Have you entered the storehouses of the snow...Job 38:22

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I CAN CHOOSE

I’m in an odd mood today. I’m not sure it is a good mood or bad mood.  It is probably neither, it just is odd.  I had an odd dream about people I used to know in CT.  He was a leader at the Senior and Disabled Center in Newington and she was British.  She was the first one to suggest my youngest daughter’s name.  I knew the name, but she was the one who suggested it for the child I was carrying.  I could recall her name but couldn’t his.  Finally, it came.  However, their last name still escapes me.


It started me thinking about the past.  I am thinking about loss.  I was thinking about people I’ve known who still matter to me but who have gotten so busy that they’ve forgotten me.  It seems that the human plight is to forget.  We forget so quickly people who loved us, worked hard for us, cared for us and prayed for us.  People like a former pastor.  Or friend who I gave my heart and soul to that never bother to answer an email or keep in touch.  I guess that’s the way life is – people move on.  I told my grandson the other night that friends come and go and occasionally, if you are lucky, you’ll find a lifelong friend.  It is family that usually will be there for you.

However, that’s not completely true either.  I have two brothers.  When we had our last angry parting, one of the brothers said something like this: “I don’t think we want to be the type of people that down the road say I once had a sibling but I don’t know anything about them.”  I said I didn’t care.  I still don’t really care.  It’s just I am still hurt and angry about how they treated me.  I still want to scream at them.  This Christmas as money was so tight with food and presents scant I thought how the chain goes back to their greediness for money that didn’t belong to them.  I thought of the terrible things they did to my mother and to me. I thought of lying to my mother that they cared and their presence was there. But there is nothing I can do about it.

But we never were destined to be close.  I came when they were half grown.  They moved on in their lives and never had time for me.  It’s the same with some of my own children.  The eldest ones hardly know the younger ones.  I hope and pray that they do always remember that they are their siblings and treat them right though.

I guess I’m feeling sad about losses today.  There have been a lot of them.  My life has been turned upside down and rearranged so many times.  There have been too many moves and no opportunity to have roots.  There have been too many friends that I have loved that have forgotten me-too many family members who forget.  A career that fell on the rocks because of evil vindictive people and so many missed opportunities – they do take their toll.

Yet, I have hope for the future.  I’ve lost all hope at times.  I know the depths of despair and depression.  I know how it feels to be cast-off and abandoned.  But I’ve learned to stop.  To stop and reflect rather than react so you can choose.  I still need a lot of practice in stopping.  In my sadness today I am stopping and saying I can choose.  I am not powerless.  I can choose.  I can choose to believe the truth.  I can choose to have hope. 

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Tennessee Christmas

It’s Christmas morning.  Overnight, God took his sifter and dusted the trees and ground with white snow.  It’s pretty.  Snow and Christmas just go together.  Here are some of the views from my windows in Tennessee.

It’s nothing like the snow that falls in South Dakota.  It isn’t like the snow that falls in Connecticut or the snow of my youth in New York City.  Truly South Dakota is a storehouse of snow.

I will probably never know all the reasons God sent me to the storehouse of snow.  I am sure that years from now, I’ll still be pondering this experience, trying to make sense of both its pain and occasional joys.  As hard as I tried, when ultimately we leave and return south, I will miss some people very deeply.

We had a good Christmas.  It could have been very slim.  A “savior” stepped in and saved us.  We were able to shop and have a meal.  Last night it was ziti, sauce, and meatballs, simple food to get us to the main event of reading the Christmas story and opening presents.  Everyone had plenty to eat.  A few cookies, a slice of julekake, a cup of coffee before the fun began.


I guess I like tradition.  When I was a young mother with two small boys, I decided that we needed them.  There was never any doubt that we’d open presents on Christmas Eve.  I am Norwegian.  That’s an absolute.  I wanted my children to hear the Christmas story as part of their festivities.  Every Christmas Eve the tradition is that the youngest child who can read, reads the story.  My youngest daughter is so glad there are some grandchildren around; she had that honor for many years.  This year we deviated, I had my 17 year old grandson read Luke 2:1-20.  I video recorded it.  It is such a testimony to God’s faithfulness.  You can read more about this here.

Sometimes I pray, sometimes I don’t.  That part of the tradition never stuck.  Then the youngest child opens a present.  In turn, youngest to oldest each person gets a chance to open.  Each one waits their turn.  Some people may like mayhem but I always wanted to see the look on each child’s face as they opened their present.  It was like savoring a fine meal.  I can still see my children when they were young as their eyes burst open and the squeals came out. 

Over the last few years, our Christmases have had a hollowness to them.  Too many of the family is missing.  I still have allusions of massive family Christmases.  When the children were little I would imagine all 8 of them home for Christmas.  We’ve swelled to a small tribe of over 20 but we only had eight last night.  But there was joy.  There was a joy in the family I haven’t experienced for a while.  Maybe it’s me.  Maybe the long days and nights in the storehouse of snow have changed me.  I know they have and like Mary, I ponder them in my heart.

I miss my mother.  I sat in the chair she normally sat in at Christmas.  She’d say with each gift, “oh, I don’t deserve this.”  After a box of tea, a new shirt, new pj’s, perhaps some jars of jelly, she’d go off to her room for the night with tears in her eyes.  Yet, I know that she is in heaven with my dad, with her best friend Marguerite who joined her a few months after she got there.  She’s there to hug the child I lost, the grandchild I lost and all the others who have gone.  She’s happy.  She’s very happy.  She’s a peace.  Most of all, she’s seen Jesus.

It’s another Christmas.  In a few days we’ll head back to the storehouses of snow for more lessons.  I’m a better student now.  I’m ready for the snow.  

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Holding Your Nose

When I was a kid, most medicines were not flavored.  Like the old Little Rascal’s series where Alfalfa has to take medicine and he puts a clothes pin on his nose, I wished for a clothes pin.  I would occasionally hold my nose.  I remember taking aspirin.  I think you could buy children’s flavored aspirin, good ol’ St. Joseph’s.  I don’t know whether it was because it sounded Catholic and we avoided all things Catholic as a child or if it was that it just cost unnecessary money but we never had it.  Instead my mother would take an aspirin, break it in two and then two again.  The ¼ aspirin would then be crushed between two spoons.  A few drops of water were added along with some sugar.  My mother would come with the spoon saying I needed to drink some sugar water.  It did mask the aspirin taste a little bit.  It was a good day when I finally learned to swallow a pill.

My experience in South Dakota is a bit like taking medicine that tastes bad.  I have always known deep in my soul that God was in control and He had a purpose in sending me to South Dakota.  I don’t much get into discussions of God’s perfect will.  I don’t know if this was “His will.”  I do know that God is with us where ever we go and that He does work all things for our benefit. 

