Thursday, May 2, 2013

April is the cruelest month ...

April Fool’s Day 2013, Bethesda MD
The month is starting well.  David, Inga and I drove through sunny skies this morning to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore for David’s MRI and blood work, and we got good news.  And that’s no April Fool’s joke. The MRI showed that David continues to be stable and his blood work, especially platelet count, was good.  That last is a positive result of Inga’s anything-you-can-make-with-beets and the rare steaks David’s been grilling.  Tomorrow David starts cycle five of the six cycles of his BSI treatment.  He continues to eat everything in sight, including chocolate which he never particularly liked before.  But, as he wrote in his update for the site, the kids have checked and it seems all of Beza’s chew toys are accounted for.

2 April 2013
Tonight I fly back to Minnesota where I hope the weather is as good in Minneapolis.  We have had a couple of days of gorgeous weather.  Perhaps it is spring at last.  David and Inga go to JHU today, I’ll take the girls to their therapy appointments.  Kim’s here too, holed up in the basement working the phones for his business.  I so admire his tenacity and his willingness and ability to make cold calls.  Go, Kim!

I’m so proud of Franciszka.  She wants to change therapists ... well, she doesn’t want to go at all, but if she must, she’d like someone she relates to better, especially someone younger than the one we had selected.  I had told her that she needed to tell the therapist that this would be her last session, and she wasn’t happy.  But I said she’s 15 and has made a decision so needs to see it through.  We even practiced what to say.  And she did it.  She seemed proud of herself too.  I’m proud of her and gave her a big hug to reinforce that.

Frankie outside the Reene house.  

4 April 2013, Minneapolis MN
Well, I re-gained three pounds while in Bethesda.  I should probably add “only” to that, considering how much fresh Polish bread I consumed last week.  So I’m back on the detox (no dairy, no wheat, no sugar/salt) for a couple of weeks and no wine for a while either.  And I’m back to water ex six days a week.  

This is a real cultural week for me.  Tonight Jan and I will see “Spunk,” three one-act musicals, at Penumbra, an African-American focused theater, and Saturday we’ll hear a Gay Men’s Chorus concert.  Sunday Marilou and I will see the Metropolitan Ballet.  Baseball season has started ... perhaps I should bundle up in my snow suit and go to a Twins game for balance.  The season has started, and they’ve cleared snow off the field ...

6 April
“It’s raining, it’s pouring ...”  Ah, spring in Minnesota.  I am grateful that I’m not up north where it’s snowing.

After water ex this morning, six of us chatted over coffee at a nearby coffee shop for an hour. That’s always lots of fun.  Then I ran errands for a few hours before coming home. I was in a cooking mood,  so one stop was the Wedge, the coop that I belong to.  I needed buttermilk and fresh almond butter.  Well, now the almond butter is even fresher.  It’s grind-it-yourself using something kind of like the soft-serve ice cream machines.  Cool!

When I got home, I made tomato soup and walnut-raisin bread. They’ll help me stick to the detox eating regimen.  After lunch (some of the aforementioned), I was going to shop for new tennis shoes ... but it was pouring rain.  So I checked emails, posted my March blog, worked on my knitting and watched a dumb movie called Butter (interestingly, the same name as the coffee shop where I was this morning).  The movies took place in Johnson County, Iowa, where we lived for a year when my ex was in grad school.  

7 April
Busy day today.  After water exercise, I had coffee at a favorite spot, Dunn Brothers on Nicollet & 26th, then picked up my niece Michelle to take her to the airport.  She took off on her weekly work assignment in northern California.  Then a quick trip home to put on make up, which I’d forgotten to take to the Y.  I was meeting Marilou at a local high school for a performance of “Sleeping Beauty” by the Metropolitan Ballet.  Until I got a Living Social mailing, I didn’t know we had a ballet company in the Twin Cities.  But we do ... and they’re pretty good.  

The production was a bit long; our seats got too tired to sit all the way to the end so we left a little early for dinner.  The dancers were young -- elementary and high school-aged largely.  It was nice to see that not all of the teen girls were size 1s; a few looked like a reasonable size for that age. And all were good dancers.  The small kids who played the wicked witch’s bumblebee cohorts were especially endearing. Curled on the floor, one raised his/her head to peek at what was going on.  

