March 22, 2010


One of the qualities that first attracted me to my husband was his foreignness. (He says that this was true for him about me, too. The fact that he wanted a Green Card had nothing whatsoever to do with his pursuit of me. Wink, wink.)

I loved that he was from somewhere else, that he had a history so different from my own, that he had distinct family and customs and language. As I was growing up, the Soviet Union was full of mystery and foreboding. It was the height of the Cold War. Then it was the Evil Empire. I had dated men from Western European countries in my youth, but a Russian would be the gold medal of competition foreign dating.

I went for the gold and I'm glad I did.

While he is absolutely fluent in English, every once in a while, he digs down in his memory to find a Russian saying to express something he wants to say and simply translates it into English. These are my favorites:

Once, having sneaked up on him, he said, "You're as stealthy as a puma!"

After performing my toilette and putting some fancy cream on my skin, he caressed me and noted that it was "as smooth as a whale's".


And, now that I've been exercising and toning up, he's noticed the reappearance of my waist and said, "you're shaped like a bowling pin". He's changed that one to hour glass, fortunately.

I know that he always means these things in the best possible way. It's a very endearing quality, among all his other wonderful qualities, and keeps life light and interesting.

Happy anniversary, Babe! I love you. Here's to another 14 years!

March 19, 2010

This Stuff Writes Itself

I had the good fortune (?) to attend the semi-annual Southwest Iowa Gun Show last weekend with Hubby. After paying our $5 entry fee and having a chance to buy a raffle ticket for an NRA membership (which we passed on), we entered the rooms of a subculture of this fair country that is full of material for this blogger.

On the right as we walked in was the kitchen with wonderful homemade smells emanating from it. Posted under the menu of hot dogs, roast beef, and various side dishes, is a small sign which says, "Practice safe eating, always use condiments". This sets the tone for the afternoon.

Entering one of the side rooms of guns and war memorabilia, we pass by a seller who says, "Free to come in, a dollar to get out". Just above said seller's head is a sign that reads, "Lots of bargains, a whole bunch of BS". No kidding.

I learned the vocabulary of the day -- "Hi-Point Guns", "Black Powder Rifles", "P-90s" (just like in the Sci-Fi movies). I saw the uniform of the day -- camo-print shirts, baseball caps, denim overalls. I also felt a bit out of place since I was one of only two women following her man around. I was taking notes and knew I'd get a lot of material. The other was about 18 and obviously trying to impress her beau by taking an interest in his interests. Ah, young love!

Vendors not only display their wares, but also their advertisements, politics, and predilections.

"Dog carrier and gun storage for sale". Yes, that's one unit that serves both purposes. Makes sense, I suppose.

"Davey Crickett -- My First Rifle (22 gauge)" Get those youngins off on the right foot!

Then there was this, written on a vendor's t-shirt:

Any Questions?

Yeah, just one...

Why is it, Sir, that you seem to tip the scales at about 350 pounds? And why am I not surprised that you do?

I know, that was two questions.

There is also some humor.

From a Montana rancher:

"Prayer is the best way to meet the Lord.
Trespassing is faster."

At the NRA table:

"I like cats.
They taste just like chicken."

A vendor selling bumper stickers:

"Warning -- Driver only carries $20 worth of ammunition."

And a little advice for the two of us ladies that happened to pass through:

"Men are like floor tiles...
if you lay them right the first time,
you can walk all over them forever."

March 11, 2010

Honesty Pays

Gather all the kids around as you read this note from Aunt Lizzie about how it pays to be honest.


Here's what happened.

Hubby and I recently attended the Organic Farming Conference in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. What was not mentioned in the previous post was that Yours Truly attended as a mentor. With that moniker came some responsibilities and some perks. One of the perks was that the conference people were covering the hotel charges for two of the three nights we were there. Nice!

Well, when we checked out, we were surprised to find that all three nights were paid for. I asked the person at the desk about it and she looked it up and said that there was no note that we were to pay for one of the nights.

So, what would you do? Let it go? Let the conference pay for all three nights? Eh?

Well, ever since that day, many years ago, when I was probably about 10 years old and my mother refrained from giving the checkout girl at the grocery store an expired coupon and I asked her why she bothered to do that and she responded that her integrity was worth more than 25 cents, I have tended toward the honest side.

I sent an email to the conference people explaining the situation and offering to reimburse them for the night that I was supposed to pay for anyway.

Have you figured out what's coming?

Angie, the organizer of the accommodations at the conference, going the extra mile in figuring out what happened, figured out that the hotel had actually charged MY credit card for ALL THREE NIGHTS at the hotel. (I had given them a credit card for "incidentals" but hadn't incurred any. They figured out how to use it anyway.)

I would not have noticed that the charge was on my bill. I had assumed that the conference had paid for all three nights. When I did look up my account, I found that, in fact, the entire bill was on my card. Angie got with the hotel people and I am being reimbursed for the two nights that the conference was planning to pay for all along.

In this incident, honesty saved me over $200!

Let that be a lesson to all you youngins.

March 3, 2010

The Farmers in the Dell

The Organic Farming Conference is held annually in La Crosse, Wisconsin, during the last week of February. A hopeful sign of the times is that attendance has grown from 90 attendees 21 years ago to a resounding 2,600 this year!

One of the fixtures of the conference is the appearance and irreverent folk songs of Sinister Dane and the Kickapoo Disco Cosmonauts. (Don't look for them online. They don't have time to put up a website. They're busy farming and playing music.) They write their own lyrics to popular songs. You can probably guess the tune to "Help me, Round-up, Help, help me Round-up". Or, how about the tribute to Patsy Cline, "Cra-zy, for feeding sheep's brains to cattle...".

All of the food at the conference was organic, of course. All that could be recycled, was. Each attendee was given a glass mug to use for the duration of the conference. (No paper or styrofoam cups.) It took some years, but there were even compost buckets for things like banana peels and apple cores. Bravo! There was more tea than coffee doled out. The conference organizers didn't even bother with vegetarians. They jumped straight to vegans and gluten-free folks.

There were farmers of all kinds -- Amish, Mennonite, Sikhs, certified organic farmers, Birkenstock-wearing students, crusty old guys in seed company caps, university researchers, even a smattering of conventional farmers (they'll be converted soon). An encouraging note was that there were many young, beginning farmers.

I've worn many hats in my life (teacher, traveler, designer, artist, spy) but I must say that that of a farmer has been the most interesting by far. If you are anything like I was before venturing into this vocation, you may have assumed that farmers were dull, unintelligent hicks. That is what society has shown us about them. And the image is further degraded by conglomerates like Monsanto which have turned farmers into little more than hired hands, caught in the genetically-engineered seed/Round-up pesticide cycle.

But the average family farmer is nothing like that.

There is an authenticity to farmers. There is a common bond among us, borne of the feeling of comrades-in-arms as we all work with, or fight with, Mother Nature. There is a true grounding, literally and figuratively, to those who work on the land. There is a leanness to life. There is an innate intelligence in figuring out any number of measurements. There is a keen sense of community, helping each other, joining forces. There is immeasurable respect among the ranks of farmers.

I am honored to be one of them.