Awake

 

At 5:30 AM, I literally sat up straight in bed.  I knew that there was no sleep to be had.  As I shuffled around the bedroom, MK asked me why I was up.  I responded, “Because I am awake.”  My internal alarm had gone off for some reason.  When it goes off, I heed its call!

I had slept well although seem to have experienced strange dreams.  Every so often I would somewhat awaken to mentally rehash the story line of the dream.  At that point, I wasn’t sure whether it was dream or reality.

So, up I am and set to making the coffee and then to a task I didn’t want to do later.  Before going to bed I had thrown a load of wash in.  Our front loading washer is wonderful, but unfortunately we didn’t follow a Koerner tenet, never to buy something when it is a new model.  Despite the fact that the Europeans have been successfully producing front loading washers for what seems like centuries, we Americans are new to it.  Our model works well but it took us a while to figure out its quirks.  One of the quirks is that you cannot leave the door closed as it will begin to take on a musty odor from the moldy matter it must be producing.  We also learned that you can use almost no detergent, it needs to be very small in volume.  Excess soap makes must as well, or so I am told.

So, I went down to the laundry room after my toilette and coffee production to deal with the laundry.  I knew that I had to deal with the issue of folding the laundry in order to place the new laundry on the racks.  That took a bit of time and then I was finally able to install the newly washed whites from last night.

It is now 6:30 AM and I am finally seated with my cup of coffee.  It is time to reflect on yesterday and today.  I got my coffee and took out the recycling and picked up the newspaper which is too large for Ali to deal with.  I almost killed myself on the slippery pavement which is ice covered from Snowmageddon and now has at least an inch of white fluffy snow.  Apparently we are going to have our record beaten this year.  In the past there were never more than three years in a row with over 50 inches of snow.  The past three years were over that limit and we were at 47 inches the other day.  I am guessing this is a “no brainer” and we shall have a new record. 

Yesterday was nice despite the less than auspicious beginning after our exercise foray.  We went to the nursing home to take clothing for MK’s mom.  Once there we learned that she had not been cooperating.  For us, news of this nature is never a surprise.  We dialogued with the nurses and staff, made them aware that we had two charges in the facility, which surprised a good many of them, and we informed them that we understand what they are going through and that we are very supportive.  We told them, as well, that MK’s mom is to get dressed each day and they are to try to make sure she gets in her rehab and tries to socialize a bit.  We even managed to get her to lunch and she seemed to enjoy it.  My mom was her usual self and doing fine with the situation although she hasn’t been eating as much.  She has lost weight and I think she may have gotten into some bad habits while waiting for her mouth to heal and for her new dentures.  Anyway, there is always something.

We saw The King’s Speech in the early part of the afternoon.  It was amazing from so many standpoints.  I was in awe of the way that the film was made and managed to keep you involved despite what seemed to be a very simple plot that wouldn’t be able to hold your attention for the whole film.  The actors, Colin Firth in particular, managed to totally convince the spectator of the seriousness of the undertaking.  The pain of “Bertie,” AKA King George VI, was evident, obvious, and strongly felt by the audience.  It was a great film and managed to keep us awake throughout the whole time, which at my age is how you can measure the interest of a film!

Did I mention it was snowing?  I just opened up the blinds so we can enjoy the beauty of the falling snow which is continuing to come down in a steady, but persistent way.

We ended up last night going to a Tapas Restaurant with one of MK’s colleagues and spouse.  We had a delightful dinner and then returned home.

Yesterday I also completed my tutoring schedule for the coming week.  I am tutoring two girls consistently each week and yesterday I received an e-mail from another who wants to make sure she understands The Stranger by Albert Camus, one of my all time favorite books. 

The kids are supposed to be heading north this morning for a Super Bowl Day of skiing.  I kind of thought that they were on an early schedule, Samantha is to spend time with “Mumma” and Papi today.  We shall see.  That newspaper seems to be inviting me to read it.  Now that I have my world in control and can approach it and see what is going on.

