Monday, June 29, 2015

Faribault Connections

The best part of going to visit a friend, particularly if that friend lives somewhere you've never been before, is having a built-in tour guide. When I went to visit Patt at Memorial Day, I couldn't wait to have a guided tour of the Faribault, Minnesota area. I have to say that if I colored in the counties in Minnesota where I'd actually spent time, Rice County would not have been colored in, even in part. I had never been that way at all.

There are a lot of reasons to visit. There is a lovely nature center, River Bend Nature Center, along the outskirts of the town. We only drove through it. The phlox were in bloom when I was visiting and some areas adjacent to the road were awash in pink, lavender and white.

The inventor of the carnival staple, the Tilt-a-Whirl, lived in Faribault and invented the ride in 1926. They have an original car which is being restored and will be placed in the downtown area. I think that's my favorite ride.

You may know the downtown from the movie "Grumpy Old Men".

Main street and the drug store from the beginning of the movie were Faribault. I have to admit that I haven't seen the movie in many years so it's on the list of things to watch again, now that I've driven through the town. The Tilt-a-Whirl is going to the left of the intersection in this photo.

Faribault has taken great pride of place. They had a movie theatre. Most towns their size had one. In an effort to keep it functional, it was subdivided into a multi-plex. But that couldn't save it. A merger of the Faribault Arts Center and the Faribault Community Theater created the Paradise Center for the Arts in the old theater. It is a gem in the downtown, staging plays and concerts at very reasonable prices. Cultural opportunities make a town more attractive to people.

And there is a Chicago connection to Faribault, one I didn't know about.

This is the entrance to the elite and very private boarding school, Shattuck-St. Mary's. Driving under the arch catapulted you into a world of old buildings or buildings designed to look old. The campus is very reminiscent of an English college. Shattuck is known for engineering, bioscience, and the arts. Marlon Brando was kicked out of Shattuck. Broadcaster Brent Musburger is a graduate.

Another claim to fame figured into this year's Stanley Cup.

The team captain of the Chicago Blackhawk's, Jonathan Toews, went to school at Shattuck. They excel in golf, soccer, figure skating and hockey. I counted at least 8 current and former National Hockey League players who learned their craft at Shattuck.

I never would have known any of this had I not had a personal guide. It's amazing to me the things a small town has hidden amongst the trees and rolling hills. It makes me want to explore more of the small towns I travel through on my journeys. I actually paid more attention to the Stanley Cup finals knowing of this connection than I would have. Hockey? Meh. Hockey with a visceral connection to where Patt lives? Okay.

Beverage:  Dr Pepper


The Myth of Time

The photos pile up as do the books and magazines on the ottoman. There are dishes waiting to be done, waiting and waiting again. I walk across the living room floor and feel the grit of an unswept floor. Pilchard yells at me because, rightly, the litter boxes haven't been cleaned in 4 days. I look across the detritus of my life and think, "If only I had more time."

Time. Elusive. Fleeting. Never enough, especially when the great and exciting and the horrible and nasty events wander through our lives.

I've been feeling pulled in so many, many directions lately. Since February of 2013, my office has been working double time, triple time, in some cases. According to the boss, our office contributed 52% of total company revenues; 52%. I come home from a full day of work so very tired. With that weariness, the things which I enjoy doing get shunted aside. On the plus side, there's a lot of overtime which translates into a padding of the paycheck.

Add to this, the weather. The heavy rains had water seep into the basement. Step 1 is to wait for the rain to stop so the water stops coming in. Step 2 is to run a fan to dry the floor out. This whole month has been about survival. I knew I needed to clean the basement, sort and move things around so I can deal with the dying washing machine. But when the basement floor is wet, it's hard to clean. Finally, tonight, I was able to move everything that needed to be moved. Then the floor was swept and I'm ready.

Problem. The washer I want seems to be out of stock through the 7th. I have endured, thanks to Pam and Patt, without much in the way of washing clothes with my sorry machine. But, this is another week and I'm slowly running out of clothing. I suppose it's a fallacy to expect a reasonably priced washer to be in stock for next day delivery, but I'm going to the store after work tomorrow to see if my choice of machines, either #1 or #2, is available faster through the store. This is frustrating. It takes time to do all of this. It's more to do, on top of the things that I want or need to do.

I'm frustrated. I feel as if I'm spending way, way more time not getting things done. I feel as if I can't do things, like blogging, which are important to me, because there's too much other stuff going on. Mowing the lawn leads to trimming back the branches which have been bent by the wind and rain. It needs to quit raining so I can weed.

