Longevity…

The word longevity popped into my head recently and hasn’t left the premises yet, but I’m ok with it. I was thinking about how long ago Hubs and I got hitched. It wasn’t a whirlwind romance of 3 months consisting of 90% lust and 10% love. We dated (and broke up more than once) for a long spell, but it wasn’t getting any easier mostly due to my overbearing parents. So we opted to tell no one and simply eloped in a neighboring state where our marriage license would not get published in the Sioux City Journal. The reason? Most of our home town read the Journal daily. Mom and Dad would discover our diabolical plan early enough to intervene (again) or would get a phone call after the first newspaper hit the front porch of almost anyone in town.

Prom, 1966…

I don’t think we spent 50 bucks on blood tests, gas, marriage license, fee to the Elk Point, South Dakota judge who met us at the courthouse at 6:54 pm on a Monday night, September 22, 1969. We were walking back out of the joint by 7:03, legally bound by the institution of holy matrimony. (My lavender dress was one in my closet and had been worn several times, nothing special so it didn’t set us back anything. Hubs had to dress decent for work at Channel 4, so he wore something already in his closet with a sports jacket). You can chalk up another $50 for the fancy supper after our elaborate ceremony with our 2 witnesses (mum’s the word) before heading to Sioux Falls for a 2 day honeymoon, which was spent trying to garner enough courage to make that dreaded phone call to mom and dad. One night we went to the Macamba Club, listening to Stan Kenton (yes we sprung for a terrific band. Really, no one besides our witness and friend Dale knew where we were, and we had every intention of heading to the Black Hills, but lacked money and time. I don’t remember why they let me in the door of the Macamba Club, I was just shy of 19. This was a regular bar and you had to be 21).

Free picture a couple months after eloping, 1969…

Using your keen math skills tells you in a few days Hubs and I will notch anniversary number 51. (I know, I can’t believe it either. I’m way too young right)? Most of the years have flown by in a blur-but that’s looking at them in the rear view mirror. At the time some of those years slogged along painfully slow, held down by insufficient funds, too many bills and dead end jobs. But we persevered. Always.

My favorite with 6 years under our belts, 1976…

But when ‘longevity’ niggled in my brain it really wasn’t OUR marriage I was reminiscing about. I was thinking about our little one-stoplight-town in northwest Iowa, where we both grew up. While I was one of the firsts my age to get married, soon after we celebrated our 50th, the line behind us was crowded with classmates, acquaintances, friends, relatives, waiting in the wings to hold their own milestone anniversary party.

Davenport, 12 years and a complete family of 5, 1982…

I know we’ve made huge strides in the last half century to lengthen our life expectancy but when I was a kid it was highly unusual for couples to celebrate 50 years of marriage. (My parents made it to 62 years, John’s parents celebrated 58 years together). Those who made it had a real cause for celebration. That certainly doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. I think we ought to give credit where credit is due, don’t you? I’m just gonna state the obvious. It was the water in Rock Valley. Duh.

25 years and going in the hot tub, Jackson, 1993…

I haven’t checked any state by state comparison statistics on marriage and divorce but I gotta believe northwest Iowa is (or was) below average in the divorce column, at least when a marriage was initiated in the 50’s, 60’s & 70’s. Marriage longevity could also be pinned by our fondness of Taverns, but I’m gonna stick with our drinking water. We all consumed the water and they’re might have been a few folks who didn’t eat taverns growing up. What? (We might want to check the divorce rate among those couples). I know of no one who didn’t love Taverns as a kid. I think I’m on to something here.

Could the lowly Tavern help your marriage last longer?

I’m not trying to prove any kind of bizarre points on the sanctity of marriage. I firmly believe not every marriage is made in heaven and have nothing against seeking a divorce if it’s not working and is never gonna work. My biggest beef/bitch/gripe about marriage oddly enough, is the actual wedding (not the exchange of vows). The engaged couple spend months searching for the perfect venue, purchasing a big enough diamond to bump the bride’s weight up a size (to her dismay), fine tuning a delectable menu, trying on dress after dress for the most exquisite gown, flowers, 3 story high cake, tuxedos, reception, honeymoon. And then many go their separate ways after a couple/few years or even months. If couples put in as much effort in the first 5 years of real marriage as they do on the one outrageously expensive day to ‘get’ married, the divorce rate would plummet. But I digress.

They tore down the beautiful courthouse in Elk Point, but we wanted to acknowledge where we eloped, 40 years before, 2009…

It’s been heartwarming to see some of kids we grew up with as they start celebrating milestones of their own, some with golden anniversaries and many with 40 or more years. Celebrating with the same spouse they started out with all those decades ago. Did any have misgivings/cold feet/doubts before the wedding? Can’t say I did. I just assumed everything was gonna work out ok. However I’d be the first to say, I wouldn’t give you a plug nickel for the first 5 years. They were tough. And we knew each other well. Probably should have waited a couple years to get better established and a couple more to have our first kid. But we can’t do that. No way, because in that one moment and only that moment Shannon became a person. Then Joshua, then Adam. No, there’s no way I’d ever consider changing those events in my life. Who would want to?

50 years in and still plugging along…

I think congratulations/well wishes are in order for all of us mired (maybe not the best word choice, but hey it fits) in the institution of wedded bliss for decade upon decade. Much like getting older, marriage is not for sissies. Keep reminding ourselves, it’s a journey not a sprint. You don’t want stop before the finish line. Keep moving forward. Most of it good, some of it not, but in it for the long haul. With God’s help…

Water Boy…

We’ve been in our house 5 years after spending 21 in North Muskegon, 160 miles northwest. We encountered many changes once the dust settled. We moved in October, compelling us to ‘take care of the imminent business at hand’ on our new crib’s insides before fretting about the outside. New paint, flooring, appliances, window coverings, storm doors, enlarged a bedroom and took the bathroom down to the studs. That’s how we spent our first winter.

I love this clump river birch. My hummingbirds perch in it…

During the frigid days when the ground wasn’t covered with Michigan’s disgusting, white stuff, John stared at the front and backyard with equal parts of horror and dismay. (He hates weeds and is very particular about his grass-which was seriously lacking) The backyard had an evergreen privacy fence on the east side, a long row of burning bushes reaching heights of 15 feet lined the north side. There was no grass to speak of. It resembled a downtrodden cow pasture-sans cows.

Nothing helped curb appeal as much as removing the old blacktop…

The front yard was worse. The original attached one stall garage had been converted to a family room years ago, but the 50 year old faded, cracked, pot holed, wide black top driveway remained, which accounted for about a third of our front yard. Unruly scraggly bushes, as tall as the roof line ran along the east side of the house. Nothing in the front yard besides a tired 50 year old maple which was hollow and threatening to fall over if someone sneezed. The storm door had blown open months before we bought the place and was hanging on by one screw in one hinge. It had hit the house so hard there was broken glass everywhere. But having the storm door open gave a much better view of the front door-which was painted purple. Adding to the curb appeal were dull blue shutters accenting dingy windows. Exactly why this house appealed to us remains a mystery.

I snipped until there was nothing but roots left for John to pull out…

The front porch was a slab of cement with 2 weird sized steps, one of which wobbled. (At least 200 of our pre-school trick or treaters tripped while trying to manage the second step because it was a couple inches higher than the going rate). The yard was full of ruts, pot holes, bare spots and weeds. We just turned a blind eye to the mess and concentrated on turning the house into a home for the first 6 months.

Hopeless step wobbled when you went up and down…

We had our yard ‘to do list’ ready as soon as the filthy, stinking snow started melting. First Hubs got quotes for the black top removal, replacing it with a new concrete drive, adding fill dirt so he could start growing grass. He got quotes for the sidewalk, steps and railings. We wanted to start fresh with a new porch but it’s literally attached to the house so it had to stay. We just replaced everything connected to it. Then hired a friend of ours to take down the old maple in front and trim the one in back.

My ‘weeping larch’ though he seems quite happy and well adjusted…

By mid March the tree was down, the stump was ground out, new topsoil smoothed out awaiting grass seed. In late March we had our new driveway, sidewalk and steps. Hubs then started getting quotes for an in-ground sprinkler system.

