Friday, December 28, 2007


It's twixt holidays and I am back up north with my son. It's a time of family, skiing, music, and poker. Doesn't get much better.

I am writing this in a coffee house that sits on the shore of the world's biggest lake. Snowflakes are occasionally drifting down outside the window. A hot swing duo is playing off to my left and I see a couple of old friends out in the audience. The only thing missing is a chance to get a good beer, but then it would be called a "beer house" then, wouldn't it?

Christmas was a quiet affair attended by just myself and my two children. We didn't do much of anything other than hang out with each other and not always in the same room. It's funny - I can feel them when they are in the house. Can't describe it, just feel them and it's a comfort. Now, my son and I are a 150 miles north and the girl is holding down the fort and taking care of the old dawg (I hope).

I went out cross-country skiing with an old friend today and I thought it was going to kill me. I remember at one point as we were slogging up another endless hill that I responded to an earlier comment that he made saying, "So, (pant) you do this every day, (pant, pant) eh?" And he responded, "Yeah, but I don't push it too much. I don't want to work too hard. No sweating."

No sweating? I was heaving to draw enough oxygen into my atrophied lungs and had long ago soaked my shirt to the point where my boots were squishing. Now, I don't need help recognizing that I am old and out of shape, but this hurt none the less. I seriously need to get off my broadening ass and get out more. Maybe not every day though.

It's nice to be home. I have to say a word about this place and music. Perhaps I am biased, having grown up here and all, but I have always felt that this place had more than its normal share of gifted musicians. There are a few that came out of here and gained national or even world-wide fame, but it is mostly the unknown ones who play because they love it that make this place special.

Take the couple playing here right now. Near as I can tell, it's a guy that holds down a day job as a carpenter and plays a very good swing style acoustic guitar and has a passable singing voice that sounds a lot like Willy Nelson from time to time. His partner is a bass-playing, sweet singing woman that has raised more than one family. They both play with other groups and come together to do this mix of jazz, swing, and country that is truly high quality. And here they are, playing in a little coffee house in the basement level of what was an old warehouse that has excellent acoustics and no cover. What a sweet deal.

Chances are I'll stay for a couple of sets and then head back to my mother's yet to be furnished apartment and get an early start on tonight's sleeping. That skiing wore me out.

Later then.


Monday, December 24, 2007

Twas the Night ....

It is Christmas eve and dinner is done. We had sloppy joe's and home-made macaroni and cheese. Not your traditional meal, but hey, we are looking for new traditions. It was OK, but we all agreed that the recipes need some tweaking. The mac and cheese formula came out of a local book that tells about old restaurants and eateries in our state. I suspect that many of the recipes are of the old variety where the ingredient quantities and the details of the cooking are somewhat suspect. This mac and cheese version had onion and garlic in it, which are two of my favorite things and appear in almost everything I make, but have never been in a mac'n'cheese formula that I have tried. But then, this is only the second time I have made it from scratch.

The sloppy joe recipe came out of a collection of family jewels on my wife's side of the fence. Some of the quantities there seemed a little questionable too, which isn't too hard to believe when it is something that is put together on a completely amateur level. I know how hard it is to eliminate typos and other editorial gremlins from any document and a book of recipes is prime territory for errors. A big "C" or a little "t" where the opposite was originally intended can cause a whole pot full of effort to wind up in the garbage. Fortunately, I had my helpers up in the kitchen with me tonight so that someone was reading ingredients and quantities to me as the cooking progressed. I heard a couple of things that just didn't sound right when they were read out to me, so we adjusted on the fly. Plus, we were a little shy of the amounts called for in a couple of cases, so we just made do.

It wasn't roast goose, but it was something we all had a hand in and that was nice. I always like it when we are all in the kitchen and doing something together.

