This is South Dakota

I’ve been reading with interest about all the people out there who are interested in making the move to South Dakota. I have to admit, this is a new one on me, because I always thought the migration in our state was out of the area, but, good for the people who are recognizing the benefits of a small state.

South Dakotans are traditionally pretty proud of the state (at least, those of us who have made the decision to stay). I, too, am a proud member of the Sunshine State. While not all of us South Dakotans agree on what there is to be proud of, we can all agree that the state has some wonderful redeeming qualities. Nothing beats South Dakota on a lazy August afternoon or a warm and lovely May morning.

I worry, however, that the people deciding on our state are doing so on that May morning or and that August afternoon. They need to be aware of the fact that South Dakota has other faces and we are not called the “Land of Infinite Variety” for nothing. I’ve mentioned this to people and most will say, “Yes, yes, we know it can get hot and sticky, but really, that doesn’t happen too frequently!” I beg to differ. I’ve lived in South Dakota all my life and the one thing I can tell you is that if I hang a wrinkly blouse in the closet because I took it out of the dryer too late, I can go back two days later and wear that blouse because the humidity has smoothed out the rough places. South Dakota is not next to any large body of water, but the whole state is a humidity factory.

Then, there are the bugs. I once visited Germany where they not only had no screens on their windows, but they frequently left them open to the night air. I was fascinated by this folly. If you leave an unscreened window open on a lovely evening in South Dakota, you will look like a test lab for flies and a breeding ground for mosquitoes! We take our bugs seriously, and we work hard to keep them outside, but they are here in great abundance!

Winters, however, are the thing I want to talk to you about. You really cannot judge South Dakota until you’ve spent a cold, icy, blizzardy winter here. Not all South Dakota winters are equal and it is important to remember that a mild winter, such as the extraordinary one we have been experiencing this year, can turn on you and suddenly resemble the picture that I have included above, of the road in front of my house.

The only variable is how cold or how snowy it will get. The cold can be tolerated by bundling up in every winter wrap you own and then walking stiff-legged to your vehicle, which depending on its tolerance may start or may say, “Are you kidding me? It’s colder than Frozen out there! I’m not going anywhere.” Cold is insidious and it causes the bravest people to put on extra socks, layer their gloves and mittens and wear stocking masks that far pre-date the current Covid masks and are twice as confining!

As for snow, it is the great leveler. No one, no matter how rich or powerful, is any more likely to go anywhere than the most meager person in the state if there is a good snowfall on. Since most snow in the state is preceded by a nice layer of ice, that makes walking equally treacherous! And if the wind is blowing, and take my word for it, the wind will be blowing, then you’re lucky if it doesn’t pile the snow in against your doors and windows and keep you home until it melts!

I believe I already mentioned that South Dakota is the land of infinite variety and I truly meant that. We have temperatures in the 60s, when people dig out their shorts and break out the barbeque grill. A day later, we are layered in every sweater we own and the barbeque grill is under a foot of snow. Then, when we are convinced the snow will last forever, it turns to slush and then to mud. Is that varied enough for you?

Perhaps you get the impression that I do not love my state. That is not true, but I believe in full disclosure and I think everyone thinking about being in our fine state needs to know….this is South Dakota!

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Feeding the pets

I had unbuttered toast for breakfast this morning. I realize this may seem like a random remark, but it truly ties in with the subject of my blog this week. It all relates back to the dog in this picture, who is in her natural pose, hunched over her food, gobbling it down as fast as she can as though it will disappear otherwise.

It is safe to say that I am not a particular animal lover, so those who love their dogs better than their mates should probably stop reading now. For the rest of you, the complaint I have today may seem familiar. Dogs and cats have no boundaries when they believe there are unguarded victuals somewhere in the vicinity. They also have no manners, scruples or pity when it comes to taking care of their own stomachs.

