Six Degrees of Kristi Yamaguchi

Mark and I went on an excursion to the buy-stuff-in-bulk store yesterday. We don’t go there often, and especially try to avoid it on the weekends. But we had some time on our hands and I had mentioned wanting to look at bath towels there. The bath towel prices weren’t all that impressive, so I took a pass. But you know, being in the land of jumbo food quantities, we couldn’t leave empty-handed! We bypassed the three-foot tall bags of Cheetos and the ten-pound bags of M & Ms and filled our cart with some mostly responsible food choices.

With two cases of bottled water, jumbo containers of green grapes and red strawberries, a box of Chipotle veggie burgers, and enough Drumstick ice cream treats to last us a month, – (Who am I kidding? Two weeks, tops.) –  we headed for the check-out area.

This store has at least twenty check-out lanes and most of them were open. Customers were oddly jammed up at the lanes closest to the side of the store where shoppers tend to finish their shopping. Mark and I glanced at the less congested lanes a little further down and strolled on by those who couldn’t seem to notice the fifteen million other less-busy registers. We took our place in line behind one other customer.

As we stood waiting our turn, a woman with literally a handful of items took her place behind us. Mark motioned for her to move ahead of us.

“What?” she asked. “No. You don’t have that much in your cart. I can wait.”

“Go ahead,” he said. “You’ll be checked out in half a minute. You shouldn’t have to wait. You don’t want to be here all day!”

The woman was appreciative and as we all waited for the customer ahead of us to get finished, she became very friendly and conversational.

“I was actually here twice yesterday,” she admitted. “Living nearby can be a hazard. BUT I had a brush with fame in the produce section, so it was totally worth it!”

I cocked my head in curiosity. A brush with fame? In the buy-stuff-in-bulk store?

“Yep,” she went on. “You know where that little refrigerated room is behind the lunch meat section? I was in there, picking out a bag of salad when I saw this black hat that I just fell in love with!”

I momentarily wondered how this woman’s big brush with fame could be with a hat, but before I could ponder any further, she went on to explain.

“… And then I noticed the face beneath the hat and guess who it was!”

She didn’t wait for us to guess. Her head jutted forward and her eyebrows rose upwards  in excited remembrance. “Kristi Yamaguchi!” she revealed with a clear expectation of awe and wonder in our response.

I surely disappointed her as I was skeptical. Really, why would Kristi Yamaguchi be in our buy-stuff-in-bulk store? What reason could she have for being here? I couldn’t think of any big sporting events that might draw her to Minnesota right now. The woman clearly thought she saw Kristi Yamaguchi in a refrigerated room behind the deli meats, but I decided she might have been a little nuts.

She must have noticed my skepticism. Mark does tell me that even though my mouth often doesn’t reveal the thoughts in my head, my facial expressions usually tell it all. (Serious marital drawback at times.)

“I knew it was her the minute I looked at her face,” our friend explained. “She’s so cute and so tiny! Her waist is only about this big.” She gestured with her hands to show me that Kristi Yamaguchi’s waist is approximately ten inches around as she went on with her tale.  “I looked at her and said, ‘Excuse me, but are you Kristi Yamaguchi?’ She admitted that she was and that she was here for her husband’s niece’s graduation party. She married a guy from North St. Paul, you know.”

I didn’t know that Kristi Yamaguchi had married a guy from a neighboring city to ours, and momentarily scanned my brain to see if I remembered ever knowing anything about Kristi Yamaguchi’s personal life. I didn’t. I couldn’t dispute this woman’s story but remained skeptical that she had actually encountered Kristi Yamaguchi in the refrigerated room behind the deli meats. I figured Kristi’s look-a-like decided to have some fun with this woman and play along.

“Her mother-in-law was with her and kept shooting me a look that told me I’d better not blow Kristi’s cover. I assured them there was no way I would have done that. I just can’t believe I actually met her here!” she finished.

The cashier had now finished ringing up the customer ahead of us and was ready to scan our new friend’s purchases while I mulled over whether or not to believe the story she’d just told.

