Sunday, June 15, 2014


1 May 2014, Minneapolis MN USA
Back in the groove of being home.  Water ex this morning, multiple loads of laundry during the day, serving dinner at People Serving People in late afternoon.  Now I’m taking a short break from going through 10 days worth of mostly junk mail.  Time to watch “Elementary.”

2 May
Panic time!  Slept well last night but awoke at 5:30, realizing that my final payment to Holiday Lettings for the Ayr townhouse rental was to be paid in the first few days of May … and I had not seen an invoice.  Of course I hadn’t.  I closed out Earthlink and moved to my Apple emails but neglected to tell Holiday Lettings.  Quick scramble to find the old emails, inserted UK phone number into Skype, punched a few numbers in response to prompts, and got Chiara who changed my email address and agreed to send an invoice.  Accessed TripAdvisor to see what I could find there but couldn’t find my password; requested change-of-password email.  Off to water ex.  On return, no emails from either.  Another Skype call to UK, not the best connection but finally got through and Fausta said she was sending email link to invoice.  About an hour later, I got that and completed the transaction.  Shortly after that, I got an emall from Chiara who said they couldn’t send an invoice email, but I’d get a reminder email tomorrow and can pay from that.  In the meantime, i’ve gotten a receipt for my final payment and it’s on my credit card.  Go figure!

Interestingly, Andrew did a water ex class totally devoted to relaxation this morning.  Perfect.

3 May and it’s not snowing!  
Last year on this date we had snowfall that actually stuck to the ground.  I was so delighted today to see the sun come out and to walk to and from Target downtown wearing a turtleneck and sweater with my jeans and regular shoes.  

Tonight I’m taking my nephew Christopher and his girlfriend Jen to Mixed Blood Theater to see “Passing Strange,” a play within a rock concert, then a reception for donors afterwards.  Should be a lot of fun.  

“Passing Strange” was great — energetic dancing and music.  I loved it, and Chris and Jen also enjoyed.  Must remember to get them more tickets to Mixed Blood.

4 May
Another sunny day but full of frustrations.  First, the garage door to the building isn’t working.  I had to back up the drive and out into busy Third Avenue South, a dicey task driving front first.  As I backed out, someone slipped into the last parking space in front of the building.  Tried to squeeze into one across the street but my bumper was right on the car behind.  Didn’t feel that I had hit if but didn’t want to leave the car that close.  Six maneuvers later I drove around the blocks until I found a spot next to the park.  Went to see if I had bumped the other car and saw nothing.  Took a phone photo just to be sure no one else did!

Home, lunch, starting to move winter and summer clothes.  

Took a break to watch last week’s CSI on On Demand.  Halfway through I can hear the audio but the video is a warning about prostate screening from the previous commercial.  Tried turning TV cable off and on several times and only got the TV Guide with a black screen where normally there’s a mini version of the currently playing program.  Went online to Comcast online which said connections to me were all working just peachy.  Not!  Could not figure out how to find help there for my problem.  Called and got the automated system which was equally unhelpful until after several rounds I was given a number to push for a real person.  Frustrated as hell, I started by apologizing if I sounded angry, then explained the issue.  After several attempts, she was finally able to reboot the system.  For my inconvenience, she offered free HBO for three months.  After I explained that I’m not going to be here most of that time, she’s giving me a discount on my next invoice.  I thanked her but forgot to ask how much the discount will be.  Gave her a good rating on the follow up survey but left a voice message about my issues.

5 May … and the sun is still shining.
Perhaps spring really has sprung and it won’t snow before I leave on 27 April for Poland.

Walking Lake Harriet early this morning with Linda, we saw egrets, blue herons, loons, ducks, geese … and a red fox carrying breakfast back to its den.  The fox was crossing the yard of a residence across the street from the lake — and moving stealthily and swiftly and too far away to tell what the family would dine on.  

Now I’ve returned from another walk — to the dry cleaner with winter slacks, to the post office to mail Mother’s Day and birthday cards and such, to the drug store for odds and ends, to the Boiler Room for an iced coffee.  Phew.  Time for a break.

Oh, and I had breakfast on my deck this morning.  I am doing a happy dance.

