Saturday, January 23, 2021

Nebraska, It's Not For Everyone

The post title was in fact a state advertising campaign. I thought it was hilarious, but not everyone did and it was quickly abandoned. There's truth in it though.  For a bit of light diversion I thought it might be fun to tell you about where I live. I found some old photos to better illustrate the Nebraska Experience for people that have never been here. 

January 2006-it snowed a little! 
There's a driveway beneath all of that, though if memory serves, it was days before we were able to get out. Sometimes I miss rural living, but then I remember how hard it was in winter. On the positive side, if I could make it out the drive, our county road was on a school bus route, so it got ploughed first.   Maybe not ploughed to the standards people have in the city , but good enough to be drivable for most cars/trucks. Beyond that stand of trees is a wildlife area that was open to fishing and hunting. That didn't stop people from coming up in the driveway to hunt. If I'm generous, I could believe people didn't know that the house and drive weren't part of the wildlife area. That's being awfully generous, but yeah. Today's tip is to ask permission if you want to hunt on someone's land. Most people will say yes, but you should ask first. 
I think this was the first time I let Dan play in snow. Might have over-dressed him in a snowsuit and a ski jacket (sent by my late friend Evelyn because she must have thought it was all cowboys and Indians out here and we wouldn't be able to find outerwear that wasn't buffalo hides). Poor kid had so many layers on he could barely walk or move his arms. This was the back door to the mudroom. It led to the kitchen. Our storm cellar was under the mudroom, and that's where we rode out the tornado in 2008. Today, that little boy can't be bothered to wear a coat unless it is below zero outside,  and he has closed all the vents in his bedroom because he enjoys sleeping in a cold room. Typical Nebraska conversation:
Ma: Where's your coat? 
Kid: In the car
Ma: I hope it is keeping the car warm. 

I have had elderly strangers scold me for not wearing a coat when it is close to 60 degrees F. 
"Well what about a nice windbreaker? You should find yourself a windbreaker." For the record, I haven't seen anything resembling a windbreaker (a thin nylon jacket) for sale in at least 40 years. 
Anyway, here's a photo with a baby for scale. There's a sidewalk under there, somewhere. Note the garage, and the car sitting in the snowy driveway. Nebraskans don't keep cars in a garage-that's for lawnmowers, bags of lawn fertiliser, cool metal implements you bought at a farm auction. It could go in the shed, but that's already full. I've yet to meet anyone here that uses a garage for their car. 

The barn is no good for storage-it is full of scrap wood, feed, and tools. 

Eventually the snow melts in spring, but then the dirt drive becomes a muddy mess.  Nothing a chain hitched to a tractor can't pull you out of, but still a mess. If you squint, you can see some cattle in the upper right corner of the photo. We moved to the city when Dan was 8 1/2, but he has a healthy fear of livestock (it isn't just bulls that will charge), farm machinery, wells, and septic tanks. Most farm kids do. I'm glad he had that experience and hopefully it will serve him well when his friends want to do dumb things like driving 100 mph down a dirt road because they think no one is around (spoiler: Sometimes there's a tractor). 

I always wondered if the salon owners were being sarcastic. Still, that's not the sort of thing you'd see in a big city. I've never been to a tanning salon. My mum was rather partial to them in the 80s, but I have to think even she would have been hesitant to visit a salon called Three Mile Island*. 

You know you're a Nebraskan when you have an album of photos with pictures taken beside heavy machinery.
I mean, why wouldn't you want a photograph beside a giant excavator? 
If you're a Nebraskan, there's also likely a photo of you in front of a grain elevator. Of course there is-that's the tallest structure in town besides the water tower. Baby provided for scale. You might notice Danny had a case of wry neck when he was born. We straightened him out with physical therapy and exercises (which he screamed through) but I'll never forget the woman who looked at him in the grocery store and said, "What's wrong with him?! Why is is head all floppy like that?" Some people don't have filters. I think I tried explaining how it happens (the baby curls up in the womb and prefers that position once they're out, etc.) but if it happened today I might have had a more pointed response. Anyway, my floppy headed little baby is once again a good measure for scale in the photos. 

