Sunday, November 01, 2015

Halloween Festivities

We hosted a Halloween party at our house this year, with each girl inviting up to 7 of her friends.

There are a few missing guests, but this was most of the party-goers.
The girls didn't have school on Friday, the day of the party, since it was the quarter break, so Lindsey's friend Ava came over and helped decorate. They put together a pretty amazing haunted house in Lindsey's bedroom.
Had to turn the light on to take the pic, but it was cool when it was pitch black.
The party was a blast, and the haunted house a huge hit. Marissa and her friends would gingerly step into the room, then one of them would scream and the others would join in and they would all run out. Then they would laugh and say, "Let's do it again!"

They played ghosts in the graveyard, despite the light rain, and nibbled on snacks.

The next night was Halloween. Lindsey planned a group costume with her best buds. They call themselves the Four Musketeers, so they decided to dress the part.

The four of them trick-or-treated a route that went between all their homes, ending at her friend Ellie's house, with stops for hot chocolate and cupcakes on the way. I didn't see them all night until Lindsey got home after her festivities.

Marissa dressed up as a police woman and I took her trick-or-treating with her friend Erika, the vampire. Erika's mom and I visited along the way while the girls hit house after house.

It was a beautiful evening with a bit of a chill in the air. The two girls took in quite a loot. The trading continued into the next morning.

Marissa's candy is in the shape of an "M."
They have to decide which ones to keep and which ones to turn in for money. They get $4 for each pound of candy they turn in, a pretty good deal for a kid.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Wanna go for a run?

My family had a dog when I was a child. I was 5 when we got him and 19 when he died.  He was pretty much my childhood dog.

He was a golden retriever named Captain and was the nicest, sweetest tempered dog. My dad wanted a golden because he wanted a hunting dog, and Captain happily obliged. They went grouse and pheasant hunting, sometimes catching the occasional rabbit.

The night before a hunting trip my dad would pull his hunting gear out of the closet, the blaze orange hat, heavy overalls, the gun in the gun case. Captain would circle him and leap for joy in his excitement. When Dad would get up at some ungodly hour Captain would already be up waiting for him -- my dad joked that Captain didn't sleep all night he was so excited to go.

My dad and Captain out in the field
This memory came to me today as Wayne was preparing to go for a run. He disappeared downstairs to stretch for 30 minutes as he always does before running. Within minutes Beauty had trotted downstairs to join him. She licked his face when he got down to her level to stretch, she circled him and leaned against him, knocking him off balance as he did one-legged squats. I finally took her upstairs so he could finish stretching in peace.

Eventually Wayne re-appeared in running gear and with her harness.

"Hey girl, wanna go for a run?" he said, and Beauty leaped for joy.

He leashed her up and off they went for 50 minutes and 7 miles. Yes, 7 miles in less than an hour, meaning they were running an average of a 7:10 pace. One of the miles they clocked a 6:30 pace, and that was when Wayne said she finally began "running" and not "trotting."

"That girl is too fast for her own good," he said when they returned, both of them hot despite the 45 degree temperature, and a little breathless.

I think Wayne has finally found someone in the family as fast as he is, and Beauty has discovered that she's a runner.

Beauty circles the chair while Wayne gets his shoes on. He's not leaving the house without her.

Getting her harness on.
Ready to run!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

A Fart Story

My dad loves fart stories. He has his whole life -- he has never outgrown the idea that fart are absolutely hilarious. This trait may have been passed on to his daughters.

The other day, when dad was having a particularly bad day from the side effects of chemo, I told him the following story:

Last weekend we had our first fire in the fire place for the season. We don't know if Beauty's ever been around a fire, and she seemed quite anxious. We were accustomed to our sweet dog Dax, whose dog bed was perennially placed right in front of the fireplace, where he could be warm and cozy when a fire was roaring.

Beauty, on the other hand, was quite concerned about the fire. She did not want to go near it, even into her cozy dog bed. We pulled her bed several feet into the room, then throughout the course of the evening pulled it closer and closer to the fire, until she was finally right in front of the fire grate.