I don’t have enough space here to recount the number of cookies, cakes, half-full bowls of cereal and other unguarded foods have gone down the dog’s throat. She particularly likes when my grandsons are here, because they are even more careless and the opportunity for random food choices runs rampant. I still recall the day she double-dipped on my four-year-old grandson, who was sitting on the floor with his bowl of Fruit Loops, watching cartoons. While Curious George was getting into all kinds of fun shenanigans distracting the child, the dog casually walked up and slurped a large quantity of milk and cereal straight from the bowl. When my grandson turned to complain loud and long to me, the dog added insult to injury by nimbly cleaning up the Fruit Loops and milk that had been adorning his face.

The dog has long believed that any food within her reach is fair game and believe me when I tell you, she has a long reach. I set a pair of steaks out on the counter to thaw one afternoon. I went to change laundry in the machines and when I came back not ten minutes later, the only thing left on that counter was a set of muddy paw prints. She is both swift and efficient.

She does care deeply for my health and weight issues. If she sees me with a candy bar or a cookies, etc., she is always willing to swoop down and snatch them. I have literally had her eat a cookie out my hands. I was complaining to a friend that she will try to eat anything chocolate she can, complete with wrappers. My friend exclaimed, “You can’t feed her chocolate, it could kill her!”

“You understand, I am not feeding this to her, she is helping herself. And if she eats one more chocolate covered, Bavarian-cream filled roll out of the bakery bag I was saving it in, I may kill her!” I presume my friend’s hasty departure after that was to alert the Humane Society to keep me under surveillance, but honestly, the DOG is the abuser here! In the same day as the roll incident, I put a plated pork chop meal on the table for my husband and told him to go have supper. I was in the bathroom washing my hands, when I heard my husband say, “Hey, where’s my dinner? You gave me an empty plate.” The dog is a food thief and no mistake.

As bad as the dog is, the cat might be worse. If I fail to rinse out the cereal bowl when I put it in the sink, I am always reminded by the delicate clink-clink of the spoon against the dish as she leaps up into the sink and licks it out. This is an old, fat cat, but she stays in shape climbing on the kitchen cabinets, looking for after dinner opportunities.

I never see her on the counter, but there are things which indicate she’s been there. The sink or the coffee maker will suddenly develop a white fur coating; a package of chips or potatoes will spring a chew-out hole where she has inspected the contents. Her worst habit is coming upon butter that is not put away or bacon grease that has been poured into a container to congeal. And she is a discerning animal, she tends to taste things and then move on, so anything I unthinkingly leave on the counter overnight is suspect. Once, she literally left a tell-tale footprint on a cake I had made for a special occasion. I awoke to a neatly imprinted paw mark in the plastic-covered cake. No one seemed to want any of that–go figure.

This tale of animal feastings brings us back to the beginning and the tale of my unbuttered toast this morning. I did plan to eat the bavarian cream filled roll, but the dog talked me out of it by the mere expedient of leaving the torn up bakery bag it was in lying in the middle of the living room, licked completely clean of chocolate. Very well, I will have toast. I started the toaster and took the cover off the butter. It was then that I noticed the neatly smoothed off corners of the stick of butter. “Honey, did you leave the cover off the butter overnight?”

“Oh, yeah, I did. But when I got up this morning, I remembered and put it right back on,” he answered.

Maybe she did nothing and I’m just paranoid, but nonetheless, that butter went in the garbage. Unbuttered toast is better for you anyway, right?

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Leading with my left

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I have not entered a blog for the past week or two (I hope someone noticed) because I have been in the throes of a painful bout with my shoulder. It could have something to do — so the doctor tells me — with the fact that I drug a large garbage can full of heavy wood from the woodpile to the back door to burn in our stove during our recent cold snap. While nothing seemed wrong then, a couple of nights later, I awoke to a sharp tap on my shoulder and an agonizing pain in my arm and shoulder which said to my brain, “Remember me? I used to be your uncomplaining arm. Well, those days are over.”

It would have been bad, but not quite so bad except for the fact that it was my right shoulder and arm that were involved, because, of course, you would abuse your dominant hand with an impossible, wood-toting task, right? What it means is some weeks of physical therapy and learning to do everything with my left hand. I’ve learned a lot about that formerly non-dominant hand, which has spent the week going, “What? Me? You want me to cut the bread? I’ve never done that…Righty always took care of it.”

