March comes in like a lion …
1 March 2014, Minneapolis MN USA
I am sooooo ready for winter to be over. My niece Michelle and I decided to drive to a newish restaurant in suburban Edina for dinner tonight. No parking spots in their too-small, very snowy lot but a big ramp a few blocks away. We trudged over icy sidewalks and frozen snow mounds to learn there would be an hour long wait (they don’t take reservations). So we trekked back over the icy sidewalks and frozen snow mounds against the sub-zero wind chill to a different restaurant. We had a bit of a wait there but got a corner table and enjoyed the rest of the evening … until it was back out into the arctic to walk to the car.
Water in the Y pool continues to be colder than usual. 80F, they say. Sounds hot but really isn’t. But it sure makes one work harder at water ex. The heater has not worked properly since Friday. I hope they get it repaired soon.
|Parking at the Y|
My nephew Christopher and his girlfriend Jen, and my late son Peter’s best friend Thom came to dinner. Mom’s roast pork and sauerkraut with her traditional additions — homemade apple sauce, peas and lots of mashed potatoes. From scratch curr’n’ cake (raisin squares) for dessert. My sister arrived for dessert. Chris made a lovely fire in my fireplace, and it was fun to have Thom with us; it’s been a while. When they left, I cleaned up, then watched the balance of the Oscars. I was ecstatic to see my choice for best picture win, “12 Years a Slave.” And I thought Ellen Degeneres did a fabulous job as emcee. Loved the selfie with the stars that took down Twitter … and the pizza order (was that ad libbed?). Hope they have her again next year.
Tonight, during the two hours my friend Judy and I were at the Dakota Jazz Club on Nicollet Mall, it snowed. Not a lot but still …. Judy lives closer to downtown than I. Since it’s way too cold to walk from my place or stand around waiting for the ever-20-minutes bus, I drove to her building and parked there. Then we could trek through her building and its neighbor to the mall and walk two blocks to the Dakota. We heard the Manhattan Transfer. The show was wonderful — they sang some old familiars as well as others, and their harmony is as spot on as ever. The club was full for the 7 pm show. Lots of clapping and knowing laughter as they harmonized on familiar songs.
|My college friend Marcia is a grandmother!|
I love this photo best of those she emailed.
One thing makes winter, especially this particularly cold, snowy one endurable — even in this awful weather, most Minnesotans remain nice. My street is a snow emergency route that many use to get to the freeways east and north and city and school buses take to one-way 26th Street westward, as I do. Both sides are lined with high blackened snow banks and bumper-to-bumper parked cars, a few with broken side-view mirrors because the roadway has shrunken significantly. We basically have one extra-wide lane, not two normal ones. You get the picture. Yet inevitably cars will take turns pulling over so others can drive safely down the narrowed street. Minnesota Nice.
For those of you who think I lead such an exciting life, here’s how I’ve spent this morning.
- Up before seven, made and drank one cup lemon water, walked to front entry to get paper, read it, worked two crossword puzzles. No water ex today.
- Checked email, more changes among those joining me in Scotland. This is becoming real work to organize!
- Ate breakfast of muesli, fruit, rice drink, two cups of coffee.
- Finalized what I can re 2013 taxes for accountant. Called brother Dan with question; he’s out walking.
- Showered and dressed.
- Checked all knobs on doors and closets and tightened as needed (I think the cold winter dried them out more than usual, many were quite loose).
- Re-ignited pilot light on my hot water heater (an unseen gremlin blows it out every week or so; never know how long it’ll stay on and repair fellows cannot find anything wrong; what can be replaced has been, so I check before every shower).
Now to fix lunch, then walk downtown to meet friend Susan and have for pedicures. Best part of the day.
Today it is freezing. No, I don’t mean I’m especially cold. In fact, I feel warmer than I have in a long time. The thermometer has actually risen to 32F (0C), the temp at which water freezes. But it feels like a heat wave after all those sub-zero days. And we have more “warm” days to come. Perhaps spring is really on the way.
Relaxing after having company for dinner — Peace Corps friends Sabrina and Mark and son Christopher from St. Paul plus Mike, Elke and son AJ from the apartment below. It was wonderful fun watching the boys, AJ is two and Christopher 7, get to know each other and find things they both enjoyed. A warm, wonderful family Sunday dinner. Must do more of these when I’m in town.
It’s so nice today that after my friend and neighbor MaryAnne and I walked to/from a leisurely late lunch at one of our favorite nearby spots, I sat outdoors, on my deck, for an hour. What a treat to enjoy the fresh air. I could hear birds chirping, see the melting snow dripping, hear cars splashing through puddles. I could pretend that spring was springing.
