Category Archives: Bio
We went from 2 feet of snow to 85 degrees up here in Minnesota. It’s crazy weather and has me behind in the yard. I’m always behind in the yard, but this year that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. The consensus up here is that it’s now summer and we had 1 beautiful day of spring.
Some of the season’s work isn’t actually in the yard at all. I took a load to Goodwill. I took my car to the car wash. I’m trying to figure out what to do with all the “stuff” I’ve brought back from my parents house. It’s not easy keeping motivated.
One day this weekend I threw my hands in the air and bought one of those outdoor storage benches. I wanted to get the yard furniture cushions out of my dinning room. I expected to shove a bin in the back of my car. Silly me. Instead it was a box, and directions.
Apparently the current world view is that pictographs are much easier to follow than words. That’s only true if you’re in translation with a bad editor, but hey. I was more than half way through the project before I got to the step that said, this step requires 2 people. I DON’T HAVE 2 PEOPLE! But I am determined and managed despite having “inadequate tools” for the job.
I seem to be in the one step forward two steps back mode. (I know, it’s supposed to go the other way around but it sure doesn’t feel like it.) I did 5 minutes of trimming brush before I got wacked on the head with a buckthorn. Little branch, hit me just right. Thorn cut the skin, head wound, lots of bleeding but actually no big deal. Still, it made me much less ambitious about the project.
I did give myself a reward by making a lovely dinner. If only I could figure out how to use the grill….
Many of you know that I do regular volunteer work for Gilda’s Club Twin Cities. Gilda’s is a place where support, education, classes in healthy living, social support and community resources are made available to anyone impacted by cancer – for free. That’s not just people with a cancer diagnosis, but their families and support systems. It’s an incredible organization and a beautiful and healing environment.
Because Gilda’s does not demand anything of its members, it is supported entirely by community donations. Our clubhouse is a gift of time, talent, and resources of many volunteers, community members and business organizations. The position I occupy, Gilda Greeter, is a volunteer position that many of the group of Gilda greeters have been doing for years. There is a lot of love at Gilda’s.
Last week was our big annual fundraiser. The “Imagine a Place” Breakfast started to raise funds to create a clubhouse in our area. Imagine a Place, our founders said, where people could go to get help and support. We continue to imagine and to grow. That takes a lot of time, a lot of hands, and honestly a lot of money. I put in some extra hours last week to help out.
The Aliveness Project has been around in the Twin Cities for a lot longer. They are an organization that supports people who are living with HIV and AIDs. They were one of the first groups that offered free testing. They also provide education and support to their members.
I’ve not been as active with the Aliveness Project, although many of my friends have. One of the best fundraisers they do is called Dining Out for Life. Essentially, restaurants who participate donate a percentage of the days take to the Project. It’s fun to make a date for a night out and know that because of the timing you are also supporting a good cause.
In all honesty, we didn’t plan our night out to happen along with Dining Out for Life. (In spite of the fact that we were all aware it’s a thing.) We didn’t pick the restaurant Northbound Smokehouse because it was one of the biggest supporters of the event (a platinum level participant). We just got lucky.
We ordered big, ate really well, tipped generously and all threw a little something extra in the envelope the Dining Out volunteers provided. We were happy, and grateful, to be enthusiastic participants. It was fun, it was easy, and most especially it was a good cause.
Minnesota has one of the most active non-profit communities in the nation. We have a council that reviews non-profits and provides information about how their money is distributed. We have community events, generous business owners and an understanding that if those in need do better, we all do better.
How do you support your community?
I’ve been posting a little inconsistently because I’ve been spending a lot of weekends “up north” at my parent’s house. As they age their needs have changed. Mom is mostly using a walker to get around, even in the house. She’s really needing a wheelchair if she’s out and about.
There was a big effort in March to get Mom a hospital bed to sleep in. She can use the adjustability. It will also help to have the grab bars just to roll over. We acquired a bed from one of the relatives (in the next state over). The logistics of getting the bed here and installed have been daunting.
