Blossoming

The world outside is coming to life again and so am I. As much as I try to fight it, the winter months quiet me. The long stretch of cold, sharp months make it hard to find my energy and motivation. Many of those days find me slogging through my daily routine. And I don’t even often realize what a rut I’m in until the air begins to warm, the sunshine visits more frequently and suddenly I feel as if I’m exiting a long, dark tunnel.

Spring makes me feel alive again and I know I’m not the only one. A coworker who was tanning during the last weeks of winter told me, “I know it’s bad for me. I just need the light and the warmth right now so much more than I care about the health hazards.”

Last weekend, as Kacey and I were running errands, she exuded joy when she exclaimed, “It’s so good to see the sun! It just makes me so happy!

I know what she means. Just a little sunshine and warmth is all it takes sometimes to make me realize what a cocoon I’ve been in the last several months.

It’s been warm this week. It’s been a no-jacket kind of week (and what a treat that is!) It’s been a week when I welcome the sound of the alarm clock, lace up my running shoes and head to the gym. (It’s still just a bit too dark and cold at that hour of the day to do my exercise outdoors.)  It’s been a hop in the car, roll down the windows, crank up the tunes and sing along like nobody’s watching kind of week.

The robins are back!

The robins are back!

It’s rainy and overcast this morning. And tomorrow will bring a dip in temperatures and I may have even heard there’s a slight chance of the S-word. But it’s not going to bring me down. The extended forecast calls for more spring-like temperatures. Winter’s in the rearview mirror now!

Snowfall

The deep freeze went away. Last weekend, Lucy reveled in the freedom to run and play in the back yard without freezing her cute little paws off. I think we made it past the thirties! And believe it or not, I saw a few people in shorts on Saturday!

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Looking for a stick in the brush pile

Sniffing scents in the snow

Sniffing scents in the snow

Last night and early this morning, a snowfall came to our area. It was pretty typical as far as snowfalls in Minnesota go and it left a few inches of clean, white fluff on the ground and a bit of a dip in the temperature. During the week, I get up for the day while it’s still dark outside. There’s a street light on the corner across from our house. So the first thing I did was to go to the window and watch big, heavy, wet snowflakes rain down in a slant beneath the glow of the street light. It was pretty. And I knew the drive to work would be slow.

It was a small challenge just getting out of the driveway. The lines separating the lanes on streets and freeways were invisible. I listened to the radio, laughed at the morning show antics and sang along to favorite songs as my car crawled along in traffic along with hundreds of others. It’s a good thing I left early. My usual twenty-minute to half-hour drive took an hour.

It was a busy day at work and I was immersed. Lunch break passed me by. I ate while I continued working at my desk and it was time to go home before I realized it. When I went out to my car, it was a simple pleasure to see daylight. The sun has been scarce lately or I’ve stayed at the office long enough to miss it. Thankfully, the roads were cleaner and drier for the drive home. Unfortunately, the driveway wasn’t.

The unspoken division of duties at our house means Mark usually handles the outside stuff and I cover the inside stuff. I expected him to tackle the snow in the driveway before he went to work this afternoon, but he ended up starting earlier than planned. The driveway was not visible when I pulled up after work. I had to gun it to get my car up the slight incline and into the garage. I knew that when  Jake got home, he would have trouble getting his car through the crusty lip of snow that, thanks to the snowplow, edged the end of our driveway. And then he’d have to navigate the blanket of snow the covered the rest of it and into the turn-around where he parks at the end of each day. I thought I might clear it out for him before he got home.

My parents have a snow blower. This is what Mark uses to clear our driveway and theirs, when he does the snow removal. I don’t know how to run it, and besides, it’s finicky. I bundled up and grabbed one of the many snow shovels from the selection hanging on the garage wall.

Our driveway doesn’t seem so big. Until I’m shoveling it by hand. Then it feels enormous! As I scraped and pushed and scooped up snow, I heard the whir of snow blowers all around the neighborhood. I wondered if nobody just shovels snow anymore. Neighbors drove by periodically, honked and waved. True or not, I felt like somewhat of an oddity. About halfway through the job, I was sweating, sniffling, and the cold air felt sharp in my lungs. I was getting tired! Thankfully, Jake pulled into the neighborhood just then. He left his car on the street for the time being and grabbed another shovel. Together we cleared the rest of the snow away. It’s true what they say. Many hands make light work.