This is the mess in front of the air conditioner. I mow and I see this and I know it's not good for the unit to be so surrounded. It's like every weed seed in the ground germinated with the rains. I cleaned for an hour in the basement and then pulled weeds for an hour. This is as far as I got.

I need to spend more time; there's that word again; working through this mess to liberate the unit. I need to put down landscape fabric and cover it with rocks. That would effectively remove 90% of the weeds around the unit.

The cross-stitch isn't going to be done unless I can devote a full day to just stitching. Do I have the time to do that? I thoroughly cleaned the litter boxes and that area yesterday after mowing the lawn. Mowing is going faster now. I was able to mow the back, the side and half of the front before feeling tired. I did have to sit down with my feet up for an hour in order to finish the rest of the front. This is a victory. I'm looking toward the day this summer, when I can mow the whole lawn without stopping. I can feel this coming. It feels good.

But there are piles to go through and I just don't feel that I have time to devote to them. Clear away a block of time and something else pops up needing my attention. Overtime is coming, simply to get through all the reports I have stacking up. I'm on the road again tomorrow. There is a giant job looming. As much as my boss wants that job, the indecision of the general contractor and the confusion of the owner over what they actually want could mean we don't get any of it. I cannot say that I would be unhappy.

Friends have told me to let things go. It's terribly hard to do that. I am not, in any way, shape, or form, asking for you to pity me. I reiterate what I've said before with regards to pity. I don't have a use for it. I'm merely telling you how frustrated I am that all these things I find I cannot share because the muse parks herself over in a corner and refuses to play with me when I'm tired and I am so very, very tired.

I want to promise that I'll blog more but that would be a hollow promise. I can only promise that I'll turn up, every so often, to show you things I've found. I hope you'll check back every now and then. Maybe you'll find something interesting on these pages.

Beverage:  Dr Pepper


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Paper Trail

It's been quite enlightening to clean off piles of stuff in the basement. There are things with meaning, but a lot of things, particularly of the paper goods category are just not necessary for me to keep anymore.

For instance, this was a big event in Iowa Hawkeye football.

The last time Iowa won the Big 10 Conference Championship prior to the 1981 season was in 1960. This was huge, huge, huge. The state went black and gold. Iowa was favored to beat Washington in the Rose Bowl of 1982.

About that.

The photo says it all. We were demolished by Washington 28-0. There was controversy when it was reported a couple years later that our "star" running back had been contacted by a sports agent between Thanksgiving and Christmas. He supposedly told the guy that his draft spot in the NFL draft that spring would not be very high if he got injured, so supposedly, the guy didn't try as hard as he could have to score when we were close to the Washington goal line. I have no idea if the story turned out to be true, but, when the running back left college that spring before graduating, you had to wonder what was up. For the record, he was drafted way late and I'm not sure played with any pro football team.

The coach, Hayden Fry, was vilified, and I believe rightfully so, for the manner in which he coached the game. He made some very questionable substitutions, putting in guys who, although seniors, hadn't played in many games. You want the seniors to experience being on the field in a bowl game, but he didn't have the team on the field that had won the championship. Hawkeye fans were angry.

I sort of knew I'd saved these, but they don't mean anything to me any more so they are off to the recycling bin. For the record, of the last 4 conference championships Iowa's won, we've only won one bowl game and it wasn't the Rose Bowl. You have to go way back to 1958 to find the last time Iowa won in the Rose Bowl. That was also the last time Iowa was a National Champion.

Also of no meaning to me is this paper.

This is the last time a baseball world championship was in Chicago. The Chicago White Sox won that year. I remember I was downtown on a night job the night they clinched. Even though the job wasn't slated to wrap up until midnight, we were sent home, to get out of the city before the crowds took over downtown. I'm not a White Sox fan but I saved the paper because, well, it was important at the time.

Speaking of Chicago baseball, this paper marked a milestone on the north side.

The Cubs hadn't won anything since 1945, when they lost the 1945 World Series. This was "merely" the National League Eastern Division Championship, but it could have been the World Series as much as the fans celebrated. My dad, an ardent Cubs fan, was jubilant. The Cubs lost to the San Diego Padres who went on to win the World Series. The Cubs have won a handful of division pennants since, but, so far, I've not found any newspapers saved from those wins. I think it was because this was so sweet to fans. Still, I'm not saving it. I just don't need newspapers I won't read.

Finally, I have this bin full of things.

