Tag Archives: Gratitude

How do I love thee, summer

We’re nearly a third of the way through summer, by Minnesota Transplant’s accounting (I mark the first day of summer as the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend), and here are dozen more ways I’ve been savoring this sweet season.

2020.06.08 walleye

June 8: Eat fresh walleye.

Somehow, I missed listing this flavor of summer on my original list, but of course, dining on walleye is a summer-must in Minnesota. Earlier this month, we drove waaaaay up north to see my parents. My father shared his hard-won bounty with us and fried it up in a pan (he is a master at frying good food; read about his fried eggs here). My Beloved and I gobbled up more than our fair share.

2020.06.08 rhubarb

June 8: Eat rhubarb something.

After our walleye feast, Mom served up bowls of gluten-free rhubarb crisp topped with vanilla ice cream. So sweet and tangy! You should have seen all the rhubarb in her garden! She had a bumper crop.

2020.06.09 radish

June 9: Dip a fresh radish in salt.

Mom gave us a tour of her garden, and while we were admiring her rhubarb, she picked a bunch of radishes. This snack was a crunchy treat.

2020.06.09 bee

June 9: Watch a bumble bee work.

This noisy insect buzzed around sipping nectar and spreading pollen while we were traipsing around the garden.

2020.06.09 watermelon

June 9: Eat watermelon.

Are you sensing a food theme during our visit to the ‘rents? Mom dressed up lunch with a fruit and cheese tray.

2020.06.09 grave

June 9: Place flowers on a grave.

It wasn’t actually me who placed flowers on my brother’s grave when we visited; Mom watered the flowers she had placed there earlier this summer.

2020.06.10 steak

June 10: Eat a freshly grilled steak.

On our return journey south to home, we stopped at my sister’s house and celebrated being carnivores. Check out those grill marks!

2020.06.11 loon

June 11: Listen for a loon.

This bird’s call wasn’t on my original list either, but hearing the distinct, eerie call of a loon is somehow built in a Minnesotan’s DNA. It says home (and also, maybe, buy a lottery ticket). A pair of loons live on lake outside my sister’s house, and this one was making a racket when an eagle threatened her baby.

2020.06.13 al fresco

June 13: Dine al fresco.

My Beloved and I relished in a special occasion: meeting my stepson’s fiancée’s parents for the first time. We dined beneath a tiki hut outside of a Caribbean fusion restaurant. Minnesota was just opening its restaurants more widely after months of pandemic-related closures, so eating out was a real treat (as was meeting my stepson’s future in-laws).

2020.06.15 marigolds

June 15: Appreciate marigolds.

Marigolds’ unpleasant musky odor doesn’t excite the nose, but their bright color demands attention. On a walk to the post office, I admired my neighbor’s marigold presentation in a front yard caldron.

2020.06.20 bouquet

June 20: Arrange a bouquet of fresh flowers.

I can take no credit for creating this lovely crown of fresh daisies and baby’s breath beyond making a phone call to the local florist. She was delighted to create it for me since so many brides have canceled their bloom-festooned occasions this summer. I indulged in this adornment to celebrate the summer solstice, the longest day of the year (and to wear to a very small dinner party we hosted last night).

2020.06.20 bonfire

After our guests departed, I wanted to dance around a bonfire in the back yard, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” style. Alas, it was raining, so we lit some candles under the picnic table umbrella and toasted with a shot of tequila as a nightcap.

2020.06.20 sparkler

June 20: Light a sparkler.

I bet you assumed lighting a sparkler was meant for Fourth of July. Well, I might do that, too, but as a final welcome to the official first day of summer, I lit a sparkler and twirled around the patio, avoiding raindrops. Here’s to squeezing every last bit of joy out of summer, folks!

Lord, what fools these mortals be!

~Puck, in Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

 

11 ways to savor summer down, 97 to go

Conscious that more urgent topics deserve attention, I am nonetheless savoring this sweetest of seasons. Please don’t judge. Even the highest-minded of us can appreciate a distraction once in a while.

I’ve determined that one way to savor summer is to record me savoring it. Let me count the ways. Here are a few of the 108 ways I’ve savored summer so far:

2020.05.23

May 23: Pick a dandelion.

2020.05.23.asparagusI didn’t actually pick a dandelion, but this bunch is one of the biggest I’ve seen. Fortunately for some weed-killer-wielding landscaper, it wasn’t in someone’s yard; I found it on the side of the road in an asparagus patch (stretching along behind the dandelions there). I hadn’t harvested wild asparagus before, but it was a bit of a game, picking spears out from among blades of grass. My Beloved and I walked for about 300 yards, finding a couple pounds of spears. Technically, I think eating asparagus is a way to savor spring, but it was still delicious on Memorial Day weekend.

