Archive for the ‘Small Town Life’ Category

Cook Dollar Barn Update


Cook Dollar Barn

Dear Friends,

We can’t believe it’s been a month since we lost the Barn. It feels more like a reeeally long week. There are some questions that we can answer for you now and some we can’t… here goes.

First, THANK YOU!! For all the kind thoughts, prayers, hotdishes, hugs, cards, money, volunteerism, and general awesomeness.

When will cleanup start? Sorry to say, it will be weeks or even months. Until all insurance companies sign off, the scene is to remain “unspoiled”. Please stay back, and keep your kids off the rubble as well.  There is a 4,000 square foot basement filled with water and debris. If you see anyone messing around there, please let one of us know. Or call 911. Believe me, we are anxious to clean up what’s left of River Street Rentals, Cook Dollar Barn, Gilley’s Naturals, and the homes of 8 friends. We know it…

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Losing The Barn


BarnFire 063

On June 17, 2013, Cook Dollar Barn, Gilley’s Naturals, and 8 apartments went up in smoke. Everyone got out ok, including Middle Spawn and another tenant who were the only people in the building at the time. All the tenants are clothed and relocated, and the fire has been ruled an accident, though the actual cause may never be known.

It’s hard to write this. I have been trying for two weeks to put into words all the gratitude, love, loss, devastation, hope, and countless acts of kindness. But grieving is a lot of work.  I can’t focus very long on any one thing, and my emotions are all over the map. So today I decided that instead of waiting for my brain to catch up to my heart, I would just take it a day at a time and blog about it all.

For the first week or so, we were in denial. I know I was, anyway. That’s ok though, because denial is a useful coping mechanism. It let my brain kind of run on auto-pilot while necessary arrangements and calls were made. If I’d tried to deal with all the emotional stuff, I’d have lost it. Honey Badger helped. We all became a little more like Honey Badger on YouTube.

Until yesterday, I was in the anger phase of grief. Not just testy. Boiling, seething, almost ready to hide bodies angry. Which is exhausting and scary. Plus I think it was Shark Week. Did I mention I quit smoking two weeks before the fire?

Then I visited a friend in hospice and depression kicked me in the face. Another loss…. A total stranger held me in the hallway and told me how sorry she was that my friend was so sick, while I cried so hard and from such a deep place that I almost couldn’t breathe. It’s the first time I have really cried since the building burned. (I’m the emotionally stunted one; Lois somehow manages to cry a lot and STILL get stuff done.)

And wow, is there a lot of stuff to do.

Insurance. There’s the insurance for the building, insurance for the store, lack of insurance for the 8 tenants, and insurance for the three businesses that could have easily burned with the Barn, but were nonetheless damaged by smoke and water. And our chimney and walls falling on it didn’t help.

And we aren’t the only ones grieving. For the first week, Lois pretty much showed up every day and sat and cried and visited with customers and friends whose hugs truly held her together so far. Every day, every trip to town is like another visitation or funeral. Not that that’s bad! I know it helps ME to hear people’s memories of The Barn, or the tons of other businesses that the former Brown Building housed. Seems like almost everyone has lived there at one time or another, too…

BarnFire 079

There is a Facebook page set up for the fundraisers the community is planning,  under Brown Building Fire Relief Effort. 

It looks to be one heck of a party for all ages. Live music, kids’ games, cotton candy, pig roast…wow!

Maybe tomorrow I will tackle some of the FAQ’s, like when cleanup can start and if rebuilding is an option. For now, thank you everyone who has helped during this super-sucky time.

Loveyabye,

Laura aka Employee of the Month.

Saying Goodbye To My Office


At least I was able to rush into play practice last night and say, “Sorry I’m late! I forgot my briefcase….IN MY OFFICE!!”

Cook Dollar Barn, Pajari Girls, Employee of the year

Read all about it here.

Frost


Here in northern MN, bitching about the weather and the 9-month-long winter is a sport, a hobby, a point of pride, and a way of life. It wasn’t really working for me, though. I have found that hating things I have no control over hurts me a lot more than the thing I am hating. It doesn’t mean I long for -40F in July–I just try to spend less energy on stuff I can’t change and more energy on the stuff I CAN.  So I’m trying to hate it less. Prozac also helps. And a tanning bed. But I digress.

These are my favorite shots (so far) of frost this winter. They are of hoar frost on the Norway Pines and a couple windows in my house, taken on two different days. This lovely wiki article explains the different types of frost. “Hoar” -yes, pronounced just like “whore”…haha.- comes from an Old English word meaning “looks old”. I can hear the Spawn yelling “Nerd Alert!!” already. Whatever.

The window pics were taken during our week-long Get Inked with the Pajari Girls Tattoo Party when it was -30F and colder. (We felt sorry for the  Texan tattoo artist who had never been Up North, but he seemed to man up pretty well. Still working on THAT post.)

The outside pics were taken on a much warmer day. Good thing, too, or I wouldn’t have been outside to hear the cow bell on the Ginormous White Slobbering Dog Who Thinks the Gravel Pit is the Pyrenees Mountains telling the neighbors they are trespassing in their own yard. This is far outside his approved boundary, but he does not agree.

Click on any pic to start a slideshow. (They are better full-screen.)

Another cool slideshow of winter can be found here: Weekly Photo Challenge: Delicate. I took those next door at my sister’s house-The Funny Farm- aka our Great Grandparents’ homestead.

If winter is making you want to kill something, seek professional help and/or this post I wrote for our new site www.cookdollarbarn.com. I’m Employee of the Year there. True story.

As usual, if you found this post amusing, helpful, disturbing , inspiring, or not a total waste of your time, please Like, Share, Comment or Pin this shit stuff. If you are raising your hand ‘cuz you fell behind, click the button to Follow Via E-mail. Then you won’t miss anything. These things let me know what you think is worth reading/writing about. Thanks!! Loveyabye.

Another Treasure


I first found this old jar full of rose petals several years ago, while cleaning out my grandparents’ basement. I vaguely remember placing it on the shelf between the two giant sets of doors that Grampa Ralph drove his school bus through.

A few months ago, I stumbled across it again. Mr. Wonderful and I tackled the basement last fall, and somehow, this didn’t get thrown away, even though the glass jar had at some point fallen from the shelf and broken. The light from the naked bulb in the 10-foot ceiling was just enough to make out  a handwritten note in pencil taped to the jar.

rose, petals, mother's day, family history

I brought the jar up the steep steps (hand-hewn by Grampa Ralph I assume), to the sunny living room corner windows.

family history

The note reads: “Petals from the boquet of Red Roses Ralph gave me one Mother’s Day. M.P.”

Ever thrifty, the note was written on a piece of scratch paper.

Bus, school bus, jack couper

bus

lilacs, family history

Grampa Ralph and Gramma Marge Peterson, and some gorgeous lilacs.

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy Grampa Ralph (More Treasures)

Pajari Girls Shark Week


I know what you’re thinking…but we don’t mean the one on Discovery Channel.

This week  is even scarier. Maybe it’s best illustrated by a conversation I recently had with a male friend of ours. We’ll call him Mr. No-Fun.

No-Fun: What IS it with you girls and car problems this week??

Me: I know! And it’s shark week, to top it off!

No-Fun: (Stops walking, and turns around with a wrinkled brow.) What the hell does that have to do with anything? It’s the Discovery Channel; it’ll be on again. And again. And again.

Me: No, no, no. This is worse. PMS week.

No-Fun: Holy Christ, you don’t ALL cycle at once, do you??? Omigod….Poor Big Guy and Paul…Can’t you do something about that??!

shark cage

photo credit: www.discoverhawaii.com

Later, relating the above convo to my sister (aka The Queen of Poo, Lois, and the witch who volunteered me for the play), she laughed so hard, I bet tears ran down her leg. “That’s a terrible idea!! What does he want us to do—all four take turns so the whole month is hell?!?! Better to get it all over at once!”

I agreed, “Holy crap! You’re right!! Kinda like a nuclear blast….give the community three weeks to recover in-between!” There is no doubt in my mind this is why women who spend a lot of time together also cycle together. Mother Nature is no dummy.

shark attack survivor

photo credit: nbc news

It’s not that bad. Usually, we are more bark

basking shark

photo credit: Discovery Channel

than bite.

nemo sharks

photo credit: Finding Nemo, where the answers to ALL life’s questions can be found.

Usually. 😀

It wouldn’t hurt to tread lightly, though.

WWLD?


Every time I am stumped by something… whether it’s mechanical issues, gardening basics, general efficiency, or  plumbing-related, I pause and ask myself, “What would Lois do?” . (She worked in a small hardware store for years, and has an innate common sense that I lack.) Occasionally it works, and I can figure it out. Most of the time, though, I just call and ask.

Last Wednesday, it was plumbing. Water was dripping out of the bottom of my toilet tank. I tried to tighten the thingy that was leaking and the drip turned into a stream.

pooh

Think, think, think… WWLD??

I shut off the supply, emptied the tank the rest of the way with DBarn knockofff Sham-Wows, and sat back (cracking my noggin on the sink of course) to ponder some more. Then I called my bossy big sister, aka The Birthday Girl.

