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Monday, December 31, 2012

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...

Many of you will recognize the title of tonight's post as a snippet of the first sentence (and paragraph) of "A Tale of Two Cities" by Charles Dickens. That one sentence in its entirety, 119 words, 169 syllables with a Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease of -34.1 and a Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level of 47.6. The two metrics, courtesy of Readability-score.com, would at a passing glance indicate that sentence would be impossible for most people to read much less comprehend. Yet the juxtaposition of the best of times enjoyed by England and the worst of times endured by France in 1775 is easily understood along with the subtle mockery by Dickens of "its noisiest authorities". "Giving him/her the dickens" was a phrase meaning giving someone the devil back in Shakespeare's time, a couple centuries before Charles Dickens took pen in hand, though Mr. Dickens made a literary career out of bedeviling the unjust.

The past year was a study in juxtapositions. For some of you, it was the best of times. There were births, graduations, engagements, promotions, weddings, new homes, favorite teams making the playoffs, and other celebratory achievements. For others, including me, 2012 was the worst of times. There were deaths (and far too many of them), divorces, lost jobs, lost homes, player lockouts, misfortune, and dashed hopes. And for the remainder of you, 2012 was a just year, not good nor bad,  indistinguishable and immemorable from other years.

Humans are optimistic by nature. For thousands of years we have looked to the New Year as an absolution of  the shortcomings and misfortunes of the old year and look forward with optimism that the new year will be better. It is more than huddling with people outside to see a ball or some other object drop, cuddling up with someone special while watching television coverage of new year's celebrations worldwide, or hoping for a kiss from someone special at the stroke of midnight, though all are enjoyable endeavors.

New Year's symbolism echos our optimism. The melancholy and decrepit old year is ushered out and the joyous and innocent baby new year is pressed into service. Our old year is weary from our tribulations, melancholy from our sorrows, and decrepit from the burdens we bore while our new year is energetic, happy and fit. We have weathered millennia of tragedy and strife and no doubt will face other challenges in the upcoming year, but for this brief instant in time, all is happy and well. "Out with the old and in with the new" indeed.

For those of you on the roads tonight, please be careful and lay off the joy juice before driving. If you're outside watching something drop (besides the temperature), stay warm and enjoy yourself! And for those of you spending time with loved ones (or just a loved one), make the hugs meaningful and enjoy your first kiss of the new year. Happy New Year and may 2013 be better than 2012 for all of you!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

'Twas the night after Christmas

Another Christmas has come and gone. The presents have been opened, the meals have been enjoyed, the dishes are done (or mostly done), and for many of us, our travels are completed...until the stores open for after Christmas bargain shopping, returns, and preparing for the New Year's party. I tip my hat to those of you in retail who made it through the day today. I also hope that everyone had a happy and safe Christmas.

I spent Christmas Eve at my brother's place in Goodhue. My parents also made the trip from southwestern Minnesota. John and Nina hosted a very nice gathering. There were new foods to enjoy and a lot of laughter to share.

My nephew Jake was there and introduced us to his girlfriend. It's hard to believe he's old enough to be dating much less having a driver's license. I also found out my friend Kellen's daughter Amanda got engaged. In both cases the Romans would have shaken their heads and muttered "tempis fugit" which roughly translates to "time flees". Albert Einstein once explained the theory of relativity by saying "Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. THAT'S relativity." The happy times seem to fly by so quickly while the unhappy times drag on for an eternity.

Christmas Day was my day of solitude. It wasn't a long, sad day and I got through it. I visited Lucy at the cemetery and saw there were very few human tracks besides mine in the whole cemetery. Dawn Valley is only about 30 acres so I can see just about the whole area from the roads through the cemetery. There were deer tracks at nearly every grave that had a wreath or flowers placed. It was also one of the few times I have been there when there as no breeze. That was a blessing since the temperature was only about 10°F at 4:00 in the afternoon. Suzy called last night to chat which was appreciated. It was so different without Lucy actually being with me.

I met my cousin Julie for breakfast today. We went to Jensen's Cafe in Burnsville. It was my first time there, and I was surprised at how huge the servings are and how steady the business was (parking sucks). I haven't had a chance to see her since Lucy's funeral so it was nice getting mostly caught up. I have a couple friends I hope to catch up with next month.

Technology has allowed us to stay connected to loved ones, at least when the technology works. There was quote an uproar over Netflix having a several hour outage on Christmas Eve. Working technology has allowed us to reconnect with friends and family living thousands of miles away. I am quite grateful for those advances. Email is nice, but seeing a live smile is better. Phone calls are more personal, but a face-to-face conversation is still so much better. Skype and other video communication services come close, but can't transmit a handshake, a hug or a kiss. There is something intangible about contact that technology will never match.

Take a few minutes to set aside the shiny new Christmas present device (or the not-so-new device) and hug a loved one. In my area of the world it is cold enough where a hug warms a person on the outside, too. That's why the pause button was invented!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Ordinary World (8 months today)

I've mentioned before that Lucy enjoyed music. Two of her favorite songs were by Duran Duran, "Come Undone" and "Ordinary World". "Ordinary World" was written in memory of a friend of Simon LeBon, the lead singer. The lyrics are both wistful and hopeful, what you would expect after losing someone close and trying to rebuild a life without that person.

Even after eight months, the world is still not ordinary but it's a lot less cold and dark. Much of that is attributable to one amazing and several wonderful people. At this point the new ordinary is a world with almost no joy and fleeting happiness but I'm adjusting to it OK. I still miss Lucy, and I always will.

Joy and passion are inexorably intertwined. My career in software development lasted as long as it did because I was passionate about quality development. Development requires a great deal of creativity and creativity blooms from passion which is fueled by joy. As such, I won't be re-entering the software development industry any time soon. It's hard to do a great job when one's heart isn't in it and I refuse to merely put in time or be a burden on a development team.

Perhaps that sounds much more dour than it really is. Lucy spoiled me in the years we were together, and I spoiled her in return. I cannot remember a day I spent with her where I was not happy, and nearly all the days were filled with joy. Looking back over the past 240+ days since her passing, I can count one day of joy and maybe a dozen with happiness. The rest are just days, though thankfully only a few could be counted as bad days and a few could count as good days. I had to adjust expectations for the first time in many years. It's part of the healing process. The landscape has completely changed and I am learning my way around and finding new landmarks. Happiness is a glow on the distant horizon that gets a bit brighter as I plug away at moving forward.

Of course there are positives. I am thrilled for my friend Gerry following the birth of his fourth grandchild earlier this morning. Lucy's cousin Chris is waiting on the birth of her first grandchild in late March and perhaps some of her stories will be in "The Minnesota Farm Woman" blog. I also reconnected with a friend I hadn't seen in a couple years and had quite a bit of fun despite my newly acquired anxiety of crowded places and each of us changing our appearance over the past few years. There have also been an assortment of friends and family starting new jobs, moving to new homes, or becoming newlyweds. It's been a very busy few weeks. I wish all of them well on their new endeavors.


The house is decorated. I'm finishing off a couple Christmas letters to get the last of the Christmas cards in the mail. It's hard to believe, but the kitchen is presentable after the whirlwind of baking. Getting housework done is still a challenge. My hat is off to the single parent maintaining a full time job, a house, and a child or several.

The 10.7" snowfall Saturday night has settled a bit because of some above freezing days and sunshine. We are expecting another round Saturday. This may start as freezing rain with some ice accumulation first. I hope the forecast is wrong as I would rather deal with a foot of snow than a tenth of an inch of ice.

Christmas plans are always fluid because of weather. Lucy would have her Christmas shopping nearly completed by Labor Day. I'm still trying to figure out what people want. Plans and presents should be closer to finalized in another week.

My biggest accomplishment was baking some traditional Christmas goodies that Lucy (primarily) and I would make every year. I managed to do so without burning the house down, having a profanity-laced tirade or creating a hazardous materials incident. I made enough to share with Julie and Suzy. None of us required emergency care after ingesting the piirakkas or red velvet cupcakes. I do have to admit that for the cupcakes I broke down and bought Betty Crocker Buttery Frosting rather than make a creme cheese frosting. I'll chalk it up as a win. Hey, they're still talking to me...I think (just kidding!)

Take some time during the hubbub of the season to rejoice in the ordinary. Be thankful for a routine and navigating a familiar landscape. Life can still be an adventure which does not require exotic surroundings. Give your loved ones a meaningful hug and thank you for your time.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Transitions and Traditions

It is the holiday season in the United States. We celebrated our Thanksgiving Day on Thursday. Christmas and New Year's are roughly four and five weeks away, respectively. These holidays are traditionally the most family oriented. Loved ones from far and near gather to celebrate, to once again feel the warmth and love of family.

