The Dipstick…

I kept track, glancing at the sticker stuck on the inside of my windshield every once in a while. The date on the sticker read 6-09-20. Don’t know why I’m secretly pleased when I get past 6-09-20 and my time is not up yet, like it’s a contest. It’s not. Still it pleases me nonetheless.

Had it not been for COVID this winter/spring/summer/fall (geesh) the Jeep would not have made it to 6-09-20. Lucky to make it to 5-1-20 because we would have tacked on a couple thousand miles with a trip to northwest Iowa in mid-April. Hubs brother Jimmy was diagnosed with acute leukemia and given days to live. We certainly would have driven to see him before he passed away, plus attend the funeral and visit with the family. (It’s odd-what a difference it makes when you don’t participate in the visitation/funeral. You’re left hanging without closure. Even more odd, knowing this, I want no service for myself. Maybe denying others closure? Don’t know or understand that either).

Runs quite a bit better with the right amount of oil…

There were federal mandates about attending funerals. Basically the whole country was shut down. Who knows how many restaurants, gas stations, motels remained open? Plus we’re at that ‘vulnerable age’ and told to stay home at all costs. So the days ticked by with the Jeep tucked in the garage and rarely driven. I went to the grocery store about once a week, which felt like part vacation, part-if I leave my house I’m gonna die.

Finally, by September, 3 months later than usual, the Jeep was due for a oil change. Made an appointment at my dealership which is about 15 miles away. I grabbed my book and headed to Chelsea.

Drove through a service door, turned the car off and waited for the tech (Matt) to get my information. “What ‘cha in for?” (5 to 10 which I didn’t voice out loud) “I made an appointment to have my oil changed and my tires rotated. One of my tires has an issue. The right rear has a slow leak and my husband adds air every couple weeks, especially if the Jeep sits for a few days.” (Pandemic) “Ok, that’s going take some time, maybe an extra hour. You gonna wait or are you leaving it?” “I brought my book, I’ll just wait.”

I wander through the door to the customer waiting room, watch 3 minutes of those twin brothers who remodel. Lost interest and turned to my real time filler, John Sanford. (Only because I’m done with my Jack Reacher series. I’m so homesick for Jack. I feel like he’s my best bud who just moved across the country-without me. More on Jack later). After 90 minutes, Matt says my car is done. I have a coupon for a discount 4 pack of oil changes I slap on the counter. “Well this is gonna cost you more because the Jeep uses a semi-synthetic oil, and 6 quarts instead of 5.” “Umm, I got the last packet of 4 without any additional cost. What’s up with that?” He didn’t even try to explain his reasoning. Just tallied up my charges for the day. Ka-ching.

Gave me a copy of the service sheet to sign and hands me my keys. I walk out to the Jeep which is still dripping water from their complimentary wash. Nice. Turn the key and the ‘low tire’ warning starts flashing. Shut the Jeep down, walk back into the service department where Matt is sitting in the back office but the door is open. “Hey, my low tire warning light is on again.” “Don’t worry about it. After you drive a few miles, it will reset. Nothing to be alarmed about.” “Ok but it wasn’t on when I drove in today.”

Walk back to the Jeep, start it and realize it’s after 2 o’clock and I haven’t eaten today. (No I’m not one of those crazy people who say, oh I just forgot to eat. Trust me, I never forget to eat, but the car dealership is on a very busy road. Either I walk to a Big Boy (without sidewalks on uneven surfaces which is like expecting/accepting I’m gonna fall) or play ‘frogger’ trying to get to McDonald’s or Coney Island across the road. So I didn’t eat while I waited and waited for the car.

I go through the drive through, order, pay, get my McDouble and park the car and eat. Call the Hubs and let him know I’ll be home shortly. Start the car and listen to the low tire warning again. Drive a half mile to the stoplight, take a right and ease on to 94 west. As I merge, doing about 60, two more warning lights pop on. My red battery light and a big gold A with a circle around it. (This is a default button which turns your engine off when you are stopped/idling at a light. I detest it and disengage it every time I start the car. I learned to drive during the time where cars stalled frequently from rough idling, popped clutch, you name it. This gas saving device just conjures up bad memories for me).

About a mile ahead is an exit which goes right back to Chelsea and the dealership. So far I’ve driven about 4 miles since the oil change. I limp into town and about 2 blocks from the service door when I lose my power steering. (Another memory of some of the older cars from the 50’s I drove as a kid where turning the wheel took some effort). I wait for the automatic door to raise and smoke is pouring out beneath the hood. Stinks to high heaven. I turn it off and Matt-my dude lumbers up. I hand him the keys with, “when I arrived for a simple oil change and tire rotation my Jeep was running great with 26,000 miles. Now I have 3 warning lights, no power steering and it’s billowing smoke. Fix it.”

