Sunday, July 9, 2017

The Ups and Downs of this Birthday month

Life does have a way of changing things up right when you think you have it down pat, doesn't it.  We all know that is what happens, intellectually.  Emotionally, though, you wonder- a. what the hell was that all about? and b. Certainly this is done now and I can have a little peace.  Well, that may or may not happen depending on a whole host of circumstances, but I am willing to not bring new variables into life and cause an uproar-------  I hope.

I have hinted at the fact that I have had something going on in my house and it includes some kitchen work.  It is about freaking time, as the same vinyl floors I have had for 25 or so years was starting to look worn, not to mention the other little things that drive one crazy.  So suffice it to say, I am putting things back in their spot, and I am having one of those purge moments.  I am going through my cabinetry and literally considering every single thing and either keeping it or boxing it up.  There is no letting it slide this time, as I have done in the past.  Sometimes you have to just drop the emotional attachment and the stories you think of and how you know who gave that to you for a wedding present, though you haven't touched it hardly since you got married and you are pretty sure none of the children want it.....  This is going to lead to a major household purge. The MA is a little worried - lol.

Speaking of whom, a couple days ago, when I was deep in a battle with a few lines of grout on the new flooring- he came in to the house early, as it was raining, and we were looking at some pretty magnificent cloud formations.  We decided to go for a ride- with my camera in hand.   I shot in a few places and ended up on Butternut Lake, where there was a great view to the east of the colored clouds from the sun over the lake-- and since we were right by the Butternut Resort, we went in for a few minutes for a drink.  He said to me: after all, it is birthday month.  awwww.  I have not had a lot of time to celebrate birthday month.  I have had a bit of emotional turmoil going on, some of it completely unexpected, and my joy has not been too prevalent these days.  So a nice amber Fat Tire did sort of help, as well as talking with Dick and being some place different and doing a photo shoot didn't hurt one bit.

I'm in a place of having so many things to do and not a lot of time to do them.  The mosquitos this summer are a problem, so you have to be fully dressed and armed with lots of spray to brave the day. A good stiff breeze does help a lot.  So not a lot of weeding is going on, and wow do I need to do that.  And of course the windows have not been washed yet (NOT my fave thing to do) and I haven't posted one single thing about my trip to Oregon.....  and on and on.  Oh well.

I am going to take a few days this coming week to just do things around the house with no big agenda.  And cook a few things as I want to.  And probably take a little day trip or two because that needs to happen.  And being to enjoy my birthday month a bit more.

Every year is different, and life isn't guaranteed to be happy during these particular birthday month days, but we sure can look for the joys that are always there.  Even if other things have popped up and thrown a shadow over them.  So I'll be looking for that silver lining, that alternate point of view- sometimes looking to the east during a sunset is the very best view of all.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Tribute to my friend--- Cathy

I first met Cathy a few years after I married and moved to Park Falls.  Interestingly, I had first met her hubby, Ed, as he was a teacher at the High School and was teaching a photography class I took sponsored by the local tech school- the developing end of photography that is. Shortly after I had my oldest son, I needed a person to care for him -as I began teaching preschool.  Someone suggested Cathy, and the rest- as they say- is history.

So many pictures of our kids, so few of us

Cathy and I turned out to be pretty compatible and we spent a lot of time together.  As a new mom and someone who was uprooted from her own mom, I needed someone to be sort of my mommy mentor-someone who could coach me through that first little guy and subsequent babies.  This was not a deliberate thought, but is indeed was what happened. She was that and became so so so much more.  Cathy was generous with her home, her time, her tea and her heart.  For many many years we were inseparable.

Our spot to survey the action on Schnurs Lake

The young Busby and Oswald families spent a lot of time together.  Her younger girls, Erin and Brittany, are the same ages as my older 2 boys Jon and Greg.  Cathy, as I said, was Jon's caregiver during the 1.5 year that I taught Pooh Corner Preschool.  My boys loved going over to their house, because Cathy was always arranging for  the kids to have the very best experiences even in the simplest things.  Her dedication to this showed in the passion she gave to the kids she tutored after school, the children she watched while moms were teaching full time, even the daily life that she gave to her girls and then eventually the children that she taught.  We spent time with occasional pony cart rides, lots of time swimming at the lake house, trick or treating,  sledding down their various hills in the winter and on and on and on.

