Thursday, May 21, 2015

Late again

(Some day I’ll post on time!)

April Fool’s Day 2015, Minneapolis MN
Started the month with nephew Christopher, breakfast with a side of dropping off his sister’s phone where she works; she walked off without it this morning. No April Fool’s jokes.  Just lots of laundry and to change bed linens and prepare for my trip to DC tomorrow.

2 April, Lindberg Terminal, MSP Airport
What an ordeal it is to be a gimp!  Dear friend Janet picked me up, drove me to the airport and arranged for a wheelchair and “driver” to come get me.  With the walker collapsed, I held it in front of me, pulled my small roller suitcase beside us and the driver took me the long way around to get checked in.  She didn’t understand “gold card” and “TSA Pre.”  Not a huge deal — a wheelchair gets you to the head of the line … then you wait to get through the circle-your-bod x-ray machine.  And pack it all up again until you meet the shuttle driver.  He dropped me off at Caribou so I could get coffee while he did a short side trip, then returned to drop me at my gate.  Surprise — I was upgraded to first class!  That hasn’t happened in years and was most welcome.  We’ll board in a few minutes.

The DC “driver” met me at the airplane door with a wheelchair and stayed with me until Inga pulled in, then helped load the car with my gear.  Well worth a $10 tip.

Inga’s friend Doug joined us for dinner.  She met him at Starbuck’s the day I left in February.  He seems really nice, well grounded, good humor, interesting.  I like him.  He’s off to visit his retired parents while Inga and the girls are in Puerta Vallarta, Mexico.  I take them to the airport very early Saturday.

I'm hoping Inga's newly emerging plans
will survive my less-than-green thumb!

7 April
Saturday i did a lot of errands, like shopping for Sunday brunch.  Of course, I left my cane in the cart at Safeway and had to return.  Thank heavens the young woman who was collecting carts had found it and taken it to Customer Service.  By the end of the day, I was pooped.

Sunday we had a lovely brunch with contributions from everyone.  Stacey, Michael and the girls, Regina and the boys, Judy.  We had birthday cake for Stacey and Michael’s younger daughter Adah.  The kids enjoyed the trampoline in the back yard, Beza enjoyed all the attention and a chance to run around outside, we all ate well.

This morning I had breakfast with Peggy, a friend from my Poland days, who lives in Dupont Circle Village.  Then drove to National (ok, it’s called Reagan now) Airport to pick up Janet and Sonya.  I used WAYZ, a GPS guidance system that stays more up to date on road work and such through user input.  Janet and Sonja are here for two nights to see the cherry blossoms.  Since today is a short one, they wanted to see Dumbarton Oaks Gardens.  After lunch nearby, they went to the gardens while I returned home to check on Beza. Dumbarton Oaks is where the UN was formed, and the gardens are exquisite.  When I lived here in 2008, high school friend Jane came down from CT for cherry blossoms and we did Dumbarton Oaks as well.
Cherry blossoms in Inga's neighborhood

Tonight we had dinner at home, complete with good wine and good friendship.  We polished off the last few pieces of chocolate layer cake that were left.  Inga had bought it for dinner on Thursday, and I’ve been really good about steering clear of those delicious remnants until tonight.

8 April
Rain again last night and dreary again today.  After dropping Janet and Sonja at the Tenleytown Metro, I drove over to Booz Allen in McLean to have coffee with Maury who’s working at Booz HQ now.  We joke that she has followed in my footsteps — she took over when I left the Serbia project and joined the Kosovo project not long after I retired.  She is not, however, going to South Sudan!  She’s a great friend and good professional contact.  It was wonderful to see her and catch up on all fronts.  She’ll use my walker while she recovers from bunion surgery next month.

9 April
Another dreary day but the blossoms remain gorgeous.  I drove Janet and Sonja to the airport via the White House which they hadn’t seen in their wanderings yesterday.  Back home I saw my first robin, actually two on the front lawn.  Lazy rest of the day … iced my foot and read, did some more ironing and laundry, ate leftover duck and asparagus from last night for a late afternoon “lunner.”  

Sonja had taken Beza for an hour-plus long walk so Beza was too pooped to poop.  I decided to let her wait until morning.  I’ve been getting up pretty early, showering and dressing upstairs before going downstairs by 8:30.