Those families likely have traditions as part of their celebrations. The smell of familiar foods wafting from the kitchen, a sports event or favorite holiday movie playing on the television, singing, reciting stories or poetry, or perhaps the making of an ethnic recipe handed down from generation to generation are part of the tradition. The familiarity of the traditions are what makes the holidays special.

Loss of a loved one disrupts those traditions. There is one less chair at the holiday table, one less smile in the crowd, one less laugh filling the air, and one less person to hug. Decorating the house is different. There may be one less function to attend. There may be fewer memories and stories from years gone retold by an elder family member. A traditional recipe may go unmade. Each of us has an important role in family traditions.

The first holiday without a loved one is the hardest. Part of the healing process is a transition period where we learn how to move forward without our loved one physically present. Traditions change either subtly or radically as part of that transition. Sometimes a role may be shared amongst several family members. Sometimes the role remains unfilled.

I am very lucky. I spent Thanksgiving with most of my family and spent a wonderful Saturday with Lucy's cousin and sisters. I missed Lucy, Bob and Betty. But I also had Annette, Julie and Suzy giving me smiles and hugs and we all shared laughter. It was the best day I have had in several months.

Decorating the house for Christmas has been a story in its own right. That was Lucy's domain and she always did a phenomenal job with it. I decorated the outside but she did the inside. I know now she was very creative at finding places to store ornaments and decorations. In the time it took me to get the tree into the basement, she magically managed to put away all the decorations and ornaments despite needing a walker. She continues being extraordinary even after her passing.

It took a lot longer to decorate the tree this year. Lucy would normally put the lights up during the Saturday after Thanksgiving, then put the ornaments and decorations on the next day. I think she wanted to see the tree with just the lights on for inspiration.

I got the tree up on Saturday and lights put on today (Sunday). Part of the delay was because I had to find where the decorations were stored. In the process of discovery, I found she had kept every Christmas card we had received through the years, well over 500 of them. Those holiday cards were a time capsule containing memories. Some of the cards either had lengthy inscriptions or letters detailing the joys and sorrows of the previous year. Others contained photographs showing growing families. I was lucky I had a wonderful Saturday or these finds would have been very emotionally draining.

In keeping with Lucy's tradition, the lights and the tree topper are on the tree. The ornaments and decorations will go on tomorrow after the tree hints how it would like to be decorated. I'm glad I did it because it makes the house feel a little cozier.

Lucy always bought two amaryllis bulbs every year so she would have something in bloom at Christmas. She never wanted to try over-summering the bulbs because it was so easy to buy new plants that were ready to bloom. One was pink and the other red and white. Three weeks after her funeral both plants had wilted leaves. I cut the leaves back and put the plants in the basement near the furnace where the would receive very little light. On Halloween I brought the bulbs upstairs. The pink one planted in rocks was OK, but the red and white one planted in peat showed signs of fungus. I'm not sure if the pink one will bloom, but it does have four leaves on it each over two feet long. I bought a smaller Red Lion bulb with two flower stalks on it just in case, and it is also planted in rocks. Amaryllis bulbs can be rejuvenated for several years so I am anxious to see if I can make this work.

Lucy and her sisters would make piirakkas (Lucy's family recipe is slightly different) sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas. She and I would make our own small batch just after Christmas. I managed to get pretty good at making the rice porridge filling without destroying the kitchen or scorching the saucepan. The recipe kept the two of us busy for a couple hours. I may take a whack at trying it solo. If you read about an incident in Bloomington requiring the fire department and hazardous waste disposal, you'll know my attempt didn't go so smoothly . Lucy and I would also make a batch of Finnish flatbread using her Aunt Kay's recipe.

Enjoy your family traditions during your holiday season. Remember those who are could not make it or those who have passed away with love and affection. May your hearts be filled with love and happiness this season and in seasons to come!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Let us give thanks

Today is Thanksgiving Day here in the United States. It is a day set aside to give thanks for the blessing bestowed on us. The tryptophan torpor, sport spectaculars and "Black Friday" shopping planning are fairly modern side effects, though I would love to see the latter relegated to history's trash can.

I have so much for which I am thankful despite how much 2012 has been awful. The most important blessing I am thankful for was my time with Lucy. I was so fortunate to be married to her for almost 24 years and our being together for 28 years. I will treasure that time for the remainder of my existance in this world.

I am very thankful for the love and support everyone has offered me. I am especially thankful for the special people who were there for me during the worst time in my life, who offered compassion and strength when I needed it most, and who helped start my healing process. Marilyn Monroe once said "But if you can't handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don't deserve me at my best." Thank you for putting up with me. Thank you for putting up with me.

I am thankful for the people who are sacrificing a holiday to server others: soldiers, police, firefighters, health care professionals, volunteers. It is gratifying that you are putting others first.

This year I am thankful the weather is cooperating, at least until early afternoon. We set a record high of 60°F very early this morning (the old record was 59°F set in 1998 for the curious; the "pioneer" record high was 60°F set in 1867), but will see a sharp drop in temp with a strong northwest wind later. Those of you on the road today should keep an eye on the weather and stay safe.

It's time for me to get on the road. I'm heading to John's for Thanksgiving. Mom and Dad are there and Jacob will be over this morning. Jim can't break away from his business venture.

Enjoy time with your loved ones. Chris and Dave, enjoy your time volunteering. Be thankful for your family, friends and loved ones.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Lost in Translation

No, this isn't about the Bill Murray movie from several years back. This started with a gleeful Facebook post which resulted in me trying to find a recipe (tater tot hotdish), which resulted in me finding a piece of notepaper Lucy left in the recipe box with a couple Finnish phrases on them. Lucy was extremely proud of her Finnish heritage. She had the two phrases written out with a brief description of what sort of wall hanging each was from and had seen these in one of three places: Finnish Gifts in downtown Minneapolis, Bergquist Imports in Cloquet, MN or Irma's Finland House in Virginia, MN.

The first phrase was "Ota hymy huuleen ja juoksee vastatuuleen". She had written "Smile and run against the wind" as a translation. Google Translate indicated "Take a smile on the lip and runs into the wind".

On the back page was "Siunaa Jeesus ruokamme, ole aina luonamme". Lucy's translation was "Dear Jesus, Thank you for our food and be present with us always." Google Translate came up with something puzzling: "Jesus will bless our food, not always with us". The subtlety of language comes into play. This is why auto-correct features can be unintentionally hilarious or painfully vexing.

Google is a huge corporation. They have many brilliant minds working for them and advanced technology at their disposal. Something as simple as a before meal prayer still proves problematic for computerized translation, but a human translator has an easy time.  Words can have multiple meanings and definitions depending on context. A machine will try to use algorithms which parse words and then assign a weighting factor to determine probable usage. All that sentence diagramming we were subjected to in middle school was not for naught.

The Chinese proverb "A picture is worth ten thousand words" is quite appropriate thousands of years later. Brilliant writers can "paint with words" in ways that I cannot, but even they are hindered by the sterility of purely written words. A human reader can remember passages that were a few words, sentences, paragraphs or chapters back which help convey mood and context. A machine will look at a preceding word, the preceding sentence, and the current one. Even today, how many times has an email or note from someone caused the wrong reaction because even though the grammar and usage was correct, the intention was lost? How many times have passages been "taken out of context" to prove or disprove a thesis?

Take the three word phrase "I love you." The phrase is easily translated into numerous languages.  No problem with meaning, right? C. S. Lewis very artfully demonstrated the difficulties of expressing emotion through language in "The Four Loves". Love, while seemingly a simple concept, is an extremely complex emotion with many different contexts. For example, Marcy is married, has a child, both parents still living, several siblings and many friends. Even though Marcy will say "I love you" to her spouse, child, parents, siblings and friends, there is a different form of love expressed using the same words.

In addition to words, humans will use tonality, inflection and expressions to help convey meaning. We've seen movies where one buddy will slur "I love ya" before the copious quantities of alcoholic libations previously consumed are unceremoniously liberated and/or unconsciousness. "I love you" spoken to a spouse can have different meanings depending on mood. The degree of love between two people can differ. Romantic comedies have used a variation of A loves B madly, B loves A not as much (or at all), hilarity ensues while equilibrium establishes or fails and all the loose ends tidy up in about 105 minutes. Affection, or caring, or adoration, or comradery:  it's still those three words, "I love you".

The visual and audible cues are very important. How do we determine if a person is angry or pretending, sincere or lying, happy or putting on a brave face? We try to "read" a person's clues in their voice, eyes, mouth, nose, neck, posture. People with certain spectral disorders lack the ability to pick up those cues, and some psychopaths have the ability to "fake" these cues on demand. Without those cues we are subject to misinterpretation. Some people were uneasy watching "The Polar Express" because the cutting edge Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) failed to adequately capture facial expressions. Compare those characters to a newer CGI film like "Avatar".

