Friday, January 30, 2015

Memories of New York City: 26 Years Ago

Each year around this time, I remember the five days in January that I spent in New York City in conjunction with a college drama class. I cherish the fact that I got to experience the city long before 9-11. It was 1989. The World Trade Center towers were standing.

the picture I took from the ferry ~ it's my favorite one from the trip

My assistance coaching job at Hillsboro Middle School helped me pay for this trip. I was proud of not having to ask Mom and Dad for money to be able to go. Here are three fond memories about the city that this Midwest farm girl experienced while attending Broadway shows in the Big Apple.

Brenda with me: ready for the big trip


Times Square was not scary—even at night. With everyone out and about, Broadway was well-lit. After the first day, my college friend Brenda Wichert and I braved walking six blocks alone at 11:30 pm. No window shopping though, for almost every store had garage-type doors clamped down tight to prevent theft. If not steel doors, then bars on the windows, so even in daylight, window shopping was not enjoyable.

my view of NYC from atop the World Trade Center


Stoplights are to be ignored. If it was red and nobody was coming, go. Even in a car. No one, and I mean no one, paid any attention to the signals. Jaywalking, weaving through traffic? The norm. Just check out the picture below. I certainly understood Seinfeld years later when the characters would speak of not owning a car. Yellow taxis everywhere. I counted over 20 in a single block. The subway maps? Let’s just say I’m glad we had some non-directionally challenged guys to hang out with. In my journal I wrote that I had no idea how we found our way back via the subway to where we were supposed to be.

what happens when traffic lights are ignored in New York City


Expense. I wasn't much of a breakfast eater back then, but I went along when a few people went out to eat our last morning there. The waitress told me I needed to order something or I would get a ser charge. I didn't understand what that meant and asked her to repeat it. She didn't seem to like that. One of the guys had to pound it into my head. "She is going to charge you four bucks for just sitting there!" I ordered an orange juice. I also remember a McDonald’s with an upstairs. That freaked me out more than the price of the food or theater tickets.

I had no idea they would cost so much. Phantom of the Opera was in its second year on Broadway. We stood in line for over an hour hoping to get tickets. We did. For 50 bucks a a piece. Les Miserables may have been that expensive too, but since those had been pre-ordered, I didn't really think about it. Tickets for Cats, Into the Woods, and Me and My Girl were more like $25 apiece. No, I did not see Old Calcutta. That was one of the first things my dad asked me. I didn't know what the big deal was until he told me what it was about. How some old farmer in South Dakota knew that, I don't knowthat's my dad!

us: waiting for Phantom tickets
seems I had the nerve to ask a stranger to take this picture

My $800 trip to New York City sent me to all the major attractions: Statue of Liberty, The Metropolitan Opera House, The Twin Towers, NBC Studios (the Saturday Night Life stage is small in person), Hard Rock Cafe, and other places my mind doesn't remember now. The UN was closed, and I never got to go all the way up on Lady Liberty. They were renovating. I wanted to pool our money and just tell a cabbie to drive us around. No one would do it with me.

I left New York City hoping for a return visit some day. My some day hasn’t come yet, but after seeing my friend Elizabeth Tatge’s pictures and video of Ground Zero from this past Christmas, I long to return.

not bad for a shot out through a window with a 35 mm camera

If you've been to New York, what stands out in your mind? What about the city or the people surprised you? If you've never been, what would you most want to see?

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Fixing Your Failed New Year's Resolutions

Find it difficult to make time for a hobby? Rather than resolutions, I suggest habit stacking because it forces you to start small.

And I mean small. Like 5-minutes.
Yes, 5-minutes. For a week. Everyday. 

Then the next week, add a minute and do that for a week. The third week, add another minute and do it for a week. Continue doing this until establishing the amount of time you desire to regularly perform the activity.

I first learned the term habit stacking here in this book by Courtney Carver. The Kindle version is only $2.99 on Amazon. This book changed how I use my time, and now I am a recovering workaholic enjoying her life. And I did it using this method.

If you want to know more about Courtney Carver, click here. She seems connected to the minimalists, and I admit, I got hooked on those blogs last year. Fascinating stuff. But no, I don't want to live in a teeny tiny house, nor do I want to own just one fork. 

And workaholics? Maybe you are one too. Click here. For another $2.99, you can find out and scare yourself like I did.

Here's how habit stacking works:
  • We all have routines that we perform in a certain order that we consider habits.
  • Pick the front, middle, or back of the routine and add just five minutes to it and perform the new desired activity.
  • Do it for a week.
  • The next week, do it for 6-minutes each day.
  • Do the 6-minute method for a week.
  • The next week, add a minute. You get the idea.

I wanted to make time to write every day. Just write. No revising. No brainstorming. Just write. I added it my nighttime routine—five minutes before I flossed my teeth, showered, and brushed my teeth.

