I Love My Refrigerator

9-4-2019

Highlight of the day, and probably the whole month – I got a new refrigerator.  I’m just saying that refrigeration is one of the things we take for granted, and shouldn’t.

Eldest daughter said “what happened to the old one? It’s just you and dad so you couldn’t have needed a bigger one!”  But we did.  It may seem like an inconsequential need compared to those who have no refrigeration at all and that is true. But think of how many times in a day that you go into the fridg for something. I am a tall person and every time I had to bend over or get down on my knees to look on shelves that were low and deep. At times, I was nearly crawling into the thing. The only part I could look into standing up was the freezer where I seldom needed to go.

And then some really smart person came up with bottom freezer refrigerators. I have had one of those ever since my first bout with really bad back problems, and what a blessing they have been.  They make so much sense.  That’s the main reason for getting a new one. It’s just so sensible to put the stuff you need most often on the top where you can get to it.

However, there’s more. The old refrigerator with the freezer on top only produced ice cubes by me. I filled those plastic trays – the ones where two or three cubes never pop out until you pound them on the kitchen counter, then they fall out on the floor and you don’t find them until later when you step in the puddle. For my company meals I would empty four or five of them and have to fill them up, find a level spot in the freezer to put them down, and get out again before the door swung shut on me. If I forgot and didn’t do it immediately guess what? No ice next time. Have you ever timed how long it takes for an ice cube to freeze?

I purposely did not shop for the double door refrigerator with the water/ice dispenser and all the digital readouts. I don’t like being constantly reminded that I need a new water filter. I especially don’t like having to take the whole ice maker apart every time there’s a jam, although it’s not hard and I’m very good at it. It’s just a pain when you think ice is at your fingertips, and then it isn’t.  My opinion – there’s just too much to go wrong with those models.

In the middle, between ice cube trays and digital dispensers there sits a reliable, sensible solution. A bin in the freezer which fills itself with ice. It’s effortless. Put a scoop in it and shovel away. I am so blessed.

This new fridg is four cubic feet bigger than the old one too, which means that I only have to stack the containers of leftovers two high. Also nice, I open the door and nothing falls out by itself. Everything is right there, upright in its own space, at eye level, in good lighting. It’s just lovely. I may actually stay in the kitchen and cook tomorrow just to be around the refrigerator and enjoy it.  Rarely do I do something that extreme.

One last benefit was just demonstrated to me. The husband, who is also primed to enjoy the new appliance, just came in and got directions on how to find the prunes on the second shelf. With nothing except a brief description of the jar, he opened the door and pointed right to it. Way to go LG. Life is good, just sayin’…

Complete with magnets, pics and coupons…

Six Communication Tips (Help Me Remember!)

8-26-2019

Communication is so important. I am drawn to think about it this week since I have been twice (that I know of) in situations where my communication was less than sufficient or completely missing, forgotten. In my world of “communication rain”, it was pouring!

And if I could just read people’s minds, and they could read mine, miscommunication would not be an issue. But I guess, or assume, and things go awry.

I forgot to invite a family member to a family gathering. And when I did contact them late, I neglected to find out if they knew where the gathering was. I neglected to exchange cell phone numbers in case plans changed. I spent half of the family picnic feeling worried about why they weren’t there and wondering if they had gotten lost. I couldn’t call them to find out. I felt the guilt. It was the hardest thing ever to pick up the phone later that evening and find out what had happened.

The very next day(!) a series of late decisions and wrong assumptions led to disappointing some friends and leaving them waiting at a restaurant for us to meet them for dinner. Mom was in on this one and her observation was that her aversion to talking on the phone often kept her from necessary communication. We could have just made a call, earlier than we did.

Realizing that I have caused someone inconvenience or emotional pain/upset is stressful for me. I don’t need more stress! And I don’t want friends, family, or anyone for that matter, to feel confused, unloved or unimportant. That is stressful for them. So, thought and prayer brought some things to mind. From now on I will tell myself:

Shirley, listen now,

1. If you are in doubt, pick up the phone and find out! People don’t have to answer if they are busy. They will know you cared and will call back when they can.

