Saturday, December 29, 2007

An Aha! Moment

If you're a reader of O magazine - that's a magazine published by Oprah Winfrey - you may have noticed that they have a column monthly called "My Aha Moment". It's usually written by some celebrity and in it he or she narrates a moment in their lives where something dawned on them and it led to greater understanding and usually was followed by a change in behavior or a new compassion toward others or even just a real pleasure at realizing a connection between cause and effect that had never occurred to them before. Well, this morning as I walked outside in the beauty of God's winter world, I had an aha moment. I was pondering why I so very much enjoyed this fluffy white cold stuff that so many people cuss and growl at and spend mega bucks to escape. When I tromp in it and sled on it and ski on it and even fall into it, I love it. I like it's cool feel on my warm flesh and the way it can be formed into balls and figures , the way it piles onto branches and rocks and weeds and presents undulating waves and depths across the landscape. The aha came when I likened the way I feel in it to the way I feel in water. In the summer, all these thirty five years that we've lived on this lake, my main delight has been to get in the lake as often as possible and just move around in the water and enjoy its liquid caress. And zap - then I realized - snow is water. Aha!!!! Who knew that this was just a continuation of my love affair with water - wow ! My wish for all of you who read this is that in this coming new year of 2008, may you have plenty of aha moments. They keep us alive and alert and ever grateful for life.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Christmas Production

We went to town today. There was a treat today. Our grandchildren's school presented their annual Christmas show. It's a school of 250 students and they all participate. That alone boggles the mind - to get 250 people between the ages of 5 and 14 - to sit in the right places, watch the director, pop up and down at the right time and actually pull off a story with a plot and humor and song. It was great. The program mentioned that 120 of the students auditioned for the speaking and solo singing roles. Guess what - our Kayla, now 12 and in 6th grade, had a solo part. She performed as a scat singer and dressed in an outfit that looked like a singer in the thirties or forties. She was poised and wonderful. She's at the mike in the picture and the dude to her right is Caesar Augustus. Jamie, now 9 and in the third grade, sang with gusto and seemed to really know all the words to at least seven or eight different songs. He's in the red tee shirt in the other picture. They're both in the children's choir so that has probably given them a little edge in the performing department. We went to the 12;30 show and they have another at 6:30. It's always standing room only with hordes of proud parents and grandparents. I really admire the children's ability to perform in front of people. I remember that throughout my schooling, I was always trying to fade out of any spotlight and bring no attention at all to me. It usually worked. Probably because with about fifty kids in every class, the teachers were real happy to have a few well behaved invisible students. --- Kudos to Kayla and Jamie's parents for raising them to be confident and enthusiastic participants of life and all its wondrous offerings.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Butcher of Crescent Flats

You can probably guess from the photos that the hunt was successful. It wasn't easy for the orange-coats - All four of the shack hunters struck out the first weekend. It was cold with a little bit of snow and lots of wind. They tried a lot of county forests and walked their legs into good condition because of the extra pounds of clothing and boots and guns. The TV kept reporting a good harvest but it wasn't happening to our hunters. Thanksgiving came and went and then on Friday afternoon, Bing backed the truck into the driveway and we thanked God for the beautiful eight point buck he landed. It was down in a steep gully in the woods and he asked me to come along and help get the buck up the hill and to the truck. It was eye opening to me to see what the hunters are faced with. The forest is not neat and well pathed and to get down to the dead buck we had to carefully pick our way over the rocks and fallen trees and snow covered branches. Every time I heard an echoing gun shot, I cringed and wanted to get out of there as fast as possible. Luckily Bing could drive the 4Wd truck into the woods and to the top of the gully. He took a thick rope that he keeps in the truck for logging and pulling cars out of ditches, down the hill and tied it around the buck's neck. My job was to guide the cadaver up the hill as he pulled with the truck - the idea was that we didn't want it getting caught on branches or crags or logs sticking up - well, whenever I feel overwhelmed, I've always had a habit of asking my guardian angel for help - and sure enough - my angel came through. The deer slid along beautifully around any possible impediments and I struggled to keep up with it and look like a guide. We hoisted it onto the truck and took it back to hang in the garage. The next day Bing and Bernie and Doug helped skin it and quarter and debone it and then it's up to me to butcher it into the various cuts of meat. Well, this old city girl learned to butcher from no one so I don't know too much about what I'm doing but we've always been real happy with the end products and no one complains so I'm happy with the job. Actually, when I was thinking about writing a blog about this, it made me examine how I feel about butchering and I was pleased to find that I love it because having that beautiful gift of rich lean meat made by God to nourish us is great. The one thing I know is that it's important to get as much of the fat and sinew off the meat to take away any gamy taste and I think that's true because our family always loved venison as much as beef. In the butchering picture, that's the meat from the nubbin buck that Bernie shot in the last minute of the hunting season on Sunday. The biggest bowl has the scraps that I've already cut away and the two bowls on the left are stew meat and meat to be ground into hamburger. I also cut the pieces into steaks and roasts and then package it for the freezer. Bernie's buck is done now and I'll start ours after we get the Christmas presents for Oregon into the mail. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Bing's Dad