She let me talk it out and then told me what else commonly causes the same issue, so I could check for that before putting it all back together again.

I think everybody needs at least one “Lois” in their life… someone who can help reason things out. Do you have a Lois? Wanna borrow mine? 😉

Monday Friday Mostly Thursday Kathy


Lois’ motto for The Barn is: “We’re not here to make money; we’re here to make friends.” So far, so good, lol! We have met some amazing and interesting people in the last 7 years–Miranda Lambert is right, everybody IS famous in a small town.

My sister Lois and I met Kathy Weiand (pronounced WHY-end) through the Dollar Barn almost seven years ago. She used to travel the 45 miles every Monday to shop our store, garage sales, and The Thrift Shop for treasures to add to her craft projects (mostly birdhouses).  In the summer, Fridays are a better day to hit garage sales along the way, so Monday Kathy became Friday Kathy. In the winter, Thursday is her town day, thus she became Monday Friday Mostly Thursday Kathy. As nicknames go, it’s not the most succinct.  Too bad if you’re into the whole brevity thing. (Big Lebowski reference…keep up.)

Now her nephew Cory, of  World By My Design, has revamped her website, tweaked her Etsy shop, and added a blog! We are so excited for her we could just die! 🙂

shopping, holed up north, cook dollar barn, art

This is what she looks like every time she walks into The Barn. That smile! Those dimples! The pure JOY she radiates! Plus, she is usually carrying baked goods and lunch.

birch, lichen, foraging

Surrounded by thousands of acres of woods, there is no shortage of lichen and birch bark for her projects.

birch bark, birdhouse

In her own words:

“I’ve always been creative/crafty. When my husband and I moved up to Northern Minnesota (by the Canadian border) in 1982, we worked a lot at resorts and therefore, had our winters off (hence the ‘Holed up North’). So I started doing crafts to stay busy. A little over 10 years ago I converted our sauna into a wood working shop and started building birdhouses.

As much as I liked doing the other crafts I loved making birdhouses. These were not your ordinary birdhouses. I would scour garage sales, gift shops, and thrift stores to find small figurines or decorations I could use to make the most unique house for indoors or out. I would collect, wash, and varnish small stones from our road, cut alder brush and collect moss from our property to use on the houses. The houses are God-inspired and love-made with my hands.”

holed up north, birdhouse, ornament birdhouse, cook dollar barn, christmas crafts

I still can’t believe she made THIS with stuff from The Barn!

bamboobrasshouse

birdhouse, salon, holed up north, cook dollar barn

Her first blog post is the story behind this perfect gift for your stylist.

In the summer, this is her other job– her “real” job…she is a caretaker and all-around handywoman. One of her clients says this about her OTHER business, Lawn, Home, & Garden:  “This company has taken care of my property, lawn care and then some, for quite awhile ! The quality of their work coupled with fair pricing is unparalleled. In addition to property maintenance, they also have a team of artisans who design and render the most beautiful art such as glorified bird houses, etc… not to be hung outside as they are the most treasured of interior decor! Great company!”

Her other job

But that’s just a few parts of Monday Friday Mostly Thursday Kathy…we love her not just because of what she does, but also who she IS.

In her spare time? She is a firefighter. True story.

Firefighter

Her OTHER other job

Her OTHER other job involves driving this beauty. (We both have a thing for semi’s.)

Employee of the Month, Cook Dollar Barn, Holed Up North

She has even been Employee of the Month at The Barn! And she doesn’t even technically WORK here!!

Monday Friday Mostly Thursday Kathy worries about us because we don’t cook or eat very healthily. So she brings us a homemade, healthy, TASTY lunch every week (veggies cleverly camouflaged in bacon), and extra cookies at Christmas. For Inventory, she volunteers to count billions of tiny dollar store things and brings homemade BOOZE-FILLED CUPCAKES. (We get them for our birthdays, too!) I asked her to marry me for years, but she just laughed…which is good, because then I  found Mr. Wonderful.

She loves to be outside, creates beautiful art, is a volunteer firefighter, lives off the land, bakes, cooks, is deeply spiritual,  heats with wood, loves with words AND actions, and is an all-around Day Brightener. One of my life goals is to be as happy, joyous and free as Monday Friday Mostly Thursday Kathy.

And we may never have gotten to know this wonderful lady if I hadn’t “ruined my sister’s life” by talking her into quitting her job with a Fortune 500 company and opening a dollar store in our home town of Cook, MN (pop. 574). Funny how things work out.

Now go say hi to Monday Friday Mostly Thursday Kathy!! Please?

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