New driveway and sidewalk made a huge difference in curb appeal…

Luckily one of the neighbors wandered over and asked about all the lawn services showing up at the house. John said, “I need a sprinkling system installed if I want grass this summer.” “Umm, you can’t have in-ground sprinklers in this neighborhood,” Pat said. After Hubs picked his jaw off our grass-less, weed infested yard, he asked how that was possible? Or legal? “Oh the township promised they would charge everyone the same flat rate for water/sewer. But the stipulation is that no one has an in-ground sprinkling system.” Odd right?

Ugh, the backyard when we moved in…

Good to know before we signed the dotted line spending a couple grand on an illegal watering system. No matter how bad it was gonna look, first up was getting rid of the weeds, (leaving the yard looking depressingly barren), tossing on some crabgrass preventer and grub killer. (He really hates moles, and they love grubs).

Added to the deck, plus railings, new steps and fire pit…

Next we yanked out every ugly shrub from the side yard, ordered tons (6?) of river rock and edged from the driveway east to the back fence. The never ending wheel barrel of rocks were moved into place with 2 shovels and four arms. Took a week of back-breaking work but boy did it look nice. Bought some unusual dwarf shrubs, a paper bark river birch, a weeping larch, an Alaskan pine and we were in business. As soon as the Hubs figured out how to keep the lawn and all the new additions alive-by watering everything by hand. Something he’s not done in 25 years. But he was retired and had the time.

A lot of stones to move by hand. The only part that doesn’t require watering…

I would venture he’s on sprinkler number 20 in five years and finally thinks he has a winner. He’s fussy. This sprinkler is made by the company he used with our in-ground sprinkling system when he had to buy new heads constantly. He uses a soaker sprinkler in my pachysandra bed and a different kind of sprinkler in the backyard. I can remember our first decade of marriage when he’d stop at K-Mart every spring and buy a new hose for 99 cents. By the end of the first month it would have sprung a leak from a crack. I swear it was made from ceramic. But here’s the thing. The hose was guaranteed for a year. He’d bring it back and get a replacement. This was like a garden hose courtship ritual every year. He’d buy the crummy hose, get it replaced 3 or 4 times before fall. All for 99 cents and 4 trips to K-Mart.

Best ground cover ever. Pachysandra stays green all winter and flowers in the spring

I’ve gotten quite familiar with the neighborhood sprinklers (people who water faithfully) not the actual gadgets. There seems to be 3 different types of sprinklers. One guy thoughtfully looks over his front yard. Meanders slowly to pick up the sprinkler which is off but already attached to a hose. Lugs it over to the perfect spot, walks ever so slowly back to the faucet (he’s a lot younger than me), turns it on and peers over his masterpiece for a couple minutes, nodding. Job well done and heads back in the house.

The back entrance was pitiful. We extended the deck with better steps…

The second type is ‘the anal sprinkler’ (her yard is pristine. Hubs hates her though they’ve never met, and is insanely jealous) who wakes up and has her sprinkler going by 6 am. She does the bendy thingy with the hose. Refuses to walk over and shut off the water while she moves her sprinkler for the umpteenth time. She just muscles that sucker like she’s wrestling the devil himself and sets it exactly where it needs to be to give every blade a good drink.

Jovi and grandpa fill the bird feeders and give the squirrels ears of corn…

Then there’s the Hubs. He sneaks up on the sprinkler from behind, plucks it from where it’s been nestled for a couple hours while it’s spraying every which way, covers a few feet of landscape in a certain direction, sets it down to judge his location choice. In four years of sprinkling (in his defense last summer was almost perfect. Almost every time the grass needed a drink, God provided) he’s never walked in the house after moving a sprinkler-where he’s not drenched. (Reminds me of our boys when they were toddlers decades ago. Summer was so alluring they had the hardest time coming into the house in time before they peed their pants. The proof of waiting too long was always visible). Hubs is wet from his ankles to his chest. I don’t know if he doesn’t notice it’s spraying him instead of the grass. Maybe it feels good (it has been really hot) or he’s totally immune to cold water. But in our yard everything gets a periodic soaking from the hose-except me…

The Cluttered Path…

About 7 years ago we decided trekking across Michigan every week to visit one of the kids, attend our grandkid’s sporting/school/dance events or babysitting was just too much driving. We hadn’t outgrown our neat lake home but it had outgrown us. The rest of the family were clustered in an area about 175 miles east while we were stuck on the western shoreline by ourselves. Traipsing up and down stairs, no longer utilizing or enjoying the dock or lake. So we listed the house-and waited. And waited. Won’t go into the long drawn out saga trying to rid ourselves of said nice lake home. Suffice it to say we finally moved 5 years ago.

Most of the lavender wild flowers are done blooming, but the yellows/golds are quite impressive on the path…

We were not set where we’d hang our hats next, just somewhere much closer to the bulk of the family. We stored our belongings, moved in with Shannon and her family (I felt sorry for them during our stay-we were a huge nuisance) and started house hunting. We wanted something smaller, on one level and didn’t think we were very fussy with our list of needs.

We were familiar with Jackson where our eldest lived. When we moved to Michigan in 1987, Jackson was our home for 7 years before we moved to North Muskegon for 21 years, so that’s where we started looking. But not the same side of town. Our 2 boys were still 45 to 70 miles farther east, so we concentrated on the east side of Jackson, towards them a bit, in an area we were not very familiar with.

Our first house in Jackson with a family of 5, 1989…

We found a large, quiet subdivision with modest sized homes about 12 miles east of the rambling ranch we bought the first time around. Needed some work (actually a lot more than some) but fulfilled our needs. Our offer was accepted, we closed but moving in would require some work first. New floors, paint, appliances, (can’t even talk about the bathroom yet) some elbow grease and we were ready to have our things delivered six weeks later.

Some walls required more coats of paint than others, 2015…

Hubs and I worked on the joint everyday during those 6 weeks. Learning where the big box stores/lumberyards were on the other side of Jackson. In our previous 7 years in Jackson, I’d only frequented the east side a few times, mostly for Sunday breakfasts with friends. Basically there are a couple main drags through town and one of them comes within a few blocks of our new abode so I wasn’t worried about getting lost. Besides we were now within an easy access to I 94, but it was like moving to a city I’d never been to before.

A few months after moving in. New landscaping but the lawn still has issues, 2016…

We tried new ways of getting from here to there when running errands and buying gadgets for the house. I had in my head if I stayed on 94, I would be able to see the exit for the east side Meijer, but I’d always ended up at the exit for our new neighborhood which was 3 miles too far. Yet had not caught a glimpse of my favorite shopping Mecca. Finally had to break down and ask the Hubs (he worked on the east side for a couple years). Turned out I had to get off 94 one exit before our house and my beloved Meijer was within spitting distance.

Wasn’t long before we noticed Consumers Power was working on Ann Arbor Road, which runs along a stones throw of I 94. They were adding huge street lights at regular intervals on either side for a stretch of 4 or 5 miles. Once in a while something would niggle my brain as for the purpose of these lights but most of me was consumed with whipping the house into shape before winter. A large section of Ann Arbor Road runs alongside I 94, so many working folks simply stay on AA Road until they merge on 94. Speed limit is 50 which is slower than 94 but there’s less accidents, less semi’s, less construction woes.

The walking path has several businesses on the left, close constant traffic on the right walking west…

I believe all the street lights on Ann Arbor Road were for a new walking path constructed 4 years ago. Runs along the south side of Ann Arbor Road, sometimes within just a few feet of the road. A narrow shoulder puts me precariously close to traffic at times as I walk. I watch semi drivers and worry about their retreads, thinking one flying through the air at 50 mph could be a death sentence, but it’s the texters who concern most.

No sidewalks in our subdivision and some of the streets can be hazardous…

During my walks in North Muskegon there was only one main drag, so it was used by everyone in the mornings. Gals applying makeup, a guy eating a humongous bowl of cereal propped right beneath his chin, book/work/newspaper readers while the rest diddled with their phone. On the plus side the speed limit was 25 and pretty much enforced. Ann Arbor Road’s speed is twice that with 10 times as many semi’s as North Muskegon.

Not the best picture of a (dead) zebra striped dragonfly, but I’ve never seen one before…

I get it. Ann Arbor Road is basically a highway with several fast food stops, and a lot of people feel no remorse for tossing garbage out the window. So I’m not surprised when I see half filled, melted slurpee cups, limp cheeseburger/French fry wrappers, plastic water containers and masks of every size, shape, color and material. A worn out tire here, a dead couch there, a broken basketball hoop propped against a stop sign.

