Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Gift of a Gingerbread House

For some reason God decided that I was to have a very nice Christmas. Normally I get very stressed out trying to create something that is a cross between a Norman Rockwell painting and Better Homes and Gardens. One thing I do love is watching others enjoy Christmas festivities. Karen wanted to continue the tradition of making gingerbread houses even though I had disbanded the idea after they turned 18 and I kept growing around the hips. Two weeks before Christmas she and I went over to my moms place and put her tree up and decorated the apartment for her. Karen had bought two gingerbread kits at Target and brought them with her. My mom had a blast frosting the roof and putting on the mountain variety of candy that Karen had brought with her. She even called a friend down from 2nd floor to share in the fun. You haven't lived until you've seen two 87-yr-old ladies frosting a gingerbread house and eating licorice whips! It was truly a success! I told her to keep it at her place so she could show her friends her newly built Christmas gingerbread house and I would'nt have to worry about growing any larger around the hips. I told Karen she has a true gift with seniors especially the one she's related to and we would definitely repeat the tradition. Hopefully my mom will be able to enjoy it again next year however every day is a gift when your 87.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Wake Me When It's Over

More snow is in the forecast. Someone commented to me the other day that this winter is referred to as "our fathers winter" because years ago this would be considered a normal winter. I don't remember complaining as much since I was probably playing in it rather than shoveling it and before that I suppose long, long ago there was warm bricks to put at your feet and a fireplace to warm the room kind of like in "Little House on the Prairie" days. Sometimes I wish I could experience that for maybe a day or two and then go back to my normal days today even though there is snow in the forecast and I have no where else to put it. It sure brings out the neighbors, though!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

White Christmas Cartoon Song

This is really fun. Espcially listened to on an IPod while shoveling the MASSIVE amounts of snow that we use to enjoy sliding on but now shovel it, drive through it (if at all possible) and watch it fall out our dining room windows while the snowplow goes by and blocks us in from getting to our cars so we can continue to shovel it and drive through it. I'm going to snuggle under the covers, read a good book, and wait for spring. If I dream it won't be about a white Christmas. Wake me when it over.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Happy Birthday to me... I think.

I always wanted to marry a farmer because I loved horses and being outdoors. I came close since my birthday is in December and parties are always planned around the weather much like the crops. Unfortunately the party this year was cancelled due to a snowstorm. Sometimes we have to roll with the punches even if they come in inches.
Anyway since it is my official day I thought I'd do a Jen Gan*yo and share a list of a few things even my closest friends don't know about me. Daring I know, but I DID say just a few. Here goes:

1. I lost my car once. I was 22 and had parked it downtown. I was sure it was where it obviously wasn't. Long story short, called the cops, listed as missing or stolen. Three days later I had to go to work so I took a bus which ended up being the wrong one and when I got off the bus the driver told me to cross the street kitty-corner and wait for the other bus. When I got off, well, there was the car. It wasn't stolen. As I looked around me I realized that that is where I originally parked it. (And you think losing your car at a mall is bad). Obviously taking the wrong bus isn't always a bad thing either.

2. I'm a published song-writer. I was 25 in a large Christian Community of Catholic/Protestants and was in their music ministry. I wrote a baptism song for my first child and it became popular among many people in the community after that. The community music group played it for my son's baptism. When my youngest was baptised I used it for his by having some people from the church perform it. They crucified it. Not everyone can read music or they suck at it. I used it for a retreat for my church and a lady came up to me and told me I sang very well. I told her I wrote the song, I didn't sing the song. It ended up on a record album the community made and you can find it at any flea market or garage sale. So much for fame and glory. The lesson here is just because Mariah Carey sings those songs, it doesn't mean she wrote the songs.

3. I was once in an accordian band. I took lessons for about 4 years and they had a 35 piece band of kids with accordians. I had alot of fun with it. I use to take my accordian up to my grandparents lake home and sit on the end of the dock and play for the fish - mostly sunnies. I was 10. Every Christmas my accordian teacher would give me one of those lifesaver books with the lifesaver candy in them. I think of her every Christmas when I see those.

