Friday, August 20, 2010

Forty Years of Wedded Bliss!

Yup, this Sunday we celebrate 40 years of marriage. Bob and I were married August 22, 1970 at St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Pelham, New Hampshire. We had about 70 guests and had a reception at a golf club afterwards. We spent the next ten days driving over 5,000 miles on our honeymoon - camping across Canada on the Trans-Canadian Highway, attending Mary and Tasos' wedding in Illinois and then heading down to Kentucky to see Bob's alma mater, Eastern Kentucky University. Three wonderful sons were born in 1972, 1974 and 1980 - Scott, Mike and Eric (short, strong names with such a long last name), respectively. We now have five grandchildren - Josie, Sasha, Andrew, Joey and Catherine. Seems just like yesterday that we joined hands at the altar - two scared young people, not knowing what the future would hold for them.

We've had many ups and downs - job changes, personal challenges - but, the joys and blessings have SO outweighed the concerns and upsets. We have seen our kids grow, seek their futures and form wonderful relationships. We have both been blessed with the love of travel and have visited countries all over the world. I have a very patient and loving husband who has pushed me to visit new places, try new foods and get home from work on time (never!). My hope is that we have many more years together, especially after I retire in September 2012. We'll see...but, it has been quite a ride!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Up date on our vacation house

When we rented the house for our family get together it did not exist. We saw a snow covered hole where the house was going to be placed but no house. I am pleased to tell you all that the house is now ready for us and does exist.

Last Friday it was cold, cloudy, rainy and just plain nasty. Jeanne and I agreed to watch the neighbor's three kids and since it was too cold to take them to the camp, we decided to check out the house and see what progress they had made in getting it ready for customers. We all packed into the car and off we went to New London. On the way we stopped and saw the largest ball of twine in the world. Over 40 feet in circumference and over 17,000 pounds, the ball is located in a tiny town, Darwin, in the middle of Minnesota. The girls enjoyed the visit but Gavin was under the weather and just kept sleeping during the entire trip. We arrived at the house after about a 90 minute drive.

The house is going to be tight but perfect for our family. There is a wrap around deck that over looks the lake. My guess is that with a few cases of beer, most of our time will be spent sitting on the deck talking, playing cards and just watching the flow of the tiny resort.

The up stairs has a nice kitchen, big refrigerator and living room with a flat screen TV. The dinning area has a table large enough to fit everyone at the same time. The only down side is the chairs and table is made of hard wood and wights a ton. I don't think the kids will be able to move the chairs but there is a bench that is perfect for them. The master bedroom is up stairs (we plan on using that room for mom and I). There is another up stairs bedroom with a queen bed and a bath room on that level as well.
Down stairs area which is accessed from the parking lot and convenient for the kids, has six bedrooms and a small living area with another TV. There is a large picnic table under the deck as well. One of the bedrooms has a bunk bed large enough for all the older kids to sleep in at the same time. Three of the downstairs bedrooms have queen beds, one bedroom has a single bed and the other has two single beds. At this point that should be enough for all of us. We are planning on Scott and Tammi (4), Mike and Jess (5), Eric (2), David and Mel (4) and ourselves (2). That is 17 people and we are allowed 18 without additional cost.
The 'resort" has a nice beach so the kids should plan on lots of beach time. They also have good fishing on the lake. This past week they said they were pulling in 3 pound large mouth bass and decent sized walleyes. Mike is renting a fishing boat (thanks Mike for agreeing to my suggestion) so we need to make sure you all get a fishing license.
I hope Tammi can come a bit early with the girls but everyone, if you can, should plan on spending a little time with your grandmother.