Mark turned and interrupted my thoughts. “Who’s Kristi Yamaguchi? She a golfer?” he asked in his typical abbreviated way of speaking.

“Figure skater. Famous olympian,” I responded in kind.

“Hmmm,” he said.

“Hmmm,” I said.

The woman paid for her purchases and bid us a friendly goodbye. By the time we’d paid for our stuff, the likelihood of whether Kristi Yamaguchi could actually be found shopping at our buy-stuff-in-bulk store was already slipping from my thoughts.

Then this morning, I read Rock Chef’s tale of ‘Playing the Game’ at the check-out lanes and it reminded me again of our odd encounter. A quick Google search tells me that our new friend from the check-out lane quite possibly did have a legitimate encounter in the refrigerated produce room behind the deli meats with a famous figure skating olympian who did, in fact, marry a famous hockey player from Minnesota.

So to our new friend in the check-out lane, I apologize for doubting your story. And to Kristi Yamaguchi, I apologize that my husband confuses you with Michelle Wie.

But thanks to all of you for spicing up what otherwise would have been just another mundane food shopping trip. The Chipotle veggie burgers alone would not have been enough to do it.

Lake Escape

Mark’s parents have a lake cabin up north. It has always been a great summer getaway or a convenient hunting destination for the outdoorsmen of the family. The best thing about the cabin is that it has always been open to any family members who want to come spend time at the lake. It’s not big. It’s not fancy. And it’s full of old stuff, history and memories. I think that’s why I like it so much.

The cabin used to be where you could find Mark’s parents most summer weekends. Sadly, not anymore. Mark’s dad is not doing well and hasn’t been to the cabin this year. I’m afraid he probably won’t ever get back there again. So it’s up to the rest of the family to keep things maintained up at the lake.

Mark’s “weekend” began on Monday this week and so he decided to go to the lake, mow the grass and take care of some other chores. He asked if I wanted to take a couple of days off and join him. It seemed like a good idea and I have some vacation time to burn before the end of the year. So I went too.

We stopped at the local convenience store/gas station/marine/bait shop just before arriving at the cabin. We bought some night crawlers and minnows in the hopes of finding time to do some fishing amongst the chores that needed doing.

We arrived late morning and since we were only staying overnight, it didn’t take long to unpack the truck. Soon Mark was hauling out the riding mower and Lucy was happily exploring new smells around the property.

“Do you want me to run the push-mower?” I asked Mark.

“No, I didn’t bring you along to put you to work. I’ll cut the grass with the rider. You go fish or something.”

Who was I to argue? The skies were clear and the sun was shining brightly, a seemingly rare occurrence at the lake. So often when we find the time to go up north, it always seems to rain. I changed into my swim suit (for catching a few rays) and grabbed the bucket of minnows (for catching fish.) Lucy happily followed me down onto the dock and soon my line was in the water, the bobber bobbing up and down on the surface of the lake.

It wasn’t but a few minutes later when my bobber was slowly pulled under the water. I gave the pole a light hitch, and began to reel in. I didn’t feel much resistance. Figured it was probably one of the little perch that are always going after whatever bait we drop in the water.

But when I’d reeled my line all the way in, it wasn’t a perch that rose to the surface. It was something much bigger! I wasn’t sure what it was. I couldn’t get my hook out of its mouth and it was so big I couldn’t hold onto it without grabbing it by the lip, which I didn’t want to do because it had teeth! I tried calling Mark to come help me, but the noise of the mower prevented him from hearing me. Lucy was prancing excitedly on the dock. She wanted to see!

Finally, I decided to leave my fish in the water and lead it behind and around the dock to the live well. I opened the lid and dropped my fish in, still hooked to my fishing hook and line. When Mark made another pass with the mower, I waved him down and he came to see what I needed.

“I caught a big fish and I can’t get the hook out of the mouth.”

“What is it?” he asked.

“I dunno, but it’s big. I just know it’s not a dog-fish.” (I caught one of those once and I remember how ugly it was!)

