Tag Archives: Gratitude

Summer begins tomorrow: I declare

Astronomers might start counting summer’s days at the summer solstice (usually June 21) but I don’t. Summer for a native Minnesotan begins with Memorial Day weekend and ends on Labor Day.

Most years, this one included, there are 101 days between the Saturday before Memorial Day and the Monday of Labor Day.

One hundred and one glorious days of summer. And next week feels like a bonus week in May. How often is it that we get four more May days after Memorial Day? In our family, in additional to the regular holidays of Memorial Day, Father’s Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day, we celebrate a half dozen birthdays and our anniversary during summer. This year, we have two family reunions to attend. So much to savor.

Speaking of savoring, I think everyone around here is salivating for some real summer days. It seems like it’s been overcast since September. I tire of dodging raindrops. Here comes the sun, here comes the sun, and I say, it’s all right.

ice cream

You scream, I scream, we call scream for ice cream.

I struggle with assigning a sense to summer. Spring’s fresh air and lilacs win with the sense of smell. Autumn probably gets the color award, what with its fantastic changing leaves and orange pumpkins and golden waves of grain. Does summer best minister to our sense of taste when we enjoy sweet and creamy ice cream cones and juicy fresh tomatoes and buttery sweet corn? Or is it our sense of hearing that summer amplifies? Is it a coo of a mourning dove, the wind rustling the leaves or the laughter of children wafting through the neighborhood that say “summer” to you?

So tomorrow is the first day of summer as declared by Minnesota Transplant, and the perfect opportunity to ponder how you will best experience it. As any good Minnesotan knows, summer is fleeting and we must appreciate every moment. What will you savor?

Aaah, summer—that long anticipated stretch of lazy, lingering days, free of responsibility and rife with possibility. It’s a time to hunt for insects, master handstands, practice swimming strokes, conquer trees, explore nooks and crannies, and make new friends.

~ Darell Hammond, the philanthropist, not the comedian

 

Pine boughs whispering

So, this happened.

Snow on April 14

At breakfast, I could see the dirt with tiny spears of green grass that is our lawn. About 11ish, it started snowing. Snowing! On April 14. Not unheard of but also not welcome. And then it didn’t stop for hours.

Pretty soon, the snowplow went by.

My Beloved drained the snowblower of gasoline a couple of weeks ago, so even if the streets were clear, our sidewalks weren’t going to be. I just watched the white stuff come down, my jaw on my chest, unbelieving.

pine tree

So then I wondered what it was like this time of year last year. I figured this snow must be a fluke.

2018 april 14

This picture was taken exactly a year ago. That’s our camper in the back yard of our rental house. For some reason, we backed the pickup up to the front door. Maybe we were loading luggage, trying to get away.

My point is that snow in mid-April in southern Wisconsin is not all that unusual, so I better believe it.

Fortunately, the forecast calls for highs in the 60s midweek, so this terrible reminder that winter is not a three-month season but a five-month one will disappear in the spring sunshine and be forgotten soon enough.

So there’s that.

I’m the love that you’ve looked for, write to me and escape

A dozen years ago, I nervously dressed for a coffee date. Not too sexy, not too prim. It was a tall order, given the date was in December at a coffee shop in Central Minnesota when down parkas and boots were de rigueur.

I must have pulled it off though because about three sips into my soy latte and small talk, the man who would become My Beloved leaned over the table and kissed me.

I was smitten at that moment. I fell into a deep crevasse, not icy cold but warm and comforting, from which I still haven’t emerged. My Beloved is a big man with a big heart and big dreams. I disappeared, in the greatest possible way, into the whole package. He persuaded me to move away from my home state of Minnesota, he offered me the opportunity to be a mother to his children in a way I hadn’t even realized I would ever want to, he eventually lured me out of a corporate career that had consumed me and he tempts me every day with earthly pleasures like buttery popcorn, bottles—not measly glasses—of wine and juicy steaks (other earthly pleasures, too, but this is a G-rated blog).