Dinner at Bacio was excellent.  I had crab cakes and a big mixed salad, then since I was back to my pre-DC weight, I made this a “free” day and had a tin roof sundae for dessert.  

9 April
So, how’s the online dating going, you might ask (or not, but I will update you anyway.  You’re welcome to skip over if you’re not interested).  I’ve been emailing (through the online service’s email system) with a fellow named Samy.  He lives in a suburb, Eden Prairie.  Not only is it a ‘fur piece’ from where I live but I always get lost when I have to go there.  The configuration of the freeways and local streets makes not sense, even with a detailed directions.  So I just don’t go there. It’s a bit of a family joke as my sister has had similar experiences in Eden Prairie.   I also noticed in his profile that Samy is 50, significantly younger than I am.  Not wanting to mention the latter, I emailed that I was flattered by his interest, but I don’t do Eden Prairie.  His return email offered to meet me downtown or at the Mall of America in Bloomington.  Argh.  After throughly analyzing this with Marilou yesterday, I decided to meet him for coffee at MOA, which I did today.

And Samy and I hit it off.  He’s well spoken, seems kind and thoughtful.  He works in the hotel industry and has traveled quite a bit, was born in Egypt but been in Minnesota more than 10 years, and wants to keep seeing me.  I finally broached the age issue, and he said he prefers “more mature” women because they’re more honest and straightforward.  I told him I’d think about it.

In the meantime, three important women of my era have died and been eulogized widely in the media -- Annette Funicello, an original Mouseketeer who acted and sang too; Lily Pulitzer, a socialite turned fashion designer; and Margaret Thatcher, the first female prime minister of the UK.  Each will be remembered for something significant that she accomplished.  For me, in Funicello’s case it was less about her acting career than how she handled her MS -- she took it public to help others with the disease.  Pulitzer changed how women dressed in hot weather, designing colorful, comfortable summer wear that others copied so I could afford it.  And Thatcher, whether I agree or not with her methods and philosophy, whether she meant to or not, enlarged the possibilities for women in political office.  Now I wonder, what will the women of this era do for women and the world?

10 April, Golden Valley (Minneapolis suburb)
I awoke to snow covered streets and grass. My friend Jan had day surgery yesterday and had asked me to go with her.  It’s a service we single females provide each other.  I stayed over as Jan was having some side effects, nothing serious but one never knows.  She’s recovering nicely.   

I had lunch with my Godson Craig today and saw his and his fiancee’s new abode.  They’re renting a spacious townhouse in the far northern suburbs.  While it seemed like out in the middle of nowhere, they are actually near a lot of shopping and such within a long walk.  And the complex where they live has lots of trails and recreational facilities.

PS  My car, the Ford Focus, is the number one seller universally.  I am never in the forefront of trends.  Okay, mine’s a 2010 and it’s 2013, but still ... amazing.  Thank you to all my friends overseas who also own them and told e what great cars they are and to Janet for encouraging me to test drive one before buying.

11 April, Minneapolis
The grounds keepers are clearing snow from Target Field for a baseball game tomorrow.  This is Minnesota.

14 April
Very weird time.  Friday night Linda, whose almost fully recovered from her hip surgery, and I decided to have dinner at a new place in her neighborhood.  We went early (6-ish) and only waited five minutes for a table.  And when they seated us, at the next table was Pam from my Sunday morning water exercise class and her husband.  They actually live around the corner from me.  It was about 10 when I got home and as I approached the garage, I noticed the outdoor lights were off, then realized all the lights in the area were off.  So around the block I drove and found a parking place on my street.  As I walked to the building, I saw all the lights were back on.  Returned to put the car in the garage.  Thankfully when I took the elevator to my floor, the electricity didn’t go off again. Then on Saturday morning at the Y, I’m putting on my shoes after showering and I hear a familiar voice from the past.  I put on my glasses and there was Lynda, a former reporter who worked at the old Minneapolis Tribune with my late ex-husband.  I haven’t seen her in years.  We shared contact info after a quick catch up.  This morning as I drove to my water ex class, I was sitting at a red light when it changed to green and a car on the cross street ran the light ... and right behind it was a police car which immediately put on its lights.  There is a God.

