Thursday, May 31, 2007

Book I Liked

"Three Cups of Tea" by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

I just finished reading this book my neighbor loaned me. It is about an American who becomes involved building schools in impoverished areas in Pakistan and Afghanistan. He was a mountain climber who had tried to climb the second highest mountain in the world, K2, but failed. His life was saved by a rural village who helped him after he became lost and separated from his party. He decided to repay their generosity by building a school for this village. His mission just grew from there.

The book teaches tolerance in the sense that we cannot view every Muslim as a terrorist. It also emphasizes spreading goodwill and combating terrorism through education.

Communications 101

Are you familiar with the line from the movie, "Cool Hand Luke", where the warden says to Paul Newman; "What we have here is a failure to communicate"? I think that quote has worked it's way into the everyday vernacular.

This is Hell Week at our house. By tomorrow night we expect to have all the flooring in and hopefully the furniture moved back in place. I'm betting the "big TV" gets moved in before the couch.

I blogged about getting irritated with the guy from the store who changed the installation schedule a few times. The last we heard was, "We'll be there Tuesday first thing." Of course, I was up early. First thing for me is 8:00 AM. First thing for him apparently was not 8:00 AM. When they were not here by 10:10, I called the store. I was polite, but expressed by displeasure and asked if they were coming. She assured me they would be there shortly. I guess his idea of first thing (the store opens at 10:00am) and mine were not defined. He treated me with kid gloves after that. Now, I am usually a pretty pleasant person, but I think I may have acquired a different reputation for myself with that call. Yesterday, he told me they would be here today at 10:30.

I have attended countless seminars, classes etc. on communicating with the public. This sure drove home how important it is to understand what the other person understands.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Banned In Communist China

My Blog is blocked in China. I sent Andy the link, asking if he wanted to read what I was writing about him. He said he could not get it. The government screens what comes in through the Internet. I didn't think I was controversial. Maybe it was all the comments on the food. Years ago, and I mean decades ago, a book would be a best seller if it got banned in Boston by the bishops. If word gets out, maybe I will have more readers.

Vin Dao Gorge

More news from #3 son who is in China. He is experiencing cultural overload at times and gave in to temptation and ate KFC,the only American restaurant in his town. He said he believes in cultural immersion, but desperately needed to retreat for a bit. His other culinary delights have been eating pig's brain and duck blood. Again, I have similar past experiences. As a child, we had a neighbor and friend of mom's who cooked a Polish goose blood soup called Churnina. (I am not sure of that spelling.) It also had prunes and potatoes in the recipe. I am pretty sure they served pig's brains in the elementary school cafeteria in some of the "hot dishes".

Andy also talked about visiting Vin Dao Gorge on Saturday. The bus carried them over scary, bumpy roads. They observed Chinese methods of road building that involved a very intensive manual labor program with people chipping away at boulders with hammers and chisels. No wonder China is prospering with such a work ethic. I have been complaining about picking up small rocks. They are moving mountains, literally.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


After years of planting only plants that grow in shady areas, I was delighted to buy some sun loving perennials. The front of our house has sun most of the day. Unfortunately, we have crushed rock between the bushes across the front. This weekend, I decided to tackle a project to remove some of the rock and make a spot for perennials. I have three little plots done. I planted Ruby Red Stella Daylilies and yellow Colombine and a variety of annuals for color. I can't wait until the daylilies bloom. They will bloom well into fall as will the Columbine. I carefully picked perennials that would bloom all summer.

Fifteen years ago we had 9 cubic yards of crushed rock delivered to provide groundcover in areas around the house. You cannot imagine what a dastardly job spreading that much rock is unless you have done it one wheel barrow and shovel at a time. My advice: Don't use rock. Use mulch. My oldest son, Daniel, advised getting rid of it and using mulch and planting more flowers. This is my initial effort. I removed a couple buckets of rock. I think if I do this every year for the next 150 years or so, I will get the job done. Did I mention, don't use rock? Anyway, when I dug up the rock some was mixed with dirt. I wanted to dispose of it somewhere off the property. My husband, with a perfectly straight face, said; "Don't get rid of it . I need some rock." Right. He washed the dirt off the rock and reinstalled it thicker in another spot. Looks like I will be picking that rock up again someday. Maybe I don't have such a good start after all. Wish me luck. I am glad I have knee pads to crawl around on that surface.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Where Is Waldo Now? Part 8

I'll bet you get this right. At last some pictures are up on his Picasa site.
I think he leads a charmed life. Today his email was more upbeat. One week is already over, five to go. He will probably be sad when the adventure ends.

LA Weight Loss

I am always amused by the TV adds for LA Weight Loss Centers that say, "Lose all the weight you want for $249." I have often wanted to just send them a check and stand back waiting for the magic to happen. I am sure their program of individual counseling works. Basically, all weight loss programs and diets work that alter lifestyle and encourage the participant to make healthy changes in consumption. But I do like the inference that losing 30, 50, or 100# at a bargain price is attainable. You still have to consume less calories. If money could solve the overweight issue Oprah would not talk about it so much. She could write a lot of big checks.

People ask me "what I am doing" to lose weight. They usually mean what program did I join; what diet am I following. My answer is, "All of them". I have combined all the good advice I have heard over the years and tried to apply it. I have been forthright blogging about my efforts. I want and need reinforcement to stay the course forever. My biggest fear is gaining it all back and more. Two things that have helped the most are the basic information in "The South Beach Diet" book about glycemic foods and checking my blood sugar often to see what makes it bounce. I am happy to say my morning blood sugars improved almost immediately after changing eating patterns. I have also added exercise to my regime. Hopefully all this comes together for permanent better health.
Bet you thought the before and after photos were me. Fat chance I would have ever worn the bathing suit in the before picture or let anyone take my picture in it. At least I can hope there will be an after picture someday almost that good. It will definitely be a one piece suit.