I have compiled a list of things I can’t do right now. I can’t read (can’t hold a book and turn the pages at the same time), I can’t sew, something I love, nor can I write (I’m doing this column in stages), I can’t do jigsaw puzzles or crossword puzzles and I can’t safely drink coffee and drive to school.

My left hand does what it can, but it is not used to buttering toast. This morning I made two slices, one ended up on the floor, butter side down, of course, and the other slice I ate without butter and dipped in the jelly. I eat all meat when it becomes tepid so I can pick it up with my fingers, because after the bread episode, I don’t trust my left hand with a knife.

I have brushed my teeth for many years without realizing that I never do anything but put the cap on the toothpaste with my left hand. For those of you who have never had the experience, try brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand. It’s a little like trying to pat your head and rub your belly at the same time. I have spent the past week smashing toothpaste onto my teeth with my clumsy left hand and rubbing it around in a way that would likely make a dentist weep. So much for no cavities next checkup.

I did manage to do some laundry, but it was clumsy. “Why is my underwear wadded up in the drawer?” my husband wondered.

“You’re lucky it’s in the drawer at all considering your drawer has two handles. Anything that hangs up is lying on the floor of your closet and as for the towels, they are in a basket on the floor. Use them straight out of there and that’s right–they are not folded.” Since he had no desire to do the laundry, he didn’t protest.

I’ve discovered that taking care of my hair is a lost cause. I brush it as best I can and usually my husband, taking pity on me before I go to school, will re-brush the back. As for washing it, that was a real treat and at least half of my head of hair is clean; don’t mention the other half.

Dressing in general has become an adventure. I can sort of put on my underwear, although this would be a poor week to get caught in an accident. As for my outer clothes, I no longer dress for school or at home, I dress for “can I get this on with one hand without going through the first seven ballet positions?” I don’t wear anything with buttons and zippers have become the challenge of a lifetime.

I know that all of this will end and my right arm and shoulder will forgive me for my sins, but right now the only thing I seem to do well is eat…the left hand is very cooperative in getting food to my mouth. However, this morning I discovered one more thing that this sore shoulder has done. I stepped on the scale and declared to my husband, “Oh, I have got to get this shoulder healed up in a hurry. Did you know that lame shoulder will add five pounds to your weight????”

Time to go now, my right arm is tired. Pray for my left arm this week, will you? It’s not used to leading!

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Valentine’s Day–the love holiday

Jackie Wells-Fauth

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So, I’ll be the first to admit that I regard Valentine’s Day with a certain amount of cynicism. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the flowers and candy and soft words, it’s just that I have the uneasy feeling that this is the plan of the candy companies, card companies and flower shops to boost their profit margins.

I don’t begrudge them their clever plan to make a living, but I do hate the awful pressure brought to bear. What should we do for our loved ones on this day? It is best to do something, to show that we care, but, after all, it’s not Christmas or birthdays, what if we go too far? What if our loved ones come to expect too much? What if Valentine’s Day becomes even bigger than the other holidays combined???? I just can’t take the stress.

It was the first Valentine’s Day I spent with my husband, Roy, and we were new and green at the art of Valentine’s Day. I was so excited. I baked a special cake decorated with those conversation hearts and I bought some fancy chocolates and dreamed of the wonderful gift Roy would get for me.

An enamel roaster. Yes, the very one in the picture accompanying this article. My sweet, lovely husband, after approximately four months of marriage, had looked at my inept cooking skills, my inability or disinclination to follow a recipe, my skill for picking out new restaurants to eat at, and he had bought me a cooking pan. And when I looked up in confusion from the wrappings surrounding this roasting pan, he compounded the crime when he announced brightly, “I thought maybe you could use it to cook us a Valentine’s meal!”

I have always looked at the strength of our marriage as having its early foundations in the fact that the marriage actually survived that first Valentine’s Day. Of course, the only conversation Roy got from me for the two weeks following it was whatever he could read on the conversation heart candies on his cake, but eventually I managed to articulate my displeasure at receiving a cooking pan as a gift without clanging him over the head with said pan, and we moved forward!

