Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Look Up

When I was a girl, my family had a little business venture making maple syrup. Making maple syrup is a labor intensive job. It takes 40 gallons of sap from the maple tree to boil down to one gallon of syrup. There are different methods used to collect sap but when I was growing up, we tramped through the woods to each tree and collected the sap from the pail hanging from a spigot that was drilled into the tree. We poured the sap into a five gallon pail, and then transferred it to a really large barrel in the back of the pickup. From there it was taken to be cooked down into syrup. When you have a syrup making business, it’s helpful to have a lot of kids to help with sap collection.

I didn’t mind collecting sap. Maple sap runs in the spring when the days are above freezing and the nights are below freezing. It was usually a nice spring day when we went out to collect sap.

The thing I HATED about collecting sap was that sometimes, I would see a snake slithering around in the woods. I have a snake phobia. I can’t even type the word “snake” without getting the heebie-jeebies and feeling a shiver down my spine. I think I got it from my mom. We scream like little girls when we see a snake. So does one of my brothers.

One day when we were collecting sap, I saw a snake. I screamed, dropped the pail of sap and took off running. My dad came over to see what was wrong. He was probably mad that I dropped the sap but I don’t remember; my dad’s anger didn’t scare me, snakes did. He asked me what was wrong and I told him I’d seen a snake. And then, my dad gave me some advice that has stuck with me my whole life, although I’m sure he never knew. He said “Mary, if you don’t want to see snakes, don’t look down at the ground, just look up”

Look up. It was simple, when I stopped looking at the ground for snakes, I didn’t see any snakes

I found that “looking up” works for lots of things: dancing, staying optimistic, focusing on goals, keeping my heart where it should be, greeting the sun every morning. The Bible says when certain signs appear we should "look up" because our redemption is drawing near. When people want to encourage each other, they say “keep looking up” Looking up seems like the thing to do. It’s funny that out of all the advice my dad gave me (and he always seemed to have an opinion on what I should do) this stuck with me most and has seeped through so many areas of my life.

Thanks Dad for your advice about snakes, it was some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Spring Sprang

Today is my favorite day of spring. It was the day that everything turns green. Yesterday, there were patches of green here and there but today there is green everywhere. I love this day. It happens every year, overnight. Earth turns green.

I worked in my garden today, cleaning after winter and looking at the flower spouts that I wonder about each year. Will those flowers come up? Did the maple tree make it through the winter? Will my lilac bloom this year? I tried to remember what color those clump of tulips would be when they bloomed. My dog, PD and I worked in the gardens for a few hours and played ball in the sun. It was a good day. Today was the first day that it felt like summer might actually get here. It reached 80 degrees this afternoon.

But then....

The breaking news on the on-line newspaper says "Cold front moving into region"

By this evening, the wind was blowing and he temperature had fallen over 20 degrees in a few hours.

It might snow.

I'm so anxious for summer and warm days that I might cry if I see snow. At the very least, I'll be a little bit crabby.

So don't try to talk to me tomorrow. I'll be unmerry Mary.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Jingle Dancer

If you guessed that this is a jingle cone, you are right!

It's a jingle cone for a jingle dress worn by Native American dancers in a powwow.

The jingles are made from rolled tin lids of chewing tobacco (snuff). The jingle cones are sewn to the dress and when the dancers move, the cones hit together and make the jingling sound.

And, why do I have a jingle cone?

This week I made a jingle dress for a coworker's daughter. She picked out the fabrics and I sewed the dress and apron and put the jingles on it. If you want to sit down, you just take off the apron so you don't sit on a jingle. The apron is pretty heavy, it has over 80 jingles on it. It was an involved project for my limited sewing skills. This is a very simple style. Some of the outfits and moccasins the dancers wear are truly works of art.

This is also definitely a jingle dress for a little girl..... it is pink and purple and has Hello Kitty ribbon above the jingles. The owner of this dress is not yet 3 years old.