2020.05.24

May 24: Eat corn on the cob.

It shouldn’t be so delicious so early, but my Beloved picked up fresh corn on the cob at the local mushroom farm, and it was as sweet and tender as I expect it to be in July.

2020.05.28

May 28: Get a pedicure.

My Beloved and I ventured out for a pedicure. We wore masks, and we agreed to wash our hands upon entry (the technicians washed our feet). It felt like an extra-special treat this year especially.

2020.05.29

May 29: Smell lilacs.

I spent an hour one morning exploring my own yard. The white-flowered bushes that line most of the perimeter are in frothy bloom this time of year, and three lilac bushes decorate the row. They are as sweetly perfumed as they look.

2020.05.30

May 30: Fill a birdbath.

It wasn’t on my original list, but one can’t fill a birdbath in winter in the upper Midwest because it freezes solid. I filled my mother-in-law’s birdbath after my Beloved power washed it clean. Her birds can appreciate even more crystal clear splashing now.

2020.05.30 picnic

May 30: Picnic.

If you dine on a picnic table, it’s a picnic. My Beloved and I enjoyed some Chinese take-out in the park.

2020.06.01

May 31: Drink wine outdoors.

My Beloved and I subscribe to Zerba Winery’s wine club after we tasted this particular brand of the nectar of the gods during a jaunt through Washington state a couple of years ago. We imbibed on a bottle of Cabernet Franc on the patio while my Beloved grilled a couple of steaks.

2020.06.03

June 3: Take a twilight walk.

Summer light is just different in Minnesota. The angle of the sun, the long days—something just makes an evening walk in my home state stand out. During a visit with my Adored stepson, his fiancée and my granddog, I accompanied them on a twilight walk. You can even see the almost-full moon there among the treetops.

2020.06.04

June 4: Take a boat ride.

My Beloved invested in a new-to-him boat this year, and I joined him on the St. Croix River on what he called the maiden voyage (it was actually his second outing, but this boat ride lasted longer than just getting the engine up to full speed and down again). I assume this will be the first of many boat rides this season.

2020.06.05

June 5: Mow the lawn.

I lent a hand to my stepson by mowing his lawn. Naturally, I mowed it on the diagonal because I think it looks better that way. I classify this act as a way to savor the scents of summer, though I can’t say I truly appreciate the scent of freshly cut grass; I was thinking too much about working up a sweat.

2020.06.06

June 6: Lay on the ground and look at the clouds

On an absolutely perfect 60-degree morning, I practiced yoga on my stepson’s back deck. While in savasana, I gazed at the clouds drifting by rather than closing my eyes. They look almost tropical, these are the leaves of the rather unique hackberry tree in my stepson’s yard.

# # #

How are you savoring summer?

108 precious days of summer

It happens every five or six years: the calendar gods bestow us with an extra long summer.

Astronomers might start counting summer’s days at the summer solstice (June 20 this year), but I don’t. Summer for a native Minnesotan begins with Memorial Day weekend and ends on Labor Day.

Most years, including last year and next year, there are 101 days between the Saturday before Memorial Day and the Monday of Labor Day. But this year, Memorial Day falls as early as possible (May 25) and Labor Day occurs as late as possible (Sept. 7). That means there are 108 days of summer—a full week more than usual.

The calendar hasn’t been structured this way since 2015, and before that 2009. A quick look back reminds me I was spending precious early days of that summer of ’09 watching Little League baseball, running long distances and grocery shopping. Actually, those are not the worst ways to spend summer days.

In a year when spring this year wasn’t only weird, it was isolating and downright scary, the prospect of a long summer sounds pretty appealing. Even if I can’t enjoy it in the usual ways, I want to savor every one of those 108 days.

So I made a list of ways to appreciate the sounds and scents and flavors of summer, one for each of those exquisite days. Some of the things on my list might not be possible in a pandemic (stock car races,  a parade, fireworks), but I’m operating from an optimistic perspective, which is probably healthier if not entirely logical at this point. I packed in lots of little ways to enjoy summer, not matter what COVID-19 has in store.

Some of the items on my list are specific to my interests. I can’t roller skate, I hate golf and cotton candy is way too sweet for my tastes, but those summery things might be right up your alley, especially if you don’t eat meat or wear a ponytail, which made my list.

108 days of summer

If you like the idea of celebrating summer right down to slapping mosquitos, mowing the lawn and making fried green tomatoes, I turned my list into an image so you can download it and print it out.

