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Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving from our house to yours!

We have so many things to be thankful for this year. I am thankful for each new day, for the comfort of home, for my health, for my family, and for my friends.

Sometimes it may be difficult to see the good in a day, or to see the blessings in your life. We get so focused on the things we long for, that we can’t see what it is we have.

We have been given a new day. How can I do my best with it?

We have a place to call home. What can I do to make it warm and welcoming?

We have food on the table. Who can I break bread with?

We have friends and family who love us. How do I treat those around me?

My wish for you is that you will always find the blessing in each day.

 

~Carolyn

Feeling Grateful

grateful for what I am

I have many things to be grateful for…

This past September didn’t go exactly how any of us predicted it would. We were sure that I would be spending about two weeks in Kentucky after Lydia was born, but there were also many unknowns. I had a bit of time to contemplate the month as I drove home from Pikeville on the 27th and 28th – about 2 days worth of time – and I kept coming up with the same theme. I have so many things to be grateful for.

Anna, Doug, and Lydia

grateful for the Meyer family

If it weren’t for Lydia’s arrival on September 1st, I wouldn’t have gone to Kentucky in the first place. I was so excited when they asked me early on in the pregnancy to spend some time with them after their bundle arrived. I am grateful that they didn’t kick me out after spending 24 days with them. A new baby is stressful enough when you are first time parents, but Anna and Doug also have her multiple sclerosis and his medical school schedule to deal with. We were a bit concerned when Anna had to be hospitalized for a few days due to an infection, but at the same time, I was thankful that they put Anna on the labor and delivery floor so Doug could bring Lydia to spend the days as a family of three. Anna’s infection triggered a MS relapse, so I was asked to stay a little longer to help care for Anna while Doug’s mom was there to take care of Lydia. Two moms in the house for a week, and we all survived! It was good for Karen and I to get to know each other better, and I liked that it helped me to understand Doug a little better as well. It wasn’t always easy being patient with each other, but looking back on our time together, I am grateful that I was able to stay and help as long as I did.

Jonathan

I know it’s pretty sappy, but I have to say, I am so grateful for Jonathan. He was so understanding and encouraging when I was homesick. I left home on September 1st, and arrived back home on September 28th. That is the longest we have been apart from each other in the 28 years we have been married. Jonathan and Laura did come to spend a couple of days in Pikeville during my time there, but most of that time was spent oohing and ahhing over our granddaughter.

After I arrived home, Jonathan has been kind enough to let me ease back in to “real life”. There are many things I need to catch up on before harvest gets super busy, and I am thankful that he has been so patient with me.

Farm Bureau

I am grateful to be part of an organization that understands the importance of family. While I was in Kentucky, I missed a few county annual meetings, a state board meeting, and an event with the American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall. I felt bad about missing the meetings and event, but I was assured that family is first. There are many organizations that are not as forgiving when it comes to family events. That is another reason why I am thankful to be a member of the Minnesota Farm Bureau.

Family and Friends

I have a pretty awesome family, and an amazing group of friends. I am so grateful for the prayers offered when we asked for them…and for those offered when we didn’t ask. I also received texts, notes, and messages that seemed to come at just the right time. Thank you to the family and friends who lift my spirits constantly.

Living in a different region

grateful for seeing God's beauty

This is a view off of the front deck at Doug and Anna’s house during a rain storm. They live in a hollow (pronounced “holler”) in the hills. You can see the road winding up the road. They basically live on the side of an Appalachian mountain. I’m a lifelong Minnesotan, and I’ve lived on the prairie of Southwestern Minnesota for 28 years. After awhile, the mountains seemed to close in on me…but at the same time, the views were breathtaking. I am grateful for the opportunity to live in a different region of the country for a month. I fell in love with the Food City grocery store in Pikeville, and even brought home some southern versions of foods we like. I’m pretty sure that if I wasn’t bringing home some boxes of Anna’s, I would have tried to bring home many more groceries from Food City! Anna and Doug have some pretty awesome friends as well. I had the privilege of meeting some of their medical school friends this trip, and am thankful they let this “granny” hang out with them. (Yes, I was totally called granny at one of Lydia’s pediatric appointments…I don’t have a bun like granny in Beverly Hillbillies, or the granny in the Tweety cartoons…yet.)