Oh yes, the Super Bowl.  Weirdo that I am, I am probably not watching it.  Honestly, had the Bears been involved, I would have at least attempted to watch a bit, maybe even more than a bit.  I shall be glad when the game is over; I am sure tired of being asked at the grocery store if my stockpiling is due to that celebration!  Traditionally, we always find something to do that is usually crowded, on this Sunday, during the game, crowded venues are amazingly empty and so much more enjoyable!

Time for some more coffee…

Black bricks and fluffy snow

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I just took out the recycling after figuring out that my town does, in fact, not count Martin Luther King Day as an official holiday.  If they did, I wouldn’t have to take out the recycling, they would come tomorrow instead.  I was a bit surprised by that.  Mary Kay is home today, there is no school; during my school career it was an official holiday; oh well, but isn’t that discriminatory? It makes me think of the famous “Pulaski Day” we used to celebrate in Illinois with the day off, never being truly apprised as to why he was so important we would have a day off;  Dr. Martin Luther King day, that I can understand.

As I moved the recycling from the front to the back I slipped on some invisible ice on my driveway and almost pulled out my back.  That was a bit of a surprise. As I walked in the house, my crocs filled up with just enough snow to be annoying as I passed by several big black bricks of dirty snow from the car that I kicked aside.  The falling snow shall soon hide the ugliness of a winter thaw and traffic on the temporarily pristine surfaces.

Ali did get the paper and once again is snoozing in the same location she has been choosing the past few days near my feet.

I am not feeling overly great, having yesterday figured out why I was cleaning and straightening up like the mad man I am, I was getting Samantha’s cold.  It wasn’t the stress or worry coming out, it was a simple cold!  As the day progressed that feeling of weird pain in my sinuses progressed as it felt like they were twisting tightly and tightening.  The result was an intense unpleasantness of swallowing, growing stronger by the moment.  I almost feared going to bed thinking that I might have a bad night, but luckily that didn’t come true.

We shall be having Samantha over for a bit today as we jockey time so that everyone can have some free time. Yesterday at Ribfest she was a bit better mood wise than she had in previous days while her nose was running; yesterday the cold was  bit “stuffier” but still evident.  I must say that I have rarely seen a child do as well with a cold, even my own didn’t.  Her illness showed itself by a little less politeness, she almost always uses her “pleases and thankyous” in both French and English but was more inclined to be curt.  She was also more inclined to hang on to mommy and to a lesser extent daddy when the mood struck.

Ribfest went extremely well and seemed to help melt the tension we have been feeling in a sometimes heavy duty way since the day that Michael told us he was a drug user. Breaking bread together may just be symbolic but it is far deeper than that in meaning.  It must be almost primeval the actual sitting down with people and eating.  It seems to break down barriers and allows us to move on.  Since it is such a Koerner tradition anyway with European aspects added in, it is even more important that we actually take the time to spend with each other.

Talking about breaking bread, I remember that when I was an adviser at New Trier that I made a great effort to bring doughnuts and such even when I didn’t feel so inclined.  I was seemingly so often gifted with dysfunctional groups that had problems and eating together definitely didn’t ever hurt.

I pulled out the apéro (apéritif) when everyone arrived.  Everyone had their drink of choice (with Mikey teetotaling) as we snacked on peanuts, spiced pretzels, and cheese puffs.  Even Samantha enjoyed the experience as we sat together and talked about the week’s experiences and then had the birthday boy open up his gifts.  We are hoping that the family stress we have experienced continues to lessen as we all recover and heal.  There was talk of working out together, playing hockey, cross country skiing, and movies.  I just exchanged my cross country boots so I am hoping to get out in the stuff.  Might as well enjoy the snow we are gifted with.

The oldest and the youngest tended to the final step of cooking yesterday to get the ribs in order on the grill.  I had intended to take pictures of them but they were snarfed up before I could do anything about it.  I did get some pics of Michael in all his “barbecue” glory.  He was so funny because when we all sat down and had a toast, I followed it up with a question to the group asking if anyone needed anything.  I had noticed that there wasn’t any extra sauce around, but frankly after jumping up quite a few times (honestly, I really don’t need to work out!), I decided to sit down and “make do.”  Mikey asked the question as he apparently likes extra sauce as well.  I am not even sure how I responded, but the whole family went into its usual uproar saying that my “martyr” ways wouldn’t be accepted.  What they meant by that is something I learned from my mom growing up, when she would cook, for example, she would always take the slightly overcooked meat, the smaller piece, etc., gifting us with the better portion.  I have been known to follow this path and when it is noted, it is more often than not corrected.  Do I need professional help for this? 