2. Let people know that you don’t mind being called. They might have that phobia or aversion to calling. I always feel cared for, not bothered.

3. Text, if they use texting enough to be familiar with it. Be sure to SEND the text after writing it. (Yes, that one is for me.)

4. Call sometimes when there isn’t a pressing reason. This is how to make sure you have the correct contact information, home phones and cell phones.

5. Realize that it’s hard to over communicate. Talk plans through if you make them in person, and agree to confirm later if needed.

6. Probably the most important thing, pray about any plans, that they would be under God’s direction. Even if things seem to be going wrong, if he’s in charge, he is working something out and he isn’t expecting you to worry about it.

Day of the Jaeckel

It’s been years since I walked for a cause – the three day, 60 miles breast cancer walk. Today I joined my brother and his wife and a couple hundred other people from our small community to walk a 5k for ALS.

John Jaekel is a Haywardite, former coach and educator at the high school, and friend and neighbor to most everyone he meets. He is also one of the longest survivors of ALS and a spokesperson for the cause all around the state of Wisconsin. The walk was started by his family and other supporters around four years ago and has become a regular event in Hayward.

We met at the Lutheran Church in town where John is a member, and went inside to look at the silent auction items. There is no fee to join the walk, so the auction is the fund raising portion of the morning. There is an online auction as well as the one we saw, and many Hayward businesses and individuals were represented there. I bid on a small piece of furniture. Lumber from the lumber company, 2 months membership at the local gym, hair cuts and beauty supplies, art and specialty food items, and tickets to Packer games(!!!) as well as other creative and tempting offerings were up for bid.

The walk was leisurely, led by John Jaekel himself in his motorized chair. There were parents with small children in wagons and strollers, elderly people being pushed in wheelchairs, and all ages in between. The weather was cooperative, actually could not have been more perfect. I’m not kidding, there were cheerleaders and encouraging signs along the route.

One family walking close to me came from a city 80 miles away to join the walk. They had lost a brother to ALS the year before and knew John through the support network they had been in together. I didn’t get to talk to John but it was clear that he was a beloved member of the community and had been successful in stirring people to action. One of the signs along the route pointed out that the purpose of the walk was to make sure that someday there wouldn’t have to be any walks. Research toward a cure is the goal.

At the end of the walk, volunteers at the church had breakfast ready for all the walkers. Someone had upped the ante on my table bid, so I pushed it up a little higher. I didn’t get it but it went for a better price and that was good.

This was a day to walk and talk with others, over a common interest – that of helping people like John Jaekel and others who are battling als. I admire his enthusiasm and dedication, and wish him well. I thank him for bringing our community together around a good cause.

The Lake and the Swimmer

8-17-2019

The Lake and the Swimmer

I went through this day feeling like it would have been a perfect day to be at the lake. It was warm, sunny and the weekend. But for me, the most pressing reason was that “almost fall thing” that you can’t quite put your finger on, but you know it when you feel it. People are talking about school starting, goldenrod is blooming, there is a branch here and there with some color starting – scary stuff when summer is short, sweet, and you haven’t been out to the lake enough.

There were, however, other plans for the day. They were good ones and I enjoyed them right up until 7pm when company was gone, the kitchen cleaned up, and I was finally seated in my chair, still thinking about the lake. I felt kind of sad for a minute, and then it dawned on me that the day was not over yet for another hour. The lake was out there, and I could go. Sometimes I forget I’m a grown up and don’t have to wait for permission, just sayin’.

It’s only seven miles from town to Round Lake, which doesn’t sound like very far now, but seemed like a significant distance when I was a kid. I drove out to the Narrows, a public beach on Round Lake Peninsula at the place where the peninsula is so narrow that you can access water on either side of the road. One side is a boat landing and the other a swimming beach.