The biggest dilemma in all of this has been space. My parents hang on to everything. As my Mom has lost track of what she has, she’s found the need to “replace” things that never were lost. We’ve seen them using what we would call rags and bought new as well. Then we discover the problem is just that the new stuff is being “saved for special.”
We are repeatedly invoking the mantra “Use the stuff! If you don’t use it, then toss it.” We’re at the point where the hospital bed is ready to install and the white gloves come off. We’ve spent the last weekend cleaning, decluttering and tossing. The whirlwind also included putting in new faucets in all the sinks (to stop the dripping).
It’s been a little distressing, a little disgusting, and required a lot of patience. The end result is that Mom can actually take her walker into any room in the house. Furniture has been moved and cleaned behind and under that had been collecting dust for 20 years. There is still a lot to do, but this is a good stopping point.
There is a lot of disorientation, especially on Mom’s part. It will take her some time to get used to the space. Dad has to touch everything that’s been put away and make sure that his most precious memorabilia is where he can get his hands on it at a whim. I’m sure in a couple of weeks piles will begin to accumulate again. Better is still better.
Thanks to my sister Andrea, her husband Butch, her son Zac and his SO Darcy, and Andrea’s daughter Alyx (who spent the weekend scrubbing). I couldn’t have touched this job and they took the lead on all of it. I’m thankful to be able to help at all. 5 years ago, I couldn’t have done anything.
Our culture has lost track of the sacredness of caring for our elders. We don’t have the time, services, support or even the examples of how to handle this. We are trying to do this work from a distance. 3 hours is no distance from my parents compared to what many of my friends deal with. Very few of us anymore have the resources to take our aging parents into our homes. We do what we can, and are grateful for the opportunity.
I’m tired of snow. So is everyone else. There’s a whole lot of grumpy going on.
This last batch I’m sure many people just left to melt. Indeed, the parts I didn’t shovel are pretty much cleared with the day’s sunshine. Unfortunately I couldn’t just ignore it. Orion’s transportation depends on a clear path from the road to the house. Pushing the wheelchair in even 1″ of snow is a whole different chore.
I have a huge blister on my palm. It’s from a sugar burn I got last Thursday. I’ve been fortunate that I haven’t broken it yet, but it is a challenge. It made shoveling especially exciting this morning.
My Facebook feed is filling up with photos of blooms. Even here people have their seeds started indoors and there are pretty little sprouts peaking up. Not me. I can’t even bring myself to look through the garden catalogs.
I tried picking up some tulips. The “happy flowers” helped for a day or two. I tried a fire in the fireplace. That was great until I ran out of inside wood and couldn’t bring myself to trudge through the snow to unbury more. I tried baking (see above sugar burn). Even getting deep into a good book is difficult.
I’m antsy. I have spring fever. I want to open the windows. I want some light. Instead I’m curled up in a sweater with a cup of hot tea scrolling through re-runs.
What’s your cure for cabin fever?
Snow is coming in yet again. Not unseasonable for us here in the “cold north”. That doesn’t make it anymore pleasant when I’m stiff from shoveling and gazing longingly at the gardening catalogs filling my mailbox. I need to get in the car and run errands before the storm hits.
Orion and I listen to Sirius XM Broadway station whenever we’re in the car together. It’s the station we can agree on. We both enjoy musicals, and the Broadway repertoire includes music from every genre imaginable.
Orion is also big on filking. He has a talent for making up lyrics on the fly. He says, “If I was singing that song I wouldn’t sing it that way….” and goes on to demonstrate for me. He has some favorites. Instead of “I Could Have Danced All Night” he sings a song about being in the hospital with the catch “I Could Have Slept All Night” (if only I wasn’t woken up every 5 minutes by an alarm, a nurse, or someone wanting to stick my arm….).
Because of our shared appreciation for show tunes, Orion’s birthday present to me was a trip to the Chanhassen Dinner Theater to see Newsies. We got to go this weekend. It’s a show set at the turn of the century (not this one, but the last one) in NYC. The children of the city are working in sweatshops and on the streets. One of the jobs is hawking the day’s papers. When the big publishers decide to unexpectedly jack up the prices of the papers for the Newsies the kids decide to start a union and strike.