Many Nebraskans have a good old dog to keep them company. Well, the dog was old anyway. And lazy. I'm sure he rode back to the house in the wheelbarrow. He lived to 17, and is buried on the farm. 
March in Nebraska means visiting the farm store and trying to resist bringing home ducks and chicks.  By some miracle, I never did which is a good thing because I know they would have died of old age and never ended up on the dinner table. Raising poultry is a bit of work, and they're prone to infections that you need to isolate and treat. I know everyone thinks a pet chick or duck is nice for Easter, but trust me-you don't want to do that. As for people that dye the chicks pastel colours for Easter to sell knowing they'll be "Set free" by parents that can't be bothered...please don't do that. Chicks can't fend for themselves in the wild and will just end up some feral cat's dinner. Do the right thing and visit the chicks-and then leave them at the store for people that know how to raise them. 

Back in 2009 on the blog, I wrote a little song about keeping poultry healthy:

If your little birdie is lookin’ sort of dirty

Call your vet.

If your poor old chicken has a cough that’s really kickin’

Call your State poultry diagnostic lab.

If your duck has green diarrhea, droopy wings, and doesn’t see ya’

Take her out.

And wash your hands.

If your bird’s eggs are gross misshapen

And the wattle’s really gapin’

Take it out

(And scrub your shoes with disinfectant).

If your rooster’s not so large and has a thick nasal discharge

Call the vet.

If the swans begin to sneeze it might be Exotic Newcastle Disease!

Call a vet!

Some creepy genius guy from MENSA

Caught Avian Influenza

When he stuffed and mounted a pheasant head

And now poor Einstein’s DEAD!

Don’t play with dead birds your find in the wild!

And don’t eat them either.

If you must handle a dead bird with your fingers or your toes

Please don’t go rubbing your eyes

Or pick your nose.

Get some water. Get some soap. Call the State!

Why did the chicken cross the road? Who knows? He might have been sick!

Don’t take chances

Call the State!

And wash your hands.

And don't touch. 
Now that's the quality content you come to the blog for.

Moving along...
So what's there to do for fun in small town Nebraska? Well, if the owner of the local car dealership owns an antique firetruck, he might just take you, and your parents for a ride. If you're well behaved, he might even let you clang the bell. 
Your dad will have to hang off the side to keep you from falling out. Mama's hanging off the back of the truck protecting no one but herself.
That firetruck would come out every summer for the town's Days celebration, and again for Halloween. There were only a few streets in town to drive up and down, but the kids loved it. He's since retired and sold the dealership, but I suspect that truck still comes out once in a while.

Here's something every Nebraskan can relate to. If there's livestock, there's going to be flies. How many flies depends on how good your hygiene and management of the lot is. Unfortunately, we lived next to someone who didn't do a very good job. Was this what inspired Danny to see a future in exterminating? Who knows? I'm sure it had some influence. His first sorta-complete sentence was, "Flies mama, flies!" Thought it sounded more like, "Fwies." First warm sunny day in spring and they'd come pouring in through the widow gaps, floor vents, and anywhere else they could fit. Fly paper would last a day before needing to be replaced. It was horrifying, disgusting, and painful (those brown flies bite) but it would usually settle down pretty quickly until the first cold day in autumn when the flies would panic again and head straight for the warmth of the house. Anyway, my little "Fly Hunter" got pretty skilled with a swatter, though I had an old ballerina slipper I'd employ for serious cases. At any rate, it wasn't as bad as field mice running for the house as soon as the corn was cut down in harvest time. I never had flies pounce out of a cabinet when I opened the door, hit my head, then the ground, and then run out the door before I could comprehend what happened. But yeah, flies.
At least his last bite was expensive cheese.

There were snakes too! Bull snakes. They look like rattlesnakes and even do a pretty good job of shaking their tails to frighten predators, so you'd be forgiven if you mistook them for a rattler. Bull snakes are harmless (though it will hurt if you get bit) but they're BIG. I mean really BIG. Five feet long. And wide. Big, big, harmless stupid snakes that liked to hang out in the mudroom (fine) but occasionally wandered into the kitchen (not fine). I have to think that's just part of the Nebraska experience that you get up for a drink of water in the night and there's a five foot snake curled up in the corner. I chased it off through the back door yelling after it to, "Eat some mice while you're in the mudroom."
If you're lucky enough to have farm cats, they'll help keep the snake population down (though you find snake heads all over your lawn because they pop off the heads and then eat the bodies like noodles). 
Every once in a while we'd find a snake in winter, but they'd be small like this one. 
"I am snek. I am smol."