Just before we finished, I realized that dusk had fallen and the moon was hanging in the sky, just behind the neighbor’s tree. It was picturesque.  I stopped a moment to appreciate the moon, recognizing the hush of winter around us. I might not have noticed the moon or the hush had I been pushing a snow blower, and for sure wouldn’t have if I had been warm and cozy in the house instead of outside in the cold.

Winter Moon

Winter Moon

That moon can come back any time it likes. I won’t mind if the snow doesn’t.

Minnesota State Fair 2013

Mark and I visited the Minnesota State Fair on Sunday, admission compliments of my employer. And speaking of my employer and State Fair-related things…

Yay me!

We woke up bright and early on Sunday morning. We like to get to the fair early in the day. We drove to our usual free park-and-ride spot, a little gem we discovered a few years ago. Oh, sure, you can drive right to the fairgrounds and wait in an endless line to pay nine dollars or more to park and then walk for blocks before arriving at the actual entrance to the fairgrounds. OR you can park at one of the free park-and-ride lots only a mile or so from the fair. There, you can get on a lovely air-conditioned coach bus, ride for free, and get dropped off right at one of the fair entrance gates. When you’re ready to leave, after walking and sweating for hours, one of those air-conditioned buses will be available about every fifteen minutes to take you back to the parking lot where you parked. Can’t beat this deal!

Sunday was another hot and steamy day, one of the hottest of the summer so far. But the weather didn’t keep us away and judging by the crowds, it couldn’t intimidate many others either. The blustery winds from the day before were still hanging around and we were grateful. And since it was shaping up to be such a warm day, we decided to do “inside” stuff first. We headed for the grandstand to check out the fair’s wares.

We didn’t find much of interest to buy, but we did get sucked in for a little health assessment. Mark tried to walk on by but I was actually interested, so we agreed to watch a short video and then have our skin scanned to measure the level of advanced glycation end-products in our bodies. (The video had explained that these were bad!) The scanner would then produce a reading that would indicate a person’s “TruAge” as opposed to their actual years. I gathered that the expectation was that most people would read older than their actual years. And if so, there was a nutritional drink available for purchase that will help bring your reading down to one that meets your actual years of age or, hopefully, even lower. I placed my arm on the scanner, thinking of the greasy, sugary mini-donuts we’d just consumed and wondering just how old I was going to “read.” Shortly afterwards came my reading.

TruAgeb

 I had actually measured sixteen years lower than my actual age. All I could do was laugh as the salesman informed me that I had a gift! Mark measured only two years above his age. The salesman kindly informed us that he couldn’t sell us anything. I had to appreciate his honesty, even if I didn’t have any idea whether the things he’d just measured truly meant anything health-wise, since I’d never heard of them before. And so we moved on, with full intentions to eat lots more greasy, calorie-laden treats in the hours ahead.

Next, we made our way to the 4-H building. Caitlin, the fifteen year-old daughter of our former next-door neighbors was performing in a 4-H musical production. We’ve known Caitlin since the day she was born and she’s like family to us. Since she was performing on the very day we would be at the fair, we wouldn’t think of missing her show. It was a great little production, full of history, humor, popular music and valuable life lessons.

IMG_1281We fully enjoyed the production, but by the end, we were sweating. It was time to get back outside. Our travels led us to the biggest pumpkins I’ve ever laid eyes on! If I remember correctly, the blue ribbon winner was over 800 pounds! (Wonder how they transported that baby?)

IMG_1287bWe walked through the horse barns and sat for a while in the coliseum to watch some horse shows. We people-watched, which can be endlessly entertaining. All kinds of us are drawn to the fair and I’m sure we’re each fascinating in some way to someone else. We found things to eat, such as deep-fried cheese curds and an amazing steak sandwich offered by a locally famous char-house, Mancini’s. We tried one of the fair’s newest offerings, deep-fried, cream cheese-stuffed green olives on a stick! (Only $6.50 for six olives! Hey, no one ever promised bargain prices at the fair!)

IMG_1291And thanks to the heat, we drank what seemed like gallons of water and gallons of lemonade. Lemonade has never tasted so good to me! And the chocolate malt we shared didn’t taste too bad either!