Do it only five minutes everyday for a week. Do not do it longer—even if you want to. The idea is to establish a desire to perform the habit. By delaying the additional time, your system will be eager to keep this habit going.

It may sound simple, but it will work if you commit to something you really want to add to your life. 

Here's how to do that:

  • Brainstorm what you wish you had time to do.
  • Pick two items off the list.
  • Decide what time of day will work best.
  • Think of the routines you already have established at that time of day.
  • Decide what routine to stack it to.
  • Commit to doing it and actually do it for an entire week.
  • Do not add the minute until you have actually done the task for five minutes a day for a week. Yes, that means you might be stuck in the five-minute mode for a couple weeks.

Eventually, my writing daily became a habit. I don't always do it right before bedtime anymore because it's something I make time for no matter what. I don't even have to habit stack it anymore. It's just a given that I do it.

Who doesn't have five minutes? Just five minutes?

If you don't, then I suggest you read The Overload Syndrome by Richard A Swenson, MD. Click here to find out about this book.

What if you don't have a routine at the time of day that works best for your new activity? 

Then think of one thing you know you always do near that time. For example, put the dinner dishes away. Perform your activity after that. Or, if you start a load of laundry every day at 6:30, then spend the next five minutes performing the activity.

Maybe this will help some of you who want to exercise and think you don't have time. Or you can't imagine getting on that treadmill for 20 minutes. Then do it for five minutes every day for a week. Start small. Five minutes is better than nothing.
Remember, for the next week add only 1-minute to the 5-minutes for a total of six minutes. Do it that way for another week. Keep adding like that. If you're really into it, you'll want to add time right away. Restrain yourself from doing so.

Carver admitted it might seem odd to do the activity for only five minutes, but she wrote that in doing "it more slowly and intentionally, [she was] much more successful." And that rang true for me too.

So instead of beating yourself up for already breaking those New Year's resolutions you set 20-some days ago, try habit stacking. 

What activities might you try this with? If you do attempt this, I'd love to hear the results in the comment section below on the blog page. Please note, if it asks for your website, you do not need to fill that in.


Sunday, January 18, 2015

Old Age Creeps in at 70-80-90 Years of Age

I know he won't say it aloud, but now that Dad has turned 90—he did so on Christmas Eve— he'll aim for 100 just to say he made it. That’s how he is.

What follows is the last of three installments about my dad’s life. This farmer from east central South Dakota experienced even more change from 1984 to 2014. These decades serve as the empty nest years in more ways than one.

For the previous 30 years, click here. For the first three decades of his life, click here.

Part III: The Past 30 Years

Senior Citizen: 1984-1994, Decade #7
The Berlin Wall falls in 1989 

Life was busy. Dad and my brother Elliott purchased a four-wheel drive tractor and the large equipment to go with it. And he kept buying riding lawn mowers for Mom. Those mechanisms were frequent irritations to my cousin Wilmer Kleinsasser, my Aunt Mary's son, who was Dad's hired man during these days. The mowers, from Snapper to Dixon to Lawn-Boy, seemed to always break down.

Come to think of it, I have never seen my dad mow the yard. And when I see my brother do it now, it just doesn’t look right. Mowing was woman’s work on our farm. Men were busy enough with cattle, hogs, and working the land that was owned and rented.

Half-century celebrations occurred during this decade for my parents: their 50th high school reunion in 1992 and their 50th wedding anniversary in 1994.

50th Wedding Anniversary: A Family Portrait

Dad bought a cell phone—in a bag! It came in handy after the CB craze from the 70s was over. Being 22 miles from our main shopping town required a call home to see if the men needed any parts, for it wasn’t just the mower that would break down. When I had a car for my last couple years at college, the bag phone traveled with me to Hillsboro, Kansas, and then I’d mail it home for five bucks.

the bag phone

Thus began the empty nest years with me at college. Dad and Mom, for the 40 years of their married life, had never been alone in the house. Grandma Elizabeth was still alive when they first married, and then came the four kids—spread out over four decades. Farm work and following their grandchildren’s school and church activities kept them busy.

Aging Bodies: 1994-2004, Decade #8
Terrorist Attacks in 2001 

Old age sets in with two successful knee replacement surgeries for Dad, but Mom’s health declined after she had hers. Elliott took over the farm since Dad’s job was to take care of Mom.

with Dad after one of his knee surgeries

He spent five years of this decade driving 44 miles round trip to visit her daily while she was in the nursing home, assisted living, and then back to the nursing home again. He only missed a couple days in five years due to the weather.

That’s what in sickness and health means, and all of the nurses and aids at the Huron Nursing Home saw it.

Then our country changed forever while Dad was eating breakfast the morning of September 11, 2001. He turned on the TV just in time to see the second plane hit the World Trade Center.