She snuggled down and seemed content.

But then we learned she was not.

I was sitting in a chair right next to the fireplace, and let out quite an audible fart.

At the sound, Beauty leapt up like something bit her, her tail down, ears back. She glanced back at the fire, then scurried up the stairs.  She spent the rest of the evening sleeping on Lindsey's bed.

Clearly she believed my gas was from that ominous fire. We all laughed uproariously. Tears rolled down our cheeks and we clutched our guts in laughter.

I told this story to my dad, and he responded in kind: He dropped the phone in laughter. It was perfect. Clearly the best remedy for a day when he wasn't feeling his greatest.

I think I'll hold on to all my fart stories until the days he's not feeling well.

Friday, October 23, 2015

PsychoKiller Dog

We have a killer on our hands. A psychokiller, to be exact.

A decimator of fluff. Of squeakers. Of yarn and string and rubber.

A toy killer, to be precise.
She looks the part, doesn't she?

This dog goes through toys like water.

Wayne and I had both had forgotten what it was like to have a young dog, a playful, energetic dog who leaps, bounds and runs to her heart's content.

If we don't have squeaky toys and chew toys at hand, we must prepare to have other items chewed to satisfy her need.

Stuffed toys last approximately 2.5 days -- or an hour, depending on the quality. Wayne decided to buy an expensive "indestructible" toy, which lasted all of one evening. Fifteen dollars down the drain. Or rather, strewn across the living room carpet.

Several of the girls' stuffed animals have seen their last days, thanks to Beauty's sharp teeth.

The other evening I came home from work to find that it had snowed in our living room. A fluffy, sparse snow that covered our carpet in eclectic little pieces.

Merry Christmas! Kind of.

I believe that was the $15 toy. Or maybe the $7 one. I'm not quite sure which amount of money was destroyed that day.

If we don't buy toys, we need to know that other items in our house will see their end. Like her more expensive dog bed. Or a beloved stuffed animals meant for little girls.  Or the couch.

If anything, it's finally teaching the girls to pick up after themselves, unless they don't want to see their prized possessions in one piece again.

Un-stuffing the turkey. It didn't make it to Thanksgiving.
She's a killer all right.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015


Happy 20th anniversary to us!
Our 20th anniversary date passed with a quiet dinner at home with the family. Our table was adorned with a beautiful fall bouquet of flowers and an exchange of cards. We were treated to special cards from our girls and an awesome Powerpoint that our oldest put together on the fly, celebrating our big anniversary. It was very sweet and very quiet.

We had bigger things up our sleeves.

The following weekend we flew to Chicago in time for dinner reservations at Benny's Chop House, one of Chicago's fantastic steakhouses, walking distance from our hotel. We dressed up, I in a new autumn-orange dress, Wayne in a shirt and sports coat. Yes, he finally recently purchased his first sports coat since burgundy fabric was in style.

Our dinner was absolutely divine. We had a nice little table to ourselves; it felt like we were the only people in the place. I had a scallop with my steak which was one of the best I've ever had. We shared a side of brussel sprouts and baked potato and sipped at a bottle of cabernet.

We ended the evening with a nightcap in the bar while a songstress played the piano and crooned tunes familiar to us both.

It was so relaxing, so wonderful to go back to a hotel room that we had all to ourselves.

An absolutely stunning autumn day in Chicago.
The next day we walked down to Millennium Park to check out the Bean -- I mean, Cloud Gate -- and some other art. There was also a little set up going on for a little event that was taking place Sunday morning.

Does that sign say "Start?"
We had a nice dinner at the restaurant at our hotel called Joe Fish which, ironically, was an Italian restaurant. We had their famous meatballs and some wine, then went to bed early.

Ah yes, that little event they were setting up for...the Chicago marathon.

Seriously, what couple do you know celebrate their anniversary by going to another city for one to run and the other to cheer a marathon? Just us.