This is all the printed material I saved from 9/11. My pen pal, Anne, sent me The Times of London with its coverage of the attacks. I have looked through everything and, for me, it's not important to save this. I know precisely where I was when I heard the news of the initial hit on the towers and where I was when I heard of the towers' collapse. I was out in the field, 90 minutes, from the office. I remember looking up at the clear blue September sky and wondering what I would do if I saw an airplane. For me, the memories of those days are what I want to keep, not the printed materials.

I know there is probably a market for these items, possibly on eBay, so I'm going to look into selling them. There is value to someone in having these carefully preserved and not yellowed paper goods.

In a way, it seems harsh to give away things which remind you of major life events. But I'm whittling down things I've saved to what really has value to me. I don't denigrate the memory of those who died in 9/11, but these mementos would be better in someone else's hands. It's part of the process of tidying my life.

Beverage:  Scottish Breakfast Tea


Tuesday, June 23, 2015


Every year since 1980, I have purchased the "365 Word-a-day Calendar". Some words, when I rip off the new day, I know. Some I'll never add to my vocabulary and some have found their way into my lingo. Some words have special meaning. I saved them. I found three when I was cleaning in the basement in preparation for a new washer.

Thankfully, I wrote on the page what happened so, when I cleaned years in the future, I could remember exactly why I saved that word from that date.

This was the last day Carole lived in Wheaton. Since this date, she's lived in Connecticut before moving to her current, and final, home in Virginia. We didn't have any kind of religious ceremony, but I do remember crying while sitting on the front steps watching her drive away knowing that this was a necessary part of raising a child. You give them wings and trust they paid attention to some of your instructions on how to use them.

Here are two more which also elicited tears. This word seemed particularly poignant on this date.

Penney was a gray cat we adopted in 1992, I believe. Kidney disease made her waste away and I finally couldn't stand watching her try to walk to the bathroom to get a drink of water. Pam drove me to the emergency vet my vet recommended and I said, "Goodbye". Even though it's one of the kindest things you can do when a beloved pet is suffering, it's still a heartbreak. That day, the world went haywire.

Finally, there is this word.

2007 didn't start out very positive.

Anne was my English pen-pal. We had known each other 35 years at this point. We were the best of friends and confidants. We went through first crushes, high school, college, engagements and marriages. My ex-husband and I flew to England in 1982, while I was pregnant, to attend Anne's wedding. We had children within a month of each other. She had twin girls. We went back in 1996 so our children could meet. She was with me when my marriage crumbled and when Carole and I were on our own. We went through the raising of children and their lives.

Then liver cancer struck. She was diagnosed in 2004 but seemed to have it beaten to the point that, in April of 2005, I met Anne, her husband, Graham, and son, James, at Walt Disney World for a week of fun. She looked so healthy. We had a fantastic time.

But the cancer returned in early 2006. She never told me how bad it was. Her Christmas letter was filled with news about the family. We always talked at New Year's. She would call me at the stroke of midnight and hold up the phone to the TV so I could hear Big Ben ringing in the new year from England. She did the same thing as 2006 turned to 2007. She never told me she had been in bed since 5 that evening and had to be helped up to call me at midnight. She wrote a short, one-page letter, "from the couch in the living room, by the fire" as they called the gas furnace, in early January. I never heard from her again.

One of her daughters called me the above evening to tell me she had passed in her sleep. Her husband, Graham, had contacted me at the end of January, after receiving my reply to her early January letter. He realized she had not told me, in an effort to spare me worrying, how sick she was and that hospice had been arranged. They were just waiting. I have to admit that every phone call from January 28th onward brought dread. In a way, it was kind of a relief knowing she was not suffering and not trying to keep the British "stiff upper lip" anymore. Graham said he never told her that I knew what was going on.

I looked at these words as I paged through a stack of papers, invitations, mementos which were on a shelf. At the time, it was important to save these. Now, I have reached the point where I can let them go and be, simply, words of the day. I don't save words that have a special event occurring on that date anymore. I unconsciously decided they were just words. I miss Carole. I miss Penney. I miss Anne. Time has moved on but the memories stay with me in my heart where they belong.

Beverage:  Dunkin' Donuts tea


Rainy Stitching

We've had some weather in the Chicagoland area. Fortunately, I've been home for 80% of the heavy rains, which is good because I only want to deal with this once this year.

This is outside the office. I made it there just as the sky opened so I was inside watching the road fill up.

The heavy rains breed a desire to just sit. Nothing I can do, really, and I'm not inclined to get onto the computer when you can't see across the street because of the rain. I've been watching some movies with the idea that some of my collection are movies I'm not interested in keeping. Pull out the stitching, pop in a movie and be calm, which keeps the cats calm. This is what I've accomplished since returning from vacation.

