Tuesday, October 28, 2014


Did you know the entire Friends sitcom will soon be available on netflix?  I suppose it was only a matter of time, but still I am somewhat surprised that people still want to spend time with Rachel, Monica, and the rest of our friends.  It seems so dated, but I gave up trying to understand pop culture a long time ago (back when parachute pants became popular).  And for those of you who do not know me, I am definitely not hip or trendy.  At least someone was brilliant enough to start the mismatched sock trend.  That is one fashion trend I can embrace fully for years and years!  For more on my views on the mysterious disappearance of socks visit my 2011 M-live story found here Lost Sock Theories.

I tend to feel about people much like Glennon Doyle Melton does and that is to say that I believe that we are all brothers and sisters.  Everyone is connected. Family even.  And so I love everyone.  I trust people to do the right thing.  I realize this makes me vulnerable to being taken advantage of and occasionally this has happened.  Sometimes believing that everyone is nice has bit me square in the a**.  However, most of the time it serves me well.  Generally speaking believing the very best in people is a fantastic way to live!  It is just who I am. No apologies or explanation needed.

We will get back to the friends topic in a moment, but first I forgot to tell you something really super important.  I forgot to tell you that I am not just all about junk food dinners and leftover frozen pizza; oh no, I am a much deeper person than that!  I actually recently did a health food day too!  That's right, for an entire day, I focused on all things healthy for my family. For 24 consecutive hours, we ate only foods that we had a hand in growing (we got a little help from our various relative's gardens too and the neighboring farm market). But, It was TOTALLY  AWESOME!!! 

 Fresh squash compliments of my sister's garden.
 Watermelon from the neighboring Mellema Farms!

 Fresh potatoes also from Mellema Farms.  That place is seriously ahhhmazing.

 Where did this impostor picture come from?...this is neither fresh, nor healthy.... not sure about this, but I shall investigate the matter thoroughly...rest assured. I will find out who was eating cookings and drinking coffee on our healthy day...This act will not go unpunished. 

It is also noteworthy that during healthy day we also ate eggs from our chickens, jam from my sister's stash of preserves, canned apple sauce and venison which was provided by my super sexy, hunter husband, Jeff!  On a somewhat related note, I plan to purchase a cheap pair of fake antlers to wear with my best lingerie in hopes of getting my husband's attention since we are well into the hunting season and I can't seem to catch his eye these days.  I will let you know how that works out for me... Hopefully I won't get shot!

My boys trying to wake up this morning which has nothing to do with my blog, but I just love that Stan and AJ are such close buds that they now sleep together amidst the mess that is the reality of AJ's room. Snug as a couple bugs in a rug (or in a messy 6-year old boy's room, but whatever)

Now back to the topic of friends. My strongly held belief in humanity and people in general recently cost me a close friendship. I won't lie, this situation made me question my stance on the matter. It was deeply upsetting to me and I have been wrestling with this the past few weeks. Thinking on it a lot. Ruminating the idea that maybe I was wrong. But you know what? After all this time stewing on this, do you know where I have ended up on the matter of humanity? Right back where I frickin' started!

That's right No matter how I slice it, puree it, or cook it up, I just give people the benefit of the doubt. I just feel that everyone is fighting their own battle everyday. Everyone is struggling at this thing called life and so I offer people grace on a regular basis. And no I am not perfect at this, but I do pretty well and I am constantly working on it. My default is optimism. I don't get road rage when people do dumb things while driving near me. Instead, I assume they are having a bad day or were preoccupied, not that they were out trying to ruin my perfectly good day. And I drive on happily. I do this benefit of the doubt thing with people consistently, probably to a fault, but I think the alternative is a lonely, awful, selfish way to live.

Without getting into all the details, I explained all of this to my dear friend and I apologized for inadvertently causing her anxiety and stress. Well long story short, she disagrees about people and believes I am naive. As such, she decided that we could not be friends anymore. It saddens me deeply and I hope that someday she will be able to see the world the way that I do. POSITIVELY. I see miracles in the simple everyday things (AJ and Stan snuggling amidst a mess of laundry and blankets (MIRACLE) or my girls sitting in awe as they watch the ballet perform their Halloween show at the library tonight (MIRACLE). I have other friends going through the very lengthy process to adopt children from Haiti because they feel driven to do so (MIRACLE PEOPLE)! I look at people often and am amazed by the generosity of others and the spark that makes each person unique. In these moments, I realize that if there really is a God out there (which I am starting to believe strongly that there is) then he is even more amazing than I ever imagined.

