Friday, February 26, 2010

Uncle Glenn

Isn't he a good lookin' 82 year old? This is my uncle Glenn Peterson. I have practically no memory of this man during my childhood years. I vaguely remember seeing a tall, thin, quiet-kind-of guy around the farm a couple times. I remember his wife, Nancy, much better. Nancy was the social one, the one who talked, laughed, and got after the kids. It wasn't until after the turn of the century (2000) that I re-met Glenn in Tacoma. Wow, what a guy! I'll never forget how he welcomed me with warmth and hugs - as if we had been close buddies all those years. I instantly felt a kinship with Glenn. Every time I've seen him since, he has continued to win my heart. He drove me to the airport, he came to see me where ever I was, he always showed an interest in what I was doing. Uncle Glenn, I am so thankful I found you. I'm sorry this is a day late, but Happy Birthday! May you be filled with health and happiness throughout your 82nd year of life. I love you!

I Just Have to Say This

For My Mother:

Thank you:
  • for having child #8
  • for your patience with me through the teen years
  • for really good cinnamon rolls
  • for letting me do the housework rather than the cooking
  • for the sewing machine I started using at age 10
  • for hosting the 4-H club, even on your birthday
  • for welcoming my best friend into our home on a regular basis
  • for loving my father
  • for working so hard for all of us
  • for creating a home of stability and security and peace
  • for letting me take the car to my job in Cando, even when you had to go to church in the pickup
  • for teaching me the honor of hard work
  • for meatballs and gravy over boiled potatoes
  • for Christmas traditions and Christmas foods
  • for taking me to Tacoma in 1960
  • for coming to my college graduation, even though you just broke your shoulder
  • for taking care of me
  • for being proud of me
  • for loving me
  • and most of all
  • Thank you for living long enough for me to realize how much I love you

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Crazy or Courageous?

Really, I should have known better. And I did have reservations about proceeding with the plans. So why did I put myself into such a position? Well, I guess I know why: (1) I always wanted to try it, (2) a friend needed a partner, (3) the opportunity was crystal clear, and (4) I keep forgetting that my body is much older than my spirit. I've lived in Colorado for nearly thirteen years ... thirteen years of people saying to me, "Oh, you live in Colorado. Do you ski?" The answer has always been, "No, but I really want to learn." From now on, however, my answer will be, "Been there, done that, end of story." You see, yesterday I signed up for a ski lesson in Breckenridge, Colorado. The scenery was pristine and the opportunity was ripe (and expensive). My friend, Laura, and I bought an all-day skiing lesson, rented ski boots and skis, bundled up against the single-digit temperature, and confidently set out to learn to ski. Let's just say that Laura dropped out before the end of the morning and I dropped out at lunch time. And for good reason. How many times can an out-of-shape "middle-aged" woman pick herself up on a snowy slope with skis attached to boots that are too heavy to walk in?? Man alive, I can barely get up off the living room floor after playing with the grandkids! I fell four times, nearly froze my fingers, depleted every last ounce of strength I had, and still didn't learn to ski. "Enough is enough", I said. I became a ski-school dropout. I've always thought that with being a full blood Scandinavian, skiing would surely come easy to me. Well.....well.....maybe if I tried again I would finally get it. Maybe next year. Maybe not.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Fun in the Mountains

I know I'll have a wonderful time. But I really don't feel like going ... yet. Sometimes I just wish I could stay home for awhile. Today (Sunday) I am going to Breckenridge, a nice mountain community, and spend the next few days with a bunch of my colleagues from around the country. I love the mountains, but I love them best in the summer. Cold and snow and wind aren't particularly appealing to me right now. I need an attitude adjustment. After all, many people would be thrilled to trade places with me. We have a nice lodge rented, the menu planned, the activities scheduled, and I like everyone I will be with. Yes, I know it will be fun. If I don't chicken out, I will be taking my very first downhill ski lesson. I bought new cozy pajamas, I bought a warm cap, I found Rod's heavy winter coat that I can wear, I bought slippers, I packed my teapot and four flavors of tea. See, it's going to be fun. Leaving my house and husband once again is going to be the hardest part.