Feeling grateful…

My trip to Kentucky contained a roller coaster of emotions…heck, I cried all the way through it on my way home after leaving sweet Lydia…but the overwhelming emotion is one of gratitude. Thank you for all of the thoughts, prayers, well-wishes, and friendship.  It’s good to be home.

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!

 

Road Trip Through the Dakotas

This week, Jonathan and I had a little time to take a road trip through the Dakotas. Our daughter, Christina, is working at the Black Hills Playhouse again this summer, which is the main reason we took our mini vacation out that way.

Jonathan attended his uncle’s retirement farm auction on Tuesday morning while I finished washing clothes and packing. We left that evening, making a stop in Sioux Falls to see our daughter, Laura, and her boyfriend, Blake. Our goal was Wall, South Dakota, and we arrived there just before the office closed at 11 pm. Safe to say, we were the last ones to check in that night.

Custer State Park

Wednesday, we left early enough to make it to Custer, South Dakota before noon. Jonathan was selling some farm equipment on an online auction site, and he was fielding calls about the items throughout the morning, so he we elected to skip the Badlands Loop this time. We have been on the Loop two other times, and highly recommend it. By the time we arrived in Custer, all of his items had sold, so we stopped for lunch at Pizza Works (excellent pizza crust!), then went on the Wildlife Loop in Custer State Park. We saw a small herd of bison in the distance, as well as a few Pronghorns here and there.

Custer State Park Wildlife Loop

Custer State Park Pronghorn

That evening, we were able to take Christina out for supper before we took in the musical “Pageant” at the Black Hills Playhouse. It was an awesome production! I laughed so hard that it hurt. If you are looking for something fun to do in the Black Hills, I highly recommend checking out the schedule of the Black Hills Playhouse.

Devil’s Tower

Thursday morning I had a video conference call (loved that the Holiday Inn Express in Custer had awesome wifi), so we didn’t get going on sight seeing until almost noon. Since this was our third Black Hills mini vacation, we wanted to do something different. We took a day road trip to Devil’s Tower in Wyoming, which is an easy drive from Custer. Neither Jonathan nor I had been there before, and we were both amazed at the beauty of a huge rock…which is really something coming from farmers who pick rocks every year.

Devil's Tower, Wyoming

Jonathan and I walked the 1.3 mile paved trail that takes you all the way around the tower. We spotted some mountain climbers who were working their way to the top. They looked like tiny specks on the side of the tower. Jonathan was inspired to try a little climbing as well…

Jonathan climbing

…but decided this was high enough. Ha!

The day was perfect for a walk, and the trail was fairly easy, with just a few climbs that made us breath harder (remember, we are flatlanders from the prairies of Minnesota…what we think of as steep parts of the trail would be nothing to those who live in other parts of the US). Every angle of Devil’s Tower is a little different, making the hike around the whole thing totally worth it.

Devils Tower from the trail

Mount Rushmore

We made it back to Rapid City in time to grab a bite to eat for supper, then we went to Mount Rushmore for the evening lighting ceremony. Both Jonathan and I highly recommend it. Your parking pass is good until the end of the year, so you can visit the monument more than once on your trip. We have visited during the day the last two times we were out there, so this year, we only went for the evening.

Mount Rushmore at sunset

We arrived a little over an hour before the ceremony began since the seats have been known to fill up. As we waited, I took a few photos of the faces as the sun was setting. It always amazes me how you see different details on the faces at different times of the day. I’m not sure if Gutzon Borglum was brilliant, or lucky on that part.