It's the end of November now and I thought I'd pay tribute to the third of our trifecta of parents who passed away decades ago in these Fall months. Bing's dad, Bernard Paul Ronyak, died 32 years ago on November 25th. Bernie was born, the fifth of seven children of Paul and Gizella Ronyak on June 2nd, 1915, in Clayton, Wisconsin in the northwest corner of our state. His dad was born in eastern Hungary near the Russian Ukraine border and came to Minneapolis, Mn. His name was Rovnyak which was shortened to Ronyak. Bernie's mom was born in Krupina, Hungary, in 1878 and came to America with her parents and siblings when she was 14. They followed their ethnic group to Minneapolis. Paul and Gizella married in 1900, started raising the first four children in Minneapolis and then moved to Clayton right before Bernie was born. We have some history of their life in Clayton thanks to Bernie's younger brother, Ray. He and the youngest sibling, Trudy, are still alive. In Clayton, the family lived on a barely subsistance farm and ran a small grocery store. They had kerosene lamps and outdoor plumbing. In 1926, the family moved back to Minneapolis when Bernie was 11. He finished his schooling and was active on the golf and hockey teams. He and his three brothers were daring and competitive athletes and rugged hunters and fishermen. Bernie and a friend from Minneapolis came to Milwaukee for work and moved to a rooming house on the East side. It happened to be the same rooming house where Millli Schreiter from Appleton, Wi, was staying while she learned cosmetology. Cupid took over from there and along came marriage, Paul and Bing, and eight years later, Sue. I knew Bernie before I knew Bing and he was one of the kindest, gentlest, most personable people you could meet. I knew him because he volunteered at our parish, working on paper drives and monitoring the halls during evening activities. He'd always have a cheery greeting and a helping hand. Bernie was a very high energy fellow. Most of his married life he sold flour to bakeries and would rise at four or five and be on the road to sell to the bakers who have to start early to get the goods out for the day. Then after work he'd get in a round of golf at various golf courses, ran the bakers' golf league and a bowling team. All the normal family things fit in there too and fishing, and hunting for small game, pheasants and deer. He'd rise early and crash early but crammed as much life into his days as possible. He and Milli loved sheepshead and cribbage and had regular times for card playing too. Bernie didn't talk much but his well lived life spoke volumes. He was a model of hard work, fair play, joy in living and courteous respect for everyone. One cold evening, in 1973, my dad had car trouble and he called on Bernie to come and help him jump the battery. Bernie wasn't feeling well but he went and helped . Returning home, he felt awful, then the next thing we heard was that he was admitted to the hospital with peritonitis - a serious infection in the stomach. Then came the diagnosis of colon cancer, about a two year reprieve when it was thought that the cancer was gone and then death. It was a sad sad journey for all of us and I will never forget the last time we visited him. Our boys were 1, 3, and 5 and it was evening and they were in matching royal blue fleece footed pajamas- I saw him look at them with such longing and wonder. He was very close to death and I could feel him thinking, that he would miss the growing up of these fine little Ronyaks. Thanks Bernie for being such a great dad and dad-in-law, showing us how to live and love.

I've written now about our three wonderful parents and it has struck me that somehow, somewhere this was all designed. People came from England, Ireland, Hungary and America and coalesced into this particular and blessed family. When I was younger, I was a bit smitten with the whole romance of the Irish ancestry with the smiling eyes and love of laughter and song and dance and I always said that our boys were born "all Irish." But with aging, usually comes maturity, and a better description would be that they are a marvelous batch of Hungarian goulash. Who knows what genes and traits have come through and where their wandering souls will take them but they can be sure that wherever thay are, generations of good people have led the way. Two of our boys have set off on their adventures to the west and they certainly come by it naturally when you consider that four out of eight of their great grandparents crossed the ocean in their teens for horizons unknown. Thank you God for everybody.

