Friday, November 18, 2011

Wisdom; What Can You Pay Me?

I was just reading some of my Facebook entries and came upon a young friend, commenting on going to a wonderful dinner of college friends who shared in her college major and being grateful for all she had learned while in college and how it had helped in her chosen career. 

Amy, is a bright, enthusiastic, charming young woman, that you just love knowing.  She attacks her life with gusto and writes cheerful and humorous entries on Facebook that always make me smile, and smiling has become a high priority this year.  After writing about the above, Amy continued that she had helped her brother with an application for the chosen school at MSU, he wished to follow to his career path.  Amy was grateful for being able to help her brother and for all the people, students and others through work, she has been able to give  words of wisdom.  Her last comment was if only she could be paid for some this wisdom. 

Ain't it the truth?  I have tons of wisdom, and I am more than willing to share, in fact, I sometimes think my kids hesitate to ask or even hint, because they'll get more than they bargained for.  I have wisdom for Kurt and I give it to him every day.  He tends to call it nagging and quit listening about 20 years ago, when he realized I would still cook and clean, and be a more or less permanent fixture in his house.

Because I remained in my house, raising kids, a husband and now dogs, my bits of wisdom have gone largely on deaf ears, or the dogs, who while they may get the picture of what I am telling them can't give me satisfactory feedback. 

Every so often we come across one of those updated monetary charts stating that a full time homemaker would be worth something like $120,000 a year to replace when there are young children in the household.  By the time they are my age, they are just dead wood, sucking finances and services out of that glamorous world known as approaching retirement.  Yup, I've got tons of wisdom, but no one's lining up to pay me for any of it.

I know how to live on a budget.  Heck, I made up the budget.  I know how to make that dollar do some good things.  I wish now I had made it do even better things, but we were the baby boom generation and we are also the generation who thought we would never grow old.  We are now spending record amounts proving that we can at least look like it, and defy the body for a few more years,  One of my wiser moments when just living long enough has taught me is that I am aging, and I no longer care if I look 49.  I want to exercise and stay healthy, but I no longer feel the need to be sculpted, to be suctioned, or padded, added to or subtracted from. 

I have spent an adult life time pursuing those things which were under my homemaker status.  I learned to cook as a child and bake things like cookies and cakes from scratch.  As an adult I learned to truly bake, breads and pies.  I learned to make the dishes of my childhood, my way.   I learned to cook Italian and expand and continue with the love of pasta.  My kids developed favorites and I made them for them.  Now, I love expanding on the Italian cooking I have accomplished and enjoy finding ways to freshen it up and use herbs and tweaks to excite my tongue.  I devour cooking shows, and love the chance to tweak recipes my way.  I could write a cook book. 

I know how to spackle, to paint around a window, fix a bad float in a toilet.  I know how to fix leaks, get a temperamental washer to run, set the dvr, copy and paste, and sew on buttons and mend a hole in a sock.  I can read the directions to put together a new carpet steam cleaner and follow a pattern for a tumbling blocks quilt.  I can saute', braise, roast, and blend.  I know whipping, blind stitching, and cross trainers. I can clip nails, both human and animal.  I have removed countless splinters and pulled leeches off small feet.  I have picked leftover birdshot from a cleaned pheasant, and used duct tape for a 1001 projects.  I have cut down a Christmas tree, decorated hundreds, (or so it seemed), and made the ornaments for that tree.  I have strung miles and miles of Christmas lights and been exasperated beyond sanity that no one can make a light string that lights according to promises. 

I have helped birth puppies, burped babies, and held my dying father's hand.  I taken "art to the school", learned to read the weather like a true farmer, and driven tractors in a pinch.  I can run a rotatiller, do a spreadsheet, and edit copy. 

I can divide daylilies, propagate, and graft an apple tree.  I have pruned, cut grass and learned how to soothe poison ivy.  I have de-skunked a skunked dog, learned to remove gum from hair and given that same hair a good trim.  I can sew an apron, a quilt, and a set of curtains.  I have put in zippers, patched knees in bluejeans, and wallpapered and removed wallpaper in too many rooms.

