Thursday, September 26, 2013

I Do

Kerry and I met when I was a junior in high school and he was just out of his trade school college, earning a certificate in auto mechanics from Williston, ND. I was walking to my Aunt Florence’s house in Palermo after staying in town after school to work on the school newspaper. A car with two guys in the front seat and one sprawled out in back, drove up beside me talking as I walked ( it just hit me how that would be different these days, I'd be frightened). The passenger ask if I knew who he was? I said," No should I"? He said he was Lori Picek’s brother. Lori was dating Kelly Moore and I’d known Kelly my whole life, as his Dad and my Dad were best friends. I talked to the passenger a bit and noticed his pretty eyes that kind of danced when he talked and were rimmed with curly long eyelashes. His name was Kerry and he asked if I wanted to go to the state line club with them ( you could drink there at 18). I pretended to go in Florence's house and ask Mom. She actually said I could, but I came out and said I couldn’t. I had anxiety even back then and wasn’t about to get in a car with three guys who were drinking that I didn’t know. I wasn't scared of them but didn't want to get in a car accident.

I few nights later I was driving around in Stanley which is what we farm girls did when we went to town, and I kept meeting this cute little white car which swerved at me every time I met it! After meeting the little white car several times, the driver stuck his arm out the window, and motioned for me to pull over to a side street. It was Kerry Picek again. Pulling into a vacant parking lot, our cars facing opposite directions, this time  I noticed he had long hair to his shoulders, the same dancing eyes, white teeth with a wide split in them and silver wire rim glasses. The car was as cute as he was and I felt an immediate attraction unlike any I'd experienced before.

Later in the week there was a dance at the memorial building in Stanley, where my favorite local band Podipto, was playing cover tunes. From the dance floor I happened to look out to the people on the sidelines and Kerry was one of them. We left the dance together and  he told me he was living in his Grandmas basement after an argument with his stepfather. We sat there in the basement talked for the longest time before I said I need to get going.

We became good friends, but I always said I liked him more than he liked me. I was a tomboy. I may have plowed a field or something as equally girly before I came to town, not because I wanted to but I had to with just Sonny and us girls to do farm work. Plus I was never a tiny girl. Anyway, he played me around in the strangest ways. He didn’t really want to say we were dating but yet if I dated anyone else he ran interference. For me there was always something different about my feelings for him than anyone else. I used to get teased about how crazy in love I was with him. As soon as high school ended I moved to Stanley, got a job at the Two Way Inn and he worked construction. Some nights he’d sleep on my couch and I’d bake brownies etc. for his lunch just because if felt right to be together but Mom had the "good girl" thing drilled in my head tight!

Finally,  I got tired of his silly games and decided I had to come to terms with the fact that I liked him more than he liked me, I needed to accept that and I was moving on! I moved home and enrolled in college.  When I walked away he missed me and realized he loved me too. He found me a few weeks later and was ready to not only date, but get married. We got married quickly on Nov 17,1973, a month after I turned 18. My idea of marriage was immature. I thought nothing would be better than being with him every day of my life. I literally had a horse and a 13” black and white tv. He literally had a stereo and a car. That what we brought into the marriage.

Didn’t take long before we had some horrible fights. Kerry was very verbally and sometimes physically abusive and an angry guy. Anger that had nothing to do with me. He became extremely jealous and bossy. I fought back after awhile because I wasn't about to be bossed around by anybody. We had Brendon in 1976 and Shelbey in 1979. They witnessed some crazy fights! I realized I had married someone far different from me, but I loved him so much.

Over the years we held on to our passion and commitment to each other.  The explosive anger issues however were always in the way of a peaceful existence that I desperately needed as someone with anxiety issues. My Mom got sick with Alzheimer's disease and passed away about the same time Syd went through a rough time in Minot being bullied by jealous girls, and I brought her to Phoenix to live, to protect her and she's had a great life here. Kerry planed on coming, and wanted to get Syd out of Minot as well,  but couldn’t transfer here without losing seniority and that's a big deal on the railroad. So we have traveled back and forth for ten years almost. After I was here in Phx and away from the anger I'd always been around awhile, I noticed my own reactions when something that would have sent Kerry into a fit of anger, Jerry (my sister’s husband ) handled calmly. I grew resentful at Kerry that his anger had stirred such emotions over small things. Not to make this an even close comparison but like when someone comes home from war and hears a boom and it brings up feelings... all these years I grew to expect anger over simple daily frustrations…I got distant towards Kerry and eventually Kerry went in his own direction for awhile.

Ten years after moving here and 40 years of marriage later, we are starting to figure it out,... I hope, (never say you have something figured out or it will come back and bite you). We have been put through life like a salad shooter…fast, furious, not always fun but spit out the other end in some kind of a blend that seems to work.

Some things I always loved about Kerry was that he always took the responsibility for taking care of the family financially, and the rest was my responsibility. Ever since he got on with the railroad in 1988, I have only done odd jobs that worked around being there for the kids because his was a 24/7 job. He never told me what color I could paint a wall, what to cook or even what to do with the kids. He always stood behind me when I laid down the law with the kids. I remember the night before I started college when Syd was in the 7th grade, I stayed up all night bawling because I had spent 500.00 on books and $2500. on tuition. He got up at some point to use the bathroom and came out in the living room where I was sobbing away. I told him I was stressed out, what if I can’t do the work? What if I waste a bunch of money, what if…and he said,( and this is a direct quote). “If you go to school and don’t like it, you won’t wonder anymore if you should have gone to college. I said I was going to take care of you when I married you, and you were going to take care of me, and the kids. I don’t care if times have changed since those days, nothings changed between us that I know of. Stop pressuring yourself and get your ass to bed.”

I loved him for that. Kerry is a guy of few reassuring words, but when he says something it means a lot because in a few words he nails it. He’s a complicated person, a wounded person that is his own worst enemy. Sometimes the depth of his anger surprises even me, but under it he is a soft, sensitive soul. He makes me laugh, pisses me off to the max, hurts me the deepest, as I do him but I can count on him and he can count on me. Was it a match made in heaven or hell, I dunno…cuz its been both. Sometimes sheer determination keeps us together.

One time we were at the fair in Minot at a concert. Full well knowing the answer I asked Kerry, “how come you have never held me on your shoulders so I can see the concert like a lot of these guys do their women?” Without even blinking he fired back, “well climb on, but its gonna be a quick peak before we both hit the ground!” Then we laughed till we were about sick! A few years ago we went on a summer road trip down the Oregon coast and after four or five days having fun in the car we got in a hell of a big fight over the radio outside of Reno. I was driving and slammed on the brakes and about dumped him out on the side of the road! It was a long silent ride for awhile, until one of us burst out laughing at the insanity of it and got over it. That’s how we handle things these days…get mad, get over it, it’s a new day.

Long marriages aren’t easy, it takes commitment and always keeping your eye on the horizon, instead of the potholes in the road, and hang on to the vision of where you want this to all end. It’s like you got married, expecting the Hawaiian tropics and instead winding up in a  jungle slashing weeds and fighting for survival…later you think… well it wasn’t what I expected in my eighteen year old mind, but parts of it were beautiful, parts were harrowing, but every bit of it was worth this incredible experience. 