My Beloved is a traveler, too, and together we’ve visited so many places. As an international marketing executive, I thought I was well-traveled before I met him. He took me to South America on a cruise; I’d been to every other civilized continent except Antarctica. We marveled at the beauty of the coasts of Croatia, truly one of the most beautiful places on earth. We drove around the Gulf coast from South Padre Island to Fort Myers, Florida, in a 30-year-old RV, and another winter and in another camper, we made our way north from the Florida Keys to Fort Myers over the course of three months. I never spent so many winter days in 80-degree weather as I have since I met him; cold makes him achy, and I benefit when he finds ways to escape it.

More recently, My Beloved used his lion-like fearlessness and beaver-like busyness to rebuild a 127-year-old former Methodist church into our dream home. Renovation projects might spell the end for some marital relationships, but ours is only stronger for persevering through those long dusty days of living in flux and financial juggling.

Back on that first date 12 years ago, we had planned to meet just for coffee, but we ended up walking around the nearby mall, cuddling at a showing of “Casino Royale” and then sharing a table of Thai food. A half-hour commitment turned into a whole day. That great date just flowered without a whole bunch of nail biting and planning and dancing around each other’s predilections.

Our mantra during those early days of our relationship was “If it ain’t easy, it ain’t meant to be.” By easy, I don’t effortless. I mean finding the path with the least hurdles. An extravagant meal, an epic vacation, a whole-house remodel requires effort, for sure, but together, the path has fewer hurdles because we’re headed in the same direction, we bring individual skills to the project and we have each other’s back.

Twelve years ago, I didn’t know I was about to meet a soul mate but I surely did.

And I’m so grateful.

T and me

Practically glowing.

# # #

Todays’ headline is a line from Rupert Holmes’ “Escape (The Pina Colada Song).” Who needs a designer coffee; I think I’ll celebrate the anniversary today of our meeting with a pina colada. 

Throwback Thursday: When praying for the dog seems reasonable

It’s Throwback Thursday at Minnesota Wonderer, and today we’re grateful for an 8-pound miniature schnauzer.

Ten-year-old Chloe contracted pneumonia recently, and her very life hung in the balance for a few days. The vet recommended an overnight stay in an oxygen tent (to the tune of $1,000+), but we settled on a round of antibiotics and lots of pampering. She barely ate anything for a week (her weight dipping to a boney 6.8 pounds), and she started experiencing seizures again.

Her epilepsy, which was diagnosed a few years ago, had been under control with medication, but something about the pneumonia (breathing problems? stress of a visit to the vet? lack of sleep? antibiotics?) was causing breakthrough seizures.

Oh, God, not this again.

That was two weeks ago, and the good news is, she’s on the mend, but the whole experience reminded me of when she first started having seizures, which I recount in this post from Feb. 9, 2014.

A story about canines (both species and the teeth), Rimadyl and patience

Caregiving is stressful.

By telling the story below, I don’t mean to minimize caregivers of human patients who I realize most certainly are far more invested in their patients and the stakes are far higher. I can’t even imagine the stress of a someone whose wife has dementia or whose child is battling cancer.

The past 48 hours around here were tough in a much smaller, 8.4-pound way.

My dog (yes, this is a pet story — if you don’t like domestic animals, you’re hereby excused) had her teeth cleaned Friday.

Apparently, dogs bite when strangers stick their hands in their mouths (who knew?), so veterinarians anesthetize dogs in order to clean their teeth.

(Seriously? Dogs require dental care? Yes, I was incredulous, too. My miniature schnauzer had bad breath for years — literally years — and I came to love her stinky mouth. Yellow teeth? Who cares? She’s a dog, right? That’s what I thought until one of her teeth literally fell out of her mouth in my Beloved’s gentle fingers. It was so decayed, it was rotten. Rotten teeth, as it turns out, not only cause bad breath, they cause gum disease which can lead to terrible things like organ failure and death. It was clear my lame tooth-brushing routine was doing no good, and my sweet dog’s teeth required professional intervention. And so, D-Day, that is, Dental Day, came on Friday.)