Mark lifted the live well out of the water until he could see my fish as it flopped around in protest. The hook popped out of its mouth just then, so at least I had my hook and line back.

“Oh my god, Ter!” Mark exclaimed. “You caught the holy grail of fish! That’s a walleye!”

I was a little big embarrassed that I hadn’t recognized the holy grail of fish. I’m not used to catching anything good! But I was pretty proud. We measured it at 23 1/4 inches long. I wasn’t allowed to keep it. This year’s regulations say it has to be between 14 and 18 inches in order to keep it, unless it’s 26 inches or more, and then I could keep it. Bummer. So we took pictures and then set the poor guy free. He’d been through enough already anyway. I texted a picture to the kids and my boys were pretty proud of their mom for catching something so respectable!

photo 1We found time to get done what we wanted to get done. Mark worked on a new coat of stain on the outside of the cabin and I did some deep cleaning inside. And we had time to spare to do a little more fishing and relaxing. The weather was just perfect, even if the mosquitos were a little too abundant. Lucy was in seventh heaven, running off leash (and surprisingly, obeying us when we reminded her to stay close.) She went bonkers over the bobbers, running back and forth along the dock, and kept whining at us as if to say, “Hurry up and pull another fish in!”

We slept like babies last night with the windows open and the sound of loons calling out across the lake. And I really appreciated a couple of days away from work. The lake is such a peaceful and calm place. We’re going to make it a point to make more of these mini-trips up north and I’m especially looking forward to a few days there with all of our kids this summer. I can’t wait to go back again!

 

The Assisted Living Discussion

The week started out cloudy and rainy and ended up sunny and steamy. Overall, not the kind of weather that bodes well for my mom’s health. The high humidity makes it hard for her to breathe with her lung condition.

I went over to Mom and Dad’s on Thursday evening to type up a homily my dad had written for a wedding he was presiding over on Saturday. Mom usually types up Dad’s deacon stuff, but even her fingers are in worse shape than usual. Typing would be painful for her.

Mom sat in the chair by the reading lamp in their upper-level office while I typed. I could hear her breathing heavily, as if she had just finished a marathon. It pains me to see Mom struggling for air like that. When I was done typing up Dad’s message to the soon to be newly weds, Mom told me to change the font to Calibri, size 36, and bold it so that Dad would be able see his own words when it was time to read them. When Dad came upstairs to check the final draft, I noticed he moved a bit slower than usual and was slightly short of breath too.

The aging process sure does have some ugly tricks up its sleeve.

Yesterday, I had a rare chance to talk with Mom for a while without Dad around. She was feeling so weak that she had chosen not to go to the wedding with Dad. She dropped him off at church and came back home to wait until he was finished and then would go pick him up again. In the meantime, I was delivering some greeting cards I had picked up for Mom. As I stood in her kitchen making small talk with her, she was lamenting the fact that her health had kept her from a funeral she’d wanted to attend the day before and would keep her from attending a graduation party at my cousin’s home yesterday. I told her that I’d rather she and Dad stayed home and rested. Pushing themselves to go places and do things when they aren’t feeling well is not going to help them feel any better. I hoped that having someone else tell her it was okay to miss these events made her feel a little bit better about it.

The assisted living discussion is off-limits when Dad is around, but since he was wasn’t around at that moment, I took the chance to mention it to Mom again.

“I know Dad doesn’t want to talk about it,” I said, “but I really wish we could get you guys into a place where you don’t have to manage stairs, try to maintain a whole household and yard, and where there’s medical staff close at hand.”

“Oh, actually,” Mom said, “Dad is willing to look into the Marion Center. It has a chapel and if we lived there, he could go to mass every day.”

Mom and Dad have been struggling to manage their living circumstances for a while now. They need help with yard work and snow removal. They need assistance with shopping, errands and housework. Worst of all, I just don’t feel that they’re safe there anymore. There have been one too many close calls over the past few years.