4. This last one is for those with lots of faith so be forewarned. I use to suffer from what was medically termed Benign Positional Vertigo. It is hereditary (my mom has it), and it would happen about once a month. You wake up in the morning with extreme dizziness especially if you close your eyes and then open them. The whole room spins back and forth. It can go on for hours. Someimes I wouldn't be able to make it to the bathroom because I would be so dizzy and then end up throwing up before I got there. Anyway I was at a luncheon at some friends homes that were a part of this community I was in. They asked if anyone would like prayers for anything or anybody. I spoke up and asked if they would pray for a healing of my vertigo. My friends gathered around, laid hands on me, and prayed that God would heal me. I have never had an episode since. That was 30 years ago.

In honor of my mother who carried me 9 months and brought me into the world 60 years ago today I post the following picture.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

How's that commercial go again?

Three yards of fabric, 8 dollars.

Notions 5 dollars and 45 cents,

fun and fellowship with friends? Priceless!!

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Road Less Traveled

Took our annual vacation. Same places but it seems as often as we go to SW Wisconsin we always experience some new adventure. I never look forward to our annual fall vacation. I know what towns we will visit. I know what apple orchards we will stop at. I even know most of the highways and county roads we will travel down but for some reason I always arrive home feeling as if I had fun even though it definitely wasn't Disney World or the Florida Keys. I think the only thing worse than going on our annual fall vacation would be attending a Minnesota Wild game. I hate hockey. Maybe because I don't understand the game and how it's played. One good thing about our fall vacation is it's easy because I know the route. I could drive to these place with a blindfold over my eyes which I actually did all of (not the blindfold part). We lowered the windows in every little town where a train was rolling through or where people were burning leaves in firepits because we both love trains and the smell of leaves brings us back to the days of our youth.

We spent Saturday afternoon at Michael's college buddy's and watched Wisconsin beat Iowa. The "fun" there was seeing Michael laughing and joking with his buddies about old times (kind of like the commercial when they get to the description of "priceless").
We were one week late for the leaves which is Michael's favorite but the cornfields were harvested so I was able to get a good picture of a Illinois landscape. My dad was from there and he always told me Illinois has always been known for three things: trains, black dirt and flat land. We stopped along a county road and I jumped out and took a picture. You could see for miles and the quietness and the smell in the air was truly mind-boggling. I almost felt my dads presence with me there on that Illinois highway. There are some things that still make me miss him.

Our pumpkin is always picked out the last day of this annual trip. We stopped at a patch with no one there. Just a lockbox and a note telling you to put in two dollars and pick any one you want. I always enjoy the simplicity of that. The vacation ended 4 days later but we had packed alot of memories along the way. Maybe next year we will go to the Black Hills or even Disney World. Did I mention I hate crowds and spending large amounts of money? I guess I prefer quiet country roads filled with the rolling hills, cows, and farmers markets. And if you get out of the car for a moment you might see a beautiful landscape, smell the freshly harvested cornfields, and hear the locusts. And don't forget the "wooly-worms" as we called those beautiful caterpillars back in my day. Thanks to the insecticides that kill off the mosquitoes each year you're lucky to see any of them anymore, unless of course you come to SW Wisconsin.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Luke 4:18

Michael and I took a trip down to Madison, Wisc. this past week and stopped in to see his uncle who is a priest there. We regularly stop in to say hi and we always go out for lunch or just a coffee break with him. He always appreciates it since his time is taken up for the most part by people that need him so we try to make it a visit where he can "need" us or just a break from "needy" people (did I say that correctly???). Anyway Fr. Ken Fiedler is considered by many in the diocese to be quite a radical priest along with a very holy man of God. For instance he believes that priests should be able to marry even though he doesn't think it will happen in his lifetime (he's in his 60s). Needless to say we have some very interesting conversations with him. One of his most passionate beliefs is that as Christians God calls us to care for the needs of the poor. When the Catholic diocese of Madison got together awhile back the bishop wanted to close a multicultural center that served the poor in a very impoverished neighborhood of Madison. The building was no longer being used due to money problems, etc. Fr. Ken wanted to resurrect it and basically bring it back into a functional mode. The bishop was against it but told Fr. Ken that if he could produce the money and resources necessary they would consider restoring it. Fr. Ken loves a challenge and immediately got on the bandwagon and raised the money and the resources to make the building functional again. It is now a thriving center serving meals 7 days a week along with other activities and services that serve the poor and needy in the area. We attended the open house and were so pleased with his efforts and the efforts of volunteers seeing a need and bringing it forth with God's love. Way to go Fr Ken!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Go Pioneers!!

