Thursday, August 28, 2014

Prairie Bro Chimes In With An Historically Accurate Account

From the keyboard of Prairie Sherry's brother, Paul--aka Prairie Bro:

As of late I, a faithful reader of my sister’s epistles, have noticed a tapering off of the frequency of said entries into the Blogosphere.  As a result, I feel it incumbent upon myself to relate some history that some of you are aware of, and many are not, regarding Prairie Sherry.

As some of you know, Prairie Sherry was reared within the heart of the prairie among the ring-necked pheasants and meadow larks.  Eastern South Dakota, in a home that was more adobe than sod, but still nestled among the clover and bromegrass, was where her ma and pa had settled.  It was here that the future educator of your children, Prairie Sherry, and her cousin, Prairie Sandy, a future Iowa  congresswoman, became the founding mothers of an elite and exclusive organization.

This organization, The Mighty Mouse Club, was based on a very popular (at least to Prairie Sherry and Cousin Sandy) cartoon that aired on Saturday mornings. It was also a medium through which Prairie Sherry could exert her longing for power, as she instantly became the president of this esteemed collection of two members (who will henceforth be referred to as “ Good Mice”). This organization, too, I believe, foretold of her inclination to aid the down trodden and weak (all the other mice).

The organization, did not go unopposed, however. There were significant attempts to thwart the advancements of the MMC through the untiring efforts of Prairie Bro and little Prairie Kay. These two will go down in history referred to as the “Bad Mice." Their attempts at sabotage and skullduggery were always parried by the copious amounts of paperwork, sincerity, and, yes, sometimes tears of the MMC Administration.

In conclusion, I feel that you all should be slightly in awe of the two “Good Mice” that made the prairie a little more habitable and safe through the encouragement of their icon of goodness, MIGHTY MOUSE. 

I am guessing, but I feel that even now, during times of crisis, secret meetings are being held to uphold justice and the American way.

Prairie Bro

Prairie Sherry and Prairie Paul one year
after the birth of the Mighty Mouse Club.
And as the little sister of Prairie Bro, it is my turn to chime in.  It is true, we did spend 7 years of our lives on the true prairie, less than 30 miles from the Ingall's claim near DeSmett, South Dakota.

My cousin Sandy and I did start The Mighty Mouse Club in 1960. Although the youngest of the two, in true Frank Underwood style (House of Cards), I wrested power from my more compliant cousin and became President-For-Life and Despotic Overlord.

We did refer to ourselves as the "Good Mice" in an attempt to distance ourselves from the shenanigans of my then 11 year-old brother and his 4 year-old sidekick, Cousin Kay.  Yes, tears were shed, much to the delight of my brother.

I would like to report that now the four of us have reached our late 50's and 60's, a detente of sorts has been achieved.  My brother and my younger cousin have given up their devious ways and have turned to the side of goodness and truth.  Sandy and I fought the good fight and won.

I have wondered why Sandy, indeed an esteemed member of the Iowa Legislature, has not capitalized on her lifetime membership in the Mighty Mouse Club as she campaigns across northern Iowa, but she may be saving that bit of information if she turns her sights toward Washington in the future.  

Good mice all in a 1979 photo.  Left to right,
Prairie Sherry, Prairie Sandy, and Prairie Kay.
Yes, this was an unfortunate hair style for moi.

Prairie Sherry

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

What? In-Service?????

I didn't mark this day on the calendar, so when I was reminded about it last evening, I was truly taken aback.  I had totally forgotten. I had always imagined I would have grandiose plans for this day, but I don't, and so it is passing like so much of this summer. 

Today my former colleagues went back to school for teacher in-service.

A friend had invited me over for wine and nibbles last night, and as we sat on her deck enjoying a beautiful August evening, she remarked that she had been in her classroom all day because teacher in-service started today.  

Whoa!  If it hadn't been for a rather rapid and unexpected decision last spring, I, too, would have spent yesterday in a musty, humid classroom arranging desks and making copies.  Today, I would have sat through three or four meeting where I would be told that we would be making major changes, and that they would start on September 2nd, and we would not be receiving time to plan or any additional training.  