Beginning Saturday, the first official day of Minnesota Transplant’s summer, here are 108 ways to fully enjoy it.

Sights of summer

  • Go to a county (or state) fair.
  • Go to a parade.
  • Attend a family reunion.
  • Lay on the ground and look at the clouds.
  • Light a sparkler.
  • Go to a drive-in movie.
  • Visit a museum.
  • Stop at a historical marker.
  • Take a road trip (interstate highways don’t count).
  • Appreciate marigolds.
  • Watch the sun rise.
  • Watch the sun set.
  • Watch (or listen to) a baseball game.
  • Go bird watching.
  • Count the stars.
  • Watch a bumble bee work.
  • Watch fireworks.
  • Enjoy sunflowers.

Sounds of summer

  • Listen to the wind through windchimes.
  • Go to an outdoor concert.
  • Listen to a rainstorm.
  • Listen for a cardinal.
  • Pay attention to crickets.
  • Make a summer playlist.
  • Listen to a mourning dove.
  • Listen to children playing outside.
  • Listen to frogs in a pond.
  • Count the seconds between lightning and thunder.

Flavors of summer

  • Eat a fresh tomato.
  • Eat corn on the cob.
  • Make homemade popsicles.
  • Eat an ice cream cone.
  • Eat a s’more.
  • Make fried green tomatoes.
  • Dip a radish in salt.
  • Drink an iced coffee.
  • Drink wine outdoors.
  • Eat watermelon.
  • Eat a freshly grilled steak.
  • Make cucumber salad.
  • Eat a hotdog (preferably a Chicago dog).
  • Buy meat from the source.
  • Shell peas.
  • Make gazpacho.
  • Make berry cobbler.
  • Drink a tropical cocktail.
  • Dine al fresco.
  • Eat a fresh peach.
  • Eat fresh basil.
  • Picnic.
  • Drink an Arnold Palmer.
  • Drink freshly made lemonade.
  • Attend a backyard barbecue.
  • Blow bubbles with bubblegum.

Scents of summer

  • Arrange a bouquet of fresh flowers.
  • Take a walk after the rain.
  • Smell lilacs.
  • Mow the lawn.
  • Eat rhubarb something.
  • Smell peonies.
  • Use coconut sunscreen.

Doings of summer

  • Walk through rain puddles.
  • Do goat yoga.
  • Swing.
  • Climb a tree.
  • Day dream.
  • Lie in a hammock.
  • Play hopscotch.
  • Read a book outdoors.
  • Go for a boat ride.
  • Kiss in the moonlight.
  • Walk along the shore.
  • Visit a farm.
  • Kayak.
  • Sunbathe.
  • Dance.
  • Take a twilight walk.
  • Walk a labyrinth.
  • Pick a dandelion.
  • Wear a ponytail and baseball cap.
  • Take a day off.
  • Play 7-up (it’s a one-person game with a tennis ball).
  • Watch ants at work.
  • Pick berries.
  • Shop a garage sale.
  • Write a poem.
  • Sit around a campfire or bonfire.
  • Slap a mosquito.
  • Wear shorts and sandals.
  • Attend an outdoor church service.
  • Get a pedicure.
  • Ride in a convertible (or open the sun roof).
  • Go to a farmer’s market.
  • Play mini golf.
  • Go for a run (even a short one).
  • Chase a monarch butterfly.
  • Go to a flea market.
  • Place flowers on a grave.
  • Collect shells.
  • Paint a rock.
  • Visit a sculpture garden.
  • Go to stock car race.
  • Splash in a pool.
  • Go to a sidewalk sale.
  • Raise a flag.
  • Hang sheets on a clothesline.
  • Throw a frisbee.
  • Ride a bike.

Happy Easter!

Easter Church Sign

“I Know That My Redeemer Lives” was written in the 18th century by Samuel Medley, a Baptist minister. I grew up attending a Missouri Synod Lutheran Church, and this hymn was a staple on Easter Sunday.

But it became most meaningful when the congregation sang it at the funeral of its pastor.
I was in fifth grade, and I initially thought it strange to sing such a joyful hymn at a funeral. But the pastor had chosen it for his funeral, probably because of the lines I featured on our church sign (to be clear, it used to be a church sign; now it’s a former church sign outside my house). The pastor considered his funeral to be a joyful occasion, not a sad one.

I reached into the archive to find this Happy Easter reference for you today. Happy Easter! I chose the mansion reference during reconstruction for obvious reasons, but perhaps during the chaos of a pandemic, the following verse is better:

He lives to silence all my fears,
He lives to wipe away my tears.
He lives to calm my troubled heart,
He lives all blessings to impart.

