Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Father of Three Daughters

This week my sisters and I were reminiscing about all of the things dad did for us that were probably out of his comfort zone. One of my favorite memories involves our barbie fashion shows. In the summer we'd set out across country to some United States landmark and it only took about fifteen miles and the barbies came out. (This was before the age of the DVD player so we had to make our own fun.) We'd doll our barbies up with dresses, purses and shoes and then we'd ask dad which one was the prettiest. He was very diplomatic and would often say something like, " I think Myndy's has the nicest shoes but Heather's has the best dress." These diplomatic skills also proved useful when we were teenagers...but that's another blog post.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Strength of a Family

Last spring our extended family traveled to Washington D.C. Our original plan was to attend an event for Katy's husband but plans change. Katy and Nate had been having some difficulties in their marriage but we all decided that it was important to keep our plans and be there to support Katy,no matter what. Dad went with Katy to the event and waited while she attended and said goodbye to her husband. When Katy got in the car, dad was there to drive her back to Washington D.C. and was the rock that got her through this tough time. The only words that dad said in the car were, " Moving on. Onto life's next adventure." This could have been a horrible trip with all of the sadness that comes from a marriage ending but we pulled together as a family and found the strength to keep going.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

I think I can fix it

We are enjoying time up at the lake this week to celebrate the fourth of July. As I watched Steve ride around on dad's old mower today, a puff of blue smoke trailing him, I thought of the pride my dad took in fixing things around the house. In some families I'm sure it's a point of pride to have a new mower, or a new vehicle....but my dad got the most satisfaction out of fixing something that others would have
junked. This is evidenced by many things around the cabin and home: the mower, the fridge he rescued from the junkyard, my vaccum cleaner, and his boat with the new floor he and Katy put in. The list could go on and on but the lesson he taught me was that sometimes new is not better and it's often worth a little time and elbow grease to get something working again.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Waterskiing Dad

Tonight we went to the waterski show at Fisherman's Inn in Oronoco. As I watched the flashy costumes and the one legged skiers I thought of my dad. He did not look like a waterskier at all...skinny white legs, farmer tan, and old swim trunks circa 1980 but when he got behind a boat he could ski! In the old days I remember him wearing a pair of cut-offs and taking just "one spin around the lake".

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Home Depot Depression

I really missed you a lot today, dad. Ellie and I went to Home Depot to get supplies for her 4-H project, a babysitting kit. Our plan is to make a cushion for a crate and then store all her babysitting supplies underneath. When we first got there we didn't know where to go to find the plywood. Ellie said, "Too bad grandpa Myles isn't here. He'd just go make friends with one of those guys and find out." When we found the guy and got him to cut the plywood we realized we will still need a hand saw to cut the corners and then we'll have to sand them down. Again, Ellie said, "I bet Grandpa Myles could have done that for us in a minute."

Monday, June 25, 2012

ER Visits

Tonight my husband Steve landed in the emergency room. We had been working on repainting the bathroom and he was working on hanging the mirror back up. It slipped out of his hands and shattered and consquently cut his arm. This got me thinking about one of my dad's trips to the ER. This particular time he'd been working on the park that is now known as "Chief Red Robe". He had injured his hand working on the shoreline at the park putting up rip rap and we all waited to hear that he'd be ok. My first question was, "Will he still be able to hold me?"

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Fish Fry

Today we had a great visit with our friends, the Youngs. Our conversation turned to fishing and we were sharing some of our favorite recipes for fixing walleye. This reminded me of dad's famous fish batter. I'll share it here:
1st Bowl: 2/3 c. flour and 1/2 tsp. salt
2nd Bowl: 1/2 tsp. soda and 1 Tbsp. vinegar

Mix the first two bowls together and then add 2/3 cup water. Add lemon pepper to mixture.

If you've ever attended a fish try at the Olson's cabin you know how great this batter is! I know each time we enjoy walleye this summer we'll be thinking of you, dad.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

2 Meat Wedding

Tonight we attended a neighborhood block party. As I sampled the assorted fare assembled for the party I was reminded of our wedding and my dad's 2 meat rule: If you put together a wedding, you had to have two meats served to the guests. This rule was without exception. My dad would say, "We're not going to have people driving five and six hours without getting a good meal." Consequently we served both chicken breasts and roast beef, mashed potatoes, corn and dinner rolls as well as wedding cake and other desserts. My dad liked to put on a good spread and let people know we appreciated their effort to attend.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Roof Rack

My dad loved a project! If there was even a hint dropped of something one of us needed he was all over it. Today's story is about the roof rack on our Honda. Steve had made an off-hand comment that he wanted a roof rack sometime to help us haul our kayaks around. We were gone for a day and the van was parked at the lake cabin. Dad took that as a green light to find a roof rack and retrofit it on the roof of the van. You should know that Steve specifically said it the roof rack needed to be from a 2010 Honda. Well, dad found something close at the junk yard and then figured he could make it work. After about five hours of hard labor (enlisting Jason as hard labor in the ninety degree heat) the roof rack was complete. If you see me driving around town, check out my fabulous roof rack and think of the great dad that put it there. I know I will!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Cards anyone?

