Destination – Whistle Stop

win_20160925_07_46_51_proWe leave the house on this sunny but cool September morning around 8 a.m. The trees are just starting to display the bright reds and yellows of autumn as we begin our 250-mile drive. We are headed for New York Mills, MN, a small town located in northwestern Minnesota. So what is the attraction about New York Mills and why do we wish to travel there, you might ask? Situated there is the Whistle Stop Bed and Breakfast. win_20160925_07_44_00_proIt is a unique bed and breakfast in that the owners have purchased and refurbished four old rail cars into sleeping quarters for guests. My hubby has always been in love with trains and as a special weekend to celebrate our 25th anniversary month, this seems like a cool adventure.

We decide to deviate from the printed Google directions which direct us towards all four-lane, high-speed freeways. Who wants to see the same old stuff while distracted by the mass of humanity that crowds the expressways? We begin our journey, instead, by winding our way north on Hwy 63 and then somewhat westward on the twisting Hwy 60 to Mazeppa. As we continue our journey westward on MN 19, we soon come to a detour. It seems that we drive ever further south instead of north and west. After going a fair number of miles out of the way, we are headed, at least, back in the right direction but on a different road than was our original plan. We can get where we want to go using this road too, we reason so we might as well go this way. We haven’t gone more than 10 miles or so and we come to another detour sign. You have got to be kidding. We repeat the going out of our way process all over again. By noon and after the appearance of the fourth detour in a little under 100 miles, I am starting to become paranoid every time I see an orange sign. Frustration is mounting and our progress towards our destination has been slow.win_20160925_07_44_27_pro

This whole driving experience reminds me of our 25 years of married life. As a young (relatively at 34 and 36 years old) couple, we set out on our life adventure with an image of our years together. And then there are detours – side trips that take us places we would rather not go. I think our first major detour was 3 years into our marriage when I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Our dream of having more than one child was delegated to the file of “wishes only.” The “maybe we can adopt” six-year second detour ended up on the road to nurse anesthesia school instead. There is some beautiful country along this road. Our latest bumpy side trip has taken us on a spiritual detour that is confusing, lonely and seems like it has no road that returns to the one that leads to our destination. We can only cling to each other and faithfully attempt to search for the road signs of God’s leading hand. So our life is mirroring this road trip.

A little after noon, we get back on our original planned route and do make our way to the quaint town of New York Mills by 2:30 p.m. Just 100 feet behind the Imperial Car that welcomes us is a modern-day railroad tracks hidden behind the trees. win_20160925_07_39_36_proThis feature presents us with authentic shrill whistles and the clacking of speeding wheels approximately every ½ hour. This is a thrilling treat for hubby but creates a problem for restful sleep. I lay there in bed several hours into the night and wonder, “Why did I think that coming to a bed and breakfast would be relaxing and restful?” I guess it is all in how one looks at the experience just like married life. After all, an adventure is supposed to be exciting, terrifying, and exhilarating; it is not supposed to be a relaxing, restful journey.win_20160925_07_48_35_pro

Growing and Mowing


Summer in Minnesota– tis the season for mowing grass. With an abundance of rain, that means that the lawnmower needs firing up every week. Since our daughter has graduated from college and moved home for the summer, Mom has stipulated that the required 4 hours of mowing each week will be her job in exchange for rent. And just last year, we bought a new – well a slightly used- green John Deere riding mower. On the farm, we always had John Deere tractors and so I am somewhat prejudiced towards this brand. My thinking is that we should be able to have trouble free mowing for at least a few years.

“MOM!” My in-depth concentration in the book I am reading is interrupted. “I can’t get the mower to go around. I was just mowing along when it stopped and it won’t restart.”

Alright, this is a new mower with less than 100 hours on it so there can’t be that much wrong with it. “I’m coming. Let’s go see what we can figure out.”

I plop in the seat and turn the key. The tractor motor snaps right off so no problem there. The brake is on, the mower up. I disengage the still silent mower and re-engage it. I do it again. Nothing. I know nothing about this tractor but I flop in the soft freshly mown grass and begin to inspect the various working components on the mower deck. The belt that drives the mower seems looser than it should be and I soon discern that the belt has come off the pulley. On our other mower, it was pretty simple to replace the belt. Certainly, we can fix this. I just need to find the place where I can loosen the tension on the belts and slip it back on. But no such place seems to exist.