While it is true that I came kicking and screaming up here, I’ve never doubted there was a reason, a purpose to it all.  I’ve experienced a lot of pain in this South Dakota crucible.  You’ve read about it here on these pages.  There will be more pain.  There is always more pain in this life.  Anyone who tells you different is delusional or just not honest.  I am not saying all pain is good either.  But pain tells you something is wrong.  Pain demands you deal with it.

I’ve been dealing with pain I had neglected for the last few years here in this frozen desert.  I have feared for my sanity and my life.  I have cried many tears.  I have asked many questions.  I have come to the brink of despair and even death.  My emotions have been raw.  I experienced another dark night of the soul.  I found that in one’s life you can experience this more than once.  I begged God for relief.  I sought help and prayed even when I couldn’t pray. 

I’ve survived.  I’ve not only survived but I’m better.  Not better in the sense that a flaw has been righted but in the sense that I am a better person.  I have chased demons that have haunted me all my life in this wilderness of snow.  I have slayed a few and learned how to fight the others that still occasionally show their heads.  It’s not been easy.

I’ve learned so many things about myself, Joyce has been uncovered.  Joyce has been found once again.  She is ready to live the rest of her life.  She has hope once again.  The crucible always refines you.  I’ve held my nose and taken my medicine.  There was no spoonful of sugar to help this medicine go down.  But I’ve swallowed the medicine and it has made me whole. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Norwegian Chapati's

There is snow on the ground.  More is expected today.  A scant 2.4 inches is what the forecast says.  Nothing to get excited about in the Storehouse of Snow here in South Dakota.  I have Julekake proofing in the kitchen.  Plan to make some stew tonight for supper.  Just wish I had some good lamb to make lamb stew.  That was my favorite as a child and seem fitting when I think of Julekake and all things Norwegian.

I just finished listening to Jeg er så glad hver julekveld.  If you want to hear it, you can go here. It has such a haunting melody.  It reminds me of my childhood in Norwegian Brooklyn.  When the Julekake goes in the oven and the fragrance of cardamom fills the air, the memory will blossom further.


When I first came to South Dakota, other than seeing Mount Rushmore for the first time, the thing I was most excited about was reconnecting with Norwegians.  I remember my father and how he would seek out other Norwegians.  He loved connecting with his homeland and roots.  One time he somehow or other found some girl who was from Sweden who was attending William Woods College in Fulton MO.  I have no idea how he found her.  I do remember having to meet this striking blonde beauty.  She was a bit snobby.  However, my father just wanted to welcome her and make her feel comfortable. His father was Swedish.  Something we rarely talked about - but for my dad, Sweden was Norway's neighbor.  Living in Missouri that was about as close as he could get.

The first time we visited Brookings it was the weekend of the bi-annual Fjordland Sons of Norway Waffle Feed.  I really didn't expect authentic Norwegian waffles at a waffle feed.  Commercialized Belgium Waffles were the offered fare.  Sadly, I don't think they've ever tasted a true Norwegian waffle with lingonberry jam.  But I have.  I make them too - they are awesome.  I'll stack mine up against any Norwegian bakers.

My husband and I walked in to stares and glares.  I realized it was a small town but still, if you want to make money, you could be more pleasant.  Little did I know that this is just culture here.  I realized that yesterday as I walked the aisles of HyVee trying to be pleasant.  It's just how they are...

My husband feeling very magnanimous and over paid them.  He said this is a donation. He asked about membership. I'd love to know what was going through their heads as this Pakistan was asking to join Sons of Norway.  We asked to see the president of the lodge.  She was the only really pleasant person that day.  This trend has continued unfortunately.

We joined Sons of Norway.  I was rather excited.  I had never been a member of SONS.  I think when the eventual move back to Tennessee happens I'll try the Music City Vikings.  They look like a fun bunch.  My experience with Fjordland has been like everything else in South Dakota, very disappointing.  

The first year I was here in SD I decided to bake.  I made cookies and lefse.  I have always tried to do a bit of Norwegian baking for the holidays.  Nothing like my mom would do, but still an effort.  Here is a picture of a platter from that first year:


I was shocked to find out that here in SD they know nothing of Julekake or Fattigman.  I don't think they've ever heard Jeg er så glad hver julekveld, they've probably never been to a Juletrefest - and yet, somehow, they've never believed I was truly Norwegian.  How odd?!


Oh well, as they say, it's there loss.  I may have had a bad attitude in moving here, but I did try with things like Sons of Norway.  Really did want to connect with Norwegians here.  But the upper Midwest plains I guess took it's toll on them as well.  I'll enjoy my Julekake all by myself - oh and my Pakistani husband will be happy I made it too.  He even knows what it is.  And lefse?  He refers to them as "Norwegian Chapati's." I'll take mine with butter and sugar, no curry, thank you.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Are you a senior?

I'm in TN.  It's cold.  Not as cold as the freezer I normally abide in, but nevertheless, it is cold.  My daughter was shivering yesterday as she asked me if it was as cold in South Dakota as it was here.  She of course knew the answer. She's been to South Dakota.  She was there last January and told me that it was the coldest she had ever been.  She hasn't been back since.

I am here because I have class on Saturday.  My last class of the semester will include the first introduction to our Statistics teacher.  I'm dreading that.  I'm dreading that more than the snow that will fly while I am taking that class.  I keep telling myself that I'm reasonably smart and that although math has always been my nemesis, I can do this.  I have panic attacks at the sight of an equation that includes a square root symbol, an x or a y.  I have glaze over every time we talk of research methods in class.  I think it's going to be a long hard winter, in more ways than one.

Hopefully the winter in Tennessee will be mild and I will find a reprieve from the weather here often.  I may have to be here for the month of February as I have two classes that month. And it's a short month!  Maybe I'll have more experiences like the one I had last night.

Rather than tell you again about my experiences in the grocery store or at Wal-Mart in South Dakota, let me tell you about the experience at Publix last night.  For those of you not familiar with southern grocery chains, here we have several.  One is Publix which is probably my favorite although a bit more expensive.  We also have Kroger and Harris Teeter.  Nashville is fully blessed to have Trader Joe's and Whole Foods as well.  I used to think shopping at Whole Foods was too expensive, that was until I went to Pomegranates in Sioux Falls the other day. YIKES!!!

I didn't want to go to the store.  I was tired.  I had things on my mind.  But we needed a few things and needed to eat at home instead of out.  I picked up eggs and veggies and bread.  Standard fare.  I was turning an aisle by the frozen food and it happened.  While it wasn't a near collision, it was close.  This very pleasant woman pushing her "buggy" (a southern term for a grocery cart - a term I refuse to make part of my vocabulary).  She smiled!  She smiled so nicely.  I smiled back.  We went on about our business.  I called my husband at home and said you'll never guess what happened.  This woman and I had a brief exchange of pleasantness in Publix.  It was such a big deal to me that I had to share it.  Just like I'm sharing it with you.