Our travels continued on foot until I let Mark talk me into taking a ride across the fairgrounds on the sky ride, which is a colorful chairlift that carries riders high above all of the attractions and fair-goers. I’m not sure what I was thinking when I agreed. I have an insane fear of heights and after trying briefly to enjoy the view, I spent the remainder of the ride squeezing my eyes shut, sweating profusely and attempting not to hyperventilate. If I weren’t gripping the safety bar with a death grip, I would have punched Mark when he lied to me and said we were almost to the end. Obviously, there are no pictures as I couldn’t loosen my grip long enough to take out my phone and brave an aerial shot.

I have to admit, though, that the terrifying sky ride was worth it. It brought us close to the car dealerships where we checked out several models for the purchase I’ve been planning to make for months, but still haven’t. I think I’ve got it narrowed down to three fuel-efficient, decently priced models. And we collected free t-shirts and drawstring backpacks for our efforts, not to mention three coupons good for a $50 gift card when we go take a test drive at our local dealerships.

After wandering, eating, drinking and seeing so much, we took a break under a shady tree to watch the daily parade.

The Budweiser Clydesdales

The Budweiser Clydesdales

A BIG steer!

A BIG steer!

The Minnesota Wild mascot

The Minnesota Wild mascot

After the parade, we realized we were bushed. I’d applied industrial strength deodorant before leaving the house and it was no longer even remotely effective. It was time to go home. We were already near the gate where we’d entered the fairgrounds early that morning, so we walked the short distance back to the spot where a lovely air-conditioned bus was just waiting to take us back to where we’d parked. Although the fair continues through Labor Day, it’s over for us this year. One day-long visit is enough for us, but we’ll eagerly do it all over again next year.

And this brings us up to speed

Summer is in full swing here. We’ve had two weeks of sun, heat and humidity with the occasional thunderstorm mixed in. I love to slide into my car after eight hours in an office where the air conditioning works too well. For just a few minutes, I welcome the feel of the car’s heat surrounding me like an oven. As I drive out of the company lot with the windows rolled down, the hot air washes away and the car’s air conditioning kicks in. Feels good!

Mark continues to carry on the A/C battle at home, although I think it’s just become a joke to him now. We’ll watch the news and hear the weather man say, “Tomorrow is going to feel like a hundred!” Then Mark chimes in. “Should we turn off the air?”  I think he just does it to get me riled up and hear me yell, “Don’t you DARE!”

The summer days are passing by too quickly, as they always tend to do. In the nine days since I’ve documented any bit of my life here, much has happened.

My dad had a short hospital stay and while he was there, my mom took a pretty good fall. Both are better now, but in the midst of it all, there was a good amount of coming and going to check on everyone and make sure all was okay.

Gina came from Ohio for a visit and we were able to squeeze in some much-needed, much-missed girlfriend time. It felt so good to catch up with my best friend. There’s nothing like the feeling of talking endlessly about everything and nothing with the person who has known you so well for so long. She’s recovering well from her bout with breast cancer. She looks and acts more like the old Gina than she has in a long while. She and her husband are building a new house. Her kids are doing well and she seems happy. I still miss having her in close proximity, though. Fourteen hours distance from my best pal is just too much for my liking, but I am happy that things are going well for her.

Brad and Heather came home for the weekend. They had hardly been here an hour when the doorbell rang. It was Brad’s old baseball coach. Mark had run into him the night before and mentioned Brad would be home for the weekend. Coach came by to reconnect with one of his favorite players! Over the weekend, we also squeezed in a trip to the farmers’ market on Saturday morning and a graduation party in the afternoon. Brad managed a fishing trip with his high school buddy, Joe. And we all enjoyed a visit from another of his high school pals, Justin. Justin is getting married in September and Brad has the honor of being a member of the wedding party. Justin and his fiance, Jenny came to have pizza and catch up with everyone. I went to bed long before the kids were done visiting.

On Sunday morning, Heather joined her girlfriends in the local Color Run 5K. After the run, Brad met up with Heather and friends for pizza at Cosetta’s. While they were out of the house, I enjoyed some quiet time with “the girls.”

Dacotah and Lucy in a rare still moment...