Matt holding the tiny part necessary for the Jeep to run…

Forty five minutes later he brings me a small black circular (broken) wire thing and says, “this is an O-ring on the bottom of your new oil filter. It’s not supposed to be broken. Oil was leaking out all over your engine.” “I want a picture of that O-ring to send to my husband.” He obliges. He stands there for a couple minutes then says, “it’s gonna take awhile to check everything out and make sure there’s no damage. I’m gonna give you a Jeep Wrangler for the weekend while we work on the Cherokee. Call us on Monday. And I’m reimbursing your payment for the oil change. It’s free. So you still have 4 left on your plan.”

Whoopee.

Jeep Wrangler’s are not for great grandmas. They’re high, huge, no room inside and the door feels like it’s made from tin. Or maybe aluminum foil. I didn’t dare to park in the garage for fear it was too big with the truck beside it. We drove to get an ice cream cone, otherwise it sat in the driveway for the duration of the weekend until Monday when I got word my Jeep was ready.

Not my cup of tea, but then I’m not 35…

Matt assured me the Jeep was fine and still had 3 quarts of oil in it when I brought it back. They washed the engine numerous times with degreaser and taken it out for several test drives over the weekend. Hands me the keys and says, “you’re good to go. Sorry for the inconvenience.”

“Umm, there’s no paperwork?” “Ah, no, you want something?” “Yes I do.” Brings out a service sheet that says customer brought in a car with steering issues and smoking. “No, this isn’t going to work. I need documentation stating a brand new oil filter failed and leaked 3 quarts of oil out, interrupting my power steering after I’d driven it 5 miles. Total.” “Well that’s gonna take me awhile.” “Fine, I’ll wait.”

What’s the big deal? Isn’t the broken O-ring protecting the dealer because it was a faulty part? (Actually Hubs thinks the oil change guy just tightened it too far). With a second service sheet explanation in my hand a half hour later I start the Jeep and drive away. Sounds good, doesn’t smell or smoke and I notice the dealership has tacked on about 50 miles since I dropped it off the second time. Doubt if anyone was carousing around but merely testing it after degreasing, driving, rinse and repeat on Saturday and Monday.

We went out for supper for our anniversary a day late and drove to Lansing and back (maybe 75 miles cause I needed a sports store for a pair of New Balance shoes). Jeep’s running great (so far) and I’m hoping no permanent damage was done. But feel at least I’ve got the documentation needed if things with the Jeep go haywire that’s it’s not my fault. Crazy but sometimes it’s the simplest things…

Looking for Recommendations…

We’ve all seen them on our newsfeed. Someone moved into a new house and needs a local plumber or electrician. One friend started off with, “my hot flashes are killing me. Actually killing me.” I need recommendations for sheets that are literally forming ice. (Hahaha, I remember those days mostly because I’ve been cold my whole life except during menopause which lasted a long miserable decade).

Beautiful maple but will soon be bare for 6 long months..

But recommendations and opinions (except on my blog, love the comments. The comments are consistently better than what I write) are not something I’ve ever asked from a whole group of people/strangers before. I guess I could have just blipped out 2 sentences on Facebook and called it good, but that’s no fun.

First day of fall and already I’m dreading what comes next. It’s not like the changing seasons make a huge difference in my life. I’m a homebody. I love being home which is why the 6 month (so far) Covid lockdown in our state hasn’t impacted my life very much. Weather permitting I get outside every day to walk for an hour. That alone helps my mood, my outlook, my overall health and peace of mind. But the key words here are “weather permitting.” Another 60 days and my outside activities will be seriously curbed for months. Ugh. Just the thought causes my smile to droop the other way.

Never been a lover of winter. Freezing temps, wind and snow, it’s all so unappealing. Winter in Michigan lasts forever. One of the real downers is how many cloudy days we get. Sometimes days and days in a row. Not as bad as winter in northwest Iowa where I grew up but it lasts longer here. Iowa is colder with more wind, (but also gets much more sunshine though it may be 19 below) Michigan might win on the snowfall totals. Whatever. I truly detest it. Not kidding.

Why do I live where this is the norm for months every year? Ugh…

So Hubs and I are mulling over leaving before the worst weather Michigan has to offer hits for months without ceasing. Which is from November through April. Again not too much of a stretch. Really the most offensive months are January and February. But we don’t have a clue where to go. Money plays a role or we’d just go for the best weather in the world and hang my walking shoes in Hawaii for a couple months. We don’t need perfectly, warm, always sunny weather for the duration, nor a fancy condo facing the ocean or gulf.

Just decent accommodations (probably an over 55 RV Park rental) with milder weather than our northern states. I’m ok with temps in the 40’s at night, 60’s or 70’s during the day. Some flurries won’t kill me, but not snow that stays on the ground for 2 months straight and has the flexibility (and coloration) of hardened steel after a week.