My wish for my own kids is that when they tie the knot, they tie it good and tight and hang on, it’s a wild ride but so worth it in the end when you look back at the highs the lows and the children you've raised and parented together. In Nov. it will be 40 years, which seems impossible. Happy Anniversary Kerry! Love you!

High Anxiety

High Anxiety


Passing by the bathroom mirror I was drawn in by the image I saw. The “me” I was looking at, was not the some one I had always known. I was pale and thin with my collar bones sticking out. My eyes were as vacant and haunted as I felt. I had not been able to eat much of anything for several weeks, six weeks actually. That alone was strange for someone who loves to eat, and finds comfort in eating. Anxiety attacks had plagued me like a victim being stalked, never knowing where or when the siege would start, or how long the terror would last.
I had been depressed since I left the hospital with my beautiful, perfect baby girl. How perfect she was added more guilt that I couldn’t enjoy the moment. I wondered how I would ever be able to pull myself together and be the mother I’d dreamed of being to her and our four year old son Brendon. Lately, I didn’t have any feelings…just flat nothingness. Nothing brought me any joy, even this new perfect baby. I’d have had no feelings at all, if not for the torturous, nervous ones that came in waves. I just wanted to get though each endless day. At the beginning of this strange new existence, I went to bed praying and hopeful that tomorrow would be a new day, a better day, and I’d be my “old” self! The longer I was sick the less I was able to believe that tomorrow would be any different than today had been. I paced the floor, woke Kerry several times a night just to tell him how miserable and frightened I was.  My Mother had been staying with us off and on for weeks trying to interest me in the baby, in food… in life for that matter. From three days after giving birth to this point I had tried four medications, which mostly only made things worse and the situation more hopeless.

In desperation one night after a horrible panic attack I agreed to enter the local hospital. My Mom and my husband both knew this was more than the baby blues some women get. Backing out of our driveway that night I couldn’t stop shaking. It was a weird sensation penetrating throughout my whole body.  I also felt like I was looking at everything through a long telescope. I wondered if I’d ever be home. I will never forget backing out of the driveway, my Mom holding my new breastfed 6 week old baby(she told me later she was pretty frightened herself hoping to get the baby to take formula and the responsibility of it), and my four year old frightened, sad son clinging to her leg. Silently I prayed, pleeeaaasssse God let me come home again, and I did six weeks later but wasn’t really well for 8 long years.

When something that traumatic happens to you it changes who you are to the core. I had actually been mad at God for a long time that my Dad was taken away from our family when I was twelve. There were a lot of things adding up to me getting to the place I was in. My Dad’s death, getting married far to young, Kerry’s anger issues and we were building a new house which was fun but stressful. I liken what happened to the rain barrel effect. The rain comes down slowly but it all adds up in the barrel and the barrel eventually overflows and once it’s overflowing it’s going to run awhile.

 I saw people far worse than I was in the hospital and still have images of the suffering people I saw there filed away in a locked file in my head. That’s why I studied Social work because I wanted to be able to say, “I’ve been where you are, I recovered and you can too”.

Over the years I got my hormones straightened out, dealt with the death of my dad, learned to stop being a people pleaser, stand up to Kerry, and I found ways to talk myself out of full blown panic. During my illness I never ever thought of harming my children but wasn’t so sure everyone around me wouldn’t be better off without me. I felt like everyone deserved better. The kids not such a distant mother, and  Kerry was working hard and I was running to the ER or a Dr every couple days. He never called me crazy or put me down and if I thought I needed to go he drove me. He visited me every single night in the hospital and some nights I begged him to check me out and let me go home with him. I still tear up at his dedication to me and appreciate him. I had these morose thoughts about  how they’d be better off without me for quite a long time. One day though, I looked at a photo of the four of us and really studied it. I pictured myself cut out of the picture, and a black hole where I was and imagined another smiling face in its place. Then I thought of my own family, of  my Dad who’d died.  Who else could be slipped in a picture he was in, and take his place?  NO ONE! I still missed him terribly and NO ONE on the planet could take his place. I knew at that moment that I would have to find a way to handle this because my kids needed me and I had to make it.

 Something like four million people give birth in the US every year. Of that number, I was one of the lucky ten percent that suffered with neurotic symptoms rather than psychotic ones. My heart bleeds for the five hundred or so, who become psychotic, hear delusional voices telling them to kill their children and commit horrible acts of violence. While the postpartum defense is part of the insanity defense in the US, it is not a defense by itself in this country. In the United States it must be entered as an insanity plea and then the defense must prove she didn’t know right from wrong at the time of the crime. They go through testing months after the crime ( and many times by then the hormones are calmed back down) to determine if they did indeed know right from wrong back at the time of the crime. Many mentally ill people do know right from wrong at times and other times don’t.

When my Mom was in the nursing home and struggling with Alzheimer’s, another puzzling brain disease, her brain worked intermittently. I always compared her brain activity to an electrical cord with a short in it. An hour ago she may not have known my name nor had any idea who I was but at this particular moment the connection flickers, the lights come on and she calls me by name and tells me to have a safe drive back to Minot like Mom always did. How long will the power stay on? I don’t know, she doesn’t know and the Dr’s don’t even know. So legally, she was insane for a time and sane for a time. That’s caused by plaque build up on the brain. Postpartum is caused by an extreme shift in hormones. Mental illness is not logical, but it’s a hard sell to the US justice system. In at least other 22 other countries including Great Britain, Italy, Canada, and Australia, if the, “balance of a women’s mind is disturbed” she would get manslaughter at the most and the sentence would be hospitalization instead of jail. I am not saying I don’t have compassion for innocent children because I do, I love kids.  I don’t have answers or think everyone should get off in these cases, I am just raising a question I don’t have answers for...only empathy.  

Ten years after Shelbey was born, I had one more baby and one miscarriage. Both times I was treated with progesterone injections and never had any depression at all with Sydney. My life was a lot calmer then too, and I’d decided God had a purpose for me and I was going to live until his purpose for me is over, scared or not!  Once I got a grip on that idea, I embraced motherhood, travel, and my relationship with God that got me through all of this. It was the worst and best thing that ever happened to me, certainly the most painful and certainly made big changes in how I viewed things.  

 If only I could have read the back of the book first back then. I’d have known while backing out of that driveway in 1979,  that the sweet baby girl in my Mothers arms that night, would grow up to be one of my best friends, and support systems. And that my frightened little boy, clinging to Grandmas leg, would be there to help me through a lot of dark days. It’s true that good things come in small packages.  

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Games People Play

The other day I was thinking about all the games and activities Kathy and I found to do growing up on the ND prairie in the middle of nowhere. When we were kids, in the summer we always played outside, probably cuz Mom was out more than in the house herself, gardening, mowing etc. We made mud pies, and played with our favorite barn cats a lot. We had doll clothes Mom sewed with tail holes cut in them. Kathy had gotten a blue buggy from Santa and mine was red. The cats were always good natured and just lay in the buggies all bundled up with bonnets and carefully swaddled extra tight like you must do with cats ha. I guess not knowing that babies don’t walk, my cat kept escaping one day only to get slung back in my buggy, a little rougher each time…until he pooped in the clothes, on the blanket and in my buggy! Mom wasn’t too happy about that mess her Grankitty made! Guess he really did need to get out…oops! We had a couple of big rusty barrels we walked on which was quite a feat in itself… considering the grass grew in clumps and going over a clump was good cause for a hard spill. But we showed our skills to random visitors I remember. Other times we put a board across the barrel and teeter tottered.

