A light in the darkness

Can you take another nighttime blog?
This one follows a more serious route.
Last week I awoke out of a deep sleep to total darkness. The clock radio was black, and the nightlight in the hallway wasn’t working. Except for a few stars twinkling in the sky, it was completely dark and silent.
Then, The Outdoors Guy woke up, too. We both got up, half stumbling over each other. I felt my way to my cell phone and switched it on. The time was 4 a.m. Then, I turned on its flashlight. That one little light made all the difference. Now I could see to flick on a couple of LED candles.
We checked two of our neighbors’ yard lights that are normally on overnight, but there was no sign of light coming from them or any of our other neighbors.
Bob grabbed his cell and called XCel Energy. A recording told us the outage covered a large area. It was expected to be restored by 7:30 a.m.
Still groggy, we decided to get more shut-eye. The next problem came when he fell asleep like a switch had been flipped. Not me. My brain went into overdrive!
The darkness enveloped me. The silence was spooky. I imagined things I normally don’t…. and didn’t want to be thinking about: What would it be like to be lost with no hope…or lose one’s way in the woods or a mountainous terrain. Yikes! Worse yet, what would it be like to lose one’s way on the path to heaven and stumble into the darkness of hell.
This is Holy Week and Sunday is Easter. So naturally, my thoughts turned to another kind of light. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12.
What confounds me is when people believe in miracles, yet the greatest miracle of all - the life, death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ - they deny.
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6.

In other words, He is our gateway to heaven. He died the death and paid the penalty for the sins we are riddled with.
The deep darkness continued. But then, calm filled me in that early morning hour when I remembered the first verse of the hymn, “Christ Be My Leader.”
Christ be my leader by night as by day.Safe through the darkness for He is the way.
Gladly I follow, my future His care;Darkness is daylight when Jesus is there.
The flashlight on my cell lit up the room temporarily. But cell phone batteries don’t last forever. We won’t live in this world forever, either.
Yet, Jesus is the true light who, if we have faith in Him, will one day take us from this world of darkness to Himself in heaven where we will live in the eternal light FOREVER!
May you and yours have a Blessed Easter!!!!

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It’s all in the mind

What do neckties and dogs have in common? They are connected in a strange way with The Outdoors Guy and me.
It started last week. Bob had gone to bed a little early. When I thought I could quietly slip into the bedroom, I found him standing at the foot of the bed hunched over like he was looking for something. Yet, knowing he gets leg cramps occasionally, I quickly assumed that was the problem. Boy, was I WRONG!!!
“What are you doing?” I asked him. “Do you have leg cramps?”
“No,” he responded. “I’m looking for that necktie.”
“Whaaaat? What necktie?”
“You know the one.”
“Noooo, I don’t.”
“I just can’t find it,” he replied in frustration as he dug deeper under the covers.
I quickly surmised he was dreaming… but about neckties? Come on!!!! The only thing he normally dreams about is being out in the woods! The last time Bob wore a tie was at our nephew’s wedding back in 2012!!!
It took some fast talking and slipping into the closet to produce “the missing tie,” but I finally got him redirected and back into bed. Once in bed, though, I got the giggles because I was suddenly transported back 40+ years to another dream… only this one was mine.
It was the middle of the night and a nightmare was brewing. All of a sudden, I was awakened by The Outdoors Guy’s scream, “'AAAAHHHH!!! What are you doing?!!!'”
He flew out of bed like a bird taking flight when a predator is approaching its nest.
“You bit me in the back,” he yelled.
By now I was fully awake and realized the dream I was having involved a ferocious dog biting me. So… what did I do? Well, of course, what any non-logical, non-rational dreaming person would do… I literally bit the dog back!!! Except it was Bob’s back that took the brunt of it!! In this case, the phrase, “I’ve got your back,” was… DUH-not a good one!!!
After we both calmed down, I assessed the damage. His skin was broken, but thank goodness he wasn’t bleeding. Still, the whole episode was downright crazy!!!
We’ll never figure out where the necktie dream came from. But, because of it, The Outdoors Guy was, for lack of a better phrase… nearly fit to be tied!
One thing I know for sure. My dog dream gave new meaning to the phrase, “watch your back!!!”

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Soup’s on... or is it???