Mom mentioned that a couple of longtime friends were on the waiting list for the Marion Center. I liked the idea of there being familiar faces if they have to leave their home and move into a senior facility. I jumped on this chance. “Don’t let this idea slip away again,” I pleaded with Mom. “Bring this up with Dad again soon. I want to take advantage of his willingness and get an appointment, give you guys a chance to check the place out. And realistically, if you want any chance of getting in there when the time is right, we have to get you on a waiting list.”

It would be such a comfort to get them in a place with other people their age, and with assistance close at hand. Dad would have other people to socialize with and he wouldn’t have to rely on Mom to drive him around when he wants to get out and see people or do things. She could just sit in a chair and rest when she wants and he could just walk down the hall to the community room. I feel that this decision has been delayed too long already. I hope this time we can actually get some solid plans in place for my parents’ future care.

I spent today shopping with my daughter, and appreciated my (relative) youth and good health, because who knows… there’s no guarantee they’ll still be here tomorrow.

Fahrvergnügen

After two months of waiting, my new wheels finally arrived!

Terrain 1

2014 GMC Terrain

When we signed the purchase agreement in early April, we were told it wouldn’t take more than two weeks to make the trade with another dealer and get the car delivered here. In the end, it took two months. Our salesman, Sam and the dealership staff made every conceivable accommodation to keep us happy while the wait dragged on and on. And it was definitely worth the wait! This dealership has our future business!

I’m not one to name my cars, but during the long wait, when the car came up in conversation, Mark could never seem to remember the name of the vehicle we were trying to buy. He would look at me and ask, “What is it again? A Traverse? An Equinox?”

I kept reminding him, “Mark! It’s a Terrain!

So our friend, Paul, in an effort to help Mark remember, started referring to it as Terri Terrain, (a nod to local radio host, Terri Traen.)

And it seems to have stuck. Terri Terrain it is.

I am so happy! And protective. I parked in a less crowded part of the company parking lot today.

Terrain 4Trying to delay the inevitable door dings as long as possible!

(Yes, I know I know I didn’t quite make the parking spot. I wasn’t being one of those obnoxious parkers. Really, I was centered when I arrived at work. Then two of my coworkers insisted on a ride around the parking lot and when I came back to my spot and backed in, they insisted it was fine where it was. And I was supposed to be working. So I left it.)

Now I just need to learn how to work the NASA control center that is my dashboard and I’ll be all set.

Dash

 

 

Celebration in the Rain

The weather has been fierce this weekend, bringing torrential rains and powerful winds. While we were out of the house, running some errands yesterday, the wind ripped the canvas canopy right off the gazebo on our deck! Oh, well. We needed a new one anyway and I found a replacement online a while ago. I just never ordered it because we didn’t need a new one that desperately.

June is graduation season though, and I was feeling bad yesterday for those whose parties were scheduled for this weekend. Our neighbor, Maria was celebrating her high school graduation yesterday afternoon. Maria’s brother, Luke graduated three years ago with Kacey. His party was the same weekend as Kacey’s. I remember that weekend well. We had a Friday evening celebration at our house and the weather couldn’t have been more perfect. Then came Saturday and it rained steady and heavy for two days straight. Luke and many of Kacey’s friends had to improvise on their outdoor party plans while the rain refused to let up. Maria’s mom reminded me that her oldest son, Charlie’s graduation party five years ago took place in the rain as well.

We lucked out weather-wise with all three of our kids’ graduation parties. But this is Minnesota, and the weather can be unpredictable. Any outdoor celebration has to include shelter, either from the hot sun or in case of rain. That’s why most outdoor graduation parties here are centered in the garage and include a few portable canopies set up around the yard.

The weather didn’t put a stop to Maria’s party, although the wind took out the large canopy that had been set up in her family’s back yard. The rain couldn’t keep guests from coming to celebrate with the guest of honor. We all just squeezed into the garage or house. And we had fun! Graduation parties like Maria’s give us a chance to reconnect with old friends. Many of us in this neighborhood have children of similar ages. We were all so tight when the kids were little, coordinating play dates and keeping in close touch. But as the kids grew up, as they tend to do, they expanded their interests and circles of friends. Our kids sometimes moved in different directions, and without the play dates to keep us in touch, we parents connected less as the years went by.

