Small town girl. Joins Navy. Sees the world. Flies in planes. Hunts submarines. Gets out of military and has 3 kids. Rejoins Air National Guard as an "old lady" of 38.

A humorous compilation of stories and lessons learned. Usually the hard way.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Pure Bliss

As it does for every family, Christmas day came and went this year in a flash.  All of the preparation and planning.  All of the baking, shopping, and wrapping- all for this one huge day.  Like a wedding day- it played out beautifully and then, faster than you can say, "Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle"- it was done.  I found myself like I do after every big event that I take weeks to prepare for, sitting there walking in circles, confused over the slower pace and with a tad bit of post-Christmas blues.  Now what?  What’s the next big thing to look forward to?  How else am I going to fill every void minute of my day?  (yes, I have a sickness called, "ConfusedwhenIhaveasparemoment Disease")

Often this planning for these momentous occasions can overlook the things we  find pleasure in every day.  As much as I hate to admit it, in the craziness of it all I find myself losing my patience with my kids.  Bedtime stories are often cut short or instructed to “choose a quick book tonight,” as I have cards to stuff or messes that are awaiting me.  And as counter-productive as this seems to be towards the real meaning of the season- this is just unfortunately the nature of the beast.  I then resolve to do better in the new year.  I'm sure that like my own, many New Year’s resolutions often are a direct result of the holiday’s guilty decisions.

Yesterday, as a result of my mom casually mentioning how much she loved to go ice skating as a young girl and how she hasn’t done it for years and years, we decided why not bring the whole family to the local ice rink?  So we dug out hats and found matching pairs of gloves for everyone (as in matching the other hand- an accomplishment within itself), and set out on our big family adventure.  And that it was.

They aren’t many that can please and occupy everyone from a crazy rambunctious 7 yr old boy who never sits to 50-something grandparents.  However, on the ice- we all were one and shared the same common goals:  Do not fall and look like an idiot and/or cause an injury that would last well into our new year.  Did we accomplish our goal?  Heck no.  We fell, we got bruised and bumped, and I got a blister the size of Texas that I'm paying for today.  Luckily no major injuries- though my son banged his head pretty hard twice on the ice, but refused to stop skating. Already such a man in so many ways!

We also laughed at our foolishness, and smiled out of delight.  We helped each other young and old, and challenged each other- showing off our skills.  We entertained ourselves in our own foolishness.  We felt like kids again.  And we all left feeling refreshed mentally and physically having done something good for ourselves.  We felt joy. 

This is a picture of my mom.  I love it because you can see nothing but pure bliss on her face.

Me with my two best friends in the world- my sisters :-)  A great day.

What is it that brings your pure joy in its rawest form?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Road Less Traveled

"Ha ha- look there are no center lines on this highway,”  I laughed, easily amused by this.  It felt good to get off the beaten path a little.  I had pushed for the decision based upon the GPS declaring it had 3 magical choices for us. 

Choice # 1:  The quickest route via freeway.  I’m very tired of freeways.   
Choice #2:  A four-lane highway, veering slightly off the freeway for a small distance. 
Choice #3:  Only ten more miles- but an intricate path through hidden and forgotten about cities full of no doubt surprises and new sights to see.

I of course voted the road less traveled.  My better half-although the most logical man in the world, but also wanting nothing more than to make me happy, drove the truck down Choice #3, though I’m sure against all practical reasoning.
As much as I openly hated GPS’s, for some reason on this trip I just decided to throw caution to the wind and just trust in it this time- as opposed to my usual insistence of verifying its calls with my maps.  I love maps.  They never lie.  They could be outdated, but they never lie.  If one gets lost with a map, it’s 99% of the time their own fault.  If one gets lost with the GPS, well, for some reason that just seems to happen to me 99% of the time anyways.  Though my family and friends are always swearing by them and will make fun of me in jest because of my inability to trust in them.

We turned down the near single-car lane, then weaved around either side of an open southern Virginia tobacco field.  Gone were the road numbers and in their place were roads named after their inhabitants for the past 200 years or so.  Miller’s Way.  Jone's Drive.  Big John’s Road.  Possum's Path.  I could definitely see where this had once probably been the trail of horse-drawn wagons, or even perhaps a pack mule. 

Quaint farm houses with pillars over their wrap-around porches and withered red barns that looked like they had seen better days were littered periodically through the field.  I was secretly reassured because I had a cell phone on me.  Just in case. 

Growing up in MN I would have been subconsciously calculating if it would be closer to go to the house I had just passed, or would it be best to keep going in the direction I was traveling in the case of a breakdown, (or more likely getting stuck in several feet of snow.)  This all depended on how long ago I had passed the house.  I looked down at my phone in which I had come to rely on so much.  (I think I may have  even forgotten how to change a flat tire due to my fanatical dependence on this tiny piece of electronic genius- a lesson I was required to pass before I was allowed to take the car as a teenager.)  The reception bars had disappeared from my phone.

As the road continued to narrow, we came to a stop sign.  The GPS insisted we turn right, though the blatantly orange DETOUR sign told us that was no longer an option.   We soon found ourselves driving down scenic roads that the map was not even aware existed, and the GPS, clearly expressing it’s distaste for our lack of obedience- refused to speak to us any longer.  We were beginning to realize we were, in fact, in a bit of a pickle.

I did my best to remain optimistic, pointing out the fact that we would have missed the beautiful little rock-lined pond and brook had we taken the freeway.  And Lord knows I’m a better person for having seen all of the refreshing farmlands and woods.  I was doing my best to keep the faith for my family, though I knew we only had so many, “Are we there yet?”’s left in us before something inside of us threatened to snap.

I secretly began to pray for a road sign.  Any road sign would due.  Just to prove that we were somewhere that was documented.  Instead, what came into our view as we rounded the corner was something that made me do a quick, silent confession of my sins in my head.

There up ahead were probably about ten to twenty men, lined along side of the ‘highway’.  Propped over their shoulders or hanging down to their side was a rifle.  We continued towards them, not wanting to attempt to turn around and draw attention to ourselves.  Because there was no shoulder, the men were standing about as close as they could to the road without getting smacked in the head by a passenger side mirror.

We traveled past them, with the feeling like we were the singular show in a parade.  “This…is…creepy,”  was all I could muster to say.

“They must be just doing a drive.  I think it’s the last day of deer season down here.”

I was sitting at eye level and could feel there glares looking into my passenger window.  They were not happy to see us and made no attempt to hide that fact.  We were disturbing their hunt.  Or worse.  Their heads followed us one at a time as we passed.

“This couldn’t be any more awkward…” I muttered the obvious.

Suddenly free of the hunters' glares, we rounded another bend only to be greeted by a ‘ROAD CLOSED’ sign.  At this point, I would have insisted on driving through the broken road (there is something about owning 4-wheel drive that causes one to make decisions like these that are less than thought out.)  However, due to the fact there was a ginormous crane that occupied the entire width of the road- there was no driving through this broken road.  Instead, we turned around and reluctantly had to creep past the deeply annoyed and impatient hunters for a second time.  We tried our best to look invisible, but alas, we were not.

“You know, I can see how people could get away with things out here.  All this land and swamps.  No one would ever know anything, because they’d never see or hear anything AND they’d never find a body."  I was lost in deep thought.

He looked at me, slightly worried now.  “I’m glad I’m on your good side.  Well, most days anyways!”

Sometimes I am just as shocked as others are by the things my mouth says without first running them past my head.

After an hour more or so of wandering through the Virginia forests and swamplands, we eventually found our way to an actual road with numbers.  I sought relief in the little things- such as other cars, or gas stations, or center lines in the road.  

An “I told you so” wasn’t even necessary.  As appeasing as he would continue to be, he knew that I had learned.  Sometimes the road less traveled is less traveled for a reason.