Beza enjoys a rest
10 April
Two beautiful cardinals on a branch in the back yard helped to make yet another dreary day a bit brighter.  It was supposed to be high 70s today.  Hah!  I think it got to the low 50s.  Lunch with Aideen in Bethesda, dinner with Lauri, John and Mimi at a restaurant between their place in VA and me.  Sky cleared so the potential for severe thunderstorms passed before I left for dinner.

11 April
A gorgeous, warm, sunny day for Abigail’s Bat Mitzvah which took place this morning in the oldest synagogue in DC (now a museum that allows events to be held in the old sanctuary).  A real family affair with cousins, aunts, grandparents as well as mom, dad and little sister Adah participating.  Abigail made a chapbook using photos she’d taken, some from last year’s trip to Czech Republic where her dad’s family is from, and Poland where her parents met.  

Lunch afterwards was a good chance to meet some of Stacey’s friends.  I sat at a table with women she’s worked with in two literacy programs.  Sat next to Jerome, husband of Michelle.  He’s retired, and we commiserated over establishing new routines in retirement and the challenges of having so much free time.  Tracy, who was pregnant with her son at the same time Stacey was pregnant with Adah, told wonderfully funny stories about that as well as about her own first experiences traveling by plane. 

The luncheon was at Gallery Place, next to Verizon Center where the Washington Capitals were playing the NY Rangers, first round of the hockey playoffs I think.  Of course, as I drove out of the parking ramp, the departing hockey enthusiasts were bumper to bumper, making a left turn impossible.  No problem, WAYZ would find me a new way.  Only apparently all of the road blocks for the Cherry Blossom and Japan festivals hadn’t been input.  (WAYZ is interactive; drivers can post alerts for traffic jams, etc.)  I had to turn onto a one-way street heading straight toward the National Mall where I was significantly outnumbered by tourists seeking blossoms, parking and assorted festival events.  My 30-minute return to Bethesda took 90. 

Michael and Tamara, Peace Corps friends who live in the area, came over shortly after I returned, and we enjoyed a leisurely catch-up over wine and cheeses.  Doug, a friend of Inga’s, picked her and the girls up at the airport, arriving home just minutes after the Asian take out I’d ordered for an easy dinner for all of us.

First robin I've seen (Inga's front yard)

14 April
Off to the airport shortly as the forecasted rain continues to drizzle.  Well, can’t complain too much. No snow ala Minneapolis on Thursday.  And I had a gorgeous Saturday for the Bat Mitzvah events and two more beautiful days to sit on the deck with my morning coffee and Words With Friends.  Heaven.
Snow on my Mpls deck - argh!

15 April, back home in Minneapolis
Today is Tax Day for us US citizens, and it’s also the day I go to the doctor and learn my “fate” — will Das Boot come off today?  In the meantime …

That learning is lifelong is something I’ve always espoused.  But as we retire and get older, one often wonders what new things (other than apps for the phone or computer) will I learn?  Today, in reviewing my tax filling, I learned something new about social security payments … a good something.  If one’s income is low enough, social security isn’t taxable.  I also learned a new word that I will likely never find a way to use — bibliogony, “the art of producing or publishing books,” according to Word of the Day. Thank you to Janet for telling me about this one.  

For a bit of humor related to current events, I love theSkimm,which Ted introduced me to. A sample from today’s email, 

This is big progress. Yesterday, after a lot of of back-and-forth, the Senate approved a bill that changes how doctors who treat Medicare patients get paid. This move replaces an old formula that linked doctors’ pay with economic growth, and focuses more on paying for quality of care. Good news for docs, especially since they would’ve received a pay cut today if this hadn’t passed. Good news for Congress too, since it just actually agreed on something. It’s a medical miracle.”  

Go to to subscribe.

Ted also forwards to me more serious analyses of current events that I mostly skim, like the Stratfor strategy pieces.  The recent one on Ukraine was very enlightening.

