Home » Archive by category "family"

World MS Day – Don’t Forget the Family Members

World MS Day

Laura and I shopping at IKEA

This past week, World MS Day was observed. It is a day when many countries send out information via various platforms to help raise awareness of Multiple Sclerosis, as well as helping the general public to understand what MS is.

Our oldest daughter, Anna, was diagnosed with MS at age 13. When many girls at school were worried about their middle school homecoming outfits, Anna was having MRIs, spinal taps, and numerous blood draws. Her MS was very aggressive, as it is for many of the children diagnosed with this disease. That meant we needed to spend a lot of time in doctor’s offices, outpatient infusion centers where she received steroid treatments to calm her relapses, and had to make modifications on some activities at home. She took a lot of our time and attention, which meant her two sisters felt a little left out at times.

A few years later, Jonathan was also diagnosed with MS. We haven’t spent as much time in doctor’s offices as we did with Anna, but his disease has caused a change in the way we live at times.

It wasn’t until Laura, our youngest, was in a college psychology class and wrote a paper about shadow children that I realized the affect that chronic illness has on the rest of the family. I believe that sometimes, when you are living it, it is more difficult to see the changes in the “healthy” family members. We didn’t intentionally pay more attention to Anna, and we didn’t mean to make them feel as if their issues weren’t important…but yet, that is what they have sort of felt. Both Christina and Laura have assured me that they don’t hate me (whew!), and now when they are older they understand that living in the shadow of a disease wasn’t something we wished for them.

One thing that I have learned from Laura is to value the time spent with your family members. I love spending intentional time together with each of my kids, where we can have fun, be serious, laugh, or cry together. While we can’t change the past, hopefully others can learn from our experience.

Check in with the family members of those living with a chronic disease. Ask how they are doing. Grab a cup of coffee, or go for a walk…something that is normal and mundane may be exactly what they need. Just don’t forget about them.

Grandma. I Like the Sound of That!

Grandma of Lydia Ruth

On September 1st, I became a Grandma! Lydia Ruth was born to our daughter and son-in-law in Kentucky.

The plan was for me to head from Minnesota to Kentucky when Anna was in labor, so I could arrive right before she would be discharged from the hospital. With Anna’s Multiple Sclerosis being rather aggressive, there was worry she might have a relapse soon after she delivered. I was happy to be asked to help out, and drove to Kentucky when we were sure Anna was in labor. I was pretty excited to see the little bundle that made me a grandma which made the drive seem a lot longer than it actually is!

The first week home with a new baby is always a little stressful, especially for new parents. I am so proud of Doug and Anna, and how they have supported each other through that transition. Anna was readmitted to the hospital to be treated for an infection and possible MS relapse after being home for 10 days. Doug and Lydia spent as much time with Anna as they could for the 2 1/2 days that she was there being treated for her infection. That time spent together just focusing on each other was so beneficial…even if the situation wasn’t what they wanted.

When Anna returned home from the hospital, Lydia’s other grandma was here. The plan was for me to return home when Doug’s mom arrived, but because Anna is still weak I’m staying a few days longer so I can be mom more than grandma. I’m so thankful that I can be here to help the kids out!

There’s something pretty cool about watching your kids go from infancy to toddler stage…kindergarten to graduation…college to jobs…and now on to parenthood. Watching how nervous both Doug and Anna were when holding Lydia shortly after delivery to seeing how comfortable they are holding, changing, feeding, and recognizing her needs based on grunts and cries has been so awesome to witness.

And this whole grandma thing? I’m loving it so far!

 

Remembering Kenny

Remembering Kenny

Jonathan and Kenny on the last day of harvest 2015

 

My father-in-law, Kenny Olson, passed away on January 22, 2016. I have been mulling over ways to pay tribute to the man who taught me so much about farming, about living out your wedding vows so faithfully, and handling life’s difficulties with humor and grace. In essence, he showed us all how to live out our faith.

These verses in 1 Corinthians 13 really sum up much about what I know about Kenny.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

When Jonathan and I were dating, we lived 3 hours from each other. This meant visits to the Twin Cities for Jonathan, or trips to the farm for me when we wanted to see each other. I was pretty nervous the first time I came to the farm and met Kenny and Lois. Thankfully, they were both so welcoming that I felt better immediately. I think he was pleased when we were engaged on his birthday in 1988.

