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First of all, let me thank our daughter Rachel for stepping in and writing my last column. That was the first weekly column I hadn’t written in 40 years. You may have missed reading one, but one way or another I wrote one every week.

I remember exactly when the Farmer’s Friend newspaper editor said he’d give my column a try. I got his letter the day I came home from the hospital with our third child, Russell, the beginning of January 1980. It ran weekly in the Farmer’s Friend until the paper’s demise. In the interim, the Wisconsin State Farmer took a chance on me, as did the Times Press.

A writing idol of mine was the great Erma Bombeck. I loved her humor and cheery wit. My style never matched Erma’s. Somewhere along the way I found my own way of telling my stories.

In the beginning, I pounded out my column on an old typewriter and mailed my pages to the paper. Many an afternoon I did my writing while our children were napping. As my late friend, Lee Bock, once said, “Women write in the cracks of life.”

I’m not exactly sure when I got a computer, but I know my first computer was a Kaypro. I doubt if I’d still be writing if I had to use a manual typewriter again. I make too many mistakes and fixing those mistakes on paper uses a lot of Whiteout. Plus, now I use the internet to send my column which means I can wait until close to my deadline to click send.

I can’t help but think about the people we were in 1980. We had three children at the time and Rachel wasn’t born until July 1982. Everything centered around our family and our farm. Bob also worked off the farm at Seymour Canning Company as a mechanic. During canning season he worked too much, coming home to sleep and then trying to keep our cash-crop farm running. I drove tractor back then, helping as much as I could.

As I write today, December 17, I hear Bob talking to me from the next room. He returned from the hospital after brain surgery last night. We are both looking forward to Sunday, December 22, when we will have the family here for Christmas. Our children will handle the food and we will just sit back and enjoy seeing everyone. It's a good thing I bought our gifts for the exchange two months ago. The theme this year is gadgets.

We have many, many future doctor appointments to attack Bob’s metastasize melanoma. Next on our list is brain radiation to catch some smaller spots of cancer. To control the rest of the body, Bob will be getting medication through an IV. Both these treatments will be outpatient, so Bob will come home to sleep in our bed every night –much better than being away from home in the hospital.

We have a positive outlook on Bob’s results of his cancer treatments. Our family is right there with us, giving us support and love. We couldn’t be more proud of all of them and their families.

May the new year bring better farming conditions for all of Wisconsin, good health to everyone, and happiness for all.

Happy New Year!

Susan and Bob Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165; sunnybook@aol.com; www.susanmanzke.net/blog.

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