The things we do for love

I was scrolling through my Facebook feed the other night when I noticed a #wifeoftheyear hashtag linked with a picture of my nephew’s wife.

“Hmm, what’s this?” I wondered as I clicked on the photo and saw my niece-in-law giving the thumb’s up sign with her left hand, while something dark and creepy dangled from her right hand — at least that’s what it looked like on my iPhone.

I had to take another look on the computer monitor the next day to actually see what it was, and by then I had learned more of the story.

The photo was taken in the dark, but it clearly shows Kaitlin with an expression I can only imagine is a mixture of pride and “I can’t believe I’m doing this!”

In her hand was a dead raccoon.

Yes, my niece-in-law dared to pick up roadkill.

It’s not entirely as bad as it sounds.

Well, alright, maybe it is.

When I texted her for approval to write a column about it, she replied with, “Haha, yes, that is just fine!” and filled me in on the details.

Kaitlin holds up the raccoon she picked up off a road and brought home to her husband.

Kaitlin, who leads the youth group with her husband (my nephew Matt), at a rural church south of Ellsworth, was taking her brother-in-law (my nephew Zach), home after youth group last Sunday night when she saw a dead raccoon in the middle of the road.

She dropped Zach off and, upon driving past the dead critter a second time, she realized she could earn the admiration of her hunting-trapping-fishing enthusiast of a husband if only she’d stop and scoop it up off the road. Since trapping season began, Matt has been skinning out coons and other critters he’s captured to earn a little extra cash from the hides.

So, rather than return home with just a story about a dead raccoon, Kaitlin turned the minivan around and went back to check it out. Yep, the roadkill looked to be in good shape, all things considered.

She lined the back of her minivan with paper and proceeded to take the dead coon home to her hubby.

Oh, how proud Matt was of his wife … the same woman who won’t eat the fish he catches, the same woman who won’t eat the goose, the duck or the deer he shoots. On the other hand, she is the mother of their two beautiful children … and she wouldn’t mind having a camouflage recliner in their living room to go along with the deer head on the wall and the fox and pheasant mount in the corner.

As the saying goes, “Love is blind.” But there’s another saying I’ve heard as well: “Blinded by love.”

It’s that kind of love that makes a woman stop and pick up roadkill.

Observations on a holiday weekend

It seems rather ironic that on a day set aside for Americans to give thanks for all they have, we can now view YouTube videos of fist fights, all-out brawls, tramplings and tazings thanks to the big box stores’ Thanksgiving night sales.

My brother told me about the videos when he stopped at my house over the lunch hour Friday to assemble my own Thanksgiving night purchase. The purchase, thankfully, involved no brawls, no heavy lifting and was made locally — more than an hour after the sale started!

As far as I’m concerned, there is nothing offered on a Thanksgiving night/Black Friday sale that is worth pushing, shoving, punching or shouting over.

Fighting over merchandise defies the entire spirit of Thanksgiving and the quickly approaching Christmas season — a time when, I thought, we are supposed to give from the heart.

Speaking of giving, our family gathered on Saturday to celebrate my great-nephew’s fourth birthday. Having spent time with him on Thanksgiving Day, I had the perfect opportunity to ask him what he’d like for his birthday.

“A bow and arrow,” was his quick reply.

“Anything else?” I asked.

“No, I want a bow and arrow,” he exclaimed, seemingly angered that I would question his choice of birthday gift.

“No tractors, no clothes, no other games?” (Yes, I knew I was pushing it! It’s an aunt’s prerogative, right?)

“NO!! I want a bow and arrow,” he shouted.

OK.

I bought him clothes. Not just any clothes, however. I found him a pair of shirts in his favorite color — camouflage.

He beamed a big smile when he opened the package, and pointed to the big deer on the front of each shirt. Yes, he’ll some day be a hunter like his daddy and grandpa.

It wasn’t just the camo shirts that brought a smile to the birthday boy’s face.

Every single gift, upon being opened, elicited a beam from Brody. He liked everything he received. The opened packages revealed movies, a bug catching set and a giant fire truck complete with bells and whistles.

There wasn’t a single gift that resembled a bow and arrow set, and yet he expressed thanks for everything in his shy little 4-year-old voice.

His smile, his thanks, was proof that it truly is better to give than to receive.

Perhaps we all need a little reminding this time of year to be thankful for all that we have and realize we don’t need it all to be happy.

One thing leads to another

A weekend snowstorm seemed like the perfect opportunity for me to dig out the Christmas decorations, set up the tree and sprinkle the rooms of my home with the holiday spirit.

But, here it is on Sunday afternoon and I have the tree half-assembled, the boxes of ornaments at the top of the stairs and the Christmas lights a jumbled up mess inside a series of plastic bags.

It’s my own fault, about the lights, I mean. My impatience at getting the holiday décor disassembled in mid-January mirrors my impatience at putting everything up in mid-November or early December.

So why do I bother?

Well, I guess it’s because the one year I didn’t decorate my house for Christmas was the year it seemed to take forever for the holiday season to return. It just isn’t Christmas without a Christmas tree in the corner, adorned in twinkling lights, blinking lighthouses and ornaments — both the handmade variety and those collected over the years.

I still have enough hours left to at least get the lights on and the ornaments dangling from the branches before the end of the weekend. If not, I guess I’ll just have to follow the walking path through the living and dining room for a few more days.

My problem with putting up decorations — or really anything involving relocation of furniture — is that one thing leads to another.

It all started Saturday morning, when I decided I better get to work clearing space for the tree. A tote in the middle of the living room, filled with the sweaters I’d been pulling out one by one last week, first had to be moved.

I carried it to my home office, where another, empty, plastic tote sat. The empty tote led to an idea — go through my closet and dresser and clear some space for the sweaters. By the end of the evening, I had one tote filled with clothes for Goodwill, and the other tote still filled with the sweaters. Progress? Well, maybe not.

As I cleaned out the closet, I was overcome by dust bunnies, which led to a dance with the Swiffer Sweeper. In the midst of my merriment, I looked up to find a layer of dust on the top of the picture frames. Out came the spray can of furniture polish and a rag. My bedroom is now clean.

Next up, I had to move my tri-fold photo stand and rolling tower of needlework supplies into the home office. Before I could do that, I had to move a year-round pencil tree out of the way. In doing so, I discovered it really needed a dusting. One by one I plucked off my grandpa’s fishing lures, Old Salts ornaments and bobbers, followed by the lights. I shook the tree outside and then, for good measure, took the Shop-Vac to it.

Now, the tree is on top of a table, the ornaments on top the tote of sweaters and I’ve decided to put a different string of lights on the little tree before moving it to its new location on top of my cedar chest. Just a couple of problems, though. I need to pack up the stereo system, which means I need to find a box to put it in. Oh well, the lights are still a tangled mess inside the plastic bag anyway … I’ll get a box from work on Monday!

Since the dust rag was already damp from the furniture polish, I thought I should clean the rest of the furniture in the house. And I will … someday. (I can’t spend the entire weekend working, right?) Besides, I wanted to stitch a little more on my latest needlework project before I had to rearrange the living room.

At least the laundry is done; and I washed the dishes.

I fully anticipate by the time Christmas is here, I’ll have three trees decorated in my home, the Christmas village will be lit and the aroma of apples and cinnamon will mask those created this weekend by household cleaning products.

And some people think it’s too early to decorate for Christmas!

The day has come

Is anyone out there as happy as I am that today is Election Day?

I should be thrilled that I can once again let my voice be heard in this democracy that allows any American citizen — age 18 or older — an opportunity to cast their vote for the man or woman they believe will be the best person for the job.

Will the candidates remember us and represent us, the taxpayers, when they take their seat on the city council, the county board, the Minnesota House, or the U.S. House or Senate? Well, that remains to be seen.

I guess I’ve become a cynic.

I cannot honestly remember a time when there wasn’t bickering between candidates, when there wasn’t a steady stream of complaints about the people seated in office; or negative opinions on the work they’ve accomplished and the work they haven’t yet completed.

I’ve heard so many negative television ads from candidates complaining about their opponents that I don’t have any idea who or what to believe in anymore.

If you want to campaign for public office: tell me — tell your voting public — what you stand for; not what your opponent has or hasn’t done.

I know it’s a little late to be saying that today, on Election Day, but this is nothing new. Voters complain every election cycle.

What I find unfortunate is that the bickering taking place leading up to the election carries over to the work they do once they achieve public office. Now, I’m not talking about our local city and county representation — they put in a lot of time to make sure they represent the citizens of Worthington and Nobles County. I’m talking about our state and federal legislators who seemingly can’t come together for the good of the state — the good of the nation — on important issues.

Yes, I realize everyone has to fight over the same piece of pie, but when it comes down to basic issues like water, our state and federal leaders have failed us here in southwest Minnesota. At some point, common sense needs to return to our political parties.

I applaud those who are willing to run for political office — it’s oftentimes a thankless job, a job where you are never going to make everyone happy.

However, if you can find success in discovering a middle ground, more power to you. We will be watching.

Falling leaves and eagles’ wings

A couple of extra vacation days and a forecast for sunshine sent me to Minnesota’s eastern boundary last weekend to admire the beauty along the St. Croix and Mississippi rivers.

Spectacular fall color.

I know I’ve said it before, but I just love this time of year. The variety of maples, combined with the river bluffs, made for spectacular views on a journey that included my parents and eight-year-old niece, Katie.

My Kindle was charged and ready to keep the little girl happy on the road trip, and Greta Garmin was programmed to lead us northeasterly to my favorite needlework shop on the western edge of the Twin Cities. From there, we wove through traffic across the metropolis to Stillwater.

Along the St. Croix River.

The premise for the trip was to visit a little shop in one of Minnesota’s oldest towns — Kathe Wohlfahrt. My mom and I visited the Christmas shop by the same name while in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany, in July. Little did we know then that there is one Kathe Wohlfahrt shop in all of North America, and it’s just a few hours’ drive from home.

While the Stillwater shop is much smaller than the one we spent more than an hour in while in Germany, it was neat to see so many of the same ornaments. Still, Mom and I found extra-special trinkets that will garner prominent placement on each of our Christmas trees for years to come.

A view on Lake Pepin.

Day two took us through a couple of Wisconsin towns — including Ellsworth. Since Katie attends school in southwest Minnesota’s town by the same name, we had to snap pictures of her standing by the city’s population sign, boasting nearly 3,000 more residents than our Ellsworth; along with another sign declaring Ellsworth, Wis., as the Cheese Curd Capital of the World. Unfortunately, we did not find any cheese curd shops on our brief jaunt through town.

A quick stop at the Red Wing Shoe Factory back on the Minnesota side of the river left Katie in awe as we admired a giant leather boot — Size 638.5 D — to fit a giant of a man, the sign exclaimed. We also strolled along the riverfront at Red Wing before getting back into the Buick and heading toward Wabasha.

Another view at Lake Pepin.

While you may remember the Grumpy Old Men movies were filmed here, the town is also home to the National Eagle Center — a new addition since the last time I visited this Mississippi River town.

The view outside the National Eagle Center at Wabasha, along the Mississippi River.

The center’s exhibits and programs held appeal for all of us — the greatest being our front-row seats to hear about the center’s five eagles, the wing injuries that have left them incapable of being returned to the wild, and the habitat and environment that draws them to the river at Wabasha by the hundreds each winter.

The featured eagle for the program we attended was Angel, but we learned the favorite among frequent visitors to the center is Harriet, the eagle who suffers from a bad hair day every day due to the injuries she suffered when she was struck by a vehicle.

Harriet was the model for Minnesota’s Support our Troops license plate. Thanks to a little airbrushing, she will always have a good hair day for the people who see her outside of the center.

I will think of her, and our great little get-away when I see that majestic eagle on license plates from now on.

Angel, one of the eagles who resides at the National Eagle Center in Wabasha. She’s dining on some rabbit meat in this photo.

With a forecast calling for warmer temps through next week, here’s hoping you have some time to get outside — perhaps take a little road trip — and enjoy these wonderful fall days.

** Click on the photo to enlarge the image.