It’s a Disney show, so the historical content isn’t accurate. But it does reference historical events of the time. The strike that provides inspiration for the musical was instrumental in the development of child labor laws and the beginning of the 20th century.
On Sunday we celebrated “Ham Day”, in that I made a ham and invited a friend over for dinner. We also scheduled it so we could watch the Jesus Christ Superstar Live broadcast. I’m a fan of the show. I think it’s smart, musically brilliant, and generally fun. This production was impressive. It was well cast. The vocal performances were balanced.Sara Bareilles gave the best performance I’ve ever seen of Mary Magdalene’s “I Don’t Know How to Love Him”.
Somewhere I also found time to spend with my daughter. She spent most of the weekend setting up for the Easter Buffet at the pub where she works. But she deigned to include me on her Salsa dancing night. I had a good time, and even danced a little. I had more fun watching her. She shines in a crowd and really loves to dance to the Latin rhythms.
I didn’t post a blog last week. I had plenty to write about. I had photos. I theoretically had time. I just spent that time in bed recovering from being all peopled out. It was a busy week, and last week was as well.
Going through the equinox reminded me that this is all about balance. I’ve written about balance quite a bit. There is always something new for me to learn. I recognize balance is not a passive thing. I also recognize that it’s harder to maintain balance when the swing back and forth is very wide. My swing has been a little wide.
In my busy people weekend I had a great time. It turned into a weekend all about live music, what a treat! I ran into an old friend on-line. (Or as I like to remind her: I’m not her oldest friend; I’m just the one she’s known the longest.) Since I hate trying to have a real conversation through messaging (is my age showing) I asked what she was up to and if we could get together. She had plans with another of our High School friends and invited me to tag along. Music in the suburbs, good company – including the strangers who graciously shared their table, old fashioned rock-a-billy music and a lot of catching up.
Then the weekend got into full swing with both St. Patrick’s Day and Paganicon. This is Karina’s first St. Pat’s as a manager in an Irish Pub. I got several phone calls including the stories of all the “fires” that she needed to deal with. The folks I talked to when I stopped in this week had nothing but praise for her, so I suspect she rocked it. She had scheduled events at the pub all week. I went on Friday (St. Practice day) to hear Hustle Rose.
The band leader worked with Karina back in the day, so I’d met him and heard the band before. It was nice to support them both. I think they are very talented and I like their original stuff as well as their covers. David, the band leader, was even kind enough to give slightly intoxicated Mom, me, a ride home.
Part of the Paganicon line-up are the musical guests. Because I took Orion this year we were much more focused on the socializing than the workshops. Of course one of the best places to get together with folks is around the music. Saturday night is the ball, and another friend Tomi T-Time Majoros and his band stepped in when the scheduled band backed out. Even the musical guest of honor S.J. Tucker sang along. It was great to have a ball band that folks could dance too. A fun and friendly evening.
Orion and I also got to hear S.J and visit a little with her. She put out a special edition exclusive CD just for the Paganicon event. Her heart is as great as her voice.
This last weekend, as I said, was the equinox which meant ritual prep and execution. I also ran up to my folks for 24 hours (that’s 3 hours up and 3 hours back for an overnight). Dad wanted to caucus, my sister needed to do an equipment run (a hospital bed and a wheelchair coming soon for my Mom) and so someone needed to stay. Glad to be able to help even if it meant swinging that balance a little wide.
To check out my previous posts search on my blog page for:
Daylight Savings time is hard on the body, especially in the spring. I spent much of the weekend indulging my own body clock. That was great, but since I’m more of a night owl, it made the spring forward adjustment even more difficult.
I am doing better than I expected under the circumstances. I attribute that to taking some time out for a Sauna.
Sauna is a social/spiritual/cultural event. There are sauna/sweat practices in many northern cultural traditions. In the Twin Cities there is actually a club, the 612 Sauna Society that was founded to explore and share the Norse sauna traditions.
