Sunday, November 2, 2014

Good thing I can hold my breath...

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These teens need smothering grandma hugs.
Holey moley. This semester is whomping the H-E-double hockey sticks out of me. My skin is flaking off in papery white sheets. My “teacher’s neck” is now “teacher’s neck, shoulders, upper back, and aching arse.” I’m living on coffee, vitamins, and Medifast bars. My La-Z-Girl is permanently molded to the shape of my drooling, napping form, like the inside of a giant, bizarre, Styrofoam packing crate. Ray spooks around the house trying not to make the air ripple.



I’m not sure why this semester is so much worse than EVER. BEFORE. EVER., but I have my theories...



These toddlers need new superhero costumes.
1.   Brain drain. I just had the 2nd anniversary of my brainsplosion, and I’m still challenged by a few lingering “deficits,” as neurologists like to call them, that haven’t quite disappeared (deficits that are not at all conducive to the nature of teaching): 1) I can’t process as quickly as I could pre-BS (Bastard Stroke); b) I can’t multitask as efficiently now, so I sometimes “lose track” of things that need doing until deadlines are about to swallow me whole; IV) I have some short-term memory glitches, and while I make numerous lists, I don’t always remember that I’ve made them or where I’ve put them; and 6) my brain, my own tangled Grey Gardens, is absolutely no good after, say, 3 p.m. without a re-boot (nap), and definitely shuts down completely by 7-ish – this is tough if you have piles of papers to grade, which you couldn't grade during the day if you wanted to (see #2 below). 


2.   The “business model” of higher ed. When I started teaching (back in the day…barefoot through a blizzard…only a boiled egg for lunch…blahblahblah), I had a 1-page syllabus, I planned lessons, and I went to class and taught. Period. My students were better thinkers, writers, speakers, and readers by the time the semester ended, because I CARED about their learning and had time to be innovative, creative, attentive and PRESENT. Now, I have an 8-page syllabus full of policies and procedures, I have to know/monitor/manage a host of on-line “tools” for quantifying, assessing, and reporting, I’m always behind, and I’m always bleary-eyed and exhausted. And in the name of all that is holy, don’t get me started on ongoing gender struggles for female faculty, or the annual faculty evaluation process. It’s impossible to get everything done unless I forego frivolities like eating, laundry, cleaning my house, showering, or speaking to my family.
These budding performers need a manager.


It's only temporary...it's only temporary...
3.   Pining after my kids & grandkids. I have the most adorable, genius, fun progeny on the planet. I want to hang with them, maybe instigate The Great Silly String Fiasco of 2014.



This semester is so bad, that I've had to jettison anything extraneous – travel, shopping, gym, fun with family & friends, knitting, reading, home & yard care, anything that smacks of a “personal life” – just to keep my head slightly below the surface of the water. And I have 50 research papers coming in Tuesday, so if you don’t see or hear from me by Thanksgiving, airdrop a life preserver, deodorant and a roast turkey.




Wednesday, September 10, 2014

It's not procrastination...it's...uh...preparation.

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A plethora of wild plums
Just peachy!
Hummingbird Jam: Tiny, feisty, very bold.
This year, more than any I can remember, I’m clinging tenaciously, desperately, call-the-hotline-ey, to summer. Call it Retirement Envy. Call it JBAD (Jack Blizzard Anxiety Disorder). Call it gingerpigheadedness (if Faulkner can make up the word “pinkwomansmelling,” I can make up a few of my own). Whatever the root cause, I’m having a hard time letting go of long hours of daylight, balmy breezes, healing afternoon naps, and the “leisure” time to clean that closet or grout that backsplash. I’m having a hanging-by-my-fingernails-on-a-greased-highbar-above-a-spiked-pit-writhing-with-flaming-horned-serpents hard time. And since I’m already three weeks into a new semester, and I already have papers to grade, I need to do my double-tuck dismount in a goll dern hurry.

