Monday, May 2, 2011

If it falls on a Sunday ...

1 April 2011, Minneapolis MN USA

Well, I started this month with a bang. Arrived home from the airport at about 12:15 am, lugged my suitcase and two totes up the front steps and into to the building lobby, then dragged them through the doors and into the elevator. Exit 3rd floor, just a few more yards to bedtime. Opened the door to my corridor and saw something drop just behind the door. Stopped to look ... it was a bat. Not moving, just laying there, looking furry. I couldn’t tell if it was alive or dead and didn’t stick around to find out. I hate bats. And I was tired. I was pleased to find everything in reasonably good order in the condo (my youngest nephew Christopher condo-sat for me). I dropped everything right there at the door, then went to bed.

About 10 am this morning, as I started to unpack, I heard my neighbor MaryAnne in the hallway. So I opened the door and inquired about the bat. She hadn’t seen anything, and we walked back to look again. No bat by the door ... but a small fur ball near the front window. Yep, that was the bat. It was obviously alive last night, and now looked like it was sleeping. While MaryAnne called our building management company, I got a heavy clear glass bowl and trapped the bat. Sometime before I went shopping mid afternoon, someone removed the bat and left my bowl.

And no, that’s not an April fool joke.

5 April 2011

Wow, what glorious weather we’re having. Although it was raining when I returned and again on Monday, we’ve otherwise had beautiful ... if very windy ... days. Clear blue skies and temps that mean I can wear a fleece top and a vest. No coat!

6 April 2011

Well, this month is certainly turning into something ‘special.’ My new housecleaner started today ... and quit. Nothing I did. He has been accepted into nurses’ training and will have to move, so he cannot attend school and work for the cleaning service as he’d planned. He was my third so far! They have another lined up. Christopher will again condo sit ... so I will definitely have the cleaner in.

And Barbara, my sister, called me last night to say that once again a company where she works has been sold. A software development company, it has been purchased by an investment group. This will be the second purchase she’s endured at this job alone. I think she’s had more companies go bankrupt or be sold out from under her than anyone I know. She only ended up at this California-based company because it bought the Minnesota-based company where she was working.

On the plus side, my niece Tomery had a fantastic and relaxing time at the spa in Austin TX and is ready to move there. She has a cousin and a friend who live there, plus the fitness club where she works now has two locations there. She’s wanted to move for a long time ... I encouraged her to pursue this.

7 April 2011

What a fantastic day! I had my morning coffee sitting outside on the living room deck and finished the day by having a snack and reading out there for an hour. In between, I drove to various far-flung errands with the sunroof and windows open in the car. The sliding glass door in my bedroom is still open; the fresh air is wonderful.

Before noon, the JC Penney’s installer arrived to put up the roman shade in the guest/TV room. I was flabbergasted, expecting to have to wait until the final minutes of the noon to 2 pm window I was given. Not only was he timely and efficient, but he was kind enough to install the rod for the sheers that go under my bedroom draperies.

8 April 2011

Whenever I go to a shopping center or supermarket, I park far from the entrance. Not only reduces the dings in my new car’s doors but also provides some extra exercise which I can always use. So, that’s the back of my car next to one of the last remnants of the deplorable winter we’ve had, in the lot at Costco. A few similar piles of noxious frozen snow remain in assorted places around town. But spring is springing to life at last.


By the way, how do you like the car? I love it, in case I haven’t said that before. More bells and whistles than I know how to use yet ... I’m a slow learner when it comes to technie things. The heated seats were an awesome thing to have this winter, even better than a good heater. And I love the sunroof and stick shift.

How many of you remember the Oscar Meyer WeinerMobile ... or have seen it? I do and have. In fact, my ex’s best friend from high school used to drive the WeinerMobile. When we first moved to Minnesota, he was a marketing rep for the meat company. Low and behold, as I waited for a left turn light, an updated version of the old WeinerMobile drove by. My light changed and I was able to catch a quick shot with the camera in my iPhone. So ....


No racy comments please!

10 April 2011

As you can see from the last addition, I’m experimenting by adding photos rather than just links. We’ll see how that goes.

Mac (this laptop) continues to exhibit its rotating beach ball icon way too often and for way to long for my taste. I had thought this problem would be repaired when a new logic board was installed, but not the case. It’s as bad as ever. From talking to the Apple Genius (the company’s name for its helpful help people), I know that the beach ball icon means the computer is having trouble decided what’s next. And I’ve noticed that it seems to come on more often and last longer when (a) I’m using Safari for any reason and (b) two or more things are happening at once (mail arrives as I’m watching a Netflix or opening a new Pages file). I have an appointment for Tuesday morning ... which means I may be without Mac for a while. Thank heavens I have learned how to use email on my iPhone. I’ll need to back everything up on Monday night.