The sweat has begun to pour off of me in the 90-degree heat. I guess it is time to find the owner’s manual and see what it has to say. I can’t find anything about the mower in the troubleshooting section. Frustrating would be an understatement.  Finally, I find a section that says, “disengage (tension) rod from the retaining bracket by rotating rod counterclockwise.” Nice thought. But how am I supposed to do that. There is a huge spring that I can’t begin to budge holding it securely. This is ridiculous. “It can’t be that hard,” I say to Daughter. Finally, I have a brilliant idea. Forget taking anything apart or turning it any way. I lay down on the ground and prop my right foot against the offending pulley and push with all my strength. “See if you can get the belt on now,” I instruct. And just like that it is fixed. Yahoo!!

“And so this is why I can’t depend on a man to fix things,” the insight dawns on Daughter, “because the men are never around when things need fixing.”

“You are so right.” I confirm.

Without another hitch, the lawn soon is looking prim and neat. But as I walk behind the lawn mower in the garage later in the day, a puddle of oil is enlarging drip by drip onto the concrete floor. Closer inspection reveals that the transmission oil pan is empty. Oh no!

“Will you help me hook up the trailer and load the lawnmower on Monday so I can take it to the dealer?” I implore my daughter. I don’t see any other solution to this problem.

Monday morning, dark ominous clouds grace the western sky and soon buckets of rain come pouring down. Well, I am not about to get wet hooking up the pickup to the trailer so we can haul this lawnmower. Within the hour, the clouds have parted and the sun comes peeking out. Time to hook up the trailer. I grab the truck keys off the key rack and turn to head out the door.

“Hey, I thought I was going to drive the truck,” demands Daughter.

No problem. I no longer, in this life, feel a need to prove my proficiency in these kinds of pursuits. These tasks sometimes just feel more like a struggle that needs to be done especially since my neck no longer is flexible enough to actually turn so I can see to back a vehicle. It is time to let the younger generation develop their skills and prove themselves. I have always told my daughter that there is no excuse for being a helpless woman. And today, she proves she is not helpless. With only a couple of corrections, she does a pretty efficient job of backing up that trailer with the pickup.

With the lawnmower safely deposited at the dealer for repairs, we wait while the grass grows tall and green again.

Progress at the Destination Medical Center

Wednesday morning – I haven’t been to work since the weekend. How much could possibly change in two days?NightCrossesJohnsonWedding 138

I stride down the hall from the parking ramp, lost in thought in another world. Suddenly, the hall turns right and trails down a corridor that I have never traveled before. Where am I? Oh yes, I remember seeing a sign last week posted to the main hallway sidewall that stated, “Hallway to be closed on May 24.” Precipitously a new hall has appeared. The only choice is to keep moving forward and see where this passageway comes out. I feel like I am completely in another world physically as well as mentally. I turn this way and that, not recognizing anything. My brain is confused. Did I park my car in the wrong ramp this morning for I am hiking down hallways that sport appointment desks, waiting rooms, bathrooms, and decorated sidewalls? Where did all this come from? Eventually, after an endless walk, I come back out to an intersection where my brain is able to finally say, “Ah, yes, I can go back to my non-alert state.” Apparently, behind all that plastic lining the other old hallway for the last year or so has been growing another clinic building.

I change into scrubs and head down to the operating rooms to begin breaks for my fellow nurse anesthetists as I always do. Somewhere during those first couple of hours, I arrive at the realization that what used to be the recovery room has also closed during my two days away and a new recovery room has opened. This new facility has small individual rooms for each patient while the old one was a large open room with clusters of bays for patient care. It is a modern work of art. I even have to scan out with my name badge to get back to the operating room suite. Strange. Are they afraid the patients are going to make an escape back to the OR?157

Here again, my brain struggles to figure out the new rules. Does everyone go to this new recovery room? Or do some patients go to what we call “the far east” which currently serves as the pre-operative area? And who decides? Within the first 30 minutes, my pager goes off telling me that “Patient John Doe is to go to the east pacu postoperatively.” That is an odd page. And why am I getting it, I wonder? I am not this patient’s anesthetist. And where does this page originate from? No one seems to have an answer to my questions.NightCrossesJohnsonWedding 162

As a final addition to all this change, a change has also been made as to how some of our drugs are packaged. They look different and they are harder to distinguish one from the other. I have worked here for 29 years but today, I think I unknowingly got off the wrong bus at the wrong hospital. I just don’t remember doing so. Maybe that is how Alzheimer’s works.