This month they’ve set up in the courtyard of the Swedish Institute. A good friend decided she’d like to try sauna (she’d never done one) and I got an invite. I chose to see this as a continuation of my birthday celebrations. Especially after last week’s snowstorm I’ve seen lots of people succumbing to the “is winter ever going to be over blues”. Part of the reason I maintain the “older you are longer you get to celebrate” philosophy is to combat that.
It was a perfect day to spend the afternoon sweating. In a Scandinavian setting sauna is usually done in cycles. You warm up to the core and then come out into the cold and cool all the way down. The “rinse repeat” can mean coming out of the sauna and jumping into the snow or a cold lake, doing a cold water splash, or just hanging out. We did three rounds, and mostly skipped the “rinse” part of the program, although it was certainly an option.
The 612 volunteers actually recommended a slower cool down. The quick splash, or even a brisk breeze at colder temperatures, can make you feel ready to return to the sauna before the core has really cooled. We drank a lot of water and cooled off by the fire. Being outside in swimsuits at 30 degrees Fahrenheit was quite sufficient, and quite pleasant.
The time in the sauna was social, but it wasn’t small talk. In many ways the sharing was as much a release of toxins as the actual sweat. There wasn’t a “timer” we were told to listen to our bodies and come out and go in as we would tolerate it. We brought water bottles and the 612 Sauna Society provided water for refills so we were very conscientious about staying hydrated throughout the experience.
It was a time without time. It was a ritual without a lot of ritual. It was an opportunity to learn more about the cultural history of sauna and about each other. It was an opportunity to get in touch and in tune with my own body rhythms. It was cleansing and healing. It was delightful.
Even better is that I can tell the cleansing and healing effects have stayed with me. My desire for just water continues to be high. My appetite is good, but not overwhelming. My aches and pains have eased up considerably. I slept really well. I’m still grumpy about the time though. It shouldn’t be this late yet!
Previous, perhaps relevant, blogs:
This is me still not feeling much like writing. At least this week I’ve been doing the part where I write my blog in my head. That’s an improvement, and better is better.
I watch everyone I know sink into the cabin fever, long winter blues at this time of year. The longer brighter days are great, but they’re not enough when we get yet another 6″ of snow. I’m grateful to have a birthday this week. It gives me something to look forward to and it gives me a reason to get out and celebrate.
I’m grateful for the neighbors, who are Karina’s age. I haven’t had to lift a shovel all weekend and I was able to get out of my driveway to spend Sunday with a good friend wandering through the Como Park Conservatory and Zoo. We are very fortunate to have this haven in the depths of winter.
When you walk in your skin celebrates. There’s moisture in the air! Your eyes delight in the variety of shades of green. The conservatory staff is very contentious about rotating the small plants though so there are always some manner of blooming orchids.
This time I was delighted by how many things were in fruit. There were limes on the lime trees, chocolate pods on the cacao, star fruit and prickly custard apple. (Now I am on a mission to try prickly custard apple or Brazilian paw paw.) We found odd buds and blooms everywhere. In the conservatory hope for spring thrives.
Thursday was an adventure. Karina had the evening off (a rare occurrence) so we’d planned for her to take me out for my birthday. Then her whiskey distributor invited her to a launch party for Jameson IPA. (They age their whiskeys in beer barrels (caskmates) and brew their Irish Pale Ale in whiskey barrels). I was game and we had a good time. It was not too big a party, probably because of the snow (the first 4″ was Thursday, the 6″ was Saturday).
We critiqued the drinks the same way we often have dinner. Debating the merits and downfalls and discussing how to use or adapt the idea. Mostly we were pleasantly surprised. Neither of us are big IPA fans, but the mixed drinks were well balanced and the caskmates added a level of nuance to the whiskey.
I’ve always maintained that the older you are, the longer you get to celebrate your birthday. I started last Thursday and I’ve got plans (so far) through most of March. That’s something else to be grateful for!