When I was young, I felt kind of like my family owned that beach because we went there so often. It was about a mile from our farm and almost every hot day we were there cooling off. Sometimes it was after a sweaty, dusty day helping put up hay. Sometimes it was after milking the cows. The neighbors would come by on their way to the beach and we would throw our inner tubes in the back of the truck and go with them. Sundays after church, we would picnic with other families and spend time water skiing, and swimming until we were “pruney” with wrinkles and blue around the lips from the cool water.

In later years, signs with rules were posted. A chain link fence was added to keep kids from running across the road in front of cars. More people frequented the beach, from town and the nearby reservation and it began to seem more crowded. I swam there less often. When I would walk or drive past it, it seemed smaller than I remembered. The buoy wasn’t out as far, maybe, and there wasn’t as much sand to spread a blanket on. It’s been thirty years away and time will do that to a person’s perspective. I know that.

Tonight, there were some cars in the parking lot with boat trailers but no one was at the swimming beach. I was so glad. It was almost seeming like a spiritual experience to me, one that I didn’t really want to share. I swam and it was still cold. I took pictures because it was still beautiful, the water my favorite shade of blue, the sand my favorite brown, the woods my favorite shade of green. Swimming out to the buoy and looking back to shore, the distance seemed greater, more like I remembered.

I was out, drying off and about to say farewell to the water when I noticed a swimmer far out on the bay. The person came closer until it was obvious he was headed to the beach where I was standing. From watching him swim I knew he appreciated the lake, maybe even loved it like I did. I even knew that it would be easy to talk to him about it. We talked for half an hour like we had been friends for years.

Paul was his name. His dad had died a few weeks earlier. He was having trouble getting settled down, meeting the right girl. We talked about online dating sites, social/cultural changes, jobs, families. We were both upset about the demographic changes around the lake, and the county. I don’t know why it was so easy to talk to him. I think it might have been just the magic of the lake, and the readiness for serendipity. A small gift of friendship from the God who knows I need moments like this.

With smiles, we said goodbye and headed to our vehicles.

I went to the lake today. I cooled off in that clear, clean water. I met a swimmer. And strangely, it feels like it might have been a spiritual experience.

Lake Fest

Lake Fest

8-4-2019

Do you have a community? I mean a community where people know one another, speak regularly, wave to each other and know who is in your family? I haven’t often observed that type of neighborhood, even in a place I lived for over 20 years.

But then, along came Lake Fest. I had been hearing about it from day one of our time in North Carolina. “Are you staying for Lake Fest?” “They will be pretty busy getting ready for Lake Fest.” “Leave the slip n slide in the truck – it’s for Lake Fest.” I had originally planned to leave before this event, akin to a national holiday, occurred but my curiosity got the better of me. We stayed.

Lake Fest, as I understand it, is the natural outgrowth of a healthy community. It’s neighbors, friends and family who love where they live, love to celebrate summer, and really like being with each other. And who doesn’t love an outdoor, summer party?

Three neighbors with adjoining properties around a small, private lake took it upon themselves to start this event. It is now well on its way to becoming an annual tradition. A block party, with a lake instead of a block. A Saturday afternoon in August with games, water sports, food (food, lots of food), a pool, live music and so many beautiful spots to sit and watch it all that it was hard to decide where to go.

I didn’t kayak the lake – though I wanted to.

I didn’t do the slip ‘n slide – I really wanted to do that, really!

But I had lots of good conversations, enjoyed some good food, listened to great music and decided (unofficially) to photograph the event in order to share it.

Parking could have been a problem, but many people walked.

This neighbor hosted the children’s games and the slip ‘n slide.

Boat rides, tubing, and a jet ski on the lake.

Furry family members were welcome.

“Santa” (not his real name) putting flames to the hot dogs and hamburgers.

Live music!

Dad’s and kids

Keeping cool in the pool

Sharing a drink?

Lots of good “eats”

No one is too young for this party…

No one is too old for this party…

Wondering where his “mama” went…

Relaxing, just relaxing

At the bottom of the slip’n slide.