Now it is quiet time. We talked about watching one of the traditional chestnuts that always are shown on Christmas eve but we couldn't agree. One wanted to watch "A Christmas Story" with the leg lamp and the BB gun. One wanted to watch "A Wonderful Life" and one suggested "Bad Santa" which got raspberries from the other two. So, right now, we are just doing our things. I am here writing. The boy is chatting someone up on the phone and the girl is in her room IM'ing I think.

To tell you the truth, I wouldn't mind crawling in bed and reading for a bit and then calling it a night. My day started early as usual and I have some mid-night appointments to attend to (or maybe early morning). Fortunately, Santa can come around dawn without fear of wee-ones spying now that the teenage sleep patterns are firmly in effect. Santa likes the more relaxed schedule.

So, peace to all of you out there tonight. May your stockings get stuffed just the way you like them.


Monday, December 17, 2007

Kreaky Knees

It is common for my knees to swell when I get chemo. Usually, that is an ocurance that begins the day after treatment and lasts about 24 hours. I think it is from fluid retention, but I'm not sure.

This time, it has lasted nearly a week. I have been hobbling around the house with two jelly bags for knees that make walking and standing a precarious business. They don't hurt really, but they feel weak and unsupported. I can't bend them very well or very far.

I'm not sure what to make of it. I have been waiting to see if they get better rather than calling the docs. Today they seem somewhat improved so the dawg and I went out for a walk. The temps are in the mild region around here so I figured we could both do with a stroll. Now we are home again and I am trying to think of something to fix for dinner. A pretty average day.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Alas, poor Phyl. I knew him well.

Phyl was never a very lovable phish. He didn't huff and puff up when a mirror was held up to the outside of his glass realm as his predecessor did. He mostly just lay around in a mopish fashion. Not a very demonstrable beta phish.

Well, he went from sedate to absolutely immobile over the past few weeks - refusing to eat and laying either on the bottom or tucking himself into the roots of the plant that shares the top part of his world. Finally, today, I plucked the plant out taking a deceased looking Phyl with it.

A grasp of the tail, a query and a shake. "Phyl, are you still with us?" Nothing. OK, so off to the burial ground around the corner just as my son came up the stairs. "What are you doing?" says he. "Say goodbye to Phyl" says I as I quickly dropped him into his porcelain casket and sent him down the river Styx.

But wait - was that a wiggle?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Blahs

Yesterday was a chemo day, so today has been a blah day. And I was not the only one feeling low. The girl was up much of the night with the stomach flu and stayed home from school and work today. Hopefully we will have paid our dues and this will go no further for there is a busy weekend coming up.

Both kids are planning on being part of a "lock-in" party for their Youth In Government organization starting at 6 PM tomorrow night, and believing that they will actually get some sleep, they have planned other things to do for the rest of the weekend. Hmmmm, I wonder what the contingency plan is.

It's been a crazy week for me. I rode north with a friend last Sunday night and spent Monday getting my mother's house inspected and going over possible plans with a builder up there. Then I hopped a milk run bus back toward the Twin Cities, getting off a few towns north and prevailed upon my cousin to come up and pick me up for the final few miles home (thanks cous).

That left me one day here to catch up on paper work, bills, laundry, groceries, cooking, baking, and dog walking before collapsing in bed before chemo day.

I guess I'm in a mild panic over the holidays and what needs to be done yet. It feels like a Sisyphean task this year to do the day to day tasks, prepare for the holidays, decide on activities and locations, make travel plans, plus start doing all that needs to be done to prepare for a move. And speaking of that, I have prepared a new web album that might be more accessible than the last link I supplied. For those who are interested, pictures of our house can be seen here. Drop me a line if you want to know more.

Well, that's it for now. Gotta go spank an elf.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Past, Present, Future

There are days when time collapses upon itself and one feels as if one is a spider perched at the center of a web where each strand is a dimension or a lifeline that passes through time. Memories pluck the strands in one direction and plans ping them in another. These are nexus points and occasionally, we are aware when we are positioned in one. This is one of those times.