Dacotah and Lucy in a rare still moment…

Sunday was a beautiful day and I spent some of it doing “activities.” Activities is Heather’s way of describing sun-worshipping. Brad has declared that none of us should purposely sit in the sun. “I don’t want any of you developing Melanoma!” he says. But after enduring snowfalls into the month of May this year, I sometimes feel as if I’m still thawing out. I can’t help but want to soak up a little bit of sunshine and Vitamin E. Not too much; just a little – with some sunscreen. And as soon as the kids were back from lunch, I moved out of the sun and under the shade of the canopy to sit with the family around the patio table. We snacked a little bit and laughed a lot until it was too warm to sit outside any longer. By late afternoon, it was time for Brad, Heather and Dacotah to head home again.

We still have some fun stuff ahead of us this summer – a weekend at a friend’s family cabin, our annual vacation in Bayfield, Wisconsin, and the Minnesota State Fair. Of course, the fair marks the unofficial end of summer, so I’m not looking forward to that too much just yet. The long, snowy winter is still too vivid in my mind. I can sometimes still feel the cold in my bones. So I am just taking this summer one beautiful, warm day at a time.

Fourth of July Morning Sky

001bI was up early enough today to catch the sunrise. I opened the patio door with plans to go out on the deck and give the pot of petunias a drink of water. I looked up and thought, “Fourth of July sky!”

I’m grateful to have a day off from work, a day to remember and celebrate the freedom of living in America. It’s often easy to forget how fortunate we really are to live here, to have opportunity, to have choice, and the freedom to express ourselves in almost any way.

I remember looking forward to the Fourth of July as a kid, when extended family would all gather together. The adults would relax in lawn chairs in the back yard, with paper plates of picnic food and coolers of cold beer nearby. We kids would guzzle root beer or grape pop, leaving purple smiles on our faces. Pop was a privilege we only enjoyed on special occasions and we made sure we got our fill. The adults would shoo us off to go play and we’d pound caps on the front sidewalk with rocks, competing to see who could create the loudest bang until one of the adults told us to give it a rest. And when the sun went down and darkness fell, we’d light sparklers and run through the yard with them, drawing flashy pictures in the air that dissolved almost as soon as they appeared.

Today feels like one of those days from my memory. Simple. Peaceful. Happy. The weather has been absolutely picturesque this week. I’m thrilled that this stretch of warm, sunny weather came along and stuck around so that we can really enjoy a summer day at it’s finest. Mark and I will spend it with friends, Paul and Megan at Square Lake (which has some of the clearest water in Minnesota) and afterwards, we’ll share a picnic dinner out on our back deck. Tomorrow we’ll fall back into our usual routines, but today, we will remember and celebrate.

 

The Corn Man

I’ve been meaning to buy some paint for a couple of projects I have planned. I needed Mark’s handyman expertise for the paint purchase, so I asked him if he wanted to accompany me to his favorite local home improvement store. Of course, he did.

“Should we go see if the Corn Man is around first?” he asked.

We were planning to grill steaks for Sunday dinner and I had twice-baked potatoes in the works too. Fresh corn on the cob sounded like the perfect way to round off our meal, so I quickly agreed.

We visit the Corn Man several times every summer and we’ve never been disappointed. Up until just a few years ago, he sold his produce from the back of an old pickup truck parked on the corner of a busy intersection. A hand-painted sign advertising “Fresh Sweet Corn” was all he needed to attract business. He must have done well all these years. He keeps coming back and we look forward to seeing him every summer. As we pulled up in Mark’s pickup truck, windows rolled down so we could enjoy the perfect summer day, Mark called out to the Corn Man, “Hey, you got yourself a stand! You’re movin’ up in the world!”

Corn Man 2“Yup,” said the Corn Man with a big smile.

We got out of the truck and approached the stand. There were some tomatoes on display, fresh blueberries, asparagus, and muskmelon. There were a few ears of corn, but not many.

“Ya got more corn?” Mark asked.

“Sure do,” said the corn man, reaching down behind his produce displays to pull out a crate stuffed full of big, fresh ears of summer corn.

“Where’s it from?” Mark asked. “Is it good?”

“This here’s from Georgia,” said the corn man, dumping the crate of corn into the bin. He picked up an ear and peeled the husk back and took a bite.

“Mmmm,” he said and handed the ear to Mark. “Try it.”

Mark took a bite and handed the ear to me. They both looked at me, expecting me to follow suit and all I could think was, “I don’t want to bite off of that now!” But, I did anyway. I just peeled the husk back a little more and bit out of a lower section of the ear. And it was good! I couldn’t believe how sweet and juicy the corn was, even before it was cooked.