Virginia Counties Map

Monday, December 19, 2011

Thoughts from 2011

Every year as Christmas comes to a customary close, like many families, my mother, and sisters and I always have this tradition where we reflect on the past year- since that’s the one time in a year that we are all usually together.  We look at where we are compared to where we were a year ago.  The statement “Would you have ever thought you’d be here last year at this time?” follows that reflection.  The answer is usually, “Not in a million.”  Even when we have a fairly ‘normal’ year, (as in no major life-changing events) there is still this ongoing, changing in our lives. It’s been said that the one thing that you can count on is change.  Our lives are continuously developing, changing, and growing.
The only one sure thing I know of in life is family.  Family is everything.  We are literally spread across the entire country. (WA, MN, MD, MI, KS, NY, ND, CA…) Having moved away from where I grew up, I also consider my closest friends my family, as they are usually the ones I spend birthdays and thanksgivings- and if I count the spread of states in which close friends reside, the results are infinite.  Well, maybe 48 or 49 states.
In this grand year of 2011, we had our annual trip to back home where we stayed at a resort on the lake for a week.  It’s the prime time for the kids to meet their awesome (and sometimes crazy) extended family- and not to mention get a taste of life up in Northern country. 
I also attended two fabulous weddings this year- one a cousin in Kansas and the second was a cousin in Minnesota.  I hadn’t seen my cousins on my mother’s side in nearly 6 years.  (Since my grandmother’s funeral- this obviously was a much more pleasant gathering.)  And yet, we were able to continue our conversations without missing a beat.  We can go months without talking, but that doesn’t change the incredible bond I feel with my family. 
Family will love you and be there for you in a moment’s notice.  Though our families are not perfect by any means.  We all have our crazy ones, the loud ones, and the naughty ones (yeah, you know who you are) but that doesn’t mean we love them any less- maybe we love those ones even more.  I can fight with my sisters like two angry wet chickens, and 2 minutes later, we are over it.  No matter how you disagree with your family; you will always be there for each other- without judgment- without a deep judgment anyways. We all are just doing the best we can.  We make mistakes.  We hurt.  And we forgive.  We laugh together and we cry together.  We survive because we have each other.  We move forward because that is what life does. 
Our family is forever growing as everyone brings in their significant others to the circle.  And then sometimes when we least expect it, happy surprises fulfill the void that we never knew existed- until it is filled.  Other times, as Cinderella once said, “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘till it’s gone.”  That is, Cinderella the 80’s hair band- not the fairytale story.
I would like to think there is a plan for all of this, and someday it will all make sense.  Good comes out of bad.  Happiness comes out of sadness.  And joy comes out of emptiness.  Sometimes things don’t make sense and we fight only to be defeated.  The hardest part of it all is just letting go and trusting that everything is happening exactly as it should in a perfect plan for us.  Sometimes we must lose or almost lose something in order to realize the value of it.
And so for the next year ahead, I wish you many days of joy and contentment.  I hope that whatever is troubling you will fall into its place in perfect time as it should.  I hope for your hearts to be filled with love, and for your friends and family to be abundant and ever-standing.  When you look back at the year’s end, I hope that you reflect with wonder and amazement, but also satisfaction and understanding.  Let go of the urge to control.  Someday it will all make sense.   And finally, I hope for you that you know you never have to go through it alone.  We’re all in this craziness together.
Where are you now and where do you think you’ll be in a year from now?

 “If I could go back and change things, would I? I don't know if I would, because my life would probably be different. I know I made bad mistakes. I know I was wrong. But that's what you've got to do sometimes to learn how to be right.” ~James Frey

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Live Nativity Scenes: The Verdict is Out

I love living where I live.  There are always enjoyable activities going on- especially now that the holidays are upon us.  Just last weekend there was a huge festival downtown.   The streets were lined with actual candles glowing (not the fake light bulb in a can kind)and Santa makes his appearance by riding into town on not some boring old reindeer, but one of the ginormous local fire engines with the lights glowing and horns a blowing.  All of the shops along the street hand out enticing cookies and warm apple-cider, and it is really a time full of celebration.  We’ve enjoyed this tradition since we moved here and it is one of those events that delivers the small-town vibe.

However; there is one thing that I can’t help but have mixed emotions about- and if anyone can enlighten me, I welcome it!  Now please don’t think I’m being cynical to religion- because I’m not at all.  I am very much all for remembering the true meaning behind our Christmas celebrations.  And I do consider myself a very religious person.  I’m even a Sunday School teacher- that’s already a free pass into the Pearly Gates, is it not?  The thing I just don’t get the big excitement behind or the point:  LIVE nativity scenes.  I’m talking about using REAL people instead of statues made of porcelain or plastic. They are the kinds that different events and such will advertise: LIVE Nativity Scene from 3-7!  Come one and all to see!   

So they had one of these Live Nativity Scenes on Friday night in front of one of the old beautiful churches.  It was very nice of the people to volunteer their time.  They came and sat in their appropriately assigned seats in the manger.  Mary and Joseph in robes and rags and a few shepherds scattered about.  Mary held a Cabbage Patch doll that represented the big guy himself.   

My family and I all joined a group of on-lookers that were already gathered around the scene and we stood there, watching them.  Mary and Joseph, no doubt looking for ways to pass the time, carried on a conversation about where to get the latest iphone for the best price.  One of the shepherds pulled back his fancy robe on his left arm and checked his fancy digital watch to see how much time of his shift was left.  We just kept staring-wondering what the appropriate length of time was to watch.  Awkwardness began to creep in.  When we felt we had met the polite time requirement, I patted my children in front of me and said, “Okay guys, let’s keep walking.  There is much more to see!”  (we had already seen it all- I was looking for a polite way to say, "Let's get out of here- I'm feeling uncomfortable now.")

To which my 7 year old son protested and said, “Wait mom, I want to watch this.” 

I speculated he thought at any moment a pageant was about to start.  While I was happy that something had actually caught his attention long enough to keep him still for over 2 minutes, I regretfully had to inform him that this was, in fact, all that was going to happen.  He looked up at me with a confused look on his face as if I had just told him that the color of grass is not really green, but actually has been purple all of these years.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, this is all they are doing.”

“Well, why are they doing it then,” he asked with all of the innocence of a first grader.

“Well…” I stammered.  “To show us what it looked like back then the night that baby Jesus was born.”

He watched them for a minute longer in silence.  “Hmmm.  Okay.”  And with that he turned and walked away.
We all followed his lead.  I have to think he said it best, as it was just one of those things that made you go ‘hmmm’.  Perhaps if there were live animals so we could see camels and cows and such- it would have added a bit to the show??  Though I’m sure it’s not always easy to borrow a camel ‘round these parts.

Monday, November 28, 2011

An Innocent Phone Call Quickly Turns Bad...

The other day I was instructed to call to confirm my benefit enrollment package at my current job.  Using my work phone, and being the efficient worker that I like to think I am, I decided to multi-task and dial the number using my speaker without missing a beat and continuing to work at my computer.

It was then that I became acutely aware that perhaps multi-tasking isn't always the effective process that it claims to be.  Of course I've learned this years ago, as the majority of my most embarrassing moments have occurred during a less-than-distracted state of mind. And yet, I continue to try.

Lesson learned:  Do not multi-task when dialing the phone.  It is extremely easy but can appear incredibly motive-altering to confuse the ‘866’ preface with ‘888’.  It just so happens in this story that's what I did.  I then was redirected.  At this point, I was still unaware of my '2-digit mistake'.   I actually became quite “excited” that I "was about to have live talk" as opposed to the routinely expected automated services that these benefit providers often entail.  However, it was not exactly the ‘live talk’ I was expecting.  