Kenny and Jonathan were so patient teaching this city girl how to drive tractors, pick rocks, hoe weeds, and run to town for parts. If he was upset at me about mistakes, he never let it show. There was a time when Kenny and Lois had guests stop by for an evening of visiting while we were still working the ground after harvest. I volunteered to take the evening shift in the tractor to chisel plow so Jonathan and the girls could hang out at the farm and visit with the guests as well. I was on the far end of the field when all of a sudden, the chisel plow fell off the hitch, hydraulic hoses flying. Neither Jonathan nor Kenny had their two-way radios on, so my only choice was to drive back to the yard, leaving the chisel plow where it was. The guys were a little surprised when I drove in to the yard, and were happy I was not hurt, and that the hydraulic hoses had pulled cleanly out of the outlets on the back of the tractor and were in one piece. Neither one of them were upset over that incident. They just made sure the large pin was held in place with wire after that, so it couldn’t get jerked out of the hitch again.

My mother-in-law, Lois, lived with Multiple Sclerosis for 30 years. Kenny lived out the wedding vows, “in sickness and in health” so beautifully. He wasn’t real fond of driving into the Cities to take Lois to medical appointments, but he did it anyway. When Lois needed to use a wheel chair, he had a ramp built to get her in and out of their home, and made other modifications to make her life easier. When it came time for Lois to move to a nursing home in a neighboring town, he drove the 22 miles to pick her up for church every Sunday morning, then brought her to their house in town for the day before returning her to the nursing home in the evening. He spent many days visiting her when he wasn’t helping on the farm. I know it wasn’t all sunshine and roses dealing with Lois’ illness, but he chose to live out his love through patience and devotion to her. That has been a great example to all of us.

Kenny had a wonderful sense of humor. When we were looking for photos for our farm’s 100th anniversary celebration, we found many photos of Kenny and his brother having fun. Apparently, they liked to pull old Model T cars, without engines, behind other cars and run them up and down the road ditches. Kenny also enjoyed telling stories and having fun, even while hoeing out weeds in the soybean fields. He found a way to make the unpleasant tasks more tolerable with humor. The last month of his life, even after the dementia caused him to no longer recognize his family, he would still make people laugh with self-depreciating humor, and joking. He had such a pleasant nature, that everyone who worked at the memory care unit where he lived loved him.

Kenny has been such a great example of living out your faith, even when life gets hard. I feel so blessed to have been able to be a part of his family for the past 27+ years.

A Christmas Eve Story

This Christmas Story is shared by Jonathan Olson.

Christmas Eve in Germany

My Dad Kenneth Olson was stationed in Germany for part of his Army service. From time to time he would share stories from those Army days with his family. Here is one we listened to and enjoyed, and now we want to share it with you.

It was Christmas Eve, 1958. All of their duties were done for the day, and the men in the barracks had the rest of the day off. It was a calm, quiet night. There were a couple of guys complaining about being stuck here on Christmas. It wasn’t quite dark yet, so Dad and his army buddy decided to head into the local small town to eat out. They went into a little restaurant managed by some immigrants. The wife was friendly and serving as the waitress, and the husband was in back cooking. There were very few people eating out that night, so the place was fairly quiet.

There was a little girl playing on the floor with a few small toys. She was the daughter of the couple running the restaurant. It was apparent they didn’t have much extra to live on. Christmas would likely pass with no fanfare for them.

As Dad and his buddy finished eating their meal, they talked over an idea they began to get excited about. They paid for their meal, left a tip, and went for a walk. They found just what they wanted–a store still open. They went in and did not have to look long before they saw what they were looking for. . . a huge teddy bear. They bought it plus some other things for the family. They returned to the restaurant and gave the teddy bear to the little girl playing on the floor. She was so excited. She hugged it right away. The mother, with tears running down her cheeks, thanked Dad and his friend. They then gave the wife and husband a bag with some gifts for them. They were so thankful. They admitted there wasn’t enough money to get their daughter anything special, so the gifts for her were very kind.

