Saturday, December 30, 2006

Happy New Year!

We're heading out to my parent's cabin in the woods for New Years.
I'll be back Monday night with pictures and, hopefully, good stories.
Stay safe!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

"Heavenly Peace"

We wish you all:
PEACE in your soul
JOY in your heart
LOVE of family and friends
and COMPASSION for those less fortunate than ourselves!

Goodies Galore!

HEY EVERYBODY; it's officially CHRISTMAS today!!
A contented peace has overtaken our house. The presents are wrapped beneath the tree, and Z is happily playing the new PS2 game that he just opened as his "early present". The 4 varieties of cookies we've baked are ensconced in the gingerbread house cookie jar that SME gave us years ago. We also made 2 kinds of candy, and lefse(of course).
The house is semi-clean(I've given up on the concept of totally clean). The laundry is finished. The new webcam is installed, for our celebration with SME and S&S.

Today will be dedicated to making our traditional Christmas Eve dinner of turkey noodle soup, lefse, and rommegrot for dessert. I will also be making a pumpkin pie and Swedish cream for dessert at my parents' house tomorrow.
Today through Tuesday will be nothing but FUN and FAMILY!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

We're ALL George Bailey!

I just finished watching the 60th anniversary edition of It's a Wonderful Life, that L gave me for my birthday. Have you ever wondered how this movie has survived this long as a Christmas favorite?

I believe that it's a perennial favorite because there's a little of George Bailey in ALL of us. All of us have wallowed in self-pity to the point that we know the world would be a better place without us. BUT, how many of us have looked back on our lives and realized how different the world would be if we'd never been born? Think about it.

I, myself, have performed the Heimlich maneuver on a person who was turning blue. Would that person be here today? Probably not. What good deeds has that person done since I rescued her? Plenty.

My beautiful children wouldn't be here without me. My husband's life would probably have spiraled out of control without me. My parents wouldn't have the child they desperately wanted.

How many times have we suggested a trip to the doctor to a friend, that may have saved their life? Have you introduced two people to each other, who have wound up getting married? Have you given words of encouragement to a depressed friend? We've all touched a lot of lives. Sometimes we never know how much a smile, hug, or heart-to-heart talk has meant to another human being. Sometimes, if we're lucky, that person will tell us how much we helped them.

We've ALL made a difference in this world; some more than others. Don't ever underestimate how much our actions have touched those around us. In the meantime, keep practicing those random acts of kindness. You never know when your words or actions will change someone's life for the better.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

You're in Charge!

I'm sick and tired of humbugs!!

"I'll be glad when it's over!"
"Christmas is nothing but commercialism!"
"Christmas is too much work."
"I hate navigating through Christmas crowds!"

I have heard those words over, and over, and over, more than ever, this year. 25 years ago, our family was caught up in Christmas insanity too. Back then, we were invited to WAY too many Christmas parties, attended by people we didn't even like. We felt obligated to buy gifts for people we barely knew. For several years, a co-worker and I baked Christmas goodies for all the customers who gave us special Christmas tips.
By the time Christmas rolled around, we were too exhausted to enjoy the love of our family.

About 23 years ago, I found the refrigerator magnet pictured above. When I brought it home, L put it, at eye level, on our refrigerator and said: "REMEMBER THAT! EVERY time we open the fridge, we'll be reminded to do only what brings us JOY during the holiday season!"

Since that time, we have gradually simplified our activities to what truly brings us joy.

We have always stuck to a budget at Christmas. Post holiday debt stress should be avoided like the plague it is! We put $30/week away, in an envelope, for our Christmas purchases. We have discovered that, if we don't know someone well enough to know what they like; we don't need to be buying them a gift. Several years ago, our in-laws suggested that we quit buying Christmas and birthday gifts for each other. We still buy, or make, each other little things that we know the other likes, or needs, throughout the year. But now, we don't feel pressured to find the perfect gift at one time of the year.