During the winter months, we like to make at least one big pot of chicken noodle soup. Call it comfort food while we wait for the blustery winter winds to morph into warm summer breezes.
Soup takes time and plenty of patience to put together. Let’s face it, time hasn’t exactly been my companion since The Outdoors Guy’s diagnosis of pancreatic cancer in May of 2015, plus the stroke he suffered on Sept. 2 last year. Consequently, making soup has not been on my radar.
A quote from Laurie Colwin expresses a universal feeling about soup: “To feel safe and warm on a cold wet night, all you really need is soup.”
And, in Mr. Outdoors’ case, a barrel of crackers!!!
So, last week I was finally ready to pull out my 11-quart stock pot, roll up my sleeves and get busy putting together a mid-winter treat.
The day before, I put the chicken breasts in water, simmering them for one hour while skimming off any foam rising to the top. Then, I removed the chicken from the broth. After it had cooled enough to handle, I pulled away the skin and bones and popped the chicken in the fridge until the next day. I also chilled the broth overnight, skimming off the fat the next morning.
So far, so good. Right? Check!
The next day, Bob sliced carrots and chopped celery. I began to heat the broth, cut up the chicken, stir in the seasonings and add a frozen bag of chopped onions left over from when we made chili earlier this winter.
We were simmering along when The Outdoors Guy took a break to check his website.
Meanwhile, I measured the noodles and set them aside, ready to go when the water in the 5-quart Corning dish reached the boiling point.
As I turned to check the stock and vegies, my elbow slammed into the bowl of noodles. The bowl went flying from the counter, tumbling over as the 4 cups of noodles left the bowl and also took flight, not only across the kitchen floor, but also into the dining room. I couldn’t believe my eyes! Noodles here...noodles there…noodles, noodles...EVERYWHERE!!!
Bob heard my cry of despair as I turned down the heat on the almost-boiling water. He came racing in from the study.
“What happened?”
“I accidentally hit the bowl with my elbow when I turned around.”
“It looks like you hit a few hundred home runs in one swing,” he joked. “I’ll get the broom and dust pan.”
“Thank goodness they were dry and not cooked,” I commented.
“Yup, there’s always a silver lining,” he added.
A quick check in the pantry provided another silver lining because we had just enough noodles to replace what had spilled. Whew! Problem solved.
The new batch of noodles was cooked, rinsed and drained. The empty Corning dish was in one side of the sink. Immediately after I lifted the strainer containing the noodles from the other side of the sink to add to the soup…KA BANG!!!
Jumping about a foot, I peered into the sink to see the Corning dish had burst apart and looked quite pathetic as it was now in three pieces instead of one.
The Outdoors Guy was just a few feet away. “What the heck was that,” he hollered as he looked into the sink.
I wondered how many times in how many years I used that dish to cook noodles and make numerous other recipes. And, like always, putting hot water in it to soak. We decided it must have been it’s time.
“Another silver lining,” I added. “The dish didn’t explode on the range!!!”
With that, we looked at each other wide-eyed!!! I told him, “I don’t even want to think about what a mess that would have been!!!”
Cleanup wasn’t exactly a breeze, either. I cut my finger on an edge of the broken dish as I put it in the trash!!! AARRGGHHH!!!
I told Bob, “Now remind me of why we haven’t made soup for almost three years!!!”
“Good soup is one of the prime ingredients of good living. For soup can do more to lift the spirits and stimulate the appetite than any other one dish.” Louis P. De Gouy, ‘The Soup Book’
Ha! My spirits were never lifted so high as when I was finally able to declare, “SOUP'S ON!!!”









Fish folly

Sunday marked the last day of the annual Wisconsin sturgeon spearing season.
I think the most interesting story from the season appeared last week when the local news featured an account about a fisherman who lives in Malone, WI.
According to the story, written by Barry Adams of the Wisconsin State Journal, 72-year-old Corky Atkinson has been fishing in Lake Winnebago for around 50 years.
The story listed a few of Atkinson’s successes over the years including, “a 115-pound, 77-inch sturgeon in 1990, a 74-pound, 72-inch fish on the last day of the 2017 season, and a few more in between.”
As per the story, Atkinson “showed the excitement of a greenhorn. Shortly after dragging an 87.2-pound, 73.4-inch sturgeon out of the door of his ice shack, Atkinson raised both arms and celebrated.”
“What a thrill,” shouted Atkinson… he was almost all the way into the hole before I saw him.’”
“Only he turned out to be a she.”
“...technicians at a Department of Natural Resources registration station revealed the fish was likely about 65 years old.”
Sixty-five?!! Holy Cow! Or should I say, Holy Fish!!
“Atkinson would find out later that same evening while butchering the fish in his garage that it was packed with 4.5 gallons of eggs.”
Yikes!! I have one burning question regarding this fish story. Ahem… Do female sturgeons, or female fish in general, ever go into menopause???!!! Snigger, Snigger!!!