The husband insisted that Dad and his friend have some complimentary dessert. They did enjoy a bit of dessert, but the real enjoyment was watching the little girl with her big new teddy bear. She was still beaming with her huge smile. Soon the desserts were finished, and it was time to head back to the barracks. As they walked in the door, they heard one guy say, “this is the worst Christmas ever.” Dad looked at his friend and they both smiled. They were thinking to themselves “it is a pretty good Christmas.”

May the joy of Christmas be with you and your loved ones today and every day!
CarolynCares Kenny and Buddys Christmas

Kenny (far right) and a few of his buddies

Cherish Your Friends and Family

family

Things have been quiet on the blog lately. We have been enjoying time with family in addition to farm work and meetings.

On June 27th, we attended the wedding of our niece and new nephew-in-law. Laura rode with us, and we met Anna and Doug at our hotel. Jonathan hadn’t seen Anna or Doug since we parted ways in Stuttgart, Germany in January, so he was anxious to see them. Christina and I were able to visit them on our way back from New York in May, but it was still so good to get hugs from them again. It was so nice to be able to spend time playing games, visiting, and laughing together.

It’s funny, as much as I cherish my friends – whether they are In Real Life friends or Social Media friends – and my family, I seem to have troubles nurturing those relationships. Maybe it’s because of my fear of being a bother, or not wanting to look foolish, I’m not sure. I think we all have those insecurities, and put up walls from time to time to protect our hearts. The thing is, when those walls go up, we miss out on the human relationships that we crave.

I think Anna and Doug’s visit, and the impromptu gatherings with family and friends surrounding their visit here have made me realize how much I need to nurture my human connections, and how, in the grand scheme of things, those relationships are the important things in life. The point isn’t to just comment on things I disagree with or where I see an educational opportunity. The point is to build the relationships so that when a disagreement happens, it doesn’t ruin that relationship. In many conferences and workshops we hear about how to advocate for agriculture by building relationships with our consumers, but I think we also need to build relationships with other advocates.

Thanks, Anna and Doug, for the visit, and for making me see the importance of nurturing my relationships!

30 Things I Love: Viktoria

Viktoria

Viktoria & Kevin in the Pyrenees and Viktoria at the Rhine River. The signs on the wall are flood markings

I love my German daughter, Viktoria! She lived with us during the 2010-2011 school year as a participant in International Experience, an exchange student program.

Jonathan and I had wanted to host a foreign exchange student, but also wanted to wait until the girls were older. When it was time, we filled out an application, and after we were accepted, we needed to go through profiles and choose our top 3. Both Jonathan and I kept looking at Viktoria’s profile, and put her on our list. Little did we know how good of a choice that would be!

When you host an exchange student, there are certain hoops you must jump through. Home inspection, back ground checks…many of the same types of things we have gone through to become foster parents. As a mom, it is comforting to know that the families have been checked out to make sure the students are in a safe environment. We sent photos to Viktoria and her family of our house, her room, and us…hoping that she would be okay living on the farm.

Finally, the day of her arrival came. We went to the airport to meet her flight, nervously waiting. Would she like us? Would we get along well? We had heard plenty of horror stories, and were a bit worried about how this year would go. When Viktoria got to baggage claim, we were so happy to finally meet her. We got the awkward greetings out of the way, and started heading for the van. Getting to know Viktoria was easy. Her English was perfect! I was so afraid that we wouldn’t be able to understand each other. It turns out that our Minnesotan confused her more at first than her accent confused us. Apparently, the term “hot dish” doesn’t translate well.

I love Viktoria’s compassion for others, her gift of song, and her positive personality. She loves to tease just as much as the rest of us, yet she also knows when to be a friend who just listens. She touched many lives while she was living with us, from fellow students to members of our church. She has a beautiful singing voice, and was able to be the soloist for Anna’s wedding this summer. Unfortunately, she couldn’t be here in person, but thanks to technology, she was still able to sing for Anna and Doug.

Viktoria has come back to see us once after her exchange experience ended. Now it is our turn to go see her! We’re pretty excited to be able to visit her and her family soon! After hosting her parents for just over a week at the end of her stay with us, I am really looking forward to seeing them as well! I am so thankful that Jonathan and I decided to host an exchange student, and because of that, we have a daughter in Germany.

