. Include some headache and nausea tablets.
8.       A power strip is helpful if you have camera chargers etc. to charge, and you will want your phone ready when you get back.  
9.       A battery operated alarm clock is a must because to use your phone over the seas is a huge expense.
10.   I saw it mentioned that an over the door shoe organizer keeps things tidy and if it were a long cruise maybe I would consider that.
11. Get that water camera I mentioned above. This is the one we used.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Jamie Livingston Story

       Are you inspired by simple things, just a little outside the box, that can really impact you and others as well. Jamie Livingston, ever hear of him?  This is his picture, I’m fairly sure you won’t recognize him.  

         He was born a year after me, on Sydney’s birthday, October 25th of 1956. He lived until he was forty one and passed away on his birthday on October 25th of 1997. Jamie Livingston had been a circus performer, and also did some film work for MTV and for Nike. He loved film and music which is not so unusual  either….but, when he was twenty four, in March of 1979, he got a new polaroid camera and came up with the idea of taking one polaroid picture a day to chronicle his life. That’s just so genius to me.
      The pictures started out quite simple and uneventful.  Pictures of his friends, picnics with family and mundane things, discarded lunch or showing his love for the NY Mets!  He played some instruments in some, and marked the day of Frank Zappa’s death with his picture for that day. His pictures all had a quality and simplicity to them, that appealed to the everyday person.
       Throughout the early nineties, his pictures seem to show him in in a good place in his life.  He'd had some success with his film career and in love.  By early 1997 he seemed to be in his pictures more and more, looking a little thinner... because sadly, he had been diagnosed with a brain tumor.
      The last month of his life, the picture pf the day was engagement rings and his marriage on October 7th.  He died eighteen days later.
       His friends took all his pictures which were dated, put them in order and posted them on this website. Take a look; I think they are true art.

       What do you take from this? I am struck first of all, by the power of a simple thought and the gratitude we should all have for every day given to us. Then I wonder, what our photographs would look like? 
        I listen all the time to people talk like they have no choices in life. For some people they can be millionaires and can’t stop working for the dollar. Others are rushing around working twelve hour days to have all the finest toys for themselves and their children because isn’t that what success is? I encourage you to live your life with meaning and awareness that every day we have the choice to seize the day or let it pass with excuses and reasons for not stopping to smell the roses. Everyones got a few minutes a day. Long enough to snap a mental if not physical picture of the day.
        I found this story really thought provoking and inspiring and I hope you do to.  What is your picture of today?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Joshua Tree

I always liked this story; I don’t know who actually wrote it because I heard versions of it that had to have been written long before Tom Waits was born, which is the one I'm going to tell. It’s a little different than his but, I think he’s the one who takes credit for it these days, so give credit where credit is due if it’s Mr. Waits. Ours came from a book of fables.  It was called the fable of the Joshua tree back in my day and I always loved it. Now that I'm older I realize Joshua trees don't grow where logging trees are that I know of..but "never my mind", like Sydney used to say when she was little.  It goes like this.

Long, long ago, in a dense forest there were thousands of tall, and beautifully perfect trees. They were so proud of themselves; after all, they were God’s chosen ones, that was obvious. They were straight and stretched towards the heavens with open arms and closed spirits.
Among them here and there, were a few ugly trees compared to the magesty of the perfect trees. The Joshua trees branches were twisted and gnarled. The roots were sticking out of the ground on some, and the limbs were uneven and bent.  All the beautiful trees made fun of these ugly trees.
“Are you hunchbacks?” “You’re so ugly you couldn’t get a job at a haunted house”!  Oh, the teasing never stopped.  The laughter coming from above made the ugly trees feel sad and useless.  But, they never said much, what good would it do? They quietly believed God had a purpose for their lives too. But the ugly trees did spend more time than they should have(nobody's perfect) wishing they were as beautiful as the other trees, and asking why God let this happen to them?  They asked, "what good am I,  I can never provide shade to the travelers, or even nests  for the birds in my crooked, prickly, twisted branches".  Nobody needed them it seemed!
Woodcutters came to the forest one day, driving their huge logging trucks. That site  was pretty much any trees worst nightmare!  After looking over both the straight and crooked trees, surprisingly, the boss logger shouted out, "Just cut the straight trees and leave the rest."  Another woodcutter shouted back, “The tall trees are really some beauties boss, you’re right… we gotta have ‘em.”  Chop, chop, chop went the woodcutter’s axes and one by one the tall trees started to fall. “None of us is going to be spared,” screamed one of the beautiful trees!  Soon that tree too was brought to ground by the woodcutter’s axe. There was an eerie silence in the forest now.
 The woodcutters turned all the straight trees into lumber that day. They became things like toothpicks and toilet paper. And the crooked trees are still there, growing stronger and stranger, and more twisted every day.
 The moral to the story was that God has a plan for all of us, no matter what we look like or how things seem at the moment. We should always be gracious and kind and accept all people while we wait for the big picture to unfold..
 A couple of summers ago, Lori Moore and I drove through the Joshua trees on our way to San Diego and I thought of this fable. I thought I have to remember to tell that one to the kids! Guess you’re all "the kids" today. 