6 May
Talked to Jean in San Francisco.  She’s having a day like mine on Sunday.  Must check on her tomorrow.

Went to the clinic and talked to Lydia, the nurse practitioner that I usually see, about my side pain.  I’m a little paranoid about it because of mom’s kidney tumor.  I told her the pain reminds me of a toothache, not bad just there.  Of course, it was gone today.  But she ordered a bunch of lab tests today and ultrasound on Thursday. Got some results already and things look okay so far.

Off to the airport now to pick up Jan who’s been in Colorado visiting her brother and his family.

7 May
Jean is feeling much better.  She ordered a new television, and her handyman will come to set it up with the cable box etc. when it arrives.  We talked for a while about Peter.  Jean was here, as were my brother and his wife, fifteen years ago when I went through bedtime rituals with Peter for the last time.  Funny, but I say “now I lay me” to myself every night still.

I cleaned the living room — removed all of the dust catchers from the shelves and cleaned them, dusted and oiled wood, Windexed glass, vacuumed, everything short of moving all the furniture out.  I’ll do that when I get new carpeting next year.  In between the start and finish of the cleaning I went to lunch with friend and neighbor MaryAnne, then ran errands on the Mall.  Tonight all I’ve done is eat … nibbling on this and that, from cheese and crackers to single serving Brookstone dark chocolate covered blueberries.  

Fifteen years ago tonight, Peter and I did his bedtime rituals for the last time.  Now off to bed and before I fall asleep, I’ll continue one of those bedtime rituals as I have since then, saying “Now I lay me down to sleep …”

8 May, Peter’s Yahrseit
A day of overcast skies and chilly weather, fitting for mourning, which is what I did while undergoing an ultrasound and having my teeth cleaned.  I automatically followed instructions while remembering my son.  Fifteen years ago today at about 2:20 am his best friend Thom called to tell me Peter had taken his last breath.  I know it’s trite but it does seem just like it was yesterday.

After the dentist today, I drove to our old neighborhood in Crystal, planning to take a photo of the black walnut seedling that Peter and I planted in the mid ‘70s while his dad was doing post grad work at Columbia University in New York City.  It had grown to about 10 feet when last I saw it several years ago.  Now it’s gone … don’t know if the wind blew it over or what, but it definitely isn’t where we planted it.
Peter & I planted a black walnut "stick"
 to the left of the lamp post

From there, to The Modern for lunch at Peter’s favorite restaurant.  The best meat loaf in town served with mashed potatoes (hold the gravy) and cauliflower.  Back home, I tried to nap since I was tired and yawning but it wouldn’t happen.  Jean called and we talked for some time.  Then I picked up Susan for the evening service at Temple Israel, where we’d say Kaddish for Peter and her mother.  We enjoyed a Thai dinner on Eat Street afterwards.

9 May
“It was a dark and stormy night …”  Or so wrote Snoopy.  But it describes last night here. Today it’s gloomy and chilly again.  Nice day to stay indoors and do chores.  Guess I will do that until Marilyn arrives at 5:30 and we go to dinner.  Haven’t seen her in some time, so afterwards, we’ll return here to catch up and knit, which I haven’t done in some time either.

10 May
Lovely day starting with water ex led by Heather at the Y.  Breakfast with my nephew Christopher at our favorite spot, Elsie’s in Northeast.  Shopping with my niece Michelle at her old retail haunts in Roseville.  Dinner with my sister Barbara at my house, her favorite lamb chops rare.  I spent some time working on my book about Peter’s life and death.  Haven’t done that in months.  It felt good to finally add to the story, edit some old copy, think about what to add.  Linda’s going to help me with a final edit.

Had an email from Aideen in Arlington.  Mickey received a special award from Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Talented Youth.  He’d been nominated by his school and taken a test on which he scored in the top 4000 in his age group in the entire country.  Aideen and Mickey were in Baltimore for the award presentation and sent photos.  Way to go, Mick!!!