It has been a long trip since then until today when he safely sends me flowers every Valentine’s Day. And usually he buys a card as well, so he satisfies all the requirements laid down by the businesses who are promoting the love holiday like a new way to win the lottery, but only if you follow all the strict rules. I see others around me receiving the hearts and flowers and chocolates and so I assume that everyone out there is following the holiday traditions, but what I don’t understand is who came up with this idea? Surely it wasn’t St. Valentine, who, I believe, gained his fame by becoming a human sacrifice in the early days of the church. I doubt that as he was losing his head he said, “You know it would be nice if they named a day after me and everyone got candy and flowers!”

A holiday devoted to love comes with its own set of traps. It’s hard to ask people how they feel about the holiday without sounding cynical and jaded. In some cases, I have been accused of trying to trap someone into revealing that they don’t like the holiday, so that they will then never receive another Valentine’s gift. Kind of like a child admitting that he doesn’t believe in Santa Claus and so he doesn’t receive any more toys. I swear this is not my intention. I’m just trying to figure out if I’m the only one who is suspicious of the motives of a holiday based on our affection for one another–I have to believe there are others out there who are as skeptical as me….but who still don’t want to receive a cooking pan as a sign of their loved one’s undying devotion.

This week I put the question to my students: Do you think Valentine’s Day should be a holiday or not? Explain your answer. The students stared at the question, thought a while and then quietly wrote their answers, most of which were in favor of the holiday. I was beginning to be very discouraged when one of my senior boys, in the midst of writing, raised his hand and asked, “How do you spell crock?” Now, see, there’s a boy who is going to pass my class with flying colors…and who is probably destined to give some girl an enamel roaster for Valentine’s Day some day!

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My Criminal Confessions

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I have long known that I could never successfully conduct a life of crime. While the potential for amassing millions in a secret bank account, while I make my plans to escape to a country with no extradition agreement with the United States sounds exciting, I know I don’t have the type of nerve and lack of empathy it would take. Had I been Bonnie, I would have said to Clyde, “No, no, honey! Let’s not shoot people and steal their money. Let’s just ask them politely to hand over all of their cash. That would work!”

It’s not that I have never broken the law. I know what that’s all about. I mean, I watch Blue Bloods; I understand the criminal mind. And while I’ve never been trapped in that little room, while Reagan and Baez try to sweat the truth out of me, I have been on the side of the road, with those flashing lights behind me, desperately trying to remember what I did with the car registration. That’s crime, isn’t it?

This came up tonight on my commute home from work. It came up because as I was passing through town, thinking only of my comfortable chair and a hot cup of tea, a police car appeared out of nowhere and turned on its lights while it did one of those swing-around-in-the-street things to follow a car in the opposite lane. Unfortunately, that car was mine.

I took a little time to find a spot I wanted to pull over to and finally, I just stopped because I was afraid the policeman was going to think I was trying to make a getaway…at 30 miles an hour. I always hope, when I see those lights in the rearview mirror, that they just need me to get out of the way so they can chase the real criminal…for instance, the guy driving in front of me who had been seriously slowing me down! But, no such luck, he parked behind me.

It’s then that all those rules and bits of advice about what to do when you are pulled over come to my mind. Don’t stop in a secluded area in case it is really a criminal, not the police. No worries, there, I was on the main road through town, so everyone passing by could watch me get my ticket. The second instruction was much harder. “When you’re pulled over,” say my friends who think they know “don’t get out of the car. Just sit in the driver’s seat and keep your hands on the wheel where they can be seen. And make sure you have your license and registration ready.”

Now this set of instructions presents a problem. If I have my hands on the wheel, how do I get out my papers? I was still dealing with this conundrum when the officer walked up to the car. At that point, I’m trying to remember what you should and should not say to a police officer who has pulled you over. Do you greet them, to show that you don’t see yourself as guilty of anything, or do you let them begin the conversation? I don’t have much point of reference, so what I said was, “Good afternoon, what can I do for you?” Oh great, I come off sounding like a low-level hooker and I’m already halfway to jail!

He said, “Ma’am, I’m not sure if you’re aware of it, but the higher speed limit doesn’t start for another block and you were exceeding the speed limit here.”

