Friday, May 29, 2015

The Art of Accepting a Setback

I am coming off of a two-day binge of House of Cards. Paranoia is setting in.  I no longer trust my iPhone.  You'll never get me near railroad tracks.  I pray that my personal fashion icon, Michelle Obama, is nothing like Claire Underwood, although I do admire Claire's understated chic.

Why would I sit in front of a screen on a glorious spring day? Why would I be typing this with one hand, and not very successfully? Let me tell you. I broke my arm. Again!

Post accident and post surgery.

It started last Thursday when smarty-pants Prairie Sherry decided to leave the safety of the plains and hiked up a bluff at Devil's Lake State Park. This is a photo of me enjoying a zen moment at the top of the rock-strewn bluff I had just climbed.

Actually, I was just trying
to get my heart rate back to
Then I started the climb down.  I don't think my mind was at a higher plain of consciousness as my foot slipped on that rock and I hit the ground.  Nine hours and two ERs later, I returned home.

Honey, I'm home.
Yup, they let me keep the hospital gown because there was no way I was letting them put that long sleeved t-shirt back on. I'm sure Michelle or Claire would wear it much better.

The arm is now set, plated in titanium, and ensconced in plaster. I will have to put aside any near-future plans of world domination a la Claire Underwood.  I would never be able to get one of her signature slender sheaths over this bandaged appendage let alone zip up the zipper. 

Frank, would you put that call to Putin on hold and unzip
this damn zipper?

Looks like a summer of sloppy t-shirts and elastic-waisted shorts ahead for me. 

Prairie Sherry


I would be remiss if I did not thank my dear friend, Cindy, for getting me off that bluff, driving to two ER's, and listening to my incoherent drug-induced ramblings for 8 hours.  She has earned the title of Prairie Cindy.

Bless you, Prairie Cindy!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Top 10 Reasons Why the School Year Should End NOW!

This is my 25th year of teaching.  For the most part, I enjoy being a teacher.  But frankly, I am sick of school extending into the first two weeks of June.  By the end of May everyone is freaking about about test scores, ridiculous student behavior, and moving classrooms.  To put it simply.  Teachers are done.  Students are done.  Today, I am starting a movement to end school by the end of May.  

Prairie Eydie's Top Ten Reasons Why the School Year Should End NOW!

10.  Yesterday two of my students (in different hours) used hand sanitizer to clean their shoes instead of completing their reading assignment.

I wish I could be this kinda girl.  
9.  I have run out of ideas and am now recycling lesson plans from September.

I double dirty dog dare Suze Orman to come and deny me my Starbucks on June 1st.  

8.  It now takes 2 venti, dark roast coffees from Starbucks to get me through the day.  Ugh.  This is playing havoc on both my gut and budget.  

7.  Heads-Up, Seven-Up & Silent Ball now seem like a challenging extension activities.

6.  The answer to any pressing issues like chronic tardies and alignment to the Common Core is:  "Oh right. I will deal with that next year." 

5.  "Good Enough" has indeed become "Good Enough."  Gone are the discussions of high expectations and pushing yourself to the breaking point.  I, for one, am already at my breaking point.

School Spirit requires way too much effort.  Especially if I am DENIED my morning coffee. 

4.  No one has the spirit to participate in Spirit Week.  

3.  A career move to barista seems strategic.  

2.  Suddenly those boxy, school t-shirts (issued at the beginning of the school year) are looking pretty good.

I will be smiling June 11th too, Dave!
  1.  Since David Letterman is done, I should be too.  

Prairie Eydie

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Art Of Being A Failure

I do not like to fail.  In fact, it still rankles my soul that I came in second in high jump at the all-city track and field day in 1967.  I like to get the gold star and not the silver.  

I have failed.

These are my failures.  Chloe is to the left and Darla is to the right These two are puppy mill mamas who have lived most of their five years in wire cages. I am fostering them for a local rescue so that they can be adopted by families.