Book Review Of No Longer A Child Of Promise from Sageadderly

DSC01690I didn’t realize how emotional this story would be. Amanda Farmer writes about leaving her family’s farm and the backlash that occurred because of that decision. Growing up in a Mennonite household and community helped her form a strong relationship with God. Her family’s rejection and nastiness have Amanda looking deep within and wondering how to heal.

I commend her for trying so hard to mend ways with her family. Even when they were in the wrong, she repeatedly looked to forgive them. I can’t say I could have done the same. I really enjoyed this book. I think nonfiction readers, especially those who lean towards family drama, would especially want to check this one out.

Even though things don’t end up as Amanda would have desired, her memoir left me with a sense of peace. It was a strong reminder to treat others well and to love my family and my children unconditionally.

by SageAdderlyVirtual Book tour2016

The Evening of Delays

fry wed and elgin coop high 5-25-14 181It is 6:50 p.m. I have delivered my patient to the recovery room just a few minutes early and I hear those “music to my ears” words, “You can go home.”

As I stride down the hall towards the parking ramp, I notice a young man dressed in a white doctor’s coat waiting by the stairway. He smiles at me and directs a question my way. “Do you want to make $10?”

My brain does a flip. That is a strange question. Is he propositioning me? I respond, “Doing what?”

“Will you give me a ride to Methodist Hospital?”

Briefly, I wonder if he might be an ax murderer but he looks like any young intern. In his hands, he holds a box that usually contains “loops,” a kind of glasses worn by surgeons to be able to focus better on their delicate work. I make a split-second decision.

“I will give you a ride if you are willing to walk up six flights of stairs to my car. And you don’t need to pay me $10.”

Out on the street, it is pouring from the sky so I understand now his desire for a ride. We chat amicably on the ride and I deposit him on the sidewalk just a block from his car. I have only gone a few blocks out of my way and done a good deed for someone in need.fry wed and elgin coop high 5-25-14 214

I take my normal route home through the little town where my hubby has his business with the intent to pick up the mail as is my usual practice. The problem these days is that road construction has again become the bane of our area. Last summer, the state and the county did not communicate at all resulting in only one way into town. This summer is supposed to be more of the same. Just now, the road immediately north of town that comes in from the west is torn up and closed. The county has also started to tear up the road that lies perpendicular to this road and goes directly north out of town to our house. This leaves the necessity of going 5 miles out of the way to get home. Tonight, I have a discussion with myself. I don’t want to go down the gravel road detour and get my car all dirty besides spending the extra time that it takes. Maybe, I can just sneak my way through on that short distance that is torn up and then I will be back on the blacktop. After all, it is raining and no one is working any longer. As I mosey along, I come to where the second “road closed” sign which just this morning was the end of the torn up section is situated. Now it is evident that today they tore up another mile all the way to the next intersection. Great. Just great. There is nothing to do at this point but keep going. I am beginning to regret my decision as the road is muddy and unstable. Just what I need to do is get my new car stuck. This really was not a good decision. As I am dodging puddles and swerving along, I notice a white car in the distance following me. As I watch it intermittently, the distance between us continues to shorten. Strange. Is that an antenna I see on top in the gathering twilight? My musings are soon ended by those flashing red and blue lights in my rear view mirror. I sigh and pull over.010 (2)

“Do you know why I stopped you?” asks the pleasant voice of the sheriff deputy.

“Because I am driving on this road?” I sheepishly reply.

“Yes, we have been getting quite a few complaints from the construction workers about people continuing to drive on the closed roads,” he explains.

“Well, I would not have come this way if I had known that they tore the whole road up today.” I try to exonerate myself.

“You have a spotless driving record so let’s try to keep it that way.” He says as he gives me a friendly send off.