While I think she would have been interested in discussing a package- I soon realized the smoky voice on the other end of the line was not speaking of my benefits package.  My eyes grew wide, as I searched for the speaker button as fast as I could.  I picked up the reciever and slammed it down stopping the voice.  I felt dirty. Had anyone else heard?  I listened from my desk.  All that I could hear was the quiet hum of my computer.  Then some talking in the distance.  I waited.  I was fully expecting the IT department to come running down the hall and into my office at any second.  Surely I was to be arrested.  I knew they knew everything we did.  How was I to explain calling a 'dirty' number from work??

I ran down the hall to find someone.  Anyone.  After much discussion next door to me, I was finally reassured by my co-workers that they had not heard the call, and as long as it was an 800 number, and no charge yet- I would be fine.  I was flooded with relief.  Could it be true?  I wasn't going to lose my job after all- or go to jail!  I wasn't sure how they handled this.  I just remembered the warnings from HR.  No surfing porn.  No calling dirty numbers.  No wearing flip-flops.  The rules and expectations were endless.

Of course I'm not sure I should always believe a bunch of retired Navy sailors; however, I still haven't heard anything from the scary IT department- so that's always a good sign.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Lessons From a Flight Physical

About a week ago, I had to get my flight physical.  (Yay- after many years on the deck, I finally get to fly again- as a civilian this time which means no pisser-dumping.  Double-yay!)  Being that it was a such a specific physical that I had to get, I was instructed to choose a doctor from a very refined list and make an apt. ASAP.  Having no references to go by, I began calling down the list. 

The first was extremely friendly however, would not be able to get me in for 2 months.  3 months wait for the second person I called.  Then a number that was no longer in service. This was  getting painful.  Finally, on my fourth try, I was elated to hear that they could get me in by next week.  Sweet.  Bring $95 in cash.  Hmmm.  Always strange these days to find a professional business that doesn’t accept credit cards.  But I needed my ‘up-chit’ so I didn’t ask too many questions.

So I when the magical day arrived, I went to my appointment, arriving the standard ten minutes early.  Then I waited.  And waited some more. 

Before too long, I knew the entire waiting room, their grandchildren’s names, & their pets names.  I learned stuff about those patients I didn’t want to know.  Then the realization hit me that everyone in the room except for me seemed to be over the age of 60.  Well, I thought, it is the middle of the day on a Wednesday.  People of pre-retirement age are probably working. Finally, after an hour and a half wait, the nurse came into the waiting room again, not realizing her power.  We all held our breath as she announced the winning ticket. 

Nurse:  Ms. Ma-kai?

YES! I had won!  Even if she mispronounced it- close enough. It was finally my turn.  I felt as though everyone was waiting for a speech, so I turned and smiled and gave a quick wave instead and darted quickly after the nurse.  I feared if I was not fast enough- I did not want the nurse to leave me and I’d have to wait for the next available appointment.  Who knows when that could be!?

She went through all the routine nurse stuff.  Temperature?  Check.  Blood pressure?  Check.  Weight?  Ugh.   Never where I’d like it to be.  I told myself I’d start working on that tomorrow.  (Until someone brings in free bagels to work… ) 

Then she brings me to a dark room and asks me to read the letters.  Darn!  I forgot my glasses that I wear on occasion at home.  I secretly despise wearing my glasses and avoid it whenever possible.  However; this would’ve been a good day to have them.  I think to myself, If I only would’ve worn black pants- I wouldn’t have had to change out my purses, thus, leaving them at home.  Ugh.  I cannot go through this 2 hr wait again!  I explain this to the nurse.  She is not sympathetic.  Her sock are brown and her shoes are black.  Just saying.

Nurse:  go ahead and read the bottom row.

Me:  There are letters on the bottom row?  It looks like squiggly lines.

Nurse:  Well, you need to have 20/20 correctable distance to fly.  You’re allowed to miss a few, so why don’t you go ahead and try.

Me:  Okay… [all I see are O’s]  Um… O?  [I look at her face, she wrinkles her forehead]  I mean, D.  [her wrinkles relax].  P?  [more wrinkles] Q?  S?  [the nurse relaxes]  H? [that one is for sure- I think]  R, N, M, Q. I mean, L  [surely some of them are right- I just keep spouting off numbers.]

Nurse:  [wrinkling forehead.]  You just… barely passed that. 

Me:  I did?  [maybe she is a nice nurse]  Well- I normally have glasses, so it should be okay.

Nurse:  Alright Ms. Maki- Time for your hearing test.  I’m going to stand in the back of the room and whisper numbers to you and you repeat what you hear to me.

Me:  [Seriously?  What kind of back alley…]  Okay…  [she reads the numbers and I repeat them.  I feel awkward.  I make a note to research this company when I get back to my office to ensure its legit]

Nurse:  Now I’m going to check your lung capacity.  [she whips out this machine that looks like it was used to send messages through Western Union back in the 1930’s.]  Just breathe into this tube as far and as fast as you can.  [I comply.  I still feel weird, but I continue to follow her instructions.  I start getting light headed.  I fight the urge to pass out.  I must not fail.  I do not want to come here again.]  Okay!  All done. 

[At last the exercises are done and she escorts me into another room and instructs me to undress down to underwear, throw some little hand towel over my shoulders and sit on the bed.  She leaves.  I look over on the bed and notice the stirrups. Oh god.  I hope she doesn’t think it is that kind of appointment.  What is happening here?? 

Soon the door opens (wide and I’m in plain view to the hallway) and a man that looks about 95 years old wearing a nice suit begins to enter the room.  It takes a while.  Finally, he makes his way over to me.  He reminds me of my grandpa.  I miss my grandpa.  I would never want my grandpa to see me like this.  I guess this guy is the Dr., which reassures me slightly- as it wasn’t a nice man just randomly roaming around the halls, but it also leads me to worry more.

He begins the exam.  Alone.  Don't they usually have a 2-person in the room rule?  Guess he's never been sued.  I guess that could be a good sign.  He opens a suitcase that is lined in a avocado green satin, full of medical-looking instruments.  Or torture devices.  It’s hard to distinguish.  I get nervous.  He pulls out the eye-examiner and turns to leave.  After a minute, he gets to the other side of the room and shuts out the lights.  He comes back.  I wait.  Finally, he is in front of me again and begins examining my eyes.  His face is uncomfortably close.  I hold my breath.  He doesn’t but I’m thankful it’s not stinky.  I do funny eye tests as he watches intently. 

Over the next ten or fifteen minutes, I take breaths, lie down, and involuntarily kick my leg out as instructed.  I listen to war stories.  He asks me about my stories.  It actually seems as though he’s paying attention too.  Somehow I find this surprising. He checks my glands.  He listens to my heart.

Finally, I realize, what initially seemed like a sketchy visit, actually ended up turning into a pleasant experience.  It was a visit in which the Dr. still had some old-fashion manners and really seemed to want to take his time and be thorough.  Not exactly a crazy concept, but I hadn’t seen anything like this since I lived back home.  It was the kind of doctor's office where the patients complain because they have to wait, but they keep coming back, because they know they’re being well taken care of.  The staff actually took the extra time to hear about how you were doing- and this is just so not what I had grown accustomed to.  I learned all about what he did in the Korean War.  He loved to hear about my stories flying over Kosovo.  We bonded.

After my exam was complete, the receptionist typed up my “up-chit” on a typewriter.  Yep.  They still had paper charts and their latest electronic was an electrical typewriter.  The Dr. waited patiently and narrated over her shoulder.  It wasn’t until she was finished and I had my ‘up-chit’ in my hand that he shook my hand goodbye and wished me luck in the new-old phase of my career.  He then proceeded to ask for the next patient.  It was uncannily fantastic.