Monday, November 19, 2007

My Dad

It's another memorial stone in the picture. This time I'd like to honor my dad who died 31 years ago yesterday. His name was Mark Louis Scobey. He was born on the south side of Chicago in June of 1902. His dad was Mark Clayton Scobey, born in Springville, NY in 1868 and his mom was Agnes Fleming. She was born of Irish descent in Liverpool, England in 1869 and came across the ocean at age 19. Somehow their paths crossed and marriage followed. Agnes gave birth to ten children in the next fifteen years and Dad was fourth last in the line. There were six girls and four boys. Dad's stories of the family always fascinated me and it was fun to think of my aunts and uncles as the children dad spoke of. As with so many of the large families of yesteryear, there was childhood mortality and sadly, three of the siblings died along the way. An older brother, Lawrence died at two days old. A brother who was two years younger, Paul, died at age two when dad was four and the sister, Mary, who was only three years younger than dad died at age 19. I saw a picture of Mary and she was a dark eyed, dark haired beauty and dad described her as an angel who played the violin beautifully. Dad's dad was a caretaker for a cemetery and that whole family lived in an abandoned railroad station on the cemetery grounds. In the winter they scavenged for coal along the railroad tracks and all the kids when they were grown talked of their mama with the utmost respect as they told of her baking and cooking and keeping the kids in line. They hopped rides on the streetcar to get to school and kept a cow for a while but had to peddle the milk after a while because it was too much dairy for just their family. When dad was 15, he was told by his parents to quit school and get a job. He found a job with the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad and he worked there for the next fifty years. Dad met my mom who was a typist for that railroad and they married at age 29 - pretty old by that day's standard. They suffered through a lot of miscarriages but then fortunately, Mark, Paul and I arrived by the time they hit their forties. Most of my memories of being with dad revolved around the supper table, holiday celebrations and always relished vacations. I didn't realize it at the time but Dad commuted on the train about an hour to and from work each day and worked an eight hour day so that filled his days and left most of the parenting up to mother. I know, though that he was the one who laid down the law and it was only after his retirement that I saw him as mellowing out. It was fun to get to know him after we had our boys. Somehow, the whole world of parenting opens up vast realizations of what a parent means and a realization that your parents were young fools at one time too, not just people who set down the rules. Dad really liked Bing and they liked to have long conversations whenever we visited. I was happy just to listen and learn. My mom never made it to retirement age and dad was a widower for ten years. He told me once that he was really happy to have lasted long enough to get some of his pension - I was happy too because fifty years was a heck of a long time to persevere with any job. Dad really loved reading - Charles Dickens and Mark Twain were his favorite authors, playing contract and duplicate bridge, Perry Mason TV shows, poetry of his dad, the Chicago Cubs and a Manhatten or two. When our second son, Danny, was born, Dad came up and watched Bernie while I was in the hospital and Bing was working. He did a fine job and now that I'm 65 and I look back on that, I see that he was quite courageous at age 70 to come and care for a 20 month old - I guess he must have liked it because he never said a word about not handling it. In the last six years of his life, we visited Milwaukee with our three boys a few times a year, alternating staying with dad and staying with Bing's folks. Dad would come up and stay with us a few days at a time a couple times a year also. One time, Dad said that we Rhinelanderites lived most like his mom and dad's family than any of the other children or grandchildren. He meant because of our baking bread and canning and raising chickens and generally living off the land. I was proud because he seemed to like it. At the end of October of 1976, dad came up to visit without telling us. He had never surprised us with a visit before and we were delighted. I remember as clear as a bell looking out the side window and seeing Tony who was two at the time. spot his grandpa and come running across the yard as fast as his little legs could carry him with his arms spread wide to be picked up by grandpa. My insides melted as I witnessed love, simply and purely. And I knew that that one gesture was enough to make dad's whole trip worthwhile. Within three weeks of that visit, Dad was dead. He entered St. Michael's Hospital with pain, had an operation, was told the cancer had spread all over and died in the hospital of kidney failure. Our boys were 2, 4, and 6 and that was their second grandpa to die in two years. Thanks, Dad, for living a life of integrity, love, self sacrifice and faith in God. You'd be real proud of what nice people all ten of your grandchildren are.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Shack