I got to the check out.  The young man, looked like he was still in High School had evidently been taught manners.  He asked the standard, did you find everything you needed?  I said yes, thank you.  He said EXCELLENT! and smiled.  He went on to ask me how my day had been.  This was 9:30 p.m.  He must have been up at 6 a.m. to get to school on time.  He'd no doubt dealt with the hassles and stress of High School algebra - yes, I'm thinking about math again.  Nothing could be more stressful than Algebra - you know I managed to even get out of taking College Algebra but there's no getting out of statistics.


Back to the grocery store --- as he made a little bit of small talk with me - not a lot, just enough to let me know that he saw me as a human being, I thought how different is this?  Then he asked the question that no one wants to hear.  He said, are you eligible for our senior discount?  They give a senior discount on Wednesdays.  I said how old do you have to be?  He told me.  I sighed a sigh of relieve and said, no I'm not,.  He gave it to me anyway and I saved 5% on the order.  Maybe it won't be so bad and I'll get used to just saying yes, I am eligible.  I have put in the years after all.

What was strange about the whole thing was that I wasn't the least bit offended or upset at the question.  The kid was so nice and polite.  He was right, I am close to that age.

As I left the store, I clicked on the radio to listen to Dr. Asa On Call.  There was this man calling about his wife.  It was the sweetest thing I'd heard in a long time.  A gruff but very southern sounding truck driver was calling about his 47 year old wife who was fainting.  He said it scared the crap out of him.  He said he was "fixin" to do something and she just falls over.  He used every colloquial southern phrase and it was delightful. What was most delightful was his concern for his wife.  In it's own way, it was another southern experience of care and concern.  It warmed my heart to know that a Bubba can really show a soft side

So is this just another rambling of Joyce about the wonders of Tennessee compared to my angst about living in South Dakota?  No, I have a point here.  It's Christmas time.  It is a time where the difference between pleasantness and politeness verses rudeness and refinement can make all the difference in your day.  I am going to remember MY manners even when people don't show any and make my own happiness and pleasantness the next time I meander the aisles of the Brookings HyVee or the Brookings Wal-Mart.  Maybe you should do the same.  We'd all be happier for it.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Rambling

As the first real snow in Brookings SD is falling, I should be reading and annotating, working on my powerpoint, or my chapter two outline.  I am in pretty good shape but I still have a lot to do.  Nevertheless, I have so many ideas floating around in this head of mine and the itch to write.  And I don’t have the itch to write the boring dissertation stuff.  I could probably write ten blogs about different themes and still find something else that is on my mind.  My brain is like that.  It seems to never stop.  I sometimes wonder if that is a diagnosable mental disorder… My brain is fertile, too fertile sometimes.

South Dakota friends… and others, You will be happy to know that I get it… at least I think I do.   I get a few things finally.  I was peddling away on my exercise bike listening to praise music, jammin’ with Jesus, sweatin’ and looking at the snow fall.  I thought Okay, I think I get it.  If I grew up here, not only would this be home to me, but I’d have lived my life with fairly harsh conditions.  I’d be a product of my environment.  Now before you react and say “Oh there she goes again!”  Listen to what I’m trying to say.  I think about how this time in South Dakota has affected me.  It hasn’t been pleasant.  Largely it’s been a shock to everything about my life.  For me the changes were rapid and harsh.  But like the wind, rain and snow that slowly erodes and changes the land, so the weather erodes the spirit.  I was thinking this a.m. “How would I be if this was where I grew up?”  I’d probably have never learned that it is polite to say excuse me when you run people over with your cart at Wal-Mart.  I’d probably smile less.  I’d probably never say “God bless you” when someone sneezes.  These things are important to me.  But they aren’t to others.  It doesn’t really make them rude.   It just makes them different.  On the other hand, I’d probably value hard work over sentimentality.  I’d probably be less relational and more self-reliant.  I’d probably enjoy the wide open spaces..

You’ll be happy to know I finally have figured out why 4-H achievement days are important.  I have figured out why livestock takes priority over people.  I don’t like the fact that the roads won’t be cleaned in a timely manner, but I still get why it’s not a big deal here.  Yesterday I was in Sioux Falls and shocked to see that the 1” of snow they had on Monday was still covering some side streets.  I thought WHAT???? I shouldn’t be slipping on snow after 3 days… but I also get why it’s not important or a big deal.  It’s just how people live here. 

I’ve stopped fighting with South Dakota.  It was a battle I could never win anyway.  Someone asked me yesterday if when I leave here I’ll miss South Dakota.  I thought for a moment.  The expected answer is Heck, NO!!!  I am sure that is the answer some of you expect too – you figure this woman is going to party and shout when she leaves here.  She’ll be screaming hallelujah as she crosses the border for the last time.  And while I probably will be happy when I leave, I will miss South Dakota.  Oh I won’t miss snow and rude people, but I will miss many things about South Dakota when the time comes to finally leave.  South Dakota has changed me.  It’s harsh realities have actually made me a better person.  For that I am thankful. 

Okay, time to work on the important stuff like school... 

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Smile Sweetie

I live a lot of my life on Facebook.  I suppose that sounds very sad.  And it is.  However, it is how I've kept connections and sanity during the long stint in South Dakota.  People still don't understand how incredibly hard the adjustment (or in my case lack of adjustment) to SD has been.  I've said repeatedly it's not just the weather.  I understand that even some of the locals don't like bad weather.

Last week a Facebook acquaintance from South Dakota made a comment about hating the winter weather.  She's more a friend of a friend, but I've met her a few times.  She's a very overly positive person.  Those people are nice and it works for them.  But sometimes the drippy everything is perfect, make lemonade out of lemons type of people get on my nerves.  I had a friend in Connecticut who was like that too.  We are no longer friends and it is largely because she found my realism too much for her Pollyannistic view of life.  I do miss her though.

After this acquaintance commented on the weather, I made this comment:
When I say that, people get mad at me.

She replied:
I'm only talking about the weather, not the location or the people

Unable to leave it alone, I said:
It doesn't matter what I say - I can just say it's cold or icy and
 people jump down my throat, but oh, I guess that's the people, my bad...

Zing!!! Zingers.... It was obvious she didn't care for me.  It was obvious that she, like a few others in South Dakota feel the need to defend their fair state and its people. 

I wish they could have been with me this week in Tennessee.  While I will confess that the rudeness of Wal-Mart employees can be universal.  I ran into a few of them at Cheatham County's Wal-Mart.  Overall, I was once again amazed at the difference in people.  

