Everyone Needs an Adventure Buddy

IMG_2258My husband Joe and I just got back from our second trip to Voyageurs National Park by Lake Kabetogama on the Minnesota-Canadian border. We load our big Lund fishing boat, wear our adventure pants, head up north to a resort called Moosehorn, and rent a cabin for a week offishing Walleye.   This is our second time to the resort because the owners, Christy and Jerry work really hard to make sure you catch fish and have a great time. We caught some really nice Walleyes, and more importantly, we were able to spend a really nice week together. I caught the biggest Walleye. More on that later.


You can do these types of things whenever you want when you are empty nesters. Joe and I have been on some very fun adventures together since our nest became empty. You can read more about by browsing the Practice Fun Living and Empty Nest Shenanigans pages on this IMG_1866site. We loved raising our kids, but the reality is that those years are about them, as it should be. We spent a lot of time in those years, through all of the different phases from diapers and then school, and all of the activities such as soccer, hockey, dance, plays, band and our wonderful family vacations. It was a hectic time, and with all of the kid activities, we sometimes had to work really hard to stay connected as a couple. We did stay connected; we now have been married for almost 30 years, and we can once again appreciate each other’s company as we are back to having things more about us and what we want to do.

I look back on those family years and even though some of them are a blur, one thing is for sure. I married a really nice guy who took care of us all and would do anything for his family. We recently sold our family home in Blaine, and I was talking to a friend and I told her that IMG_1936none of the light bulbs in that house had ever burned out in 25 years. At first she looked confused and then it dawned on her that of course they had burned out, I just did not have to change them because Joe quietly always replaced them. I don’t even ever remember having to ask him to replace any. He just took care of them. I also had my last car for ten years and during that time it never once ran out of washer fluid. Another thing that he just made sure was always done.

Over the years he has had to do a lot of things for his family. I have come to the conclusion that it is not big spectacular things, but the small things that make a good dad and husband. He has not had to defend his family against an intruder or wrestle a bear or cougar in a National Park so the kids and I would not be mauled, although that would be a good story, butIMG_2178 over the years he has had to take care of all of their gadgets that break, whether phones or cars, and schedule and keep track of oil changes on sometimes as many as five different vehicles. He has paid a few parking tickets for our college students—luckily no one has ever done anything serious, and when they were in High School he had to help them with their math and calculus, since he has a PhD and actually easily understood that complicated homework.

Over the years Joe fixed many a broken door, screen, window, dresser drawers and toys. He was there for them when they needed him and he has always been a low maintenance guy. Joe loves watching his Twins baseball and he is so easy going that he seldom complains. As our kids say, he can live off of a handful of peanuts and is happy with that. He mows the lawn, pays the bills, and would drive his family thousands of miles on family vacations. He had to put up with all of the pets our kids wanted over the years and had a real tolerance for all of the noise in our house when the kids were teens and had their friends over for movies, music and games. Those teens ate everything in the house like locusts, and were IMG_2230so loud you needed ear plugs sometimes, but it had to get really bad before he complained.

We did a lot of fun things with those kids over the years, and we had a lot of fun together. The guy has skills other than mowing lawns and fixing broken stuff in the house. When we took a driving vacation around Europe for our 25th anniversary he bossed it up on the roads, including keeping up with the Germans on the Autobahn, and he caught on quickly to driving without obeying the traffic signs and weaving around the hundreds of motorcycles on the streets of Rome. I had my hands over my eyes more than once. Yes, we got a couple of tickets in Europe for driving down the wrong way in Amsterdam and in Italy, but that was my fault as the navigator and it was well worth it, for the great sites that we saw on that vacation. There was not a scratch on the car and after being in Europe for about two weeks. I knew he had this driving thing down like a local when we went to a German restaurant for pork hock night and he parked our car with two wheels onto the sidewalk, just like the locals.IMG_1917

It is good to have an adventure buddy with balls who is not afraid to try something new, and a guy with some skills who knows how to do everything from fix the computer to catch fish. We have zip lined, snorkeled, and we have sat our butts in the Natural hot springs of the blue lagoon in Iceland. We have visited the cliffs on the Mediterranean at the Cinque Terre in Italy, stayed on a farm in the Alps by Innsbruck Austria, and a castle on the Mosel River in Germany. We have hiked and fished in Hawaii, Alaska and Costa Rica and we hope to have many adventures ahead.