To save some time, we can buy most or at least some of the food before everyone gets here. Shopping in Willmar is limited (we still have not found the grocery store) and a half hour away from the resort so what we can get in the cities would be helpful. We will buy the beer before hand unless you all want to be part of that buying decision as well. I know how important good beer is to the Utah group and the Chicago group and the Minneapolis group. Let me know if we should pre-buy some stuff.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

One week after Mom's 98th Birthday

It's been over a week since Mom's birthday. All went smoothly - Linda arrived safely the previous Sunday from Virginia; Mary dodged the flight cancellations due to the volcano in Ice land and arrived on Tuesday. Dirk, Linda's son and my nephew, arrived on Wednesday from San Francisco. So, Thursday evening we gathered with Mom in her room at Millstream Commons and ate cheese, crackers, pickled herring, shrimp and drank beer & sparkling wine to celebrate the eve of Mom's birthday. It was fun to catch up with Dirk and his work at Google, and visit with Mary & Linda, as I knew it would be a busy day to come. The conversations took a twisted turn, however, when Mary and Linda lit into me concerning the sex abuses cases in the Catholic Church and the need for Pope Benedict to resign, in their opinion.

Lately there has been a never-ending stream of revelations about clergy abuse and bishops have been forced to resign in Ireland, Germany, France, as well as earlier in the United States. The underlying question seems to be what did Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict) know about these cases and what did he do to prevent future abuses from occurring? I guess I have grown so weary of this as we in Minnesota have dealt with this twenty-five years ago with the Fr. James Porter horrible list of abuses and we have put in place many measures to prevent re-occurrence. The screening of seminarians is much more thorough, the reporting requirements are in place and the background checks and training requirements for people working closely with children and youth are pretty stringent for Catholic parishes and schools. Plus, our knowledge of sex addiction and compulsive sexual behavior is so much more advanced now than it was a generation ago - you can't just "fix" this behavior...its roots run deep in family of origin issues and a couple of visits to a shrink or a two week spiritual retreat are only band-aids. I was feeling quite hurt and dismayed by my sisters' blame-filled conversation, but understand their disgust. It surely put a damper on my joy of the evening and my long, weary drive back home afterwards.

The following day, Friday, April 30, I drove back down to celebrate with Mom and my sisters and nephew - lunch, followed by a concert with the Northfield Troubadors and cake and ice cream and lemonade at Millstream. Mom thoroughly enjoyed her afternoon and visited with a number of friends and well-wishers - probably 50 people in all. I drove home late that afternoon as Eric, Mike, Jess and the kids drove in from Elmhurst and Scott flew in from Salt Lake City that evening.

Our little house was filled with kids, adults and lots of catching-up. It was the first time in many years that our three sons were "back home" together at 5340 Queen. There was much beer drunk and memories shared. Andrew and Joey loved playing with the John Deere toys and Hot Wheel cars that I had purchased at a Northfield antique shop earlier that day.

Saturday morning dawned early (kids were up at 6:30 a.m., raring to go!). We were heading down the Sue's house in Northfield for a family dinner with all the trimmings. Before leaving we received a phone call from Sue that Grandma had passed out for a couple of minutes and she was heading to the hospital in an ambulance - I guess, just too much fun the previous couple of days. We decided to go ahead with the dinner and visit Grandma in the hospital as her condition allowed (minus the little kids). Melinda, David, Iris and Baker were also at Sue's, so it proved to be such a nice day together - kids ran all over inside and outside - tulips were blooming and it was such nice weather. We all stopped in to see Grandma for a few minutes - but she was pretty tired. The ol' ticker is just wearing out!

The next two days were filled with comings and goings - Mike and his family and Eric left Sunday morning to drive back and Scott and I drove down to see Mom once more. Monday, Scott made some repairs to ceiling lights downstairs - it was great to have him around, even though he had to fly home that evening.

So, Grandma is on to 99...she has left the hospital and is in transitional care at Three Links, regaining her strength. But, the reality is that her heart is weakening and these spells can re-occur at any time, for any reason. There has to be 24/7 care to prevent accidents and falls. She hates this layer of care, but is resigned to it. I would love to be able to move her back to her townhome in Pheasantwood so that she could spend her last days/months watching her garden and in the comfort of familiar surroundings. But the level of care needed is the caution. Meanwhile, life goes on for all of us...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

School is out

Summer is coming and with it comes the end of school. Yup! At 67, I am still in school. I audit classes and write papers on the subjects I think I might enjoy writing about-mostly in the philosophy area. Test and major research can be a bit stressful so I pass on most of those. Lucky for me Minnesota does not charge tuition for folks over 62. I pay a technology fee and parking. Comes out to about $10 a credit and what a bargain that is. In the past four years since I have retired, I have taken twenty-one classes.

