KnickKnacks of Life

A little of this and a little of that about my life as a wife, mother, freelance journalist and collector.

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Advice from Moms

By Lura Roti

A perk to being a journalist is getting to ask people who I may not know questions about their life. And in most cases, they are more than willing to answer.

One of my favorite stories to work on each year is a profile story featuring farm and ranch moms. I love hearing how other moms do things and learning from the advice they share when I ask them, “what advice would you share with a new mom?”

Let me share a few of my favorite responses.

“You aren’t perfect, neither are your kids, and that’s OK.”

Gleaning advice from others is something I truly value. And this may be the reason I freely share advice…although the older I get, the more I realize, most folks don’t appreciate being on the receiving end.

The reason it took me so long to figure this out is because most people are genuinely kind, and I don’t tend to mingle with grumps too often. The exception would be our daughter, Parker. She is not a grump, but she has no problem letting me know that she does not need or want my advice. It doesn’t mean she doesn’t want my help – just not unsolicited advice.

Recently she said, “Mom can you please just be here in case I need you, but don’t say anything.” Because of the circumstances, it was a difficult request to respect, but I did my best.

“Play with your kids. The dishes and laundry will still be there when your children are grown and have left the house.”

Now that she is 12, I have to remind myself that what she needs most from me right now is my respect for her ability to take care of herself (within reason) and my willingness to drop what I’m doing to engage whenever she is ready to engage.

Because focus is among my strengths, pulling myself away from a task and engaging in a new task is a tall order for me.

But when I do take time away from whatever to engage, I am always happy I did.

“If there’s work to be done, do it together.”

Easter 2023 was unique for us because we did not get together with family or friends as we typically do. Some family members had been sick and just weren’t up to getting together. So, after church, Parker and I spent a few hours preparing her favorite meal – lasagna, caprese salad and a lemon dessert.

She let me be cheesy and turn on an “Italian Restaurant” music station while we worked. We had so much more fun than if I’d done the meal prep myself. And Shon said it was the best lasagna he’s eaten!

I’m going to try and incorporate this same logic and ask her to help me plant and care for our vegetable garden this summer.

“Treasure these moments because before you know it, your children will be grown.”

It may be a bit cliché, but it is true. There are so many times I want to hit “pause.” But every stage is unique and wonderful in its own way. And ultimately it is our job as moms to raise children who become adults who can function independent of us. Kind of weird when I think about it.

“My job as a mom is to do a good enough job that I no longer have a job?”

And then I am reminded of another bit of wise mom advice: “Once a mom, always a mom.”

What if life was a musical?

By Lura Roti

Our daughter, Parker, is participating in her first school play – Edison Middle School is putting on a musical, Cinderella. And it got me thinking, what if life were a musical? I wondered, what my soundtrack would consist of if events, whether they are mundane or extraordinary inspired songs?

Whatta mess, whatta mighty good mess

The other day I was air-pressing my morning coffee and suddenly coffee spurted everywhere. My clothes, the counter, the floor – coffee and fresh grounds everywhere. It was a Saturday morning, all I wanted was my cup of fresh coffee with some foamed cream on top…and here I was with a roll of paper towels wiping down my kitchen. As I worked, Salt-N-Pepa’s song, “Whatta Man” began filling my head … but in the spirit of a true musical, the lyrics applied to the situation. WHAT A MESS!

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine…Please don’t take my sunshine away

This lullaby comes to mind every time I see the sun!

It has been a winter.

Our family escaped for a few sun-filled days to Florida in February and oh was it nice to worry about sunscreen – not bundling up! But because anyone reading this is probably sick of winter and hearing about winter. Instead of focusing any more energy on cold, ice and snow, let me share two reasons I like South Dakota winter more than Florida winter:

  1. Certain bugs can’t survive the cold. As we were leaving the theme park garage, my husband, Shon, turned on the air in our rental car. Suddenly he slammed on the break and yelled. Our daughter, Parker, and I looked just in time to see the butt-end of a very large cockroach scurry into the dashboard air vent. Shon had seen the insect come out one vent and scurry into the other. He said it was the size of a mouse. Because our luggage shared a vehicle with a cockroach, we left it outside overnight when we returned home. Google told me cockroaches cannot live in below zero temperatures.
  2. Many years ago, I interviewed one of my favorite college professors and in the course of our conversation, I asked him what kept him at South Dakota State University. I knew there had been other offers over the years. Among the many reasons, he mentioned, “I like living in a state where you never sit at a traffic signal more than one rotation.”