But I am a Master Procrastinator. For example, I accidentally misplaced a stack of pre-semester meeting notes and regentally-mandated syllabi goals, outcomes, methods, and policies (bringing my once-upon-a-time one-page syllabus to a whopping book-length 9 pages) in one of the 30 antique postal boxes in my office. I can’t be expected to search them all, right? So instead, I spent the next two days canning tomatoes. I bitched, griped, and laughed semi-hysterically when acidic tomato juice ran into the burns on my forearm (oven-roasted bacon makes a LOT of grease). Then we picked more tomatoes.
Tomatoes ready to roast for Base.

I procrastinated to the point where syllabi and homework schedules could not be postponed any further. As in, I’m serious now, dammit. As in, get your hands out of those wild plums this instant and plumb the depths of remedial composition, dammit! As in, classes start tomorrow.

So we picked more plums and tomatoes.

Never mind that I’ve got an entirely new on-line-only (mandatory, of course) composition software “classroom tool” to wrap my brain around. I’ve got Hummingbird (tomato) Jam to cook down, by gum, and a dehydrator full of cherry tomatoes. I’ve got gooseberries and more wild plums to turn into wine. Ray made his heavenly applesauce, and how on earth can a person do lesson planning in a house that smells like cinnamon and cardamom?!?
Ray's famous Applepie Sauce

And what if I AM wearing bathing suit coverups, sunglasses, and flip-flops to class? My students wear shorts so short, they’re more like denim underpants, or they wear PJ bottoms and bedroom slippers, so I hardly think they’re in a position to judge my fashion sense. At least I leave my inflatable seahorse in the car.
Roasted Summer Splendor Tomato Base.

Ah…there’s the satisfying pop on another sealed jar of Hummingbird Jam. Let me have just one more day of summer, then I promise, I’ll get right to work…




The Cake  (Gratuitous Grandkid-ish Shot):  My daughter made this for our granddaughters' 1st birthdays. Their party theme was "fairy garden party."

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Depression: What century IS this?


This is not a funny post. It’s about depression, and depression isn’t funny. Since Robin Williams’ suicide this week, and the not-so-surprising news of his battle with depression and substance abuse (self-medicating for the depression, I’d wager), I’ve read some pretty strange comments. The one that sticks in my craw is that Williams is somehow “cowardly” and “weak” for taking the suicide route and not just bucking up and getting himself together (by gum!).

I cannot believe that in 2014, there is STILL this kind of stigma and ignorance about mental illness. It’s brain CHEMISTRY, people. It’s not something a person can think away, will away, wish away, or work away. And the rest of us can't guilt someone out of it. If any other part of a person’s body goes rogue, and he or she develops psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, lupus, diabetes, cancer, etc., we don’t expect that person to simply “get over it.” So why, when a person’s brain chemistry runs amok, do we expect them to keep quiet about it, laugh it off, plan a vacation, take up a new hobby, or get a little more sun? Holy frickin’ dopamine-starved neurons, Batman!

I suffered from bouts of clinical, certifiable, whacked-out chemical depression (and possibly bipolar disorder) beginning in my early 40’s. My theory is that my body at that time became a giant peri-menopausal Vita-Mix of surging (or disappearing) hormones, and that started the depression ball rolling. There were times when all I could do was close my office door, lie on the floor, and sob, with a school-marm sweater over my face to muffle the noise. There were times I wanted a divorce. There were times I couldn’t get out of bed. I had panic attacks so bad sometimes that I threw up and thought my heart would explode. Shadows made me cry. Happy people made me cry. Sunlight made me cry. I couldn’t speak sometimes. I could barely breathe sometimes. There were times I wanted to die. I was NOT SAD. My brain was a swirling chemical cauldron. I was GONE.

Then one day I’d wake up, and I’d feel so good, that all of life was endless puppies & kitties & sunshine & possibilities. I couldn’t remember what I had felt like for the previous days/weeks/months (however long the bout lasted). I couldn’t IMAGINE ever feeling bad. I had my life back. Until the next time.

Most people never knew. Poor Ray patiently and lovingly bore the brunt, but I got VERY good at smiling, laughing, and joking in public. I became an Oscar-worthy actress.

