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.

 

 

Still in a holiday-lazy groove

I had to go back to work today after having the past two days off in honor of the New Year. This morning felt like Monday all over again. And it wasn’t easy getting out of bed. It’s been so cold for the past couple of weeks! I have a blanket, a heavy comforter and a quilt on the bed. Last night I threw a fleece blanket on top for good measure. Mark was gone to work for the night, so I tried to convince one of the dogs to curl up and share some body heat, but when Brad and Heather are home, which they are right now, Lucy forgets I exist and attaches herself like velcro to Heather’s side for the duration of their stay. Dacotah, sick of fighting for attention against Lucy, hung out with me for a while, but soon wandered off to find her own people again.

cold-weather-winter-outdoors-indoors-seasonal-ecards-someecards

Can you tell I’m one of those people who can never get warm? Now I remember why I was in an exercise slump around this time last year. Just the thought of making even the short jaunt from the gym parking lot into the gym in this kind of cold is almost painful. Of course now that Jillian Michaels lives in my DVD player, I can’t use that excuse anymore.

I didn’t exercise this morning, though. I had the best of intentions of going to the gym, but … it was  seriously cold out. Also, I didn’t really sleep much last night. The combination of “kids” home on break from school and work, coming and going, the dogs romping around as long as someone was awake, and Dacotah periodically wandering back in to stick her nose in my face and make sure I was still in my bed, all kept me from getting a solid night of sleep.

I was kind of cranky as I drove to work today. In weather this cold, the roads can be icy even when they don’t look it. But some drivers drive stupid anyway and it annoys me. And then I was thinking about how once I arrived at work, how much I didn’t want to have to deal with an annoying coworker who constantly comes across as such a phony and always manages to push my buttons. I literally prayed as I drove that she would call in sick. No such luck. She showed up to work not long after I arrived.

But I was busy after a couple of days away. There was plenty of catching up to do, several month-end processes to complete and a couple of client “fires” to put out. I barely had a free moment to spare and thankfully, my coworker kept her distance. It also helps that I’ve finally learned to refuse to respond when she initiates conversation over the cubicle wall. If she can’t come address me directly, I’m going to pretend I can’t hear her. It helps.

The day was full enough that it passed quickly. I got everything caught up and under control, enough for me to have one more day off tomorrow. I figured that since the kids are home, I might as well make use of all that PTO time I accumulated over the past year and stretch out the holidays just one more day. So by afternoon, that Monday feeling had passed and the Friday feeling took over.

Sure is going to feel strange to have to work all five days next week. But I think it’ll do me good to get back into a normal routine again.

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.

October in July

We had a little get-a-way planned last weekend – a couple of days at a cabin with a bunch of bowling friends. It’s become an annual event and last year, the weather was gorgeous. We spent hours on a pontoon in our bathing suits, puttering around the lake, soaking up the sun, enjoying some drinks and generally having a good time. We were looking forward to more of the same this year.

But no. The sun was scarce and the air felt more like fall than summer.

Platte Lake 3There was no boating, no swimming and there were definitely no bathing suits. Instead, there were sweatshirts, jackets and bonfires – not for roasting marshmallows, but for keeping warm.

Platte Lake 4But we still had fun. We played bar Bingo. And didn’t win.

Platte Lake 1There was some good fishing.

Platte Lake 5We played badminton and bean bags.

Platte Lake 2There were a few rounds of bocce ball. I’d never played before this weekend and discovered I’m pretty good at it!

020And there were yummy drinks that tasted like homemade apple pie.

018We had a dinner of the best ribs and brisket I have ever tasted, prepared and smoked for hours by our pal, Richie. We slept late in the mornings and grazed on breakfast food, lounging in our pajamas and sipping coffee until late morning. When it was too dark and cold to stay outside at night, we played a game called Guesstures, (kind of like charades,) girls against the guys. The girls always won! There was endless conversation, much laughter and general silliness.

007Whether next year brings sunshine and warmth, or clouds and cold, I’m looking forward to doing it all over again!

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!

What a Dead Tree Looks Like in the Daylight

The he-man manly men of the neighborhood decided to have a tree cutting party on Saturday. They wandered the streets with chain saws, sporting dirt and sawdust on their sweaty bodies and faces. My mom wanted photos of her tree before they chopped it to bits. So she could show my dad pictures of the carnage when he returned from fishing, I’m guessing.

IMG_8316bSee the neighbor’s fence to the right, there? The storm didn’t actually create that gaping hole. It’s been there for a while. Drives my mom nuts, both that no effort is ever made to either repair the broken down parts of the fence or remove the remaining pieces. Drives her nuts too when the homeowners let their dachshunds outside and they make my mom’s dog bark his fool head off. As if he doesn’t do that with or without the presence of the wiener dogs. My mom’s dog is a Pekingese named Bear. My sister calls him Bearly a Dog ’cause he’s kind of a pansy. But he’s cute and we love him, even though our mom insists on telling him we’re his sisters.

IMG_8318bI dunno. I’m kind of impressed that the storm took out this tree and yet the deteriorating fence holds strong.

The roots are saying, “We did our job. Can’t be responsible for what goes on up above!”

IMG_8319b

There was a story on the news tonight about how to tell if storm-damaged trees can be saved or not. I didn’t pay close attention, but I’m pretty sure my mom and dad’s tree is done for.

Meanwhile, over at our house, all is well.

IMG_8474b

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.