Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Adirondack Chairs


These Adirondack chairs are 14 years old.  They were made by
Ed's FFA students at Clermont Northeastern.  Those chairs were Ed's wedding gift to me.  When he gave them to me, he told me that we would grow old together sitting in those chairs.  God had another plan......

Each spring, we had a ritual.  I would get out the garden hose and leaf blower and a bucket of water to wash the chairs.  My job was to get the porch ready for sitting outside on the warm summer evenings.  Ed's job on porch cleaning day was to go and get me a hanging basket to brighten the space.  I always picked the earliest warmest day possible and that night we would have our first night of the year on the porch. 

We loved having our Sunday morning coffee out there.  We loved having dinner there.  That porch has held many family gatherings, with Ed always sitting in the Adirondack chair to the left.  Many farm couples from across the country (including Brian and Mariah) have sat on that porch for lunch or a cool glass of lemonade, the guys talking farming, us gals enjoying their enthusiasm for their life's work.  The night of the Clinton County Field to Table picnic, that porch held a large group of family who came out the host the event with us.

Last summer, my brother and nephew stayed a week to celebrate my brother's cancer being in remission.  All the while he was undergoing treatment, I told him to envision having barbequed ribs and our fresh-picked sweet corn on the porch. It was a very big deal when we finally had that meal.  There were times I didn't think he would ever get to eat a picnic on my porch again.  That meal was a triumph of his spirit.

We could sit in our chairs and look out over the farm and watch whatever was going on.  Could be fireflies in June, Fourth of July Fireworks, the bat colony leaving at dusk or the hummingbirds at the feeder.  The year we bought the farm, son Eric built me a water garden with a waterfalls right outside the porch and many nights we listened to the soft sound of water running over rocks and laughed at the birds bathing in the "stream". 

I'm running about a month behind so porch cleaning day was postponed until yesterday.  I scrubbed and re-arranged.  Daughter Shannon's family brought me a basket of flowers for the table.  Daughter Becky's family brought me a flat of zinnias to brighten the garden nearby. 

Tonight I sat in my chair and watched the birds and immersed myself in the memories of the special times we enjoyed on that porch.  The chair next to me is empty now but my heart is full. 

I had the most special Mother's Day weekend a mom could ask for.  I hope you had a wonderful Mother's Day and I hope it included some time on the porch with your family. 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Essence of a Person's Life in Stone

After months of online searching and researching and then actual lot-shopping and test-driving, I bought a Honda CRV.  Not the top of the line by any means but enough features to make me feel like I have moved up 8 years since my last new car.  I got 33 mpg driving home from Columbus today and that made me feel good.  It has great safety ratings and it was way roomier than I thought it would be. 

All in all,  I am happy.  The kids are happy.  Mom is driving something dependable.  I don't ever want to worry my kids.    So I have a new CRV.  I love my kids for caring about my safety.

Sable created a bit of a stir last night.  She ran off.  She came back hot and tired but she was gone a good while and that is not like her.  I know she needs more attention than I am giving her so I treated her to a ride in the old Dakota tonight.  She must miss that so much.  She and Ed spent hours riding around scouting. 

We drove to the cemetery to spend some quiet time with Ed's spirit.  I have been working with the monument company to design something special for Ed's (and eventually my) headstone.  Other than helping my mom to pick out my dad's headstone, I have absolutely no experience in this.  Well, I guess most of us don't until we are placed in the situation. 

Last summer we took a trip through Northern NY and into Quebec, visiting the sites where my ancestors are buried.  I studied those headstones.  They told a story.  I had never noticed before but both my maternal and paternal grandparents' headstones had praying hands holding a Rosary.  You could look around both of their cemeteries and see the faith beliefs of the families represented there.  I liked that.

In designing this monument, I learned that a headstone is truly the last physical indication that the person or couple buried there walked this earth.  The stone, in just a few words and design elements, captures the essence of the persons' lives.  It will tell a story for hundreds of years.  I am incorporating an etching of our farm into the design along with a verse from Ecclesiastes.  It was our favorite. 

I want to get it right.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Empty Refrigerator

Today, it has been a month since Ed's passing.  The kids came over today to have a picnic and spend time with me on a difficult day.  We had Sahlen's hot dogs from New York that I found in the freezer and I made a batch of homemade potato salad.  I laughed when Eric called the hot dogs "gold"!  That is the brand they grew up on and having them is a treat. 

Anyway, at the picnic today, Tara remarked, "Mom, there is no food in your refrigerator."  Like everything else in my life, the contents of the refrigerator has changed, too. 

Ed loved my cooking and I love to cook.  I enjoyed trying out new recipes on him and rarely did we have a "kitchen disaster" as I referred to it when the meal just wasn't a hit.  Ed would laugh at those times and we would order pizza from the corner store and he would good naturedly tease me about the failed menu. 