After the stroke, I finally had to ask for some help. I figured, “Hey, I had a stroke…I have an excuse now.” The stroke whacked out my brain chemistry even more and damaged parts of the brain responsible for emotions, which made the depression worse. And one of the side effects of antidepressant treatment in stroke patients is better brain recovery. So I’ve been taking a low-dose antidepressant ever since, and OH. MY. DEAR. GAWD. If only I’d known 15 years ago that one little tweak—a paltry 10 mg of Celexa—to my brain batter was all it took to feel NORMAL! And by normal, I don’t mean silly and euphoric 24/7. I mean a normal distribution of reasonable highs and lows—sad, happy, bored, restless, anxious, tense, melancholy—rather than my previous bounce between the sulpheric fires of hell and jellybean rainbowland.

Depression affects poor people at higher rates. It affects women more than men (you know what James Brown says). Depression can also have a genetic component. My mom suffers from it. My grandma had it, I’m sure, although they called it “agoraphobia.” I can see signs of other kinds of mental illness in my immediate and extended family. But unlike red hair or musical talent, no one ever discusses THIS family trait. I want my children to PAY ATTENTION. NOW.

Many people still think depression is just feeling a little blue, and really, don’t we all sometimes? And can’t you just eat some cheesecake or watch some Three Stooges? And haven’t you been maudlin and self-indulgent long enough? And only helpless, overly dramatic weaklings need help for “depression.” And get outside and do some hard work, dammit, and you won’t be so hung up on your own “feelings,” dammit. And really, what do YOU have to feel bad about? Do you know how many people have it worse than you?

To those people, I say, SHUT THE F$*K UP and join the 21st century.

And to you, if you even THINK you might be one of the 120 MILLION people in the world whose brain CHEMISTRY is out of whack, call me. Stop by. I will listen ANY TIME. Better yet, call your doctor. And if your doctor is one of those people who still thinks you just need some cheesecake, call ANOTHER doctor. Keep calling until someone LISTENS to you. And if one medication doesn’t work, try another. And another. And another, until you find the one that works.

If you had cancer, and someone said, “Here’s medicine that will fix it,” would you feel like you had to hide it and “tough it out” on your own? No, you wouldn’t. Because you’re not an idiot. Don’t be an idiot (like I was) about depression (or any kind of mental illness), either.

Friday, August 1, 2014

BFBFR 2014: Beware the Bohunks!

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Man contemplates baseball cap construction.

Campfire roundtable solves world's problems.
Not drowning but waving (bad English teacher joke)
Ray and I are recently back from the annual BFBFR (Big Fat Bohunk Family Reunion—see 2012 highlights at http://uncanneryrow.blogspot.com/2012/08/big-fat-bohunk-family-reunion-2012.html). We weren't able to go last year, which may be just as well, since almost everyone who went last year came down with the BFF (Bohunk Family Flu), and the reunion turned into a bizarre, wretched quarantine.

This year’s reunion followed directly on the heels of the wedding extravaganza of my second cousin, Kevin, and his blushing bride, Alexis, so most reunion goers were already well-oiled by the time the reunion began. I didn’t get the final count, but I thought someone said 47 people this year, and in my head, I’m counting 8 dogs. At 78, Mom is the Grand Matriarch now, overseeing (or quickly turning a blind eye in some cases) four generations of Bohunks. The reunion is held near Longville, MN, on land bought by my paternal grandparents, Viola & Adolph. A third generation of cousins owns the lakefront land now, which includes the original cabin and a newer one, though most folks sleep in the tent city that goes up between the cabins. I’ve been going to family reunions at the cabin(s) off and on since I was 5-ish. Here are a few highlights from this year's adventure:
Pontoon nappage narrowly wards off tantrum.

The 4th Annual Esther Williams Invitational Lake Swim: Ten brave souls completed the lake swim this year. This is quite a feat, considering this year’s cooler air & water temps, as well as swimmers who’d already been through two days (and nights) of wedding revelry, the all-day Longville Bolf  (beer + golf) Tourney, and a couple days of general reunion madness.