She remained at the veterinary clinic all day. Anesthesia is serious business, you know. As this was the first time my dear Chloe was undergoing such a procedure, you can imagine the mess the technician found. Five teeth were so rotten they had to be extracted.

“How will she eat?” I lamented. Even toothless dogs figure out how to consume hard dog food pellets, I was told. Survival instinct, I guess. These creatures sometimes eat rabbit turds and lap up muddy puddles, so they’re not too discerning, I guess.

She was ready for pick-up at 5 p.m. and though she was generally listless, she looked OK. And her teeth were sparkling. I’m not kidding. They’re whiter than my teeth now.

I carefully listened to the after-care instructions, which included doses of pain killer and antibiotics and took her home. She sat on the couch with my Beloved and though she acted weird once, gacking strangely, we simply took her to bed as usual.

Then the horror began.

She started experiencing a seizure every two hours all night long. After the first one, I took her off the bed and put her in her kennel next to the bed, but I woke up every time her little legs violently pummeled the kennel from the inside.

You can’t stop a seizure. You can only speak softly and gently hold the victim (or, if they’re bigger than my little dog, get out of the way) while you wait for the gagging and the foaming and wide eyes and open mouth and kicking to subside. Forty seconds feels like 5 minutes. In the moments after the seizure, the victim still isn’t really there, looking spacy and stumbling around in a haze. I could only hold her sweaty body, feeling her racing heartbeat.

I’ve never had babies, so I don’t know what it’s like caring for a sick child through the night. But I can tell you caring for a sick pet is no walk in the park. Every moment waiting for another seizure was torture.

We stupidly followed the dosing instructions the following morning, giving her 25 mg of the antibiotic Clindamycin and 6.25 mg of Rimadyl, a pain reliever. The seizures occurred less frequently but did not abate.

I finally got in touch with the vet who assured me neither the anesthesia nor the medications could be causing seizures. She wanted to examine her and do more blood work (which they did only 24 hours previously before surgery), and she suggested maybe injecting an anti-seizure medication.

Great. I’d already paid $461 for the tooth cleaning surgery and $343 for the extractions. For that, my sweet little dog with bad breath had turned into a convulsing mess with sparkling teeth.

I should mention my dog continued to eat, drink, pee and poop as usual, so her systems seemed to operating normally except for the occasional brain reboot in the form of an ugly seizure. Seizures are caused by many real ailments and should not be left untreated (I am not a vet and I don’t play one on TV), but they also occur for unknown reasons, and it seemed clear the vet knew no more than I did. Like a lot of doctors, she wanted to do more tests and administer more drugs. Ugh.

Like all modern patients, we resorted to internet diagnosis, and we didn’t like what found online about Rimadyl. Correlation does not imply causation, but what’s the variable here? Chloe was perfectly healthy and seizure-free before surgery.

So we stopped the meds.

And Chloe slept peacefully through the night.

chloe in new bedThis morning, we gave her half the antibiotic and no pain medication. She was back to her frisky self, galloping around the house, bounding down the stairs and barking her obnoxious-but-joyful-to-hear bark.

She clearly was not in pain.

I share this story both as a warning (beware of Rimadyl) and as a lesson.

As I waited those long moments through Chloe’s convulsions, I reminded myself of the body’s power to heal, that time heals all wounds, that patience is a virtue. There was no other balm for this chaos and stress but to accept it and embrace it and move through it. My prayers were answered (yes, I wasted God’s time with the health of a dog — what’s time to an eternal being?). And I’m so grateful.

Throwback Thursday: An ode to the roof

Regular subscribers have noticed, I imagine, that Minnesota Wonderer hasn’t been posting very often. Hey, it’s busy around Wonderer’s house. But it’s probably busy around your house, too, so we can do without all the excuses.