Not gonna show trash. Here’s a patch of wild daisies which just started blooming on the path…

For a couple months this spring a section of my walking path added another harrowing feature. An obstacle course, as if walking a straight line isn’t hard enough for this off kilter/balance deficient grandma. Remember those adorable 4 baby Canadian geese, along with their monogamous parents had claimed ownership of my walking path in front of the pond as their permanent summer residence. As long as I was quick with the compliments about their brood, all was well. But when I started complaining to mom and dad that they needed to train their kids not to poop all over the path 463 times a day, I became enemy number one. Snotty enablers chased and tried to goose me every morning. I used my walking stick for protection daily. Yikes.

This cute family turned out to be very noisy, messy renters in their summer pad…

One of the geese tweens got hit in July. (I’d been harping to them the pond across the road was safer, less hectic, but they covered where their ears should be and screamed, “la la la la.”) The family mourned for a couple days, then disappeared. Poof. Just like that. About a week later I drove to the pond, parked my Jeep and spent an hour sweeping up a ton of poop, broken glass, stones thrown in my direct path from the shoulder.

The geese claimed the path was part of their permanent home (bathroom) this spring…

Since I’ve only utilized the path since the end of 2019, the first time I spotted something beyond ‘strange’ in my walking path I was perplexed. However, this same issue crops up every couple weeks since so I can no longer think of it as an unusual occurrence. What, pray tell-you ask?

Tis vomit. Multiple splotches of vomit. Every couple weeks. Usually I see a small splotch first. Just a teaser. Several yards away there’s another clump, with a final curtain call within a quarter mile. I just don’t understand. If you’re on the path and feeling sick, why wouldn’t you just stop, lean over in the grass/weeds/wild flowers and upchuck? There are several lovely resting spots along the path. Two expensive benches sit primly on a large section of cement. Next to the benches are black wrought iron trash receptacles with a garbage liner. At least a half dozen times this year someone’s sat on the bench, within 15 inches of the trash barrel and vomited all over the sidewalk in front of the bench. So sick they can’t turn their head? Honestly I have no sympathy for them.

How difficult is it to turn your head and hurl into the trash can?

One day a few weeks ago, it was pouring down rain when I got up, so I didn’t walk. I used to love walking in the rain, but now I lose my grip on my walking stick and the rubber base slides on the wet blacktop. Finally cleared up around supper time, so I went for a short walk to get some steps in before dark. Not my best walk, it was humid, no breeze and the sun was in the wrong place since I always walk in the morning. Monday morning dawned perfect and I went for my usual walk around 7. A mile from home turns up several new ‘splotches’ since the night before. I wonder if they were high, got bad fast food or just drunk? You know how many times it has to rain (hard) to wash that crap away? And the stains stay linger for months. It’s just so disgusting.

Aww, look how much our trees and shrubs have grown since 2016…

Years ago there was a gal in North Muskegon who was the most dedicated jogger I’ve ever seen. A no nonsense runner. Many days when the weather was inclement, ice and snow covered sidewalks with accompanying 30 mph hour winds, she’d be jogging along Ruddiman. Alone. She was painfully thin and well over 6 feet tall. She never waved or acknowledged my existence. Not even when we ran into each other in Meijer as she was buying her weekly ration of one celery stalk. There were several times over the years I’d see her stop suddenly, run into the grass/bushes and get sick. But I never saw her or anyone else vomit all over the sidewalk that we all used and shared. I don’t know what exactly this says about my fabulous new walking path but it troubles me for some reason…

The Competitors…

My parents, Rich & Florence were married for 62 years. Mom died when I was almost 54 so my knowledge/observations/opinions were based on approximately 50 years of my life. Now I’m pushing 70 (wow, that’s even hard to write) and have witnessed various marriage/relationships observing other couples, friends and family during my life. But my parents long marriage remains in the top spot for one of the most unique.

Mom & Dad with a couple years of marriage under their belts. Mid 1940’s…

How their marriage fared during the first 15 years from what I saw was kinda happy/normal. The radical change came after they lost their middle kid Larry in a freak accident in 1958. My sister got married in 1960 so I was basically an only child after that. Mom and Dad slowly drifted apart, he flourished, she became an introvert.

Mom gave divorce some serious consideration after losing Larry. She actually talked about it to me several times before I hit my teens, but Dad never considered it. The loss of Larry ended up saving Dad. He became an enthusiastic believer/born again Christian. He made a radical change. Mom however suffered with some depression. They still took vacations, ate out regularly, went to church together twice on Sunday’s, but a lot of it was for outward appearances.

California vacation in 1960, around their 20th anniversary…

After the first 15 years of my marriage, we moved to eastern Iowa. Five years later we moved another 350 miles east which added a new wrinkle to their unusual lifestyle. They developed a quirky competition with each other. I almost typed “over us” but it really was a competition about our kids.

Seems like the farther away we lived, the more there was at stake. When we moved to Michigan, Shannon was 16, Joshua was 12 and Adam was 8. It wasn’t as if the kids forgot their grandparents when they didn’t see them for a few months like when they were babies. Mom and Dad somehow got into this odd competition over the kid’s attention and affections.

Mom visiting us on the farm, 1977…

When we lived closer to them I can understand their visiting us at different times. Mom might have a day off during the week and wanted to see us. But after we moved twice as far away and they had both since retired, they continued this odd way of visiting us. Bragging rights after returning home. Embellishing the stories of their adorable grandchildren. Don’t know why.

Dad always had an ulterior motive. Don’t get me wrong, he loved my kids and tolerated their parents, but driving to Michigan meant one thing-a speaking engagement (preaching) at the prison. Utmost in his mind, he planned and timed his visits accordingly. Still, he always had a great time attending whatever sport the kids were participating in while he was staying with us.

Mom visiting us in eastern Iowa. The pack of smokes on the table means Dad is not there…

Deb, one of my friends from Rock Valley remarked recently on a blog post she was surprised my Mom (in her 60’s at the time) drove back and forth to Mayo Clinic by herself. I thought heck that’s not half as bad/dangerous as driving to Michigan, which I think she did at least a dozen times.

Mom just wanted to be with us. She wanted to fill Dad’s head with wonderful stories, conversations she had with the kids, repeated verbatim. Where we went shopping or out to eat. Her trips were scheduled more by seasons. She didn’t want to travel 750 miles (by herself) when the weather was dicey.

Just off hand I can come up with 3 instances during their solitary trips back and forth to Michigan where something very serious could have happened. Two instances involved Mom and her 4 cylinder Fords, driving back to Iowa. She had stopped for a meal, gotten back on the interstate when she realized she had not put on her seatbelt. She pulled off on the shoulder, stopped and belts herself in. The semi’s are whizzing at 70 mph plus, practically blowing her little Escort over. Mom, being courteous simply puts on her left blinker and pulls out on the interstate. Goodness she could have been killed. There’s never a long break in traffic to squeeze back in, but she should have shifted that little 4-banger a couple of times while driving on the shoulder and getting up a little speed before trying to ease back into the sea of cars and semi’s. Her little Ford was totaled when she was rear ended by an 18 wheeler. Mom was unscathed.

Dad’s visit to Worthington Iowa. The tie says we’re going to church…

These trips back and forth from Iowa to Michigan were before cellphones, Mapquest, Siri, and GPS. She might have had a paper map in the car, but that was it. There weren’t many ways to actually get lost though once she made it from our small home town in northwest Iowa to a major interstate. Unfortunately Mom was born without any directional map app. When she made it to I 80 East, she stayed on that until she got to 94 E, which brought her right to Jackson.

Driving back through Chicago was hectic, yet not all that bad if you just made sure you were still on 94 W and didn’t miss the 80 West signs. Which she did. Completely. She hooked a right before she came to the 80 west exit (also a right turn) in the middle of Chicago traffic, which happened to take her to Wisconsin. Well she had never been to Milwaukie before so there’s that. She lost a couple hours both ways before getting back to 80 West.

