|For those of you who didn't see my brother's birthday present to me, here 'tis.|
25 November 2015, Minneapolis MN USA
Finally, I think the good news is catching up with the bad news this month. And I certainly hope it stays that way. The month began with the death of another roommate — the one that another freshman-year roommate and I “found” after years of not knowing where she was. Sudden and unexpected although she had had cancer, MS and some other health issues. Also learned of the death of a Peace Corps friend, again unexpected (I thought he’d live forever) but he was in his 80s. Another friend was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and the brother of yet another has the same cancer that killed my son Peter and it’s metastasized already. A hometown friend just went into hospice. My sister in law needed shoulder replacement surgery. My oldest friend is now in a wheelchair because of a bad fall, and another 90-year-old friend was hospitalized.
On the positive side, Dianna (the friend I visited in Boston during her pre-chemo tests) got a good report at her last check up, and M, who had stem cell treatments earlier in the year, is cancer free!
One rainy, rainy day nephew Craig and his son Alijah came over a visit and lunch. They were “bach’ing it” while older son Jaiden was making a birthday visit to his dad in Denver. Mom April went along as this was Jaiden’s first plane trip. Alijah is such a ray of sunshine — always with a big smile on his face, an impish grin around the mouth and eyes, and non-stop energy.
After they left, I decided to clean up the emails, download some television episodes in advance of my coming trip to Poland and just relax on that yukky-weather day. I found this fantastic mash-up in an email from Ted. Another day brightener. Enjoy!
Other positive news: Ted is doing well with his rehab, able to manage driving to lunch today on his own. Sue and Nancy finally got married. Bente has a darling new granddaughter. And Hala is going to become a grandmother in February. Lindsay led a very vigorous water ex class yesterday morning, and Andrew’s equally calorie-burning boot camp today ended a few minutes early so he could catch his flight to Arizona. I picked up my niece Michelle at the airport yesterday, and on Sunday she’s driving me to catch my flight to Amsterdam and onward. And I talked to Inga today. Franciszka has been accepted at four colleges; now she has to pick where she’ll attend.
Things are looking up.
|Winter sunrise on Lake Harriet|
26 November, Happy Thanksgiving
We’re finally getting some snow in Minneapolis! Okay, I know many who would not cheer at that, but I happen to love snow and always have. I was the last kid dragged into the house at night when I was growing up, and we got some fantastic snowfalls in Pennsylvania.
Took a 45 minute walk around the neighborhood since I skipped going to the pool for an extemporaneous water ex today. Lynn, who usually also shows up, has her grandchildren, so wasn’t going to be there. And I hate swimming laps, which would’ve been my alternative. The walk was invigorating and preps me for the buffet at Loring Kitchen in a couple of hours!
Had my first experience with Amazon Prime’s two-hour delivery today — as a package recipient, that is. It’s a bit dear for my budget but then again, if I got into a pinch pre-travel sometime … Anyway, my friend Sue ordered a baby present for Marta and it was at my place two hours later. (Sue met both Hala and Marta when she visited me in Sandomierz in 2009.) Nancy is doing well with her chemo, thank God.
Had a long email from Alfreda about her truncated trip to her new assignment in Africa. Her Air France flight was diverted from DC to Halifax so it could be checked for a bomb! None found but that screwed up all connections. She traveled through Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and had I known, I would’ve warned her about the long, unruly queues to have arriving baggage x-rayed. But she made it through and was only two days (and one temporarily lost suitcase) late.
After water ex, I headed over to St. Paul and breakfast with Peace Corps friends. Sabrina organized breakfast as Bev and John, who live in northern Indiana, were in town to visit Bev’s sister. Haven’t see B&J in years as I was gone last time they were here. Fun to hear about how they’ve adapted to retirement.
Niece Michelle’s in town and will be here shortly to take me to the airport. The 3:10 to AMS is now the 3:16 (not sure why; it still arrives in the wee hours before sunrise). It’s the Sunday after Thanksgiving so I’m going three hours early, just in case it’s the annual mob scene.