“We’ll take a dozen,” Mark said. Other customers lined up behind us while the Corn Man filled a plastic bag with ears. He and Mark chatted about how soon the corn might be coming from Wisconsin and Minnesota. Not for a while, yet.

The bag was filled to full when the Corn Man said, “I’m giving you an extra, in case one of the ears is poopy.” In reality, there were a few extras. “Don’t cook it too long,” he added. Mark took the bag and handed over some cash, tossing in a few “extras” himself.

“Need any strawberries?” the Corn Man asked. Mark looked at me, and I shook my head. I didn’t really, and there were others waiting to buy things. We thanked him and Mark pulled his truck door open. Before I made my way around to the passenger side, the Corn Man handed me a big, red, ripe tomato.

“Here. A tomato for the tomato,” he said with a smile.

“Thanks,” I said, laughing. I wasn’t sure what he meant by calling me a tomato. I’d become a little sunburned earlier in the day. But when he added, “Don’t tell your husband I said that,” I was pretty sure he wasn’t referring to the color of my skin. Out of curiosity, I looked it up when I got home. The Corn Man’s comment was apparently meant as something of a compliment. Good thing I didn’t know to be offended, and he’s really such a good-natured,  friendly guy, I’m still not!

It had been a picture-perfect summer day and we ate our dinner under the shade of the canopy out on the deck with Kacey and Connor. The food was spectacular and everyone raved about it, eating until we could eat no more. We will definitely be visiting the Corn Man again this summer!

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (plus men in little clothing)

Look at this big guy who was hanging out at the bird feeder on Friday morning! There must have been a shortage of discarded french fries and/or roadkill out on the street!IMG_8481bLucy and I really enjoyed our morning walk today. The air was perfectly comfortable and there was a slight haze in the sky so the sun wasn’t so hard on the eyes. (I hate wearing sunglasses when I’m out walking. They always fall down my nose.) We encountered a few other dogs along the way. They greeted Lucy from their yards and she strained on the leash in an effort to get closer to them. A big man in nothing but his bathrobe stepped down off his front porch to tell “Julie” to stop her barking and go sit up on the porch while we passed. She did as he said, stopping once or twice to turn and yip-yap one more time in Lucy’s direction.

We went out early, while it was still quiet in the neighborhoods. I love how peaceful it is in the early part of the day, before the hustle and bustle of life takes over. Lucy followed the trails of various scents along the way, nose to the ground and sniffing loudly. I admired the way the rain has promoted full, green lawns. They look so manicured after a fresh mowing. Flowers and plants have grown past their budding stages into full, colorful bloom.

When we first moved into our house, the neighborhoods in our area were just being developed. There was always new construction to watch and we would take walks just to see what kind of projects other new homeowners were working on, sometimes taking home ideas to put to use ourselves. These days, the trees are tall and strong, those that weren’t taken down by last week’s storm, anyway. There’s a definite sense of establishment. The storm couldn’t take that away, hard as it tried. As we walked, I admired the different ways people give personality to their yards and homes with colorful flower gardens, decks full of comfy patio furniture,  carefully patterned brick patios and even a few pools here and there. One home had a volleyball net set up in the side yard, and a back yard with a swing set and sandbox, and children’s toys scattered everywhere.

As we neared the corner to turn toward our house, another dog began to greet Lucy. My neighbor, Pat stepped out the door, bare-chested and wearing only a pair of shorts, scolding his dog and pulling him by the leash back inside the house. He waved as we walked by I said, “Hey, Pat!”

A few homes and properties in our neighborhood have fallen into disrepair. I guess that’s normal as a place begins to age. But for the most part it feels comfortable here. It feels settled and most of the time, it feels safe too. I am grateful that this place is where we call home.

Summer Storm

I had a long week and was looking forward to attending neighbor Genna’s graduation party after work last night. Genna lives across the street from us and we’ve known her for her entire life. She was born on the day of Kacey’s second birthday. It’s hard to believe that this   beautiful, talented and generous young woman is the same little munchkin who used to make chalk drawings on the driveway with her sister, Maggie and Kacey. And now she’s graduated from high school!

