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.

Reveling in the Heat

I believe we are now smack-dab in the middle of what are referred to as the dog days of summer. These days are hot and steamy. It’s the kind of weather that becomes news-worthy. At home, we’re working hard to keep the grass, the flowers and the vegetables thriving. We’re careful not to let Lucy Pie stay outside too long. She has a habit of stretching out on the deck and laying in the sun until her fur is hot to the touch. But us? We are not hiding from the heat inside the comfort of our air conditioned home. We are embracing it!

Saturday brought an invitation from our friends, Bill and Tammy to join them on their big boat for a day on the St. Croix River. Mark was tempted to decline in favor of getting chores done around the house. But I reminded him that summer is all too short and opportunities like this don’t come along every day. When we’re laying on our deathbeds, we’re not going to wish we’d done more chores, I’m sure. And so once he was suitably convinced, we willingly accepted the invitation. We dressed in our swimsuits and packed a picnic lunch. We tossed some towels and sunscreen in a bag and off we went. It was just a beautiful day of bright sunshine and as Bill described it, a blustery wind. We were thankful for the wind. Without it, we might not have been able to tolerate being out of the water for any length of time.

IMG_1270Bill found a good spot to beach the boat and we made ourselves comfortable. There were plenty of other water-lovers out swimming, tubing and playing on the beach. There was a celebratory feeling in the air. We were soon joined by old friends and former residents of our neighborhood, Kirk and Nancy and family. We all marveled at how grown up their kids have become and eight year-old Alex kept us entertained with a shell he found. He dug holes in the sand with it. He filled it with water and tried to trick his mom into dumping it on her head, which sounds rather harmless until you see how big this shell actually was!

mussel shell b

Mark demonstrating the size of the mussel shell

We stayed out on the river until near dinner time before calling it a day. We were all a little sunburned and a little worn out. These hot days will soon be a fading memory as kids return to classes and leaves begin to fall from the trees. My house still needed cleaning. There was laundry and grocery shopping to be done. But I wasn’t having any regrets. My day ended with a feeling of gratefulness for time with good friends and the chance to enjoy a beautiful summer day in such a fun and relaxing way.

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!

Fuego on the Field

Three years ago, as Kacey was heading into her senior year of high school, I began to mourn the end of her softball playing days.

The summer after senior year, she informed us she was eligible to play one more season of fast-pitch softball in her age group. We all celebrated and enjoyed one last summer of competition, fun and friends. Afterwards, I began to mourn the end of Kacey’s softball playing days.

Last summer, after finishing her first year of college, Kacey informed us that her softball pals were forming a slow-pitch team and joining a rec league. We were all amused at how Kacey’s softball “career” never seemed to end and enjoyed a summer of less serious competition and watching this group of friends enjoy spending time together playing a game that they love. At the end of the season, I didn’t feel so mournful. Kacey had squeezed out every last bit of opportunity to play softball and had many fond memories to look back on.

This spring, after finishing her second year of college, Kacey informed us that as long as she was still only nineteen years old on January 1st of this year, (which she was,) she was still eligible to play in the summer rec league with her pals.  And so began another summer that included weekly ball games. These games were much different from the ones the girls played in their fast-pitch days. The girls’ long-time coaches were still there to “coach,” but really, the girls just decided what positions they would play each inning, running from the bench and calling out, “I got second,” or “Shortstop!”

They had much fun, as they always have. From week to week, they would assign each other different names by which they would be known. One week, they all had to go by their grandmother’s first names. Kacey was known as Margie that week. When the coach called out the batting order last night, we heard, “Mark, John, Ronald!” Mark and I laughed and wondered what the naming convention was this week. Turns out the girls were going by their dads’ middle names. Kacey and two other girls shared the same name, so to avoid confusion, they were known last night as Richard, Dick and Richie.

In Kacey’s younger days, I never missed a ball game if I could help it. Now that she’s a young adult, I attended very few games. She’s older now and I assumed she wanted this time with her friends, without her parents hovering over her all the time. Then one evening recently, she joked to me, “You don’t love me. You never come to my games.”

Now that it was clear that she wanted her mom at her games sometimes, it was an easy decision to go watch her play last night. It was the last week of the regular season and I had so much fun watching the girls play, bantering back and forth on the field and on the bench. They’ve known each other for so long that there’s a plethora of inside jokes and they are constantly laughing.  When Kailey goofs up on the field, all the other girls ask her if she blacked out again. When Kacey is running the bases, the girls all shout to the third base coach that he better not send “the turtle” home.

After years of being team mates, the girls play ball like a well-oiled machine. I’m still impressed as I watch them on the field, each seeming to know exactly what to expect from one another. In spite of all their goofing around last night, they won both of their games by a landslide, taking third place in the league.

FuegoI told Mark last night that if Kacey wants to continue to play softball next summer, “she’ll have to join the adult league and she’ll be required to drink beer between games. You okay with that?”