Ed had what he called a "Dutch palette", meaning he liked his food hearty but not spicy or unusual.  I love all kinds of cuisine and over the years he came to love unusual foods such as my homemade French Canadian meat pie, enchiladas, Louisiana gumbo and jambalaya, and his favorite broccoli salad. 

Ed did the grocery shopping.  He had those ladies at the Blanchester Kroger charmed into helping him find the strange ingredients I would put on the list.  They all knew him by name. 

I never knew what he would bring home in addition to what was on my list and sometimes it was a challenge to make a meal out of whatever had struck his fancy or what he found in the sale sections.  I think he loved to see what I could come up with. 

Anyway, the empty refrigerator has been an issue for a while.  I just avoid the grocery store.  It is too hard to go in there and try to find excitement over cooking anything.  I'm eating...just not cooking.  It is no fun to cook for one and even less fun to eat alone.  I have been eating the wonderful chicken noodle soup our neighbor sends over occasionally, doing take out from Streber's Market and scavenging in the freezer for meals I froze last winter when we were busy with chemo trips.  Shannon and the little girls have brought over meals and eaten here with me a few times.  I've been getting by. 

I miss cooking for Ed. It was nice to have a big crowd here for lunch.  It was nice to cook for an appreciative crowd.   Life is different but I am blessed with my family and friends.   Tonight it was finally time to get past that hurdle.   I went grocery shopping. 

Saturday, April 25, 2015

A New "Normal"

Ed and I loved to travel extensively and we were blessed to visit all fifty states and many countries to get a close up view of life, especially agriculture, in other places.  We both had a natural curiosity about things and our adventures created some of our best memories. 

We experienced many different cultures and we learned to rely on our limited foreign language skills to get around in places we visited.  You should have heard him speak horrible French with his southern accent as he tried to order a steak.  He was always polite and always attracted notice with his booming voice and hearty laugh.  In fact, the French cafĂ© owners where we frequently ate dinner on one trip came to love him and referred to him as a cowboy...he just could not get them to understand "farmer"! 

We experienced exotic foods, very different music, transportation modes, clothing, entertainment and lifestyles.  Ed loved to fly by the seat of his pants, without a plan or even a destination.  He loved to walk out the door and see what the world was all about. 

To many of our family and friends, that lifestyle seemed strange.  They couldn't reconcile the boring, homebodies that we were at home with the adventurers we would turn into as soon as Ed said, "Let's go, Monk!"  I couldn't pack fast enough!  In fact, I kept a camper checklist and a suitcase checklist so we could take off on a minute's notice. 

At home, on the farm, life was never exotic and was much simpler than the efforts we expended on satisfying our travelling bug.  We lived a simple life.  Simple meals from our garden, simple old vehicles with over 100,000 miles each, simple clothes and simple social life.  Outside of travelling, our lives were very "normal".

"Normal" for us was reading Sacred Scripture every morning.  Normal was Ed starting my car to warm it up for me before I left for work.  Normal was me calling him to let him know I was on my way home and please start the grill.  Normal was Saturday night Mass and a Sunday visit from the kids and grandchildren.  Normal was him surfing Newagtalk and me reading a book.  Normal was tending the woodstoves. 

Normal was counting our blessings as we ascended the stairs each night.   The pictures of those grandchildren on the stairway wall reminding us how well God had provided for our happiness and well being.

On December 24, with Ed's cancer diagnosis, everything changed.  Nothing after that was ever normal again.  Life became a battle for Ed's survival and a challenge to adjust to everything that was thrown at us in a very short time.  On Good Friday, with Ed's passing, everything changed once again. 

Daughter Tara told me she simply cannot fathom that Ed will not be there on Monday to welcome our 15th grandchild.  I'll have to do my best to fill the void he leaves.  Monday will be bittersweet. 

I'm struggling after barely three weeks to even try to envision my life without Ed, to create a new normal.  He was such a huge presence and a daily part of my normal life.  I know that Ed is watching over me and I hope he is proud of my efforts as I take on new responsibilities and new challenges.  I think about him in everything I do. 

I lit a fire in the insert today.  It is cold and rainy and dreary.  The fire made the house more cheery and reminds me of the days when tending a wood fire with Ed was normal. 

Friday, April 24, 2015

Vehicle Shopping

I hate new car shopping.  My 2007 Buick Rendezvous has 203,000 miles on it.  I bought it new and I love still love it.  I wish GM still made this model.  It is the right size, it is the right fuel economy, it is the right comfort level and it is the right price....PAID FOR! 

But my Buick is starting to show its age and, despite a new transmission a year ago, just doesn't seem as dependable as it once was.  Plus I can see the need for four new tires, maybe some brake work and struts coming....Not really wanting to put more money into a car with that many miles on it.