Still Here

-45 woohoo

Sunday, May 27, 2007

It 's a Guy Thing

We are in the midst of redecorating and Thursday my husband announced, "I'm going to buy a big flat-screen TV with my money." He has been watching the price of big plasma TVs for a few years. We agreed $7000 was excessive for our budget. Last fall when our old TV died we bought a smaller HDTV that fit in our existing entertainment center. I thought it was a nice compromise. He got a HDTV and it was not so honking big. I watch some TV but don't need it loud or big. I should have known better. Big? It is a guy thing. A while ago our pastor's wife commented her husband told her, "If it were up to women, homes would be furnished with 13inch TVs and boom boxes!" Actually, that would be fine with me. I always want to turn down the volumn on the surround sound. I think big TVs look nice in sports bars. Well we have two LCD HDTVs now. The big one is up and operative. I thought we could wait to set it up until after the furniture is back in place, but I guess I just don't get it. It is a guy thing. The guy is now snoring in his recliner with the big TV loudly broadcasting the Indy 500. Guess what I am doing.

What Did You Say You Were Doing?

I asked Andy what exactly he was doing in the way of research in China. I had basic chemistry, but do not have a clue what he is talking about. The project is : using resonance ralyeigh scattering to detect different ATP metal ion-dye complexes. It is something he has not done before. "Imagine", he said, "Learning new science from someone who speaks Chinese". It seemed like Chinese to me the first time I learned anything in chemistry! This may make the transition from the academic world to the real work world seem easier.


One would think I would be showing a picture of a Panda that the kid in China sent. This is the new graduate, daughter Mary, taken in the San Diego Zoo.
Mary and Mike are spending a week in sunny southern California. Mike is a big time Star Wars fan and memorabilia collector. Last winter he remarked they were having a big 30 yr anniversary convention of Star Wars fans in LA. Mary surprised him on Valentine's Day with plane tickets. True love. She--not the big fan he is. They will split their time between LA and San Diego and I am sure it will go too fast.

Saturday, May 26, 2007


We are living in a mess preparing for the installion of new carpet and a kitchen floor. When the shop scheduled the hardwood and carpet installation, the owner said they would begin on Monday, May 28. I came back with, "That's Memorial Day. Is your crew really working on the holiday?" She affirmed they were. They blocked off a whole week to do our work. When I reported this to Jon, he called back again questioning if they would indeed arrive on Memorial Day. Yup. Now, we don't mind if they work on the holiday, but were surprised they would.
Three days ago they called saying they would do the prep work (ripping out the old stuff) Saturday. We got busy packing bookshelves and harvesting a piece of the old carpet for Jon's workshop. Friday we moved all the furniture unto the area of bare floor so we would not be in their way when they came today. Today they called and said plans had changed. See you Tuesday am. Hmmm. Three days we wouldn't have had to live in chaos. Oh, well... Hopefully the rest will be done as scheduled. I am anxious to reassemble our house.

Friday, May 25, 2007

The China Syndrome

Andy is emailing and blogging now from China. Today he said he has been eating adventurously and felt a little funky. He has discovered the "hot pot". At the restaurant there is a common pot of boiling broth where a variety of unidentifiable foodstuffs are cooked. After he had eaten he asked what it was. He had sampled pig's ear, sheep stomach and rabbit. His Chinese hosting partner asked if he liked frog or turtle. I laughed because we ate both of those dishes at home when I was growing up. I told him the turtle tastes like beef and the frog legs like chicken. I think in China the frogs served are more recognizable. My nephew Peter, who goes to China on business, was served a whole bullfrog in a bowl of broth. I could eat it only if it was skinned and dismembered. ( My apologies to Linda who is a vegetarian, but them then alll of our carnivorous habits probably gross you out.)
Andy commented on working in the lab at the University. He said they take no safety precautions that are mandated here. No gloves. No goggles. No ventilation. No safe storage of toxic chemicals. China is not known for their environmental protection measures. Pray Andy stays safe.
Most of the news from him is good. His hosts are very gracious and the University grounds beautiful. His housing is like a hotel. It is a building for foreign students and is air-conditioned. That is a relief because the humidity is extremely high and the temp 110. I wonder if it is worse in July. Maybe that is why they do not wear the goggles and gloves and protective gear. It would be intolerable in that heat.
While the son has to adjust to cultural differences, his Chinese partner who will be coming to Minnesota will also experience a shock. She told him that Beibei, the city where he is living, is a small city of only 200,000. Nearby Chongquing has a 13 million population. Andy informed her she would be living in St. Joseph which has 2000 people.
While Andy has access to computers, they must observe the posted rules. No politics and no religious stuff can be downloaded on the internet. It is still a communist country with statues of Mao and oppressive anti-religious policies. I think he will enjoy his six weeks there and appreciate his homeland even more when he returns.

All the Little Chickies go Cheep, Cheep, Cheep

And all the old hens go "cluck, cluck, cluck". I just have to get this off my chest. The people involved do not read my blog.

We have always good naturedly laughed about my mom's family being "savers". When we had the last family reunion, we had everyone for brunch here. My dear aunts help clean up after. One aunt insisted we wash the foam (disposable) plates. I told her I was just going to toss them. She instructed me that in this family, "We are thrifty". End of story. She washed the plates. Not really the end. I threw them out after she left. Anyway Jon has teased me a bit about my family.

Yesterday we went to a small reunion of ten of Jon's cousins. He has many, many cousins and one he had never met was in town from the east. One cousin invited everyone to her elderly father's house for lunch. Great. He is 98 and it was easier for him to stay put. I asked if I could bring a dish to pass and she said they would get deli food and we could chip in. Fine. Easy. Jon raised his eyebrows and made some comment about her being cheap like her dad. Her dad worked for the IRS and when his wife died a few years back called us with the news of her death and cheerfully said, "I will get the tax deduction for the year!" She died on January 1st. He had a reputation for being close with the buck.