There are three butterflies in the lower right corner to finish and then there is outlining to do. I'm close to having things moved in the basement; two bags of garbage was removed tonight. The floor is devoid of water, but the basement smells musty. The fan is doing a great job of keeping the air circulated so the floor can dry. I work for about 45 minutes and then stitch for another 45 minutes. It's supposed to be a beautiful weekend which means the lawn needs to be mowed. I also think it looks like the perfect weekend for stitching on the deck.

Beverage:  Dunkin' Donuts tea


Monday, June 22, 2015

The Definitive Start to Summer

Memorial Day weekend, sort of kicks off summer. Never mind that meteorological summer doesn't start for 2 1/2 weeks, we are full on into summer mode. I had to work the two days prior to my vacation. This included working through a lunch hour. I knew, once I finished my inspections, exactly what would be the official start to my vacation.

That's the first Dairy Queen Blizzard of the summer. I've had one more since this photo was taken. The one close to the office closed, which is probably a good thing. And extra-large Blizzard is a meal in itself and that's a lot of calories to consume with little nutritional benefit from them. Oh sure, I could add fruit, and chocolate covered strawberries constitute fruit, but that's still a lot of calories. I get a medium and am deliriously happy.

Bring on summer! I'm ready.

Beverage;  Scottish Breakfast tea


This Vexes Me #21

I'm rather enjoying mowing the lawn. The mower I bought will go through an overgrown lawn with relative ease.

That's what I had to mow when I returned home from my Minnesota vacation. It's a lovely green, but it's a good 4 inches tall. The mower made easy work of it.

The self-propelled feature is a godsend for me. I have mowed more area than the guy who mowed my lawn the last few years. He just sort of ran about and didn't really get into places. I like the end result when I do it.

There is one thing I dislike about this mower, however.

The handle pinches my thumbs. You pull down on the metal bar and then yank the starter rope. The mower starts usually on the first pull. Then, holding the metal bar down, you head off to mow. When you release the metal bar, the mower stops, almost automatically. The red handle is for maneuverability. But, it's not stationary. It moves. I have pinched my thumbs so many time when I'm mowing. Wearing gloves would probably make the pinch less painful, but I would lose the tactile feel of the mower doing its work, and I need that feeling.

It's certainly not a deal-breaker, by any means, but I'd like to mow the lawn without getting my thumbs pinched in the process.

Beverage:  Scottish Breakfast tea


Summer Project

So I have this itch to redo a section of the house. It can't be a very big section and it has to be a project that I can do over the course of a weekend. There are so many projects and potential projects when you own a house, it gets very daunting when contemplating them. Add my RA to the mix and any project has to be broken down to small pieces which can still fit into the total. Or I have to pick projects which are small in their own right.

When you enter the house from the back deck, you walk into a small cubicle.

It's an extension of the kitchen, one of the first rooms we painted when we moved in. I wanted it a sunny yellow to reflect energy and happiness. The apples along the top, hand stenciled, came much later in the process. The ceiling, trim and back of the rear door are white. There has always been a cork board on that side of the wall. It's a place where menus and business cards and coupons go to die. About twice a year, sometimes more, sometimes a lot less, I clean it off. It used to be useful space. Now, it's just a cork board. I use the front of the fridge for things like this.

In April, Pantone created a new color, "Minion Yellow".

I saw the announcement and thought, "This would be a great color for part of the kitchen". I think it might be too overwhelming for the whole kitchen, although perhaps, with a white ceiling, it wouldn't be quite so bright. I like bright and sunny but think of the point in the first movie where two minions and Gru are in the air vent in Vector's building. It's dark so one of the minions gets shaken and turned on like a light bulb. I envisioned painting my kitchen minion yellow to have that kind of a result. That would be a bit too bright.

But then I had the thought, what if I just painted the entry? I could do that. I'd paint the whole entry minion yellow from the baseboards to the ceiling. The back of the door would be yellow, which might, the more I think about it, clash with the blue gray of the front, but, technically, you'd only see that strange color combination when the back door is open. I haven't put up the bug screen yet, something I need to do after having some big ol' flies come in the house over the weekend. This could work. I'll probably need to prime over the red of the apples although the way paint is made now, manufacturers advertise how you can paint a light color over a dark color without the dark color bleeding through.