Thanksgiving morning, unprepared for the feast, I went to Kroger to correct that situation.  My cart (buggy in the South) was getting full.  No one cut in front of me with their cart.  Those occasional potential corner collisions were met with a smile and an Oh Excuse Me from both us.  When I say oh, excuse me in Brookings, it is usually met with a glare rather than a smile.  

In the parking lot, a young man stood by my car waiting to take my cart, along with his, to it's waiting place in the parking lot.  He didn't work there.  He didn't have to do that.  He said to me, "May I take that Ma'am?"  I said, Oh Thank You - he said have a Happy Thanksgiving Ma'am.  


Then yesterday we made our last ritual stop in Tennessee.  We always stop at the Sudden Service gas station in Pleasant View, TN.  They have a Wendy's, a convenience store and best of all a Dunkin Donuts. One last cup of coffee for the road, and donuts to munch on as we travel.  Heavenly.  My husband paid for our gas purchase.  The young woman behind the counter called him "sweetie" - "Thanks Sweetie."  He is old enough to be her father, and I know it is just habit with her, but it still sounded nice.  

We purchased a few things at Wendy's.  There we heard, have a good day Hun... I guess there is something about cowboy boots and buckles that prevent that kind of endearments?  As I ate my spicy chicken nuggets I heard another woman at the register say to her customer, Ya'all have a blessed day.  You too replied the customer... Ahhh, I hated to leave the south.

Finally, we got our coffee to go.  And of course the sour cream donuts I love so much.  The young woman behind the counter was all smiles.  Her register wasn't working.  She had to go to the back for everything she did... She still smiled.  She went out of her way to be pleasant.  She greeted a regular by name but never missed a beat or a smile in her interactions with me. 

That was a nice way for Tennessee to say good bye to me yesterday.  Soon it will welcome me back home again.  Until then, I'll try to remember not to smile in Brookings and to forget my manners or say excuse me.  I've adjusted.  It is the people.  They are different.  I suppose they aren't bad.  They like each other.  Maybe they even remember to say please and thank you and excuse me among themselves... but they just don't smile.  

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Faithfulness is more important than happiness

I wonder how many times I have gone through this feeling of dread in the last two and half years.  Has it only been that long?  Two and a half years?   As I count on my fingers, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November…. Yes, it’s actually been two years and eight months since I first saw Brookings SD.  But who’s counting


I’ve written before of my husband’s elation and my sorrow when he first was summoned to work for the people of South Dakota.  I am often chastised because of my comments about the people of South Dakota.  I suppose I view them through my own lens and since I do, I see them differently than someone who finds the Dakotas home.  Some people feel the same way about my beloved Brooklyn.

Today I am heading north again.  I wish this were the last time.  I don’t know when the last time will be, it is just a reality of life now.  I am reminded of the words of my professor, “It’s not for forever but it is for now.”  It just is.  It is how my life is lived at this present moment in time.  I live like a yo-yo on a string being pulled here and there seemingly against my will.

Yet, it is my choice.  I could stay in Tennessee.  I’ve always had that choice to stay here.  I have a home here.  I have children here.  And in retrospect, the correct decision would have been to stay here.  It is my husband who is bound to the people of South Dakota, not me.  Yet, I am bound to him in this love relationship of 32 years.  Over and over, every time I get in that car to head north I am saying “I do…for better or worse.” 

I want to stay here.  I can’t describe to you how I feel when I come home.  I am sure you know the feeling of coming home.  But this is different.  There is a lightness and a contentment that comes over me that is hard to describe.  Today I have the opposite of that feeling.  Today I feel the dread and angst of not just two days of being in a small car, but of returning to a place that is not home.

Like the marines, there are a few good people in South Dakota.  I’ve met some of them.  There is the professor at the seminary who I’ve only met briefly in person who still cheers me on and encourages me.  What a gift!  There are the beautiful friends I’ve made at Grandview Covenant Church.  They are true gems.  I have been so blessed to know them.  I feel the same sadness of leaving that I feel now when I think of the day I will not see them.  Then there is my un-coffee buddy.  She’s help me cope in ways she can’t imagine.  And my wise woman – the wise woman who has known my darkest secrets and my deepest pain and held my hand as I walked through a maze of despair.

In a couple of hours I’ll get in my tiny 2003 red Chevy Cavalier, what a story I could tell you about that car.  Like me, she’s old but she has been so faithful.  I’m being faithful today too.  I am returning with my husband to South Dakota because it is the right thing to do.  Sometimes I get tired of doing the right thing.  Sometimes I wish I didn’t have this strong moral compass telling me to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” or telling me to “love unconditionally.”  But I do have this compass, and ultimately I am thankful for it.  I think it is the compass that guided 32 years of marriage. 

Today I’ll renew my vows again.  I will forsake all others and keep myself to my husband.  I will say “I do” not with the giddy joy of a bride, but with the wisdom of an old woman.  A wisdom that tells me that faithfulness is more important than happiness. 

Someday we will say good bye to South Dakota.  Someday I will have one place to live again.  Someday… but that day is not today.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

That Four Letter Word S--W

I had a good day yesterday.  That's odd for South Dakota.  Although perhaps it's not as odd as I make it out to be on this blog.  The problem never has been really South Dakota, the problem was always me.  South Dakota does make me crazy.  South Dakota does make me sad.  South Dakota has drug me to the pits of depression. However, it's really not because South Dakota is some how inherently evil.  It just is like oil and vinegar, or any other two elements that can never fully integrate, I am not a good in South Dakota.

It's fine to say that South Dakota can't change for me, to say that it is me who has to change to accommodates it's ways, it's weather, it's idiosyncrasies, it's people.  But I can't.  I've tried. I can however, learn to navigate this hostile terrain safely.

There was a bit of rain yesterday that was a harbinger of the snow to come.  I've been checking weather.com, accuweather.com, weatherbug and the national weather service.  All with the anticipation of the dreaded four letter word, snow.

When I was a kid, I think I loved snow.  I remember building snow forts.  While I pine away with romanticized visions of life in Brooklyn, Brooklyn has changed perhaps even more than I have.  There are but scan few Norwegians left in my old neighborhood.  8th Avenue is a China Town.  The 17 of May parade, still held in Brooklyn, now marches in a different direction on a different Avenue. Salem Gospel Tabernacle is no longer Salem, it is Sunset Park Community church.  There are no string bands or Smörgåsbord or Juletree Fests.  But it still snows in Brooklyn.  Snow seems to be a constant in my life.

