Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Cheeseburger Story

Lindsey wanted me to re-tell her the cheeseburger story the other day, even though she was there for it. Lindsey swears it's the only time she's ever heard me yell at somebody other than my immediate family.

ACTUAL conversation while going through the Dairy Queen drive through:

Incomprehensible Speaker (IS): Welcome to Dairy Queen how can I help you?

Me: Yes, I'd like a small brownie blast blizzard and...

IS: A cheeseburger?

Me: [pause] No, a small brownie blast blizzard. And I also want a small ice cream cone with chocolate dip.

IS: [Long pause.] Okay, that'll be $9.54, please pull around.

Me: ...$9.54? Can you read back my order, please?

IS: I have three items, a cheeseburger, a brownie blast blizzard and a small ice cream cone with chocolate dip.

Me: No, I don't want the cheeseburger.

IS: Okay, so you ONLY want the cheeseburger?

Me: [exasperated] Nooooo! I ONLY want the small brownie blast blizzard and small ice cream cone with chocolate dip!

IS: Hang on. [Long pause.] Okay thanks for your patience, that's $6.46, please pull around.

Lindsey and I chuckle about the miscommunication as we head to the pick up window.

Person at window (PAW): Here is your brownie blast blizzard and a small ice cream cone with chocolate dip.

Me: Where's my cheeseburger?

PAW: Uhhh....

Me: Just kidding! Ha, that was really funny. Have a great day!

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Small Town Celebrations

For the first time in many years, our family was not in the Twin Cities for the 4th of July. I wasn't sure how I felt about that -- actually, I know how I felt, I kind of dreaded it. After all, I LOVE our city. On holidays like Independence Day I have my choice of a hundred different festivals, parades, gatherings, fireworks and other things to choose from. Sure, we usually take in just one parade, and just go to one fireworks show, but still, they are amazing.

We would be spending the 4th of July in Tracy, Minnesota, where they don't even have a parade, much less fireworks.

But what Tracy does have is family, and that trumped all those others festivities.

And, after scouring the local paper, I found that a town nearby did have a parade, and so we went. Well, Lindsey, Wayne and I went, Marissa went to the city pool with her Aunt Sherrie because that sounded like more fun than a parade to her.

We left the farm about 20 minutes before the parade was supposed to begin, parked right next to the parade route and picked a spot to stand. That was decidedly easier than going to a parade in the Twin Cities.

The crowd paid their respects to the flag.
The parade began with a military guard carrying the American flag -- everyone who was able stood up to pay their respects. I don't remember people doing that at the Edina parade, although maybe that's because it's so crowded most people are standing up anyway.
Antique fire truck for the city of Tracy, MN.
And then came every fire truck, amublance and rescue vehicle for every small town in the surrounding area. For a while I thought the entire parade would just be emergency vehicles. The Tracy ambulance went by -- Lindsey asked if that was the one that took Grandpa to the hospital the day he died. It probably was; I think the town only has one. So she paid special attention to that one.

Floats, beauty queens, horses, antique cars and tractors slowly made their way down the road, tossing candy the entire way. Each made a turn at the end of the street and that was the end. We practically saw the entire parade again, one vehicle at a time on various streets, as we were leaving town.

Lindsey and Wayne managed to retrieve about 2 plastic cups worth of candy, which was shared with Marissa, who was at Sherrie's house, enjoying the company of Izzy the Dog.
Marissa and Izzy.
Later that afternoon we enjoyed a barbecue at Kathy and Dave's house. Who knew that a bunch of camping chairs in a circle could be the scene of such enjoyment?

Lindsey and I were going to go see fireworks later on (Marissa doesn't like the loud noise of them),  but got into a game of cards with Grandma and Wayne and didn't leave in time. So we turned out the lights and looked out the window, where we could catch small glimpses of them on the horizon. If we were very quiet we could almost hear them.

That was festive enough for us.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Skating in the Rain

Skating marathons are few and far between, so when they happen I prefer that we have good weather.

Not this stuff.

The Apostle Island Inline Marathon was this past weekend, and we had quite the girls' weekend planned. My skating friends Mary and Megan and my sister Kristi were all carpooling together to Ashland, Wisconsin, and the three of us were going to skate it while Kristi spectated.

The forecast called for 100% chance of rain by the start of the marathon, and didn't waver from that every time I checked it during the week.

Sure enough, as we stepped off the ferry onto the island, the first few drops began. And then it started coming down steadily. At one point it was a complete downpour and I watched the rain pool on the road into long, shallow puddles. The pros were gliding up and down the practice course getting used to the pavement, and I thought they were crazy.