We also got choosier about which Christmas parties we attended. The first to go was L's work Christmas party. His former workplace had a huge turnover in employees. Why waste valuable holiday time with people that we can't put a name to? Last year, my fellow employees and I finally convinced our Boss to forget about our employee Christmas party. This relieved her of a LOT of stress. Now, we only attend small gatherings of CLOSE friends, whose friendship we appreciate.

L has always refused to decorate the outside of our home for Christmas. "I don't do ANYTHING for show!". Are you putting up outdoor decorations to share the joy and beauty of Christmas with your neighbors? Or are you trying to one-up your neighbors and win the local lighting contest? Do you enjoy outdoor decorating? Can your budget afford it? I would like our home to look inviting, in a simple way. Next year, I'm putting some icicle lights around our porch, and a wreath on the door.

Inside our home, EVERY room is decorated with the traditional ornaments we have accumulated over the years. Every decoration has a memory associated with it. The decorations that our kids have made over the years, are the most precious to us. I pity the people I know, who refuse to display the "tacky" decorations their kids have put their hearts into making! To those people, Christmas memories are disposable. They buy new decorations every year, so their homes will be decorated in the latest style. "I'm doing the house in blue(gold, red, green, silver, bells, birdhouses, bows......) this year." I find these people's homes extremely cold and unwelcoming.

Simplifying our Christmas celebrations has given us a bit of extra cash. We donate, what we can, so those less fortunate than ourselves can feel the magic of Christmas. We don't want recognition; we want to spread a little happiness. We can't deduct our donations from our taxes; we don't earn enough to itemize. It's a shame that the only reason many people donate to charities is to get a tax deduction.

REMEMBER, the holidays are only as busy, and commercialized, as YOU make them! Don't waste your precious time, or money, on activities that don't bring joy to your loved ones. YOU'RE IN CHARGE! Only YOU can make the holidays a meaningful celebration!

It is MANDATORY, in our family, that Christmas gifts come from the heart!

To me, Christmas is all about giving, not getting! What are we ultimately giving? Happiness, contentment, peace, LOVE!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Surviving Winter Travel

I've been reading a lot about the Kim family tragedy. Most of what happened to them was not their fault. The road map the Kim's used, labeled the road they were on as a major thoroughfare to the ocean. Many other's found themselves in trouble on the same road as a result of faulty road maps.

At least two other motorists have died in the last 12 years after getting stranded off Bear Camp Road. In 2002, a 60-year-old Arkansas man died three miles from where his Jeep got bogged down in a snowdrift; he was trying to hike to safety. And in 1995, a Montana man died of starvation in his pickup as the vehicle lay stranded in a snowdrift. For as many as nine weeks, authorities said at the time, he had sat in the cab of the truck, checking off the days of the calendar in his day planner and writing stacks of letters to his sons, his fiancee and his boss. Just last spring, a family of six got lost in four feet of snow, also trying to drive to the coast. They sat two weeks until the parents hiked out and all were rescued.

Closing the side roads are one answer, but gates would block access for logging and mining. Bear Camp Road HAD been gated, but someone cut the lock off and opened the gate. I wonder how that person feels NOW? Instead some locals say search and rescue in the area needs beefing up and to be more aggressive. Local resident, Bruce Crawford, said: "I feel personally that these people should have been found, he should never have had to get out of his car and start walking. They said they searched every road. How come he wasn't found? They missed a road."

The private citizen, who found Katie and the girls with his helicopter, knew the history of Bear Camp Road, and felt certain that the Kims were stranded there. Why didn't the "official" search team check that road out first?

In my opinion, the Kim family only made 2 fatal mistakes. Their first mistake was not calling in. My parents drummed this into my head from an early age. Always have someone who will come looking for you, or call the authorities, if you don't show up or call by a designated time! The Kims were stranded for 2 days, before anybody missed them. Starting the search 2 days earlier would probably have saved James Kim's life.

