Sunday, June 28, 2009

Taking the back roads

On Friday I was off to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to visit with my aunts, my father's remaining siblings. Aunts Frannie, Mildred and Edene gathered together in Aunt Frannie's new apartment, Mildred having come from Arizona and Edene from Michigan. My cousin, Jim, who drove his mother there from Michigan, and my cousins, Donna and Mary, who live in Cedar Rapids near their mother, were also there. There, now you can create a portion of my family tree and that should make it all very clear. Or, you could have skipped this first paragraph altogether, but it's too late for that. I have always loved these dear aunts of mine, and this trip gave me an opportunity to know them better.

Consistent with my recent advice to avoid I35, I took a route through Rochester, Minnesota (and yes, I hid my face as I drove through, carefully not doing anything to call attention to myself). Two lane roads were predominate, but that was no problem, as there was little traffic. On the return trip, engrossed as I was with Alexander McCall Smith's latest No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency book (the recorded version), I found myself on a hilly and winding, but lovely, road that was unfamiliar to me. Checking I found I had somehow left Highway 63 for County Road 1. Which county? I have no idea, but it was in Minnesota. As I was still traveling north (thank heaven for my car's compass), I continued on the way. Only one tractor slowed my progress.

I have decided that I love traveling the byways. My gas mileage is wonderful and what's an additional half hour or so? After all, I'm retired. I have lots of time.

Ad discussion

As part of our far ranging discussion today my friends and I expressed universal confusion as to the purpose of bathtubs by the lake, in the woods or just sitting outside in places that make no sense. Did the folks in the ad feel compelled to bring bathtubs outdoors for some reason relating to their new found ability to copulate easily and, I presume, frequently? Seems dangerous to me, as it is probably not hard to throw one's back out dragging large objects through small doorways and carefully setting them up side by side on the beach. How better to kill that newly found ability to maintain erections?

I have occasionally thought about and contrasted the ads for prescriptions that will aid "the misters" in their quest to create and maintain a happy marriage, assuming that is their primary role in that endeavor. It is my simple opinion, based on experience from long, long, long ago, that the "V" ads are more persuasive. They have that grrrr factor, while the cozy little hand stroking and insipid smile effected by the "C" product do little or nothing to create the image of highly exciting experiences. But then, what do I know? I've never been married - nor in a long term relationship of such a type either, for that matter. Perhaps my inability to respond to the mooning look and the excitement of sitting side by side in a bathtub outdoors is the explanation for many years of spinsterhood. Or perhaps it has nothing whatever to do with it.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Parkersburg Iowa

My father and his sisters grew up in Parkersburg, a place I visited many times as a child. Last year as my father's sister, my Aunt Mildred, was scheduled for her annual visit from Arizona to Iowa, Parkersburg was swept by a terrible tornado.

Aunt Mildred, along with her sister, Edene, from Michigan, are in Iowa again this week. This time they are welcomed home by a brutal and heartbreaking murder in their home town. They are scheduled to attend an all school reunion on Saturday.

My mother met my father when she was teaching in Parkersburg and my father, obviously younger than she, was her brightest student. He fell in love with her and pursued her for years until she finally agreed to marry him. My connections to Parkserburg are, therefore, somewhat stronger than to other towns in Iowa, except Odebolt, where I grew up.

When will we realize that allowing open and unregulated access to guns does result in violent deaths? Maybe they would happen anyway, but we don't know that. To save even one life would, it seems to me, make sensible gun laws essential. This gunman was not a militia (as the amendment envisions). This gunman was a mental case. Why did he have access to a gun?

I grieve for Parkersburg, and for all its residents, friends and graduates.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


On the radio yesterday I heard the comment, "Both live dogs and cadaver dogs were being used to locate victims." Not a joking matter, but it did cross my mind that the cadaver dogs must be somewhat remarkable. Live dogs, I would think, would be more effective.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


My financial adviser (also a long time friend) recently urged me to join and shop for groceries as well as big items at one of the big box wholesale places. I intend to do this, but somehow I don't see myself shopping for groceries there while I'm in Minnesota.

