Thursday, December 31, 2009

Christmas Carol at the Guthrie

Last night, Jeanne and I went to see the Guthrie’s "A Christmas Carol". It was magnificent! In 1975, Barbara Field did the adaptation of the story for the stage and she did a superb job of hitting all the key points in making this production. Each year since then, the Guthrie has produced this version of the story. The play is only 90 minutes long, but even that short time flew by.
The theater, and the stage, was filled with both adults and kids. The costumes of the ghosts were brilliant. The cast was the largest I have seen at the Guthrie, and everyone did a bang-up job. One of the things I enjoy about the Twin Cities is our ethnic diversity and this diversity was evident on the stage. One of the Cratchit kids was Asian and the little boy, who Scrooge gets to buy the large turkey in the window, was a girl and African-American.
I have seen the "Christmas Carol" movies numerous times but this was the first time I experienced the emotional connection between the old “humbug” Scrooge and the newly-minted Scrooge who honors Christmas.
Like Scrooge, I am a humbug type of person when it comes to live performances. Over the years, we have had season tickets to the Ordway and downtown theatres for a series on Broadway productions that came to the Twin Cities. I don’t think I enjoyed going to these productions as much as Jeanne but as a good and loving husband I went (unless I could give the tickets to my sister-in-law). However, I am getting hooked on the Guthrie. It is a short ride from home, getting in and out of the parking area is a breeze and the shows get Jeanne home on time and the theatre is good. Most of all it makes Jeanne happy so what’s not to like about going to the Guthrie.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Eve

This year's Christmas was different. Eric came in from Chicago on the bus right in the middle of a snow storm.
Like his dad, Eric has more time than money so he decided to take the Megabus from Chicago to Minnesota. I have taken this trip a number of time and it is not all that bad. You get on the bus in Chicago and seven hours later, get off in Minneapolis. I was going to pick him up at 11 pm. At 3 am he was just getting into town. He said it was the trip from hell. Thursday, Christmas eve, we had a nice visit with him. I cooked up a few tender loins and we had a quiet family dinner. After dinner, he challenged Jeanne to a game on his WII. Out came the guitars as Jeanne rose to the challenge. Now you have to understand that Jeanne is one of the most competitive persons I know. She hates to lose and loves to win. She also is as coordinated as a seal out of water. Her lack of coordination is more than made up for with an abundance of competitiveness. Eric, of course, beat her the first twenty times but that did not stop her from playing most of Christmas eve and into Christmas night. I am not sure she ever won a game but at 1 am last night they were just finishing up.

Christmas was bitter-sweet. We were surrounded by family including Jeanne's mom. This year has seen her mom go into a senior residence and, just a few weeks ago, experience a heart attack. She is 97 and for the first time ever, she is starting to look and act her age. This might be her last Christmas with us and that is sad since she is the glue that holds our family together. She is the kindest, most gentle person I know. In the almost forty years we have been married, I have come to love her and to admire her more each year. Just the idea that she might not be with us next year makes me sad and teary eyed. And the best part is, I know she loves me and all of our family unconditionally.

We drove down to Northfield through the snow storm to Sue's home. Going to Northfield has become a family tradition and usually we have dinner and give gifts at "grandma's" house. This year, we celebrated at Sue's since Mom's hosting with be out of the question. In-laws. nephews, little kids, it was all great fun. My nephew's wife is a chef. Part of her skills have rubbed off on my nephew and together they cooked up a fabulous Christmas meal. Sitting around a table with twelve members of your family-that's what Christmas is all about. The ride home was 'sweet'. MnDOT had all the rodes clear and dry. Another Christmas memory.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas: Right around the corner

Christmas is coming on fast. Up until last Sunday, Jeanne's been telling me that she had it all under control. She was going to go online and buy gifts and have them delivered to the kids by UPS. However, she also had early morning meetings and late night meetings twice last week. I wondered how Wonder Woman was going to do it all, but didn't worry. Jeanne has the capacity to do just about anything she puts her mind to. Sunday it all collapsed. In a low voice, she finally admitted she was not wonder woman and asked for my help. So, Monday morning off I went to purchase toys for grandkids and gifts for our kids and moms. God! I love/hate Christmas shopping. Everything was on sale but the lines were long and people were driving crazy (both driving me crazy and their cars crazy). After shopping all day on Monday, I hit a wall and could not cope with the stress of trying to figure out what to buy for my kids. I had no idea what they wanted/needed. After a cup of coffee, I was back at it and today Jeanne is putting four large boxes in the mail that will hopefully get to their homes by Christmas. Feels good to have it done and still have money in the bank and your senses intact.

We had an e-mail from our son, Scott, today. Seems like Josie (our 8 year old granddaughter) asked the BIG Christmas question. Here is his e-mail:

"Sadly enough we told Josie last night about Santa Claus. Her questions were getting more sophisticated and the thought of going from evading her to flat out lying was not an option we wanted. She's cool with it, she says she was pretty sure that was the case anyway, but her issue was how we could afford the presents? We told her that's a secret that we as parents will continue to keep to ourselves.

