And the sun came out

The weatherman was saying last night that a big snowstorm was on its way. Yesterday, we enjoyed the one “warm-up” we were going to see in January and already, he was telling us that the weather was going back in the wrong direction. He pointed at a map of the state that was dotted with colors. The big, blue blob moving over our area signified snow; lots of it. He said this morning’s commute was going to be a mess. I only half believed him. The weather has been a presence lately, but you just never know when it will decide not to live up to the hype. Figured I’d get up at the usual time and if a snowstorm was in progress, I’d skip doing yoga and just go straight to the shower. If there was no snow, I’d exercise and go about my normal routine.

When the alarm went off, I shuffled to the family room to look out the big front window and see whether the weather guy had been right. I couldn’t quite decide. Under the glow of the street light, I could see it was definitely snowing. The flakes were tiny but the snowfall was dense and it was coming down fast. Looking across the front yard to the street though, there didn’t appear to be much accumulation. But I knew it wouldn’t take much to mess up the morning drive. So straight to the shower I went.

Within the hour, I had showered, fed the dog, prodded Jake to get up and  get a head start on his own commute. I unloaded the dishwasher, drank a cup of coffee, blow-dried my hair and applied some make up. The last thing I needed to do was make a lunch and while I was doing it, I kept an eye on the falling snow. It was obvious. The weatherman had been dead-on.

I was in my car and on my way a good forty minutes earlier than usual. The roads were covered with snow, the division of lanes indecipherable. Traffic on the freeway crawled. It took me over an hour to get to work and the sky remained dusky; no hint of the sun. My windshield wipers struggled to keep the window clear of melting snow and ice. The defroster blasted on high but couldn’t keep up with the crusts of slush and ice forming on the other side. Several times, I rolled down the side window and reached out to wipe off the snow that kept building upward where the lower portion of the driver’s side wiper was failing. (I have got to get some new wipers!) Clumps of snow flung backwards beneath the tires of the cars that surrounded me.

Driving in these conditions stresses me out. This winter, I’ve seen more stalled vehicles, spin-outs, crashes and rollovers than I can ever remember. Earlier this week, there was a car in the ditch, upside down. The scene moved along outside the passenger window in slow motion while a state trooper pulled over to help. That kind of thing freaks me out. And there are always a handful of drivers that think they’re invincible, driving faster than the flow of traffic, cutting off others, zipping from one lane to another with little regard for anyone else. I’m so tired of feeling like I’m putting my life on the line every day just to get to work.

I couldn’t breathe easy until I was safely parked in my company lot. I felt worn out before I’d even begun my work day. So when I walked in, before I took off my jacket, I decided I was not going to carry that weight around with me for the rest of my day. I poked my head into my coworker, Lori’s cube and with more enthusiasm than I really felt, I smiled big and said, “Isn’t this a beautiful day? Don’t you just love these Minnesota winters?”

Playing right along, Lori exclaimed, “Oh, yes! The snow is so pretty! What a lovely day this is!”

And then we laughed and rolled our eyes and went off to work. But honestly, I felt lighter and brighter than I had just a few moments earlier. The snow continued to fall outside while I immersed myself in my job. And when it was time to go home, the sun was shining fiercely, casting dramatic tree shadows over a new, crusty layer of snow. And it was cold again. Really cold. But the sun was shining. Not for much longer. But it was shining. Sometimes, that’s all you can ask.

Sun 2

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!

007b

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.

Shivering, Coping, Playing Around

While all the schools and many businesses were closed during the past couple of extremely cold days, I was not one of the lucky ones whose employer shut down for the weather. And even though I joked sarcastically about the loosening of dress code standards which allowed employees to wear hoodies in order to cope with the temps, I was grateful to be able to dress more casually. I put on jeans and a couple of layers of shirts and stayed pretty warm throughout the day.

I tossed some snow pants, thick fleece mittens, boots and earmuffs into the back seat of my car before I left for work yesterday morning. On the off-chance I ended up having car trouble before arriving at work, at least I could dress appropriately for extended exposure to the elements. Those of us who actually made it in to work congratulated one another. A few coworkers took the day off or worked from home because their cars wouldn’t start in the cold. At the office, there was a steady stream of people coming and going to the parking lot throughout the day to start their cars. I thought my nine-year old car might be a bit reluctant to start in this cold, but she fired up like a champ. I later learned that it might not be such a good idea to start the car for only a short period of time. Something about not letting it run long enough… moisture forming … causing problems the next time you want to start the car. Or so said my coworker’s husband. Today I didn’t start my car between arriving and leaving. And it still started up like a champ when it was time to go home.