This seems to be the summer of clouds and rain for us. Yesterday’s weather forecast predicted rain and possible thunderstorms. I prayed all day that the rain would hold off until Genna’s party was done, particularly because two years ago on the day of Maggie’s party, it rained the entire day. That was the year Kacey graduated high school, and we had been invited to six different parties that day. I can only remember being unable to shake a cold, damp feeling as we made our way from one party to the next. And I especially remember how frustrated Maggie and Genna’s mom was after working so hard to coordinate what she’d hoped would be a lovely outdoor party for Maggie’s graduation.

As friends, family and neighbors began to gather across the street, Mark and I walked over to join them. The food was plentiful and delicious. The spread included representation of Genna’s Polish family heritage. I especially enjoyed the homemade Pierogis! It was nice to sit and relax and have a chance to really talk with some of the neighbors whom we normally just give a passing wave and shout hello. Clouds covered the sky but they seemed to be doing their best to refrain from opening up. Some of our group began to disperse and so Mark and I headed back home too. He wanted to catch a nap before going to work for the night. I wanted to shop for a pair of sandals that will go with a summer dress I’ve been wanting to wear to work.

I made the quick drive to the nearby shopping district and spent a good half hour wandering a shoe warehouse trying to decide on a pair of sandals. I found a pair that felt like a dream and then, thinking about the fact that Jake and Kacey were both gone for the night and I’d only be going home to a sleeping husband, decided to go wander around another favorite store. As I drove the short distance, a light sprinkling of drops appeared on my windshield. I quickly parked and hurried inside the store before the skies really opened up. And within minutes of my arrival in the store, they did!

I could hear the rain on the roof like the pounding of a thousand drums. I overheard a store employee remark about the intensity of storm. I, along with other shoppers, wandered leisurely around the store looking at anything and everything. Even if we were to brave the elements to get back to our cars, it was the kind of rain that made it impossible to drive. You’d never see three feet in front of the windshield!

tiki manI picked up a couple of new things to wear to work and a Tiki man to add to the Tiki lounge decor out on the deck. Connor’s been wanting me to get this guy ever since he first saw him when helping Kacey buy my Mother’s Day present. He’ll be happy! See what happens when I’m stuck inside a department store and can’t get out? Thunderstorms are clearly good for the economy.

While I wandered the store, I noticed water seeping under an emergency exit door. I was growing restless and wondering when the deluge was going to subside when my cell phone rang. It was Mark, asking where I was.

“Gordm@nn’s,” I said.

“Stay there. It’s bad outside.”

“I know, I can hear it and I can’t even see the parking lot from the front entrance, it’s coming down so hard,” I replied. “I’ll hang out here until I can get back to my car and then I’ll be home.”

“Be careful,” he said.

“Whatever,” I said, thinking he was being just a little bit of an alarmist. “It’s just rain and I’m not going to try to drive in it while it’s coming down in sheets. I’ll stay put until this blows over.”

When I was finally bored of shopping and had the things I really wanted, I decided to go pay for my things and see if I could make a dash for my car. Every time it sounded as if the rain was letting up, the storm would experience another resurgence and I ended up standing in the lobby with my purchases and a few other shoppers, just watching the rain pour down, backlit by the parking lot lights and periodic flashes of lightning. When it finally let up just a little bit, I decided to make a break for it. Other store patrons stood propped against door frames and walls, looking bored. I bent down and slipped off my shoes, dropping them into one of my bags. As I was rolling up my jeans, another woman asked me, “You gonna go for it?”

“I am,” I said, smiling and feeling a little self-conscious as everyone turned to take notice. I picked up my bags, nudged the door open with one shoulder and sprinted through the flooded parking lot to my car under a still-steady rain.

It had let up enough now to drive and I made my way out past the storefronts to the main road. With windshield wipers working furiously, I drove with caution toward home. Just a few minutes down the road, I crossed another main thoroughfare that brings me closer to my own neighborhood and that’s when I began to realize how serious this storm was. The road I was on dipped down into a valley and cars ahead of me were slowing almost to a stop and pulling off to the shoulder. I couldn’t see enough to know what was happening. It was dark out and the rain was still falling, but I soon saw the lead car in our little line-up was making a u-turn. I craned my neck to try to see why. The two cars ahead of me proceeded slowly and I quickly realized what was going on. A flood of water was pouring from a neighborhood that sits up on a hill and a river of water was flowing over the road. I slowly followed the two cars in front of me and managed to pass through the flood without incident.