The accompanying pictures show our family's hunting shack. It's a venerable piece of our family's history even though, relatively speaking, it's pretty recent history. It only goes back to the 1950's. Bing's dad and four of his friends from Milwaukee leased an acre of land from a northwoods lumber company and built the little structure on weekends. It's about 250 miles from Milwaukee and they scavenged the wood and materials to build it. Bernie, Bing's dad, was in his 30's and the others were in their early twenties. The whole group loved fishing and hunting and the shack became their headquarters for both sports. It was nestled in the woods in a county of 1200 lakes and the tall timber loomed nearby. Heaven to the five guys who headed north to the shack whenever life offered the time to do so. I didn't know two of the five men well because they died pretty young. But the other three, Bernie, Don and Norbie, all were fun loving, hardworking, generous guys who really loved hunting and fishing. Their times at the shack were filled with love and laughter, fresh air, card playing and well earned sleep in the double sized bunk beds complete with mattresses. There was a national forest nearby where they pumped water from the ground for dishes and cooking and drinking. They had gas lights - no electricity. They had an old fashioned ice box for cooling and an oil burner for heat. A short walk out the door led to the outhouse which faced away from the highway because it had no door. As our three sons grew in wisdom and knowledge, they each were welcomed into the shack for the all important deer season opening weekend each November. Their grandpa, Bernie, was dead by then, but Don and Norbie and Bing and his older brother, Paul, mentored them and taught them the secret wisdoms of the shack. Of course, I don't know what they are, because long before the saying became synonomous with Las Vegas, the shack people had the saying, " what's said at the shack stays at the shack. " I do know that the shack is where Bing and his older brother, Paul, have excellent memories of their dad and their dad's love for nature - where they learned good old fashioned values of hard work and enjoyment of god's bounty. Where our kids in turn, learned to appreciate the powerful energy of our natural resources and the fact that one can get along in life and enjoy its moments with a very simple lifestyle. Today is opening day of this year's deer season and there are four at the shack for the weekend. Bing, Bernie the son, Don, who almost didn't make it this year and Bernie's brother-in-law, Doug, who seems to also have the hunting,/fishing gene. Tomorrow I'll know if any deer were slain. Part of our tradition is that when the hunters return home from the hunt, they back into the garage if they have a deer. If the truck comes home frontwards, I know that the hunt goes on and no venison yet!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

People, Look East

I'm geographically challenged - that is I can get lost coming out of a restroom, walking hotel hallways or often, finding the car in the parking lot. But there are two times a day that I know what's what. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Isn't that nice, I get to start the day knowing where I am. And what's even better, I can see the sun rise from our bed. The windows in the picture are our bedroom windows and we have our bed facing east, the right side of the picture. It's an awesome sight to see the blazing orange light up the treetops and then shades of pink and mauve quickly follow. It's an invitation from our maker to rise and see what wonderful things are in store for us today. And since our world is round, we can have the added joy to know that sunrises and sunsets are happening all day and all night. In the fifties or sixties a movie came out, The Fiddler on the Roof, and it had an excellent song that I used to know by heart, "Sunrise, sunset, sunrise, sunset, swiftly go the days....." It told of time going by so quickly and it seems that the older one gets, the faster that time goes. Or is it just that we slow down and it only seems faster? I don't know but when I saw the pictures of Michaela, our soon to be twelve year old granddaughter, in a dress and high heels and going to a dance, it hit me that the third generation of our family is on that march toward adulthood and independence. What an amazing feeling!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Which ones are the Jugheads?

Happy Halloween everybody.

May all your tricks be magical

And all your treats be sweet!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Life and Death

That's my mom's name on the stone. Agnes Julia Meehan Scobey. My brother, Mark, named his first two daughters after her. They are both happy, kind, hard working women with an easy laugh and gentle disposition. Their grandma would be so proud of her namesakes. She was loving and generous and everything a mom should be but she died before I could express my appreciation for all the intangibles she left to me. She died forty one years ago, on the 19th of October in 1966. On that day she also gave me one of the greatest gifts anyone could receive. She showed me that there is life after death and that it is beautiful to behold. Mother, (that's what Mark and Paul and I called her, surprised us in March that year by being admitted to the hospital with none of us knowing that anything was wrong. I was twenty four and working as a County social worker and living at home with mother. Paul was 26, not yet married, Dad worked near Chicago and would come home on weekends. Mark and Alice were married and living at Kincheloe AFB, Michigan. It wasn't too odd that we didn't know she was sick because our family really didn't share confidences or feelings much. We just all got along fine and worked out any problems on our own. There was a deep abiding love and respect for each other but no hugs or spoken words of endearment. When she entered the hospital, she was told that she'd have to have an operation to remove a grapefruit sized tumor in her abdomen or pelvic area. The operation was on March 19th, St. Joseph's Day - patron saint of a happy death. The finding was that cancer had spread to the liver and there was no chance of recovery. She lived at home while she died and death was never mentioned but we saw it come as she got weaker and weaker and her valiant efforts to eat and stay active failed. She never whined or whimpered as she suffered excruciating pain near the end. She was skeleton thin on her last day and the seven months of living with the murderous disease had contorted her face to one of agony acceptance. Dad and Paul and I gathered in the bedroom equipped with a hospital bed and we watched as she drew her last breath. I had read a book describing death and it mentioned there would be a death rattle and the whites of the eyes would turn black and we heard and watched that happen. But then, as we stood, her face relaxed and the most beatific smile appeared on her face and my faith told me that I was witnessing my mother reaping the benefits of her well lived and God loving life. The smile, for me, wasn't just a relaxing of muscles which had been tortured. It was the smile of a soul reuniting with its maker. It has sustained my faith whenever doubts crept in and it still lingers in my conscious mind, giving me cause to shout a loud amen inside my head whenever I hear of the promise of everlasting life. Thanks, Mother.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Pondering Time