Went down to SW Wisconsin to UW-Platteville. Michael is on the alumni board there and had signed up to work a table for homecoming.

Parade in the morning (pic is of his high school band)
and lots of visiting friends and classmates. He keeps up with one friend who lives near Chicago that we hung with for the day. It was good to see the fun he had with Ed visiting the radio and TV station that they worked in college. Beautiful weekend for all. I told people at the sign-up table to put the year they graduated since it's hard to know whos who after 30+ years. He did run into a classmate that worked the radio station with him and Ed so that was really nice.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Only For Diehard Bikers!

Took a couple biking trips this past month. One was to Platteville, Wisconsin. They had an alumni bike trip for present and past students. Wonderful time for about 30 of us. Planned was a 15 and 30 mile trip ending with a park picnic with all the fixings. This year they gave out door prizes from local businesses that sponsored the ride. We made some new friends and saw returning ones (our 2nd year attending). The only downer was my camera battery was dead so no pictures. Btw, Michael and I made it 12 miles total considering riding up and down on two-lane highways. Ugh!
On an upnote this weekend we were invited Sunday to bike at the Baker Lake Regional Park Reserve with our main biker friends from church. Had a great time even though it was fairly crisp outside. If you enjoy biking they have wonderful trails, a water park, horse facility for hayrides, gardens and some wildlife sactuary areas. If I was a bird I would definitely want to live there. AND i took a couple picks! Enjoy.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Sorry to all my fans out there checking in. I haven't blogged for awhile due to the fact that I haven't done much lately, I lost a very good job that I wanted and I just haven't felt much like doing anything. Things are starting to look up for me with some possible other job prospects but I thought since I'm not doing anything exclusive until next week I would put a blip in about one my relatives. Her name was Catherine Sleeman and she stood all of 5 feet tall. She was born in Coventry England having come to America with her parents when she was just 12 years old. I only knew her as a very young child but I remember her very generous nature and kindness toward me. She married a man who worked in the copper mines in Hancock Michigan and they had 4 children. She always carried a big black leather purse and wore a pillbox hat. Her dresses were all dotted swiss. She was very artistic and did lovely crochet work, tating doilies and hand sewing. As she grew older she developed what is called hyperkyphosis or 'dowager’s hump'. It never seemed to stop her from enjoying life to the full and she died at the ripe old age of 94. I remember we sang "Going Home" at her funeral. My mom told me that in the car on the way home from the funeral I stated emphatically that I was "never gonna die". I remember being very saddened by her death and dying was such a bummer that I wasn't planning on participating. Now that I understand more about the subject I feel better knowing that if I "play my cards right" I will hopefully meet her again some day.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Right Place at the Right time

Haven't had much to blog about since I work so much now. I posted something on Facebook and thought I'd add it here for all you non-Facebook users. About 2 months ago Michael and I went on a mini vacation through Iowa and Wisconsin. I always take my camera with just in case of a good shot of something. My favorite thing to do is find something to photograph that is completely spontaneous. We were headed home when we went through this little town called Mifflin, Wisconsin. One of those places one has to look quick to see it. Anyway, I saw these elderly people sitting in this park on some swings and I just HAD to turn the car around to catch a pic of them reliving their childhood. It was so fun. The other picture I have taken recently was taken in Indiana about 3 months ago when Michael and I were in Indiana. My two youngest were playing frisbee golf with Michael's uncle in a park in Crawfordsville, Indiana and while waiting for them I saw these kids come toward me. It was about 95 in the shade and they had been swimming in a creek that ran through the park. They begged me to take their picture. I didn't want to at first because they were covered with mud. I finally consented and I was surprised that the picture turned out so well, lighting and composition etc. I told them I'd send a copy to them if they would give me their address. I wrote it down but the picture came back so I probably will never know where or who they are. All I know is they were at the right place at the right time just like the elderly folks so innocent and free!