Wayne left before the sun was up to get to his starting corral. There were 45,000 runners in this marathon and Wayne was concerned that he was going to be stuck in a pack of runners. Luckily, he got an ideal assignment of Corral A, just behind the elite runners, thanks to a previous marathon finish of 3:09. He had no problems breaking out of the crowd to run his own pace.

I, on the other hand, had problems seeing him. I had underestimated how big the race was. Unlike the Twin Cities marathon, where you could always count on a little break in the runners to jaunt across the course, there was no space to cross the course. The only way to get around it to see a runner at a different mile marker was to use subway tunnels or literally run along with the runners until you crossed the street, both of which I did.

Runners filled the street from curb to curb.
I kept missing him at every mile marker. Finally I was at mile 12 well before he should have gone by. I watched the fastest runners go by, then some more, and more. I cheered, all the time scanning the crowd for him or for his familiar pace.

Suddenly my phone buzzed -- I got a text message that he had just crossed the half marathon mark, a mile down the way from me. He must've run past and I didn't see him in the crowd.

After that I gave up trying to see him and instead went to a Dunkin Donuts for some breakfast and hot coffee. I wandered back down to Millennium Park where the finish was and waited in the sunshine for the text message that would tell me he crossed the finish line. (Isn't technology wonderful?)

The walking wounded after the fnish line, some with beers in hands.
Wayne finished with a time of 3:38:01, another Boston qualifying time, and under his goal of 3:40. We were able to meet up at the finish and walked back to the hotel together, giving his cramping legs the stretch needed to loosen up.

He cleaned up and we had a celebratory lunch of fish n'chips and beer, then off to the airport to catch our plane.

Short but sweet. A unique and fun way to celebrate 20 years together.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

What Moms Really Mean When They Say "I Have to Poop"

Credit to
When my husband and I were first dating and we spent time with my family, he was always a bit befuddled by my mom's need to announce her bodily functions.

"Well, I'm going to go sit a bit," she would state, and march off to the bathroom.

"That's more than I need to know," he would say to me, and we would go on doing whatever we were doing.

It didn't make much sense to me until we had kids.

It began with our first-born, who was crawling at the time and was attached to me every waking moment. The three of us were sitting around one Sunday morning, relaxing while she played happily on the floor. I suddenly knew I had to use the bathroom and yet, if I left the room, I would have a baby crawling after me,

"I'm going to use the bathroom," I told my husband. This was my subtle way of telling him that he was on parent duty and needed to entertain the baby, or at least keep her from following me. He looked at me like, "That's more than I need to know," but said, "Okay...."

I went upstairs and started doing my business and within 30 seconds there was a baby outside the bathroom, crying and pounding on the closed door.

"Wayne!" I yelled down the stairs through the closed door. "Get the baby!"

Apparently I needed to be more direct than subtle.

It has not improved over the years. When our dog Dax needed to be let out, he would whine and pace outside the closed bathroom door, while other family members walked around him, ignoring his pleas to be let outside.

I've had homework slid under the door to me to be checked. I've had children outside the door, telling me about their day. It. Can't. Wait. Another. Minute.

I've yelled instructions to people through the door because apparently they can't figure out what needs to be done without my assistance.

"Will someone please let the dog out?"
"Will someone get the telephone?"
"Marissa, are you getting your shoes on?"

I swear I have not had an uninterrupted bowel movement in my own home for 12 years now. It's not like I go frequently or for long periods of time. It's just that the minute I need to go, someone needs something that only mom can handle.

"Mom! Lindsey pushed me!"
"Mom! Marissa pulled my hair!"
"Mom! I can't find my [insert item name here]."
"Mom, can you help me get something down from the cupboard?"

That last one was the final straw. I washed up and went downstairs to help said child get something from a cupboard out of her reach, only to discover that my husband was IN THE KITCHEN right next to the cupboard where the desired item was.

You got me out of the bathroom for this?

Now, everyone in our house knows that when I say "I need to use the bathroom for a bit" it means "leave mom the fuck alone."