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Mental Floss

Have you ever had a friendship you thought would never, ever end? Instant death too, I’m talking about! Not the typical, “we drifted apart when she had children and I didn’t”. Not, “I moved” or “she moved”… nothing like that. I had a twenty year friendship that ended that way, ten years ago. She disappeared out of my life and it’s a cold case file.  Out of the blue,  she just wouldn’t come to the phone, wouldn’t call me back, wouldn’t answer my cards and letters I sent asking,  and finally begging, her to tell me what was wrong?  
          I have no enemies that I know of.  Oh, I have people who don’t like me for whatever reasons,  I’m sure,  but  I don’t stay mad long,  and I try and work out disagreements that inevitably happen between people. When they can’t be worked out, I can easily “agree to disagree” and respect their side of what you don’t see eye to eye on.  I choose to keep my own opinion without winning them over.  For me to be cut off from someone, so important to my everyday life was much like a divorce although maybe those of you who’ve had one of those, are thinking, “ya right”! It’s like a stranger than life case you see on TV. You know where the person goes missing.  Someone you’d least expect to do that. They never get in contact with you. There’s no ending, no answers and no justice.
          I grieved the loss of her like a divorce or death. I drove my family and some of her family crazy, bending their ear about what should I do to fix what I didn’t know was broken?  I must have done something horrendous, but what, I ask myself?  Why don’t I get a chance to at least defend what I did… if I did something, said something, didn’t do something, or should have done something! Whatever it was I blamed myself, I obviously did something!  
           I comforted  her after she lost a baby, she comforted me when I had a miscarriage, we shared all our sons t-ball games, baseball games, proms, school programs, girls nights out, birthday parties. One of the nicest cards I’d ever gotten in my life I got from this her, with a whole page written about how much she depended on my friendship. I just threw it away, last time I was in Minot. It took me that many years to part with it.  
          I went through all the stages of grief, and then anger. Anger, that she would do this to my kids too. Make them question what friends are, and drop out of their lives. I’d move forward in grief and then fall back to feeling sorry for myself.  Self-remorse, self-hatred that has always been my mantra for everything wrong in my life.  Whatever I must have done or said haunted me.
        If you are going through grief for any kind of loss, the stages of grief are:
 1-Denial-"this can't be happening to me", not accepting or even acknowledging the loss. (I rationalized something must be going on with her husband, he never did like me, the fat friend.)  
 2-Anger-"why me?" or feelings of wanting to fight back, or get even with spouse of divorce, for death, anger at the deceased, blaming them.
3-Bargaining-bargaining often takes place before the loss if it’s one you’re expecting, but can happen after the loss as well. Attempting to make deals with God to stop or change the loss. Begging, wishing, praying for them to stay come back.
4-Depression -overwhelming feelings of hopelessness, frustration, bitterness, self-pity, mourning loss of person as well as the hopes, dreams.
 5-Acceptance - there is a difference between resignation and acceptance. You have to accept the loss, not just try to bear it quietly. Realization that the person is gone.
I finally chalked it up to insanity. I reviewed everything I tried to do. I contacted her probably six times. I decided, I did all I can do. I finally cut the string and let the hot air she’d filled me with float away.  I turned my goal toward my own personal growth. Not going to say I don’t have a scar there on my tree trunk because I do, but I’m ok with it.  
         Strange thing is this friend had a history of not talking to her family members for years at a time, but I never thought she’d do that to me! Isn’t that bizarre in hindsight that I didn’t think she’d do it to me? Don’t you have to do something? She has a sister she hasn’t spoken to for nine years.  Maybe you are thinking, what was I thinking, being friends with her in the first place? But she was a well-liked, respected person and has a lot of people duped into thinking she is sincere.
         Lately, she has been leaving comments under my face book comments, because we know a lot of the same people.  I blocked her so I don’t even see her name. Now she is contacting my kids to be Facebook friends.  Feels a little like having some screws turned into you one crank at a time.
          Am I wrong, not wanting her anywhere around my kids, my family or my life? I finally digested all the pain from that, decided I am not going to let her treat me like I’m disposable, and I really don’t want her in my life anymore. I don’t think about her and I don’t want to start, because we all know I have an obsessive mind. I have never let myself that close to any girlfriend again. I’m the jilted lover that stayed single ha.  Actually that was kind of the end of girlfriends for me. I have some girlfriends, but I keep myself an arm’s length away.
         I feel somewhat unChristian like saying I don’t want her back in my comfort zone, but I don’t. I don’t want an apology, I don’t want to see her name and I don’t want to hear about her. For years I was asked about her every time I ran into people.  If I unexpectedly bump into her sometime, I have no idea how I’ll feel or act. Like I said I like everyone… so it’s new territory for me not to just be friendly.
        This blog is a stress reliever, a way to let things go. Her requesting my kids today makes me feel like she’s too close to my world. I used to want an explanation, then an apology and even though I feel she owes me that… I don’t want it now.  I have higher standards for myself these days! I listened when Dr. Phil said, “when someone shows you what they are the first time, believe it”! I am taking the advice I’d give my kids if they were in this situation, which would be “stay away, you don’t need to be brought down by mean girls. I don’t either.