After crossing the “river,” I had to steer around fallen branches and entire trees. To both sides of me, I saw trees that had been snapped off at their bases or completely uprooted from the ground. A wooden play set  in one yard lay in pieces on the ground. I made a left turn toward home, and grew more nervous. I was only blocks away from my own house and I was seeing yards that were flooded and broken or fallen trees everywhere. It occurred to me that while I was shopping, thinking there was only a heavy rainfall happening outside, there was actually a dangerous storm raging in our area.

As I pulled into my own garage, I saw the last of Genna’s grad party guests huddled inside her family’s garage. Mark was just getting into his truck and I asked where he was going.

“Your mom and dad’s. They lost a tree. Are you coming?”

I was still barefoot from my race through the store parking lot, but grabbed my purse and hopped in. Mark steered the truck slowly through a narrow aisle bordered by the vehicles of Genna’s party guests. One block away, I could see my mom through her front window, hugging herself and talking on the phone to who I assumed was my dad. He’s on a mini-vacation, fishing up north with my brothers. A large tree was laying across my parent’s street, reaching from neighbor Vivian’s yard almost to my parent’s front yard. Mom’s garage door was open and she met us as we walked through to her back yard where one of her trees was now laying on its side, sprawled down the embankment of my parent’s property.

The pictures aren’t great. I only had my iPhone to snap photos and night had fallen. But I could see enough to know that this was one scary storm. People were out everywhere, walking the neighborhood or inspecting damage in their own yards with a dazed demeanor about them. When we were assured that my mom was okay and had agreed there was nothing that could be done about her tree for the time being, we went back home. Mark trekked around the yard in the dark to be sure there was nothing that needed our attention right away. Amazingly, we suffered no damage. My potted flowers are leaning a little bit but otherwise, everything remains where it belongs. There are a few small tree branches scattered around the yard, but they’re not from our own trees. And I find myself amazed at the force of nature and the way it seems to pick and choose where to inflict itself.

This morning there’s the sound of chain saws as neighbors begin to clean up fallen trees and I am feeling extremely grateful that our property was spared.

We were at the lake

It seemed like my little vacation was never going to start. I was off work as of Wednesday, but because none of the kids could arrange their work schedules to be off any sooner than “early” on Friday, Mark and I decided not to leave until Friday either. There was much that could be accomplished at home in the meantime.

I spent most of Wednesday cleaning my parents’ house while it rained all day long, and then came home to do some cooking. On Thursday Mark and I finished the big “closet purge and reorganization” project, otherwise known as “nearly divorce court.” I had begun this enormous task the previous weekend and it ended leaving Mark and I feeling seriously fed up with each other. But the closets are clean and organized, the Goodwill has been well-stocked with everything we decided we could live without, and Mark and I are on speaking terms again. When Friday finally arrived, I planned to pack my bag for the weekend and make sure my own house was clean. (I hate going away and coming home to a dirty house. It must be cleaned before we go.)

My plans were slightly waylaid by the demise of the dryer on Friday morning. Mark did some investigating and quickly learned that it wasn’t worth the cost of replacing the motor. The dryer was very old and had been repaired many times. It already had more features that no longer functioned than ones that did. So a trip to the appliance store was squeezed in and I quickly picked out a new dryer. My only requirements were that it be large capacity and that the buzzer that signals the end of a dry-cycle could be turned off. (Day sleeper in the house!) I found one for a reasonable price and we were out the door within twenty-minutes with the promise of delivery for the following Tuesday.

Mark, Kacey and Connor headed for the lake not long after our visit to the appliance store. Brad and Heather left Fargo not long afterwards and began their drive to the cabin. I worked on the remaining laundry at home, shuttling loads over to my parents’ house to use their dryer. I finished cleaning, baked cookies and packed my bags. I checked the house over to make sure it was in good shape to be unattended for the weekend, double checked my packing to make sure I had everything I needed, and when Jake still wasn’t home from work, I went to the gas station to fill up the gas tank and get a car wash. Jake finally came home, about an hour and a half later than he had hoped, and he, Lucy and I hit the road just in time for the Friday afternoon rush hour.

