Archive | November, 2011

On Top of the World

16 Nov

Who taught her to climb like that?_____________________________________________________________________________________________________


Schedule Schmedule

15 Nov

We try to follow a schedule.

Alright, that’s enough laughing.  I just said that we ‘try,’ not that we ‘do.’

But here’s our self-imposed structure, in case its subtlety has missed you, with a little description of each category:

Memory Dirt Road Mondays
It’s a lot like Memory Lane, only muddier.  And now that they’ve given 911 addresses to all of Nebraska it’s technically not a road either.  It’s an avenue.  A dirt avenue.  It’s just not the same.  Anyway, we start out each week mired in the past.  We like it there.

Reality:  It’s Not Just for T.V. Tuesday
This is kind of a catch-all, so don’t be shocked it these appear on a night that Biggest Loser isn’t on.  Sometimes that happens, because, like we said, it’s not just for T.V. anymore.  This could also be called “Things We Talk About Tuesdays” or “This Happened This Week” or  “Our Kids Are Weird” or “Could You Believe that Tribal Council!?!”  The options are endless.

1000ish Words Worth Wednesday
They always say a picture is worth a thousand words.  But we don’t know who They are.  And also, we like to say stuff.  Therefore, there will be no Wordless Wednesdays here, but we’ll try to keep our typing fingers under control.

Things I (We) Love Thursday
There are a lot of things that make us happy.  Some are obvious, others unusual, and some are just weird.  One never knows what might happen on a Thursday, but we’ll love it.  Even if you don’t.

Judging a Book By Its Cover Friday
We love alliterations, but we love books more, and since there is no day named Bednesday, or Caturday, or Juesday we had to punt.  We know that They say that you shouldnot judge a book by its cover, but we’ve already covered the anonymity of They, and also, pretty books are nice.

Grab Bag Special Saturday
Once a week we reach in the albums of our past and pull out some photographic proof that we are just as dorky as ever.

By the way, this post was brought to you by:

3 Cheers for Charles!

14 Nov

Today’s Memory Dirt Road isn’t too far in the past. I’d say it’s about 3 fenceposts back. Or years. You choose. In my memory they’re the same thing. Three fenceposts and 46 minutes ago our Charlie Bear was born.

Happy Birthday, fella. You’re pretty awesome.


12 Nov

Betcha can’t guess out of what decade today’s grab bag special is pulled.


Did I hear someone say the 70’s?  You are most likely correct.  There is a slim chance it might have been taken in the early days of January 1980 when my Mom was celebrating her 29th birthday with brand new aluminum pizza pans and another gift done up in my father’s specialty wrapping – the newspaper.  But even if big hair, leg warmers, and Ronald Reagan were on the horizon the 1970’s were clinging on for dear life.

First, there is that wallpaper.  Seriously bold choice.  Although, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t our parents’.  They moved into that kitchen with it’s Formica, brown fridge, metal cabinets and the most decade defining wall decor ever manufactured.

And while they can’t be blamed for those decisions, it seems like they might have been sniffing the wallpaper paste in a couple other design areas.  You can’t see this very well, but the chair I’m sitting in was a padded, beautiful, Big Bird Yellow.   It matched the BBY Formica table underneath the brown and gold madras tablecloth.

The orange bowl to the left of the refrigerator, however, is not some super-trendy serving set my parent’s received off their “registry” at Ace Hardware.  That is the most important bowl in my Mother’s kitchen.  Always has been, and unless she comes down with a mean case of diverticulitis, always will be.

That is the bowl/lid of her Stir Crazy.  You know what a Stir Crazy is, right – those fabulous popcorn poppers that have a little metal rod that “stirs” the bottom of the hot plate where the popcorn kernels await their chance to pop like “crazy.”  When it’s all over you flip the entire appliance and the transparent orange lid becomes your snack’s serving bowl.

The man who invented it is a genius.  A genius who lives down the street from us, that is.  Yup.  You read that right – one of the men who designed the West Bend Stir Crazy Popcorn Popper lives just around the corner from our house.  He and his wife retired in Grand Rapids after, one can only assume, they went Stir Crazy in Wisconsin.

And if anything can convince my parents that it’s a good idea to move to Michigan it would be the example of my mother’s hero.  I sure hope when they do move this direction she’ll let me borrow that awesome cardigan.