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

Day 23: Clouds

Day 24: Thanksgiving

Day 25: Sisters

Day 26: My Minivan

Day 27: My Daughters

Day 28: Viktoria

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

30 Things I Love: My Daughters

Daughters

I love my daughters! Each one has their own personality, their own quirks, and their own style. I love how they love each other, and the joy they bring to our family.

Every year, we would take back to school photos on the first day of school. The photo above is from Anna’s senior year in high school. It is so fun to look back and see how the girls have changed! The things that haven’t changed are their love and support for each other. I am so thankful for that! Every now and then, I get messages from one that says, “my sisters and I have been discussing…”

Anna graduated from college a year ago. She married Doug in June, and they live in Kentucky where he is attending medical school. Anna is giving music lessons at a local music store, is the lesson coordinator for the store, and sells Mary-Kay. They have been busy making friends with other students and their significant others, as well as navigating all that you need to when moving to a completely different area. They have found a church where they feel welcomed, which is awesome. I miss Anna and Doug, but I’m thankful they are just a phone call or text or email or Skype or Facetime away. Anna also blogs at Anna E. Meyer where she shares about her faith, her writing, and life with Multiple Sclerosis. She has a pretty good attitude about life, which is one of the things most people love about her.

Christina graduated from college in May with a degree in theater, and an emphasis on costume design. She moved out to Custer, SD right after graduation to work summer stock theater at the Black Hills Playhouse. After the summer run ended, she was at home for about a month before moving to New York City. She lives with the other three theater graduates from Augustana College, which makes her move a little easier for me to handle. She can now say she has designed a show in New York City after being the costume designer for a community theater production! So far, she is loving life in NYC, and is making new friends in the theater world…some who have ties back to Augustana College. Christina is learning how to get around in New York, and I’m hoping that we’ll get the chance to visit her out there before too long. It would be fun to see what she sees every day, and to learn a little more about the city she now calls home.

Laura is living in Sioux Falls where she shares a house with some of her friends from the University of Sioux Falls. We asked her to take the fall semester off to help us with harvest, and she did. Jonathan had her driving semis, tractors, climbing grain bins…she did pretty much everything except for run the combine. She was also a huge help when it came to adjusting to our new foster son. He came the day we were planning to start harvest, and I was a little overwhelmed. Laura was great at stepping in to the jobs I normally do to help set up augers and get things ready to go, as well as entertaining the boy so I could go to the bathroom! I am so thankful that she was willing to come home to work this fall! Laura is also my favorite shopping partner (she shares my love of shoes), and I love hanging out with her when I can. I am so thankful that she is only a couple hours’ drive away instead of a plane ride away. It makes my mommy heart hurt to have my girls spread so far away!

When the girls were born, we had all kinds of dreams about who they would be, and what they would be like when they were grown. We’ve had many ups and downs, like a lot of other families, and I am thankful that we are close. My daughters truly are day brighteners and heart warmers!

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

Day 23: Clouds

Day 24: Thanksgiving

Day 25: Sisters

Day 26: My Minivan

Day 27: My Daughters

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

 

 

30 Things I Love: My Sisters

Sisters

I love my sisters. We love hanging out with each other whether it is at family gatherings, or on sister weekends. Since we live in different areas of the state, we don’t get to see each other often enough!

We also have two brothers, and we love them as well, but there is nothing like the bond between sisters. Have you ever hung out with someone so much that you start to finish each others sentences, or know what they are thinking before they even say it? That’s how it is with my sisters. We have stuck by each other through thick and thin…literally and figuratively…and have supported each other through medical issues, job transitions, and the typical tough parts of life. Those things draw us closer together, and make the joyful parts of life sweeter.

My sisters and I love good jokes, good food, and good stories. We laugh. A lot. We’ve been know to text each other late into the night when we’re apart, or go looking for the super moon at 2 am when on a sister’s weekend. We always stay up too late talking, and we never seem to run out of things to talk about. We cherish those conversations, and the time spent together.