I always seem to have this constant nagging in my stomach, gotta hurry, gotta hurry.  And for what?  It sure didn’t help me get out of there any earlier.  I’ve grown so accustomed to the in and out in 5 minutes that I forgot the pleasantness of actually having a doctor that tells you the stories of the 'good ol' days'.  So today I decided to let go of my sense of urgency and just accept time as it comes to me, knowing that no matter how much I stress being late- it won't change the fact that I'm still late.  Of course that could all change if I'm stuck in traffic tomorrow on my way to a meeting.  But, hey, I'll give it a shot anyways!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Some Unique Dogs of Deer River

Almost every family up north hunts.  I could give you a statistic, but I'd probably be making it up.  Therefore, I can say almost every family up north has a hunting dog.  These dogs are usually a good mix of Chesapeake’s, Labs, Springer’s, German Sheppard’s, a mix of all kinds of bird dogs, or just simply a mix of the neighbor's dog down the road a mile with the other neighbor's dog that's down two miles after a result of a naughty night between the two of them sneaking out after all the good little dogs had gone to bed.

Deer River dogs are not your typical pet-type of dogs.  They are usually tough dogs that can brave the 20 below (average) winter weather with just their thick coats.  They are trackers and protectors.  They are beyond intelligent.  Well, most of them, anyways.

I know my parents always felt safer letting us kids go off and play around the farm, knowing we always had a trail of two or three big dogs following us.  When we would go to play in the woods, these dogs have not only helped us find our way home again on a couple of occasions in which we got turned around, but we also knew that they would protect us from any wild animal that we could possibly encounter.  Yes, growing up on the farms in Deer River I never had to worry about pedophiles or rapist.  Instead, we had to worry about wolves, bears, and bobcats.  Our dogs would have defended us to the death if necessary.  Even when we would play in the fields and would lie on the grass making shapes in clouds, one of the dogs would come and stand over us- almost as if it was protecting us as we appeared vulnerable.  I always felt safe with a good hunting dog around. They were our Guardians.

They were also full of more personality than I’d ever seen in a dog before.  A few examples of what I mean:

Emma:  Emma is my dad’s latest dog.  She is an adorable black and white mix and has no idea how large she really is.  She has been known to affectionately knock my 5 yr old on the ground in attempt to jump into her arms.  As she navigates around the living room, her tail acts as a machete, either splitting things in half, or clearing off the tables in a single, delightful sweep.  Despite her huge appearance, she is still a baby at heart and will tote around her stuffed teddy bear after a long, tiring day. 

Water is her favorite and she cannot pass any body of water, no matter how big or small without resisting the urge to completely engulf herself in it.  She will then emerge, covered in a sticky, green swampy mass and naturally feel compelled to wait until she is right next to someone dry to shake her body free of the green particles and water.

Dooger:  Dooger was rescued as a puppy as some nasty folks apparently thumped him and his brother on the head as puppies and left them in the woods for dead.  When my family discovered this, despite the fact they knew they didn’t need another dog; they had no choice but to rescue them.  The other puppy was found a home with other friends and Dooger was left with my family, and quickly learned how to become a real farm dog.
Dooger believed the herd of cattle was his.  With his herd, came great responsibility and Dooger never fell short of ensuring that each cow was safely transported back and forth across the road when needed.  If a calf escaped, he awaited the signal from my uncle and would swiftly round up the baby.  He never let the bulls intimidate him, and would stand nose to nose until they obeyed Dooger’s directions.  My uncle never had the need to speak a word and Dooger was so intuitive and a simple point was all that he needed.  To this day, Dooger still has his little lump on his head, but remains the smartest dog I’ve ever seen.

Millie:  As I sat around talking to family outside one recent crisp fall day, I couldn’t help but notice this big dark dog come settle near my feet that had lugged a chunk of firewood to gnaw on.  For some reason, she loved the taste of wood.
Her favorite pass-time was to cut down trees.  As soon as she heard her master get out the chainsaw, she would skip happily into the woods to begin helping cutting down trees.  Her job was the young saplings that would bend easily.  She would literally stand under one of these small leafy trees and jump up, grabbing as near the top as she could with her mouth and as she landed on the ground again, pull the top of the tree over until the thin trunk at last gave way and snapped off the top of the tree.  As you gazed out into ‘her’ forest, you would see a multitude of saplings that were snapped off at the height of Millie’s leaps. 

Like our own children, we all believe our dogs our the most unique and interesting of all the dogs out there.  But as any true dog lover could tell you- each dog comes to assume its individual role as a member of the family, and always with great pride.   What makes them unique is what wins a place in our heart for them.  It's why we fall in love with our animals and will take on another in need, despite the fact that we already have way too many animals! 

A pic of me & Emma- she's trying to give me a kiss.  I ever so subtlety pretend to look the other way turning my head, hoping she won't realize the truth and be offended, as it could forever drive a wedge in our relationship.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

What the Hell.

So once upon a time I had a little girl who asked me what the Navy was after I had referred to it one day.  This led to a big discussion full of big words.   Not the big words like the kind I use when she asks me questions that I don’t want to lie, but would just assume and avoid:

Daughter:  Mommy, what is Tampax?  

Me:  Well, you see, [putting forth my most scientific voice] every 28 days in order for suitable and essential reproduction efforts, a woman must menstruate.   Respectively, in order to maintain complete functionality, it is necessary to incorporate a barrier method during this process.

Soon the 5 year-olds mind tires and she moves on to her next thought.  Notice how I was honest and did answer the question?  Wham!  She can never grow up and accuse me of being dishonest.  I'm sure I'll unintentionally cause her to need therapy in other ways.

Back to the Navy conversation- I felt it near impossible not to use ‘big words’ to a 5 yr old such as Tactical Coordinator, and sonobuoy, and In-Flight Technician.  This got my wheels turning.  So, in turn, I decided to write a simple book to describe to her what a typical mom that does typical mom-like things may go off and do while her daughter goes to school.  Then just for the hell of it, I submitted the story to a publishing company that a friend had told me about.  Lo and behold, it shall be on bookshelves in popular stores such as Barnes and Nobles this January.  Who would’ve thought?  How is this possible?

More than the fulfillment of a dream that I’ve literally had people tell me it’s near impossible come true, the best part of it all is seeing the support of my friends and family in such an amazing way.  I cannot tell you how incredibly touched I am at the outpouring of support and genuine enthusiasm that has been showered upon my shoulders.  It touches my heart. 

I haven’t even seen my first copy yet, and I’ve already sold near 100 books to just friends and family that I have e-mailed.  How amazing is that?  They don’t even know if they will enjoy the book or not!  But to them, I don’t think that matters.  I think they just love the thought of someone saying why not give it a go?  Maybe it inspires them too?  If a farm girl from Deer River can make this happen- there isn’t anything that they can’t do. 

I have many quotes that I love from Marilyn Monroe.  One of my all-time favorites is, “Ever notice how ‘what the hell’ is always the right answer?”  I do believe the true test of one’s character is what they accomplish after saying, what the hell.   What would you do if you knew it were impossible to fail?  After you answer that question then answer the question why aren’t you doing it?  Today is YOUR day!

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Cabin

As mentioned before, Minnesota is known as ‘The Land of 10,000 Lakes’.  As any place’s surroundings become its livelihood, the lakes were naturally ours.  Not only were they profit for tourism and the local economy, they were also the native Minnesotan’s source of food, entertainment, and enrichment.  For this reason, most locals either lived on or near a lake, or had a cabin or beach nearby to which they would travel.  Our Cabin has been in our family for what is going on four generations now. 

The Cabin, which sits on a perfect fishing and swimming lake, was actually the one-bedroom home to my grandma and her many sisters and brothers.  The house was later moved to this piece of land on the lake that she and my grandpa bought as adults.  Through much hard work, it has become a beautiful little white cottage that sits on the sandiest shorelines around. 