Thank you, Veterans

11 Nov

Today we will forgo the usual book blither in order to thank those who have sacrificed so much for us cowards, specifically our favorite veteran, Harold Carl Schelm.

739th AAA GUN BATTALION WORLD WAR II 1943 - 1946 Fiji - Finshhafen - Mindoro - Negros Panay - Mandanao - Leyte Harold C. Schelm Entered Service: December 22, 1942 Branch: U.S. Army Trained at Camp David, North Carolina Overseas: September 18, 1943 Returned: December 16, 1945 Theatre of Operation: Pacific Engagements: Southern Philippines Discharged: December 24, 1945 at Fort Logan, Colorado Decorations: Asiatic-Pacific Theatre Medal Philippine Liberation Ribbon w/l Bronze Star Good Conduct Medal Rank: Technician Fourth Class Total Time Served: Thirty-six months.


This man knew his first son only 10 days before leaving for years.


Here is a bit that our Gramma dictated for Grappa about his years in the war:

“On December 1941 when the Japs bombed Pearl Harbor war was declared.  We were at Uncle Bogue and Aunt Alvina’s house when we heard this news.  Little did we realize then what a change it would make in our lives.

In the spring of 1942 the decision was made to put an army base in the Grand Prairie area she already mentioned that was near Johnstown so I don’t think it is necessary anymore to reiterate.  Many farmers had to sell their farms in order for this to happen.  Work on this project went 24 hours a day to finish it quickly.  The first B-29’s came in by the fall that same year.

In the fall of 1942 as I was picking corn, hoping to make a killing, I received “Greetings from Uncle Sam”.  In December 1943 I was inducted into the army, sent to Fort Leavenworth.  From there shipped to Camp Davis, North Carolina.  On May 10 I received a furlough to go home before going overseas.

While I was home Larry was born on May 20.  In June, Irene left Larry in the care of my sister Eva and came to Camp Davis to spend a few days with me.  She always tells that she had seven train changes before getting to her destination, got into Washington D.C. during a blackout and in her own words was ‘too dumb to realize what was happening’.  Her last train was lit by gas lights yet.  She made it and we had several happy days to spend together.

On September 12, 1943 we arrived at Camp Stoneman, California.  We left there by boat to San Francisco.  From there won the USS Middleton for the Fiji Islands.  On September 20 we crossed the International dateline and on October 1 crossed the equator.  October 4 we disembarked at Lautoka, Fiji.  November 21, 1944 we boarded the SS Ainsworth.  November 23 we left for New Guinea.  While enroute radar quit turning.  All personnel was alerted to be prepared to disembark because they figured they had spotted an enemy submarine.  All motors were cut off and we sat there like a sitting duck on a pond.  Eventually all was well.  Also during this trip, a possible mine was spotted.  Our 90 MM guns were fired.  It hit the mine and it exploded far and wide.  Even I had spotted that mine.

On December 1 we got to Finchhaven, New Guinea.  We were unloaded from our ship into “ducks”what exactly is a duck to our camp which was home for a couple of months.  February 7 we departed on a LST to Filandia??? where a convoy of one hundred ships was made up.  We arrived at Mindora, Philippines.  While I was there I suffered back problems and was hospitalized six weeks.  When I left the hospital on a stretcher from Negros they hung we up on a C47 plane with no life jacket while every one else was provided with one.  I am not sure to this day whether they felt I wasn’t worth one or what.

I was in Leyette for another six weeks convalessing.  From here I was sent back to my outfit where each battery was taking amphibious training for the invasion of Japan.  News came August 14 of the bombing of Hiroshima and the surrendering by Japan.  We took over command at Illo Illo where we prepared guns for the troops going into Japan and hauling Japanese from the mountains to be sent home.

Now we awaited orders to come home.  We got into San Francisco December ??.  Then on to Fort Logan, Colorado where we were discharged December 24, 1945 then home to my wife and son who I hadn’t seen since he was ten days old but who I couldn’t deny as he was the spitting image of myself.  Thanks be to God we were all together again.

Those were my army days.”

Thank you, Grappa, for those days.


Learn more about this handsome man here.

Listing the Love

10 Nov

It’s a good thing my birthday fell on a Wednesday so that today could be Things I (We) Love Thursday.  I plan to steal a page right out of my sister’s playbook and list for you some things about my square rootable birthday that made me incredibly happy.

1.  Starbucks.  A long, long time ago I was delighted to receive a Starbucks gift card.  In the corner was a teensy sticker encouraging me to register the card and thereby make myself eligible for a free birthday drink.  Starbucks was true to their promise and so yesterday I loaded up the youngins, explained that Mommy was going to get her birthday present from the Coffee Restaurant, and turned in my cute, little, postcard coupon for a luscious, creamy Eggnog Latte.  Venti.   And as if that weren’t enough to warm my heart and stomach, my receipt was one of the happy print-outs to get a survey option that gives me, yes, another free drink.  When this gift card is all spent and done  I will have scored at least eight beverages off it’s $10 generosity.  And that, my friends, is what I love.  Well, that and Eggnog Latte.

2.  A drama free trip to Walmart*.  A trip to the Big Blue Box was necessary to procure supplies necessary for our Hogwarts House Competition.  What?  You want to hear about how I am tricking my children into cleaning the house this week while we’re on fall break?  Sorry, that’s a post for another day.  This is strictly about the fact that my children were obedient, relatively quiet, and even helpful as we marched our stroller/cart parade all of the way around the store.  A mother of five could not ask for a better present from her offspring.

3.  New Socks.  While at WallyWorld I treated my feet to new socks.  They weren’t even on sale.  Can you say splurge?

4.  Jamma Dresses.  This has nothing to do with my birthday, except that I snapped a picture of it yesterday morning, and I thought this post would be boring without some photographic adornment.  I now present to you our one and only daughter in a nightgown, or as we will call them from now until forever thanks to Abraham, a Jamma Dress:

5.  YakTrax.  This handy-dandy gift from my parents will assure that every time I fall during my runs this winter it will be only as a result of my clumsiness, and not poor traction or slick surfaces.

6.  Stacy’s overkindness.  Did you read her crazy post?  I can’t even link it here it’s so over the top.  Yikes.  As I was reveling in the sap, her children called to remind me that I looked a bit like something one might spot at a zoo.  That dried those tears faster than a Kleenex-brand tissue.

7.  Birthday Greetings.    This is where you come in:  thank you, thank you, thank you!  Whether in the form of phone calls, voice mails, e-mails, or facebook messages I was overwhelmed to receive your well wishes.  On a day when the only humans I encountered face to face that knew it was my birthday were those with whom I share a house, the 14,565 “Happy Birthday”s from the outside world brought joy and celebration into an otherwise solitary and ordinary routine.  To be fair, three of the individuals in my house did give me birthday greetings upon waking and sleeping by command and prodding from their father, two of them seemed to lay on the extra cute for my benefit, and my dear husband showered me with love and best of all, came home from work by 5:00.  I am truly blessed by them, and you.

*That asterisk was not directing you down here.  But thanks for looking.  It’s actually a throwback to the good ol’ days.  You know, when Walmart** used to be Wal*Mart.  Oh, how I miss that Interrupting Asterisk, but I’m thankful my sister developed this new way of typing it which gives us bonus footnotes.

**Gotcha again.


Today’s the day! LET US CELEBRATE!!!!

9 Nov

This is it, friends. Today’s the day. The afore mentioned big one. Remember? Today is my sister’s birthday! Happy happy happy day!

Here’s the thing, Christina is awesome at tributes. Heck, she’s awesome at most anything she decides to give a whirl. Always has been. Public speaking? Awesome. Organ playing? Awesome.  Knitting? Awesome. Mothering? Awesome. Homeschooling? Awesome. Blogging? Awesome. Candy cane making? Okay, that wasn’t one of her best efforts. Actually,I’m sure the effort was there, but candy making genes missed her pool party, I guess. That’s forgivable, right? So here’s my attempt at paying tribute to a birthday girl that deserves one of her own tributes.

Christina is my favorite. And I don’t have to qualify that. I really don’t. That girl (or “lady”, if you care to do the math from yesterday’s post) is one of the most inspiring on the block. She gives selflessly each day to her  five minions, she keeps a relatively clean abode, she feeds her family food that has ingredients AND nutrients, she is thoughtful and careful in her called career, she recognizes her faults and is one of the only people I know who is actively working towards remedying those faults, she gives the absolute best, most thought out and scripture-based advice, she is clever, she talks less trash about people than anyone I know (except maybe her dear husband), she is enormously forgiving, and she never tries to be anything she’s not. What is that? Well, from my vantage point I see a sister, mother, wife, daughter, teacher, Lutheran, writer, musician, and runner.

Now here’s where you come in. While Christina is busy filling all of those vocations (yes, even on her birthday), would you kindly kindly wish her a happy day? I don’t care how you do it. Email her. Facebook her. Call her. Comment on this post. Yell really loud. Whatever. Just please let her know how amazing she is today. (I mean let her KNOW today. She’s amazing everyday…)

Christina, I love you. I aspire to be half of what you are (only 3 years younger). Happy birthday, dear sister.

Gardener? I suppose if she tried she's be awesome at that, too.


Coming Soon!

8 Nov

Tomorrow is a BIG DAY!!! Huge. I can’t tell you any more. It’s all very important so I must be super secretive. Just know this: BIG DAY COMING! And also, you could play a role. What about that? YOU COULD PLAY A ROLE!!!!!!!!! Should I stop yelling now? Okay. Yelling done. TUNE IN TOMORROW! (Sorry, I just needed one last yell…)

Here’s a clue about the upcoming event:

Rural Review

7 Nov

Here’s a chance to catch up on some of our Country Speak, in case we lose you in the middle of a system now and again:

Since understanding our isolated and unique childhood will help you to better understand us, then we had better help you understand some of the terms we throw around.  Understand?

One-Room Schoolhouse:  A misnomer.  Actually we had three rooms.  A bathroom, a porch (where we hung our backpacks and coveralls), and a classroom.  One teacher.  Grades K-6 in our case, although most others were K-8.  Not all grades were represented every year.

Country School:  The collective term for all the one- or two-room schoolhouses in the county.

Coveralls:  One-piece, army green outerwear that we donned in winter weather until the invention of snowpants.  Snowpants changed our lives.  I loved 1983.  If you had snowpants prior to that year please do not tell me about them. IMPORTANT: Coveralls are not to be confused with OVERalls. Overalls are the denim contraptions made famous by railway engineers. Coveralls were made famous by cold farmers and their cold children.

Town School:  Where town kids went to elementary school.  And where the rest of us ended up when we had finished Country School.

Town:  Ainsworth. Between 1400-1800 people depending on the census year.  Ten miles from our house, eight of which were dirt roads (see below.)

Road:  By definition roads are made of dirt.  They are covered in washboards when it is dry, and mud when it is wet.

Washboards: You know those bumpy, metal things on which pioneers washed their calico frocks? Translate that onto dirt. Make the bumps bigger, but just as hard. (This is NOT how we washed our cars.)

Rural Route: The beginning of every address for people living north of town.  (The people south of town had HC addresses.  They were weird.) Recently the state implemented a 911 system that requires actual street names.  It’s a major bummer.  I no longer know where my parents live.

Farmers: Live north of town.  Grow things like corn and pigs.  Wear caps.  Had Rural Route addresses.

Ranchers: Live south of town.  Grow things like hay and cattle.  Wear cowboy hats.  Had HC addresses.

Feed Lots:  Lots and lots and lots and lots of cows in one spot.  That’s why they’re called Lots.

Pick-up:  Not the clever line that Adam Beel used on my sister one  speech trip.  They’re what the rest of the world refers to as a “pick-up truck” or merely a “truck.”

Truck:  Differentiated from a pick-up by at least eight really bigs wheels.  Probably more.  They omit choking diesel fumes and loud metallic rumbles.  They are also responsible for washboards.

Quonset: A large semi-circular building made of corrugated steal.  Useful for storing hog feed, corn seed, trucks, and tractors; providing the only paved surface on which to ride bikes; and sliding down when the snow drifts up the outside.

Cow Tank/Cowboy Swimming Pool:  Either placed under a windmill to hold water for cows at pasture, or placed in our yard for summer water recreation.

Honey Wagon: Our self-imposed public forum ban prevents me from divulging the contents this tank-like contraption.  Know that it’s purpose was to take undisclosed contents from the pits underneath the hogsheds far away from our homestead.  If the wind was from the north it was never far enough.

Butcher Pen: You hope that I’m going to tell you that this is a writing implement that advertises our favorite meat shop.  Sorry.  It was the pen where Dad kept the pigs that, due to some physical deformity, couldn’t go to market.  We would sit on their shed and name them.  Stop it, it wasn’t that sad.

Rolling Coulter:  Pizza Cutter.  We were adults before we learned this is not  what the vast majority of Americans call the cooking utensil they use to slice their deep-dish.  A real Rolling Coulter is a sharp, wheeled object pulled behind a tractor to cultivate fields.  Farm and kitchen implements often crossed paths in our childhood.  Once my mother had me convinced I need to go borrow my uncle’s giant harvesting tractor to finish a recipe.  It said combine . . .

System:  Giant sprinkler.  They spin in a circle around fields which are, not by coincidence, planted in a circle.  Stacy and I will own this one some day:

Irrigation Ditch: There are two seasonal definitions Summer:  Big man-made ditches that bring water hundreds of miles to  fields where it is pumped into systems or brought through little ditches and tubes down the rows of corn.  AND  Fall, Winter and Spring:  nearly empty schoolyard boundaries where students can play during recess out of the sight of their teacher.  Remaining amounts of water are useful for peeing contests and ice skating.

Irrigation Ditch Road:  Roads, usually with two tracks, one for each wheel, that run along irrigation ditches.  Theoretically they are for use only by irrigation district personnel.  Theories-schmeories.

Sandhills:  Think desert dunes covered with scraggly grasses.  So, so gorgeous.

Horizon:  Many of you in the tree-littered parts of the country may have never seen one of these.  It’s where the land and sky meet.  Without trees.  Really, really pretty.

Bromegrass:  A tall golden grass that covers irrigation ditches.  If you pinch your fingers at the base of the seed head and strip them up off the stem you can make “Baby Yucca” plants.  We might have done that a few thousand times as children.  I have an entire essay about bromegrass that won an award in High School.  If my Mom didn’t accidentally throw it away when she was purging floppy disks, I’ll share it with you sometime.

Grappa Grab

5 Nov

There is something in today’s Grab Bag Special on which I want to focus. No, on which I NEED to focus. Is it the pig? Well, my sister and I have never had a fear of pigs, that’s certain. Piglets, especially, reside warmly within the memory of my heart. The charm of those silky ears and the sweet rubbery nuzzle of their sweet rubbery schnozz sends drizzles of syrupy warmth through my veins. It seems odd, doesn’t it? To speak of porkers with such positive passion? Well, yes, but that’s not why I’m here today. Nope.

What about sweet little Christina in this photo? So curious. So innocent. SO rockin’ the 1970’s polka dot sweat suit. Is this her first porcine exposure? Doubtful. We were well-versed in all things hog. (Shush!) But, once again, my focus is elsewhere.

Where? See that gentleman? The consummate farmer? THAT man. He is the attention capturer in  this photo. That is Grappa. Farmer, Seedcorn Salesman, WW2 Vet, Lutheran, Coffee-er, Husband, Father, Grandfather. That man. Oh! I love that man. I ache because in their lives my children don’t have his influence. They will never be taken in by those teasing baby blues. They’ll never see his gnarled worker’s hands folded in prayer. The gruff love he gave the meanest cat in creation is a lost anomaly. My boys have some amazing male influences. But, there was something about the combination of grizzly, seed bag tossing, toothpick chewing, implement running farmer with pleasing, softhearted, Cert doling, eye twinkling grandpa that will never be recreated for my babies.

I mean, LOOK AT HIM! I can smell the Old Spice/Spearmint/earthy goodness of him just by LOOKING! Look at how gently those work-beaten hands cradle that sweet animal. Look at how he knowingly gets down on Christina’s level and makes the most beautiful eye contact with her. That eye contact! I can FEEL it.

So that’s it. Today’s Grab Bag Special is extra, well, special. I can’t stop staring at this poignant snapshot. I’m sure I’ll continue to stare well beyond the average blog surfer. Feel free to join me.