From Lisa Funderberg: ( I don't know who she is. I copied this quote from her but don't remember when!)

"Faith, among the faithful I know, is not about perfection. It's about knowing...that there is an inextinguishable light inside everyone that is holy. It's about valuing the holy in the face of the flawed, about leaving room to grow, to fall down, then get back up again, all with equal dignity."

There is a word. "Namaste", which means, the Divine in me honors the Divine in you. That's so nice that a word can convey such deep and enlightened meaning regarding the connection of all humans. If only we could remember namaste in our daily interactions. If only there would be a universal recognition of namaste and people would act accordingly.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

From Our Crescent Lake Newsletter

Here's my article that went out with our Crescent Lake Newsletter for this quarter. I just have to write a feature article now instead of doing the whole newsletter as I did in the seventies and eighties and early nineties. They've named it "Message from Eileen"

"Hi Lake Neighbors.

Fall has officially arrived in the Northwoods and it's an artistic masterpiece. Every season that comes along on Crescent Lake seems to be the best. The reds and oranges and rusts and ambers and golden falling pine needles create scene after scene of soft natural beauty. The lake sparkles in appreciation and we've had the added pleasure of finally getting some rain to shore up our lake water levels.

It was a good summer here on the lake. Plenty of very warm days and lake water in the eighties provided the swimmers, skiers, fishermen and pontooners reason to get out and enjoy the water.

Our lake was in the news a couple of times recently too. There was an article in the Rhinelander Daily News about the Crystal Rock Roller Rink reopening. That's a business at the intersection of Hy 8 and South Rifle Road and it was built in the fifties by Frank and Pat Loduha of Crescent Lake to host bands. The article mentioned that two of the entertainers to play there were Buddy Holly and Johnny Cash. It also said that Buddy Holly almost drowned in Crescent Lake. I wonder if anyone on the lake knows "the rest of the story."

Story number two in the paper was about the recently held Salmo Musky tournament which offers a first place prize of $20,000. The tournament offers its participants a choice of a cluster of lakes in the area from which to fish. The Muskies are caught, measured, weighed and released. One of the clusters was Oneida, Hancock and Crescent lakes. Crescent proved to be the best of the tournament. Six of the top ten finishers in the tournament fished Crescent. Just think, there are probably a lot of irritated Muskies out there now. Maybe the Fall colors will soothe them.

Take time to get outside and soak up the energy of Fall. Within these beautiful forests and treasured lakes lies the age-old wisdom and secrets of tranquility and survival."

Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Golden Days

Some people love to walk, some people love to run, some people love to bike. I love to weed and rake. We live in an ideal place for weeding and raking. Our little corner of the world is cut into a forest. This is such an excellent time of the year for weeding and raking - nice temperatures, no mosquitoes. Our yard is ringed by about forty White pine trees that are about seventy feet high. The White Pine loses fifty per cent of its needles every Fall and our Birches, Oaks and Maples drop all of their leaves. It's a rake junkie's paradise. The weeding is constant also as we have thirteen flower beds, one herb garden, one grape vinyard, raspberry, blueberry, strawberry, asparagus, and rhubarb patches, besides the main garden.