Have you had an event in your neighborhood to encourage real community? What good things might come from knowing those physically close to you better?

Running Out Ahead

The husband keeps repenting of “running out ahead” of God. He is a problem solver and problems drive him crazy – it always seems to him that because he is aware of the problem, it is his to solve. He is not comfortable waiting for God. It’s usually in retrospect that he realizes his “running ahead”.

I am not saying that I condone inaction, waiting on everything because one is too lazy to address issues. That drives me crazy. When a problem is there to be solved, I am willing to pray about it and do whatever comes to mind in a reasonable fashion. Do something, do one thing and see what happens next…

Lately, almost daily, new problems are coming up on Dennis’s radar. He thinks about them obsessively. When there isn’t an actual problem, he thinks of a possible problem. He comes to me three or four times in the space of an hour, with more to say about the developing structure of the problem. It grows, takes shape in his mind and is often described as a dangerous situation, not just to him but to others as well. He must figure out what to do and intervene. He must convince others that action is required because he is not physically capable of doing what is needed by himself. What a dilemma. His world has a lot of anxiety in it.

The basement where his stuff is stored is likely going to flood because there are springs on the property.

The coming trip back home is dreaded because something in the truck is messing with his eyesight and making him sleepy. His wife will fall asleep and there will be an accident.

He hasn’t heard that the AC in his daughter’s house has been serviced in the two years she’s lived here. Danger, danger…

He might run out of vitamins, or pineapple on the trip home and his whole health regimen will go down the tubes.

There must be a reason he’s had the word “Fabian” given (by God) to him to investigate. Who is Fabian Farrington and how can he discover why he needs to know?

How can he keep from being further brain damaged while his wife is using the hotspot to access the internet?

How can he convince the code officials of the need to reverse their thinking about grounding rods in duplexes? People’s lives are at stake.

Who wouldn’t be anxious? It seems to me that the challenge is to be aware of possible problems AND aware that someone more capable than one’s self is working out the solution. Trust someone else. Trust God. Learn to wait without stressing out. Like the sign I saw yesterday in the barn I was in – ” Remember stressed, spelled backward, is dessert”. Yes it is, just sayin’…

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Psalm 139:23

Take Me Out (to the ball game)

7-27-2019

It’s a beautiful morning in North Carolina.

I’m thinking about the fun time I had last night at the baseball game. Normally, baseball is not one of my passions. As far as watching the game, I put it a notch above golf on the excitement scale, which is why I have only gone maybe three times in my life. However, the whole ambience is interesting and attractive – the crowd, the camaraderie, the food, all that.

I really did not know much about the nuances of play and the organization of the teams and leagues but luckily, daughter Julia’s special friend Kevin, was a baseball player in a semi-pro league. He was the host for this night, and through family connections he had tickets to a box suite. It is a whole different experience to have a choice of air-conditioning, or outside balcony. Add in free popcorn and peanuts and it becomes a place I could take for several hours whether there was a game to watch or not. It was also informative and entertaining because Kevin’s three children were along, getting tutorials from dad on the plays.

I once did a stint working refreshments at several baseball games in Florida. I didn’t get to watch those games but I did learn that people spend way more on refreshments than they do to get into the game, in most cases. I didn’t need a hot dog or other food but I was thirsty enough to order a souvenir cup of Dr. Pepper for $ 6.50. This will help me remember the experience.

Greensboro Grasshoppers souvenir cup

Another reminder will be the picture that the kids and I had taken with the team mascot. You wouldn’t be able to tell, so I will inform you – he’s supposed to be a grasshopper. He wanders about, with an escort to help him see where he’s going, getting pictures taken with youngsters. I kind of snuck in there. It’s not every day I get photographed with an insect.

The Grasshoppers are the local team in Greensboro and, fortunately, they won by a healthy margin. The league is entry level professional and most of the players were right out of college, or even high school. All those long breaks waiting for the pitcher to decide to throw the ball were filled with chants, cheers and commercials over the loud speaker and on the giant screen at the back of the outfield. There was also pure silliness going on from time to time promoting the game sponsors. These cows came out and danced the chicken dance – thank you Chick Fillet.