We always rode horses, starting out with big work horses cuz Dad thought they were smoother and easier to stay on cuz they were mighty wide. First thing in the morning, one of us would carry the box of cereal and our own bowl and spoon,  and the other would carry the milk and her own bowl and spoon. We’d ride somewhere in the trees with tall grass so the horses would be content to eat and stay still.  Kix tasted extra good turned around backwards, bowl on the horses rump, and in your jammies still! We were free spirits, never scared of strangers or any of that, never scared of falling off the the huge horses,…wood ticks and bees were all we were scared of.  Life was simple, laying on the lawn, watching the clouds moving, and talking about God, wondering how he watched over a world so big.

In the winter we played Indian maidens, ( you could do that in the fifties when we were born). We had “Indian” cousins that we loved very much so it was never a negative thing to be "Indian" in our family.  With made up names that screamed creativity, I was always Red Bird and she was Blue bird , honorably named after our favorite colors ( sometimes I wonder now, if red is really my favorite color or if I was branded with it long ago ha.) We each made forts in the snow and visited each other using lingo from the western movies we'd seen. No one ever died and nothing was ever to serious we were just good Indian neighbors.I am not being insensitive, just describing life back then.

We made snowmen in the spring when it was warm enough for the snow to actually stick together, and slide down the hill when the snow was hard, and shiny from the frigid wind. You could use a real sled that had blades you could steer with. You wouldn’t even sink in…and travel a long ways. When we got older we would take the manure scoop down to the water hole and push the snow off  of it to skate. By the time we got the snow off, we were almost too pooped to skate,  but I still remember the quietness, just sitting there resting. The quiet was unreal, I miss that stillness sometimes, but only for a bit. Fox and Goose was another of our favorite games but it usually ended in us fighting for some reason. Kathy probably outrun me and I cut the pie or something I dunno.

When we got a little older we played Barbie and Ken a lot. Kathy had dark haired dolls and mine were blond. I always secretly liked hers better. For some reason Mom got me a blonde Barbie and a dark haired Ken so I traded Kens with Sara Nyberg so both of mine were blonde. Mom made us many, many Barbie clothes that I still have today. We didn’t have Barbie accessories, well Kathy had a Midge I guess with three wigs...but mostly we had just the dolls and lots of clothes for their wardrobe suitcases. We loved those dolls!

Probably some of the most laughable times were from roller skating. We got the clip on your shoes roller-skates for Christmas on year. They worked best on cowboy boots that had a hard sole. Tennis shoes made your toes scrunch together and they came off. We used to roller-skate in the house when Mom was trying to cook. We’d clear out rugs, push the table back and skate. She tolerated all that until one of us fell and tore the dish towel rod off the wall on the way down!  Then she banished us to a swept out grain bin. We’d string our cord for a radio out there from the yard pole,  get it all tuned in to KCJB, and prepare to skate. Have you ever skated in a grain bin with two rods in it cutting it up like a pie cut in four pieces? Pretty hard to get your speed on! One kernel of stray grain (and there were many), was enough to make you biff it! Never liked that grain bin skating. I can still smell it if I try, but desperate to skate we were!

We were lucky enough to grow up in a house with a tall ceiling in the kitchen. We could tied a double jump rope to the junk drawer handle and one of us twirl and the other jump and recite jump rope rhymes, complete with the actions… like:

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear,
Turn around.
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear,
Touch the ground.
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear
Touch your shoe.
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear
That will do.
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear,
Go upstairs.
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear,
Say your prayers.
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear,
Turn out the light.
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear
Say good night!

Every once in awhile Mom would jump in with us.Then of course there was Chinese jumprope which was sure to get a rumble out of Mom with that stretched across the stool legs taking up the kitchen with more fighting of course!

Hop Scotch…we were the queens of hopscotch and fighting, IF you stepped on the chalk line, IF you balanced with your other foot or IF you broke the rules. We used to hop scotch in the basement in the dry years, drawing our game out over the chipped up damp cement. We loved it though!

Jacks anyone? We played jacks till we had dirty callouses on our right hand little fingers from swiping the floor 98,741,231,478 times a day. Oh the fights we had… whether the ball did or didn’t bounce, whose turn it was, what we were on when we missed last time…all that.

When our cousins would come for a visit we loved to play red light, green light and hope to see a ghost tonight under the yard light. Our parents all played cards late into the night…no alcohol, no partying...some fresh coffee and good food,  just family fun.

We rode our bikes a lot, even though Mom tried to kill me by not putting it together right, and the front wheel came off half way down the grade, and I did a nose dive in the gravel...I stood on the side of the road bawling, holding the wheel and watching Kathy speed on home to get Mom! Little rocks embedded in my knees, and hands burning like fire with the skin scrapped off. Pretty soon here came handywomen Mom with a wrench to put the wheel on and Tincture Merthiolate! Before long I was riding my 24" new blue bike again, this time the wheel was on good and tight.

Life seemed really simple. I had a wonderful childhood, as probably every kid thinks they did…it was after all, your childhood. I remember my Mom telling about how they rolled tires around for fun when she was a kid,  and thinking... ok..guess if you think it would be fun in the olden days :).

Go back in your memories. What games did you play? Relive the fun you had in your mind. Tell your kids about your life. I am so glad I had my little sister to play with, and fight with, but in the end its all love and laughs. I wish you lots of both!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Are You A Farm Girl At Heart Too?

“The great thing about getting older is that you don't lose all the other ages you've been” -- Madeleine L'Engle. Sydney and I were out picking peaches the other day, and she was stamping around, complaining about some bug or ant and I was in the tree happily picking my peaches.  I picked this tree out and replaced it in our yard here when another had to come down to fix some underground wires. Exasperated, Sydney said, “you love this bug filled, picking stuff, don’t you ..I don’t”! I thought about that later and decided yes, I sure do! One thing I notice about myself lately, is as I get older the things I like most are the things of my young life and other older people seem to do the same. I replied back to her, “yes I do, because I feel like true self”. 

I was a farm girl before I got married and had kids. There was many sides that life. It was scary being on the ND prairie after our Dad died, and getting snowed in with animals giving birth in snow storms, and trying to get hay and water to them trudging through snow up to your thighs. If anyone got hurt it was a long way to a doctor. Sonny cut the end of his finger off out in the field,  and drove himself and the finger home so someone could drive him to a doctor fifty miles away.

Kathy and I were talking about how Mom did laundry when we were young. The basement in the farmhouse always had water in it. Not a little water either, but about a foot! Mom ran a sump pump every spring, but it just seeped back in through the crumbling cement walls, almost as fast as she pumped it out. The freezer, washer and dryer were on a platform above the water. She used to wash the clothes in a wringer washing machine on that platform. Haul the clothes all out to the clothes line, and carefully and orderly hang them on the line shoulder to shoulder, using one clothes pin to hold two shoulders together, ( and you better do it that way too ha). After they were all hung out, (many times having to prop the sagging line with the heavy jeans and overalls with a forked tree branch wedged under it to keep it up), she would go back and drain the machine and haul the water up the steps to throw it out! We had a dryer on the platform, but rarely dried anything in it because it "gave you a shock". When I think of the danger of it, I am astounded today that somebody wasn’t electrocuted! We would go down the stairs, walk a plank over to the platform to get anything out of the freezer or the dryer. When you used the dryer you hoped you didn’t get  the“shock” ( ah yeah,  its sitting over a foot of water! Talk about the redneck, farm life…we lived it, and were happy doing it too!