We don’t want to fly or we’d have to rent a car for the duration. We spent time in Arizona 2 years in a row (though not for 2 months) which seems to be one of the more popular spots for folks in the Midwest. Hubs brother and his wife winter in Arizona, but we’re 800 miles further east than they are. Is Michigan even still considered the Midwest? Shouldn’t be, we’re in Eastern time zone. New Mexico, Arizona, California are just too far west for us. They’re has to be warmer, affordable places but not 2,200 miles away. We’re about 1300-1400 miles from Texas or Florida.

Nothing sinister about us. We look semi-trustworthy, right?

So we’re looking for a decent rental for 2 adults for 2 or 3 months. Since we stay in a lot I’d need a functioning kitchen. Could be southeast or southwest but within 1500 miles of lower mid Michigan. The important part is south which means warmer. We’d rather be in a smaller city or on the outskirts. Pool, community room, laundry facilities, somewhere to walk would be advantageous. I think John would like to go deep sea fishing if there’s a big body of water within a few hours.

So friends gimme some suggestions. Anyone know of an area in the south with mild winter temperatures with a decent ‘over 55’ rental unit in a large park? We’re semi-civilized, can speak in 3 or 4 word sentences and completely housebroke…

Life with Meniere’s…

My hearing loss was a sneaky bastard. Tantalizingly slow and subtle for the first 5 years but when tallied up after 2 decades has been significant. The pandemic has been a good reminder of how out of touch I am in my silent world. For the hearing impaired, having the entire population wearing masks has made life almost intolerable. I never realized how much I depend on reading someone’s lips until everyone’s mouth is covered. My life really is an oxymoron. I’ve lost a profound amount of hearing since 1998, so it’s safe to assume my world should be a quiet vacuum. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Craft project with Graham a few years ago. Don’t cover up that mouth!

That’s how I first realized something was going on. I had no idea I was suffering from a hearing loss. I noticed my head was never quiet anymore but couldn’t distinguish why. It started at night, in the dark, lying in bed when I couldn’t get my head to hush. No, not the regular shit that bothers you at night. You know like a big tax bill looming, one of the kids going through something tough, or I was worried about my parents. This was different. There were real noises actually inside my head. A chain saw, a dentist drill, a huge electrical wire that has snapped to the ground and pings loudly every few seconds, the sound of a TV station after they’ve gone off the air (at midnight, yes this might date me somewhat) with just that snowy sound, or the sound of that big rush of air when you walk through a tunnel at a football stadium.

This is what every TV station looked like after midnight in the 50’s & 60’s…

Plus I developed this creepy, abnormal fear of the dark. I knew our house like the back of my hand and had no problem going through the halls, up and down the stairs, or to the bathroom without the lights on. Not anymore. Didn’t think a thing about it as I was meandered my way through Meijer one day and bought a half dozen night lights, sticking them in outlets all over the house. I didn’t realize these were all clues something odd was going on. With me.

Come on, I was cute here right?

Hubs was on the ball. He noticed something was off. (Well I was giving off some pretty spectacular clues). “Turn the sound up on the TV, I didn’t hear that.” Or “how can our 16 theatre complex get completely remodeled and not update their lousy sound system?” “Nothing’s wrong with the theater’s sound Denise. Maybe you ought to go to Doc Anderson and see if everything’s ok. You’re acting weird. And what’s up with the night lights all over the house?” (These clues were not very subtle).

Muskegon’s movie complex. They actually had good headphones for me to use…

Well Doc Anderson checked me out and sent me to an eye, ear, nose, throat guy who diagnosed me with a hearing loss in my left ear. But he wanted me to see a doctor in Grand Rapids who specialized just in ears. Dr. Daniels’ first suggestion to combat all the noise in my head was to introduce white noise at night. Something I could hear so the screaming in my head was less noticeable as I was trying to fall asleep. Quite simple really, run a fan every night. It did help a lot in the beginning. (Several years later however, as my ability to hear was leaving faster than Jeff Gordon could take a lap at Michigan International Speedway, I could no longer hear the fan. But the Hubs was so used to the noise he couldn’t sleep without it.) Oh the irony. The noises got louder as I lost more hearing. (Part of this was my brain compensating for not being able to differentiate some sounds, so it just made up new sounds for me to deal with. Thanks brain).

The fan I no longer hear and Hubs can’t sleep without…

Just as I was adjusting to wearing a hearing aid to help hearing in my left ear (2 years), the hearing in my right ear took a nose dive. Oh come on! Let the pity party begin. I was in a major slump until I was driving home one December day about 5:30. The sun was setting and the western sky over Lake Michigan was cotton candy pink with some accompanying clouds and sun peaking through. It just took my breath away. For the first time I thought, thanks God that it’s my ears, not my eyes that are failing. That was the turning point right there.