Meeting a few new cousins was fun. The cousin he had never met is quite entertaining and we enjoyed his stories. The hosting cousins had a small meat and cheese platter, beans, relish, brownies and salad. Jon asked how much we could chip in and she said "$10--each. She then collected the same amount from all the guest including the out of town guests of honor. I was amazed. I think they made money on the deal. Anyway, my husband can never again tease me about frugal relatives. That took the cake.

Pomp and Circumstance

My last blog was about celebrating at Mancini's after Mary's graduation. The following story was in the BB of the paper this am. Mary should have kept that cap and gown on.

What is right with people?
Or: The kindness of strangers
Reports icunurs of West St. Paul: "Last Saturday, I graduated from the College of St. Catherine.
"My family took me out to dinner at Mancini's in St. Paul. I decided to wear my cap and gown into the restaurant. I told my family: 'I only get to wear this one day, and I am going to wear it all day!' (One of the advantages of being over 50 years old is that you get to do the things you wouldn't dare do when you were in your 20s.)
"Anyway, people were greeting me with 'Congratulations!' and smiling, shaking my hand as we passed their tables. But the best acknowledgment of all came when the bill arrived, because someone had anonymously paid $100 of it. What a wonderful surprise.
"Thank you to that person, and thanks to all who congratulated me on my special day."

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Hey there, Guv'ner

We enjoyed a dinner at Mancini's Sunday night. I had never eaten there before. It is a St. Paul longtime landmark and has a '50s Supper Club / old Vegas atmosphere. You get the impression there are many regulars and the staff have lifetime jobs here. The food was great and the service by an older "professional" waitress the best I have ever experienced. She anticipated every wish, delivered at the right pace, and was never obtrusive. Sometimes waitstaff can be a little in your face trying to give good service.
We came early as the place was opening. It is a large restaurant with four dining rooms and a huge lounge. Everything filled up within an hour of opening. As we sat enjoying our coffee and conversation, Jon poked me and said, "Look who is waiting in line for a table." I looked and recognized our Governor Pawlenty and his wife. This is the weekend the legislature finished it's business and worked round the clock before the deadline to close. I am sure he had other things to do, but waited patiently chatting with his group while a table was freed up.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Zero Years

I frequently have submissions to our local paper in the Bulletin Board section. Many of the contributors reminisce and strike a note of familiarity with other readers and writers. The MOM of Stillwater has one today, but read Sarabelle of Stillwater for a sweet story. It is tender. Perhaps, some can remember the "0" years at home with kids of your own fondly.

"Writes Sarabelle of Stillwater: "I received my Social Security statement in the mail the other day #150; the one that shows your work history.
"My first 'real' job was in 1968. I earned $689 that year working in the kitchen at the local nursing home after school. I served meals, washed dishes and set up trays for the next day. I also spent time keeping track of 80-something Sarah, who liked to run away. From my vantage point in the kitchen, I often could spy her shuffling away from the home, and I'd sprint out the kitchen door to catch her and lead her home holding her tiny, dry, scratchy hand. The nursing staff put an end to Sarah's escapes by taking away her shoes. She wouldn't go outside in her stocking feet. On the perpetual hunt for her shoes, she often wandered into the kitchen. I enjoyed her visits; she always provided me with pithy quotes to share with the nursing staff.
"Looking at my earning record recalls other stories, but my favorite years are the 10 years with a zero in the earnings column. These are the years I was home with my babies. Years poor in dollars and things, rich in love and memories. While those years (and sometimes days) often seemed to drag by with sick and fussy babies, headstrong toddlers, and not enough adult conversation, they actually flew by. What a joy it was to make up math problems for my daughter ('Make more, Mom. It's fun!'); supervise finger and body painting; teach my 2-year-old son how to crack eggs; rock my brown-eyed toddler as he nursed.
"Now my children are experiencing those years themselves. Our phone calls are timed by naps, and punctuated by an insistent toddler demanding to talk to 'Lamma.'
"What gives me pause, when I look at that Social Security record, is that the space allowed for work history and earnings is nearly filled up. I'm closer to the Sarah who ran away than the one who caught her. As a youngster in school, I used to think Ponce de Leon was a laughable character in his search for the Fountain of Youth. Now he's not so funny. I want one of those fountains myself. Not that I really want to be 20 again, though I sure wouldn't mind having that body back - but I really want the time. I have a long list of things to try, places to visit, friends to make, projects to do. I can't possibly squeeze it all in, especially when I seem to be moving slower and going to bed earlier.
"At least now I know what counts the most for me. Time spent with my family, young to old, is priceless. Time in my garden, with my friends, enjoying the natural world, reading and writing is as good as it gets.
"Guess that fountain is in my head."

The Secret Weapon

We have been hoping for rain. There are many forecasts of rain. We get the threatening black clouds, but they usually pass over without paying. The lawns are dry. There is a forest fire up north.
Yesterday we attended our daughter's college graduation. As we drove to St. Paul the skies opened up with a downpour. The event was scheduled indoors, but the graduates were to process from the church to the auditorium outdoors. Mary's luck with rain was holding true. About the time they were to depart across campus that rain started. Shades of her wedding when it began to rain at 2:55 before the 3:00pm ceremony. At least we have the answer to future drought problems. Mary just needs to schedule an important event out of doors.
Things did turn out well. The rain did not last long and they were able to process outside.
Congratulations to our darling who graduated Cum Laude.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

28 Hours and 10 Juan for dinner and beer ($1.20)

Jack is not the star of this drama. (Think 24) . First word from #3 son came with the morning email. His odyssey of travel from Mpls. to Beijing took 28 hours. A couple of days ago I blogged about the difficulties getting out of town and how they would go to LA -Tokyo-Beijing. Well they all went to LA. When they got there, Andy found out everyone but him had a seat on a plane to Tokyo. It took another four hours to get him on Al Nippon airlines to Tokyo. I'll bet he was remembering he had been offered a first class seat to Beijing, but declined so they could travel as a group. Oh well, he did get to Beijing. The trip took 28 hours in real time. They are traveling backward in time zones and across international date line so I don't know what it would be by the clock and date, but he was very tired.