Goin' Out West

Procrastination can quickly turn into "too late". Which is why I am going to sandwich in a quick personal trip between my business trips. For months I've been saying I want to get to know my Aunt Elvera better; I have never spent much 1:1 time with her. I envisioned going to her house and spending a pleasant afternoon sitting with her at her kitchen table, sipping coffee or tea, and getting to know one another better. Well, the scenario has changed. Elvera has been having some health problems, is currently in a nursing home, and is looking at assisted living rather than going back to her home. I want to scream out, "Wait! Let's go back a few months and start over again!" Of course, the days and weeks continue to rush by while I am darting to and fro, busy with many other things. Enough! I found a week with no travel, so I am going to hop on a plane the morning of March 4 and head out to SEA-TAC. Thanks to cousin Kandy for offering transportation and a place to stay and to chauffeur me around to see my aunts. No more procrastination. I am going to "just do it." (Although, I feel slightly guilty for not rushing to my ailing mom's side instead. But not guilty enough to change my plans :-)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Lost Skill

Almost on a daily basis I find myself feeling very thankful for a skill I acquired as a teen-ager. As I sit in the airplanes, I see people pecking away at their computers. In the clinics I see my fellow employees typing out emails using two or four fingers. I look at resumes where the applicant proudly announces that she can type 30 words a minute. I see executives limping along on their keyboards. If there is one major failure of our public school system, it is the fact that they dropped the ball with one of the most basic and useful skills - keyboarding. How dare they use computers in first grade, but never teach the children how to "type"? How dare they allow teens to graduate with never requiring them to learn a basic skill that leads to higher productivity? It does not make sense to me! I can still hear Mrs. McConnell speaking to the tune of the clicking of several typewriters (this was before computers) .... f f f space, f f f space, j j j space, j j j space. And on and on through the entire alphabet, numbers, and all the symbols. Except for those who went through Mrs. McConnell's class, I have never seen anyone who can type things like *, $, @, #, and _ without looking at the keyboard. I have never seen anyone else who can type 70, 80, even 90 words a minute. I would go crazy, making my mind slow down to 50 words a minute; having to look for each letter, rather than looking at my document. Thanks to the late Mrs. McConnell, for one of the most useful classes I have ever taken. It has served me well for a lifetime.

Things I Miss

It's been seven months and I still really like my job. Although I have no desire to return to my former life, sometimes there are things I miss:
  • Spending most of the winter in places like southern California and Phoenix
  • Staying in full-service Marriott hotels with the really comfortable beds and with a concierge
  • New foods and unique dining experiences
  • Working with lots of men (not because they are men, but because of the way they think and the way they approach their careers)
  • Continuous intellectual challenges
I may be feeling this way now because it is getting to be a long winter and I have been going to cold, snowy places. And because it is challenging to get good, healthy food at the places I go. Spring is coming and I will soon be energized again. I'm sure of it.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Feeding the Family: Chicken

The chicken coop down by the road housed a lot of laying hens. It was a dirty, stinky place. The chickens would scratch around the yard all day eating seeds, worms and other such delectables. Sometime or other they would find their spot in the chicken coop and lay their egg. These would be picked up every day, taken to the house, properly cared for, and either used by the family or sold. I was quite young when the chickens disappeared and the chicken coop was mostly unused. I say "mostly unused", because there was yet another connection between that chicken coop and some chickens.

Early in the spring I would come home from school to find we were the owners of a bunch of freshly hatched baby chicks. They were ugly, with hardly no feathers. The delicate little chicks were put in the "brooder house", which was specially prepared with a heat lamp, water and special chicken feed. Throughout the summer these little chicks grew into full-grown chickens. I dreaded the day they were declared to be "just right". It was a family project. My older brothers would help mom catch the chickens, one-by-one. The head would go between two nails on a board and one swing of the ax ended it all. The head fell to the right and the body was thrown to the left. A brother picked them up and dipped them into a tub of boiling hot water. Meanwhile, down at the chicken coop, everything was set up for my job (and a brother or two). That sopping wet chicken was hung by its legs in front of my stool and I began plucking feathers. It's surprising how easy they came out. After a quick round with the blow torch to sear off all the little fine feathers, it made it's way to the basement. Mom and Dad were there, cleaning out the innards and giving them all a good washing. Then several of us wrapped them up in freezer paper, labeled it with the date, and into the freezer they went. After a day like that I said I'd never eat a chicken again. But who could resist the delicious fried chicken that came from mom's kitchen? Not me. You know, after all these years, I can clearly remember the smell of wet chicken feathers on a freshly butchered chicken. Weeding the garden wasn't such a bad job after all.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