But my head issues weren’t done revealing themselves just yet. I was about 5 years into my walking habit. Walking west for a little more than a mile, turning around, walking 2 miles east, another turnaround for a mile, down my steep hill and home. Well this day I had just passed Johnson’s point (almost a mile away) overlooking Muskegon Lake, swinging my arms with nice, long, easy strides. A flock of seagulls were above my head, heading to the big Lake, not even a mile away by air (for this landlubber it was another 2 miles, most of it without the aid of sidewalks). I continued my fairly fast clip, looking up, following the birds flight plan for a few seconds. When I finally tore my gaze away I found myself far off the beaten path. I was yards off the sidewalk. How the heck did that happen?

Cordless headphones, the only way I can hear the TV…

Dr. Daniel’s had a pretty good idea what was causing this improper addendum to my hearing loss. I remember the exact day because I looked so stinking cute. (This has happened twice in my life so it was duly noted, never again to be repeated. Once was a school picture when I was 7. The other was that day in the doctor’s office. I was quite slim and wearing a cute denim overall). Doc had me stand in the middle of an exam room with my eyes closed, arms stretched out in front of me and walk/step in place. After 40 steps I had made a complete circle. What? Then he had me lay down flat on a table on my back which had really become difficult for me in the preceding months. If I didn’t have a pillow under my head, I immediately got dizzy and nauseous. After those disturbing feelings stopped he moved me until my head was completely off the table but he was holding my head in his hands. Slowly he dropped my head back a few inches with my eyes open. My eye balls started fluttering like the old digital clocks, except at the warp speed of a machine gun. So nauseating. Ick. Gently he sat me back up and held my shoulders steady until I stopped swaying.

Grateful for such beautiful sunsets…

“You have Meniere’s Syndrome, which accounts for some of the constant racket in your head. Meniere’s causes a fluctuation of fluid in your inner ear which can cause dizziness, vertigo, balance and being unsteady on your feet. You may go weeks or months without symptoms, then without warning the side effects can hit you pretty hard, making you nauseous and very difficult to distinguish what other people are saying. It’s chronic. Ease up on your salt intake.” (If I eased up on salt any more I would be down to individual grains per day) “Plus your last hearing test has taken a huge dip. In a few years you might fit the criteria for a cochlear ear implant. For now I think we should give up the hearing aid in your left ear, because your hearing is down considerably. The aid just amplifies all the noise you already hear. Let’s concentrate on getting the best hearing aid for your right ear which is still above 70% in understanding what people are saying to you.”

Blown away.

Depressed and alone.

I hate this.

Eventually Neese got her “groove” back but it took awhile. The more hearing I lost, the smaller my world became. Rooms full of people made me turn around and walk in the other direction. Malls, restaurants and large crowds were avoided. I couldn’t hear, understand or participate anymore. Better and easier to just stay home.

Happy I can read to great granddaughter Jovi…

I’ve noticed a few changes with Meniere’s. My balance is definitely worse in the last couple years. Some of it probably aggravated by my 2 knees, both without much cartilage. Since my replacement in 2019 and fall 5 months later, I’ve accepted safety over pride and adopted a walking stick in the mornings. I love the stick and know there’s no way I can walk without it, but I feel like my steps are lopsided, hesitant, jerky and horribly uneven. Not smooth at all. I can imagine what folks driving past me must think-freaking old broad is drunk or higher than a kite at 8 am. Already had some edibles. Yikes.

Life with Meniere’s as I scurry towards my 70th birthday means:

* Never standing up and trying to walk immediately. I need to pause and get my balance before moving anywhere.

* Never going higher than the second step on a footstool. After looking up while I’m decorating the Christmas tree I know I’ll be dizzy and my balance will be way off for at least 2 days.

* Avoid laying my head on a flat surface.

* Skimming my fingers along walls, railings, furniture when moving through the house.

* Asking Hubs to hang onto me on the step stool when I wash windows outside.

* Coming to a complete stop at all streets I need to cross. Slowly turning my head both ways for oncoming traffic.

* Avoid walking on uneven surfaces at all costs.

But 90% of my life is good. These are minor inconveniences which annoy me, but don’t really cause much hardship in everyday living. If I’m careful and vigilant about what and how I’m doing something. Knowing and respecting my limitations, which has been an eye opener. Still I hate the way I think I look when I walk (which doesn’t make any sense). Why should I care?

Words to live by Neese…

I need to adopt, accept and abide by a couple of quotes from Eleanor Roosevelt. She said, “you wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.” And, “no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

Now that’s better…

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…