WORDS of Wisdom

WORDS of Wisdom
Grandma Brantmeier (circa 1970) shared her wisdom.
I was born in 1960 and spent the first three years of my life with a Kennedy half-dollar taped to my navel, thanks to my Grandma Brantmeier.
No, I was not the smurf in a coin-laundering scheme. Grandma Brantmeier had simply convinced mom that my belly button would ‘go in’ with a little coaxing from JFK.
The coin trick worked wonders until 24 years later when, pregnant with my daughter, I again resorted to taping my protruding belly button.
My sister Diane was spared the belly coin, but she spent her formative years with masking tape on her ears. No, grandma wasn’t confusing my sweet baby sis with a Doberman pinscher. She just figured Diane’s ears would stop ‘sticking out’ if they were taped back daily. These days my sister’s ears are just fine, so maybe grandma had something there.
As a child my hair was also fine – in texture that is. From the start Diane and I were blessed with very blond but very thin hair. Of course grandma knew that if we kept getting our hair cut it would grow back thicker. I spent my toddler years looking like a blond salad bowl, but to this day my hair is still very thin and very straight.
In grade school we gave up on the pixie cut but mom always tried to curl my shoulder length strands the night before a special occasion. Mom would wash my hair, glop it with green Dippety Do setting gel and twist it onto metal hair curlers covered by a lovely red handkerchief. After tossing and turning all night, my morning hair would be nice and wavy – for about 30 minutes! To this day I have nightmares about those beauty sessions and I jolt myself awake screaming, “Dippety Don’t!”
Other memories of my childhood include the typical sibling catfights. Of course, I was careful not to pinch my brother Dennis with mom in view since she’d often warn us that “pinching causes cancer.” That sage advice did not originate from the Surgeon General or old Doc Pinney. The source–you guessed it–grandma!
Along with hitting and pinching, I also spent a fair share of toddlerhood sticking out my tongue and making pig faces.  Contrary to many warnings, as far as I can tell my face didn’t “stay that way.”
When my siblings and I moved on to our teenage years, the “Words of Wisdom” followed us closely. I can’t pin all of these on Grandma Brantmeier, but someone needs to take the blame for telling us chocolate and greasy foods cause acne. I now know that pimples are caused by a buildup of dead skin cells, excess oil, and bacteria. Acne has nothing to do with Hershey bars or french fries. While I didn’t have a huge acne problem as a teen, I do feel ripped-off that I limited some of that good old junk food for nothing.
I’m also annoyed that we were told sitting too close to the TV would harm our eyesight. This myth dates back to the 1960s when GE came out with new colored TVs that gave off high amounts of radiation. GE quickly recalled the faulty TVs but those vision related old wives tales linger on. Of course the fact that my siblings and I all ended up with glasses is a bit suspicious. If you’re thinking maybe we didn’t eat enough carrots, think again. Contrary to family belief, while carrots are a good source of vitamin A, they do nothing to improve vision.
As I grew into adulthood I did start to question some of the weird wisdoms passed down to me. Was it really possible the Bazooka Joe gum I swallowed at age 14 wouldn’t be digested until I turned 21? Turns out I could have swallowed more gum without the guilt. The scientific American research group found that while the gum base is mostly indigestible, the gum itself would have only stayed in my system a week.
I tried not to break mirrors, but part of me doubted seven whole years of bad luck could be traced to a pile of broken glass. Also, the idea of contracting warts from petting a toad sounded fishy, but being a sissy city slicker, I never touched frogs just to be safe.
These days it’s easy to laugh off most of the weird advice from my younger years, but it warms my heart that people took the time to impart their wisdom. My Grandma Brantmeier died many years ago, but I still miss her cherry custard pie, her funny laugh, and most of all her wacky words of wisdom. As a teen I often laughed at grandma’s goofy advice, but now that I’m a grandma myself I appreciate her gift of caring and I’ll do my best to pass the wisdom along…if I can only find masking tape and a JFK dollar. read more