Sabrina, a friend from my Peace Corps days who now lives in St. Paul, gave me two vouchers for a dance production at the Guthrie Theater. My friend Marilou, a dance person, and I went today to see “Heaven,” which is about a US photographer in the war in Bosnia in the early 90s. Excellently done but in the opening scene, which took place in a cafe, something seemed off. When a character came into the scene with a cigarette in his hand, I realized what it was. No one in the cafe was smoking ... and in the Balkans then, as now, virtually everyone would be.

11 April

What a nice day it was to drive to Northfield. Sun was shining, sky was blue, air was warm. Lois and I went to lunch at the King’s Room at St. Olaf College, always a delicious meal. The catering service is committed to using locally sourced foods, including the vegetables grown in the student gardens. Then went to the chapel to see the incredible stained glass windows ... one wall a colorful glass pictorial of Jesus’ life and the other wall a similar history of Christianity.

Rather than return home directly, I had arranged to have dinner with an old friend from my days at The St. Paul Companies. Deb and I worked in Medical Services, two of the original five regional marketing managers. She had started with the company in the same group as Robin, the friend I visited while in CA last month. With all my travels, Deb and I had lost touch ... she retired from the company a few years ago. Her ISP apparently didn’t like my email address or perhaps where some of my message originated, so it put my messages into the spam file. Anyway, it was lovely catching up with her after all these years. And we’ve agreed we need to find another friend from that era, “Annie,” who was so afraid of becoming a bag lady on retirement.

Anne really did go into a blue funk as her 60th birthday approached and one of her best friends from high school had died unexpectedly. She was in my department (I was head of PR then), and we gave her a big birthday party. My gift was a big collection of designer shopping bags. I had gathered them from my PR colleagues in company offices around the world ... so we had shopping bags from Frank Murphy in St. Paul, Marshall Field in Chicago, Nieman-Marcus in Dallas and Harrod’s and Liberty of London. I told Anne if she was going to be a bag lady, at least she could do it in style.

16 April

I could not believe my eyes when I awoke this morning. Snow on the deck! Okay, not a lot, a “dusting” as the creative writers might say ... but nonetheless, snow. Cars were lightly blanketed as I drove to the Y for my water exercise class. Last weekend I had my morning coffee on the deck, I was looking forward to taking my winter coats to the cleaners and I’d started to shift winter clothes for spring and summer. Argh! Well, dinner tonight with my sister, a new restaurant for both of us, The Inn. One of the things I love about Barbara is that she watches for new restaurants and cafes and wants to try them out.

17 April

Dinner last night was excellent, a very different menu but some ‘small plates’ so I could eat. I made the mistake of having a late lunch at The BLVD with my niece Tomery. Despite my plan to only eat half the Buffalo chicken wings, I ate all 10. Plus about half of the edamame beans we shared and two bites of the lemon bread pudding with real whipped cream that my sister has waxed so poetically about for some time. It was as good as she said, unfortunately for my waistline.

Today the sun was shining and the sky was blue and I wanted fresh air! So, despite the cold, I sat outside for half an hour with my coffee and the Sunday crosswords ... wearing my sweatsuit, heavy socks and my bathrobe. Take that, Minnesota weather.

Oh, my accountant emailed my tax returns for review yesterday ... and I’m getting refunds. I was prepared to pay but apparently I had enough withheld when I took money from my IRA to compensate for anything I owed. Nice.

19 April

What a gray day this is ... and chilly. Easy to believe that we’ll get the six inches of wet snow predicted for tomorrow. Yes, you read correctly. Snow is predicted and in some quantity. I live in Minnesota why?

Yesterday I started a long overdue project to repair the back “feet” of my mom’s cedar chest. That meant removing several dozen photo albums, loose pictures, small jewelry boxes from long defunct stores, a piece of driftwood. These now dot my living room furniture and floor. Then I rolled the chest over onto its top. After I lugged the vacuum cleaner over the cedar chest, it sucked up who-knows-how-many years of dust and paper shreds. And I vacuumed the floor where the cedar chest has sat since I re-carpeted in 2002.

A blue plastic bag was in tatters, spilling hundreds of photos into a disorderly pile. I scooped these into a small box and last night sat down to sort. I made separate piles for those that featured each of us kids, my parents, others I could identify and others I could not (lots of faces looked familiar though). The last pile was for pix that definitely could be tossed (totally out of focus, too badly faded). I had stained the two new feet that my brother-in-law Steve made for me; they’re drying. I’m hoping to finish the project today ... screw on the new feet, put the cedar chest where it belongs and refill it with albums.

Some of the albums in the cedar chest are mine. One of particular note was made by my sorority pledge mother/college roommate for Peter -- all about the day he was born: newsworthy events, movies, grocery ads and such. He enjoyed this when he was old enough to appreciate what it said and meant. I also found a scrapbook my mother had made of my articles from the Southern Illinoisan newspaper and another with photos from my wedding, my sister’s, my brother’s. And another that was from World War II. I remember that my mom had quite a long list of soldiers/sailors/marines that she corresponded with, including my dad. The album is full of thumbnail-sized photos of people she knew and obviously cared about ... but who are totally unknown to me. I found a photo of Anna Stull, a woman that I recall visiting us a few times when we first moved into our house in Greenock. I’ve wondered if she might be related somehow to Mom’s first husband. I am still determined to identify who he was now that I know for sure that he existed (my parents’ marriage license listed their marriage as #2 for Mom).

21 April

And the forecasted snow came. When I awoke yesterday morning, the banister and deck on the balcony had already accumulated snow, and huge, fluffy, very wet flakes were beautifully falling to add more. By the end of the day, it was all gone. And today the temps have already arisen to sweatshirt weather. Perhaps spring has finally sprung.

Janet and I made plans for our ‘excellent adventure,’ as she calls our trip to North Dakota over the weekend. We’ll share driving to Fargo where she’ll spend Saturday and Sunday night at the Radisson Hotel, complete with pool, gym and access to the walking paths, cafes and other sights in the city. For those of you who only know of Fargo from the Coen Brothers film of the same name, first know that the film wasn’t filmed in Fargo. And that Fargo is actually a nice mid-sized city. Cold in winter, true, but with lots of cultural, outdoor, retail, wining/dining activities. Janet will sample these while I go on to Maddock, where my ex’s mother Ella lives in an assisted living facility. Her sisters Caroline and AnnaMae are in the same town, so I expect to see them too. And my brother-in-law Jim said his wife will also visit over the weekend.

24 April, Easter Sunday, Maddock ND

We had a sunny and not too chilly day today, a lovely one for driving to the small church in Minnewauken and then on to Spirit Lake Casino and Hotel for brunch.

You realize just how flat, agricultural and wide the US midwest is when you drive through outstate Minnesota and virtually all of North Dakota. It makes for a very long, real or perceived, journey, especially when the sky is overcast and the air more like late autumn than mid spring. I was grateful to have Janet along for company as well as to help with the driving from Minneapolis to Fargo. We stopped in Sauk Centre, home to the “Original Main Street” of Sinclair Lewis, for a coffee break. Drove around the town a little, then back to the flat dullness of the interstate.

At Fargo we got Janet settled into her hotel room, then took a 30 minute walk in the crisp air but at least under sunny skies. Janet went to take a nap as I drove on to Maddock. All flat, except for Valley City which actually is in a valley, and wet. At times it felt like I was driving through the Everglades, marshy fields right up to the berm of the roadbed. The patches of leftover snow that dotted the vast fields looked like sand traps on brown golf courses. Long stretches of straight roads, all in really good condition considering how cold and wet the winter was.

As I arrived at the facility where Ella lives, my former brother-in-law Jim was exiting the side door. He and his wife Joan had arrived five minutes earlier. We settled in Ella’s suite, opened some wine and cheese and visited for several hours, later joined by Ella’s sister Caroline and Caroline’s son Dennis. Caroline has an independent apartment in the facility. Jim and Joan slept on Ella’s sofa bed; I had pre-booked the facility’s one guest room.

This morning we had coffee in Ella’s room, then Jim drove us all to Minnewauken, 30 minutes away and now sitting on the shores of Devil’s Lake, which is still frozen. When last I was there, and yes, it was a 30 years ago, the lake was many miles from this small town. Jim said there is talk of relocating the town because of the lake’s encroachment.

When I went to DL, the town, the first time in 1968 with my then new husband, I expected to see a quaint town nestled on the shores of a lake. But the lake was considerably smaller ... in fact, I called it a pond ... and it was several miles from the town. In the interim, a combination of “man made” and natural factors have led the lake to grow and grow over the years. It now looks like Lake Superior. Jim said you can travel 70 miles on the lake, from south of Lakota to just before Cando. And Dennis tole me that the lake is within three feet of a levee that blocks a channel into the Sheyenne River. If it breeches that levee, the lake will empty ... right down the river and into Valley City, destroying the city.

St. Olaf, the Lutheran Church in the country attended by Ella and other family members, was inaccessible because of flooded roads. So we went to St. Paul’s in Minnewauken. The congregation was small and thankfully the pastor had a good and hearty voice as we didn’t help him much on the hymns. Afterwards, we visited outside in the sunshine with Bob’s cousins, folks I haven’t seen in 20+ years in most cases.

Brunch at the casino was inexpensive and quite tasty -- the chef had prepared for both breakfast and lunch, the prime rib wasn’t overcooked and there was a chocolate fountain with lots of fresh fruit to coat (I did one strawberry). Afterwards Ella and I drove with Dennis and Caroline back to the facility (Caroline as an apartment there) and Jim and Joan returned to Fargo. The rest of the day was naps and dinner with Caroline, Ella and their friends. In the evening their sister Anna Mae came to visit. At 88, she’s the youngest of the three and still lives in her own home in Maddock.

26 April, Minneapolis

Today was an especially fun day despite the drizzle and chill. I drove to Northfield and brought my friend Lois to Minneapolis for lunch. Lois is the friend I’m helping with her memoirs -- my first friend here -- we worked together at a public relations agency, my first professional job in MN. I had organized lunch with a group of folks from our PR agency days: Roland and Merle, our former “boss” and his wife; Irv and Arliss, the graphic designer who did Methodist Hospital annual reports for Lois and me, and his wife; Kathy who was our bookkeeper; and Anne who was our “inside” person when the Bloomington Marriott Inn was our client. All people dear to me and important in my early adventures in Minnesota. We had a lively time catching up since it had been decades

For those who’d like some wit and wisdom about retirement, check out Roland’s blog, And if you recall those days of white-glove flying, check out Anne’s blog,

After lunch, Irv and Arliss took Lois and me to their synagogue to see an awesome art exhibition ... and I’d call it awesome even if the artist weren’t their daughter. Each of the 12 white linen table cloths in the exhibit has been printed with a translated versions of the Golden Rule in one of 12 of the world’s greatest religions ... and they are a starting point for discussions. I’ve already contacted two people, the gallery manager at my church in Minneapolis and my friend Jean in San Francisco, about placing the exhibit. Learn more about the exhibit at Beth’s blog,

Final days of April 2011, Minneapolis

It’s now actually 2 May when just a few minutes ago, I drove back from Costco in the snow. Just a light flurry, I know, but nonetheless, snow ... in May. I know it’s not unheard of for snow to fall so late into spring in MN, but this is getting ridiculous. The wind was so bad over the weekend that I could hear my outdoor furniture being blown across the decks. I didn’t look; if it flew away, I wasn’t going to chase it at 11 o’clock at night. I will be a much happier camper once I board my flight to Amsterdam tomorrow (on to Warsaw on Wednesday). I’ve been told that it looks and feels quite springy on that side of the Atlantic.

In other news, I talked at length with my friend Bob (of the California coastal adventure a year ago). Bob’s back in Afghanistan on assignment for a couple of years as a deputy chief of party for a huge agriculture project. He’ll be back in the US to teach his course at U of Nevada-Reno, then come to MN. His daughter Alexis who lives here starts a new adventure in August: a move eastward to start a master’s degree program at the University of Pittsburgh. Bob also wants to explore opportunities for me on his project. Zobaczymy, as we say in Poland (we’ll see).

Much of my time was spent having lunch or dinner with family and friends before I take off. Always enjoyable. Got a stack of DVDs from Ted so I have plenty of my favorite TV programs to watch while I’m gone. Made a trip to Urgent Care on Thursday as my diverticulitis has been acting up. Now I’m on two antibiotics and reminding myself to chill out. While I have been preparing myself for my son Peter’s yahrzeit on 8 May (the anniversary of his death), I had forgotten about all the other stresses in my life at the moment, including two friends battling cancer and a lengthy trans Atlantic flight. Not sure I’ve told you all how much I hate to fly. Of course, now I’m wondering how the demise of Osama bin Laden will affect my travels.

My suitcases are almost completely packed, just a few last minutes additions. Final laundry is underway. I don’t want to leave too much undone as my nephew Christopher will stay here while I’m gone. He did a nice job last time ... but I’ve scheduled the house cleaner for the end of May and the week before I return.

Let me end on this note -- My old boss Roland told me years ago of his response when people asked what we do in Minnesota in the summer: “If it falls on a Sunday, we have a picnic. Otherwise it’s work as usual.”

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