Thursday, May 16, 2013

Confessions of a frazzled mom, aka I stood up but my slip didn't

There is a discussion going on in one of the online groups of which I'm a part about the handiest and most appropriate length for skirts and dresses for busy moms.  Some things being discussed, are kids pulling on skirts; moms ascending stairs without tripping while carrying several children and diaper bags; modesty and respect for our husbands and other men; setting modest examples for our daughters; and etc.  Many different ideas and concerns have come up.

Some of the funnest parts of the conversation have included personal examples of things that can happen to a mother's clothing while parenting our children in public.  Things like skirts getting pulled off by little tugging hands or by stepping on a long hemline.  Shorter skirts getting pushed up by a little one or two grabbing mom's legs (sometimes in church on the way up to Communion, for instance). 

With many of these stories I can easily equate.

The conversation reminded me, though, of one of the funniest and potentially most embarrassing things to ever happen to me.  This little incident is far enough away now, that I can write about it without shame.  It tickles me still to think of it.  Really, really tickles me.  And I hope that it gave as much humor throughout the years to the other party.

The setting:  Our church's kids' room.  The occasion, I think, was the children's Christmas program.  If memory serves, the program was finished.  Supper was being served, as is the tradition.  Parents and friends were standing and sitting to visit, while the children opened their gifts, and people meandered through the supper line.

I was kneeling on the floor of the kids' room changing a diaper.  I was visiting with Kyle N., one of the younger dad's in our congregation. 

I'm going to interrupt myself to give a little Northern Minnesota cultural lesson.  Whether this is all in my head or not, I don't know.  But I have been conscious since living here, of the Norwegian Lutheran tendency to keep a wall of separation between men and women.  It's much more marked here than other places I've lived.  So although I was visiting with this other father, I must explain that I didn't know him well.  Those of you who know Kyle, know he is one of the more gregarious men in our circle of people.  Otherwise I probably would not even have been talking to him.  After more than ten years here, there are still many men with whom I've done little but exchanged hellos. 

So back to my story,

After I finished changing my baby, I stood up to gather together the child and all the accompanying paraphernalia.  I felt myself trip over something a little bit.  It was kind of as if my feet were tangled in something.  I glanced down, imagining that I had dropped a blanket or burp cloth or something.  That's the kind of thing any slightly frazzled mom might drop and trip over.  Imagine my chagrin to see that instead of something normal, I had instead dropped an undergarment.  My slip had slid out from under my dress and was gathered around my ankles. 

Inside myself, I was laughing with big, tremendous, boisterous laughs.  But I didn't feel like I knew Kyle well enough to share this joke with him openly. 

I don't really remember for sure what I did.  In my memory, I think I just kind of stepped out of the slip and gathered it into my armload of other things and continued talking.  I remember playing it kind of nonchalant, as if this kind of thing happened to me all the time.  I remember wondering whether Kyle had noticed, and whether he realized what it was I had tripped on and subsequently gathered up. 

I imagined him also laughing to himself with big, tremendous, boisterous laughs. 

I imagined both of us totally tickled, but unable to share the joy.  Him, out of respect for his pastor's wife.  And me, out of this kind of unsurety.  This  awkward separation thing that I sense.  That women and men simply don't share a laugh about undergarments in church. 

It reminded me for all the world of those old 70s commercials in which the neighborhood ladies are having coffee.  The narrator's voice says something like, "I stood up and my pantyhose didn't."

Didn't Carol Burnett do a skit with that, too?

So this is my, "I stood up but my slip didn't," moment.

I still laugh about it.  Whenever I remember this incident, I feel the laughter gurgling up from within.  Bubbling around the edges and forcing its way out.  Until soon, I find I'm laughing right out loud.  I hope that if Kyle did fully perceive my difficulties, he's been able to laugh about it too, rather than feeling mortified over this poor woman's embarrassment.  Or by being too embarrassed himself. 

Because although it was slightly embarrassing for me, mostly it was just purely, hugely funny. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Promise of the Catkin

I've gotten caught up on many household chores this winter and spring.  I've even done some windows.  Anyone who knows me well knows what an accomplishment that is.  Since, ... well, ... you guessed it, "I don't do windows."

I have all the screens cleaned up and ready to put on, but I haven't yet.  I love the openness of the windows without screens.  And with our prolific insect life in Minnesota, once those bugs kick in, we really need the screens.  So I always try to enjoy a week or two with no screens before that happens. 