If that had been me, I would still be sleeping in the hotel after arrival. They went to Tianamen Square and the Forbidden City and climbed the Great Wall. He says the food and prices are great. Everything is always compared to other travel destinations by the price of beer! He remarked the entire city is under construction. I had heard China is booming in the big cities and if you had visited Beijing ten years ago you would not recognize it.

If it weren't for the long flight, I think I would be facinated going there too. I wouldn't have said that 40 pounds ago, but am amazed how much better I feel and can move. I planted my vegetables and annual flowers yesterday on my knees. That is something I thought I would never do again. I had written off the knees and back as aging and disability but I can even run now. Yeah. There is more to go and hopefully that will happen.

This afternoon is daughter Mary's graduation. I am glad the college scheduled that event indoors. It is cold and cloudy. Way to go Mary. You did it. Big smile from the MOM.

Sunshine Superman

Blame it on Jamie Fox. He was on The Tonight Show and mentioned seeing Minnesota's own Prince at a party wearing a cape. Oh, oh, the cape thing again.

1st. The cape is not widely available in retail, but I am pretty sure they are manufactured in China and sold at Walmart. This all-American hero is offended by that.

2nd. The Daily Planet is laying off many employees. Things don’t look too good anywhere for an investigative reporter in the print media. He may have to consider television reporting. Maury Safer and Mike Wallace should be retiring soon, so there may be are openings.

3rd. He changes clothes in a phone booth. When is the last time you saw a full phone booth? We need to conserve the ones we have and rescue a few from salvage shops. A grown man changing clothes in a restroom would draw curiosity and accusations of being a predator.

4th. Anonymity is an issue with everyone videotaping everything with their cell phones. Superman may find himself on You-tube.

5th. He better not leap any tall buildings with a single bound or someone will report him as a security risk to Homeland Security and kick the national terrorist threat up to red.

6th. He was born on Kryptonia and has no birth certificate. Good luck trying to get a driver’s license, passport or social security number. He will not be able to board a commercial airline. Good thing he has that flying thing covered. He probably could go back and forth over the Mexican American border without too much trouble.

7th.The Ice Cave is in danger of melting. Can Superman swim?

8th.Circling the Earth quickly to turn back time would be dangerous with all the satellites and space junk in orbit. Watch out for rockets hurling someone's ashes into space.

9th. The price of apartments in Metropolis is out of sight. You’re not in Kansas anymore, Clark.

10th Bad news; Lois is concerned about that cape and tights and thinks he may be gay. Good news; “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” wants to do a makeover.

Friday, May 18, 2007

I Got Friends in Low Places

' 'Cause I've got friends in low places, Where the whiskey drowns, And the beer chases my blues away, And I'll be okay. I'm not big on social graces, Think I'll slip on down to the oasis Oh, I've got friends in low places..." Garth Brooks

About ten years ago I went through a phase liking some of the newer country music. I bought a couple Garth Brooks CDs. One had a song called, "I got friends in low places". He sings about drinking and partying at the Oasis. Our favorite low down diner is called the (River)Oasis and we have fond memories of meeting friends there for a hearty breakfast.

They don't serve whiskey at our "Oasis" but darn good coffee. This week it was closed for a day so an Indie filmmaker could shoot a scene inside. Several years ago it was also used as a location in the movie, "Beautiful Girls" when they filmed in Stillwater. I enjoyed that movie and especially spotting the different locations in town. It had a raft of famous actors; Timothy Hutton, Uma Thurman, Rosie O'Donnell, Mira Scarvino, Matt Dillon, Natalie Portman and a couple other famous ones whose names I can't remember. There are a couple of scenes in the movie that are priceless. It's a good rental if you haven't seen it.

Stillwater's other claim to fame is several location shots in the movie, "Grumpier Old Men" with Sophia Loren, Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthew, Daryl Hannah and Ann Margaret. Jon, Andy and I had a good time as extras in this movie but our scene was cut. A little movie called "The Cure" was also shot here. Only in small town America will you find locals who are thrilled to have everyday life disrupted for filming.

Thursday, May 17, 2007


I was amused by the headline a while back that read: "Bush Sends Rice to Japan". We made our own headline today: "Midwest Couple Sends Rice and Son to Japan." Here is the story:

Yesterday, son Andy did his final packing for his trip to China scheduled for today. He bought 5 or 6 gifts to bring to his contacts in China. He wanted to bring "local" gifts and found a wine bottled in the area, a book with photos of Minnesota, chocolate from a local shop and MN grown wild rice. My nephew Peter, who has traveled there on business several times, agreed our rice might be interesting to the Chinese.

Today is the day he journeys to China for his summer research job with a group from his University. Jon and I awoke at 3:00am before our alarm sounded. Andy was quick to follow. Rubbing the sleep out of our eyes, grabbing a bite and downing a cup of java, we made it to the airport a few minutes past the 4:30 am requested meeting time. I decided to stay with son Andy until I heard he had his boarding pass and no problems checking in.