The place bursts with memories of water-skiing, fishing, boating, hide-n-seek freeze tag, campfires, fireworks, picnics, and fireflies.  This was our vacation spot every warm weekend that the Minnesota summer’s permitted.  This was where our family came together as a family.  To all that continue to enjoy the cabin, it is a place unlike no other.

Now for someone that is unattached to these magical generations of memories, they may not see the place as anything too special.  As I said, the house is very old, and continues to get bandaged together year after year to make it last as long as possible.  I’m sure one of the most interesting kickers is that we actually do not have running water at the cabin.  After all, who needs running water when you have a lake 20 feet in front of you full of fresh water?!

Actually, fresh running water would be great; I’m not going to lie.  However, it’s something we just were accustomed to.  There were several workarounds:  We had a sink that would drain, so if we needed to do dishes, we’d just boil some lake water.  We’d always bring our own drinking water.  Every store in the world loves to sell water to any sucker that will pay for something they could get just as well for free. (At least that’s my dad’s opinion)  When we need a shower, we grab a bottle of shampoo and a bar of soap and dive in off of the end of the dock.  And of course when we have to use the restroom, we used the ever-popular outhouse.  

Yes, we have an outhouse.  It wasn’t until I moved away from home that I realized that not everyone has their own outhouse out back.  (My dad came home with an outhouse one day to put in the backwoods as if it were the greatest idea he had ever had.  I believe this stems solely off of the frustration of having to live with four women in a single-bathroom home.)

It has been great entertainment on my end trying to teach my little ‘city kids’ how to use an outhouse.  Yes, you have no choice to tolerate the smell, bring a flashlight at night, and tolerate the mosquitoes and/or other lovely creatures of nature.  Of course my aunt tries to pretty up the place and put smell-goodies in it.  In reality, she is just putting perfume on a pig.  There is only so much you can do, although the efforts never go unappreciated.

The following is an excerpt of a conversation with one of my friends who grew up in L.A. as we were exchanging stories of our childhood:

D:  So, let me get this straight- It’s just... a hole in a building?
Me:  Yes, It’s just a hole.
D:  That you sit on?
Me:  Well, yes.  Eventually we upgraded and got toilet seats. 
D:  And then when you were done- how did you- flush it?
Me:  You didn’t flush it.
D:  It just sat there?  What happens when ‘it’ filled all the way to the top?
Me:  Well, I guess that just didn’t happen.  It just decomposes or something.  I guess I never really thought that much about it.

Our conversation continued along this topic for a bit to which it then made a turn to questions regarding her childhood in L.A.:

D:  Yeah, it became such a common thing to have drive-bys at our parties; we just had to be sure to not linger in the yards for too long.  You were much more of a target then.
Me:  You would seriously have people drive up and randomly shoot guns at you?!?
D:  Yes, it was usually just stupid gang stuff.  They rarely would hit anyone.  At least not life threatening injuries, anyways.  We just had to be sure never to wear colors like red or black.  So you would seriously have to worry about bats and spiders when you went to the bathroom at night?  I don’t know how you could handle that.

It was then that I realized that I suppose everyone faces their own obstacles growing up.  I have since become quite thankful that I had bats and spiders to deal with instead of drive-bys, pedophiles, and wearing the wrong colors. (I love red!!)  While our ‘vacation’ home wasn’t a condo in the Keys and no, it didn’t have running water, I never felt like I grew up missing out on anything.  I didn’t know any different.

Now that I have a family of my own- we have taken our vacations to Disney and Ocean City.  However, I still think our best memories are our summer vacations spent at The Cabin on the lake.  I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to give my ‘city’ children the opportunities to fall asleep listening to the frogs and learn how to water-ski (where rest assured they do not have to worry about jellyfish or sharks).  I’d like to think that using an outhouse where they must dodge spiders and bats in the middle of the night can only build character.

To know who I am and where I came from, you must know The Cabin.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Truth About Fish

If Minnesota is known for anything, it's for the lakes.  In a land of "Sky Blue Waters" (the Native American definition for Minnesota), and a place with over 10,000 lakes, you can bet the farm there's bound to be some good fishing.

Not only do we have the standard fresh water fishing out of a boat, there are all the different types of ice fishing as well.  There is the basic ice fishing over a hole drilled into the ice.  There is my favorite- dark house fishing in which you sit in a dark house over a hole aprox 2'x4' wide with a live 'shiner' strung from the ceiling that swims around near the surface, attracting the Northern Pike (aka “Northerns”) into your field of view, so you can spear them with a spear attached to a rope.  Then, there is even the old traditional way of stringing a 100' net under the ice, catching small pan fish for smoking.  These are all great forms of fishing- some a bit more challenging (and freezing) than others.

On May 1st every year across the land a very special day emerges.  The Sucker-Spearing Opener.  This is right around the time the 'suckers' began swimming upstream to spawn.  So we as kids would grab our spears, some old tennis shoes and jump into the shallow creeks (pronounced 'cricks' up there) with our spears- some that may have a chunk or two of ice attached to the banks still. 

My dad had a few interesting techniques of his own.  He would go upstream with a bow and arrow, literally taking shots at the fish.  This definitely required a bit of skill on his part.  

A favorite hiding spot for the fish was usually in deep holes that formed right under an opening of a culvert that escorted a creek under a road.  That was the money spot.   Often though, these holes were a bit too deep to reach with our spears.  In those cases, my dad occasionally had a special technique for enticing the fish from their hiding spots.  Let's just say it involved items that were leftover from an Independence Day celebration.  (I could be talking about hotdog pieces here, folks.  Fish could love hotdogs, I'm sure!)

One particular spring, the suckers had a great winter- and were extremely overpopulated.  On a sunny Saturday afternoon, dad suddenly received the call from one of his friends that the suckers had been running like mad in the creek that ran alongside the Alder Road.  The Alder Road was this fabulous country gravel road that cut across through the woods and backfields into the town of Marcell, MN (population 394).  The leafy trees cascaded over the road, in a mystical tunnel of colors.  Whitetail deer grazed on the clovers in the fields.  Wildlife sprung all around us as our tires popped along the rocks.

When we got to the hot spot, my sisters, dad and I sprang out of the truck to meet up with all of our cousins and their dads.  Everyone grabbed a spear- and the littlest kids grabbed nets.  We all spread out around the banks that lined either side of the shallow creek.  The fish were flowing so abundantly that our arms grew tired from the spearing and hoisting them up onto the banks.

As I threw another one off my spear and watched it wiggle in the grass, taking it's few last breaths of air, I suddenly felt a twinge of guilt.  I couldn't think too much about the food that I ate, or I never would eat meat again.  I gazed at the holes that I had left in its body where my spear had been and said to my uncle Tim standing next to me with a sigh, "I guess it's sure a good thing that fish don't have nerves."

My Uncle Tim, who was the farmer of the family, and also an avid animal lover, stared at me with an intent look on his face.  Uncle Tim took over the beef farm when my grandpa passed.  He loved the cattle that he butchered.  It was bitter-sweet.  He stay up for days on end to assist delivery of the calves in all hours of the night, and often during raging blizzards in calving season.  He gave them nicknames based on their coloring or their personalities.  And did some of these cows have personality!

To some it may seem hypocritical, but I grew up believing that we gave these animals a good, happy life, and when they died, it was instant and with dignity.  I believed that was so much better than what would happen for them in a slaughter house.

"What do you mean, they don't have nerves?" Tim asked me, perplexed.

"They don't have nerves."  I said it slower, more enunciated this time.  Uncle Tim just continued to look at me as if I had two heads.

"Yeah, Dad told me they don't have nerves."  

And then Tim realized what was going on.  He simply nodded, and went back to his fishing.  As he turned away, it finally dawned on me as well.  All of this time dad had told me they didn't have nerves.  I was nearly eleven now.  Surely I would've realized had been simply sparing my heartache.