“As long as she’s not driving my truck,” he replied.  Nice.

I have a feeling Kacey will continue to find a way to play softball as long as she is able. And hopefully, she’ll continue to do so with this great group of girls.

 

Life with Lucy

Since Lucy’s a rescue dog, we’ve never been entirely sure of her breeding. When we first saw Lucy’s photo on the rescue group’s website and I inquired about her, I was told she was most likely a Boxer/Lab/Beagle/Hound mix. Her body shape and the color of her fur seem to verify that she’s part Boxer. The other breeds aren’t so immediately apparent – until I take her for a walk. That’s when I know that Lucy’s got some Hound in her.

When we go out in the mornings, Lucy spends most of the walk with her nose to the ground. She spreads her front legs wide and literally pulls me along as she chases one scent or another. And just as I get in a rhythm with her pace, she’ll stop dead in her tracks to sniff the grass, a light pole or some low hanging pine branches where some other dog has most likely left his mark. Then, like a toddler with ADHD, she’s off like a rocket again to chase some other smell.

It’s a good thing I have long legs. They make it easier to keep up with Lucy. And if I run to keep up with her, she just moves even faster. I’m apparently not allowed to get comfortable. And to make matters worse, the local bunny population seems to have exploded all of a sudden. These cute and fuzzy bunnies reside in the grasses along the neighborhood paths we walk each day. They hop out into the open and Lucy catches their scent before I can even notice them. Unfortunately, the bunny defense mechanism is to stand completely still. Lucy does her best to yank my arm out of the socket when she lunges after them and I get an arm workout while trying to remind her who is in charge on this walk. I swear, I could hire her out as a farm hand. Hook her up to a plow and put a bunny in front of her and off she’ll go.

Lap DogLucky for Lucy, she’s got such a funny personality. She loves to give hugs and sit on laps. She doesn’t seem to realize she’s a canine. She rarely sits on her back legs, instead sitting on her back end with her hind legs stretched out in front of her.It’s obvious she thinks she’s a people. And she knows her favorite people by name. The other night, I asked Kacey, “Is Connor here?” Lucy leapt up from the floor, woofed and went running to look out the front door.

Sometimes we take her collar off and tell her, “Lucy! You’re naked!” She won’t relax until her collar is back on. Clearly she doesn’t like to be naked.

She has never learned to obey when we say, “Lucy, come!” But if someone even whispers the word “treat,” she’ll come running from the far corners of the back yard. And when it comes to treats, Lucy definitely knows sit, speak, and shake.

005b

 

She’s got the prettiest topaz-brown eyes, and she’ll melt your heart when you talk to her directly and she cocks her head to the side as if to say, “Really! Tell me more!”

She constantly makes us laugh and Kacey and I are always remarking at how we somehow managed to find the cutest dog in the world. (Feel free to argue with me, you other dog lovers. I know you will, and we’ll agree to disagree!) We spoil Lucy just a little bit, like when she hears one of us scooping ice cubes from the plastic bin in the freezer. She thinks ice is a treat, and we always give her a cube to chew. We’ve added Princess to Lucy’s long list of affectionate nick names, and she seems to take the new name to heart. But spoiled as she may be, she’s generous with her love and is the best cuddler. Which is probably the only reason I’ll forgive her for waking me up at 3:30 this morning and whining to go out for our daily walk.

Serendipity

Lucy was pawing at the side of my mattress this morning before six, very near where my face was still laying on the pillow. She whined repeatedly in this obnoxious way she has that sounds like an exaggerated lawn. In Lucy-speak, this means, “You’re late for our walk. Get up.”

Lucy doesn’t understand the concept of weekends.

Since I was now awake with no chance of falling back to sleep, I got dressed and went to find the leash. The weather took a nice turn overnight and the morning air felt good without the intense humidity that had been hovering for most of the week. When we walk, I let Lucy decide which way we’ll go and this morning she took us to the west. (I use the term “walk” loosely. Lucy has one speed and it is “intense.” Walks with Lucy are a workout!) We passed the farmhouse up the road, but there were no cows out this morning. (Lucy is fascinated by them.) So we continued along the familiar path, me listening to the birds chirping and admiring all the summer flowers, and Lucy sniffing trails of scents along the way.

It occurred to me that just a few short years ago, on a summer day like this one, my weekend wouldn’t have been such a blank slate.  A few years ago, I’d have been knee-deep in my kids’ stuff.  On those Saturday mornings, I would likely already be on my way to a ball field with Brad, Jake or Kacey and their baseball or softball gear in tow. I got to thinking about how often Mark’s weekend work schedule kept him away from things like that. I sometimes resented the way it made me feel like a single parent. And then I remembered how, in spite of  my resentment, it always turned out to be so much fun hanging out with the other parents, cheering on our kids. In those years, I got to spend time watching my kids be happy,  just being kids, forming the bonds of friendship and doing things they loved to do. We were lucky to be able to have that.