On the farm, 1977…

Dad had a much better sense of direction when he traveled. We had moved to North Muskegon so Dad’s dangerous trip was after I 80 turned into 94 east. He didn’t continue on it as long but veered north along the east side of Lake Michigan. On this fateful trip he was about 25 miles south of us when he stopped. His feeling was he might have accidentally passed the North Muskegon exit and gone too far already. So he stopped at a “party store.” A mini-market of sorts, with gobs of junk food, beer, pop and usually gas if you need it. (Or get gas after all the junk food). He wanted to stretch his legs anyway and ask someone how far off he was from his final destination. So he casually saunters up to a couple guys holding an animated conversation in a pickup truck in the parking lot. Dad taps his knuckles on the passenger window. Both guys are talking and studying the lap of the passenger. Naturally Dad looks down too. Passenger is holding a huge handgun. And Dad just startled the living shit out of both of them.

Luckily none of the three panicked and cooler heads prevailed. Gunslinger slowly rolls down his window. Dad, not looking in the dude’s lap anymore says, “ah-hi. I might be lost. I’m going to my daughter’s in North Muskegon and think I might have passed her exit already. Do you know how far away I am?” Helpful gun owner (or at least the one in possession of the gun) replied, “No sir, you haven’t gone too far. You’re still about 20 miles south of the North Muskegon exit, and it will be on your left off 31 North. Have a good day.” Dad said, “thank you for your help. God bless you both!” (Holy shit that could have turned out badly. Thanks a lot for that one God).

Mom & Dad visit us in Jackson, pretty sure it was for one of the kid’s birthday, 1988…

When I think about some of these scary events, I’m in awe of God’s grace, watching over my folks as they tooled along, all alone on some of America’s busiest roads. And these are just the stories they bothered repeating. Heaven knows, there might have been other instances they didn’t dare talk about, for fear I would not let them drive out of Iowa again. If I’m being practical I suspect there might be a conversation between one or all of our kids concerning our traipsing around through the states. But not yet. Nooooo. I’m way too young and a far better driver than 75% of the yahoos on the roads these days. Truth. Of course it’s not my driving I’m concerned about, but those unpredictable yahoos, right?

Captions….

I’ve been on Facebook since 2013, practically still a rookie. Every few days when I check Facebook first thing, something in my ‘memories’ that pops up. Which means at one time from 1 to 7 years ago I posted that before it became a memory. Boring food stuff usually, something I’ve canned, baked or a goofy craft project I did with my grandson Graham, who was very young.

Graham’s Father’s Day project in 2015…

I posted fairly often, mostly on “if you grew up in Rock Valley” or shared my blog posts which I had recently started writing. But never memes from other sites. I read what others posted and usually laughed. Who are these crazy people who think that stuff up? I’m in awe of their cleverness and creativity, but seldom tempted to post and share the memes on my own newsfeed.

Haven’t we all gotten or deserved this look more than once?

But as the years ticked by so did some of my infatuation with Facebook. Not gonna lie, the campaign before the 2016 election almost did me in. Naive Iowa gal foolishly thought once the election was over, no matter what the outcome, Facebook would right itself and become fun again. Au contraire. Worse than ever. So I checked it less often, commented less, posted less. If not for my grandson Landon’s (Drew to the rest of the world) prolific high school basketball career, food or my blog, there just wasn’t much I wanted to share with others.

Can I get an amen?

I still looked at what others posted. Laughed when it was funny, nodded when I agreed and shook my head at some of the spiteful posts on my newsfeed. Realized that’s how folks felt, one way or the other and arguing wasn’t going to change their mind or mine. But they still were my friends, most of them from when I was a kid growing up in Rock Valley.

Obviously not thy Will be done…

Rock Valley was a small, predominantly Dutch town. My parents were Dutch. Mom was raised by her Dutch immigrated paternal grandparents, who continued to wear wooden shoes their whole lives. One would think I would have grown up speaking Dutch fluently, yet I did not. Mom and Dad both spoke Dutch with ease, yet it was rarely spoken in daily conversations. When they preferred their youngest, nosey child not understand what (or more likely who) they were talking about, they spoke Dutch exclusively. I asked Mom to teach me Dutch and she did to some extent one summer, but I sure regret not learning a lot more of their Dutch language, history and customs.

Get that thought out of the gutter…

They did use a fair share of Dutch slang on a regular basis. Many of these terms, phrases and quirky words have stuck with me throughout my life and I still use them on a daily basis. If I were in the Netherlands I doubt many natives would recognize any of my oft used slang words. They have probably been so Americanized they’re no longer close to what was originally taught to Mom and Dad almost a century ago.

But she made sure the basket was waterproof. Yay mom…

I posted a blog story on my family’s use of Dutch slang 6 years ago called, Hut-fa-Duttie. (Are you kidding me? Six years! I thought I’d be done writing after 3 months). I know what you’re thinking-she is done writing but she can’t help herself and just keeps blathering on. Just not quite ready to put down ‘the mighty pen.’ There are serious considerations here-namely my 2 loyal readers. Can’t just leave them in the lurch now can I? Don’t answer. Please. Don’t.

Please Lord, not another dream from the brat with the cool colored coat…

There’s a word my Dad favored when he felt I was being inappropriate about the sacredness of God and religion. The word is ‘spuut.’ Hard to explain how it’s pronounced. I’m not sure of it’s spelling either. (Obviously you’re not here for a learning experience of odd Dutch slang words because I’m clueless). It’s not ‘spot,’ but rather close to the first syllable in ‘sputter,’ but with a titch more ‘o.’ But if I write it out like spout, that’s not right either. So I decided to add double ‘u’s because almost every word in the Dutch language has double letters in it at least once somewhere so it looks legit to me.

Can’t you just beam me a copy?

My friend Angie (a devout Christian-full of faith and hope) posted these memes on Facebook a few days ago. I felt a little guilty laughing, then laughed harder after reading the captions. The harder I laughed the more guilt I felt, which told me I probably shouldn’t have been laughing in the first place. But I laughed, giggled, gasped until I couldn’t breathe. Not as much when I pictured my Dad’s stern look decades ago. Shaking his head at how disrespectful I was.

Just enough to wet your whistle…

Gonna ask for some forgiveness here.

Dear Heavenly Father,

I am grateful for your patience Lord. I am a sinner and still You love me. Please continue to watch over and bless this great nation. Fill my heart with kindness and forgiveness. I ask You to bless those who are sick, hurting and mentally weary. In Jesus name, amen…

P.S. Lord, 2020 has been challenging and a bit of a downer. Might I make 2 small, insignificant requests which have nothing to do with our (elephant in the room) 2 bothersome P’s, namely politics and pandemics, but would result in minor happiness for our mundane lives, at least momentarily?

1. Could you might make the tiniest change from the season finale of The Good Doctor. Every woman on the planet sincerely hopes Dr. Neil Melendez is still alive. Maybe make it a dream sequence (just trying to help).

He’s ‘gooder’ than the good doctor. Please don’t let him be dead…

2. Please, please don’t let anything bad happen in the Rip/Beth storyline on Yellowstone this year. Especially Rip. There’s only 2 more episodes, not that big of a task. Remember, my main concern is Rip. Humbly yours, Neese

Lord, Rip is in the forefront, on the left with the beard. Thanks, You’re the best…

I really don’t mean to belittle God or make light of the gospel. I have been blessed in my life far more than I deserve. Not trying to offend anyone, just trying to add a little humor to my life because there hasn’t been much in it lately.

PP.SS. Last ‘ask’ I swear (not literally). Been a fan of Will Yun Lee since Witchblade. If you could keep his character, Dr. Alex Park safe and give him a bigger storyline I’d be grateful. Too much? Sorry God…

Can’t hurt to have more of him on the tube, right?

Mom and Mayo…

Ironic. Nearly a decade after the Hubs (my boyfriend then) accidentally broke my nose showing me one of his signature wrestling moves, Mom tripped over the vacuum cleaner cord upstairs-in the dark-smacked her face on the edge of the footboard of Dad’s twin bed-and broke her nose. A decade before she had researched where to have repair work done on my schnoz and chose Mayo Clinic, so it was a no brainer she’d have her beak tweaked at Mayo too. Awww. Mother/daughter share rhinoplasty stories.

Mom with her first and only granddaughter Shannon, 1971…

It was several years later as we were getting ready to move from Davenport (350 miles from Mom and Dad) to Jackson, Michigan (750 miles away) when Mom started experiencing a few disturbing symptoms. Itchy patches on her arms, bottom, stomach and legs. Small painful cracks on her hands and feet. She went to her primary care guy who sent her to a skin specialist in Sioux Falls. He and Mom talked it over and decided Mayo Clinic would likely come up with the right diagnosis and treatment plan for whatever this was.