In this league, occasional heckling and teasing was allowed but kept nicely in line by an announcer who led everything with sound effects and cheers at every opportunity. Nice idea and it worked.

And there were fireworks. Impressive ones.

Great night, beautiful stadium, family friendly atmosphere (including a real live rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” by the announcer and some kids) – all the things baseball has been and should probably be. The one sobering moment was at the gate where, as times require, my purse was searched and we had to go through metal detection. I had to take my jacknife back to the car. Oh well, …

An Old House: If Walls Could Talk

Actually, if walls could talk this house would not have a lot to say. Most of the interior walls are gone

The backstory:

Pennsylvania is a historic state, having been one of the first settled. This means there are a lot of old houses with stories to tell. The valley that the husband’s family lives in is full of old, two story, frame houses. Both in the small villages and the outlying farms, I’ve been seeing these fascinating structures and I love to take pictures of them and wonder what they look like inside. My brother-in-law and his wife have bought a farm that enjoins their property and on it is a collection of farm buildings and an old farmhouse. We went over there to look yesterday. It was a treat for my passion about old buildings.

The outbuildings:

There is a very interesting turkey barn – reminiscent of old covered bridges. I’m not sure why it was built this way, or if it’s original purpose was to raise turkeys, but that is what it was known to have housed last.

There was a barn with a stone foundation. There are lots of them in this valley, probably because there is no shortage of stones for building material. The barn is gone but the foundation remains, begging to be used for something.

There are other sheds to house machinery, and a modern cement block building that was a butcher shop, presumably to process the turkeys raised in the turkey barn. And of course, there was this outbuilding.

Not too many of them still standing, but I always like getting pictures of outhouses when I can. I don’t know why.

The house:

This was my favorite excursion into the past. The house has seen better days but my brother-in-law assured me that the structure was sound and sturdy. It has been completely gutted of its interior walls of plaster and lathe, in hopes of being remodeled at some point.

One feature left intact in the kitchen is a large built in hutch which pretty much makes the house, in my opinion. It should definitely stay and become a focal point.

The shanty:

One of the common practices before air conditioning was to keep the heat of cooking out of the main house. This house has what my brother-in-law calls a shanty added to the side of the kitchen. It’s a fairly large room with a huge hearth where cooking fires could be made, or a cook stove positioned. There are huge doors to close off the hearth and when my sister-in-law opened them there was an ominous noise that sent her and Dennis out of the room. They were thinking “rattlesnake”. I went in later with Ron and we were curious to hear the noise, which turned out to be a baby bird that was dislodged from a nest higher up in the chimney. I don’t know what kind of bird it was, but the sound was bizarre.

Flitching:

The stairs were sturdy enough so we went up to look at the upper story.

There was a large central beam that had marks all over it. Ron told me about flitching, a process of making the cuts on the beam. All the wood is exposed in the house and I could see that some of it was rough lumber, with the bark still on. But no termites (I’m still in Florida thinking…)

I wandered around taking pictures of this interesting place and wondering if I would ever have the energy to renovate an older place like this.

Being Independent on Independence Day

7-5-2019

It was Independence Day, a holiday, and somehow I had forgotten to plan any memorable activity. Everyone I encountered was meeting up with family, going to the beach, cooking summer food – they had a plan. I didn’t, which was very unlike me. I’ve just had other things on my mind and well, I forgot.

Fortunately I did find someone else with no plan. My mom was sitting in her living room trying to feel good about a day in front of the TV or reading her book. She claimed not to mind, but I knew differently. Being in the same predicament, we decided to do as all strong, independent women do – we made our own plan for our memorable 4th of July.

This is a hotdog to die for, so good.