Maybe this is enough of a lesson to sufficiently prevent me from trying to avoid those irritating detours of summer road construction for the rest of the summer. Sigh! But it is such a long way around for weeks at a time. My rule keeping husband’s response is “you should know better.” So much for getting home at a decent time.

Bull Riding

110It is a strange sport that only the hearty young wrangler tries – exclusively a farming sport. I often wonder what draws a young man to attempt to sit upon a bucking, jumping bull with the strategy of staying there for 8 seconds. Flying through the air and landing with a thud on the ground cannot possibly feel that good. After all, there is no other way to get off whether the rider makes the 8 seconds or not. And then, he has to get up and run for his life in case the bull wishes to finish him off with his head. I don’t think I have ever seen a young lady try this so it must have something to do with the daring, impulsivity of young men.104

I have never been to a live bull riding event before so when I saw the recent event in Rochester advertised in the paper, my hubby and I decided to do something different and put ourselves in the bleachers. There must be something wrong with me too as I can really get into watching these dare devils attempt their rides. I cheer for them when they make it and I cringe when they land on their heads. After all, it’s kind of bad for their spines. I can understand why the first responders have a backboard ready for use.

158The stands are already almost full when we arrive an hour before start time so apparently, I am not the only one who enjoys watching the challenge. A little entertainment by the clown, a cowboy with ropes, and some Mexican poker add to the entertainment of the evening. I had never heard of Mexican poker before. What a strange concept. Four people are seated at a card table in the middle of the arena. Interestingly, they are fitted with protective vests. I don’t think they got much card playing done before a bull was released. The object is to be the last one seated when the bull comes visiting. OK. That is not something that you would ever get me to do. The bull was turning the table upside down before the last man took off running. He leaped over the side gate like a pole vaulter as the bull snorted behind him.

160That whole scene brought back my own escape from a bull a long time ago. My father had always run a bull with the lower producing group of cows for clean-up purposes. Most of our cows were bred by artificial insemination, but there were always some cows that were very difficult to get pregnant. They eventually ended up in this group with the bull, in the hope that he could do naturally what we could not seem to accomplish the artificial way.

I had glanced around the barn to determine the bull’s whereabouts before I swung open the center gate to allow cows into the holding area. I did not want to meet him face to face. He was at the far end of the barn, so I thought that I should be safe. The center gate that divided the groups was a steel, twenty-four-foot telescoping structure. Because of its heavy weight, it was suspended by a cable from a roof truss of the barn. I pushed the gate all the way open against the end wall. Then I turned to walk back through the group of cows that were making their way into the holding area. Suddenly, I stopped and stepped back. Mr. Bull was making his way around as well. But instead of going on by, he advanced toward me. Frantically, I tried to decide what to do. I was pretty sure I couldn’t outrun him. Behind me was the wall. There was nowhere to go. Then it came to me. Climb the gate. I scrambled up, grabbing the supporting cable with my hands just in time to realize that my feet were being knocked out from under me by his huge, swinging head.

“Help! Help! Help!” I screamed over and over. I knew no one was going to hear me. What was I going to do? I couldn’t dangle from this cable forever. My screams did attract the attention of the meandering cows, though. Curious creatures that they were and are, they all gathered around to see what the commotion was all about. Sixty sets of shining eyes looked up at me. And by their response, they distracted Mr. Bull. He wandered away to sniff for a more interesting scent. I didn’t think I had ever been so thankful for a bunch of cows before.

So I don’t think that I will ever sign up to play Mexican poker.

Another Day of Dealing with Winter – It Has Arrived!

MaySnowstorm2013 020What does one write on a zero temperature January day? I hear the wind howling around the corners of the house. At least it is cozy and warm in my chair, especially since I am leaning on a nice warm heating pad.

The last few days have been a struggle. On Saturday, as I scurried about my usual life’s activities, I bent over to move a piece of clothing from one wash pile to another. I felt a separation in my lower back followed by a stabbing pain. Oh, no! Now is not the time to have my back go out. I have an appointment with my daughter to go wedding dress shopping in the afternoon and my hubby and I will be leaving for Florida on Wednesday. But backs do not ask what our plans are before giving up on us. And so for three days, I have been wearing a back brace and walking bent over like an old lady. Every step is a painful struggle.