Frozen-Warmed my Heart

Frozen-Warmed my Heart
Three-year-old Maverick sat still for his first movie, but it was hard to stand still for a picture with Grandma.
By Darlene Buechel
​During the winter of 2013 everyone was pumped about a new Disney movie called Frozen. Back then my grandson Maverick was an energetic 3-year-old yet to experience the wide-eyed wonder of watching a movie on the big screen in a real theater. My daughter Danielle had qualms when I suggested we take Maverick to see Frozen. “I’m not sure he’ll sit still, but we can try,” Danielle said. My grandma instinct kicked in full force. “He’ll be so amazed he won’t even realize he’s glued to the seat,” I predicted.
While not a fan of snow, ice, or anything winter related, I figured it would warm my heart and spirit to share the joy of Mavericks first movie - and I was right. As soon as we learned Frozen was scheduled at the Chilton Theater we set a date to go. Maverick and Danielle were a little early when they came to pick me up on that cold snow-covered Saturday. Mav wanted to play his toy drum set first, so we listened to his renditions of “Away in a Manger” and “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”. Very cute! Soon it was time to hop in the car. “Let’s go to the can first,” I said. Mav looked at me like I was a few crayons short of a box and said, “Gramma, we’re going to the movie...not the can!”
Danielle rolled her eyes while I explained “can” meant bathroom. We quickly did our business and zipped into our winter coats. Mav was quiet on the short drive to the Chilton Theater. “Mommy, I didn’t have a nap. Should I nap now?” Mommy told him to rest a little bit and then he’d be wide awake for the movie.
Since we arrived just ten minutes before show time, I was glad to see there were only a few folks ahead of us in line. My grandson was still as a mouse while we paid for our tickets and snacks. Maverick was still quiet, but his eyes bugged out as he watched the tall man (a.k.a. pimply teen-age boy) scoop buttery popcorn into a huge bag. We grabbed our snacks and went in search of seats.
Since there were only about 20 other movie-goers there, we had great seating options. Danielle voted for the back row; I’m not sure if she was concerned about a quick get-away, but I agreed it would be fine. The theater in Chilton is quite an old building but the inside was remodeled about 10 years ago when they took out every other row of seats and installed long tables in front of each row. It was great to set our popcorn, soda and water on a table in front of us rather than on the floor or cup holder.
Maverick settled in on the seat between Dani and I. He looked so cute with his little tennis shoes not even hanging over the seat edge. I got a little concerned when he finished half his Skittles during the pre-movie Disney cartoons, but once Frozen started he was literally frozen to his seat and was too busy watching and giggling to do much munching.
Since the movie Frozen is based on the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale about a Snow Queen, I wondered if Mav would get scared during some of the parts where spells were cast. Not to worry. At one point he grabbed grandma’s arm and mom’s but seconds later went back to munching popcorn. The only time Mav talked out loud was when Snow Queen Elsa turned her sister Anna into an ice sculpture. “She better say sorry, right Mamma?” Maverick voiced concern.
While I enjoyed watching my grandson’s reaction to the big screen, I also really liked the movie itself. There were lots of singing and drama and welcome moments of comic relief provided by Olaf the snowman and Seven the reindeer. I know Dani was concerned that Maverick would not be able to sit still for two whole hours, but he really was a good little guy. Between one bathroom break and one trip with grandma for popcorn refills, he sat on his seat or on moms lap and his big, blue eyes were glued to the big screen action.
On our way home I told Maverick he was a very good boy at the movie. “We can do it again Gramma,” he replied. I remember thinking that would be a good idea. While future movies may not be as special as Mavericks first glimpse of Frozen, any time spent with my cute and curious grandson would be fun.
Lately I’ve heard rumblings that Disney is planning a sequel to the Oscar winning flick and I can’t wait to go. My youngest grandson Axel recently turned two, so by the time a new Frozen is released he should be ready to sit still for a few hours of joy and wonder too. No doubt they’ll release it in the dead of winter again, but this grandma will gladly bundle up and join her grandsons at the movies. Even though I’m not fond of winter, I’m surely a fan of Elsa, Anna, and the whole Frozen clan. Just watching my grandsons devour the movie will be worth venturing out – even in subzero Wisconsin weather. In fact, I’d do just about anything for those cute, little kids. In the words of Olaf the Snowman, “some people are worth melting for.”  read more
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Chalk & Challenges

Chalk & Challenges
Darlene, age 10, looked forward to each day in Sister Simona’s classroom.
by Darlene Buechel