When I bought the lawn mower, I inquired as to whether "Minion Yellow" had been released as a paint color. The press release implies it has, but it wasn't at my Ace Hardware. Ace has mixed paint colors for me before and the guy at the paint counter said to bring in a sample and they could match any color. On the last trip to the store, I scanned the paint chip offerings in the yellow section. It seems to me, there are yellow colors they can already make which are very, very close to "Minion Yellow".

Strip number one.

Strip number two.

Strip number three.

Paint strips don't photograph very well. I'm leaning toward the lighter end of the strips, particularly as I'm going to coat the whole area in yellow. In the top strip, color 332 is labeled "banan-appeal". This might be a nod to minions. It's a nice color, too.

I have some peeling paint at the lower right of the cork board wall, where the wall abuts the back door. I would need to scrape that off. I'd need to wash the walls, the trim and the door before painting. And I'm on the fence about the cork board. The board that's there is too big. I just don't use it for anything other than storage. There is paint, called "Chalkboard Paint" which turns a section of wall into a chalkboard. You can write on it and wipe it off. I could put important numbers, such at the number for the emergency vet clinic, my doctors, etc, on a small section of chalkboard. Or I could get a smaller cork board, maybe a square would be better. There are so many more options now than there were when the kitchen was originally painted.

Last year, my friend, Meredith, sent me a minion stencil. Instead of apples, I'm thinking minions. I'm not sure what color they would be, but a few randomly placed minions in this space would be very fun.

I'd like your opinion. Which color is close to "Minion Yellow"? What should I do with the cork board area? It doesn't get sun except in the summer, when the sun sets to the northwest. I could put art work there. Decisions. Decisions.

Beverage:  Scottish Breakfast Tea


Sunday, June 21, 2015

Strawberry Fields

The three strawberry plants I bought this year have been covered with soft pink blossoms.

It's strawberry time. I was so excited when I noticed there was a nearly ripe berry.

There were berries all over the plants. I was going to get a decent crop, at least enough for breakfast or snacking.

So far, this is the only berry I've been able to harvest. The one in the above photo was gone the next morning. You see there is a divot on this one. It had been pulled off the plant and left on the deck. Squirrels.

I'm not sure how many berries I will actually get. I'm feeling rather defeated. I hadn't considered the wildlife.

I ate this one. These berries are sweet and would be wonderful if I ever got enough to eat. Maybe I need to elevate them off the deck floor, onto the rails, maybe? I need to figure this out because I certainly want to do this again next year.

Beverage:  Raspberry seltzer


Tidying in Spaces

When I came back from Carole and Larry's wedding, Mija knocked my sewing box onto the floor, scattering the contents. It took me a bit to clean it up but I've applied the same principles of tidying, from the book, to my sewing box. I am, unfortunately, going to need a new box. The hinges on the lid are broken.

This isn't the kind of plastic I can recycle either. Once I get a new box, it has to be tossed. I'm going to miss it and am sad at the thought of having to replace it.

I went through everything in the box with the idea that I would only keep the stuff that I actually use.

I don't know what this is. I'm sure at one time I knew, but I haven't a clue. It went in the give away bag.

I won't use "D" rings and I have no idea why a guitar pick is in my sewing box. The clips are to keep mittens or gloves from getting lost. One clip goes on the coat. The other end clips to the mitten. I'm fairly certain these date from when I was a child. I'm hanging onto them. The guitar pick? No.


and snowflakes.

I don't remember why I have these. I'm sure it was for some craft project. I don't see anything on the horizon which would use either of these items so I put them in ziploc bags and added them to the give away bag. My craft drawers are full of stuff; another area of my life which needs tidying. The whole point is to be critical of what I save, analytical. If I happen to come across something I want to make which requires stars and snowflakes, I know where to go to get some.

File this under "just in case".

These items are from my other sewing machine, one that was sold at a garage sale for $20 a good 20-odd years ago. They don't fit my current machine. I should have added them with the other machine but they were buried; out of sight becomes out of mind. They went in the give away bag.

How many sewing scissors do you have? How many can you use at any given time? Yeah. The bottom pair are from Cutco. They are wonderful. That's the pair I saved. No, I didn't put the other two on top of the fridge or in the junk bin. I added them to the give away bag. I don't need 8 pair of scissors in the house. I realize the gremlins who steal socks and pencils also like scissors but I have 3 pair that sit on top of the fridge. I'm good. Really. I'm good.

Pins went everywhere.