We got the news the first flight to Newark had been cancelled. S.N. A. F. U. Remember what that is an acronym for? They offered to book him 1st class to Beijing. His eyes lit up. Then his group leader stepped up and reminded the agent they were traveling as a group and needed to arrive the same day, preferably on the same flight or at least only two flights. Now the bad news. They probably couldn't get out today. Some of these kids had already traveled from outstate Minnesota to arrive early. We waited 1hr. and 40 min. to see if they would fly today. I think the final plan was to send them to LA for first leg and then to Tokyo, then to Beijing. I haven't heard anything different from him since we got home. Andy was delighted to be going to Japan, even though he will probably only see the airport. His passport has a lot of different country stamps. Hopefully the son and his rice will arrive in China. Otherwise, maybe he can make some new friends in Japan with his wild rice. It's going to be a wild ride today but at least he started it going west instead of east to China.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


We will be up early tomorrow. Andy has to meet his group at the airport @ 4:30 am for the first leg of the trip to China. I am not sending him off with Ramen Noodles this time. He does have a lot of mosquito repellant and Pepto Bismol, however. The research grant gave him a stipend for food. He was given $128 and is assured by his professor that is more than adequate. Andy is packing light. If he needs more clothes than he brought, it should be cheap to buy them there. They will have laundry done inexpensively. (@ a Chinese laundry!) He will be at a major University in a city of 100,000. I heard some of the particulars at dinner tonight. I imagined it would be more rustic. He says they are housed in double rooms with air conditioning in a building for foreign students. All meals are eaten out so the accommodations are better than he had in London with 14 to a flat and most cooking their own meals. He will be blogging and keeping us up to date on his adventure.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007


I received news yesterday that my former place of employment, Lakeview Hospital, Stillwater, MN again received award winning recognition. For the second time the organization made the Soucient list of "Top 100 Hospitals in the Nation". It also won in 2004, the last year I was a full-time employee. Lakeview is a gem of a hospital. It won in the small community hospital category. There are five categories divided by size and function.

Lakeview hospital has been recognized as the best orthopedic hospital in Minnesota. The last year I was employed in management, our ER was awarded among the best in the country for patient satisfaction. Last year, Lakeview was named one of the best employers in the state. All of this is true. Employee retention is high and morale great. Nice job you guys carrying on the tradition.

There were only two winners in the State of Minnesota. The other, winning in the category of teaching hospital, was St. Cloud Hospital. I received my nursing education at this hospital and am doubly proud and happy today.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Book Princess in Blue Jeans

We are so proud of our Mary who is graduating from college with a degree in Information Management this week. This is what would have been called Library Science years ago, but now an updated more IT and archival field of study. It took her a few years to narrow her focus to this degree. She earned an Associate Degree after high school and attended the U of MN twice pursuing different fields. I think she has it exactly right this time. She is the “Book Princess”.

She was born a “princess” being the only granddaughter. Mary has two older brothers whom we adored, but we were ready for a girl when she arrived. It was “think pink” during my pregnancy. One of my friends even knit a beautiful pink bonnet, booties and sweater hoping it was a girl. When she was born, dad Jon was in the hall outside the delivery room. He got the news from me as I announced her arrival with, “IT’S A GIRL” loud enough for the whole hospital to hear. We were ecstatic.

One of the things I did right as a parent, was write in the kids’ baby books. I read it recently to refresh my memory about those early years. Delightful memories came back. Following her two adoring and adorable brothers, Mary walked early and talked early. One of her first words was “dolly”. I remember the little doll clothes and dolly sleeping bag my mom made for her. She had a favorite blanket she dragged around that her great-grandmother Mary Dominik sewed.

Mary is four years younger than her big brother Dan and 1 ½ years younger than Dave. When she was very little she couldn’t say their names and called them “Daisy and Dee-Dee”. Cute. Two little rough and tumble boys in Toughskin jeans dubbed Daisy and Dee-Dee. She kept up with them pretty well. She also loved her cousins Pete and Joe who moved two doors down when she was two.

All the neighborhood kids on our block played together pretty well. We had a picket fenced back yard and initially kids came to play there when Mary was too little to leave the yard. We always had a heck of a time growing grass on that 40 ft. lot of over-used grass. A swing hung from the end of the clothes line. We had a sandbox loaded with Tonka trucks. There was a sidewalk from the back door to the garage where Mary learned to ride a toy horse on wheels and then a tricycle. Life was good.

With a few more years, Mary was allowed to play with the big kids on the big sidewalk in front of the house. They chased up and down it on Big Wheels and trikes. Frequent minor mishaps kept her adorned in Band-aids on her knees and toes. One day, when she was pretty little, she came running into the house and grabbed a spoon out of the kitchen drawer. My spoons disappeared too often for sandbox use, so I followed her to see what she needed another spoon for. Soon I spotted her squatting on the sidewalk trying to scrape off a piece of gum for her consumption! Eeeeww. ( I didn’t let her eat the gum.)

Mary’s love of Curious George began early. She loved the cute little monkey in the books. She loved books. Her Grandma Catherine kept her well supplied in books which Mary liked to take to bed at night. Jon or I would read her a story and then leave her with her dozen or so books to read herself to sleep. She called them “boops”. After she fell asleep, I would sneak in and put the books away. She slept well unless there was a thunder and lightning storm. That woke her and she would come running into our bed.

Our Little Book Princess is grown up now. She probably sleeps through the summer thunder storms and has husband Michael there is she does get scared. Enjoy your sleep, Mary. We hope you have a little “book princess” of your own someday to tuck in at night and comfort in the storms.