Sister Simona was not your average nun. Being a smart and observant 10-year-old, it took me all of 17 seconds to realize that fifth grade in Hilbert was going to be an adventure.
As I marched into the St. Marys classroom that first day of school, my ears perked in surprise at the groovy tunes of Simon and Garfunkel belting from a beat up record player up front.
Mary Lynn jabbed me in the side and giggled as we both realized that our new teacher was not much taller than we were. We quickly took our seats and even from my perch at the back of the classroom, I spied her dark skin, curly black hair and a smile you wouldn’t believe.
Sister was wearing the traditional coal black habit and veil, but I thought a bright red dress would suit her better. Still, even dressed in black, her bright personality filled the room.
My fifth grade year sped by like a freight train. I fell in love twice, but neither of those super-cool boys seemed to know I was alive. I plastered pictures of Donny Osmond and Bobby Sherman above my bed and practiced kissing their big, glossy, smiles. I also enjoyed each day spent in Sister Simona’s classroom.
Even though Sister was much nicer than some of the other nuns, our class was quick to discover that she had a temper. Hers was a red-hot, pull-ear, yank-hair, temper which flared up every so often, and if you were the one illegally chewing gum or late with homework…look out! Although I had to copy a few dictionary pages–the punishment for talking out of turn–I’m happy to say Sister never turned her tantrums full-force on me. Even when I did get in trouble, I never held a grudge. I guess I liked her too much.
Joyce Meyer, a Christian author and motivational speaker once said, “Teachers can change lives with just the right mix of chalk and challenges.” This statement certainly rang true in Sister Simona’s classroom. While reading and writing came easy for me, math was not my strong suit. Still, Sister S. brought patience and joy to her teaching methods and helped me to realize that even if I didn’t get all the answers right, it was important to keep trying.
Along with pictures of Mary and Jesus, a poster of a yellow cat with its head and front paws clutching a tree branch graced a wall in Sister’s room. The posters caption, “Hang in There, Baby,” always made me smile. It also helped me realize that even the horrors of long division didn’t need to ruin my day. In fact most days in Sister’s room were far from disastrous. This teacher made school fun and I looked forward to climbing out of my warm bed, eating lumpy cream of wheat, and hiking the three blocks to school each day.
There were many days, like the first day of school, when we were treated to Sister’s 45s playing on the old record player. Sister taught us math, reading, and science, but most importantly she helped us see the poetry in song lyrics and the beauty of religion.
To this day I can picture her chalk-smudged black dress and short veil floating down the classroom aisles as 23 wide-eyed 10-year-olds could see, but not quite believe, that a nun could be fun.
No, Sister Simona was not your average nun, and I’m glad she danced into my life that year at St. Marys. Now, as an adult, when I think back on the teachers that have shaped my mind and heart, Sister Simona still rates high on the chalkboard.
Back in 1970 the greatest compliment you could pay a song, book, or movie was to dub it ‘groovy’. Yes, Sister Simona was a ‘groovy nun’, but more than that she was a person who loved life, loved learning, and most of all loved God.
Instead of burying our heads in text books, Sister Simona found ways to make learning fun. Sister had a nun friend who taught fifth grade in Hawaii, so she arranged for everyone in our class to buddy up with a pen-pal from Honolulu. My pen pal Michelle wrote fun letters describing hula lessons, Hawaiian luaus, and surfing the ocean. I wrote back detailing snowmobiling, ice-skating and Wisconsin cheese curds and brat fries.
Although I’ve never visited Hawaii and Michelle has never set foot on the frozen tundra of Wisconsin, we’ve shared our lives for the past 45 years. Yes, believe it or not, we still keep in touch. Last Christmas I received a package bursting with Mauna Loa chocolate covered macadamia nuts, heavenly Royal Kona Hawaiian coffee, and pictures of Michelle’s now college-age son Troy. Now, with the wonders of the internet we can keep in touch with e-mails too, but I still get a special burst of joy putting pen to paper for the personal touch of an old fashioned letter. I’m forever thankful to Sister Simona for helping me find the wonder of writing–a joy that is a part of my everyday life!
Several years ago when I read of Sister’s death, the first thing I did was call my sister Diane who was also lucky enough to have had Sister Simona shape her soul. We reminisced about Sister dancing down the aisle humming “Feelin Groovy and Bridge Over Troubled Water” instead of “Amazing Grace.” We both agreed that Sister Simona was quite a gem.
While I don’t remember which math concepts or history lessons we covered in fifth grade, I do know I learned about poetry and love from Sister S. with a little help from Simon and Garfunkle.
I think the true legacy of a great teacher, or any person for that matter, is that they leave a little bit of them with everyone they touch. I know I carry a part of Sister with me even after all these years.
This fall as you or your loved ones head back to school, why not take a moment to reflect on the teachers who shaped your mind and molded your life? Better yet, if your favorite teacher is still around, take pen to paper and craft an old-fashioned thank you note to send via snail-mail. You’ll feel good, the recipient will be pleasantly surprised, and Sister Simona will surely smile down on us all. read more
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Oh, technology...