I had a conversation about snow today with my husband.  It really wasn't about snow.  It was about me and snow.  I've been doing all this weather checking because I have to head south again for class on Saturday.  I was contemplating do I leave tomorrow or Thursday.  Two days of driving in a little 2003 Chevy Cavalier that like me, is feeling her age.  I've driven in extreme snow many times and survived.  But I'd rather not do it again.
Cows, South Dakota and Snow - all synonymous
Oh I signed on for this so I supposed I shouldn't complain.  But here is where this all comes together.  Snow can be predicted but is always unpredictable.  A slight change can dump more snow or less snow.  Today's snow will not be like tomorrow's snow.  The snow in Brooklyn is a different experience than the snow in Missouri.  The trace snow in Tennessee does not compare to the mountains of snow in Connecticut. And of course nothing is like the powdery whiteout blizzards of South Dakota.

I want predictable.  Oh not that I'm not fun loving and like adventure and new experiences, I do... but when they are done, I want predictable.  I want to know that if I plan to go to Tennessee on this day, that's the day I'll go.  I want to know that if I plan to get up in the morning and do this or that, that by the time the day is over I've done this or that.  I want only occasional changes in my life-not constant the every day something changes patterns of my life here.

Thats the problem here in South Dakota -- besides the cows and the rudeness and all the other things I complain about, the real problem is me.  I want some stability.  I want to know where home is.  I want to not have my life reordered and changed.  Like the rapid changing weather patterns here in this Storehouse of Snow, I find the changes paralyzing and depressing.  If the weather has to change, can it not change so fast? Can I have a warning that it's changing?

My husband's job makes extreme demands on him.  He's become a soldier - no I don't mean he's joined the military, I mean he is a soldier.  He's always ready for the changes and demands. He sets aside his emotions and just does it. He never checks the weather reports.  He never considers whether the weather might change.  He just packs up and goes.  I can't do that - that's why he's adjusted to South Dakota and all the places we've lived so much faster than I have.

Snow is coming - change is coming - and it keeps coming - the cold dark depression of winter is setting in to South Dakota.  I'm not ready for it.  I don't think I will ever be ready for it.  But it will come nonetheless.  I will drive tomorrow, or the next day and go south.  I will have Thanksgiving at "home" - if it is home? in Tennessee.  Then I'll return to the snow and leave again in a few days.  Such is life right now -- constant change impinging on a life that wants stability.

Until then, I guess I need to lace up my boots, button my coat, tie my scarf and navigate through another South Dakota winter.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Day in the Life

It’s been a while since I’ve written on this blog or any blog. I’ve missed it. It’s an odd thing how I feel about writing and blogging. Last week I was in Missouri for a few days. An old friend introduced me to someone else as a writer. I’ve never had that happen before. I’d like to be considered a writer. Then another friend got in my face, in love, and exhorted me about writing a book. Someone else said, you should write a book. Yet, here I am, not even blogging of late.

I really wanted to blog last week about manners and how nice it was to be in Tennessee. I can’t tell you how many times I noticed the little courtesies that make life better. Doors opened. Smiles given. Being called ma’am. That used to bother me because I didn’t want to be old enough to be a ma’am. Now I’ve either accepted being old or just like the respect. Then there is the courtesy of being called Miss. I didn’t like that either when I first moved to the south. Now I rather like it. It means that someone has respect for me.

I had a wonderful time in Tennessee. I didn’t want to come back. It was odd. When I left South Dakota for my week in Missouri and Tennessee I cried. Not that I love South Dakota now, but because of a whole host of reasons that don’t belong public. But also, I had found myself acclimating, just a bit, to South Dakota. I can’t say I like South Dakota. That would be going way too far. But I don’t hate it as much as I used to – I guess that’s progress.

But I didn’t want to come back here. I really had to force myself to get in that car and come back here. It was hard. I was alone. It’s one thing when my husband is with me and in a sense I feel I have no choice. This time I had a choice. Today I am even wondering if I made the wrong choice. Nevertheless, here I am in South Dakota on a really pleasant fall day.


Today I went with my husband to the Sheep Growers Annual meeting or whatever it was called. I just know for sure it was Sheep Growers. I am beginning to think that stay in the apartment than go to some of these things.

We had to hurry to get to lunch on time. My husband needs to be “seen” at these places. There is no useful purpose in his presence. He is not a sheep grower. He is not a sheep specialist. It’s all about being seen for reasons I will never understand.

We were served a basic cold cut lunch. No lamb. Conversation around the table was really sparse. I noticed that sheep growers also like to dress like cowboys. Do they call them sheepboys? Then the program started. It was a presentation about two “master” sheep producers. Now I like sheep. I like lamb. I am curious about a lot of things. I might have actually found it interesting to know more about sheep. 

However, the presenter was definitely speaking to the home crowd. That’s understandable. It was a sheep growers meeting. Did you know that they ultrasound pregnant ewes? I don’t know what a dry ewe is and I never could figure out why they send them to Western SD. I don’t know why or what a Peruvian herder is used for in this process. I finally figured out what AI was – artificial insemination. I couldn’t figure out what ET was – I found out it was embryo transplant.  I don’t know the difference between a feeder or a club production or a seeder stock. I don’t even know if I got these terms correct. I was bored to tears.


I was approached after lunch about taking a walk with some other women. Hmmm… more sheep talk which was like a foreign language or a walk with women I never met. I finally opted for the walk. I found out that the town of Huron (often pronounced urine) SD is a city of murals. We were walking to see the murals. Instead of walking in the direction where ¾ of the murals were, we walked away from them. We browsed a Salvation Army Thrift Store. Finally, we visited Potter’s Shoes. It seems that it is a very happening store. Selling Birkenstocks to sheep growers wives really sort of surprised me. But there we were, in a store with expensive Clarks and Birkenstocks in a deserted desolate downtown.

I’m back to the apartment. Husband is napping. I guess visiting with the sheep growers was too much for him too. I’m still bored. I am thinking I made a mistake to come back here. Just think of all the people who would be happy to see me and the things I could be doing if I were in Tennessee.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Lighten Up

I don’t watch a lot of TV. I do sit in front of the computer screen a lot though. When I was in Rapid City earlier this week, I did watch a couple of old movies on TV. Sometimes mindless entertainment is good. This was particularly true when I watched the old Pauly Shore movie, Son-in-Law.  It was on CMT.

Here is a clip; this is about when I turned the movie on. I love the scene where he drives the big combine.


Stories like this are classic and predictable. There all sorts of stories of city folk coming to rural areas.

Sometimes you’ll see the reverse. The classic TV show The Beverly Hillbillies or Green Acres are but two examples. We laugh. Who can forget Arnold the pig, or Mr. Haney or Granny Clampett.



We see the humor and irony. I was particularly surprised that CMT-TV was showing this particularly show. Seemed like in the end the country folk decided Pauly Shore was all right after all. And CMT, COUNTRY Music Television thought it was okay to laugh at that.