The other aspects of the day, as I collected more Facebook friends from the past, were more than wonderful.  I have received messages from so many former students with little bits and pieces of kind words of things they remember from my classroom.  Yesterday, one of them who has self-admittedly sadly put aside her French as she majored in elementary education talked about how she mentioned my practices in education classes.  Another one spoke of using some of my practices while teaching English in France. Then there was the young man who spoke of reading this blog and saying that he was so happy to have had a teacher who cared as much about his students and that it made him feel so good about his education.  Teaching well is one heck of a hard career at times and drains the last bit of energy from you as if you were losing blood at times.  Moments like this are like transfusions and more than make up for the blood lost!

So, kind of a holiday here although unfortunately we won’t be thinking of Dr. Martin Luther King as much as we should.  The snow is starting to collect on the exterior surfaces and I am sure that I am going to have to do something about that. Meanwhile, I need to gather my forces and face another day and week.  This week shall be probably the last of my heavy tutoring for a while; it has been a great experience as the students have been so appreciative and receptive.

Ali is stirring, is Mikey up?  Gourmet breakfast perhaps?

Now I am worried…

It is almost five in the afternoon, it is about as dark as the picture I took this morning in the back yard.  MK has been working all day getting ready for a family dinner, otherwise known as Ribfest.

I am concerned.  Something just occurred to me.  I have spent the entire day in the lower part of the house, cleaning up my office, tending to my job supplies from the job that, for all practical purposes, ended in June.  I am still “on call” periodically to fill in for them and/or travel to a conference or two, maybe… 

The equipment and paper materials annoy me.  They take up a great amount of space and it doesn’t seem cost effective to me at all.  The paper material is date sensitive so I am guessing that when and if I may need it, it may not even be appropriate. 

I spent the entire day straightening it up and getting rid of what I know would definitely not be useful even today.  I pretty much know where everything is and now the corner where I keep the stuff is pretty much totally organized.  It still is taking up a lot of space. 

My desk area is cleared for once and I have gone through my personal stuff once again.  I had to go through the papers I have collected for my mom, filing them and storing them.  I have gone through my own papers and tried to put everything away so I can actually find stuff.  I have boxed, cleaned, recycled.

The boys have called and they oldest and youngest are on their way.  They intend to pick up the cooking and leave Mary Kay and me the other tasks. 

Did I mention I was worried?  I am.  I didn’t have the best sleep last night and today I realize that I went into “cleaning mode.”  As I have gotten more mature (is any more possible after the age of fifty-nine, I must have really been immature!), I have come to the realization that when I go into this mode that I am showing that I am worried about something.  This is how I deal with my stress.  And all this occurring just when I thought I was de-stressing…

I shall keep you posted.

Oh, they have arrived, let the party begin!  I just heard Samantha call, “Papi!”

I am certifiably ________ (you fill in the blank)!

I am certifiably _______________ (you fill in the blank).  I realize I must be totally crazy. It is freezing outside and I went out with the idea of ostensibly picking up a few twigs left in the aftermath of heavy winds, recent tree trimming, etc.  I got outside, took a gander at my estate (this statement alone makes me certifiably _________), miniscule as it is, pulled the leaf grabbing net off the pond, realized I had a koi that hasn’t survived this part of the winter, tried to take it out, could not because of the ice covering and started picking up twigs.  I realized during my view of the pond that the new apparatus to keep a “blowhole” in the ice is working, so I am wondering what killed my eight inch fish.

Anyhow, went up front, the wind is blowing in typical Chicago fashion and I decided to rake.  Thought I would get me a little workout since I wasn’t hitting the gym today, hadn’t managed to fit myself into the time window that the gym has today.  Raking was exhilarating, but my fingers started freezing despite my gloves, so I came in for a breather and hand warm up.  I bet everyone knew keyboarding is great to get the blood flowing in the fingers, so here I am.