Cabin Cuisine: Each clan takes a night to cook dinner. We hosted the Healthy Lifestyles Forest Grille on Sunday night—grass-fed, locally-sourced chicken, beef, or meat-free brats, tomato pesto salad, baked cheese potatoes, and grilled mixed veggies with garlic. Monday was Brent’s fabulous Ritz-breaded Deep-fried Chicken and (perfectly-seasoned) French Fries, and sadly, we missed out on Taco Tuesday the day we left for home. The rotating Camp Cleanup Crew got Julie’s Litter-Duty Lattes each morning. Note to Self for next time: Put warning/limit labels on the apple pie and peach moonshine…
Jet ski passenger delivery guy saves the day.

OCD Lilly trolls for minnows. All. Day. Long.
The 3rd Annual This-Cabin-Doesn’t-Pay-For-Itself Auction: Held on Monday night, the big sellers this year were Dan’s hatchets and Ecuadorian pants. My Chubby Chipmunk hat didn’t do so well (check out http://www.chubbychipmunk.net/ to see why the hat should have fetched a higher price). Allie made an exceptional auctioneer, a job that requires a very high tolerance for mayhem and disruption.

Louis cheeses for the camera.
XTreme Pontooning: Thanks to Mike and his “Living Room on the Lake,” we got to see Long Lake like never before. With its sofas, wet bar, canopies, and surround sound system, the floating living room let us cruise in style. There was on-board dancing, napping, and a jet ski passenger delivery (for which the jet ski driver was tossed a cold pontoon beer, which he caught mid-air whilst jetting away).

Living Room on the Lake expedition begins.
Loon Escort: Ray and I, tooling around in a paddleboat, were escorted around the lake for almost an hour by a loon family (Ray named the parents Dick & Diane, and their downy children, Louis and Louise). Because the kids couldn’t yet dive and come up halfway across the lake, Dick & Diane were forced to stick by us while we gawked, followed, took pictures, and tried to imitate loon calls. Makes you wonder who the loons really are…

Heaven or Hell Hymn Sing: Our devout atheist clansman Dan led a beautiful guitar-accompanied porch hymn sing, complete with 3- and sometimes 4-part harmony, much to cousin Kelly’s delight, who wasn’t sure whether to dance or duck (to avoid any possible lightning strikes).

Lakewater causes unusual upper-body anomalies.
We heard there was one trip to the ER after we left (torn tendons in a trail-biking accident), there were a few random breast barings, and I’ll never get that high-volume drunken version of “Country Roads” out of my head, but I don’t recall even a single visit from the sheriff, so I consider it a successful reunion.

Tightly-wound woman finally relaxes.
I know there are family reunions where people sip lemonade and play backgammon, but I am happy as a freshwater clam to be part of the loud, crazy, sometimes obnoxious, (possibly bipolar—I’m starting to think this is a family trait, too) Big Bohunk Tribe. I am eternally grateful to the cousins who work tirelessly (and mostly thanklessly) behind the scenes to take care of the cabins, pay the bills, get the place ready for us, and clean up afterwards—I hope you know how much we all need you, love you, and appreciate what you do. 

Time to start knitting and digging through the basement for next year’s auction items…

Thursday, June 19, 2014

I own this body, dammit.


An interesting and alarming video/article has been circulating on the crackbook lately: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2014/06/18/stroke-smartphone-video/10822049/. The woman is having - and recording - a TIA or “mini stroke.” TIA's are often precursors of major strokes.