Mom and I looking spiffy with patched up sniffers, mid-70’s…

Mom drove to Rochester after being referred to a dermatologist at Mayo. After running some tests, the results came back with a diagnosis of Mycosis Fungoides (my-koe-sis fun-goy-deez). A T-cell lymphoma caused when white blood cells grow out of control and move from the blood to the skin. Mom would need to stay while they came up with a treatment plan.

Mom and her twin brother Floyd in the late 1990’s…

About the same time we were gearing up for the Michigan move, we had a friend with a serious health issue. He lived on the Illinois side of the Mississippi and did business with JI Case selling coolant. His name was Creigh and he was a little older than us. He was an ardent Los Angeles Dodger fan and gave me boatloads of static about my Cubbies. When the Cubs were on a road trip on the west Coast, the games started about 10 pm Iowa time. If (when) the Dodgers went ahead, he’d call me to brag, harass and gloat. We were like the only 2 people still awake at 1 am, watching baseball. When Creigh was about 45, he was suddenly diagnosed with acute leukemia. He would spend many weeks at Mayo Clinic researching any options to slow down his cancer.

Can’t find a pic of Creigh and NOT going to post one of the Dodgers…

I really dropped the ball here, no excuse. Mom was going through something traumatic and I just wasn’t around enough. Hubs had a new job, we had just moved to a new house, in a new town and state. Three kids, 16, 12 and 8, I was busy and overwhelmed. But I should have paid more attention to what was going on with Mom.

Mom visiting us on the farm in eastern Iowa, 1977…

Over the span several months, there would be more trips to Mayo for Mom, and her Mycosis Fungoides, most of them by herself which was a couple hundred miles away. At the most serious, there were black tar treatments which is exactly like it sounds. They used copious amounts, slavering all the bumpy patches and cracks with stinky stuff that smelled like pitch and was as black as onyx. Mom was bedridden at times. The tiny cracks had morphed into huge fissures on her feet which were so painful she crawled around the house until they healed. Just awful.

Around the time when Mom had Mycosis Fungoides during the mid-80’s…

One of the trips I made to Mayo with Mom was while Creigh was hospitalized there too. I wanted to visit and maybe watch part of a baseball game with him. (Mom was a Mets fan. What’s with these folks from the Midwest who like teams on either coast? How about supporting the Cubs, Twins, Cardinals (ick) or the Royals? Dad was even worse. He was a Yankee fan) But Creigh was experiencing terrible side effects from the chemo and wasn’t allowed visitors besides immediate family. Creigh’s leukemia journey lasted only a matter of weeks before he passed away. Never got another phone call rubbing it in how well his Dodgers were doing compared to Chicago. I missed my avid baseball buddy, even if he rooted for the wrong team.

Who remembers the smell of Jergens?

After more than a year of misery, the tar treatments had eradicated the worst of the Mycosis Fungoides (MF, appropriate enough don’t ‘cha think?) and no longer needed. Now Mom was able to be treated in Sioux Falls with checkups every few months at Mayo. The new treatments were similar to standing in a tanning bed for 3 minutes. She went a couple times a weeks for several months. But it was definitely radiation and took a toll on her skin (burned) which was ironic. She was trying to heal her skin.

Amazing Vanicream prescribed for Mom but now available OTC. Yay…

So they prescribed this skin cream called Vanicream. I’ll never forget this side story of Mom’s illness. Mom was so impressed with the doctor’s pitch for the use of Vanicream. It had been developed by 2 pharmacists-working at Mayo Clinic in the mid 70’s! They were searching for a better lotion than what was available. (It looked like Crisco and had no smell-weird). Since Vanicream was more than regular old Jergens Lotion it was a prescription. Mom got it in small tubs. I tell you it was a cure-all. I can remember a dozen times when she’d scoop up a dollop of Vanicream and put it in an old pill bottle for me and my ultra dry face or itchy patches. (Imagine my shock a few years ago as I was wandering around a Walgreens and spotted a tub of Vanicream! No longer a prescription and now had several products in their line. I’ve been using Vanicream as my face moisturizer ever since).

Mom 1981…

Mom continued to get regular checkups at Mayo Clinic after her bout with Mycosis Fungoides through the 90’s. In fact she’d been given a clear bill of health a few months before she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in the late 90’s. A fast growing cancer in her chest that responded well to chemotherapy. After a few treatments though she suffered a stroke. Not totally debilitating but she would never walk alone again. The lumps on her arms and head subsided and for a couple years she did pretty well, then the lumps returned. A couple more treatments held them at bay for a bit. When the massive lumps reappeared with a vengeance for a third time, she said, “no more chemo,” and lasted less than a year. I’ve often wondered if Mom’s Mycosis Fungoides was a precursor for the non-Hodgkins she suffered a decade later…

Saturday’s with Deming’s…

Long about 1960 my family fell back into a rhythm. Often painful, there was no argument that significant changes had begrudgingly settled in our home. Our numbers had been whittled down from 5 to 3. We lost Larry to a tragic accident in the fall of ’58 and my older sister Mona got married in 1960. Henceforth it was just Mom, Dad and me. The leftovers.

Dad, Mom and me, 1961…

Mom cooked 5 nights a week, Monday through Friday. The usual fare for small town living in the Midwest-with a Dutch twist. Meatloaf, spaghetti, goulash, pork chops, Taverns, tuna casserole, Tater tot casserole, fried chicken, roast beef, Saucijzbroodjes, scalloped potatoes with ham and soups up the wazoo-vegetable beef, chicken with rice, Navy bean, whole pea and chili. During the summer these menu items were added, BLT’s, hamburgers (fried-not on the grill), an occasional rib steak (also ‘done up’ in the fry pan), iceberg lettuce salad with spicy Western dressing, fresh stuffed tomatoes (with tuna salad in the center) and a summer salad using that soft butter lettuce from the garden.

The three of us went out for supper every Saturday night. Usually some nearby town within 30 miles of Rock Valley. There was a standing invitation for my bestie Char to join us. Her parents obliged most Saturday’s which added much to our evening. Char was comfortable with my mom and dad (she came from a big family and thought it was heaven to be singled out for a quiet night, no chores afterwards and a restaurant meal).

Me & Char, on the same team but competing in badminton…

If Mom was working the weekend, Dad and I had Swanson’s TV dinners (turkey for me, Salisbury steak for him) after the morning church service on Sunday. If Mom had the weekend off, she’d usually start a roast in the oven as we headed out to church at 8:55. Services didn’t start until 9:30, we were only 3 blocks away, but it was imperative we arrive at church by 9. (We sat on the same side, in the same row and exact same spot every week. No one would dare sit in someone else’s real or imagined assigned church pew. Goodness, we weren’t barbarians). If dad was in the midst of serving another term as an elder in the consistory, they always met for a few minutes before church started. Either way Mom didn’t cook on Sunday night. We ate what was left from the previous week’s suppers.

Years later, but same table w/Shannon. Note Dad’s lunchbox and waxed paper. Makes me cry…

Mom cleaned the house on Saturday morning. That place had been spit shined by the best. Her. Oak floors were polished and buffed to a blinding high gloss finish. Not one dust mote tarried in our abode. If Mom had invited folks from church over after Sunday night’s church service, a dessert was already made. (My favorite? Angel food cake with her 7 minute frosting which tasted like soft divinity) I’ve never been able to duplicate hers, which was perfection. Dad was usually gone all morning. He did odd jobs around town, mostly for widows. Painting a room, shingling, putting up storm windows or screens. This was extra income for him to spend however he chose. 99% of the time it went for tracks, Bibles and other religious reading/study materials to share with prisoners or the mission.

This was Mom’s spot. Pretty crowded with table and cupboards…

If Dad was in town, he made a point of coming home to share mealtime with us. Saturday’s dinner (noon meal) remained a constant in our house for many years. It wasn’t anything special yet we did the same thing every single Saturday. I can just picture our small rectangular table in our tiny kitchen as if it were today. Since there were now only 3 of us, one side of the table butted up against the south kitchen wall. Dad practically sat in the doorway to the dining room, Mom was nestled pretty tight between the table and the cupboards. I sat between them with my back fairly close to the stove.