That was the negative part, the part that made me think as a young girl, I am getting to town where there are some people and laundromats etc.… (and boys in particular back then ha)! Since those days, I have lived in Berthold, ND which was a rural town of only 500 people or so back then, for 19 years. Brendon graduated high school there. Then we moved to Minot, ND a city of around 35,000 back then, for 8 years and Shelbey graduated high school from there. Now I have been in Phoenix for 10 years in a population of 4.2 million people! We live in the suburb of Gilbert and Sydney graduated high school from here. So, I have tried it all and love different benefits and aspects of all places. I am however, still that girl on the farm though no matter how old I get. 

It was on the farm that we learned to be survivors, independent women, fixers of most anything, animal lovers, stewards of the earth, how to sustain ourselves, raise a garden, what true peace and quiet is, feed chickens, milk cows, raise livestock and yes Sydney, to be a harvester. I get great satisfaction from picking something I didn’t buy! I hoped the day I was pureeing all those peaches for Easton to eat that Mom was looking down on me because she would have loved to be part of that! That satisfaction comes from many years of harvesting a garden and canning and freezing what you brought in. Even when my big kids grew up I had all my jars of canned stuff in the basement. We picked berries and bought fruit in season and made up pies and froze them because in small communities you bring pies and bars to every thing…school functions, church functions and community events. Women bragged about how many quarts of this or that they “put up", …it was a regular part of our conversations.

It doesn’t matter where I live, because being a farm girl is a state of mind, not where I live. It is who I am in my own mind. It is where I mentally go to find peace. Doesn't have to be at our old farmstead either because it is a state of mind that comes with pictures, picking those peaches, working with my horse. That’s who I am deep down. Before life happened and I became someone’s mother or a wife. Before I got a bad back. Before my Parents and Brother passed away. A lot of people gravitate back to those roots when they get older in their minds, I know I sure do.

“The great thing about getting older is that you don't lose all the other ages you've been” -- Madeleine L'Engle. So here’s to embracing all our lives, and thanking God that we’ve been blessed with enough years to have so many! Thanks be to God!


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Happy Hours

“You’re about as happy as you decide to be”. “Somebody told me if you make up your mind you won’t have a nervous breakdown, you won’t”! How many times have you heard that before? I can tell you from personal experience that when you are in the depths of depression,  well meaning statements like that makes is easy for a lot of people to feel like they are not willing themselves hard enough to be “happy”! Turned out my unhappiness was rooted in hormones, and all the deciding and self willing in the world wouldn’t have done anything but, I get the general idea if you don’t have something like mental illness or chemical imbalance. Willing yourself to look at the bright side if your having a down day, is at the other end of the spectrum of a dark, deep depression and saying things like that are detrimental to suffers.

I watched a documentary called Happy, awhile ago. I was so surprised to hear that the average guy in the slums of Calcutta are as happy as the average guy in America. Think of that…the Indian man that is slopping through the streets on a run, pulling other people more fortunate than he is no less…is as happy as someone living in the richest country in the world (at the moment anyway)! He said something like, I have a good life, my house is covered on three sides and when my baby son sees me coming… he yells “baba” and that makes me feel like the I am rich and not poor. I have friends and I like my life!

I rewound that three times! I thought wow, we need our butts kicked in this country! People are no happier now that they were fifty years ago with much less, even here in America, the Happy documentary said.

Ed Diener PHD, says we all have a happiness “set point” in our genes that accounts for 50% of our happiness. Circumstances such as our jobs, where we live etc, only account for 10% of our overall happiness. That leaves the last 40% for intentional behavior and other things that add to our happiness or detract from it.

Happiness helps us reach our other goals. Sometimes we turn that around and think reaching our goals is what brings us happiness. Sometimes we fall into thinking money, image and status is what will make us happy when it really is more about personal growth, the people we love, and a sense of community.

I ask you all, what falls in your 40% of intentional behavior that makes you happy? And more than that... what could you do about doing more of it, to make the most of your God given time here the happiest it can be?

I was blessed, truly blessed… from the torturous time I spent in the hospital with postpartum depression in 1979! It took me many years to see it that way… but not a day of my life has been wasted or taken for granted since. Backing out of the driveway and seeing my Mother’s trembling wave, standing in the doorway with my six week old baby girl in one arm and my frightened three year old son clinging to Grandmas leg is still blazoned in my mind. I wondered if I’d ever be back… I really did. I felt like I was looking at life through a long tube of some sort. I hadn’t slept for three days and this was going to be the forth!

When I was at the bottom of the dark black hole, I just didn’t crawl out of it overnight…I crawled, scratched, and prayed my way out over an eight year period! The hormones that put me there didn't last that long but the trama of panic attacks did because I was scared to ever feel that bad again! Over the eight years I felt happier at times,  slid back, creeped forward, back down again… and slowly rebuilt my confidence to go out alone, drive alone etc. Once I got up, I cherished every day that was a good one and I have never stopped.

I have always liked to do things for other people, which is why I really enjoyed being a nurses aide,  a school aide, cleaning houses, studying social work and being a wife and Mom so much. All of those are based on what you can do for others. About eight years ago however, I decided to put myself on the same page with all the people I loved taking care of. My happiness increased immensely after that, it really did. I am not selfish about it ( I don‘t think), I just deal myself in the game now, when I have the chance to be the dealer. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to do for others, but when that’s all you do…you can get angry, bitter and burned out!

I have many things I enjoy as well as my family… such as my spirituality, making gratitude lists, eating better, music, my horse, making jewelry, writing, reading, playing games, face book, TV time and time with my sisters and their kids. All of those add to my 40% intentional behavior that is adding to my own happiness. I still have things I want to do for others, but I am enjoying doing for Easton at the moment.

I challenge you…think about, pray about, adding some intentional behaviors that would add to your happiness. Our being happy one person at a time, only adds to the worlds over all happiness. And more is always better when it comes to happiness! So cheers to not one here and there, but lots of "happy hours"!



Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Plain Truth

Rose and Harry Bruhn
At the risk of sounding like my maternal Grandma, Rose Bruhn, who was sure she was living in the end times…am I the only one on the planet that thinks something has shifted in the world? That Satan is closer and more active than ever? Could these be the end times Grandma and the Bible predicted or is this the tip of the iceberg of what we will see before Jesus comes again? Could I just be showing my age, and longing for the “good old days” that are probably a lot sweeter when viewed from the rear view mirror?