Monday, August 9, 2010


Last but not least in my "Honor their birthdays" is Karen. As some of you know I blogged about my other two and Karen is my third. Your gift to me of course is the fact that you are my only girl. I can so much identify with you for that reason alone despite the fact that we are very different personalities. I learned early on, (especially when shopping at Ragstock!) that your color scheme and style of clothing was very different than mine so I abandoned that. I wanted you to be your own person and you truly are! Strawberry Shortcake was all the rage when you were born. Soon to follow was My Little Pony and Rainbow Brite. I remember your love of reading and putting together puzzles which your brothers promptly took apart, sorry about that. It's not easy being the middle child of two very active busy brothers! You were my easiest to deliver and probably my easiest to raise. Do you remember coming with me when I would clean homes? You would come along with your color books and reading material and find a corner to wait for me. You are my self-made child. When we would go on vacation you would pack a lunch for yourself for the trip. On the way to our destination you would sit between David and Daniel in the back seat eating your sandwich while they would be asking you "are you going to share some of that?" You loved school even though there were very cruel and brutal girls that would mistreat you but the academics were where it was at and the teachers loved you. When David had to learn his states and capitals in 5th grade you decided just for fun to memorize all the state capitals by reciting them off as you climbed the stairs at Annunciation. You went on to Burroughs to win your overall school spelling bee in 6th grade. I was to blame for that district loss telling you to spell the words phonetically and the one you got after that terrible advice shouldn't have been spelled that way. I felt so bad for you but was happy that your teacher and grandma joined you and we went out afterward and drowned our sorrows over lunch. Never forgetting sports, you played for fun alone but you were also the best catcher Lutheran High had no matter what anyone said! Music has always been a joy for you which helped you reach your goal of becoming a Certified Music Therapist. Wouldn't Marian Hutt be proud!!Life has been good to you Karen, especially these last few years. I miss seeing you in the Eau Claire band as well as hanging around the house but I know things keep getting better and you have always handled life head on! Congratulations Karen! Another milestone reached and many more to come!!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Went to the annual Starnes family get together in Crawfordsville, IN (about an hour from Indianapolis). Family, food, and fun all wrapped up together. The nice thing about this year was Daniel, Karen, and James were coming back from Maryland and planned the trip to include Friday and Saturday with Michael's uncle and aunt which is where everyone gathers. They hadn't seen them for about 6 years so it was really nice to have both sides of the family represented (made it more fun for me). Michael and I flew down for the weekend and stayed at a hotel for the night. the only downer for me every year is they are really into NASCAR racing since they are so close to Indianapolis and it's usually going on when we come down for the reunion. That's actually worse to watch on TV than baseball!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Life is Not a Beach, But I'm Pretty Happy Anyway

Way back in 1974 a good friend of mine told me I needed to get a focus in my life since I hadn't done anything with my chosen major from college, I hated my job doing "secretarial" work at a local church and really didn't have any future plans in the works. So I went back to school and after 6 weeks got a job doing nursing aide work and as they say the rest is history. I have been doing temp work for 3 years now. Even though it's been a major learning experience I finally landed a wonderful position with the Healthpartners clinic in Bloomington. God has been so good to me. When I finished school I thought I had learned everything. I learned real fast I didn't know squat if anything more than the basics of the ins and outs of being a CMA in a clinic setting. We never know it all, we never have it all figured out. Life is a true learning experience and we are all constantly reinventing ourselves, all evolving into who and what God wants us to become. Even though I have come a long way I am still growing in my knowledge of the medical field. Even though my dream of becoming a nurse was not achieved I work alongside some wonderful nurses every day. My life's goal has always been to try to make my little corner of the world better, to ease life's pain for those I come in contact with, and to spread His love to others. If I can do that for even a few, I feel I can rest easy, grow old, and die happy but only with His grace and love can I do anything. Thanks go to all my advocates who believed in me and encouraged me to reach for my goals!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

This one's brought to you by the economy.