 Oh, technology...
Maverick (left) shares his tablet with brother Axel.
When my grandson, Maverick, got an electronic tablet last Christmas I knew he’d take to it like a pro.
As an almost 5-year-old, Maverick had no fear when it came to technology—or anything else. This grandma was surprised, however, when his 16-month-old brother Axel sat right down and tried the tablet too. While I’ve yet to use a Kindle or smart phone, my diaper-clad grandson took to that tablet like a toddler to Teddy Grahams.
Seeing Axel’s chubby hands zip around with no techno-fear made me certain he’d master all the up and coming gizmos and gadgets much better than me—his almost-Amish grandma. These days I get funny looks when I flip out my flip phone while insisting I’m not “smart” enough for a smart phone. Bystanders cower in shock when I admit we also have a land line since my husband, Rick, claims his calloused farmer hands will never touch a cell phone or computer.
My freckled fingers never met a computer until after high school, but Axel’s big brother Maverick has already conquered computer lab in 4K. Seeing my grandsons embrace technology so easily has got me thinking of all the devices I used growing up that are obsolete today.
As a kid I’d ring up friends on a big, black, rotary dial phone that was attached to the wall. If there was a closet nearby you could duck in there for a little privacy while gossiping about boys, otherwise you were stuck at the end of a four-foot cord. Just getting through to childhood pals was a challenge since we were part of a party line. I’d pick up the phone and try not to giggle if neighborhood ladies were on the horn in full gossip mode. Usually I’d laugh or cough or hiccup and then they’d yell at me to get off the line and wait my turn.
Back then we were used to waiting. We could have a TV dinner once a year when “Wizard of Oz” was on TV, but we had to wait 35 minutes for our tasty aluminum tray of turkey, peas, and mashed potatoes to cook in the oven. Today’s kids have a hard time waiting a few minutes while all kinds of convenience foods are nuked in the microwave.
Speaking of TV, I grew up watching “Brady Bunch,” “Gilligan’s Island,” and “Flipper” on our big boxy console TV at a time when you had to jump off the couch to adjust the rabbit ears every time a car drove past the house or whenever you wanted to change the channel. While I still don’t have dish or cable, I am moving up in the world with my flat screen TV. Even my husband will admit the remote is a handy tool when he uses it to change channels every 5.2 seconds.
Other technology that has changed for the better involves photography. My grandsons will probably never put film in a camera since they’ll use digital cameras with memory cards or smart phones to take selfies every 17 seconds. While I’m not a fan of folks posting bizarre and embarrassing photos that will come back to haunt them 20 years from now, it is nice to see the photo on the camera screen seconds after you take it. Back in the day we’d snap two or three shots of everything in case someone blinked, moved, or looked dopey. Then we’d wait a few weeks for the film to get developed and returned to us only to (sometimes) find most of our precious pictures reduced to a blurry blob.
Along with never using film, Maverick and Axel will probably never use typewriters during their working careers. In Typing 101, I tried to master, “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog,” on both a manual and electric typewriter. We also had the “fun” of using carbon paper and white-out to correct errors. These days I appreciate typing essays and stories on my home computer where I can easily correct words or copy and paste whole sentences without ripping the paper, screaming words that could get me sent to the principal, or starting over in frustration. Even though my husband vows to never use a computer, my trusty personal computer sure saves me a lot of aggravation and time.
The thought of time brings me to another almost-obsolete device—a watch. It seems only over-50s like me wear a watch these days. While I glance at my naked wrist 88 times a day if I forget my timepiece, today’s techies consult their smart phones when they want to know if it’s time to nuke their lunch or send another selfie to their Facebook page.
 While folks are quick to consult their phones, many would never think to use a map when planning a road trip. My grandkids will probably never learn the origami art of trying to fold a gigantic paper map to fit into a tiny glove compartment. During these techno-times of GPS and smart phones, real road maps have pretty much vanished like wild buffalo, black and white TVs, and arcade games.
When I was growing up kids still let Pac-Man gobble their quarters and played pinball and bowling games at an arcade. For good or bad, it seems like arcade games bit the dust like dodo birds and dinosaurs when PlayStation and X-Box came on the market.
Most folks don’t use radios these days either. As a teen I’d see guys carrying huge boom boxes on their shoulders. These cool dudes would bob their greasy, stringy heads to the Alice Cooper, Queen, and Aerosmith tunes blaring into the next county. Today’s tweens and teens still rock out to loud music, but usually they’re wearing headphones and using an iPod or MP3 player so grandmas like myself don’t have to hear what Lady Gaga, Chris Brown, or Justin Bieber are screeching about these days.
While I’m sometimes in awe (and fear) of today’s technological advances, I’m hoping my kids and grandkids will continue to help me muddle through the changes. In the meantime, I’ve just consulted my watch and realize the grandkids will be over soon. If you’re wondering what high-tech game is on the agenda for Maverick, I’m thinking Play-Doh and a 50-piece puzzle will be perfect. Axel will enjoy a dive into my Tupperware drawer and a stacking game with wooden blocks. While these games are pretty much no-tech, I’m sure my toddler techies and I will enjoy every minute of unplugged fun—even if we don’t take a selfie to prove it!  read more