In Florida, it sometimes took us 45 minutes to go 3 miles. And the road rage? Kind of over the top.

They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.

I didn’t know the name of the song connected to these lyrics until I sat down to write this column and needed to know. Its title is “Big Yellow Taxi.”

The first few lines of this song often come to mind when I drive Downtown Sioux Falls and pass nearly empty parking lots beside towering 1970s/80s-era financial institutions.

They paved paradise and put up a parking lot

With a pink hotel, a boutique, and a swinging hot spot

Don’t it always seem to go

That you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone?

They paved paradise and put up a parking lot

Blocks of beautiful, historic brick and quartzite buildings were clear-cut to make room for parking lots and banks. Citizen advocates are the only reason the Washington Pavilion and Old Courthouse still stand.

Our neighborhood experienced similar losses.

At one time our neighborhood was zoned for multi-family housing. So, instead of fixing up historic houses, like the one that once was home to Look’s Meat family, developers tore them down to build apartment complexes. For example, the historic home above was torn down and replaced by this apartment building.

203 North Summit

Drive through the Cathedral Historic District and you will begin to notice at least one if not two apartment buildings on nearly every block.

Then, because of neighbor advocates, the neighborhood was rezoned single family. Today, many historic homes have been restored or are currently undergoing major restoration.

Can you tell I’m a bit passionate about this? Fortunately, I’m not alone! I live in a neighborhood filled with preservation advocates. And the City of Sioux Falls has a Board of Preservation made up of citizen volunteers who work diligently to ensure historic homes and commercial properties within our historic districts are protected.

As I write this paragraph about being surrounded by a community of individuals who care, the lyrics to Bob Marley’s Everything’s Gonna Be Alright stream through my mind. What a good reminder.

The Joy of Reading a Good Book

By Lura Roti

Finishing a good book is bittersweet. On a recent Saturday my eyes were wet with tears when I read the last lines of Willa Cather’s O Pioneers.

Although I was sad to put the book down, I was crying, not because the book was finished but because the book is that powerful. I found the book, first published in 1913, at an estate sale on a Saturday morning. I was fortunate enough to purchase the 1990 Reader’s Digest edition for only $2.

The following Sunday afternoon, when I found myself with a couple lazy hours, I curled up with Tulip, our family dog and read it cover to cover.

Like its title suggests, O Pioneers is about homesteaders on the prairie of Nebraska. It shares their stories through the lives of a few main characters and the community they live in.

I picked up the book because of its author. When my family first moved to South Dakota, my mom’s cousin, Jim, a fourth-grade teacher, gifted My Antonia to me.

Also written by Cather, My Antonia is another story told about prairie settlers. It was an appropriate gift. Although the year was 1995, not 1885, I was entering my sophomore year of high school. I didn’t know a soul. And I had just moved to the prairie of western South Dakota.

In addition to being another great story, the benefit to picking up this Reader’s Digest copy of O Pioneers was that the book included a brief biography of Willa Cather.

What an amazing woman she was.

Her parents were Virginia sheep farmers who relocated the family to the prairie of Nebraska when she was 9. She went on to carve a successful career for herself. In 1908, she was named managing editor of a leading literary journal. After writing O Pioneers she published several other books, one of which won her a Pulitzer Prize.

Getting to know its author made reading her book even more enjoyable. And because I don’t have much time to read, if I find a page turner, I want more. So, I’ve ordered a few of her books to take on a family vacation. In the meantime, I decided to re-read My Antonia.

At this stage in my life, finding the time to read feels like a luxury. But it is something I enjoy and reading a good book brings me joy.

Reflecting on this long, cold, snow-filled and sunless winter, I’d say anything that brings joy is quite valuable.

I’ve lived in South Dakota nearly 30 years now, and I only remember a few other winters this overcast. The lack of sunlight was getting me down. When I mentioned this to a friend of mine who works as a dentist. She said so many of her patients were saying the same thing.

She recommended a “happy light.” I bought a small one for my desk and I turn it on for about an hour each morning. Within a week I noticed a difference.

The mood lift isn’t a placebo. I recently listened to an interview with a medical professional about seasonal affective disorder, and she said light therapy works for many people. In fact, she has used it for herself for the last 15 years.

Thank goodness for technology! I honestly don’t know how the pioneer women survived South Dakota winters.


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