I have kept the checkbook, wrote the checks, paid the bills and researched annuities.  I learned to use our first credit cards, and after some prodding became proficient at banking online.  I know my antiques and collectibles, but I still can't use ebay or Craig's List.  I know many of my laptop's eccentricities, but can't begin to figure out the iphone.  I know much but still have much to learn.  And in the end that's a good thing, because as far as I know, no one's knocking on my door to pay me for any of it.  It would be nice if the wisdom of just being around for so long was reverred and appreciated as it once was, but I think that mother ship has sailed, and I will just have to be satisfied with a grateful thank you over the cell phone from a problem only Mom could handle.  And sometime that's enough, but still.......feel free to throw some hard coin my way, whenever....

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Deer Season

OK, I admit it, I always breathe a sigh of relief when firearm deer season is finished.  I grew up loving animals and even knowing somewhere in the back of my head that the meat on our table came from a cow that had been in a stall in our barn previously didn't quite register as the same thing as shooting Bambi.  Yup, my first favorite book that I real all by myself from the library, was "Bambi's Children".  I checked that book out so many times, I could almost recite it line for line.  Many is the night I would sit under the covers of my bed with a flashlight reading after bed time. 

My favorites on the Wonderful World of Disney were always the animal shows, whether it was "Charlie, the Lonesome Cougar", "Rascal, the Raccoon" or "The Ugly Dachsund".  And as you may have guessed, though it was only released back then every seven years, "Bambi" was my all time favorite movie.

My love of wild animals was always there, I guess.  Though barn cats would not necessarily go under the wild category, the cats in my grandpa's dairy barn were pretty skittish, mating in the haymows and giving birth there also.  Once in a while we would find a nest of kittens and would play with them until their wily mother would spirit them away to a new hiding place.  The barn cats were seldom seen except when the milking was done and then they would always be sneaking milk out of the pails waiting to be carried to the big stainless steel cooler in the milk house.  The favored barn cats would line up in a row where my dad or grandpa would be milking and if lucky would get a squirt of milk directed at them from a hand milked teat.  Before we moved permanently to the farm, I would often ride along with my dad while he did the milking in the evenings and I was forever catching one of the less wild cats and trying to smuggle it home with me.  I tried putting them under the car seat, in the glove compartment, and once in a paper bag I had found.  The cats never really cooperated by being quiet and were always released back into their kingdom of the barn. 

My dad never deer hunted and most of the neighbors I knew didn't either.  They were too busy farming and trying to get ahead to deer hunt.  But my mom's dad, Grandpa Laurenz deer hunted.  Every year when I was young, he and Grandma went for a week to their summer cottage on Sand Lake, cranked up the oil heater and deer hunted.  To my knowledge he never got a big buck, but it was never about the trophy for him, it was about the enjoyment of sitting in a deer blind, (back then under a tree usually), and just being able to think without any thing else going on.  It was about the hunt.  He usually got a deer, and then would come a venison dinner we were all invited to.  It was quite often venison steaks grilled over his basement fireplace.   As a kid I learned early on to dislike the taste of venison, as Grandpa's always left a tallow-y slick of grease in the roof of your mouth, that couldn't seem to be dislodged with the mortal tongue. (I have since been informed that the meat was not cut down properly to remove excess tissue).  Both of my mom's brothers also hunted, but enduring the annual venison dinner was a once a year deal.  Because I got to see my grandparents, cousins, and aunts and uncles, I was more than happy to suffer through some icky venison. 

Well surprise on me, I married a deer hunter, and a duck hunter, and a pheasant hunter, rabbit and squirrel if nothing else was around.  He came from a couple generations of avid hunters and his brothers all hunted, so there was no getting away from it with his family.  It seemed like a fairly harmless hobby, as his mother had set down a strict rule:  you kill it, you clean it, I will cook it.   That worked fine with me so I was never asked to gut a fish, a deer or defeather a wildfoul.   Kurt didn't kill a deer every year but enough so that we always had venison if we wanted it and there was usually packages of white butcher paper wrapped venison in our large freezer somewhere.  Kurt would eat venison, but in those days we had all the beef and chicken we wanted which seemed preferable so quite often some of the venison was given away.