My friend Kathy’s daughter Elle had a baby girl.  Here’s Kathy with Amberly.

16 April
Like virtually everyone here, I am in shock over the bombings at the Boston Marathon. I cannot comprehend who would do that or why? But I’m grateful that Larry, Karen and the boys weren’t there although they are runners and often go to watch ... and that my niece Dyana, who’s been training for Boston, didn’t make it this year. 

18 April
Listen, my friends, and you shall hear of the worst spring of my life.  On the eighteenth of April in 2013 ... it snowed in Minneapolis ... again.  With apologies to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the poet who immortalized Paul Revere’s ride which occurred the night before the battles of Lexington and Concord in the American Revolution.  Tax returns have been filed and amounts due paid, so where are the daffodils and crocuses and tulips that should be springing up?  Instead, the sky is gray and a big shower of wet snowflakes is tumbling onto roads and cars and my decks.  The colorful deck chairs and table that I bought at Target last Monday remain indoors.  

Remember when I used to bunk at Janet and Ed's house before I got my condo back?  Well, this is that house today.

Adding to the gloom of today is the death of my sister’s older cat this morning; I was with him.  Grif, a big feisty guy with longish black fur, had been declining for some time, and Barbara thought he might’ve died last night, but he didn’t. I offered to stay with him while she went to work today, and just before noon, when I checked on him, he had passed peacefully.  Barbara came home, and we took him to the vet for cremation.  I’m going to miss that fellow.  He always brought a smile to my face.  Jumping from floor to countertop to the top of the refrigerator ... or into my lap, he was a quick mover.  I chased him down the hallway of Barbara’s condo building more than once when he sneaked out as I arrived or left.  

19 April
My Dutch Army surplus Wellies are getting a workout as the heavy, wet snow falls, then melts into wading pools.  Even wore them to dinner tonight since I walked halfway to and from the restaurant downtown.  One of my better purchases.

Inga called today from Atlanta where she was sweating in the heat.  They all went for David’s niece’s wedding (Mike’s daughter Lindsay).
The Reenes in Atlanta

20 April
Lots of good news today.  Serbia and Kosovo have come to an agreement regarding Serb-dominated municipalities in Kosovo.  That is an amazing step in the right direction.  The second Boston Marathon bomber has been captured.  Much is being made of some of his Tweets, which to me sound typical of any teenager -- questioning, bragging, contradictory.  I am troubled that his Miranda rights were overridden under a public safety exception.  But I am thankful that he is alive.  Enough blood has been shed.  And since I’ve said this isn’t a blog for politics and such, enough said on that.  The sun is shining in Minneapolis and so far, it isn’t snowing.  My nephew John arrives shortly to fix my toilet and kitchen sink ... and I hope, my new problem: the display that shows my refrigerator and freezer temperatures is out.  The interior light and refrigerator itself seems to be working okay, as does the whole thing.

21 April
John and Evie
Yesterday my nephew John, who’s a plumber, came to my rescue and fixed my broken toilet flusher and replaced the damaged kitchen faucet.  He arrived with two adorable and energetic helpers, his niece Evie and nephew John (my nephew David’s kids).  I had some coloring books and markers left over from December plus access to kids programs on Netflix, so we were set for the afternoon.  We surprised my niece Michelle and sister Barbara with the whole crew at dinner.  It was great to see two of the three Brainerd kids since I haven’t been up there for a while.

On Sunday, the colors and stuff got another workout as my friends Jodi and Gary and their daughters, Ada and Lydia, came to dinner.  Lydia brought me some origami and Ada, a pop-up card.  I love having original kid art for the refrigerator.  Jodi had told me that the girls eat most everything and are required to try new things.  So I tried a new hors d’oeuvres -- grilled Brussels’ sprouts (first tossed in olive oil and garlic, then grilled on the George Foreman).  And I was amazed that they ate them, as well as all of the veggies baked with the chicken.  

22 April
Just changed the headline on this month’s blog.  After finishing an hour-long Skype call with my friend Bob who’s in Afghanistan, I went into the kitchen for coffee.  The weather report was broadcast on the radio ... more snow to start this afternoon.