Temperatures … and my emotions … are on a roller coaster. Late yesterday morning I learned that Karen, my closest friend from college, had died the night before. She’d been diagnosed and treated for a rare bile duct cancer last year, I’d visited her in September, and we’ve had sporadic calls and emails since then. I’d been reminding myself to call her for several weeks. Karen loved the Olympics so I postponed calling during those weeks; she’d be busy watching. And more recently every time I thought to call was in late evening when she might already be asleep. My night-owl college roommate had become an early-to-bed person, tired from the aftermath of the treatment. This morning I’d vowed that I would call her today … then her childhood friend Carol called me first. And I called our closest college friends Marcia and Barbara. Unfortunately neither will be able to attend the funeral, which will probably be next week. Marcia became a grandmother for the first time earlier this month — her daughter Suzie had a beautiful baby girl. Barbara and her husband are taking their family to Jamaica for their wedding anniversary. I will be there for all of us.
I met Karen during my sophomore year, her junior year, at Northwestern. Don’t remember seeing her during rush week but got to know her after I pledged Kappa Delta. Other than both being journalism majors, we didn’t outwardly have a lot in common, but we clicked and I was happy that she picked me to be her pledge daughter. I still have the stuffed Piglet she gave me that day. From thence, she became “Mother Dear” and I, “My Child” and Marcia, “Auntie.” Karen and Marcia had been freshman year roomies and were as close as any related sisters. Barbara became Marsh’s pledge daughter. I met Barbara before rush because she lived across the hall from me and the Karen I’m visiting on Cape Cod next month,. (Yes, I know a lot of women named Karen … and Janet and Barbara and variations on Mary and Susan … it’s a generational thing.) None of us was really into the whole sorority thing, but in those days at NU with no student union, campus life centered on the Greeks. We all joined the one house that let us be ourselves — yet with its Old South roots was the least like us. Karen did love rush week though, and she gave it her all and, infected by her enthusiasm, we followed suit. And we worked to bring KD into the 20th Century.
|My pledge paddle from Karen; |
landscape was painted by Marcia
After college, we all went different ways but kept in touch. A fading photo of Karen, Marsh and me when we attended Barbara’s wedding is hanging on my “family photo wall.” When my late son Peter was born, she made him a personalized album of “The Day You Were Born,” full of clippings and her handwritten commentary signed by “your other grandma.” Sometimes I’d drive over to Ohio to visit Karen when I went back to Pittsburgh. I took Peter along on one trip. Only child and childless Karen had prepared a picnic and location perfect for a young kid. We talked and listened to an outdoor concert while Peter thoroughly enjoyed the park and food. He instantly loved her. His cremains now reside in a Doric urn provided by Karen.
After a stint as an in-house editor for BF Goodrich, Karen joined the concrete burial vault manufacturing company her dad had started, and as her parents died, took over running the company and staying active in trade organizations. A funeral director I knew when I was a newspaper reporter told me he’d met my mother at a trade show. Took me a minute to realize he’d met Karen, not my biological mother. My ex Bob was fascinated by Karen’s multi-paged Christmas letters, a detailed recitation of what was going on in her world, so different from ours. When I joined Peace Corps, my dreary days were brightened by Karen’s long letters. Bemused and befuddled by my request for twist ties (most Americans had way too many while Poland lacked any way to secure plastic bags), nevertheless she sent me a lifetime supply.
When Stephanie, another sorority sister-friend who’d moved to Karen’s town, was diagnosed with lung cancer, Karen who hated hospitals became her and her family’s solid support. She kept in touch with those kids even after their mom died. Unfortunately she didn’t give up smoking. So when she, Marsh and I met in Evanston for a mini reunion one homecoming weekend a few years ago, she got a single smoking room, and Marsh and I shared a smoke-free one. Marcia had quit long before.
Except for not smoking and being thinner, Karen was pretty much the same Karen when I saw her last fall. She had a delightful couple of days planned for us, and I left with a faint hope that she’d beat the cancer and a strong fear she wouldn’t.
I’ve been on line and on the phone arranging to attend Karen’s funeral on Tuesday morning. It’ll be a one night trip to Akron-Canton Airport via Atlanta, two long flights each day. Karen’s friend Carol and her husband will pick me up, and we’ll all stay at the same hotel I stayed in in September.