11 May, Happy Mother’s Day to all you mothers out there
Walked over to the Walker Art Center to see the Edward Hopper show.  Outstanding.  I’ve enjoyed his work for some time, and this solidified that admiration. I was stunned to see the number of drawings he did, sketches of hands or people or building details, before he actually painted.  Drawing/painting is a lot more work than I realized.  The exhibit also included some film shorts in which the paintings come alive in various ways.  The actors in “Conference at Night” portrayed several versions of what the after-hours meeting might have been about.  I watched something similar with “Nighthawks,” and the woman who posed in “Morning Sun” longs to leave the barren room and takes Hopper for walk in the city.  An interesting way to enliven the works.

Edward Hopper

The Sculpture Garden's most famous piece

Today was also a lovely day to walk the mile over and back to the museum, not too hot, not too sunny.  I returned via Loring Park and a stop at my favorite neighborhood restaurant, Loring Kitchen & Bar.  Happy hour wine and small plates for dinner.  Love it.

12 May
Linda, Daisy the dog and I walked the whole lake this morning.  It’s wonderful to walk in daylight, even on a day that isn’t very sunny. The mist over Lake Harriet was incredible though and I took some photos with my phone to try to capture it.

13 May
Another “Culture Day.”  At dinner last night (Loring Kitchen again) my friend Judy reminded me that the Matisse exhibit will close this weekend.  And since I live just a few blocks away, I decided to walk down today.  Judy wanted to see if again, so we arranged to meet.

It was a fascinating show from a private collection donated to the Baltimore Art Museum.  Like the Hopper, it showed many of the sketches Matisse made before he actually painted.  And the exhibit included many of his statues.  I hadn’t realized how much he sculpted.  At lunch afterwards, we ran into Jan.  I arranged a lunch-and-knit afternoon at my place tomorrow; will invite Marilyn too.

This evening Linda and I had Jungle Theater tickets and had decided on Fuji-Ya for dinner before.  Always an evening of good food, good discussion and good theater.  But tonight was extraordinary.  

We both left the theater exclaiming how realistic the performances were by all four key actors (a fifth comes on for a few minutes at the end).  Jungle is a small venue, and we were in the center of the second row so got an up-close-and-personal view of the entire production. And it was totally like the actors weren’t acting, they were just being their characters.  I have never seen such authentic expression, speech, emotion.  And I’ve seen some big names in original casts in New York, London, Chicago, some top rated road shows here and the Twin Cities best actors on stage.  None could compare with tonight’s cast. Must recommend the play, “Detroit,” to my sister and everyone else I see. 

14 May
I’ve had to turn on the furnace and get the flannel nighties out again.  Temps have dropped to the low 40sF and the skies are overcast. Argh!

16 May
Breakfast with friend Ted this morning after water ex.  Always an interesting conversation on a variety of topics from the 9/11 dedication yesterday (he was awed by President Obama’s speech and delivery) to how to encourage more of his (Ted’s) high school classmates to attend their 50th class reunion.

Now I’m taking a break from finally having started the AARP Smart Driver Program for Seniors.  My eyes are sore from too much screen time, so this blog post will be short too.

Lovely dinner with Sabrina, Mark and Christopher in St. Paul.  They have a duck nesting next to their garage in the alley.  She sat patiently while I took a photo.

Mama duck on her nest

19 May
Am I lucky or what?  First, I saw some new goslings as Linda, Daisy and I set out on our early morning walk around Lake Harriet today, and then, when we returned to the parking lot, a red-tailed hawk soared overhead around the rooftops of the pavilion and bandshell.  It even hovered in the wind, looking like he might dive to the lake for breakfast.  But he didn’t.  He just moved and hovered some more.  It was the most awesome sight.  I just wish he’d been closer so I could’ve gotten a photo.  I did get a pretty decent photo of the ground fog laying on top of the lake.

Interesting fog over Lake Harriet

My week for water fowl --
Mother Goose & her goslings at Lake Harriet

Fog over Minneapolis
obscures IDS Tower
And finally … I don’t know if I’ve written about my noisy car.  My sister said it started when the temps were sub zero, and we thought that was the reason.  But even as the temps rose, the noise continued.  To me it sounded like the engine although the RPMs were normal and no idiot lights were red or blinking.  It got noisy as I accelerated, then stayed at that level while I drove.  Everyone who rode with me commented on the noise.  When I had its 22,500 miles “check up,” I asked the mechanic to check the engine.  He said it was fine, that my type of engine gets noisier as it gets older.  Hmm.  The car isn’t even four years old yet and has than 23,000 miles!

