Wednesday, December 18, 2013

I am thankful for all of you

1 November, All Saint’s Day, Roswell GA USA
Flew to Atlanta this morning to spend a long weekend with my friend Kathy whose husband Chuck died of cancer on 31 July.  Kathy and I met in the mid-1980s when she attended the Y’s Way to Fitness class that I taught every Saturday morning at Northwest YMCA.  I started doing that so I’d exercise during grad school and continued with it to help manage my stress during my divorce.  Kathy and I bonded going through our divorces and starting to date again.  Ah, the stories.

Despite predictions of rain, the Atlanta weather was beautiful.  Kathy met me at the MARTA station which was near her office.  After a brief stop there, we headed into rush hour traffic for the drive to Roswell, where she lives.  Dinner tonight will be at Mambo Jambo, a seafood restaurant with a Latin flavor.  Sounds wonderful.

I knew that Chuck had spent his entire career in the music industry.  After I met him, I discovered that I had several tapes of music compilations that he’d produced.  Kathy showed me his music room in their house, and the walls are lined with many thousands of tapes, cassettes, CDs, LPs, 45s ... with gold records for songs that I didn’t know he’d produced, like Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” and Johnny Mathis’ “Too Much Too Little Too Late” among others ... with photos of Chuck with clients and friends like Wolfman Jack, Liza Minnelli and Lucille Ball, Lorrie Morgan.  And he kept meticulous records.  For now, Kathy’s left everything in tact other than moving a comfy settee in for quiet reflections and moving his desk to another room.

2 November
Finally met Kathy’s “Ya-Yas,” after hearing so much about them. I managed not to get lost driving Chuck’s CRV to the cafe where they have breakfast after their Saturday run. They are a wonderful supportive group of women that I really liked (and you never do know if you’re going to like your friend’s friends!).  Wish I could run again.

3 November
I’m pooped.  We walked for about 90 minutes in a forest preserve near the Roswell Mill, very hilly but a beautiful place to hike.  Kathy organizes a trail run in this park, which I cannot imagine running.  I had trouble walking over the roots and rocks.  But we encountered a friend of hers who was on a trail-run workout.

Kathy and Chuck’s church had a remembrance service this morning that we attended.  Chuck was part of a photo montage of members who’d died in the past year.  When they asked about non-members who’d died, I stood in remembrance of David.  I’m glad we went.  It was a lovely way to remember old friends.

This has been a weekend of beauty.  Yesterday we went to Gibbs’ Gardens about 45 minutes north of here.  Jim Gibbs, the developer, owned a landscaping company.  Having decided he wanted to design a world class garden, he traveled the world for 15 years looking at gardens.  In the 1980s he found the perfect site in the mountains of northern Georgia -- nearly 300 acres on which he developed three “feature gardens” -- a Monet lily pond, a Japanese garden and the terraced gardens at the manor house.  Given the variety of deciduous trees, the range and intensity of colors we saw were incredible.  The Japanese maples in particular were remarkable and defied my ability to get a good photo.  Kathy had a special app on her iPhone that allowed her to make this postcard from shots she took.
Kathy's post card

That night we met Jan and Mike, David’s brother and wife, for dinner in Old Roswell.  We wandered the quaint town before going to the restaurant that Kathy recommended, Table & Main.  It’s so popular that we couldn’t get an advance reservation, but the intrepid Jan got us to the top of the waiting list.  The cioppino that I had on Friday was fantastic; the vegetarian plate that I assembled from the eight or so local and fresh offerings was equally excellent.  The mac and cheese was made with Velveeta!  We had a delightful evening of wine, food and good company.

Jan & Mike with me


4 November, Atlanta GA
Had coffee with Joy this morning before going to the airport.  Joy worked for IBM which allowed employees to do volunteer work.  She was a volunteer expert on the USAID project I led in Macedonia.  Since I had an afternoon flight, Joy offered to meet me in Buckhead, where Kathy’s office is located.  It was great to see her and catch up with what she’s been doing since retiring from IBM.  

5 November, Minneapolis MN
After all of the delicious food I’ve eaten in the last days, it felt good to be back in Lindsay’s power water ex class this morning.  I need to weigh myself on Saturday to see if I’m anywhere near my goal.  (I only weigh on Saturdays so I don’t get paranoid.)  It’s been more than a year since I did the cleanse/detox that started me on this weight loss, and I am determined to make it permanent.  So far, so good!

11 November, US Veterans Day and Poland’s Independence Day
My friends Bonnie & Gary's front yard
Originally Armistice Day, marking the end of “the war to end all wars,” the holiday morphed into a general day for remembering and honoring war vets in the US.  In Poland, it’s independence day since, after more than 100 years of being partitioned, Poland’s three parts were reunited into one nation after World War I.  

It’s been a busy week.  Celebrating birthdays (mine late and friend Susan’s early), seeing old friends (Cathy R. and Marilyn R.), visiting my oldest MN friend Lois in Northfield and starting to organize her memoir stories completed, lunching with my late son’s friend Hans at the gorgeously renovated Union Depot, cleaning up and organizing niece Tomery’s apartment for the move to New York, enjoying fish and chips with friend Marilyn C.  Whew. And people ask how I keep busy in retirement.

Picked my sister up at the airport on Wednesday afternoon; she was returning from New York where she had deposited Tomery and a car loaded with clothing and shoes.  Have I told you enough times that my niece got a huge promotion to help open a new “diamond” LifeTime Fitness in Westchester?  Ok, I have.  But I am so proud of her and what she’s accomplished, not always under the easiest of circumstances.  As I predicted, the road trip was an adventure; I followed on text messages while in Atlanta.  After getting a late start, they drove all the way to Indiana on Friday night ... but made a wrong turn leaving their hotel on Saturday.  The “Welcome to Michigan” sign was a good hint that they’d gone almost an hour the wrong way.  But they made it and Tomery is getting situated at her cousin Jessie’s for the time being.  And Barbara had some time in NYC with a college friend.

12 November
I miss Lily.  Chris came for dinner on Sunday and took her home with him.  I know I can’t have a cat right now, much as I’d like one.  I’m traveling too much and am not ready to give that up.  But it was awfully nice having someone waiting at the door when I came home.

My friend Hala’s mother died yesterday.  Close to 90 with dementia, she got up in the middle of the night one day last week and fell down the three stone steps to the front door.  She was hospitalized, had had surgery and died peacefully after having a good meal and animated conversations with her daughters.

Mrs. Kozłowska epitomized the warmth and inclusiveness of Polish hospitality.  She always made me feel welcome.  I remember when I was living in Sandomierz the first time, she was raising turkeys.  She got very upset because Hala wouldn’t let her kill a turkey for me for Thanksgiving.  Hala knew that I was going to Kraków for the holiday.  So instead, she gave me homemade white cheese and the thickest cream I’ve ever seen.  It’s going to seem strange to visit next month and not have her around.  Yes, she could be pain in the patoot in recent years because of her strong independence despite her deteriorating mental and physical condition, but she was also a kind, friendly woman, and I’ll miss her.

15 November
What month is this?  We have had such glorious autumn weather the last few days, it feels more like early October.  I just walked back from downtown in my fleece jacket.

Yesterday I met the movers at Tomery’s and watched while they packed the remainder of her worldly possessions.  They were quite efficient, even though I forgot to reserve the loading dock and freight elevator.  Didn’t know I had to and someone else had.  They refused to use the front entry with their UHaul ... so that’s were the moving van parked and they used the regular elevator quite handily.

16 November
My bakers, Ada & Lydia
A rainy dreary day is a fantastic day to bake cookies.  I am so glad that I’d arranged for my friend Jodi and her daughters, Ada and Lydia, to come over to do that today.  Ada and I made ginger bread people dough from scratch in the kitchen while on the dining room table, Jodi and Lydia cut sugar cookie dough that Jodi brought from home.  We cut and baked and frosted for almost three hours, then took a pizza break.  After decorating the final dozen cookies, we tasted our efforts and declared them definitely acceptable.  Then played the Minnesota game that Lydia found on an end table.  It’s just a simple plastic box of small cards with Minnesota questions on them (a gift a year or so ago from Sabrina, Mark and Christopher).  A delightful day.    

17 November
A blustery winter day weather wise but made enjoyable by spending time with friends attending a concert by the St. Catherine Choral Society.  My friend Sabrina sings alto with them.  I ran into her husband and son, Mark and Christopher, as I arrived, and we joined friends of Mark and Sabrina’s for the concert and dinner afterwards.  Now I’m at home in my sweats with my feet up after finishing the ironing.  Time to relax and watch a couple of my favorite television programs, The Good Wife and The Mentalist.

Sabrina's concert
I tried to call Hala this evening, but the connection was awful.  We could barely hear each other through the loud, heavy static.  I did hear Hala say their land line was “broken.”  Will try her at work tomorrow.

21 November
Can’t believe this week.  I am rarely this scheduled.  Had an awesome ego boost at a Tuesday morning breakfast meeting.  I went to a Minnesota Trade Office event because the presentation was on Macedonia and I know two of the presenters from my days there:  Zoren is now the Macedonian ambassador to the US and Vlado is deputy prime minister for economic affairs.  Wasn’t sure if they’d remember me and to my surprise it was a bit like old home week.  Zoren even introduced me when he opened the session.  Made lots of good contacts and am having lunch next week with one.  He’s interested in exploring overseas expansion for the firm where he works.  Lunch with friends Ted and Patrick meant lots of good conversation, early evening condo board meeting at which we finally decided to do something about our lackadaisical management company rep.  Yesterday I enjoyed a delightful lunch with Marilou to belatedly celebrate my birthday.  We went to Outback Steak House since we were both craving meat.  I’ve already put to work the cute wine-bottle stopper she gave me.  Spent part of the afternoon with friend and former client Julie whose antique shop may be put out of business when Central Avenue closes while a railroad overpass is redone.  Then dealt with Comcast because my Internet was slow and On Demand wasn’t working at all.  Believe it or not, I’ve had good luck with Comcast in the past.  But this time was a nightmare …the service tech was on time and great, but the process of setting that up … but it’s working again.

Today I overslept so I walked for exercise — home to downtown Target, bus to the post office, walk to St. Anthony Main for a Meetup called Get Out Get Social.  We saw 12 Years a Slave. It was to be a triple treat, movie, walk and happy hour.  However, the intensity of the film just didn’t square with happy hour at Whitey’s, a nearby bar/grill that I normally would enjoy.  Another woman in the group felt similarly, and we went to a cafe near the theater for coffee.  On the walk back home I stopped to see my niece Michelle and to pick up a few groceries at the new downtown Whole Foods.

22 November, 50th Anniversary of the day President Kennedy was shot
Can’t think of anyone in my generation who can’t answer the question, “Where were you when you heard that President Kennedy had been shot?”  For us, this was a defining event, not unlike Pearl Harbor for our parents.

At about 1:15 pm CST 50 years ago, I was crossing Sheridan Road in Evanston Illinois (just north of Chicago), going from the main Northwestern University campus to University Avenue.  A dorm friend, Ann, who was in the same 12 pm freshman English class, and I heard the rumor from students passing in the other direction. We thought it was some hot head who’d taken a pot shot at JFK and joked about her Texas friends who might’ve done such a dumb thing.  A block closer to ivied Willard Hall,  we learned the truth, that the president had been shot and was likely dead … and along with so many others, were glued to the television for days.

I won’t wax poetic about Kennedy’s life-cut-short, presidency, legacy.  I don’t know what he might have accomplished or not if he’d finished his term, been re-elected and lived to a ripe old age.  He will forever be 46, vibrant, charismatic, and inspiring hope in millions.

24 November
My nephew John is getting married in February!  I met his now fiancee Heather when I was in Brainerd last month, and she’s a lovely young woman.  I’m excited for them and for all of us to celebrate such a happy occasion.

26 November
Have I told you that I’ve taken up knitting again?  My Granny taught me way back when I was a kid, and I’ve knitted at various times since then.  Even made a fisherman’s knit sweater for my then husband back in ’69.  I re-started knitting on a baby sweater for Hadassah, the Jewish women’s organization that lost its money to Bernie Madoff.  My friend Jan, a beautiful and prolific knitter, was making a scarf, so I volunteered to help too.  Finished the sweater today and have decided I’ll give it to my friend Aleks’ new baby daughter (we worked together in Belgrade).  I also made a rainbow hat for my nephew’s son for Christmas and another for Franiu in Warsaw.

28 November, Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Chanukah
An unusual convergence of two holidays that make celebrating double the eating!  Unfortunately that’s something I won’t be doing.  I was so looking forward to dinner at a favorite St. Paul restaurant, Pazzaluna, with my sister, nephew and his girlfriend.  And Barbara reported this evening that their dinner was spectacular, just the right portions of turkey, dressing, etc. leaving room for a to-die-for white chocolate tiramisu for dessert.

Yesterday I felt yukky, no specific symptoms, just all-over yukky, so I went to water ex, thinking that would help.  It didn’t; I still felt miserable.  And shortly after my usual rice-cakes-with-almond-butter and coffee breakfast went down, it came back up.  It was coupled with severe (baby-delivery level) abdominal pains.  And that’s when I realized that my diverticulitis was acting up.  I cancelled my day’s plans and divided my time between bathroom and bedroom.  Today, while I feel better, I know that continuing clear liquids is the best path to recovery before I get on a plane Sunday afternoon.  Am I having fun yet?!

30 November
Feeling lots better.  A few days of clear liquids has helped the gastrointestinal system, along with just laying low.  By yesterday afternoon, I needed to replenish supplies and noticed the car badly needed a wash.  I made a quick trip up Third Avenue South/Central Avenue to my favorite car wash, then back down to Lund’s where I got a big bowl of plain mashed potatoes for dinner along with a couple of soups, then a side trip to my sister’s to pick up packages that I’ll take to Marta in Warsaw.  That was enough outing for the day.  Back home, the mashed potatoes never tasted so good.  I ate the whole bowl.

Today I had brunch (bland but enjoyable) with Sabrina, Mark and Christopher, and two other Peace Corps friends whom I haven’t seen in 20 years (Paul and Krysia) and their three sons and Krysia’s brother Dan.  It was great fun seeing them.  Dan, who’s in nurse anesthetist training here, lives just a few blocks south from me but not in a very good building.  He wants to find another apartment in May, and I’ve offered to help.  

Sabrina, Paul, me, Mark, Krysia

The Whole Gang

Back home for some R&R and a visit mid-afternoon with Jan and her son Matt, him of the south of France.  Another great catch-up time but I forgot to take a picture.

And tonight I went to Words by … Ira Gershwin at Park Square Theater with Linda.  We’d planned on dinner at a great Thai restaurant nearby until we found a 30 minute waiting list.  Wandered around a bit and found Fuji Ya, offshoot of a famous Minneapolis restaurant, and dived into wonderful Japanese cuisine.  I had soup with udon and veggies, way too much even if my stomach hadn’t shrunken.  The delight of Gershwin music wrapped around details about the Gershwins and their musical cohorts was a lovely want to end a crappy holiday weekend.

(And since I am late posting this, and will be even later doing written holiday greetings, let me add 

 Happy Holidays 

to one and all.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

As Time Goes By

1 October, Minneapolis MN USA
Yesterday I spent much of the day getting my flat tire repaired and starting on my long “to do” list.  I left the dining room table piled with debris from opening mail, emptying carry ons, etc. from my two months in DC.  This morning I returned to Tuesday’s vigorous water ex with Lindsay, which had 20 participants, then had coffee with a few friends from the class.  Then I stopped to catch up with Janet and Ed who have been off traveling too.  Off to Costco where I bought a cooked chicken for dinner among other things.  Once home, I started making phone calls to set up annual doctor appointments, furnace check up and such.

Now I’m taking a break and having lunch in front of “As Time Goes By,” an old BBC comedy series starring Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer as a couple who accidentally re-meet after many years apart.  They had dated seriously before he went off to war, but his letter asking her to marry him never arrived ... so she married someone else, had a family, was widowed, started a business, and he went out to Africa to be a coffee farmer and to write a book.  I’ve watched it off and on since my days in the Balkans when I became addicted to BBC serials.  Now I watch those serials faithfully on Netflix.  As my regular followers know, mostly I watch the spy, police and mystery series, but occasionally fit in something light (“The Monarch of the Glen” comes to mind).  And I often watch from season one, episode one, to the bitter end.  Perhaps it’s time to watch “As Time Goes By” from the beginning.  

Fall has fell in Minnesota

2 October
Hurray and thank you to the Central Avenue Car Wash!  I made a quick trip to my favorite car wash today.  A thick coat of dust had dimmed the bright blue exterior of my baby in the two months I was absent.  Now she’s all shiny and clean.  And I have my spare set of condo keys back.  Whew.  I don’t need to order a security key at $75 (!!!), which would’ve been a must since my only other set of condo keys is in Sandomierz (see summer posting).

My sister Barbara was going to use my car to pick me up at the airport on Sunday since I thought my two suitcases might not fit in her Mini.  Then she discovered just how low the tire was.  With multiple sets of keys in her hands, she dropped my keys, probably in the car but she wasn’t positive.  She scoured the car and emptied her purse.  No luck.  She called the places where she’d tried to put air in the tires and the coop where.  No luck.  Yesterday I stopped at the gasoline station and coop to double check.  No luck.  Then as I get back into my clean car, I see my keys sitting in the cup holder between the two front seats.  They were somewhere on the floor that we didn’t reach but the car wash fellow did.  I stopped to thank him and give him a tip. Then I rolled out of the car wash, pulled to the curb and called Barbara.  Maybe she’s finally out from under the black cloud that she felt was hanging over her on Sunday.

Well, our 30 percent chance of rain hit 100 as the sun went down.  And guess who left her windows down a couple of inches before going into a meeting at 5 pm?  Yep, you got it.  Wet seat.

4 October
As you’ve read, I am not a Facebook fan.  But I do enjoy the “I’m from Greenock” group of folks from the same spot on the map where I grew up.  One recent post noted that the Girl Scout Camp in Mount Vernon is closing.  What great memories.  Marsha, Suzie, Mary Jane (?) and I, all from Greenock, went to that camp three years in a row, after 4th, 5th and 6th grades.  The first year Daddy drove me there -- he knew the way well as the camp literally bordered my friend Mary Lynn’s back yard though the camp was completely wooded and had a long, steep hill down to the river.  We met the camp director, Judy, who was an old girl friend from his growing up days.  (Her daughter eventually was a soloist at our church.)  Sleeping on cots in big tents during rain storms.  Using latrines instead of flush toilets.  Cleaning them with wire brushes, the scent of Pinesol.  Bug juice for lunch.  ‘Smores after dark. Crafts and hikes and cookouts.  Making new friends.  The third year we met Noreen, Eileen, Darryl and Janie, four childhood friends from Elizabeth where our junior high was located. Junior high melded students from a wide geographic area; busing was the norm for many of us.  Suzie, the Elizabeth “girls” and I were all at the 50th class reunion.  

I also enjoy keeping up with my friends overseas so about once a week check posts.  Dori from Skopje posted this link.  Macedonia ranks first among the least expensive, safest and most tourist friendly countries to visit!  Way to go, MCA Tourism Cluster.  Check it out:

5 October
Have escalated my search for a place in Ayr for next June.  Did another TripAdvisor search this week and came up with a great three-bedroom option that’s kid friendly too.  It’s also closer to everything, including the beach and shopping.  Stay tuned!

Yesterday after water ex, I cadged coffee and a piece of peanut butter toast at my friends Janet and Ed’s, then Janet, her former coworker Carrie and I road tripped to an independent bookstore in White Bear Lake, a quaint St. Paul suburb that’s about 20 miles (30 minutes) from here.  Our friend Gege’s sister who has published a new book was doing a book signing there. It was a chance to get an autographed copy of the book and to see Gege who’s sometimes not easy to pin down.  Janet, Carrie and I had lunch at a local tavern before returning home.  Afterwards, I was ready for a nap and actually nodded off for about an hour before going to dinner with my nieces Michelle and Tomery and my sister Barbara at one of our favorite spots, Zelo on Nicollet Mall.  It was drizzling, so I walked to the free bus, then bused over; T gave me a ride home.  Ah, I do love living so close to downtown.

At the bookstore yesterday I bought the first four mysteries (of course) in a series that takes place in and around the Twin Cities (naturally) written by a local television reporter. Got home and found that the clerk had given me two of one book.  I talked Michelle into going with me to exchange, which we did in conjunction with a stop at Herberger’s at Rosedale to she could drop off some Goodwill donations and look for pant boots.  Michelle drove as I had a wretched morning.  As I was organizing to go to water ex and make the trip to White Bear Lake, I realized that I needed to get my tires’ lug nuts checked after the new tires and rotation that I had done on Monday.  Texted Michelle who agreed to drive.  Off to water ex ... where I arrived an hour early.  Argh.  Swam a dozen laps, then showered etc. and went to Tires Plus where the lug nuts inspection was completed.

6 October
Saw “Enough Said” starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus and James Gandolfino, last night with Randy from the Brunch Bunch.  For new readers, the BB was an amorphous group of singles who enjoyed Sunday brunch together for years.  The group was started because Sunday is the hardest day for singles, especially newly divorceds.  In addition to brunch, we went dancing, saw movies, shared holidays ... generally enjoying each other’s company and supporting the ups and downs of single life.  The group has fallen apart as members have died or become seriously ill.  But BB’ers are still among my best friends.

But I digress ... The movie was fantastic, just what I needed.  The chemistry between the actors and their characters was awesome. I think it was James Gandolfino’s last movie and if so, he went out on a high note.  I’ll miss him as an actor.  Although I wasn’t a “Sopranos” follower, I saw enough episodes to appreciate his abilities, and I loved the ambiguity of the final episode.

Today was Twin Cities Marathon, and my niece Michelle ran a fantastic 9:07 miles per hour, according to the official stats.  Just before 8:30 am I parked in front of Janet and Ed’s and walked down to Lake Harriet to wait for Michelle and her running partner Becky to run by.  I picked a place where no one else was along a straight stretch so I’d see them easier, and vice versa.  I clapped and yelled encouragement to wheelers and runners, then just after 9, there were Michelle and Becky, looking good.  They finished at about noon, meeting their goal of finishing in under four hours.

7 October
Sunrise over Lake Harriet
 Walked with Linda at 6:30 am, first time since July and a welcome return to my routine.  Besides generally catching up, we discussed the almost three dozen candidates for mayor who’ll be on the ballot on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.  I’d forgotten that we switched to ranked voting.  We get to vote for our top three in order and somehow all of that amassed will end up in one mayor.  Since I’ve been gone so much, I’m not terribly familiar with most of the candidates.  Hence I’m talking to people who’s opinions I trust, like Linda and Susan, with whom I had dinner tonight.

8 October
Such beautiful weather outside today that I decided to start shifting clothes around.  Having lived in Minnesota for 40+ years, I have quite a collection of coats -- one for all temperatures.  My front hall closet is full of my coats; guests have to use my bed!  And I have half a dozen different kinds of boots, from fancy leather pant boots to my Dutch Army surplus Wellies.  In between the clothing shuffle, I did a couple of loads of laundry, organized a drawer that holds my vitamins, aspirin, first aid stuff and such, loaded the dishwasher, and cleaned up after the cat.  

Lily at rest
  Ah, forgot to tell you that Lily is back.  For a visit.  Lily is the fuzzy little grayish long-haired cat that I got a few months before the South Sudan assignment.  This prissy female bonded with my two-meter-tall nephew Christopher when he condo sat during my South Sudan assignment in 2011-12.  When Chris moved to her own flat across from Loring Park, a few blocks from me, Lily moved with him.  Now Chris and his sweetie Jen are moving in together.  Unfortunately he had to exit his flat before theirs, out in the ‘burbs, was available.  So for a month Lily is staying with me while Chris bunks with his mom, who already has a cat, Stuart Little.  Neither Stu nor Lily plays well with others.

9 October
Weird story for the day.  Janet and I arrange to meet Gege for lunch, and I invited a mutual friend of Gege’s and mine, Judi, that Janet’s met.  We’re to have lunch at Hazel’s in Northeast Minneapolis.  Janet and I drive together because parking in that neighborhood can be a challenge.  As we approach the restaurant, the car in front of me pulls to the curb, leaving a big space between itself and a van that’s already parked. In front of the van is some space in front of a bus stop but not enough to legally park my little Ford Focus.  

So I pull up next to the van, put on my turn signal and shift into reverse to alert that I’m going to park.  Before I can move, the woman who’d pulled to the curb pulls out and stops right behind me.  I hand signal her to go around.  She gestures wildly for me to move.  I open the window and again gesture for her to go around.  A few cars have gone by, but there’s room; she too has a small car.  But she sits.  More gestures from her and words I cannot hear but can imagine.  Janet and I share our exasperation to each other, and I  finally pull toward the curb in front of the van to let her pass.  As I back into the space I’d been waiting for, she scrunches into the one in front of the van.  She’s on the sidewalk as Janet and I alight, and walking around like a dog looking for a fireplug (Janet’s later description).  She’s obviously waiting for us with a few choice words about my driving, which she offers unbidden.  I mostly ignore her and Janet tries to maintain her giggles, which seems to incite the woman.  She says with a touch of sarcasm, “You’re probably going to Sarah Jane’s too.”  That’s a local bakery next to Hazel’s.  I respond as pleasantly as I can muster, “No, we aren’t,” and keep walking to the restaurant.  She stalks into Sarah Jane’s insisting on the last word, “You should learn how to drive.”  Janet is still trying not to giggle, but once we’ve joined our friends lets go as we regale them with our Laurel & Hardy moment.

Fast forward 10 minutes or so.  The four of us are chattering away, and the woman from the parking incident walks to our table, holding a bakery box, and stands there. We studiously ignore her, not knowing if someone will get a pie box in the face or a tongue lashing about her driving skills.  Eventually she says, “You’re the ladies who were trying to park out front?”  I allow as we are, with a bit of trepidation at what might follow.  But she says, “Did you know you parked in a handicapped spot?  I noticed you didn’t have a handicapped sign, and I didn’t want you to get a ticket.”

I acknowledged that I hadn’t seen the sign and thanked her for letting me now.  We get up and chat amiably about our previous misunderstanding as we walk outside, she offers me her slightly illegal parking spot, but I decide not to chance it and move my car to a nearby lot.  Back in the restaurant, we all have a good laugh.  

10 October
For the second time in three years Minnesota’s women’s professional basketball team, the Lynx, brought home a national championship, something the Timberwolves have never done.  And it’s been a long time since either the Vikings or Twins even got to the playoffs.  The Lynx swept their playoffs, among other accomplishments during the season.  Way to go!!!

11 October
I joined a writer’s group the other night but am not sure how active I’ll be.  Interesting group, diverse backgrounds, genres, published and unpublished. Mostly I want the pressure of a deadline, but I also wanted some critique, scary as that is.  For me, the deadline pressure is made “real” by needing to be ready for a review.  So we’ll see.

12 October
Well, I did it.  I just made the commitment to honor my 69th birthday next year by spending the month of June in Scotland. I’ll invite family and friends to join me.  To answer the two most obvious questions, why Scotland and why June when my birthday is in October: (1) Scotland is the land of my mother and her forebears.  Ayr, where I’ll be, is near Stevenston where my mother was born, as well as lots of interesting sights for guests to see.  It’s Robert Burns territory, for example.  (2) June weather is much better than October weather!  Plus I have to be in Poland at the end of May for a semi-annual board meeting.  One trans-Atlantic ticket plus one intra-EU is cheaper than two trans-Atlantics.

So ... I made a down payment to rent a three-bedroom townhouse in Ayr, on the Clyde (west) coast, 15 minutes from Prestwick Airport and about an hour from Glasgow Airport.  The townhouse is within an easy walk of lots of places to eat and drink, buy necessities, frolic on the green, lay on the beach, play at Pirate Pete’s.  It has a big enclosed backyard for coffee -- and for kids. I’m hoping friends with children will be among my guests.    I’ll post a flyer on Hello All with details and deadlines next month.  One step at a time!

13 October
Saw “A Strange and Separate People” by the Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company with friends Jan F. and Marilyn tonight.  Very thought provoking, as most of their productions are, with no simple answers.  I was disappointed to miss “Rachel Calof” about a Jewish picture bride who moved from Russia to North Dakota at the end of the 19th century.  The play was based on a memoir she wrote in the 1950s about her experiences.  A contingent from the Devil’s Lake ND area attended the production.  Jan, as well as my ex-husband, is from Devil’s Lake (a coincidence Jan and I discovered several years after we met while both working in St. Paul).  Word is that MJTC is fund raising to present the play in DL, so I may get to see it there.  Jan, Marilyn (who’s family also has ND roots) and I have talked about making a pilgrimage there in the spring.

14 October

Target Arena was nearly full for Lynx
 Neighbor and friend MaryAnne and I walked up to Nicollet Mall, then on to Target Center to participate in the parade and pep rally to celebrate the Lynx championship.  It was so great to see not just a lot of people but especially so many girls taking part.  The Lynx women aren’t just athletic winners, they are all around incredible role models.  
Lynx parade on Nicollet Mall

16 October
Big day ... my niece Tomery got the job offer to become physical training department head at a new “diamond” club in Westchester County, NY.  The interview process was long and brutal, and the salary offer was low ball, more like a raise at her current location not a promotion to one of the most expensive places in the US to live.  Her rent alone, a one bedroom apartment, will double!  So this evening she gather her mom and me to discuss the offer and her response strategy.  She got cost of living data, rental costs, additional relocation expenses like the $2000 it’ll take to get out of her current lease.  She’ll call her new boss tomorrow with her counterproposal.  As my brother Dan said when Barbara called him with the news, “Tell them you can’t live on their love.”

Tomorrow I’m off to Cambridge MN to help my oldest niece Michelle spruce up her and husband Jon’s lakeside cabin for friends who’ll use it for a few days to attend a local wedding.  

18 October
There’s a clever cat toy that’s just a long piece of thin wire with some tiny cardboard-like tubes on one end.  Lily will jump and chase the tubes for as long as you will wiggle it in the air near her.  The toy was laying on the floor this morning with Lily sitting nearby looking longingly from it to me and back again several times.  She finally seemed to remember that I’m not nearly as good at playing games with her as her new parent, Christopher, and took to batting the thing on the floor with her paws.  Now, as I write this, she is perched on her window seat, fluffy tail wagging like a pendulum down one side and head inching stealthily toward the pencil holder on the end table between us.  She nimbly grasped a pen in her mouth, pulled it from the holder, then dropped it onto the floor when she knew I was watching.  Pay back?

I’m a very hands-off kind of pet parent.  Thus my pets of choice have always been cats because I appreciate how “self service” cats are.  Give them a clean litter box, food and water and they are content.  They’ll tell you when they want to interact, which is mostly okay with me.  I just like the company, interaction optional.  With Lily, I add an occasional brushing to keep the hairballs down and sometimes let her jump into my lap for a nap when I’m reading.  She now sleeps on the bed with me, as she did when she lived here permanently ... and in the same spot, on the window side where she can look out for squirrels and birds and not be bothered if I arise to use the bathroom at night.  Lily and I are a good pair.  I’ll miss her when she moves to Chris and Jen’s new apartment.

Actually I think I was a bit of a hands-off parent too, gently moving my son toward independence from a very early age.  Peter and I were a great pair.  But that’s a whole ‘nother story for a whole ‘nother book.

19 October
Last night I saw “Steerage Song” at The Lab theater with my sister, Jan and Marilyn last night.  Excellently done musical about the late 18th and early 19th century immigrations to the US.  The program noted the talented, well known people who immigrated during that period, including Irving Berlin who was five when he came here.  He and some of his music were a small feature in the overall piece.

Saw my first dead deer on the highway as I drove to Brainerd this morning.  Never a pretty sight.  But the day has been wonderful.  Gorgeous autumn weather in which to enjoy an Oktoberfest at Ruttger’s Resort near Brainerd.  My sister-in-law Elyse, her daughter-in-law Heidi and her daughter Evie (got all that?) drove over to see what was happening.  Huge array of crafts by artisans from the region, brats and beer galore (other stuff too), and the occasional polka tune coming from the dance hall tent. Lovely day.  

My brother-in-law Steve had channeled my desire for ribs and was preparing them for cooking when I arrived.  Honestly, I have walked by Market BBQ at least once a day, smelled that rib smoke and thought about indulging ... but didn’t.  Steve’s ribs were slow cooked and delicious.  The whole Brainerd contingent came over ... nephew David and Heidi and their three, Sam, John and Evie, and nephew John and his girlfriend Heather.  All through dinner Evie kept whispering in Elyse’s ear and asking aloud about cake.  After we’d all feasted on chicken and ribs, Evie carried in a birthday cake for me.  Quite a surprise ... and a tasty one too.
Eventually 4 inches fell in Brainerd

22 October
Here I am at 9 am still in nightgown and bathrobe.  I could feel a cold coming on over the weekend (either that or a new allergy to cats and dogs - in addition to Lily, I was exposed to Steve and Elyse’s Jade, a big German shepherd with a long winter coat already).  Felt a lot more like the kind of head cold that I get after being very stressed and finally relaxing.  Like my body knows it finally has time to be sick  Happened every quarter during grad school -- as I exited my last final exam, my sinuses would fill and I’d be miserable for a couple of days.  Since it’s cold and windy again, I decided to skip water ex and lay low all day.

Sunday in Brainerd we had about four inches of snowfall.  The heavy, wet kind that thankfully melted by Monday morning (except on the roof of my car.  I had removed snow from the windows midday on Sunday).  Yesterday on the drive back a quick stop at a traffic light cleared the roof, and the windshield wipers cleared the windshield.

I stopped in Blaine to see my Godson Craig and his little one, Alijah.  I have forgotten how fast babies grow.  Alijah is five months old now and teething, not fun for him.  But Craig is such a loving and involved dad.  Alijah got really fussy, crying despite a diaper change and bottle, walking and rocking, and Craig took it all in stride.  He and April have their work schedules arranged so Alijah doesn’t have to go to day care yet.  And they drive April’s son Jaden to and from school so he could stay in the same one even though they’d moved.


23 October
MaryAnne and I went to the Minneapolis Institute of Art today to see a new collection of Japanese art, The Audacious Eye.  The pieces go back several centuries and had some stunning work, but for both of us the highlight was five pieces that represented the five classes of beauties:  women of the warrior class, merchants’ wives, young maidens, working girls, and women in the demimonde.  Their faces were all alike, but their kimonos were representative of their beauty.  If I remember correctly, the artist Yamaguchi Soken, who painted in the painted in the late 18th Century, was the son of a textile merchant.  He understood and painted exquisitely the details and intricacies among the various kimonos which identified the wearer’s class.  We continued our cultural adventure with lunch at a local Thai restaurant that we both enjoy.  Nice way to begin my birthday celebrations.  Thank you, MaryAnne.  Then home to meet the furnace fellow to ensure my furnace is safe and well for the season.

25 October, Happy Birthday to me
Something I ate last night didn’t agree with me, and I started my day with several hours in the bathroom.  Will limit the discussion to that.  Finally fell asleep at about 3 am and decided I’d skip water ex and go straight to the Minnesota International NGO Network’s IDEASummit, the first international NGO conference in the state.  My gastro-intestinal tract had settled down by the time I completed my brisk walk over to the University of St. Thomas’ Minneapolis campus.  The event was a great success, somewhere between 200 and 300 participants.  

Dinner tonight with my extended family, Barbara, Tomery, Chris and girlfriend Jen, Michelle and husband Jon at a great Italian restaurant in St. Paul that Barbara found.  I had a spectacular cioppino, the best broth I’ve ever had and perfectly prepared seafood.  Unfortunately the birthday girl’s free dessert was very disappointing ... and I love cannoli. There’s was covered in hard dark chocolate and could not be cut into.  No where near competing with the best I ever had.  That was made by Tilio at Caffé Roma in Kampala, Uganda, also for my birthday (2003).  

All in all a wonderful way to spend a birthday.

28 October
Boring afternoon, especially after 90 minutes of lunch with my friend Ted, always dynamic, thoughtful, fascinating conversations.  

Since I’d gotten a Fb message from my cousin.I decided to scroll through Facebook for a few minutes.  She  has mailed an old photo of me and some childhood friends from my grandmother’s town in Illinois; we are very young.  I may share it in the blog when it arrives.  Anyway, as I scrolled I found a post by Nancy, the wife of a fellow I worked with in Macedonia.  She linked an “identify your accent” quiz onto her FB page.  And I decided to take the quiz.  Here’s what it said about my accent:
"You have a Midland accent" is just another way of saying "you don't have an accent." You probably are from the Midland (Pennsylvania, southern Ohio, southern Indiana, southern Illinois, and Missouri) but then for all we know you could be from Florida or Charleston or one of those big southern cities like Atlanta or Dallas. You have a good voice for TV and radio.

Well, I did radio in Iowa City in ’69-’70.  The bank where I worked (my day job) played that station all day and I didn’t like the sound of my voice at all.  And what about all of the linguistics books about the uniqueness of the Pittsburgh (even slightly different McKeesport) accent?  Argh!  I have lived in the Midwest too long.

Jen packs the UHaul
Guess a boring day was in order.  Saturday was a whirlwind.  Barbara and I power shopped to find a few good “big girl” outfits for Tomery to try.  After a very quick lunch at the new Whole Foods (my first excursion to this city block-sized grocery), we met Christopher and his UHaul and helped empty his storage, it was off to meet Jen, her parents and brother in the ‘burbs to add some of Jen’s boxes and furniture to the truck.  The we all caravaned to the new apartment and helped move Chris and Jen’s worldly possessions into their first place together.  Once everything was in the unit, we all abandoned them to unpacking and setting up.  And Barbara and I went to an early evening movie, Lee Daniels’ The Butler.  We had popcorn for dinner (our personal favorite).  The film was as good as the reviews.  Forrest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey are so incredibly gifted.  I’m sure Oprah was channeling Mom in her scenes as a young mother.  I could hear old Jeannie’s voice, see her mannerisms as Oprah parented her sons.  The selection of actors who played the various presidents, from Eisenhower (comedian Robin Williams) to Reagan (Brit Alan Rickman) was kind of mind boggling.  Each found some key pieces of his character that made him realistic despite the obvious disconnects: comedian Robin Williams as Eisenhower ... a Brit, Alan Rickman, as Reagan.  And Jane Fonda was Nancy Reagan.

30 October  Happy Birthday, Larry.  And a belated happy birthday to Bill, Sabrina and Stan.
Had lunch yesterday with Bill’s “other half,” Tom.  They were both Peace Corps volunteers in Szczecin in northwest Poland and as unalike as Oscar and Felix when it came to housekeeping and as Cheney and Biden when it came to politics.  I catch up with Bill when I’m in LaQuinta CA visiting my brother and sister-in-law and through the odd email.  And a few times a year Tom and I have lunch. After lunch, I stopped to see Sabrina, Mark and my youngest adopted grandson, Christopher, and stayed for dinner.  Sabrina made the best soup and tried popovers that also were delicious.

Stan's kids surprised him with a 75th birthday party.
Stan, Mary and their granddaughter

One of Sue & Nancy's polar bears

Also got an email from Sue & Nancy today with photos from their trip to Churchill, Manitoba, Canada, where they went out in a tundra rover to see the polar bears. 

31 October, Happy Halloween
As a kid, I wasn’t allowed to “ask for presents” (i.e., have a birthday party).  I got to host a Halloween party on my birthday instead.  By junior high, the birthday party prohibition changed ... and as did Halloween.  I remember one night Suzie, Marsha and I went out “tic-tacking” on Halloween.  That is, we threw dried beans at house windows ... until the township cop stopped us.  Someone had reported the pranks but thankfully not identified the pranksters.  Add to that, the cop some who knew me cuz he knew my dad.  I can still hear him ask, “You girls weren’t tick-tacking, were you?”  We of course answered in the negative, and as he drove off, we threw our remaining beans under an evergreen. My life of crime ended quickly.

Larry, Jonah, Spike & Karen
Larry, Karen, Jonah and Spike were at the Red Sox game last night and saw that team win its first World Series at home since 1918, according to the radio this morning.  Here they are enjoying the win, a great photo to end this month’s blog. 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Thirty days hath ...

1 September 2013, Bethesda MD
Still enjoying my weekend with Beza and taking our visitors from Poland to the airport, Inga’s friend Dorota on Saturday and Franciszka’s friend Agnieszka today.  Franciszka came back from the shore with Aga to see her off.

Franciszka & Agnieszka at Dulles

5 September
Happy birthday to my Godson, Craig, and my late son Peter ... and mazel tov and happy new year to all of my Jewish friends.  I had some quiet time on the deck this morning to reflect on both.

Here I am starting a new blog when I haven’t even posted the July and August entries.  That is on the week’s “to do” list.  I actually sorted all of the photos.  

Spent most of the day shopping with Inga and Franciszka.  Bought a pair of tall winter boots.  I walked around DSW in the boots for 30 minutes to be sure they’d be comfortable.

Also had lunch this week with my friend Bob’s daughter Alexis and her fiancė Marcus in Silver Springs where they now live.  They both got jobs with the District of Columbia Library System and moved from Pittsburgh.  It was fun to catch up with them.

Alexis & Marcus at their new apartment

7 September
Happy birthday to my friend Marilou back in Minnnesota.  I sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to her answering device today before going off to Black Hills Regional Park with Inga, a group of her Polish friends and kids for a day in the sunshine.  It was nice to get away from the city and just relax.  Tomek got a rowboat and took his young son Tituś and me for a ride across the reservoir.  Jarek got a canoe and took his sons and Antonia for a long ride.  Everyone brought food to share, more than enough to feed a small nation.

10 September
At David’s memorial we Returned PCVs were catching up with where our friends are now, but no one knew what had happened to Patrick.  He stayed in Poland, like so many of us, and he and I used to land at David’s Warsaw apartment many a weekend. As the older, I took dibs on the couch.  When he was working in Kraków and I in Sandomierz, we shared a Warsaw apartment for about six months to avoid the doubling up at David’s.  Later I took over the apartment, now occupied by Marta, my friend Hala’s daughter.  I attended his wedding in Kraków; he married  one of our language teachers, Ela. Last I heard of them they were in Paris where Patrick was working.  Anywayz, Bob says, via an email from David’s brother Mike today, Inga and I learned that Patrick is in the DC area.  I called him and he’s coming here tomorrow.  It’ll be great to see him.

Inga, Antonia and I trooped to the JV volleyball game tonight and managed not to embarrass Franciszka.  I had threatened to yell, “Yea, Team Managers,” to her horror.  The team lost but played well.  We cheered and clapped and sweated in the gym where the temp had to match the 90F of outdoors..  We also saw PC friends Tamara and Michael whose younger daughter is a freshman at the same high school (Franciszka is a sophomore).  Marissa was playing in a soccer game, also lost.  Not a good night for the BCC Barons.

12 September
95F  yesterday and the A/C in half the house isn’t working!  A second heating/cooling system was installed by a previous owner who enlarged the house.  It cools the family room, kitchen and two bedrooms above.  While the open plan of the main floor and ceiling fans help cool those rooms somewhat, the bedrooms are a sauna.  After house calls by two different companies, we know we need a new compressor, which has to be ordered.  Inga woke Tosia at about midnight and moved the two of them to the lower level, which is quite cool.

Inga left a couple of hours ago for the airport not knowing exactly what time her flight would take off.  United called my mobile to say it was delayed, likely leaving at 8:10 pm (not 6 pm).  We had all kinds of trouble with this reservation, which is why my phone number ended up on her reservation.  It’s a Swiss International Airlines flight operated by United and a reservation on Travelocity.  I finally got a United human being on the phone who helped us get a valid confirmation number.  We even had an e-ticket number and the web sites wouldn’t recognize it.  The delay leaves Inga about 30 minutes to transfer in Zurich ...

Off to Apple with Tosia to see why my phone won’t ring.  I get calls ... and it vibrates but it won’t ring.  I’ve checked all the settings, so now it’s up to them.

Later ...
Did it again ... the iPhone solution took less than a minute, as I predicted to the Apple Genius who helped me.  Somehow I had moved the switch on the side of the phone to mute and not noticed.  At least Antonia had fun playing on iPads and MacAirs (she “needs” one because it’s so cool).  We took an umbrella against a threatening sky and thankfully were still in Apple when someone let a plug out of the cloud bathtub.  That’s how heavily the rain fell for about 15 minutes.

13 September, “Friday the 13th”
7:10 am -- Inga just called ... from Dulles!  She still hasn’t left for Poland, said she has another three hours to go.  Insane.

Inga was supposed to leave at 6 pm yesterday for Warsaw via Zurich:  Swiss flight operated by United, then a Lot flight.  She left here at about 2:30 pm yesterday ... 

This itinerary was a nightmare from the beginning. I will never use Travelocity.  We tried to book her seats and were referred to the airline web sites.  However, neither Swiss nor United could find her reservation using the "online check-in" or e-ticket number provided in the Travelocity confirmation.  But since we had a confirmation, we decided to wait until check-in time Wednesday evening  ... alas, same problem.   I called United since we at least had a phone number for them and after about 10 auto prompts, finally got a human being ... who also had trouble finding the reservation!  She got us a correct United confirmation number, then directed us to book seats on line.  After about an hour of futzing around, I got Inga the window seats she wanted but no boarding passes as it's an international flight and you can't do that now.  Whew!  

About noon yesterday, I got an auto call from United that her flight would be delayed to 8:10 pm but could leave earlier, "keep in touch."  (My phone number was on the reservation as we’ve been having problems with the landline and didn’t know for sure what her number would be in Poland.)   Deciding that it was better to wait at the airport than get stuck in rush hour traffic for an unknown departure time, off she went to Dulles, an hour away, at 2:30.  Around 5, I got an email message from Travelocity that Inga should immediately call the airline due to a change in itinerary.  Now mind you, if she were relying on this message, she'd be up the well known creek.  She called a few times in the evening to talk to the kids and at 10:15 called to say she was still at Dulles.  I fell asleep thinking she'd taken off around midnight ... only to get the call this morning.  The prediction was take off in three hours; she'll be in Warsaw around 7:30 pm CET today.  Mam nadzieję (I hope).

In other news, I just got an email of an obit for a colleague that I worked with briefly in Kosovo.  Phil was only 62 when recently died of a rare cancer, according to the obit which read like most obits until the last paragraph:  “Phil was one of millions of Americans unable to get medical insurance due to severe illness or disease.  He asked that his memorial be the form of activism or contributions to secure health equality for all Americans.”  Although I can’t say that I will miss Phil, I didn’t know him that well and he quit the Kosovo project with only two days notice, I am sorry to see him go this way.  I have a sense that he might’ve had more time with his family, perhaps survival, if he’d had the resources ... and that’s just wrong.

15 September
Yesterday was a beautiful day to be out and about, so I took Antonia and her friend Greta to the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Old Town Alexandria, then to lunch nearby at Bugsy’s.  I had planned lunch at a food court in an old building near the art center but learned before we left that it had closed.  Bummer.

Confirmed with the A/C repair place that they’ve ordered the compressor and expect it to take a week, which means Thursday at the earliest.  It’ll be installed the same day if it arrives in the morning, otherwise the next day.  Forecast is for 70s to low 80s for the next week.  Jan and Mike will be here so I hope that’s the case.

Late this afternoon I had a few friends over, mostly those with kids around Antonia and Franciszka’s ages.  Antonia seemed to have fun with my old Booz pal Regina’s sons and their girl friend.  This backyard is great for kids and dogs.  Beza was out with us most of the time, doing her tricks and going around soliciting pets.  But she never begged or tried to get at the food.  Good dog!

Two more days until I leave for PA and OH.  Talked with Karen and found a hotel that’s near a great restaurant where we’ll have dinner Tuesday night.  Then she has plans for our day on Wednesday.  It’ll be so great to see her.  She sounded much stronger on the phone this time - hurray.  But the reunion -- it’ll be so much fun to see old friends and classmates.  However, the whole idea of 50 years has made me suddenly feel old.  I’ve actually said that out loud a couple of times to people, who are all kind enough to reassure me that I’m not.  So it is slowly going away ... but still, 50 years!

16 September
Hectic day.  I got my hair color refreshed in advance of the reunion, then did a bit of shopping for dinner (rotisserie chicken to accompany the broccoli and cauliflower I’d steamed at home). Franciszka had a volleyball game that we promised to attend.  I picked her up at school so she could come home for a short nap and some dinner before we returned her to the school.  After Antonia and I dropped her off, we went to the supermarket for a few last minute things.  Of course, back at the high school parking was non-existent.  We finally found a place and a nice kid opened the back door so we could walk through instead of around; the school is huge.  The JV team won.  And Franciszka told us later that the varsity won too.  Go, Barons!

17 September, Massillon, Ohio
Home.  Well, in eastern Ohio right now, but for a while I was “at home.” Being back in Western Pennsylvania and rolling along through the hills on a two-lane road always feels like home even though I haven’t lived here in 50 years. Some people crave the seashore or sunshine; I can’t live without mountains and hills, especially when the leaves start to change into gorgeous reds and oranges and golds of autumn.  I took “old Route 30” -- the Lincoln Highway -- to Massillon, Ohio, on this gorgeous sunny autumn day.  Leaves aren’t turning yet but the air was perfect for a long drive.

Karen met me at the hotel and we went to dinner.  She looks good although she’s lost a lot of weight, and she didn’t have any to lose to begin with.  She said she has one more chemo and so far hasn’t lost her hair.  

18 September
Had a lovely day.  Gorgeous weather as we drove to the Pine Tree, a combination restaurant and store full of home accessories, unique furnishings, funky clothing/handbags/jewelry and decorations for every holiday -- Halloween and Thanksgiving most abundant with Christmas beginning to peak in.  One of the staff was decorating a tall artificial tree with huge red paper roses and wide ribbons, something I’ve never seen before but which was beautiful.  Sat outside in the warm sun for a while  before returning to town.  Dinner in a bar/cafe across from the hotel.  Karen had eaten there before and liked it but said it got some bad reviews that sounded like sour grapes.  I think it was true -- our meals were terrific.  Tomorrow it’s off to PA.

22 September, West Mifflin PA
On Thursday, the map function on my phone brought me back to PA via US Route 22, another road I’ve traveled many times before, to a hotel not far from the original Pittsburgh airport (Allegheny County Airport).   Another perfect day for a drive through the mountains.  I remember an old boyfriend from the midwest commenting on roads in my home state.  He said we were either going up or down and asked if there weren’t any flat spots.  I said the occasional parking lot but even some of those are on a slant.  When you grow up with it, you just don’t notice.

My friend Jane and her husband Jim arrived just in time for all of us to head out for supper at a nearby seafood place, a chain out of Alabama with the worst “humor” on its walls but edible food.

Friday Jane and I hopped in our rental car and toured the township and surrounding area.  West Mifflin is on the way to McKeesport, the nearest city to where we grew up, which was Elizabeth Township -- I in Greenock Heights and Jane on Ridge Road.  We went to different elementary schools that merged into one junior high.  We drove past both as well as the high school.  We wanted to get out and walk since there are no sidewalks near the hotel, so went to Round Hill Regional Park and wandered a bit.  On the recommendation of a park staff member, we went south on Rt. 51 to the Rostraver airport for lunch.  She was right -- the homemade potato chips were to die for. I took the leftovers with me. The coconut cream pie with meringue was almost as good as my Mom’s.

Got hungry as I was getting ready for the Friday event so I ate the two hard boiled eggs I’d cadged at breakfast and used the leftover chips for salt.  Perfect snack.  With the help of my phone’s map app, we found Pinky and Nick’s house southwest of the high school in a semi-rural residential area.  They had plenty of space for a big tent in the back yard and 60 or so classmates and a handful of spouses.  A delicious buffet of homemade everything prepared by local alums plus a big cake honoring the big 50th anniversary.  Saw so many friends that I haven’t been in touch with since our 25th, the last reunion I attended, or in some cases since June 1963.

Tonight was the dinner-dance at a facility that was much closer to our hotel than I had expected.  Sat with Jane and another old friend Janet that I’ve been emailing with since Bruce reconnected us.  Bruce and Donna are in Lima, Ohio, helping celebrate his dad’s 97th birthday.  Bunch of kids from our street -- Bill (and his wife, now living in South Carolina), Bucky (and his wife, still in area), and Diana who married a classmate of mine but graduated a couple years later with my brother (I think).  One of my first playmates (pre-school) Lorraine couldn’t attend because she’s too far along with Alzheimer’s. That was a real shock.  So was the list of about 50 classmates who have died, including some really close pals from the neighborhood like Mary Jane and Dorothy.

Jane took a photo for me of the some of the kids from our elementary school: me, Glenn, Sandi, Bob, Suzanne, Bill, Bucky and Diana.  Both Jane and I won bottles of wine in a raffle.  The wine is from Ripepi Winery owned by the family of a former teacher of ours. I had no idea anyone made wine in PA.  Suzanne and Lance are keeping mine until my next visit; my suitcase is way too full to add it.  

Glenn posed a question that none of us could answer -- what was Sarge’s real name?  Sarge was our 7th grade American history teacher (and my homeroom teacher).  He’d been in the army before going to teacher’s college.  We did a “This is Your Life” for him and had his wife and daughter attend.  Glenn remembered the little girl peaking out from behind a curtain.  And we both remembered how Sarge opened our first class.  He said, “George Washington was a traitor.”  None of us could remember Sarge’s real name.  I recalled it was Italian.  Must poll Bruce and Marsha with whom I had many classes.

Me, Janet & Jane
Alana, Dennis, Janet & Glenn

Noreen & Eileen


Lance & Suzie

“Happy Birthday” to Stan, a friend from my first days in Minneapolis.  Wish I could’ve attended the surprise 75th party his kids gave. I reconnected last year with Stan and his wife Mary in Michigan, where they live now, but I haven’t seen those kids in 30+ years!  Oh, and Stan’s from Pittsburgh originally.

Stan, Mary & their granddaughter

23 September, near Pittsburgh International Airport
Well, here I am in a dreary hotel that I paid way too much for.  That’ll teach me to wait until the last minute to reserve when there are both football and baseball games on the same Sunday.  Oh, well.  It’s clean and near the airport.

I spent the entire driving doing something uncharacteristic of me -- driving all day by myself.  I wanted to go to Linn Run State Park in the Laurel Highlands area east of Pittsburgh.  It’s my “spiritual home,” if I can say I have one, a place that my family has been going to since I was a toddler.  With the exception of my niece Tomery, every child in the family -- and any we’ve taken with us -- has fallen in the creek.  When Daddy died, Peter and I went up there and encountered a man my age, his wife and two small kids.  They had NY plates but he was from Western PA and like me, had to visit Linn Run.  They wanted a photo of their kids sitting on a log that had fallen across creek.  Peter rolled up his jeans, carried them to the middle since they were too young to walk the log. 

After saying good bye to Jane and Jim at the hotel, I took the highway route mostly to the park and surprisingly found all of the local road turns.  I knew I was on the right road when I saw the Valley School of Ligonier sign; the school is about a mile before the park.  The creek was significantly fuller and running more swiftly than during my last trip, which was nice to see.  But no way to cross without strong potential for falling in ... and I did that already.  I filled my water bottle at the spring pipe where my parents used to get water most Sundays.

Had coffee at an outdoor stand set up by a local coffee shop, then drove into Ligonier where the Bagpipe and Drum Band of Seton Hill University was playing.  I missed the intro but have a feeling some kind of Celtic event had taken place in the area over the weekend; saw signs for “Clans and Vendors” on a couple of crossroads.  Passed Ligonier Beach, the huge swimming pool we used to visit in summer, and later bought postcards from the original developer/owner’s daughter.  She introduced herself when she saw that I’d gotten some cards of the pool.  Lunch and a crossword in a bistro, more walking, homemade ice cream cone (with coconut, of course) ...  And more driving.  I went back toward “home” via (mostly) my Mom’s old route through West Newton, drove down some more familiar streets, then got royally lost trying to take the back road into Pittsburgh.  It’s not easy, even with a GPS because the hills and rivers didn’t lend themselves to nice gridded blocks.  But eventually I managed to get here.  Now for a glass of wine and to finish the crossword.

24 September, Bethesda MD
That trip down memory lane both literally and figuratively has gotten me to thinking about why I left Western Pennsylvania.  In September 1963 I went off to college in Chicago and never returned other than for holiday visits.  Even my summer jobs meant living elsewhere.  To be accurate, I ran away.  I picked Northwestern for many good reasons (a journalism major at a top journalism school, for example).  But it also satisfied another, unspoken criterion.  I wanted to get as far away from home as possible.  I felt like I needed to escape but wasn’t sure why or really even, from what.  My mother?  As a teen, I fought with her loudly over everything. Yet she was my rock.  When I made the decision to leave my marriage, it was my mother that I needed to talk with.  And once, to my amazement, she told me I was “easy” to raise.

It’s clear to me after spending a day driving all over my old stomping grounds how much I love the place.  I can be gone for a year or three and return and feel totally at home. It feels more home than Minneapolis or Poland or any of the other places I’ve lived ever has.  Home at my core, not just home where I have a comfortable place to live, have family and friends to share my life with, places where I enjoy spending time.  I have that in Minnesota and even in Sandomierz in Poland.  But at my core, Western PA is still home.  My sister has joked about moving to Braddock PA when she retires.  Maybe if she does, I’ll join her.  Or maybe I’ll just look for a small cabin near Linn Run where I can bask in the beauty of autumn in the Laurel Mountains.

27 September
Last night Antonia made pepperoni pizza for dinner from scratch -- okay, with a bit of help from Betty Crocker and Boboni.  But still, not ordered in.  She did a nice job -- and all agreed it tasted good.  Today Franciska will make lasagne, something she’s done before.  We use non-pre-cook lasagne noodles which makes the process quicker and easier.  We’ll leave shortly to pick up Inga at the airport.  She called this morning to say the trans-Atlantic flight was leaving on time, a far cry from her departure from Dulles.

28 September
Lunch yesterday at a Thai restaurant with Stacey, my Peace Corps roommate.  Wonderful to catch up with her since she started her new job.  She’s managing a national literacy program.  Then off to get Inga.  We were able to park the car and go into Dulles to wait for her.  Of course, we missed her as she exited but eventually caught up outside.  We all enjoyed Frankie’s lasagne

29 September, Minneapolis MN
BCC High School homecoming is coming in a week, and a new dress is in order for the big date.  Frankie and her friends wanted to go to Montgomery Mall to shop yesterday.  And Antonio said she needed new tee-shirts for school, which she does.  She’s outgrown most of those she has.  We piled into both cars and went off to shop.  The teens went one way, Inga, Tosia and I another.  After shopping, we three went to McLean where Inga’s friend Bogna’s served a fantastic homemade apple tart ... it was so good that when she asked if I wanted a second piece, I almost said yes. But I remembered my new jeans. Later Inga, Tosia and I had handmade pizza from their favorite place, Two Amys, and I was glad I hadn’t eaten a second apple tart.  Inga ordered olives while we waited, and they were sauted in olive oil; very interesting.

I packed two suitcases for my return since I had done a bit of shopping while in DC, Ohio and PA, including two pairs of boots.  Inga gave me an old one that she said I can toss, so I put my hanging clothes into that one along with some gifts and such.  I upgraded to first class at the airport and checked both suitcases ... and got a sandwich and snack en route. The cost wasn’t too dear considering I used miles to buy the ticket.

My sister Barbara survived all of the detours between home and the airport and picked me up, then I waded through two months of mostly junk mail.  I have a flat tire on my car.  Barbara also took me to the supermarket with her so I could eat tonight.  Tomorrow I’ll walk over to the garage that I’ve used in the past and have them fix it, then I can run errands all day and be sure to get to water ex on Tuesday morning.

Now Lily and I are enjoying a bit of relaxation.  Lily is my former princess of a cat who now lives with my nephew Christopher.  Chris moved out of his tiny apartment yesterday, but he and his girlfriend Jen cannot move into their new larger place until the end of October.  Chris is bunking with his mom and Lily’s returned home to me for a while.

PS  Sarge was Mr. Salerno.  Marsha recalled his name began with an S.  Bruce didn’t remember him or his class.  But my brother Dan came up with the name.  I wasn’t sure if Sarge was even still teaching two years later when Dan hit 7th grade, but I had decided to ask him.  Thank you, Brother.  As Glenn said, now we can move on toward working for world peace.

30 September
Like so many of you, I get a zillion emails every day, too many trying to entice me to buy something.  I delete those out of hand.  But I also get a message or three every week from my friend Ted, a media trainer and public relations consultant extraordinaire.  We met when I hired him to do media training for our executives in my last corporate job pre-PC, and we became friends.  I can still remember the lunch over which Ted said, “You know, we can have lunch without talking business.”  What a concept!  He and his wife Mary gave me my most valued going-away-to-PC gift -- a Swiss Army knife that I still have.   Anyway, Ted has become my de facto clipping service, including me on messages with lots of intelligent and interesting articles from the mass of media that he follows on line. One of those is POLITICO Playbook, to which I also subscribe but rarely read beyond the first item. I am so put off by what’s going on in US politics these days that I have taken to sticking my head in the sand, as it were, until sanity returns (or I may move overseas). But I digress ...

Today’s message from Ted pointed out a POLITICO item about a Kevin Spacey Foundation fundraiser in DC. I would never have seen it since the item was way too far down.  The motto of Spacey’s foundation, which helps up and coming artists, is “Send the elevator back down.”  it’s a quote from Spacey’s mentor, the actor Jack Lemmon, who basically said that if you’ve been successful in your chosen field, you have an obligation to help others, to send the elevator back down.  I agree ... and on that positive note, I’ll conclude the month of September.