I am going out in a few minutes to complete the job.  Ali accompanied me and was so unhelpful to my venture.  I am wondering if she and Mary Kay have some sort of silent dog/person contract to keep tabs on me and/or maybe keep me busy.  No sooner had I started raking the lawn that Ali went in the back yard and located a branch somewhere which she pulled out into the front and proceeded to tear it apart.  Is this in the master plan for my yard cleanup?  A dog hell bent on keeping me in my aerobic pursuit of bits of wood?  Mary Kay, did you pay her in dog treats?

While doing all this I am pleased to say that I am using my latest iPhone app which allows me to hear a pop music station in France, NRJ.  It is kind of funny listening to so much American music that is introduced in fast deejay French and a real treat to bide my outdoor time.  Right now, they are playing a song that has nothing more than orchestral music interrupted every few minutes by an Anglo saying, “Barbra Streisand.”  Odd, to say the least.

Okay, my fingers are warm and I think I should continue my workout.  Later!

Recycling your Christmas Tree

I open up the Chicago Tribune today and see a huge article on the recycling of Christmas trees.  It amuses me to no end that in our society we can often take something simple and render it complicated.  I find it so interesting that some of the simplest things are totally ignored.  Does no one take the time to think anymore?

For years I have been taking my Christmas tree and throwing it in the backyard as mentioned in a previous blog entry.  I might decorate it with food for the birds if I am so inclined.  Usually I just put it within vision of the kitchen window.  We enjoy seeing it for some time before spring sets in.

I take simple pruning shears that I use in the garden and I snip off about six inch or longer branches.  The idea is to get something that will lie flat once cut.  Because of the nature of the tree, making cuts on it are simple and in fact don’t require a saw for anything but the main trunk of the tree.  So I continue removing the branches bit by bit and I take the cuttings and use them as simple mulch under and behind bushes all over my yard.  I have to say that these branches always decompose with great speed.   I usually put regular, more decorative mulch over this. 

Time to do this?  Between twenty minutes and a half hour.  The only catch is to wear gloves you don’t mind a little sap on, otherwise you will have to pull out something like turpentine to remove what you get on your hands!

In the past, when I did more vegetable gardening, I would take one of the “poles” left from my tree and insert it in the ground for climbing beans or such.  It could be used for flowers as well.  My favorite is to take three of these Christmas tree “poles” and put them together in the shape of a tepee framework, tied at the top.  This works very well for climbing plants.  Think of clematis or morning glories decorating these frameworks; simple, natural, beautiful, free!

Sometimes, when I see huge articles on these issues, as I did in today’s Trib, my thoughts are that it must be a slow news day or people just have no clue.  Is it one of these or is it both? Should I send my idea to Martha Stewart?  Nate Berkus?

Granola, Russian teacakes, and nuts!

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Today I decided to start the cookies.  I did what I have done since I was a kid in elementary school; I started with the task that is the least appealing to me.  Therefore, I mixed up the Russian Teacakes, which in and of itself is not unpleasant, but the mess that ensues after the baking where you have to roll the freshly removed, set but not browned at all, teacakes and roll them in powdered sugar while hot is sloppy.  When I think about it, it really isn’t my cup of tea to do that, I don’t like messes.  When the kids were small, I was always amazed at Mary Kay’s willingness to get really messy and cook with the kids.  When I would do it, it was always in a more engineer-planned, step by step preparation that was less artistic in design. Anyone who knows me would get that.  Sometimes, when the kids were small, they would say, “oh boy, here with go with military daddy (mind you, I was never in the military)” when I would be alone with them for the day.  So, I made the cookies and immediately went haywire with my “Honey Don’t List.”

I need to be careful here since Mary Kay seems to catch a glimpse of my blog each day and when she comes home, lately, there have been no surprises for her.  Darn, I so love to mess with her!

Mary Kay and I are the same age and both teachers by profession.  We met in grad school at Ohio University.  Our paths almost didn’t happen as I was not looking to stay at my alma mater for grad school.  I was planning, ironically, to go either to the University of Illinois (where MK did her undergrad) or to Case Western Reserve in Cleveland.  I didn’t hear about my fellowship at the U of I until after I signed up to stay at OU.  Mary Kay came because she didn’t have a teaching job and OU contacted her and offered her an Assistantship.   She came to Ohio sight unseen, having never heard of OU and being quite unhappy to be in the middle of nowhere.  But that is another story.