This really hit home for me. When I had BS (my affectionate nickname for a right ischemic brainstem stroke) in 10/12, it was preceded by 4 TIA’s over the course of 2 days (you can read about the event in more detail here http://uncanneryrow.blogspot.com/2012/10/stroke-of-some-sort-of-luck.html). For me, during each TIA, I got momentarily dizzy, had a slight headache, and my left arm & hand wouldn’t work (they weren’t paralyzed, numb, or tingly—my left hand just sort of hung there, loose, and wouldn’t do what my brain told it to). Each time, things would go back to normal after a few minutes, so I thought I was fine—just stressed, over-tired, light-headed from too much coffee, or any number of other rationalizations. I put myself through the standard stroke inventory in front of a mirror—smile, raise my arms, repeat short sentences, stick out my tongue, and everything seemed okay. Still, I suspected from the beginning that these were TIA’s, because of the dizziness and sudden weakness and lack of coordination in my left arm.

On the second day, I went to the doc and was diagnosed with “possible atypical migraine,” even though I TOLD the doc I’d never had migraines and was probably having TIA’s. The doc started me on BP medicine. (Duh...maybe my BP was suddenly high because I was having mini strokes and was terrified?) This was probably a huge mistake on the doc’s part, since the BP med further restricted blood trying to get to my already-choked brain. The doc sent me home to wait a couple of days for a mobile testing lab. That night, I had the Big One and had Ray drive me to the ER in the Big City.

If I had known then what I know now, I would have bypassed the doc and clinic from the beginning, in favor of the ER in a hospital with a stroke unit. They MIGHT have been able to give me the magic t-Pa drug that could have prevented the Big One entirely—you have a 4-hour window from the start of symptoms to get the drug. By the time I got to an ER, the window had slammed shut.

BS did plenty of mischief. It left me with left-side “weakness and incoordination,” as the neurologist puts it. My left hand didn’t work. I had trouble walking and had to use a cane. My left leg dragged. My left eye wandered. I careened into walls. I had “emotional lability” and cried or laughed inappropriately or spontaneously. I sometimes had trouble swallowing.

Thankfully, exercise, repetitive movements, and plain old everyday muscle use & memory has helped my brain re-route or make new connections to my body, so things mostly work again. The “deficits” (another neurologist pet term) that remain are subtle and invisible to the casual observer. I’m still slightly dizzy about half the time. I have occasional hand-eye disconnect, so that I type letters in reverse, or my fingers go for a key on the opposite side of the keyboard from the letter I want. Sometimes my left fingers type two letters at once or miss the keyboard entirely. My memory is squishy. My left foot doesn’t always lift high enough to clear stairs, and I trip. When I’m tired, everything on my left side starts to “wilt” or drag, just a hair. I still get tired VERY easily and don’t always deal well with over-stimulation. And my brain processing speed is slower (probably a difference only I can detect), so I’m occasionally at a loss for words – for a millisecond.

I also lost my singing voice and my ability to play gee-tar. My left fingers still have a hard time holding down gee-tar strings firmly enough to make a nice ringing chord, and they sometimes miss a string entirely, since they don’t always go where my brain tells them to go. Both singing & playing are improving with daily practice, though my former clear singing tone still eludes me.

In the words of today’s ubiquitous expression, “It is what it is.” I can’t go back and un-stroke. I’m alive and grateful. I can think and speak. BS taught me that the brain is an incredible, complex, fascinating work of art, and I have a profound new love and appreciation for my brain. More importantly maybe, BS taught me that we need to be our OWN healthcare advocates—doctors are not gods; they do NOT have all the answers; they are NOT always right. I heard long ago: If 50% of docs graduated in the top 50% of their class, what does that say about the other 50%?

And here's the real point of this post: If YOU think something is amiss in your mind or body, GO. If you think it might be something big—stroke or heart attack, for example—bypass the clinic. Go directly to the ER, preferably in a hospital with a unit specializing in whatever you think is wonky (brain, heart, etc.). It’s better to go and be wrong than not to go and to be sorry. The video at the beginning of this post also points out that if you aren’t satisfied with the answers you get, ask for a different doc. Or, walk out of one ER and into another. Ask a bazillion questions. Whine. Protest. Scream and hold onto doorframes if you have to, but don’t leave until they Check. You. Out. Completely. It’s YOUR life…save it. ;)

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Prodigal Peas


Francoise the Elder: Romantic Victor
If you’ve followed the blog (http://uncanneryrow.blogspot.com/2012/11/the-case-of-disappearing-peafowl.html), then you know that our peaflock, 29 birds at its peak in 2011, suffered massive “culling” from multiple drought-desperate predators, nest predation, and disappearance, until by this spring we were down to three birds: a solo female and two males.