Sometimes these moves to places that are foreign to your experience and your taste, are not so funny though. Sometimes they are downright painful. Sometimes you put a fish in a different pond, one they don’t know, they aren’t acclimated to and they die. Other times, they learn to swim and adjust. Mostly they just never feel like they fit, but they keep swimming anyway.

What struck me as I watched this is that people sometimes don’t understand this blog. They don’t understand me. They don’t understand that this is just my attempt to swim in a new pond. It isn’t a pond of my choosing. I don’t fit here. Remember, someone told me that too – see this blog.

The other night I was sharing my Amanda blog with my husband. He didn’t like the first few paragraphs. He thought maybe someone would blame him for my comments. I guess I shouldn't have talked about the State Fair and cow poop. So, here is the disclaimer. These are MY THOUGHTS and MY FEELINGS. Not his. Poor guy, he thought his job might be in jeopardy for what I write. That would be pretty sad.

So my point – here is my point. If CMT can put on a movie about the ironies and ridiculousness of life – particularly life where different cultures intersect – if country folk can laugh at country folk and city folk at city folk, I think the people of South Dakota can understand me as well. If not, don’t read my blog. It’s that simple.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

You never know what you might see in Murdo, SD

Have you ever been to Murdo, South Dakota? I have. Several times we have gotten gas in the truck stop which rarely has more than two trucks on the dirt parking lot. When you go in the store to use the bathroom, you find discounted t-shirts for Sturgis, a few animal skins for sale and the general assortment of food, snacks, drinks and souvenirs. No surprises other than the animal skins.

I’ve stayed at the Super 8 by the antique car museum before – clean, with no frills. But I’ve never been to the museum. Guess it’s just not our thing. Close by is the 1880 Prairie Town that boasts it’s connection to the Kevin Costner epic movie, Dances with Wolves. I’d like to go there sometime but I doubt we will. My husband isn’t much for spending money on tourist things. I’d like to eat in their box car diner. That sounds interesting. I like that kind of stuff.

This time I got to see more of the town of Murdo. Again, not really a whole lot to talk about. It’s just a typical South Dakota town of reasonable size. Now you have to understand that when you say reasonable size in South Dakota you are talking about a town of 500 people. Murdo also boasts that it is the hometown of Senator John Thune, Republican. That might be a really big deal someday. Thune’s name is mentioned as a Presidential contender.


We stayed at a small hotel, American Inn next to what some would call a honky-tonk. The music coming from it said, there is a good time to be had here. The clerk told us to leave our key in the bucket in the morning as no one would be there – she also said, they weren’t serving breakfast that Sunday. Maybe they were all at church?

We decided on the Star Restaurant for breakfast. If you are heading through Murdo and need a meal, I recommend the place. As we enjoyed our blueberry pancakes, I heard that they were having a bus come in-probably tourists. I thought that was good for their business. A couple came in with a NY accent and the server called her sweetie and dear.

Then she came in. Since I am not sure what is politically correct nor do I care, since she attempted to look female, I’ll call her she. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a cross dresser in person. I certainly didn’t expect one to come in to the Star Restaurant in Murdo. I wanted to take a picture, but I knew that would be rude. She was hard to miss. She had rosy cheeks, way too rosy. She had twinkling eyes enhanced by mascara and a little liner. She had an odd hat on with her dyed blonde hair sticking out, a t-shirt, plaid Bermuda’s and multi-culture striped knee socks covered with sandals. She was about 6 foot tall with very broad shoulders. She was an interesting site.

I have to be honest. My first reaction was not very nice. Interesting how quick we are to judge. How quick our self-righteousness rises up and we judge, we assume we know something when in reality we know nothing.

I am sure everyone noticed her – how could you not? She was a sight to behold. But no one stared. No one made comments that I heard. The server greeted her with a smile and welcome. She ordered pancakes too. I was impressed with the people in the café in Murdo. Even in a conservative Western town in South Dakota, the people were polite, as they should be.

But I had to think about my reaction. I didn’t like it. Even though I was polite, I had a reaction. I guess it would be easy to say it was human nature to have a reaction. But then I thought, maybe it was even God who reminded me, that she was a person, a fellow-human being, created in the image of God, she was someone’s little boy once upon a time, she had people who either do or have cared about her and loved her. That put it all in a different perspective.

I was told that education would change me. I’ve also realized that next to my salvation, education has changed me the most. I realized in the Star Restaurant in Murdo, I was changed. I thought about all the lectures, exegetical work and research I’ve done on image of God. My Old Testament prof used to say if you don’t understand Genesis, you don’t understand God or the scriptures. He was right. I see things so differently now.

I am not saying anything about the rightness or wrongness of this behavior. I am certainly not saying I support Gay Rights or anything like that… I don’t know how I feel about that issue. Like everything in this life, it’s not simple, it’s not black and white, and it’s complicated. What I am saying is when you see someone different, when you see someone who is “other,” they really aren’t that different. They are people, fellow humans, just like you with feelings, aspirations, and dreams. They are people with family and people who love someone and someone loves them. They are people with pain, or maybe joy.

Maybe they are just hoping that someone will love them, just the way they are…the only one who can really do that is Jesus. But as His disciples, I think we are supposed to hold our judgment, hold our tongues and reach out in love. When you do that, you have the potential to earn the right to say something, to maybe tell them about Jesus – tell that that Jesus can give them hope, forgive their sins and give them a new life. That Jesus job, our job is to love.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Seattle's Best - her name is Amanda


As much as I go on and on about rudeness in South Dakota, in all fairness, I need to tell you about Amanda. I am in Rapid City for a few days. Once again, I am the tag along wife – but better than sitting in the apartment. Sometimes that apartment feels like a luxury cell, but a cell nonetheless. State Fair, more cows and cow poop, is just around the corner. I’ll be a Fair widow for over a week. I do get to preach at one of my very favorite places otherwise, I might have taken off and gone somewhere, anywhere for the Labor Day weekend. But preaching, especially at Grandview, always has top priority.

Friendliness has been lacking in my South Dakota experience. Maybe it is because in general we have noticed that Rapid City is friendlier. Maybe it is the Air Force base, maybe it is the tourists, I don’t know, but there is a better feel here. Plus I am downtown in an old classic hotel away from the cowboys and belt buckles, arrogance and big hats. So when I find friendliness, I pay attention to it.


We had a good experience a few weeks ago that I should have written about. We were in the little town of Clark SD, which is in Clark County for a 4-H Achievement Day. Not only did they have awesome BBQ chicken, they had really friendly people. My husband and I both talked about it for days. Everyone, from the children, to the old people were friendly. We ran into some people from this county at other 4-H AC Days and lo, and behold, while the locals at those Fairs were typically non-friendly people, the ones from Clark came and said Hi and continued to show that they were friendly. I joked that maybe it was the water – if it was, I should bottle it and sell it all around South Dakota.