The first few years of his deer hunting were charming, for lack of a better word.  I loved how excited he got and how he would plan for days what he would take to his deer blind for food and what he would wear.  Because the opening of deer season came smack dab in the busy "turkey" season for Cicinelli's, getting opening day off was always a rare treat and quite often it was only a few hours in the morning.    The evening of Opening Day our telephone lines were burning up.  Calls went back and forth between, he and his dad, his brother, Kris, my brother, Kim and his best friends, Larry and Terry.  If one of them got a nice buck, then a quick trip had to be made to go view this magnificent specimen.  It seemed like fun then.  I never enjoyed looking at dead deer, but they were dead and showed little resemblance to the ones I saw running across the fields.  They never became a nuisance to me as they never bothered my garden. 

As time went on and there was more hunting pressure around our farm, I grew to like Opening Day less and less.  One year I saw a doe run across the tilled field in front of my house and shot and try to keep running wounded.  It sickened me and there after, I tried to be gone somewhere on Opening Day.  The boys grew up and of course, became hunters like their dad.  With my brother's two nephews between our farm and my parent's place Opening Day was a busy one.  Mom took to making a big pot of soup for the hunter's at noon.  That way I didn't have to be around if I didn't want to.  The guys enjoyed the chance to eat well and compare notes.  I've come to realize its what deer camp is all about.

The boys are grown now and though Ryan was out yesterday, Korey has to deer hunt vicariously through his dad and brother and friends.  The deer have become such a common sight in and around our place that "thinning them out for the good of the herds" has real merit to me now.  And I have come to learn how to prepare venison in ways that I love.  So, when Kurt shot a small 6 pt. that he and Ryan had been seeing for a few weeks now, I didn't feel really sad as I once would have. The buck had a pronounced limp that doomed it to live the winter anyway.  That always tears at my deer hugging heart, as I hate to see any animal killed because of something like that, but I know it to be a reality.  I didn't even mind the doe, Ryan shot because the doe herds need thinning and the venison will be put to good use...

I thought my Opening Day was done fairly early, but just before dark, I was summoned to grab the camera as Kurt had shot a big buck down in Mom's creek flats.  Ryan was taking the tractor over to pick it up and I followed in the truck.  It wasn't quite the monster Kurt thought it was, but it was a nice 8 point and one anyone would have shot.  Kurt's buck tags are now used up, and I really don't need more venison for the freezer, so he can take Gauge out now, duck hunting.   And maybe, just maybe I could talk him into Thanksgiving in Nashville.....Probably not, but its a nice thought....

Monday, November 14, 2011


My friend Mary came up from Haslett to attend a musical production of "Drumline" with me on Saturday and spent the night here.  Mary and Jim have become dear friends and as I go through maturity, grumbling and mumbling, I realize how good friends who share your ups and downs are a precious thing.

But as with any overnight visitor to my house, (a rather rare occurrence), I went on a cleaning jag.  Yeah, I know it was way overdue, but it just seems to get away from me, as I keep the rooms we spend the most time in relatively clean and ignore the rest.  We, well I, made the decision to have Tally, our truly incorrigible black lab, spayed in October.  Same day surgery, she came home that afternoon seeming none the worse for wear.  Instructions to not let her lick her sutures, keep her relatively calm and in two weeks the sutures would be removed and in four weeks she could resume hunting activity.  Seemed pretty straightforward to me.  Leave it to Tally to do the opposite.  She licked her sutures and I think moreso when I wasn't looking which was often.  I thought having her spayed took away the friendly scent that drove Gauge to being an indiot dog, spraying the house liberally with his scent and chasing after Tally to have more than a convival romp.  I was so wrong.  All of the above happened and so we had to separate the two once again.  Three days after the surgery, there was a blood tinged discharge from the incision.  Tally seemed fine but I had to put down old towels and blankets wherever she lay.  I hoped it was just post surgical discharge but when it was no better by Monday, I took her into the vet, such a fun experience as Tally believes this is her own personal chance to bark her fool head off.  By the time we had gone twice a week, for the next two weeks for vet visits, (yes she had pulled a suture and had to be belly bandaged to keep from licking the sutures), the office personnel just shook their heads and smiled ruefully.  For some strange reason she was always excited to go back, even though it was less than graceful to haul her wiggly butt up on the examination table.  Finally on last Thursday the belly bandage was removed and she was declared healed and everything could go back to some kind of normal.