I dropped the spear and stepped back.  All this time.  All those fish.  My mind raced as I began trying to come to terms with it.  It was such a simple thought.  Why hadn't I really realized it all of this time?

Since that day, I have dabbled in fishing a bit here or there.  I always bait my own hook and try not to make a big deal about it.  Mostly I go to be out on the water (as it is my happy place) and fish to satisfy those around me.  But the truth is, when it comes down to it, not a fish passes me by that I catch and don't think of the pain it may feel at that moment.  I didn't want to stop fishing years ago because it was my time with my dad, that made up so many of my childhood memories.  

And now I believe that is why my dad never told me the truth about fish after all of those years.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Believe That Anything is Possible

It's a good day!

Getting Gas in Deer River (No, not a story about Mexican food)

Once, after I had gone for a very lengthy amount of time away in the military, I came home to DR on leave.  You wouldn't think that a simple, routine stop for gas could become such a learning ordeal.

I pulled up to the pump in my mom's beautiful rusty car that she had lent me for my visit.  (It's a rare thing to not have a car without rust in a place that snows nearly 9 months out of the year and uses salt as the antidote to an icy highway.) 

I was used to driving a rickety old white military duty van in Sicily with a manual gear changer in the column shifter.  Finding the gears on this was a pure guessing game- as they were mysteriously unlabeled.  It was often simply a matter of trial and error- along with much grinding- and the slow murder of a transmission. 

So naturally, after spending 6 months in another country, I initially pulled up on the wrong side of the gas pump.  After considering if I could reach the hose across the car and make it look like I "planned" to do it this way- I quickly dismissed the idea, realizing there was no chance it would- and could quite possibly lead to bigger problems.

I still haven't exactly learned a graceful way to play that one off.  Instead, you must duck your head down and admitting guilt, get back into your vehicle and pull it around to the correct side.  Meanwhile, the on-lookers stand fueling their own vehicles all smart-like, staring at you- then quickly glance away- pretending not to notice your foolish mistake- if you look in their direction.

Now, having the gas tank on the proper side, I get out, credit card in hand and step up to the pump.  I grabbed the nozzle, and placed it inside my tank opening and spun back around to swipe my card.  Problem is, I could not find the 'swiper' anywhere.  I began searching- feeling like I was blind- knowing it had to be obviously right in front of my face.  I started reading the instructions.  They said to "Remove nozzle and place in gas tank." Check.  "Select fuel."  I selected the fuel.  Where did I pay? 

Then it dawned on me that this pump clearly did not have the pay-outside option.  I was going to have to pay first inside.  Ugh, I hated that, because I just never knew how much it would take to fill it.
So I went inside.

Lady at the counter:  Hello, can I help you?

Me:  Yes, I would like to pay for gas please on pump #2.

Lady:  [Looking down at the register] Are you sure you mean #2, Ma'am?

Me: [Unsure- glancing outside] Ummm, I think that's the one.  It's the one with the red car right there.  [I pointed outside. People began to form in line behind me.]

Lady:  Hmmm [trying to be polite- and not make me feel like a TOTAL fool.]  You must be mistaken Ma'am. Would you like to run out and check?  It's no problem. I can wait.

Me:  [Another person comes behind me in line- all carefully watching me.]- Ah, okay.  [I run outside quickly, run to the other side of the pump.  There is a large, shiny silver #2 written overhead.  Darn lady that doesn't listen.  I run back inside.  More people are in line.]  Yes, it's definitely #2.

Lady:  Well, Ma'am, I don't show #2 having a balance on it.  What is it that you are going to pay for?

Me:  [Seriously?]  Ah, right- I haven't pumped yet- I was just going to pay for it first.

Lady:  [Long pause- appearing as if she's trying not to laugh now.]  Well... how do you know how much you're going to put into it?

Me:  [Sigh.  Finally realizing that there is simply no need to pay-before-you-fuel here.  Why would they need to do that?  Everyone knows your car!]  Um, [I had lost this round.] I guess I wouldn't know.  I will go out and fuel it now.  [Now I looked like the idiot. Again.]

I ran back outside and saw how easy it would have been for me to just squeeze the handle and see the gas come out into the tank- with no need to pay or look for a credit-card swipe. If I only would've followed the directions one step further... I swiftly filled up my tank and went back inside to meet the lady once again to try to pay.

Lady:  All set now, ma'am?

Me:  Yes, thank you. [I handed her my credit card.]

Lady:  Oh I'm sorry, Hun.  We don't take credit cards.  But there is an ATM up at the bank on the other side of town if you need to go get some cash.

Me:  I could just go drive there and get some cash? [Who carries cash anymore??]

Lady:  Oh sure.  You won't take too long will you?

Me:  Well, no...

Lady:  Or do you have an account here?  You could just charge it to your account.

Me:  Well, I don't but my dad does.

Lady:  Oh okay, great.  I'll just put it on his account.  What's his name?

Me:  Maki.  Do you need some ID?

Lady:  Oh no, that's no problem.  You look like a Maki.  [She did some typing and handed me a receipt.]  You have a great day now, okay? 

Me:  Okay, well, you too. 

I left the gas station slightly perplexed.  Did that just really happen?  Had I been out in the 'real world' for so long I forgot what a trusting little town this was?  Despite feeling like a complete moron, I had to smile to myself.  If ever I hear people make statements such as, "This world is just not a safe place." Or things like, "People now days are just not like they used to be,"  I realize these people just have never been to Deer River.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Driving in Deer River

I've never claimed to be a great driver.  My high school hall-of-fame yearbook would confirm that, as I was voted "Craziest Driver" along with my old pal Brian- who was in fact an all-time crazy driver.

I was never in an accident- per say- going forward anyways.  Sure my garage growing up expressed several dents on either side of the garage door from my backing up mis-judgements.  But I have to say- the garage was built after I had been driving for a while and I had my "routine" down.  I jumped in the car, threw it into reverse, turned it around, and drove off.  Before the garage was there, it was a perfect turn-around area.  Many times after, I had the tendency to forget the garage had been built.  My mom planted raised flower boxes to mask the dents on both sides of the garage door.

Going in the ditch is just a right of passage when you drive on icy roads.  I cannot count how many visits I have taken to the ditch.  Life could not stop when there was a snowstorm, ice-storm, or gently packed snow waiting for your bald tires with a fresh coat of dusty snow on top.

It has been stated that I drive just slightly too fast.  I would always deny this conviction, but left questioning my skills after the conversation was long over.

All of this came to my 'ah-ha' moment when I left MN and began driving in Florida.  Turns out I was a great driver in Florida.  Everyone drove as fast as me if not more!  And THEY were crazy drivers.  Same thing happened when I moved to Maryland.  At a green light, the goal is to get up to the fastest speed possible and then slam on your breaks for the next red light.  My dad would say- you sure are trusting your breaks there.  Well, yeah, shouldn't you trust your breaks when you drive?? 

In Maryland.  I learned you can totally get away with going 67 miles per hour in a 45 zone.  (I got pulled over, and just simply warned that I'm going a little too fast & should slow down.) 70 is standard in a 55.  You are holding up traffic otherwise- and who wants to be rude like that?  At last, I felt I fit in.  My fast driving skills were not only standard here, they were necessary in order for survival!

And don't even get me started on what happens to drivers down south when it rains.  I remember the first time I drove in Maryland when it was a rainy day.  Every store I went into I was warned as I left to 'be careful out there.' I mean, it was nice of them to be concerned, but it really had me worried as to what was going to happen here when it rains?  Most people just cancel their appointments anyways on a rainy day.

