I live where?
9 August 2011, Minneapolis MN USA
What a month July was! Never again, I hope. So far, it’s been a month of unusually hot weather and mainly bad news sprinkled but at least a few bright spots just in time to keep me sane. In true Minnesota style, first, a brief weather report, then on to the really important news.
We have had record high temperatures, including days when the temperature never got below 90F and at least one day at 105F. Some days it was colder in Florida than in Minneapolis. I, who detests air conditioning, was forced to use it day and night for weeks. I don’t want to think about what my electric bill is going to be. It was more than $100 the month before, and I’d only needed A/C intermittently.
I know my PC Bestest Susan, who lives near Austin TX, is probably scoffing at this weather report. She has endured weeks of 100+F temps. But that’s Texas where it’s supposed to be that hot ... I live in Minnesota where July is supposed to be more temperate, easing us into the hottest month, August, where a few days of 90F are preceded or followed by glorious thunder and lightning storms.
My nephew Christopher continues to be an available and responsible condo sitter. When I returned from a week “up north” visiting Jean (my best friend from grad school) at her cabin and the Hagens who live in Brainerd, Chris told me he thought the A/C wasn’t functioning properly. And he was right. The company that maintains my furnace and air conditioner sent a technician to check, and yes, a small regulator do-hickey was broken. After replacing that, he used pressurized air, then water to clean the dandelion and cottonwood fuzzies out of the unit. That should help the efficiency of the ancient unit. A few days later I had the ducts cleaned, something that hadn’t been done since before I went overseas in 2002. Since this A/C unit is probably original equipment from the early 1980s when the building was constructed, I am likely going to be shopping the A/C sales this fall/winter. A new unit may deplete my savings but will also be more efficient, saving on electricity and keeping me cooler for less.
My college friend Marcia who had the lung transplant continues to amaze her doctors. Not much more than a month after the surgery she was out hiking in her beloved Colorado mountains. Way to go, Marsh!
Marcia’s victory photo posted on 31 July on her carepages
In mid July I traveled to Michigan and Chicago. I had planned to visit my 90+ year old uncle and aunt in MI in August, but when my uncle was hospitalized for a second time within a couple of weeks in July, I combined MI with a planned long weekend in Chicago mid month. There I met Kathy, an old friend who now lives near Atlanta. Kathy and I bonded as we went through our divorces together in the mid ‘80s. She had won an award at work and was part of a company-wide recognition event that included being allowed to stay afterwards over the weekend at the hotel, the Ritz Carlton, no less. Since her husband wasn’t able to join her, Kathy invited me. So after a week in MI, I spent a long weekend in Chicago, walking, shopping, eating, talking, walking, shopping, eating, talking ... you get the picture. All that walking was a good antidote to all the eating. After Kathy had to return to Atlanta, I moved to a less extravagant hotel downtown for two nights and visited old friends from my college days, friends that I haven’t seen literally in decades: Fred (my first male friend whom I blogged about earlier) and his wife Mildred and a Kappa Delta sister Barbara, part of the fearsome foursome. A few walks down memory lane, some catching up and and more good food.
While I was in MI, Uncle Frank received a pacemaker which will keep his heart rate from varying. His resting heart rate (and he’s resting 99 and 44/100 percent of the time) was 30 beats per minute when normal is 60. He has congestive heart failure, which the pacemaker probably won’t affect much. Once he was home from the hospital, I made him take a short walk in the hallways, as I usually do, and we sat outdoors for a while. He was in good enough shape to go out to dinner before I left and to continue his ongoing complaining about everything.
In between visits to my uncle in the hospital, I spent time with Aunt Betty and even got her to go outside for some fresh air. Other than occasionally taking her and Uncle Frank to dinner, which requires going outdoors, I had never been able to get either of them to enjoy the lovely center courtyard and deck or join other residents who congregate near the front entrance of their assisted living facility. So getting both of them out was quite an accomplishment.
Aunt Betty during my July visit
Unfortunately we got some bad news about Aunt Betty earlier this week. She had a stroke on Friday and doesn’t recognize anyone, speaks only in gibberish and lays in her bed except to use the bathroom. I talked to Uncle Frank yesterday -- he doesn’t hear the phone most of the time. And he sounded as good as I could expect under the circumstances.
Yesterday my family of one increased to two when Lily joined me. She’s a year-old gray tabby that I got at the human society. I’ve been missing the joy of having a four-legged pal or two around, and mine are always cats. I love their independence and self-service lifestyle.
Right now, Lily is hiding under my bed, which reminds me of Pumpkin, my orange tabby in Macedonia who hid for nearly two weeks before she joined her sister Peanut and me. Lily did come out last evening voluntarily and laid down beside me for some time. She’s very loving and has the softest fur. Of course, it’s medium long, all the better to have to clean up shedding fuzz.
Once again, I’ve procrastinated about writing but with good reason. Too much death and cancer and failing health among family and friends for a blog that is supposed to be about adventures in travel. For now, I will deal with all of that one-on-one and not share with the wider audience.
I will, however, tell you that this week I have had a glorious several days “up north” again, this time at my friend Susan’s cabin. In years past I’ve arrived at her cabin mid afternoon, laid down on the sofa and immediately fallen asleep for several hours. I once slept through a long afternoon visit from Susan’s nephew, and they were sitting only a few feet away. I am not an afternoon napper, even when I’m exhausted. But there’s just something magical about the place, ideal for relaxing.
We’ve had perfect weather, even with today’s rain. Yesterday we went into Duluth, a city that always reminds me of home -- very hilly and near water, albeit Lake Superior not three rivers. We spent several hours basking in the sunshine as we wandered the beautifully redeveloped lakefront area, more authentic than kitchy. We enjoyed a delicious, light shrimp and asparagus salad lunch, indulged in sinfully big Cold Stone ice cream for dessert, and shopped for unique gifts. I bought several Christmas and Hanukkah presents that I’ll put away until December (and probably forget that I bought them).
Today’s rain has made for the ideal time to veg out and read, blog, write postcards. The cabin is near Cloquet MN, famous for having the only Frank Lloyd Wright-designed gasoline/service station. (Of course, I forgot to take a picture.) But in my mind, Cloquet is equally famous for Gordy’s Hi-Hat cafe, home of the best burgers, fries and onion rings in the world. With the rain at bay, we went there for lunch. Afterwards, Susan picked up a few necessities at WalMart and I got postcards at a nearby gift store so I could send a final summer card to my list of 15 kids.
And as the summer closes, a possible new adventure awaits on the horizon. I’ve been contacted by a USAID contractor that has a contract in hand, not the usual proposal to be submitted and wait, wait, wait. They are looking for a chief of party for a program in Armenia. It’s a country that I would love to see ... so I said, “Yes.” We’re off and running again.