The other day I drove to the big box, thinking I'd stop in and join and look around. I was immediately put off by the line of cars in the parking aisles waiting for parking spaces. Long lines and crowds of shoppers do not excite me. Of course, in our present economic circumstances I should probably be saving pennies whenever I can. I think, however, this meager diet I'm on is saving a lot on groceries right now, giving me a good excuse to put off the wholesale warehouse shopping adventure.

Instead I went to my favorite Byerly's (Golden Valley), where I bought my one or two necessaries and checked out, visiting and exchanging smiles with my friends there. I know most of the staff by name. They are genuinely friendly (as opposed to robotically programmed friendly) and have been welcoming me for upwards of 25 years.

My mother used to tell perfect strangers with whom she had struck up a conversation that she was from a small town and always expected to know the people she saw on the street. So, of course, she looked them in the eye and talked to them. I'm not as friendly as my mother, but a little of her has rubbed off on me, and that is good.

So when I shop for groceries, I go to Byerly's. I may pay a few cents more for my groceries there, but I don't see my life being fully happy without my chance to visit with Bob or Linda or Barb or Joni or Shawna or Michel or Peggy or Kathleen or Sandra or James - or many of the others.

Disclaimer: This is not intended to be an advertisement for Lunds/Byerly's.

Monday, June 22, 2009


Before I could hit the mute button, I happened to see Jamie Lee Curtis sitting with an ordinary person (not a star) for a comfortable chat about her digestive issues. "Tell me about your problem," said Ms Curtis. I found the mute button in time to avoid the sharing of this information. I can't imagine telling Jamie Lee Curtis about my digestive problems. Hell, I don't even tell my close friends about them. And I can't imagine buying Activia and going through the check out at my favorite Byerly's with it. I know these cashiers. I've been going there for years. My digestive problems are none of their business either.

Low Expectations

As I was slicing my tomato to add to my small chicken breast sandwich this evening, I noticed that among the pieces of tomato that I ate for supper last evening was a little of that paper label they put on the bottom of the tomato at the grocery store. I remember now that I thought the skin was a bit tough chewing last evening. I further remember that I just assumed, since I am dieting (yes, again) that it was part of the mundane food fare that is part of the current diet. As a dieter, I seem to have very low expectations of the pleasure of my meal. No wonder it is hard to stay on these plans. Yet, I am committed.

The end of an era

I have sold my top of the line, all the bells and whistles, roomy, efficient, refined and lovely 30 foot RV. I'm still "dreaming" about it; that is, I waken in the wee hours of the morning and, in my semi conscious state, am worrying about how to get around in it, where to park it and whether I've knocked something over with it, such as a brick fence.

My most memorable and embarrassing experience in my RV era came the time I pulled out of a gas station too fast and spilled my holding tanks all over the streets of Rochester. I still duck my head in embarrassment and apology whenever I drive through that town. Fortunately, I also had many good times in my RV travels.

I now look forward to worry free travel. Well, not exactly worry free, as it takes planning to locate and take advantage of pet welcoming motels along the route between Minneapolis and Phoenix. My former RV will now be carrying Bostons and bulldogs from Omaha to successful showings around the country. I will be carrying Bostons less often and to places closer to home. A happy ending for all of us.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Robin Watch Wrapup

I returned on Sunday to find that one of my four baby robins had left the nest. He/she fluttered away from the kennel fence as I approached from the car. Checking the nest I found that two of the remaining three were testing their wings. By the next morning, one of these was gone.

The remaining two just sat around for the next day, until this morning, Tuesday, when they finally left the nest. I can imagine mama and papa robin despairing that they were ever going to leave home, but, while keeping track of their nest, they also seemed to be feeding them sparingly. It seems they were waiting for them to figure out that they needed to fly away to find food.

Tuesday morning I found one of them out of the nest and perching on the beam. Soon this one was on the ground and the last of them was chirping anxiously as he/she watched the ground. "You come back here this minute." she seemed to say. Soon the last baby fluttered from the nest and in the next five to ten minutes both were gone, along with their doting parent who had been waiting nearby to escort them to safety. I can now open the back yard for my long suffering dogs, but I'm sure glad I had kept them confined while this was going on. Those babies did spend some time on the ground getting their bearings, and I'd have been horrified if my "kids" had gotten to them.