It is good to have the right adventure buddy. We encourage and reassure each other and more importantly we have fun together. If you cannot have fun together, a marriage will not last for 30 years. I have found that you have to find common interests, and the key is that you enjoy being with the other person.

IMG_1880We enjoy many things and we can still have fun at things we have been doing for years. We work together on the planning and preparations for our adventures and we have a list of future adventures that we already know we want to try. Last week at Kabetogama, as usual with our fishing adventures, there is a lot of trash talking about who will catch the biggest fish and the first fish. I make him take pictures of every fish I catch, no matter how embarrassingly small it is. I did catch the biggest fish this year and have been rubbing it in since we are back, but he reminds me that he caught the first fish. Most importantly, we enjoy our time together. We go with the flow; we enjoy not only the adventure, but the planning, preparations and getting there and back, and talking about it afterward even when it is trash talking about who caught the biggest fish.IMG_1861

Picking the right adventure buddy for both your vacation adventures as well as your own life adventure is crucial to enjoying your time on this earth. Who would have thought, looking from afar that the quiet guy who gets little recognition when he changes the washer fluid on the cars and changes light bulbs in the house, the guy who is mowing the lawn and paying the bills, going unappreciated and almost unnoticed most of the time, would be the best husband and dad a family could ask for. The kids and I have appreciated the things Joe has done for us, even though we have not expressed it as often as we should.

Appreciate your adventure buddy, your quiet guy who has done his duty for his kids and wife; the guy who asks for little in return, but shows up for everything from changing dirty diapers to hauling the kids stuff to college. It has been a fun ride and we have many more adventures ahead. Life can be fun with the right Adventure Buddy!


I Have Been Lucky Enough to Hold Life in My Hands

I graduated from St. Scholastica in 1980 with a degree as a Registered Nurse and took the nursing boards that summer. In 1987 I graduated from Law school after being a nurse for almost seven years. I have said many times since 1987 that it was a lot more challenging education, and much more difficult to do the classes and exams to become an RN, than it was to become a lawyer. An apology to my lawyer friends, but it is the truth. The bottom line is that it took a lot NurseJoanmore studying to become a nurse. As a nurse you hold lives in your hands.   As a lawyer you are almost always fighting over money, and while it is important work and I am proud of it, I have been most touched by my work in nursing.

Nursing is one of those things that once you are one, no one can take that away from you. Once a nurse, always a nurse. You cannot undo that state of mind and education, so even though I have been a lawyer for many more years, I am still proud of being a nurse and I feel like I think like a nurse and my relatives and friends think of me as the nurse. My nurse friends will understand that.

I have had people in my law office that ask nursing questions and I cannot tell you how often employees and other lawyers have said, “Can you take a look at this, I know you are a nurse.” I don’t want to tell you all of the things and body parts I have seen on coworkers and family members, but it is kind of like the attorney client privilege. As a nurse I keep their secrets. I even took out stitches in one of my law partners eyebrow’s because he did not want to take the time to go back to the doctor to have them removed. I was also the one they called into the office when one partner appeared to be having a heart attack. He was not, but after that I insisted JoanWork1981cupon getting a defibrillator in the office, because if that guy’s heart would have stopped, I had no equipment to help him and would have been left with only CPR.

Right out of college in 1980, my first job was in OB/GYN at Ramsey Medical Center in St. Paul. I really wanted Labor and Delivery and it was a good choice for me. We had a level three center at the time, which meant that we were capable of giving the highest level of care possible and we received transfers of high risk mothers from all over our state and western Wisconsin. We had a very competent perinatologist and a great group of OB doctors and nurses and we were a residency site for the University of Minnesota. The nurses were top notch and I was excited to learn from them and become part of the team.