There are things that we don't want to happen but have to accept, things we don't want to know but have to learn, and people we can't live without but have to let go.  ~Author Unknown

Monday, August 22, 2011

Our Favorite Easy Lemon Cupcakes

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. (Take out your cream cheese and butter to soften to room temp for your frosting later... lay aside.)

Mix together:
•4 eggs
•1 package (2-layer size) lemon cake mix ( I like the Duncan Hines Supreme )
•1 package (4 serving size) instant lemon pudding mix
•3/4 cup water
•1/3 cup vegetable oil

 Bake at 350. Makes about a dozen and a half reg cupcakes. They take about twenty minutes, depending on your oven. Don't overbake don't want them looking brown around the edges..just bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. That way they will be nice and moist!  

After completely cool, frost with:

8 oz softened cream cheese
1/2  cup softened butter
2 drops of yellow food coloring (optional)
1 teas. of real lemon EXTRACT...NOT JUICE
1lb of powdered sugar... I start with this ant that's usually enough. Then I add a tiny bit of milk or half and half  until the right spreading consistancy ...if its to thin add sugar...too think a lil more milk or cream.

Pipe or spread the frosting on cupcakes ( I usually use way more than shown on this pic, you know what they say go big or go home ha.)  Top with large crystaline sugar, lemon candy or fresh lemon rind.

These cupcakes are really easy, super moist and yummy!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Where's Mike?

           Where was that Mike guy from the TV show dirtiest jobs, when I was a kid? Some of the jobs we had at the Stave farm was material enough for Mike to show up, and give it a try.
Mike Rowe from Dirtiest Jobs

             First of all, how would you like to dump horse urine jugs (old Hilex jugs) into a bigger barrel for your chores? Taking a shot to the eye or lip was pretty bad and it was almost a daily thing! The only people, who probably smelled worse than us, were the kids that milked cows before school, and there were plenty of them too. All so some women could prevent child birth somewhere, or quell hot flashes…crazy thought!
Cultivating in an 806, a far cry from the machinary used today!