All is well - until the parents return and start this process again, which, if history is any predictor, they will do.


Friday, driving to Iowa for a dog show, I encountered several opportunities. These began when about four miles north of Faribault on Interstate 35. The traffic ahead of me - in both lanes - suddenly, (it's always suddenly) stopped dead. I was sure there must be an accident, but as time went by, no emergency vehicles were zooming up the shoulder, so that theory went by the way. This parking lot creeping began at that point and continued until at least a mile or two past Owatonna, a total of about 20 miles, more or less. Highest speed during this character building event - just under 10. Average speed, about 4.

Opportunity one: A chance to observe closely every nook and crevice in the highway for a distance of some over 20 miles. So many times I've zoomed along these highways. Who would have thought that I should stop and admire the cracks in the pavement and the unique styles of highway surface that are part and parcel of our Interstate highway system?

Opportunity two: A good perspective on all the other unsuspecting and confused folks who were also offered this rare opportunity. Many were on their cell phones. One or two got out of their cars to check on the road ahead. They couldn't seem a damned thing, but they tried. Some swerved out a bit to see. Same result. One or two changed lanes, but experience has proven that this is totally ineffective when in a two lane parking lot with nowhere to go.

Three, was the opportunity to save on gas. After an experience in a similar situation in Indiana several years ago, I learned that my RV uses substantially less fuel when traveling in idle, than when traveling at 70 miles an hour. In this case we got about 9.5 miles per gallon - which is good for a 30 foot vehicle. In my previous RV, the savings were substantially better.

Fourth, an opportunity to chatter on the cell phone with my friend, Barbara, eliciting her sympathy and understanding for this rare, but enlightening experience. Unlike the usual on the road phone conversations, this one was not interrupted with cutting out events as I went up and down hills. I was not scooting up and down hills here - absolutely not. As stable as, say, sitting in one's own home and talking on the phone.

Fifth, during one extended period when I sat with the shift in "Park", I got my fingernails both cut and filed - a job I had been putting off. Never, ever travel without a fingernail clipper in your compartments, along with your toothpicks and Chapstick.

Sixth, I labored to maintain patience and charity towards all, a truly worthy, long term personality gain. I was successful at this for at least an hour - some kind of record - until I had to provide space for new vehicles entering the parking lot at Owatonna. The huge semi truck evoked an obscene gesture, but not so he'd notice.

All in all it took well over one and a half hours to navigate this opportunity. It was enlightening to me that about half way into this experience there was a sign saying: "This project is made possible by the Federal Economic Recovery and Reconstruction Act." OMG! I can't even begin to calculate the number of votes the Democrats lost the moment that sign appeared. Mine included, temporarily.

After this extraordinary experiential opportunity, I reached the following conclusions:

One: Under no circumstances will I be persuaded to take Interstate 35 south or north again until at least 2011. I have now returned from Fort Dodge via Highway 169, but don't tell anyone else. It was sooooo smooth and easy, although a little slower. Still, my mileage on my return was 10.5 - a full gallon better than traveling in idle.

Two: This is actually the fault of our Republican administration here in Minnesota. Remember, this was Carol Molnau's department, the Department of Transportation. No traffic engineer who had not deliberately set out to frustrate Minnesota drivers could have devised such a diabolical strategy for making these alleged road improvements. I won't even go into the frustration of traveling along miles of roadway and seeing absolutely nothing going on in the blocked off areas. I'm sure you've all been there and seen that.

Three: There is going to be more of this, as in all the hundreds of times I have traveled this road to and from Des Moines and other points in Iowa, this is NOT - I repeat, NOT - the most needy section of Interstate 35. That is reserved for Albert Lea to just north of the rest stop, going north. That's a section of the highway in which you feel you are rocking on waves - regular thunk, thunk, thunk,etc. I don't want to be a victim of that Economic Recovery and Reconstruction event.

Four: There's a lot to be said for traveling an occasional two lane highway. It has been many years - over 20? - since I traveled the route from Fort Dodge to Minneapolis via 169. Amazing how little has changed, and how comforting it was to find that out.

I'm home at last. More on this significant trip in later posts.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Robin Watch Final

They're very active, and I expect them to leave the nest this weekend. I will be away, which is good. The dogs cannot threaten them from Fort Dodge. It's been fun, and there may be another nest full after these are gone. We shall see.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Did you know that cockroaches can spread as many as 33 infectious diseases? I'm assuming the ad for roach removal gives us this useful information because they're afraid that, if we don't know this, we won't call an exterminator to get rid of them. Really, I would think their simply being there would be enough to send residents scurrying, like a cockroach, to consult the Yellow Pages. It would me. Ish!

Robin Watch 8

Babies are clearly getting bigger. I'm expecting they'll leave the nest this weekend. Mama doesn't need to hang around all the time to keep them warm any more, but they aren't yet trying their wings.

Man made earthquake

Bang! Bang! Bang! Thump! Roar! and, of course, the constant beep, beep, beep. The roar of the incessantly beeping (bleeping) huge machinery is now in front of my house, and the house is rocking and shaking. The moment of breaking up the curbing has arrived. Crumpling the curbing like a large line of crackers, the big old "thingee" with the large digger basket is taking aim along my street. It is creating our own minor earthquake. "I feel the earth move under my feet"

My water will soon be coming to me from a temporary line running down the sidewalk, and the street will be no more, temporarily at least. All this in the name of progress, and necessary progress at that. The 100 year old sewer system will be replaced, giving those of us who use our various sinks, tubs and toilets a certain peace of mind and sense of security.

My basement is also vastly changed, although there is still work for me to tackle, and much, much more stuff to throw away. Hard to believe watching Rick's trailer full of stuff disappear to the dump that there would be anything left, but there is, and I must attack this project soon, before I lose momentum. It would be so easy to just shut the doors and return to the upstairs. Why, I even have carpet in my laundry room, and extra light too. A laundry room makeover, so to speak. Clean clothes for me from now on - no excuses.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Arby's sign

Arby's sign in Brooklyn Park reads in part:

Lots of drink, I would hope.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Clean Basement

For three years or more I have had on my To Do list to clean the basement. Today my super, excellent, thorough, hard working, honest, reasonable and all around nice guy - my handyman, Rick - cleaned my basement. Thank you Rick. And if anyone wants to know where to find this gem, just drop me a note. He's the best around. No job too small. Sometimes my friends monopolize his time, but I'm still happy to recommend him.

Robin Watch 7

Now and then I can see the babies little open beaks above the nest. Am trying to catch a shot of them being fed, but I have my window closed today (surprise!) and opening it for the picture changes the picture - so to speak. They all fly away - actually only Mama and Papa fly away. I think there are about four babies, and all seem to be doing just fine.

Personality improvements

No positive personality change will go untested. I found myself on Saturday being friendly to strangers, in a way that was really not like me at all. The test came as I was leaving the event, when I stupidly backed my car into a tree, causing some not insignificant damage to my right rear taillight casing and bumper. I handled it without raving, screaming or crying. I did, however, swear a little. I'm trying to ignore it, but with the right rear taillights now stuffed in the back of the car, that is hard to do. Right turn signals don't register with anyone outside the car - so next up will be getting it fixed . . . soon. And for an obscene amount of money, I'm sure.

Another stupid health warning

Oh for heaven's sake! Our reusable shopping bags may harbor bacteria. Wow! What a surprise! Everything in the world may harbor bacteria, and we apparently should be concerned about our reusable shopping bags. I scanned the article to learn that, should you allow your food to rot and develop mold or allow unwrapped or sloppily wrapped raw meat sit in your shopping bag, it may leave bacteria which might be harmful. Well, as the kids say, "Duh." Did any of you out there not know that letting mold grow or perishable food rot in your shopping bag could result in harmful bacteria. At the very least we must realize that it would be "icky". And stink! Shouldn't that be enough to tell us to wash it or throw it away? Surely, this is not a necessary warning about using reusable shopping bags.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Sudden kitchen makeover

Today I had a new light installed under the cupboard and over my main work area. I now have a bright, light, yellow kitchen. It was always yellow, but being bright is so much better. Who'd have thought my kitchen makeover could be so cheap and so quick. I'm so excited!