Their second mistake was not being prepared for winter travel. Who would think that they could be stranded, in the snow and cold, for over a week? It could happen to ANY of us in less than a heartbeat. We all need to know how to survive, on our own, in whatever environment we're traveling through. I have no clue how to survive a desert environment, but you can bet your ass that if I'm traveling through the southwest, I WILL know what I'll need to keep my family alive in case of emergency.

The biggest threat to survival in cold weather is hypothermia. Most hypothermia cases develop in air temperatures between 30 and 50 degrees. Water conducts heat away from the body 25 times faster than air. Stay dry = stay alive! Our heads are the greatest source of heat loss in our bodies. Wear a hat!

Signs and Symptoms of Hypothermia

a. Watch for the "-Umbles" - stumbles, mumbles, fumbles, and grumbles which show changes in motor coordination and levels of consciousness

b. Mild Hypothermia - core temperature 98.6 - 96 degrees F Shivering - not under voluntary control Can't do complex motor functions (ice climbing or skiing) can still walk & talk Vasoconstriction to periphery

c. Moderate Hypothermia - core temperature 95 - 93 degrees F Dazed consciousness Loss of fine motor coordination - particularly in hands - can't zip up parka, due to restricted peripheral blood flow Slurred speech Violent shivering Irrational behavior - Paradoxical Undressing - person starts to take off clothing, unaware s/he is cold "I don't care attitude" - flattened affect

d. Severe Hypothermia - core temperature 92 - 86 degrees and below (immediately life threatening) Shivering occurs in waves, violent then pause, pauses get longer until shivering finally ceases - because the heat output from burning glycogen in the muscles is not sufficient to counteract the continually dropping core temperature, the body shuts down on shivering to conserve glucose Person falls to the ground, can't walk, curls up into a fetal position to conserve heat Muscle rigidity develops - because peripheral blood flow is reduced and due to lactic acid and CO2 buildup in the muscles Skin is pale Pupils dilate Pulse rate decreases at 90 degrees the body tries to move into hibernation, shutting down all peripheral blood flow and reducing breathing rate and heart rate. at 86 degrees the body is in a state of "metabolic icebox." The person looks dead but is still alive.

It is essential to keep a hypothermic person adequately hydrated and fueled.

a. Food types
Carbohydrates - 5 calories/gram - quickly released into blood stream for sudden brief heat surge - these are the best to use for quick energy intake especially for mild cases of hypothermia
Proteins - 5 calories/gram - slowly released - heat given off over a longer period
Fats - 9 calories/gram - slowly released but are good because they release heat over a long period, however, it takes more energy to break fats down into glucose - also takes more water to break down fats leading to increased fluid loss

b. Food intake Hot liquids - calories plus heat source Sugars (kindling) GORP - has both carbohydrates (sticks) and protiens/fats (logs)

c. Things to avoid
Alcohol - a vasodilator - increases peripheral heat loss
Caffeine - a diuretic - causes water loss increasing dehydration
Tobacco/nicotine - a vasoconstrictor, increases risk of frostbite

Add Heat
Fire or other external heat source. Body to body contact. Get into a sleeping bag, in dry clothing with a normothermic person in lightweight dry clothing .

Add Fuel & Fluids
Warm Sugar Water - for people in severe hypothermia, the stomach has shut down and will not digest solid food but can absorb water and sugars. Give a dilute mixture of warm water with sugar every 15 minutes. Dilute Jello™ works best since it is part sugar and part protein. This will be absorbed directly into the blood stream providing the necessary calories to allow the person to rewarm themselves. One box of Jello = 500 Kilocalories of heat energy. Do not give full strength Jello even in liquid form, it is too concentrated and will not be absorbed.

Add Heat
Heat can be applied to transfer heat to major arteries - at the neck for the carotid, at the armpits for the brachial, at the groin for the femoral, at the palms of the hands for the arterial arch. Chemical heat packs such as the Heat Wave™ provides 110 degrees F for 6-10 hours. Hot water bottles, warm rocks, towels, compresses For a severely hypothermic person, rescue breathing can increase oxygen and provide internal heat.