Since food is a prime feature of all our fun, memorable times, we started with food. Hot dogs. We both love a good hot dog and Mom, especially, has to have some texture and crunch in hers. We made some coleslaw and loaded the dog up real good. And watermelon, the perfect summer food. I always remember the gorilla who could sign words and decided to call watermelon “candy water”, which is so true.

We wanted something a little more active than eating to balance out our day and, you’re not going to believe this, we decided to go up to Lake Namekagon, a picturesque place with a favorite resort and restaurant that we like to visit – called Garmisch.

We go several times a year to the restaurant but I had never been out on the water there, so we decided that would be an appropriately adventurous thing to do, maybe a jaunt on a wave runner or kayak? You would be surprised at what my mom will do given the right amount of encouragement.

Wave runners are machines – the kind that I would normally avoid because they malfunction regularly. But they can be rented and presumed to be reliable. They can actually be rented at a marina fairly close to our location. They even can be rented with a trailer and transported to the lake of your choice. Let’s just say we did that.

Did you know that there are police on lakes, especially on holidays like the 4th of July? There are also rules about which lakes allow different kinds of boating and which do not. These rules are good things to know. We know them now.

I hitched up the trailer to my truck and we made the half hour trip to Lake Namekagon without incident. There is always a bit of a rush when I’m doing something I haven’t done before, something adventurous that I’m hoping will go off without a hitch. I was definitely feeling it.

Unloading a wave runner into the water is really simple. I’ve watched it done several times and had no trouble with it. Getting on is not too hard. Even operating it is fairly intuitive, especially for people who don’t want to go fast or do tricks. That describes me and mom perfectly. We like to stay close to shore and look at houses and people. Maybe that’s what made us look peculiar to the water police, I don’t know.

So, I will always be thankful that we did this before having dinner at Garmisch restaurant because there was not a trace of alcohol anywhere on us. There are also rules about that. We were just two white haired ladies trolling the lakeshore on a lake where power boats are prohibited, a fairly minor offense to my way of thinking. And the man questioning us kind of thought so too, as his warning was given gently and his fine was small (in comparison to other fines, I guess…).

We had enough of our adventure at that point anyway. After loading up the wave runner and taking it back to the marina, we went home and pretended we’d been doing jigsaw puzzle and watching TV all afternoon. Nobody had to know. Just sayin’…

I’m thinking about and practicing writing fiction these days. There might be some parts of this story which are fictionalized.

Random Paragraphs on Summer

This is my first full summer in Wisconsin in 30 some years. It is turning out as I remembered it, short and sweet, full of vividly colored flowers and nesting birds of all sizes. Family dinners outdoors are weekly events. There are gray, rainy days but that only makes it more amazing when the sun comes out and everything is watered and cool and green. Summer is my favorite season (as is spring, fall and winter).

We are no longer out in the trailer in the meadow. It was a tough time in some ways, but I’m going to remember all the amazing moments looking out the window at the real world. As we stayed on, the deer got used to our presence there and got back to their routines of grazing and play. I started recognizing the call of the red tail hawk and knew just where to look for him. The evening fog drifting in, the fireflies, the stillness as the birds stopped singing. Beautiful memories, all.

Play time
Leaving the meadow
Eventide

The garden. I had forgotten the satisfaction of seeing a plot of ground with nothing but stakes and strings turn into row after row of fresh green plants. All the lessons that come with a garden are coming back to mind, how everything has its time to mature and be ready for harvest, how neat edges and straight rows not only create order but are beautiful and functional, how good gardens take regular tending and lots of hours of work. A garden can be a metaphor for life itself – I always find myself thinking of that when I’m pulling weeds.

My least favorite part is “thinning”. I always end up planting small seeds, ones that are hard to see and handle, much too close together. If they germinate well and grow, I know they will have to be thinned out as they get bigger or they will not develop as they should. It’s painful to pull out perfectly good plants. It’s hard to decide which ones to leave and which to pluck. Again, I think of the many applications to life in general. There is wisdom to be learned in a garden.

Too many beet plants leave no room to grow. Which must go?