Must’ve just beaten the rush because I got through baggage drop and security pretty quickly, about the same time as a usual trip. Found some food, filled my water bottle, now to eat, check emails and read on my iPad. This will be my first long trip with only that device for everything. In case I don’t write tomorrow, have a great first week in December!
PS I heard Minneapolis-St. Paul was going to get blizzard-style snow tonight. Wow, did I luck out!
|Christmas is coming: Aideen & Mickey sent this photo |
of the Minnesota tree on the National Mall
Holiday Sale: Two Posts for price of one
|Cousins Alijan and Ruby: A merriest Christmas|
25 December 2015, Minneapolis MN USA
Almost an entire month has gone by again, and I haven’t written a word. I’m not sure why although I can explain why I am now. I was getting ready to take a shower, when I realized the hot water heater had, once again, gone off. Since I mostly shower at the Y after water ex, I only use my own shower once or twice a week … and this was my first try this week. I rebooted the pilot light, but no hot water until it’s had a chance to heat up the tank. And since I’ve set the table for dinner already and I don’t feel like peeling potatoes yet, I have 20 or 30 minutes to spare. So here I am.
|Table's all ready for Christmas dinner|
|Old angels on mantel await holidays|
|Presents 'neath the tree|
It’s been another month of ups and downs but perhaps more ups this month. Definitely an “up” that I had an uneventful trip to AMS on 29 Nov.-1 Dec., especially after learning of Alfreda’s plight.
My friend Jean’s cousin was in my aisle on the MSP-AMS flight. Took me a few minutes to screw up the courage to ask if he was Harvey; I wasn’t entirely positive. He was en route to Germany to be with Jean’s brother who was undergoing cancer treatment. Her brother died not long after that, one of the month’s “downs.” On the “up” side of cancer, if there is one, friends Dianna and Nancy both seem to be doing well. Nancy’s undergoing chemo now.
My 10 days in Poland were lots of fun, and we had reasonably good weather. A bit of drizzle and a bit of snow when I was in Warsaw, but temps that were quite manageable to this “Minnesotan.” In Warsaw, I had a good time staying and visiting with Dorota, Jacek and Franio, who is growing fast. I think the MN Wild shirt I got him may only fit for a week. Also got to spend a bit of time with G and with Iza, always a treat, but Ula wasn’t in Warsaw and I couldn’t get to Kraków this trip.
Steve from the Center Board and I had dinner with Hala’s daughter Marta and her significant other Łukaś before heading to Sandomierz for the board meeting. They are expecting a baby girl in February and are definitely aglow. We handed over the baby things, candy etc. that we had muled over for them.
Halinka took Steve and me to the first annual Christmas bazaar in Rzeszów, then on to former Center staffer Leszek’s home and winery. The GPS mis-navigated us, but we finally found the lovely hilltop location with some help from Leszek. Well organized vineyards not far from the house and a nearby gazebo for wine tasting in better weather; more land to be developed, or not, later. It was a bitter cold, windy evening so we didn’t tarry. The winery is located in the back half of a single car garage and announced by a legally required sign on the door. His wines are doing well. We sipped a sample.
Before heading USA-ward, Steve and I were at Hala’s for an indoor ognisko. Michał built a roaring fire in the Franklin store that heats the main-floor great room of their new guest house. The renovated farm building is nearly done and beautifully put together (with the possible exception of the bordello-decor of an upstairs bathroom!). Sandomierz was definitely an “up,” as was having friend Janet waiting for me outside Immigration/Customs when I arrived home.
|April, Crair & Alijah|
Fun time with my nephews Craig and John and their families when John, Heather and Ruby came to the Cities one weekend. Ruby at five months is such an easy baby; she came to me without so much as a whimper. And at the water park the next afternoon, she let me keep her while the others queued up for and enjoyed a long tube ride.