Make it simpler for your loved ones. Find time to ota hymy huuleen ja juoksee vastatuuleen when there is no risk for frostbite. Be genuine with your hugs and tell them you care. Give them as many cues as you can. There is elegance in simplicity especially in a fast-paced and complex world.


Monday, November 12, 2012

The gales of November (7 months tomorrow)

November is notoriously fickle in Minnesota. The National Weather Service lists it as our gloomiest month (sunshine 39% or less than 11 days of 30). We had the Armistice Day blizzard on November 11, 1940 that killed 49 people in Minnesota alone, 145 total in the affected region. That day started out mild with some clouds, some drizzle towards noon, and finally slashing wind, plummeting temperature and close to two feet of snow falling in under 24 hours in some areas. In other areas the snowdrifts topped 30 feet. The Edmund Fitzgerald went down on November 10, 1975 during a near-hurricane-force gale and was immortalized by Gordon Lightfoot. Very large temperature swings occur. The daily average high and low temperatures drop almost a degree per day. Just this past Sunday, we had two EF-0 tornadoes on the ground about 4 miles south of me. Thankfully no one was hurt although some houses and cars were damaged. All I had here was some 20 - 25 mph wind gusts. Saturday was sunny, warm and 69°F. Today (Monday) was overcast, blustery and a high of 26°F  and a low (so far) of 19°F. The Minnesota Climatology Office has a list of the worst Minnesota storms. Notice how many fall in November.

Tomorrow marks seven months since Lucy died and Wednesday would have been my brother Robert's 44th birthday. Going through the grief process is like going through November in Minnesota. For most part it is dull and cold with a clamminess that cuts to one's soul. The storms come quickly, harshly and with no warning leaving one damp, shivering, weakened and miserable. But there are days similar to last Saturday where warmth and light reign for a few precious hours. Those hours are enough to dry off, warm up and gather enough strength to keep moving forward.

Never underestimate the power of even a small kindness. A smile is a ray of sunlight cutting through the gloom. A hug is a break in the clouds with warmth and light. Letting someone know you care lifts that person off the ground. Combine all three and a person can weather an impending storm. Love is very powerful stuff. There will be many stormy days ahead, but eventually the grief calendar will start a new month with the promise of spring on the horizon. It only seems like the calendar is measuring months on Pluto rather than Earth.

If I may, I would like to ask a personal favor. Please keep Steve, Suzy and Julie in your thoughts and prayers this holiday season. This will be the second Thanksgiving without Betty, but the first without Lucy and Bob. They are such wonderful people and I am very blessed to have them in my life. Give them some sunshine and warmth to help them get through their grief November.

I miss so many things about Lucy, but the hugs and cuddling are what I miss the most, and it's been the hardest adjustment to make. If the weather is as cold in your part of the world as it is here, cuddle if you have someone. Aw heck, cuddle even if it isn't cold!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

"Ride my See-Saw"

I keep thinking of the old Moody Blues song when I look at the weather forecasts in October and March. This week is going to get progressively colder. The only good thing about it is we could pick up some rain.

Today started with the furnace running and ended with the windows open. I managed to tweak my shoulder dealing with the kitchen window so my yard work plans got scrapped. It was nice enough to get a short walk in at Nine Mile Creek and Central Park. However, the shoulder tweak also made hiking a bit bothersome so I ended up in the porch. It should be fine in a couple days.


Halloween is fast approaching, though I have seen several store Christmas displays already. I'm still trying to think of a costume for Gerry's party next Saturday night. Lucy and I couldn't make it last year as her anemia was getting bad and her white counts were dropping. The year before we went dressed in scrubs. Lucy had found a really cute Halloween scrub top which fit her perfectly. I'm open for suggestions.

For those of you who will be seeing much cooler temperatures this week, take advantage of a little cuddling, especially if you have kids. My great-uncle Olai used to say that as you got older, life got mean. Life gets mean at times, but we can stand up to the meanness with the love of our family and friends. Despite how difficult it can be, tell your loved ones that you care and make sure your hugs are meaningful. I know that can be tough with tweens.  Share a smile and a laugh with your friends. Brightening someone's day is a very special gift and you get something special in return.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Six months (100th posting)

Today marks six months since Lucy passed away. The 80% chance of rain as of last night looks more like a 100% chance of wind and overcast so I will be making a trip to the cemetery today. I sill love her and I still miss her. That won't change.

I'm doing better. I went on a leave of absence at work which has now become my resignation. As much as I liked my boss, the stress levels I ordinarily handled with ease became insurmountable. I wasn't ready to go back to work, plain and simple.

At this point if I do go back to work, it most likely won't be in a information technology (IT) related field. Rebuilding a life is tough enough without having to rebuild a career for the sixth time. IT changes a lot. When I started in 1980 there were few video display units, punch cards and magnetic tape reels were portable off line storage, mainframes has kilobytes of memory, and 80 Mb "cake box" removable disk packs were $13,000.00 each in bulk. As the technology evolved, the programming languages evolved. I could count on having to learn some exotic new language about every five years. The only constant language was profanity and it is quite universal among developers. I was trying to learn five new technologies at once under deadlines. Perhaps that is best left for the younger crowd. Yet the part I loved about IT was always learning something new and solving challenges. I'll reassess after New Years Day.

I'm still adjusting to solo life. The insomnia is retreating, I'm eating OK, and I'm trying to walk and hike when possible. The weather changes are really causing my knees to let me know I'm not 15 anymore. I have a number of home improvement projects that will keep me busy for a couple years plus a fairly extensive collection of books to read. Boredom will not be an issue.

One of the stranger adjustments has been the coupon offers. Lucy was a bargain hunter and we would get a number of buy one get one free (BOGO) offers. Today I received one from Caribou Coffee. If I were to drink two small turtle mochas today, I would be bouncing off the walls until Tuesday. The BOGO meals work out well because I get 2 - 3 days of meals from them. They are a reminder of how lucky I was to have someone to share the offers with on a daily basis. At least I haven't gained back huge amounts of weight.

Dropping the stress levels to more manageable levels has helped me to refocus on healing. Part of the healing is counting blessings. I'm blessed that so many people cared about Lucy. I am very blessed to have you reading this blog because it means you have stuck with me through this journey when the going got tough and to know you care. I'm extremely blessed to have special people who make me smile and brighten my day.

All of us have acquaintances, family, friends and close friends that make our lives better. I can count my closest friends on my left hand and still have my inter-vehicle communication finger (or trigger finger in California) free. Quality is always better than quantity. It's nice to know those people choose to be in your life rather than having to be part of your life. C. S. Lewis states this so eloquently as "affection" in "The Four Loves". Read it for something that stimulates thought and helps make sense of the most complex of human emotions.


For those of you fortunate to have someone special close by, take a moment to tell that person (or persons if you have children) that you care. One can never get too much positive reinforcement. And if hugs aren't awkward or uncomfortable, give a meaningful hug or six. Share a smile with the world. You could brighten the day for someone who needs it.

Thank you for making my world better.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

"Silent No More" walk and hiatus time

I made it through the "Silent No More" walk yesterday. Is was tough. Last year I did it with the love of my life. This year I did it for the love of my life. The turnout was good, well over a thousand people just for the 2K walk and probably that many again for the 5K run. I couldn't get any pictures because I was too emotional. The ironic part was how alone one can feel in a crowd. I lost sight of the fact that just because no one is standing next to you doesn't mean no one cares. Sorry about that.

Thank you for you encouragement and support. I know a few of you wanted to participate but could not. I understand and I'm very thankful you considered participating. If any of you have participated in the past, the survivors wear teal shirts, the rest of us white shirts. With all the advances made in cancer care, it is still sad to realize that some of the people wearing teal shirts this year won't be among us next year, and that some of those wearing white will next year wear teal. Ovarian cancer doesn't get the clever shirts or wristbands that help generate money and it affects a smaller percentage of the population. I hope for a cure for breast cancer so more research dollars can go towards ovarian cancer eradication.

The calendar still says summer but the gardens are saying it's fall. I cut back the woody raspberry canes so the green ones will bear more berries next year (even though the Japanese beetles will destroy most of them). The shrub roses are happier now that they aren't a constant source of bug food. Lucy's Canadian lilac is doing it's unusual second bloom for the tenth year in a row. It is odd seeing lilacs in September. I finally have morning glories after several years of trying, but I lost the majority of my lilies to the damned chipmunks and squirrels.

Of course the days are getting shorter, the nights have a crispness not felt in several months and the highs aren't in the 90's as often. Lucy would be spending every evening in the porch enjoying the quiet. It was her cabin without the four hour drive. More changes in the air.

