Life is Worth Living

Travelogue: One Night of Freedom! Part 2

In today’s post, I’ll continue our travels into interior Wisconsin. If you missed out on Part 1, click HERE.

As I was saying a few days ago, my husband and I had One Night of Freedom last weekend, so we drove to Wausau, Wisconsin, and checked into a hotel. We had hoped to stay downtown, but all those rooms were booked, so we were forced to settle with Holiday Inn Express, which wasn’t so bad.

Naturally, the first thing we did in Wausau was seek out a Happy Hour somewhere. We drove to a pub named Sconni’s Alehouse. I had a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon; my husband had an IPA. We then pulled out our books and read for an hour. I think the neighboring table of bearded men in Carhartt jackets thought we were weird.

My Book: The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street by Helene Hanff

Now, if you’re a book lover and you have never read Helene Hanff’s first book, 84, Charing Cross Road, you are missing out! Go to your local library and get it. Better yet, just buy it. That book is sheer bliss.

Hanff’s sequel, The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street, is also worthy of reading, but not quite as hysterical as the first. Those of you who have read the first, and couldn’t put it down, though, will definitely want to read the second, for Helene actually does fly to London even though the night before she, “got out of bed, had hysterics, a martini and two cigarettes, got back in bed, and whiled away the rest of the night composing cables saying I wasn’t coming.”

The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street is Helene’s day-by-day dairy in London. One of my favorite episodes is when her acquaintances drag her all over Oxford, neglecting to show her the one college she wants to see–Oriel College. (She’s a huge fan of John Henry Newman.) Helene won’t stand for it; she must see Newman’s Oxford, and so, “I stood in the middle of Wadham Yard and hollered: “WHEN ARE WE GONNA SEE SOMETHING I WANNA SEE?” They immediately took her to Oriel and she sat in Newman’s chapel.

Did you know, Helene also scandalizes the hotel bartender by demanding a real martini? She had to first show the guy how to make it and then convince him that she wouldn’t be, “face down on a bar table sodden drunk.”

Oh, it’s a delightful read.

Tine & Cellar

After Happy Hour, we made our way to Tine & Cellar. We had to make reservations the week before to get in. The place was hopping. We were seated up a few steps on a landing with three other tables, all obviously for two person “dates.” I had great fun watching couples come in and out. It was St. Valentine’s Day weekend, after all, so lots of sweethearts and formal dinners and flirting and wine flowing everywhere. Do you know, men don’t tuck in their collared, buttoned shirts anymore? Scandalous.

At our table, we began with a charcuterie board, a Manhattan, and a glass of Donati Cabernet. Then, I whipped out my deck of cards featuring Greek gods and goddesses and proceeded to lose playing Gin Rummy.

You see, my husband and I play Gin Rummy all year round and keep score for the whole year. I lost last year, and I’m still bitter about it. What’s worse? I’m losing already this year. In fact, I haven’t won since 2017. I’m not sure why I still play that game.

Ah, well, the food was good. I had pan-seared Atlantic salmon with wild mushroom couscous in roasted pepper cream with carrots. My husband had roasted duck breast with caramelized fingerlings (what’s that?), prunes, and braised purple cabbage. De-licious. Naturally we had our food paired with the appropriate wine–Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc and Monte Oton Garnacha, respectively.

Quinquagesima Sunday at St. Mary’s Oratory: Heaven On Earth

One reason why we chose Wausau was because of St. Mary’s Oratory. If you live within…say 3 hours of this place, THERE’S NO EXCUSE. Your life isn’t complete. They have a magnificent choir, gorgeous church, beautiful TLM liturgies, babies and children everywhere, and a real altar triptych. Now when’s the last time you had all those combinations together?

Here are some pictures to prove it.

Exterior. My apologies for not getting a frontal shot, but it was -20 below and I didn’t want to run across the street.
Narthex. The first thing that greets you. Notice the lovely foliage in the vaulting. What’s your church’s entryway look like? (Hopefully you do NOT have TVs or screens in it.)
We came a half hour early, hoping to take a few pictures. Turns out people actually come early to Mass to pray here. Novel idea. All the lights weren’t even on yet. And just look at those light fixtures!
Real altar triptych. With hinges. Gorgeous. And notice the gothic columns, soaring to the heavens.
After Mass their priest began a Forty Hours Devotion wherein Jesus was exposed in a monstrance for 40 straight hours and the people came to pray. Now that’s a vibrant parish.

The End

After Mass we made our way home, back through the meandering highways of Wisconsin. We look forward to exploring more of this great state when the weather is nicer.

Life is Worth Living

Travelogue: Sconnie Edition. One Night of Freedom!