Today, I knew I needed to get some things done as we are leaving tomorrow. But how am I going to do that. My back is stiff and painful, though less so. I still cannot pick anything up off the floor. How am I going to plow the drive, sand the drive, and shovel the sidewalk? I am overwhelmed just by the thought. But at 9 a.m. as the thermometer still displays -6 degrees F, I ever so slowly pull on my boots and bundle up. As I trundle through the cutting wind to the unattached garage, I hope that the plow truck will start. I don’t even have the strength to push the garage door up. This is just dandy. The truck stares at me open mouthed. The open hood reveals the battery charger in place. Maybe, there is hope. I turn the key, but only a half a turn of the engine breaks the stillness followed by a click. Well, there is nothing to do but to trundle back to the attached garage for the car and some jumper cables. I want to sit in the truck and cry. On a good day, jumping the truck would not be my first plan of the day but with the cold, cutting wind, and aching back, this is the last thing I want to do.Snow2014 008

I am soon parked facing the truck and with fumbling gloved up fingers, have the jumper cables attached. A turn of the key and my ears are rewarded with the welcome sound of a rumbling truck engine. Goal one completed. Back to the garage with the car and I am ready to plow. Now to get the plowing done without getting stuck or stalling the truck. I am convinced that if I stall it, it will not restart without another jump. As proof of this, each time that I try to raise the plow, it empties the battery of power and all the warning lights on the dashboard say “hello.” Twenty minutes later, I decide to call it “good enough” before I have pushed my luck to far. As I am backing into the garage, the inevitable happens. I stall it. A click is the only response I receive from turning the key. I sigh. I almost made it. Ten more feet and it would have been back in its designated place. So off to the house I go again for the car and jumper cables. One more jump and the truck is parked. Goal two completed.

MaySnowstorm2013 062Now, I just have to sand the hill and the drive will be good again for a few days anyway. I don’t think my back will allow me to lift the heavy buckets of sand and salt that I have stored in the garage for this task but I am determined to get this task done too. But as I eye the 5 gallon bucket and the distance between the ground and the car trunk, I know that I can’t lift it in my current shape. Suddenly, it hits me. I can be resourceful. I will take 1/2 of the sand out of the full bucket and put it in an empty one. Then I can lift them. I am proud of myself for thinking of this. As I back down the drive with my precious cargo, I meet the Grainger truck slowly backing down after a failed attempt to make it up our hill. At least, he didn’t put himself in the ditch. Soon the drive is sanded and ready for the next attempt by unsuspecting visitors.

And that plow truck has made ANOTHER trip to the repairman to determine what ails it. Maybe by spring we will have a functional plow truck.


Fall Risk

092At Mayo, we often have patients who come through the operating area who have little arm bands on them that say, “Fall Risk.” I am not sure what the criteria are for qualifying for one of these arm bands as I see them on young fairly healthy people as well as elderly frail people. If you slipped and fell on the icy sidewalk outside the hospital, you definitely get one. I am thinking that I maybe should be sporting one of those based on the last few weeks.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I was pumping gas at the local gas station when I decided to step over the gas hose to get back into the car while the tank filled. I didn’t get my left foot quite high enough and the next thing I knew, my body was moving on but my foot wasn’t. I landed on my hip, then elbow, then shoulder. First, I lay there trying to figure out if anything hurt bad enough to be considered broken and then I looked all around to see who had seen me. It was dark and no one was around so I picked myself back up and went on my way with no major damage done except to my pride.

Today, I decided to go for my walk with Bella as I still try to do if the weather is cooperative. It was 30 degrees when I set out, the perfect temperature to not freeze to death while, at the same time, not overheat and just cold enough to obliterate the mud that has been constantly with us most of the winter so far. I have been working on increasing my jogging distance over the summer. I think I can do ¼ of a mile now, certainly nothing compared to the distances done by marathon runners, but a distance I am proud of none-the-less.