Problem is, when I go home, I tend to forget the Minnesota-style driving.  They are courteous drivers who only use the left lane for a passing lane- not a lane to hang out in for extended periods for a better view.  If you do, you are not considered very courteous at all.  No one is really in a hurry much- there is no reason to be.  The scenery alone is just too darn pretty not to slow down and enjoy.  Finally, you never know just when a deer could jump out in front of you- so you always need to slow down and be looking.  My dad taught me to drive in the middle of the road so I'd have more reaction time.  This is discouraged in the city.

Fast forward to this Memorial Weekend in Minnesota:  I was on my way home to my dad's house.  I had just finished early morning church service and was all dressed up nicely.  (See what a good girl I am?)  I was going along on the gravel cut-across road (there is always a short-cut on the gravel roads to somewhere- it's like a secret world of webbing & intersecting roads).  Well, it had been a while since I'd driven on a gravel road.  I seemed to forget that while you can go fast on a gravel road, you can't stop fast on a gravel road, and you sure as heck can't corner fast on a gravel road.

It just so happens the road I was driving on had three 90-degree corners before I reached my dad's house.  I drove it like a Mario Kart racing game, as I sped up to make up time in the straight spots, and slowed way down to take the corners, fish-tailing slightly if I didn't slow down fast enough.  Well, turns out, I had miscalculated.  Just when I thought I was home free and began to make up some speed- the road about a hundred yards down appeared as if it just ended and a field of green stood in it's place.  Two seconds later, I realized while it did not end, it continued- 90 degrees to the left.  I was headed straight for the field at an alarming rate in my tiny little foreign rental car. (another sign that I was an outsider back home)

My effort to slow down failed me and I let off the break as I cornered, hoping the gravel would catch.  I slid around the corner and the starboard side (passenger side) of the car's wheels went off the road and into the steep embankment- coming to an abrupt halt.  I released my death-grip on the steering wheel and surveyed the situation.  I remembered to breathe.  My hands began to tremble, no doubt from the adrenaline that had just surged throughout my body.  It took all of my weight to push open the driver's side door that sat at a nasty angle.  As I climbed out and was instantly bombarded by mosquitoes (how they found me so fast, I'll never know)- I was instantly relieved that the little rental had decided not to roll, as judging from the steep bank it rest on, just a little bit more speed would have been enough to have sent it in that direction.

I hadn't stood there longer (in the middle of no where) than ten seconds when a van came into view, driving towards me.  Two middle aged men sat in front and rolled down the window, asking if I was okay.

Me:  Yes, I think so- I'm just going to call my dad.  He should be able to pull me out.
Kind mini-van guys:  Are you sure?
Me: Yes, I'll be okay.  Thank you.

They drove off.  I began dialing my dad's number.  No answer.  I dialed my step-mom's number.  No answer.  I tried to think of who had a truck around here.  Then I laughed at the thought.  Then I got bit by more mosquitoes and didn't think it was funny.  I called my cousin, Jake.  He didn't answer.  I started to wonder if there was something wrong with my phone.  I called his sister, Jenna.  Finally I heard a human voice that was not the voice-mail lady.

Me:  Jenna!  What are you doing?  Where's Jake?
Jenna:  I'm just at the farm with my mom.  Jake should be at home.  Is something wrong?
Me:  I just tried calling him.  Couldn't get through.  [Meanwhile another truck comes into view, heading my way.]
Jenna:  Is everything okay?
Me:  Yeah, I'm just sorta in the ditch right now.  Don't worry- I just need to find someone with a truck.  Actually, there is a guy in a truck stopping here right now-  I'll call you back, okay?
Jenna:  Are you sure- where are you?  I'll try to call my dad.
Me:  Okay- great [the guy is stopped in front of me now]  I'll call you back! [I hang up the phone and the guy is getting out of his truck.  He is a older gray haired farmer, overalls and everything driving a red Ford F-150- probably about ten years old]

Farmer guy:  Hey there, Miss, you alright? [my white high-heels are sinking down into the gravel road now
Me:  Yes, I'm good.  I just was driving a little too fast and slid off the road.  I'm trying to get in touch with my dad who has a truck, but I can't seem to reach him.
Farmer guy:  Well, I live just around the bend there, and I've got me some chains.  If you hold tight here, I can run home and get 'em.
Me:  Oh really?  That would be great.  Do you think the car will come out okay- it's a rental, so I'm really nervous about doing any damage to it.
Farmer guy:  Oh sure. [he gets down on the ground to survey the situation]  Yep, I can hook her up right here and puller out like nothing.
Me:  [realizing I don't have a lot of options at this point and my skin is infested with mosquitoes at this point]  Okay, sure if you think it would work.  That would be wonderful.
Farmer guy:  Okay, I'll be right back then. [leans in closer and voice gets lower] Say, you haven't called the cops or anything yet, have yer?
Me:  Um... no.
Farmer guy:  Okay, just checking.  I've had a couple shots a whiskey this morning- just wanted to be sure.
Me:  Okay... sure. [oh geeze!]

The farmer gets in his truck and heads back in the direction of his house before his truck disappears in a cloud of dust.  Soon, another truck, this time a blue Chevy is headed my way, slows down and rolls down his window to talk to me.  Next to him on the passenger seat is a chocolate lab perched with his tongue hanging out, smiling out his window.  The dog also turns his head to look at me.

Man with dog:  Hey there.  Looks like you've got yourself in a bit of trouble.  [Ah, nothing like stating the obvious when you're already down.]
Me:  Yeeep.  I guess I was just going a little too fast on these gravel roads.
Man with dog:  You call a wrecker yet?
Me:  Well, actually a guy that lives just up the road is going to help me.  He's running home real quick to grab his chains.
Man with dog:  Oh, that's not Bob is it? 'Cause you know he may be tippin the bottle a little.
Me:  [great]  Um, not sure.  Do you think I should call a wrecker?  I can't risk having any damage to my rental.
Man with dog:  [getting out of his truck now to also look under the car]  Well, then you best be calling a wrecker to be sure.  [Just then, I could make out a red F-150 coming back down the road]
Me:  Oh, this is him-  [At this point I have no idea what to do.  I can't risk the rental being damaged- but aren't sure what other options I really have. The truck pulls up and the man gets out and grabs the chains out of the bed of his truck.]
Farmer guy:  Oh hey John!
Man with dog:  Bill!  What's going on? [Of course they would know each other.]
Farmer guy Bill:  [Gets out and starts hooking up the chains under his car.]  Just helping out this young lady.  I figure I'm just gonna giver her a gentle pull.  Probably won't even need to put her in four-wheel drive.  [All vehicles around her are called 'her'.]
Man with dog, John:  Well, are you sure there, Bill?  You sure it ain't gonna bend that frame.  It's just one of those foreign cars, ya know?
Farmer guy Bill:  Oh ya.  It won't be a problem.  [He climbs back in his truck as all the chains are hooked up now.  I climb back into the foreign rental and pop it into drive.  I began to pray.  John stands back but monitors closely.  The dog tilts his head to the side and watches us.  Maybe I'm feeling vulnerable, but I began to think the dog is judging me too.  The chains tighten as the F-150 moves forward, and my little car pops out of the ditch like nothing.  Farmer guy Bill was right.  It didn't take any effort.  We all get out of the vehicles.]
Me:  Oh, thank you so much!  [I shook his hand.]  Can I pay you?  My dad is Mr. Maki- and he lives just up the road.
Farmer guy Bill:  Oh sure, Maki. I know your dad.  In fact, think he hauled me some firewood there last winter.  No ma'am.  No money necessary.  You just best be slowing down now.  This ain't no city driving on these gravel roads.
Me:  Yes, sir.