Yesterday’s visit with my friend Lois in Northfield was a good tonic for dealing with my grief. She was in good health and good spirits. We went out to lunch at the Ole Cafe, a favorite spot not far from where she lives, then ran errands at Target. All the way there and back, I sang along with the oldies and cried, also a good tonic. Today I dosed myself with a funny movie: I went to the gorgeously renovated Uptown Theater and sat in a big, comfy leather seat and watched “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” a film that’s gotten well deserved positive reviews.
Made arrangements yesterday to stay at friends Janet and Ed’s house Sunday night. They live much closer to the airport, meaning I could sleep a bit longer and drive less distance at that ungodly hour. (I have to be at the airport by 4:30 am.) Today Janet emailed that she wants to pick me up on the way back from their cabin and take me to the airport and to have their son Thom pick me up on Tuesday night. I agreed. Sometimes it’s good to let others take care of me.
Stand-up comic David Brenner’s obit was in today’s papers. I met him when he stayed at the Bloomington Marriott Inn, then a Minda PR (and my) client. He was very gracious and let me get a photo of the two of us which is somewherein storagein my college trunk.
I spent a frustrating hour-plus on line, on hold and on the phone with Delta trying to book a ticket for my niece. I wish they’d get their web site working properly. I have had problems every single time I”ve booked ticket lately … and that has been quite a few tickets.
Snow again. But then it’s Minnesota high school tournament time when it always snows.
An exhausting two days going to Karen’s funeral. Stayed at Janet & Ed’s Sunday night. Ed made a delicious pasta with pesto and onion-mushroom-sausage sauce and a caesar salad. My tummy was wonderfully full when I hit the bed at 9 pm. Up at 3 am Monday and off to the airport at 4. Maybe could’ve waited another 15 minutes or so, but wasn’t taking any chances that 10 charters to warmer climates would be queuing with me at security. Actually I was so early that most of the security entries weren’t open yet. Two long flights - MSP to Atlanta, Atlanta to Akron-Canton Airport. Karen’s childhood friend Carol was waiting for me as I exited. She, her husband Jon and I went to Bender’s, one of Karen’s favorite Canton restaurants, to meet Athene, Karen’s friend from her days at B.F. Goodrich. We all know each other but have never met. It felt good to have faces to attach to names and others to grieve with.
Carol and Jon were staying at the same hotel in Massillon as I, so we returned there for a rest and to change before doing to the visitation in the evening. Meeting more people that I know so well from Karen but have never met —her cousin Bob and his wife Modean, their four now-adult kids, Monica, Michelle, Tom and Tim and their families; high school friends like Sally and Kathy; the men from the plant; and especially Jennifer, the daughter of our late friend Stephanie. Carol, Jon and I had a late dinner at Kosmo’s, across from the hotel and another favorite of Karen. Carol and I split fish tacos so we could each have blackberry cobbler — huge ala mode servings worth the calories.
The funeral service was full of family, friends and colleagues and beautifully done. I had been debating whether to speak and finally did. Just a few minutes about the woman who called me “My Child” and in return became “Mother dear.” After the cemetery, the church cooks had a comfort-food meal hot and ready — roast pork, scalloped potatoes, green beans, apple sauce and cake. After that, I borrowed folks for photos to share with Marcia and Barbara. Carol and Jon dropped me at the airport on their way back to Dayton. And I made my way back through Atlanta to Minneapolis. Despite the colder temp and snow, I waited outside to breathe fresh air at last.
|Putting faces to names: Sally, Athene,|
Carol and me
I was fried by the time Thom picked me up at the airport just before midnight last night, but it was all worthwhile. I could not be anywhere else but with others who loved Karen.
Of course, just when I thought nothing could get worse, I opened a summons that arrived in the mail from Hennepin County District Court while I was gone. I’ve been assigned jury duty beginning 21 April — Boston Marathon day! This morning I completed the paperwork on line, requested a postponement and hit “save.” As it did that, I noticed I’d put a mid June date, not mid July. Argh! I’ll be in Scotland in mid June. Quick call to the court, a few “press 1 for …,” very short wait, then a real person, a helpful friendly one who adjusted the date for me. I’ll get a confirmation in two weeks that I’m to report at the end of July. Now to prep for tomorrow’s flight to DC …
I have found spring! It’s alive and well and coming to life in the Washington, DC, area. Landed at National before noon today to sunny skies, warmish breezes and only a hint that snow had ever fallen here. It was a treat to stand outside and wait for Inga. We had lunch with our friend Adam, ran errands (including picking up my 2012 tax return CD, then I waited for Aideen to pick me up at Inga’s house. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if my two weeks here continued this weather trend?