As the ceremony begins, a Park Ranger comes on stage and tells the story of how they became passionate about the National Parks. They usually give a little background of the monument before starting a film that talks about the carving of the faces, and what each President represents. They do a decent job of talking about the hard issues of how Native Americans have been treated, and how Thomas Jefferson’s dream was that one day every person in America would be equal. It was a fitting message for today as well.

At the closing of the film, America the Beautiful is sung, and the monument is lit. It is very moving. Then, the audience is asked to stand, and we all recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Once again, I had troubles with that part, due to the emotions and tears that usually come listening to the crowd singing and reciting the Pledge as one. Following the Pledge, all active and retired service men and women are invited on stage for the Flag Ceremony. This year, there were around 70 individuals who went forward, including two elementary aged kids whose father is currently in Afghanistan. The crowd gave those kids a standing ovation. More tears. It is pretty cool how they give everyone the time to introduce themselves by name, rank, and branch of service.

Mount Rushmore Flag Ceremony

As soon as the ceremony was finished, we went back to Custer and spent a few hours hanging out with Christina and her friend. It was a long day, but a great day!

Friday morning we left Custer, and headed north. I was a bit surprised by how much the landscape changed from the moment we left the Black Hills National Forest, and again once we left Belle Fourche.

Western South Dakota

Theodore Roosevelt State Park

Thanks to some long road construction delays, it took a little longer to get to Medora, North Dakota than we anticipated, so we didn’t get to see any of the museums that had been recommended by friends. We stopped at the Painted Canyon overlook and rest stop to take some photos, which was the first taste of the Badlands of North Dakota.

Painted Canyon North Dakota

We were excited to see how the Badlands of North Dakota compared to the Badlands of South Dakota. There are some similarities, yet they are very different.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park Badlands

The Badlands of South Dakota feels a little more rugged, and lives up the the lore of outlaws hiding in the craggy rock. The Badlands of North Dakota has a more gentle feel while still being impressive. I can totally see why Teddy Roosevelt settled in this area for awhile!

We were a little disappointed that we really didn’t see many bison in Custer State Park, so we were pretty excited when we rounded a corner and there was a nice sized herd of bison grazing in the sage on the side of the road. We looked at that herd for awhile, and took a few photos from the safety of the Durango, then wound our way through the animals to continue on our way. We rounded a corner, and there was another herd grazing along the road. We gently lowered our windows, took a few photos while breathing in the scent of sage, then worked our way back out of the park.

Bison in Theodore Roosevelt National Park

We stayed in Bismarck, North Dakota that night, and on Saturday, we were back in the farming frame of mind. We ended up stopping at three different John Deere dealerships looking at different tractors. We are pushing our current planting tractor to the max of its hydraulic pump with all of the Precision Plant equipment, so we are just looking at options, and hoping for the right tractor at the right time for the right price. Both Jonathan and I enjoy discussing agriculture topics when we travel, from equipment, to crops seen, to plans for the future. A road trip through the Dakotas and into Wyoming gave us a lot to talk about!

After traveling 1777 miles in just over 4 days, we are happy to be home! It was a pretty intense road trip, and we are thankful for good weather, friendly people, and safety on the road.

If you would like to check out other highlights from our trip, head on over to the Carolyn Cares Blog Facebook page where you can see some of the Instagram photos we shared.

Johnny Ulfers – A Memorial Day Tribute

Memorial Day is a day to remember those who gave their lives for our freedom. Some will visit cemeteries to visit loved ones, and some will attend Memorial Day services or ceremonies. Hopefully all will pause to give thanks for those who fought for our freedom but didn’t make it back home.

When I was growing up, my siblings and I would go spend time with our grandpa and step-grandma on their farm. Grandma had the upstairs bedrooms named: Anita’s room, the west room, and Johnny’s room. I remember being afraid to touch any of Johnny’s things, because they were so special to grandma. There was a model car on one dresser that I remember thinking was so cool, which made me think that Johnny himself must have been cool.

On the main level of the house, grandma had a sun room of sorts. It had a seating area, steps that led out to the sidewalk in front of the house, and a built in display area in a corner near the steps. That display area was very special to grandma.