A,B,C (D) Breakfast You figure it out it's a riddle of sorts!
Close up a,b,c,d breakfast mug shot! In case you needed help figuring it out!

So I leave you with these words that are somewhat of a family mantra,  LOVE ONE ANOTHER!

Vern Out

key to ABCD Breakfast riddle A=apple, B=bagel, C=carrot, D=donut

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Everything is Awesome!

Completely seasonally appropriate, but also completely and totally unrelated to my blog, I ran in the Great Pumpkin Run today with Team AWESOME.  And let me just say, "it was Awesome!"  Check out the pics! It was such a positive, uplifting experience with friends and family.  I am so BLESSED!  I say this despite the fact that I pushed myself so hard that I thought I was going to puke, or possibly die a horrible death...

Preparing for the Great Pumpkin Run!  Kara make shifted me this shirt and as usual I fueled up with an Ecotrekbar.  The very best (and local) pre-workout food!  They are tasty, full of nutrients and vitamins and will get you through even the most demanding run!

 Lookin' Awesome!

The socks say "Team Awesome" but they have nothing on that Orange Suit Coat, Mark!

Switching topics, redneck roots are kinda like gray hairs, they are somewhat disturbing, but all things considered you are thankful for them because the alternatives aren't so great.  And heck I have them; the redneck roots that is, not the gray hair! Praise the Lord!  I might as well embrace them and get on with life. Yes, I actually have a fairly impressive hillbilly (the southern version of redneck) pedigree and a full blooded hillbilly cousin, Terry, who is something else!  He really is!  Let me start by saying I love him like crazy. CRAZY!  I really do, but he is a hillbilly breed all his own!  Despite the 800 plus miles that has typically separated us, we have always been quite close because he often spent summers living at our house to help on the farm.  Terry starts most sentences with, "so here's the deal!!!"  and this statement is said with his full blown, over-the-top, southern drawl and is often followed by, "so what I am fixin' to do is to take all ya'll to Walmarts"  It is a wild ride whenever you hang out with him.  A wild, fun ride!  You just never know what you are going to get!  So compared to him, I don't seem so damn crazy...But here in Michigan, I do realize I am the crazy one...Maybe that is why Terry and I have always gotten along so well!  We both have a titch of crazy in our blood!

 Pretty well sums up my life!

So what's this got to do with my pantry/freezer challenge?  Not a whole lot, but I wanted a good dedication this time around so Terry this Bud's for you!

Anyhow on the cooking home front things have gotten somewhat interesting again.  They generally do when I get creative and daring all at the same time!  I am cooking somewhat regularly and primarily with items that have been in my freezer or pantry for extended periods of time.  Much to my husband's surprise,I cleaned the fridge and pantry again this weekend to see where we are at with things and shockingly I found this...
 while you can't read the expiration date on this margarine which was purchased a very long time ago (I think Bush was still President) not sure which one... Anyhow without revealing too much horror, let's just say the the expiration date was prior to the birth of our youngest child and just leave it at that.  I threw that shit out...Now I am waiting anxiously, hopeful that Hazmat officials don't hunt me down because I am pretty sure that stuff was possibly lethal on contact. Man,  Ebola's got nothing on this ancient margarine I handled!  I sure wished I'd been clothed in full on Level 4 contagion gear!  Speaking of Level 4 contagions, I recently reread The Hot Zone by Richard Preston.  It is a book of true accounts of various outbreaks of Ebola.  The year I was born was a very active Ebola year and there have been accounts sprinkled throughout history for the past 40 years.  If you are freaked out about Ebola DO NOT READ THIS BOOK.  If you are like me: eternally curious, love science and have a strong stomach, read it soon because you will LOVE IT.  I may read it again before I return it to the library.