Mom in her usual spot giving Joshua a big hug…

On a saucer, nothing fancy, maybe even sporting a chip or 2 (similar to one with the round groove to place your coffee cup) was a chunk of butter (Hull Creamery)? Mom cut a wedge off the solid pound package and it always sat in our dish cupboard. She hated cold butter thus it was kept at room temperature unless it got up in the 90’s. Then it resembled a yellow oil slick. A loaf of Hillbilly bread sat near the butter. On another small plate were several green iceberg lettuce leaves, still damp from a good dousing from the best tasting tap water known to mankind, then patted dry. We each had a smaller version of our supper plates, a knife and a fork. Saturday meant I was allowed pop, most likely it was an ice cold glass bottle of RC Cola sitting by my plate. There might be a 39 cent bag of Lays Potato Chips leaning against the wall on the table.

Their small kitchen table was put to good use when Shannon was there…

Smack dab in the middle of the table was a small bowl. Although she was terribly busy with her Saturday chores, this was not a step to be rushed. In the bowl were the remains of a large can of Deming’s Red Sockeye Salmon. She was fiercely loyal to the Deming’s brand and it had to be red sockeye salmon, never pink. Mom used the same skill set as a top notch brain surgeon when dissecting a can of Deming’s. She flaked apart every morsel looking for parts that were not up to her high specifications. First she poured off half the liquid. Then deftly removed every minuscule piece of silver/black, slimy skin. Each and every tiny spine bone with attached rib like bone were skillfully deemed unworthy, until all that remained was perfectly flaked red salmon. (But it was really orange).

The one and only…

Since the salmon was sitting in a bit of its own juice, Mom taught me to put a lettuce leaf on my Hillbilly buttered bread. Carefully add flaked salmon pretty thick to completely cover the lettuce. But here’s the kicker. Now I added another full leaf of lettuce per Mom’s instructions. (This prevented the soggy salmon from soaking into either slice of my bread). Genius Mom! I still do this religiously with salmon, tuna salad and BLT sandwiches. These 3 sandwich varieties are about the only ones which the Gerritson family partook. Once in a great while I might have peanut butter sandwich but never with jelly. And Mom put the butter on top of the peanut butter so it wouldn’t stick to the roof of my mouth.

I boiled some eggs yesterday for the Hubs’ egg salad (note: not on the menu in the Gerritson home), so I opened a small can of Deming’s for me and dutifully followed Mom’s Saturday’s ritualistic detailed, exorbitantly high standards of maneuvering her way through a can of salmon of its hazards before eating. Which reminded me of my first full day (after a 2 day honeymoon in Sioux Falls) as a married woman 50 years ago. (If you’ve not read some of my stories on the perils of Neese early in our marriage, it’s your loss. I did not know how to boil water. Seriously.)

Fifty years worth of disputes about Deming’s Salmon-on bread. We’ve weathered the storm…

Hubs and I were back at the grindstone (after eloping and being on the hot seat for it). I told him we’d have sandwiches the first night. (those days I was still trying to impress him) I bought Deming’s, Hillbilly bread, butter and a head of iceberg. Put the salmon under a microscope in my search for the inedible additives, so I’d get it perfect. He was less than impressed with my efforts. “Who eats plain salmon on bread? No one. No. One. And where’s the clump of little bones?” (I would soon realize, no, not the person who eats ketchup slathered on eggs, roast beef, pork chops and meat loaf. Yup some mighty particular taste buds you got there Hubs).

Ohhhhh, we’re halfway there, 25 years…

Marriage is all about compromise. I finally learned how to cook. He finally learned to leave the ketchup bottle in the fridge for most meals. He still thinks I’m weird for eating salmon on buttered bread. With two sided lettuce. This from the man who occasionally spots my hidden leftover container of salmon in the fridge, grabs a sleeve of ‘dry as a popcorn fart’ saltines and plops on a healthy portion of bone free, skin free, perfectly dissected Deming’s Red Sockeye Salmon…

The Streak…

I like routine. Prefer my life when nothing upsets my personal apple cart. I am loathe to change. I want things to stay the same. I like repetition. In this case, like many others over the years it’s something silly to trip up my mundane existence the wrong way.

What a gorgeous weed! A ‘star’ is born.

It’s been 15 months since my knee replacement and I’m finally starting to feel like my old self. My legs are significantly stronger. All because I started walking again. Everyday. Walking is not new to me. I started in 1998 to boost my weight loss. I became addicted to walking. My outlook, my mood was better when I walked at least a half hour every day. You gotta be consistent, that’s the key for me. It’s too easy to get out of a good habit. (Prayer, church, studying the Bible are other good habits that once broken-fall by the wayside. Sorry God).

Finally stopped long enough to ‘see’ the weeds on my walk…

But there’s this thing called life which includes hiccups, causing my walks to stop on occasion. Surgery on my frozen toe, broke my left elbow-twice all requiring a lengthy absence from my daily routine. My weight fluctuated right along with whatever issue was in my life at the time. Never reaching the point where I started in ’98 but more than once it’s inched precariously close. My ideal weight is much harder to maintain and keep off the older I get. We rarely go out to eat but I cook good food, bake too often and eat too much. Yeah, there’s that. After 40 and I swear every calorie packs on a pound. Really, how can you gain 10 pounds from one pound of fudge? That should be impossible and illegal. Immoral even.

My downfall-baking-well eating my baked goods. Peach cobbler this week…

I’ve worn New Balance shoes for my walks since I started. Had to switch styles several times because they discontinue the shoe you prefer rather quickly. The move to Jackson 5 years ago messed up my daily walk. Hurt my leg which took a year to heal, started working early mornings which messed up my walking habit. Face it, I’m lazy, tired and 20 years older. The last straw was a fall in 2018, hurting my right knee which didn’t help my non-existent cartilage, and I had to have it replaced in the spring of 2019.

I’m not one for resolutions because I don’t keep them, but when 2020 rang in I was determined to start walking again. And keep walking. Making it one of my (only) good habits. To make that happen I needed new shoes. Started out the year at a New Balance shoe store being properly fitted with a comfortable-plenty-of-toe-room-shoe.

Kinda reminds me of something I’ve seen far too often lately-COVID virus…

I’ve not said this very often in my life. In fact I don’t recall ever saying it before. Ah-hem: we had a nice winter in Michigan. Odd, that wasn’t as hard as I thought. Think Hubs used the snowblower 3 times. All winter. There’s been winters when he’s used it 3 times a day. But not this year.

So I started out walking a mile and a half a day in February. As long as the street and walking path were dry-I walked. I kept extending my walking time, but there’s a fine line I’m trying to balance. Getting stronger to achieve the maximum benefit from walking but not doing any further damage to my left knee, which is not in great shape. Two friends recently mentioned (trying to pound some sense into me) their take on what’s important about walking. Not necessarily the length of the your walk, it’s the simple act of walking every day. Being consistent.

This strange ‘hairnet type cluster’ looks tightly wound. When it opens-wow!

I strive for 10,000 steps a day and for the better part of April I did just that, but my left leg ached for the rest of the day. Ok, that wasn’t working, so I backed off from the 4-5 miles a day and found a sweet spot for me which is just over 3 miles which amounts to about 7,800 steps. If I sit on my butt for the rest of the day, the only way I can hit 10,000 steps would include a shopping trip to the grocery store. While I love Meijer I don’t want to go everyday (shock, right) so I’ve studied my movements in the house after my walk. Not a pretty picture. I sit too much and too long. I’m trying to change that. Learning that it’s not the end of the world if I have to go up and down the stairs 5 times a day. It’s actually a good thing.

This is the ‘wow’ part after opening. Some are really big…

I became inspired from a walking challenge in Sioux Falls, SD. The goal was to walk 100 miles in 100 days. No problem. I hit 100 miles at the end of the third week, but then realized 33 miles a week wasn’t doing me as much good as the total indicated. That’s when I backed off to 28 miles a week, but never skipping a day. Any day I ran errands, I walked less in the morning, knowing I’d get my steps in because I didn’t have my butt in the recliner. Until mid July my lowest daily step count was just below 5,000 steps and that was only for one day. Many were between 7,000-8,000 but the majority were still over 10,000 steps a day.