I had the yellow topped quilt pins in their own container. But when it was knocked onto the floor, the top flew off and the pins were scattered. The pins in the plastic container didn't go anywhere. If I quilted, I probably would keep the pins separate; perhaps not; but I don't quilt so a separate container is wasted space. Quilt pins are long and slender and are great for holding multiple layers of things as they get stitched together. I couldn't find the lid for the quilt pins either so that was another consideration to adding them to the plastic container. A week later, I found the lid. By then, the bottom had been recycled.

I remember a great-aunt who collected thimbles. They were the bone china ones and she had a lovely wooden display case holding her collection in the living room. Those thimbles were emblazoned with locations and had been picked up as souvenirs of her travels. These, well, these are utilitarian thimbles. I never got used to wearing one. I kept a couple of the silver thimbles and got rid of the other two.

In the late 1990's, Carole and I decided to create denim vests which sported emblems of our travels. We collected pins and buttons and patches from places we went and sewed them to the vest. I don't remember where we found a bag full of whimsical patches but I added those to the vests. My vest still hangs in the back of the closet. I haven't added to or worn it in years. I'm pretty sure there's not a lot of room on it for additions. I got rid of the whimsy and saved the tiger hawk. I know there will be a use for Iowa's mascot.

Finally, I have a couple of handkerchiefs.

You can't see it but this one has small green squares around the outer edge.

This one is just old. I have no idea whose monogram it is. The letters don't correspond to anyone I know of in my families. I don't even remember where I got it. I'm not sure what to do with them. Perhaps a historical society would be interested in the bottom one, something to fill out a collection. I folded them back up and put them in the bottom of the box for now.

Everything else, the thread and ribbons and zippers and velcro and sewing needles and snaps and hooks and miscellany was stuff that I do use or see a need to keep. Although I'm going to have to get a new box, perhaps this was a blessing. I was forced to consciously evaluate why I have "D" rings and to decide that I don't need to save them.

Beverage:  Raspberry Seltzer


Friendship Means

"Bring all your laundry with you when you come," Patt emailed.

My response? "What?" I swear the lady is crazy. Bring ALL my laundry?

"Yes, bring all the sheets, blankets, rugs, clothing you have to wash. Bring it all when you come visit. We can hang it out on my lines or, if the weather is bad, dry it in my dryer."

I thought that was a huge, huge imposition upon a friend, even one I've known for 27 years. But Patt was insistent. I wasn't going to bring my laundry. Nevermind that my washer is dying and will need to be replaced soon. I can do small loads and it will all get done, eventually. Nope. Nope. Patt kindly ordered me to bring all of it. I hesitated until my friend, Pam, said, "That is a wonderful offer. Such a kind friend." She remembered having friends offer the use of their washers when she was a brand new military wife living in the "wonderful" military married housing. It's funny, but Pam's indirect blessing caused me to stuff my laundry into garbage bags and haul it to Minnesota.

Everything went; all the bedding, all the blankets, all the rugs, all the pants and shirts, all of it. We washed it. We dried it. I should have taken a photo of Patt's lint trap after drying some of the rugs in the dryer. They had been out on the line but it rained so we used the dryer. I have a black cat. She sheds. I'm pretty sure half a cat was stuck to the lint trap. We pulled towels out of the washer and all these little pills of black fur fell out. We had a great laugh.

Patt's purpose in asking for my laundry was to ease the going up and down of the basement stairs. If everything was done, if I didn't have to go up and down the stairs every day, that would help with my sciatica and my RA. I came home and put it all away. It was such a great feeling to know I was caught up on my laundry.

It wasn't quite enough to make it through the month, so I have done a couple small loads. Then the rains came. I got close to 3 1/2 inches and that amount of water will cause seepage in some places between the wall and the floor of the basement. When I went to bed, there was nothing on the floor. In the morning, there was water. A pile of pants and a pile of shirts was soaked. Hearing this, Pam immediately offered her washer and dryer so I could do both loads and not in little batches. Plus, with the basement drying out, any wash hung on my lines is doing to take twice as long.

I figure there will be sales over the July 4th holiday. What better way to celebrate our nation's independence than by having appliances go on sale. I'll be ready. I don't know if I can stretch the clean clothes without using my washer a couple more times. I'm going to try. Pam said, if it gets to the end of the month and I'm really low on clothes, just let her know.

This is friendship. "Bring all your laundry with you when you come."

Beverage:  Raspberry seltzer water


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Well, That Explains It

When the sun is slated to get up at 5:15 and you're sound asleep, noticing that yellow orb when you do get up isn't usual. Oh, if it's cloudy, or heavily overcast or shining straight into your eyes as you sit at the table eating your morning Cheerios, then you notice it. But, usually, it's just another day. Except when it isn't.