And I am also in the habit of announcing when I have to go, just like my mom, so that everyone knows that I am unavailable for the next 3 to 5 minutes.

I now understand how it is we turn into our mothers when we become moms ourselves.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

A Smidge of Hypocrisy

Not Beauty, but could be.
We had only had Beauty a few days when we encountered our first case of breed discrimination.

Beauty had met a few dogs in the neighborhood and got along with them. We had also been told that she was GREAT with other dogs, so we decided to take her to the dogpark one night. We wanted to make sure she stayed socialized with other dogs, unlike our previous dog, Dax.

I've never gone to a dog park before so I didn't know what to expect. We unleashed her and she took off like a bolt to the other dogs, then stopped abruptly when she reached them. She sniffed, they sniffed, they circled each other, then went romping off. They played tug of war with toys, dug holes, and ran around together, sniffing leaves and dirt.

There were several dogs including a corgi, a huge rottweiler and a sundry of mixed breeds, all of whom were well-behaved and having fun.

Then a man entered the park with his golden retriever. The golden met the rottweiler at the door and before 2 seconds had passed there was a snarling dogfight. The owners separated them and let them meet again with the same result. The woman with the rottweiler left the park, apologizing for her dog's behavior, saying she had never seen her dog fight with another dog before.

The man let his golden go and this time a fight ensured between the golden and a large white mixed breed. Again, the white dog had been in the park with everyone else for 10 minutes or more already with no issues.

Finally the man dragged this golden by the collar over to a bench and sat down, holding his animal back from every dog that came near. Each dog that came within distance of the golden was growled at in a menacing, non-playful way.

Once seated, the man began taking assessment of all the other dogs in the park. At this time there were probably 5 or 6 other dogs with a similar number of humans wandering about. He takes a look at Beauty and asks loudly, "Who brought the pitbull?"

I was not within earshot and did not hear him ask this question, but Lindsey was close enough and heard the entire tirade.

"I HATE pitbulls! Whoever brought the pitbull should take it out of the park. I was attacked by a pitbull two weeks ago. A person shouldn't have to walk down the street with a baseball bat to defend himself from one of those dogs."

All this time, Beauty is happily running about with the other dogs, while he has to hold his golden back from attacking every four-legged creature in the place.

I heard one of the other dog owners say, "Dude, there are kids here. Knock it off." I don't know what was said, if he had sworn during his tirade or had continued his bad-mouthing of Beauty, but no one else in the park appreciated what he was saying. I could tell something was being said, but was too far away to hear and didn't really want to know.

We decided that Beauty had had enough exercise and it was starting to drizzle, so we leashed her up to leave. I looked around and saw that everyone else was leaving the park, too. Every single person.

Everyone but the guy with the golden.

I don't know if they all walked out with us as a show of solidarity, or if the rain was driving them away as well. I would like to think the former.  Rain or not, no one wanted to be left in the park with the attack dog.

I hadn't even thought of how others may view her when we decided to get her. Even with animals, some humans tend to judge based on appearance and not on behavior. Such a shame.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

She's a Beauty

We got a dog.

We fostered through Secondhand Hounds, and were looking for a dog that met our criteria so s/he could become our forever pet. It was so hard to choose! There are so many dogs in need, so please consider fostering if you have room in your heart and life for a pet.

There was Bishop, a sweet older gentleman who was perfectly trained in every way...except he's 70 lbs. We looked at Rusty, but he had issues barking, which wasn't a behavior we wanted to work through with a beagle mix. There was a beautiful lab/mastiff mix who was kicked out of the house when his owners had a baby, not for any behavioral reason, they just thought he was too big to be around the baby. He was too big for us too, but we felt so badly for his situation -- he literally hadn't been let back into the house since the baby came home from the hospital. There was Wesson, such a cute face, but as a 50 lb. pit bull mix, I couldn't see how our girls would be able to walk him.

And then there was Beauty.