The gist of all of this was that I had put off major cleaning until I knew she wouldn't bleed on anything.  The carpets needed cleaning and a detour of sorts had gone on there, when I started my old steam carpet cleaner, only to have it make a loud noise, emit smoke and spit out small plastic pieces.  A new cleaner was in my immediate future, as the old one had certainly given me my monies worth at over a decade since purchased.  Of course, being me, I waited until the last two days before Mary's arrival to really clean up a storm.    Apparently, I never look up normally and when I was finally forced to in the mad dash to finish up the cleaning, I found cobwebs.  Cobwebs every where.  Cobwebs of every design.  Cobwebs, long and short.  Cobwebs stretching over two feet over ten foot ceilings.  Cobwebs behind the deer antlers of the mounted heads hanging from my walls.  Cobwebs under the tables.  Cobwebs on the duck decoys and cobwebs crisscrossing the books on my book shelves highest areas.  How in the world did they come up with the term, "cobweb" anyway?....Charlotte has been busy and somewhere Wilbur was smiling like a pig.

Now cobwebs are a part of the end of summer into autumn around here.  They are as much a part of my house's landscape as are the returning ladybugs, uh, Asian lady beetles, which with the harvest of soybeans fields will be seen to wander in east facing windows throughout the winter months.  And a more recent interloper, box elder bugs, are annoying, crawly things on windows, floors, and in the carpet every warm, sunny day now.  Such freaking fun.  So, spiders and cobwebs have always seemed the lesser of all these evils.  I have never had an arachnid phobia, and really believed if I killed a spider as a child, it would rain the next day, something that was horrible to even contemplate in the summer's of my youth when I wanted every day to be one of sunshine and lollipops. Heck, if I thought that would work now, I'd have been committing spider-o-cide at every dry spell we encountered in July and August. 

No, cobwebs are as much a part of country living as anything I can think on.  Cobwebs would hang thick and dusty in the hay barns of my youth.  In the storage areas of the old tool shed they warned us to not bother to try to break through as we would be the ones to suffer the sticky threads and dust and dirt they incorporated.  There were just dirty, dark places, the housewives of the 60's never went and there in were the spiders and the webs they created.  As a new wife, and young mother, my old farmhouse basement was the place they lived and breathed.  I didn't go down there.  Before the house was remodeled it was dank and damp and I allowed the spiders and spinmeisters to have free reign.  In 1989, when we did the whole house remodel, we replaced a corner wall of the old basement and dried up the area with this addition.  While spiders still found purchase in an area I didn't frequent every day, a twice a year sweep down with a broom, seemed to be serviceable.  It was the cobweb spinning in the upper levels of my house that are the most vexing.  I give the little buggers pretty much free reign of the basement, why can't they just stay down there.  But no, they have to take over the stairwells, climb the corners of every room and wreak havoc in closets and under beds. 
I swept, I vacuumed.  I took dust wands behind the televisions.  I dusted them away in the book shelves.  And I thought I had finally triumphed for another autumn.  

Mary came, and we had a great time.  We talked and laughed and she was a wonderful respite to a difficult year.  Yesterday after she left, Kurt was in an upper cabinet in the utility room looking for gun shells for the start of deer gun season on Tuesday.  I stood on the ground below him and saw a huge, three foot long spider web draped from the column across to the wall and corner behind where Kurt was standing on the stool.  It was gigantic and I had walked under it a hundred times a week for weeks now. 

I give up, I surrender, UNCLE.  Cobwebs have taken over.  So it shall be....

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Veteran's Day

I never lack for things to say at least on my blog, but its actually taking the time to do it, that seems to suffer.  I am a morning person, no two ways about it, and I am at my best writing, thinking, and in just general energy levels in the morning.  Blame it on my farm girl roots.  So I should sit down and blog every morning, right?  In theory that sounds right, but somehow in actual application, I fall like a lead balloon and fail at this just as I promise to weigh myself once a week. 
I even jot down topics I want to write about.  I am now behind about 10 blogs worth.  Funny how that happens.