When I got home after work yesterday, I found Mark, Kacey and Connor in the kitchen. Mark and Kacey were preparing the makings for Chef’s salads. Connor was boiling water. Slipping a hot pad on his hand and grabbing the pot by its handle, he said to me, “Come here! Watch this! I’m gonna make it snow.”

I grabbed my cell phone and turned on the video function while following Connor out the sliding glass door. I’d always wanted to try this myself, but never did. Connor flung the boiling water up into the frigid evening air and…

Well, it didn’t exactly look like snow to me. More like fog. But still kinda cool.

After  a lovely Chef salad dinner, it was time to go bowling. As the league president, I’d received plenty of inquiries from fellow bowlers, wondering if bowling would be cancelled. But the bowling alley was open. Leagues were on! I passed the word that we weren’t cancelling, but anyone who didn’t feel safe driving should feel free to stay home and we’d use their blind score. Most everyone showed up and we had fun. I made use of the remote starter on my car (spare key) so I could let it warm up, safely locked, out in the frigid parking lot before I got in and drove home.

Oh, it is cold! Bone-chilling cold! A FaceB00k friend made a prediction. Nine months from now, there’s going to be  baby boom. Maybe so! It may be cold, but we find ways to keep busy in spite of it! :-)

Cold Weather Crisis

We’ve reached that point in the winter; the point in which the cold weather becomes big news. The Cold has been one of the top stories on the nightly news and The Cold was worthy of space on the front page of the local section of today’s paper. The Cold is so cold that the governor decided already on Friday to close the state’s schools on Monday.

Weather 20140105It really is seriously cold, and it’s going to continue like this for the next few days. From the radio and television, we hear constant warnings about dressing appropriately for the outdoors, taking extra caution in letting our pets outside and being aware of the needs of the elderly during this time of extreme weather. Makes me glad I bought those big furry hats for all the kids last Christmas!

Bomber Hats 20140105

We wore these today to go take care of our elderly and their pet. Seems my parents’ dog, Little Bear, got his short little legs stuck in the snow and couldn’t get back to the door to come in. My dad, who has just returned home after several days in the hospital with a bout of the flu and is still weak, thought it was a good idea to go traipsing around out in The Cold and the snow to rescue the dog. Suffice it to say that this didn’t all turn out so well. A frantic phone call from Mom sent us running to help Dad up out of the snow where he’d fallen and get him back inside. Thank God we’re only a block away.

After everyone was back in the house safe and sound, I’ll admit it – I was mad! I proceeded to gently scold my dad about his poor decision and reminded him that his health was already in a fragile condition. He needed to remember to stay inside, and now more than ever, call us for help if necessary. We’re right here! We could have come to rescue the dog, easily.

Mark suggested we get a rope or a cable for the dog and hook it up to the railing right outside the front door so that Little Bear can only go so far from the house. If he gets into trouble, my parents won’t have to go chase after him. They can just lead him back with the rope. I volunteered to run to a nearby store and pick up a rope.

Dad wanted to argue that this wasn’t necessary. He insisted that tomorrow, when The Cold will be even colder, that he will just put Bear on his leash and stand outside with him. We argued back and forth, with me reminding Dad that neither he nor Mom should be outside of the house at all for the next few days. My dad is stubborn and sometimes there’s no talking any sense to him. Mark left in frustration. I stayed behind and found myself in a role reversal with my dad. An image came to mind of one of the many times as a kid, when my smart mouth landed me in the family kitchen and on the receiving end of one of Dad’s famous lectures. But this time, I was the one lecturing. I don’t ever lose my cool with my dad, stubborn as he can be, but as he continued to tell me it was okay for him to go outside with the dog tomorrow, I lost it. I said, “Dad, you just got out of the hospital! Have you watched the news? Do you know how suddenly this weather can turn dangerous if you’re not careful? Tomorrow, I’ll be at work. So will Mark. We won’t be here to come bail you out and I do not want you outside with the dog, even for two minutes!”

Dad dismissively told me to do whatever I thought I had to do. I felt bad. But he is so stubborn. And I felt better about yelling at him to ensure his safety than I would have had I backed down and then something bad ended up happening to him.

“I’m sorry if this makes you mad, Dad,” I said. “I’m going to go buy a rope for Bear.”

Kacey and I headed off to Menard’s, just a mile away. We found the pet section and a nylon rope that would work just great. We stopped back home to put on boots and the big furry hats and grab some shovels. Then back at my parents’ house, we shoveled clean a patch of yard straight out from the front door. This way, Bear could get hooked up to his rope and go do his business where my parents can keep an eye on him from inside the house. After making the clearing, we hooked up the rope to the railing and brought the end of it inside the house and made sure the door would still shut. It worked. And Dad told me he wasn’t mad. I said that was good and that I only want him to be safe.

