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|
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.
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:
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.
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.
|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.
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.
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.
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!!!
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.
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!
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.
|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|
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.
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.
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|
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.
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.
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.
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|