Robin Watch 7

Caught both Mama Robin and Papa Robin together at the next, feeding their babies together. So sweet! I'm thinking there are at least three babies here. I can't see them without intruding, but I did hear peeping yesterday as I had my cocktail on the patio.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Scapegoat for violence

The Week: June 5, 2009, Best Columns: Europe - Germany. Sad to know that politicians are apparently the same all over. Commentary by Michael Thalken of Kolner Stadt-Anzeiger (Scott will translate this?) After a killing spree at a high school, the government apparently decided to "take action to prevent school shootings" by banning paintball games. It seems the shooter loved paintball and the officials thought it probably "lowered his inhibitions against doing violence." Public outcry caused them to can this idea, and, indeed, to drop the whole idea of taking action. Commentator Thalken suggested the politicians might invest in more counselors and better outreach for troubled kids, but then noted, that would be expensive, time consuming and "wouldn't make a splash with the media." And this from a somewhat more socialistic country than the U.S. of A. Is there any hope for practical, caring and effective programs anywhere?

Baseball as it's meant to be played

The other night, watching Cleveland vs. New York, being played outdoors, as baseball is meant to be played, I was amused at the players waving off the hoards of midges swarming all over them. Baseball, played outdoors as it's meant to be played. I'm betting Cleveland is enjoying the indoor Dome experience here. At least it is midge free. Just wait, however, soon we'll be playing outdoors too, and, should we ever get rain again, we can, perhaps, offer swarms of mosquitoes to make Cleveland feel at home.

In Cleveland the Seagulls gather to feast on the midges. Here, I suppose, we could encourage bats (no, not baseball bats), as they eat lots of bugs. Probably wouldn't work though, as bats only come out in the dark, and baseball can't be played in the dark. Here's a plan. We can turn off the lights between innings to allow the bats to clear the field of mosquitoes. Think of the fun we could have in the stands in these dark interludes. And the joy of it all is that it is ecologically sort of a balance of nature outcome.

Rethinking gray

Silver threads among the gold. Ok, so maybe I am getting a little gray. I noticed this morning that my silver hair can be very shiny and even kind of pretty. Also noticed in a Star Tribune ad featuring a number of recent high school graduates that all of the girls, who were uniformly beautiful, had long, flowing hair. Good thing I'm waaaay past high school graduation age. I never, ever looked good in long hair. I was never beautiful either, at least not in a traditional way.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Robin Watch 6

The babies have hatched. Mama Robin is feeding them. I sneaked a peek through the slats on the porch - chasing Mama away for a bit, but she soon returned. I await their open beaks peeking above the nest.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Blog posts

My favorite "friend" blog site is being shut down. I shall miss it. It was both my inspiration and my source of concern as I considered and finally set up my own site. I enjoyed reading Scott's blog, but feared that I could not be as entertaining at this sort of thing as someone so much younger than I - about 30 years - and a college student with a sharp mind at that. I do now realize that what I do has some amusement value at times too.

The thing I'm realizing about this blogging thing is that I find almost everything I do or see is now being sorted through my brain for it's blog value. Should I write about my klutzy propensities, mentioning, for example, that I crashed into the clasp on the hand bell case in church yesterday and nearly screamed in pain. This klutzy act having been topped this morning when I opened the closet door on to my foot, leaving a space too narrow to safely access the closet itself. This, in turn, caused me to bang my head on the door as I reached into the closet. That's the klutzy behavior that takes actual talent to accomplish, and reminds me of the time I opened the car door and, as I was getting into the car, bounced my head a couple times off the door and the car roof - apparently because I hadn't opened the door far enough to get into the car safely. Ok, so now I've written about that, and I occasionally wonder that I've survived without more significant brain damage for so many years.

Now, where was I? Ah, yes, I'm now reconciled to the fact that I will write as I write, and will try to avoid boring. I think it's healthy to pay attention to the mundane and trivial in one's daily life, perhaps to find something that can be amusingly expounded upon. Or not!