What should I say? Some people say put them on the defensive, “Don’t you have better things to do besides harassing honest citizens?” Other people recommend taking charge, “Perhaps you’re not aware that I am on official business which precludes this speed limit restriction for me.” All of them say not to confess to the crime. And I didn’t. What I got out was, “Oh really? I guess I wasn’t paying attention.”

He should have given me a ticket for criminal stupidity right then, but he managed to keep his face straight as he informed me that he would be giving me a warning ticket only. All I had to do was show him my license and registration and proof of insurance. Now, I have never been pulled over for a traffic violation in my life, where I could immediately put my hands on all three of those things. I think my papers hold a meeting and decide which one is going to be not immediately available, forcing me to frantically look for it. Tonight, it was the insurance card’s turn. The officer finally gave up and went back to his vehicle to start writing the ticket, so he said, that “you can take a little more time to look for that insurance card.” After weeding out the fourteen of them that were out of date, I finally located the right one…right where it should be, of course.

He gave me the warning ticket, but admonished me that I needed to pay closer attention to the speed limit signs, so I don’t end up with a ticket in the future. He also quoted me a price tag on a potential ticket at over $100, so then I wasn’t sure how to respond.

In my mind, I was being all Ma Barker, snarling and sneering, “Yeah, copper, you’ll never make it stick, you’ll never take me alive!” In reality, however, I was more like the fawning Israelite, grateful for any mercy from her Egyptian overlords, “Thank you, oh, thank you so much. I’m so thankful!”

It was bad enough to get pulled over for speeding today, especially since my criminal activities for the day had already included being made aware of the fact that I have a library book which is way overdue. It just wasn’t my day for upholding the law. I do have planned how I’m going to tell Roy about my brush with the law. When he gets home, I’m going to say, “Honey, let’s go out for supper. It just so happens that I have a funny story to tell you about how I managed to save over $100 today…”

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It’s called self-care

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I have been hearing a lot about a concept called, “self-care” recently and I can tell you this is a concept I can enter into enthusiastically. Just the words—self and care, are such wonderful words…who can argue with caring for yourself?

Now, as I understand this self-care thing, it simply means you should do whatever it takes to keep you calm, satisfied and free from fear. Even if that means you spend an entire day eating doughnuts and drinking Pepsi non-stop while indulging in a marathon showing of your absolute favorite episode of Enterprise???? Of course, self-care for me is going to include food and some mental distraction that does not require mental exertion.

The problem I have encountered with self-care is that what is self-care for me, isn’t self-care for my husband. When he needs self-care, it involves taking walks or doing chores around the house. And that is where our marriage has always strained at the seams.

“What’s for lunch,” he will ask, coming in from a refreshing walk and neatly removing his muddy boots at the door.

“Don’t bother me,” I mumble, spitting bits of roll and frosting everywhere, “I’m trying to watch this Star Trek episode about a corrupt Vulcan ambassador.”

“The ambassador isn’t corrupt, she’s trying to expose criminals,” he says, his face completely deadpan.

“How do you know?” I am truly impressed as I slosh Pepsi to wash down the fourth roll of the day.

“You’ve been watching that same episode for a solid day. How many rolls have you had today?”

“It’s called self-care,” I answered resentfully.

“Don’t step on a scale,” was his parting advice.

I changed tactics. I started binge-watching Downtown Abbey and I switched to cheese and crackers and Coke. Still an ideal way to self-care, but I did take his words to heart and searched for ways to be more active in my self-care. That means the next time he came to check on me, he found me putting together jigsaw puzzles. It worked fairly well, except I kept getting cheese on the puzzle and I kept losing the train of action in the episode of Downtown Abbey I was watching.

“You’re still eating and you’re still sitting,” my husband commented as he walked through the living room.

“It’s called self-care,” I said wiping the cheese off the missing piece of the cow’s face and completing my third puzzle of the day.

“I think you may have somewhat misunderstood the concept,” he said. “Self-care should make you more healthy mentally and physically. You are not challenging your mind and you are going to hate yourself when you step on the scale.”