Memory Books

by Darlene Buechel
What’s your earliest childhood memory? I posed that question to my parents recently while compiling a booklet for grandsons Maverick and Axel. I decided to interview grandparents and great-grandparents of our side of the family so the youngsters would have a memory book for the future. I also included pictures of the kids with their elders and quotes about grandmas and grandpas.
    My dad, Eugene, age 82, can still recall watching his father, Paul, punch bread dough. Since Eugene was only 5 when his dad passed away, he figures he was probably 4 years old at the time of the bread making. He also remembers that his older brother got a dime and he got a nickel from their dad as Paul lay in a hospital bed dying. It was the Depression and the meager coins were all his father had to give.
    My mom, Janet, has an early memory that is more sassy than sad. Janet, age 6, sat outside on a tree stump and watched the neighbor girl across the road play on the swings. “Hey, Janet, I can swing higher than you can,” the neighbor taunted. “I know you can…cause I ain’t swinging!” Janet yelled back.
    There was quite a bit of yelling – and crying – involved with my own early memory. I was about 7 years old that Saturday night and was excited we were having a babysitter so mom and dad could go out dancing. I loved it when a sitter came over since we stayed up past our 8:30 bedtime and pigged out on snacks of cherry Kool-Aid and cracker jacks.
    Mom was dousing her hair with Aqua Net and blotting Yum Plum lipstick while dad headed out the door to pick up the sitter. I colored quietly and rolled my eyes at my little sister and big brother as they played a goofy round of camel. Their made–up game involved Diane walking around with a sheet over her head while Dennis tried to lasso her with a jump rope. Diane had the bright idea to lumber down the stairs into the living room but was only about half-way down when her 6-year-old legs tripped over the bulky white sheet and she slammed head first into the heat register.
    Dad heard the commotion, saw the trail of blood down the rest of the stairs and thought he’d better take her in for stitches. Mom called off the sitter and made Dennis and I clean up the bloody mess. I spent the rest of the night pouting and we never did get to have snacks.
    Another early memory of mine also involves a pout or two. I came home from Girl Scout camp and mom said there was a surprise in the bedroom. I pictured a cool toy or big stuffed animal, but the only thing in the bedroom was my sister Diane with a cast on her arm. Turns out Dennis had sprayed her with the garden hose as she went down our slide and she fell off and cracked her arm.
    My mother-in-law Donna shared a childhood memory that was both happy and sad. “As a kid we never got new stuff,” Donna explained, “but one time I got a new coat and I pestered mom about wearing it but she said it was just for church. I put it on and went out to the pig barn and ripped it on a nail. Usually I never got spanked but that time I did.” Donna figures she was about 7 during the coat incident.
    My husband Richard can trace a memory back to age 4. His uncle Butch was getting married, and one day Butch and his fiancée Laverne called out to the farm to ask little Richie to be ring bearer for the wedding. Rich’s mom said yes, but Rich hopped on the tractor with his dad, Bruno, and spent the whole day out in the fields. Turns out he thought he would have to stand up in the wedding that very day and he wanted to be as far away as he could!
    On the day of Butch and Laverne’s wedding, Rich remembers being literally pushed down the church aisle as he scowled at the little red-haired junior bride by his side. “The suit was itchy and I sure didn’t want to wear a tie!” Rich recalls. To this day (at age 57) he doesn’t own a suit or tie – I guess some early memories last forever.
    Speaking of forever memories, I’m glad I took the time to compile the memory books for Maverick and Axel.  While the boys won’t fully appreciate them at this tender age, I’ll bet someday they will smile at pictures of their grandparents and great-grandparents and say “Thanks for the Memories!”   
    Whether your early childhood memories are happy, sad, funny, or sassy, why not take a moment and share them with the loved ones in your life? Or better yet, make your own memory book to share with the little ones. After all, memories help us preserve the past and guide future generations. In the words of Dr. Seuss, “Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.”