She wore it today at the powwow. She walked in for the opening ceremony in her jingle dress but didn't do much dancing!

Here is the opening ceremony and presentation of the flags.

It is a beautiful sight to see the dancers come in behind the flags.

The presentation of the flags is very respectful. I've only been to a couple powwows but noticed both times the honor they paid to their military veterans and all veterans. It was very moving.

Here are some young jingle dancers. Look at those pretty moccasins!

The clothing the dancers wear is referred to as regalia and I loved the bright colors in this regalia.

A powwow is noisy with the drums beating and the jingles and bells the men wear around their ankles. The steady beat of the drum is very soothing in the background.

This young man could really dance; my daughter took a picture of him dancing but it didn't turn out well. He moved around too fast. His outfit had a lot of beading on it; it was very beautiful.

See what a blur he is when he danced - so fun to watch.

I loved the headdresses these two men had on - I couldn't stop looking at them and wondering how they got all those feathers to stand up like that.

All of the regalia was unique, every outfit had something interesting whether it was feathers,beading, mirrors, sparkles, etc. I would have loved to have studied them close up to look at all the details.

This was my favorite regalia. It was so bright and full. Many of the men had feather sprays on their backsides but most of them were natural colored feathers.

So, there you have it. Now you know that it was a jingle cone.

What is it ?

If you know what I've been doing for the past couple days, you can guess what this is and what it is for.

If you don't know what I've been doing for the past couple days, can you guess what this is?

Tomorrow's post will have the answer and pictures of how this little item is used.

Stay tuned....

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Life is Sweeter when you Share

I was browsing through my pictures on the computer and found this one that I took last summer.

Life is sweeter when you have someone to share it with....

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Four Generations of Women

Today, my daughter was home from college and my mom and my grandma were over for Easter dinner after church. We took this four generation picture.

My Grandma Violet is sitting at the table. She liked my meal, but she did not like the kumquats on the fruit platter. She tried them for the first time'; I wish I would have had my camera ready for the sourpuss face she made. My mom and daughter don't like them either, they think they are too sour. I am the only one in this picture who likes kumquats.

We all love coffee and we went through two pots today.

I suspect another thing we all have in common is the ability to overcome challenges through hard work and faith in God.

My grandma overcame a difficult childhood when her parents divorced, she lived in extreme poverty and was sent to live with her grandmother and uncle when she was nine years old; as a young girl she cared for her bedridden grandmother for three years. As a teenager, she moved to Seattle with her cousins and worked for Boeing making B-17's and B-29's during World War II. She moved back to Minnesota in 1947 and married my grandpa, Ervin. In 1969, a year after I was born, my aunt was born to my grandparents. I imagine it caused her some anxiety to be in her 40's, already a grandmother, her youngest child sixteen years old and her oldest daughter (my mom) pregnant with my younger brother and to find out that she was expecting another child. (It would me!!) In 1977, my grandpa died and my grandma was left to raise my seven year old aunt as a single mom. She stayed on the farm, worked at the sewing factory in town, and became a skilled woodworker and wood carver.

My mom is also a strong woman. She raised seven kids while my dad spent long weeks working construction on bridges and came home on weekends. We didn't have much money so my mom grew, canned and froze vegetables from her garden, raised and butchered chickens, sewed our clothes and bought a goat and milked her daily when one of my younger brothers couldn't digest cow's milk. She does things that scare me; she's para glided off a mountain and she's worked as a nurse, caring for the aged and dying. My dad died five years ago and since then my mom has had to navigate her life without him. She is a fearless woman, full of faith and fortitude.

My daughter is a college student; she faces her own challenges - challenges of principles and morals, friendships, grades and economics. And I too have my challenges and I know that there will be difficulties ahead, it is the nature of life. However, I am grateful for the examples of strength and faith of the generations of women before me.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Gifted Sisters

I’m the oldest of seven children. Even though we were all born within 8 ½ years from first to last, the oldest four were referred to as the “big kids” and the youngest three as the “little kids” With six siblings, our house was a bit chaotic. Obviously, my mom is insane – just kidding – kind of … (refer to Granny get your Gun post on March 6th for a “mom story”) Really, I am kidding.

