God’s Gift to the World!!! – just kidding :)

housewinter2

I’m very fortunate to have received the gift of creativity from my parents.  So when I started asking questions about my birth story so that I could write my own version filled with drama and twists and turns, my mom offered to write it for me! So, today I give you all a special treat, a guest post today from my lovely mother Sheryl… Enjoy!

It was a cold dark December night and the weather was turning nasty.   As the family settled in to watch their favorite Monday night comedy shows, the father noticed that the freezing rain had begun.  Although the Mother was feeling uncomfortable she did not feel like she was in recognizable labor.   The family was watching the Bob Newhart show and the weather wasn’t getting any better so the father announced that as soon as the show was over the family would load up in the car and head to town just in case the baby decided to arrive on this blustery night.   Not long after the car was loaded and the boys in their places, the mother- to-be started to feel labor pains that she had been waiting for two weeks and she knew it “was time.”

The next plan was to drop the mother off at the hospital and take the boys to grandmas.  Is this where the song “over the river and though the woods “came from??

Or is this the song being sung on those icy roads 10 miles from the hospital?

The special child was born after several hours of walking up and down the hallways of the hospital which was and still continues to be the smallest one in the state of Minnesota.

Ok, ok back to the special baby…….yes, the baby was born and she was a GIRL!   Yes! A girl!!! Pink, bows, lace and dresses now could enter into the happy mother’s life.   You see the family before this special night consisted of a father, a mother and two little boys.   Now they were joined by a Girl!  A red headed girl!   This mother was so excited that she called her mother to tell her that she had been blessed with a daughter, a redheaded daughter!   The grandmother proceeded to tell her daughter that the little girl probably just had remains of her birth on her head and not red hair!  The grandmother was very surprised in the morning when 4 hours after the birth and her first bath the little girl still had beautiful red hair.  Red hair and an amazing interest in the new world around her.  The nurses were surprised at her alertness and interest in her new world! But where did this red hair gene come from???   As the child grew she used to tell people it came from the milkman!  Her mother said it came from the milk.  Well, it was true that the milkman did have red hair……..But with all kidding aside the red hair came from several generations back on both parents side.   The great grandmother sister on the maternal side had reddish hair and the great grandfather on the paternal side had a red beard.  God took out his red brush that night and created a beautiful little baby girl to bless this family and the world.  This beautiful baby girl, Joanna Kay Kopperud was born on December14, 1982 to two very proud parents and two very excited big brothers.   The mother felt like she had just received a special new dolly for Christmas that year.

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Can we all just take a moment to admire how incredibly adorable my brothers were???? So cute!!!! Joanna’s Homecoming and Christmas Card 1982.

Happy 30th birthday baby girl!

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A Minnesotan Halloween

Halloween has always been a big deal in my family. We didn’t decorate the house, but we did concentrate a lot of energy on our costumes. All of our costumes were handmade in some way, shape or form. My mom didn’t head to the local Wal-Mart to purchase them, probably because most years there was a blizzard so you really couldn’t get to Wal-Mart. Sometimes the costumes were things that we pieced together from different wardrobe pieces, sometimes they were mom and dad’s old clothes, and sometimes mom would hand sew something. Of course, we were in Minnesota so some kind of sweatshirt or winter parka would need to be incorporated so we wouldn’t get sick trick or treating in the snow.

Every year mom would take us to Westbrook and we would trick or treat down Main Street with the local businesses handing out candy. Then we would head to Grandpa and Grandma’s house so that they could “ooh and ahh” all over their adorable grandchildren. After that, mom loaded us into the old green Chevy car and we would trick or treat to the neighbors around the farm.

There was always an adventure to be had as we didn’t know what the weather would turn into or if we could even get out of the house. But I remember the constant anticipation to finally dress up and let people see me dressed up. Dress up was and is still my favorite form of  play.

I really wanted this post to be a story but quite frankly the only Halloween story that I remember is when I wanted to be a princess. I couldn’t find the princess dress that I wanted to wear and to make matters worse my mom made me wear a sweatshirt under my princess dress and none of the princesses that I had seen riding around in parades had to wear sweatshirts under their dresses… Of course the princesses that I saw were riding floats up and down the streets of small town’s months before in the summer. Then to make matters almost unbearable, mom made me wear my winter coat over my princess dress which, again, wasn’t the dress I wanted to wear in the first place! The nerve…. It was so traumatic to have Halloween during the first snow storm, and I’m still recovering from the shock… But I think that is the only story I remember because most Halloween’s we had a lot of fun! I’ve decided to share a Kopperud Halloween with all of you!

