I am so very thankful for so many things. For my intelligent and beautiful daughters who are my inspiration for life, for my ever-patient husband who is my rock and my sanity, for the friends and family who have been there when I needed them with tissues, chocolate and apple-pie moonshine. This has been an especially trying month – I’ve cried more this month than I have the entire year – and I am so grateful for everyone who has been there to support and encourage me. I am blessed.


Get back on that horse

Last year I started running. It was glorious. I loved the feeling I got from the whole process – the burn, the sweat, the feeling of my feet hitting the pavement, the air rushing in and out of my lungs, my heart pounding pounding pounding in time to the music in my head. I loved the zen place I would go to as I ran, that place I can’t seem to reach no matter how much I meditate in lotus (though I’m getting closer to it at the end of my yoga workouts now!).

I had huge plans. I was going to run a marathon! I wanted to participate in the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon, and show all my friends and my dubious husband that I could do this. I started a training program, logged my workouts, bought real running shoes (which, if you know me and my absolute distaste for any type of shopping that does not involve books and/or coffee, should tell you how serious I was about this project), even bought real running clothes. I read books about running and marathon training, talked to coworkers and picked their brains about training, and even registered for the marathon. I was so excited!!! I was going to DO THIS!!! I pushed myself, and pushed myself hard. Too hard.

Two months into my training, the horse bucked me off and I fell. Hard. Not as hard as I could have (thank all the little gods), but hard enough to put the kibosh on my marathon plans. I came up lame in both legs with stress fractures in both of my tibias, or the weight-bearing bones of the lower leg. At first, I thought it was just a severe case of shin splints from a particularly hard day of training, and tried RICE to alleviate the symptoms. When that didn’t work, and David threatened to drag me to the ER (I was in tears, I was in so much pain), I knew there was something more serious going on. I hobbled in to see a sports specialist the next day, and discovered the cause of my pain.

Pain meds, rest (meaning no strenuous activities at all) & physical therapy were my prescription for the next six weeks, with rads to be rechecked after to make sure I was healing up properly. The resting part was the hardest part. I missed running. I missed the burn and the zen and the feeling of accomplishment. I couldn’t even go to my belly dancing classes with Kamala Chaand Dance Company. I healed, and was eventually given leave from the doctor to go back to my sports. But now I was afraid.

Aside from childbirth (which is a different kind of glorious pain entirely and really not comparable to the pain of an injury), the stress fractures were the worst pain I had ever felt in my life. At times the pain was so bad all I could do was cry until the pain meds and ice packs went to work. It took a long time for that pain to go away, and after it was gone, I knew I did not want to feel that kind of pain ever again. I tried biking, but perhaps that was too soon after recovery, because the leg pain hinted at coming back, so I stopped. I was too scared to try running again. Dog walks were the most I could do, and even that often ended with aches that would keep me up part of the night. So, I took the winter off, and contemplated running, or going to a gym, or finding a personal trainer, but didn’t do anything about it until January of this year.

I started eye-balling that horse, and sidling up to it, contemplating getting back on top of it. I finally couldn’t stand being inactive, so I went to the Woodbury YMCA and got a family membership. I purchased some personal trainer sessions right away, but didn’t have the courage to actually use them until now. I started going to some of the group classes a few times a week, and using the weight room every week or so (though steered clear of the treadmills – I wanted to use them, but what if even that made my legs hurt again?), as it fit into my schedule. I love the Bodyflow and Fitness Yoga classes, and I still go to them as often as I can. I can’t do many of the “high options” the instructors offer for the more advanced students, but I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t have to take all the “low options”, or easiest beginner poses. Even better, my legs don’t hurt any more after the workouts.

Today I finally got back on that horse. I put on my big girl panties, sucked it up, and made an appointment for today to meet with my personal trainer. It was FANTASTIC! She knew my history, and my goals (to eventually be able and ready to run a marathon, though perhaps we’ll start with a 5K in the late fall or next spring, and to improve my overall health, strength & endurance). We spent a good amount of time talking, and then we got to work. I hit the treadmill for 2o minutes (oh my goddess, that felt so GOOD!!!) while she analyzed my posture and stride, and then she worked my ass off with some pretty intense focus on hamstrings, lats, core and upper body strength to improve my balance and posture. I am going to hurt tomorrow, but it will be the good kind of hurt, that delicious burn of muscles rebuilding themselves. And my legs… My legs don’t hurt.