I went back home, frustrated, but relieved that the crisis had been managed. Mom called a while later. She said the rope and the cleared area of the yard worked perfectly for Bear and he had no trouble getting back to the door. And she also thanked me for yelling at Dad.

I feel better now.

 

Cold Weather Effects

The sky has been cloaked in a hazy blanket of clouds today. Even at 7:30 this morning, it seemed like it must be much earlier; the daylight was still so dim. When the sun finally peeked through for a short period of time, it was as if through a filter. Now in the late afternoon, the sky holds a sense of foreboding. The wind picks up here and there, and I can hear ice crystals pelting the house with each gust.

I slept hard last night and only began my day just as Mark was coming home from the night shift. Brad, Heather and I lounged lazily in the living room, sipping on coffee and shivering with cold. Having had enough of the constant repeat of news on Sports Center, Brad surfed channels until he landed on The Brady Bunch. He left it there and it made me chuckle that he actually continued to watch while Heather and I each took a turn in the shower and got dressed.

I ran a few errands with Brad and Heather before they left today. We stopped at my parents’ house to visit briefly with my mom. She said Dad would be ready to come home from the hospital today, but he didn’t want her venturing out in the cold to come get him. She seemed relieved when I offered to pick him up. It’s a slight bit warmer today and doesn’t feel nearly as frigid as it has been the past few days, but still best that Mom stays inside if at all possible. And it’s going to get worse before it gets better. The governor announced today that schools across the state will be closed on Monday. It’s just going to be too cold to risk sending kids out to the bus stop or letting them walk to school.

Weather 20130103coldMy employer is taking extra measures to ensure their employees stay warm on Monday too. Since I have the day off, my coworker sent me a text message to let me know that an announcement was made today. Hoodies, normally banned by the corporate dress code, will be allowed in consideration of the extreme temperatures on Monday. I don’t mean to seem ungrateful, but, really? Hoodies? If my car stalls out on the side of the road in protest of the weather while I’m driving to work, am I going to be safer because I’m wearing a hoodie? Maybe I should bring my Snuggy along for the workday too.

Brad and Heather left early this afternoon to spend the rest of the weekend with her parents. After  we hugged goodbye and they’d gone, Kacey and I headed to the hospital to pick up Dad. The short drive was uneventful except for one weird encounter. Upon approaching a three-way stop, the traffic from both of the other directions was stopped. Two cars in both oncoming lanes were stopped, each with three vehicles lined up behind them. There was also one car to my left stopped on the cross street. No one was proceeding, but since they were all there ahead of me, I waited. No one moved. I looked at Kacey and she shrugged at me. I craned my neck to look all around. Was I missing something? Were there emergency vehicles approaching? Were small children or animals in the intersection?

Nope. Nothing.

Still, no one made a move to proceed. Oh-kayyyy, I said and slowly made a left turn through the intersection. Kacey continued to watch as yet another vehicle took my place, hesitated in similar confusion before finally proceeding slowly forward.

What the heck? I asked as she explained what was happening in my rearview mirror. We may never know. We’re chalking this up to stupidity caused by extreme winter. I can hardly wait to see what Monday morning rush hour brings.

At the hospital, I pulled up in a line behind other cars awaiting their passengers. A nurse delivered Dad to the front entrance and I hopped out of the car to help him into the passenger seat while Kacey relocated to the back seat. Dad quickly remembered he was supposed to be wearing a mask. It’s mainly for everyone else’s protection, he said. I might still be contagious. Kacey fished a mask out of Dad’s bag of belongings and he put it on, but it seemed to bother him the moment he spoke. I didn’t realize, since I was driving, but Kacey later told me that he pulled it down and wore it below his chin for the remainder of the car ride! That’s my dad for ya.

We picked up a prescription at the pharmacy and got Dad safely home. He was welcomed by Mom and Little Bear, the dog. And since the mask meant for our protection was now nowhere in sight, I quickly made excuses and we were on our way. I was ready to hunker down at home for the rest of the day and night. This is definitely hunkerin’ down weather.

 

 

Too Nice to Work

Scene of my summer lunch breaks

Scene of my summer lunch breaks

We are enjoying what I suspect are the last of our “summer” days. Over the past several months, my coworker pals and I have been taking our lunches out to the picnic table behind our office building. It sits beside a walking path that encircles a pretty pond. We’ve soaked up the sun while taking a break from the daily routine. We’ve built upon our friendship by chatting about our lives. Most days we’ve found reasons to laugh.