The learning curve was steep in that Labor and Delivery was a very specialized area and we had a lot of high risk cases, and twins, and just a high volume of babies being born. It was exciting and scary all at the same time for a new nurse. I had great mentors in the nurses who were experienced. They trained and watched over me. Bonnie, who has been a lifelong friend, was known as the queen of the night shift in Labor and Delivery, and we new nurses were afraid of her. She ran a tight ship, ruled with an iron fist, was one of the most competent L & D nurses of any hospital, and demanded perfection from the other nurses and doctors. She was famous for pointing her finger in the new doctor or nurses’ face and saying after training you, “If you screw anything up, I will kill you.” She was demanding, but an excellent teacher and she had immense courage, competence and calm in the face of adversity. She remains a gJoanWork1981bood friend today.

I had been in Labor and Delivery for only a few weeks when one of my other favorite nurses, Mary, told me I would have to learn to deliver a baby on my own to work there. My heart leapt with both excitement and fear at the same time, but I figured I had to get my feet wet to become comfortable and I had to be comfortable doing a delivery to work there. I had helped deliver animals on the farm, but this was very different. I had seen quite a few births at the hospital in the first few weeks there, but did not know if I was ready for this.

Mary chose a birth that was going smoothly and we had our Doctor back-up for safety. It was a
teaching hospital, and so teaching nurses and doctors was a big part of the program. As the patient became closer and closer to delivery, I became more excited and of course nervous. I did not want my hands to shake and I wanted to do a good job and make my mentors proud. But the bottom line was that I would have a life in JoanWork1981dmy hands, and while everyone was there to ensure a safe birth, it was still me alone who would have my hands on that child for the very first time. Mary ran through the process with me in a separate room for a final time as the patient was close to delivery. I can still hear her, control the head, check for a cord around the neck, and let the baby rotate itself to the side once the head was out, then push down on the head slightly to gently deliver the top shoulder and then up on the head to deliver the bottom shoulder and the rest of the baby follows easily. Keep a good grip on the baby and keep its head down to drain its lungs, clamp the cord and let it take that first breath. I felt ready. I still remember exactly how it feels to deliver a baby and I could do it with my eyes closed.

When the moment arrived I was full of butterflies, but tried not to show it. I stood at the bottom of her delivery bed and tried to sound confident in directing her to push and then stop pushing as I delivered her baby girl. I consider myself a passionate person, but not an overly emotional person, but as I delivered that baby the tears rolled down my face. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever done. I was overcome with emotion, holding her as she glided out. I felt her wind JoanRandiup for that first breathe and let out a cry that instantly made her entire body pink and flush with oxygen. My tears were tears of joy and amazement at the miracle of life as I placed that crying, breathing new life on her mother’s chest. I will never forget the look on the mom’s face. It was one of calm, because the pain was now gone and she had this beautiful new life on her chest, looking healthy and perfect. She named the baby June, as she was giving birth in June of 1980. I often wonder how June turned out. I have an image that she is healthy and happy and gorgeous and now in her mid thirties, and has had a good life and a family of her own. The experience was overwhelming and even today, now over 30 years later, I remember every minute of what happened and how I felt inside.

I delivered a lot of babies by myself over the next seven years in Labor and Delivery, but there was no other one as memorable as the first. We had a lot of women come in and deliver so quickly that there was no time to call a doctor. Yes, that happens more often than you think, especially in a high risk level three center.

I loved my work in Labor and Delivery. After a few years, my bother and his wife came to RamseyRandi to deliver their baby girl. It was great to help her into this world and even though I did not get to do the actual delivery, I was able to be in the room and be a part of her entry into this world. She was cute as a bunny, dark hair and long legs. She was a beauty then and turned into a gorgeous and successful young woman, who is now pregnant with her own child. The circle of life is amazing!