Halloween 1985 Andy-Cowboy, Matt-Indian, Joanna-Pumpkin
(Notice the winter jackets, mittens, and snowpants)

At Grandma and Grandpa’s house Halloween 1985 (Nice braids Matt)

Halloween 1987 Andy-Indian, Matt-Vikings Football Player, Joanna- Virgin Mary (apparently Jesus had red hair), Bek- Clown

Halloween 1986 Andy- Ghost, Matt-Farmer, Joanna-Kitteh (Mom made my costume)

Halloween 1995?-This is how you keep your kids out of trouble on Halloween folks, throw a Halloween party at the church! Mom and Dad- Clowns, Andy-Dressed as Dad in Dad’s graduation outfit, Matt-Hippie, Joanna-Cheerleader, Bek-Angel

1996: An awful good winter

Winters in Southwest Minnesota have a way of escalating cabin fever. Sure, school would get cancelled and my siblings and I would all rejoice singing, “Schools out for winter!” even though that’s not how the song is written.

The winter of 1996 is one that I will never forget. It inched along in a never ending sea of white flakes that covered the farm completely. In fact, it not only covered the farm, it snowed so much that my dad had to crawl out of the second story window in order to dig us out of the house.

Instead of wasting away in a house submerged by snow, my siblings and I played card games. Every day I would crawl out of bed, still wearing the same layers of clothing as the days before and join my siblings around the kitchen table.

“Alright, whose turn is it to deal?” My older brother would ask hoping to trick one of his younger siblings into breaking out of their cocoons of warm blankets. We all looked at each other hesitant to remove our hands from safe place of heat close to our bodies. The power was out again and the temperature was no doubt somewhere below zero. If you move, you risk your body heat vanishing into thin air.

Finally, my younger sister said, “I’ll do it even though I know it isn’t my turn.” I watch as she slowly removed her hands from the inside of her blanket cocoon. Her mitten covered hands emerged; she slowly removed the wool mittens to reveal another pair of gloves that were covering her soon to be frozen fingers. In a Minnesota winter, one pair of hand coverings is just not enough. Her hands shivered and began to shake as she began handing out the cards.

And there we sat, day in and day out. When the electricity would flicker on we could get a few hours of warmth from the electric heater and maybe watch a movie. During those times, we would switch to the more physical game of spoons. But, once the heater shut off and the electricity was gone, we would all retreat back to our cocoons for warmth, back into our little huddle like homeless people searching for warmth around a garbage tin of fire.

My husband always asks me how I got so good at playing card games and yet there isn’t a competitive bone in my body. My only answer is, “Well honey, after thousands of card games during the winter of 1996, I learned how to be good. Back then, games weren’t about winning or losing. They were about spending time with family, making memories, and in some cases surviving in a situation when you could easily lose your mind in a sea of snow.”

Meet the parents

Colorado Springs November 2006

Oh how exciting it is to be a crazy young love sick fool… “Ain’t no mountain high enough, ain’t no valley low enough, ain’t no river wide enough, ain’t no distance FAR enough?” That’s how the song goes, right? The love of a young couple is VERY strong… or so we think…

And so begins my “meet the parents” story…

I met my army boy while he was still active duty Army stationed at Fort Carson. While he hates it when I describe it this way… I was a “crazy college girl on the prowl for a man in uniform” So I went to Colorado Springs with my wonderful cousin (who shall remain nameless because she actually convinced me to move with her using this argument). It was an exciting time. No jobs and no responsibilities… This situation led us quickly to realize that we needed both of those things.

Fast forward two years, I was still crazy, not so fresh out of college, and still in need of a good quality man. Some good friends of mine and army boys decided that we would make a great couple so the “set up” plans began. We met at their Halloween party which was thrown so we could meet. After a wonderful evening of me working VERY hard to impress the wonderful Army boy, he handed me his phone. Ummm… what? What else is a crazy girl to do other than put her number in it, right? Smooth… which is really funny because this army boy is not so smooth. Thus began our two week relationship spending every spare second we could with each other. After this romantic two weeks, he was getting out of the army and off to his homeland Nebraska he would go, back to nursing school leaving me in Colorado Springs. I did my best to convince him to stay with me but the plans had already been made. It was too late to change them now. When we will see each other next? We didn’t know…

After Christmas, I decided it was time to work my schedule out with my boss so I could get a long weekend. I had 2 whole days to do what I pleased. I was working every weekend in the retail business so to get two days off in a row was unheard of! YAY this was the perfect opportunity! I wanted to see the love of my life! I would drive 6 hours by myself, on the back roads, (because he said they were faster), in the dead of winter… Let me say it again… “in the dead of winter”…

(Insert the very dramatic, “Lord of the Rings” –ish music)

After what seemed to be the LONGEST drive of my life, I made it to Elm Creek, NE. I was going to meet him there. Wow I was so excited I could barely contain myself. My romantic story was about to begin! I sat in the parking lot of the gas station for what seemed like another 6 hours waiting for my handsome prince to arrive! Oh joy!