My Mothers parents came to America from Germany. My Grandma was from the Catholic faith and my Grandfather's family was Lutheran. After they got married Grandma joined Grandpas Lutheran church, but she was always Catholic in her heart. When I was a young girl, my Grandparents lived in Blaisdell, ND and then later in Palermo, ND. Grandpa Harry had been gassed in the war and was also  a long time, “roll your own”  King Edwards(in the red tin can) tobacco smoker. He was left with COPD, and  could hardly walk towards the end of his life. He had a cane that had a fold out seat on it to sit down and rest. Day after day, he sat in his arm chair at the end of the table, and made rings out of quarters, beads out of paper, marble boards and peg games for all his Grandchildren.

My Grandma, who wasn’t very warm and fuzzy (neither were really), buried herself in God and what we as people were doing and what was pleasing to God. Her green plastic couch was covered in rugs, the local Minot Daily newspapers from the past few days, her worn Bible, and all her religious magazines. She struggled with depression and her faith kept her going. On the back of the couch proudly sat her pillows she got from Earl in the service, and over on the buffet her clock from Lawrence when he was in the “service”. Gilbert too served in the armed forces.  They were so proud of those boys. She subscribed to the Plain Truth magazine, and donated money to Oral Roberts ministries. She loved Oral Roberts, a television evangelist/ who sometimes healed people right on TV! Her tattered, underlined, fragile, Bible had almost as many side notes a dictionary. Rosary beads with a cross on the end of them were always close by. Privately Grandma still said all the Catholic prayers, touching each bead as she went. Fervently Grandma swore we were living in the end times, and that was in the late sixties and early seventies,  so I wonder if that’s something old people do… get paranoid about the world we are in, and think it must be the end times. Or has something shifted?

Besides all the school shootings, and the Boston marathon bombing this past weekend, all of which are incomprehensible, many people just seem to be volatile and unstable! Being polite and kind is  practically non existent. We were in Minneapolis over the weekend. We took a shuttle back and forth from the hotel to the mall for three days. In the evening especially, it was cold and lots of us were waiting to get on the shuttle. People were so rude, and all about themselves! The first night I had the stroller and of course in the middle of a stampede for the bus, I got nervous and  forgot how to fold it up, as I really haven’t used Sydney’s stroller that much. I held up the line for a minute trying to fold it so the driver wouldn’t have to figure it out. One young lady bellered out, “this is why I don’t have children”. I didn’t justify her with an answer and this part has taken me years but… it went off my back like water on a duck. I try not to let peoples ignorance soak into my skin. I just thought, and thank God you don’t because you have no patience, and let it go.

The next night my sister was really loaded down with shopping, bags because she was carrying the bags for all of us.  I had the baby, Syd had the stroller this time( yep not doing that again) and Tiffany had our cupcakes from the winners of Cupcake Wars that we were going to try when we got back to the hotel. One of Kathy’s bags brushed a man sitting on a bench ( there was a day he would have offered to let her sit with all the bags), but instead he said, “excuse me your bag is touching me”!  We looked at each other and thought, Oh gee, hope you aren’t injured! The bus ride back that night was a beautiful experience and I mean that. The driver had grown up in Southwest Europe and was so fun to listen too. In the passenger seat the rider was the drivers polar opposite. He was the most negative man you could ever meet. The negative man started out by bragging about how he’d never married and therefore hadn’t divorced so was still, “pretty well off”. The driver told about traveling to India and how the people there are trying to be like us westerners and have cell phones, cars etc. which is making for more chaos in an already overpopulated society because now there are cars mixed in with the bikes, and rickshaws and pedestrians. The negative passenger went on with how cold its been on this, his first winter spent up north in years, and that people have to be nuts to live here! The nice driver came back with its been cold all over…India, Europe. The whole ride was back and forth from a positive thinking man to a negative one. Definitely an eye opener about how you can choose to look at the same world.

The last night catching the shuttle, stroller in tow again, except it was all folded up already. I set it against the door and we were all getting on. Kathy said to the driver, “oh and we have a stroller here too” . The driver reached in front of her to get it right then,  forcing Kathy to take a step back and people were crowding her so badly to get on the bus that there was barely any room to back up. A lady in the crowd says loudly to surrounding people, “look out you’re going to get backed over”! Kathy turned back and said, we’ll then don’t stand so close to me! Later it was still bothering Kathy that she had responded angrily! We all tried to reassure her she didn’t say anything wrong. Her statement was true, why have to tell somebody to back up? Everybody is going to get on the bus or the driver will come back…it's that simple!

Before that when Syd and I were getting on the plane in PHX, this couple was constantly trying to jump the line. The airline calls you on in an order of your ticket. We were gate checking the stroller which meant Sydney would wheel it all the way to the door of the plane, but then would have to stop, take Easton in his car seat out, fold the stroller up, give it to the attendant, pick up the baby in the car seat and get on the plane. Ten or twelve people were already bunched up at the plane door anyway so no one was walking right on the plane. When Syd turned to fold up the stroller this same couple actually started stepping over Easton sitting in his car seat on the floor. My hands were full with the diaper bag and my purse.  Sydney turned into a mother BEAR and angrily said, “stay back and wait a minute”! They stopped and stared at her like, oh you mean we can’t just step over your car seat WITH A BABY IN IT?! Gez, people!

I’m serious, either I have inherited my Grandmas thinking, or Satan is closer than he’s ever been. You see extreme kindness that you now wonder if you can even trust, because of all the extreme violence. A lot of people seem to be walking around about to snap, and I personally  believe it is because they are void of having learned any moral compass. A compass that only comes from learning about God, and having parents that make your values about what kind of person you are deep inside,  rather than a title, and how much money you make. We need to put away the push to get to the top and arrive in first place, no matter what it takes to accomplish that. Something’s amiss in the world, I wish I knew exactly what... and what to do about it. I try to remind myself there are many different cultures here in America now, so it may not be only manners but cultural differences. I don't have the answers,  but God help us figure it out, we need him now more than ever.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Currency, What's Yours?

When you hear the word currency you are probably like me, and think of money and only money. Different money for different countries yes, but it’s all about money of some sort. It might be green paper money, colorful paper money or coins. Today, I had a thought in the middle of loading the dishwasher while watching the dogs romping around. I had the thought that every living thing has currency of some sort…even dogs.

As children we start to learn what our personal currency is from parents, teachers and peers. What traits and gifts do we possess and have to offer the world, that are uniquely ours? What do our classmates like about us? Am I pretty? Am I smart? Can I make people laugh? Is sports my thing? Am I a singer….a dancer maybe? What gifts have I been blessed with that I can exchange to gain other peoples approval of me?

Sadly, as a child you also pick up the faults and negative personal traits you have to work around that detract from others approval of us. Sometimes the scale seems a bit unbalanced and people seem to have more of one than the other. Have you ever felt like some people have all the blessings and others all the hardship? I have felt that way many times and still do at my age. But some of the people with the least have the most when it comes to love and kindness.

As I said before, I have always seen myself as Roseanne type. By the time I started high school I was well aware that I was chubby, had crappy teeth and was not athletic to say the least! Because, I had low self esteem I wasn’t aware of any gifts I had at that time. I internally beat myself up all the time. Sad to say, it wasn’t until I hit FIFTY and lived through the growing up of my beautiful talented kids, that did the same thing I did…and dwelled on the bad and seemed oblivious to their currency like most of us seem to do! As a Mom, all I saw was their currency, and it drove me nuts when they were hard on themselves... but I have taught them well, in that department.

When I was fifty, I found my old high school annuals. I paged through them and saw myself in a whole new light! I wondered if just probably I wasn’t as horrible as I thought myself to be. I decided to page though it objectively. I held offices in my class all four years, I had friends…friends that all wrote in my messages that I would make a great social worker! Loving music, I always took band and choir and was editor of our high school paper. I saw myself as somewhere in the middle for the first time and was completely happy there. Too bad it took me so long to see it! Since that day, I see us all in a totally different way. I am not the worst and I’m not the best and neither is anyone else! We try to do the best with the good qualities and the bad traits we have to be our best self. EVERYONE has shortcomings and EVERYONE has personal currency…something or something’s we can offer other people and the world. If we hold all people in high regard, then we could accept other peoples shortcomings and enjoy their currency without jealousy, because we realize we are all blessed with different things and one is no better than another.

The purpose of this post is to encourage anyone who reads it,  to take stock of your currency, your good qualities. Don’t wait to write a resume to begin to think of any good qualities you “might” possess, and then wonder if they are even true... because to confess that you are good at anything seems boastful and wrong. I finally freed myself from most of my insecurity and put myself on the same page as I put others. If I say I am going to hold everyone in high regard that includes me, and occasionally I still have to remind myself of that fact!

Back to the dogs, romping around outside while I wash dishes…Papi has a kind, gentle, loving spirit.  On the other hand he has the most annoying habit of  peeing a little puddle if you talk to him at all, but his positive currency overrides that completely. Barbie is a typical female Chihuahua… bossy, distant, loyal and ornery. But her beautiful doe like eyes melt your whole being, and all the negative goes right over your head and out of your heart. I’m pretty sure it works the same way with humans don't you think? 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Unsolved Mystery

Remember Unsolved Mysteries? The TV show aired from 1987 to 2002, and told of strange happenings not accounted for. Robert Stacks baritone voice and terse jaw added to the mystery, intrigue, and creepy nature of the show. Kerry and I have our own Unsolved Mystery.

Kerry and I got married when I was fresh out of high school and eighteen, and he was twenty and had just graduated mechanics trade college in Williston. We got married on a Saturday and spent Sunday seeing off our family, that had come from out of state for our wedding. To poor for a honeymoon, and probably no days off besides, we both went back to our jobs in Minot Monday morning.

Two years later, after saving enough money for a vacation we took off in our 1969 Pontiac Bonneville with a gazillion miles on it for Phoenix to visit Marcy and Jerry. Their first daughter Heidi was about a year and a half old and we were dying to see her and Marcy was pregnant with their second child.

The trip started out great! We were singing to the radio and cruising down the road, leaving ND in the rear view mirror. Gosh, we were adults we thought on our first vacation together. We planned to stay overnight only one night in Walsenburg, Colo., which is halfway to Phoenix. Near a little Wyoming town called Chugwater, our singing stopped when the car crapped out! Seeing Kerry under the hood, a nice Mormon couple picked him up and took him into Wheatland to see if he could get parts for it while I stayed with the car guarding our treasured belongings. Kerry got parts, while the people went to church. Finally, they returned and I anxiously hoped the car would start as the couple shined their lights on our car and Kerry worked on it. Turned out it was the water pump -which Kerry couldn’t fix himself, so we had to stay over night in Chugwater and get a mechanic the next day. I called Mom, wailing that we didn’t have money for major repairs on the car! She came through and said she’d send some money for us to borrow to Marcy so we had some once we got there.

Back on the road we drove on to Walsenburg, Colo a day behind now. It was about one am by the time we pulled into the main street hotel. We rang the bell at the desk and tousled haired, elderly man, came out and sold us a room for sixty dollars, ( three 20.00 travelers checks). Lugging our suitcases, we climbed the steps, and opened the door to the room. peering into the darkness and   fumbling for a light switch, we see from the hallway light... a bulb with a chain hanging from the ceiling. Kerry walked over and pulled the chain. Looking around in disbelief, we see 2x4 walls and a bed, thats it! Obviously overpriced for 60.00 we went back down and dinged the bell until the unhappy old man came out again and we demanded our money back! He wanted to give us the travelers checks we gave him back, and we wanted cash as they were written to him already…he finally conceded and gave us the cash, so he could go back to bed and we were back out on the road at 2am.

Driving on to Aurora, Co and getting low on gas we decided to stop and have coffee, caffeine up and wait for a gas station to open. We decided to just drive straight through as its already so late to get a room and who wanted to sleep around these parts?.Here’s the unsolved mystery part…we walked up the steps to a porch like landing to the little Mom and Pop type coffee shop and opened the door, everyone in there looked dead! Twelve people or more all slumped over tables.... no blood however. Even the cook in the window was slumped out of the window. I looked at Kerry and he at me in disbelief, and said, “lets get the hell out of here”! We ran as fast as we could to his side of the car…he put the key in the lock and locked and unlocked it about three times while I jumped up and down eager to get in and annoyed at his messing up at a time like this. Happy to be alive, we peeled out of there and drove uptown further until we saw another diner. This one had cop cars there and officers were having coffee inside. We went in, sat in a booth and ordered coffee and laughed like hyenas about what had just happened. In hind sight, why didn’t we tell the cops? We just didnt want to be involved or take up time we needed to get on the road as soon as the gas station opened! We to this day don’t know if we were pranked, or something had happened but it makes for a good family story. We searched the news and no mention of such a thing.

We went on to Phoenix, and had a fun visit with the little Walton family, camping and enjoying the city of Phoenix. On the way home after more car trouble in Green River, We stopped in Glenrock, Wyoming and visited Kerry’s Dad. While there I felt sick and stayed home from a planned outing because I thought I had the flu. It turned out I was pregnant with our first child Brendon! We’d been married two years and were so ready for a baby. Oh happy day, Oh happy trip! …we were young and adventurous and had a good time and were blessed with our bouncing baby boy besides!

Hell's Angels wannabes

But back to the unsolved mystery. As Robert Stack would ask in his creepiest voice…Was there a mass murder in the little town of Aurora Colorado on June 1, 1975 or were Kerry and Pam Picek victims of a cruel hoax buy a bunch of locals at a coffee shop? You be the judge…ha.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Best Cure For Insomnia Is To Get A Lot Of Sleep!

The Best Cure For Insomnia Is To Get A Lot Of Sleep! That quote by W.C.Fields is funny but true.
Insomnia... it sounds like a tranquil word doesn’t it? Certainly not something closer to torture! If you are plagued with this nasty condition,  insomnia and tranquil don’t belong in the same sentence... no matter how its used! Insomnia is a common condition in which you have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or both. It’s a common thread woven throughout our family of anxiety ridden, can’t shut your mind down, energy fluctuating worry warts such as us!

My first memories of “not being able to sleep” are from childhood. Mom would make Kathy and I lay down for naps. I hated that word!  I spent my time either laying there gazing at Kathy sleeping peacefully, or checking Big Ben! That was my nap routine. Mom’s alarm clock called a Big Ben flashed light before it rang. I never heard it ring in all my life, because one flash and she was up and dressed. At nap time I watched the golden second hand go around and around. How I wished it would go faster. After laying there an eternity already, Mom would invariably appear out of nowhere to check and see if we were sleeping, because she wanted to sneak out and get the milk cows. After the same quick  daily scolding about, “how was I going to sleep without my eyes closed” she left…so I closed them until she went after the cows and I went back to watching the clock.