Devastated by the losses, I did some research this spring to see about buying peachicks to rebuild the flock. Turns out, it would take major work, beginning with converting our garden shed (formerly a chicken house) into a peahouse with an outdoor netted pen. I would have to raise the chicks—about $300-500 for 9 chicks, depending on the color/strain—penned until fall, when they’d be big enough and familiar enough with our existing flock, to turn loose. I decided the Goddess of Stamina & Finance would have to buoy me up one more year before I could tackle such a project.
 
Grotto Formerly Known as Casbah
These losses absolutely broke my heart, especially since the peacocks pre-date us here on the Row. When we first looked at the property, there were 6 peacocks in the resident flock, and the contract for the house stipulated that the peas remain with the property; reading this clause sealed the deal for me. Legend has it that peafowl have been on the place for over 25 years now. In fact, there’s a shed-sized “casbah” outside our back door that a previous owner built as a “peacock house.”

In the meantime, last Thursday morning, I walked out on the back porch with my coffee in time to see THREE peahens. I did a cartoony, aghast eye-rub, looked again, and sure enough, there was our lonely hen Debbie in the loafing shed having a dust bath, and two other hens making a beeline (pealine?) across the yard, straight for Francoise, our oldest and dominant male, who was fanning, flirting, thrumming, and calling for all he’s worth!

Junior the Lesser: Romantic Loser
I’m pretty certain these are a couple of the Row’s vanished hens returned, after more than a year’s absence. They knew right where to find the pea-buffet; they jumped up into the birdbath like they owned the joint; they settled into the greenhouse window well during yesterday’s heat, like they’d never been gone. They’re more skittish than Debbie, but that’s probably a good thing. And best of all, they WANT TO NEST; for a few brief moments each morning, they let Francoise have his way with them.

I like to think the Universe is working her magic, naturally, slowly, restoring balance. And it’s ridiculous how happy the Prodigal Peas’ return makes me—I could SO go all Flannery O’Connor, reclusively wandering the farm, trailed by our little flock of peas, rocking a housedress, a bad perm, pearls, and cat-eye glasses, perfectly content in my hermitage. So if you don’t hear from me for a stretch, swing by and check on Ray…
Flannery and Me...We're Like THIS.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Let the Summer Begin


lakeside drooling chairs
I just turned in my final grades last week, and already, my patio table is covered with 6 flats of veggie garden and hanging basket plants; I have two guitars, a mountain dulcimer, and a baritone ukulele in the dining room waiting for new strings, and half a dozen 3-part-harmony songs to learn for a July birthday party; I have a box of spray paints and four old metal patio chairs to re-do; I have a contractor to meet with; I have an old swing set frame to paint and a new rope swing to put up…

Apparently, these things don't plant themselves.
Is there an Overachiever’s Anonymous? Should I start a chapter? Because I could totally be their poster girl. Clearly, it’s an illness. It’s part the unfortunate OOPS gene (Obsessive Overachiever/Perfectionist Syndrome—thanks, Mom). It’s part end-of-semester euphoria, which makes us think we can cram a year’s worth of neglected work, family re-connecting, and leisure activity into one fleeting summer. And it’s part desperation over the brevity of prairie summer, which seems to have gone from 3 months to, oh, 6 weeks or so. It just snowed in the Black Hills, for Pete’s sake, and it’s the middle of May. I’ve seen snow in June.

Ray and I started our “summer” almost before the semester ended, with a quick road trip to MN last week for our friend Bruce’s  funeral. Halfway there, we stayed overnight with friends Peggy & Steve on Big Stone Lake. Staying with them is always a heavenly little retreat—if I could walk out my back door with a cup of coffee and sit on a dock, water lapping and gulls calling & diving, I’d spend the rest of my life shuffling between dock & coffee pot, sipping or staring/drooling. People would start to talk about that “poor white-haired woman on the dock. Gordon’s cousin LuVerne said she used to move and even speak…” It’s probably good I’m landlocked at home.