So what about Amanda? You are probably thinking maybe I forgot about her. No, I didn’t. I am sitting in a Seattle’s Best Coffee Shop off the lobby of the Alex Johnson Hotel in downtown Rapid City and she is busy working behind the counter. I sat here yesterday for a few hours. The coffee was good, the internet was free and I had good company too.

Amanda is an employee at this coffee shop. I hope her boss knows how good she is – she should get a raise. I owned a coffee shop once upon a time. It was a great experience even if we lost money and worked way too hard. One thing I learned is that people come to a coffee shop not just for the coffee. Starbucks seems to know that, I learned about that in class this summer in leadership class - it is ALL ABOUT THE PEOPLE.


Amanda knows that. Yesterday when I ordered my scone from another worker, she quickly heated it for me. She heard me give the other worker my name and from then on, she called me Joyce. She heard it, she put it in her head and called me by name. I was here a long time yesterday. She’d come by and say Joyce, is everything okay? She knows that people like to be recognized by name.

I saw that they had their health inspection. I remembered those days. I saw her give a hi-five to the other worker after he left. I asked her about it. She happily told me that they got a 100! If there was an inspection for customer service and friendliness, she’d get a 100 for sure.

Today, I am here again. She greeted me as soon as I walked in the door. She said Hi Joyce, how are you this morning? I watched. She asked everyone their name and repeated it using their name in the order and when she gave it to them. Sometimes if she could catch someone on the way out, she’d say good bye and call them by name.

Just now three women walked in with gift bags. They obviously hadn’t been in here before. She looked at them and said good-morning ladies. Then she noticed their gift bags and said, oh Ladies, are you having a party? She made them feel instantly welcome.

We can learn a lot from Amanda. She’s young, cute and hopefully won’t spend the rest of her life working in a coffee shop. But if she does, she’ll be the best barista. Not because she makes great coffee but because she makes you feel welcome.

People ask me why I haven’t found a church in South Dakota. It’s been what, almost 3 years now? People ask me why I don’t feel at home here, and why I don’t like it. They think it is the weather. Or they think it is just me. It’s neither. It is because when I go to church there are no Amanda’s to make me feel welcome. There is no place I go where someone lights up my day with a big smile and a Hi Joyce, How are you today? It's the people, it really is all about the people. 

You know what they say when you start pointing a finger – there are four looking back at you. I guess I should try to smile more and light up someone’s day. How about you? 

Friday, July 23, 2010

Rude People Annoy Me

It's been a while since I blogged anywhere. I haven't forgotten about blogging. I sort of miss it. However, my life has been consumed with a research project. I'm in the throws of a 100 entry annotated bibliography. I can tell you I am sleeping well at night after a day of boring reading. Oh, it's not that bad for a nerdy person like me but sometimes, I think, man, I'm too old for this.
There are so many good things I could write about these days. Life is much less dull. I have been told recently that I seem so alive these days. Another friend told me I am like a little girl. Maybe starting another school adventure has made me into a school girl again. I don't know but life is good. I am sure some of you who have read through this blog in the past are saying, "I don't believe she said that."
So it is with some reservation I have decided to write a blog of discontent again. I rather like the word, carping. I am going to carp about something. That something is, I miss manners.
Remember the old book "Everything I Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten?" I am sure there was something about excuse me, thank you, please, etc. I had a neighbor who was rather mean and stern when I was a child. Her name was Mrs. Ohman. There was none of the first name business in those days. And she wasn't one of the honorary "Aunts" or as in my neighborhood, "Tante" (Norwegian for Aunt). She was just MRS.
I would stay at her house sometimes as a kid when my mother was in the hospital or went away for something. She had a daughter a little bit older than I was, her name was Nancy. I've written about Nancy before when I confessed to playing "devil cards" in her basement. Mrs. Ohman made me do dishes when I was staying there. She also would correct me about my manners. She would look at me with a stern face and say, "What's the magic word(s)"? That would mean I forgot to say please, thank you, pardon me, excuse me, etc. It actually was good training. I tried to teach my children about manners.
A week or so ago a Facebook friend was lamenting in her status about manners too - she missed gentlemen. I replied and we exchanged comments. She seemed to want to blame women for not behaving like ladies thus causing men to behave badly. I thought that was a bit like saying that women behave badly and therefore it's okay for them to be abused. I know, that's a bit far. I am sure she didn't mean that.
Then we got into a short snippet discussion about power. I said something about using my power. She didn't seem to agree. I guess I came across as a feminist. It's okay. We just stopped commenting. She's still my Facebook friend.

So what triggered me today? A trip to Wal-Mart - that bastion of American capitalism. I don't know, something about a trip to Wal-Mart in South Dakota will always bring out the worst in me. I get tired of people who can't say excuse me. I wonder what has made people here so unfriendly and rude most of the time. But honestly, I am rather used to navigating my cart through the store and just not noticing the rudeness any more.
It was the clerk. It was the clerk and the woman in front of me that did it for me. The clerk's clumsiness knocked over one of my items and sent it to the floor. He was scanning the woman in front of me's artificial flowers. Between me and the item was my cart. The woman in front of me bent over and picked up the item throwing it on the belt. I said the magic words; I said "Thank you." That was greeted by that glare I've come so accustomed to here. Thank you? Is that a foreign word like excuse me? I looked at the clerk who was also look at me with a similar glare. I thought how rude! When he finally got to my items, he forgot the customary, how are you? Did you find everything today? etc. As he was scanning another friendly Wal-Mart associate walked by so they could exchange their scorning comments about working at Wal-Mart.
The bright spot was the greeter. As I walked by, the white haired woman had a genuine smile. I thought wow, one person in South Dakota who remembers her manners.
Okay, I know this isn't a big deal in the grand scheme of things. If you shop at Wal-Mart you know customer service sucks. I even decided to do the survey request for the $1000 on the receipt so I could complain. They gave me no chance to complain.
It isn't just Wal-Mart though, my farmer's market experience the other day was equally bad.
OHHHH I wish there were a Target here in Brookings. They train their employees on manners. I think it's needed. Oh well, back to research.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Unique Things You Don't Know

I almost feel I need to start another blog. Yet, I don't want to abandon the ones I have... I am just not sure where this fits. It sort of fits on Sounds of Hope but that has become my blog of personal history. It isn't about South Dakota, so maybe I shouldn't be writing this blog here.

Nevertheless, this blog has been so much about my struggle with life. Not just life in South Dakota but my life as it is now. I've written some pretty painful stuff since I've blogging. I've sarcastically written about South Dakota and some of its odd ways. I've really never meant any harm. If you had listened closely, very closely, you would have seen the struggle to find meaning and hope in what was a very hard situation for me.