You have worked too long in the veterinary industry when…


You look at a cardboard box and recognize its coffin potential.
When you go out to a club, when the black light comes on you check yourself for ringworm.
You can eat lunch while cleaning up a Parvo blowout.
You can keep your milkshake frozen in the freezer around the dead bodies.
You take your kids temperature and think 102 is normal.
After seeing what goes into the washing machine at work, your own laundry doesn’t seem so dirty.
Your work clothes look like your pajamas.
You open your lunch container and find a spleen.
You have no problem eating your lunch on the wet sink where they have just finished a necropsy.
All of your pets are either 3 legged, lame, or blind in one eye.
You’ve done an anal probe on a bird.
You can detect maggots at 100 paces, just by the smell.
To you, pets are more recognizable than their owners are.
When eating and you find a hair in your food, you pull it out and keep eating.
The first thing you wonder when opening up a big cat abscess is, “Where are the Ritz crackers?”
You cough up hairballs.
You are the first one in the hospital in the morning and you don’t notice the smell.
You start to like the smell of anal glands.
You can play connect the dots with all of your scars and puncture wounds.
When NORMAL people won’t eat meals with you.
You get the flu and begin to sympathize with the Parvo dog.
Your paycheck barely covers your food bill, but ALL of your animals eat a premium brand food!
Your medicine cabinet holds nothing but animal medications.
If you have ever picked up Poop with your bare hands.
You can put a muzzle on with one hand tied behind your back.
You know that “pink juice” and “blue juice” are not flavors of kool-aid.
You get a rash from just LOOKING at a Shar-Pei.
You can take a dog’s rectal temperature without looking.

February 23, 1948 – New Tractor

Dear Carol,

Thanks very much for the wonderful Valentine box of candy and cookies. They sure taste good. Remember in your first letter you said you like to cook? Well you have proved yourself a good cook. I’ll bet you could make a lot of money if you started a candy shop for yourself. I know you would have one good customer. Guess who?

Minnesota has had some warm weather lately. Last week it was as warm as 50° for three days. It melted most of the snow, but now we have quite a few ice ponds around here. It makes it rather difficult to walk or drive. I slid in the ditch yesterday, but was able to get out without any help, so the ditch wasn’t very deep.

Last night I was in Red Wing, Minnesota with the Northfield All Male Choir. We sang for the Glee Club down there. We didn’t get home til 1:30 a.m. because the bus had a flat tire. Next Sunday we will sing at Mankato Business College for the J.C. The money will go to build a new high school down there.

I saw a good double feature show about a week ago. It was “Blondie’s Anniversary” and Joe E. Brown in “Hex Honeymoon [Beware Spooks!].” I darn near laughed myself sick. I saw “Gone With the Wind” for the third time last week. Have you seen that show? It sure is good.

My nephew has got a light case of measles. He sure is a sight with all them pimples. But the doctor said it is nothing to worry over. I had them when I was a freshman in college and boy was I sick.

We got a new tractor today. It is an Allis Chalmers. It sure handles nice, but it set my Dad back about $500. We got about $900 for our old one which was three years old. I took the muffler off so I could hear it run.

Well I guess that’s all the news from here. So I’ll say “If us had a date, hebbin would have to waite”


P.S. Don’t forget to send your telephone number so I can call you sometime.


I very much enjoyed reading this letter. I thought it was fascinating to learn that my grandmother, Carol, cooked and baked as a young woman! From what I remember of my visits with them as a child growing up, Gramma Carol rarely if ever cooked or baked, preferring to leave that to Grampa Ed to take care of, and he was a wiz in the kitchen. I can remember him throwing all the ingredients for delicious cookies, cakes, candies… all seemingly without measuring or even really looking at the recipes, though he would set the recipe book or card out on the cupboard while he was working. The food he made in his kitchen was always the best, and some of my favorite childhood memories are from being in the kitchen with him. I’m trying to find more information about the Northfield All Male Choir, but so far the interwebz are pretty sparse of facts. I found all sorts of interesting tidbits out about glee clubs at Yale, but nothing about Northfield or Minnesota. Ah, well. I haven’t watched the movies he talks about in this letter yet, except for Gone With the Wind (I’ve watched that one twice lol!). The second movie he mentions starring Joe E. Brown, I’m thinking is actually a movie called “Beware Spooks!”. I couldn’t find a movie named “Hex Honeymoon” from that time period. It amazes me how blase and … normal!… it was for people to contract potentially lethal diseases like measles, things we are for the most part vaccinated against now and largely protected from. Grampa didn’t mention what model of Allis Chalmers tractor his Dad bought that year, but I do remember how much he loved tractors. He loved to collect their models and books. I remember a green tractor toy all of us grandkids used to play with that looked very much like some of the pictures of the 1948 models. That tractor toy stuck around long enough for the great-grandkids to play with it. Not sure where it went from there, though…


February 8, 1948 – Thrills, Chills & Other Happenings

Dear Carol,

We have had great many thrills, chills and horrifying things happen around here this last week. We went to St. Paul to the Winter Carnival last Tuesday. Even though it was quite cold it was a thrill to see the great winter sights. Wednesday I was helping my brother haul some feed for the cows on his farm. We had about 5 ton on a friend’s truck which we were going to unload in the drive way of the hay barn. It was a little too heavy, and crashed through the floor. The back end of  the truck dropped about nine feet down upon the cow stantions. Lucky that no one got hurt. It made a hole in the floor about 18 by 10 feet and wrecked a new litter carrier line put in the day before. Five men worked for ten hours trying to get the truck out. They had to raise it up with jacks to get it out of the barn. The only damage to the Ford truck was a bent drive shaft.

Dad had to go to the phone company and get two poles for the carrier line as they were broken by the crash. By the way what is your phone number? I maybe call long distance so I can talk to you sometime.

I thought it was much safer to send money for your birthday, then none of the records would be broken and you could buy the songs you wanted to hear. I hope I get to hear them someday.

The FFA project isn’t going too well, have been able to get about 5 acres of land so far, but we need about 25 acres to fulfill our quota.

The radio station from Minnesota that you get must be WCCO at St. Paul and Minneapolis. What programs do you hear from that station?

The name of that comic strip is called “O Dienia”. It is a continued story from the Rice County Daily. It sometimes gets pretty good, and then it seems to sag in the middle.

Did you have a good time at the Valentine dance on February 7th? I would have given anything to be there with you. I haven’t been to many dances since my operation – then only danced a slow waltz or fox trot. The first hour or so was rather embarrassing, but I soon learned what I had forgotten.

In bowling I suggest that you find a ball of the correct weight, so you can swing it freely. Then throw the ball so it lands about two or three feet from you in the alley. Be sure to throw it as if you were pitching for a kitten ball game [soft ball game]. Then step back from the foul line and watch the pin drop, keep the same ball at all times. As some of the balls are 50 lbs or better. They will throw you off balance. If we were not so far apart I would be delighted to come and teach you, but as you say “It’s just not possible.”

$12 is just for the first six or eight hours after that I hope to be soloing and it will cost me $9 and hour. It will take 50 to 55 hours of soloing before I get my private license to take up a friend or be able to rent a plane.

I move from number 31 to 26. Now it is your move.

Thanks for the Noble Cain Festival program. It must have been a great concert. Would like to have been there to see and hear it.

Well here’s hoping this letter will find you well and happy.


January 25, 1948 – Cold Weather

Dear Carol,

You are lucky you don’t live in Minnesota. It sure has been cold up here. Last week we had five days of cold weather, all the way from zero to 35 below. It was six above today and it seemed like good old summer time.We had a little snow and a forty mile wind which blocked all roads for a while.

Bowling isn’t so hard to learn, just go to the bowling ally and watch other people and then try it yourself. It is fun and it is good fo ryou. That’s how I got started. My doctor told me to try it, because it helps to strengthen my leg muscles.

I haven’t seen any shows for the last two weeks. I have been so busy. Thanks for the tips on baby sitting. It sure helps. I think the comic strip gave me a big laugh as thought of the nights might have to set up with my nephew.

I went to get my physical exam to take flying lessons yesterday. The doctor said I should wait till the weather gets warmer and by that time I would have a chance to study more about flying. One thing I do know it is going to cost about twelve dollars an hour.

I don’t think I will have much time to go on a vacation next summer. You see on a farm there are always so many things to work at. Maybe I can hire someone for a week or so, and if my new Ford comes I will drive it out there, but I won’t promise anything yet for sure.