               I cultivated fields and never minded that so much, even though it was a very dirty job, because you had to hand pump fuel first. Back and forth, back and forth but it wasnt too bad because I had a cab on the tractor, a good radio, and I just drove around and around being careful of wet spots so as not to get stuck,  and sang to the radio all day. Sonny was fussy about how I finished the corners and rode with me until I knew how to do it right.  I was supposed to go only so fast, with the cultivator sunk in so deep. I will admit now that when I knew I was out of the range of the road or the house, where I couldn’t be seen, I lifted the cultivator a little so the tractor went faster when it wasn’t pulling so hard. Being a kid I didn’t think about the fuel I was burning just to skim the ground and not kill weeds etc. But gosh darn it… a Sat night date took some getting ready, and I wanted to get done!
water jug with the drinking spout like we had

             A job I hated was being dumped off in a field with a water jug and a Twinkie or two or three with little bales as far as you could see. Sonny was our older brother and the “foreman” in charge of Kathy and me.  He’d say,” I’ll be back and check on you later”.  The first thing we’d do is take the little cap off the drinking spout on our dirty old red and white drinking thermos and have a slurp of water. Then to gear up for this monumental task we’d break into our lunch and eat one of the Twinkies.  Jeeze, it’s quiet out here, we’d say to each other…only a few bees, horseflies and “piss ants (as Sonny called them)” buzzing around...maybe an occasional dragon fly. Time to start six packing, I guessss… and we never wanted to disappoint him or Mom!  Dragging six bales together we made six packs consisting of three bales rolled on their sides and lined up beside each other, then two bales the other way on top of those, covering the cracks so rain didn’t run in, topped off with one bale on the top. If we were lucky there were no pink baby mice under the bales, or any mothers around either! Seemed like forever before Sonny came and got us again with our empty lunch bucket and warm water jug!

Wheel travel on the road you had to lift the rake wheels and hook a chain to keep them raised!

              Raking hay wasn’t a bad job, probably my favorite unless it was really hot,  except no cab made it dusty.  Sonny would have mowed the hay days earlier, and when it had dried it was ready to be raked and baled. I would usually rake and he would bale at the same time on the same field, and it was nice having him in the field with me, I liked having him going a few rows away. He liked to follow the rake to be assured the hay in rows didnt get rained on which can make for moldy hay. The big tines on the rake would pull the hay into windrows and then he could come along with the baler and feed it into the baler. The baler would spit out bales one at a time. He usually drug another contraption along called a"bale buncher" that after six would get in the bale buncher, he could pull the rope and release them. That was a neat invention for us sixpackers, as then there were six already there we just had to stack em. Every once in a while when I was raking,  I would accidently leave a windrow on top of a rock I hadn't seen, and he would hit it with the baler! Then I’d hear Sonny cussing over the sound of his radio! The worst part of raking was lifting the reels up to travel. Sometimes I remember crying out there because I couldn’t get them and I was hot and dirty. Usually a good cry boosted my strength somehow, and I got them raised so I could travel home on the road with the rake. They were never happy with us if we unhitched and came home with just the tractor.

A good feeling to have a field all raked and neat!

           I never mowed, baled or hauled bales. Mom hired bale haulers, and I drove the tractor and bale wagon from six pack to six pack that Kathy and I had made. Depending on whether the bale haulers she hired were cute or not, was the deciding factor as to whether this was technically a dirty job or not. Kerry was one she hired, so I was more than willing to drive tractor that year!

This is not our farm house but the upstairs windows were high like this

            Another dirty job I hated on the farm after our Dad passed away, was putting the screens or storm windows on the upstairs windows of the house. Mom was scared of heights so she didn’t want to do it, and neither did we.  We didn’t trust Sonny to give us a smooth ride or lift because he was always trying to scare us.  First, he’d always have to give us a wild fast ride right up to the house while we were in the bucket trying to hold on to a glass window! He’d drive fast right up to the house so it looked like you may crash right into the house! Next he’d raise the bucket lifting us up, as high as that bucket could reach. The hydraulics lifting the bucket were shiny even, because they rarely got extended that high! Of course the windows or screens(this was a twice a year job no less!) never went right on either…they always seemed swollen and didn’t want to fit. After listening to Sonny yell over the tractor at us about how to do it, and worrying he was going to give us a wilder ride if we didn’t get it on, finally we snapped the final snap and the windows were on! Praise the Lord the window was on!   Then Sonny would drop us straight down with the speed of a crashing elevator and stop abruptly about a foot from the ground. Legs shaking we’d crawl out of the bucket happy to be alive. He’d be laughing his evil brother giggle and his I scared you laugh, which he delighted in.  I think Kathy did that dirty job more than I did, because after a time or two I developed a fear of heights too, I’m no dummy!