He did put a doubt in my mind. Maybe this wasn’t self-care, but more like self-indulgence. I sure didn’t want to find my mind has gone to mush and gain a bunch of weight. I was going to have to be brave and step on the scale to assess at least some of the damage.

He came into the bathroom while I was cranking down the dial on the scale, so it would weigh 20 pounds lighter. He raised a superior eyebrow and I said defensively, “It’s called self-care.” I don’t think either one of us has the concept down very well…but that doesn’t mean I won’t keep trying!

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Only in my dreams…

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I have spent most of my life chasing that illusive thing called “a good night’s sleep.” And, for most of my life, it has been a hard thing to lay down on the bed at 10 p.m. and close my eyes and not open them again until 7 a.m. Most nights are a body-shifting, sheet-twisting, up-five-times-for-a-drink-and-the-bathroom marathon!

When it comes to dreaming, I am an abysmal failure because I cannot frequently reach that much-vaulted state of REM (don’t ask me what it stands for) in order to enter the land of dreams. However, on the odd occasion I do make it to dreamland, it is one weird ride, let me tell you!

I don’t tend to dream in color, mostly black and white film noir stuff, and this is a good thing, because my dreams often involve carnage of some type. For instance, I dream I’m going hunting a lot. Since I rarely go hunting and I’m never in on the kill, I am mystified by this nocturnal entertainment choice, but nonetheless, away I go with my gun, shooting my way through my dreams. Sometimes I shoot deer or pheasant, but sometimes it’s other hunters (no, I never know them) or the hunting dog (this could be wishful thinking–look out dog), and occasionally, I manage to shoot myself–not in a suicidal way, however! Whenever I have this dream, there is always a lot of blood and there is frequent litigation which follows. I wake up from these with an irresistible urge to have a shower and make a vow to never go hunting again!

Another dream that comes is that one that I’m willing to bet everyone has experienced: the “I’m running and can’t get anywhere,” scenario. This is a particularly terrifying and somewhat frustrating dream–you know you need to move, but it feels like you’re running hip-deep in caramel and your treadmill is going backwards. I’m never clear on who or what it is that I am running from, but given the number of dangerous animals out there (and some of them are even four-footed), I am always enthusiastic about getting away. The fact that they never seem to catch me means they are probably running through the caramel on the reverse treadmill too, but I still wake up exhausted and terrified….not to mention my legs are worn out!

The dream I have been having the most recently, however, is that old chestnut about suddenly being somewhere in public in my pajamas or my underwear or worse, with nothing on but a towel. When I was young, I would dream that I was in school or about to give a presentation or in a play and I was totally unprepared for it and had to somehow fake my way through it. But the showing up in my underwear nightmares are happening now, and it’s a real nightmare, because I’ve seen me in my underwear; it’s not something that needs to go on public display!

Mostly, I’m having this dream where I am at school and only wearing my underwear. I keep planning to get dressed, but it seems like there is always something holding me up, so I continue standing around in my underwear, waiting until I get a chance to get into some clothes. I don’t know any of the people in these school dreams, which is good, because the other upsetting part of it is that nobody seems to notice that I’m not clothed. If it were my students, they could at least make arrangements to take “poor old Mrs. Fauth” to the home, because she’s losing it!

When I contemplate the various dreams I have, I reach the conclusion that maybe it’s just as well I don’t have very many nights when I sleep deeply enough to dream. At least that way I can live in the waking world, walking instead of running, fully clothed and without a weapon. That’s the way I should be!

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Dammit Jim, I’m a doctor, not a football player!

I don’t know if anyone has noticed, but the football playoffs are now being conducted. I have noticed. Mostly because that is the only thing playing on my television lately.

I was so grateful to the Vikings when they won some games, because it made my husband happy. I will also confess that I was happy when they messed up their chances to go to the playoffs. I know, I know, that’s not a nice attitude, but sometimes I watch my poor husband, the top Vikings fan in the country, as he tries to support his purple and gold football choice, and I wonder whether I should have 911 on speed dial for the inevitable heart attack he’s going to have. I’m not sure he could survive very many playoff games.

“Honey, are you sure you’re having fun?” I asked, after he had the latest meltdown over Cousins’ poor throw or Bailey’s missing the field goal.