I will have to get pretty busy with a food program for Europe Foreign Relief. It is my job to get the local FFA chapter to have each member to raise some kind of food product to can for overseas shipment. Our quota is four box cars of food. I got this job yesterday in the mail. I will have to meet with the boys over a week until April 15th, to show them what to grow in their gardens.

I am sorry to hear about the movie theater. It always happens to the biggest and best when it happens to any.

I just found out that you were reinstated as recorder in the Rainbow, and that you were awarded the Grand Cross of Colors. I can just see how happy you must be. It reminds me of the days when I was in high school and was awarded the Minnesota State Farmers Degree. I was sent to St. Paul with all expenses paid and was there for three days. Boy was my head high when I saw my picture with the governor on every front page in all the papers I picked up. I was so happy I really cried.

I heard that program of Take It Or Leave It too. I always listen to it. Last night I got two stations from your state, KOMA and KVOO. Can you get any station from Minnesota? If so which one?

Hope to see you next summer,


P.S. You start the checker game as I always let women have the first move.


January 10, 1948 – An Invitation

Dear Carol,

Thank you very much for the stationery and the birthday card. It sure made me feel good. I guess I am lucky in more than one way. I am an Uncle to a little boy. He looks like his father and brother look alike so??? He was born at 3:10 a.m. Tuesday morning, January 6. That’s why I haven’t written to you for a long time. I have been doing the chores on my brother’s farm while he was with his wife. The baby’s name is going to be James Willard.

So you had a little snow out there. Did you like it? Or are you still a little sore? Linnement sometimes helps.

I sing baritone in the choir and the station is on the C.B.S. network.

I haven’t been able to find the brand of records you want. I went to three or four stores in St. Paul yesterday, but they didn’t have them in stock. Will try in Faribault sometime.

What did you do on New Year Eve? I went to Northfield and did some bowling. Have you ever gone bowling? My score is about 116. After that I went to the Midnight Show of That Hagen Girl”. Have you seen that show? It starred Shirley Temple and Ronald Reagan. Sunday afternoon I saw “Blondie in the Dough” with Arthur Lake and Penny Singleton. I saw “Going My Way” and Bell of St. Mary” about a year ago.

Maybe you can give me a few suggestions in what to do for a baby while caring for it. Lucky I haven’t had to take that responsibility yet.

Time sure goes slow when you are waiting for something – like that Ford. I could pass the time away by taking flying lessons as the airport is only three miles from here. My father or grandpa asked me if I wanted to break my neck. It didn’t seem so dangerous when I went up about 12,000 feet. Everything sure looked small from up there. Wish you could have been with me.

How about you and your folks coming up here next summer on your vacation to visit? We have two farms, one my brother is living on, and one my father and I live on. My brother is going to move on another farm, so you could live on the farm which he lives on now. It is about 3/4 of a mile from here. Both farms average about 450 acres together. It will mean a lot of night tractor work for me.

I have one favorite kind of candy and cookies. They were the kind you sent me for Christmas. I am saving one piece of candy for sometime when we might see each other and eat it together. How about it?

Happy Birthday,



Until reading these next few letters, I’d no idea my grandfather was such a romantic AND a dare-devil rolled into one. I should have known, looking back on the many stories he’d told me of his childhood, and some of those traits have bred true. :) I wish I knew what kind of candies and cookies Carol had sent to him that Christmas…

His mention of going up in an airplane just for the heck of it reminded me of the time I went skydiving (my 18th birthday gift from my dad). Everything really did look so very very small from way up there, and it was unbelievably exhilerating, terrifying and peaceful all at the same time. And yes, Elaine, I STILL have the spatula you gave me as my “In Case Of Imminent Splattering” gift just before take off! It’s perfect for pancakes!

I’m still going through the tub of old photos, so once I have those sorted out and identified, I’ll begin posting them along with the letters. I’ve got to find the pictures of Gramma and Grampa when they were young! They were smokin’ hot!!!

December 29, 1947 – Call me Eddieboy

Dear Carol,

Thanks a million the box of cookies cake and candy, they sure are good. Thanks for the beautiful picture of your self. I am sorry that my pictures have not come back from being developed yet, but I will send you one when I get them back.