And I hate to put a clean screen on a dirty window, so I suppose I will give the windows a once over before putting the screens on.  I'll get down and dirty with the windows I haven't tackled in over a year, and do a quick dust up of the ones more recently done.

It will be nice.  I will enjoy the clean windows and wonder why I don't wash them more often.

Until the screens go on, I'll continue to enjoy my open windows in screen free luxury.

Today as I was washing dishes, the pretty little spear of a poplar catkin blew in at me.  As it bounced off me and fluttered into my sink, it whispered the promise of the coming summer and made me glad.

Monday, May 13, 2013

And local another mystery to solve

How about Pelan, MN?  Can anyone help me with that mystery, too?  Pelan is an abandoned town site up toward Lake Bronson.  A township or county park is rumored to be at the former town site.  But I can't find the park on most maps, and when I drove past the area where I think the town was supposed to have been, and where a park does show up on a few maps, there does not appear to be a park at all. 

Mystery Solved! Val Hall, Rocksbury Township, Pennington County, MN

Thanks to several readers, especially Diane L, I now know where to find the mysterious and elusive community of which I wrote earlier today.  The images are screen shots courtesy of Google maps.

The green arrow is pointing just north of Val Hall

Here we are again, closer in.  Val Hall is the building on the left.  The house on the right is the one I remember having such a lovely setting.
The Townhall of Rocksbury Township is apparently called Val Hall.  I will have to drive there again, now that I know where to find it.  Turns out I only missed it by a mile.

In Search of Vahalla, or a Springtime Jaunt

I had a lovely trip into TRF last night to deposit Joe's paycheck.  The weather was perfect.  The music on the radio was a good fit for my mood.  I took the backroads.  Pure fun.  But I have to tell you, I was feeling just a smidgeon nervous by the time I got home.  I like to think I'm brave.  But it's sometimes easy to confuse brave with foolhardy.  Especially in the spring.

Here's how it happened.

I was looking for this little place I found once out in the country between Pennington/140th Ave, and US59; and Center Street and TRF.  It was a cute little township hall or school house or something, with several other farm sites on the adjacent land.  I think it was called something like Valhalla, but I'm not sure.  It's almost as if it was some time warp thing I slid into.  Another dimension or something.  I've never been able to find that spot again, and it doesn't show up on any county maps or township lists or anything.

The only thing I remember from that accidental find is that I had been on 59, going north, behind some sort of slow moving vehicle, with oncoming traffic or poor visibility or something that deterred me from passing.  So I turned off instead.  And discovered this cute little place.  And have never seen it since. 

The parameters I've described do not mark a very big area.  Maybe six or seven miles long and, because 59 goes at a diagonal, the width starts at about five miles wide and tapers to a triangle at TRF.  So really, really, with the pretty much perfectly square mile roads in this part of Minnesota, there are not that many places it could have been.  It's as if Valhalla was never really there. 

So last night, on an unplanned trip into town, with no real time frame or rush binding me, and after having cared for sick kids all day, I did a little exploring. 

On the way into town, by the time I got near the Casino, I was again behind someone going kind of slowly, and I didn't want to follow him all the way into Thief River.  I turned off and so began my adventure.  I found St. Pauli church, and a paved road I didn't know was there.  But that was the extend of my outgoing travels.

I turned north at the church and followed the paved road until it again joined 59 at that funky angle.  It was a pleasant little drive and I saw and learned some new things.  But it wasn't Valhalla.

After picking up a few things at Wal-Mart, depositing Joe's check, and filling the car with gas, I headed south out of town on Pennington.  I was bound and determined to find Valhalla. 

I passed the corner by Challenger, since I know where that road goes.  No mystery there.  I passed the first mile road, since I didn't think there was any mystery there.  I feels too close to town for my memory.

I passed the next mile road, since that's the one that goes to the Smiley bridge eventually.  I know that one, too.  The next mile, the one that should come out where the road curves past the airport, ... I don't think it goes through.  I'll have to check next time.  It's on the map, but I don't remember it. 

So I took the next one.

By that time, I had curved back to the west, so I felt kind of stupid meandering around out of the way, just for this silly notion I have about some cute place.  But, as I said, I was determined.  And the music was good.  The DJ had promised Miranda Lambert's new song, Mama's Broken Heart, which always make me smile.  It's such a fun song. 

Shortly after I turned east, the anticipated song came on, and I cranked up the volume.  I had opened my window while driving around town, and hadn't bothered to shut it.  So I felt kind of silly.  But I was loving every minute.  I felt like a teenager, which I kind of needed after caring for a sick child all day.