It's a Good Thing I Was a Country Girl

After a nice dinner with my sister, Evie, I had another three-hour drive through the country tonight. As I was going mile after mile in the dark, sometimes for many miles without seeing another car, I was reminded of some conversations I've had with some former colleagues. Conversations about real fears of driving alone, in the dark, over strange roads. I'm sure it's because of my upbringing, but this has never bothered me. In fact, I find it rather peaceful. So long as my GPS knows where to take me, I'm content just motoring along the long, empty, dark roads. There are, of course, some small towns along the way. Places like Correctionville, Holstein, and Early. (I'm always curious how these places get their names). The roads were dry, except for the last 30 miles. But even those few miles weren't too bad....just had to slow down a bit. When I saw the Lighthouse (yes, a lighthouse in the middle of Iowa) and the Tyson Chicken Factory, I knew I was almost there. (Oh, that reminds me .... I need to write the next installment in Feeding the Family.) And good news on the hotel this time! King's Pointe Waterpark isn't too busy tonight - only saw about 20 cars in the parking lot. The elevator is out of order, so the nice girl at the desk gave me a main floor room. And since I had told her I'd really like a microwave, she gave me a free upgrade to a suite. It's nice - nicer than any Residence Inn I've ever stayed in. Tonight, life is good.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Feeding the Family: Fruit and Berries

The day my parents started carrying big crates from the trunk of the car to the kitchen, I knew some more days of canning was not far behind. What would ripen first? How many quarts would we get this year? Peeling peaches was the easiest. When they were just right, they would be dropped into boiling water, then quickly plunged into cold. My job was to slip the skins off and hand them over to mom, who quickly sliced them and packed them into the waiting jars. Pears were harder; they had to be peeled. Cherries and plums were only washed. Rhubarb was washed, cut into little pieces and made into "rhubarb sauce", which was amazingly good. I'd love to taste that again! Sometimes we would go to the Overton's farm and pick raspberries; sometimes we had strawberries. Everything looked so pretty in the quart and pint jars. Just about every evening, as mom was making supper she would say, "Audrey, go down the basement and bring up something for dessert." Should I get pears this time? Cherries? Or should I ask if I can make some pudding instead? Every supper, all winter, we had dessert and it was all delicious. Later in the fall, dad would bring home another crate; this time apples and sometimes oranges or grapefruit. These were put in the cold room in the basement and enjoyed for a long time. Yes, in the fruit and the vegetable department, we were ready for another year. But what about meat?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Feeding the Family: The Garden, Part 2

We were organic before organic became popular. From the totally organic garden to the table, and sometimes it didn't even make it to the table. The first peas were furtively plucked, pods popped, and the delicious fresh peas were scraped from the pod and scooped into the mouth. The first tender fresh carrots were pulled from strategic places in the row, wiped on the pants, and crunched between the teeth. And is there anything better than a tender young radish? Or the first handful of washed lettuce topped with sugar? But, of course, there was much more than could be eaten on the go. Tommy and I soon found ourselves with large dishpans full of peas in front of us. We made a game of seeing who could fill their bowl with shelled peas first. After the bowls were full, mom blanched and froze them. After the peas, we began on the beans. Sitting on a blanket on the shady side of the house, we attacked the dishpans that were now filled with beans. Each one had to be "snapped" on both ends before mom took them, cut them up, and canned them. Beans weren't as much fun because they are no good raw and too many of them had dandelion fuzz stuck to them. It wasn't long before we were husking corn, which mom cut off the cob and froze. And, oh, the taste of fresh corn-on-the-cob straight from the garden to the supper table! My brothers had a contest to see who could eat the most. For weeks, our days were consumed with picking the produce from the garden, canning, and freezing, making into pickles, relish and numerous other things. The two big freezers in the basement had been defrosted and made ready for all the new food. The shelves in the basement were ready to receive the bounty of canned goods. Last of all, the "pit" under the well house received gunny sacks full of potatoes and carrots. Finally, before winter set in, another year of gardening had been complete. I looked forward to several months reprieve before I was once again on my hands and knees in the hot sun, in the dry dirt, battling against the never-ending weeds.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Feeding the Family: The Garden, Part 1