Last weekend, my husband and I enjoyed a night away from home. My inlaws–bless their souls!–drove 600 miles to watch, feed, bathe, and drive around 7 obnoxious, giggling children. What’s more, they willingly lent us their clean 2019 Ford Edge to cruise around in while they endured our messy, sticky 15-passenger van.

Anyway, after stuffing an extra skirt and a few books into a bag, we were off. The children didn’t even say goodbye to us. They were too busy playing Rummikub and Sequence with Grandma and Grandpa.

Naturally, the first thing we did on our Tour De Force was to buy cappuccinos. Then we were off into the countryside of beautiful Wisconsin. Or rather, perhaps I ought to say, the forests of Wisconsin? This was exciting because we live on the Mississippi River, which is on the western border, and I had never been past the town of Sparta, which is only 30 miles away.

Our destination? Wausau, which sits bang in the middle of the state. Why Wausau?

  1. It’s past Sparta, hence new territory for us.
  2. It’s only 2 and half hours away.
  3. The route drives by two ancestral cemeteries of my husband’s family.
  4. Wausau boasts a lovely restaurant, Tine & Cellar.
  5. And it has a GORGEOUS TLM church, St. Mary’s.

The Drive

Now, I’ve lived most of my life in the Dakotas where we know how to do long, straight highways. We do highways so well, in fact, that we can legally drive 80 mph on them because they’re nice and straight. But Wisconsin? Oh, no. They do not do long, straight highways. They would much prefer to curve all over the place and go up and down and up and down. Why level this hill? That would require too much work. Let’s just go up! What about this little stream? Should we build a bridge across it? Nope. Too much work. Let’s follow it and swerve about everywhere. Bah!

Ah, well. Sconnies are just different, I guess. I will say, however, that it is beautiful, even in -20 degree weather.

And did you know, if we passed one Trump flag, we passed a million? These people are passionate about Trump. They don’t even care that Biden was sworn into office. It was Trump everywhere–Trump signs, Trump flags, Trump billboards. I actually saw one woman pause in her shoveling, lean over her Trump sign affectionately, and adjust it carefully so as to afford optimal viewing pleasure to her Trump-loving neighbors. Truly, I was wishing we had some Trump flags streaming out our car windows so that we could fit in.

Example of a typical Sconnie house in the country.

The Cemeteries

As I said earlier, we chose Wausau because the route put us in the path of two ancestral cemeteries of my husband’s family. The first cemetery was in Arkdale, which is no longer a town, I don’t think anyway. It’s just in the middle of a forest on some gravel roads. At least I think they’re gravel roads. You see, it was snowing and nobody bothered to plow those roads, so I don’t know.

Anyway, we found the tiny cemetery, and as it was -20 degrees outside, I sat in the warm car while my husband ran about in two feet of snow looking for the Lecy family. He looked awfully cold out there, so I rolled the window down and yelled, “Shall I put your seat warmer on, Dearest?” (Seat warmers are a luxury that we only get to experience when driving our parents’ vehicles; they make us giddy with delight.)

My husband did find some tall Lecy headstones, but unfortunately, he wasn’t able to dig down to the actual graves of Christopher Lecy and his wife, Helga. (We don’t know when Christopher died, but we do know from family records that Helga died in 1865.) Sigh. All that work.

It is rather stupid to go grave finding in February.

On to the next cemetery!

Before driving to the New Miner cemetery, however, we discovered that we were hungry from our grave finding efforts and needed a restaurant first. Since the nearest, sizable town to Arkdale was Necedah, to Necedah we went.

Necedah has a population of 916 people, so naturally it has a Main Street Cafe. It’s one of those local cafes that serves like five breakfast dishes and five lunch entrees, all accompanied by french fries. I picked a chicken sandwich; my husband had a burger. The floor sloped and the table was greasy. The ceiling fan above us had inches of dust perilously drooping off of it. The bathroom was down a creepy flight of stairs that have never been cleaned. The toilet, however, was new and spotless. What a surprise! It felt like an adventure.

I met the owner of Main Street Cafe. He was a spry, old man who had come into the restaurant a few minutes after us. He squinted and mused, “Well, I have to eat here, or I won’t get anything to eat.”

New Miner Cemetery

After we paid our bill, which was hand-written on those old green tickets (you waitresses of some years will know what I’m talking about), we drove to the New Miner Cemetery. Like Arkdale, there is no town here, but there is a church–St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran. There are also no woods here because “New Miner” is in Cranberry Country. Cranberry Country means lots of little sunken fields, much like what I would imagine rice fields to look like.

But I digress, New Miner Cemetery. Once again, my husband ran around the graveyard, as respectfully as possible, and attempted to locate his great, great, great grandfather, Jakob Jakobs Norsby, who died in 1910. His wife, Merit Olsd, was also buried here in 1899. But he couldn’t find the graves due to the extreme cold and deep snow.