Christmas Tree 002Needless to say, I was jogging along nicely. There was no ice to slip on and the footing seemed secure. All of a sudden, my right ankle did a “turn-over.” As intense pain shot through my right extremity, I attempted to throw the weight back onto my left foot. Of course, while I was doing this foot dancing, my upper body was continuing with its forward momentum. I made a few running steps in an effort to regain balance but in my mind, I realized it was a lost cause. With a sense of impending disaster, my life flashed before my eyes. With the road coming up fast, I needed to decide how best to crash land. I did a kind of “hit knees, then hands, arms, chest” in a flat out sprawl. As I lay there, all I could think was, “I’m supposed to work tomorrow,” “It’s almost Christmas,” and “How am I going to get back to the house?” After a few minutes of stunned reflection, I realized nothing really hurt too badly. “Maybe, I can get up and hobble home.” And so began my slow trek back to the house.

Of course, I couldn’t just let my exercising go for the day so I went to the basement to lift weights. My stomach muscles followed by my left rib cage muscles soon informed me that I had already overtaxed them. Uh! Everything hurts. Not to mention the slowly swelling ankle.

If I get one of those “Fall Risk” armbands, I wonder if someone will watch me closely so that I don’t keep falling flat on my face.

Getting the Plow Truck Ready for Winter – Part II

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One dark night – eclipse

The calendar declares the date to be December 13. Outside, the sky sags with heavy fog towards the blackness of the road beneath. The prediction is for heavy rain today. I thought this was December in Minnesota but there is no sign of snow. For this I am thankful. Yesterday, we finally attached the snowplow to the truck again for the third time. Now the truck sits securely in the garage- I hope finally ready for winter if we actually have one.

After not being able to start the truck with our numerous previous attempts at different antics, a tow company was commissioned to haul the disabled vehicle to Plainview. The repairman’s first report was that it was not the “passkey” theft detection system that was the problem so all our attempts at resetting that would never have resulted in success. The problem was that a couple of very pesky mice had decided to make a nest in the wiring. They found the wires to be tasty chewing material as well. OK mice, you have made enough trouble for this year. Once the wires were put back together, the truck happily sputtered to life. The only problem left was that the lights, which worked before the truck was started, went out once it was running. This left the repairman scratching his head.


Someone else’s really bad day with a truck

As I was telling this to our college age daughter, she said, “Did he flip that switch to ‘truck’ instead of ‘plow’?” Oh yes, the switch. How could we forget? When our daughter was just 16 and soon after getting her license, she took the truck to a school function. By the time she was ready to come home, it was dark and the truck lights would not come on. What to do? She very wisely asked a friend to drive in front of her and a friend’s parent to follow behind so she could get home safely. But wouldn’t you know, in that 6 mile stretch of road to get home, she passed a highway patrolman. Pretty soon, there were flashing bubble lights behind her. The patrolman was very understanding when he found out that she was driving her father’s truck and was not responsible for its maintenance.  Even so, a very upset young lady came storming into the house. “D.. A.. D!!!,” she shrieked, “What’s wrong with the truck lights?” An investigation revealed that the switch had never gotten put back on “truck” after dropping the plow off in the spring.

Once the information about the switch was conveyed to the repairman, all was soon restored to proper working order. On the eve of Thanksgiving, Daughter and I went to pick up the truck and bring it home as it was forecast to snow the next day. Yahoo! We have our truck back. Thanksgiving morning, hubby and I went out to attach the plow again and get ready for the coming storm. Because of the manner in which the plow was removed, it was sitting somewhat helter skelter. I was commissioned to inch the truck forward and slam on the brakes to hold it in place while hubby snapped the pins in place. But the truck kept rolling back.  “Just hold the brakes,” I was earnestly instructed. “But I don’t think the peddle is supposed to go all the way to the floor,” I protested. He finally got into the truck himself and realized we now had no brakes. So off came the plow for the second time. And where does one take a disabled brakeless truck on a holiday weekend? Taking it to Millville would mean going down a ½ mile long steep hill. Really bad idea! Taking it back to Plainview would mean driving through town. Also a bad idea. So to rural Elgin was the decision – only one major road crossing with no brakes. The trip was made safely.

So another week of tersely waiting passed with one ice/snow event going by but nothing major happening. All new brake lines later, the truck was home again. Now a bright little light on the dash declares “maintenance required.” Seriously!!! We have decided to ignore it for now – as if that might be possible.