She was a returnee -- she had been a foster, was adopted and within a week returned by the family who said they realized they didn't have time for a dog. She is also a pit bull mix but only 35 lbs fully grown, house trained, crate trained, good with other dogs, loves people and loves to snuggle. She has issues with separation anxiety and needs work on heeling when walking, but we thought we could work with that if she was already crate trained.

What a beauty she is! Her eyes are absolutely captivating and show such intelligence. We picked her up on Saturday, September 12th, which we've decided will be her birthday.

When we met her at Secondhand Hounds office, she was exceedingly excited and jumping all over the place. I had suspected that when the last family said they didn't have time for a dog that perhaps they didn't have time for a high-energy dog, even though the organization wouldn't call her high-energy. And at only 1 years of age, she still has a lot of puppy energy in her.

We brought her home and let her explore. Then our family took her for a walk to the local vet office, because we'd forgotten to grab the food that they had given us. They had no idea what brand she'd been getting fed, so we had to start from scratch. It was slow at the vet's office that afternoon, so one of the vet techs visited with Beauty, looked at her teeth and weighed her -- 34 lbs. On the website it said she was 30 -- if she had been, she had been very underfed when she came in!

She got home and was still very excited, so Wayne took her for a 4-mile run.

She came home from the run and immediately fell asleep. You could tell that she wanted to stay awake because her eyes kept opening, kind of like a little kid who insists he's not sleepy as he's nodding off. I'm sure she was so excited to be in a new place.

After her run and her nap, she was perfectly behaved, a little less rambunctious and excited.

Each day since, she gets multiple walks a day, and we've settled into a routine of a run or a trip to the dog park every two or three days. With this amount of exercise, she seems to be settling in just fine.

We are working with her on heeling when on a walk, which has been a bit challenging. We had a dog behaviorist over to help us, and we're making progress. You can see in her eyes how intelligent and eager to please she is, I'm sure we'll get her there.

And so you have it.

We have a dog.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

OPD Syndrome

Dax in his older but still full-sighted years.
It has been 18 months since our beloved dog Dax left us. Ever since then, the girls have been suffering from what is known as OPD Syndrome. It's characterized by an overpowering need to visit with every dog you see on a walk, to the point that you will cross the street to be on the same side as a dog you see coming, just so you can visit with it.

My friend Nicole's sweet older dog eventually warmed up to their new puppy Kenai.
School friends who own dogs are visited more frequently than those without, and my girls spend more time with their family dog than with their friend.

OPD Syndrome is more commonly known as Other People's Dogs syndrome. 

The only cure? To get a dog of your own.

Ruby, who has found a forever home with my friend Missy and her family.
The start of school this year was particularly stressful for our family. Wayne was home for the first day of school but was on a business trip the rest of the week. One day I came home to find both girls in tears for different reasons. I spent the evening reassuring one, emailing the teacher for the other, reassuring the other, getting everyone fed and so forth. Both girls asked if they could see a dog that evening.

We called a friend and asked if we could take their dog on a walk, to which she readily agreed. When we stepped out the door our next door neighbor was out front with his dog, an intimidating looking mix of Chow and something else big and muscular. Hank the Tank sat in front of Lindsey for some petting, leaning against her more heavily the more she rubbed. Eventually he laid down and let her rub his tummy. Such a tough guy. 

We went on our way and walked Mae, the sweetest goldendoodle and best walker ever. We returned from the walk feeling a bit better, but still not great.

Has anyone see Mae?
After Wayne came back from his trip, he and I were discussing the situation and how both girls were seeking out companionship with dogs during this stressful time. For the first time since Dax died, the conversation opened up to the possibility of getting a dog.

Before I knew it, it had leaked to the girls that we had been having this discussion, and we were being worked on. Promises were being made, lists of all the benefits of dog ownership. We had a family discussion about those promises.

Yes, you SAY you'll walk the dog after school, but when it's 10 below out, are you really going to? And we had a very real discussion about how we know we will outlive the dog. All of our hearts were broken when Dax died -- would the benefits of dog ownership outweigh the eventual heartache? The collective answer was yes. We've drawn up a contract for all family members to sign outlining responsibilities, turning those promises into action. So we hope.