But yesterday was Veteran's Day and I don't want to let it go by without my thoughts on it.  Much was made of the day.  Commercials flooded the airwaves thanking our Veterans, past and present.  Restaurant chains advertised free meals or servings for Vets.  Facebook was flooded with wall posters for Veteran's Day and many put up pictures of dad's, grandpa's or other loved ones, who had served or were currently in the military.  It was fitting, but I have to wonder where all this came from.  Veteran's Day is one of the last surviving "Bank and Government" holidays as I call them because they seem to be the only ones who don't work, that hasn't been moved to a Monday holiday, an abomination in my opinion of all the holiday's I once held dear as a child.  We celebrated  Lincoln's birthday and Washington's birthday on the 12th and the 22nd of February.  It wasn't a bank or postal holiday, renamed President's Day and moved to a Monday so schools could be off and all the a fore mentioned places could take a holiday.  Memorial Day was always on May 30th.  Yes, we got school off, but we celebrated in the way it was meant to be celebrated by visiting the cemeteries and decorating the graves of passed on loved ones.

While I applaud the United States paying omage to our military and Veteran's, I do not see how advertising a Veteran's Day sale at Art Vann is particularly throwing it up for the Vets.  While it is a nice sentiment and I admit, I was one of those who put pictures of my husband and father in law up on Facebook to salute them, a greater service probably would have been to actually go to a VA hospital or VFW gathering and have a personal conversation with a Vet and thank them.  We like, all too well, being able to go out in cyberspace and give greetings and well wishes that don't take much time and make us feel, oh so, much better.  We have done our "bit" with a minimum of fuss and muss.  I am the most guilty of all. 

I didn't know Kurt when he served in Vietnam.  I would meet him almost a decade later.  He didn't talk much about his time there and it was so far in his history when I met him that I just didn't think much about it.  When a reunion group of the 30th Field Artillery was formed  and ultimately arranged actual reunions  at places such as Fort Sill, Oklahoma and Fort Hood, Texas was it that I learned what it felt like to be around people who shared what you had gone through.  I understood the comradeship that these men felt many of whom only shared the 30th FA designation.  Through this group, Kurt located men he had served with in Nam, long since, left behind when he returned.  I spent eye crossing hours at one reunion listening to the men regale each other with stories that only they understood.  I wish now, I had listened more carefully as some of those men are now gone.  They are not forgotten but with each passing loss, we lose something of what is remembered.

Veteran's Day was meant to be a day of rememberance and honoring those who served and serve still.  Our history is built on what our veteran's did on the battlefields.  I had the experience of getting to see the American Cemetery in Normandy, France a few years ago.  People had told me I would be awed by it, and it was true.  It took my breath away.  It was overwhelming to see rows upon rows of white crosses and David's stars lined up in perfect symmetry.  They stretched across green, tree shaded acres and in the background, the sea those soldiers had come across.  Stormy, wind swept seas.  It is the end result of so many military resting places, now sacred, land fought and scarred with the blood of so many.

Thank you to all who served, most importantly to my husband, Kurt, my friend and companion for nearly 35 years.  Vietnam fired the metal core that was there.  It added a layer to the strong man you would become.  God bless you and all who have served and will continue to do so.  May the rest of us never forget.....

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


I had to get my Halloween fix on Facebook sad as that is to say.  My friend who lives in a small subdivision in town, had over a 110 trick or treaters and had to finally shut off her porch light.  I am lucky if I get two trick or treaters and this year that number dwindled down to zero.  I live on a sparse stretch of mile in the country.  Even when my kids were small, we never trick or treated on our road, as the people on it were older and their children were grown.  We went to the neighborhoods that had younger kids and were therefore prepared to have candy and lots of it.  So, our porch light was seldom on and even after my kids were past all of that, it was a rare occurrence to get more than 5 kids knocking on my door.  Some would say it is one of the perks of the country, but I sigh, as I remember my own days of going out on Halloween.

We planned our costumes for days, though the planning never included anything that was bought or that couldn't be sewn together with a needle and thread, such as patches on your knees for the always popular, hobo or tramp.  A stick with a bundled handkerchief attached, a bit of charcoal applied to the face, and if you really wanted to be creative, some Blackjack gum to  fake a missing front tooth.  It wasn't hard to be a tramp back then as the supplies were readily available.  And it didn't much matter, the costumes were pretty forgettable.  I know my brother went as a ghost one year, but try as I might to remember, the hobo is the only costume in my kid years I really remember.  It was all about the goodies we collected for halloween, not the costume, I guess, or my memory is just really in the toilet for such things now.