I have never skated in wet conditions. The few times I've encountered a puddle on my path my skate has always taken a heart-stopping slip. Mary and Megan convinced me to at least start. After all, the course was three loops, I could always peel off after 8.7 miles and call it a day.

My friend Mary had trained hard for this -- she was hoping for a new PR, beating her old time of 1:38. But with the conditions being what they were, she had to re-adjust her goal. We decided to have a collective goal: 1) Stay safe 2) Stay together 3) Have fun. And so we took off with the rest of the pro/advanced women.

By the end of the second mile my feet were swimming in lakes in my skates; I think each skate weighed 3 or 4 pounds more from the water collected in them. I grumbled, I considered, I thought about peeling off after a single loop.

And then I thought about how amazing it would be to skate a marathon in the pouring rain. How many people can say they've done that? How many people would think that was the absolutely craziest thing they've ever heard?

Once I committed to skating the whole thing, my outlook changed, my energy changed, and I was all in.

It went from being disappointing to being exhilarating.

We accomplished our goals: We stayed safe. We stayed together. We all had a blast.

We did it!
Grit and dirt everywhere.
The rain let up about half an hour after we were done. We had to stick around for the award ceremony as I had taken 2nd in my division, though I really share that with Megan, who was 7/10th of a second behind me. Mary pointed out that if we had registered in the open/recreational skate all of us would have placed.

In three years of doing this marathon I still have never seen the sun from Madeline Island, but I can guarantee you we'll be back next year.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

First Father's Day Without

On June 5th Wayne's dad's heart decided it had reached its quota of beats for a lifetime. Despite his pacemaker, his heart was beating at 31 beats per minute as paramedics loaded him into the ambulance. Upon reaching the hospital his body refused to carry on despite their efforts. His wife Millie, daughter Sherrie and her husband Todd were there to say good-bye. Millie told him to save a place for her next to him, in heaven.

50th wedding anniversary, 2004.

60th wedding anniversary, 2014.
He was 10 days short of his 85th birthday. Instead of gathering to celebrate another year, family members made plans to gather for his funeral.

Trip to New York City, 2005.
While Neil had been slowly declining due to Parkinson's disease over the past five years, his departure at this time was unexpected, yet a blessing. He was spared the further loss of his mobility, his ability to dress himself, feed himself, and other such things that able-bodied people take for granted. He is no longer in pain, unable to sleep and be comfortable.

Over the past few years, if I called their home and asked how he was, his response was often something along the lines of, "Well, I'm not sure I would call this living."

The family gathered and came together in a way that honored him. They worked through the details of the funeral, they helped Millie deal with health insurance, social security, utilities and other arrangements. Together they are focused on Millie's comfort, ensuring that her needs are met and that she is able to live the way she wishes for as long as she is able.

And despite the fact that anyone could say, "He lived a long life," people have understood that losing a parent -- no matter how long that person lived -- is still a very real loss and a grief unlike any other.

Wayne's sister, Laurie, had already booked a flight to Minnesota for Neil's birthday celebration, which was to take place the following weekend. A friend paid for the change fee to move the flight, got her into first class and arranged for a limo to pick her up at her apartment and take her to the airport at 4:30 a.m.

Another family member has no bereavement leave and co-workers chipped in to help cover the time away from work.

A co-worker of Wayne's attended the visitation, driving three and a half hours from the Twin Cities to Tracy just to visit for 20 minutes, turn around and drive back again.

And today, on Father's Day, friends of ours, one of Lindsey's close friends and her family, dropped off a plant arrangement and chocolates because they know that the first Father's Day without is the hardest.

Sometimes it is through loss that we truly know our blessings.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Runner's Redemption

The last time Marissa signed up for Girls on the Run, it didn't go so well. It was disappointing. Frustrating. Anything but what GOTR is supposed to be about. You can read about it in my blog post from the day of the 5k, aptly titled "Giving Up."

I swore I would not make her sign up again for Girls on the Run -- I couldn't imagine anything worse than having a repeat of her last season. And yet, she wanted to register. I was doubtful but she insisted, so we did.

What a difference.

I was concerned that she wouldn't want to run the practice 5k because it was raining. Not drizzling, raining. But she was there with a big smile on her face, and off we went. We made a game of it -- we had to jump in every puddle we saw. We weaved back and forth across the trail to hit the puddles. If we were walking and saw a puddle ahead, we had to run to it and jump in.