I spent a lovely Mother's Day yesterday with our kids. Oldest son Dan, called but had to work and couldn't come. Our youngest cooked the dinner served with dessert our daughter baked. It was a chance to gather and spend time with the youngest who is home only three more days before departing for China. I am blessed.
Moms were acknowledged and honored at church yesterday. Our associate Pastor, who is a very thoughtful person, also told the congregation how his wife Carrie hated Mother's Day for years and would not go to services that day. They were infertile and the pain of celebrating mothers while they longed for a child was too much. After about ten years they were blessed to adopt a dear little boy and a couple years later she got pregnant with their daughter. He then said they understood the pain of infertility and if someone was experiencing the same, see Carrie for a hug. I love my church. The church is the people.
A belated Happy Birthday to my favorite sister-in-law who celebrated 39?? yesterday. She is my husband's "kid"sister and will forever seem younger than 39 to me.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

George the 43rd

I am going to pick on our president again. Today I heard a radio host musing about GW's gaffe to the Queen. Addressing the press at the White House, he publicly thanked Queen Elizabeth for again visiting America as she did in 1776 to help us celebrate the Bi-Centennial. He quickly corrected himself to say "1976". She made some remark that sounded like "Wrong year" but it could have been, "Oh, dear". Our president had already made White House Protocol officers squirm when he winked at Her Majesty. The cheeky MPR guy then quipped he hoped Mr. Bush wouldn't give the Korean president a snuggy when he visited there. That would probably embarass his mother Barbara Bush. I wonder if she has ever gotten over her husband George the 41st vomiting on the Japanese Prime Minister.
Link to video clips of President Bush's speeches. He is lovable, but not known for his imprompto public speaking ability. I do not like the title of this video which is disrespectful to the president but the clips are a chuckle.

Friday, May 11, 2007

On The Hill and Rocking On

I've been contemplating being "Over the Hill" lately. Where is the top of that hill? At 40? At 50? At 60? It seems the Boomers want to move that milepost every few years.

Perhaps we are looking at this all wrong. I don't think it is a hill with a steep incline and decline. I think the terrain is uphill but levels off to a plateau at times. Living does require some effort. If you are blessed with good health, you can continue a gentle climb. During trials we might be sidelined sitting on the bench for a while. At the times when you have less struggles or health problems don't forget to look around at the others with you and give them encouragement and a hand. The end point of this life is not at the bottom. It is at the top.

Link to a video sent to me by son-in-law Mike. I enjoyed it. Pardon a vulgar gesture at the end of the video. Forewarned. These people are doing their own performing.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

It's Not Easy Being Green

Our college kid has a summer job doing research. He will do six weeks at a Chinese University then return with his Chinese student partner to Minnesota . He tried to explain the China project but I can’t comprehend it. The research he will do in Minnesota tests treated waste water from his college for anti-depressants.
It is a different world. These drugs are widely prescribed and probably taken by many college students. After a trip through the kidneys they exit in the sewer. His University has three lakes and I would have thought they could observe the frogs to see if the titer was too high for Prozac. I believe these amphibians are sensitive to environmental changes. If they (the frogs) are looking too happy the Prozac level might need to be filtered out. If they are singing too loud and slurring their croaks, campus police might make rounds a little more often checking for keg parties.


No, that is not a new religion. Someone wrote a book recently about sayings from her mother which she called "momisms". Contemplating Mother's Day as a now motherless person, I fondly remember some of my mom's great advice and sayings.
"Don't learn to clean fish". This has been wonderful advice that I heeded. I think my mom said that while cleaning fish. Many times people would give us fish and she would prepare them for dinner if they were cleaned. Otherwise, they would be buried in the garden producing some amazing tomatoes later.
Nothing was wasted. "Use it up", "Eat it up", or best yet, "Kill it" which meant eat it up. I now struggle with a weigh problem so maybe not such good advice. It was Green living and good for the planet however.
"Use the rubber spatula!" This advice was given to me when I was a young housewife. She could not abide wasting food by leaving batter or whatever in the bowl. At my house, mom would be aghast looking for my one rubber spatula which might be in the dishwasher. One of her last gifts to me was a pack of new rubber scrapers. I am now in the habit of using them and look crossways at my husband if he doesn't. The apple does not fall far from the tree. One habit I still have is licking the beaters from the electric mixer when I make a cake. My lawyer reminded me to add, "Do not attempt this at home unless the mixer is unplugged!" Don't you love obvious disclaimers?
"Don't learn to change a tire". Strange advice from a divorced working mom in the fifties. She was very sefl-sufficieint and not one to shrink back from helping herself. (Maybe when she said that she hoped I would have it easier. ) I took this advice as well. I actually have been shown how to change a tire, but don't know if I would attempt to do it myself or just look helpless until someone else does it. So far, I have only had one flat tire and one husband who answered my call for assistance. It is less necessary to be so self-sufficient with the advent of AAA and cell phones.
Her best advice and something she practiced; "Pray for a good husband". Good men are not that easy to come by. Mom prayed and was rewarded with both daughters marrying good guys. I have also seen our daughter and oldest son marry people well suited to them that we love. Our youngest has been dating a nice young lady whom we like and who is a nursing student which gains points with me.
Thanks mom for passing along your wisdom. It might be a good thing that I may not know what my kids will remember me saying.
Happy Mother's Day to all you mothers. (I meant that in a nice way.)
PS: Happily still exercising and -40. My delight this week was seeing our youngest son for the first time since early January and having him tell me I looked different. He was amused that I was working out and using Whey supplements.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Where the Heart Is

Hats off to Laura Bush who not only had her mother-in-law for dinner the other night but also the Queen of England. I fussed a bit last week contemplating a dinner party for fourteen. Her task was much more important, but she probably had a little help.

Last year Laura Bush teased the President a little as a Press Club "Roast". He is an early to bed, early to rise guy. The Bushes have not had many state dinners because President Bush likes to retire by 9 PM. You have to love the guy. Laura razzed him saying, "George, if you want to save the world, you will have to stay up past nine!" I'll bet he was up past nine the other evening. Critics caught him winking at the Queen. That is a protocol no-no. They have to factor in the warmth of a Texan's hospitality to understand him. If you saw the movie "The Queen" you might agree with me she could use a little "loosening up".