Tractor and bucket like the one Sonny lifted us to the windows with..

            The job of rounding up a hundred and forty horses from two pastures with just two kids on horseback, and Sonny in an old blue pickup truck had to be a daunting task after Dad died.  Sonny would catch the stallions and lead them home one at a time, with his arm out the window of his old blue Chevy truck. The stallions would be pawing and striking and acting crazy the whole way, especially our appalosa stallion Hot Moccasins. If we had any visitors that day, or later any brother in laws Sonny had, they would get to hold the stallion out the passenger side and he’d laugh his evil laugh all the way home because he loved scaring the heck out of someone! Once the stallions were in Kathy and I would go after the horses. Keep in mind rounding up horses are not like herding cows…they can out run your horse some of them, and try to every chance they get!   Kathy and I would ride one on each side of the herd of mares with their colts, and Sonny would sit in his blue Chevy truck on a hill at some cut off point, and bang on the door and yell out instructions. If they got by us  then he'd call us names out of pure frustration!  At the time that seemed like the end of the world if they got by us.  I’m not talking bad about Sonny but that’s just how it went ( and this blog is only my perspective).  He had a temper and would get mad if they got around us and we were just kids doing adult work.  Mom and Phyllis and later Leslie and Shannon would come out and stand in strategic places. Mom was always ready with opening the gates etc, and she'd run anywhere she could on foot to help out. She was always a nervous wreck those round up days and I can see why now. What a monumental task every fall!

          If one in the herd started to get away from us, the whole bunch would go and we’d have to ride wide open over the hills, dodging gopher holes and praying all the while that your beloved horse doesn’t step in one and break his leg, or fall with you. Clark fell on me one time when we came over a side hill and he lost his footing. He fell on me and was up faster than he fell almost! I didn’t get hurt much, a twisted ankle is all. The amazing part to Kathy and me now when we talk about our young lives, is just how young we were, and how hard we tried to please Sonny and we had a real resolve to help Mom and Sonny carry on after Dad died. Somehow we always got the horses in… the quarter horses first then we’d go back for the appaloosas.  The colts were separated from the mothers next, and that involved some fancy gate work for Mom ha! We were quite the ranch hands at twelve and ten and on over the years, if i say so myself.

           The winter weather was another challenge. Sometimes the roads would blow shut and we would have to haul hay to the barn with a horse on the toboggan walking along side it in waist deep snow. Can we say exhausting? After Sonny moved over into the yard that was better because he was there to keep hay in the barn.
               There were a lot of dirty jobs on a farm, but I’m glad I grew up there. When I was eighteen I was ready to move to town. I left home after I graduated in 1973, but still came home when it was time to bring the horses in in the fall. Still today, I like to visit the solitude of the farm yet but I prefer to live in town where it doesn’t seem so desolate. The perfect combination is a house in town with animal privileges.  That’s the best of both worlds for me.

Sonny and Brendon

               Sonny was killed in a car accident when I was twenty eight.That was a shock and a huge blow to our family. He was a quiet guy, a reader of Louis LaMoure books, not one for public functions. If he’d had a few beers he was so funny, he could have been a comedian! He had the best sense of timing and came up with a funny answer to everything. He was a sensitive guy, a thinker, a worrier, but didn't let that show much. He was so handsome! Our Dad's passing had left him with a huge responsibility when he was only in his early twenties. He had his own little family to take care of, as well as a mother and two little sisters he felt responsible for besides, and he was really. He never really had a choice about what he wanted to do with his life. He just had it all dumped in his lap which had to be over whelming for him! He was under alot of pressure and I really I miss him. Sometimes I almost can’t remember his voice, or that laugh when he was pushing somebody’s buttons unless I dream about him. In dreams he’s exactly how he was. We were blessed to have him, and I wish he would have lived long enough to enjoy his grandkids because he loved kids and kids loved him. He was a dog lover too and always had his black lab Pepper, with him everywhere he went.


              We had some dirty jobs which Mike could have made a show out of, but today when I can fix my own pool pump, and take care of my own house hold issues, many times I think, “thank God I’m a country girl, because I would not have survived if I wasn’t”!  They were dirty jobs but you know what they say about dirty jobs... someone’s got to do it!