I am just so anxious to put to paper how I feel. Something inside me has shifted. Something has changed. It is hard to put into words or fully describe. There is so much I could say and so few words with which to describe it.

Today I had technology classes with a former graduate of this program, an elementary school principal who has a vision of technology in the hands of hungry learners. He's personable. I've connected with him because I like technology. I've connected because he's easy to connect with.

As I was sharing my thoughts about my impending dissertation, the one whose topic I have now changed a half a dozen times, we chatted about my life. I feel this need to be self-effacing about my age. He told me I was inspirational. I've heard that before and wasn't quite sure about it. This time though, it sounded more sincere and believable.

Then I mentioned about the 8 kids - incredulously he asked if I had birthed them all. I said yes. Then in the flow of this odd short conversation I mentioned that once upon a time I was a single mother with three children who had been abandoned by her husband and had just gotten a GED diploma. He looked at me and said,

 "Joyce YOU can do anything you want!" 

I knew what he meant. He meant that if I had accomplished those things, I COULD do anything I wanted. That is ringing in my ears tonight. I believe him. I can.

Tonight we had a very strange experience for a doctoral program. I knew this was a Christian campus. This is my second degree here. I'm home. I had no idea how spiritual this journey would be. I am finding it more profound, more life changing and faith building than the seminary, or the MA program on this same campus.

We built an altar - we raised our Ebenezer as a group led a group discussion on the meaning of life. It was like church, actually, it was better than most services I've attended. On Sunday, we were given a Bible from the founder of this program. We had communion together. Tonight we were led in worship by the group ahead of us. One of them shared he didn't know Jesus when he started the program. Both he and his wife are now baptized. Wow! Get your doctoral degree and find the Lord.

But something else happened tonight. Our professor asked us to share something about ourselves that was unique. One of the young men has made a movie - a real movie, not just some youtube video. Another young man runs marathons. A woman was in the Navy and was an iron woman. Wow! What a group! Another man shared a tender story about never finding his voice until he was in twelfth grade. I thought how many people never find their voice. He was blessed to have found it. He has a soft, gentle, southern sound that as you know is music to my ears.

Then this other man stood up and shared that he'd shook hands with a president. He said he's shook hands with Ronald Reagan. Everyone was really impressed. I should have been too. The professor mentioned seeing Roslyn Carter and Carol Channing. There was a short discussion about how our lives sometimes interface with the famous. I take nothing away from these experiences. Nor is my intention to brag. But what hit me was the enormity of the experiences I have had. I had never thought about it that way.


When I was a child, twice I saw Lyndon Johnson  in person. I shook his hand. He was right there in my neighborhood. Another time, at the same location in front of OLPH Catholic church I saw Bobby Kennedy. I saw Hubert Humphrey in person.

Later I would sit in the audience of the old Mike Douglas show. I remember Arthur Treacher - yes, there really is an Arthur Treacher. I was on Romper Room with Miss Jane when I was little as well as Bozo the Clown - no I'm not old enough for Howdy Dowdy though.

As a child I went to the New York World's Fair and the Montreal World's Fair. I saw great works of art at the museum's in NYC. I would literally play at the Metropolitan. I saw the Mona Lisa there when it came on tour.

LBJ wasn't the only president I've shaken hands with, I shook hands with Carter. Later, as a leader in the field of aging, I saw Clinton many times. Shook his hand. I was a delegate to the White House Conference on Aging and sat in the room with Hillary and the Cabinet. Hugh Downs was there, as was the feminist Bella Abzug. I had a personal conversation with Bella. I've been to a reception for the King and Queen of Norway. I've had a personal conversation with the now deceased Benazir Bhutto. I even saw Pat Boone in the airport at Sioux Falls. He had a nice chat with my husband as they went through security. Pat got pulled aside, he evidently has a plate or something in one of his legs. For one of my children's birthday's, she got tickets to Regis and Kelly - we went. Harrison Ford was his guest that day.

I've testified before the Connecticut legislature and been there for the bill signing chatting with the Governor. I had a personal  conversation with Chris Dodd outside the building where I was director during the Tiananmen Square crisis. He was called out by his aides for updates, I had the key to let him back in the building. We chatted about the crisis.

I am sure I am forgetting something that might amaze you. I thought tonight - what a life I have had! What opportunities that I have had - had I told them all of this they would have thought I was a braggart or liar - but they are all true. And I'm not bragging. I am thanking God for all the amazing experiences I've had.
I'm really looking forward to more. 

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

We're Back

I saw porta-pots. A friend reported that she saw them on a trip to Western South Dakota. Maybe someone read my blog!? I don't know why they have porta-pots now, but I am so glad.

However, the hospitality issue is still a problem. We had a wonderful amazing trip to Arizona this past weekend. The customer service and friendliness was noticeably wonderful. I already sent an email to the hotel where we stayed - it was a low-budget hotel too... so it wasn't that we paid big bucks for that hospitality.

We ate at Denny's twice. Both times the servers were polite, attentive, friendly - everything you want. I should send an email to Denny's about it too. I am like that. I may complain but I also try to compliment with the same zeal.

Arizona is not only a beautiful place but the people are great. We saw the Grand Canyon for the first time. It left me awestruck. I can't wait to go back and see it again. Check out our video here.


We visited the mission in Tucson again. There is something about that mission. It seems to replenish our souls. We prayed at the mission. We even lit a candle. It was a Maria Guadalupe one that we bought in honor of our granddaughter. We even paid our respects to St. Francis' image. Saw a beautiful little ceremony for a young girl. You can see a video of it here. We came home different people in many ways. I know I am more hopeful about the future.


Sadly we left Arizona on Monday. Service on Southwest Airlines was good as usual. We arrive very late in Omaha and decided to spend the night. Mistakenly we thought we'd save a few dollars and stayed at Motel 6. NEVER again. I realized that the extra $20 I would have had to spend to stay at a LaQuinta or other low-budget hotel would have been more than worth it. A quick breakfast at McDonald's in Omaha and off we went to back to South Dakota.

As soon as we got into South Dakota I did notice a porta-pot at a construction site. I was happy. Then we stopped at another McDonald's. This one was in South Dakota. I ordered a coffee. This time there was no smile. There was no "can I help you?" It was just a glare and a "here you go" when we got the coffee.

My husband and I just looked at each other, shrugged and said, "guess we're back in South Dakota." Today I had a less than enjoyable experience at Wal-Mart. No customer service there either... At McDonald's this morning I discovered that nearly every place else in the country will give you a large drink for a dollar. Here you get a small cup for a dollar.


Oh well, it's home for now. The day is beautiful. Some of the people I've met here are truly very nice people. They redeem the place for me. Next week I'll leave again and won't return for weeks. I'll drink all the sweet tea I want that is made right and only costs $1.