If the head of the rescue were to call today and say that she had found loving families for these two, I would tell her that I had sent them to a luxury dog camp in the Swiss Alps, and that I didn't expect them back until the 31st of June (Thirty days has September, April...).  I would sneak them over the border into Canada, traveling north until cell reception was no longer possible. I would send them off to Maryland with my youngest, and let them take on new identities as mascots for McDaniel College.

This face has told me that she is staying right here. She likes the food and the company.

This one pretends to be sleeping each time I try to bring up the discussion of a possible move. 

Rory, one of our own, says they can stay as long as they keep their paws off the good chew toys.  

Winnie, also ours, says that if you keep your eyes closed, it's like they aren't even here.

How much bed space do I really need?

They have even offered to share theirs with me.

I guess everyone needs to accept a little failure into their lives.

Prairie Sherry

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Art of Book Purging

I was reading Elizabeth Gilbert's Facebook post the other day. (Remember, Prairie Friends, to "friend" Elizabeth on Facebook.  Her posts are both entertaining and inspiring.)  Elizabeth was posting about a major decluttering binge.  She got rid of 95% of her books. (GASP!!!  Had Elizabeth forgotten that she was an author and needed to keep up a scholarly image?)  She went on to say that she felt much lighter and more creative since getting rid of so many books and so much clutter.  Her post caused me to look at the books in my life.  

Here is one of my main bookshelves, which is representative of all of my bookshelves:  
This shelf says "Hot Mess" not "Oh my!  Eydie is SO smart."

As you can see, it is piled with books, disorganized, and not a lovely, calm focal point for my living room.  On top of the books I have stacked gift cards, book marks, and receipts that I don't want to enter into my budget notebook.  

I asked myself - Prairie Eydie why are you keeping all of these books? The answer?  Ego.  I like to be identified as scholarly, smart, and someone who is well read.  Hmmm.  Do I really need to store books, in a house that is already cluttered with three young children, to prove something to my ego?  

As I scanned through the titles, it was apparent that many of the books were books I intended to read at one time.  And many of them belonged to Prairie Sherry.   Few of the unread books looked like anything I would willingly trade sleep for to read.  On the other hand, many of the shelved books were books I adored.  But I had no intention to reread the adored books.  I just like to periodically read the titles and think, "That was SUCH a good book."   (There are so many awesome books out there that I rarely reread fiction. The list of books I do reread is super short:  To Kill a Mockingbird, Breakfast at Tiffany's, and The Long Winter.)  

I LOVE Warren Zevon and am ecstatic that one of his quotes actually fits into a blog.

So, I began a book purge.  This purge included all the vintage Hardy Boys books I was keeping for my sons to read.   The boys have shown absolutely no interest in reading these dusty "classics" because Young Adult fiction nowadays (Is nowadays really a word?) is so awesome.  

I also passed on the board books my five year old has out grown. This was hard to do, because I have so many memories of reading The Lady with the Alligator Purse and Mr. Brown Can Moo to my kids.  But.  I envisioned other parents reading these great books to their kids, and I passed them on.  (Confession.  I kept Goodnight Gorilla.  Somethings are just sacred.)

Once again, I was left with all the books I would reread if there weren't so many other books I want to read for the first time.  So.  I decided to choose 5 of these books and send them to people who I thought would enjoy reading them.  Former book club friends came to mind.  I was okay passing the books on, knowing they will continue to be read, and not just clutter up shelves in my house.

Always a good idea. 
I purged well over 70 books!  (10 of them Hardy Boy books - but still a valiant effort.)  I am exhausted, so now it is your turn.

Tah dah!!!  Here is my bookshelf "post purge."
Prairie Eydie

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Prairie Grlz: Favorite Things for Spring 2015

Take a seat.  The Priaire Grlz are enjoying a Sunday morning together, and we would love to have you join us. 

Conversation topic:  Our latest favorite things.

A nice crisp white will go nicely with these.  

Prairie Eydie:

I went to the farmers' market yesterday, and it is asparagus season! I took two laps through the stalls before settling on two bunches of perfection.  Tonight I am going to put them on the grill drizzled with garlicky olive oil and salt and pepper.  Yum! You don't really need much more than that, but a crusty loaf of bread and a little salmon filet would be nice additions.  

