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 economy.....safe 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

Millennials

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. 

http://www.app.com/story/life/family/relationships/2015/04/06/reasons-marriage-just-work-anymore/25349495/

This column from app.com 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.





Sunday, April 19, 2015

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Taking over the yard work has provided me with some wonderful opportunities to reflect on the time Ed and I spent here at the farm.  Son Eric reminded me yesterday that the majority of our life together, 11 of 14 years, had been lived on this beautiful land.  The memories are just wonderful. 

When I first married Ed in 2001 and moved here, we lived on five acres in a beautiful home but it never felt like home to me.  I always felt like a guest.  Ed endured my remodeling and redecorating but it never felt just right.  Ed had a path worn between the house and the pole barn after his retirement in 2002.  And everywhere I drove, I felt like I was driving north.  It became a laughing point. 

When we bought this farm, it instantly became "home".  My compass re-calculated and I no longer yearned to go north.  This place has wonderful views of growing crops and sits on a hill that always has a breeze.  The porches just call for you to sit for a few minutes and take in God's Creation. 

One of the young men who delivered seed corn on Friday, mentioned how often Ed would include a respect for Creation in his way of teaching good agriculture practices.  I was so touched by how that young man took that to heart in his own caretaking of the land. 

Last week, taking my mom back to NY after Ed's funeral, I could not wait to come back home, home to our farm. Ed always reminded me, "It is God's land and we are temporary caretakers."  In fact, he always joked about having something like that put on his headstone......

But, back to the opportunities to reflect....Sable laid down somewhere in the middle of the lawn where I was mowing and it was like watching a tennis match.  Her head went back and forth, back and forth for the two hours I mowed that section. 

She has a track packed down around the house.  Some might call it unsightly but it was the path she followed from door to door, always placing herself at the entrance nearest to wherever we were inside.  It was uncanny how she knew.  She spent hours on the front porch laying under the window nearest Ed's desk.  Her loyalty to him was unbelievable.  Her loyalty to me is becoming more evident.  We are in this together.

What has all this to do with Strawberry Rhubarb pie?  Well, some lucky daughters are going to get some pie today.  Ed bought me a rhubarb plant for Mother's Day a couple of years ago.  He loved pie.  Any kind of pie.  And I love Strawberry Rhubarb pie.  I think he was hinting.

I looked a couple of weeks ago at the bare spot where the rhubarb plant was supposed to be and decided that the harsh winter had gotten the plant.  Yesterday, while mowing, I saw a beautiful plant ready to harvest right where he planted it for me.  God's land, temporary caretaker. 

Be safe, be kind and be yourself.  LA



Saturday, April 18, 2015

Three Things I Learned This Week

I thought it might be therapeutic for me to post on Ed's blog for a while.  Even if no one reads it. 

This week I learned three important things:

1.  The person who said "It is better to give than to receive" only got it half right.  Being on the receiving end of the genuine outpouring of kindness and compassion from so many family and friends (and complete strangers) has been a humbling, life changing experience for me.  It has already made me a better person and will impact how I reach out to others in the future.  So many times I thought that my words or actions to assist others were inconsequential, that those in need had many other more important people in there lives and didn't need little old me reaching out.....I was wrong.  Each and every act of kindness is a gift from God.  I knew this in my heart and I always tried to be a good person by doing good for others.  But until I truly experienced it, humbly being on the receiving end, I could not fathom it. 

2.  Sable knows where Ed is buried.  I decided today was the day to go to the cemetery for the first time since Ed's funeral.  I decided to take Sable with me.  It was sunny and warm, spring blossoms abound and I needed to go there.  I needed to talk with Ed for a while about the farm and the kids and the new grandbaby.  After laying quietly sleeping in the back seat of the Dakota for the 20 minute ride to the cemetery, Sable came up front and started to whine when I pulled into the cemetery gate.  She had never been in this place before.  But somehow she knew.  She just knew.

3.  Don't use the electric chain saw to cut down the dead ornamental grass that is eight feet tall.  Don't be lazy.  Use the hedge trimmers.  Their bar is made for grass.  The hour I spent taking the chainsaw bar apart and cleaning out the sprocket taught me to not cut corners.  I'm sure Ed is laughing to himself at my expense. 

Be kind, be patient and be yourself.  LuAnn 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Stomach Pain

If you have never suffered through severe stomach pain very long, I probably can't communicate what I am talking about very well.  I hope you haven't because it is not fun to go through at all.  Maybe cancer victims are the only people who can really appreciate this, I don't know.

I got through another night but not without moderate to severe stomach pain.  This has kicked up in the past two weeks or so and I really need to find some relief.  An hour after eating causes pain through digestion and I can't find a happy medium to it yet.  It looks like we are headed in the right direction though so I just have to give it time to work.

I am feeling better today though, just trying to balance the new medicine regime with some still missing is like starting over again.  I think what they have planned though will answer a lot of pain questions I had and get me back to more of a normal.  The cancer is changing daily with the radiation so the medicine program must change with it also.

We have had a good day with three grand children and their parents.  I guess it's really four grand children with one "baby on board."    Mom has not had a good day though so that takes away some of the joy.  I am glad my brother and sister are available to help her though because LuAnn and I are barely able to take care of me with all of these changes.  Linda called and gave me an update on her way home this evening.  She sure needs our prayers.

Richard was able to start my day off right from church this morning so that helped get things rolling.  The air is still pretty cold though and it never got as warm as they predicted it would.  The sun never got out much to warm it up like they predicted at the various weather stations.

We did enjoy watching the much abashed Big Ten get two teams in the final four so that helped, too!  Tom Izzo struck again and his team really came up to show off their training this year.  I don't think Gonzaga has enough guns against the Blue Devils as I thought they would.

April is almost here and the weather finally feels like it.  It has been a very hard 3 months for LuAnn and I.  I hate to see her spend so much time away from her job as she is very good at it.  She has done so much for others through her work.  She has given so much to me as my wife and care giver I can't ever repay her but that's OK.  That's just the way it is.

I hope you had a good weekend.  It's that time of the year you know you are going to have to get the mower out soon.  You don't want to start because after you do, you won't stop until October.  I haven't figured out how we are going to keep this big yard mowed and manicured yet all summer but we will figure out a way.  I think a lot of my good will gestures to help will be called in to get us through.

Right now it is just to get better one day at a time.

Ed Winkle