Happily ever after

Happily ever after
by Darlene Buechel

When our son Ben set his wedding date with his lovely bride Lauran for December 13th, my first thought was, “Cool date: 12-13-14.” The next thing that popped into my head was, “There better not be a snow storm!” After those initial thoughts, my mind drifted back to the many changes in weddings since Rich and I tied the knot in 1982.
Back in the 1980’s, “Save The Date” cards didn’t exist. You may have heard a couple was engaged, but didn’t get a notice regarding the actual wedding date until a month before the big event when a full-card invite complete with two sheets of tissue paper arrived in the mail. These days most invites are one cardboard of paper with an elegant design and often a post-card reply attached.
When our daughter Dani married Mark back in 2007, I attended a Friday night rehearsal dinner for the first time. At our wedding (and most nuptials of the 80’s) a car driver was assigned to each couple in the wedding party. The Friday before the big event everyone would meet at church for rehearsal then proceed elsewhere with car decorating and beer drinking to follow- but no civilized sit down meal. These days you don’t hear of car drivers, but many times a wedding bus or limo is hired to transport the whole group.
In 1955 when my parents tied the knot, they also had car drivers but no photographer on site. Back then the wedding party went to a studio for maybe a dozen formal wedding pictures. Today’s bride will have literally hundreds of wedding day photos from official photographer, to friends taking digital pictures, to smartphone selfies.
Wedding entertainment has changed over the years too. When my parents married they had free beer and polka music at the reception – just like we did in 1982. For Dani’s a deejay complete with strobe lights and head-pounding bass got the crowd fired up. Last August when my niece Shannon tied the knot in Madison their deejay also provided a photo booth. I like this fun, new trend. Rich and I grabbed props (me a pink cowboy hat and Rich a one-horn Viking helmet) and made funny faces for the photo booth camera. We got to take home a set of pictures and another set went into a photo book for the bridal couple. With all the planning and stress that goes into a wedding, it’s a nice thought that the wedding couple will be able to enjoy the goofy pictures as well as formal documentation of the big day.
Along with dancing and photos, food is also quite important. When my parents wed in 1955, neighbor women cooked the celebration meal which was held at the brides’ house. When Rich and I married in 1982 we had a family style chicken and tips supper at the reception hall. While family style meals are still common today, the choice of food varies greatly. At my nieces Madison wedding we feasted on catered foods such as Panini, chicken, beef on sticks, and other hors’d’oeuvres. It was quite different but very yummy. Shannon also had mini-cupcakes in tasty flavors instead of a traditional tiered wedding cake.
Speaking of tradition…one thing that remains constant is the beautiful, bridal gown- although styles and prices have changed through the years. In 1955 my mom wore an elegant white dress of brocaded satin with a price tag of $100. My dress in October of 1982 boasted a lacy high neckline, long sleeves, full veil and train, and cost around $300. Bridal gowns these days tend to cover less and cost more. When Kim Kardashian wed Kris Humphries back in 2011, her Vera Wang custom gown set her back $25,000. Quite a hefty price tag considering the marriage lasted only 72 days! When Kim wed Kanye West in May of 2014 she shelled out 2.1 million for her Givenchy creation – she must be in marriage for the long haul. Of course the average non-celebrity bride could not feed a third world country for the cost of her wedding finery. I would not be rude (or nosy) enough to ask Shannon or Lauran what they paid for their 2014 gowns, but according to a wedding cost statistics website (statisticbrain.com), the average wedding dress of the past year cost $1,053.
While you can’t put a price tag on true love, the wedding industry sure does its best. In 2014 the average cost of a U.S. wedding was between $27,000 and $29,000 (not including the honeymoon). Most girls spend their childhood dreaming of the perfect Cinderella wedding. As young, engaged women they are bombarded with decisions and stress leading up to the big day. My advice to all engaged couples would be to plan a wonderful, beautiful, and within budget wedding.
My specific advice to our son Ben and his soon-to-be bride Lauran can best be summed up by a quote from Fawn Weaver –New York Times bestselling author of, “Happy Wives Club”, - who said, “Happily ever after is not a fairy tale. It’s a choice.” Please choose to look at each other with love every day – and your “Happily Ever After “ can really come true. read more

Happy School Year!