Teaching jobs were impossible to find and we both sent out over five hundred letters.  We sent them mainly to the Chicago and Ohio area and wherever there were job openings.  As it happens, she got the job in Illinois so off we went right after grad school and a wedding.

Once children were on the way, we decided that the one who didn’t have the job would stay home.  By this time, I had a great job at New Trier High School.  I honestly couldn’t believe it since I almost threw in the towel during my one year as “Hausherr” and substitute teacher.  But it happened.  She stayed with the children for about fourteen years.  We decided that we could make a go of it on one salary (barely!) and that she would be the “college tuition.”  Living off my salary was tough at times, even at the affluent school I taught at, I remember that car we had with the hole in the floor, need I say more? 

As we approached her time to get back on the saddle, she was convinced that it wouldn’t happen, who on earth would want her?  Once again, MK literally fell into one job after the other, first part-time at Deerfield High School (which was perfect) and finally helping out at Lake Forest High School in a job which soon morphed into a full-time German position, something which is unheard of.  Then, she became department chairman and set off to do things she never planned on.  Lucky for them to have her, because she has soothed the souls who were having such a tough time under the previous leadership (if you could call it that) from a quite eccentric individual.

I have really digressed!  Let’s get back to my day!  After putting the house back together after breakfast, I first mixed the granola.  It is an amazing recipe which MK and I got in Maho Bay, on St. John, in the U.S. Virgin Islands. http://www.maho.org/  We had wanted to go to their green, eco-friendly place since early on in our marriage.  They have special “tents” as the call them on the side of a mountain. The tents are joined by walkways that are recycled wood (where possible) and the walkways are connected to steps, all put together to save the setting and ecosystem.  It is in the National Park donated by the Rockefeller Family and since it is less snobby in appeal than some nearby resorts coupled with the fact that there isn’t a major airport on the island, there are fewer tourists.  We have been on their beaches (which are pristine) and seen very few people.  We so loved the breakfast of granola and plain yogurt that we asked for the recipe and got it.  You will find it at the end of this article.

After the granola making (which is a large batch we share with the kids), I made the cookies.  Then, the devil got a hold of me and since I had stockpiled so many nutmeats, I made Cajun pecans and sugared walnuts from a recipe I got in the Chicago Tribune this morning.  I will also admit that since the oven was on, I wanted to take advantage of it! Now at least I have some major things out of the way.  The rest of the cookies I find to be less daunting. 

So, here I am in my dining room, about to have some tea.  I am looking into my clean kitchen, the big pans having been put in the oven to dry off.  The Christmas tree is sitting in the back yard, visible to my eye from where I am and I am wondering…

Should I attack the Christmas dishes?  Make the switch from the buffet cabinet up into the glassed in portion?  My question to myself is WWMKD?  What would Mary Kay do?

Maho Bay Granola

1 box of Oatmeal (42 oz. container)

2 cups chopped walnuts

2 cups chopped pecans

2 cups almonds

2 cups shredded coconut

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1 pinch nutmeg

 

LIQUID INGREDIENTS

1 ½ cups peanut oil

1 ¼ cup honey

1 tablespoon vanilla

Combine the three above liquid ingredients in a saucepan on low heat.  Stir until honey dissolves.  Then add the above dry ingredients and stir until the mixture is moistened.  Place on a cookie sheet and bake in a 275° oven until it is light brown in color.  Seems to take at least an hour.

Note:  I almost always forget to add the nutmeg!  It tastes great without!  I have also doubled the amount of nuts from what the Maho Bay people gave me.