Her next question after a few moments was . "Will you tell me the secret before I have my own kids?"

Tammi said "Of course, but you'll probably figure it out by then."

Christmas is a great season for kids and in spite of all the money spent, tensions created, and crazy people I love it.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Happy Birthday, Dear!

One day late, I took Bob out for his birthday. 

Earlier, I had spent the day with my mother down at Mill Stream Commons Assisted Living.  Mom had moved in December 1st and a couple of days later experienced a heart attack. I think it was brought about by old age (97 yrs.), narrowing of the arteries and the stress of this new chapter in her life. Mom tried out everything those first few days - getting up, rushing to get dressed and get to breakfast on time (she is NOT a morning person). After breakfast she used her brand-new walker-on-wheels (remember, this woman only moved about thirty steps in her townhome between couch/TV room/kitchen/bedroom/bathroom/etc; she now lives on third floor, nearby an elevator, which is only a matter of steps from the dining room.) to go and locate the hairdresser. After finding the hairdresser, she is able to have her hair done, right away.After lunch, Mom agrees to join a book club watching the "African Queen". At bedtime, she can't find her female products to wear during the night and gets anxious about having an "accident". This poor lady doesn't want to let any of us down and hopes to prove that she can "do it all" - she just did too much. Fortunately, there was no heart damage and she only spent about four days in the Cardiac Care Unit of the local hospital. But she is not the same lady - more likely to be fatigued and a bit more forgetful.  It's so hard not to second guess - should we have left her in her own home? She had fallen a couple of times there, was not enjoying cooking and eating meals alone and monitoring her medicines was becoming a concern. I hope that she will "bounce back" - she is my best friend, after my husband. She offers me such unconditional love. There was such a lump in my stomach as I left her yesterday afternoon.

Getting back to Bob - - we stopped at Oak City Restaurant here in Brooklyn Center for an early dinner (we had a gift coupon from the restaurant for his birthday - buy one get one free!) and we both had barbecued ribs - a big slab for each of us that we promptly split in half and put in a box to eat later this week. They were delicious and just fell off the bones. Afterwards, we travelled "across the river" to the History Theater in downtown St. Paul (located in the old Science Museum) to view the "Sisters of Swing" - a musical biography of the three Andrews Sisters. It was a wonderful production - talented actors and excellent singing, all with a light narrative of the ups and downs of their singing careers (they were born and raised in Minnesota and won a talent contest at the Orpheum Theater in the 1930's). The music was very retro ("Bugle Boys of Company B", "Don't Sit under the Apple tree with anyone Else but Me", etc.), but the memories of a tough time during World War II and the USO entertainment shows were good to recall, as we again see several years of war overseas and military sons and daughters experiencing homesickness and loneliness.

Bob was very tolerant of this female-dominated play - thank goodness, there was a character that was kind of a "stooge" who provided alot of comic relief and interactive skits with members of the audience. We enjoyed the play (tickets that I obtained through a Silent Auction fundraiser for our St. John's School last February) and the Christmas lights downtown St. Paul and our precious time together. Bob is 67 yrs. old now, very tolerant of his crazy, workaholic wife who never does anything half-way. He is my anchor and my best friend. The last thirty-nine years seem like both a long time (filled with many stories and memories) and a short time, with days passing by so fleetingly fast.We now have an understanding - to give each other big bear hugs at least twice a day!  Believe it or not, that's sometimes hard to remember and do!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

पीजे" अ मेसेज फ्रॉम Bob

पक, अरे यू रेअडिंग थिस एंड हाउ अरे यू दोंग?


Yesterday, I celebrated my 67th birthday. We had invited the family that lives across our yard for dinner so I cooked up a massive batch of spaghetti and we had dinner at our place. Jenny is a single mom who has raised three of the most polite, personable and cute kids we know. After dinner, the kids (ages 11, 8 and 6) were offered their choice of movies for the evening, Up or the Transformers. I was surprised then they picked the Transformers. Jeanne and I raised three boys so if my kids had picked the Transformers I would not be surprised. But two of Jenny's kids are girls and they were the ones loudly voting for the Transformers. Every once in a while, my age hits me especially when it comes to sex roles. Boys like action movies; girls like cartoons and romance movies. That's the natural order of things. Well, not so much anymore (if it were ever true). Well, I support the elimination of all barriers between people, especially sexism (I best with with three grand daughters) even when it surprises me when it happens.

Christmas is coming up and I have not done much in the way of Christmas shopping. I did get Tammi something yesterday but that is it, so far. I asked Jeanne if we were going to try to get Christmas cards out before Christmas. She said "Remember the twelve days of Christmas. I have twelves days after the holiday to get them out." I suggested that the twelve days were before the holiday and she said "Not for me. I have twelve days after Christmas to get the cards out." So it looks like our Christmas cards are going to be late again this year or, if your Jeanne, on time if delivered before the twelve days are up.