Every Spring and Fall I rake our hillside down to the lake and I deposit the leaves along our meandering path and the needles on various places that can use their acidic content. In retirement, it is so great to get out every day for two or three hours and fiddle around. Connecting with nature and its healing powers is so good for the soul. Gratitude to God for all our blessings sings from my soul as my senses are bombarded with the warmth of the sun, the kaleidoscope of color, the crunch of fallen leaves and the soft gold carpet of pine needles. And as I rake, my meandering mind rests on the abundance of pine needles. One mature tree must drop millions of needles each year and these needles contain acid and is there a use for the millions of needles that fall every year. Could they be used to make gasoline or trigger energy of some sort? Maybe this has already been studied but maybe not. More food for thought as this generation is now really looking into new uses of our natural resources.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

One Strange Night

It was a dark and stormy night. The rest of the household had gone to bed. I was a little bugeyed from playing computer solitaire. My senses were dulled so I didn't know if I could beleieve my ears. Instead of rumbling thunder and the drumbeat of rain on the gutters, I heard sounds like chattering teeth and ice crackling as it formed. I saw a vision of cold snowy winds swirling above flames. And then I remembered. This was exactly what has been predicted for years by the sports pundits. It will be a cold day in Hell when the Cubs make the playoffs! Yes, earlier that evening, the Cubs were helped into the playoffs by the losing Brewers. Congratulations to my brother, Paul. His team is good and now we will cheer for them the rest of the way.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Can You Love a Word?

Long long time ago, in grade school, I was taught that one cannot love inanimate objects. One can only like them. But I really do love a good word that has precise meaning and fits a situation to a T. Or is it Tee or Tea. I don't know and it makes me wonder what that means. To a T!??
Well I probably could find out by calling an NPR program called, " A Way with Words". On Sundays when we're heading to town for Church, between nine and ten am in this time zone, there are a couple of wordsmiths answering callers' questions about words and phrases and their meanings. It's a lot of fun to hear how different sayings evolved and hear such interesting words explained. Our family has always stopped to congratulate each other when a particularly apt word comes flowing into a conversation. A choice word can be as succulent as a ripe peach on a summer day or as discombobulating as a winter pothole.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Something to Ponder (or Sleep On)

There's a cacophony of color in our northwoods. It arrived overnight and the reds and rusts and burgundies and yellows and umbers and oranges are fighting for attention. The dark greens of the pine forests create the perfect background for the hardwood stands and our county's 1200 lakes present sparkling reflections in the Autumn sunshine. God, the artist, is good.

But that's not what I've been pondering. I've been thinking about one of God's cleverest creations. Ta da....sleep. A good night's sleep is a pure pleasure. When one flops into bed when one is dogbone tired, (that's a combination of dog tired and bone tired,) and can drift into a semi comatose state and wake later, refreshed, renewed and recharged, that's amazing. Just think, if we had to be awake all the time. Life would be exhausting and unrelenting and too darn stimulating. I read an article once that tried to say that a human's natural state is sleep and when we are awake, that is unnatural. Well, I really didn't get it at that time and now I can't remember their premise for stating that but I was thinking that maybe sleep is the time set aside by our creator for our spirits to be awake as our bodies are at rest. In our dreams we can move around as though we have no bodies to encumber us and maybe it's recreation time for our souls. Maybe God in His infinite wisdom knew that eventually man would invent and create and get to such a state of infatuation with their minds and bodies and powers that they would not carve out enough time to nourish their interior life, and so He built in the need for sleep. Our dreams pull us back into balance and give us time to remember that there must be physical, mental, emotional and spiritual growth as we make this journey through earthly life. Maybe Heaven is just a dream away and there is no need for a physical place called Heaven. Maybe it's whatever we can dream up. Sweet dreams to you all.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Worth a Thousand Words

Oh Sheet!

Last night we had freeze warnings. The prognosticators were right. It got down to 24 degrees, a record low for the date. Old sheets protected the flowers. For the vegetable garden, we decided to experiment with an idea we had seen on TV. We noticed that whenever freezing conditions hit the South, the orange growers would spray the trees with water all through the night to keep the fruit from freezing. Bing heard them say that the ice that formed on the fruit makes a covering that keeps the tissue from freezing. So, at 3:00AM, Bing got up and started the sprinklers that operate on lake water on the whole garden. Rising at 7:00AM, we anxiously checked the thermometer- 29 - degrees - and peered at the ice sculpture out back. The fence, ground and plants were encased in ice. We had a sinking feeling. Then, as the ice melted, the plants didn't have that dead, collapsed look. They actually seemed healthy and succulent. Wow! - what a gift. Now we're supposed to get back into the seventies and our growing season may be extended for a couple more weeks.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

No Frost

Wahoo - no frost - we can still stop and smell the flowers!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

We've been Assaulted

We're reeling up here from a punch to the gut by the weather. Three days ago we were frolicking in the sun, (elderly frolicking, that is, like doing water exercises in the lake with a foam tube and fishing in the noon day sun.) Tonight we're huddled inside like eskimos in an igloo, with our first woodburner fire of the Fall and frost warnings beeping on the TV every few minutes. We usually escape the first frost but always know that it means gather all those perishable garden goodies like green beans and cucumbers and tomatoes - it won't be long before they are history. I picked seven gallons of green beans this afternoon and they'll keep in the refrigerator until I can and freeze them. Of course, it'll have to be pretty soon because we have to get through five big Walmart bags of them to get at anything else in there.