As I peruse my Facebook Newsfeed every morning (everybody’s got time for that), it’s replete with “memories on this day” that remind me, among other things, of all the blog posts I logged over the years. It occurred to me that I have hundreds of entries in the back list that I could resurrect in a Throwback Thursday sort of way. Sometimes those old posts pop up, and even I’m surprised by my depth of thought.

So, with 1,982 entries from which to choose (this post makes 1,983—you betcha we’ll be celebrating 2,000 in a big way!), I’m going to share some oldies by goodies in this space on Thursdays.

Today, as the sun finally shines in Houston after days of drenching rain, I’m offering this ode to a roof, first published June 25, 2015. Because it beats living without one over one’s head.

The sky’s the limit if you have a roof over your head

Of all life’s blessings, the roof over my head is one for which I rarely give thanks.

Roofs, after all, are so commonplace they are to be expected. And they’re dull. Very dull. Usually gray or brown, maybe black. Made with shingles — the ultimately hum-drum material, or maybe cedar or tile. Installed by competent, height-defying, tight-lipped pros who appear like flies and disappear a week later, leaving a few stray nails in the yard.

But mundane or no, without a roof, every day is a bad-hair day. Or a bad day in general.

I woke at 3 a.m. last night, thankful, so thankful for the roof over my head.

It was pouring down rain. Literally pouring, like God had a bucket he couldn’t wait to empty. Lightning. Thunder. A storm for the ages. But unlike many nighttime storms observed from the comfort of the bed in my sturdy house, this storm came to the campground where I slept in a sturdy, yes, but relatively insubstantial camper.

One never goes camping but it rains. Or at least that’s how it is with me. Most camping rainstorms are day-long drizzly affairs that make everything damp and never stop until everything is packed up and you’re headed home.

This storm, however, was more hard-nosed, like a pissed off cop with a gun at a pool party (kidding! all right, already! I know all cops are not angry and overbearing! It’s a joke!).

In any case, this wasn’t your run-of-the-mill storm. And we were camping next to a river.

My Beloved’s cell phone awakened us before the drenching rain did. It warned of flash flooding.

All I could think about was a flash flood filling the valley, and us, bobbing down the river in the camper until we were splintered against a bridge pier (thank you, Voice of Doom, but our flash flooding came in the form of big mud puddles, not a jökulhlaup).

That’s when the roof started leaking. Drip, drip, drip. A persistent sort of leak. Drip, drip, drip. Reconnaissance revealed the drops were coming from a light fixture (uh-oh). Drip, drip, drip.

Sounds restful, huh?

But actually, I said a little prayer of thanks for the roof.

Because 30 yards away, a family went to bed last night.

In a tent.

I didn’t care how fiberglassy our roof was. It wasn’t canvas!

* * *

The Percussionist's WifeBefore Minnesota Wonderer was Minnesota Wonderer (or Minnesota Transplant for that matter), she was The Percussionist’s Wife. I tell the whole story–every sordid detail–in my memoir, which I published five years ago this week. To celebrate the milestone, the Kindle version of the The Percussionist’s Wife: A Memoir of Sex, Crime & Betrayal is free this week and tomorrow’s the last day to snag a copy. Fans of memoir and true crime might agree with reviewers who’ve called it “remarkable,” “candid” and “compelling”; a friend downloaded it this week and read it one day! So “it reads like a thriller!” isn’t an exaggeration. See for yourself. If you like Minnesota Wonderer, this is her origin story. Download it here for free until midnight tomorrow.

Dog trap

Through all the turmoil of the past few months, the dog’s been a trooper. Paranoid that we’ll leave her behind at every step, maybe, but a trooper nonetheless.

The day we whisked the last of our belongings out of the house, the nine-pound miniature schnauzer followed at our heels and howled like a much bigger dog every time we stepped outside with another load. “Don’t forget meeeeeeeee!” she telegraphed in her unmistakable dog tongue.

Of course we didn’t forget her. She, in fact, was probably our most important bundle.