Husband, looking for graves in two feet of snow and windchills nearing -30 below.

And that was that. We’ll go back in the spring, like sensible people.

The rest of the drive to Wausau was uneventful. We twisted and turned onto many different roads. (Alas, one must remember that Sconnies prefer roundabout ways.) We listened to Tim Flanders and Kennedy Hall discuss fasting. (Excellent podcast HERE.) We arrived in Wausau and checked into our hotel.

Later this week I’ll post Part 2 for those of you who are interested.

Life is Worth Living

Moving Update: Hello Minnesota and Wisconsin!

We made it.  We survived (barely) the 600 mile trek across the windswept prairie and have finally arrived in the woods of Wisconsin.

And I never want to move again.

Not that the move didn’t go well, for it did, but hauling around 7 sick children in two piece-of-junk vehicles, packed like sardines, without the comforts of stretching one’s legs or lying in one’s own bed for a week, is not my idea of fun.

This sickness was no ordinary cold either.  Nor was it your run-of-the-mill 24 hour puke fest.  Nope.  This was a 3-week-long raging cough that induced violent vomiting from the little girls. The children affectionately called this illness the “Barfy Cough.”

I never got it, praise be Jesus Christ, but I’m still recovering from not sleeping for a week.

In any case, it’s lovely here in Wisconsin.  I’m convinced that the wind never blows here.  We’re on day four, and I haven’t so much as seen a tree branch flutter.  This is not something you woodsy people can understand.  Coming from the prairie where a 20 mph wind is seen as a “calm” day, this is just unbelievable.

Perhaps I’ll comment more on that later.

A Few Pictures

For those of you who are curious, here a few photos from moving day.  I hope to write more soon, but I’m afraid I’ll need a few more days off, as there are a few items that need my attention…like my backload of laundry and those unopened boxes.

IMG_2078.jpg
The children watching the moving truck pull up.  It was exciting to watch all those men unload an entire household in 3 hours!

IMG_2088.jpg
This is my dad.  After the workers laid protective flooring and wrapped the front door, he manned it for them–opening and closing it when needed.

IMG_2085.jpg
This is my mom and Therese unpacking the kitchen.  Bless their souls!

IMG_2081.jpg
Here are the little girls enjoying all those empty boxes.

IMG_2094.jpg
The Eldest taking a break with a Little Sister hiding behind her.

IMG_2089.jpg
Fun, no?

Lastly, here are some Quick Facts.

Quick Facts About Moving:

  1. It’s terrible.
  2. I’ve learned that all one really needs to unpack are a corkscrew and a crockpot.
  3. In Wisconsin one can buy alcohol right in the grocery store!  Scandalous!  And so lovely!
  4. Our city offers Log Rolling lessons alongside Swimming lessons.  I don’t even know what the former is.
  5. I changed my mind about Number 2.  Really, you just need a coffee pot.  In fact, you should carry one in your purse at all times because you may not be able to A.) find yours, which is likely buried in a box labeled “books” or B.) feel like driving to the gas station at 4 am when your sick children have decided that they’re up for the day.
  6. I have a new respect for Abraham being called out of Ur.  When moving, one should just meditate on that for awhile.  At least I didn’t have to sleep in a tent.
  7. The children enjoyed moving because they got to eat candy on the way.  (I just asked Child Number 5 what her favorite thing about moving was and she said, “Candy.”)

 

 

 

Life is Worth Living

Moving, again?!?

Yes, it’s true.  We’re moving again.

This time, however, we’re not just hopping across a river and strolling down the road a few miles.  Nope, we’re trekking across the state, skipping over Minnesota, and landing in La Crosse, Wisconsin, where my husband will begin a new job at the end of January.

We’re very excited about this move for a few reasons:

  1. La Crosse puts us within about 70 miles of Rochester, MN, where our son doctors.  This will be a tremendous relief for us, should we need to race to the Emergency Room in the middle of the night again.  (God forbid.)
  2. La Crosse, as you perceptive readers may have noticed, has gorgeous churches, complete with Traditional Latin Masses every single Sunday.  As this is what our hearts long for, we are truly delighted and grateful for this opportunity.
  3. My husband is very pleased too with his new job.  It looks to be just what we need.
  4. And…it’s warmer in Wisconsin!  And the sun shines more.  Not kidding.  My husband looked it up.  Any move closer to the equator is a Serious Plus.

There are a few downsides to moving south (and east), however.

  1. We will be leaving behind family and friends.  This will not be easy, and it does tear our hearts.  We have been so blessed over the years with devoted grandparents and caring friends.  We thank God for them every day.
  2. It will also be terrible to leave the prairie for a forest.  How does one see the weather coming in Wisconsin?  My goodness, I’ll have to actually look at a Weather App.
  3. My husband has frequently commented that he’ll miss his boss and coworkers.  His boss in particular is a good man–a man he looks up to.  He will be awfully hard to replace.