The blog is going on hiatus for awhile. I don't know how long. It's been extremely hard for me to find anything positive as of late. Thursday will mark five months since Lucy passed away and each month cuts a little deeper. Losing three people I loved deeply in less than a year has not helped. The new job has definitely not helped. There have been a dizzying number of changes, not all of them positive. Relationships have changed, not all for the better. There is a lot to sort through, and the brain is still foggy and slow. The emotional side says everything is doom and gloom even though the rational side says it isn't. I need to get those two to STFU and play nice again.

I have been blessed to have all of you support me through these dark days. I am eternally grateful to those of you who went far above and beyond. I will still be there for people when they need me. That hasn't changed. I know things will turn around, it takes time. All it takes are some positive changes to occur. Those of you who are close to me know I will move heaven and hell to keep my word. I promise I'll be back and I hope you'll wait patiently to read my musings.

Give your loved ones a meaningful hug today. You'll brighten that person's day beyond words. Tell them you care about them. Positive reinforcement goes a long way.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Remembering Betty at One Year

To describe the past twelve months as annus horribilis would be an understatement. Today marks one year since my mother-in-law left this life.

Betty made my life better by being part of it. I had the opposite of a stereotypical sitcom mother-in-law. Betty accepted me. She was warm and engaging and enjoyed spending time with her family.


Lucy and I made quite a few trips "up north" while we were together. We could count on a four hour drive each way (though it dropped to three-and-a-half hours after Minnesota 33 was redone in Cloquet and the Highway 2 overpass was completed). It meant we would pull in after 10:00 pm on a Friday and we would have to start the return trip by 2:00 pm on Sunday. We would always have a warm greeting waiting for us when we arrived. That made the trip worthwhile. It was also nice to unwind in a setting that was so peaceful and beautiful. Northern Minnesota's natural beauty is second to none.

Along with a warm greeting, there would usually be fresh baked treats. Scents of blueberry pie (when in season), cardamom bread, or home-made bread would waft through the house. Getting out of a car at -35°F and walking into a warm house with bread fresh from the oven is an indescribable treat. I swear I gained three pounds every trip we made back home.

Lucy's love of reading and poetry came from Betty. Betty's taste in fiction was broad. I remember seeing several Rod McKuen poetry books on the bookshelf. Suzy told us at Bob's funeral that Bob and Betty would go the library a lot after Bob retired. She would browse for a couple novels to check out while Bob would read the local papers.

Betty was also an artist. Lucy had saved some sketches Betty had drawn in letters to Lucy. Betty also painted a few watercolors. Barns were a favorite subject. She was also quite the photographer, another talent Lucy inherited. I once had a high school art teacher tell me the only thing I would ever draw well was criticism, so I do appreciate the talent and time Betty put into her creative ventures.

While Lucy was doing her family history research, she received a treasure trove of information from her aunt Kay. Included in the hundreds of pages of information were a couple articles Betty wrote for some local history books. They were very well written, informative and entertaining.

With all of Betty's interests, talents and skills, she made time to be an outstanding mother to four children. The love they were raised with molded them into caring and compassionate adults. That love is now passed on to their children.

She may not have been my biological mother, but she was my second mom. It's been a year, and I still miss Betty. A lot has happened since then, some good, some tragic. It's easy for a family to stick together during good times. She would be proud of how her children have stuck together during the adversities.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Silent No More Walk/Run September 8

I will be participating in the 13th annual Silent No More walk and run for ovarian cancer. Despite losing 70 pounds, my left knee is still not able to handle a 5k run. Now that I'm able to throttle back a bit on the hours at the office, perhaps I can get some bicycling in next season to get the knee strengthened.

Rosland Park is in Edina near Southdale. We were allowed to park at Southdale last year but not this year. Here's a bit more information about the event:
Limited parking is available at Rosland Park primarily for handicap parking and an area for Survivor Drop Off. Additional parking is available at the office buildings at 6600 France Avenue and 6800 France Avenue ONLY - please follow the directions of our parking volunteers! A shuttle bus will provide a ride between the southern most lot at 6800 France Avenue to Rosland Park starting at 7:30am-11:30am. Please allow for additional time to walk or ride the shuttle to the park.
Early Bird Registration Fee of $25 adult and $10 Youth ends at 12 midnight on 8/27/12. Regular registration fees are $30 adult and $12 Youth beginning 8/28/12.1/1/2012 - 8/27/2012
Day of Registration / T-shirt pick up9/8/2012 7:30 am - 8:30 am
Survivor Photo9/8/2012 8:30 am - 8:40 am
Program - Honoring the Women of MOCA9/8/2012 8:45 am - 9:00 am
5K Run9/8/2012 9:15 am - 9:45 am
2K Walk9/8/2012 9:45 am - 10:30 am
Kids Fun Run9/8/2012 10:30 am - 11:00 am
Awards9/8/2012 11:00 am - 11:15 am
Fees:

2K Walk: $25.00
Adult 2K Walk - Early Bird registration of $25 ends 8/27; Regular registration fee of $30 after 8/28
5K Run: $25.00
Adult 5K Run - Early Bird registration of $25 ends 8/27; Regular registration fee of $30 after 8/28
Youth: $10.00
Children 12 and under - Early Bird registration of $10 ends 8/27; Regular registration fee of $12 after 8/28
Sleepwalker: $30.00
If you can't join us on race day or just can't get out of bed, register as a Sleepwalker and you will receive your Silent No More Walk/Run t-shirt in the mail after the event.
Updated information on the Walk/Run can be found at our website at http://2012mocawalkrun.kintera.org/
I'm doing this to in honor of Lucy. We participated last year and she had every intention of participating this year. I formed a team if anyone would care to join me. The team link is at http://2012mocawalkrun.kintera.org/kenhopperstad. I set some low fundraising and recruiting standards (already reached in both cases), so I'm not hitting anyone up for donations.

Thank you!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

"Come Monday" (it will be four months)

Unlike me, Lucy was not a Jimmy Buffett fan. After we had been dating a year, I took a job that required "10% travel". The problem was 10% was closer to 80%. I spent quite a bit of time in Los Angeles, so I was quite familiar with "I spent four lonely days in the brown L.A. haze, and I just want you back by my side."

Come Monday, it will be four months since Lucy died. I haven't been in the brown L.A. haze in over 25 years, but I still want Lucy back by my side. The grief counselors have said it can take a year for most of the healing to occur. I don't think they have counted on another family death and a very stressful job. If I were to believe Nietzsche, "What does not kill me, makes me stronger", I should be invincible and immortal by now rather than missing her with every beat of my heart. It's an adjustment alright.

I'm still having some problems with staying organized. I found my Houlihan's birthday perk tonight and had to use it because it was expiring tonight. Note to self: jambalaya just before 90 minutes of yard work is not recommended. No one ever recommends a big meal before a workout.

The Japanese beetle infestation is tailing off for the year. My roses are fairing OK. We have been getting slightly more rain, as evidenced by the new crop of mosquitoes. The cooler and less humid weather has been nice, too. On nights like tonight, Lucy and I would be sitting in the porch listening to the tree frogs, crickets and toads. We would watch the fireflies twinkle and enjoy the cool breeze. I haven't seen any fireflies yet, and I'm surprised to hear an occasional cicada.

The reason I'm posting tonight instead of Monday is I expect to be inundated at work come Monday. I was off Monday, Thursday and Friday.

And here's something for the computer geeks: On the plus side, I did have to replace the hard drive on my desktop system (Vista Business) which was relatively painless. And I have figured out how to get the VPN at work to deal with dual monitors at home. The downside, my two monitors are mismatched, so RDP (mstsc) has a hissy fit during certain screen operations. Costco might have some 24" Dell monitors that should work. That should allow me to spend less time in the office because I can work a couple hours from home with almost the same set up as at work. The video card I have is a triple head card, so I could run three monitors. The system at work has a dual head video card. RDP gets confused enough the way it is, so I'll stick to two monitors at home.

As I have been so painfully reminded these past twelve months, life is unpredictable. Lost opportunities can become regrets, so eliminate a huge regret before it happens. Make your hugs meaningful, and never miss an opportunity to tell your spouse, partner or significant other that you love them. Let your loved ones know you care for them, even if they know. Brighten someone's day by smiling. I did that with Lucy every day we were together. I miss her, but it's not the paralyzing sense of loss many people experience. I'm sure it's because we had no regrets with each other.


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Requiescant in Pace

I did have to Google the title to be sure of spelling. Latin has some quirks when it comes to plural verb forms. The phrase means "May they rest in peace": Betty, Lucy and Bob. (Requiescat is the singular form).

Bob's funeral was very touching and upbeat. It was nice to see the outpouring of support for Steve, Suzy and Julie today as they bade farewell to their father. Despite the loss, there were still lots of hugs, smiles and laughter. Mourning is part of the healing process. It allows us to move the pain out and allow the good memories to fill in the void. There still will be tears and longing, but celebrating a life well lived helps the healing process take root.

Thank you to everyone who attended today. Thank you to everyone who sent well wishes to the family. Most of all, thank you for caring.