The sun was hot, the days were long, the dirt was dry, the row was endless and the weeds were numerous. My brother Tommy and I had the job of weeding the garden. Rows were assigned and a timeline given ("Before supper"). Tommy didn't seem to mind. He hurried through his rows, yanking up all the weeds, staying ahead of me. I tried to keep up for awhile, but daydreams and the hot sun soon slowed me down. It wasn't long before Tommy started using the hoe, working between the larger plants. I was still on my hands and knees, pulling every weed around the peas and the beans. "Isn't it lunch time yet?" I asked again and again. Kool-aid and cookies sounded really good. Yes, this is how many days of my summer vacation went. Planting the garden was fun - it was early in the year, it was cooler, the dirt was black and moist, and the planting seemed to go fast. But this weeding business was very tiresome and b-o-r-i-n-g. This was no back-yard garden, after all; this was a small field. Row after long row of vegetables: peas, carrots, beans, beets, corn, cucumbers, squash, potatoes, lettuce, radishes, watermelon, tomatoes, and more. Eventually, the plants were bigger than the weeds would ever get. I anticipated the reprieve. But the real work was soon to begin - time to harvest the bounty.

I Hate Those Viruses!

It's amazing how dependent we are on our computers. Tuesday night I landed in Odessa, Texas, at a little after 10:00 p.m. That's only 9:00 my time, so after I made it to the hotel I fired up my laptop just long enough to check my email and Facebook. I had a strong signal with the hotel free wireless, so I used that instead of my broadband card. The next morning I made my way to the dialysis facility and started up my laptop. Everything went crazy. I got all kinds of alerts and then some porn sites pop up. Whoa! I quickly lower the lid to about a 30 degree angle and call our IT department. Well, IT worked on my computer remotely ALL DAY! They got all the viruses cleaned out, but was unable to fix whatever keeps me from logging on to the Internet. They said, "DO NOT use your computer until we can get it fixed!!" So I've been all week with only my blackberry, which is a great secondary, but a rotten primary way of getting work done. Well, I'm home now and will be taking my infected computer to IT tomorrow. I sure hope they can fix it. By the way, this is the second time at the same hotel that I got infected with a virus. I think I would be wise to never use their free Internet again. In fact, the wise guys at IT said "DO NOT USE THEIR INTERNET AGAIN!" Got it.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Baptism Bowl

One of my most prized possessions is the bowl pictured above. As a child I remember seeing this beautiful bowl on the top shelf of the kitchen cupboard. Later it was moved into the cupboards dad built in the dining room. Unlike most kids, I loved to clean the cupboards. It gave me an opportunity to see and handle all kinds of things that were not a part of our "everyday" life. I would very carefully take this bowl into my hands and VERY carefully step off the chair. I would feel the cut edges of the glass and marvel at the unusual, but beautiful color. Mother's cousin, Elizabeth, gave it to her and Oscar for a wedding gift in 1934. (Elizabeth was the daughter of Grandma Sophia's oldest sister, Louise). There was only one time I remember this bowl being used. This was the Baptism Bowl. For some reason, rather than go to the church, my baby brother, Bob, was baptized at home. I can still see the pastor, a gathering of family members, and this bowl sitting on the table with some water in it. "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost".... and Bobby was a baptized baby. I discovered later that my oldest brother, LeRoy, was also baptized at home, using this same bowl. Mom said she may have served a salad in the bowl a few times, but felt it was too pretty to use. And with all those kids around, she was probably afraid it would get broken! I love my baptism bowl. I have never used it to baptize, but I have served a fruit salad from it several times. But you can be sure, I will never let anyone else wash and dry it. That job is for me!