My children are concerned for my safety on long trips to visit my mother or the grandkids.  Ed's sister, who never asks anything of me, asked me to please get a new dependable vehicle before winter. 

Son Mark told me about a 15% off GM program on select models in dealership inventory.  He got a great deal on a new Traverse and I decided to look into that deal.  None at any dealer I called.  None.   Plenty of Traverses, but none eligible for this 15% off deal in their inventory.

I have done my research.  I spent months over the winter checking out safety ratings and fuel economy and price.  However, everything changes when you walk into that showroom.  Being the tightwad that I am, the unlucky salesmen that got me today at three different dealerships had their work cut out for them. 

I have several models in mind that I really like but they have pros and cons:

Traverse...high price, too big, bad fuel economy....but safe
Enclave....higher price, really big, bad fuel and really, really comfortable...what a nice ride....
Acadia....high price, too big, bad fuel economy, rides a bit stiff....but safe

Those vehicles cost upwards of $45,000-$55,000 and I just can't bring myself to spend that.  Did I mention that I was a tightwad who loves her 8 year old Buick Rendezvous???

Here is the dilemma....there is nothing in the middle!

The next step down would be the Equinox, the Eclipse or the Terrain. 

Pros and cons:

Equinox...great price and fuel economy, nice looking....but the ride is kind of stiff and cheap
Enclave....tiny, tiny vehicle....felt like I was riding in the rear seat
Terrain....just plain ugly.....whoever thought those square fenders added to that vehicle should go back to engineering school

Why can't they make a decent, safe, fuel efficient vehicle with the SUV or crossover design in the $35-40,000 range? 

If you have a make or model that you would recommend, I am willing to listen.  Meanwhile, short trips to and from work in the Buick and, if have to go to NY or Cleveland, I will to bite the bullet and take the Silverado, bad gas mileage or not.

Side note:  Sable has been given Ed's desk chair cushion that he always sat on.  She is laying with her head on it now.  She is such a loyal dog. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Sable is Grieving

I took Sable to the cemetery on Saturday.  She slept all the way there in the back seat of the old Dakota until we came to the gate.  When I drove in, she jumped into the front seat and began to whine, pawing at the door.  The past two days she has been off her feed and has had two major "house trained" issues. 

Since she never had a problem when Ed was in the hospital for all those days, I can only conclude that she is grieving. 

It breaks my heart to see those big, brown eyes so sad. 

Monday, April 20, 2015


Today I had lunch with an Episcopalian Priest, a Politian and a Farmer (no this is not the beginning of a very bad joke) and the topic of conversation turned to "Millennials". 

Millennials are the demographic group of young people born between the years of 1980 and 2000, give or take a year or two.  They are marrying (or not) and raising our next generation.   They are trying to pay off student loans, trying to move out of mom and dad's basement and trying to find their life's work. 

Much research and much money is being spent on figuring out exactly what makes them tick.  Everything from their work habits and work ethic, their concept of personal relationships, how they communicate, their spending habits and their religious and personal preferences is being closely studied.  THEY are the next generation to take this country into the future.  They are an interesting group to watch.  Sociologists and marketing companies love them!

Anyway, back to the lunch conversation....

Despite all the promise of a bright future these folks have due to economic and educational opportunities, equal rights, better health care, etc., all three of my table mates concurred regarding one major issue....these young adults are severely handicapped by technology. 

WHAT?  They are the techno-gurus!  They can take any gadget and make it do a multitude of tasks.  They have the world and all its information and culture and creativity at their fingertips.  Why would my friends, from very diverse backgrounds, all think this group of young people are handicapped by technology?

My friends believe, in virtually every aspect of Millennials' lives, technology has replaced good old fashioned communication so necessary to sustaining relationships.  They sit at dinner texting each other across the table.  They text in movies, in church, in school, in the workplace and in bed. 

They don't make eye contact.  They are mesmerized by fantasy...fantasy movies and Fantasy Football.  They are captivated by video games.  They live on social media.  They have created a "reality" based on technology that is not sustainable in the true reality of a global social or economic setting.  They depend on a keyboard to convey their emotions and their ideas.  It's kind of Orwellian when you think about it. 

Those of us who are managing this group of folks in the workplace are being coached on how to adjust to their reality instead of this group being coached on how to fit into the reality of the global economy and workplace.  It is frustrating and frightening. 

To be fair, some of their characteristics are incredibly noble and altruistic....they care about the poor and the disadvantaged, they care about their personal time, they care about the environment, they care about people....they just can't communicate with them.

This column from gives a great overview of how things have changed.  If you have a millennial in your life, pass it on.  Open the dialogue.  Start a conversation.  Take the first step in drawing them back from the technology cliff.  They deserve to have a chance to experience the life we had.