Still nice weather. Aideen and I walked Mickey to the bus stop today before I took her to the airport. A vertible UN of parents and children gathers on a street corner about three blocks away. It’s fun to see the various ages and backgrounds of kids interacting so well. Mickey’s friend Sasha, who’s in fifth grade, always yells out when the bus is visible down the street.
A bit overcast today but still … Yesterday I rounded up Regina’s two boys, Liam and Roan, and Mickey and took them to the newest Muppets movie at a nearby mall. We stopped to get Mickey’s hair cut and for a yoghurt on the walk back, then drove to Regina’s in Alexandria. On the way Roan and Mickey were debating characters in Greek mythology. I think it started as a video game discussion. Wonders never cease …
Regina and I had a lovely time catching up. She has a full-time temporary job during someone’s maternity leave and good leads on something to follow that. Hurray. And she now has a cute Havanese puppy named Lola (“Her name was Lola. She was a showgirl …”). Lola’s mostly black with white paws, baby soft curly fur and lots of energy. The boys alternately ran around the back yard playing with her and chasing each other and played on the computer. I was pleased that Mickey spent more time in the yard than with the computer. He fell asleep quickly last night.
We spent this afternoon at the Playseum in Bethesda. I’d driven by this place scores of times and always been curious, thinking I’d take Inga’s younger daughter, Antonia. So this morning I went on line and found two Playseums, the Bethesda one and one near Stacey and Michael in DC. Unfortunately Stacey and her daughters were busy, so we went to Bethesda. It was an ugly overcast day, a good one for something indoors but active. The Upstairs at the Playseum is for eight year olds and up and is full of games and activities, from making your own lip gloss to pillow fighting, from board games to pool, foosball and ping pong. Lots of kids, including at least one birthday group. Being without built-in playmates (other than yours truly), it took Mickey a while to get into the swing of things. I played a few games with him but mostly tried to encourage him to ask others to join him, which eventually he did. And he took part in an eating “dare” in the kitchen. The hostess offered three dares — gross, sticky and brain freeze. Winner of each got a free scoop of candy from the bowls in the lobby. Mickey didn’t take part in the gross (a hunk of dill pickle in a couple of ounces of Coke), but he took on sticky (very old tough caramel and a large soft marshmallow, to be chewed and swallowed completely) and brain freeze (scoop of vanilla ice cream with a dab of chocolate sauce and whipped cream, all to be eaten with hands behind the back). While he didn’t win, he did seem to have a good time.
|Mickey eats his sundae hands-free|
Tonight I was watching an episode of HBO’s True Detective when the Woody Harrelson character said to the Matthew McConaghey one that he was using too many “$10 words.” When I was in high school, those multi-syllable words were called “50 cent words” … ah, inflation is everwhere.
A quiet week. I did get to one Mixed-level Pilates and one Senior Yoga class so I’m feeling virtuous. I also have been more careful with what I eat … sort of. Finished the Dark Chocolate Covered Blueberries — they are no longer a temptation. I still have a few more small packets of the pomegranate ones for Mickey’s snacks but not more for me.
|28 March in Minneapolis|
60 F but overcast and raining. Good day to see “Mr. Peabody & Sherman” in 3D. Mickey’s friend Sasha went along. Now they’re playing video games here for a while.
Scotland is filling up! For a while I thought I might spend half the month alone, but Dianna from my Macedonia days, Jan from my South Sudan days, Jane from way back to junior high and the cousins are firming plans, and Bob from Macedonia et al. has reservations and will to stop en route home from Afghanistan. We’ll meet in Amsterdam and fly over together. Sabrina, Mark and son Christopher from St. Paul and Dorota, Jacek and son Franiu from Warsaw have confirmed their reservations too. I am getting psyched again.
The March lion is roaring to the end in the DC area today. It was raining buckets all morning, then as Mickey and I went to a late lunch, tiny, tiny hail pelted us. An hour so so later when we left the diner, it was snowing. Now it’s bedtime and raining again. All the while the wind has been howling. We went to the International Spy Museum today and had to walk several blocks from garage to museum (our wet, windy walk would’ve been shorter if we’d taken the Metro). Our huge umbrella was turned inside out half a dozen times. I finally gave up.
|Mickey sending secret message|
at Spy Museum
Halfway decent weather at last. Went to yoga today and I can feel it. Mickey went home from school with his friend Sasha, who lives nearby. I had dinner with an old friend from my Africa days who lives near here (another Susan). She was jet lagged but we had enough time to get up to date before her eyes got too sleepy.