Now the search is on for a rescue to fit into our family. People ask me what we're looking for in a dog. More than likely we'll get a mixed breed, and are just as concerned with temperament as physical features.

  • No more than 35-40 lbs
  • Preferably between 2 and 5 years of age (We are not up for puppy energy)
  • Does not need grooming, preferably short-haired
  • Low to moderate energy (a daily walk is all it needs, not a 7-mile run)
  • Loves companionship and wants to cuddle
  • Good with other dogs
  • Trainable

We're most interested in fostering a dog through Second Hand Hounds or other organizations like that, where dogs are placed in foster homes until forever homes can be found. What a great way to ensure that the dog fits within your family before committing to adoption.

Hard to believe that we may once again had a four-legged family member.

Rocky says "Don't worry!" It'll all work out.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Turning Ten

Marissa turned 10 this year. I have two girls in double digits, that just doesn't seem believable to me.

We celebrated her birthday with a sleepover. Marissa asked to have animals at her sleepover. Ummm...animals?

I reached out to the Animal Humane Society to see if we could have a part of her birthday party there, but they were already booked up. I searched for party entertainers with an animal menagerie that they could bring and share, but all the animals were of the scaly, crawly kind, not cuddly creatures like Marissa was hoping for.

And then I got connected to Second Hand Hounds, a rescue group that was willing to share two of its dogs that are currently in foster care, for a donation.

We had a kissing booth set up in our back yard with Peanut, a 15-year-old chihuahua, and Annie, the sweetest pit bull you've ever met. The best part was that I had kept this a secret from Marissa, told the party guests that they would be taking part in a kissing booth and all their parents had approved, before telling them what kind of kissing booth. (I had asked the parents before-hand if any girls had a fear of dogs or allergies and couldn't take part, so that part is technically true.) When they realized the kissing booth was with four-legged creatures, they were delighted.

The girls had such a wonderful time petting and posing with the dogs. It was definitely a highlight of the party.

Off to change into swimsuits and play in the sprinkler. I had set up a slip and slide, but hadn't realized how much the girls had grown. I guess they were kind of young when we bought it; it for 3-5 year olds, and the girls were practically the length of it when they tried to slide. It was fun to watch and they had a great time anyways.

After drying off and changing, a supper of homemade spaghetti sauce and noodles. Marissa had requested a chocolate mousse cake like the one we'd seen at Cosetta's in St. Paul a week before, and so it was ordered,  picked up, and was absolutely amazing. Plus it had the added bonus of being perfect for Lindsey, who in some bizarre twist of DNA does not eat cake. Not even a chocolate one.

The party was a smashing success. She reported that all the girls got along, they had fun playing together and it was the best party ever.

Her actual birthday was Monday and we made our annual trip to Olive Garden for dinner. We brought presents from family with us to open there, as we had to get Lindsey home in time for a soccer game after dinner.
A gift of maraschino cherries from her Grandpa Tom, because she kept eating all of the ones at his house last time she visited.
Gone are the days of our two girls bickering and fighting. (At least for now). The sweetest gifts Marissa received were one that Lindsey either helped to pick out for her or gave her. She received a Japanese tea set that Lindsey had bought for herself a few years ago. Lindsey played with it for a while and had a hard time sharing it with Marissa, our clumsy girl who tends to break things. Every time Marissa saw it her eyes lit up. Though it was technically a "re-gift," the fact that Lindsey gave it to Marissa for her birthday was the kindest gesture.

Marissa was so excited by the Japanese tea set.
Aunt Kristi was verklempt at the sweetness of the gesture. Lindsey pretended to join her.
Joy abounds wherever Marissa is. We are so happy with our sweet youngest girl.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Cheeseburger Story

Lindsey wanted me to re-tell her the cheeseburger story the other day, even though she was there for it. Lindsey swears it's the only time she's ever heard me yell at somebody other than my immediate family.