Living next to a wetland, we also had our share of frogs. They'd jump up on the windows at night making a plopping noise that would scare the daylights out of me.
"Hello human. Do you have any flies?"
"Oh certainly, come right in."

I didn't mind the frogs. I miss hearing them at night.
Another familiar sight to Nebraskans-the Turkey Vulture. 
Came home to this one afternoon-like they were waiting for me. Sometimes I like to shout at them that I'm not dead yet.  This was the hay barn being re-built after the tornado. Oh yeah, we get tornadoes in Nebraska. That was a mess. We do get all manner of extreme weather, but every region gets something. I'd prefer a tornado to an earthquake. 

I didn't think I'd end up a storm spotter, but Danny wanted to take the class, so I figured why not? I've only had to call something in to the weather service once. 

On the roads...
If you're driving down a two lane highway and someone is headed the other way, lift a finger to "wave" and every so slightly nod your head. I don't know why we do it, we just do. More of a rural thing than urban, but I've had people do it in Omaha too. 

This was our home library. The short bookcases in the front are double-sided so it was a bit like walking through a labyrinth on the other side. I home schooled Danny until he was 14, and having a home library while not essential, was helpful. I definitely had a better collection than our town library that consisted of two bookcases in a trailer. We've since whittled down the collection. 

Another part of the rural Nebraska experience is your neighbour's cattle getting loose and coming over for a visit. 
"Let's go eat the grass at Goody's"
"If I hide in the hay bales, maybe they won't notice."
"Nice a shame if I charged it"

"Okay, let's help them mow this grass..."
Danny thought a sign might serve as a warning, but cattle aren't good readers. 

Admittedly, even the bull was pretty tame and accustomed to being fed by humans, so I was wary, but not petrified. I learned that had I really needed to get to my car,  leaving a trail of cereal in the opposite direction would be enough to distract them. Cattle are really only concerned with eating. One time a new neighbour from a few miles down the road lost his long horned rare breed bull which showed up in our yard surprising the hell out of our little poodle. We didn't know him, but he was a sort of hobbyist farmer that hadn't really thought through the whole enterprise and was gone in a year or so. Now, that bull scared me because it looked like an ox! Anyway, if you're visiting Nebraska and someone is moving their cattle across the road, just turn off the engine of your car and wait the few minutes it takes. Honking, or trying to cut through a line of cattle won't win you any friends when the farmer has to go round them back up. You'll get where you're going shortly, just hold your 

I hope you've enjoyed your visit to rural Nebraska. Next time, I'll take you into town, and maybe a "real" city. 

Thursday, January 21, 2021

My Two Week Headache


Husband cooked himself a steak on high heat using a coated pan. I think you can guess what happened, but the doors and windows are all open now and thankfully we don't have any pets or they would almost certainly be dead. My plants that were in the kitchen window that I've lovingly cared for are definitely now dead. I don't *think* this was a passive aggressive message for me to get back to work, but rather the sheer ignorance of someone that doesn't know their way around the kitchen. He could have had a sandwich for lunch, but steak it was. Sigh.

 I've been struggling with a gradually worsening headache for two weeks now. Yesterday, when I woke to the sound of my heart beating loudly in my ear with a thunk thunk thunk reminiscent of the washing machine in the spin cycle, I gave up, made an appointment to be seen by a medical professional. What I got was someone still in their residency that was only a few years older than Danny. He told me he's seen a lot of migraines the past two weeks (no shocker there) and gave me a medicine that was supposed to constrict the blood vessels in my head to knock out the headache. OK, cool. 

About an hour after popping this one-dose miracle pill I'm cooking dinner when I start feeling like maybe I'm going to at long last astral project the hell out of my body. No such luck, so I sat on the floor and talked my husband through finishing cooking dinner before I crawled up to bed and slept for something like 14 hours, got up, had a piss and a cup of tea and then went back to sleep for another 8 hours. I still have the headache and the ear nonsense, but now I'm dizzy and nauseated as well. The dreams were wild though! 