Cathy assisting Erin 

So many many stories come flooding back to me.  Cathy was a person who always expected the best out of others and herself.  She truly was one of the most intelligent people that I ever met and - she had the most college credits ever to boot.  Lol.  It took persistence as life seemed to interrupt her as she was getting that teaching degree.  But she did it!  I can not begin to imagine how much of my knowledge of a whole range of things is because I was around while she was studying.

And this happened :)
She was in the library at school for many years (at first to her dismay) and she made it the very best that she could.  She began teaching the little kids to keyboard, she did computer troubleshooting, she ferreted out books that would be of the most use to teachers, she helped kids find the books that she thought they would enjoy.  When she finally became that classroom teacher, I know for a fact that she did everything in her power to help those kids succeed.  She was always positive, she only worked to find a way to teach them in a different/better/innovative way.  She took her class on as if they were her own children.  Her abilities to teach were absolutely the best.  She had the highest expectations for the kids but mostly for herself.  She gave of her time, energy and love to our school district and to our kids.

Giving rides at the land - Greg is up and probably jon behind?  Maybe Erin

It is very very hard to describe all that she did with me, for me and I for her during those family years here in Park Falls, but  she was a huge part of my life.  I spent a lot of time at her kitchen table with the tea cups in front of us, talking and talking for hours.  I miss that chocolate tea we used to drink.  We walked together for hours, we spent time in the car driving the kids to various places and to the horses.....  Cathy was 10 years older than me, but I never felt the difference.  She was so welcoming to me in her life and I am so  so grateful.

Intense discussion apparently

We shared many interests and definitely one of them was horses.  And she is the person who helped me find Jacpot.  I loved going out to "the land" and helping care for and ride the horses.  It was such a treat and somewhere along the line we decided I could get one!  Talk about a childhood dream.  We started looking in the newspapers for horses and we looked at one or two, neither one of those horses would have been a good fit for me or for their little herd.  My horse would stay at their place until we could get things together at our house.

We found Jac at a riding stable in Mercer- he was 14 years old, calm and had a really good little canter.  We brought him back to Cathy and Ed's place and got everyone all settled in- and we headed over to Busby's house. So, within an hour we got a phone call that the horses were out and we spent a long LONG time finding them- the lead mare had driven Jac through the fence and off he went with the others apparently merrily following.
Cathy took this picture, but this is exactly the sort of thing she easily orchestrated  all . the. time.

Jacpot came into our life when the kids were a little older and so I spent a lot of time with Cathy in their old truck heading down to Fifield to feed the horses.  I learned lessons in patience, persistence and I acquired so much information about riding, horse nutrition, bridling and saddling, and life.  We had each other to sound off to, to listen to and to comfort and console over the big things and the small.

Jon and Erin on Breezer
How does a person sum up a relationship that is over 30 years in the making?  The stories that I have are so rich in detail but are too hard to explain.  The experiences that we had together were the things that made life deep and multifaceted.  She was at both of my boys' weddings, I was there for a few scary health moments with her hubby.  I came to see new horse arrivals, attended the county fair where they spent so much time, and was introduced to the joys of butt warmers in the Volvo after the cold of feeding the horses during real Wisconsin winters.  I pray that I gave back to her even a fraction of all that I got from my friend.

I believe this was the day Jon figured out he was allergic to horses. Nice job of driving, Miss Erin!
Oddly enough, we didn't see each other as much after we both got full time jobs at the same school.  And then when I started working in the high school as well as the elementary, my life really became separated from hers.  But when we crossed paths, there was always time for a few words- which in our case was hard to keep it to a few most of the time.   Her first bout of breast cancer was within a year of getting that job at school and I was astonished how she never missed a day of work to being sick from that chemo.  She attacked that disease by research.  Research during a time when there was no easily accessible internet, that resulted in her finding the best doctors she could, going far away for the best reconstruction that she could find and she did everything that she could to succeed at recovering.
At Cathy's retirement party

I just sat at that kitchen table a few weeks ago.....  it felt like old times.  As fate would have it I had to drive by their in-town house to get to the post office because of road construction.  I saw Cath out on the porch talking with someone and I knew that I would be stopping on my way back through.  We went into the house and had tea for what would be the very last time. We talked about all sorts of things, some related to her cancer, much of it not.  I was a few days out from my trip and when she talked it sounded like she still had lots of time.  She was anticipating the girls being home in August and was figuring out who she should get to come and do some repairs to the lake house...   We had laughs over some private jokes we shared and some quiet moments over the unknown.  We exchanged several hugs as I was leaving and made tentative plans for when I returned.

Hold your friends and family close- they are the true joys of life.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

And birthday month begins!

Well it has been quite the whirlwind of a month or so here.  I was taken slightly by surprise by July's appearance- I knew it was coming but still.  Between a week long curriculum thing at work- I got nothing to say for that one- and the horse and a sweet little vacation I took and another all consuming event in  my life that soon will be revealed here- It has been quite the June....... and much of May...... and a bit of July.

Columbia River Gorge

So I will take on all of these things one at a time, but today I am going to focus on gratitude.

First- I am grateful for my family.  From my kids- The Mad-Middle son and Sarah recently had a 3rd Mad-Grandkiddo, and I will say she is gorgeous- little Claire was born before I went on vacation- to my sister who graciously shared her house and her time with me- to  my dear Mad-Accountant who dealt with the logistics of my recent loss and generally calmly puts up with my frenetic activities and somewhat dramatic tendencies.....  Of course I can't forget my other two kids, grand girls,  my brothers and my momma either.  :)

I appreciate the fact that I got through the year with only one minor yet extraordinarily annoying injury  and I really am entering birthday month ready to finally have some summer.  Now if the rain would quit (speaking of annoying) there could be a whole lot more kayaking and biking and walking and weed-pulling.  But hey there is no drought so there is that.

I am SO SOOOO LUCKY I have the friends that I have.  From my long distance friends who I adore with all my heart to my travel companion to my colleagues who are so much more than that to the different people who I would love to have lunch with this July (hint hint).  I am so happy to have so many amazing people who make my life so much better.

Rockaway Beach, Oregon

There are material things and personal things that I am grateful for as well, but the above list is the most important and so I will leave it exactly at that.

And I wish you all the joy this Sunday and birthday month can bring you.  Muah.

Saturday, June 17, 2017


My heart is broken and I am almost without words.

My sweet old horse died this afternoon, just a few steps out of his barn.  I was getting ready to feed him before we went to eat supper.  I looked out towards his usual hangout, where he would stand to escape the flies and the sun.  I knew when I saw him down he wasn't getting up again.

He was 39 and until the last couple years he had been in perfect health.  He had been having some breathing issues the last year or so, but he never was in distress.  He just slowed down.  He ate his breakfast this morning with his usual relish and gusto.

 I wasn't expecting it.  I still don't believe it.  I keep looking out to see where he is.

But he's gone.

I know I will look for him every morning.  I will feel like I should be feeding him, heading out to see him watching for me.  Listening to him call when I come out the door.  Sticking his nose out to get rubbed, scratching that spot under his neck that sent him into another place.  Licking my hand and arm when I'm trying to fix the fence or reach the feed buckets.

He was such a good horse, so sweet natured.  So funny.  So calm. The horse I always wanted and more than I could every have hoped for.

Good bye Jac.  I hope your life was as good as you made mine.

Friday, June 9, 2017


Well I feel bad that I haven't written in here for over a month.  But I have been doing a lot of stuff and haven't had the inclination I guess.

My back yard has some really good views!

I am super tired this morning.  I have been getting up and getting to school by 6 (bangs head on table) to get my hours in for our "summer curriculum writing camp".  I am not sure who thought they should call this camp, but they are wrong.  There was no singing campfire songs and toasting marshmallows involved.  The word camp should never be involved with an extension of your work year,- truly it was an inservice and involved no ghost stories at night or swimming or any other "camp activities".

So, I will be done by noon because I have been getting to school so early- my 40 hours of "camping" will soon be up.  I am going to get a nice little lunch in with my dear friend the Mad-Science Teacher but then home I go.

This weekend I have to make a run to Rhinelander for what I shall call a little repair project for now- more to come on this later, stay tuned.  Sunday I can't even think of what the heck I was going to do because I am TIRED and could have slept for ages.....   But if nothing else, Monday it seems that grand baby #5 will be born so I am on Gramma duty for that day.  Unless something happens earlier that is.  :)  And it will be a little girl!

Oh I know, the Mad-English teacher is coming and we are going to go up to Bayfield for our end of school thing.  And he and I have an additional adventure scheduled in just over a week.  But I will tell you more about that at a later date as well.

Anyway, I can't sit here and ruminate over events of the last month or so as I have to go get ready for work.  My hand is so sore from computer work (and from garden weeding as well) that I am just shuddering at the thought....  I am not made to sit at a desk all day.  I will take the kids to teach, thank you very much.

Meanwhile I think I will post the requisite cloud picture and get going.  I believe my coffee has begun to kick in and I don't feel quite so zombie like.  Sort of.

Have a wonderful Friday- as I prepare to get the heck out of here and go to school......  if someone came and kidnapped me and say gave me a ride on their motor cycle from here to maybe way WAY south - or east or west- or even possibly north, I would not object.  Just sayin' people.  ;)

Find your
And kayaking happened a few days ago!  

joy and be kind.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Nostalgia..... or the old houses that I have found

Winter was not particularly fun this year.
 I did not manage to get out on my snow shoes- thank you to my broken toe for that one.  I only got to Bayfield a couple times, and I was stuck in a funk that sucked my soul dry.  Most people have no idea this happened, as i was pretty  much acting like myself most of the time.  But I got stressed out so easily, I was so emotional when I was away from people (I spent a lot of time trying not to fall apart), and really I just didn't feel like moving.  And then there was the play.... 

Turns out this is a shed a friends Great Grandpa lived in for a while back in the day

The hidden side of life

And consequently I went for probably a month without taking photos.  This is never good- I get my energy off of this "hobby" of mine. And as shown in my last post, I began taking pictures and for some reason I decided to go after abandoned houses of the area.  The reason among other more personal things is that this subject really stretches your abilities- and is a challenge.  These are not traditionally "pretty", so you  don't take them on like many subjects.You have to think about how to best compose the photos, straight on, to the side, from a low angle.... what lighting, what about inside?  I rarely go inside of the houses because I value my life and limbs, however sometimes if it is the right situation, that is an amazingly satisfying thing to do.  Up here, there are not a lot of big abandoned farm houses and Victorian mansions- there are a lot of small houses that people eked out an existence up here in the 20th century, it was not an easy life.

Quickly breaking down

One of the rare Victorians left from the turn of the 20th century

North side of the stone house

Of course you all know that I have a history of photographing old houses anyway- the stone house and its partner across the road have been subject of mine for about 10 years.  But with the urging and directions from a friend, I discovered the schoolhouse up near Cornucopia and that sort of planted the seed of exploration.

Abandoned school house that sparked the fire

In late March I decided that I needed to get out of the house and do something creative.  I knew my lull had to come to an end, so I went up to Butternut and shot the old Victorian that is sitting right on the highway.  It was sort of magical, I went and shot a couple other little places that day.  I then started asking people if they knew of abandoned houses, and you know what?  People don't notice them, so no one knows where they are at first.  This is frustrating, but I keep nudging at people until they start to think.
The textures of the paint, the curtains and trees growing in front of the door are so compelling

And now we know why it is still here

Fortunately I KNEW that the Mad-Barber would be a great source of information and indeed we went on a very satisfying road trip to the north a bit one afternoon and that was quite fantastic.  I think we found 5 places, including a very cool car at one place that wasn't all that interesting.  I had a friend take me to two abandoned cabins- more on that later- and the MA and I finally were able to get out and about and we found some together too.  Good stuff!

This is hidden by brush much of the summer

The things that people discard is incredible
Would a new tire help?
So speaking of abandoned cabin- I have had some incredible responses to these photos.  Which was very exciting but also a bit surprising!  What was real surprising was the fact that I had 4 people want to buy prints from me- 4!  WUT??  This is my passion and creative outlet and obsession, but I never truly imagined selling anything.  So, yeah.  I am still a bit stunned by this.  

Little cabin in the woods.....
An edit of this is being printed- a few times

I have an unreasonable love for this

Anyway, that has been my thing for the last few weeks- I have been shooting old stuff.  And fortunately so far avoiding wood ticks.  It was nice that we had a couple days off right after the play, I got lots of good shots those days- it is nice to have time beyond the weekend to really be able to spend a proper amount of energy on fewer locations.  

It's a Jeep!

Old garage in an alley in Fifeld

And yes I have a few more places in mind!  :D  And I have another post about these places and objects as well, but that might have to wait for a day or two.

Be sure to find your joy this spring, no matter the weather, no matter the people who want to keep you from it.  Summer is coming people, hang in there! 
Behind the Stone House 

Up to it's axles in grass

Come on in 

Watch your step


The stories it still holds

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Well, Well, hello April

Doesn't time fly??  


The Musical is over and I had a super short week of school, and have now really enjoyed 3 days of a ridiculously short "spring break".  I realized when I sorted through and deleted probably 800 photos on my editing program that I hadn't downloaded any pictures for at least 3 weeks.  I had a few on the camera, but not enough to make me remember after a long day of work and play practice to open up the camera and insert SD card into card slot on my trusty little laptop.

Pancake ice on Lake Superior
That was sad.  So I invited my dear friend Cat to come along with me on a journey to the north and of course I took my camera.  We did a little hiking, a little eating, a little shopping and a whole lot of catching up- good day. My camera got a great workout, and I then had days in front of me that are lending themselves to mini photoshoots.

One of several lovely sunrises lately

I have many photog friends whose work I admire, and several of them do a spectacular job capturing abandoned houses, buildings and vehicles.  I have been a fan of this for a while, but until recently haven't specifically worked on those subjects.  I mean I have taken photos of the stone house and the remnants of the ghost house for years, and I have painted pictures of old trucks and cars that I had photographed, so the interest has been there.

Not much holding this up
This fence appears to be keeping this building from falling over
So  I have done a few photos of different abandoned or empty buildings which is a hoot.  When something is part of your landscape, sometimes you don't really see them.  I shot one place that is on my drive to school, I mentioned it to the MA and he said- yeah I had thought of that, but didn't think it was worth it..... well, don't make that decision for me!  It was worth the stop.

Not worth mentioning....

Trumpeter swan

Speaking of the MA, another nice thing about these days off is that I actually sat at the dining room table and ate lunch with him in my own house!  As mundane as that sounds, it doesn't happen much.  When one (ahemCPAtypescough)  gets home at 8/9 at night, one's spouse does definitely NOT wait for you for supper.  Of course Saturdays are meant for eating out and Sundays we both seem to be hurrying to get back to something else, so lunch may or may not be eaten in the living room.....  rumor has it, you know!
yesteryear wasn't so long ago

AND speaking of eating out, I am very very excited to anticipate the opening of a new restaurant in town here.  The likes of which we have NEVER had here- the likes of which you have to travel many miles to get a similar experience.  It is called Valerie Mae's and it is being opened by a former student of mine who is involved in running his family's farm (Shady Knoll) and has brought farm to table produce almost all year round.  I am thrilled to be getting some fresh green things again to eat and can't wait to begin dining in the restaurant.  YAY!!

Anyway, the sun is shining and I am feeling the need to go out into it.  Hope your April 1 is fun and not annoying like many April Fools jokes are-

Be a joy giver today and always, and it will be returned to you.