The first hour of our drive was frustrating, but then the road opened up and we were really on our way. Jake had insisted on driving, so I got to kick back and relax in the passenger seat, helping navigate now and then. We talked, sang along to our favorite country songs, and enjoyed the scenery while Lucy alternately slept in the back seat or watched the scenery pass by out the windows. We made a stop at McDonald’s for some food and  to let Lucy out to stretch her legs and attend to other business. We finally made it to the cabin by 8:30 Friday night where everyone else was waiting for us.

And I was so exhausted that I was in bed and sleeping by ten o’clock!

We were all up early on Saturday morning, thanks to two dogs who were not only excited to be together, but to be in a place so full of new things to explore. I swear, Lucy and Dakotah were like a couple of toddlers, running from one place to the next and investigating every new taste and smell. And we, their people… we played right into it and catered to the dogs’ every whim. What can I say? They make us laugh and they reward us with complete adoration. How can we help ourselves?

The weather was beautiful and we spent much time sitting down on the new dock. The kids fished for hours and for once, the fish were biting. The dogs were fascinated by the water and the way the waves lapped up to the dock, by the fish that were being pulled from the lake and just happy to hang out with their people. Lucy still can’t be trusted not to run off, so we kept her on a leash whenever we were outside. But on the dock, she could be off leash as she quickly proved she wouldn’t leave it if any one of her people were there.

Dakotah practiced retrieving her “dummy” from the water. Heather would throw it into the lake and Dakotah would launch herself in after it, grasping it in her mouth and returning it to Heather. Lucy was fascinated and she clearly wanted a chance to give this dummy thing a try. Seeing as how she’s had very little exposure to water (except for her pool on the deck,) we took it easy at first. Heather threw the dummy just off the shore and Lucy would jump in and grab it and proudly walk it back to Heather on shore. After several attempts, Mark suggested that Heather challenge Lucy and make her swim for it. So the dummy was thrown a little further this time and Lucy heaved herself into the lake and began to walk out to the dummy. When the water became deeper than Lucy was tall… she went under water!

We all gasped, momentarily panicked, although anyone of us could have hopped in and grabbed her. But just as quickly, Lucy turned around, resurfaced and looked at us as if to say, “Where did the bottom go?”

We all cooed at her and patted her wet head and told her what a brave girl she was. Then Brad suddenly remembered something. “Oh, yeah,” he said! “I forgot that I had to teach Dakotah how to swim her first time! I’ll go put my swim trunks in and show Lucy how it’s done.” Before long, Brad was in the water, with Lucy in his arms. She was none too keen on going back in, but she let Brad hold her up in the water and within seconds, her little paws were paddling and she swam herself back to shore. We all cheered like the bunch of dog-loving doofuses that we are and I swear I saw Lucy smiling from ear to ear!

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When it was too dark to fish on the dock and the mosquitoes threatened to eat us alive, we’d head back to the cabin and watch funny movies that we’ve all seen a million times and we’d say the lines right along with the characters and crack ourselves up all over again. We slept at night on the ancient mattresses with dogs wandering from room to room all night long, unable to decide which people they wanted to snooze with. But we didn’t mind about the mattresses and the dogs, because we were at the lake, where everything slows down and there’s very little that has to be done at any specific time.

In the mornings we ate big breakfasts, like pancakes and eggs and French toast. For dinner, we grilled steaks over charcoal and buttterflied them for steak sandwiches which we ate with Swiss cheese, sautéed mushrooms, onions and steak sauce. Everything tastes better when you’re not watching the clock and you’ve got nowhere else to go and most importantly, you’re sharing a meal with the people you love.

The weekend, of course came to an end much too quickly. The kids wished out loud that the weekend could go just a little bit longer. It just wasn’t long enough. I felt the very same way and proposed that we start planning now for next year. And let’s make it a whole week next time. There was a chorus of agreement as we hugged Brad and Heather goodbye and headed back home.

Vacations are just never quite long enough. Guess that’s why we love them so much.

Recharged

285We had a great weekend at the lake. The weather was beautiful! My kids had fun with each other, which is always such a joy to witness. They fished together, watched movies, talked with and teased one another. And there was so much laughter.  We played games and ate meals together and slept as much as we wanted.

The weekend was pure joy for Lucy Pie and Dakotah too!

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It was just what I needed – a chance to be with the ones I love, a chance to take a breather from everyday life.

I took about 300 pictures. More coming soon!