I don't have Covid as far as I know as I was recently tested, and haven't been around anyone, but if this is what I have to look forward to with post-menopausal migraines...I really hope I'm just having a bad episode. Everything else checked out fine with me, so I'm not really worried about anything serious. The young doctor took a listen to my carotid artery to make sure there wasn't a blockage, so in the very worst case the polyp that's been living rent-free in my sinus for several years now has built on a room addition and needs to be evicted. That would explain a lot, and I guess that's the next thing to look at. Sinus surgery in a pandemic isn't very appealing though. 

The timing is bad as my husband starts going back to his office in 3 week rotations with other departments on Monday. This had a year to happen, but shows up when I have to take care of it myself-which let's be realistic, I would be anyway. Maybe someone will run a load of laundry to help out. And maybe hell will freeze over and I will at long last astral project out of my body. When there's standing water in the sink that means you need to run the garbage disposal...the switch is on the wall by the sink...

I did enjoy the inauguration though! As sick as I was, it was a joy to watch. And when I woke up today, for the first time in four years I didn't need to wonder what horrible thing the president did while we were all asleep. That's such a relief, and now I can focus my attention closer to home on the things that really define me like providing cleaning and meal service. 

Here's hoping Biden has a successful presidency, though the bar is so low now, just being merely competent would be fantastic. 

Thursday, January 14, 2021

I Pull My Blue Jeans On

Well that was a fucked-up week. As the fallout will probably be unfolding for a while, and my stress level is currently off the charts for myriad reasons (and violent insurrection ain't helping) I'm going to do an outfit type post. I'm not ignoring the situation (I mean, how could I when I keep getting emails and DM's from friends in other countries thinking I can somehow explain what the fuck is going on, or do anything about it) but like everyone else, I could use a breather. 

Never mind that I can't breathe in jeans😀.
I've never understood the appeal of jeans, but every once in a while I wear them to remind myself how much I dislike them. Aside from making my legs feel like sausages forced into casings, they aren't any warmer than a skirt with tights. Anyway, here's an attempt at being fashionable but now that's out of the way, I'll content myself with being stylish instead. 
Good earrings though. Hard to go wrong with big hoops.
Still making an effort to wear things that have been languishing in my collection. I can't remember the last time I wore any of these bracelets. I'm a hopeless accessory collector. They're small, inexpensive, and do so much for an outfit, yet it is easy to amass loads of stuff that rarely gets worn. I'm a little embarrassed, but have a look.

Honestly, I don't ever need to buy another...well anything, really. At the very least I need to be more selective when I start shopping again. February will be a year since I've been in a thrift shop. 

Finished reading Aubrey Gordon's book in a day. There's nothing here that hasn't been said by every fat person, over and over, but she's a good writer and it might resonate with thin people behaving badly. That's probably optimistic. Suggesting that fat people be treated as human, and believed when they share their experiences of horrific treatment shouldn't be a radical act, but here we are. 

Last post I mentioned my 70s dishes. There's several mixed sets, but these are my favourites. They're Homer Laughlin Golden Harvest. Homer Laughlin is the company in West Virginia that makes Fiesta Ware. I don't care for Fiesta, but I really love these. 

Admittedly, there's only so much nice plates can do to make curried lamb and cauliflower rice look attractive. I know, I know, we eat with our eyes too, but food styling is asking a bit more of me than I'm capable of delivering. 
This meal looked a bit better. "Asian-style" (It has sesame oil, soy sauce and 5 spice but I see the goofiness of calling it  generic Asian) cod cooked in foil pouches and served over vegetables. Threw some chopped peanuts on top and they were both happy with it. Trying to cook for two people with very different dietary restrictions is challenging. I say two, because I've been feeding myself without anything involving cooking for years. I usually get their dinner served and keep them company with a yoghurt or something because there's no way I could cook two, and now three different meals. Sometimes I just do the dishes while they eat, but we're together all the time-I don't need to sit at the table for quality time. Not once has anyone offered to make me something. Ever.  Anyway, nice plates. 
Not to brag, but would you admire how nicely I cut those vegetables with just a  knife? I have a mandoline, but am more comfortable with a knife. I also (touch wood) still have all my fingers.

