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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!

 

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.

 

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

 

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

 

 

A Day to Count Blessings

Carolyn's Baby Photo

My baby photo. Liked the spiked hair then, too!

I love birthdays. As a kid, birthdays meant cake, presents, and being made to feel special for a whole day. As a grown up, birthdays are still fun, but I like to take time to count my blessings as well.

A year ago, Jonathan and I were taking foster parent classes. It was a 12 week commitment, right in the middle of harvest. We made it work, and we became certified in March. At the beginning of October, we received our first long term placement. This little guy has turned our lives upside down, but I feel grateful for the opportunity to love and nurture him until he is able to go back home, or until he is adopted. Days may get stressful, and I may feel like I am failing at parenting, but I know God has a bigger plan at work here.

Jonathan and I were able to do a lot of traveling this year, and I am thankful for all of the people we were able to hang out with. We had an awesome time in San Antonio, TX at the American Farm Bureau Annual meeting, where I was able to meet some of my online friends in person for the first time. We are so happy that we took the opportunity to get to know some of our Minnesota Young Farmer and Rancher contestants better while hanging out and discussing golf one evening. These awesome farmers and farm professionals are why I have faith that agriculture in Minnesota will be in good hands for years to come.

Following our stop in San Antonio, we went a bit further south to visit our migrant workers and their families. We have two families that come up and work for us every year. One family has worked for close to 10 summers for us. They have become more than just employees. They are also our friends. We loved visiting them and seeing where they come from. I think we could all use a little of their attitudes toward hospitality. We were so warmly welcomed!

In August, I attended the AgChat Foundation’s Cultivate and Connect conference in Austin, TX. You can read about my 10 Takeaways by clicking on the link. I was pretty much starstruck the entire time. So many people I wanted to meet in real life…and so many people I hadn’t met online yet…the conference was filled with awesome people! I have been so blessed by the friendships I have made with agvocates all over the world (I now have some Aussie friends! Lol) I still think about the keynote addresses, the breakout sessions, the networking…let’s just say, I can’t wait to go again!

Probably the biggest blessing this year was an addition to our family…in the form of my son-in-law, Doug. I have been praying for him since Anna was little, and God totally delivered. I could not ask for a more compassionate, Godly man for Anna. Their wedding day was perfect, and their ceremony was filled with so much love. Most of all, I am happy to see Anna so happy.

Yes, this year has been filled with lots of good things. It wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns, but the blessings smoothed out those bumps. 🙂

Here’s looking to year number 4(cough)!

tonymillerphotography

The “new” Olson family. We welcomed Doug into the family in June

 

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

Adding Color to My Sunset Sky

CarolynCares Clouds

I love this quote by Rabindranath Tagore…”Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.” How many times do we feel the storms of life, or feel like the clouds are hanging over our heads? Flooding, planting delays, stress, anxiety, depression, chronic illness, life changes…all can be the storm clouds that seem like they’ll never part.

Tonight, I am thankful for the parting of the storm clouds, and the brilliant sunset. I am thankful for the rough patches in life that help me to see the beauty in the good times. I am thankful for the promise of a new day. A new start. A new opportunity to be a blessing. Tonight, I am thankful for the clouds that add the color to my sunset sky.

Thankful Thursday – Shout Out to the Septic Guys!

CarolynCares Thank You Septic Guys

Last week was quite a week for drainage issues at our place. The first issue was related to the two inches of rain we received on Thursday. The outlet for our house storm drainage was under a foot of water, which meant the tile lines around the house were level full. Every time the sump pump ran, it would pour the water back into the house. Jonathan and I were not home when that happened, but thankfully, our daughters were. We were able to tell Laura how to cut the pipe with the Sawzall and attach a hose to extend the drainage into the yard. The girls were awesome, and even started cleaning up the water before we got home.

While dealing with the wet carpet, we noticed that the sewer line was backing up a little bit. We weren’t sure the cause, but thought the septic tank could have gotten too full, so we called a local septic tank guy. We were on a no water in the drain order until after he came to check out the situation. I was very happy to see Gary show up!

Last summer, we had some landscaping done where we took out all the shrubs and the sidewalk around the house and regraded the soil to help prevent water issues in the basement. This meant that they tapered the soil and tilled up a swath of grass as well. This was seeded to grass seed, and looked really nice. What we didn’t think about at the time was the fact that they took out the divots that marked where the septic tank covers are. So we needed to start probing the soil. It took a little bit to find the covers, but once we did, it was easy to dig down and uncover the pump outs. We found out that we had an issue in the line, so after the septic tank was pumped, the guys went to work figuring out the issue. I’ll be honest. It totally grosses me out when they work on that. I can handle animal manure, and baby diapers, but I can’t handle sewage.

Because the whole thing grosses me out, I am so thankful for people like Gary who do this every day. He is the nicest guy, and is so easy to work with. You don’t really appreciate guys like him until you need them…which is why the septic cleaners and fixers are my Thankful Thursday focus this week. Thank you all for being willing to deal with crap every day so we can flush at will!

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