There was a subtle knock on the window… I turned my head fluidly as my hair flowed down my back I gazed up to see my clean cut army man I saw a…a…a…. mountain man? Apparently, when you get out of the army you don’t cut your hair or shave. I was so excited to see him though! I jumped out of my Buick Century and wrapped my arms around him! He was wearing the awful hat and scarf set that I made him for Christmas. Complete with variegated blue yarn and a seam up the back holding my rectangular square together to make it a hat. (not my best work but I was trying) He was there and I loved him soooo much!!! That’s all that mattered…

After working my 8 hour shift in the customer service department at the furniture store, I hopped into my car and drove 6 hours. We met with his brother and had a drink at the local bar following a rousing game of pool, and then it was time to meet his parents. “Umm… Can I just meet them in the morning?” At the time, my army boy was going to school so he was living with his parents. I didn’t receive a response so I proceeded to change into my pajamas and get ready for bed. When I came out of the bathroom to my surprise my army boy woke up his parents! He turned around, zipped up my hooded sweatshirt anther inch so that I wasn’t showing too much cleavage and turned around and said with all the enthusiasm in the world “these are my parents!”I thought, “ummm.. Hi I just started dating your son and spent the evening in a bar, and now you have been rudely awakened in the middle of the night by me. Nice you to meet you!” Not my best foot forward from the beginning. Bathroom bag full of toiletries in one hand and extending my other for a handshake I was greeted with 2 giant monster hugs. “ha ha I’m not wearing a bra” Again I said in my head… “This is uncomfortable”… Out loud I politely stated, “So nice too meet you!” and I was greeted with the same greeting in return. I immediately felt like I was back at my own parent’s house. Considering how awkward I must have looked on the outside and how embarrassed I really was by the situation, I felt remarkably comfortable at that moment. I knew I was about to be welcomed into a wonderful family.

Our wedding June 6th 2009

Now, you may be thinking that this is the worst part of this story… but oh it gets so much better…

I woke up the next morning to the wonderful smell of coffee and a very welcomed greeting. If you know me, you know I am not a morning person. I don’t drink coffee, I don’t talk in the morning, and I’m generally not a very nice person unless I’ve been up for at least 20 minutes. This particular morning was going to be tough for me. “The weather report says freezing rain for the rest of today” reported army boy’s father. “Well, I guess you are stuck with me sticking around inside the house then” I replied. The freezing rain proceeded to fall…and fall…and fall… In fact, it didn’t stop falling for another 3 days! Take a look back and remember how many days I was SUPPOSED to spend in good old Nebraska. I called my boss after the first day of making puzzles and watching movies to let him know my situation. He was very understanding and told me to be safe. In all honesty, I probably should have lost my job over this situation. But Jesus loves me.

I spent the entire day reading “Silence of the Lambs” which my Army Boys mother nicely said was “the spawn of Satan” (Ugh.. another epic fail. I should’ve brought Anne of Green Gables), watching movies, and putting together a puzzle. I learned very quickly that there were “rules” to building puzzles in this house. There were specific piles that all the pieces had to go into and a table that was specially constructed for puzzles by Army boy and his father. It would spin so you wouldn’t have to stand up to see the other side of the puzzle. I quickly learned that Army boy was sucking the fun out of putting a puzzle together so I retreated back to my book.

Zip, zip, ZAP! The power went off. It still hadn’t stopped raining ice. “Whelp, who wants to help me hook up the generator?” asked Army boy’s father. “We will” Army boy and I said eagerly. It would be an awesome adventure to stand outside in the freezing rain and help hook up a generator, right? We put on all kinds of winter gear and headed outside to the old machine shed. “Crunch, crunch, crunch…” went the grass under our feet as we walked across the lawn. The blades of grass were like tiny daggers shooting out of the ground.

We drug the generator from the shed to the side of the house where we fed the wires through the window to army boy’s mother. We stood patiently waiting for the go ahead to turn on the generator. We heard an “OK!” come from inside the house and army boy flipped the switch… Zip zip ZAP! Blue lights starting flashing form inside the house. A wretched scream left his father mouth. His mother ran to the widow waiving her hands yelling “TURN IT OFF!!!! TURN IT OFF!!!” Army boy immediately shut off the generator switch and ran to the window. “What’s going on?” “Your father didn’t have it hooked up yet you almost killed him!!!” screamed his mother.