Puddles ahead!

Marissa and Coach Kristi after the wet practice 5k.
She ran most of the way because of our game, unlike the other times when she only wanted to walk the entire distance. Our pants were soaked from the knees down, shoes sloshing and wet strands of hair sticking to our heads. We stopped at Caribou afterwards for a celebratory cup of hot chocolate.

Yeay for hot chocolate after getting sopping wet on a run!
What a blast. The next morning she said to me at the breakfast table, "I'm pretty proud of myself for running the 5k yesterday." She even wrote herself a note on our chalkboard in the kitchen.

The day of the actual 5k, she was bummed that it wasn't raining that morning, but decided that sunshine and a brisk breeze would do. We arrived at the event on time (actually ahead of time, since we drove with Coach Kristi), and had plenty of time to greet each girl as they arrived.
Ready to run!
A shirt-signing train.
The course was at the University of Minnesota campus. It looped around the campus in many different ways, but wasn't confusing because of all the signage and the volunteers directing runners. They had coaches and volunteers all along the course. We walked in a few areas, but once we saw a volunteer cheering Marissa wanted to run again. She didn't want to be seen walking any part of the race!
And...done! With a big smile.
We finished in 39 minutes. More importantly, Marissa accomplished what she set out to do, and was immensely proud of herself.

That's what I was hoping for. Hooray!

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

A Life In Elevens

While many people count milestones in decades, I like to count my life in 11's when I hit the double digits, meaning 22, 33, 44.

In May Wayne celebrated his 55th birthday, I my 44th. This makes the number 11 all the more interesting. I like to think about what was going on 11 years ago when he turned the age I am now turning. And the fact that our birthdays are only 13 days apart (plus 11 years) makes the math all the more fun.

When I was 11 I was in the 6th grade, starting my first year of education in Sheboygan Falls, the town I would eventually call my hometown, even though I spent my first 11 years elsewhere.

At age 22 I met the man who would become my husband. He was 33, the older brother of a college classmate of mine (now my sister-in-law). He lived in Burnsville and I lived in St. Cloud. He put tons of miles on his Ford Explorer and I on my Chevy Nova going back and forth between our two cities until I graduated from college and moved to the Twin Cities.
Our engagement photo.
By age 33 this husband and I had our first baby -- one year old, born just three days before his 44th birthday. I think back on those early years of parenthood and I smile and cringe at the same time. I have absolutely no desire to go back to those days of sleep deprivation, dirty diapers and interpretive communication with toddlers. Don't get me wrong, they were sweet, cute and funny, but I am happy to not spend my every waking moment caring for wee ones any longer.
Wayne and I with Lindsey, 2 days old.
This year, our growing girls will turn 10 and 12. They are at that magical stage -- not yet moody,  snappy teenagers, but no longer in need of constant care and attention. They have their own thoughts and desires, their own sets of friends and interests, and are well on their way to becoming independent adults.

Not shockingly, we have no recent family photos besides this one from this past Christmas.
What will 55 bring? Our 12 year old will be 23, our youngest (youngest!) 21. They may live at home, they may be in college.  We may be in our current house or in a condo. At least one of us will be retired, maybe both of us if we can swing it. (Or so I like to dream.)

What a trip, this life in elevens.

Thursday, May 14, 2015


It's not possible. My eldest will be a teen next year.

This year, she is officially a "tween." Sometimes a child, sometimes a grown up.

A year ago she decorated her room with pictures of dogs taken from a book about heroic dogs. This year, she tore most of them down because they were too "little girlish."

She used to putter about in her room with her door open, music wafting throughout the upstairs. Now when she is in her room her door is closed, her music muffled. Other family members are asked to not only knock but to wait for permission to enter, in case she's in some state of partial dress.

At the beginning of this school year she went to the before-school care program with her little sister. Now she gets herself on the bus by herself every morning after everyone else has left the house. She wakes herself up, eats breakfast, gets herself ready, packs her lunch and walks to the bus stop on time. And when she arrives home from the bus in the evening, she runs upstairs to her room, grabs her white blankie, kisses it and snuggles with it to read a book.

I used to never hear about her classmates of the other gender. Now I hear about her classmates' crushes. There is speculation that so-and-so likes so-and-so, except she and her friends know that so-and-so likes that other person, but no one will approach the person they actually like, so instead they all gossip and wonder what's going to happen.

Funny. Intelligent. Generous. Kind. Happy.

Our tween.