Thursday, August 31, 2006

The OHANA Connection

Stick with me on this one because it's another farm/tractor story but with a long, convoluted twist!

Photo/postcard by Bob Jacobson, circa 1980, from AGSEM

Amy, my daughter, is dating Dennis, an only child. Dennis' parents, Judy and Dave, are also only children. The man in the hat standing on the thresher in the above photo/postcard is Judy's dad, Al. Since he died in 1984, she's guessing it was taken just shortly before then.

Al and his wife grew up on farms in adjoining towns in Nebraska before getting married in 1940. In 1941 they moved to California, where their only child, Judy (Dennis' mom), was born (in 1942) and now lives with Dave. As we speak, Amy has just arrived in Los Angeles to meet Dennis' mom and dad (Judy and Dave) for the first time, before leaving for Hawaii tomorrow with Dennis for a week. (Be envious all you want but this has been a long time coming and they both deserve it!)

Okay! That's the background.

Judy (Dennis' mom) has been what we'd call a "lurker" on my blog for several weeks now, reading back into my archives to learn as much about Amy as possible before meeting her tonight. In the process, she's been reading about all the farm references I've made since going to Ruth and Don's farm a couple weeks ago. So in her first contact with ME, the mother of Dennis' girfriend, Amy, my daughter (just want to make sure you're listening!), she sent me this picture yesterday of her dad on the farm.

We all know what ALOHA means in the Hawaiian language. Did you know that OHANA means family! So even though this is a bit ahead of the story, since Dennis and Amy aren't (yet) married, do you see the incredible irony of all these only-child people connecting to an entire shootin'-kaboodle tribe of people from whence Amy and I come!

As they say, truth is always better than fiction! And this is one helluva story thus far! Stay tuned, of course, and read whatever you'd like in-between the lines :)

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Redux: St. Petersburg, Russia #1

Thinking "my prerogative" is sometimes a good way to go, I've decided to break up the St. Petersburg port-of-call on our cruise into 2 parts since we were there 2 days and covered more territory. So, this is part one, day one, of a city of opposites. (The first-day photo album is 200 pics, which is reason enough to split it up!)

When I say a "city of opposites," I'm talking about a city--a country--that is the best of times and the worst of times, as Dickens would say. We had listened to a seminar on the ship before arriving and were prepared for what we saw. This is a country with a high mortality rate, lots of rust and decay, paranoia, and helplessness. Behind the times. Not on the cutting edge. Ironically, that's exactly what greeted us at the pier where we docked. Both days we drove through extreme poverty to get to the extreme opulence of the Tsars and Peter the Great. It was quite unsettling. Security guards were everywhere and, as you might remember, this was the only city on the cruise for which we had to go through passport control. No passport control, no getting off the ship. So sad. This is what begins the photo album.

We made 2 stops on our 4-1/2 hour afternoon tour and had the chance to switch gears, as it were, to the other Russia. The Russia that gleams with pride over its rich history. The Peterhof Pavilions of the Russian Tsarinas were luscious. Extravagant. Summer homes of the rich and famous! To die for. How could you not love the creative, artistic flare. In one of the photos you'll see a pic of the booties we had to wear over our shoes while inside. Protecting and preserving is the name of the game.

From the pavilions we drove to the Lower Gardens of Peterhof's Great Palace to see the myriad fountains. The Great Cascade in the photos is spectacular, sitting in front of the palace. This fountain here is the Lion Cascade and is just one of many that Peter the Great had constructed on his "property" of 1000 hectares. All fountains are supplied with water from reservoirs from the Upper Gardens by the use of sluices and gravity, rushing through pipes from the height of 16 meters. 150 fountains. This particular tour did not take us inside the palace. It didn't need to. We were totally mesmerized by the outside on a gloriously sunshiny day. Guess we'll have to go back for the inside tour!