Here are a few more photos from the conservatory, in case you needed your own touch of spring:
I’ve written about the Como Zoo before:
Have you missed me? I’ve noticed that when I’m dealing with big events in my life I stop writing. My journals all have gapping holes during the times when I would be most interested in going back and reading about what I was thinking in the moment. I’ve blank spaces from when Orion was a baby, and each of his hospitalizations. I have holes in the record immediately after recording that I had cancer. I stopped journaling when the cupboards came off the walls.
My parents are aging and it’s hard. It’s hard on them and it’s hard on us. I’ve missed the last two blogs. The first I skipped because my folks don’t have internet, the second because I’d just gotten home. I have been slammed with emotional content and I shut down.
When I was a kid I was “sensitive”. I cried in empathy, wore my emotions on my shirtsleeve and was generally harassed about it. I made an active decision to stop.
The first trick was pretty easy, typical in my family. That is to put emotion aside while you deal with a crisis. The idea is to stay clear headed and available, and not add to the chaos while it is occurring. The aftermath, when everything is safe, comes like a tidal wave and can be very confusing as it appears to have no source.
Having that kind of emotional catharsis in public is a great opportunity for gaslighting. There IS nothing to be so upset about (anymore). It IS overreacting (because it’s all the reaction at once). Even the part about “just looking for attention” isn’t entirely false. If I’ve just spent hours offering sympathy and emotional support to others, yes I may be looking for a little sympathy and emotional support for myself.
So I learned to allow myself to be distracted. Eventually I learned never to “get around” to dealing with my emotional content. There are lots of distractions! I’ve been trying to unlearn that.
I’ve found that I’m a better writer when I can be open to emotion. I’ve found that there is strength in vulnerability. I’ve found that it’s really hard to make myself do the work and that I need to create a time and space for it. I still can’t do it in public, at least not until I have a good handle on it myself. The support would be nice, but the gaslighting I can’t deal with.
So I shut down, a little. I look for distractions (I don’t have to look hard). I pick and choose my confidants. I try to carve out some space. Please be patient with me.
I’ve spent the past two weeks babysitting my grandpuppy Minnie. She’s actually 4 years old now and much easier to have around. I was sick one of those weeks and she was warm and comforting. She’s not nearly as hyper or demanding, although she still knows Grandma is a sucker when it comes to treats.
Minnie has been through a lot this past year. My daughter has moved many times, and I had Minnie because she was moving again. All the stress and upheaval has taken a toll on the dog. She’s a lot more volatile, less trusting, quicker to say “enough”. That’s problematic.
Of course to my daughter Minnie is perfect. There is discipline, but not a lot of acknowledgement of an underlying problem. Mostly, I suspect, that’s because my daughter also feels like there’s nothing she can do about it. So I take the dog, and establish a routine. It’s easier for me. I’m home a lot more than my daughter is and just that is a reassurance.
Minnie and Orion have a love/hate relationship. Minnie is scared to death of the wheelchair and looses her mind any time Orion moves. On the other hand he often drops food while he’s eating. Orion adores Minnie, except he doesn’t actually want to touch her and hates all the noise. That’s a dynamic that scares me so I keep an eagle eye on the two of them anytime they interact. I also do a lot to make sure there isn’t much interaction, like putting Minnie outside while Orion comes to the table. It won’t solve anything, but Minnie isn’t my dog.
Karina has a few days off so she’s taken Minnie back. It’s nice to have quiet. No one barks every time a neighbor walks by or comes out of their house next door. It’s easier to have a morning where I’m not running back and forth letting Minnie in and out while Orion gets dressed and ready for his day. It’s nice to jump into the car for a quick trip to the library before the blizzard snow starts to accumulate without having to worry about getting Minnie settled or arguing about who might want to come with.
They say the best part about having grandchildren is that you get to give them back. This is true. Still, I find I’m Missing Miss Minnie. I catch myself looking for her, or thinking about her next treat. It’s definitely easier and quieter having her gone. It’s also just a little more lonely.