This past weekend we were going to go to Chicago to bike 18 miles on a trail that winds around a lake in the downtown area with a cousin of Michaels. We decided not to due to the long drive (about 8 hours), the motel room for 2 nights (we're not getting any younger) and time spent away (it's valuable, you know) so we stayed home. Actually we heard about the Winona County Fair in St. Charles, Mn. a short 2 hour drive and no motel room to pay for so we headed out for the day. Lots of fun and it cost zero to get in the place (unlike the State Fair). We also took in a drive to Wabasha looking for eagles and ended the day in Lakeville at the Crackerbarrel for supper(the kids gave us a gift card for Christmas). One piece of pizza and a diet pepsi - $5.00, one large glass of fresh squeezed lemonade - $3.00, one sunshiny day with the love of my life - priceless.

Friday, July 2, 2010

4 years to the day

4 years ago on July 3rd my dad died from a massive heart attack. Even though it was very sad to say the least, God was merciful. He died the way he lived: very fast: no hospital room, no lingering suffering, etc. When it happened I was a part of a writing group and decided to write about his life. I didn't know it at the time but it ended up as a very therapeutic tool for me to work through the grief since none of us ever got to say goodbye (easy on the person, hard on those left behind). With that said I would like to share a piece from my journalistic endeavor. I hope you enjoy it.
"As a child I had an intense fear of the dark, which probably was contributed to some evil cousins, hated by the entire family, who locked me in a closet at a family gathering when I was just barely 8 years old. It was upsetting to me to have such an intense fear that I had no control over but I learned very early how to manage life around my fear. Most neighborhoods in the 50s were constructed with alleys that separated the back yards of the homes. Cars parked mostly in the front of the homes on the street so most of the kids in the neighborhood felt free to wander back and forth across the alley to each other’s back yards. My best friend lived across our alley and down a short hill. During inclement weather we would usually spend the day indoors playing board games, cards, or watching movies on TV. Sometimes I would forget about the time and would suddenly realize that it was getting dark which meant that I needed to get home. Usually I would call home and ask if someone could come outside and stand in the back yard and wave me in. Invariably it was my father who would appear in the back yard waving his hand for me to catch a glimpse of him. He was easy to see with his 6 ft. frame and his large white undershirt. I would run as if my backside were on fire but he would always wait never turning around to soon before going back inside knowing my intense fear would only heighten if he did."

Monday, June 21, 2010

87 and still kicking

My mother celebrated her birthday this past week. So far she's beat breast cancer, liver cancer (even though she still lives with both), a stroke that left no ill effects and was robbed this past year. Even though she lost her hair as well as alot of weight and wears a wig nothing seems to stop her. Her life is filled with Uno, bingo, evenings filled with card games of 500 and Hand & Foot, Farkle, Spanish Dominoes and Skipbo not to mention the Red Hats where she goes with her many friends to various functions for social outings. The last time she went to a restaurant outing with them the wattress had to use last names for the bills since most of them were named Betty. I guess it was a "hot" name back in the 20s. Two weeks ago she insisted on getting her driver's license renewed. The man at the counter told her she could get a senior ID card instead for only 11 dollars and it would last the rest of her life. I tried to head him off by telling him I had already gone down that road with her but she leaned against her walker and gave him a few choice words as to what he could do with that idea and firmly demanded that she wanted a drivers license renewal and she would be glad to pay the 25 dollars knowing full well that she would have to come back in 4 years to again renew it. He knew it was a losing battle and drew up the paperwork. When we got to the eye test I held my breath and prayed to God. She sat for the picture, wrote out the check and when we got outside she turned to me and said "we probably didn't have to put down the donor part. I doubt there will be anything left to use". What a woman!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Survivor of the Lions Den