I certainly don't claim to understand or know much about Russia after a couple days of impressions. But impressions I do have...and lots of photos! My part two/day two will add more, of course. Once I plow through those pics, you'll see her mystery. Who was she; who is she; and who will she become?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Skull and Crossbones

DO NOT PLAY WITH POISON! And I'm not kidding. After exactly 5 weeks ago today, I am FINALLY over a severe allergic reaction to poison ivy. No clue where I got it. If not from our own yard (the first time in 8 years?), maybe from the dogs at Donica's mom's house. Doesn't matter.

Here's what I learned: if ever I even THINK I have it again, I will go immediately, if not sooner, to the doctor's to get a steroid injection. I waited 2 weeks this time, thinking with every day that surely it would go away, kinda like a cold. No way. So next time, I will get the injection and the prescription steroid pills ASAP.

Interestingly, I have since read that because of global warming, these poison plants are growing bigger and more virulent. It's also possible to become more allergic over time. Donica's mom told me the other day she initially thought I might have to be hospitalized, it seemed that bad to her. Thank God I didn't.

Another thing is that the body remembers! I'm still itching and still scratching, in the same spots, even though I'm not having to use any of the above remedies. I learned in massage school years ago that the body does remember its traumas, however big or small.

So, I've learned my lesson and am definitely smarter than a month ago. I tell you, these poisons are nothing to play around with! Trust me.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

When You Can't Go to the Farm

You know I've been on a farm kick for awhile now, ever since our weekend at Ruth and Don's farm in Michigan. Then she did her post on the cow, which I just had to use in my last post. And then this happened yesterday while Donica and I were driving to Amy's! I was driving but we were stopped at a stoplight. So I whipped out my pocket camera (not my Canon 12x optical zoom) and this is what I got.

Remember, this is Hotlanta, so those 3 horsies HAD to stick out their heads for air! I could hardly be still enough to take the pic, I was laughing so hard. They reminded me of dogs forever hanging out car windows...and the song, "How much is that doggie in the window!"

You know they say that if you stare at someone long enough, they'll turn and look back at you. Bingo!

See, Ruth and Don? You started this. When we can't go to the farm, the farm will come to us!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Holy Cow!

Ruth's Photo, used with permission

Some of you know that my educational background is Linguistics. Imagine my utter surprise and delight to read today that British farmers claim their cows have regional accents.

Lloyd Green, from southwest England, was one of a group of farmers who first noticed the phenomenon.

"I spend a lot of time with my Friesians, and they definitely moo with a Somerset drawl,” he said, referring to the breed of dairy cow he owns.

“I think it works the same as with dogs — the closer a farmer’s bond is with his animals, the easier it is for them to pick up his accent.”

Apparently a similar phenomenon has been found in birds. I think it's hysterical...and totally believable. I once sat alone with a parakeet for several hours and when I finally realized how much it was talking (totally oblivious Ginnie!), I started writing down everything it said. Okay, that's one thing. But when it started whispering some things (like it's owner, Nora, did), THAT was when I freaked out with excitement as a linguist.

So YES, I believe this stuff!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

An Old Soul

Time for another Nicholas Story! This one happened this morning while Amy was driving him to school. It brought tears to my eyes!

First of all, Nicholas (6, in 1st grade) has always picked up on lyrics (like his mom!) and can repeat them better than I can. That's important to know. Amy's beau, Dennis, had just given her this Tommy Sims CD, so Amy was listening to it in the car. The first track (click on above image for a listen) is "Which Way" and has a line that says, "One hand on the Bible, one hand on the gun...which one will you choose?"

Amy says she looked back at Nicholas and saw him quietly looking out the window. Just as she looked, he turned to her, raised his hand and said, "I choose the Bible!" Then he asked "Which one do you choose, Mommy?"

I heard awhile back that the kids of this new generation are Old Souls--wise beyond their years. I totally believe it!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Network of Memories

Submitted to Tuesdays Photos for the theme: NETWORK

First of all, I don't mean to freak you out by a photo of my (aged) hand, but see the itty-bitty band next to the big one? That's my mom's wedding ring.