My memorial marker was installed today. I received a call from the cemetery while I was on my way to visit Lucy.
Someday we'll be together again

5, 6, pick up sticks...

(This should have published August 4th but didn't. Technology is cool when it works.)

The thunderstorm did very little damage last night. There were two impressive wind blasts that ripped through. My poor little anemometer showed a peak gust of 22 mph, but according to the Beaufort scale, the winds were closer to 60 mph at times. I did get about ½" of rain. Here's hoping I get a chance to mow the yard this week. I filled my yard waste container just with the clumps of leaves ripped from the silver maples

Thank you to everyone for the birthday wishes! It's amazing how many restaurants start giving a senior discount at 55. Lucy was quite the bargain hunter and was looking forward to my birthday this year. I have a pretty good stack of Buy One Get One free offers. The problem is most of them expire between the 11th and the 18th.
Lucy's birthday was February 5th. We would each sign up for these offers. The six month spread meant we could burn off the calories by the time the next wave of offers came through.

Please keep my father-in-law in your thoughts and prayers. He's had a terrible year and is battling some heath issues. Losing my mother-in-law and Lucy eight months apart has not helped. He's one of the nicest people in the world, too.

It's still insane at work. I went in for several hours today and will get use the VPN tonight to try getting a bit more stuff done. The yard work is slipping a bit and the kitchen is getting cluttered. Lucy wouldn't be happy with that.

The rain perked up the tamarisk, and the blue flax are reblooming. The white flax might bloom again. The rudbeckia plants are blooming or close, and the bee balm and echineciaare having a banner year. Even the clematis plants which got pummeled in a previous wind storm are blooming like crazy.

I'm still trapping Japanese beetles, but it looks like they are winding down. I'm finding cicada skins all over the place and even got to see the final minutes of one emerging from the beetle skin and becoming a green he dragonflies are plentiful, and I saw a few iridescent damselflies this year despite the drought.

I did have to see Lucy today. Even when I was doing the heavy business traveling, we always managed to be with each other for our birthdays. The string is still intact, though I will miss her birthday kiss. That's one of the large number of adjustments one makes after losing a spouse. There are so many little things that go into a marriage, yet when all those little things are gone, it leaves a gaping hole. It's also part of the healing process. You learn to adjust and keep trying to move forward.

Thank you again for the birthday wishes!

Lucy's bouquet from the cemetery

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Bob's funeral

Bob's funeral will be 10:00 am Thursday, August 9 at the Joseph Klecatsky & Sons Funeral Home - Eagan Chapel. Burial will be at a later date.

Please keep Steve, Suzy and Julie in your prayers. They have endured so much sorrow this past year. These are three of the best people in the world, very kind and loving, and I love them very dearly.

Thank you for caring.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Getting ready to say goodbye again

Losing a loved one is difficult. Losing three within a short period of time is horrendous. We were still healing from my mother-in-law's passing when Lucy died. Now we're dealing with the loss of my father-in-law less that four months later.

Bob was a great man. That was evident in how well his children were raised and how tightly they group together during adversity. He accepted his daughter-in-law and sons-in-law into the family and was quick to help with repairs if any of us needed assistance. His grandchildren were showered with love and he loved them very much. Even though he was on the quiet side, he had a great sense of humor and a very engaging personality.

He worked extremely hard to provide for his family. Bob repaired tires on mining equipment. He had a number of times being outside making repairs at -55°F or colder, or 90°F or hotter because the equipment could not always make it back to the shop. Bob work on on tires for wheelbarrows and the ten foot diameter tires on the giant earthmovers. I loved hearing him talk about his job, especially after he retired.

Losing Betty was hard for him. They were married 58 years and were blessed with four wonderful children. When Betty's health started to turn for the worse, he devoted himself to taking care of her until the end. Even though her passing was expected, it stall came as a blow to all of us. After her passing, his life was full of rapid changes and adjustments. None of us really had time to full heal when Lucy's time with us ended.

No parent should ever have to lose a child. Lucy's battle started out very promising but became more challenging as time went on. The last five moths of her fight were the toughest on all of us. Lucy's strength, determination and dignity displayed during her battle were a direct result of the love, strength and devotion she saw growing up. Lucy's loss was extremely hard on him. His health deteriorated quickly.

Now Bob is no longer with us. He'll remain part of us until each of our times on earth ends. The big paradox of life is it has to end with death, at least in the corporal or physical sense. Many, if not all, religions and spiritualites mention an afterlife where a soul (or lifeforce or energy) transcends after leaving the body. The afterlife is timeless and the person's soul can watch over those of us remaining behind in this existence. Bob has made that transition and is with Lucy and Betty. It's not the same as him physically being with us, but it helps provides a measure of comfort that he's at peace and can still guide us through our lives.

Steve, Liz and Micaela; Suzy, Derek and Kristin; Julie and Brady: thank you for keeping me as part of your family and loving me as one of your own, especially in these trying times. It shows just how great a man Bob was. You've honored his legacy well.

My father-in-law died tonight

Lucy's family suffered another devastating loss tonight. My father-in-law, Bob, died tonight at 10:45 pm. The irony is Lucy also died at 10:45 pm. His health has been in decline the past couple months. He was surrounded by his surviving children, his daughter-in-law, Liz, and me.

Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Non sibi, sed toti

I'm fortunate I rarely hear from the grammar police, but maybe I'll hear from the Latin purists. The title translates to "Not for self, but for others." (If the last word were "omnibus" it could be considered "everyone".)

I have yet to find a religion that preaches putting oneself above others. Most philosophers from Socrates onward opined that we exist to serve the greater good and the greater good is to serve others. There must be something to it; history is filled with accounts of great societies like the Byzantine Empire, the Roman Empire and the city/states of ancient Greece crumbling and collapsing because the populous went the "Not for others, but for self" avenue. Life is precious and the self preservation instinct has been imprinted in our genetic make up for about four billion years. Because of that we revere war heroes who sacrificed their lives to save fellow soldiers and firefighters and police officers who died in the line of duty. A parent's death while saving his or her child usually makes the national news. Altruism is noble indeed.

Putting others first is not easy. Many times it is thankless and emotionally draining all the while requiring huge sacrifices of time and energy. Some of these people become grief counselors, others become ministers, still others firefighters, peace officers, medical professionals, teachers, and first responders. It takes a special kind of person to devote her or his life to helping others, especially when the other person is in dire need.

Most of us will face situations in out lives where we will have to make sacrifices for the sake of others. Parents do this routinely for their children. I was never fortunate enough to be a parent, but I have been around some incredible people raising children in difficult circumstances yet the children are happy, well loved and well adjusted. Time spent shuttling children to activities could have been spent in badly needed "me" time. Money spent on activity fees and supplies could have been spent on entertainment. The great parents are the ones who make the sacrifices without the child knowing it is a sacrifice. The really great ones manage that along with helping others in need.

Aging parents are another challenge most of us will face. The difficulty is the sudden role reversal that occurs: the parent is the child and the child becomes the parent. Adding to the difficulty is the fact the parent realizes his or her independence is slipping away, certainly temporarily but possibly permanently. There is an old saying that goes to the effect of "After a taste of freedom, captivity is never the same". Captivity can be caused by lack of mobility, or needing to move to a care facility because living independently is no longer safe. In some cases, an aging parent may experience mental decline. That is the hardest of the changes because that person is becoming someone else. All this is happening while trying to balance a home life and work demands. Strained relationships and hurt feelings are not uncommon. Someone may snap a pithy comment out of frustration, or leave in a huff, or withdraw into a deep shell because of the pressures, and the others feel some pain. It becomes hard to remember that these sacrifices are made for love and of love, and that there is a greater good everyone is trying to achieve.

I went through caring for a terminally ill loved one, and I know others of you have, too. The only reason I made it through was because people were willing to sacrifice their free time for us. Hospice workers and volunteers, friends and family, all were there at the time of our greatest need. I had to focus on ensuring Lucy was well loved and well cared for in her time of need. It was the hardest thing I have ever done and I pray I never have to do that again, but I did it for her. The love and support from all of you helped in ways I will never be able to describe and can never adequately repay.

Unfortunately we lose some of these great people along the way. Some are lost because they got hurt one too many times helping an ungrateful person, others because the stress and strain of the sacrifices wear them down, and still others because they have nothing left to give. Each time that happens a bit of our society crumbles. We all feel the loss. I hope that the ones one the cusp of quitting reconsider. There will always be someone in need.

Thank you to all of you who put others first! You are the unsung heroes in our society. If you know anyone like that, give them some support. After all, they would do it for you.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

"Warm 'nuff for ya? Cripes!"