I first noticed something wasn't quite right with the sunshine when I headed into the kitchen. Sunlight in June isn't usually this red on the living room floor. I got my cereal and sat down. The sun should be streaming directly into the living room windows. It was but, well, see for yourself.

Ignore the blog on the right. "Someone" is exceptionally lovey dovey in the morning when I have cereal and she gets in the way. I sat there looking at this. I know, from science class, that if the sun exploded, we'd not know about it for 8 minutes. Well, given that we have an abundance of satellites in orbit, we'd know the sun went kerfloof, but we'd still have 8 minutes of sunlight before being obliterated by the shock wave.

Red sky at night, sailor's delight.
Red sky at morning, sailor's take warning. 

But the sky wasn't red. It was hazy but not red. Maybe it had been red as the sun rose, but it usually clears off by the time it gets this high in the sky.

Something about this was odd. It didn't go away all the time I drove to the office so I don't know when the color changed. (As I type this, it's been clear skies for several hours now.) I filed the phenomenon away in the memory cells and figured there would be an explanation at some point in the future. Sure enough. The Weather Channel posted it around 3:30 this afternoon.

There are wildfires in Canada and the jet stream carried smoke from those wildfires south and east across mid-Wisconsin and Chicagoland. The smoke screens out all but the red and orange color spectrum which caused the sun to look like the above. You can read the whole article here.

That's pretty cool, actually, not about the fires, but how it impacts the color of the sun. Kind of makes me want to get up at 4:30 on the 21st to watch the sun rise over Lake Michigan.

Beverage:  Water


Monday, June 8, 2015

27 Years and Counting

I've seen a lot of articles, particularly today, as it's Best Friends Day, about making and keeping friends. There are any number of studies about how having friends lengthens and enriches one's life.

It can be hard to make friends, particularly as you age. You find, that as you go through life, the circles of people you wander into and out of are not all your same age. When everyone in group chat in my World of Warcraft guild is young enough to be my child, it's tough to relate to them as friends. The first time someone asked me if I remembered seeing news footage of Vietnam on TV, I was kind of taken aback. I do remember that. They only knew it from history books or the movies. So, when you find someone who is a friend, you hang onto them.

We "met", her and I, because I was editing a railroad historical publication and she wrote an article about how the town she was living in at the time, preserved and reused their railroad depot, long after the railroad ceased running through town. I enjoyed reading something written by a woman who obviously knew her way around the English language. I was used to men picking up a piece of paper and writing anything down that came to their mind, then getting roasted because I put the memories into some semblance of order and they felt affronted someone would dare to edit them. She had a couple of boys in school. I had a daughter. Our first letters, after publication of the article, were about language. She worked in a newspaper. I did freelance proofreading and was a room mom. That was twenty-seven years ago.

You know a friend is going to be a friend when something just clicks. We've been through weddings, births and deaths. We've been through divorces and adoptions and moving and job changes. We went through the rise of computer correspondence. When we started writing, we either wrote our letters long-hand or typed them on a typewriter. The computer made it easier to write letters, although I really need to replace my printer so I'm not printing my letters at work. We still send each other long letters detailing the ups and downs of life.

The funny thing is, we had never met. We were pen pals of the best sort. We lived "close", in that it didn't take an airplane ride to get to each other. Her husband had a sister who lived in Gary, Indiana, until she passed away a couple years ago. They couldn't stop on the way to or from the funeral. It was the closest to each other we had ever been. Three years ago, I was going to drive to her current home in Faribault, Minnesota, but finances, at the last minute, didn't permit it. It was always in the back of my mind that I had to get out there, I just had to.

Finally, over Memorial Day, I made it. Heavy rains could not stop me. I saved for this event and I drove to Faribault. Finally, I met Patt.

It wasn't like meeting someone new. We sat on the porch, in the 3 season room I'd heard so much about, and talked and talked, just like we did in our letters. We know everything about each other. We know our dreams. We know our hopes for our kids and for ourselves. She is the warm, wonderful woman I know from 27 years of letters. I don't always sleep real well the first night in a different bed than my own but I slept soundly all three nights I was there. It was a real sleep of peace.

I got the tour of Faribault and Northfield. Patt made wonderful suppers and I saw "Frozen" for the first time. We also watched "Still Alice" and "Saving Mr. Banks". We talked. I did cross-stitching. I had one of the most peaceful vacations I've had in awhile. We didn't have an agenda. We didn't need one. It was two friends, who have known each other going on 3 decades, just being in each other's presence. Three decades. That's a very long time.