She also endured many long days as we drove south, chasing weather warm enough in which to camp. In the cab of the truck, her space was cramped and so was her style. “No! You can’t be on Daddy’s lap when he’s driving in eight lanes of traffic, hauling two and half tons of our belongings!” Some days, she didn’t get to eat until the sun went down.

Now that we’ve arrived in mid-central Texas where it’s warm (if not green), she romps through the streets of the RV park trailing all sorts of scents, blissfully content to live in the moment (like always). Persevering. Like the trooper she is.

dog-trap

Today, we came home after performing a long list of errands to find her new dog dish in the middle of the floor, a good yard from its normal home by the cupboard.

How strange, we thought.

An hour or two later, when she was eating (for the third time today, making up for lost meals last week), we heard her dish go ka-THUNK!

Huh.

Upon investigation, I discovered her collar, which taps the bowl in an urgent patter during a feeding, could slip into the pretty spaces of the wrought iron dish holder.

Light bulb!

During an earlier meal when we were gone, her collar probably got caught in her bowl and she dragged it halfway across the room.

My heart broke, thinking of her, panicked to be trapped by her own food bowl, pulling her little bearded face away from the place she normally found comfort food.

At some point, she probably relented, and that’s when he collar came free.

Free! Free at last! And off she went to nap, leaving her bowl askew in the front entryway.

Among all the things I’ve shed in the past few months (we even dropped another load at Goodwill last week during our journey south!), I still have the dog’s former food bowls. So I can give away the new bowls that represent an entrapment danger and reintroduce the old, less scary ones.

Serendipity. Feels like Someone’s looking out for even the canine.

 

The recipe for a Thankgiving prayer that rocks

Stood in line with your 17-pound turkey at the grocery store? Looked up the recipe for green bean casserole? Hauled up your extra chairs from the basement?

I hope, at this point on Thanksgiving week, you’ve done all this and started thawing your turkey in the fridge at least three days ago.

 

I’ve done all these things in anticipation of the nine people I expect to gather around my Thanksgiving table tomorrow. And now I’m thinking about the purpose of the day.

If you have any interest in praying or God at all, you surely must say a prayer at Thanksgiving. It is, after all, a holiday about giving thanks. Even if you’re not the sort to thank a god, a verbal message of thanks for all to hear is good for, well if not your soul, then your well-being. Gratitude is good.

Have you given any thought to the blessing you want to share around the table? A lot of books and Bibles have perfectly acceptable prayers to say together, if you like, but I like personalizing the prayer. Here’s an outline:

  • Thank the people who gather around your table. Missing someone? Remember them.
  • Acknowledge the sources of your meal (and be thankful you didn’t have to make the ultimate sacrifice).
  • Thank the cooks who prepared the food and, be proactive, thank the people who will help clean up.
  • If you’re spiritual, here’s where you can thank God (in whatever form He or She takes for you).
  • Wrap it up. Amen is a good word. I once heard it meant “I can put my tent stake in that,” which is a powerful statement from a culture of nomads who preferred driving camels to driving tent stakes. Choosing to stay in one place was against their nature, so “I can put my tent stake in that” was a real statement of certainty and approval.

Here’s how it might look:

Before we dive in, let’s take a moment to give thanks. [Hold hands or bow your heads or whatever works in your tribe.] We are thankful to be together around this table on this Thanksgiving Day. We are missing Uncle Wally but we’re thinking of him fondly. We are thankful for the rain and sunshine required to grow this abundance of food and we’re thankful to the turkey who made the ultimate sacrifice to create our table centerpiece. We are thankful to the cooks who toiled to prepare this amazing meal (especially Nina for the pies) and we are thankful to the servant-hearted guests who will help clean it all up later. And finally, we are thankful to God in heaven who makes all these blessings possible. Thanks be to God. Amen.

It doesn’t have to rhyme, it doesn’t have to be recited perfectly and it doesn’t have to be long. Good luck. Have a grateful day.