My news view for the week

Posted by: LuAnnin Nebraska-isms
23
Apr

For three weeks, my focus has been narrowed to hospice care, the uncertainties of life and death and the stark reality that since Friday, a new sense of normal has been planted, hoping to take root and comfort our family as we adjust to loss.

During that time, it seems like the outside world slowed to a snail’s pace, or perhaps the conversations muted temporarily, allowing focus to remain at the simple request given.

This I know: suddenly, I feel out of the loop, as if all the things that always seemed a top priority really aren’t. Instead, importance shifts to new priorities, new necessities and responsibilities, the ebb and flow of life and aging.

***

A new study from the Food Research and Action Center reports that 12.8 percent of Nebraska respondents to a 2014 survey, have difficulty affording enough food to feed members of their households.

In other words, one in eight Nebraskans struggles with food hardship. One in five children in rural Nebraska live in food insecure households and 41 percent live in poverty.

The problem isn’t limited to rural areas, though. Nebraska’s metro area lands at 15 percent, ranking 86th in the nation in food insecurity.

What’s the solution? Mobile food pantries? Community gardens? Education? Higher paying jobs?

No one-size-fits-all solution exists, but this type of trend needs to be monitored and viable solutions need to be examined and encouraged.

***

A friend reminded me that today is Celebrate Teen Readers Day and asked what novel is my favorite teen or young adult read? As a teen, I gravitated toward the classics, like “To Kill A Mockingbird” and “Of Mice and Men.” As a teacher of teens, I liked books that encouraged that age group to read, whether it be the latest Harry Potter fantasy or a suspenseful Stephen King novel or a heart-wrenching autobiography, such as “Tuesdays With Morrie.”

One of my kids would prefer anything by Sue Grafton, another, the Twilight saga, and the other would say, “What do you mean, read a book?” Sigh.

***

I try not to text and drive. If something – or someone – important interrupts my windshield time, I pull over to respond. I cannot imagine attempting to watch video while cruising down the highway. Now, Scott would make some wisecrack about my driving skills, but seriously.

Last week, a Nebraska state patrolman stopped a semi-driver on I-80 and discovered a cell phone taped to the steering wheel. When questioned, the driver told the trooper he was watching a soccer game.

Gives a whole new meaning to distracted driving.

***

Today marked the 20th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombings. This evening, we discussed the “where we were” moment. Scott couldn’t remember the events unfolding that day. I taught in the western portion of Nebraska. A radio softly lulled in the background until a breaking news alert blared. From that point, my students and I watched the tragedy unfold via cable news and wondered how something like this could happen in America.

That thought still crosses my mind.

Agriculture Legacy

Posted by: LuAnnin Nebraska-isms
25
Mar

Nebraskaisms“A farmer has to be an optimist or he wouldn’t still be a farmer.”

Will Rogers statement reminds me of my grandfather, as well as husband, father-in-law and mother-in-law, aunts, uncles and countless others who battle the elements to work the land and provide basics that society relies on every day, three times a day.

They are the epitome of the statement: “Farming is like any other job, only you punch in at age five and never punch out.”

While National Agriculture Week wrapped up last week, I wondered why only seven days are taken to officially recognize the industry that’s the bread and butter for our state’s economy and contemplated how much people really know about the backbone of the bread basket. Do many of us take for the granted the contributions farmers make for our daily needs? Perhaps.

Or perhaps people fit Dwight D. Eisenhower’s quote: “Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you’re a thousand miles from the cornfield.

Sometimes, that pencil is sharpened, thanks to a solid education, and returns to improve and advance the cornfield.

My husband jokes that it takes a college degree to set up the computer program in the tractor. Since 1983, the number of farmers who have received college degrees has increased over 50 percent. Just over 30 percent of farmers and ranchers have attended college and most have obtained a degree, ranging from agri-business to management to agronomy.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack wrote, “One out of every 12 jobs in the economy is connected in some way, shape, or form, to what happens on the farm.”

Think about the food supply chain and the process of farm to plate. Farm and Dairy, an agriculture news source, reports that 210,000 full-time farmers produce 80 percent of food and fiber in the United States. The average farmer feeds 155 people, and when foodstuffs show up on the grocer’s shelves, farmers receive less than 12 cents for ever dollar spent.

Farming isn’t a get-rich quick adventure, but Grandpa would say that with planning and saving, you could get by.

Agriculture advocate Shawn Stevenson wrote, “Most Americans are two to four generations removed from the farm. The general public has very little idea of what agriculture is about.”