Craig sent these family shots taken at his parents' place on Christmas. Just missing Jaiden, who was in South Dakota.
|Heidi & David|
John, Sam & Evie
|Heather, John & Ruby|
More ups: Good theater at Jungle, though I still cannot decide if I liked the play, and music with the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus evening of holiday songs. I always tear up and think of my dear, late friend John when we conclude with “Walk Hand in Hand with Me”.
Dental/medical appointments are downers, but at least I got good news. Teeth all look good; nothing new needs fixing (a replacement crown will wait until the existing non-USA made one falls apart!). Hearing is okay; yes, I could qualify for a hearing aid, but I don’t think my hearing is that bad yet … let me know, folks!
Annual cookie baking with Jodi and the girls is a highlight of the season. This year we baked at their place ... lots of gingerbread people made from scratch.
|Lydia, Jodi & Ada|
Dinner at The Commodore to celebrate friend/neighbor Marianne’s birthday was another big up. We Uber’d — only my second time to use the service, and the first time, in Boston, I had to have then-12-year-old Tosia show me how. But we made it and welcomed not driving to St. Paul in rush hour traffic.
For those who don’t remember or know, The Commodore was a favorite hangout of novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda. They lived around the corner in a row house on elegant Summit Avenue. The bar and restaurant have been redone in the elegance of the Jazz Age. Peace Corps pal Tom had taken me there for my birthday, and I was awed by the place. Anyway, Maryanne and I had outstanding food and drink, impeccable service, great people watching, and thanks to Uber, sane travel.
Big “down” that Thom rescued into a major “up” … carpet cleaning. Had arranged for pre-Christmas rug cleaning of two bedrooms, and with Thom to help furniture moving so the entire carpet could be reached and cleaned in both rooms. Long story short, the cleaner had a “major catastrophe, a huge crisis” and at the last minute wasn’t able to do the work … and me with kitchen and living, dining and laundry rooms full of stuff. Thom brought over Janet’s industrial strength carpet cleaner and did a beautiful job on both rooms.
Arranged to go to DC for three weeks in January, two of which will be taking care of Mickey while Aideen travels to Ethiopia. Mickey and I will go to Baltimore for MLK weekend, and we’re hoping my Peace Corps Bestest Susan Snelson will fly in from Texas to join us. I’ll spend some time with Inga and the girls too. Another “up” of the month — Franciszka was accepted at Indiana University, her dad’s alma mater, and three or four other universities. Way to go, Frankie! Oh, and Antonia turned 13. Tosia as a teen … hmmmm
Christmas went well although Chris’ sweetie was ill and couldn’t join us. Roast prime rib has become a family tradition, and Lunds’ directions continue to produce a perfect medium rare. Boxing Day saw my sister Barbara, niece Michelle and me investing in the economy of the North Loop. After we all exercised in our own way, we met and checked out the unique shops in the neighborhood … and each bought a thing or two. Three in my case — a long coat-sweater, a comfy tunic for travel days and a royal blue knit tunic/dress that I wore to the Guthrie last night. Early supper at the Red Cow before we parted.
Coconuts at the Guthrie was a perfect tonic for this crazy world we live in. It’s based on the Marx Brothers film of the same name, and the three actors who played the brothers were spot on. Lots of broad comedy, too many plays on words to count, a real “feel good” night. Although I was sorry Jan got sick, resulting in my going with Marilyn, I was definitely glad I’d gone.
Now to get ready for the new year. Decided to get ahead and shopped today for my annual New Year’s Day pork-and-sauerkraut dinner … necessary for good luck, according to my late Hungarian father. Must arrange for a First Footing: for Scottish good luck, the first man to cross your threshold must have dark hair (not an easy task in Scandinavian-German Minnesota!).
31 December, Happy New Year’s Eve
Soon it’ll be 2016 — a leap year, no less — but I shall be sound asleep. I am so sorry to miss fireworks from Pam’s rooftop, but I’m pooped and the bus schedule just doesn’t work (cannot imagine driving on a night like this). So, off to bed. See you next year!