In MN, we stayed with our “new” friends, Pat & Terry (who also live on a lake!). We’d been hearing about these folks from Bruce for years, and they opened their home to us without a moment’s thought or hesitation. Pat is an antique dealer, and their home is chock full of history, so staying there was like going home for me (see my old post: http://uncanneryrow.blogspot.com/2011/01/missing-yo-yo-man.html). Terry is a luthier and gave us a tour of his shop while Steve demo’d one of Terry’s guitars. It was really a private concert of gorgeous guitar-playing, on an incredible instrument that’s also a work of art. I’m now trying to figure out which child or grandchild I can sell to get one of Terry’s parlor guitars (http://www.kennedyguitars.com/size-2/); I’m pretty sure this guitar could even improve my singing voice...

MN fence - don't boot me in.
On the way home, we meandered around southwest MN until we found the “Little Henry House.” This is a house where Little Henry, Ray’s band from his 20’s, lived and played music together. They were a bunch of sweet little hippie boys (and girls, who moved in & out occasionally, too), and I could just imagine the early 70’s peacelove communal vibe—until we neared the house and I spotted the rusty chain across the drive, the yard full of junk cars, and the two junkyard dogs that charged our slowly-cruising car. The house’s owner, a gruff old man, came out and stood, flannelled arms crossed over his chest, until we moved on. O the times, they are a’changing.

fokken salad ni├žoise
Susan & Cathy - as Etta would say, "At last!"
living room Klezmer
Speaking of change, as soon as we got home, I was fixing food for our Sisters of Perpetual Disorder monthly dinner meeting. This month, we had two wonderful occasions to celebrate. Our sister Cindy returned from CT, where’d she’d been nannying her new grandson since last winter. And our sisters Cathy & Susan, partners for over 35 years, were finally able to marry! They’d gone to IA (O, the irony…committed same-sex partners—and how much more committed can you be than 35 years together and a paid-off mortgage??—can’t legally marry in SD yet, but it’s still on-the-books legal to shoot Native Americans if 5 or more gather on your property). 

There were 27 of us at this month's "meeting" (we rotate host-homes for this incredible potluck). Gail, Laurie, and I (the Nickerettes) sang a stirring, slightly modified rendition of the Dixie Cups’ “Chapel of Love” (ours was “Courthouse of Love”), and Laurie and Holly, a gifted clarinet player, did a set of Klezmer music (Susan is Jewish), including a Laurie-modified version of “Hava Nagila.” The day was a glorious celebration of friendship, food, wine, stories, laughs, congratulations, and love, as ANY wedding reception should be.

gratuitous grandchild shot
Things have settled down a bit now, but here in the upper Midwest, we know the “summer window” is really more a peephole. Mid-winter, my OOPS summer goals were to (1) write the really great American novel; (2) travel the world; and (3) convince all warring nations/peoples to lay down their arms. But now that I recall SoDakian summer more realistically, I’ll settle for getting the garden in and putting up some food. I’ll take a short June girls’ road trip to a lake cabin (thanks to my brother), where we’ll do some sunning & rehearsing. Ray & I are scheming for a mid-summer longish road trip to Nevada and New Mexico (have you ever tried to find a farm-sitter for 3 dogs, a cat, 2 parrots, and peacocks?), and we’re making plans for the late summer Big Bohunk Family Reunion up by Walker, MN. And I took a couple grandkids, ages 9 months and 4 years, to the zoo yesterday (a good reminder why mostly young’uns have children).

My post-stroke addled brain and wobbly left side could really use a summer of beach reading, walks, meditation, singing, and regular afternoon naps. But like the farmers around here, Ray and I feel compelled to “make hay while the sun shines.” Maybe I’ll ask Ray to string up the hammock in the garden: swing…pull a weed…swing…pull a weed…