What should I do if I get stranded in cold weather?

Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna as a signal to rescuers.

Move anything you need from the trunk into the passenger area.

Wrap your entire body, including your head, in extra clothing, blankets, or newspapers.

Stay awake. You will be less vulnerable to cold-related health problems.

Run the motor (and heater) for about 10 minutes per hour, opening one window slightly to let in air. Make sure that snow is not blocking the exhaust pipe—this will reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

As you sit, keep moving your arms and legs to improve your circulation and stay warmer.

Do not eat unmelted snow because it will lower your body temperature.

Keep the vehicle clear of snow, including the top, so it can be spotted from the air. If stranded along a highway this will also keep snowplows from slamming into you.

Know where you are, so you can tell rescue personel on the phone.

Put out something bright or make something to tell people searching for you where you are. Make a flag using what you have, but Do Not Take Off Any Clothes to do so. Some suggestions are paper, money, hair ribbons, a strip from an orange garbage bag, etc. Spell the word "HELP" or "SOS" on the ground using rocks and sticks or make a large arrow with them, pointing to where you are. Do anything to attract attention!

Look Bigger For Searchers. If possible, your waiting place should be near an open space. When you hear someone coming, move to the middle of the clearing and call. Do Not Run in the direction of the noise. If it is an aircraft you heard, lie down so the pilot has a bigger target to look at. Then wave with both your arms and legs, like making an angel in the snow. Stand up immediately after the aircraft has passed, as the ground can be very cold.

If you're stranded in a wooded area, light a fire. This serves 3 purposes; it will prevent panic by keeping you busy, it will signal rescuers, and it keeps you warm. Always carry at least 2 methods of fire-starting with you. I always have a Zippo windproof lighter, strike anywhere kitchen matches, and flares. I also carry a waterproof container with vaseline coated cotton balls. These are a great firestarter.

Practice firemaking at home, so that you're proficient at it. Properly laying a fire is an artform; learn it! I taught both of our kids this life-saving skill before they were teens. Make sure you have plenty of wood before you waste a match. Start small and work your way up to larger bits of wood. Tiny dead pine branches, hanging from the tree, are amazing kindling.

The following items are ALWAYS in our vehicle:

cell phone with car charger (If stranded, charge your phone during the 10 min/hour that the vehicle is running)
flashlight(cold weather wreaks havoc on batteries. We recently bought a crank-up flashlight
first aid kit
small fire extinguisher(some states require this)
tool kit and jack(We also carry a board to put the jack on when changing a tire on soft ground)
pocket knife(In my purse, actually)
zippo lighter and foil wrapped strike anywhere kitchen matches(also in my purse)
small hatchet
twine(This has come in handy MANY times!)
collapsible camp shovel
tow rope
paper towels and toilet paper
brightly colored cloth to put on antenna as a distress signal
tarp(I carry 2-8x10 tarps that I got free with rebate at Menards. These have come in handy in many non-emergency situations. When folded, they take up virtually no space.)
empty bleach jug to carry water(You NEVER know when your radiator will fail! When the temperature is above freezing, we carry this jug full of water, for the dog. We also carry a cool-whip container for a dog dish)

During the winter I add the following items:
windshield scraper with brush
coffee can filled with salt
coffee can filled with clay cat litter
large pillar candle(can be burned in one of the coffee cans as a source of heat. The other coffee can, can be used to melt snow over a fire or the candle)
sleeping bag
high-calorie foods that will survive freezing temps (protein bars, nuts, beef jerky, etc.) Jello will now be part of my kit! Hershey bars, hot chocolate mix or dry creative.
Each vehicle has a spare hat and gloves on the back seat.
Chemical hand warmer packets(After reading articles on hypothermia, I added these to my list. They're compact, last forever, and are quite cheap during end-of-winter sales)
Space blankets for each person(Very compact and cost as little as $1)

Whenever we go ANYWHERE in the winter, I demand that everybody has a warm jacket, hat, mittens, and boots with them. In the case of style-conscious teens; you don't have to wear these items, but you WILL have them in the vehicle with you!