Wednesday I’m going up to my friend’s Susan’s cabin which is almost to Duluth.  I didn’t want to worry about the car, so made arrangements to take it to the dealer today.  I insisted Mike, the mechanic, drive with me so he could hear it.  Despite a raging downpour, Mike heard the noise as he shifted gears and declared a bearing or coupling issue, not an engine one.  After checking, he confirmed it was a bearing problem.  And TA DA, it’s covered by a warranty!  Including the rental tank (a Jeep Compass) they gave me because the part won’t be in until tomorrow.

Back to the AARP Smart Driver course … 

21 May, Sawyer, Minnesota
Frustrating condo board meeting last night.  My association fee and that of seven others was not recorded on the April financials, and the manager had not idea why.  I’d already been to my bank who confirmed the check had been cashed. Oh, and the May check had been mailed on 28 April and still not been cashed.  It is sooooo frustrating.

Beautiful but very windy morning but started to get overcast as I left Connie’s with a new hair cut and renewed color.  Didn’t see sunshine again until Pine City, about a third of the way to Susan’s cabin.  I remembered the route with the exception of the final turnoff.  It was further along Hwy 210 that I recalled.  

22 May
Well, this is a first.  Usually when I arrive at Susan’s cabin, I immediately fall asleep for a few hours.  Not sure what it is but I, who has a hard time napping at home, can nod off instantly here.  But yesterday I stayed awake through dinner and conversation, knitting and watching a bit of television … then zonked when my head hit the bed.

We saw a couple of swans flying over the lake behind the cabin.  Such elegance.  Just saw another.

Susan saw a big spider on the kitchen counter as she was fixing breakfast.  It scuttled away but thankfully she found it and has no trouble killing spiders.  Off to run errands and have lunch at Mexico Lindo, a fantastic restaurant in Cloquet.

View from Susan's cabin in paradise

23 May, Minneapolis
Home again after “another fine day in paradise,” as I wrote in Susan’s guest book.  Drive back was smooth and easy, singing along to music on my iPhone.  Had my own close encounter of the spider kind.  About 20 minutes from Susan’s, speed on cruise control, iPhone blaring Bette Midler … and along came a spider.  It started to drop on a thread of web from the visor right in front of me. While I’m not phobic like my dad was, still, I don’t like spiders of any size, shape or variety. And especially not spiders ready to land in my lap on the freeway at 70 mph.  I used a finger above where the spider hug to clear it away toward the passenger seat, then drove to the next exit so I could park and deal with it permanently. Did that.

24 May, Blaine MN -- Happy Birthday, Alijah Peter Hagen
A whole bunch of Hagens, my sister Barbara, Michelle's husband Jon, and April's parents gathered here today to celebrate Alijah's first birthday.  April had also let us know that we would surprise Craig and celebrate 10 years of his sobriety.  We always appreciate a chance to celebrate a happy occasion and these were definitely happy occasions to celebrate.

Alijah eyes his cake before tasting.

My Guys -- Craig and Alijah

25 May, Minneapolis
Today’s Strib newspaper had a article on the top 100 companies by revenue that are headquartered in Minnesota.  I looked for the current incarnation of my former employer … and could not find it.  Now I know the company’s revenue would put it in the top ranks … which means it’s no long HQ’d in St. Paul.  Just as we all imagined … moved HQ to Hartford.  I’m even happier that I don’t own any more of its stock.

26 May
Big news for me in today’s NYTimes was the announcement of the death of General Wojciech Jaruzelski, the last Communist leader of Poland and the man who ordered tanks against Solidarność in 1981.  Mostly I remember him at the annual Fourth of July party at the US Ambassador’s residence in Warsaw.  From behind his incredibly dark glasses and in uniform, an imposing Jaruzelski held court on the stairs leading to the garden.  

Now to complete my day’s chores — packing, changing the bed, taking out trash, laundry — before dinner at Marilyn’s and, I hope, a good night’s sleep.  For some reason I could not get to sleep last night, finally dropping off around 3 am … and wide awake before 6:30.  Glad I got up and went to water ex as Linda wasn’t able to walk the lake today.  Good work out with a new instructor; must look to see when he teaches as this is a “holiday” class, not a regular thing.

27 May, MSP Airport
Travel time is always hectic and when you need to be at the airport three hours early for an overseas flight, you have lots of time to kill.  I used that time to finish the AARP Safe Driving Course.  Hurray.  Certificate should be in the mail when I return.

Last night Marilyn made a delicious meal befitting the primary countries we’re all traveling to — she to Germany, Jan to France and I to Scotland.  Our placemats were the country flags.  Brie and crackers with sparkling wine to start, salmon (Alaskan in lieu of Scottish), German red cabbage slaw, wild rice casserole, and a French dessert, peach Melba.  With our decaf after dinner, we had awesome homemade biscotti that Jan brought.  Recipes will be shared.  Then we gabbed and knitted for an hour.  Lovely way to spend the evening.

Today I went to water ex as I always prefer to get some exercise in before any long flight.  Finished packing, ran dishwasher, did last load of laundry, took out the last of the trash, set thermostat and hot water heater … breakfast and coffee with my crossword, of course.  Then it was time to go out and wait for Thom to arrive.  He called to check directions before leaving home and pulled in less than five minutes after I went to wait for him.  I had decided it would be nicer to sit in the fresh air than indoors.  

One more hour to boarding …

30 May, Sandomierz, Poland
I’ve been fed eight times today … I must be in Poland!  

It’s a good thing my resolve not to overeat is holding reasonably tight or I’d look like Porky Pig by now.  Monika, the new restaurant manager at Hotel Basztowy, has decreased portions but still, a lot more meat than I usually eat …  and delicious too.  

Coordination at the airport on Wednesday went well.  Both Steve’s and my flights were only a few minutes late, but our driver was waiting for us.  We caught up with news as we drove through the rain.  Hala had us stay at another hotel the first night as Basztowy was full.  We had dinner at her house and sampled Michał’s latest production of liquers/liquors.

We spent much of today visiting clients receiving help through the Swiss program that the Center manages.  Much of the work is developing agro-tourism in the “mountains.”  I used quotes as the Świętokrzyszki mountains are more like high hills than mountains.  But they provide lots of good opportunities for R&R, including some newer ski areas.  The work done by the on-farm bed-and-breakfast houses was impressive — modern facilities, nice renovations and decorating, an eye for what guests will do besides relax.  We also visited the porcelain factory at Ćmielów, which I found especially interesting since I’d visited the new porcelain museum in Limoges, France, a couple of years ago.  

31 May
Guess whom I had breakfast with?  Leszek!  Ok, that doesn’t mean anything to most of you, but Leszek was our secretary when I worked with the Center in ’94.  Hala insisted that our new secretary be able to do English translations, so selected him over a young woman who was trained as a secretary-administrator.  I loved him dearly, but Leszek was not secretary material.  Leszek was a graduate of the teacher’s college with an English major and had no job experience.  Organization was not his strong suit.  Eventually he got a job with an IT company in Warsaw, switched to a telecom that’s now part of Verizon, married, had three kids, and added wine maker to his resume.  Last time I saw him his older daughter was still in arms … she starts gymnasium (middle school) next year.  Leszek’s in Sandomierz for the annual meeting of Polish winemakers being held at the castle this weekend. 

Yesterday was a long day.  We had lunch at about 4 pm when we returned from our visits — then listened to presentations by 11 staff members, updating various projects.  They had patiently waited for us and were actually pretty good at sticking to the five-minute limit they were given, but it was 7:30 when all 27 of us went to dinner.  Then the Board, senior management team and three senior staff field staff went up to the top floor lounge where three field staff made presentations … and more food and beverages were laid.  We had asked for presentations by top field staff to help us get to know them better since succession planning is an issue.  We finally finished at 11 pm.  I’d been up since 3:30 am so had no problem falling asleep.  

Tomorrow it’s off to Scotland.  Hooray!

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