When Mom died in 1997, we 4 "step-sisters" decided to share her ring amongst us by wearing it for periods of time and then passing it on. We've got it down to a science by now: Susan wore it for a year and gave it to me on Farm Day for my turn. Next year I'll pass it on to Nancy; then Nancy will pass it on to Ruth. The cycle will then repeat itself.

Interestingly, that night at The Farm when Susan gave it to me (and I couldn't sleep!), it dawned on me (for the first time!) that each of us 4 sisters has one daughter each. There will be a time, if they so wish, to pass the baton on to them, to keep their grandma-memory alive.

So with this ring, Mom/G'ma, we keep you wedded to our spirits. There is very definitely a network of memories wound up in that one small symbol, passed on from generation to generation!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Expiration Dates

Happy 5-0 Birthday, Ruth!

Okay. Stick with me on this because you know my "little sister," the youngest of our Sib Tribe, is our very special, favorite sister. We wouldn't think of "expiring" her!

BUT, have you ever noticed how we think of milestone birthdays? Ruth turns 50 today but in actuality, she ENDS 50 today. She not only ends 50, she ends a decade--her fifth. Today she starts her 51st year and her 6th decade.

Don't worry. None of this makes Ruth any older than she already is. Nor will she feel older, I'm quite sure. After all, she's the youngest of us all and knows it. Wait till Nelson turns 70 in 5-1/2 more years. She'll really feel old young then :)

HAPPY BIRTHDAY (again and again), Ruth!

Monday, August 21, 2006


The Tuesdays Photos theme this week is FAVOURITE. Favorite what? I guess it's favorite photo, of course, of anything we want. But how can you pick a favorite from 1000s of pics!

You can't, of course, but's here's one of my favorites from The Farm a week ago. In the early morning as the sun rose over the dew-laden fields, there were spider webs like this everywhere. Both days! Nephew Paul had told me about such webs at the cottage in July and told me to take the picture toward the sun for this effect. Even closer you could see the dew drops (click image for better view)!

How little did we know years ago that the World Wide Web would catch so many of us in its clutches! I look at these radiating, intricately-woven silken threads and see lines of communication to each and every one of us willing to be "caught." What a web; what a Neighborhood; what a world!

Caught, indeed! Guilty as charged!


Donica Update: First of all, our many thanks for your prayers and thoughts for both of us. I have good news to report:

1) This past Friday Donica had her last of 3 steroid injections into the ilioinguinal nerve that had caused her lower abdominal pain. The doctor doesn't know why it takes 3 but it appears to be the charm she needed. In 3 weeks, if the pain is not completely gone, he'll remove the nerve surgically. Right now it appears that she's gonna be okay!

2) Also on Friday the urologist told us that he and 2 other radiologists do NOT agree with the first radiologist who said the spot on her left kidney is solid (renal cell carcinoma). 3 of them believe it's a cyst filled with fresh blood that will be dried up in 3 months when Donica goes back for another CT scan.

With that good news, Donica will now move ahead with plans for our next trip back to Germany. In other words, things are no longer "on hold." Hurray!

The WWW is wondrously strong to bind us together like this, isn't it!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Musical Chairs

Don't you just love certain chairs and how inviting they can be, singing to you, as it were: "Come sit on me!" That's exactly how I felt on The Farm as I went around with my camera. So many "invitations;" so little time. Here are 10 of them (click image to enlarge):

Before you even go inside the 100-year-old (but rennovated) farm house, this porch chair invites you to watch and listen as the dawn breaks. There are two of them, so you can share the music!

During our family reunion, Ruth put out more chairs like this one that took me back to my childhood. Yup. One of Dad's chairs that I grew up with. Music from one generation to another!

We spent almost all our time outdoors in the spectacular weather, but every time we went upstairs to our bedroom, we passed through the living room. As the morning sun broke through the windows, I heard the singing again.

Speaking of upstairs, this chair is on the landing, just outside the bathroom door. It's the bird-watching chair, believe it or not. There's a huge juniper tree outside the window, attracting rare bluebirds. I think the chair and the birds have a singing competition.