Spring flowers

bluebonnets in ditch

Bluebonnet is a name given to any number of purple-flowered species of the genus Lupinus predominantly found in the southwestern United States.

A sure sign of spring in central Texas is bluebonnets blooming in the ditches.

The bluebonnet is the state flower of Texas. Back in the ’70s, Lady Bird Johnson encouraged the planting of native plants along Texas highways in a highway beautification effort. Like cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C., or tulips in southern Wisconsin, bluebonnet blooms are a common sight in the springtime.

Our condo is located near the end of a winding road that makes the most of one of the bends in Lake Travis. Bluebonnets thrive along this road, and they make me happy every time I have to make a run to the post office or grocery store.

bluebonnet closeup

The shape of the petals on the flower resembles a pioneer woman’s bonnet.

Location, location, location (and the view)

Back when COVID-19 was just an obscure outbreak in central China, my Beloved and I spent time with a real estate agent (within six feet of her!), driving around Lake Travis (when driving around was socially and medically acceptable) and looking at property (touching countertops, flipping light switches–we were gutsy back then).

Lake Travis is a reservoir lake on the western edge of Austin, Texas. After spending winters for a decade glamping in various locales in the southern United States, we had determined the Austin area to be “the one”: the one place in which we might consider spending multiple winters. Affordable, geographically and culturally interesting, not too humid or too hot (at least in the wintertime) and the people here reminded us of the good-hearted Midwesterners with whom we’d grown up and spent our summers.

Just before the pandemic was officially declared, we closed on a condo on the north side of Lake Travis. It was one of the first properties we viewed, and we kept coming back to it for its location, price and view.

Oh, the view!

View from the deck

Even on a cloudy day, the view from our deck is impressive.

We’ve now been sheltering in place here for two weeks. We’re quite content keeping ourselves busy unpacking, repairing various doodads and decorating. If we’re going to be stuck somewhere, March in central Texas is lovely. I’ll share some of our condo updates in a future post, but for now, I’m sharing a sunrise. Here’s to the sun rising tomorrow.

Sunrise over the lake

Truth is stranger than fiction

Strange times, indeed.

As the COVID-19 pandemic overtakes America and the world, I’m sure I’m not the only one feeling like I’m walking through scenes in a catastrophe movie.

titanic couple

In the 1997 movie “Titanic,” Isidor and Ida Straus were depicted holding one another in bed as the ship sank. Fortunately, I’m sheltering in place with my Beloved, and between us, we’re not socially distancing.

I’ve been vacillating between feeling like the Titanic couple awaiting doom together in bed and feeling giddy that I have almost nothing on my to-do list.

I don’t know if I should be savoring every breath or if I should be behaving as if everything is going to be OK. This week, I required a blood test for a doctor’s appointment scheduled for May. The doctor already emailed to say he would be conducting telephone appointments for the foreseeable future. So I scheduled an appointment for a blood draw yesterday. Everything will be OK, right? The appointment will occur as scheduled, I assume. Proceed as planned.

The roads to my appointment were strangely empty (I’m living in a shelter-in-place county). Besides the phlebotomists, I was the only one in the office. The technician was all business until the end of my visit. I told her I was praying for people like her, and she said, “It’ll get worse before it gets better.” Then she described in vivid detail how all the stores near her home are boarded up and she heard we should all stock up two months worth of food.

I drove straight to the supermarket and bought $300 worth of food.

Buying groceries was surreal, too. The toilet paper aisle was empty, of course, but so were the aisles of canned vegetables, canned fruit and dairy. Unless I was interested in cake or ice cream, the frozen food department was wiped out, too.

It’s been months since I felt like blogging. After having blogged nearly every day for nearly seven years, the well was dry last June, and I just quit writing. It felt pointless. But then the world is turned upside down, and my mind churns blog topics up from the depths as I watch the news, as I make dinner, as I fall asleep and as I lay awake. Life has urgency again, and writing feels what a writer should do.

Another reason for this creativity spurt is time. I have time on my hands. I’m not working. I’m not renovating or decorating. I’m not driving all over creation. There are pauses, and I have blanks, finally, my mind is inspired to fill.

I’m not actually waiting for the boat to sink, but I am savoring time. Time to think. Time to Facetime with my parents in rural Minnesota (which I did for the first time today–why did it take so long?). Time with my Beloved.

Here’s hoping you can find the upside to these strange times. What are you savoring?

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.