Our grandsons are two generations removed. While they like accompanying Grandpa Scott to the farm – probably to chase Copper and Duke, the farm dogs, and sneak in a four-wheeler ride – an ulterior motive exists when they say “Please, Grandpa, can I go to the farm with you?”

My hopes are that they learn by example and eventually emulate his work ethic, notice his patience and concern when caring for animals and gain an appreciation for and become stewards of the land.

Of course, a tractor ride against an amarillo backdrop filled with marshmallow-white clouds, never hurts, either.

Farming tells a story of hard work, characterized by the past, existing for the present. How will the next chapter begin?

NebraskaismsFew things can remind you of days gone by or make you contemplate the good and bad choices you’ve made – or old how you are – like sitting through a concert presented by a star from your youth.

“Seems like yesterday, but it was long ago …”

Reminds me of driving home from high school football and basketball games with my slightly older boyfriend. He owned a sky-blue Cutlass Supreme with T-tops, and as he drove “on a long and lonesome highway,” I peeked through that glass ceiling, staring at the sparkling night sky, thinking we were on top of the universe. All the while, we sang along to “We’ve Got Tonight” or “Old Time Rock and Roll,” while Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band looped on the car’s cassette player.

“The secrets that we shared, the mountains that we moved …”

Reminds me of a first date, which led to a blue lindy star ring for Valentine’s Day and whispered confessions of affection that, as a 15-year-old girl, you long to hear but don’t really believe, because deep in your heart, you know this high school puppy love is simply that: cute and cuddly, but nothing everlasting. So you keep reminding yourself, ‘Girl, you have a world to conquer’ and once summer arrives, you cut the leash, a bit heartbroken, a lot relieved.

“The years rolled slowly past and I found myself alone …”

Reminds me of turning 40, a motorcycle ride to Sturgis for my birthday, followed by just over a year of turmoil and illness and loss. The thing is, there’s an allure to alone, a sense of peace about solitude that’s inviting, almost calming. Eventually, though, that quiet begins to grate, creates unwanted tension and makes you wonder if this life, this singular event that turned the world upside down, is the new normal.

“I began to find myself searchin’, searchin’ for shelter again and again …”

Reminds me of the people welcomed into this life, the trusted few who know most of the secrets and all of the inadequacies and triumphs. They stand by you, cheering and pushing you to be the best version of you. Perhaps it’s cliché, but the individuals who know us best enter our lives for a reason or a season. Some of those seasons extend through decades filled with laughter and tears and more laughter. More than likely, they will continue to be a mainstay, a mutual sense of respect, understanding and love that only friends share.

“So much more to think about, deadlines and commitments, what to leave in, what to leave out …”

Reminds me of what matters most in life: family and time well spent. Despite the hectic pace of daily living, the deadlines and chores that push us to the point of exhaustion, family comes first. I’ve understood this even more since my mom has been battling cancer. Days slip away, time that cannot be retrieved. Why waste it?

So, I push on, accepting challenges that creep in my path, running with, and sometimes, “I’m still runnin’ against the wind.”

Small-Town Nebraska

Posted by: LuAnnin Nebraska-isms
5
Mar

NebraskaismsNebraska turned 148 years young March 1. That day, one of Nebraska’s daily newspapers ran a feature about 12 towns people more than likely did not know existed. Places that made the list: Callaway, Edison, Farwell, Palisade, Antioch, Taylor, Beemer, Leigh, Nenzel, Wynot, Shubert and Marsland.

Funny. I had heard of or been to all but the last one.

Friends commented they didn’t understand why certain places – like Leigh, Beemer and Wynot – made the list when those places have won high school championships in fine arts activities and athletics.

Most comments left on the newspaper site cited a lack of travel across the Cornhusker state why people from the eastern portion don’t realize the state extends past the Seward interchange on I-80.

Agreed … I’ve stressed that point for years.

It got me thinking about places I’ve traveled to, the backroad trips that show the true landscape and cultural history that makes Nebraska, well, Nebraska. Check out my top 12 list. Let me know how many you’ve heard about.

First up: Belmar. Located off Highway 92 in Keith County, Belmar began as a railroad town, when Union Pacific constructed a branch line to Scottsbluff. A post office was established in 1910, but by 1941, it no longer operated.

What about Buda? If you’ve driven Highway 30 between Kearney and Grand Island, you’ve been here. Founded in 1886, Buda’s development sprung from railroad expansion. “Nebraska Place-Names,” by Lillian Fitzpatrick, reports the name is likely a shortened version of Budapest, Hungary.