So on this official first day of retirement, what did I do?

  • I woke up at 8:30 rather than 4:30.  
  • I picked up our aging 2002 Mercury Sable wagon from the mechanic's.  Before that, I went to a gold and silver dealer and sold some silver jewelry that I wore ages ago while teaching.  The pieces were terribly dated, and the cash they produced help to pay for gaskets and plug wires.  I have no idea what those are, but they sure are expensive. Betty Blue Destiny is running again, and my two youngest are/should be very grateful that their means of transport took another gasp of air and began breathing on her own once again. My jewel selection is narrowed, but less for my children to laugh over in coming years.  "She wore that?"
  • I averted a disaster when my youngest, now a senior, discovered that the AP English novel she was suppose to have read much earlier this summer is no longer available in any of our local bookstores.  A paper on said book is due at the end of the week.  Lordy, thank all heavenly powers for the Kindle Store and the fact that I could even find my old Kindle.  The charger cord was found under the youngest daughter's bed (ooooo, the dust bunnies) after a two-hour search.  Much vivid language was used.  Said daughter slipped out and bought me a frothly iced-coffee drink and gave me a big hug before heading out for three hours of volleyball practice.  At least she knows she done wrong!
  • I hung a curtain rod that was suppose to have been put up during spring break back in April.  I hate putting up curtain rods, especially when it causes sweat to trickle down in places that are usually not seen by humanity.  I felt like I need to accomplish something positive today, and I wasn't sure that I was going to get this post done.
  • I poured myself a glass of wine at 3 PM.  No, I am not planning on making this a habit, but I thought a little blogging and a little wine was a good way to recognize the day.

It is 4 PM.  My former colleagues are just coming home from their long, meeting-filled day.  Each is stripping off the ugly "community-building t-shirt" he/she was "asked" to wear--always uni-sexed and always made of bulky cotton knit.  Usually the smalls and mediums go first, so imagine all of those XXL's flopping around.  Prairie Eydie texted me that she cinched hers with a decorative belt trying to evoke the style muse.  I hope she took pictures.  Oops, just checked my phone!  She did!!

Tomorrow and Thursday they will go back for the same.  No time will be given for room prep, so that will be done in early mornings, late evenings, and during Labor (how appropriate) Day. 

As for me?  I miss my teaching buddies.  I miss my cozy classroom.  I miss the idea of meeting those new 8th grade faces.

On the other hand, I am looking forward to those golden days of September.  I am looking forward to heading to South Carolina in mid October to visit my sister-friends, Mari and Mary. I am looking forward to making it to every single one of my daughter's home volleyball games.

Overused but true--Life is good!

Prairie Sherry

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Art of Saying "Yes"

At 4:00 every afternoon, I tuned in to see if Oprah was going to have an "A-Ha" moment!

I was a faithful watcher of "The Oprah Winfrey" show.  I gasped at all the startling makeovers.  (After one such show, I rushed out and got fitted for a decent bra.  Start with the foundation, ladies!)  I cried when she introduced us to a mother who had terminal cancer.   This beautiful mother filmed hundreds of hours of videos for her daughter to watch as she would eventually journey on without her mother.  (I am grateful my mother, Prairie Ma, still has my back.)  I learned from Dr. Phil, before he had his own show, "there are two sides to a pancake."  (My children HATE it when I tell them that - which makes me repeat it even more.)

I also learned how to say no from the Oprah Winfrey Show .  For those of you who don't know Oprah; she is a people pleaser.  At one point in her life, she said yes to everything and ended up running herself ragged.  So, as Oprah learned how to say no, she taught her viewers to do the same.  (Apparently the "disease to please" runs rampant in women.  Women were saying yes to every bake sale, book club, and car pooling gig.)

Naturally I assumed I also had the "disease to please" and started saying no to everything.  I said "No!" to school potlucks.  "No!" to birthday parties.  "No!" to Fourth of July fireworks.  "No!" to meeting new people and seeing old friends.  I was  awesome at saying no. It came so easily to me!   