Those were good times and as I walked this morning, I was really missing the days when the weekends were all about my kids’ lives. I remember the way I used to struggle with being away from home for so many hours of the precious weekend and not getting things done; things like keeping the house perfect or being able to grocery shop leisurely whenever I felt like it. I remember a sense of always trying to squeeze it all in and never quite managing it all. I used to wish for more hours to balance the kid stuff and my own responsibilities. But now I realize, there is never enough time to do it all and really, it doesn’t matter. Those weekends had a way of making me stop for a little bit to take a break from the routine of life. They made me quit worrying about everything and forced me to take time to enjoy the good stuff – relaxing and having fun with friends and my family. Now that the kids are grown up, Mark still works a lot of weekends. Saturdays and Sundays are sometimes quiet, sometimes a little lonely. Sometimes I think I’d like to be rushing out of a messy house again, trying to make sure we made it to the ball field on time and wondering when I’d get the laundry done.

Team Mates

As Lucy and I walked the last stretch toward home, I heard voices behind me. Two cyclists breezed past us and then one of them shouted, “Hey!” He squeezed the brakes and made an ungraceful u-turn, calling out to his friend to hold up. Under the helmets, I recognized Dan and Kent, two dads of  a couple of Kacey’s earliest softball pals. When the girls were very young, before their high school years came along and took them in separate directions, we were all, girls and parents alike, very close friends. A lot of people came and went from our lives over the years of sports and activities, but Dan and Kent and their families were some that held a special place in our hearts. Dan, in particular, was very closely involved in his kids’ lives. His daughter, Angie and Kacey were really close for many years and Kacey spent a lot of time at the home of Dan and his wife Judy. Dan’s family had a strong religious faith and Kacey not only played and hung out with the family, but they often took her along to their church. They were a good influence on my daughter. Kacey often remembers the good times she had with Angie and remarks how much she misses those days.

Dan and Kent and I chatted for a few minutes this morning, remarking on how our girls have grown up and how strange it seems that they are adults now. We told each other, “Say hi to everyone for me,” and soon they pedaled off again. Lucy had worn herself out and I was smiling at the chance encounter with our old friends. Funny, I thought, that I had just been thinking about those years and those friends, and suddenly, there they were. I wondered… there’s a word for that…

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 Water Pump and a Milk Can – the “Before” Pictures

For years, I’ve wanted an old-fashioned water pump to put in one of my gardens. But I’ve never been one to shop antique stores or flea markets. I’ve never been one to collect old stuff either. So while I have wanted a water pump, I’ve never exactly looked for one. Then one day a few weeks ago, I was out for an afternoon with my friend, Rose, and we found ourselves wandering through a huge, multi-level antique store. I didn’t buy anything that day, but a lot of memories were stirred up.

Not long after that afternoon with Rose, I went back to the antique store with my sister, Cori. We browsed around all afternoon, picking things up and saying, “Look at this!” or “Oh, remember these?” For hours, we reminisced about similar items that had adorned our grandparents’ homes and even the rooms in our childhood home. I was hoping to come across an antique water pump, but no such luck. I did, however, find a milk can. I didn’t even know I wanted a milk can until I saw it, but the moment I laid eyes on it, I knew I had to have it. In her later years, my grandma always had a couple of milk cans in her house. They were painted and had cushions on the lids so we could sit on them like they were stools.

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At the time I bought the milk can, I wasn’t entirely sure what I had in store for it. All I knew is that I was going to transform it. I brought it home and showed it to Kacey and said, “I need your help figuring out how to paint this thing.”

“I’m thinking a brick-red with cream accents,” she said. I liked her idea.

Mark took one look at it and asked, “What’d you pay for that thing?”

“Sixty bucks.”

“Did you really?” he asked.

“No.”

“I coulda got you one for free, you know. I think my dad’s got one in the garage or his basement.”

“Shoulda told me that before,” I said. “Now all I need is my old-fashioned water pump.”

“I think there are a couple of those in one of the sheds up at the cabin,” Mark said. Funny, how in all my years of voicing a desire for an old water pump, this was the first time it was mentioned there were a couple of them just sitting around, free for the taking at his family cabin. I’m sure the thought of me spending more money for some old “junk” prompted Mark to volunteer the information now.

A few weeks ago, we were up at the cabin. Mark was working out around the yard when he called me to come look. There they were. Two old water pumps. One was really tall and would look great in a garden with an old metal bucket of colorful flowers hanging off the spout. Except it was missing the pump handle. That kind of ruined the vision I had. The other pump was smaller and had all of its parts.

014bThe water pump is going to require a little more work than the milk can. It had been sitting in a shed for years and it’s got layers of rust that need to be sanded off. And I’m thinking about building some sort of base for it to give it more height. I’m not sure yet what that will involve, but I’ll know it when I see it. And if all goes well, I hope to have the “after” pictures before summer’s end!