Good news from my sister after her surgery. I talked to her this morning after she had finished her PT and was sitting up. Her recovery is at or above the benchmark and she sounded wonderful.

Son, Andy, is home. He repeatedly said how nice it was to be back in America. He enjoyed his living abroad experience and travel in eastern Europe, but was delighted to be home. That brings to mind the line from the poem, Patriotism: "Breathes there the man with soul so dead, who never to himself has said, this is my own, my native land..."

I am sure my sister, Carolyn, will be delighted to go home to the ranch when she is ready. Perhaps even Queen Elizabeth will be glad to return to England after her travels.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Hip Hip Hoorah !

Today my sister is having hip replacement surgery. We have been communicating online about her surgery. I have tried to reassure her all will go well. Yesterday she told me she had a unique experience. She does a follow-up call welcoming new people to her church. The three people she talked to this week were were: the Hospital Chaplain, an anesthetist and a night nurse at her local hospital where she will have her surgery today. She saw God's hand in this reassuring her He had everything under control.

As I was writing this, her husband Mike called saying she was out of surgery and all had gone smoothly. PTL. We do not walk alone unless we want to. Picture: My sister with the great legs.
Cool video that reminded me "I" am not the center of the universe, but His eye is on the sparrow....


Andy and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

Our "baby" is coming home today. Andy is the traveler I have been blogging about. He returns home today from London. We are praying for safe travel and plan to meet him at the airport about 8:30pm. Yesterday's email related "being halfway through a 40 hour return trip."
After spending five days in Lake Belaton, Hungary the boys had a peek at the essential sites in Vienna and Prague. Both are beautiful cities, but he described Prague as totally overrun with tourists. I think the less traveled places held more appeal for him. They got back to Goldbach, Germany (Kai's home) late Saturday night and he left from Frankfurt Hahn airport the next day.
Arriving in London he found out it was a "bank holiday" and rooms were scarce. He paid more than he would have liked for a B & B near Piccadilly Square but was glad to find something. Today he should have left around noon London time for the final push home.
I titled this "Dreamcoat" thinking about what I said to daughter Mary a few weeks back. "It is a wonder you and your brothers didn't throw Andy in a hole and sell him into slavery in Egypt". This is in reference to the Bible story of Joseph the youngest of Jacob's 12 who was jealously regarded by his brother's as the patriarch's favorite. He is not our favorite. He is just our youngest. When he was born his older siblings were 13, 15, and 17. He is our baby, but it is so clear he is now a young adult able to handle himself living and traveling abroad.
We'll have a quick few hours to catch up on his news before he heads back to college to see the young lady he cares for. I guess he really is growing up.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Cape of Good Hope

A few years ago United Hospitals in St. Paul, MN opened a new heart hospital named the John Nasseff Heart Center. It is named for a multimillionaire St. Paul philanthropist who was it's major contributor.
Today's paper has a feature story on the man. Born of Lebanese immigrants, he worked his way up in the world ending up with $175 million selling his stock in the West Publishing Co. He is now giving back to the city where he lived all his life and is extremely generous in his charitable donations. He lives in a downtown St. Paul condo and enjoys walking the neighborhood streets and prefers a cape to a coat. You heard me. This super man wears a cape and helps people. I am beginning to rethink my opinion of capes.
Yesterday's email from Joan told her childhood memory of career days at school. She and friends were much impressed by the nurse who wore a uniform and navy blue wool red-lined cape. With the shortage of nurses we currently have, maybe old fashioned recruiting techniques could be resurrected. A movie with Scarlett Johannsen in this attire might also go a long way to catch the next generation.

George of the Jungle and Museum

I have not been to the "new" Children's Museum in St. Paul. I think it has been open 7 or 8 years. Our youngest is 21 now, so that partially explains why. I do feel like a bad grandma, but the kids have gone with their parents.

I am going to see that museum soon. A traveling exhibit of Curious George is opening. I love Curious George. When our kids were growing up we read all the books. I also told many original bedtime stories adding Curious George to the story about them. Andy may remember "Curious George and the Little Chocolate Lake". It featured Andy and George on a boat trip with mom and dad. When Andy was little we frequently launched our boat in a state park on the St. Croix river. The water on the St. Croix is tea colored from the Tamarack trees that line the banks. The boats launch was on a back water pond that looked brown. Andy dubbed it "chocolate".

Daughter Mary is a collector of Curious George mementos. She has traveled and acquired CG books in foreign language. She has CG pictures, plaques, stuffed animals etc. He is just that cuddly. Does anyone not identify with his antics? Who couldn't love a friendly monkey.

Last week I heard our new son-in-law refer to their future son as Romie. (Nope, not pregnant yet. Mary calls this 'Mike's fantasy family") That is my deceased father -in-law's name and I hope they get to use the name someday. Maybe they will consider George as a middle name. Hopefully, that won't dictate impish behaviour from a future grandson but with a name like Roman George I am sure he would have winning ways.

Saturday, May 5, 2007


I just read my daughter's blog and she tells of test-driving the new vehicle her Michael wants to buy. I am a little concerned. It is called a Magnum. I googled Magnum and this is the picture I got.
Can Mary handle that on a curve? Will they need a ladder to get in the cab? Will it fit in the garage? How about the gas mileage?
I am the mother-in-law however, and I think I will just say, "Nice wheels". Maybe it comes in red.