I love the photo collages at graduation parties and seeing the timeline of a graduate’s life. Maria had photos galore and a digital slide show too. I clearly remember when Maria’s parents and two brothers welcomed the addition of a sweet baby girl to their family. I remember that Brooks and Dunn’s version of My Maria was Maria’s mom’s favorite song back then. And now that “little” girl is heading off to college! Her photo memories were filled with pictures of her with her friends, family and many of the kids from the neighborhood. They made me smile and brought back memories of my own. They made me marvel at how quickly she seems to have grown up and reminded me how fast time passes us by.

And we got to reconnect with old friends. Even though our kids have grown up and gone in different directions, we all remain connected. We all seem to be tied to a larger circle of people in some way. Many of Maria’s friends’ parents have other children who went to school with or played sports with our kids. The weave of relationships grows larger as the years pass by, yet keeps us connected even as we move on to the next phases of our lives.

With the heavy rain and chill in the air, I didn’t think we’d stay at the party long. But we encountered so many old friends and neighbors, we were there for hours. Hugs were exchanged. We listened to each others’ stories and caught up on the goings-on in everyone’s lives. We talked about our kids – their experiences, good and bad with college. We talked about upcoming marriages, and the loss of one of our friends last week at a much too young age. We talked about figuring out how to adjust our lives as our kids move out of childhood and on to lives of their own. We comforted each other with shared experiences as our parents grow older. There was so much conversation inside the three-car garage, it was sometimes hard to hear. But what struck me most was the genuine warmth in the eyes and smiles of our friends and neighbors as we reconnected again. Many of the people we saw have moved out of our daily lives since our kids left grade school, or since their sports teams played their last games, yet we conversed as comfortably as if we saw each other daily. The laughter we shared and the closeness we felt reminded me that even though we no longer see each other on a regular basis, we’ll always have those moments in time to bring us back together when we happen to cross paths again.

The sun eventually peeked out from behind the clouds and the rain subsided long enough for the crowd of guests to find some breathing room, meandering out into the driveway and front yard. Evening was closing in by then. It was time for us to be on our way.

I rarely regret growing older. Times and celebrations like these only further remind me that growing older, though it has some pitfalls, also has so many rewards. Congratulations to Maria. My wish for her and for every graduate is that they’ll enjoy the days and years ahead and feel the same rewards of time as I feel right now. Life is a gift. Make the most of it!

Dirty Hands and a Green Thumb

Gardening! Who’d have thought this would be something would be throwing myself into? Certainly not me!

We’ve always had some gardens, but traditionally, it’s been Mark who plants some tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, onions, peppers and whatever else he could fit in the spaces in the back yard. He’d start off all meticulous and attentive, but eventually the weeds would take over. Not that this prevented the plants from producing or anything. We always enjoy summer tomatoes, and cucumbers, if we managed to pick ‘em before they grew to the size of footballs. And we’ve had some incredible home-grown squash by fall each year. We’ve just never had gardens that looked like they were well cared for.

Flowers have always been my job. I buy some hanging baskets of petunias and plant a few pots of geraniums every year; just enough to give the yard some color. A little watering. No weeding. Low maintenance.

I have never been all that interested in the preening and pruning, weeding and watering of gardens. It could be that, growing up, my parents always planted this enormous vegetable garden (relative to the size of our not-so enormous yard.) They would send us kids out to pick green beans (which I hated. Still do.) Worse, they would send us out to do the weeding. No kid wants to weed a garden. There is zero fulfillment in that! And you could just never get them all. You’d weed one day, and there’d be more sprouting up the next day. Frustrating! And during the Minnesota summers, weeding the garden could be a hot and sweaty, itchy kind of job. There were mosquitoes, spiders and various other creepy-crawlies to freak me out. The garden was definitely the last place I wanted to be.