I take my classes at the North Hennepin Community College in Brooklyn Park, about 20 minutes north of my home. NHCC is a community college with about 3000 students, ages 16 on up. The younger folks are still in high school earning credit for college classes. They come to the college for part of their day and spend the rest at their high school. We have a sprinkling of older folks looking to improve their education so they can increase their earning at their jobs and, of course; we have the college aged youngsters. There are only two of me-retired old folks.

Attending NHCC has changed my opinion about community colleges. My first reaction was the college was for kids who could not hack it at a "real" college and the teachers were just better educated high school teachers. Boy was I wrong! The teachers are excellent. Most with PhDs and many of them teach at NHCC because they are teachers first. You deliver a first class education.

I enjoy History so I have burned through the history department - at least the European history part. Now I am going to take some American history classes.

Taking classes as a senior citizen it really nice. You don’t have the stress the kids do as they study for classes and write papers and everyone thinks you’re a lot smarter then you really are. White hair and old age does that to you I guess.

A few observations: some of the young people at NHCC are really intelligent. On the most part many of the kids in my classes have excellent minds. They could compete at any four year college they chose to go to. What they lack is life experience and cultural literary. Things I take for granted, they have no knowledge of.

A good number of them are also so very conservative. They think government is bad and are believers in just about any conspiracy theory you can think of. The internet is a where they seem to get most of their knowledge I guess.

The college has international students and many students who recently arrived in the USA. I was talking to a young man from Syria who was here on a student visa. Who would have thought a little school like ours would attract a foreign student? What is nice is that student will be given as many remedial classes as he needs to succeed.

Being retired is great and having the time to relearn stuff you missed as an undergraduate makes my winters go quickly. Life is good.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Momentous Week to Come

As I write this, my sister Linda has arrived from Virginia, Mary from Switzerland this morning, my nephew, Dirk, flies in from San Francisco tomorrow morning, Eric, Mike/Jess and the grandkids drive in from Elmhurst, Il. on Friday afternoon and Scott flies in from Salt Lake City on Friday night.

So what's the big deal? My mother celebrates her 98th birthday on Friday! This is a woman who has published her memoirs, fought colon and uterine cancers, heart disease, Paget's bone disease and crippling arthritis. She is truly amazing! I cannot believe her tenacity and her engagement with Life. One rarely hears complaints or criticisms from her - she just can't be bothered.

Last Sunday I joined her for Sunday dinner at Millstream Commons, her assisted living facility. Afterwards I gave her a manicure, while she watched the Twins and took an afternoon nap. Bored with the Twins (they were losing), she consented to a ride down to her townhome at Pheasantwood (we still hold out hope that she can return there with a full-time caregiver, to spend her last months (years?). I bundled her up in her wheelchair and then pushed, pulled and bumped over the wood chipped trails of her garden so that she could once again enjoy the lush promise of Spring. We sat together near her small pond (yes, it was full of recent rainwater) as she marvelled at the peonies, lilacs, hosta, May flowers and glorious tulips - what had come up, what hadn't survived the winter -and wondering if the family of ducks would return this year.

So, Friday, April 30th, we will invite her friends in for cake and ice cream at 2:30 and Saturday we will be all together for a large family dinner at my sister Sue's - roast leg of lamb, Mom's favorite. She is so excited and can't quite believe this is happening.

I cherish these special times, alone with my Mom. There are changes in her every time I visit...but why not? The gnarly fingers, the bent over walk, and the struggles to get up from her chair - she doesn't give up. She reminds us kids - what do I owe you, as we pick up toiletries for her. She will ask how did Eric's interview go, how is Scott doing at Questar, and loves the tales of Mike representing a multi-millionaire at a big auction of Florida condos.