Option:  1 to 2 cups craisins added after it cools

Cajun pecans

Lightly toast 2 cups pecan halves

Stir once during 5 minutes in 350 degree oven

Remove from oven, allow to cool, reduce oven to 325 degrees

In large bowl: 1T Worcestershire sauce, 2t coarse salt, 3/4t each: ground cumin, paprika, and garlic powder, 1/2 – 1t hot red pepper sauce

Toss to coat

Bake 15 minutes

Loosen nuts with spatula, let cool

2 cups

Classic Spiced and Sugared Nuts

Oven at 225 degrees

Beat 1 egg white with 1t water in medium bowl to soft peaks

Put 1lb. Pecan or walnut halves in a large bowl and fold in beaten egg white

Mix together 1/2C sugar and 1/2t cinnamon and toss with egg coated nuts

Spread on non-stick cookie sheet

Bake 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes

Cool

4 cups

Bud and Gladys and Eagle River

Bud with (from left to right) Richie, Mikey, Christian

 

Each year, we send out fewer and fewer Christmas cards.  One we always have sent out with great joy is to our favorite North Woods people:  Bud (who departed this world in 2004) and Gladys.  Just after Thanksgiving, I sent out the cards.  The other day, however, I received a sad Christmas card from Eagle River from the children of Bud and Gladys informing us that Gladys passed away last February after a long, courageous bout with cancer.  Thus ends an era for our family and a great one at that.  Bud and Gladys, caretakers for an Eagle River compound, would seem to most to be the least likely candidates to be of great influence to a family from the northern suburbs of Illinois.  Nothing could be further from the truth. After a brief explanation of the vacation spot, I will attempt to explain why.

 In 1989, our family started a tradition of a summer vacation that is iconic for the Koerners.  We found out about Gino the upholstery guy who had a place in Highland Park from our neighbor down the street.  Gino is one of those outdoor guys who had just the type of place to rent for a vacation that was just our style: a summer house on a private lake in Eagle River, Wisconsin.  The lake was a good size, but not too big and only had the over 100 year old house that we usually stayed in, a smaller cabin within walking distance which was available for rental, Gino’s newer cabin (which wasn’t there when we initially went), and, way across the lake on the other side, a trailer supposedly owned by a Chicago policeman who never seemed to show up.  Gino owns about 75% of the land surrounding the lake, which generally made for a very private family vacation. 

The beauty of it is that the minute we would drive up the long half mile or so drive, we would immediately begin to relax.  The kitchen of the house is somewhat primitive, but has a stove and a refrigerator and is supplied with dishes, silverware, pots and pans, and the house is able to sleep about ten or so.  There is only one bathroom, but that never seemed to bother us.   It has a small porch on the back entryway and a large one facing the lake.  Both are screened in. 

The lake is a short distance from the house, just a quick walk down a small slope and some steps. The walkway also leads to the upper level of the boathouse; the steps lead down to the platform dock.  The lake is suitable for boating, swimming (although it is not a sand bottom lake), and fishing.  There is a trail going around the lake through the woods in a very North Woodsy type of setting.  There is usually at least one loon and virtually every type of wildlife imaginable.  Essentially heaven for outdoor boys and during our stays there we had no access to television and rarely listened to the radio.  We would play games in the dining room or in the screened in room over the boathouse and do puzzles and such.

We always felt that the activities we had at this place were ideal to test women for suitability for the Koerner boys when they grew up. Not just anyone could deal being this far from “civilization.”   We always brought lots of books to read, crafts to do, and the like.    

It never seemed to matter what the weather was like, we always had something to do and the things we learned there were amazing.  The sky at night was amazing because the stars were so much brighter and seemingly numerous far from city lights.  I shall never forget the time that I had jogged in Winnetka one day in t-shirt and shorts only to experience snow in Eagle River the same day and the northern lights as well!

As mentioned, we had found out about this wonderful place from our neighbor down the street.  Her extended family used to rent both the large house and the cabin every year and go up and spend time together.  The odd thing, we found out very early on, is that Jan and family knew nothing of the caretaker and his wife.  They were essentially invisible.  They were always there for us, however.

The moment we arrived on scene, when we pulled up in our heavily laden Chevy Celebrity wagon with our kids and supplies, Gladys would show up, sometimes with Bud, sometimes not.  Or she might have been there finishing up the cleaning since we had a habit of getting there early.   I remember seeing her Toyota sedan that she had full of cleaning supplies.  Gladys gave us the “skinny” on what to do, what to avoid and always lots of fishing info.  It turns out that she was the one who really enjoyed fishing although both of them pretty much always knew what was going on in the lake and its surrounding forest..  They knew when there were issues with a snapping turtle who was creating havoc with the ecosystem, if the loon was around, what kinds of fish were being caught in the current year, and if the squirrels were going crazy and being destructive.  Gladys totally ingratiated herself to our family.  She and Bud were good friends to Gino and his wife and always talked about going to the Casino with them and doing other things together.