Later …
I’m free!  Okay, I’m still transitioning to my normal walking in stride and length of walks, as the doctor reminded me, but I don’t have to wear Das Boot unless I feel like I need it.  Fat chance of that happening.  I almost feel like a real human being again.  I’ll keep Tom’s cane for a while; it’s nice to have as I increase the amount of walking that I do.  But I left Walker in DC for Maury after her bunion surgery next month.  Inga was nice enough to store it for us.

John Evie & Sam got the package I sent from Hershey
20 April
I love Minneapolis/St. Paul for the scores of excellent and eclectic theater opportunities, along with other arts, entertainment and sports. I have been fortunate recently to attend some incredible works despite my broken foot.  Again this weekend, I saw two excellent productions, but these had exceptional performances by women on tough topics. 

Saturday I called Fern, an old friend for my PR agency days whom I haven’t seen in a long time, and asked her to join me at Park Square Theatre in St. Paul.  Friend Susan, with whom I share that season ticket couldn’t attend.  “The Other Place” is about a successful neuroscientist whose life is falling apart on the cusp of a career breakthrough. Linda Kelsey, the lead, is on stage the entire 90-minute, no-intermission production and gives the best performance I’ve seen of her, and she is always very good. Lighting and dialogue took us back and forward in time as we watched her unravel.   Kelsey switched between time periods and levels of awareness of her condition seamlessly. But her most poignant and powerful was her silence in the beautifully done ending.

Sunday was Minnesota Jewish Theater (MJTC) with Jan and Marilyn, back in our regular seats which are a better vantage point than the front row MJTC executive director Barbara had generously provided for Jan and me with Wheelie last time.  “Jericho” is a drama, with a touch of humor, about the human aftermath of 9/11.  That’s a bit too simplistic for this complex play because it’s about many things, especially how we deal with guilt and the pain it causes.  Miriam Schwartz plays the wife of a 9/11 survivor whose response to survivor’s guilt, becoming ultra religious and questioning his old life, tears them apart.   Her breakdown atop the Thanksgiving dinner table is unreally real.  

During intermission last night, dance partner Larry called to say he was back early from Panama.  We agreed to talk when I got home, which is when I learned that his youngest brother, who’s been in assisted living, died last week, probably of a stroke.  He has to make arrangements, and I offered lunch any day before I leave for San Francisco as a break from his difficult duties.    

Tonight Jan and I attended a benefit for the MJTC at the Hotel Ivy.  Sally Wingert, a fabulous actress who’s performed for many theatre companies in town and elsewhere, including MJTC, did a retrospective of some one-person shows she’s done for MJTC and an interview with a board member who used to be theater critic for Minnesota Public Radio.  Mary and her new beau, Sue and Nancy were also there (Mary’s on the MJTC board now, Sue was in the past).  Lovely to see them all as it’s been way too long.  I think we’ll all be in town for a couple of weeks after I return from San Francisco.  Definitely need to organize a gathering. 

Yes that's an elephant and no, it's not in San Francisco.  I kept forgetting to take pix, as usual, so I'm stealing one from Niamh, daughter of my friends David & Olga in Uganda.  That's Niamh below.  She and brother Ethan took some great pix during a recent trip to Murchison Falls Park.

25 April, San Francisco CA
Larry and I played telephone tag before I left Mpls and never were able to get together.  He called yesterday and left me a message that he’d left his heart in SF in case I see it anywhere.  Hmmm.  He does have an interesting sense of humor.  His brother’s memorial is tomorrow, and I’m sorry I can’t be there.

Although Janet and I left MSP almost an hour late on Thursday, we arrived to a sunny, warm, windy San Francisco only 30 minutes late.  Jean awaited our arrival in the cell lot so was Johnny-on-the-spot to pick us up.  We took a detour southward to Burlingame for a quiet lunch, then back to Jean’s in the Cow Hollow section of the city to decompress a while. Jean cooked dinner, and we all hit the hay early.  That two-hour time difference is worse than the seven hours to Europe.

Friday we drove to Alameda for brunch with Marie, a Mpls friend who lives there now.  Marie was among the Acapulco group of years ago.  Her friend Ginny, another transplanted Minnesotan, joined us for a couple of hours of delicious food and congenial talk.  We had a quiet evening, again more tired earlier than expected.