My mom traded off driving us for trick or treating with my best friend's, the Gustara girl's mom.  One year she drove and the next Helen drove.  My brother was the only boy in the group back then but he didn't mind.  It didn't take but a couple of years to know the "hot spots" to get to.  Because both sets of grandparents lived fairly close we usually stopped at all.  Grandma Bonnell did wonderful bags of trick or treat delights.  A popcorn ball, penny candy and usually a larger sized candy bar.  Not to be missed.  Grandma Gustara and Uncle Joe didn't have the greatest treats in the world, but Grandma Gustara was fascinating to me as she seemed to be no taller than I with white hair, few teeth and talked in the Czech tongue and I couldn't understand a word.  Uncle Joe who I did know and was crazy about, translated, and that was as good as a candy bar to a kid who never heard it.    My grandparents had nice treats but weren't nearly as interesting to me. 

We got alot of apples, usually dropped on a homemade cookie, rendering the cookie, crummy by the time we dumped the contents of our paper shopping bags at the end.  Popcorn balls, penny candy and the occassional actual candy bar were like gold to us.  The highlight of the trick or treating tour was the stop at Wilsey's store a half mile away.  The Wilsey's stayed open later for trick or treaters and we were allowed to pick whatever we wanted from the penny candy shelves.  Those shelves ran a good 15 feet and were two shelves high, we believed we were the luckiest kids in the world on Halloween. 

We always stopped at a few of the elders of our small farming community, and inevitably had to sing for our treat.  The older folks were hem and haw and tell us to sing real loud.  We were impatient to be on our way to the next stop.  I now realize, how we brightened their holiday by stopping and looking back wished I had sung a few extra bars of any song, no matter how dreadful I sounded.  Why does wisdom always come in the form of looking back and knowing now....

We knew everyone who's house we stopped at, and  everywhere we stopped, the grown ups had a chat, while we kids bounced from foot to foot, eager to be on to the next place.  Exhausted finally, we were back home to examine our booty.  We didn't look for razor blades or hidden objects but looked to see what was actually candy and what could be bartered between my brother and I.  Apples were stored in the fridge and ended up in our lunch boxes for the next two weeks.  Popcorn balls also were saved for lunches while penny candy was counted, categorized and divided accordingly.  We hid our treasure, usually under our beds, and lived in delight for a good two weeks, carefully rationing the wonders that Halloween had wrought.

I always thought my kids never had it as good as I did, but I suppose they will think the same thing with their own children.  I do remember more of their costumes, probably because I sewed or altered a good many.  Ryan with his dad's army uniform on, the wool pants basted so he could wear them.  Korey as Count Dracula, with my expertise of face paint and fake blood.  Annie as an angel, a witch and a princess.  I still have the Snow White costume she borrowed from a friend and forgot about, still hanging in her closet.  Probably my most memorable costume for my kids were the year I sewed tomato costumes for the boys and stuffed them with newspapers to get the desired shape.  They rustled when they walked.  And Ryan as a butterfly, complete with a huge span of cardboard wings that would only go through the sliding door on the van we drove.  Every stop meant pulling that door open and Ryan going out and in sideways so as not to catch his wings.

My newly 5 month old grandson was dressed as Yoda from Star Wars.  We didn't take our babies out until they were over a year, as it wasn't like they were going to eat the candy.  The intracacies of putting a 5 month old in a costume after each stop and then taking off the costume to fit him into his car seat was a major production and meant that the little guy and his sleep deprived parents were both exhausted by 8 that night.  My grand daughter's costume I got to view on Facebook as her mom put her "glow in the dark skeleton" sleeper picture for all of us to see.  She looked totally oblivious to how cute she was.  While I miss not seeing her in person every day, the best years of trick or treating are ahead of her.

So Facebook became my way to see my grand nieces and nephews in costume.  My silly kids with no kids yet in costume, and wacky friends who are never to old to dress up.  We shared pictures from far away and smiled.  It was not the Halloween I fondly remember but things just insist on not staying the same.  And I guess that's a good thing....