Johnny entered the military in June, 1967, just a few months before I was born. He was killed in action in Vietnam in November, 1968.

In grandma’s display area, she had his purple heart, his medals, a few photos, and the flag that draped his coffin. Every so often, she would talk about Johnny, and show us on the map where he was killed. His death impacted her deeply, but I was too young to realize how deeply until recently.

John Ulfers Memorial Obituary

John was not the first of grandma’s family to be killed in action. Her only brother was killed in WW II in France. The military honors at John’s committal service were performed by the Bertus Jurgens Post Number 283, which was named after John’s uncle, grandma’s brother. Grandma went through the heartache of losing two very special men during war time. She also experienced the loss of her mother, and her first husband. Those losses help to explain why grandma seemed so deeply affected by Johnny’s death. She also understood the need for talking about family members who passed on before us, and the importance of introducing us to the family members we never had the chance to know. I am thankful that she shared her stories, and that we felt like we knew our step-uncle a little.

On this Memorial Day, I hope that you will take the time to share memories of your loved ones, pray for those who have lost family members who were fighting for our freedom, and give thanks that we live in the Land of the Free because of the Brave.

John B Ulfers Vietnam Wall

 

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

Remembering Our Christmas in Italy

Christmas in Italy

It’s crazy to think, that one year ago today (December 21), we were on a flight headed for Italy. I was nervous, and excited for my first international trip that involved flying. When you live in northern states like Minnesota, you can travel internationally by car pretty easily. My family didn’t think driving across the border into Canada counted as a good international travel experience.

Our plan was to spend Christmas with my brother and his family who were living in a suburb of Naples. The six of us stayed with the five of them in their home for about a week, and had a fabulous time. They were awesome hosts, and guided us around to some of their favorite historic sites.

Traveling in Europe during the holiday season is a bit different than here in the United States. They take their Christmas season seriously! One of the highlights was our day spent in Rome and Vatican City. When you first step in to St Peter’s Square, it is pretty amazing…and this is coming from a Lutheran! In the middle of the square is a giant Christmas tree, and a Nativity. The crowds were pretty large in front of the Nativity, and the lines to get into St Peter’s Basilica were massive. We had pre-booked tour tickets for the Vatican, so we were able to avoid the line that stretched for what seemed like a mile, which was awesome.

The crowds inside the Vatican were almost crushing at times. Wall to wall people visiting during the week between Christmas and New Years. Seeing in person what we’ve only seen in books, on television, or online was pretty awe inspiring. We were able to see the Sistine Chapel on our tour and the art museum…plus everything in between. It may be a little silly, but I think my favorite part of the whole tour was seeing where the Pope stands when he addresses the crowds standing in St Peter’s Square, and in the courtyard of the Vatican. The contrast between the two was striking. The one where large crowds gather and cheer and celebrate was lined with stone. The smaller courtyard has a garden, and grass that is quiet and peaceful. We spent a little time away from the crushing crowds in the peaceful courtyard before continuing our tour. If you are planning on going to Italy, I highly recommend the tour, whether or not you are Catholic.

This past week Jonathan and I have been reminiscing about our trip and the fun we had celebrating Christmas in Italy. We are so thankful we had the opportunity to spend that time with my brother and his family in that beautiful country.

I’ll leave you with a photo of the Nativity in St Peter’s Square. Buon Natale!

Nativity in Vatican City Italy

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!

Wordless Wednesday: Love Your Brothers and Sisters

Love Your Brothers and Sisters

I come from a pretty close family, and love hanging out with my brothers and sisters. Even though they make me mad at times, I still love them.

When we read 1 John 4: 20-21, I’m not sure that the meaning is just our immediate siblings, but brothers and sisters in Christ. This verse challenges me when I feel hurt by another Christian…it makes me not want to love them. But I must. I am challenged to love those who are not fellow believers as well…because some day they may become a brother or sister in Christ. This is one area I’m working on with my real life relationships as well as my online relationships.

 

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