In Ruth's atelier/studio in one of the farm's out-buildings, here's the beginnings of a transformation. From a chicken coop to a place for relaxation and meditation!

In the same atelier is the chair-hammock that Lesley gave to Ruth. It's so comfortable that Ruth says she can fall asleep sitting up in it. Snoring is music to some people's ears!

Again, in the atelier, are these random chairs sitting in front of the windows. I didn't arrange them. They were just there and reminded me of my choir days. "Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So-La-Ti-Do!" Those two front chairs are 200 years old! No wonder they sing.

Out in the yard are the Adirondack chairs that Ruth and Don made from scratch. YES! From pine wood. They did their own staining and varnishing. Spartan green (MSU) but I forgive them.

See the barn in the background? As you walk away from the farmhouse and the barn, out onto the 5 acres of woods and fields, you follow a maze of paths that Don mowed with his tractor. How 'bout this spot for whistling a tune! Or listening to the rustling of the grasses and leaves! Don built that "chair" from split wood.

This may be my favorite chair of all, on a sunny day. Don bought it for $1 at a yard sale and on his own placed it on the path under the shade of some trees. I wonder if Peter ever sits out here to write his songs. Hmm. I think even I could write some good songs if I sat there for awhile!

Well, you get the point. It's just a magical place. Our family has always been a musical family (thanks to Mom!), so it doesn't surprise me one bit that The Farm would be so receptive to Musical Chairs. Thanks, Ruth and Don, for making the music count!

This Gift of The Farm has definitely been a gift that keeps on giving!

Friday, August 18, 2006

The Actual Farm Itself

Not to be confused with the Farm Day get-together with all the family, this is a post about Don and Ruth's farm in Michigan, an hour's-plus drive outside of Detroit. I was able to pare this farm album down to 100 pics (ha).

As you drive onto their 5-acre property, you're immediately drawn to the warm, inviting 100-year-old rennovated farmhouse. You'd love that place, inside and out. I took only a few pics inside but from those I took, you'll get the idea of how wonderfully soulful it is.

Actually, it may be a toss-up as to what you're drawn to first, the house or the barn. Besides the sheer immensity of the structure, I love the aqua green paint chosen by the previous owner (I assume). Have you ever thought about why barns are so huge (me neither)? When you go inside you really feel dwarfed by the magnitude. For some reason, I did NOT spend time inside to check out the nooks and crannies with my camera (except for a couple of shots in my other album of the little group that went inside) . Maybe next time.

To the right of the barn are these 3 darling out-buildings, all painted in that same calming aqua green. The shed on the left is the tractor's abode. The middle building is the catch-all shed. And the one on the right is the atelier/studio that Don and Ruth are transforming for R&R and meditation.

By now you know that when you open the door, there really IS a (sexy) tractor!

This is what beckons you at the far end of the atelier.

This is what you first see as you walk into the atelier. Ruth says that one day they plan to add a free-standing pot-belly stove for the winter months. They're even talking about flooding the field outside for ice skating and using this place as the hot-house. Wouldn't that be spectacular!

Ruth said something while we were there last weekend that I've been thinking about. Since everyone has the same reaction of soulfulness while being there, she wonders if we all have a "sense of farm" in us. Kinda like we were born with it. Hmm. What do you think?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Teach Your Children Well

This CSNY song has been running through my head all morning as I've worked on this post. Our kids are our treasure; we are theirs. Farm Day was a time when it showed all day long. The two-way street. The raw, un-photoshopped album, 300 pics, is done. (I had an epipahny of sorts the other day when I realized that every family unit has at least one member who can crop/edit photos, so I'll let them do it.)

Audrey, Lydia & Eli at Story Time with Aunt Peggy

Did you organize this, Ruth? All the activities for the adults was one thing. The pics show Lesley and Don setting up the volleyball, badmitton, ping-pong and croquet. Oh yes, and the bales of hay for the bonfire. But who organized Peg having story time? And who orchestrated the arts and crafts? And picking blackberries? And coloring with chalk on the driveway?