Moving on Up, or Out, or Down

My dear friend Barb wrote yesterday with an update on their home addition. They have the “roof off the place” to add a second floor new bathroom and enlarge existing bedrooms. She is happy they will have the new space, but stressed with construction noise.
Barb and I were roommates years ago. We shared dorm space and shared two apartments in the years following graduation. As junior students we had a rotation for three months to the Veteran’s Psych. Hospital in St. Cloud. This meant we moved every three months that year. We also had to pack up every summer and head out. Barb just kept her boxes under her bed to facilitate the moving. I don’t think the moving was that easy for Barb with this construction project.
We have a bit of a mess to anticipate at the end of the month. The carpeting will be replaced and a new wood kitchen floor installed. This means we have to move a lot of furniture somewhere. The somewhere depends on the weather that week. It would be fairly easy to put things on the deck. It would be less convenient to move everything into the garage or downstairs. Keep your fingers crossed for sunshine..
This seems like a good time to aspire to simpler living. When I eye the books, DVDs, CDs, glasswear,dishes etc on my shelves and cabinets, I wish I could put it all in one box. Some day it may be a necessity to lighten up. I should be grateful for now it is just an option.

QE 2 -Part 2

This comment is really not about the ship. I am talking about The Queen and her hat. I thought the hat in the picture in yesterday's blog looked dark pink (with a purple trim). I saw footage of her wearing it on the news again and it looks red with purple trim. My sister wrote yesterday saying she wondered if one of her "Dress for America" staff was playing a little trick on her majesty. A red hat with purple trim in America? She is a Red Hat lady!! Like a commoner. The dear queen could be their mascot. Actually, when you think about it, she is living out the ultimate red hat fantasy life. Carolyn saw a great business opportunity making knock-offs for the club ladies. Anyone?

Friday, May 4, 2007

Hats Off to the Queen

Welcome to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II who is visiting America. News photos showed her touring Jamestown, Virginia on it's 400th anniversay. This is her 5th visit to our country. During her long reign she has met ten presidents and outlasted many prime ministers.
We rejected the monarchy here centuries ago, but seem to embrace this monarch. Perhaps we do the same thing with our former presidents. During their tenure all have detractors. Some are more popular than other. All seem to have increased popularity in their retirement. Most are buried as heroes. Only Mr. Nixon seemed to have a different outcome. I have to admit I never particularly liked Mr. Nixon, but am softening my response to him now to give him more credit.
Perhaps with the Queen it is the hat that helps. How could you not have mercy on a lady who must wear those ridiculous hats? I will make an exception saying I liked yesterday's hat. I would never wear it, but the color was flattering. Does she wear a hat in place of a crown? Does the hat help to identify her in a crowd? Did she make a bad decision in her youth awarding a lifetime contract to a milliner?
We discarded the hat in the Kennedy administration. Actually, men discarded the hat then. Jackie had us copying her pill box hats. I had one. People used to tell me I looked like her when I was sixteen. It was the hair. I also had size 10 shoes like her and was about the same build. I don't look like her anymore, but she doesn't either.
I digress. I think we might try bringing back the hat for our presidents. Don't you picture the beloved Abe Lincoln in a top hat? Might G.W.'s popularity increase if he wore one? I think he could pull it off. I think even Mr. Nixon might have a better legacy if we pictured him in a top hat. Let's just agree not to award a lifetime millinary contract to anyone. They might want to change their mind.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

The Real Caped Crusader Ala 1964

Caped and Capped. Hard to believe this much time has gone by.

Belaton Blues Turn to Woohoos

Yesterday's email brought discouraging news from Andy. They needed to wait another two days for a part to fix the car. That would make almost six days spent in Lake Belaton, Hungary. That is not how three 21 yrs. old boys intended to spend their travel time.

I have learned at least this one thing from my pastor in the past years; you do not have to accept the bad report. My husband and I agreed in prayer that God could expedite this, and prayed it would be fixed sooner if that was His will.
I just opened an e-mail from the traveling son. It was sent around 10:00am Hungarian time. The title was "Woohoo" so I was expectant. The car was repaired and they were leaving in a whirlwind to finish the tour. They have 48 hours and still plan to go to Prague and Vienna. I am not sure they will have time to see the Lipizzaner Stallions in that time frame, but at least they were not cheated out of going to Wein (Vienna) and Prag (Prague or Praha).
Now I need to pray that they use good judgment and not drive too fast.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007


More of my vicarious travel through the youngest son. Andy wrote today that the tow truck came early and the mechanic looked at the car. (This is the fourth day they have been disabled at the camp ground.) Good news, it will only cost 80 euro to fix. Bad news; no part. They will have to wait until Friday to have it fixed. I imagine that will mean just drive back to Germany and skip Prague and Vienna which must be disappointing. The bright spot in all this is they were stranded in a scenic place. It could have been much worse. They moved into a vacation rental apartment today. Four days of camping and no shower preceded this. He will at least have an interesting story. He still sounded like he had a good attitude. No whining. This reminds me of my mom's take on bad news. She would say, "It could be worse. It could be cancer." Her mom had died at a young age of cancer years ago when there weren't good treatments to cure cancer and I think that was her ultimate bad news. My sister and I prayed she would never hear those words spoken by a Dr., and she didn't.

ps: -38 this am with a blood glucose of 80. Off for my walk around Long Lake with friend Judy.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

It's Greek to Me

I loved the comedy movie "My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding."
It came out several years ago and my husband and I went to see it with daughter Mary. She had broken up for the last time with her longtime boyfriend. She was broken up too. I thought the movie was a pivotal experience. Perhaps it made her see that she had a future.
Fast forward a few months. She did not go back to the old boyfriend like she always had before. A mutual friend introduced her to a nice young man. They were married this past September. We really like him and like them as a couple.
When Mary and Mike were here recently I loaned them our copy of the movie. Mike had not seen it. Saturday they stopped over and Mary returned the movie. She also said she caught Mike cleaning his shoes with Windex. (This won't be funny if you haven't seen the movie.) I saw it as a funny connection to the movie. I have to go now. We are barbqueing a lamb in the front yard. Oopa!