Then tonight Kara and I made a batch of Karla's Famous Home-made Mustard and shortly after starting the stuff simmering a little bit splashed up into my right eye; it burned like Hell (or at least like what I imagine Hell would burn like) and I may have sworn a couple of times before frantically submerging my entire head under the faucet in order to rinse my eye.  Being witness to the ordeal, Kara was freaked out and ran out of the room upset.  I rinsed on because I was concerned about permanent eye damage and I figured I could do damage control with Kara once I knew I was not going to become the next One Eyed Willy.  She returned a short time later wearing a pair of shades ready to safely cook on....Smart Girl!

Future's so BRIGHT she has to wear shades!
So the mustard is now chilling in our fridge, I am writing for "all ya'll" while occasionally talking to myself and Jeff is snoozing in his chair.  Life is really good!

Vern Out

Friday, October 17, 2014


Chasing squirrels is something that I absolutely LOVE to do!  I am definitely an idea person. As such, I am constantly infiltrated with slightly crazy ideas that pop into my mind at the least opportune moments, oftentimes taking my attention away from the present conversation or task at hand. I can admit that this reality is less than ideal, however, I find myself unable to change this reality so I try to just roll with it!  In fact, I am so easily distracted that sometimes I feel like I am Dori in Finding Nemo!  I just have to recite, "Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming swimming" to get through my most challenging squirrel moments!
Selfie...Vern Style

And this practice of reciting that fun verse is somewhat helpful, but I do chase on!  There is truly no crazy/ambitious/quirky/wild/ridiculous/outrageous idea that is too far out there for me...


As far as cooking endeavors go this week, I have cooked up all kinds of yummy stuff!  Once I got back in the saddle, I just felt like cooking (and writing) a lot so the family is happy to have had real food every single night this week!  

However, I recently experienced a situation when chasing squirrels was not quite so fun; that instance was when it was a literal interpretation of the "chasing squirrels" phrase and I found myself at the wrong end of a leash being dragged by an energetic dog with a hell of a lot more strength and ambition than I had at the particular moment... chasing a fuc*ing squirrel. Like a furry rodent, not an crazy idea.  In that instance, I don't really like squirrel chasing at all. So the take home lesson from this experience was: don't volunteer to walk my friend's dog unless I want to experience breathtaking, back breaking, rodent style, squirrel chasing.

PS The silver lining to this one was that I ran my fastest (so far) 5K time 24:02.  Next time I chase squirrels I hope to break into the 23 minute time frame!

Vern Out

Monday, October 13, 2014

Gouda and Guacamole Redemption

I am starting fresh.  I junked all of those other six partially created posts and I am going to just start over.  It is a good old fashioned "do over". I hope I don't disappoint!

Random thought of the day:  I have to quit letting my four-year old do my hair before I go out into public. This is important because I tend to forget that she has done my hair and then find myself wondering if my fly is down or my nose is dripping snot (or something worse) when I am talking to people because they have a hard time focusing on my face with all the crazy hair going on...But it is just so much FUN to play beauty parlor and beauty is in the eye of the beholder right?!

Anyhow, today I completely kicked my own arse by running nine miles on trails at a pace much too fast for my own good.  I shall pay for this the next couple of days.  Right now I am sitting here barely able to move, yet feeling quite accomplished.  I guess nothing comes without a price even a good RUN!  And not only did I kick my own arse running, but I also managed to cook my family a real meal!  It was truly SHOCKING to them because dinner the past few weeks has been meager at best.  Pathetic in reality.  We have had frozen pizza, leftover frozen pizza, junk food dinner night (let's just say our cholesterol levels all rose considerably that evening) and off brand, macaroni and cheese out of a box to name just a few of the horrifying dinners that I have served up in the past month.  I have just been uninspired in the kitchen lately.  It is quite sad because I generally enjoy cooking and lately it feels like a chore.

Tonight I redeemed myself ever so slightly though.  Check it out!  For the filling, I combined chicken, cream cheese, salsa, black beans and smoked gouda cheese (in the grown-up version) and co-jack cheese (in the kid's variety)
Of course redemption came in the form of GOUDA!