Ever and Faith

Eli painting a birdhouse & eating his blackberries

Aden, the youngest; Audrey the day after

Eli & Greta watching the tractor; Greta eating

I actually have tears in my eyes as I see these photos all over again. We ARE teaching our children well. They in turn are teaching us. "So just look at them and sigh and know they love you."

That's what Farm Day was all about! Thanks, Don and Ruth (again and again).

[There were 2 other kids, Casey and Sydney, who could have been added to the above photos, since they're of the 3rd generation--kids of our kids. However, since they're older kids, I decided they wouldn't mind. Right, Casey and Sydney?]

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Tractor Really IS Sexy!

Okay. I'm still on Farm Day, of course, with a lot left to get out of my system (HA). You know by now that this is not an animal farm. It's a TRACTOR farm :)

So near the end of the day, when the kids despaired, I'm sure, of ever seeing the tractor again, Uncle Don opened up the shed doors and there she was. What a beaut! Todd got to drive it first (heck, I could have driven it, too, but I was the photographer, right?!) and, yes, all the parts were exactly where Don last left them.

Then the mamas and g'mas had to make sure Uncle Don knew what he was doing before entrusting the kids to him. NOT. Everyone trusts Uncle Don, so it was simply a matter of who goes first. ME ME ME!!! Oops. I mean Audrey.

So little Eli and Greta just patiently awaited their turn. It paid off because eventually it WAS their turn.

I declare, folks, it doesn't get much better than this! There's Uncle Don and proud papa Todd watching Audrey go exactly where she expected to go all along. I don't know if SHE thinks the tractor is sexy but the rest of us thought it was the best thing since sliced bread, and that's pretty sexy!

(Thanks, Kenny!)

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Then and Now

First things first! Even before showing you exactly how sexy the tractor really is, Farm Day created a memory that runs as deep as the ages. ALL 7 OF US SIBS WERE THERE! This doesn't even happen at the cottage each year, so this was BIG.

(r to l) Nelson, Susan, Boots (moi), Nancy, Bennett, Jim, John & Ruth

Remember this "then" photo from 1962! You had to appreciate Dad's humor. He took great delight in calling us his step-children. All 8 of us. Nelson (now 64) and little Ruthie (who turns 50 next week!) were our bookends.

(r to l) Nelson, Susan, Boots (moi), Nancy, Jim, John & Ruth

Since I was the "unofficial official" photographer at Farm Day, I made sure nephew Paul took a "now" photo. Of course, it had to be a step photo!

Bennett was there. You just don't see him. I remember reading a poem after he died about another woman who lost a brother from a family of 8 kids. I wish like the dickins I could find it but basically she said "there are 8 of us." Always in the present tense.

So, here we are, from whence all else comes. HA. I'm still sorting through the photos (have them down to 627 from 822). All in all, there were 34 of us on Saturday! That's a tribe by any stretch of the imagination, then OR now!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Still Struttin' Their Stuff!

After a FABULOUS weekend on The Farm, we plopped into bed at 11p last night, went for Donica's second steroid injection first thing this morning, and now I face 822 photos before going over to babysit Nicholas this evening! Don't worry, most of them will get deleted but it IS a daunting task, so I'll just tackle them bit by bit (mostly for the family). You'll get the snippets as they come to me in categories for posts.

In the meantime, Dennis (Amy's beau) asked me in comments "btw, how was the concert?" So I'm gonna start there, since it was Thursday night, before leaving for The Farm.

Last week I had posted here and there, making reference to The Wars we're somehow not avoiding these days. Then I expected to be done with it, since I'm not too good at politics on my blog.

Wouldn't you know, it popped up all over again BIG TIME, totally unplanned for me, during the Crosby Stills Nash & Young concert we attended on Thursday. Suddenly, I was overwhelmed by long-lost memories of the Vietnam War from my college days, 1963-67. (Donica says this CSNY tour is their first one--all 4 of them together--since 1974.)