I just read a facebook post about my friend playing lots of games of cards up at the lake cabin and it reminded me of one of my fondest childhood memories, playing whist. My grandpa Kenny and grandma Eleanor were big fans of whist and so when they came to visit we all got to play. When I got old enough I was allowed to play too. My dad was a pretty conservative card player so you knew when he granded he was going to clean house. My grandma Eleanor, on the other hand, hated to play low so would grand with just one face card in her hand. The best part about these card games was the teasing that went back and forth across the table. Grandpa Kenny would say he had a "hand like a foot" and then he'd chide grandma for what he called "laying in the weeds" and saving all her face cards. We'd spend all evening, playing cards, listening to jokes, and enjoying one another's company. Sometimes it's the small things you miss the most.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


My dad was a nickname kind of guy. Here is a list of what he called each of us:

Me: Gopher Girl ( as a baby) and H0-de-Ho ( as an adult)
Steve: Steve-0
Ellie: Elle-belle
Anna: Annan
Erik: Baby Erik
Stella: Stelly
Mom: Susan ( pronounced Su sahn)
Myndy: Myndy Pooper ( there's a story behind this one)
Jason: J
Katy: Kateso butso

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


My kids were watching one of their favorite movies today in the van...."Little Rascals". I was enduring listening to the sound because we only have two sets of headphones and they wanted Erik to hear. At one point one of the kids called someone a doink. This reminded me of one of my dad's favorite questions, " What do you call someone who farts in the bathtub and bites the bubbles?" I'll give you three guesses and the first two don't count.

Monday, June 18, 2012


Today was Ellie's first day of basketball camp. Seeing hundreds of kids dribbling, shooting, and running around in the gym got me thinking about my own non-existent basketball skills and all the games of HORSE we played on our own basketball hoop. My dad's sport wasn't really basketball....he was a wrestler at heart but he always had time to play a game of HORSE while mom cooked dinner. If he was in a hurry we played PIG. He was an expert at the granny shot! I see a mean game of HORSE in my future tonight. I'll have to perfect that granny shot.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Myles Jr.

We spent this weekend at the cabin doing what my dad would have loved...enjoying the lake and each other. There were many moments this weekend that I was struck by how similar my sister Katy is to my dad. First, when we arrived she and mom and undertaken a number of projects. They washed windows, planted flowers, and pulled some weeds. As you've read in other blog posts my dad had one speed and it was lightening fast! Katy is the same way. If she thinks of a project it will be done start to finish in a matter of hours. Katy and my dad are also always helping someone out. Mom told me a story about an incident that happened at the Chinese restaurant in Park Rapids on Friday. Katy and mom wanted to eat there because it was one of dad's favorite places. They sat down and couldn't help but hear this young man at a neighboring table talking to his friend about how excited he was that he had a job that was going to pay $8 dollars an hour. The best part,he said, was that they needed him for three whole hours. When he went up to pay he was short two dollars. Katy noticed and gave him the money he was short. My dad would have totally done the same thing...and would have probably tried to round him up to do a little work at the cabin so he could help him out a bit more.

I am so proud to think that my dad's characteristics are alive in all of us. We miss you more than we can express, dad, but we know you are alive in all of us.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

What the.....?

Today's story could only happen at Rural Route 4 in Thief River Falls, Minnesota. Katy and dad were out running some errands and drove into the yard to find a strange looking bird roaming the yard. Katy said, " Dad, what the heck is that?" Dad replied, "We'd better get that out of here before mom comes home."
Upon further inspection they figured out that it was an emu. Dad had heard an ad on the radio and knew that there was one missing from a neighboring farm. His first plan was to have Katy walk ahead of the emu with an ice cream pail full of dog food to lure it into the garage. They got it into the garage with this plan but when dad hit the button to close the garage door the emu bolted. Now they needed plan #2. Dad got close enough to put a rope around the emu's neck and also around its legs. When it got close to the garage this time dad was able to pull on the rope, take the emu's legs out from under him, and ride it into the garage. The farmer was very surprised when dad called and said that he had the emu and he could come and pick him up. "How did you ever get him in the garage?" he asked. "Oh, we tried a few things," dad replied. When mom returned home the yard was emu-free and the incident was only a story.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Shopping Secrets

If you know anything about my mom she is a shopper extraordinaire! This was evidenced tonight as she greeted the girls with multiple shopping bags and "deals" that she found. This is not a new found hobby. In fact, when we were teenagers we used to make many trips to Grand Forks and the Columbia Mall. We'd spend all day shopping and come home with a trunk full of bags. Mom would say, "Let's just bring one or two bags in and then we'll get the rest in later in the week so that dad doesn't know all the shopping we did." I am pretty sure my dad caught on to our tricks but he let us think we were pulling one over on him.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Stormy Weather

It's storming here tonight in Rochester and this made me think of a storm of a different kind.