Tonight we are going out for dinner and then to a play to celebrate my birthday. Jeanne won't tell me what play or where but she said she would like it and so would I. Hmmm, I'm thinking, as my sexism kicks in. We are going to a "chick play" and I am going to hate it.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Winter !

It's not the snow that I have a problem with, its the wind. Today was one of those snow days where four inches represented either an half inch on part of my driveway and 18 inches on another. The wind just blew everything around and it drifted in places I would rather not have the drifts. The roads are clear. Brooklyn Center does a great job removing snow as soon as the storm stops. The county, not so much.
Temp is 9 degrees and wind gusting to 24 mph. and winter has not started yet.
I want to go warm....

Monday, December 7, 2009

Christmas is coming

There are some years it is hard to get Jeanne into decorating for Christmas. Not this year. Tonight she decided we needed to decorate the front of the house. She is humming Christmas carols as she works. I reminded her that a few weeks ago, we could have done this in shirtsleeves- she just glared at me. All was well until two seconds ago when Jeanne decided I also wanted to help her decorate. We are going to "swag" something unless I can find a way out of doing it.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Trimming the tree

Santa is coming

We decided to decorate the Christmas tree this afternoon. Jeanne was in charge of the project so it took most of the day as she either makes sure it is just perfect or gets distracted with other tasks (like cooking and making me happy). my style is more direct. Get the stuff on the tree as fast as possible. lay down and watch football for the rest of the afternoon. Her way is better but my way is a lot less work.
I think it is time for another tree. This one is really big for two people and fills out living room.

Here is the family just before we left warm Florida. It was a great time and it makes me feel proud to see what wonderful parents and spouses the boys have become. I was told once that "grandkids are God's reward for not killing your teen agers." So true.

I want to go back to Florida

Well, we have been home from Florida a week and it has been a big adjustment weather wise. We left Florida in shorts, t-shirts and car windows open. That's the way we stayed dressed until Chicago. Even from Chicago to home the weather was sunny, warm (50's) and spring like even though we wore jeans. Two days after we arrive-winter drop on us with a massive BANG. Since we have been home the temps are in the teens, snow on the ground and we need to sleep under a goose down quilt. I like the warm and wonder what ever brought our ancestors to this cold land. Then I wonder what keeps me here- well, family and work. Jeanne retires in two years or so and then we are so out of Minnesota for the winter.
School is winding down. I really enjoy my ancient western history class. Dianna is a awesome teacher who really understands her subject. I have always had an interest in early western history and she is connecting a lot of the dots. I am also taking an art history class and regret not taking the class before we went off on our travels. It is neat to learn about art that you have seen in person. I am looking forward to next semesters classes, more western history and art history. It is a wonder more senior citizens don't take advantage of free tuition in our state college system.
After twenty years at the Metrodome, I have told them I am retiring. There are lots of changes going on because of the new Twins stadium. Since I am not a baseball fan, am pushing 67 and just not interested in all the "work" that would be required, I told them this would be my last year. I am really thankful I have had an opportunity to volunteer at the dome. I have seen a World Series, Superbowl, International Special Olympics closing ceremonies, Billy Graham and a lot of other smaller but still great events. I also feel good because a number of people are still alive because of me and my team. I don't think I am going to miss spending a five hour shift in the office anymore but still it has been a "hoot".

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Home after 3500 miles

Home at last. Today was really good driving. We stayed at my son's home in Chicago and left about 8 this morning. There was virtually no traffic all the way to Minnesota. We just set the speedometer for 70 and enjoyed the ride. We hardly had to hit the brakes.
We saw a lot of stimulus money being used as we drove across the country. Wisconsin especially had nice new sections of the interstate that were pleasant to drive. Seems there is a national push for new guardrails everywhere. They are putting the same style up on all the interstates. As I was driving, I kept remembering some of our pinhead conservative radio "heads" who seem to think government can't do anything right. Well guys! Take a drive on the interstate highways of America. They are a splendid example of doing it right.
We stopped for lunch in Wisc Dells at the Kalahari resort. Damn! We have passed it numerious times as we visited our kids on Chicago. I thought it was just a water park but it has a massive play area including bowling alleys and a cinema. It also has to have a 1000 rooms. I was shocked at the size of the resort. Wisc Dells sure grew up since we last camped with our kids there. Might be a great place to take the grand kids once they get a bit older.
Good news! The north won the Civil War around Madison Wisc so I got my wife back. She said it was a good book (as if I couldn't tell) but she was happy she finished it.
It is good to be home but we also had some distressing news. One of our tenants lost her job. She is a single mom who tries hard but is having a difficult time making ends meet. The odds are she will not be able to make full rent payments so Jeanne and I have to adjust and plan on making our mortgage payments with our cash until things work themselves out. Sounds bad (and it is not good) but we both have our health, a 401(k) and I have another great government program, Social Security, to keep us well afloat. Between these we will just tighten up until she gets back on her feet. Others (Ben and Sophie) have it a lot worse so I should just be thankful.