You envy me because we have snow out here. Yes it is some fun, but we have to some time have to shovel ourselves out. I envy you because you don’t have too much cold weather out there. Many of the people are suffering from a shortage of fuel oil out here.

Most the people around here call me Ed or Eddie. They sometimes call me Eddieboy, you can have your pick.

We had my Aunt and Uncle over for Christmas dinner. After dinner went to Northfield where I sang carols with the Northfield All Male Chorus over radio station WCAL. I got many gifts for Christmas and my birthday, which was on Dec. 28. I am now 21, but I still go sliding when I find time.

I got fourteen neck ties and six pairs of socks for Christmas and my birthday. I think will be able to wear a different one every day of the year. I got 21 dollars from my mother and father. I bought <-???-> with some of it and went for an airplane ride with the rest, so I guess I’ll never forget this birthday as long as I live.

By the way when is your birthday coming? And what would you like? Maybe some records for your new victrola. What ones haven’t you got?

Too bad you couldn’t have more vocations. But law is law. I know because I studied it in high school. I was going to be a lawyer, but farming seemed be in my blood and it won’t run out.

That show Fun and Fancy Free must be good with them as stars. I am going to see it when it comes to Northfield. You see Dennison is just a small town with a population of about 300 people, so we don’t have a theater.

Your Christmas lighting contest must be great fun. I am glad you won first prize in your group.

I play checkers, 500 cards almost every night. I like checkers the best, even though my grandad beats me.

My aunt gave my sister-in-law a stock party today. So I guess you know what that means? It will be fun to be called Uncle. Ha Ha. I suppose I will have to practice baby sitting. Do you know there are to be some changes made. Well I know the words to that song.

I wouldn’t mind if I could walk as fast as that man you wrote about. I walk about the same rate as you. After a while I won’t be walking much because I am expecting a new Ford in June or July. I hope it comes before. I have been waiting for two years for it.

Happy New Year!


P.S. If you would please address my letters as Eddie Estrem because I have an Uncle whose name is the very same as mine.

December 9, 1948

Obviously, some time has passed between this letter (a postcard, really) and the previous one I blogged, and Ed and Carol have struck up a friendship. I wish I had those initial letters!


Dear Ed,

Where shall I send your Christmas package? Dennison? or St. Paul? It’s something that should be opened on Christmas. The Oklahoma Aggies are going to the Delta Bowl in Memphis, Tenn. I just got home from bowling my first time. I made only a 56, but made my first strike! Did you need some help to eat those 3 Thanksgiving dinners? I don’t see how you did it! I’m getting pre-sectioned for 2nd semester – no standing in line!!! The Choral club is presenting “The Holy Advent” cantata Dec. 14.

As Ever,


November 30, 1947 – Love Letter #2

This is the second letter Grampa Ed sent to Gramma Carol. Wow. Can any of you Minnesotans imagine 22 inches of snow in November alone, with subzero temperatures? Hah! I knew Grampa could play many different musical instruments, but I didn’t know he wrote poetry. I hope I find some of his poems in this box of letters…


Dear Carol,

I am just getting over the Thanksgiving holiday, and feel a little like a stuffed turkey before it was placed on the table.

Our fall weather out here in Minnesota has turned into winter. During November we have had 22 inches of snow. It is about 3° below outside. I hope you don’t have that kind of weather out there.

I wasn’t a patient at the world famouse Mayo, but I was a patient at Gillette at the age of six, and againe last summer. My operation was performed on short heel chords caused by an over heated incubator at the time of birth. It affected no other part of my body.

I am 20 years old, 5 ft. 7 1/2 inches tall, and wheigh about 163 pounds.

I am a graduate of Northfield High, and have had two years of college at the U of Minn. I majored in farm crop relations, and dairy feeding. I missed this fall because of my operation, but I plan to go back next fall. I intend to teach when I get through school.

When I was in high school I was the president of the Northfield (F.F.A.) Future Farmer of America.

My hobbies are writing poetry and studying music. I play the guitar. Do you play any instrument? I do like to ride horseback and go fishing. Some of the poetry I wrote while I was in bed.

I belong to the Norweigen Lutheran Church.

I hope you can read this letter, because I am not a good writer. I’ll have to sign off because my brother and his wife came over to visit.

Thanks for your letter,

Yours truly

Edwin Estrem