I have three younger sisters; they’ve all grown up to be amazing women.

My sister Cindy is two years younger than I am. We are both part of the “big kids” group.

Because Cindy and I were so close in age, I fought with her like I never have with my other sisters. There was a lot of hair pulling.

I’ve always thought of Cindy as the adventurer. She is my only sister who doesn’t live within a couple of hours of me. Cindy is a goal setter. If she wants something, she accomplishes it. A number of years ago, Cindy and I were having a chat in a bar about where we saw ourselves in 5 years, and although she a teacher in Minnesota, she believed she’d have her master’s degree, be living in Alaska and be married. We wrote it down on an envelope and sealed it. Cindy was right, she moved to Alaska to get her masters and met a boy and married him. That’s just how she is.

My sister Lynn is 7 ½ years younger than I am. She’s one of the “little kids” As a child, Lynn had a sunny disposition. She still does. She is funny and doesn’t embarrass easily, it’s a great combination.

Lynn is the one with talent. She can sing. She sings at weddings and funerals and if you go to karaoke with her, you can brag that she is your sister. Lynn is the athlete and Cindy and I take credit for that…. after hearing about Nadia Comaneci, the Olympic gymnast, Cindy and I decided that we would train our little sister to be the next great Olympian. Lynn didn’t get very far with our coaching but we did teach her to do summersaults across the whole yard without stopping. She sticks with triathlons now but I did see her do a cartwheel a couple of years ago just to show off.

Tonja is the baby of the family and quite likely the sweetest person I know. There is not one picture in my head of Tonja without a smile on her face. Tonja is also quite likely the calmest woman on earth. She has six children and I’ve never seen her come close to losing her cool. Tonja has peace.

The saying “if you want something done, ask a busy person” could have been written about Tonja. She can accomplish more in one day than many people do in a week. She’s also very cute and will probably always look ten years younger than she is but she’s so nice you can’t hate her for it.

Thank God for sisters.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Fighting the Mighty Red

It has been a long couple weeks of trying to hold back the Red River. These pictures were taken by a coworker on her way home from work this weekend.
The area under this bridge has a nice path where my husband and I ran most nights last fall. It will be a long time until it is dry again.

You can see the earthen dike in the background of the next picture. These dikes, along with sandbag dikes protected our cities. The high school and college students in this area and from all around North Dakota and Minnesota volunteered in droves as did most able bodied people, whether it was making meals, filling sandbags, moving furniture, watching children and many other tasks so that we could fight the flood. Business and schools closed to fight the river. Over two million sandbags were used and they were all filled and put in place in less than a week. FEMA advised a city-wide evacuation, to which our city leaders said no so that the people of our cities could continue to build dikes higher and higher, pump water that seeped in and help their neighbors. Had our people all left, our city would have certainly gone under water. It is amazing what can be accomplished when people work together and take responsibility.

Some nursing home residents, hospital patients and areas near the river did evacuate due to dangerous areas and lack of services. Although there was too much water in the river, citizens were asked to conserve water because the sanitary sewer system was overloaded. Evacuated areas are opening up again and nursing home are filling back up. It will take a long time for the water to go down, many people will be reaching their sandbag-diked homes in boats, canoes, and hip boots for many, many weeks yet.


The sky has been filled with helicopters and planes. The roads have been heavy with National Guard trucks and sandbag loaded trucks, police cars, ambulances and fire trucks from agencies across the state.

Not every home was safe from the river. My husband helped evacuate some friends after their dike failed and water inundated their basement. We know a number of others who have water in their basements too.

On Monday, the weather took another turn when we were blanketed with a foot of snow.
The cold weather has slowed the snow melt. The river is falling; when this snow melts the river will rise again.