I thought about all the protests, the war graffiti, the VW buses, the flower people, Woodstock, Peter Paul & Mary. I thought about Barkley Bowman, my one date with him my freshman year, and how shocked I was when I later found out he was killed in the war. I thought of the draft and how Bill (my Ex) was rejected because of a vein-stripping surgery on his left leg. The doctor gave him a clean bill of health but the military didn't want him.

And then I thought about how nobody wanted the war as it progressed! But did we learn anything from that?! Does every generation have to have its own war to find out for themselves what war means to them?? UGH!

Apart from all that, those old geezers can still strut their stuff! Their music, sadly, is still so apropos. You know Donica--she has to have her music and her concerts! Lucky me, I'm along for the ride and, I see, the memories.

[Thus ends my sermon.]

Friday, August 11, 2006

Down On the Farm

(Ruth's photo, used with permission)

Okay, 'fess up. How many of you think of Kenny Chesney's She Thinks my Tractor's Sexy every time you see a tractor or think of the farm! HA! I do and that's probably 'fessing a lot :)

Anyhoo, Donica and I hop on a plane this afternoon from Atlanta to Detroit (no, not from London!) for my sister Ruth's and Don's Farm Day for the family. This is their 2nd time in 3 years to host a day on their farm but it's our first to attend. Practically the entire family will be there on Saturday, just like when at the cottage. Man! That's a lot of people! Those spending the night will be in tents, in the different barns/sheds, plus the house.

I can hardly wait to show you the pics. It's gonna be a riot. And as far as we can tell, the weather will be absolutely perfect: highs in the high 70's and lows in the 50's, with no precipitation. (Renny from Oslo is gonna love this since he and his family just went to a farm in Sweden!)

Oh yes, I'm quite sure Don will show off his tractor and probably try to get us to drive it ourselves, if we want. That's okay, Don. You're sexy enough on it all by yourself!

(No laptop for me!! But we'll be back on Sunday evening, so ciao for now! )

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Redux: Tallinn, Estonia

One reason why I love blogging is because I can make my own "executive decisions!" As Amy often says, "Mom, it's your blog!"

So, I've decided to jump from Helsinki (4th port) to Tallinn (6th port), leaving St. Petersburg (5th port) for the end, since it was our only 2-day stop (and thus more photos!). Besides, I've been chomping at the bit to get the Tallinn photo album done since it was our favorite stop on the entire cruise.

If you click on my original post from June 4th, you'll see another set of pics, in case you don't want to go through another 200-photo album. I loved the foggy morning when we stood on top of Toompea Hill and overlooked the city--Old Town in the foreground with modern Tallinn behind. Here you see the steeple of the Town Hall from 1404.

You know by now that I'm a total glutton for churches and spires of any sort. You'll see pics from 3 main Old Town churches, as well as the Russian Orthodox church, St. Alexander Nevski Cathedral, from 1900. This one here is the St. Nicholas Church, or Niguliste, as it's called locally. My eyes and ears always perk up, of course, with anything Nicholas!

I'm adding this photo of the beggars outside the Russian Orthodox church because Tallinn was the only city on the cruise where we saw them, in several different spots. They somehow know when and where to go for the tourists who might be sympathetic. It reminded me about the fact that the poor we always have with us!

In Catherine's Passage, one of the lovely alleys through Old Town, we saw such fantastic photo ops as this simple window. You can't BUY that kind of age! I'm a glutton for it as well.

This clock on the side of the Holy Ghost Church has been telling the right time to the people of Tallinn since the 17th century. That's a long time! But that's not nearly as old as the rest of this quaint, medieval city, going all the way back to 1154. By 1248 Tallinn was granted city rights and became a full-scale member of Western Europe's Hanseatic League.

I would go back to Tallinn spit-spot, if I could! I'm sure we only scratched the surface. The book we bought calls it "a medieval crossroads." It doesn't get much better than that. St. Petersburg will have an opulent beauty, in my next Redux. But nothing is like the beauty of Age, as far as I'm concerned. (Maybe THAT'S why I don't mind getting old. HA!)