The first picture is of a Maple leaf that lay upon the drive down to the lake. Its beauty belies the fact that it shouted profanities about the end of summer and all its warmth and bounty. It and its friends will beguile us with blazing color and then denude our oaks and maples and birches and drop to the cold ground.

Picture number three is our apple tree of the year - our MVP of our mini orchard, the Cortland, juicy and crisp and always prolific. When our fire of' '88 came close to it, it scorched some branches and we didn't know if it would survive, but it certainly did. Carmen loves these.

Picture number two is the rookie tree of the year, a McIntosh, quite young but already putting out some large tasty treats.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Who did the weedin' in the Garden of Eden?!

I grew up in Chicago and Milwaukee and Bing grew up in a Milwaukee 3rd floor apartment and then a city duplex. We were city kids through and through. We knew trolleys and buses, sidewalks and alleys. Grocery stores were the source of most of the food that filled our stomachs. But somehow there must have been farmer genes lurking in each of us. For the thirty five years that we've lived at this place that we call Lakeside Gardens, we've learned to garden and grow things. We bought this land because it had seventy five feet of frontage on a good fishing lake and Bing was and is a fine, fanatical fisherman. The people who sold us the place had a garden so we thought that was the thing to do. We subscribed to a magazine called Organic Gardening and proceeded to read and learn how to get food from the ground. The first few years it was pretty comical. The weeds were incredibly prolific and we spaced the tomatoes just a few inches apart. But we loved the miracle of seed turning to produce and we marvelled at the taste of the fresh veggies. I learned canning and freezing from a volleyball teammate who grew up on a farm. We nourished the soil with compost and manure and leaves and now are proud to grow sugar snap peas, bush beans, carrots, red and green cabbage, broccoli, beets, kohlrabi, cabbage, cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, acorn squash, cauliflower, dill, onions and pumpkins. We tried to grow sweet corn a few of the years but the raccoons always beat us to it when it would ripen. We also added raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, and plum, cherry and apple trees. I believe that within the human soul there is a basic need to create as our Creator did when he made the first garden and fashioned us from soil. Every Ash Wednesday at church, the priest would say, "thou art dust and unto dust, you shall return." But I wish he would have said, thou art soil and unto soil, you shall return. The word dust seems inconsequential and a nuisance. But the word soil, rings with strength and tremendous potential. Gardening is a lot of work and unless you're quite a bit obsessive compulsive, you'll never be weedless, but it's worth the work when you can share your harvest with those you love.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

A kid at Heart

The big kid in the picture is James, my husband. The little kid in the picture is James, my oldest grandson. James the husband is usually called Bing by family and friends. Today was his sixty fifth birthday and James the lesser is soon to become nine years old. One of the biggest surprises in my life, which I suppose an awful lot of people have known before me, is that even though we age in body, the mind retains its youthfulness. Suddenly you are the elders of the tribe and you still feel like one of the young ones. I think it's just fine but sometimes I notice a snicker or two coming from younger people when they see us being silly. Maybe that's why grandparenting is so much fun - the grandkids don't really have expectations about what someone your age should or should not do - they just want to have fun - and if these old codgers can provide it - they're AOK. Most people accept the Happy Birthday Song sung to them once at a birthday and they are grateful for it. But not Bing, he demanded it be sung again with much more gusto and he conducted it like it was a concerto. He also made sure he blew out all those candles in one blast so he could have his wish of a new fishing boat. I love him and always will.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Get Thee to a Nunnery