Boom- another shot at my driving skills by a complete stranger.  I suppose I deserved this one.  The next few days I was in Minnesota were full of receiving much grief and getting poked fun.  Somehow, it was easier to take these days than it used to be growing up- because I finally knew the secret.  Yes, they may be right.  I may not be a very good driver.  But I've personally concluded that while I may not be a very good driver in Deer River, I am an excellent driver everywhere else.  At least that is the story I am sticking to.  And thank you Bill and John. Wherever you are.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Welcome to Caribou Coffee

It was the morning after my cousin, Sheena's fabulous wedding in Grand Rapids, MN.  We were enjoying seeing family I hadn't seen in years, and celebrating- I didn't get more than probably 2 hrs of sleep.
Needless to say, on the drive from the hotel back to my dad's place, my sister Liz and I needed coffee.  And lo and behold, the sky parted and in front of us stood a Caribou Coffee, twinkling under the sunshine.  Perfect.

We pulled up to the drive-thru, the only ones in line, sitting in anxious anticipation, scheming our plans of what fufu coffee we would order.  Such a treat!  Not more than 5 seconds had gone by when we heard through through the crackly drive-thru speaker.

Girl:  Welcome to Caribou Coffee!  Would you like a grilled cheese?

Liz, who was driving, sat for a second, slightly stumped. She glanced over at me with a confused look on her face, and turned back to the speaker and politely declined.  Well, not a moment after she expressed her disinterest in a grilled cheese than the thought of the succulent sandwich of melted cheese sounded good to me- despite the fact we had practically just woken up.  I was feeling a little "tired" from the previous night's festivities and was looking for anything to make me feel better.

Me:  Wait- that kinda sounds good! [Liz stopped ]

Liz:  Okay, on second thought, we will take a grilled cheese. [My sister replied to the speaker with the voice of a young girl.  I was satisfied.  Tired, but satisfied.]

Girl:  Okay, ma'am, what kind of grilled cheese would you like?  [Liz turned back to me, yet again, confused.  She mouthed the words, What kind?  shaking her head to me, as if we had options like we were ordering a soft drink.]

I shrugged my shoulders in confusion, and Liz turned back to the girl in the speaker.

Liz:  Um, what kind do you have?

It was then that the girl in the speaker began her to attempt to ramble off every kind of gourmet cheese, though unable to pronounce the majority of them and soon began slowly sounding them out.  This continued for sometime and at this point, Liz and I couldn't help it any longer.  We lost it.  We began laughing uncontrollably at the situation.

My first thoughts were, Oh wow, we're totally going to offend this girl.  But they were quickly put at ease as she began cracking up as well.  So there we were in the coffee drive-thru line and this girl is going through the lists of all of the different types of grilled cheeses they had, meanwhile the line of cars behind us continues to grow.  After her list seemed done, Liz answered.

Liz:  Um, which is your favorite? [she asked the girl as neither one of what she had just said as we were too busy laughing]

Girl:  Well... do you like spicy?

Almost in unison, both Liz and my stomachs turned at the thought.

Liz:  No, not spicy-

Girl:  Okay, well how about the blah blah blah kind?  [Still have no idea what she said]

Liz:  We'll take it!  And can we also get two coffees?  I need a nonfat peppermint mocha with whip and a white chocolate mocha without whip.

Girl:Okay so you want whip on both?

Liz:  No, just whip on the peppermint mocha.  [how did this get so complicated?]

Girl:  So no whip on the peppermint mocha.

Liz:  Whip on the peppermint.  No whip on the white chocolate.

Girl:  Okay, do you want milk, white, or dark?

Liz & I:  What?? [we began cracking up again]

Girl:  [silence]

Liz:  I feel like I'm high- I can't stop laughing [more laughter]

Girl:  [more silence]

Liz:  [hoping she didn't hear the last comment and called the cops.]  Okay, I'm sorry.  What was it that you said?

Girl:  [sigh] Do you want to just pull up to the window?

Liz & I:  [more laughing]  YES!!

We pull up to the window.  At this time the line of cars is nearly out to the road.

Girl: [Comes to the window]  Okay, would you like milk, white, or dark chocolate in your peppermint mocha.

Me:  [I'd never been asked such a question before and clearly was unprepared]  Um, what is your favorite?

Girl:  I like white.

Me:  I'll take milk.  [wasn't trying to dismiss her feelings, but after second thought- milk chocolate definitely sounded best.]

The girl shakes her head, hands me my grilled cheese in a bag and goes off to make our coffee orders.  We hear her take the order of the person behind us & once again, trying to sound out the names of the cheeses.  This cracks us up yet again.  We are nearly crying now.  Girl comes back with drinks.  We thank her through our laughter.  Liz is trying to hand her a credit card.

Girl:  Wait- did you guys already pay?  [It strikes us as the funniest thing ever and we start laughing again.  Liz shakes her head no through her laughs and hands the slightly annoyed girl her credit card.  We pay and drive off.]

Suddenly I spot the Dairy Queen and all of a sudden Dairy Queen seems like the best idea ever.  We proceeded to go through the Dairy Queen drive thru...

I Found My Cause...

I had the honor and privilege to volunteer with some of our countries true heroes.  It was at a golf tournament in Bethesda, MD and the slinkiest little country club you ever did see.  The women’s locker room was bigger than a banquet room.  All the amenities imaginable.  It’s good to be King!
My first assignment on this day- registration.  Working alongside a former sailor herself, Miss Linda was a PN back in the old salty-sea dog days.  Surely this woman has seen and done it all.  Together we checked everyone’s name off as I got to give the shpeal “If they go down and test drive a vehicle at John Colman’s Cadillac, they will validate this $75 gift card to be used on Callaway products.”  (I learned that Callaway products are golf products.  Good to know!)  Sounded simple enough.  After about 50 times of repeating this same ol line as fast as I could so the people did not walk away from me, I quickly began to feel like quite a salesman.  Something that I am anything but!
And then the games began…   There were introductions, thank yous and dedications.  The National Anthem played, the Color Guard presented the colors like only they can do.  The Warriors were then individually introduced.  A handful of young men that look like your typical guy-next-door.  Except some were missing an arm.  Others a leg.  And some carried their injuries much further inside of them.  All of them carried a secret of a brotherhood that only they could understand.
In moments the time had passed, and the golf carts were off!  Excited to ride in one, I was willing to make up any excuse to go– to help deliver water, etc.  Truthfully I just wanted to see what was going on.  Everywhere.
All in all it was a great day and meeting some of these Veterans was extremely eye-opening.  Some of their injuries were physical, others were mental.   No one escapes such experiences without being a changed person.
I met a young man, and father of five, named Ramon.  He was missing his right forearm, but didn’t miss a beat as he used his golf-club attachment designed just for him.  He told me his story in a matter-of-fact tone.  Not once did he feel sorry for himself.  He had the most positive attitude of any person I’ve ever met.  He said, “How can I complain- I get to golf all over the country, meeting people and raising money for the Wounded Warriors so they can help other wounded veterans.  It doesn’t get any better than this.”
If a man that has seen combat and left behind a piece of himself, it definitely gives perspective to our everyday problems.  I hope to since adopt the motto and live each day believing “It doesn’t get any better than this.”  I’m not a fool- I know I continue to have my moments- but all I can do is start each day over with the same mentality.
As an additional note- I feel like I’ve finally found a cause that is close to home for me and that I feel passionate about.  I will do more in the future for the Wounded Warriors Foundation.

In the Beginning...

Hello my favorite friends and family!  Welcome to my first ever blog site.  If you know me at all, you know I constantly have the most random thoughts that pop into my head.  I usually feel obligated to share these most profound statements- as if I have just discovered the meaning of life- with my top 5 favorites on my cell phone.  Well it's become so regular, half the time I don't even get a response from my sisters or mom anymore because I think they just don't even know what to say anymore other than, where do you come up with this stuff?  I have no idea.  Probably driving.  Yes, I do believe my best thoughts come while I am driving.  So, hop aboard and enjoy the ride!