There's a lot more information out there on this subject. The more you learn, the safer you will be!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

(Only) 6 (OOPS 7) Weird Things About Me

European has tagged me to list 6 weird things about myself. The tough part is narrowing the list down to only 6 things! LOL

1) I'm a crafting hoarder. My front porch is full of boxes of fabric scraps that will someday become a quilt. I have 2-20 gallon plastic containers full of leftover yarn. I have 3 peanut butter jars full of buttons I've removed from discarded clothing. I have a drawer-full of felt scraps, pipe cleaners, various paints and glues, eyes, and decorative ribbons. I have a smaller drawer full of beads and related supplies. I USED to have a huge(the equivalent of 3 paper grocery bags) box of pine cones, but L made me burn them. I also have a stash of pill and spice bottles that I saved to store small craft items.

2) ALL of my cupboards, drawers, and closets are totally organized. I NEVER shove something into a cupboard or drawer, just to get it out of sight. I need to know where everything is. My guys, on the other hand, will put stuff wherever it will fit. This drives me INSANE!

3) I'll put off a task until I have time to do it perfectly. Perfectionism can be a curse. I'm told that this is an OCD trait. Living with L for 30 years has tempered this behavior a bit. I am now able to quickly clean the high spots in a room without dismantling the entire room, but not very often.

4) I can't sleep with socks on. Footed pajamas drove me crazy, when I was little. I HAVE to be able to stick a BARE foot out of the covers, to cool off. The rest of me can be covered, but I have to be able to regulate my body temperature with bare feet while sleeping.

5) I actually enjoy the shorter days of winter. I know a lot of people who suffer from light-deprived depressions, but my nesting behavior kicks in during the winter. I love closing the curtains against the cold at 5 p.m. I love the warm glow of table lamps and candles. I love cooking in the shielded warmth of my kitchen. I love to sit in my chair, covered with my fuzzy blanket, while I read, knit, crochet, or embroider the evening away.

5) I LOVE to shop, even if I don't buy anything. I check the outlet or bargain departments of my favorite online stores at least monthly. My head is on a swivel when I'm shopping. I'm constantly looking for a bargain, or unique gift item. I buy Christmas, birthday, and misc. holiday gifts year 'round. I LOVE to find the perfect gift for my loved ones. If I find the perfect gift, at a bargain price, so much the better!

6) I don't like walleye, blueberries, or lutefisk, and I live in MINNESOTA! Maybe I should live in Maine or Alaska, because I LOVE lobster and crab.

I tag Dollface, Nancy Drew, and Monica, because I owe them one! MWAHAHAHA!!
I'm also tagging Tweety29, because she's new to blogging and never been tagged before.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

I'm Not Worthy!

I love my kids with all my heart! L and I have sacrificed a lot for our kids. We've always tried to help them through life's hurdles, and we were there to catch them when they fell. We don't expect any pats on the back for our sacrifices; it's what parents do. It's our gift of love to our children. However, we haven't given 10% of what the father in the following article has given to his son.

Click on the link below, and make sure you watch the video at the end of the article. I defy you to tell me you read this without getting teary-eyed!

Thanks Nancy Drew, for sending me this awesome article.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

A Shaggy Dog Story


This week marks the second anniversary of my parents receiving their "best Christmas present" from us. The present is the black dog, Shadow, pictured above.

My parents first met Shadow 4 years ago. They were carrying groceries into their house. When they returned to their vehicle, they discovered a black dog inside, with her head in the bag containing the meat they had just bought. My Dad promptly shooed the intruder off their property.

In the following weeks the 'intruder' would show up whenever my parents went for a walk in the neighborhood. She took it upon herself to protect them from any other dogs that came within reach of my parents. As the newcomer, the 'intruder' quickly fought her way to the top as the Alpha dog of the neighborhood. This was no small accomplishment, considering that 95% of the other dogs outweighed her by at least 25 lbs!