Hi everybody. I've decided I like blogging. I'm not quite sure why but I think it's because it makes me feel like I have something to say as me. It's kind of foreign to me to speak from an I or me point of view. When I was eighteen and full of ideals, I thought that God was calling me to be a nun so at midterm of my freshman year at Mount Mary College, I transferred to the candidature for the Notre Dame nuns at their convent in Mequon, Wi. on Lake Michigan. The weekend I was to report for duty happened to be when my parents had to go to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas for my brother, Mark's graduation from B52 Navigation school, so our parish priest drove me to the convent. I only stayed that one semester but it was such a meaningful time in my life. I wore the long black habit and a black veil attached to a headband and lived the very organized life of a candidate for the sisterhood. There was morning prayer and classes and recreation time and prayer and every evening before evening prayer, the Mistress of Novices would give about a half hour lecture. You've probably heard of retreats where you go away for a few days to reflect on your life, your goals or your aspirations. Well, this was like a six month retreat and the first lesson to be learned and not forgotten was that we were no longer, "I". We were a community and everything was "we" or "ours". There was no place for individuality. That lesson came in handy throughout life as Bing and I became one and then our family added to the team spirit. But I've always written from the point of view of both Bing and me because before e-mail, I don't think Bing ever wrote a letter to anyone, ( except, of course, a few love letters to me when he had to go away for National Guard duty every summer for five years.) So, now I must retrain my brain to speak from a personal point of view and try not to think of it as too self centered. One of my main reasons for doing so is to let my sons and their families know a little bit more about their mom. My mom died when I was 24, so I never really matured enough before she died to wonder about her story. Each of us has a story and if we take the time to know each other's stories, more understanding can flow and with understanding comes love. The more love there is in the world, the less room there is for hate.

Friday, August 17, 2007

"Special Days" are oh so Special

Today was a "special day". That's the name we gave to the one day a week that we've been hosting our grandchildren here at our house since Michaela and her mom and dad moved here in 1996. As each of the next four grandchildren were born, they were added to the fun. It has been a wonderful way to get to know each of the five and for them to get to know us. What a privilege to have the trust of their parents and to help mold these little characters. And what characters they are, each a unique and precious soul, with such loving hearts and talents up the wazoo. Grandparenting is such a bonus of having a family and as so many things in life have surprised this clueless one, it was a most wonderful surprise.

Today's fun included, blackberry picking (Jamie and Grandpa), they got two thirds of an ice cream bucket, making stamped greeting cards, (Kayla and Grandma), volleyball serving practice for Michaela, ping pong games, grilled cheese sandwiches and strawberry lemonade,

tubing behind the pontoon boat, washing our red truck and lots of laughing and talking. We always talk about missing Courtney and Alexa and Eli but we know they'll be coming here next summer on vacation and we'll have some very special days then.

We forgot to take pictures today so I've added the flower pictures for a little color. The sunflowers are "volunteers - ie, they sprung up from sunflower seeds that fell from the bird feeder.
I'm not sure where that map came from but I think I'll leave that in since it may take me a while to get rid of it and replace it with the flowers. I'm still a rookie!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Arbor Day

Bing finished this new grape arbor today. Thanks to Tony and Carmen for the wood to help make it.

Practical tip for today: This is a tip from a cheapskate column from our Daily News. If you use Bounce dryer sheets, cut them in fourths and just use one fourth of a sheet per load of laundry. I've been doing this and there's no static cling, things are nice and soft and a box of forty lasts for one hundred and sixty loads.

Summer Heaven/Haven

The nation is having a really hot summer and we are no exception. I can't remember a summer up here with so many days in the eighties and nineties. This picture shows a particular blessing that we have. Almost every day we've been hopping onto the pontoon boat and toodling over to a public swimming area on the lake. The water is eighty degrees and we spend about an hour in the heavenly fluid. I do water exercises and Bing floats on a toboggan turned floating lounge. It's great.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

To blog or not to blog

Whether it be nobler to suffer the guilt of never having communicated enough to satisfy one's cohorts or to blog and bore them to death. This was the question meandering through my mind for the last couple of months. Bernie offered to teach Bing and/or me to create a blog site. I think all of our sons would have bet that Bing would be the one to try it because he has always been the main communicater in our family. I'm more of a blurter - many times I say the wrong thing at the wrong time. But here I go. I decided that it's probably better to offer a glimpse into our life to those who care and the beauty of the blog is that you don't really find out if they care or not. They, ie the recipients, can either read it or not read it and no hard feelings if they don't. The two most compelling reasons for me trying this is that I have very much enjoyed reading Bernie's and Carmen's blogs. I especially like the pictures and I tried to include one with this posting, ( that's a blog term!) I guess I already need a refresher course from Bernie on how to call up the pictures from our computer. My mind must have been meandering when he was showing me that.

The thought for today, in case you have any time to ponder something. What if there had been blogging in Shakespeare's time? Would we have his works of art? Will blogging do away with new classics?

Friday, August 10, 2007


Bernie's helping me start my own blog.