A few days and a few laughs later, the sun came out and travel was once again advised in the state of Nebraska. Army boy and I went outside and cleaned the 5/8” thick ice off of my Buick Century to reveal a crack that spread across my entire windshield, as well as my heater no longer working, and the handles to my car doors frozen shut. However, I did learn a few things… First, if he’s so excited for you to meet his parents that he would wake them from a dead slumber he might be a keeper. Second, when the power goes off that also means there is no hot water. I can go for days without showering and still look presentable. And finally, a terrible “meet the parents” experience may just mean that you are meant to spend the rest of your lives together. My husband and I will have been married for four years this coming June. We have been together for 6 years in October.

Before I left, my first real experience in the state of Nebraska just wouldn’t be finished without my future Father in law seeing me slip on the ice directly onto my fanny. SO many more stories to share at a later date…

The House that Built Me

My parents have been gone for a week in Florida and when I called my mom last night she was ecstatic! They finally got heat installed in our house! My brother Matt with his mad skills finished off the job and it’s truly amazing judging by my mother’s pictures. Such a surprise and I think now he is back at the top of the “who’s my favorite child this week?” list. I reside at the bottom of this list and will remain there until I move back closer to Minnesota… but I’m getting off track.  Now that this heat is installed in my parents’ house (in Minnesota where it reaches 40 below) it got me thinking about all of the good times we had trying to keep warm. I remember snow days when I would wear nylons or tights, over a pair of leggings, over a pair of jeans, with a pair of my Dad’s or brother sweatpants over that. My top layers were equally as redundant. I would wear that for days. No need to shower when you can’t go anywhere. No one comes to visit with there’s 18” of snow falling. So who cares?

My parents moved out to the farm shortly before I was born so that would make 29 years (yes 29 winters) where the house has been occupied with little to no heat. I’ve often been posed with the question “What did you guys do to stay warm?” Well, we got creative that’s what. I remember a very small wall unit electric heater in the bathroom to keep warm while we showered. I believe that was installed sometime in my teenage years. Then we had the totally awesome oil burner that would heat the downstairs living room and kitchen. That thing was a beast! I will describe it as being the size of a small car. This was later replaced by an upright electric heater that was nowhere near that size. In my younger years, I remember my sister and I sharing a room and coincidentally a small gray electric space heater. Our room was on the south side of the house with two HUGE windows. It got pretty cold. Those of you that know my family know that my sister is pretty small. I remember that she would use her twin size bed (bottom bunk) full of 20-30 stuffed animals and probably around 5-10 blankets as a hiding spot when playing games of hide and go seek! She would be lost and no one would be able to find her even after searching the small space thoroughly.

This is me on my 1st birthday sitting next to the Oil Burner.

I don’t really remember much about the days where my brothers lived on the second floor of our turn of the century home. I really only remember when they moved up to the third floor and there were already electric heaters installed up there. They were spoiled.

I often call mom to reminisce about what this house was when we were little. It’s truly amazing more disease didn’t go around in my family. My husband is constantly telling me how nice my parent’s house is… well, it is now! But when I was little I remember getting drinking water out of the massive machine that was the “distiller” to make Vita-Sun from Schwan’s.  I remember the dreaded “pump room” where we weren’t allowed to go without adult supervision because of the mice and rust. It is now known as my parents fully renovated office. I remember rationing water for showers because the water truck hadn’t come to fill our cistern yet. I remember drawing marbles on Sunday afternoons to see whose turn it was to do the dishes. Mom had Sundays off and there was definitely no dishwasher until after I went to college. I remember the beautiful pea green carpet that graced our living room floor for at least the first 10 years. I remember using our front porch as a freezer during the winter months. We would stack up Christmas cookies on wax paper and leave them outside on the shelves. I remember having one bathroom… I could go on and on about how awkward adolescence was with 4 children and one bathroom but I will spare you those details.  Most of all I remember the character that was built because of this fantastic house.

Who would we be without all of the good times we had? I don’t ever remember being bored. And I don’t remember watching TV very often either. I’m sure those two things happened but I really don’t remember those parts of my childhood. I know my friends from back then can tell many stories about ghosts opening doors and the sledding hill, and the strange haunting noises that an old house makes. I know I would definitely not be the woman I am today without those amazing experiences. I’d like to think I appreciate everything I have now because of this old house and reminiscing about those fantastic times always makes me appreciate what I have today. Where would my creative drive be without the absolute NEED to be creative back in the good old days? To this day, I’m remarkably good at entertaining myself and others. I don’t know if that is a good thing or not… but I consider it a gift straight from Jesus.

Truth be told, I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have had that house for my childhood house. There was lots of love, laughter, and Jesus. In my opinion, that’s all we need to live a happy life. I probably could ask all three of my siblings and my parents but I’m fairly certain we all agree… there was no better place on earth to grow up or raise 4 kids! If we could do it all over again, we would all choose the large house in the middle of the frozen tundra of Minnesota. With no heat, and really no “actual” civilization for 45 miles and only each other to keep us company. That house built us into some pretty awesome people (if we do say so ourselves).