Bob is leaving for India next Monday to have surgery on his hand (carpal tunnel).  He’s been quite positive about the quality of care he’s gotten in India, and they accept his US health insurance.  He was there for an MRI on his aching shoulder previously.  

Bob has an Afghani friend who's taken lots of photos of the decorated trucks of Afghanistan and Pakistan.  To my eye, they outdo the buses that I saw in Guatemala!  Bob thinks the photos would make a great coffee table photo book, and I agree.  So if anyone knows someone who'd be interested, let me know!

23 April
I feel like all I’ve written about this month is the weather ... but that’s what on everyone’s minds these days.  Can’t recall when we’ve had snow this late in April.  My decks are covered again, but it’s almost 4 pm, the sun is out at last and thankfully the snow is starting to melt.  And the forecast is for low 70sF on the weekend!

Waiting for spring
In other news, my Godson Craig just sent a text message that he and his fiancee April are heading to the hospital as she’s had frequent labor-like pains.  April’s been on complete bed rest for several weeks; baby is due in May but may have decided on an earlier birthday.  We know it’s another Hagen boy.   

False alarm.  Craig and April returned home to continue the wait.

Oh, I joined the board of my condo association.  We had our annual meeting last night and barely had a quorum.  But my new neighbor Ryan attended.  I had met him on Saturday when I parked in his spot, not knowing that the unit next door had been sold.  I was leaving my parking place for my nephew, but when I went to the garage to open the door for him, I found a strange car (Ryan’s, I later learned) in my place.  He was very nice about it.  As for the condo board, I was a member for a couple of years before I went overseas in 2002, and I thought it was my turn to help.  They’re willing to use email and Skype when I’m gone.

24 April
Sunshine and most of the new snow melted.  Bob reports via email from Kabul about an earthquake he felt, so we’ve been trading earthquake tales.  His quake was a 5.7, about the same magnitude as the first one I experienced in 1967 or ’68 in Southern Illinois.  We both had felt them while working in Skopje too. 

MNDOT (Minnesota Department of Transportation) has declared that “Minnesota’s Other Season,” the one that isn’t winter, is now underway.  That season is “Road Construction.”  Never am I more thankful to be retired than during this season.  Road closures, detours, lane mergers -- the stuff that makes driving almost anywhere at any time much slower and way more nerve wracking, whether it’s on neighborhood streets or interstate highways.  Oh, and it’s 50F (10C) today.  Whoohoo!  The snow is melting, hopefully for the last time this season.

25 April
Had an email on Tuesday that my friend Peggy had died.  Peg had Alzheimer’s for about 10 years, and I saw her once early in her diagnosis.  While I haven’t seen her since, I’ve missed our visits, catching up over coffee or lunch, as we did for years while I was overseas.  Peg and I were introduced on the phone by a mutual friend just before she shipped out for Peace Corps/Hungary, the month before I left for Poland.  We finally met at a PC conference in eastern Hungary early in our first year.  After PC, Peg stayed over in Budapest for a couple of years and I was still in Poland, so we visited back and forth.  I have a wonderful photo of her and my late son Peter at a cafe in Budapest; he went with me to a conference there.  When she returned to the US, she started an online business selling decorative yet useful canes, anticipating that Boomers would want more than the utilitarian canes sold in drug stores.  The first year I helped her with a booth at the Minnesota State Fair, an indicator of how much I valued her friendship since I hate the state fair.  And when Peter was being treated Peg, who didn’t like cats, went to my apartment every day and fed the cats and cleaned their litter box for me. Today I’ll go to her wake in St. Paul and meet the children and grandchildren I heard so much about.

Arrived at Peggy’s wake at 4:30 and already the place was wall to wall visitors.  I had forgotten that not only did Peggy have a lot of friends, she had a big family.  But I got a chance to talk with her daughter Katie and grandson Forrest, then returned to the neighborhood for dinner with Sally (my friend who organized the old Acapulco vacation house and now does the same on Sanibel Island in Florida).  Haven’t seen her in well over a year, so I was glad to catch her for a last minute dinner.  And since she lives downtown too, we met at a Mexican restaurant halfway between our condos.  She must’ve been mind reading as I’ve been craving fish tacos.