When I heard someone utter that quote this morning in the checkout line at Cub Foods, I looked around to see if the Coen Brothers were shooting a sequel to "Fargo". While the past several weeks have been in the mid to upper 90's with a couple 100+ days thrown in, today wasn't too bad. These are air temperatures, not heat index readings, by the way. I'm sure in a few months I'll hear someone (probably me) complaining about the cold and wind chill.

For those of you in the south metro area, the Genesee condos at American Boulevard and Penn Ave. S. are nearing completion. There are a couple of interesting food places that will also open soon. One is Moe's Southwestern Grill and the other is Which Wich. I believe these are the first in Minnesota for either chain.The El Loro's at 84th and Lyndale opened two months ago, and there is a rib place in Eagan called Rack Shack that I want to try sometime. Lucy would have enjoyed any of the places.

The video card in my desktop conked out in a blaze of glory this morning. Apparently two of the wires to the power connector got too close to the CPU fan. Over the course of a few days, the insulation wore away. Even at 5 volts, having a hot and a return short against each other is not a good thing. The video card went from an old GeForce GT 8800 to a dual head GeForce GTX560ti. I have to find a VGA to DVI converter to hook up a second monitor. Of course, the drivers are taking forever to load, and with Vista, I'm sure there will be the requisite and ubiquitous reboots.

There has not been a lot of rain lately. The weather folks are mentioning drought again despite our year to date rain total running 6 inches over normal. Unfortunately the Japanese beetle harvest goes on. I think I am approaching 10 pints of beetles. As much as I hate using lawn chemicals, I'll be dumping Grub-X on the yard this fall and next spring.

Work will be insane this week. I'm trying to enjoy a little downtime today. I do hope the pace throttles back a little. I know those of you still in the work force by and large have had to do more with less. Those of you in retail or the service industry have noticed people are not has happy as they should be, either.

Since it's hot and people aren't very cuddly right now, make your hugs meaningful!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

At the Zoo (28 years)

No, Lucy was not a Simon & Garfunkel fan, so Suzy, you don't have to dig around for a song that was released a few months before Julie was born.

As I mentioned Friday, Lucy and I went to the Minnesota Zoo on our first date. It was also a hot and muggy day back in 1984. It was very sunny that day with no breeze with a high in the low 90's. Today was overcast and breezy with a high in the low 90's.

As I turned on the radio when I got in the car, "Second Chance" was playing right at the verse I used in Lucy's eulogy. The odds of it happening once is pretty remote; twice has to be close to astronomical.

The zoo has changed through the years, of course. It took me three hours to walk through everything. That's about the same amount of time Lucy and I spent on our first date. I stopped in the bird show just after it started. One of the new birds on exhibit is an eagle owl. Lucy would have been in awe of how big it is. Unlike other owls, it does not have yellow eyes. (And no, the owl's name was not Lucy).

One advantage about going to the zoo on a very warm day is the predominate species on display, Homo Sapiens, is reduced in numbers. However, there also is marked reduction in patience, manners, hygiene and intelligence. The younger members of the species tend to be crankier and gravitate towards the water features. Of the numerous couples there, some with offspring in tow, it was obvious a few were on their first or second date. I wonder how many would be lucky enough to have found the person he or she want to spend the rest of their life with?

There was a serious run on the $4.00 frozen lemonade. When the guy at the booth said "Lemme guess, frozen lemonade?" I asked him if he had a turtle mocha with two shots of espresso. At least he got a chuckle out of it. I didn't get a discount of the lemonade, either.

The Dinosaurs exhibit is supposed to run until September 3rd. I didn't go to see it. The nerd in me wanted to go, but I think it would be more fun to go with someone. Anyway, I'd probably need adult supervision because I would be trying to take the animatronic critters apart to see how they tick.

I didn't make it to Don Pablo's. It was more of a Dairy Queen day. Trying to move forward doesn't always happen in leaps and bounds. Sometimes it's more of a nudge and a scoot.

Eagle owl

Add caption

Eagle owl

Notice the eyes are reddish brown on the eagle owl, not yellow like other owls.

One slightly agitated bald eagle

Just before getting very vocal

Friday, July 13, 2012

Three months

At times I can't believe it's been three months since Lucy passed away, and yet it seems like an eternity. I know I've aged 20 years in the past eight months. Like April 13th, today was also a Friday the 13th. I thank God for the love and support all of you have given me. I pray that you all are healing.

Sunday marks the 28th anniversary of my first date with Lucy. We had a lot of fun during our time together through the years. We tried every year to get to the Minnesota Zoo in mid-July and then go to Don Pablo's afterwards (only because Chi-Chi's went toes up). I'll try to do both yet this month. It won't be the same without her at my side.

Life goes on. The building that housed the Richfield Chi-Chi's is being leveled so the replacement Richfield Menard's can get built. Some of the movie theaters we went to are razed and some of the restaurants are either out of business or are completely different. For better or for worse, things change and life goes on.

Thank you for your time and for sticking with me.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

"There Ain't No Cure for the Summertime Blues"

Eddie Cochran had a hit with this song in the late 1950's. Eddie was born in Albert Lea, MN, about 12 miles north of my hometown of Emmons, MN. Tonight is Borderfest in Emmons, and for my readers attending tonight, have fun and I'll try to make it next year. I didn't find out about Borderfest until 6:00 pm tonight.

Anyway, Eddie was wrong. Spending time with my sisters-in-law today was a cure for the blues. Thank you, Suzy and Julie, for sharing your scarce free time with me today. I wish you knew how much it brightened my day, and I hope I brightened your days a bit, too. It was the first Saturday I did not go into the office since Memorial Day. I'm sure I'll pay for it come Monday.

We got to visit Carver Country Flowers and Gifts this morning. If you're in the area, stop in! And kindly support Annette and Al in the Mission: Small Business grant initiative. Afterwards, we got to visit my father-in-law for an hour. Their shop is also on Facebook (Julie, you were asking about this earlier).

I set out the Japanese beetle traps and am getting some of the vile creatures contained. Instead of using the rather expensive disposable bags, I modified mine to use the top portion of the bag, a sprinkler system hose coupler, and some one liter Powerade bottles. The top of the bag is attached to the top half of the coupler with a couple zip ties, and the bottom half of the coupler is set through a hole I drilled in the Powerade bottle cap. The bottle contains a few drops of Apple Fresh Dawn dish soap in 8 oz. of water. One the critters slide through the bag into the bottle, there is no escape. I dump the water every other day.

Despite the mosquitoes, I managed to pick a little over a pint of berries tonight. The dry spell is slowing down the berry production. There are a couple chances for rain this week, so I'm going to let nature do the watering for me.

I hope everyone is having good weather. Enjoy some quality time with your spouse, significant other, or kids tonight.

Today's berry harvest.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Blackberries, raspberries and flowers

I'm trying to figure out where the past nine days have gone. I know work has consumed a goodly portion of it. The one nice thing about gardening is seeing all the changes that occur on different timelines. I'm already picking blackberries and raspberries and my green beans are flowering. The Japanese beetles are dining on the roses, but their numbers are down considerably from this time last year. I didn't get a chance to lay down Grub-X this year, but maybe the drought last summer thinned the herd. This is the only time of the year I tolerate crows. They love eating Japanese beetles and their larvae. I wish the squirrels and chipmunks would acquire the same taste.

I picked up lures for my Japanese beetles traps and will get the traps set out tomorrow. I think there are about two pints of raspberries to pick. The false sunflowers, blanket flowers, bachelor's buttons and catmint around the mailbox are all in bloom now. On the south side of the garage, the various yarrow are in bloom, including a couple colors I know we didn't plant. All the clematis are blooming, but it looks like I lost a hardy hibiscus after eight years, and the Russian sage looks like it is on its last legs after almost 13 years. There has been just enough rain lately to keep the tamarisk loaded with its tiny pink flowers, but not enough to sustain the mosquito population. I think that's a pretty good balance.

It's been warm, but the humidity has not been as beastly oppressive as a couple weeks ago. It appears we're in for a stretch of upper 80's to mid-90's for the next week with only a couple chances of rain. Of course that will be the day I decide to get the car washed.

Tomorrow will be the first Saturday since Memorial Day weekend I have not had to go into the office. I'm hoping to have a couple more weekends like that before the next crunch kicks in.

Try to brighten someone else's day when you can! Thank you for your time, and have a wonderful evening.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

First day of summer, 2012

It's 2012, not 2013. Sorry, Dana, you're not 20 yet!

Today saw a little rain this afternoon and evening. I saw a weak double rainbow tonight. The inner rainbow was nice and strong, the outer one fairly weak. The last double rainbow I saw was when Lucy and I were returning from her mother's funeral last August. Lucy liked rainbows.

The rainy weather here is hatching two unfortunate crops: mosquitoes and Japanese beetles. I'll have to find time this weekend to set out the Japanese beetle traps. I know I'll be putting in some time Saturday at work.