My parents asked around and found out that the 'intruder's' name was Shadow, and she belonged to a notorious unwed mother in the neighborhood. This woman is a sister to former friends of ours. We knew that the whole family's track record with pets was appalling.

Before long, all Shadow's waking moments were spent in my parent's yard. Since they didn't have a dog of their own, she considered it her duty to keep all dogs, cats, and chipmunks, removed from their property. Accompanying my parents on their daily walk was the high point of Shadow's day. My parents quickly noticed that Shadow absolutely refused to walk past her owner's home. If any member of the owner's family was in the yard, Shadow would cower behind a bush until they left.

Within a couple of months, Shadow began sleeping on my parent's step, with her back against their door. One January morning, my Mom found Shadow covered by 4 inches of snow, and barely able to rise to her feet. That was IT! From that point on, whenever my parents were home, Shadow was in the house. Shadow had to be taught to drink water from a bowl. She had, apparantly, been getting all her water from neighborhood puddles and the nearby river. Amazingly, having never lived in a house, Shadow was housebroken. She has NEVER made a mess in the house!

Shadow's living arrangements worked out quite well, with one exception: when my parents went to their cabin for the weekend, Shadow was on her own. Every time they left, Shadow would chase their car down the highway, which broke my parent's hearts. November is deer-hunting season in MN. My parents always spend the two-week season at their cabin. November was brutally cold and snowy, two years ago. We take care of my parent's house whenever they're gone. It broke my heart to find the icy patch, that was Shadow's bed, on their step every time I went over there.

I mulled this situation over for a couple of weeks. I'd finally had enough of watching Shadow's beautiful spirit being neglected by her "owner". I called the "owner" and offered to buy Shadow. The "owner" laughed and said that Shadow was just a bum, but ALWAYS came home every night at 9 p.m., when she arrived home from work. RIGHT!! For the past year, Shadow had been asleep, next to my parent's bed, EVERY NIGHT! The "owner" eventually said that my parents could have Shadow, but she knew that Shadow would eventually return home to her. That's all I needed to hear! I hung up the phone and made a quick trip to Menards, where I purchased a dog tie-out kit, leash, and dog bed. I wrapped these items in Christmas paper, then Z, L, and I went to my parents house with the gift.

My parents were confused when they opened the gift. "We can't tie Shadow up; she doesn't belong to us." Then I explained that, yes, NOW she officially belonged to them. My parents were immediately teary-eyed. Then we ALL hugged Shadow, and officially welcomed her into the family.

The following week, my parents took Shadow to the vet for shots and a checkup. It turned out that Shadow's previous owner had adopted her from our vet's office. Our vet insists that all adoptees be spayed. Shadow had been spayed, BUT, the "owner" had never returned to have the staples removed from the surgery. This is a FREE procedure, which is part of the spaying package. Shadow had been sleeping out in the cold for almost 2 years, with grown-over staples in her abdomen!! Our vet was furious, and said that he had had "issues" with this owner in the past. Shadow bravely lay on the vet's table, while he removed the grown-over staples, without anesthesia!

Now, when my parents go to the cabin, Shadow joyously accompanies them. When they travel to places where dogs aren't allowed, we dogsit.

Shadow continued being the neighborhood bully, to the only victim in her reach.....Hairry! For the past 2 years Shadow has made it clear to Hairry who the boss is. Hairry meekly allows Shadow to lord it over him, despite the fact that he's 5 inches taller, and 25 lbs heavier than she is. Thanksgiving Day, Shadow's behavior changed. She actually welcomed Hairry, by licking his snout, when she arrived at our house. She even let Hairry sit next to my parents, instead of shoving him out of the way. Hairry is still a bit sceptical about this behavior change, and continues to defer to Shadow's every whim. Shadow ADORES everyone in our family, especially Z! We're hoping that a holiday miracle has occurred and she now accepts Hairry as part of our close-knit family. Time will tell...