26 April
Well, we skipped right over spring and went into summer.  It’s 7:30 pm and 72F (22C).  Last week at this time we had inches of snow on the ground.  Go figure.

After yoga, I drove over to Janet and Ed’s to hear about their trip to New York City last weekend ... endurable delays, a crazy taxi ride and an awesome Bette Midler show on Broadway.  We sat outside for more than an hour, basking in sunshine and catching up.  Later this afternoon, I cleaned up my living room deck, cut the tags off my two new deck chairs, pillow and small table ... poured myself some lemonade and read a book out there for more than an hour.  I got too hot in my all cotton attire -- long-sleeved tee-shirt, hoodie and yoga pants.  Tonight I walked up to my favorite Nicollet Mall restaurant and met Susan for dinner, then we did a quick run through Target (another pillow for the deck for me, some groceries for her).  Now I am ready for a glass of wine and to watch the sun set from my deck.

I talked to my friend Marianne in Seattle today.  She had her last chemo for stage IV colon cancer the last day of my visit with her in September.  Since I haven’t heard anything, and this time of year always makes me nervous (it’s just two weeks before the anniversary of my son Peter’s death), I had been thinking of her.  Anyway, she’s doing well, in remission again and getting ready to travel to Arizona to see a grandson followed by a vacation in Mexico.  And she has hair again -- very short and very curly and very silver, she said. She had longish black hair when we worked together but wore a really blonde wig the day she and Neil picked me up at the cruise line dock.  Monday is her 62nd birthday.  When she was considering whether to start drawing social security this year, someone suggested she check on disability first and she qualified.  Hurray.

27 April

Just returned from “Las Vegas Bingo A Go Go,” a fund raiser for Park House, a facility for people with HIV/AIDS, and the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus.  Jan was on the TCGMC board had gone in the past and suggested it.  Of course, I didn’t win a thing but it was great fun.  Miss Richfield 1981 was the mistress of ceremonies.  Lots of great costumes and bad jokes.

29 April
Took Roz from my water ex class to hear Diana Krall last night.  She uses a walker so when I got the seats, I opted for two on the aisle on the right side as you face the stage.  Although toward the back, they were perfect -- our sight lines were unimpeded.  Must remember these seats for future trips to the State.  As for the concert, it was wonderful.  I’ve enjoyed Diana Krall since I happened upon her first album years ago and have tried two previous times to hear her.  The first two were for concerts in Warsaw -- the first was sold out by the time I got to the box office and I bought tickets for last November, then wasn’t able to get to Poland in time.  My friend Marta and her beau enjoyed those and bought me the new “Glad Rag Doll” CD as a thank you.  Behind the band and soloist was a huge screen on which motion pictures accompanied the music, all vintage 1920s except the opening sequence.  That was Steve Buscemi in a Charlie Chaplin look lip syncing while Diana sang.  An unusual backdrop but the music overcame any oddness.

On my way to a parking spot in the Macy’s lot near the theatre, I banged my passenger side mirror on a post.  It’s hanging by its electrical wiring, and I’m waiting for a call back from the body shop where I bought it.  I need to be in Northfield by 4 pm to take Lois to dinner, so have to get it fixed ASAP.  In the meantime, I’m catching up on emails and digital newspapers.  This excellent article on breast cancer was in the NYTimes Magazine yesterday:

Got the mirror replaced for less than I had expected and in record time.    Thank you, Superior-Brookdale Ford.  Nice day to drive to Northfield where I had a lovely dinner with Lois and some of the other residents at the retirement facility.  Now to bed ...

30 April

My friends Sue and Nancy have been on an incredible cruise and journey including India, Singapore, the Maldives, Thailand, United Arab Emirates and more.  They blogged about the trip and sent photos of the amazing places and sites they saw.  Now wave goodbye from Dubai where they saw this snow slide in a shopping mall.  

Oh, on my way to a MINN seminar at 5 pm tonight, I heard the weather forecast for tomorrow -- rain tonight and snow tomorrow ... May Day.  ‘Nuff said for April.

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