When I taught in the southwest corner of the state, we’d take a well-traveled gravel road to reach blacktop to get to North Platte. Where gravel met pavement, sat Grainton, located on Highway 23 in Perkins County. At the time, a grain elevator was the only remnant remaining.

Ever hear of Joder? It’s in Sioux County, a spot along the BN rail. Originally named Adelia, Joder is one of seven unincorporated communities in the county.

King Lake, in Douglas County, is near Valley and upstream from Waterloo, along the Elkhorn River.

There’s Loma. Every time I think about this Butler County burg, I remember Patrick Swayze’s movie, “To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar,” since Loma became the fiction Snyderville. Loma is a Czech settlement nestled in Nebraska’s Bohemian Alps.

Southeast of Lincoln, you’ll stumble upon Panama, where antelope freely roamed during the 1800s. The original town relocated to accommodate the railroad.

Talmage sits in Otoe County. It was first known as Morrallton, then Grant, before Talmage. A subscription school began here in 1881.

Between Seward and Utica, you’ll spy Tamora. Actually, you’ll spy the grain elevator along the horizon.

In Custer County, you may stumble upon Weissert. A general store and post office kept the town alive until its closing in the 1980s.

There’s Western in Saline County. It originated in 1872 and soon, the railroad ran through the village.

Traveling along historic Highway 2 in Lancaster County, you’ll find a turn for Woodland Hills the area’s five-star golf course.

Nebraska is more than a flyover state or metro area. Our cities and villages have rich histories that define our past and present, whether or not we’ve visited them.

Eating Healthy

Posted by: LuAnnin Nebraska-isms
26
Feb

NebraskaismsI agree with newspaper columnist Doug Larson: “Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon.”

Typing that sentence while eating a salad for lunch, I find Larson’s quote appropriate. Trust me, raw spinach and chopped romaine, topped with a dab of fat-free ranch dressing, neither smells nor tastes anything like bacon. Or chocolate. Or anything smothered in cheese, for that matter.

Daily, we view a barrage of advertisements boasting the latest food crazes, promoting healthy living and weight loss, quick fixes to gain control of our ever-expanding waistlines.

Did we ever have control?

The International Food Council reports that Gen Y’ers are eating far more healthy than their parents ever did. The study purports that these millennials prefer a more flexitarian diet, believe chickpeas and peanut butter pack a protein punch and encounter more unique and unfamiliar veggies and fruits than mom and dad introduced. They prefer healthy grab ’n go options, so they can dine and dash to their next job interview or spin class.

News flash: the young’uns aren’t the only ones to corner the market on healthy eats.

At our house, meatless Monday is a tradition, much to Scott’s chagrin. Ask him how he feels about quinoa enchilada casserole. We snack on chickpeas, or it’s blended counterpart, hummus, regularly. Peanut butter is a pantry staple and isn’t just for delicious cookies with chocolate stars stuck in the center. And, I’ve exposed the grandchildren to star fruit, pomegranate, Brussel sprouts, kale and acai berries.

The four-year-old grandson asks for baby carrots at breakfast. Win-win situation. Okay, the three-year-old demands cherry cheesecake or cinnamon toast cereal some mornings, but he’s still a work in progress.

Sure, we splurge and dig into comfort foods, like homemade, thick crust, supreme pizza, my famous cheesecake with a gooey layer of caramel apples nestled inside or baked potato soup oozing with cheddary goodness.

And yes, we eat bacon. Real bacon.

We just don’t eat that way every day, and I’m guessing most of you don’t, either.

That’s why the IFC’s report intrigues me. Are they eating healthier foods or has the list of healthy options expanded?

The study reports that millennials have a stronger appreciation of global cuisine, especially Asian foods, than older generations and more often, the younger generation turns to Italian and Mexican cuisine for comfort.

Duh. Who doesn’t want a never-ending pasta bowl when the going gets tough?

Entrenched in a mindset that appears overly obsessed with airbrushed images, the latest fad diets and the need to be wafer-thin, isn’t it a little ironic that the battle of the bulge seems to be winning? That facade of perfection creates false reality, seldom attainable, totally subjective.

I’ll rely on food to provide sustenance and common ground, a form of sharing and identity generating more than a list of nutrients.

And I’ll keep in mind that all good things, like creme brûlée or a slab of lasagna, are okay in moderation.

And so is bacon.