As weeds go downright pretty…

A few weeks ago we were in the middle of a unusual heatwave. I was walking as soon as it was light out just to beat the heat. I have a chronic spot on one toe which tends to blister. No surprise a blister formed during the hot spell. I wrapped a couple bandages around the toe and walked the next day. As soon as I got a mile from home I could feel friction on the toe next to my bandaged toe. The pain caused me to stop several times. (I don’t like stopping-or talking when I walk. Wonder if I look as unfriendly as I sound? Meh. I do wave and say good morning. Grudgingly pause to remove my headphones when I see somebody’s mouth moving in my general direction).

The upside to all these stops during my painful blister walk was actually seeing many ‘things’ I’d never noticed in nearly 200 days of walking the same path/routine. For the first time I nudged my phone out and took some pictures. Of weeds. Who knew they were beautiful in their own, unique way? On one 50 foot stretch I noticed hundreds of lavender flowers on clumps of weeds. Because I was so early as I approached 40-50 American goldfinches would scatter heavenward as I came around the bend. Black and yellow (go Hawks) fluttering everywhere. It was dramatic and delightful. Another stop a half mile away, I looked up and saw 3 gorgeous heart-shaped leaves just as the sun peeked through. One of my favorite pictures.

Only weed I recognize. I never knew it bloomed. This bull thistle is downhill and taller than me…

Probably the most surprising weed is what I refer to as a bull thistle, which I thought got a foot high. They’re not very attractive and have prickers like a freaking cactus. But alongside my walking path they grow very tall and have stunning, vivid fuscia flowers.

When I finally made it home, I was sporting 3 painful blisters. No way could I walk the next day. My walking streak ended after 85 days. Because of a stinking blister. I really wanted to make it to 100 days. I was bummed. But after taking one day off (6 tenths of one mile was all I could muster just limping around the house on my day off) my new walking streak is up to 15 days.

Blister day in the red zone…

I’ve got the strangest tan lines all over which is a hoot. I’m really only walking a half hour east towards the sun, and it’s barely up. All my shirts are V-neck and short sleeved so my neck is really brown but my upper arms are white like an Iowa farmer’s! My capris fall a couple inches past my knees, so below that line is very brown but just for a few inches, then more white from my short socks so I’ve got a golfer’s tan. Looks like my calves are dirty.

Right above my head one morning as I walked. I ‘heart’ this weed…

Still using my walking stick everyday. It’s prevented several mishaps. Sure wish I could do something to improve my balance, but I’m grateful each day I make it back to my driveway unscathed…

It was the Summer of ‘61…

The best months of the year were just beginning. Endless summer days, filled with Iowa’s bluest skies and brightest sun. The new fall school year was so far off in the distant future, we never gave it a second thought. I was 11. No more yelling up the stairs from Mom, “Denise, it’s time to get up for school. You’re gonna be late!”

My lazy days were semi-filled. I could take swimming or baton lessons. My home town of Rock Valley had recently stopped using a germ laden swimming hole and built a state of the art swimming pool. It was amazing. A separate ‘baby pool’ which was only a few inches deep and an enormous pool with a shallow end, deep end and 2 diving boards (I never went off the high dive. It peaked beyond heaven I think). So most of my afternoons were spent at the pool. I rode my bike, (about 8 blocks away) donning my swimsuit, flip flops and a butt ugly, rubber swimming cap with a strap under my chin, already snapped. My beach towel was tucked in the basket. Mom bought me a season pass but I usually had money for a treat. I didn’t bother with a locker unless I was wearing street clothes and had to change. It wasn’t politically correct but Mom always used to say by mid-June, “Denise is as brown as an Indian!” And I was.

Mom caught the flower arrangement bug. A very tan Neese to help center the pic…

Although northwest Iowa experienced an over abundance of plus 90 degree days, I only swam during the day. Seemed like evenings at the pool were geared for older kids and adults. I had other stuff to do anyway. After supper (when the town’s whistle blew-I’d better be in the kitchen, ready sit down, pray and eat) there were still hours of daylight left and I put them to good use. My bestie Char had completed whatever chores were on her list for the day (mowing the yard, working in the garden, baking, dusting, dishes. I had/did no chores). A bike ride was a welcome relief, no matter how hot. You always had a breeze while you were peddling. Up and down the streets, avoiding the houses we deemed too scary to ride past lest we kidnapped and/or killed ha-ha. It was all in our heads but that’s the way kids think.

Highlighting Mom’s beautiful flower garden, 1961…

When we got too sweaty from riding, we’d park our bikes at Char’s. She lived alongside our public school. The school’s playground was enormous. A big section had been black topped for basketball and the summer it was completed we walked, ran, chased each other. On stilts my Dad made for us. By the end of that summer our armpits were calloused from constant friction from the tops of the square stilts.

Char, neighbor of my sister from Canton and brown Neese, 1961…

But there were other choices on the playground to keep us busy during the waning hours of a long summer day. Swings that could be pumped high enough to equal the high diving board at the pool. Why wasn’t I scared of swinging high enough to pass out from the atmosphere’s thin oxygen level? Dunno. The monkey bars were a good time. Back and forth, trying to hang on with sweaty hands. The drop to the ground wasn’t bad by the time we were 10. Our slide was legendary. Two freaking stories tall. They still have the same slide 60 years later. We used to sneak some waxed paper from Mom’s kitchen and plant our butts on the paper before we pushed off. You were flying by the time you got to the bottom. The slide was something to avoid when Iowa temps soared. You could do serious damage to your hind end and the backs of your legs. That slide was hotter than Mom’s oven.

What a slide! Two stories high…

But as dusk descended on the day, it was the merry-go-round we were drawn to. The number of kids gathering varied between just the two of us (Char & me) or a dozen kids. Maybe a sibling or 2 from Char’s clan, but just as likely to show up was a kid or two from the Bunch, Flanagan, Burgers, Wynia, Kosters, Plueger, McGill, Vande Velde, Reinke families-or several others. This was not the time of day where someone pushed the merry-go-round so hard the rest of us clung on for dear life to avoid flying off in a heap of broken bones.

This merry-go-round was at our park but similar to the schools…

No, this was the time of day where we wanted to be terrified. Why? I have no idea. I’ve never been a fan of scary shows. To this day. And the more unbelievable the plot, the more frightened I am. Makes no sense. I can watch psychological thrillers which certainly could be true, but the impossible, implausible plots scare the living shit out of me.

We could swing through these very fast…

So we’d tell scary/ghost/monster/serial killer stories. Yikes. The one I still have issues/recurring nightmares about is a tale of a couple. (So a few years older than the kids who were now sitting, loosely scattered on a slowly spinning merry-go-round with the last of day light disappearing. You couldn’t appear scared shitless because you’d lose your street cred. Yeah, it was a thing. No matter how scared, this 5th grader had 2 agonizing, terror filled blocks before I made it back to safety. Some nights I was so scared, I sang hymns on the way home, thinking God was gonna protect me. Guess what? He did. Thanks God). There was nothing wrong with our imagination.

Behind our elementary building was the merry-go-round just waiting to terrorize us with tales…

Ready to be spooked? This teen couple are old enough to drive. They’re on a date and want some serious make-out time, so it’s imperative they find a secluded spot (pronto) to ‘park.’ Luckily for them (and all of us merry-go-rounders in a few years) Iowa has an over abundance of corn/soybean fields. Literally hundreds of thousands of acres. (Rumor has it ha-ha-ha, like I wouldn’t know every single parking spot-in the county in a few years). All fields have a dirt entrance off their gravel road so the farmer can do whatever needs to be done with crops before harvest time. Weeding and fertilizer? Don’t judge, I was a townie.

Unfortunately, deer weren’t the only inhabitants of the corn fields in Iowa during the ‘60’s…

Every car (except the 2 my parents owned) had a radio. No 8-track, cassette, or CD’s. No Sirius, iTunes, Spotify. Just a radio. An AM radio. At night you got a better selection of radio stations from farther away. So this highly hormonal duo are listening to romantic/early/classic rock songs (Stand by Me, Runaway, Wooden Heart, Crying, Runaround Sue, The Lion Sleeps Tonight, Walk Right Back, Crazy) on their AM radio station in a deserted cornfield. Their only company was a star filled black sky. Or so they thought.

Mom and Dad’s car, a 1958 Chevy Biscayne-no radio, no air…

Suddenly the girl breaks away from a hot and heavy, part pleasurable/part torturous two minute filled tongue-fest. “Did you hear that? What was that funny noise?” (Oh good Lord girlfriend, not now. Please not now). Him: “Um, I didn’t hear anything. Maybe some cornstalks hitting each other?” She frowns, “no, I definitely heard something. Sounded like metal scraping on something. Are you gonna tell me you didn’t hear that noise?” Him: “No Neese, (just using a fabricated name here) I honestly didn’t hear anything.” (The kissing and petting resumes, much to his delight).

