Fancy Coffee Friday: “So, the story behind that is…”

Scars. Lots of scars. Scars usually come with a story.  The stories are either harrowing, funny, or “man that was stupid but at least you have that cool scar to go with it”.  This story is the last of those three.

My most recent walk down the path of “that’ll leave a scar” was last Sunday when I decided that my monster rhubarb plant needed some thinning out once again and I’d already given a couple pounds to one of my Swedish friends (they love rhubarb in Sweden).  The fridge here at the homestead was already bulked up with a whole lot of black raspberries from our very productive patch and I had the brilliant idea to make some rhubarb-raspberry crumble. Mmm, dessert!  Delicious!

Well, you see... what I DID was...Now, I was chopping away on the cutting board, making neat little quarter-inch slices, moving my fingers out of the way like one should when they are using a hefty chef’s knife when time slowed just a bit as the knife came down to the board and into the rhubarb… and my pinky finger.  Feel free to cringe at this moment because even typing that out still makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up just a bit.

So, I did what any self-respecting person does who is prone to injury.  I removed the knife from my finger and the rhubarb.  Said, “Oh, I cut myself,” and quickly followed that with, “that’s bleeding. That’s a bleeder.”  And then I applied a crap-load of pressure as I walked outside to where Mr. Muse was cleaning the pool and said, “Oh Nurse! I require your assistance.  I’ve cut myself and it’s a bleeder.”

He slowly turned and gave me “The Look” followed by asking in his resigned-yet-humored-but-not-going-to-panic way, “What did you do, Ray?”  He climbed out of the pool as I calmly explained that I didn’t know what happened. I thought my fingers were out of the way, and well… for the most part – they were.  I said that apparently I wasn’t paying attention as well as I should have and the knife came down and it stopped – possibly when it hit bone – but it didn’t go all the way through my finger and I was pretty certain I didn’t need stitches.

So as I hustled to the bathroom ahead of him, holding my finger above my head, applying so much pressure that my right hand cramped, and reassured him that I was sure I didn’t need stitches – it was just bleeding a lot.

Our first attempt at bandaging the finger failed from the “whole lotta blood” issue and so he made me sit on the couch, applying pressure for another hour (he turned on the TV for me). The blood finally slowed to a fraction of what it had been and we got a bandage around it along with a finger condom (aka “finger cot”) in case I sprung a leak. The wound was deep as far as pinky fingers go but not wide.

Of course, I took a photo and posted it to the world.  A friend from high school who has also been accident-prone as long as I’ve known him suggested super glue. How brilliant! We HAD super glue. And then, at the bandage change that night before bed, Mr. Muse and I looked like a couple of mad scientists in the bathroom with me squeezing the wound closed and him applying the glue with both of us blowing on it to dry it as I also worked at not passing out from the blood loss (I’m sure it wasn’t that much – blood draws take more) and the blowing.

I’m proud to say that nearly a week later – the wound looks pretty damn good.  The super glue also flaked off by now.  Plus, no more bleeding.  Now I just wait to see if I get a scar.

What’s your best “How’d you get that scar” story?

Posted in Blogging, Fancy Coffee Friday, Personal | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

Fancy Coffee Friday: Go Take a Hike at…

Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park in Preston, MN.  Weeks ago I wrote a post about a camping adventure I took with friends where we saw Yoda in the forest and I promised to write more about the park, etc.  So here it is!

A brief warning for all you first timers to my blog, I tend to write off the cuff and usually while I’m doing (or supposed to be doing something else) – today, for example, I’m in the middle of cooking down some Sour Cherry Spoon Sweet – the potential for typos (and burns from molten sugar and cherries) is high.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way – to the park!  Or, rather, about the park!

Cedric the Roaming Gnome posing on the last day.

Cedric the Roaming Gnome posing on the last day.

We’d selected Site #29 from the map online and I have to say that we lucked out with a great campsite.  We were not far from the bathrooms/showers had potable water in either direction and I have to say that when it comes to comparing state park campsites between Wisconsin and Minnesota – Minnesota wins.  So far, every site we’ve stayed at within a MN State Park has been well-maintained and they have a screen of underbrush between you and the neighbors.

The weekend we stayed was damp, then rainy, and then – of course – on the last day it was absolutely beautiful with the sun shining, humidity down and a nice, gentle breeze.  Murphy’s Law.  But, because of all the rain that had been falling – there were mushrooms and various other fungus growing everywhere.

Beautiful mushrooms.

Beautiful mushrooms.

I also need to put in a warning.  There is a raccoon who appeared to be making the rounds of every campsite.  As we were with friends who had a screen tent to go over and around the picnic table – we congregated at their site and the raccoon visited on two nights to see if it could get in the trash.  Our friends have some nifty zip-close collapsible trash and recycling bins which thwarted the raccoon who, when caught red-pawed attempting to get into the bins had to be scolded into leaving.  After repeatedly stopping to turn back to see if we were actually serious about not wanting it around, it meandered off to the next site.  A few moments later we could hear shouting of, “Get!  Get outta here!”, followed by the crash of a bottle being chucked in the general direction of the raccoon.  So, you’ve been warned.

Guides in Historic Forestville.

Guides in Historic Forestville.

Besides Mr. or Ms. Raccoon, there was an abundance of birds, there is trout fishing in the Rock River (Preston is apparently Minnesota’s Trout Fishing capital) and lots of great plants to check out.  There is also the abandoned-turned-historical town of Forestville; you can purchase a ticket to tour the town with a guide in period clothing or just stop in the ticket building/store to check out the items on the shelves.  And last but not least, for the horseback riders and hikers reading this – TONS of trails, most of them are horse-and-people accessible and our weekend there we hiked about 17 miles (loops and in-out trails).  The trails, especially those that are open to horse and human traffic, are very well-maintained.  The people-only trails are in good shape, but they tended to be dirt trails which on a rainy weekend made for muddy and/or slick spots.

Finally, there is Mystery Cave.  This is a feature now run by the forest service and they have a variety of tours you can take – we opted for the 2 hour geology tour.  Our Ranger Guide, I believe her name was Jean (but I’m probably wrong), was an enthusiastic young lady who gave a very interesting and enjoyable tour.  Having been a tour guide once upon a time, I can tell you that your group stays more engaged if you enjoy what you’re talking about.  But I digress…

Cedric the Roaming Gnome, "Look at this giant shelf fungus!"

Cedric the Roaming Gnome, “Look at this giant shelf fungus!”

We had a great camping experience, the hiking and bird-watching were fantastic, the mushroom-hunting superb (even though it was for photographs only) and finally – I have to say that if you truly want to “get away from it all” – the park is in a cell-phone dead zone.  NO service.  It was great!

Happy Hiking!

PS – my Sour Cherry Spoon Sweet (extra sugar version for making the non-alcoholic cordial) is finished and in jars: 5 pints total!

The cottonwood tree that was "43 Sarah Steps" around at the base.  It is a DAMN big tree.  No Sarah posed next to tree for scale.  Sorry!

The cottonwood tree that was “43 Sarah Steps” around at the base. It is a DAMN big tree. No Sarah posed next to tree for scale. Sorry!

Posted in Fancy Coffee Friday, Hiking, Outdoors, Personal, Photography, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Fancy Coffee Friday: A Little of This, A Little of That

Four score and seven years ago… oh wait, not the Gettysburg Address… Traumatic memorization memories from middle school.  Anyhoo, four years and seven hours ago (give or take, but for the sake of this post that’s what I’m going with) I signed up for a blog with WordPress. Huzzah!  And the masses rejoiced!

*pause*

Rejoice, dammit, you ungrateful bastards!  Bask in the glory that is my writing!  Behold its wonder in your… minds!

Just kidding.  If you were doing what I was when I read that (eating the last of the Lebanese Potato Salad in the fridge for breakfast – I think it’s my new favorite potato salad), you probably just shrugged, gave a slight, upward movement of the corners of your mouth and thought, “How very interesting, please, tell me more.”

Though I know you were only being polite and you really don’t have time nor the inclination to keep sitting there politely listening to me ramble on about all manner of things, I’ll bring up a topic of conversation from last night between my massage therapist and myself.

So, there I was in my birthday suit, face-down on the massage table with the sheet over my lower half, when my normally very calm massage therapist who really doesn’t say a whole lot during the massage started talking.  And talking a lot.  And talking fast.  It was a few seconds after they began where I thought, “Hmm, they are worked up… agitated even.”  The kernel of the agitation was that their significant other did not trust them.  They brought up how their significant other looked through their phone, their Facebook messages for their work and personal accounts and has accused them of “looking” among other things.

I know what you’re thinking, well, I’ll pretend that I know what you’re thinking: “Sarah, what did you do?  What did you say?”

And there’s the hitch in that get-up – they weren’t asking for my advice, only for me to listen.  I kept my big yap shut and let them do what they needed to do, after all, if I was someone with whom they felt comfortable enough to divulge their relationship issues, the least I could do was listen to what they had to say even though every fiber of my being wanted to shout my thoughts on trust issues and insecurity.  But, they are an adult, and it’s their life, and like I said – I was picked to listen.

So, when finally the riptide of venting had ended, and things got back to their usual quiet, they asked me what I thought.

I asked, “Are you happy?”

There was a moment of quiet, thoughtfulness that even though my eyes were closed it was palpable, they said, “Yeah, and I know a lot of this is due to other stuff going on, and the stress we are under because of…”  And they continued to talk about all the reasons they were both stressed and what was going on and how it would all work out some way.  I continued to listen and at another long pause I stated, “Never give up your happiness for someone else.”  The words hung there for a moment and they quietly said, “I know.”

So folks, what this all comes down to is that I forced myself to be quiet and listen to hear this person, who I consider to be someone with whom I’m in the early stages of friendship, and not listen to respond to them.  Sure, I could have commented on their relationship about which they were venting, but we all vent from time to time – often it’s just so we can hear ourselves work things out aloud and not just in our heads.  Sometimes we do it for validation from someone else of our feelings, sometimes we want advice and we ask for it.

As much as I wanted to give my knee-jerk response at every moment I formed my thoughts – it wasn’t my place, nor was it the time, to offer up unwanted ideas about how they should be doing this or that.  The skill of listening is something that more and more people seem to missing.  And, in this case, when I truly listened to what they were saying what it came down to is asking if they were happy.

So, on this Fourth Anniversary of the Blog and Fancy Coffee Friday, go forth and truly take time to listen to hear people, not to respond.

And, if you’re sending gifts for the anniversary…

Traditional:  Fruits & Flowers
Modern:  Linen, Silk or Nylon
Alternate:  Appliances

I’m in the market for a few fruit trees, don’t really need any linens, but I could really use one of those commercial kitchen-sized food processors or a Vitamix (or BlendTec) blender.  Just sayin’.

Oh… you’d need my address…. I KNEW there was something I was forgetting!

Posted in Blogging, Fancy Coffee Friday, Personal | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Fancy Coffee Friday: Wisdom?

I’ll start my post today saying that I know I said in my last post that I’d write about my camping and hiking experiences from a month ago (was it only 3 weeks?), but I got a bit side-tracked.  Last week was Mr. Muses and my 16th wedding anniversary, plus – we had a house guest – plus, we had a get-together grill-out with friends for their visiting family.  Their family seems to have become our extended family so, therefore…

But I digress…

As I sit here in my screened porch basking in the final rays of the sun and sipping a Bee’s Knees, I feel compelled to write about a message I received via Facebook from a young woman of 18 asking me about modeling.

She wanted to know what I modeled, did I make any money, and ultimately she disclosed her desire to get into modeling as a way to make a living and get out from under the rules of the house with her parents.

Now, let me remind you that I’m 39 – old enough to be this young ladies mother – and I found myself staring at my computer screen, shaking my head at what I was reading. Sadly, I told her that most models lose money and the likelihood of her making enough to live off of was very slim.  She said she’d been told the same thing by a couple of other people she had asked and then said that she’d probably look into dancing at a gentleman’s club.

I advised against it even though I admitted that some dancers have been able to make quite s a lot of money.  She retorted that I probably have never done it based upon my response; I admitted she was correct and while one day I may entertain the idea of jumping on stage for amateur night, the idea of being a dancer at a gentleman’s club had not even entered my mind at age 18.  The conversation effectively ended with me saying that while I appreciated and admired the dancers’ athletic prowess, the fact is that most of the these women are objectified and that went against my “code”.

Later, I pondered this conversation wondering how it is that a young lady would even seriously consider the idea of, for the sake of shortening a few words as we go along, a stripper?

I went to college when I was 18, and I picked a degree I felt I would reasonably enjoy:  Agri-business.  By my second year, I decided to double-major, adding History to the Ag-biz, simply because I had so many credits in History.  But stripping?  I didn’t know anyone who did and only one guy in the dorm who would make the multi-mile drive to the closest strip joint in a seedy part of the city in which it was located.  He would come back with stories of dancers ridden hard and put away wet, for lack of a better analogy.

Twenty years ago, so many of the stories I had heard about stripping were about desperation and last resort moves.  They were about a lack of options.  Eighteen seems far too young to have a lack of options.

And now?  Now, I still think there is a whole world of opportunities before this young lady – but admittedly, I don’t know her whole story.  I don’t know her reasons for so desperately wanting to get out from under the house rules or for entertaining the idea of a career, however long, where the statistics for sexual assault, abuse, drugs and sex trafficking are so high.

The world is your oyster – no matter your age.  When opportunity comes along, I’m a firm believer in grabbing the door handle, opening the door and saying, “HELLO!”  So, normally I would end my posts with a question, but rather than continue to speculate upon what I feel are rash decisions by the young, I will take  a more positive route.

What is an opportunity that came your way which you were unsure about that you took and now know it was a great idea?

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Fancy Coffee Friday: …and then I looked up and saw Yoda.

If you’ve been reading my blog for any amount of time, sooner or later you’ve come to realize (or you will at any rate) that I am a ponderer.  I spend most of my waking hours inside of my head, rolling ideas around.  During formal meetings at the office I have a tendency to look down at my note pad and doodle as I listen.  Informal meetings, those caught-in-the-hallway-need-your-thoughts-on-this moments, find me with arms crossed, head down.

I think best without the distractions of eye contact.  Generally, I respond with my head down, my gaze averted and with a lot of hand gesturing (I’m a “hand talker”) and arm motion, though when I lock gazes it’s my way of driving home my point or making sure I’m completely understanding a question or situation.

Outside of the office?  I tend to do the same things, and even in my day-to-day pondering and conversations with myself I continue to be a hand talker/arm waver/doodler/downward looker.  My lunchtime walkabouts at the office typically find me watching the sidewalk pass under my feet, my ears piqued at the cacophony of sounds and my nose catching the scent of whatever is in bloom in the yards I pass.  These same things apply when I’m on a hike.  While I do tend to look up more when traipsing about the woodlands, I’m a fungi fan and so I’m usually looking around for interesting specimens of which to take photos.

Last weekend, Mr. Muse and I were camping with friends in Southeastern Minnesota (more on that later) and as the miles of trails went by I discovered some minuscule red fungus at the edge of the path.  Some were just sprouting up and were smaller than a grain of rice, but I caught the blazing red color amidst the dead leaf litter.

It had been a wet week in the Midwest and there was an abundance of fungi, many of it just having grown within the last week as many varieties still had their veils attached or they had just detached.  I was hoping to see some slimes or jelly fungus with the rather damp and chilly conditions but had no luck though I did see numerous other plants flowering, a large millipede about 6 inches (15 cm) in length and we managed to catch on the camera phone a video of a spider wrapping up a just-caught fly in its web.

But down isn’t the only direction in which I allow my gaze to fall.  Mr. Muse and I spend, and have spent, a great deal of time working on improving the health of our woodlot so we look at trees a great deal.  We noticed that all of the maples along the trails all seemed to be black with a mold, mildew or fungus that didn’t appear on any other trees.  There was a massive cottonwood that was “43 Sarah Steps” around at the base or just shy of 38′ (12.66 yards/11.7 meters).  The rest of the forest appeared to have a great many trees about the same age, easily over 100 years, and little undergrowth which made walking a pleasure.  There were birds of numerous species, a huge variety of plants, and when the sun finally showed it’s face, thousands of butterflies flitted about.

And those weren’t the only treats we beheld.  Since I have a background of competing in horticulture for years when I was younger, I was asked about the identity of a variety of plants.  I was just finishing up taking a photo of a rather hilarious find in the middle of a trail in the woods (a photo for another post) when I was asked what a plant was.  I looked up, scrunched my brow for a moment as I looked at what was being pointed out and then gasped with delight.  It was a Greater Yellow Lady’s-slipper Orchid!  I was beside myself with joy at being so lucky to see a rather large grouping of them immediately next to the trail that when I heard, “Holy shit…. it’s Yoda“, I had to look up.

And sure enough…. there he was.  Considering the day had been overcast, damp, drizzly with pockets of mist and fog and a lot of boggy ground and running water everywhere – it was as if we had been transported to Dagobah.  We were just missing the bogwings.

Sometimes it’s good to look up, you might just find a pleasant surprise.

Oh great and wise Yoda, show us the way.

Oh great and wise Yoda, show us the way.

Posted in Blogging, Hiking, Personal | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Fancy Coffee Friday: The Price of Admission

The Price of Admission - you're no prize yourself.

The Price of Admission – you’re no prize yourself.

A few weeks back I had watched a not-too-long video of Dan Savage discussing relationships and doling out advice to audience members.  The answer, or rather – question, he focused on in the clip was from a woman who lamented that she couldn’t find a man with whom she was willing to have a long-term relationship because of all the “little things” she found that annoyed her.  Mr. Savage ripped into her, pointing out how she appeared to be the most common denominator in these failed relationships and then brought out the analogy, “The Price of Admission”.  The price of admission to be with someone you love may be that you will always have to pick up their dirty socks from where you object of affection has left them lay.

The Price of Admission - Knowing you're going to be annoyed.

The Price of Admission – Knowing you’re going to be annoyed.

I have mused upon this idea frequently since watching the video and I began to see direct correlations between the price of admission and a variety of other things, be they work and career to just daily life in general.  For instance, Mr. Muse and I live “in the sticks” by choice.  When we were shopping for this property, we know going in that we’d have admission costs that many other people wouldn’t even want to consider or could not fathom, such as the need to have mouse traps laid out in the house every day of the year and putting out extras at other times.

Friends love to make the drive out from Madison for visits, but frequently remind us that they couldn’t live “so far out of the city”.  Now, before everyone begins to think we live hours from civilization – I assure you that our daily commute is under an hour.  It’s even close to 30 minutes if I don’t stop for a fancy coffee or to drop of dry cleaning.

But I digress…

Most recently I began to look at my admission prices for other things like traveling.  Mr. Muse and I (mostly “I”) have livestock.  We have housepets as well, but when you have livestock, going away for a vacation, or even just an overnight, takes on a whole new dimension.  No longer can you cram clothes and toiletries into a bag and hit the road – things must be planned and prepared for in advance.

The Price of Admission? Yeah, I'd miss you.

The Price of Admission? Yeah, I’d miss you.

Traveling, one of Mr. Muse’s and my favorite things to do (and the reason we both work full-time), went from tossing things into a bag and hitting the road, to a lengthy checklist including everything from getting the caretaker keys to making sure we couldn’t run out of food for anyone while we were gone.  It’s leaving the names of the veterinarians (both for large and small animals) to who to call if there is a problem with the honeybees.  But, all of that is our price of admission to living where we do, having a variety of animals, and loving to travel.

Once I began to think of these things as my prices of admission, be they for being in relationships with people to living out here in the sticks, I began to be a lot less uptight about certain things.  I am, of course, by no means perfect on letting everything go and chalking it up to admission prices, but I’m getting better.

So what are some of your “price of admission” items?

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Fancy Coffee Friday: Unmentionables

Last week during a conversation with a dear friend of mine I made the offhand comment that I didn’t want to be someone they couldn’t mention in polite company.  They responded immediately, “No worries.  I talk about you all the time.”

I was taken aback, stammered a bit to myself as I thought of how to respond to this revelation as my mind was reeling with information that was suddenly new and different from anything else I’d ever experience.

You see, my dear friend is someone I’ve been chatting with for over seven years now and I’ve yet to meet them in person.  My response of “You do?” would have been squeaked out had they been in the flesh before me instead of punched into my phone.

Of course, this got me wondering:  How often do friends, those met online or not (though, more specifically those met online) come up in conversation if mentioning them would be pertinent to the topic being discussed?

So Why The Weirdness?

I approached two other long-time friends with whom I’ve chatted for over 15 years (let us remember that the Internet has been around for the masses since at least 1994), and have met in person, with the question of whether or not they talk about their “Internet friends”?  I was curious if these two people that I admire and for whom I have affection openly spoke about friendships they developed online.

Results of my Officially Unofficial Poll?  They did, but seldom.

Why?  Because a lot of people wouldn’t understand and there would be too many questions.

Where do I stand on the topic?

I do not draw distinction between people I consider friends whether I’ve met them online or in person for anything other than clarifying context, such as the case with this post.  Chatting online seemed to me a natural transition from the hand-written pen pal letter relationships that I had in grade- and middle-schools.  In fact, many of my closest friendships are online, most likely because I’m not being judged upon appearance and my responses don’t have to be “shot from the hip”.

My normal day-to-day conversation with Mr. Muse typically has a mention of at least one, if not more, friend with whom I’ve chatted or texted with that day.  I’ve never been what I called “a closet chatter”.  Mr. Muse was fully aware of my online chatting when we started dating and it wasn’t expected to stop after we got married.

I speak of my online friends in the same capacity as I would anyone else I consider a friend.  It’s not taboo or something to be ashamed of – if we’re friends, we’re friends.

So why was I taken aback?

I’ve been chatting for over 20 years and for the first time in all of that time, someone who I considered a dear companion disclosed, without prompting, that I was not “unmentionable”.  My existence was acknowledged, and even admitted that I was someone in the great unknown of the Internet, and yet – I mattered and they didn’t hide it.

I puzzled this new information to Mr. Muse, astounded as I was, and he pointed out that for the first time I was friends with someone who wasn’t trying to hide their online activity from their friends or family.  Sadly, closet chatters appear to be the standard online.  People who are afraid of getting caught by friends or family for socializing online.  This was also seconded by DazyLady.  I suddenly was faced with the reality that there was another person out there in the “great unknown Internet” who treated people the same as I do.

It has never occurred to me that because I may have met someone in an online venue that their value as a friend, let alone a person, would be less than if I’d say, run into them at a donut shop.  And yet, I have friends who have developed great working friendships with people at their jobs whom they have never met in person – only spoken to over the phone, who roll their eyes at mention of friends made in chat rooms.  To me it’s all one and the same.

And so… now what?

Now?  After a week of thinking about how cool it is that someone I’m friends with online actually discusses me the same way I discuss them, I’m both happy and a bit sad.  I’m happy for the acknowledgement and I’m sad that A) it’s taken this long, and B) there are still people who I consider friends for whom I will always remain “unmentionable”.

So, my ideological bubble that all things were equal has been burst.  But that’s okay.  Honestly, it allows me to focus on those people for whom I do exist and matter.  The people who put forth the effort.   It’ll also allow me to reevaluate those other relationships that by all appearances do not matter nearly as much to the other people.

As as for people wondering if they are “unmentionable”?  Oh no, if we have a good conversation – I talk about it.  Here, on Facebook, on Twitter, in person – it’s all conversation fodder.  You exist and you matter.

So, how about you? To you, are people online “unmentionable”?  Do you bring up conversations from online, be they in Facebook, Twitter, chat rooms or otherwise?  Why or why not?

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