“I’m having as much fun here as you have watching those old Star Trek videos of yours,” he snarled, just before he jumped up and down, screaming at the defense to get in the game.

Now, I am sure that I did not watch as much Star Trek this fall as he did Vikings football and I’m very sure that my space explorers never made me as mad as his football players did him. I never cursed at Mr. Spock because he showed some emotion, or screamed at Scotty, “I know you’re not giving those engines all they’ve got! Get it to Warp 7, or get out of the engine room!”

However, as time went forward, the Vikings missed one too many touchdowns and didn’t make it into the playoffs–whew! I made the appropriate sad face and commiserated over the fact that the Vikings wouldn’t be the champions this year…again. In my own mind, however, I was secretly looking forward to many more episodes of Star Trek and Dr. McCoy exclaiming, “Dammit, Jim, I’m a doctor, not (an engineer, a brick layer, a physicist…fill in the blank.)

Imagine my dismay when the football games continued to appear on my television. First, he had to cheer against one team, because they had beaten the Vikings and then he had to cheer against another because they always win, and the list goes on and on and the games have been never ending, while I contemplate just how easy it would be to dropkick the television through the goalposts.

I did get a bit of good news this week, however. I have heard that the football playoffs will indeed taper off, with fewer and fewer teams suiting up and risking permanent bodily injury to slam into each other for possession of a ball that isn’t even shaped like a ball. There is this thing called a Super Bowl which will end the reign of the football players for another year. Ah, yes, then I will at last be able to fire up the Enterprise and follow Captain Kirk through his adventures on strange new worlds….

And then I walked into the living room the other day, and there was something on television that wasn’t football, but it wasn’t Star Trek either. It was a thing called hockey…I hope that doesn’t last very long into the winter!

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A quiet drive in the country

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Let me start by admitting that when it comes to driving, I am no Mario Andretti. If I had to make my living by driving a truck, school bus or Uber taxi, I would starve very quickly…always supposing I didn’t crash into a wall first.

Having said that, it may occur to you to ask some hard questions when I tell you that last week, I rented a car in White Bear Lake, Minnesota and drove, through some pretty interesting traffic, all the way through the Twins Cities and suburbs, and down the interstate before ending up in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Let me assure you it was not by choice!

I was visiting with my children and getting to know the new baby, and leisurely enjoying my time there. My husband, Roy, was supposed to pick me up, but then I received a call informing me that my husband was not only not going to come and pick me up, he was going to be in a Sioux Falls hospital undergoing an emergency procedure and it was going to be up to me to get there!

Okay, so, telling myself I could do this, I had my son-in-law rent me a car so I could get myself on the road. Driving through Minneapolis traffic in a car unfamiliar to me had all the appeal of having a root canal done with no Novocain! And it was just about as much fun!

Straight down on I-35, I told myself: just get myself on I-35 and I will be fine. That’s easy for me to say, apparently; harder to do. For instance, I discovered that there were several times when I-35 South had exits going off in either direction, and I, driving in heavy traffic, was in the exit lane! So, at least three times, with an interesting blind spot in my tiny rental car, I had to find a way back into the traffic on I-35 before I was forced to exit with all the cars in my lane, who wanted to get off! Each time, I desperately put my blinker on, indicating I didn’t want to do the off-the-interstate dance and each time, sweating and cursing profusely I was able to cram myself back into the traffic headed down the interstate and eventually, out of the flow of inner-city traffic.

Surprised to find myself still standing at the southern end of the cities, I settled in for the long drive to Sioux Falls. While interstate traffic was heavy, it was not terrible and I felt my troubles were over. Then I noticed that my little car was developing a real shimmy. I pushed on, hoping it wouldn’t completely fall apart before I got to my destination. It was after the truck in front of me turned off and the shimmy stopped that I realized my car was small enough that it responded to the backdraft of a truck in front of me. I tested this theory by getting in behind other trucks and sure enough, the shimmy kept returning.