Over the years I was able to do all kinds of fun things. I was lucky enough to go on air ambulance transport and I worked once for 72 hours during a winter storm and received a snow team pin from the hospital. We had undiagnosed twins come in a few different times, we had severely ill mom’s with preeclampsia-high blood pressure and protein in the urine which could lead to death or stroke in the mom and death of the baby in utero, and we sometimes, unfortunately, lost some babies. I learned that there is no deeper sadness than the loss of a baby. There was no more difficult case then to induce a mother to deliver a stillborn. The sadness was indescribable. This is going to sound odd, but this was also a lifetime experience for which I am grateful. I felt like I could help make a difference for this very sad couple, by trying to make them as comfortable as possible and do what they needed and be respectful of their feelings as they went through the saddest event of their life.

JoanWork1981aLuckily we had more joy than sadness in Labor and Delivery. We became very close to the nurses and doctors that were on our team. When you go through the joy of birth together and the loss of life, even when we had all done our best and worked our hardest to save them, you become very close to each other. There were times we left a room having lost a life with little discussion, but with hugs and support for each other. Everything in our being made us work towards saving the life, but not everything was in our hands and you learned that very quickly. We held life in our hands, but in so doing we realized that there were powers greater than ourselves. We were a part of a big universe where some things were not meant to be and every birth was a miracle no matter how many you experience.

Having my own children was an indescribable joy and a miracle, and assisting other women in their birth experiences was the privilege of a lifetime. In my life, I have been so lucky to have brought new life into this world and to have held life itself in my hands. There is no greater emotional connection with one’s own life and purpose, then to see, witness, and assist in the birth experience.

My Mom Has Skills

My mom is one of the most competent people I know. She has never been afraid to try anything, and in any situation, she always seems to know what to do. Even though she is in her eighties, she can work her cell phone to text her children and grandchildren, and she can even send pictures. She is on Facebook and can navigate her computer better than many people who are a lot younger than her. She has really kept up with the new technology.

19dWhen I was growing up, she sewed our clothes on the farm, kept a clean house, and could bake the best bread and pie. She cared for the farm animals and her family as if she had advanced medical training. My brother once dislocated his shoulder playing Tarzan in the big barn, and when he came screaming into the house she grabbed his arm and snapped the shoulder back into place and he went back to playing. Growing up we believed she could do anything.

She has many talents, but she has always had a knack for caring for both babies and animals. After I had my first baby, she came to help me within a few hours of our return home from the hospital. Even though I had been a Labor and Delivery nurse for seven years, the baby and I were both crying within an hour of being home. Between hormones and exhaustion, I really needed her. She barely had her coat off and she sent me for a nap, while she rocked my baby to sleep. I invited her into the operating room with my husband and me for the c-section birth of my third child. We have always 2been close.

She is legendary with my kids when it comes to animals. They know she kills spiders with her bare hand and is not afraid of anything. My kids tell the story of one particular Thanksgiving at our house. Mom and Dad were there, and lots of relatives. The house was full and loud with pre-dinner activities. The kids were pre-teen and running around playing.  While setting the table and cooking the meal, the kids accidentally let the parakeet out of its cage. It was a mild mannered bird, except if you tried to hold it. Then it was a crazy biter and they referred to it as birdzilla. They were afraid of it. Mom suggested that the kids just pick it up and put it back in its cage. They were insistent that one could not touch it, because it was a biter. My mom just laughed and told them it’s just a little bird, as she swept it up so quickly the bird did not have time to fly or know what happened. To the surprise of everyone, she had it in one hand with its little head between two fingers. The kids were in awe as she did not flinch; while it was biting her all the way back to the cage. She just talked to it in a soothing voice.

When we were growing up on the farm she cared for our farm animals, and taught us to help as we got older. She tended a large garden and we grew a lot of our own food. She was the one who almost always said yes to our pet requests. She brought home a little baby house dog for us when we were very young, and we all agreed on the name Sparky, with her help.