I have a March birthday and this particular year my parents had planned an at-home birthday party for me on my birthday March 28th. The guests were scheduled to arrive at about 5 o'clock but it was clear by 3 pm that no one was going to make it to rural route 4. It was a blizzard! I remember being so disappointed that I wouldn't get to have my birthday party. Dad and mom decided we'd have our own little party and I remember vividly sitting at my kids' table in my bedroom eating cake with them and talking about my favorite parts of the year. It still remains one of my favorite parties and it was just the three of us.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Fired Up!

Some of you may remember that my dad used to be a smoker. He actually quit a few years ago before he flew to Hawaii with my sister and her husband. I think he was a little worried about that long flight and how he would handle all those hours without a smoke. Before he kicked the habit it was a joke among the city workers that he would always be out mowing, trimming, fixing and taking down trees with a cigarette in his mouth. One of our most memorable Christmas cards showed a picture of us kids with a gas can and dad with a cigarette in his mouth. The caption read, "The Olsons are fired up for Christmas."

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

I'll throw you to the snakes

Today's story is inspired by little Erik. One of his favorite things to do is to get thrown to the "snakes". This involves a gentle toss onto the bed and tickling. This was invented by grandpa Myles and has since become a bedtime ritual. Erik actually asks for this by saying, "snakes" and then running into the bedroom. We always knew one of the grandkids was getting the treatment by the squeals and giggles coming from the bedroom. We'll continue this tradition dad! No kid should miss out on the pure joy of being thrown to the "snakes".

Monday, June 11, 2012

Clean Floor Fury

Ah! It's summer time. As I took a walk in my neighborhood tonight I witnessed at least three baseball games. Steve, Butch, and the girls are headed to see the Twins play tomorrow and all of these things made me think of a baseball game played in our yard with my dad. We were well into the game and it was a tie in the seventh inning. Dad got smucked by a fly ball and ran into the house to get a rag to stop the blood. The minute he walked into the house he heard, "Myles, quit tracking on my clean floor. I spent all afternoon washing the floor and now you are tracking in with your muddy shoes." Poor dad stood in the entry dripping blood. He never did let mom forget about that moment. Friends, neighbors, people on the street....he'd stop them and say, "Did I tell you about the time I was dripping blood in our entryway?"

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Take off your Mask

Tonight we celebrated Ellie's ninth birthday with my mom, Myndy, Jason, and Stella. As seems to always happen these days we finished off dinner and started telling stories about dad. Mom remembered this story from when she and dad were first married. My dad was driving home from the college and was wearing cowboy boots. A bee had gotten trapped inside his boot and had stung him many times. By the time he arrived home his face was swollen he had developed a rash. My mom took one look at him and said, "Myles, quit teasing me and take that mask off." It didn't take her long to realize that it was no mask. She called grandpa Rufus and he came over quickly with his bee kit. Dad recovered fully but teased mom mercilessly about her less than sympathetic first response.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Perfect Swingset

Last night we had some friends over for the first bonfire of the summer. As we enjoyed a few drinks and reminsced about the school year our kids played on the swingset. Of course, the swingset reminded me of dad.

A few years ago we decided to take the plunge and buy a swingset. Now, we are way too cheap for the Rainbow play systems so we decided to buy one at Menards and built it ourselves ( well, sort of). We put a call into dad and it wasn't a week later that he and mom came down to help with the project. It took the better part of the day to set up the swingset and when it was finally complete my dad's eyes sparkled as he watched the kids swinging and climbing.