So there was no pot of gold at the end of tonight's rainbow, but it did bring back some nice memories of Lucy and me looking out the window at rainbows. She would smile when seeing one. I hope you had a chance to smile tonight, too.


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day

I've been battling some sort of stomach bug for the past four days and I'm still putting in a bit of overtime at work. So to my father and father-in-law, your Father's Day cards will be a day or two late. To the both of you, thank you for all your support and patience. It has made me a better person.

I'm starting to figure out some of the concepts of the various technologies, but it's been a slow process. It's frustrating because I usually pick up programming languages and other technologies very quickly. I'm looking at the process as "short term pain for long term gain". The questionable part is defining "short term".

We're out of the monsoon season, but we are still getting enough rain so that I have not had to water anything but the pansy bowl in front and the impatiens in back. The mini glads have shot out of the ground, the daliahs and cannas are over a foot tall, and the mystery delphinium I moved earlier in the season is a deep purple. Lucy only bought true blue delphiniums so this one is courtesy of  a bird. All the shrub roses are in full bloom and the climbing rose is loaded. Lucy's lilies are looking better than ever. I'll be picking about a pint of blackberries in a couple weeks and five or six quarts of raspberries in early July. Lucy loved this time of year when everything was blooming and green. I'm sure she is happy her gardens are doing so well.

For those of you who can, give your father (or father figure) a big hug today. Trust me, they earned it!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Two months

Today marks two months since Lucy's passing.

It was another long day at work, and the indications are this is not going to get better for the next month.

Suzy was over tonight to pick up some magazines. It was nice seeing a friendly face today.

Happy birthday to Ardelle tomorrow.

Give your loved ones a hug tonight and make the hug meaningful.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The hurrieder I go, the behinder I get

Benjamin Franklin has wanted "Tempus Fugit" (time flees) as the motto of the united States, and had that motto placed on some of the Continental Congress coinage. Working extra hours shortens my week, of course. I swear about the time Silverlight starts making sense something else throws me for a loop. I know my brain is not functioning at anywhere near 100% which isn't helping. I keep blanking out on stuff that I know.

Minnesota Oncology sent a sympathy card that arrived on Monday. The post office screwed up delivery. It was very nice of them to do that. Lucy and I knew she got the best possible care from them.

There were three birthdays, Jane on the 6th, John on the 7th and Julie on the 8th that I haven't properly acknowledged. Happy belated birthday to each of you.

The flower gardens are hitting their stride. I need to get a few more photos in the photo gallery. The Asian lilies are spectacular this year and the ancient and sickly peony actually bloomed. It looks like I'll get a pretty good crop of blackberries and raspberries and the string beans I am growing in containers on the deck look to be setting flower buds. Now that the monsoon season has ended, the lawn doesn't require twice per week mowing.

Lucy would be happy with the increased number of monarchs I am seeing. Monarchs had a huge population crash several years ago when a large wintering area for them got unseasonably cold and killed a few billion of them. The dragonflies are really busy and I'm seeing sphinx moths which almost look like hummingbirds. I have not seen a hummingbird yet this year, but I'm sure they are out there.

Wednesday will be two months since Lucy's passing. In some ways, it doesn't seem like it's been that long, yet in other ways, it seems like two million years.

The weather has cooperated nicely for the Twin Cities area as of late. It sounds like tomorrow night could bring some rain and possibly a few storms our way. The air conditioner has been getting a workout lately, too.

Give our loved ones a hug tonight and make it meaningful. You may be surprised at how much a good hug is appreciated, especially when they go from plentiful to scarce.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Today would have been our 24th anniversary

Our wedding day was unseasonably hot and the area was in a dry spell. June 4th is supposed to be around 77 for the high. I think we hit 94 that day, and we had an outdoor wedding. Despite people almost passing out from the heat and my brother Robert with a very painful sunburn, it was a perfect day.

Today went better than I thought it would. Reading everyone's comments before heading to work helped so much. Last night was actually tougher. Thank you everyone for thinking of me!

I left work at 4:30 (I was in at 6:15 this morning) and went to the cemetery to visit Lucy. The cemetery was supposed to have flowers placed for her today. I filled the paperwork out in late April, so they had their requisite one week advance notice. No flowers. Cub Foods is about two miles away, so I went there and picked up a nice summer arrangement. Lucy enjoyed monarch butterflies in our backyard, so finding this bouquet was perfect. One of my (numerous) quirks is when I would get flowers for Lucy, I ensured that at least part of the arrangement was something we did not have in our gardens. The Gerber daisies fit that criteria. I sent a fax to the cemetery asking what happened and insisting on a refund.

It's about 6:20 pm CDT as I write this, which is the earliest I have managed a posting since I started work (at least on a weekday). Thank you again for thinking of me today! I wish I could adequately express how much it helps.

The last minute bouquet from Cub Foods (the monarch is a decoration, not a real one).

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Thank God for friends

I had a really great Memorial Day weekend. The work week got long. I like the company, I like my co-workers, my bosses are great, but we're on a very aggressive product timeline and I'm trying to contribute without slowing everyone else down. I spent seven hours in the office Saturday to get as much behind schedule stuff done as I could. I've learned quite a bit of stuff these past three weeks, but I have only begin to scratch the surface. For a new hire to be successful, you have to endure some short-term pain to get long-term gain.

Today was an example of where friends come in. I got to catch up a bit during a large landscaping job with a friend I hadn't seen in about fifteen years, though we've exchanged emails and IMs through the years. It's funny how we picked up as if the last time we had seen each other was last week. That's the most wonderful part about long-time friends. Thanks, Kell! It was nice meeting her husband, Darren, and seeing her daughter, Amanda, too.

Tomorrow is going to be a tough day. It would have been our 24th wedding anniversary. I'll be going to work tomorrow and start hammering away on a fairly complex project I'm a week behind on. It sounds like thunderstorms are forecast for tomorrow afternoon and evening, so I might not get to the cemetery, either. Lightning seems to like the cedar trees near Lucy's grave. I think she'd rather wait for me to join her from natural causes rather than from ten billion joules running through me (and yes, I had to Google that piece of trivia). We normally would go to Don Pablo's or Romano's Macaroni Grille for dinner, especially since our anniversary falls on a weekday and we both have to get up early the day after. My guess is many people thought we were a boring couple, but we enjoyed spending time together. That was our gift to each other: time spent together. It meant more than anything we could buy. We had to share our week with work, but we tried to spend as much time together during our weekends. They were precious to us.

It's been nearly two months since Lucy died. I know I'm slowly healing and I hope the others who love her are feeling some healing, too. She was a very special woman. As I wrote in her eulogy, it took time for me to get the courage to ask her out. The more I got to know her, the more it seemed right. I wanted to be sure that I wasn't getting my hopes up only to find she didn't feel the same towards me as I did towards her. It seriously damaged a wonderful friendship decades ago when I saw what I wanted to believe, and I didn't want to go through that again.

Perhaps that's why I remember so many seemingly trivial details about our relationship. Our first kiss took awhile because I didn't want to mess up a good thing. I could see how happy she was when we were together and it took a bit to be sure I was the one making her happy. So much for my above average observation powers, eh? I believe that no opportunity should be wasted, but some opportunities require more care than others, none moreso than l'affaires de cœuer. (If I butchered the French, it's been about 35 years since I ran through a French Berlitz class. My Spanish and Latin and slipping badly and I have totally forgotten what little Norwegian and Danish I knew.)

I'm grateful for those of you who read this blog. I have no idea what the future holds for me. Some of you have lost a spouse and have found love again. Perhaps that is in my future, but Lucy will always be special to me no mater what. Some of you are in long term relationships and/or marriages, and my hope is your happily ever after lasts for many more years. Others are battling health issues, or being a caregiver for a loved one, with a great deal of dignity, good humor, and courage, and I hope your battle is fought on your terms. Some of you have loved ones serving in the military and are enduring a long separation, and I hope your loved one returns safely so you can keep going with your happily ever after.

The common thread is that love gets us through life. Love is a priceless blessing that someone shares with you. I find inspiration, strength, peace and hope in each of you. Thank you for sharing that with me.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day 2012

My trip back from Luverne last night was an adventure. I was delayed in Worthington for almost 30 minutes because of a hail storm (no visible damage to the car). Then I was delayed for about 20 minutes near Jackson because of horizontal torrential rain. The next delay was from Fairmont to Alden because of high winds and wet highways. At least I missed the storm that hit the Twin Cities because it had wound down by the time I pulled into my driveway. It took almost two hours longer than usual, but it was worth it.

After a few hours dealing with a work issue this morning, I went to Dawn Valley for their Memorial Day service. I wound up walking about a half mile to the cemetery, but got to drive in a little later. The service was very touching and I spent some time with Lucy while I was there. At least I was smart enough to bring Kleenex this time.