IMG_0764She brought him home and set him on the floor with us, as we sat around in a circle. I think I was only about three at the time and my sister was six and my brother was five. She told us to be very gentle and she showed us how to pet our new puppy, so as not to hurt it. She was such a good teacher. Giving us the knowledge and know how to take care of him and yet not hurt him, even if it was by accident. She showed us how to put a mother cat at ease by petting her and talking calmly to her, reassuring her that it was OK for Mom to hold her kittens and show them to us. Animals were at ease with her.

50aA few years later she let us get a larger outdoor farm dog when our cousin’s dog had puppies. We were convinced that the one puppy wanted to go home with us after playing with them. She made sure we were responsible to feed him. Forgetting to feed him and give him water was not an option. She made it clear that the animals depend upon us. We ended up being very close to that dog. He was never more than a few feet away from us as we played on the farm.

She and my dad still fish a lot in their boat, and she has learned to run their GPS and fish finder with great ease. She can even trouble-shoot and change settings as she needs to, depending on the lake they are on. She is good at fishing and loves traveling. She and dad have been everywhere in their RV, and she has been the navigator for them through mountains and in large cities.IMG_0394

My mom was as strict as she needed to be, to keep us from getting into trouble and making sure we did well in school and respected our elders. I distinctly remember my mom sending my brother and me out to weed the corn field after she caught us shooting homemade bows and arrows at the playhouse door while our sister was inside. She came and got us after an hour or so and made us promise never to do anything that dangerous again. She had to deal with a lot of shenanigans.

She had a lot of tolerance for our love of pets. Once when we were pre-teens we visited the elderly farmer next door and came back with a box covered with a towel, and carefully carried it into our kitchen. We walked very gently, and my mom had just finished putting dinner on the table and could see that we had what we thought was a treasure. She came over and asked what was in the box, knowing she probably would not like the answer. We giggled and pulled the towel off showing six puffy yellow baby geese. We told her our neighbor Lawrence had given them to us and we were going to keep them in our room. She rolled her eyes and without hesitation said you cannot keep them in your room, but she did not say we had to take them back. She told us they have to be under a warming light and she helped us set it up in our kitchen, until they were big enough to go outside. I loved those geese. They were like watch geese. They were very loud when someone drove into the yard.

IMG_0762Likewise she let us keep a horse from that same neighbor when we convinced her that it kept coming to our farm because it was lonely, because Lawrence told us he was getting too old to ride it and he said we could have it. I had my own calf every year to bottle feed and we had chickens, baby pigs, and once she let us get a chinchilla. She helped us nurse a pigeon back to health after it hit a window and hurt its wing. She helped bandage its wing and showed us how to feed it oats until it was healed enough to fly. Mom taught us to milk a cow and how to pick chicken eggs. She taught us how to give medicine and vaccinations to calves, and once in a particularly cold rainy spring, she brought a newborn calf into the house to save it. It was in bad shape and would have died had she not dried it out by putting it into a large box and warmed it up with an old bonnet hair drier.IMG_20140318_0043_NEW

Mom could fix our ouchies with a kiss, and she could fix the bailer when it broke. She always looked good, and even though she had all of us, we were clean and well behaved in church on Sundays. Her house was clean and we were well fed. She accomplished it all and kept up with the farm. Looking back on it, I do not know how she did it all.

Mom was good to us in tolerating our curiosity, and she has always been good with her grandchildren in teaching them kindness and care of animals.   My mom taught us to be gentle and to care for soft, small helpless things in this world that depend upon us. We all have called her often over the years for advice on kids, puppies, baking, fixing things, and just to talk when we were stressed.

I have only fond memories of growing up on the farm with her, all of us running barefoot, playing with the animals and eating tomatoes right out of the garden. Mom showed no fear in how she approached any project and we have tried to show her same confidence and competence in our endeavors. She taught us independence, self reliance and she had confidence in us that we could accomplish anything.  IMG_20140302_0048_NEW (2)