In any case, though, God has clearly made His will known to us, and we are happy to move.  Wisconsin, here we come!

And we did the unthinkable…

Due to the impending move, we did the unthinkable and put the Christmas tree up early.  Yes, we are still observing our Advent rituals.  For example, here are the little girls joyfully watching the Advent candles burn:

IMG_1975.jpg
Yes, those candles are crooked; it’s the best we can do around here.

But we did it; we committed Liturgical Sin and bought a huge, 9-foot Fraser Fir right smack in the middle of Advent.*

Oh, what a tree!  Just for fun, here are some photos of the children decorating it.

IMG_1945.jpg

IMG_1956.jpg

IMG_1961.jpg

IMG_1963.jpg

All said and done:

IMG_1979.jpg

If you look closely at the foot of the fireplace, you’ll see our Nativity Stable and Inn.  (You know, the Inn that rejected Joseph and Mary.)  Of course Joseph and Mary aren’t there yet, in fact, they wandering around in the kitchen cupboards right now, and the children are having a jolly, good time playing with all the shepherds, sheep, and inn keepers.

Favorite Christmas Ornament?

All my birds.  One cannot have enough birds in a Christmas tree.

IMG_1977.jpg
Isn’t he cute?

Ok, I really like this ornament too.  It’s my husband in 1987.  He made this ornament for his mother, and she graciously gave it to us.

IMG_1980.jpg
Isn’t he cute too?

*Next year, however, we do plan on waiting until the last possible moment for buying and putting up a Christmas tree.  Truly, there is something really special about that.  See HERE for it.
Call Me Catholic

Our Trip and a Few Advent Ideas

We are finally back from our tri-state tour.  It began with some medical appointments in Rochester, MN.  Although Paul is experiencing daily headaches, these are very minor, compared to what he went through earlier this year.  He is, in fact, doing well.  His doctors are pleased, and so are we.

IMG_1878.jpg
Paul, during an EEG, wherein doctors look for potential seizure activity.  (They found none.)

After Paul’s medical appointments, we traveled to La Crosse, Wisconsin, and visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe again.  (See HERE for our first trip.)  Our family has a particular devotion to her.  Her feast day, by the way, is coming up on December 12th.

IMG_1891.jpg
Here are the children outside the main church.

And here’s the interior:

IMG_1738.jpg
The lovely thing about the Shrine is that they celebrate the TLM every Sunday.

This time we were able to explore the outdoor Way of the Cross and the Rosary Walk.  These are paved trails dotted with reflections and benches.

IMG_1902.jpg
This is the entrance to the Way of the Cross.

And because she’s so cute, here’s Child #6 up close:

IMG_1905.jpg
Her shoes are on the wrong feet.  It’s amazing how that always happens.  (And doesn’t seem to bother her.)

After the Shrine, we checked out St. James the Less Catholic Church, also in La Crosse.

IMG_1908.jpg

This is a stunning church.  And hey!  Look, no table altar.

IMG_1911.jpg
Now that is how one builds an altar.

This parish offers both the Novus Ordo and the Traditional Latin Mass.  Both are obviously celebrated Ad Orientem, as again, there’s no table altar.

Here’s a look at the ambo.

IMG_1913.jpg
That is a statue of St. Michael the Archangel next to it.

I could only dream of worshiping at a church like this.  I hope the parishioners of St. James know what a treasure they have!

After Wisconsin, we traveled to South Dakota and celebrated Thanksgiving with my extended family.  We had about 51 people gathered together at my sister’s house.  My aunt, Karen, led us in prayer, we sang America the Beautiful, and we ate and visited and laughed.  I am so thankful for my family!

thumbnail_1128191012a.jpg
Here we all are, Thanksgiving Day morning

Anyone Need Advent Ideas?

And lastly, if anyone is in need of Advent ideas, I strongly recommend Dr. Taylor Marshall’s Advent video, which is mostly directly towards men and fathers of families.  In this short, 15-minute video, he offers 5 challenges for Advent:

  1. Attend the TLM 4 times during Advent.
  2. Read all of 2 Maccabees.
  3. Pray the rosary every day.
  4. Fast 2 days of the week.
  5. And celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception as you would Thanksgiving.

Click HERE for it.  Seriously, he’s right.  These are great ideas for Advent and worthwhile trying to do, if you don’t already do them.  Our family has never done #5, and we’re going to try to step it up this year.

And if that isn’t enough, watch his video on Advent traditions that he does with his family.  This video is interesting because his wife, Joy, joins him.  Click HERE for that video and enjoy!