This one’s for you, girls

No, I’m not blogging about #me, too. Although, I’d venture to guess most of us have a story or two to tell!
I’d rather write about our closets… or at least what’s in ‘em that shouldn’t be.
If yours looks anything like mine, it’s as jam-packed with clothes as the mall is with people on the weekend before Christmas.
I’ve never considered myself to be a hoarder. But, I do know I have a problem with keeping too many clothes.
So, my curiosity got the best of me. I decided to check out a few websites. One site, Hoarders Help, quoted Jack Samuels, Ph.D., an assistant professor with a joint appointment in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the Dept. of Mental Health at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins. He suggested, “Hoarding belongs to a syndrome which also includes: Indecisiveness, perfectionism, procrastination, avoidance behaviors and difficulty organizing tasks.”
BOOM!! I didn’t have to think twice! Right off the bat I was convicted on the first two counts!
1) Indecisiveness. My family, including my parents, brothers and sisters and I were teased for years by the in-laws because we were all so indecisive! If there was a decision to be made when members of the Poling clan got together, we’d go round and round before someone FINALLY made it… and then it was usually one of the in-laws!
2) Perfectionism. Yes, it’s another trait I struggle with. So much so that sometimes I even drive myself crazy!!! LOL
Obviously, fessing up to the first two categories didn’t start off on a positive note in my quest for a not-guilty-of-hoarding verdict. Yet, I don’t believe I’m a full-blown hoarder. My main problem is clinging to too many clothes.
Hmm…let’s see…there’s the mini velvet skirt with a matching vest almost as long as the skirt. I bought it 40+ years ago!!! I use the excuse it’s vintage and a keepsake. But, it’s more like…for Pete’s sake, what am I thinking?!!
Do you remember Fantles on 5th Ave. in La Crosse? My closet boasts a black bolero jacket and a few other pieces I purchased there. Has Fantle’s really been closed since 1995? Yikes! That’s 23 years ago!! But, I see bolero jackets are still popular. Maybe this one can stay in my closet!
I still have the sweater our son, Jon, gave me during his St. Olaf College days back in the early 90’s!! I like it. But, once when I wore it when Jon and daughter-in-law, Sara, visited, they looked at me cross-eyed and laughed. Even so, I’m having a hard time saying good-bye.
Normally, I don’t have a problem with shoes. But, it took me a number of years to finally get rid of the red heels I loved so much… the ones that didn’t love me back. Not only did the toes pinch, the shoes slipped when I walked. No amount of shoe inserts helped. Believe me, I tried! Finally, I acknowledged that if the “big reds” didn’t go to Good Will, I’d slip or trip, fall, and be wearing a red face to match!
These are just a few examples. Yet, enough for you to get the picture. I probably wouldn’t be too far off the mark, though, suggesting you may have several illustrations of your own.
Another reason…er…excuse my over-populated closet began to swell to an out-of-proportion size was the opening of TJ Maxx in our area just over 13 years ago. My closet has never been the same. My reasoning for shopping at TJ Maxx more than department stores is, if I pay less for an article of clothing, then it won’t bother me to give it up. There’s one teensy-weensy problem with this concept. Even when the article of clothing doesn’t work for me anymore, I still don’t want to send it out the door.
My dad was a pack rat when it came to his garage. He kept pieces of wire, wood, string, old worn-out tools…you name it, he had it in spades. When he passed away, cleaning out his garage wasn’t for the faint of heart. Thankfully, my brothers sorted through the bulk of it. Several loads of his long-saved “treasures” made their final trip… to the dump. Dad would not have been happy, but we sure were! To that end, I don't want to put our kids through such a major task, whenever that day should come.
So, what to do? A while back I read about a challenge for clothes hoarders, suggesting switching clothing to face the opposite way everything normally does. As an article of clothing is worn and laundered, turn it the normal way again. After one year, whatever remains that has not been worn, and therefore has not been turned to face the usual way, donate those items.
With the start of a new year, and this added incentive in mind, I’m willing to accept the “one-year-plan challenge.” As of today, Sunday, Jan. 28, 2018, I switched all of my tops and jackets/blazers to hang in the closet facing the opposite direction. Thank goodness I don’t have a problem with slacks, jeans or dresses. Just turning the tops about-face was a project. This Lamb is sheepish to admit I stopped counting at 100!!!
After one year, it will be sayonara to the tops and jackets/blazers that have not been worn, and therefore have not been turned to face the usual way. Today’s date has been recorded. I will report the results in one year.
I wonder if, after one year, I still won’t be able to let go. Parish the thought!!!
If you decide to take the challenge, let me know. And, good luck!!
Hmm… I’m checking out Mr. Outdoors side of the closet. He seriously needs to consider doing an about-face with his shirts, too!!! Should I suggest it, or keep the peace and not say a word? AARRGGHHH!!! I can’t decide!!!

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