ACTUAL conversation while going through the Dairy Queen drive through:

Incomprehensible Speaker (IS): Welcome to Dairy Queen how can I help you?

Me: Yes, I'd like a small brownie blast blizzard and...

IS: A cheeseburger?

Me: [pause] No, a small brownie blast blizzard. And I also want a small ice cream cone with chocolate dip.

IS: [Long pause.] Okay, that'll be $9.54, please pull around.

Me: ...$9.54? Can you read back my order, please?

IS: I have three items, a cheeseburger, a brownie blast blizzard and a small ice cream cone with chocolate dip.

Me: No, I don't want the cheeseburger.

IS: Okay, so you ONLY want the cheeseburger?

Me: [exasperated] Nooooo! I ONLY want the small brownie blast blizzard and small ice cream cone with chocolate dip!

IS: Hang on. [Long pause.] Okay thanks for your patience, that's $6.46, please pull around.

Lindsey and I chuckle about the miscommunication as we head to the pick up window.

Person at window (PAW): Here is your brownie blast blizzard and a small ice cream cone with chocolate dip.

Me: Where's my cheeseburger?

PAW: Uhhh....

Me: Just kidding! Ha, that was really funny. Have a great day!

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Small Town Celebrations

For the first time in many years, our family was not in the Twin Cities for the 4th of July. I wasn't sure how I felt about that -- actually, I know how I felt, I kind of dreaded it. After all, I LOVE our city. On holidays like Independence Day I have my choice of a hundred different festivals, parades, gatherings, fireworks and other things to choose from. Sure, we usually take in just one parade, and just go to one fireworks show, but still, they are amazing.

We would be spending the 4th of July in Tracy, Minnesota, where they don't even have a parade, much less fireworks.

But what Tracy does have is family, and that trumped all those others festivities.

And, after scouring the local paper, I found that a town nearby did have a parade, and so we went. Well, Lindsey, Wayne and I went, Marissa went to the city pool with her Aunt Sherrie because that sounded like more fun than a parade to her.

We left the farm about 20 minutes before the parade was supposed to begin, parked right next to the parade route and picked a spot to stand. That was decidedly easier than going to a parade in the Twin Cities.

The crowd paid their respects to the flag.
The parade began with a military guard carrying the American flag -- everyone who was able stood up to pay their respects. I don't remember people doing that at the Edina parade, although maybe that's because it's so crowded most people are standing up anyway.
Antique fire truck for the city of Tracy, MN.
And then came every fire truck, amublance and rescue vehicle for every small town in the surrounding area. For a while I thought the entire parade would just be emergency vehicles. The Tracy ambulance went by -- Lindsey asked if that was the one that took Grandpa to the hospital the day he died. It probably was; I think the town only has one. So she paid special attention to that one.

Floats, beauty queens, horses, antique cars and tractors slowly made their way down the road, tossing candy the entire way. Each made a turn at the end of the street and that was the end. We practically saw the entire parade again, one vehicle at a time on various streets, as we were leaving town.

Lindsey and Wayne managed to retrieve about 2 plastic cups worth of candy, which was shared with Marissa, who was at Sherrie's house, enjoying the company of Izzy the Dog.
Marissa and Izzy.
Later that afternoon we enjoyed a barbecue at Kathy and Dave's house. Who knew that a bunch of camping chairs in a circle could be the scene of such enjoyment?

Lindsey and I were going to go see fireworks later on (Marissa doesn't like the loud noise of them),  but got into a game of cards with Grandma and Wayne and didn't leave in time. So we turned out the lights and looked out the window, where we could catch small glimpses of them on the horizon. If we were very quiet we could almost hear them.

That was festive enough for us.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Skating in the Rain

Skating marathons are few and far between, so when they happen I prefer that we have good weather.

Not this stuff.

The Apostle Island Inline Marathon was this past weekend, and we had quite the girls' weekend planned. My skating friends Mary and Megan and my sister Kristi were all carpooling together to Ashland, Wisconsin, and the three of us were going to skate it while Kristi spectated.