In April of 2004 with Mom in the nursing home, they celebrated 60 years of marriage.

clockwise: wedding, young married life, 50th anniversary, 60th anniversary

Alone, but not Lonely: 2004-2014, Decade #9
Independence & Freedom

Life without a wife began on January 2, 2005 when Stella, my mom, died. Dad had to learn how to cook and do laundry.

Later that year, Dad got Dish TV installed—a far cry from the first set in 1957. Seems the news and religious programming are his hobbies now along with texting on his phone. Yes, my 90-year-old father texts. And he taught me how to operate the remote when I got satellite TV after he did.

Area farms disbanded, so Dad was alone out in the country after my brother and his wife, empty nesters now too, moved to town. Almost every other neighbor did too. But Dad didn’t budge. That house he lives in, it’s the site of his birth. His home. And so is the farm. He’s not moving.

Early in this decade though, it saddened me to go home—not just because Mom was gone, but there was no activity with farm equipment and livestock like my childhood years. The men began to tidy up.

Dad inside Elliott & Doris' demolished kitchen
They tore down old buildings on my brother’s place, the farm Dad bought in the early 70s. My nephew Michael, who lives in Colorado, along with his brother-in-law Erik helped dismantle the place and burn down the house. All that remains there is that sheep barn I wrote about in last week’s post. Dad began tearing apart metal and hauling it to town for cash.

Dad's scrap metal project

On the main place where Dad lives, hog barns have been torn down and the feed lot removed. Just that 1954 granary, the cow barn that was re-sided in the ‘90s, the Butler building, the Harvestors, the silos, the grain bins, and dad’s house remain. No livestock.

Sounds pretty empty, doesn’t it? But it’s not. Dad’s not alone there anymore. He’s got a new view from his kitchen window.

views of the farm ~ Evelynn & Erik's house in lower right

His oldest granddaughter Evelynn and her Pennsylvania-raised husband Erik and their children live just a stone’s throw away on the same yard. Now there’s the hustle and bustle of farm equipment, an organized shop in the Butler building, and little kids running around. They get to grow up where I did.

Yes, the complexion of the farm is changing once again, and Dad’s around to witness it.

The Golden Years: 2014-present, Decade #10
The Future 

My dad, Waldo. A dreamer. A life-longer learner. A Child of God. His motto: we don’t know what tomorrow holds, but for those who know Christ, we know who holds our tomorrows.

For that upbringing, his good health, and vivid memories, I am grateful.

celebrating one of Dad's Christmas Eve birthdays

celebrating again, only on this picture, Dad is 90-years and 1-day old

Who are the loved ones in your life that you could talk to about the changes they've seen in their lifetime? What could you do to honor their memories and record it for generations to come?

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Middle Years of a 90-Year-Old's Life

Dad has always seemed old to me since he was 41-years-old by the time I came along.

So when we celebrated his Christmas Eve birthday a couple weeks ago, his white hair and 90 candles made me realize that now he really is old.

A family picture before me. Standing man: a German foreign exchange student.

What follows catalogs Dad's mid-life years as a 40-50-60-year-old when he raised his last child (me) and began his role as a father-in-law and a grandpa. These are some of the advancements and changes a middle-aged farmer from east central South Dakota experienced from 1954 to 1984.

For Dad's younger years, read the earlier post, First 30 years of My Dad's 90-Year-Old Life

Part II: The Next 30 Years

Developments on the Farm: 1954-1964, Decade #4
TV Enters the Home 

After Mom and Dad poured the cement foundation for a granary all by themselves, they weren’t quite sure what to do next until neighbor Josh Hofer came along and offered to help. They paid him a dollar an hour in 1954. When the job was done, Josh earned a $500 bonus.

the granary: the building with a smile, according to my nieces who lived nearby
In 1957, a telephone company installed phone lines, quite different from the farmer's lines I wrote about last time. A party line consisted of ten homes per line. Each home had a different ring, so if you wanted to eavesdrop, quietly lift the receiver.

Also in that year, Dad purchased the family's first TV, a Silvertone. Before that, Uncle Jr. was the first one with a television. "The picture was just white fuzz up at Jr.'s," Dad said. "By the time we got ours, the reception was better."

Is that a Silvertone TV behind me one Christmas? (I have stitches by my eye, long story)

In this decade, Dad also bought two 560 International tractors, two cultivators, and two five bottom plows. The landscape of the farm changed in 1963 when two white concrete silos were constructed.

Not long after my Grandma Elizabeth's death in '55 (I wrote about her in Namesake), neighbor Dave T. Decker sold his farm to Dad in 1958. This farm, with one white silo, was a little over a mile away from the main place and would eventually be my brother's home with his wife and five children, the nieces and nephews with whom I grew up.

Elliott's farm in 2011 ~ currently only a sheep barn, not pictured above, remains

Growing Family: 1964-1974, Decade #5
Lots of Lambs and Hogs ~ in other words, a ton of work

A highlight of this decade was witnessing the 1969 moon landing. The folks saw it on TV with Warren and Mary G Wipf while stopping to eat at a truck stop in Mitchell. Mary G was Mom's cousin whom I wrote about here.

The Marken family moved onto the other farm as Dad's hired help, and Dad began raising sheep. Before I was born, the Marken's left, so Dad hired Roy Horsley. Roy raised sheep too, so this was a big help. Dad recalled driving with him all the way to Hutchinson, Kansas, to purchase more sheep. The barn on the second farm was full of them. So full, that they took turns pulling all-nighters to keep an eye on them. 

Sheep, when born, need to be in a small pen with the mother. They can't mingle like calves do, Dad said. They must be given time to adjust. Out of room in the main barn, the men had to shuffle pens around inside and out. It was such a struggle that Roy said he wouldn't go through another lambing season like that. So, not wanting to lose an expert sheep farmer, my progressive father built another barn.

the sheep barn on Elliott's yard in 2011

A problem arose one time when it was time to sheer the sheep. Cold weather arrived, and the heat of the sheep rose to the frosty roof consisting of only plywood with no shingles. The dripping from the roof made the sheep too wet to sheer. Dad rounded up all the Nipco heaters he could find from the neighbors. He hung them from the rafters to dry off the critters, so the scheduled sheep sheering day could proceed.

I barely remember those sheep days. I'd fall asleep on an old couch in the barn after I had been told to get off the bus at Horsley's because everyone was over there tending to the lambs. Ironically, as I was working on this post, Roy passed away. Click here for his obituary. 

here I am bottle-feeding some lambs

In July of 1970, a few days after I turned 4-years-old, the family took their first commercial airplane trip. It was to Detroit for my brother Elliott's wedding. Read Curlers, a Bra, and an Airplane Ride for details about that wedding and others. Elliott eventually moved back to farm with Dad about the time the Horsleys moved back to Wessington Springs, Roy's hometown.

But before Roy left, Dad got into hogs, since Roy was a hog man too. A hog farrowing barn was built, and they'd planned to furrow four times a year. "The first time we weened 400 pigs," Dad said. I wrote about this building here in my Why I Hate Birds series last summer. But by the time Elliott returned to South Dakota to farm with Dad, the building had been sanitized and locked up. He was done with hogs—for now.

In 1973 and 1974, a slick salesman talked Dad into putting up two blue Harvestores with an automated feeding system. I enjoyed the smell of silage and would pretend I was an assembly line worker at McDonald'sonly I'd be serving cattle. These blue tubes forever changed the landscape of the farm. Dad now says, "I would have fared very well without that purchase."

the silos and the Harvestores

Trying Times: 1974-1984, Decade #6
Drought & Debt

Had the worst crop in 1976.
Dad suffered from migraine headaches.

Pastures were bare. One time he closed off the township road and put a up a "disaster area" sign so the cattle could graze the ditches. By the end of the day, those were bare too.

These are the years in which I grew up.

Dad ended up selling all the cattle. Mom stood at the screen door and cried as the semi trucks drove off with the livestock. But like all farmers, Dad still had hope. Hope for rain, for a crop, for an income.

In retrospect, Dad said he wished he would have kept and cows and sold the feeder cattle, but he followed the predictions that the following year was going to be dry too. It wasn't. The grass grew three feet tall. 

Elliott kept asking Dad, "When you gonna get back into hogs?" Dad said a few days would go by and his son would again ask, "Ever gonna get back to raising hogs?"

And boy did they. Eventually, a larger hog confinement operation was constructed. It included a cage room, a nursery, and a finishing house. My cousin Wilmer Kleinsasser (whom I wrote about here and here), was hired on as a farmhand, and he hauled the pork to Huron for slaughter. I always thought it was rather sad that some hogs never saw the light of day until that fateful ride. Those hogs help pay for my college education.

hog barns in 2011, dormant again

Another building came about after my brother-in-law Rick helped Dad and Elliott clear the spot where the Butler Building, a machine shed, was to be located. I loved that building, even though birds sometimes got in, for it was my indoor basketball court—when Dad finally followed through on a promise to get me one. He hired Gene McMillian in the early 80's to create the movable goal
—and not the kind that just changed the height of the hoop. The entire thing could be moved, inside or out. It cost $300.

My dad, always the elaborate one. He never does things small-scale.

Despite the stress of the farm, Dad's always been a man of progress and dreams. Farming is a gamble. And the entire family was a part of the risk. A family, that by now, included quite a few grandchildren.

60-years-old ~ behind him is the room of his birth

Do you have relatives like my dad? Any risk takers among your ancestors? Any big dreamers? Maybe you possess those traits and would like to share.

Writer's Note: In the next post, Old Age Creeps In: Decades 7, 8, and 9.