Our swingset is one of the smaller ones in the neighborhood. It doesn't have a fancy look-out tower, flags or a pirate ship but I think it's the perfect swingset....all because of the love that was put into building it.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Camping Adventure

Today's story takes me back to one of the first memories I have of tent camping. This was before we built the cabin and dad decided we needed to do some camping at Itasca State Park. I was in third or fourth grade and I was allowed to bring my friend Jodi. We had a great day playing outside, making s'mores and telling ghost stories. We settled into the kids' tent and mom and dad were in their tent. About three in the morning I woke up to my mom whispering,
" Myles, I hear something outside the tent. Wake up!" It turns out there was a raccoon that had smelled the food in their tent and had climbed the tent poles to see if it could get inside. Mom sent dad outside to shoo him away from their campsite and I know she didn't sleep a wink the rest of the night. It was shortly after this camping trip that mom and dad bought the lot on Upper Bottle and started plans for a cabin. I wonder if there was a connection?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Mowing the Tree Line

Today as I drove home I noticed everyone mowing their lawn before the weekend. I thought about the days when I had to mow the evergreen tree line. When I was little girl these were brand new trees and my job was to mow this line of trees. Dad would get on the tractor mower and I was in charge of the push mower. I remember dreading the tree line because it seemed to take forever to get it done. I also thought that the trees would stay little forever. Now that tree line is one of my favorite parts of the yard. As you drive in you see these majestic branches and you know you are home.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Thrill Ride

It is Valley Fair time for the kids in Rochester Public Schools. Many an eighth grader will be piling on a school bus this week bound for Apple Valley to spend some of their hard earned money ( or their parents hard earned money) on some mini donuts or a giant cowboy hat. All of this got me thinking about fairs and carnivals and how my dad and I both loved a good, scary ride.

Our favorite at the Pennington County fair was one similar to a rollercoaster. We'd get in the car, strap ourselves in and grin like fools as we started rocking back and forth at higher and higher speeds. Finally, we'd go upside down and we'd shriek with laughter while my mom watched from solid ground. The time I remember best we stepped in, got strapped and buckled and then realized we were smelling a horrible smell. By the time we looked down and saw the chunks from the previous passenger it was too late...we were stuck! We both made it through without being sick but from then on we always looked carefully before we chose our car.

Dad's Garden

Last night I attended a fun event at the Four Daughters vineyard. As we took the vineyard tour and listened to the grower talk about growing grapes I thought of my dad and his passion for gardening. Just this spring he was on a mission to find onion sets ( we finally found them in Park Rapids). In fact, two days after he passed away Katy decided we should go ahead and plant the garden for him. As neighbors drove in to comfort my mom and the rest of us they found us all in the garden, planting. This year the rows won't be quite as straight as they were when dad did the planting, and there might be a few more weeds but mom says the potatoes are looking good. She even fired up the rototiller!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Shit on a Shingle

Today we took a friend of mine out for dinner as a retirement celebration. As we waited for our food the talk turned to our favorite recipes. Mine is a favorite recipe that my dad liked to make;chipped beef on toast. On our way home he'd say, " Should we have a little shit on a shingle tonight, Heather?" If I said yes we'd stop at Swede's to get the best chipped beef. Then he'd make white gravy and we'd serve it on toast. I thought it was a delicacy but the best part was that I got to swear when someone asked what we had for dinner.

I'm picking up some chipped beef tomorrow,dad. I've got to indoctrinate the Willman kids.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Who's got a boyfriend?

Today we got some pictures back from my daughter's field trip to the Science Museum and I at once thought of what my dad would have said. She has a bit of a crush on a boy in her class ( she's never actually said this but whenever we walk by their house her face turns crimson and she speeds up. She also takes off her bike helmet.) Grandpa Myles would have looked at the pictures and said, "Who's this in your science group? How did you two get put in the same group? You are sitting pretty close to him, aren't you?"

Dad honed these skills early on when we were growing up. If a boy happened to call one of us dad would yell, " Heather, It's a boy!" Then he'd try to follow us wherever we went to listen in. This was before the days of cell phones so we were kind of at his mercy. He'd also sometimes pick up the other line and do a little heavy breathing. "Dad, stop bothering us", we'd yell. "Mom, can you tell dad to stop bugging us?"

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Pussy Willows

Ok, I am taking a giant risk by using that first word on facebook but I really wanted to write about this today.

One of my dad's favorite plants were pussy willows. Just this spring he went out and cut some for each of his granddaughters to bring to school for their teachers. He also brought some to my grandma's grave and picked some for my mom. When we planned the funeral flowers we had some of the pussy willows that dad had just picked put into some of the bouquets. Mine are still in a vase on my table and I just can't bear to throw them out. It was always special to see the first pussy willows every spring and see how excited my dad got when he found them.

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Arborist

Today we had an arborist stop in and give us his card. He was visiting our neighbors and wanted us to know that he'd be willing to help us with our trees. I'm sure he wondered why I teared up when he started talking about the services he could provide.

What I wanted to say was, "I used to have my very own arborist, my dad. He took care of my trees and told me when to prune and when to fertilize. I could call him if I need advice on what to plant where and he'd visit every fall and spring to help us trim." I wanted to say, " I really miss him and need him. It is hard to think of life going on and trees growing without him."

What I said was, "Thanks. We'll call you if we need you."