After diagnosing my car’s ills, I got back to the business of driving through heavy New Year’s Eve traffic towards my destination, while avoiding the myriad number of trucks out there. That’s when my car began expressing its concern for my welfare. After two hours of driving, the car was apparently automatically programed to start dinging with the message “Consider taking a break.” Shocked, I clicked it off. However, it returned every fifteen minutes from then until I finally parked it at the return rental in Sioux Falls.

By the time I reached Sioux Falls, I was not only yelling at the traffic on the road, I was arguing with a compact car with a “take a rest” fetish. “Get out of the way and signal the next time you change lanes!” I screamed at the cars in traffic, before testing my tonsils on the car, yelling, “If I want a break, I’ll decide that! You can consider shutting up!” I know, I know, it was an inanimate object, but it made me feel so much better to verbally abuse it.

I made it to the hospital, was relieved to see my husband doing well and then attempted to return the car to the rental service at the airport. I had friends to pick me up and I asked them (since it was dark and I’m not all that familiar with Sioux Falls), “Do I turn right or left to head to the airport?” Now, he said left and I heard right. Because of that, I ended up taking the nickel tour of the perimeter of Sioux Falls, no mean feat, if you are familiar with Sioux Falls, which I now am!

Long story short, I made it through the drive and got the car back to the return at the airport. I kicked the tire as I left, grunting, “Consider that, you annoying pile of metal,” and made my way back to the hospital, and ended up taking my husband home in time to ring in the new year in my own house.

As “Auld Lang Sine” played on the television, I raised my glass of Pepto-Bismal and all I could think of to say was, “Goodbye, 2020 and thanks for one final kick in the pants!” And it may interest you to know that I’ll be curtailing my driving for a while, since that little road trip was enough for the whole year.

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The dastardly baby caper

Emmett Martin Jack joined our family this past couple of weeks, weighing in at 7 lbs., 7 oz. and equipped with a full head of hair. He joins two older brothers, Royce and Arthur, and is received by grandparents, uncles and aunts with a considerable amount of delight.

It was my desire to go out and perhaps spend a few days trying to lend a hand, and in a pandemic that requires some arranging. So, after squatting in my house for the required quarantine, I set out to meet the new family member.

Now, I presented my visit as an opportunity for me to do some cleaning and cooking and just get everything in apple-pie order so Mom and Dad didn’t have to do anything but mind the new baby. Given the fact that they are fully aware of my fabled inability to cook, clean or put everything in “apple-pie” order–whatever that is–I suspect they saw through the flimsy excuse to visit the new baby, and his two brothers as well.

It has been a pleasant visit, so far. The baby has all the inconsistencies and foibles of a newborn, including the inability to sleep at night. That may account for how I was not once, but twice, fooled by what I like to call the “dastardly baby caper,” and it involved, of all things, a fake baby.

When my daughter and her husband first discovered they were expecting they thought it would be a good idea to prepare the older two by getting a so-called, “realistic” newborn baby doll. The boys had the chance to interact and handle it, and thereby get a little idea what to expect. Once the real baby arrived, of course, the fake baby was set aside and forgotten–at least by me.

On my first day there, my daughter came from the bedroom, cradling Emmett in her arms. Suddenly, she whipped the baby at me, flinging him by one arm. Of course, once I had recovered from the inevitable stroke, I discovered she had faked me out with the doll, instead of having randomly flung her newborn son at me.

That was unnerving, but it wasn’t over. The next night, when I thought Emmett was in bed, his father came into the room, cradling a baby. Using the same swift, “whip the baby around by one arm” move, he induced the second heart attack of my visit.

Well, this was just too much. That dastardly fake baby was not going to give me any more cardiac moments! It took me a little while and a few naps by the new parents when the real baby was resting, but I managed to unearth the fake baby. That baby is now in my hands and is carefully and thoughtfully hidden somewhere in the house. I thought about giving them a real scare when they find it by rubbing blood on it’s mouth and having it hold a bloody knife, but that may be taking the joke too far, so I just hid the baby without adding any theatrics.

I plan to head for home in a couple of days, having done all the damage I can around here, but I will make certain that the fake baby causes no more trouble, even if that means it ends up in some random cornfield between here and home.

Welcome to the family, Emmett, and tell imposter Emmett to lay off!

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