We became familiar with the faces of those who made a daily habit of walking or running the path over the noon hour. We’ve marveled at the wildlife in and around the pond, the ducks and geese, a family of turtles who sunned themselves on a log, butterflies and dragonflies and the wildflowers that grew along the path. Today we fought off the bees which seem to be going a little crazy this time of year. I was trying to ignore one that seemed fascinated with my head. Lori, who has a little bee phobia, tried unsuccessfully to hide her panic. “Terri, it’s in your eye!”

I assured Lori that the bee was not in my eye. I was pretty sure I couldn’t remain so calm with a bee in my eye. We all laughed!

We lamented the fact that this week might see the last of our chances to have our lunches under the sun at “our” picnic table. We looked up at the warm, blue sky not wanting to go back inside. Someone suggested that we shouldn’t have to work on days like this. Just as we sometimes are awarded a “snow” day and are advised not to try to travel through dangerous weather conditions to get to the office, we should also have “too nice to work” days.  Wouldn’t it be great if some days, we woke up for work, only to receive a message that we should stay home and enjoy a beautiful day?

Unfortunately, today was not that day. But we did have a really nice lunch break!

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.

On Again/Off Again – The Battle for the A/C

Mark is anti-air conditioning. We have it. I love it. And there is a constant battle in this house between using it and agreeing to let the fresh air come in through the windows. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind the fresh air. I rather enjoy it, actually. But when the outside temperatures and humidity levels reach a point where it’s impossible to merely sit without sweating, I see no need to suffer.

Yesterday was the hottest, most humid day of the most summer-like week we’ve had so far this year. As the sun began to set last night, Mark came in from outside and announced, “It’s really cooling down out there! Should we shut off the air?”

I sighed and said, “Sure.”

It wasn’t really cooling down out there. But there was no point in arguing. Oh, Mark would leave it on if I’d argued, but he would be sure to let me know how wasteful he thought I was being. He wouldn’t be mean about it or anything. He would just be sure to let me know. And I would feel like I was being selfish. Sometimes I fight for the comfort. Sometimes I let him win. It was his turn to win.

So the air conditioner was turned off and the windows were opened. Our bedroom is in the lower level of the house, so the cooler air settles there anyway. And I have to admit that I slept rather comfortably most of the night. Until 5:30 this morning.

It was a combination of things that woke me. Yesterday, Mark broke the string on the pleated shade that covers our window. He took it in for repair and it won’t be ready for a few days. So the morning sunshine was coming right through our bedroom window. I tried to keep my eyes closed, but there was no pretending that I could still make it dark behind my eyelids. The air was still humid and I realized I was feeling sticky. And also? There was a bird party going on in the back yard. They were chirping and squawking like crazy! And since our window was wide open to let in the cool, fresh air, there was no way I was going to fall back asleep.

Mark was beginning to wake up too. He had to leave for work at six anyway. And Lucy was thrusting her nose in my face, wanting me to get up and play. I reluctantly crawled out of bed and went to the window to see what the bird ruckus was all about. They were scattered all over the back lawn, plucking bugs and worms from the grass. Clearly it was breakfast time in the bird world.

Mark left for work and Lucy waited for me to finish observing the Grackles, whining occasionally for me to turn my attention to her. I looked down at her hopeful face and said the magic word. “Walk?”

She became a canine ping-pong ball then, scrunching up her body and bouncing with joy. It’s always a mistake to say “the word” before the exact moment I’m ready to actually walk out the door, but I do it anyway. I love watching the way Lucy anticipates our departure. I quickly tossed on shorts and a t-shirt. Lucy danced and whined for me to hurry up. I brushed my teeth. Lucy bounced and whined for me to hurry up. I washed my face and straightened up my bed head. Lucy bounced and danced and whined for me to hurry up.

When I was ready to slip on my tennis shoes, I glanced sadly back at the bed and the early hour displayed on the clock that sits on my nightstand. Oh, well. Who was I kidding anyway? I’m an early bird even when it’s quiet and I’m not sticky and sweating.

I grabbed Lucy’s harness and leash, tied my shoes and we went off for one of those quiet, early Saturday walks that I actually really love. Lucy pulled me along sniffing all kinds of interesting smells. I appreciated the relative quiet of the morning, some blooming Asiatic Lilies and the sunshine that still feels so welcome after all of the clouds we had in recent weeks. Arriving back in our own driveway, I opened up the garage door and walked back to the house through the empty spot where Mark’s truck sits when he’s at home. Lucy was panting and I was sweating. Inside the house, I unhooked Lucy’s leash in the foyer and headed straight for the thermostat. Smiling over my own private victory, I turned the air conditioning back on!

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.

 

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.