I sit here, in my bedroom looking out on a winter scene of snow and hibernation. The oak trees that surround my house are dormant for the winter. The wetland that houses the froggie chorus is now a treeless flat spot covered in snow with sedge grass poking through, the swamp life sleeping below, buried deep in the mud.

I can hear the sound of the HVAC system blowing moisturized air through the duct work in an attempt to counterbalance the dryness of the winter air. I see the exhaust fog from the boiler drifting past my window as it heats the water that warms the floors and we take comfort from that in cold times.

It is a sunny day here for a change. We have had a fair amount of snow so far this winter as opposed to recent years. I could actually strap on my cross country skis and go for a stride around the lake and maybe I will later on. This place is full of trails through the woods and around the lakes where one is frequently surprised by the company of deer, wild turkeys, fox, or even the rare sighting of a coyote. It is a pretty place and I will miss it.

I have decided to move, you see. I am going back to the town where I grew up and where half of my family still resides. It too is a beautiful place, but in a much different way.

The reasons for this decision are many, but it was one that was not easy to make. It will mean severe disruption for my little family. My daughter would rather this not happen as she is in her final year of high school and is making plans for college. In fact, I suspect she would rather I never move, or pack up her things, or change her world in any way. I can understand that. She is facing her own nexus points and there are some struggles there for her. Now, my plans have added to her own.

My son, on the other hand, is looking forward to this. He is ready for a bit of a fresh start without the baggage that he carries now. We will make the actual move sometime this summer, in time for him to enroll for his sophomore year of high school.

Hopefully the timing will work out on the housing side too. I have decided to buy my mother's house from her as she has decided that it is time to move to an apartment in a nearby senior complex. The house that she is in now is a stone's throw away from the house I grew up in. It is a duplex designed by the physician who then had it built and occupied it until my parents bought it many years ago. It has not seen much in the way of updating since it was built so I have a bit to do in that regard. My hope is to get all of that done before mid-summer so that we can make the move in plenty of time for school registration.

Of course, there is the problem of what to do with my current abode. This is not the best of times to be selling a house, but then again, we don't always get to choose our timing or our path. So there will be a bit of casting fate to the wind on my part and a hope that someone will come along and fall in love with our little southwestern casa in the woods.

In fact, if you, or someone you know is looking for just such a place in our neck of the woods, let me know. I have posted pictures of the house on my Flickr site, but have restricted the viewing to friends only to keep down the number of "tire kickers." If you would like to see them, leave me a comment and I can add you to the list.

So, there. I've said it in public so now I really will have to do it. Wish us the best.

Saturday, December 01, 2007


We are getting the first real snow of the season and already this morning, I have been out in two of the three cars parked here at Chez Oaks and will have the third out later this afternoon. How much snow actually falls is still up for debate. Some say 4"-5", some say 10"-12". I guess we will just have to wait and see.

The reason I am driving so many cars today is that one car has been left here by a friend while they are traveling. I needed to start it up and give it a little drive so that the fluids move, the systems get warm, and I can re-park it a little closer to the edge of our turn-around area. While doing that, I decided to fill her tank and put a little extra in my portable can for the sno-blower.

Then, I had to take my daughter's vehicle out for a test drive because we have been doing a tune up on it piece by piece to see if we could resolve a nagging balk and general poor running, and, guess what. Her tank was empty so it was off to the gas station for a second fillup. Yesterday, I oversaw the replacement of the spark plugs and an oil & filter change. My daughter reported that the car ran great afterwards and this morning I gave it the test. The destination was the county road maintenance yard where they have a used oil dump and my shop container was getting full. It looks like our repair efforts yesterday were successful - the car ran fine.

Next will be my car which (as you faithful readers will remember) has recently gone through some major engine maintenance. My reason for going out in it this afternoon will be to give my new snow tires the test.

Well, nuff said. Time to go play.

PS Number One just got her first college acceptance letter - woo hoo.