Sometimes there are days when I wish I had more friends close to my age close to my house. I tend to be a private person and it can be hard to open up to the extent that allows a friendship to form. When you do that, you risk rejection and, let's face it, being rejected for who you are or aren't is painful. Then I realize I have someone in my life who knows me and likes me, warts and all. We didn't need to meet. We'd still be friends even if I hadn't come up to see her. But my life is so much more enriched having spent time with Patt.

I hope, when you're my age, you, too have someone who has been there for 27 years and counting. Here's to 27+ more.

Beverage:  Dr Pepper


A Change in the Weather

"You don't like the weather, wait 10 minutes. It will change."

This comment was one of the first things I heard when I moved to Chicagoland. Lake Michigan influences the weather patterns in this area. But, I'm very familiar with changeable weather. Growing up on an Iowa farm, we watched the weather systems come from the west and southwest in the summer and the north and northwest in the winter. I'm familiar with the black, rain-filled clouds which bring the threat of tornados and the leaden gray clouds of winter and their abundance of snow.

My vacation, starting a bit early in that I had to go west to do inspections before continuing on to my destination, started in the warm sunshine of a late spring day. We tend to think of the days around Memorial Day as the beginning of summer, whereas meteorological summer isn't until June 21st. There was a warm breeze and sunshine and not a cloud in the sky on the Friday and Saturday I spent working and then lounging at my mother's before heading north to Minnesota. We knew rain was coming, but it was a far away thought.

I awoke to rain splashing on the windows. The car was loaded in a driving rain, but I needed to get on my way. Iowa always looks good in a rainstorm.

The route took me west, north, west and then straight north. The rains came from the west, in easily identifiable bands.

I had every intention of stopping in Clear Lake, Iowa, at the Buddy Holly crash site. It's one of those places I didn't know existed until the last 10 years. Three musicians and a pilot died in the crash and the infamy of having this event was not something people wanted memorialized. Times and attitudes change and now, fans come to this spot to pay their respects, not necessarily to gawk. We talk about times being simpler. I don't know that that's the case, but they were different and this memorial connects us to a different time.

As luck would have it, I needed gas by the time I got to Clear Lake. It was raining sideways. The canopy over the gas pumps provided no shelter. I stood next to the car, with my feet and lower legs getting wet and made the decision that traipsing to a memorial in a driving rain was not something I wanted to do. Grabbing lunch at Wendy's, I continued north into Minnesota.

Oh look. How nice of them to have road destruction for those of us from Chicago.

It's about 1:30 in the afternoon here. You can be forgiven for thinking it's close to sunset. The low, water-filled clouds pretty much obscured the sun. I'm usually not one to think, "How much longer?", but I certainly did here. The sign announcing Faribault, Minnesota never looked so good.

There was a brief let up in the rain for Memorial Day's parade but the rains returned in the middle of the afternoon. I was visiting a friend and we could watch the rain come from west to east through the back yards of her neighborhood.

Tuesday was drizzle, although it was a warm drizzle. We weren't going to be tourists, thankfully, because there is nothing inviting about doing any sort of walking tour in a steady rain.

I headed home on Wednesday and, of course, it was lovely.

Bright blue sky. No clouds. Easy driving. I actually don't mind driving in the rain, but a horizontal rain with road construction is not a good drive. It makes for a stressful ride. I could just put the car on cruise control and head home, once I found the interstate.

Clouds picked up when I got near Madison, Wisconsin.

These are the clouds that make wonderful photos. It's like the sky is glass and you've dropped shredded cotton balls around. They stayed with me until I got south of Rockford, Illinois and headed east toward home.

At that point, the clouds had thickened and, in the distance, was the remnant of the rain that had gone through Faribault in the days before.

The weekend and vacation was not a wash out. I loved the peace and quiet I found. I needed to step away from life for a bit and the trip allowed me to remove myself and just be. Plus, we weren't really going to do anything other than talk so the rain wasn't a hindrance to our activities. And we can sigh at 3 days of rain but it was nothing compared to what Texas went through. That area of Minnesota was in mild drought conditions and, although there were times of heavy rain, most of it was the soaking kind. This is the kind of rain which will go deep to the roots of the corn and soybeans and alfalfa and apple trees which make up the commercial crops in that area. I came home to a lawn in desperate need of mowing but glowing green in the afternoon sunshine.

Summer weather. I think that's my favorite kind.

Beverage:  Irish Breakfast Tea