Marcy and I joke about her pinching me on Christmas eve when she was a teen and I was about five or six because I wouldn’t go to sleep so Santa could come. I would beg and plead with somebody to let me sleep with them because the night didn’t seem so long.The thing about insomnia besides being tired the next day is the torture of feeling so alone ALL NIGHT LONG! The whole rest of the world is sleeping and it feels like you’re the only one awake. Occasionally Kathy would give in and let me sleep in her room but that was usually short lived because I would get over on her half of the bed, and she’d send me packing back to my room.

In high school I would go on dates and come home and sleep downstairs with Mom. Way to wound up to sleep, I’d tell her all about the date, until she’d finally say, “No, we better go to sleep the birds are starting to sing”!

When I worked at Trinity hospital, I worked nights and lay awake days when I was supposed to sleep. I worked three nights in a row so by day four, relieved to be done, I’d sleep hard and long. When I cooked at the school, I would have to get up about 4:30 am so for an insomniac that’s about when you might be falling asleep! I never went to that job with any sleep and thank God I was only a substitute, because I don’t know how I’d have done it all the time. Working at Mirage elementary school,  some days I could hardly stay awake during story time or calendar because I hadn’t slept the night before.

So far, this sounds like a minor annoyance problem but it really has been a big problem that has kept me from doing a lot of things in my life. If I know I have something going on I will for sure not sleep unless I take something and any insomniac knows you can’t take the same thing or it won’t work more than a few nights. I have tried it all, melatonin, Tylenol pm with out the Tylenol, Benadryl, tranquilizers, ambien you name it and it all works for awhile. Alcohol doesn’t work it makes it worse, and for somebody that’s only been drunk a couple times in my life that isn‘t an option, because I never feel good from alcohol. I have given over my problems to God, prayed about it, stopped caffeine, worried about it, and not worried about sleeping by taking on a, “who cares, you will sleep when your tired attitude”. I have the little sign that says “let God worry about it he stays up all night anyway”. I have Faith, its not fear that keeps me up, it’s just an energy that won’t shut down….NOTHING WORKS!

My poor son Brendon has it bad as well. He too has had it since he was young. He used to lay in bed and yell to me, “Mom if something happens will you tell me what it is”? Or sing to me from his room just to keep me awake so he wasn’t alone. When he had surgery you know how your konked out the whole day after surgery? Not him…he came out awake and stayed awake all day and way into the next night! Poor guy winds up looking like this picture more than once because of lack of sleep. We won’t say what I look like because its a lot worse than this dude!

I have had sleep studies done and I went into REM sleep for 1 minute one time and 2 minutes the second. They have no solutions…just that it’s a common problem. A common problem that really disrupts your life! I hate to make plans because that’s a given I won’t sleep the night before. I don’t like to sleep with anybody because I will probably have my kindle lit up in their face all night long or be jumping up and down all night.

This was my itinerary last night. Took a Tylenol without the Tylenol (I don’t know what that medicine is called) about ten o’clock. Went to bed at eleven and went right to sleep, … until three! Went to the bathroom and not really sleepy, so looked at facebook on my kindle and left a couple comments. Laid down the kindle and said to myself, “get to sleep”. Tossed around until four o’clock. Thought of playing song pop but then decided I’d probably lose because the kindle is so slow to buzz in, so fired up the kindle and played a slot game. Played that for an hour, have 9643 monies on that game... but  I quit because if I heard that Hawaiian song play one more time as the reels spun, I would lose my desire to go to Hawaii! I found another with a Egyptian theme. Played that until I was bored silly. I shut the Kindle off again and turned upside down on my bed, right under the ceiling fan, snuggled down into the covers and laid there. Said prayers for the second time in the same order I’ve said them in for 55 years or so and added a personal one for people I knew that were suffering. Tortured by the nothingness I fired up the kindle again and checked face book at 5:55! When I saw it was 5:55 I angrily shut the Kindle off, flung it way to the other side of the bed, leaped out of bed, tore all my sheets off and marched out to the washing machine. The dogs who sleep in the laundry room both lay there like, “we aren’t going out this early, go back to bed lady”…but instead I threw my sheets in the washer and turned them on leaving the poor dogs to listen to the noise of the machine. Then I made a cup of tea and a skinny bagel for a fat lady, and hammered out this blog.

Sheets dry now, I’m going to go clean my room and when I rock Easton today, he could be putting me to sleep before I put him to sleep. Other days I expect to be exhausted and am just fine. I shouldn’t complain at all because many people are dealing with deadly diseases and I am whimpering about a little lost sleep but ??!!//? it’s maddening!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

How I Cook A Turkey Dinner

I promised Sydney that I would write down how I cook a whole turkey dinner. Before the holidays are too distant I better keep my promise! Those of you older experienced cooks bear with me, I am no master chef or anything just a Mom with my own way of doing things over the years. Actually turkey is probably one of the easiest meals to cook, its just time consuming.


Three days before I plan to cook the turkey I buy the biggest (usually about 20-22lbs) turkey I can find and thaw him in the fridge for three days. I used to always buy a Butterball but after getting two in a row that were beaten up, I have been buying the Honeysuckle brand and like them.  I like to send leftovers home with the kids for sandwiches etc. so I get a big one.

Two days before a holiday, I clean my house and scrub my floors. The next day, one before a holiday, I spend it running my dinnerware through the dishwasher and dry them by hand. I also set my table, write and print my prayer and put it under my plate where I sit. Because I have a cat, I cover the whole table with a sheet. I also run a check list in my head or on paper, to see what I have forgotten and make a trip to the nearest store for Cool Whip or something, it never fails, that’s almost a given for me! I pull out a cooler and put bottles of water, soda and ice in it. I refrigerate my sparkling cider, which is a tradition at our house, or put that in the cooler as well. I bake my pies and make any salads that can be done ahead of time.

That evening ( the night before the holiday ) I peel a crock pot full of potatoes, and cover them completely with cold water and add a teas of salt. While I’m doing that I also sauté two onions and about four cups of celery in a stick and a half of butter on the stove top. When ingredients are translucent I turn it off, cover it and let it cool. I go to bed and toss and turn worrying about the alarm not going off.

About three AM or so, (allowing a half hour per pound cooking time plus I add a couple hours because I like my food overcooked rather than undercooked. Besides I like to have things ready when the company comes. I mix my stuffing in the roaster I am going to use to cook my turkey. I use about four boxes of Mrs. Cubbisons seasoned bread cubes, the onion and celery mixture I made the night before, and a box and a half or there about of heated (in the microwave) chicken broth ( I prefer Rachel Ray’s chicken broth). I add some salt, pepper and lots and lots of sage until it tastes good. Then I transfer it to a big bowl.