Happy School Year!
Maverick, at age 2-1/2, already looking forward to school.
by Darlene Buechel
As a kid I never understood why people celebrated Jan. 1 with hats, horns, and dancing in the streets.
I always thought Sept. 1, or the first day of school, felt like the real start of a New Year.
Each year my sister Diane and I looked forward to the first day of school. Half way through July we’d start begging Mom and Dad to take us school shopping. They usually gave in about mid-August and off we’d go for new pencils, crayons, and first day clothes.
The night before the first day my sis and I would dump our supplies on the bed and sort through each folder, notebook, and colored pencil. Then we’d discuss our new teachers and the excitement of being a whole grade older in school. Our brother Dennis, on the other hand, spent his last carefree night biking around the neighborhood, shooting hoops, and singing the back-to-school-blues.
As kids we didn’t need an alarm clock on the first day. Mom always woke us with her ear-splitting rendition of “School Days.” My mom has many talents—cooking, baking—but singing is not one of them. She’d screech, “School days, school days, dear old golden rule days. Reading and writing, arithmetic. Taught to the tune of a hickory stick...,” all in the key of Z-sharp. All three of us kids would plug our ears, roll our eyes, and wish we had a hickory stick to bop her over the head, but secretly I liked it. The “School Days” song was as
much a tradition as new crayons
and notebooks.
I didn’t do the “School Days” theme when my kids were young, but I had the same scenario with daughter Dani excited about school and son Ben wishing he was fishing, biking, or helping on the farm instead of sitting in a musty old classroom. My husband, Rich, was the one who started the back to school tradition in our family. Rich would let the kids hop in the truck and then drive them to the end of our long, gravel, driveway where they’d talk and wait for the bus each morning. He would also meet them when the bus dropped them off at the end of the day. It may have been only a few minutes of chatter morning and night, but with him being so busy on the farm, I’m sure those minutes meant a lot.
It’s funny how minutes turn to days, weeks, and years in a flash. I remember walking both kids into their kindergarten classrooms. Dani gave me a wave, smile, and “Bye mom. I’m good,” when I dropped her off. Tears blurred my eyes as I made the long trek to the parking lot. The scenario was a bit different two years later when I took Ben to 5K. That little boy didn’t want me to leave (unless he could go with me!) Luckily his wonderful teacher paired him up with another youngster and got him settled in. That time I didn’t cry as much but I was a little worried that he’d find a way to escape at recess!
After the kindergarten first day for my kids, each new “first day” wasn’t as stressful, but did feel like a new beginning. Boredom and bickering would set in by early August, so it felt good to ship them off to school in September. Ben might not admit it, but I think he was excited about seeing all his friends when they’d head back to the classroom each fall.
This year our family will get to feel that first day excitement once again when Grandson Maverick starts 4K. While he did a 3K program at his day care, this will seem like “real school” since he’ll get to take a bus from day care up to the school.
It seems like yesterday Maverick was babbling, crawling, and learning to wave. Now he’s teaching his baby brother Axel to do the toddler stuff while Maverick heads off for “big kid” adventures in school. Maverick is such a little sponge. I’m excited for all the new things he’ll learn.
Lately my grandson has been saying he wants to be a train engineer and a worm thrower when he grows up. While they both may be noble careers, I’m uncertain which colleges offer bachelor degrees in Worm Throwing. Thankfully he’ll have a few more years before making career decisions.
While every grandparent thinks their are the cutest, sweetest, and smartest, I truly believe Maverick and his baby brother Axel will grow up to be assets to the world no matter what paths they choose. Many popular careers of today, such as software developer, database administrator, and web developer, were unheard of back in the late 1970s when I graduated high school.
I’ll bet by the time Maverick and Axel head off to college I won’t have a clue regarding their chosen fields of study—or be able to pronounce them. As long as they work hard and follow their dreams I’ll be the most supportive grandma I can be.
This September whether you are sending your kids or off to 4K, middle school, or college, take a moment to wish them “happy school year.” Maybe I’ll call Maverick his first day and sing a special tune. Or better yet, I’ll have his Great Grandma Totzke do it. Some traditions are worth saving—even if they hurt your ears. read more