Today we drove over to the DeYoung Museum of Art to see the exhibition from the Scottish National Galleries in Edinburgh.  A broad mix of paintings, “From Botticelli to Braque,” many that hadn’t been seen outside Scotland before.  And since I’ve never been to the galleries in Edinburgh, it was all new to me too.  Then to lunch and Nordstrom’s to pick up some necessities.  Dinner tonight at Perry’s on Union Street with friend Francesca and Jean’s daughter Lisa.  Loud and noisy but decent casual food.  We almost were seated in a small dining room with a party that included five or six children, but I saw the high chairs and had seen the rowdy kids when we were all waiting for the host to get our tables.  So I asked for another spot.  I’d rather listen to cheering baseball fans at the bar than squalling kids.

Although it’s only 9 pm, I’ll be closing up and going to bed soon.  

27 April
Had a lovely dinner tonight in Larkspur, up in Marin County.  My niece Michelle was up there working so we made the drive and dined at FarmShop, pricey but excellent fare.  It’s in a small shopping area with equally pricey shops … and shops geared at a much younger clientele than Jean, Janet and I.  But fun to look.  And there was a great bookstore where Jean got some books for a new baby in her family.

Brunch yesterday was all I’d expected it to be — good food, good fun. Jean and I took Marie’s delicious egg bake and added more “stuff” to the basic wild-rice- and-eggs mix: onions, garlic, mushrooms, tomatoes, spinach.  Jean also made a gluten free version of her mother’s blueberry muffins.  Guests included my cousin Annie, friends Tom & Peg, Marie (or Friday brunch), her cousin Mary, and Otis, the ophthalmic surgeon who came to Skopje with Jean for RotaVision.  No “six degrees of separation” in our relationships, we found two in several instances.  Previously I’d learned that Jean’s friend from Rotary, Tom, was a lawyer friend of my college roommate Marilyn.  Now we learn that Tom knows someone who’s from Annie’s (and my Mom’s) tiny Illinois hometown.  Mary works with a man that Jean’s knows from her hometown of Hibbing MN.  Peg lived in Minnesota for about ten years as a kid.  

After brunch, Jean, Janet and I relaxed and napped before having a delightful array of leftovers for dinner.

28 April, Minneapolis MN
Home again.  Janet’s son Thom picked us up at the airport, her husband Ed fixed us dinner.  Life is good, as Janet so often reminds me.

29 April
Argh!  Tried to put up the “patio” umbrella that I ordered online from Target.  It was defective … couldn’t get the umbrella to unfurl, then two small metal pins flew out.  Packed it up and schlepped it to the Southdale area store with the help of Thom.  Clerk said none available in the region.  Expletives deleted.

30 April
Met Marilou for lunch at Red Lobster and heard her tale of the vacation from hell at a five-star resort in Mexico. I won’t go into details (it’s her story to tell), but that’s an apt description of a trip that started with being told there was no room reserved and slid rapidly downhill from there.

Today after water ex and coffee with the crew, I came home to deal with an Internet problem that arose last night.  When I tried to log in to send something to Hala in Poland, my laptop wouldn’t connect to the wifi; the wifi wouldn’t accept my password either.  Tried Apple first, assuming it was a laptop problem because I could get into iTunes via Apple TV which uses the Internet.  We tried all that the online Genius could offer with no luck, so on to Comcast.  Two techs later it was fixed.  It seems the security software connected with my router was old, which apparently Apple products often don’t like.  Once that was determined, it was fairly easy to fix and reconnect, which I did. (Have I told you lately how much I detest dealing with Comcast on Internet issues?  It’s that &#*%^(Y^$@ intro message that reminds me I can handle this via their web site …)

This afternoon I met Karen, friend from my Northeast Enterprise Facilitation Days whom I haven’t seen in years.  Her mother in law is Albanian, so when I was in Macedonia and Kosovo I used to send Karen newspapers, magazines and such for her.  When I was in Pristina in December, I bought a hand-made holiday decorated tote for Karen.  We talked nonstop for more than an hour over iced coffees (yes, it’s warm enough for iced coffee!).  Then I went to a nearby laundromat and washed heavy rubber-backed bathroom rugs, made a short stop at Whole Foods for something to eat and now I’m here, finishing out this month’s blog while sitting on my deck sans umbrella. 

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