One of our favorite Christmas movies is White Christmas. We reference it quite often, even in the summer. The best part about it? When Betty and Judy Haynes (Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen’s voice double) sing the song, “Sisters”.  Those times when we say the same thing at the same time? We sing the song. Those times when we all do the exact same thing at the exact same time? We sing the song. Those times when our family looks at us as if we’re completely nuts as we’re laughing hysterically at an inside joke? We sing the song.

Ahhh. I love my sisters!

 

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

Day 23: Clouds

Day 24: Thanksgiving

Day 25: Sisters

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

30 Things I Love: My Church Choir Family

My Church Choir

I love singing. I’m not soloist material, but I love singing in our church choir. The best thing about the choir? It’s members.

The first time I attended a Wednesday evening choir practice, I was so nervous. I had never sung in a choir before, only small groups, so I had no idea what to expect. I was warmly welcomed by everyone, and quickly felt at ease. Over the years we have built friendships. We’ve cried together, laughed together, prayed together, and we’ve made beautiful music together. Our numbers fluctuate depending on the time of year and job or travel schedules, which is normal. The photo above was taken last night, with no heads up…just a “hey, I need a photo of the choir”. They were kind enough to allow the photo.

My music involvement at church started when I was asked to take over the bells of a woman with cancer. She could no longer continue to play in the bell choir, so she asked me to play her bells. How can you turn that down? Next came an ensemble that was made up of a few couple friends, and some choir members. We practiced regularly, right before the senior choir’s practice, but it took a few years to work my way up to the balcony. When I first joined the choir, I sat in the back row of the alto section. When one of our tenors was fighting cancer, I volunteered to move back to the tenor section. That is now my choir home. It was a steep learning curve, and I still have to really think about the notes at times, but I love it. The other two tenors, and the basses have been very good about helping me out when I need it. But, that’s what families do. They help each other out. I am so thankful for that!

I’ve had to miss a few practices this fall, but I always look forward to choir practice. Seeing the choir members, having devotions together, and making music always means I leave with a song in my heart. I love my choir family!

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

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

 

30 Things I Love: Jonathan

Jonathan and Anna - Father Daughter Dance

What can I say…I do love Jonathan! I feel pretty darn fortunate to be married to my best friend. When we met in 1987, we talked for hours. He was going to a college that was about 2 hours from mine. So, we had many phone conversations and wrote many letters. Keep in mind, this was before phone company plans had unlimited long distance calling, and way before email. Those letters were either typed on an electric typewriter, or written by hand, and, well, we won’t discuss the long distance charges we racked up on our parent’s phone bills!

We were married in 1988, and that is when I became a farm wife. Over the past 26 years, we have lived, parented, and worked as a team. I love that we can tell jokes while we’re working, we can discuss farming matters while we’re driving places, and we generally like hanging out with each other.

I have always admired Jonathan’s patience and encouragement when teaching me how to run a piece of machinery I haven’t run before. Since I didn’t grow up on a farm, and I really didn’t want to be the one messing things up or breaking things, I was a bit apprehensive at times. It is due to his confidence in me that I was willing to learn how to operate the combine…and now I love it!  Jonathan is also a respected boss to our migrant workers. He always treats them fairly, and genuinely cares about them. It is because of his compassion that we remodeled a shed into a summer apartment for one of the migrant families. He strongly believes that these people need to be treated as…people…not second class citizens based on their heritage or accents.

Jonathan has been a great dad to our three girls. From the time they were little, he played an active role in their upbringing…although sometimes I questioned if what he was teaching our girls was good or bad. When they are around while cookies are being made, the recipe never  seems to yield as many cookies as it does when they are not around. In the past year, each of our girls have lived at home for a little while and worked for us on the farm. Even though they are in their 20’s, the parenting doesn’t stop…it just changes.  When he walked Anna down the aisle this past June, and handed her over to our son-in-law, Doug, the look of love and pride on his face brought many people to tears…including, of course, me. The song that the two of them chose for the father/daughter dance is one that always makes me cry anyway. They thought it was just great that I lost it when the song started. It was difficult to take photos of them with all the tears in my eyes. I love how much he loves his family!

Life hasn’t always been easy, and I am thankful that Jonathan has been such a great teammate in this life of ours. I love you, Jonathan!

 

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

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

 

%d bloggers like this: