Saturday, April 6, 2013

March comes in like a lion ... oh, yes, it does.

2 March 2013, Minneapolis MN
Well, I’m getting this started in a more timely way.  Let’s see if I can continue apace.  

I just finished folding a freshly dried load of laundry, including my old pink bathrobe that my late son Peter gave me for Christmas some 20 years ago.  It felt so warm and fluffy that I wanted to put it on and crawl into bed, under my cozy fleece sheets, for the afternoon.  But ... I know, I know.  I’m retired and can take time for such luxuries.  But it seems like a waste when I have things to do, the general health and energy to get them done and a sunny, spring-like day to enjoy.  Saturday’s water exercise was invigorating, and afterwards I went to coffee with Karen from the class (she actually went to high school with Marilou, something we learned by accident one day). It was fun to get to know her a little better, and vice versa.

Talked with friend Bob, who’s in Kabul, via Skype yesterday.  He has so many positive things to say about the project he’s working on.  UMass must be a good implementer because Bob is a bit stingy with compliments and has no patience for incompetence.   They may get extended for a year.  I’m trying to convince him to join me in Scotland in June during his R&R period.

4 March
Dire predictions of a major blizzard that was to start last night.  So far, we’ve had some snowfall but not much yet.  I even got an email from the Strib (local paper) that I have delivered saying distribution may be delayed due to the coming bad weather.  I just hope the plows come through so I can get to water ex tomorrow.

I spent this overcast gloomy day indoors, doing a bit of housework and organizing receipts and trying to complete the Tax Organizer for my accountant.  He’s in Bethesda, and I’ll take everything with me when I go to David and Inga’s on the 13th.  

5 March
And the snow’s came.  A good six inches had settled on the decks by this morning, more was coming down when I woke up and the streets hadn’t been plowed.  Quite a few cars had been by on Third Avenue South when I exited the building to drive to my water ex class.  I was delighted not to get stuck nor broadside any passing vehicles as I slid into the street.  But by the time I got to the major cross street, I went around the block and back home.  Driving was treacherous, and since I don’t have to be on the road, why be out?  

I’ve filled the day with myriad chores, including changing the bed and washing my cuddly fleece sheets.  Just took them from the dryer and am using one to warm up my chilly tootsies.  Soon I’ll walk down to the library to return a book, my exercise in lieu of going to the pool.  Oh, and I shoveled the decks and bannisters too.

Snowy view from my back deck ....

6 March
Well, aren’t I the lazy one today?  Yes, I went to water ex this morning, Andrew’s Wednesday Boot Camp.  And somehow I pulled a muscle on the right side of my chest, so here I am sitting on a heating pad, waiting for the naproxen to kick in.  Unfortunately I had to cancel my trip to spend some time with Lois.  I want to see her and take up her memoirs again before I leave for DC.  So I will travel to Northfield on Monday after my breakfast meeting.

8 March, Woman’s Day in much of the world but not the USA
Yes, it is viewed as a sexist holiday by many.  It certainly came off that way when I first encountered it in Poland in 1992.  For our morning coffee break we had champagne and cakes, and the women in the office were given flowers and kisses.  But it was March -- cold, overcast, dreary -- so the celebration was a welcome respite from all that (and thankfully the kisses were on the cheeks, three times as is the custom, or on the hand like in the olden days).  For me, it’s a day to acknowledge all that women contribute to their families, communities, jobs, the world.  And in virtually all of the countries I’ve worked in since 1991, women have often been quietly leading the charge to better their families’ lives.  So, here’s to the women of the world!

Much to report today.  Yesterday I had lunch to explore volunteer opportunities with a local nonprofit, People Incorporated, that works in mental health services.  I wasn’t familiar with the organization until I was reading Christmas letters for Lois.  One was from Ember, whom I remembered as the young state senator from my district way back in my married days.  Lois knows her as a St. Olaf graduate and from Lois’ days on the board of a social service agency where Ember worked post-politics.  Since my father committed suicide and I’ve suffered from clinical depression in the past, People Incorporated sounded like a place where I might be able to contribute.  And it will be.  I’m going to tour one of their facilities before I leave for DC next week, and will meet again with Ember and her staff about a project she has in mind when I return.

Last night I attended an awesome performance of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night at the Guthrie Theatre with Susan, who has season tickets and Queen's Box seats.  An all-male British touring company put on a smashing rendition of this tale of love and sexual confusion.  One of the Bard’s raunchier plays, complete with a bare-ass display.  All of the leads were terrific, but Susan and I agreed that the fellow who played Maria the maid was outstanding and our favorite.  When her deception was being slowly unveiled, the actor’s face went through various phases until he mouthed, “Oh shit.”  Which, being in the front row, we could see and we roared.

Then today Steve, who also serves on the Center for Promotion of Entrepreneurship board with me, and I Skyped for more than half an hour.  Steve’s worked as a permanent part-time staff member for TechnoServe, my first USAID employer, for more than 20 years.  He was my project manager in Poland and spearheaded our refunding proposal in Uganda.  And last week he was told by phone that he was being laid off in April.  Overhead needs to be cut, and Steve was deemed expendable.  He’s dealing with it as well as can be expected.

Today’s chuckle has a serious twist.  You may even have seen it on the national news.  An 86-year-old Minnesota woman has been charged with voter fraud.  It seems she voted absentee for the first time in her life because her polling place was far from her home and she wasn’t sure she could get there.  Then on election day someone reminded her to vote and told her the new polling place was within a couple of blocks of her home.  So she voted ... again because she didn’t recall having cast an absentee ballot already.  And whoever the election clerk was didn’t notice the “AB” after her name.  A few days ago a “nice detective,” according to the woman, came to her door and said he had no choice but to charge her with voter fraud, which can mean as much as five years in prison.  And by law the district attorney has to prosecute.  That’s the law.  But thankfully, the DA has use a lot of discretion in recommending a lesser sentence, all the way down to a promise not to do it again.  The woman never did say who she voted for either time, and perhaps she doesn’t remember.

10 March
March continues to roar like a lion with icy breath.  Susan and I walked over to a Women for Franken event at the Minneapolis Woman’s Club and found some slippery sidewalks and frigid puddles along both our routes.  We met early so that we could tour a classy and classic old office building that has been renovated into apartments.  And they are spectacular.  The two-bedroom lofts have only one window, but it is ginormous and lights the entire place except for the upstairs main bedroom.  But removing a decorative wooden divider would fix that.  The two-bedroom apartment we saw had a gas fireplace and the original early 1900s wood paneling.  Impressive place but neither of us really wants to become a renter.

Yesterday I caught up with Jean in San Francisco before she takes off for Palm Springs and LA.  She’s very much enjoying a Torah study class that she’s undertaking, and as a result, has corrected a misconception of many Jews and Christians: Jesus’ last supper was not a seder.  Apparently the elements of the seder as we know it didn’t exist at the time of Jesus’ death, plus such events would be held in the synagogue, not in a home.  You learn something new every day.

Speaking of which, when Susan and I were at the Guthrie, several of the actors looked vaguely familiar, but nothing I could put my finger on.  And the print size of the program was way too small to read in the dimly lit theater.  Yesterday as I was cleaning up before the “Girls Night Out” group (different Susan, Ivette, Julie) came to dinner, I found the program and sat down to read about the actors.  And they did have familiar faces because several had acted in one or more of the UK television series I’ve been watching.  Mystery solved; I am not going crazy.

11 March
After breakfast with Jan and Rosie, another friend from my St. Paul Companies days, I drove to Northfield to spend some time with Lois.  For two hours she told me stories of her post-college years -- her move from the mountains of Colorado Springs to the flat plains of Thief River Falls in northern Minnesota, meeting her first husband Walt and the births of her two children.  I’m planning to make time when I’m in DC to turn my notes into readable stories.  Then in April do an assessment of what we have and what more we need, besides photos.

12 March
Busy day today as I prepare for three weeks in DC.  Water ex this morning felt good though I’m still getting used to the new instructor.  The pool was closed on Sunday so I hadn’t exercised more than walking since Saturday.  The, lunch with Susan and Diane.  Susan was the first Minnesota woman on the Center board, then Diane (a friend of Susan’s from their telephone company days who has relatives in Poland), then me.  We joke about the Center having a seat for a “woman from Minnesota.”  Always good to catch up with them.  I took this photo to share with Hala and Steve.

At the end of the afternoon I visited People Incorporated’s facility in Golden Valley for orientation to the group.  It was interesting to learn more about what this local NGO is doing to provide mental health services to children and adults.  I’m excited to become a volunteer.

Finished the day with delicious homemade soup at my sister Barbara’s.  Griffy, her elderly black cat who’s had health issues, continues to deteriorate as his kidneys fail.  She’d been to the vet with him earlier and needs to give him IV fluids three times a week.

13 March, Washington, DC
Left a chilly day to arrive at sunshine and almost sweater-weather.  It was positively perfect after all the cold and snow of Minnesota.  Inga met me at the airport and despite early rush hour traffic, we were back in Bethesda quickly.  She showed me the pitfalls of the route so I wouldn’t get lost after dropping them off tomorrow.  (Oh, I erred earlier.  They are flying to Florida for David’s nephew’s wedding.  His niece is next month.)

David sat down and brought me up to date on what’s been happening since my last visit.  His face looks a bit bloated but otherwise he looks and sounds good.

16 March
I am so enjoying the sunshine and warmer weather.  Even sat outside on the deck for a couple of hours yesterday afternoon while I talked to our old Peace Corps friend Kim.  He had a not-so-pleasant final job interview.  He’ll be joining us next weekend.  

Beza and I are having a good time.  When I went to lunch yesterday, I closed doors to all the rooms and made sure no paper was laying around.  She has a fondness for paper, I’m told.  But she was a good doggie, no messes of any kind.  We spent the evening with me knitting and her sleeping nearby.  We watched Makers:  Women Who Make America, a series on public television about the woman’s movement from beginning until today.  I had seen part of this in Minneapolis before coming here and was pleased to find I could watch the entire documentary -- and with no pledge drive interruptions!  The series opened with the first woman to run the Boston Marathon.  She had registered in what was the once all-male race as K. Switzer, and when her name on the roster was shown ... small world ... the name below was Dr. Alex Ratelle.  Dr. Ratelle was an anesthesiologist at Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park , Minnesota, when the hospital was a client of Minda Public Relations and I was the Minda staff member who prepared the hospital newsletter.  After Dr. Ratelle completed that marathon, I interviewed him for an article on how he got into running.  I had even considered asking him to help me get started running ... but I was afraid I’d start and embarrass myself by giving up.  So I didn’t ask the question.  Procrastinator that I am, it was about 15 years later that I started training for my first marathon.

March 19
Drove David to JHU in Baltimore for his BSI chemo today.  Nice day for the drive, and we didn’t get lost at all.  The outpatient chemo unit was hopping.  It took about 30 minutes for David’s drug to arrive once we’d gotten a spot.  Every seat and bed were taken the whole time we were there.

22 March
Watching basketball games with David and Kim, who arrived this evening.  Georgetown just got skunked by Florida Gulf Coast University, a school none of us was familiar with, so I googled it.  Located in Ft. Myers, it opened in the early ‘90s.  No wonder we hadn’t heard of it ... we were all living in Poland at the time.  Earlier, Indiana (David’s undergrad alma mater) won and will likely go to the finals.  

A gorgeous cardinal few across my path as I drove out of the neighborhood yesterday.  I took David’s BMW sedan to the dealer to have a part replaced.  He had gotten a recall notice and since the car could lose its electrical power, we decided to check this out before the trip to the Chesapeake shore on Monday.  No loners so I had to wait.  But Returned Peace Corps Volunteer that I am, I had along my Kindle for reading and a bottle of water (plus the dealer had a well stock frig and coffee machine for customers).  The almost two hours went pretty quickly.

23 March
We’ve had what I call “Minnesota weather” lately.  After some lovely days, it got overcast and drizzly, then sunny and cold.  Today it’s back to sunny and warm enough to sit outside.  Hurray.  Inga’s edamame plants are about 12 inches tall in their peat pots on the windowsill; time to transplant them, but not outdoors yet as freezing temp is forecast for Sunday night.  Beza is enjoying going outdoors, despite cold temps.  She just hates rain or wet grass.

Yesterday’s career fair was okay.  I took notes at the panel discussion and will write them for my colleagues at the Minnesota International NGO Network.  Saw a couple of colleagues from my Booz days; they are now with another firm.  And ran into a fellow who was in Macedonia at the same time as I was.  Haven’t seen Judd in years but recognized his sandy head seated a dozen rows ahead of me across the aisle.  Our MK projects did some joint work, including work with the sheepherders and a wine and cheese festival. 

Franciszka is off doing volunteer work at a Washington food bank.  She needs community service credits to graduate and is tagging along with her friend Abby.   But since she worked at a food bank in Kraków with her mother, it’s a good fit.   Kim’s off to the gym, and I sit. Tonight Antonia and Inga are going to the ballet with friends.  Before that, we’re going to dinner with the ballet group.  The men will watch March Madness games (annual basketball tournament, for my non-US readers), and I’m considering a movie.  

25 March
Spring has sprung ... NOT!  

This is what we awoke to this morning.  We’ve postponed our departure for the Maryland shore until midday, and David’s postponing his chemo until tomorrow.  We’ll all drive to St. Michael’s at the same time in two cars.

Later ...
Our trip was uneventful despite snow all the way.  We rendezvoused at a McDonald’s just before crossing the very long Bay Bridge, found the rental office and the house without a hitch.  The house is lovely, four bedrooms plus a couple of extra day beds; huge eat-in kitchen; pingpong table set up in what was probably the dining room; living room with fireplace that’s not working; swimming pool that’s covered for the season ... but a working hot tub that needs to be turned on.  And we’re on a lovely little inlet.  Inga’s a good house picker.  But Franciszka is still not happy with the choice of spring break locations.  I talked to her about this in the car -- she was just in Florida for a wedding and in April, goes to Georgia for another.  

26 March, St. Michael’s, Maryland
Well, today was a big difference from yesterday.  Awoke to gorgeous sunshine and a blue sky studded with a few fluffy white clouds.  When Inga and David left at 8 for Baltimore, I bundled up for coffee on the deck.  Heaven.  At 11:30 I hustled the girls and Beza into the car for an exploration trip.  We went first to St. Michael’s where we walked the quaint Eastern Shore town.   The girls grudgingly took turns with the dog while each checked out a shop.  Beza made a rather large deposit in front of a real estate office. I walked back to a shop that Franciszka and I had visited, and the friendly clerk gave me an old plastic bag and some paper towels.  Definitely returning there to get a sweatshirt.  We made appointments at the Harbour Inn Spa for tomorrow.  On the way back, I found an “Express YMCA” that is only five minutes from the house -- good spot for David to do some stationary biking, which he’d like to do.  

After depositing Franciszka and Beza at the house, Antonia and I drove to Easton, about 15 minutes away, to check out the town and have lunch.  We found a “bake your own” clay shop that might be fun to do later in the week.

27 March
Nice day today, sunny and 50s.  David and Inga left early again for David’s treatment at JHU.  After seeing them off, I wrapped in a blanket and had my coffee on the deck, soaking up rays and enjoying the fresh air.  I let Beza come out with me and didn’t leash her.  Bad move.  Two big dogs living next door and they came out and Beza took off.  The other dogs were within an electric fence and couldn’t leave, but that didn’t stop Beza for entering their yard and chasing with them.  A fellow working over there came out to help me.  A couple of times things got a big growly, and it took a good 10 minutes of running around to finally corral her.

Me and my coffee on the deck
Spa Day for the Girls

Despite the manicurist not showing up for Antonia’s manicure, we had a good time at the spa.  Antonia had a facial, her first at age 10.  Franciszka had a mini facial and head and neck massage.  I kenneled Beza when it was time for my massage.  When we returned, she had torn away a rusty pipe along one side of the chain link fencing, but at least she was still inside.

Tonight we fired up the hot tub and relaxed there for a while.  Chilly night air kept us well under the water line once we made the plunge.

28 March
My college roommate Marilyn who lives in Delaware drove over today, and we did a bit of sightseeing.  Drove to the end of Tilghman Island, then had lunch at Two-if-by-Sea.  I bought some unique jams to give as gifts -- jalapena and garlic.  Then we picked up Antonia and took her to the bake-your-own clay place.  She painted different pieces as gifts for Inga, David and Franciszka.  The shop will glaze and fire them, then ship to Bethesda.  

30 March
Yesterday Inga’s friends Bogna and Jarek and their two sons arrived for the weekend. The ping pong table has gotten a good work out ever since.  Lots of laughter and screams of victory and loss.  Antonia, Philip and Titus enjoyed making bubbles on the deck too.

Ping pong teams

Titus and his bubble machine

We put Beza in the kennel so we could go into town.  When we returned, she’d escaped ... and bitten the man next door who is also the owner of the house where we’re staying.  Thankfully not a bad bite and Beza has her up-to-date rabies tag.  But not a pleasant way to end what had been a very pleasant afternoon.

Tomek arrived today with his three-and-a-half year old son Tituś, so those delightful sounds have been added to the mix.

Tonight I may have been within gunshot range of former Veep Dick Cheney.  Jarek, Bogna, Inga and I went to a nearby cove to have drinks with John, a work friend of Jarek’s, and his partner Lily.  They have a gorgeous “cottage” on a peninsula not far from where John said both Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld have estates and hunt.  

31 March, Easter Sunday
We have a typical Polish Easter spread out on the table -- that is, enough food for a small army.  Everyone contributed. Inga had been to the Polish market in Baltimore, so we had lots of kiełbasa (mmmm) and herring (yuk!).  Tomek brought a fantastic garlic sauce that was perfect with the pasztet. Inga and Antonia had dyed eggs on Saturday, so we each had a quarter of a hard cooked egg, part of the Polish tradition.  We also had a watercress nest.  Inga had bought seeds at the Polish market.  She drenched a mound of cotton balls with water, then sprinkled seed all over.  Within a day the needs started to germinate, and by today we had a full head of greenery with three ceramic chicks on top.  

We’re driving back to Bethesda today when everyone else does, instead of tomorrow as planned.  The skies are overcast, and it’s drizzling.  No need to endure a two-hour trek to Baltimore when we can sleep in our own beds and make a one-hour drive tomorrow.  And David and I can watch more March Madness with Kim.  

Easter brunch

How did we end up with so much to take home?

David & Inga in St. Michael's

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