I need to express here that our family has always searched out people like Bud and Gladys; they fascinate us because they represent experiences and thoughts that we are not always able to connect with where we live.  Their knowledge base is oh so different and oh so enriching to us.  Gladys used to tell us as well about her experiences at the Vilas County Fair with the different things she entered into the competitions. She did all kinds of jellies, sometimes pickles, and the like.  As Mary Kay just stated to me, Gladys had a PhD in life.  When she talked to you, she always made you feel comfortable, respected, and interested.

Bud was a former lumberjack who walked around the land with the command of someone who seemed to know what every blade of grass was doing.  Bud and Gladys were diminutive in size but impressive in their command of their surroundings.  Bud hunted and spoke with great respect for nature and the animals that he killed and he did not just do it for sport.  He did it because of the overabundance of the deer or because there was a beaver that was destroying whole groves of trees to the point of decimating the forest.  He did not take the killing lightly and he explained his philosophy in great detail, as would a teacher, when he spoke to us and the boys.

When things needed attention, we would call Bud and/or Gladys and they would oh so willingly come over and “shoot the breeze” with us and take care of the issues at hand.  I remember fondly the excitement of the boys when either one of the caretakers visited.  We bombarded them with questions about all sorts of things, from the sounds we heard in the evenings to plant life we found on the edge of the paths.

Gladys showed us the wintergreen that grows in the forest and the little Princess Pine plants that she used to tie together to make Christmas wreaths.  There wasn’t a year that we went up that we didn’t learn something new from either of them.

Bud was the first to take my boys and show them how to shoot.  Mary Kay and I had always frowned upon the usage of guns, knowing full well of the abuses that occur in our society with firearms.  We had even decided not to purchase toy guns for the boys, something we tried oh so hard to enforce and finally gave in when one of our older boys ate his morning toast into the shape of a gun and “shot” his brother at the breakfast table.  Bud, very respectfully, took me aside one day and asked if he could show the boys how to shoot, well aware of how I might react.  I was much complimented and told him that I completely trusted him because I knew that he would go about teaching with a full dose of nature and the realities and safety of firearm handling.  He did exactly that and to this day all three of my sons, responsible hunters, will be heard spouting the advice of that great, reserved, wise man of the North Woods.

A few years ago, we were up once again at the compound and Bud, who was ailing once again from a cancer that he had courageously fought off for a time, stopped by to visit.  He made sure to see us that first evening, forcing himself to come over.  Little did we know that evening that that would be our last time with Bud, the next day we discovered that he had passed away during the night.  We were devastated, but thankful that we had had that last moment with him.

Gladys lived a few years beyond Bud.  In the succeeding years, it has been harder and harder for us as a family to get, as we call it, an “Eagle River Fix.”  We always talk about it fondly, we remember the way our dog Freckles used to go crazy with delight up there and how she spent her last year up there trying to fend off our Border collie puppy and even train her in some ways.  We remember the special time when Bud and Gladys and Gino and his wife invited us to have freshly harvested potatoes and homemade sausage.  We also remember the time that Bud and Gladys invited us to their Eagle River home and showed us the antlers from deer Bud had shot and folksy things that Gladys had made by hand.  We remember the year that we were up there with some family friends and experienced the trauma of a major accident in the other family. Upon the return from the hospital days later by me and our friend Gail after overseeing a quick operation in Wausau we experienced a microburst on our way back from getting pizza.  It forced us to leave our car on the driveway and crawl under trees to feed our children.  The next day Bud came, equipped with his chainsaw and took care of the damage. We keep wondering when and if we can get a chance, as a family to visit Eagle River. Although Bud and Gladys are both gone, the knowledge and the wisdom they possessed is in the hands of some unlikely people in the Chicago area.  It is also in the land and the area that they lived in.
We have been touched in a major way and we shall never be the same because of them and the great influence they have had in our lives.

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