The forecast called for 100% chance of rain by the start of the marathon, and didn't waver from that every time I checked it during the week.

Sure enough, as we stepped off the ferry onto the island, the first few drops began. And then it started coming down steadily. At one point it was a complete downpour and I watched the rain pool on the road into long, shallow puddles. The pros were gliding up and down the practice course getting used to the pavement, and I thought they were crazy.

I have never skated in wet conditions. The few times I've encountered a puddle on my path my skate has always taken a heart-stopping slip. Mary and Megan convinced me to at least start. After all, the course was three loops, I could always peel off after 8.7 miles and call it a day.

My friend Mary had trained hard for this -- she was hoping for a new PR, beating her old time of 1:38. But with the conditions being what they were, she had to re-adjust her goal. We decided to have a collective goal: 1) Stay safe 2) Stay together 3) Have fun. And so we took off with the rest of the pro/advanced women.

By the end of the second mile my feet were swimming in lakes in my skates; I think each skate weighed 3 or 4 pounds more from the water collected in them. I grumbled, I considered, I thought about peeling off after a single loop.

And then I thought about how amazing it would be to skate a marathon in the pouring rain. How many people can say they've done that? How many people would think that was the absolutely craziest thing they've ever heard?

Once I committed to skating the whole thing, my outlook changed, my energy changed, and I was all in.

It went from being disappointing to being exhilarating.

We accomplished our goals: We stayed safe. We stayed together. We all had a blast.

We did it!
Grit and dirt everywhere.
The rain let up about half an hour after we were done. We had to stick around for the award ceremony as I had taken 2nd in my division, though I really share that with Megan, who was 7/10th of a second behind me. Mary pointed out that if we had registered in the open/recreational skate all of us would have placed.

In three years of doing this marathon I still have never seen the sun from Madeline Island, but I can guarantee you we'll be back next year.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

First Father's Day Without

On June 5th Wayne's dad's heart decided it had reached its quota of beats for a lifetime. Despite his pacemaker, his heart was beating at 31 beats per minute as paramedics loaded him into the ambulance. Upon reaching the hospital his body refused to carry on despite their efforts. His wife Millie, daughter Sherrie and her husband Todd were there to say good-bye. Millie told him to save a place for her next to him, in heaven.

50th wedding anniversary, 2004.

60th wedding anniversary, 2014.
He was 10 days short of his 85th birthday. Instead of gathering to celebrate another year, family members made plans to gather for his funeral.

Trip to New York City, 2005.
While Neil had been slowly declining due to Parkinson's disease over the past five years, his departure at this time was unexpected, yet a blessing. He was spared the further loss of his mobility, his ability to dress himself, feed himself, and other such things that able-bodied people take for granted. He is no longer in pain, unable to sleep and be comfortable.

Over the past few years, if I called their home and asked how he was, his response was often something along the lines of, "Well, I'm not sure I would call this living."

The family gathered and came together in a way that honored him. They worked through the details of the funeral, they helped Millie deal with health insurance, social security, utilities and other arrangements. Together they are focused on Millie's comfort, ensuring that her needs are met and that she is able to live the way she wishes for as long as she is able.

And despite the fact that anyone could say, "He lived a long life," people have understood that losing a parent -- no matter how long that person lived -- is still a very real loss and a grief unlike any other.

Wayne's sister, Laurie, had already booked a flight to Minnesota for Neil's birthday celebration, which was to take place the following weekend. A friend paid for the change fee to move the flight, got her into first class and arranged for a limo to pick her up at her apartment and take her to the airport at 4:30 a.m.

Another family member has no bereavement leave and co-workers chipped in to help cover the time away from work.

A co-worker of Wayne's attended the visitation, driving three and a half hours from the Twin Cities to Tracy just to visit for 20 minutes, turn around and drive back again.

And today, on Father's Day, friends of ours, one of Lindsey's close friends and her family, dropped off a plant arrangement and chocolates because they know that the first Father's Day without is the hardest.

Sometimes it is through loss that we truly know our blessings.