Then I wrapped it all up in whole wheat tortilla and baked them!  Delicious!  The gouda was the perfect compliment to the other flavors and made it unique.  I whipped up a batch of fresh guacamole  to put on top and voila dinner! I think my entire family would agree, it was absolutely magical.

Gouda and Guacamole Mexican Mess Enchiladas!

So I feel like I am back in the saddle; on the mend; amid an upswing or whatever else descriptively means that you are starting to heal.  Life is definitely looking up and who knows maybe I will even be able to get out of bed unassisted in the morning.  I doubt it, but maybe...

PS Most important update: Dad is doing great and he is still not smoking!

Vern Out

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Dancing through the storms of life

Writing is a challenge lately.  I have started 6 stories in the past couple weeks. Six stories, that I have not been inspired enough, or focused enough, to finish.  What is wrong with me!?  Maybe I am losing it.  Maybe I never had it.  Maybe I need to call a counselor!  Maybe I need a margarita!? Maybe... Just Maybe!


This is all very strange for me because I don't usually have this problem. I generally can write without a whole lot of effort;  A need to make stories longer, or more complete, is not something I typically handle.  We all know I am long winded and excessively descriptive!  We all know I sometimes should just shut up!  I am sure you have all thought, "Is she ever going to stop writing?" at various times in the past, or maybe at this very moment!  But this is not my reality today.   Today I am somewhat speechless, or wordless...and writing is a challenge, but I shall try to express myself. I will try.

While I am not a trained therapist, I think my recent writer's block is related to my dad's heart attack.  On September 19th my father had a heart attack.  His heart actually stopped and they had to shock him back to life!  He received a stint and is physically doing well. He is expected to make a full recovery, but things have changed and there is no going back. Perhaps the biggest change, after 45 years as a smoker, my dad quit smoking. I am so proud of him for this, but I find myself worrying that he won't be able to stick with it!  I have never been a smoker so I don't truly appreciate how difficult this time is for him, but I do have my personal experience struggling to recover after my brain surgery so I do understand that emotionally he is in a very challenging and scary place. And while he is facing this difficult time, he is absent of one of his regular coping mechanisms-nicotine.  And that sucks for him.  It just does.

So it is weird right now. I know that given the circumstances for now "weird" is probably normal, but it is still weird. When I see my dad, even though I try not to, I find myself wondering if it will be the last time I see him.  When I hug him, will I never hug him again?  And my mom! I know she is scared and hurting, but she isn't talking much about it.  They are both trying to be strong and brave for us kids.  There is no way for me, or any member of our family, to return to the time before his heart attack.  So we must all forge new paths forward and deal with it in our own ways.  I run. My sisters are canning a lot and my brother is involved in football and teaching so he is keeping busy.  I guess this healing process must be taking all of my creative energy these days and that is why writing is such a challenge.  Other than my brain surgery in 2007, my family has not dealt with such serious health issues. And this time I am not the patient; this surprisingly makes it both easier and harder all at the same time.  It is just hard. Life is just hard.                                                                                                                                                                                                    
And it just keeps going...

even when your dad has a heart attack; you forgot show and tell (again); or you go to the store to buy cool whip and come home with everything but the cool whip while your husband looks on wondering if you've finally lost your mind. Life Goes On people! It just does!

So I guess what this all boils down to is this: life's catastrophes/challenges/emergencies/heart attacks/brain surgeries/(insert your own personal struggles here) they are important.  As much as I hate to admit it, these tough times really are important because they cause us to pause, to re-evaluate how we are living and to decide if we need to make changes.  What I have decided is that

There is something about dancing that ignites my soul and brings my body to life! I need to be better about dancing amid the storms of life.  Sometimes I do well.  Sometimes I bravely head out to dance in the raging storms of life and other times I hide like a coward inside the routine of normalcy and the predictable and I wait for the storm to pass. Sometimes I am brave and sometimes a total chicken. What I have learned is this:  It is the rare moments when you are scared sh*tless and you take the plunge despite your fear that lead to the most rewarding moments in life. Be brave, have faith and dance in the hurricanes of your life and I will try to do the same!

PS next time I hope to have my sense of humor back and not be so darn emotional!

God Bless!

Vern Out