I don’t know what hit me this spring, but I had an urge to be more involved in the vegetable gardens. I think it was the cucumbers that motivated me. I like cucumbers – on a salad or sliced up with onions and a homemade dressing. I kept thinking about overgrown, too-fat, yellowing cucumbers full of big fat seeds that were picked from the vine and tossed straight in the trash. What a waste. I told Mark that I was sure he was buying the wrong variety and that I would help pick out something that wouldn’t grow out of control so quickly. And that’s where it all began.

We overdid it, of course. There are six tomato plants, two cherry tomatoes, six green pepper plants, plus a yellow and an orange. There are radishes and onions, kale, and the rhubarb that comes back all on its own year after year. Later this summer, we’re going to have more vegetables than we know what to do with. The beauty of this is, everyone loves fresh, home=grown produce. There’s always a neighbor or coworker willing to take the excess of our hands. And if we’re lucky, Mark will make some of his famous rhubarb custard pies.

We’re trying peas this year for the first time. The rabbits have chomped down a few of the seedlings, but some of the peas have survived and begun to climb the trellis already.

017a

… and there are sunflowers, just for fun.

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The sunflowers don’t look like much yet, but I hope they’ll be bright and happy later this summer. A friend suggested I plan on roasting the seeds this fall. Hmm… Maybe!

A few bell peppers are already starting to grow. I’m really looking forward to the orange and yellow ones.

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There’s a pot of sweet basil on the deck that I look forward to cooking with. And Kacey planted some cilantro too.

 

Yesterday after dinner, I spent a couple of hours weeding and watering and everything looks fresh and tidy again. It’s supposed to rain throughout the weekend, so the plants should be happy, happy, happy.

This could be the beginning of a new interest for me! Maybe there’s a green thumb inside me somewhere after all!

Rain and Shine

Yesterday morning arrived with rain, rain and more rain. And thunder. Lucy really doesn’t like the thunder. I woke up to find her on the bed, plastered against me. She was willing to venture out of bed when she heard me ask if she wanted to eat. Of course she wanted to eat! But going outside for what has become our regular morning run? Out of the question.

(That was alright with me, too. I wasn’t too fond of the idea of going out and trying to run in the pouring rain anyway.)

I spent a good part of the morning sitting in my pajamas on the living room floor, with Lucy planted solidly in my lap. I wrapped her up in a beach towel that was lying around, used previously to dry Lucy’s fur after a romp outside in a much lighter rainfall. She seemed to like being wrapped up and being in my lap. So we sat and listened to the rain patter against the windows and the thunder rumble in the skies. We sat until my legs went numb. Eventually, Kacey brought out her fleece blanket, which Lucy also loves. She laid it out so that Lucy could stretch out on it, but Lucy seemed to still want the safety of my lap.

On alert for another clap of thunder

On alert for another clap of thunder

Relaxing only slightly

Relaxing only slightly

Eventually I was allowed to extract myself and go about my business. Lucy stayed curled within the safety of her towel and the blanket for the duration of the thunderstorm.

The heavy rain eased up eventually, but the skies continued to drizzle off and on throughout the day. I had a graduation party to attend, for my friend and coworker, Shannon’s daughter, Emily. Thankfully, Shannon and her husband have a double-deep, double-wide garage and so the guests were all able to take shelter from the rain at the party tables set up inside. Many of my former coworkers, some retired, some laid off a few years ago, were there. We had a big hug-fest and caught up on each others’ lives. It was a great time in spite of the rain.

This morning, wouldn’t you know it, the sun shone brightly from a clear, blue sky. I always feel a little bit bad for those whose graduation parties get rained on. But it’s the risk you take when planning an outdoor party this time of year. And in the case of Emily’s party, the gray skies and rain didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits one bit.

Personally, I can’t complain about the rain. We went a little gangbusters with our vegetable gardens and potted plants this year. A good rain means I don’t have to wander around the yard with a watering can or garden hose, trying to make sure all my plants stay hydrated. A quick look around today proved that my veggies and flowers are grateful for yesterday’s rains.

Not only are the plants happy, but the rain brought the temperatures down just enough to be perfectly comfortable. Not too warm. Not too cool. I’m in my seasonal happy place!