My dad's side of the family has a number of generations that served in the military here in the US and back in the "old country" (Norway). I entered college as the Viet Nam war ended and got to know a number of veterans, and was shocked at how despicably they were treated by society at the time. It was bad enough that many of them were drafted. They got forced to serve, then got treated like garbage when they get back. No wonder there were many who suffered greatly after coming home.

Because of surgery on my left ankle (and not because of my left hand) I had a medical deferment. It was a moot point because the draft ended 28 days after my 18th birthday. While I couldn't serve, I am very appreciative of those who did serve, either by draft or volunteering. To the veterans reading this, thank you so much for your service.

Julie G. invited me to a BBQ tonight. Suzy and Bob were also there. I was so fortunate to be able to spend time with both my families this weekend. There is nothing like good food, lots of laughter, and hugs to lift one's spirits. I am really blessed by having them in my life. It's going to be a really busy week in the office, so this weekend was a great pick-me-up.

Thank you for your support, for giving your time to reading this blog, and for keeping Lucy's memory alive.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Cacti in Minnesota? You betcha!

Prickly pear cactus are native to a small area in southwestern Minnesota. This stand is growing right outside my parents' front door. Blue Mounds State Park has prickly pears growing throughout the park. I was too early to see them bloom this year.

Even more rain is supposed to be rolling in tonight. The forecast is for 1" - 2" tonight, then fairly decent weather tomorrow. Perhaps this will start drying out. I've had 7.7" of rain this month already. That's close to 4" above "normal".

Even though it was a quick trip, it was nice to get away for the weekend. I think the last time I had a weekend away from home, excluding Lucy's hospitalizations, was in August.

Tomorrow is Memorial Day. Dawn Valley is having an open house and they are doing a Memorial Day service. Please remember why Memorial Day occurs, and as always, give your loved ones some extra attention tomorrow.


Almost ready to bloom!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Lucy's monument

It rained heavily today. My electronic rain gauge quit transmitting after 2.33". We set a rainfall record of 2.58" today. The rain actually started about 10:00 pm last night, so we wound up with 3.39" total. There may be more on the way later tonight into tomorrow late morning. The rain quit in Eden Prairie about 1:30 and moved out of Bloomington by 3:00. That must have been when her monument was placed.

I hope to get back and visit my folks this weekend. It's been awhile since I visited my brother Robert's grave in Albert Lea. I'll make a trip to the cemetery on my way to Luverne. With the 10 hour days at work right now, it will be a short trip home. I'll need Monday to get household chores done.

Have a dry night!

I wanted the full dates for her birth and death but that supposedly wasn't possible with the new design.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

And the forecast calls for rain

Remember all the weather folks in the Twin Cities bemoaning the drought ad nauseum? We're not hearing too much about that anymore. Some areas are going to get over 3" of rain tonight. I've been treated to a pretty good sound and light show (thunder and lightning). Everything is green and lush. I think I'll be picking blackberries in two weeks and raspberries in about four weeks. Neither apple tree bloomed this year, though.

I got to meet my cousin Julie at Jake's City Grille in Eden Prairie after work. It was nice catching up a bit. I needed the decompression time. The garlic burger was very good. As we were leaving because of the impending deluge, "Second Chance" started playing as the background music. The rain even held off until I got home.

Apparently the bronze vases at the local cemeteries are getting stolen by the hundreds.  Just a couple years ago, the bronze grave markers for veterans were getting stolen for scrap. One has to be a particularly vile low life to steal from the dead.

Remember to give your special someone a hug tonight.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Garden photos finally

I finally have some May garden photos uploaded. The link should open a new window. Comcast is playing with bandwidth throttling, so it will be a touch on the slow side.

There does not seem to be any hail damage from a couple nights ago. The tree rats are doing more damage to the planters than the hail did. So much for my bluebonnets. It is supposed to rain the next couple days so the surviving planters will be happy.

The cemetery has annuals planted in the garden across the driveway from Lucy. The petunias are cheery.

 Have a great evening and let your loved ones know they are special.

The annuals garden at Dawn Valley

There may not have been much hail, but it was backed with some strong wind.
The hail with it!

Friday, May 18, 2012

May seems to be popular for weddings

In addition to Mike and Sarah's wedding tonight, I found out a friend of mine got married last week. A belated congratulations to Kelly and Brad! Tonight's wedding was huge. I thought Mike was kidding when he said about 400 guests were invited. There were probably close to 450 people there.

Today was not a fun day to drive from Edcen Prairie to St. Paul. What should be about a 25 minute drive turned into close to two hours. The weather was warm, the Twin Cities set a record high of 93°F today, but there should not have been THAT many cars stalled out. Maybe the 10-15% ethanol we're required to have in our gasoline is causing vapor lock. In addition, St. Paul decided to close just about anything that was paved. I-94 was closed, there was a lane closure in I-35E. The main thing is I made it.

Work is going OK. I'm figuring out how things go together in Silverlight and C#.NET hasn't been too onerous yet. I'm already working on a live project and moving forward on it.

With all the love in the air, please take time to let your loved ones know you love them.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Congratulations Mike & Sarah

I will be attending their wedding tomorrow night in St. Paul if (a) I'm not stuck at work really late and (b) the dreaded orange barrel season hasn't choked off the thoroughfares down to hiking paths. There is some irony in attending someone's wedding after losing my spouse. Life keeps moving with or without us. Lucy and I were softies for newlyweds. We hoped they would have as much joy in their marriage as we had in ours.

Tomorrow might be our first 90°F day of the season here in Bloomington. Today's rain fizzled out after a few drops. Our next chance of rain is the whole weekend.

Since I work in Eden Prairie now, my commute takes me with a mile of Lucy. It's nice that I get chances to visit her.

The bald eagles are out in force today. I saw one in Eden Prairie and three in Bloomington, We also have about a dozen turkey buzzards soaring along the Minnesota River south of me.

I hope to get some pictures of Lucy's gardens this weekend. Perhaps the weekend won't be a total washout.

Thank you for thinking of me and for keeping Lucy's memory alive by reading this. It really does mean a lot to me.


Sunday, May 13, 2012

One month

Today marks one month since Lucy passed away. My parents and I went to breakfast, then stopped by the cemetery to visit Lucy. They left about 10:30 this morning.

I saw my first monarch butterfly today. Lucy enjoyed butterflies and hummingbirds. The painted lady butterflies have been around for well over a month, but Lucy would be excited seeing the first monarch of the season.

Late this afternoon, I heard a fox yipping and barking. My guess is a pair is scouting locations for a den. It was this time last year a male and female were in the neighborhood.

The gardens really kicked into gear now that the weather has warmed up again and the rain has stopped for a few days. OK, so the fool living southwest of me is watering his back yard and then will gripe loudly and profanely about the mosquitoes. You would think that over five inches of rain  the first ten days of the month would adequately moisten the soil down several inches. I know the ground clumped when I was planting glad bulbs today at a depth of four inches.

I had planted dahlias a couple weeks ago and they have sprouted. The string beans in the hanging planters are about an inch long now. All the blue flax is in full bloom and the white flax is starting to bloom. Lucy would be happy with her gardens right now.

I'm behind on getting garden pictures taken and uploaded. The upcoming week is going to be incredibly busy, but I hope to squeeze in some time for photos. It is supposed to be in the 80's almost the entire week, although Friday into Saturday looks stormy and sticky.

Happy Mother's Day to everyone! One of my blessing is my mother is still alive. Lucy had lost her mother in August. This would have been her first Mother's Day without her mother. Now they are together.

Thank you for your time, and please take time to count your blessings. You have more than you think!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Lucy was my rock

Lucy is in her final resting place today. Her inurnment service was at 1:00 this afternoon. The weather was beautiful and Rev. Naumann did an outstanding job at the service.

After my brother died fifteen years ago, Lucy and I made the decision that we would be cremated after we left this world. We had visited Dawn Valley Memorial Park a couple times while doing family history research around ten years ago. Lucy had commented how much she liked Dawn Valley.

We both loved the outdoors. Lucy had gathered some interesting rocks through the years which we have incorporated into our landscaping. When I was looking for a resting place for us, the boulder gardens were a unique feature. It was very appropriate. Lucy was my rock.

The boulder below is the one we will be sharing eternity. Lucy gets the right side, just as she did at home. The marker will be ready in about six weeks.

Our final resting place

She is the farthest from our neighbors, is in the highest spot, and has the best view. There is a nature preserve close by. I saw red wing blackbirds, Canadian geese, goldfinches, and cardinals, and heard bluebirds and robins before the service.We are close to a pond, marsh, trees including pines, a grassy area, and a flower garden. It's very peaceful and I know Lucy would have selected the same spot.

We are the boulder at bottom right. The three rocks behind us are decoration; the rose quartz is stunning.
Be sure to tell your loved ones how much you love them tonight.