Can one imagine the changes that she has witnessed over her 98 years? I remember as a kid sitting next to her as we picked feathers off of scalding hot chicken carcasses - she was so fast - OR washing chicken poop off of eggs, one by one, getting them ready for a grocer in St. Paul. I remember washing four loads of clothes with her (whites first, Dad's patched striped overalls last) in the Maytag wringer washer and hanging them in long, swaying lines of laundry outside by the crabapple tree. The cistern by the back door (if you shouted down it, you could hear an echo, but watch out for any snakes!), the Watkins salesman with the big jolly belly (Mr. Koester), the wonderful kettle closet that was such a jumbled mess and her frustration with me doing projects at the last minute (I haven't changed a bit, ask Bob). I remember when it was too cold to move the baby chickens into the brooder house and we had to place the crate of these cheeping little yellow fuzz balls into our oven on low heat! Oh, Mom, can't we hold them?

She has given me more that I can ever give back to her - happy birthday, Mom!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Finally ....

Last weekend, we took another trip "up north" to check out a place for our family vacation. We had two places in mind. One was in Aiken, two and a half hours north of the cities, and the other in New London. New London is about 90 miles west and north of the cities (110 miles from our house).
Sunset Shores is a resort located on Norway Lake. The resort is smaller than Holiday Camp (resort we stayed at three years ago) but has a lot more going for the kids. If want to see the site check out We did not see the house since it is still under construction but we understand it has 8 bedrooms and large kitchen and living areas both upstairs and downstairs. Seven of the bedrooms have queen beds. A deck runs around the house giving lots of space for hanging out and watching the lake. It is a family run resort and the children in the owner’s family run kids programs for the guests. They have boats to rent and lots to do.
We rented it for the week starting with Saturday, July 24. It should prove to be great place for a Minnesota vacation. There is a riding stable nearby for the kids who might want to rent a horse. Mike is going to rent a boat for the week (after I ask him and he says yes) so lots of fishing. From all indications, this lake has nice big fish waiting to be caught. Kid’s games, fire ring, swimming beach, miniature golf and lots of other stuff are provided to keep the kids busy. There is real golf for Mike and Eric. Jeanne and I are anxious for the kids to see the largest ball of twine in the world. One of the highlights of a trip to Minnesota! 
Hopefully, Tammy and the girls can come out early so we can show them the Twin Cities. Josie plays the violin but I am not sure she has ever been to a real symphonic concert before so it would be nice to take her to the Minnesota Symphony while they are here. Sasha might enjoy a play at the Children’s Theater. There is lots to see in the Twin Cities and the girls are now of an age where it would be fun showing off the Cities.
We hope everyone can get here early or leave late so they can see their grandmother. Dot is pushing 98 and starting to show her age. It would be nice for the grand kids to see her before something really serious happens to her.
In addition, to our kids we have invited David and Mel and their kids to join us for the week. When your family is spread out across the nation, you need to find a way to bring them all together, including cousins, aunts and uncles. This is out way to stay connected.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

In spite of the last blog .....

Well, we thought we had a place for the summer get together but, after seeing it, we decided to keep on looking.
There are a number of considerations we have when looking for a house. We need a bedroom for each family and another for the kids. That is five bedrooms, minimum. We also enjoy having a large gathering place in the house so folks can talk while cooking and having dinner. A table big enough for all of us to eat at the same time would be wonderful. We definitely need a beach nearby for the kids to swim and ideally a fire pit so we can spend the evening outside around a fire. The house we saw had the beach, gathering place and fire pit but only four bedrooms. That means someone had to sleep on the futon. And although Jeanne and I were willing to sleep in the room with the bunk beds (hence with the kids), the price of the house ($3500 for the week), was too much for what we were giving up. So, Jeanne got on the computer and after another extensive search, we now have two other options we will be looking at this weekend.
The first is in New London, about 95 miles north and west of the Cities. This home has 8 bedrooms, dishwasher, and 3 bathrooms, with ac. It includes a walkout patios facing Norway Lake from dining room and family room in basement. It is part of a resort, which has both it’s up and down sides.
The second is on Cedar Lake. We would have to rent two homes since none of the houses are big enough to allow all of us to have a bed room. Having said that, the place has a big beach, is private, not a resort, and has a fire pit and lots of room for the kids to play. This is not the most ideal, but we started our search a little late and have to make do with what is available.
This weekend we plan on traveling to both sites and make a final decision. We have asked both parties to pencil us in until the weekend. If you want to check out the two places go to> for the two cabins and to for the Minnesota cabin.