Parading into Summer

Parading into Summer
by Darlene Buechel

As a 10-year-old Girl Scout in 1970, I looked forward to the 4th of July—especially the big,festive parade.
Our tiny village of Hilbert had a population of about 800, but on Independence Day there would be three times as many folks lined up along Main Street ready for the excitement to begin.
As a parade expert since pre-school, I knew it was important to wear red, white, and blue and to grab a big paper bag before heading out the door. As little kids my siblings and I held hands as we speed-walked toward Main Street with mom and dad close behind. We’d find a perfect spot curb-side and wait for the loud, piercing wail of the fire siren to signal the start of the big event.
We’d stare in awe as war veterans in their crisp uniforms and spit-shined boots proudly marched. Some veterans carried rifles while those in front were color guards touting the flag. We watched as everyone stood to salute Old Glory and we were proud to follow suit. After that we’d sit down and get ready for the candy to start flying from every float. We knew our paper bags would be full by the end of the parade, but it was still a contest to get the best Tootsie Rolls, Jaw Breakers, or Fizzers before our friends or siblings snatched them up.
When I joined Scouts at age 7 I got the thrill of marching in the parade myself. I carefully buttoned my Brownie uniform and mom used bobby pins to attach the beanie to my head. Since my brother Dennis was a Boy Scout and mom and dad were both leaders, my little sister Diane got to be in the parade even before she was old enough. I thought we should just let her sit on the curb by herself but mom (surprisingly) nixed that bright idea.
The summer I turned 10 held a special honor since I got to carry the flag. The fact that mom was Scout leader might have played a role in my being chosen, but at the time I was just happy, proud, and excited to be able to don white gloves with my now green Girl Scout dress and lead the group.
Since I was still at the age where candy snatched off dusty pavement just tasted better, I was glad the Scouts were at the front of the lineup so that when we finished marching, we could dash back to our favorite spot and watch the rest of the parade.
I loved music, so parades were doubly exciting. I watched in awe as the marching bands of tall, high school kids dressed in matching uniforms paraded by with dorky hats shielding their pimply faces.
Since northeast Wisconsin boasted mostly folks of German descent, there were always a few polka bands on the parade route. These guys playing tuba, accordion, and snare drums were all 80, 90, or 112 years old (at least as seen through my “kid eyes”) so they sat on folding chairs on a flat bed trailer instead of marching. We laughed at the goofy lederhosen (leather shorts) and suspenders worn by these old bald guys with goofy hats, but dad said their polkas were top notch. By the time the polka guys played “Roll Out the Barrel,” I was getting thirsty for a big gulp of mom’s lemonade waiting back at home.
Of course there were still more floats, candy, and fire trucks to come. There were also clowns in big floppy shoes making animal balloons for kids and another kind of clown (politicians) walking the route too. As a kid I wasn’t too thrilled with the latter since those guys in suits and ties handed out pamphlets instead of Tootsie Rolls.
By the time my legs and shoulders were sun-kissed red, the new bright and shiny tractors, combines, and other farm machinery started rolling past. Since the machinery guys didn’t bother with candy throwing, I would carefully fold my bag and keep it tightly cradled so no greedy neighbor or sibling could snatch it away. Next we’d hear the clip-clop of hooves and be mesmerized by beautiful horses covered with fancy blankets and even fancier riders. I’d stare in envy at a girl who looked about my age and was lucky enough to be riding a horse—in a parade no less. She sat high atop her regal black steed, her back straight as a princess, wearing a ruffled red dress and nifty white cowgirl boots. While I’d been thrilled to lead the Girl Scouts as flag bearer, I had to admit riding a horse would have been twice as exciting.
After the parade we’d march our sweaty selves home and change into swimsuits so we could spray each other with the garden hose outside. Then we’d carry food out to the picnic table and gulp mom’s tart lemonade along with ground bologna sandwiches, potato chips, watermelon, and homemade brownies.
As night finally fell mom and dad would help us light sparklers and we’d run around in the moonlight making figure eights with our white fizzing sticks until it was time for Hilbert’s huge fireworks display. We’d quickly run inside, jump into our pj’s and gather snacks and a blanket. Since we lived near the park where the firemen shot off the displays, we would find a cozy seat on top of our station wagon—parked in the driveway—and grab our snack of Kool-Aid and Fritos. Soon the magic would begin. Since there was only room for us three kids on the roof of the car, mom and dad were stuck watching the fireworks from their boring old lawn chairs parked in the front yard.
We would “OOH!” and “AHHH!” as each colorful display danced in the sky. By the time the fireworks ended our yawns would be coming fast and strong. As we carefully climbed down from the roof of the car, we’d take a last look at the stars in the bright, clear sky and declare the end of another perfect 4th of July.
Many years have passed since the fireworks, parades, and lemonades of my childhood Independence Days, but they still hold a special place in my heart. As a child I felt lucky to enjoy life in small-town U.S.A. Even though I had to march the parade instead of survey the kingdom from a horse, I was truly proud to be an American—especially on July 4th. read more