The sun was going down, but the light was still good.  The road was open.  The air was filled with the flavors of spring.  And the song was loud and fun. 

But suddenly there were ruts.  Deep ruts.  I heard the car bottom out.  Oh, shoot.  I guess I better slow down and stop cutting loose.  Like in the song, I guess.  I better hide my crazy and act like a lady.

I debated whether to stop and look at the underside of the car, but I figured I wouldn't really know what I was looking for anyway, ... Oh dear. 

I did stop briefly at the next intersection.  Kind of sat for a minute.  I figured in case something was leaking out the bottom, I'd give it a chance to make a puddle.  Then when I pulled forward, I'd see it in the mirror, right?

No puddle, so I guessed all was good.

"Hmm, I think that this must be about where Brian and Beth live.  Maybe I should stop and have Brian look underneath there."

And soon, sure enough, I saw their house up ahead.  To stop or not to stop?

"It looks pretty quiet there.  It's about 9:00.  They're probably trying to get kids settled down," I thought to myself.  "I've been OK so far.  If there was something badly wrong, wouldn't I know it by now?"

And so I drove past.  I did, however, turn my radio down before I got there.  THAT would have been totally embarrassing.

"What is that noise, Brian?"
"Some obnoxious teens out blaring their speakers."
"Wait! Look!"
"That was Mary!"

And so I came once again to 59.  And here is where I did the thing that probably defies common sense.  But hey.  I had been dealing with puke all day.  I really, really needed a little fun.

I continued east across 59.  At twilight.  Roads I had never traveled.  With a car that had bottomed out on the ruts a few minutes before.

In my defense, as I've said, the roads are all square.  Except where the river goes through.  I knew that as far south as I was, I'd get to the Kratka road and even, if the road went through, to the High Landing road before getting to the river.  I figured I was good.  What could go wrong?  I mean, even if something did happen, the people here are Minnesota nice.  I'd just ask for help at the nearest place. 

And so I drove on.  Window still open.  Music loud during the good songs.  The smells of spring filling the car.  The sights of spring filling my view.

It gave me wonderful sense of freedom and optimism.  And adventure.  Anything could happen, right?  What might I see?  What might I find?

I came to the Kratka road.  I briefly considered turning back toward familiar roads.  But I decided to stay on my little back road.  I knew the river would be up ahead.  I suspected that I'd have to turn south soon.  I knew there ought to be one more mile of east-west road between me and the highway.  I hoped that it was not too little a road.  I really, really was not ready for the highway yet.

One mile after the Kratka road, I came to the turn.  One of those places where to continue on would take me onto a minimum maintenance road.  Probably also a dead end, since I knew the river was angling south towards the River Valley Bridge.  So I tuned to the south for one mile, and then again went east.  I knew where I was, of course.  I was one mile north of the highway, and I could watch the road signs to keep track of each passing mile.  I know 290th is the Oklee road.  I was coming to an area I know, even if I'd never been on this particular stretch of road.

All was good in Mary's world.

Except that suddenly it was dark.

Then there wasn't much to look at.  There was a kind of deep ditch following along the right hand side of the road.  The road became minimum maintenance.  The ruts got bigger.  And there were no more farm places to run to in case something happened.

I started seeing things.  The deepening shadows became bears.  Or boogie men.  Or maybe cougars, out prowling for their supper. 

There were a few deer out, so I had to slow way down and keep a sharp eye.  I could just imagine hitting a deer out here in the middle of nowhere.

Or what if there was something falling apart from when I bottomed out?  What if it wasn't bad enough to cause a problem until just now?  Here.  Far from anything.

I watched the road signs.  I saw when I was on the north side of the section where Tyler lives.  Next I came to the north side of the section with the poplars across from Quinten and Alyssa's, that Tyler and Ryan are clearing.

I could see the radio tower.  Just over there.  Getting nearer.

I knew where I was.  I knew I could find someone if I needed.

But a whole section.  That's a mile.  I'd have to wander in the dark and lonesome night a whole mile before getting to any homes.

I began to see the folly of my actions.

I must admit that I breathed a big, giant sigh of relief when I hit the High Landing road.  And I gladly stayed on the tar the rest of the way home.

I had a little fun.  I lived a little dangerously.  I breathed the spring air.  I saw the spring.  The sides of the roadways and pastures are greening up.  The tractors are sitting out where fieldwork is beginning.  I was home safely.

But I never did find Valhalla.  Maybe next time.