To the clean roaster I add some olive oil to the bottom. Then I wash my turkey in cool water rinsing the neck cavity and the body cavity really well. I throw away the giblets myself but a lot of people I know cook them for gravy stock. I one time I tried it I found little neck bones all over so I throw them. Next I pat the turkey dry with paper towels and plunk him (although its usually a her) in the roaster. I carefully stuff the turkey with dressing, using a big spoon. Just pack him full of dressing in his body and neck cavity. Wash your hand really well with soap and water when handling raw turkey so as not to cross contaminate anything when your finished, and in between as well! Then I butter his breast and legs with a paper towel, and salt and pepper him, before covering the whole bird with 2 big sheets of tin foil. I cook him on the center rack at 325 degrees until his legs move easily as if they’d come off without much effort, and he the timer has popped. You can also use a meat thermometer. Next I TURN ON MY CROCKPOT with the potatoes, setting it to high. DON’T FORGET! Last, I clean up my mess, and wipe the counter down with hilex water and go back to bed knowing I can sleep late because everything is cooking, the table is done etc. I get my best sleep then.

The morning of the holiday, I get up, get myself ready, put an apron over my clothes, turn on the holiday parade or football game and remove the sheet from the table. I check my crock pot of potatoes and turn it to low if they are done, or almost anyway. Then I make the relish tray, butter the lefse etc… or ask someone else to J .

Toward the end of the cooking time (like the last hour or so), I turn up the oven to 375 degrees or more and remove the foil so the breast of the turkey gets nice and brown. At that time I put the stuffing in the oven that didn’t fit in the turkey as well , and a big can of sweet potatoes with a cup of brown sugar over it. Because I don’t like to have chaos at the last minute… while the turkey is browning and it’s about an hour before company comes, I pour the water off the potatoes into a Dutch oven ( I will use the salted vitamin packed potato water for my gravy). I then mash the potatoes with cream, butter and a little salt. Once mashed, I return them to the crock pot, make a well in them and put in a pat of butter and leave them on warm until serving.

To the potato water in the Dutch oven I drain the juice from the turkey. You need help with this usually, as its heavy and HOT! Have someone hold the turkey from falling forward with a clean cloth, while you drain the drippings. I have a shaker that I add half and half and flour to. Like probably three or four table spoons of flour to a 1 1/2 cups of half and half. Stirring constantly, I add the thickening. When the gravy begins to boil you will know if its thick enough or not...if not make and add more thickening with half and half and flour. When gravy is at the desired thickness, I add salt and pepper to taste ( be careful with pepper as it sinks to the bottom). If it needs flavor you can use chicken bouillon, turkey gravy seasoning or more turkey drippings if its not too greasy. I then transfer my gravy to a smaller crock pot (yes, I am a crock pot queen) and keep it covered on warm or low.

Next, I take Mrs. Turkey out of the oven and scoop out the dressing, covering with tinfoil and put in the oven on low. I open a can or pkg of vegetables and get them cooking. I also top my sweet potatoes with marshmellows. Guests should be arriving about now asking what they can do. They can get drinks, get salads out of the fridge etc.

I always cut my turkey with an electric knife, only because that’s what my Mom did and its part of the holiday aire. It makes nice neat looking slices. Be careful with it though, being sure its unplugged etc. when messing with the blades.

Finally, as everyone gets seated, and the food is all on the table, I take off my apron, happy that everything is cooked and ready! I thank God silently and breathe a sigh of relief that I have loved ones to cook for near me, that we all get along and are close, and love each other so much.

I hope you can use this as a guideline and add your own touches to making your holiday meal. My Mom always wore an apron until it was time to eat therefore so I do, she used the electric knife therefore so do I! The crock pots I use are my own shortcut and I’m sure you will have your own ideas too, after you have forty years of cooking under your belt (in more ways than one haha), which is what your family will remember. Feel free to share ideas, as we can all learn from each other! Here’s to lots more great holiday dinners!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A Bicycle Built For Two

      Here it is, the first day of 2013. I remember when the year 2000 sounded like something out of Star Trek! My first blog of the year! I am dedicating this one to my daughter Sydney. Don’t let her beautiful face fool you …she has been through a lot in life! Last year she found herself in a state of shock and panic when she found out she was pregnant. Not ready for a baby, but not a believer in abortion and scared out of her mind, she pushed through a difficult pregnancy. She stopped smoking and drinking the day the test showed positive. She even monitored how much caffeine she was drinking from that point on. With every paycheck she bought bottles, breast pumps, toys and clothes in anticipation of the big day.

    I suffered with post partum depression back in 1979 and now Sydney has inherited some of the same tendencies. Being a single Mom the fears and responsibility for Easton are different and even worse for her than they were for me. While she was on maternity leave, she was made manager of the hair salon where she works. She will be great at it, but it’s all change and more on her plate that’s adding to her anxiety that you try not to treat when you breastfeed. To top it all off Easton is a colicky baby and keeps us all trying to find some way to help unwind him at night when he has his unhappy streak.

    Sydney, as you go back to your work full time tomorrow, this is what I want you to know. I am so proud of all the decisions you have made, even before Easton but especially since. I am keeping an eye on you and how you are feeling so things don’t get out of hand like they did with me. I will do what I can to help you as this new chapter writes itself. I will remind you that I have been through this and things got better. I will help you even when you don’t ask for it, and insist that you get your rest. I will spend as much time with Easton as I can. I will stay close to you because I know you need that reassurance right now. I can tolerate your fears and anxiety because I understand it. I’m not going to leave you alone in this no matter what! If we get snappy at each other which is bound to happen, it’s better than not communicating at all. Things don’t have to be perfect all the time. You are such a good Mom with a loving supportive family, who all love that little guy! We’re going to be fine.

     Easton has been such a little unforeseen blessing for all of us. It’s been said that, “all things worth having are worth fighting for”. Nothing could be more evident of that than my own grown children. The work, the worry, the pain when others mistreat them or they mistreat themselves is almost unbearable…but the joy, the love, the gratitude they give you back from a hard fought fight for them, is like no other blessing it this world. Yes raising kids takes work, it’s never perfect, you will make mistakes, but kids know if your authentic or not, if they are on the front burner or the back and respond accordingly. Picture a bicycle built for two. It’s you and Easton. Does he ride in the back or the front (this is not actually riding because that depends on how old he is, but just picture it for the sake of this analogy). Some would picture him behind you… you steering and him along for the ride. I prefer him in front of you trying to steer, but you secretly guiding, doing most of the peddling and keeping it between the lines. Put him ahead of yourself ( which you have already done by not smoking or not taking in anything that would harm him) so you can watch over him to the best of your ability, give him the best shot at life and do your best to keep him between the lines of life. When you hit a rough spot just keep peddling, you build up endurance that way! There will always be kids with more stuff, more opportunities etc than what you can provide, but not more love. Look at the bike again, this time picture me and you on the bike Syd. You are ahead of me, this time your doing all the peddling and I’m enjoying the ride, kicking in a few peddles here and there and coasting when I’m tired. Sound familar?  I love you Sydney.

    I am very happy to be a Grandmother, something that seemed a little out of place for me somehow at least right now. I expected it far in the future at the beginning of 2012. That was until I saw his little face, that was a game changer. Now if I am gone for a day, I miss that little guy.

     My hope for 2013 is more of what makes us all happy, less of what makes us stressed and sad, and to build on my relationship with my heavenly Father. Life is forever changing and evolving and it’s a wonderful ride! Happy New Year!

*bicycle picture above was from: