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Celebrating a Birthday and Life

Carolyn Cares Birthday Ride

June 23rd is Jonathan’s birthday. We like to celebrate big here, but this year, Jonathan’s gifts were larger than normal.

Eight years ago today, Jonathan was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. When we went for a walk around the farm yard, and he was telling me what led him to see the doctor, it was heartbreaking. Our oldest daughter had been diagnosed with MS four years before.

One thing I distinctly remember, is how we talked about how we don’t know what the future will bring as far as disease progression goes, and that was a scary thing. I made one request of Jonathan that day. To not give up on life, and to live his life to the fullest.

That request led to a purchase of used jet skis, and a new found hobby that he loves. Those jet skis have had many hours on the water, and many good memories were made. It was time, however, to upgrade. So, for a combination of Father’s Day and his birthday, Jonathan received a pair of Sea Doo Sparks this week. While I am more than content to keep my feet on land and take photos, it makes me so happy to see him have fun. The troubles that often accompany farming are forgotten while he’s on the water. It’s so fun to watch the joy on Jonathan’s and Laura’s faces as they race across the water.

Happy Birthday, Jonathan, and thank you for not giving up on living your life.

 

Celebrating 5 Years of Carolyn CAREs

Celebrating 5 Years

Celebrating 5 years of Carolyn CAREs

2015 marked my 5th year of blogging. What better way to celebrate this milestone than to highlight my top 5 posts!

5. Top 10 Things I Love About Farm Life

This was a fun post with my top 10 things I love about life on the farm. Even though this post was written a few years ago, the list remains pretty much the same…especially number one!

4. Don’t Be a Pringle

The expression “Don’t Be a Pringle” means we are all unique, and shouldn’t try to be like everyone else. Agriculture is so diverse, we can’t really be like everyone else, even if we try. It doesn’t matter if what you grow is different than what I grow, or if our methods are different. We are all feeding our communities…after all, if someone is eating, chances are pretty strong that someone had to grow the ingredients that went into that meal.

3. 90 Days 9 Lessons

This post is a little more recent. Last May, I was told ever so gently by my doctor that I needed to make a few changes. I was pre-diabetic, and needed to work on losing weight, getting my blood glucose levels under control, and dropping my triglyceride levels. Since that post was written, I’ve lost a few more pounds, but have a ways to go yet before I hit my goals. I really need to go back and focus on number 5 and find my number 6’s!

2. Baby It’s Cold Outside

I love living in Minnesota, and I love Minnesota winters…most of the time. A few years ago we had multiple polar vortexes that dropped our temperatures to well below zero for days at a time. We raise our crops organically, but have made the decision to raise our pigs in barns because we think they are happier and healthier when kept out of the extreme weather situations like the polar vortexes.

1. United We Stand…Resisting the Attempts to Divide Agriculture

If I had to write this post over again, I probably wouldn’t change it much at all. This post was the first one that was read by more than my mom, I think. It was written about a year after I started blogging, but still says a lot of what I want to say today.
“I will never make anyone feel bad for the food choices they make. We all have different taste in clothes, shoes, cars, TV’s, computers, orange juice, cereal, etc. We don’t tear each other apart for those differences, why do so many feel it is okay to condemn food choices? I see no need to have an us vs them attitude in agriculture. What benefit is that to anyone? I would encourage everyone to have a mixed, balanced diet filled with color…and the occasional deep fried Milky Way on a stick.”

 

Thank you for celebrating with me, and for riding along on this journey for the last 5 years. Here’s to many more!

 

**Shout out to Sweet Cheeks Honey and Sartori Cheese for the delicious products in the photo above.

30 Things I Love: Small Town Celebrations

Small Town Celebrations

Many small towns in rural America have community celebrations in the summer. I love these celebrations, and reconnecting with friends and family.

Our town’s celebration is called Coming Home Days. We used to have a winter celebration, called the Fishless Derby, but after a few winters of less than ideal conditions for the snowmobile races and ice fishing contests, it was moved to the weekend after Independence Day.

There is a lake in town, where we have a fireworks display on the first evening of the celebration. We usually go sit at the beach, and watch from there. This year, the lake was almost perfectly calm, making for some cool reflections on the water. It’s a pretty good show for a small town. Saturday is the busiest day of Coming Home Days. This year, my serving group and church was in charge of the pie social. So many wonderful pies were brought in by our congregation members! Fruit pies, custard pies, cookie pies…you name it, it was there. I look forward to visiting with the people who come to enjoy a piece of pie and relax a little bit. The pie social ends just in time to head outside to watch the parade. Our parade is pretty typical of small town parades. Tractors (new and old), area fire departments and ambulances, politicians, music, local clubs, and local businesses all wind their way through town.  Following the parade, we have a pork loin feed at the town fire hall, which raises funds for new equipment for the fire department.

The thing that makes small town celebrations best, are the people who come home to visit. It is so fun to see people that have been away for awhile. People that we may have taught in confirmation or Sunday school, were classmates of our daughters, or who were friends of Jonathan from high school. Catching up and reconnecting are just as important as the other events that are going on. After all, our small towns are nothing without the community of people. If you’re debating whether or not to attend your hometown’s celebration this year, I would encourage you to go. Not for the entertainment as much as reconnecting with family and friends. It’s the community that people create that make small towns great.

What is your town’s celebration like? What is you favorite part?

Day 1: Pizza

Day 2: Shoes

Day 3: Shout Stain Remover

Day 4: The Ability to Vote

Day 5: My Heritage

Day 6: NASCAR

Day 7: Black Velvet for Photography

Day 8: Strong Coffee and Strong Hairspray

Day 9: Peacefulness

Day 10: Winter’s First Snow

Day 11: Freedom

Day 12: Dairy

Day 13: Jonathan

Day 14: Coffee

Day 15: Seasons

Day 16: Scones

Day 17: #AgNerds

Day 18: Playing in the Dirt

Day 19: Friends

Day 20: My Church Choir Family

Day 21: OxyClean

Day 22: Small Town Celebrations

Click here to go to Holly Spangler’s blog, and see the link for other 30 Day Challenge Bloggers

Guest Post: My 10th Celebration of Life

This post was written by my daughter, Anna (Olson) Meyer. Today, October 13, 2014, is the 10th anniversary of her Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis. Read on about life from her perspective, and learn why we call this anniversary a Celebration of Life. This post is also being published on her blog, Smiles Squared.

 

On this day ten years ago….my mother and I traveled an hour away from my hometown to visit my neurologist to receive my official diagnosis. The results from the spinal tap had come back, and finally, Dr. Nelson would tell us for sure if I had a pinched nerve, MS, or a brain tumor. He had given all three of these as possibilities as to why my entire left side had stopped working normally, but his theory was that I most likely had MS. That is what we knew before we got to Wilmar, MN. I was CONVINCED that it was nothing but a pinched nerve, and for some unknown reason my name had been on the prayer list at church for the last few weeks.
On that day, ten years ago, I was officially diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. I was started on some medical steroids, and I was shown how to use the Autoject for my three-times-weekly medicine shots, just under the skin. (It would be another year before I gave myself those shots….and, of course, I was bribed—because what other way is there for a kid to be willing to do something unless they get something in return?)
Since my diagnosis, we have called the anniversary of that day my “celebration of life.” It is the day when I can look back on a year and see all the things I have been able to do, even though I have MS. On this ten-year anniversary of this life-altering diagnosis, I reflect on the things I have accomplished in my life!

1. I’ve been on all sorts of cool vacations and stuff.

Who cares if I had to rent a wheelchair to go Disneyworld? I went to Disneyworld! I’ve also rented wheelchairs at zoos, and even the Minnesota State Fair. Those places take a lot of walking, and I don’t quite have the energy to walk all that way. But I still got to experience it and enjoy my visits! Those places, by the way, have been the only ones I rented a wheelchair for. I can still walk! ….just not super far. I’ve been to the Wisconsin Dells and the Black Hills of South Dakota, just doing the tourist thing because I could. In high school, I went to a youth gathering with a church denomination, and had an AWESOME time with my cousin Jenni and my aunt Sheryl! In college, I went on TWO summer mission projects. Just because I have MS, doesn’t mean I can’t have fun! So I have to plan a little extra, and the south is typically a bad idea in the summer. I STILL LIVE LIFE.

2. In middle school, there were no cheerleaders, and I wanted to be one, so I petitioned and found a coach for middle school basketball cheerleaders!

Anna and the Lakeview Cheerleaders

Anna is in the front row, second from right

The January after my diagnosis. I am second from the right, front row. You know, the one with the big smile?
We were moderately good. Our most difficult move was when one cheerleader stood on the thighs of two other cheerleaders, but we stayed safe. I wasn’t really into watching sports, but I did notice that when our middle school teams had cheerleaders, the whole “crowd” was pretty riled up. You know, for a middle school game. Smiley face. Of course, this cheerleading team kind of left the middle school when I did. I always wanted to be a cheerleader. Our high school had football cheerleading, but by that time, I just wanted to play in the pep band. (We see why I became a music major?)
I was also on the golf team for a few years before the walking became too much for me and I acknowledged that I wasn’t that great. But it was fun!

3. I got my black belt!

Actually, I started Tae Kwon Do in 4th grade. In 7th grade, I got my junior black belt. I was diagnosed with MS in 8th grade. In 9th grade, I got my 2nd degree junior black belt. After I turned 16, sophomore year, I got my first degree adult black belt. And senior year, I got my second degree adult black belt! I was involved in Tae Kwon Do for 8 years; 5 of those years after having MS. I remember difficulty in my first tournament after being diagnosed, but then I just focused on what I COULD do instead of what I COULDN’T. I taught and I was a referee as my level advanced. I became inactive in TKD after I graduated high school, but I will always be a second degree black belt!

4. I finished high school AND college.

One of my college professors once told me that he had never seen such determination in a student. So I wasn’t the best. Who cares? I did as best I could. I was DETERMINED to finish well and I learned a ton while in those college years. I wrote a post about what MS has taught me over the last decade or so here.

5. I played a senior recital of percussion music.

At that time in my life, I had skill, because I was playing on these instruments all the time. I played a piece on the marimba, the timpani, some toms (drums), the vibraphone, and even flower pots! (Videos of all these can be seen on YouTube.) I loved that season in my life, when I could go from instrument to instrument in the percussion section in an empty band room and just PLAY.

6. I’ve had a “grown-up job” since I graduated.

Even before I graduated, I’ve been giving private lessons. According to some of my other music-major friends, I wasn’t charging enough, but still. As soon as I graduated, I got on the substitute teacher list for a few different school districts. And when I got to Kentucky, of course, I began working at a music store—giving lessons! And now I’ve started up this Mary Kay business! Before I was married, I paid my own rent, bought my own food, and loved when Mom and Dad came to Sioux Falls to take me grocery shopping. And now, I don’t get many visits from Mom and Dad (because I currently live, like, 20 hours away), but I still get care packages of coffee brands that aren’t sold in the south. (Thanks, mom!)

7. I’ve written, like, four novels.

Only one I’ve written is decent enough for me to want to publish it, but I do want to publish it! I also write shortstories and blog posts all the time. And other little things when I feel like it. I’ve kept a journal since I was diagnosed! And things have just kept moving from there. I don’t believe they will ever stop, either.

8. I wrote music for a class in college and directed an ensemble playing it in church one time.

So I maybe didn’t take into consideration that band instruments play better in flats than sharps. And that high school students can’t pick up music as fast as college students. But I was so proud of that piece! I even published my college friends and I playing the piece here on YouTube.

9. I GOT MARRIED!

Anna and Doug

Anna and Doug
Photo by tony miller photography

My handsome groom and I at our wedding this last July.
Just this last summer, if you are keeping up with me at all on this blog. (I’ve kinda talked about it a lot….) Never did I ever think I would meet a man who saw ME past the MS that has been so apparent in my life. I have a limp, which is the most obvious symptom to the world and the first turn-off to anybody who sees that instead of me first (which is pretty much everybody). But Dr. Wile E. Coyote, while he notices my limp, only notices if it’s a bad day or a good day and helps me stretch sometimes. Or if he’s walking with me, and I pull him around. (He’s not as sturdy as my sisters when they’ve walked with me, hehe.) I love Dr. Coyote, my best friend, and he is what I need. But God knew that. And I am privileged to be starting this med school journey with him and trusting the Lord until graduation, and beyond! (Like, forever. Every. Minute.)

10. I have become stronger than I thought possible.

Physically, mentally, and emotionally. I have had to push past the limits of where I would want to quit because something is hard. Being diagnosed so young (at 13), I had to face many decisions and situations that most teens shouldn’t have to face. I thank the good Lord for my always-supportive family who helped me so much!

On this day in ten years, who knows what things I’ll accomplish that I’ll be able to remember? The thing about having MS is that though we have to plan a little more, sometimes sleep a little more, and maybe be careful of what activities we chose to partake in, we still live normal lives. I haven’t felt normal for years, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I would love to wake up one day and the Lord tell me, “You’re cured!” But I know that when people see me walking with a limp, unphased, it brings God more glory.
Anna E Meyer

 

Wordless Wednesday – 26 Years!

Happy Anniversary

You have to walk carefully in the beginning of love; the running across fields into your lover’s arms can only come later when you’re sure they won’t laugh if you trip. ~Jonathan Carroll, “Outside the Dog Museum”

Thanks for not laughing at me every time I trip!     Happy Anniversary, Jonathan! I love you!

Happy Birthday, Jonathan!

CarolynCares Happy Birthday Jonathan

Happy Birthday, Jonathan! I love you more today than yesterday. Thank you for being my love, my calming force, my protector, my partner in pranks, my encourager, my friend, my favorite boss….I could go on all day. I am so thankful that I am your wife!

Love, Carolyn

Where Has the Time Gone?

CarolynCares Christina Graduates

This little cutie has grown up into a beautiful woman. Today, she graduates from college! It seems like yesterday when we were looking forward to summer break after her year of kindergarten. We’re proud of you, sweetheart, and wish you many blessings as you pursue your passions.

Congratulations, Christina! We love you very much!

30 Days of Thanksgiving – Day 30: Christmas

CarolynCares Christmas

What is your favorite thing about Christmas? For me, it is the memories of Christmases past, and the wonder and excitement as we remember the miracle of Jesus’ birth. Sometimes I think we get so caught up in looking forward that we gloss over the true miracles and wonder of the first Christmas.

Some of my favorite memories are not of the gifts received, but of the traditions we had for decorating. We had one of those huge stereos that were major furniture pieces. We would play Christmas records (you know, the vinyl records that required a record player with a needle) while we put the artificial tree together, strung the lights, and placed the ornaments on the tree. When I hear certain songs, I can smell the dusty plastic of the old tree, and see exactly where it was standing in our living room. We each had the opportunity to pick an album to listen to. My favorite had to be Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians “Twas the Night Before Christmas” – the version with the Norman Rockwell cover.

When I married and had the opportunity to start my own traditions, playing music while decorating is one thing I kept from my childhood. We tried to incorporate some of the traditions from Jonathan’s side as well, such as hanging a large lighted star on the windmill. The lutefisk on Christmas Eve wasn’t one that carried over, though!  Starting new traditions with our daughters wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. Not all of my ideas turned out to be great ones. It is fun to hear what they remember most about Christmases when they were younger. Everyone remembers things so differently.

Today we’ll be setting up our Christmas tree. I’ll be playing some of my favorite Christmas CD’s (still a little sad that my favorite album didn’t get remastered for CD release), and probably making a few Christmas cookies for the girls to take back to school. I am thankful for the memories made on days like this. I am also thankful for the December snows, the happy Christmas greetings shared between friends and strangers alike, and the wonder of the Christmas story.

Thank you so much for following along on my 30 Days of Thanksgiving! I’ll still be writing, but not every day. Just for fun, I’ll leave you with this…

Want to see other 30 Day Challenge blogs? Head over to Holly Spangler’s blog to find the link!

Wordless Wednesday – Halloween Before Pinterest

This is maybe a Semi-Wordless Wednesday… How did we find ideas for making Halloween costumes before the days of internet let alone before Pinterest? Thankfully, there were some good parent magazines, and Golden Story Books. We had three blonde little girls. When they were little we dressed them as the three little pigs one year, and the three blind mice another. Sadly, I can’t find a photo of the mice. So, here are the three little pigs:

The Three Little Pigs

The Three Little Pigs

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