A simple pleasure.
Prairie Sherry:

Canning jars are not just for canning anymore.  As the empties began piling up in my basement this winter, the last of my drinking glasses hit the tile floor. The jars became our glasses (they look very shabby chic) and then storage containers.  I just found these nifty screw-on tops in both wide and small mouth sizes.  Prairie Eydie thinks that they will be brilliant for saving those glasses of milk or juice that don't quite get finished by the Prairie Kidlettes. Best yet, those canning jars are now getting year-round use.

You could probably use it as a sandwich
spread as well.
Prairie Eydie:

Good Earth, a Wisconsin-based company, is FABULOUS!  I love their lotions and candles.  Their products are scented with lavender and actually smells like lavender, not chemical-laden room freshener (The lavender sniff  test is my go-to for any floral scented product--lavender must smell like real lavender).  

You can get their products online ( or on Willy Street in Madison at The Madison Greenhouse Store (  Which, by the way, is a great place for all sorts of nifty gifts.  Need a bee house, anyone?

Choices, choices, choices...
Prairie Sherry:

Buying eye glasses on the internet!  My last pair of progressively stronger progressive bifocals cost $400 at one of the many optical departments at the big box stores.  The internet has opened a whole new option. For $69 (with on-line coupon), I have a pair of progressive bifocals with funky, fun frames.  In fact, I now have three pair!

When you get your vision checked, ask for your prescription and be sure the doctor includes the pupillary distance (PD).  There are many websites to choose from.  You just plug in your prescription and order away.  I used my existing frames to check on appropriate size, bow length, etc.  Those that I have purchased look great and the prescription is perfect, in fact, a bit better than my $400 pair.  

The label is deceiving.
Vacuum the carpet, not the dog.
Prairie Eydie:

Is there anything less glorious than having to buy a vacuum?  Mine of 20 years died last week. I replaced it with a Hoover "Pet" Wind (sounds like the kitty got into some beans) after consulting with Prairie Pa and Consumer Reports.  I started vacuuming my bedroom, and the dirt cup immediately (and embarrassingly) filled with dust, dirt, and cat hair.  Ewwwwwwwwww!  Actually, now I think that my vacuum stopped working 8 years ago.

I still don't like vacuuming, but my feet no longer make crunching noises as I walk from my bed to the bathroom door.  

Put on your sunglasses.  Prairie Sherry
is going to smile.
Prairie Sherry:

Thanks to the miracles of modern dentistry and orthodontics, I have a pretty good set of choppers for someone in her late 50's.  Alas, the ravages of red wine and coffee have left their mark.  I've purchased those whitening strips that go for the cost of a week-end vacation in Door County, and while the results are very apparent, they don't last long. Soon, you are back at the store for your strip fix.  

About a year ago, I came across a homemade whitening mixture.  I figured that it would work about as well as soda and vinegar on the bathtub drain filled with teenager waist length hair and conditioner--nada, nothing, nil.  I gave it a try anyway, AND IT WORKS!

Mix a little baking soda into a small cup or dish.  Add a splash of hydrogen peroxide and a dab of toothpaste.  Brush away!  It should feel a little gritty.  Do this two times a week, and your pearly whites will be truly white.  And Prairie Eydie, this does not replace flossing!  

Our favorite things may not have the pizazz and flash of Oprah's, but last time we checked, our bank accounts didn't look like hers either.  These are just a few things that have struck us as share-worthy.  Enjoy!  

Pour yourself a second cup of coffee and page through some of our earlier posts.  There are 165 in all!  If you feel so inclined, share our blog with friends.  We love new Prairie Readers!  And please leave us comments.  We would like to know how far our posts travel.

Prairie Eydie and Prairie Sherry

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Prairie Eydie (Finally) Arrives At Downton Abbey

Mathew:  Pre-medical miracle.  
I have arrived late to the Downton Abbey craze.  I assumed Downton Abbey would be stuffy like previous Masterpiece Theaters.  (Dusty productions where the climax involved a broken tea cup.  Gasp.) Was I ever wrong!  Downton Abbey is a soap opera for "classy" people.  I recognize many plot lines in Downton from my 25 years of watching General Hospital.   Groom, paralyzed by war, suddenly able to walk down the aisle to his sobbing bride, anyone?  Yes, please!  Bride jilted at alter because groom considers himself inferior?  Bring it on!

You need to break me outta here, Sonny!  Just like Anna will bust Mr. Bates outta the cooler in Season 3 of Downton Abbey.  
Downton Abbey has amnesia, facial disfigurement, inter-cousin marriages, paralysis, and dead relative resurrections.  I am only in the beginning of Season 3, but already I have learned SO much from Downton Abbey.

Things I have learned from Downton Abbey THUS far:

You may want to be useful at a garden show.

Be useful.

Lady Edith and Lady Sybil shone during World War 1.  Lady Sybil wrapped her gorgeous locks in a dish towel and became a nurse after a day or two of training with Lady Crowley.  Lady Edith spent her days finding books for convalescing officers.  (I also love recommending books.  Counting by 7s, by Holly Sloan is a fabulous Young Adult book that I recently finished.  Truthfully, any age would love this book.)  Lady Crowley has a sickening need to be useful and ran off to work with war orphans - not know her son was paralyzed.  When she tired of orphans she started "helping" prostitutes who didn't want her help.  (You don't need to take it to Lady Crowley's extreme.  Just help out when and where you can.)   

Dress for the Occasion.

How I LOVE the costumes on Downton Abbey!
  • the long gloves
  • the bejeweled necklines.
  • the striped linen
  • the mountains of fur

My grandmother always said if you didn't have an occasion to dress up, you needed to make one.  At 99 years old and 10 months, my grandmother still looks fabulous and is still dressing for the occasion of luncheon.  I love how people at Downton "dress" for luncheon and dinner.  (Who is in charge of the laundry at Downton?)

A "zinger" delivered to Lady Edith from the Dowager Countess.

Purse your lips when you are at a loss for words.

Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess, (For those of you wondering, a Dowager is a widow who holds a title or property.) often purses her lips before or after delivering "a zinger."  I find the "lip purse" gives you either time to think of a "zinger" or make sure the "zinger" has had its intended effect.  The "lip purse" can also be used solo as it gets displeasure communicated without saying a word.  Lately I have found the "lip purse" to be extremely effective when reviewing my son's sloppy, slapdash math homework.  Works like a charm.

Save your energy and don't react with emotion.

We use so much emotional energy smiling, crying, ranting, tearing up, etc.  Let us follow Lady Mary's example and adapt a deadpan expression in all situations.   She was poker faced  when Lady Sybil died of eclampsia.  Not a wrinkle graced her porcelain face when the  Turkish diplomat, Kemal Pamuk, died in her bed.  Hmmmm.  Maybe she did react a bit when she found out Lord Grantham had lost Cora's fortune in a bad investment.  

Maybe Dowager Countess says it best (once again!):

I look forward to learning more from the Downton Abbey crew. Perhaps next time I will focus on what I have learned from the servants of Downton.  

Prairie Eydie

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Art of Listening to Your Mother

Harriet Strange Puttmann at 15 in 1939.
I posted this photo of my mother on my Facebook page this week-end in honor of Mother's Day.  She was just 15 when this was taken, and although it is just one single picture, it gives a glimpse into her personality.  First to be noted is that she has her arm around one of the many dogs who graced her life. My mother talked to them, doted on them, and loved them.  And any dog she loved, loved her back with the fierce loyalty that dogs save for those people who understand them the most. The face in the photo also shows someone who was a dreamer and  a bit unsure of herself. Mom always retained the ability to think beyond her reality and always fought those insecurities that might hold her back. She encouraged the same in her children.    

This photo was also taken just before my mother contracted polio. I wish I had asked her more about her illness.  She mentioned it little, although it affected her until the end of her life and may have contributed to her death from aspiration pneumonia.  Her lungs and left side received the most damage, and while most never knew, she worked hard to conceal the constricted throat that caused her to choke easily and the arm and leg that were less strong and agile. Mom spent time in an iron lung, but she fought the machine and proved herself able to breath on her own.  When the Salk Vaccine became available, she made sure my siblings and I were among the first in line to receive the inoculation.

My mother taught me many things, but as I leaf through old photos, a few stand out on this Mother's Day evening.

Mom and Maia, 1997.

Read!  Read to yourself, your friend, your child, your significant other... Mom always had a book that she was reading and another that she was sharing.

Who knows when.  I have so many of these photos.

Don't be afraid to have fun.  Mom was gracious and almost-always a lady, but she knew how to have fun.  She loved to laugh, and she never took herself too seriously.

Crystal Lake, Sayner, Wisconsin, 1970's.

You must find a lake.  Mom loved to camp because it brought her to the edges of lakes all across the United States.  She was a swimmer, and she would keep track of how many times she plunged in in a single day.  A pool was never equal to a lake.

My first birthday with Carla, 1991.

Birthdays are a BIG DEAL! No one celebrated a birthday like Mom. You didn't have to make your bed, you received the exact meal you ordered (fried chicken, baby peas, and mashed potatoes with cream gravy, thank you...), and always a homemade birthday cake.  That meant made from scratch with real cake flour... 

Part of Joli's gift to me today, Mother's Day 2015.

A little bit of really good chocolate is a whole lot better than a mess of bad chocolate.  Mom was the one who taught me to go into to a high end chocolate shop and buy one or two pieces of the best and really savor.  In all honesty, I must also add that my mom taught me that if you really needed a chocolate fix, a spoon and a can of Hershey's fudge sauce might get you through.

Mom and Dad .  Enough said.

Hold tight to the good times and the memories they bring, and they will see you through the bad. I remember Mom telling me this after a particularly tough year in our family. 

There are so many others, but the hour is late, and I am ready to crawl in bed with my latest semi-trashy novel (Mom would have approved) and bar of fair trade, organic, 60% cacao chocolate. (Thanks, Jo!). 

Mom and Biscuit.

This picture brings the post full-circle. Mom and her last dog. Thank you. Thank you for being that part of my life that helped make me who I am today. I didn't mention how you taught me the joys of a good scotch--splash of water and no ice.  I will save that for another post.

Love always,
Prairie Sherry

Friday, May 8, 2015

Prairie Pa and The Art of Gardening Advice

Now that the weather is warming and spring is finally here, it is time for some gardening advice from our very own guest blogger, Prairie Pa.  (And you all know how Prairie Pa loves to give advice.)

10 Things Big Box Gardening Center Employees Will NOT Tell You.

1. Don’t bother to ask me any questions because I don’t know anything. I only make $8.50 an hour and my last job was at a car wash.

This joker wants to know if begonias will thrive in partial sun.  What a rube!

2. If you are foolish enough to ask me a question, I will make something up to save face and do it in a positive and condescending manner.

3. Our hanging baskets will never look any better than they do now.

4. Any perennials and shrubs you purchase after July 4th will not survive the winter.

And what I believe unites the people of this nation, regardless of race or region or party, young or old, rich or poor, is the simple, profound belief in gardening for all – the notion that if you regularly water, use organic soil, and periodically fertilize, you can get ahead.
5. I don’t know how to get the blue hydrangeas to bloom either.

6. No matter how cheap the annuals are on our sales rack, do not buy them. If they look shabby now, just wait until you get them home.

7. Our potting soil is greatly overpriced.  Buy compost instead. If you do the numbers, our potting soil cost $5.25 a cubic foot and compost is usually about $1.25 a cubic foot.

Thou shalt place clearly labeled perennials with perennials and annuals with annuals.  
8. Many of our perennials are really annuals. We place these annuals with the perennials and count on people not checking the temperature rating on the information tag.

9. You can grow most of our annuals and veggies yourself with seeds and a couple of grow lamps.

10. Most of the people who buy our plants lose interest and let the weeds take over by July because it is dirty, hard work. If you are not inspired to a spiritual level by the sight of a bed of well cared for flowers—forget the whole thing and fill your flowerbeds with colored stones.

Shop the "Prairie Pa Way" - at your local garden centers.

Prairie “The Rocket” Pa