A fictional couple who might have parked-back in the day…

Scrape, scrape. Me: “Stop! You must have heard that. What’s making that noise? Could it be the radio?” (Sigh, mood is heading south at an alarming rate). Him: “No it can’t be the radio. I don’t know what to tell you. There’s no noise, nothing to hear and we’re all alone. Isn’t it great?” Me: “Yes it’s great except for that scraping, scratching noise. It’s scaring me. I think we should leave. I wanna go home.”

The menacing hook, minus the bloody stump found on the couple’s car door…

Him: “FINE!” Starts the car, rams it in reverse, drives like a maniac. Neese (again just happenstance with the name) puts herself back together, snuggles up and tries to make amends. But the mood is ruined and it’s back to the town with streetlights, stop signs and our one stoplight. They arrive at her house. He’s a gentleman, gets out, walks around to the passenger door and stops. Swallows a scream before it leaves his throat. On the handle of her door is a hanging apparatus. A pirate’s hook! Attached to some bloody flesh from a surgically repaired amputated arm. Gulp! (He’s gonna have to find a different corn field if this romance is headed to the next level).

All smiles until we scared the crap out of each other on the playground…

Now how was I supposed to serenely walk home in the dark, after my head was filled with this unimaginable horror? Couldn’t be done. Not without some serious hymn (Him) help…

Neese and the Rhinoplasty…

Given the location where I grew up, just a few miles from the South Dakota and Minnesota border, Rock Valley was tucked in the northwest corner of Iowa. I never realized or appreciated our proximity to a world famous institution. Bigger than the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha. More famous the The Grotto in West Bend. More important than the Falls in Sioux Falls. Ok, not as awesome as Mount Rushmore or The Black Hills but this place was in a very different category, not a vacation spot or sight seeing destination.

My first trip to Mt. Rushmore, late 1990’s…

It was Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, about 200 miles northeast of Rock Valley. The world renown hospital/clinic where people from all over the globe sought medical help for their complicated health issues. The facility where kings, queens, movie stars and athletes went when they had a serious medical problem. If our local doctor was stumped, (believe me, Dr. Hegg could fix about anything) he referred you to a specialist in Sioux Falls or Sioux City. If they couldn’t come up with the right diagnosis, they sent you to Mayo. Because they were the best. Still are. But Mayo didn’t limit their expertise to just royalty or the rich and famous. They treated the Gerritson’s too. Who knew? Although I don’t think Dad ever was a patient at Mayo. He went to the Veterans hospital in Minneapolis for back surgery when he had a ruptured disc. But Mom and I utilized Mayo Clinic on occasion.

St.Mary’s Hospital in Rochester a long time ago…

My first experience at Mayo Clinic was in 1966. I was dating John (later he would change his name to the Hubs). We were at a party at Denny Hamann’s, who lived a few blocks from my house. In Rock Valley everything but the farmer’s spreads were within a few blocks. It was late fall and John was shifting from football season to wrestling season, meaning he had to lose a few pounds if he hoped to reach the weight division he was striving for. (A normal struggle for him. Wanted to be heavier for football season but slimmer for his best wrestling weight. He made it every season, and often could be seen wearing a rubber suit while he jogged around Rock Valley, dropping weight at a very unhealthy clip. But he got down to his desired weight and was strong as an ox).

John trying to flip his opponent, not using a cross face move, 1965…

So we were at this party and he was showing off a little. He was describing this wrestling move and eager to show me how it worked to his advantage. He used this move called a cross face. When both wrestlers were in the down position but John was on top. Right as the ref blew his whistle, Hubs tried to distract his opponent by slapping his own forearm (up to his elbow) across the other wrestler’s chin/mouth and cheeks. Then John would grab the guy’s left arm and pull hard, causing him to collapse. That’s the way it was supposed to work. At least in his own head. Uh, ok, I’m game. I’m not chicken (umm, some of my peers were watching) and I know he won’t hurt me. He’s still in the ‘trying to impress me’ stage. (Had I been wearing my thinking cap instead of a mini skirt/flirty face I might have known where this was headed). As he artfully (gently) applied the cross face to my face, I turned my head, (talking) right into the move, leading with the part of me that stuck out the farthest (on my face, work with me here people). My nose. Which made a sick crunching sound that caused my eyes to water profusely. Ok, part tears but mostly water cause that’s what happens when you have your nose smacked really hard. Not a fan. Don’t try this at home.

Post op visit at Mayo. You can still see bruising under my eye…

Without a doubt it was the easiest move Hubs had ever successfully planted on another wrestler, (I use that term loosely). Although in retrospect he might have tried this teaching moment on someone other than the girl he really, really liked. Can you imagine how he felt? About as bad as this chick with the watery eyes, swelling, snotty nose and fat lip. Yup my nose was broke. Unbelievable. My boyfriend broke my freaking nose. In front of a crowd. Even though it was an accident, witnessed by several kids, my folks were not pleased. Not much John could ever do would please them. Then or in the following decades after we got hitched and had adorable kids they both doted on.

I’ve looked at your nose from both sides now…

Mom initially took me to Dr. Hegg, but he was getting on in years and a rhinoplasty (what a perfect description, rino, which pretty much summed up my new look) for a deviated septum (nose job) wasn’t in his repertoire. He rattled off several eye, ear, nose, throat specialists from Sioux Falls, Sioux City or Mayo Clinic to have my nose tweaked (re-broke). Ugh. I was scared and looked like shit. Until that incident, I don’t think Mom had considered Mayo Clinic for anything, (more on Mom and Mayo later) but her interest was piqued. She jotted down a couple names of oral surgeons and simply called Mayo for an appointment for her teenage daughter’s broken schnoz.

After we arrived in Rochester, we learned surgery would be at St. Mary’s and I’d be staying for a couple days. (Now you have knee replacement and go home the next day) Mom was not keen on hotels and spotted a beautiful home nearby which rented out rooms to family members or outpatients so she reserved a room. My surgeon was young and cute. Very. Goodness but I looked grim. Nothing says a great first impression like a heavy-mouth-breathing-teen-with-a-crooked-nose. A couple bones in my nose which weren’t in the right spot. They took a lot of pictures and x-rays. I still have the pictures somewhere since Mom never threw anything away.

Mom went overboard tracking my nose after surgery…

While the actual operation is hazy, I totally freaked out when the cute doctor said I’d be awake during surgery. (He promptly lost a lot of appeal. Not really all that cute). No. Not in this lifetime. Really, no. Seriously, no. Absolutely not. However my vote counted for diddly squat and I remained awake throughout. They injected (too many to count) my nose/forehead/cheeks with a numbing agent, maybe novocaine or lidocaine. I vaguely remember the doctor discussing where and how he was going to use a chisel/screw driver type tool. UP MY NOSE. WHILE I WAS AWAKE. I opened my eyes just a slit for a couple seconds. And saw him grabbing a small HAMMER. Tap, tap, tapping on the end of the chisel handle near my mouth. I could feel nothing but the sensation of tiny thumps. But not much of the chisel/screw driver was visible anymore. So unbelievably gross. Had to be up in my brain. Squeezed my eyes shut for the rest of the operation.

To this day I don’t like my nose touched. Ever. By anyone. I’m pretty sure if I need to be tested for Covid, it will not be with a foot long Q-tip. Take blood, take a biopsy or knock me out but do not touch my nose, or stick anything up it.

Serial killer ‘Jason’s doppelgänger aka, Neese….

After surgery I had two black eyes and a fat face. Which lingered forever. My nose was swollen and covered with an enormous splint I wore for 6 weeks, causing all the skin underneath to peel off like a sunburn. Not really a cute phase I was going through during school that winter. But my handsome, young surgeon did a great job, (he was totally forgiven) putting all the pieces back in place. I could finally breathe through my nose again. My surgically repaired nose was awfully sensitive to touch and smells for the longest time. Now it was time for payback. I needed to practice some cheerleading moves. Kick my leg high enough or hard enough to inflict a bit of damage to someone’s face. Or another part of his (I mean their) anatomy. Not that I was vindictive or anything…