A couple years ago I realized I had misidentified myself as a people pleaser.  Unlike Oprah, I wasn't trying to please anyone, I was just a grumpy woman who said no to everything.

I have been practicing the art of saying yes for a couple of years. I say "Yes!" to potlucks and get to eat yummy food with fun people.  (Though I steer clear of  mayo based salads and bread baskets.   Oprah has wisely taught me to fill up on veggies and lemon water.)  I get to laugh with old friends and start journeys with new friends.  Prairie Sherry is queen of getting me to say yes to things I normally wouldn't try.  With her by my side, I have said yes to blogging, starting a business, supporting a darling girl in Ecuador, canning, and risking arrest by singing at the Wisconsin State Capitol.

I challenge you, Prairie Friends, to say "Yes!" to something you normally would say no to (unless you truly have the disease to please - then you should probably consult archived episodes of the Oprah Winfrey Show.)

Prairie Eydie

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Confessions of a Canner

My version of crack cocaine. 
It is August 12th, and during the past month I have cleared out 87 empty jars from the dark depths of my basement. They were caked with dust and spider webs.  My dishwasher worked overtime on the sterilize cycle.  Those 87 jars--18 quarts, 28 pints, and 41 half pints are now sitting on my breakfast bar ready to make their journey back down the stairs to the same dusty shelves that have been their home since we moved into this house three years ago.

I am addicted to canning.

No, those are not forceps to the left.
Canning is not some integral part of our family's plan for subsistence living. Canning is not necessarily economical.  In fact, it "can" be a damn expensive hobby. Over the years I have the gathered the basic paraphernalia--the blue enamel canner that barely fits on my stove top, the magnetic lid retriever, the jar tongs that saves my fingers from 3rd degree burns, the canning funnel that my grandchildren used as a bathtub toy several years ago, and the jars--oh the many, many dozens of  jars.  

Those who are not canners themselves may not know that those jars are used over and over again.  If a canner presents you with a homemade gift-in-a-jar, you always return the jar and jar ring.  If you do, you will probably be richly gifted again.  If not, next year you will receive something purchased from a big box store aisle.

Alas, many do not return those jars, and they have to be replaced along with the rings.  The jar lids?  You can always toss those out. The canner has no use for them the second time around.  They are a one-time deal. Buying those lidsb (wide and small mouth) in June is always the gamble a true canner takes.  You are putting cold hard cash down in the hope of a good growing season--hope that the berries will ripen, the tomatoes will escape bottom rot, and the beans will be plentiful.  This year Lady Luck was with me.  I have used every lid in my possession and have only two, lonely, empty quart jars that will return to the shelves to gather dust and webs.

And what do I can?  Far less than many who are much more proficient, self-sufficient, and wise.  This year my shelves will hold strawberry, blueberry, and apricot jam.  I pickled and dillied the beans. Tomatoes have been canned plain and also made into spaghetti sauce.  The last thing on my list is bubbling on the stove right now. It is a sweet and spicy concoction called tomato jam.  You chop up tomatoes (skins and all) and mix them with fresh ginger, lime juice, salt, cinnamon, ground cloves, and red chili flakes.  It bubbles away on the stove for 2 to 3 hours and becomes this lovely jammy mess that is divine on a burger (beef, turkey, chicken, or bean), or a grilled cheese, or on a spoon right from the jar. 
This tomato jam is about 30 minutes from the jar.
If you could smell it, you would know Nirvana.

The fruits and veggies that go into those jars come from my own garden and an organic farm 30 miles north of us.  No, I do not have to buy, although many canners do.  They are a part of my daughter's pay.  She works for the farm, and often comes home with flats, baskets, and bags of goodies.

Once those filled jars are back in the basement, I often wonder if we will possibly use the contents before starting over next summer. It never ends up being a problem.  Many are given as gifts.  Some are for friends who, because of busy work schedules, do not have the time to fill their own jars. Someday, I know, if I need them, they will can for me.  Canners always protect their own.

Canning is a passion that needs to be shared with and passed on to others.  My mother taught me, as her mother taught her. I have swapped recipes with my sister and my aunt.  Last year I introduced Prairie Eydie to the art, and she is now hooked.  My friend Kathy and I bonded and became sisters over a simmering canning kettle two years ago when her arm was broken and she couldn't lift the heavy jars on her own. 

"A mere 95 degrees out?  Let's
fire up the stove and clean
our our pores over a boiling
 canner of jars."
Today, as she watched me throw the tomato jam ingredients in a pot, my daughter said, "I think this is something you need to teach me." Any time, dear Jo, but I warn you that canning is as addictive as nicotine. You, too, will find yourself turning over hard-earned cash for packages of lids.  You will scour farmers' markets looking for quarts of perfect strawberries. You will hoard tomatoes until you have enough to put up a mere half dozen pints. You will sweat over a canning pot when temperatures say you should be looking for a cool pool. You will stay up until 2 am just waiting for that last lid to seal with the satisfying "pop."  

That is one of the fond memories I have of my mother.  It was 2 am in August, and we had spent the evening wrestling cukes into jars.  It was still 80 degrees, and our bare feet were sticking to the floor where our pickling brine had splashed.  The last lid popped, and my mother said, "Isn't that one of the most satisfying sounds in the world?"  

I was 20 at the time, and I often didn't "get" many of the things my mother tried to tell me, but I got that.  A dozen pops, a dozen jars of garlicky dills, and I was hooked.  

Imagine the street value.
Prairie Sherry


Not all of my canning has been successful.  I did not delve into The Great Brussels Sprout Pickle Disaster of 2013.  For those who received them, I am deeply sorry.  If you haven't opened your jar of those ghoulish grey-green orbs, toss them in the garbage-- jar, lid, ring, and all.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Prairie Pa: The Art of Giving Advice

Popular guest blogger, Prairie Pa, is back.  He has learned, through years of experience, that no one really wants to hear his advice. 

What?  Does that mean I shouldn't call him with advice about his crowded hosta garden and how he could better utilize his free time?   Hmmmm.  Maybe I could just give him my opinion. 

Prairie Eydie
 The Art of Giving Advice

I love to give advice. I am compelled to give advice. I must correct all your poor choices and solve all your problems. Deep in the dark caverns of my soul, I know just what you need. For this reason, I am going to give you this excellent advice: Do not give advice!

Advice contains the word vice for a reason. Giving advice is a vice. Just as smoking, watching Fox News, and listening to Rachel Maddow are vices.

Parents, like myself, especially like to give our adult children advice. Be honest! Why would they listen to your advice after watching you stumble through life?  Now that they are adults and out of the nest, let them make their own decisions. They are much closer to the facts and are smart, successful adults. They have a constitutional right to screw up their own lives.

I have found the best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want and then advise them to do it.” Harry S. Truman

Bookstore’s self-help sections are huge. We read these books and completely ignore the advice. No one ever lost money publishing a book on dieting. If we are following dieting advice, why is half the country obese? And how about books on managing our money? If we are following that advice, why is 90% of the country in hock?

My pastor gives me great advice every Sunday. Unfortunately, it is sucked out of my brain by the church doors as I walk out. I go home and ask my wife the pastor's three main points. Neither of us have any idea.

I cannot remember a time when I took anyone’s advice. Heck, I don't even listen to my doctor and I am paying him to give me advice.

A word to the wise ain't necessary - it's the stupid ones that need the advice.” Bill Cosby
Lets face it. We all know the right thing to do. It is implanted in our minds and called a conscience. We do not need someone else yacking in our ears telling us what we should do. We already know that and have decided to ignore it.

No one wants advice - only corroboration.John Steinbeck

Here is some more, unsolicited, sage advice. If once or twice during your lifetime, someone comes to you and actually asks for advice, tell them you do not give advice. But tell them you will give them your opinion. Then check and see if they follow your opinion. If not, don’t waste time offering any more opinions. They are just “funnin” you.

Prairie Pa