I do like to get things ready through the day so I can just put it together quickly. I'm tired by dinnertime.

When I posted this outfit on Instagram, it got a laugh because the jacket used to belong to Danny. As I was clearing out all the clothes that no longer fit him, I was acquiring a new wardrobe for myself. That's sort of like thrifting. 
It was definitely cuter on him. I think he was six or seven here. No visiting the car show this year as climbing in and out of cars everyone has sat in doesn't seem all that appealing in a pandemic. I'm wondering if it ever will again. That's also the closest Danny will be getting to a sportscar as I drive a Honda Civic and his dad has a Ford Focus. We're practical car people. If her wants a fancy car he'll have to buy (and insure) it. Anyway, I continue to steal my kid's clothes. 

I didn't steal this outfit though. I've had this coat (it has a matching shift dress) for years. It goes so well with this too-big Frank Usher dress (which I will never get rid of because I adore it) and scarf/shawl that matches so well it looks like it was part of a set (it wasn't). The lilac boots were purchased from an online friend just as lockdown was starting back in March. I've yet to wear them further than a walk around the block. 
The handbag didn't go anywhere either. I have my "going out" bag that can be easily wiped clean. 

Being home so much, I finally fixed the zipper on  this vintage 50s dress that had been waiting for repair since be fore we moved (almost 8 years ago!). Where does the time go, eh? 
Here's the last time I wore it circa 2013
That was the old Crossroads Mall. They've finally started tearing it down. 

It is nice to be able to wear it again, even if only  to stay at home. The 70s belt is another rarely worn accessory, though no idea why as it is fab.
Not the easiest thing to photograph though, being so reflective. The dress is a shiny taffeta with a flocked floral print. Quite a bit of the flocking has worn away over the years, but the dress is still wearable. Someday I should try it with a fluffy crinoline. 

Anyway, that wasn't the only repair I managed.
Both this black dress and robe needed small repairs. Since I had the sewing basket out, I went ahead and did what needed doing. 
The dress is an absolute nightmare to photograph, but take my word for it that the scalloped ruffles are much better in person.
The dress is a very sturdy crepe material from the 80s. It would probably be better on someone taller, honestly. I will probably move this one along at some point. Would be nice on an art teacher.

The capelet had a first wear of the year. I wear this one quite a bit in the house when it is cool. More substantial than a cardigan, but less restrictive than a jacket, it turned out to be one of my better purchases. I remember thinking at the time that I'd never wear a purple, tartan cape. 

The 70s wool skirt has a matching jacket that is just a bit too narrow in the shoulders for me. I rarely wear suits anyway, but it is disappointing. I'm built like a stork with all my weight balanced atop spindly legs.
I decided it was probably time to do something with my skin besides Ponds Cold Cream and Pears soap. So far, I've been pleased with The Ordinary products. The cleanser is a bit tricky as you're supposed to rub it between your palms and the heat of your hands will liquefy it. Ha! Not these freezing, arthritic hands. Instead, I rub it onto my forehead and then spread it out to the rest of my face. It does an excellent job of removing eye makeup without any cotton pads, which is nice. I haven't had any trouble with the retinol on my sensitive skin, and the foundation is a better match than products I've tried costing much more. I have a very pink complexion, and matching foundation can be tricky. Overall I'm pleased, and the  price is very, very good. Free shipping too. 
I look ten years younger already...

We're expecting a blizzard tonight and through the day tomorrow. They cancelled school (even though they have the remote capacity, so that's nice for the kids) and Danny is planning to sleep through the day. Part of me is thinking, "This is exactly the sort of driving conditions you need to learn how to navigate in the Midwest", but maybe I'll just make him dig the car out for me. That's part of learning to drive as well. At most we'll have half a foot of snow, but 60 mph winds are going to make it impossible to see and the rural roads will be a mess. I really hope we don't lose power, but at least if we do it is cold enough to put the contents of my fridge outside in a snowbank. That's Midwestern living for you! 

I've got my vintage Snowland boots ready. 

Going to be a strange seven days or so. Stay safe, and good lord willing I'll see you soon.