The other day I got a phone call from Daniel. Apparently he witnessed some animal abuse at the hands of an unfortunate dog and its owner. I gave him some advice, told him to pray for the man and his anger problem and moved on to other items of the day even though his concerns and what he could do about it for the sake of the dog were the reasons he called. That in a nutshell is Daniel. Always rooting for the underdog and what he can do to remedy the situation. The eternal caregiver. The eternal peacemaker. I told him once he would make a great nurse, however the issue of blood and something about needles squelched that option. Instead he works on large inanimate objects. Unlike his brother, Daniel always has had to weigh all the options before venturing out which is a good thing in itself. Needless to say risk-taking is not one of his strong suits. In spite of that he has grown into a gentle soul surrounded by numerous friends of various backgrounds, beliefs and ways of life. He may have been my youngest child and my smallest baby weighing in at just 5lb but he stands tall in the eyes of Jesus as he invites his friends to church with him, worries about little dogs at the hands of their abusive owners and quotes some of his favorite lines from Casting Crowns on his Facebook page. May Jesus bless you this day, Daniel on your 23rd birthday!!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Noerenberg Gardens

This past weekend Michael and I did our weekend biking up at Lake Minnetonka area including Wayzata and Orono. WOW, how some people live! I try to keep it in perspective while asking God to show me once again how blessed I am and to be thankful for all He has given me, esp. not in material ways. Anyway we were to meet our biking friends at the Noerenberg Gardens. They were running alittle late so we walked through some of the garden areas. They are located on the north shore of Lake Minnetonka's Crystal Bay in Orono. Noerenberg Gardens are among the most beautiful and prestigious gardens in the state. This former Lake Minnetonka estate of Grain Belt Brewery founder Frederick Noerenberg, was donated by the family to the Park District in 1972.

"Noerenberg is a reminder of the quiet elegance and grace of days gone by." The gardens include a wide variety of unusual annuals and perennials, an assortment of grasses and a large daylily collection.

The park features accessible brick pathways and an ornamental boathouse/gazebo overlooking the lake." After walking through the garden I was not disappointed and was once again reminded that He created all the color and beauty just for us and it doesn't cost us a single dime! Enjoy!

Friday, May 28, 2010


Went to Lanesboro, Mn.(about a two hour drive)for the weekend. Every year the town hosts an old-time music festival complete with a barn dance on Saturday night and tons of fiddle and banjo groups that come from all over the midwest to share their talents on a Friday night concert experience. Michael and I have some friends from our church who camp there each year and bike the Root River State Bike Trail and attend the festival.

The group that led the barn dance on Saturday night also taught us some square dance numbers. They were from North Carolina (can't remember the name) and they were incredible. There even was an elderly gentleman who played Danish folk songs on his concertina and also did some fiddle music as well Very talented man!

We also biked with our friends covering approximately 18 miles overall. I ran into a gentleman who said he had lived there for 78 years and always looks forward to the campers and bikers coming into town. They describe their 788 population town as a quiet place with no stoplights or franchises which is very true. The Amish come in from Harmony and sell their wares on Saturday afternoon along with a small Farmers Market group from around the area. I bought some pineapple honey from them and a small plant. All in all we had a wonderful time and plan to return next year for more of the same.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Gateway to the Nordeast!

Michael and I spent Saturday at an art show where one of our friends is taking classes in art. We enjoyed seeing his work and the joy he receives from it. Then we went over to the Polonaise Room in northeast Minneapolis and enjoyed a nice quiet dinner before the rush. I had never been there before but Michael knew about the place. A little history: the building was built in the late 1880s and it was a working man's bar called Hefron's. Al Nye bought it in the late 40s. It has a curved piano bar, curved paneling and gold flecked booths.
Oh and I almost forgot, the Worlds Most Dangerous Polka Band in a separate bar off of the dining room area. They play on Friday and Saturday nights. Quite a place! The food was "to die for" including the prime rib sandwiches we had.