Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Wednesday: It's Cold Outside!
Or, Why Minnesotans Talk About the Weather

It was -20 Fahrenheit at 8 this morning: cold even by Minnesota standards. Wind chill was -37 in the Twin Cities, -40 in Fargo, so it must have been around -38 or -39 around here.

That's frost, along the bottom of the window.

Sauk Centre schools started 2 hours late, at 10. They could have kept the places closed all day, as far as I'm concerned: but then, I'm not managing a school budget where you don't get state money if you don't have the school open. And, even with that two hour delay, today counted as a 'full' school day.

My wife and #3 daughter quite sensibly stayed inside all day today. Our son had school to attend. He and I went out together after school, to pick up groceries. Over half of the items on the list my wife wrote out were marked "ask our son." It's not that she doesn't think I'm capable: but our son knows more about what brands we get than I do.

The next stop for us was Wal-Mart. I picked up a prescription, and our son got a couple of long-sought-after Bionicles. He had the things put together by supper time.

I read Garfield to our son, as usual, toward the end of the evening.

#1 daughter was here for a few hours this morning and afternoon. She left for Alexandria about the time our son and I went our the door. She quite sensibly didn't want to be out in this weather after sunset.

She spent quite a lot of her time in the attic, sorting through books. Last year, while I was relatively immobilized, my wife started a (long-overdue) project of re-organizing the book collection up there, and elsewhere in the house.

There's been some progress made. These piles are more-or-less organized by subject. There's more, some in the new order, some piled elsewhere. This could take a while.

I've heard that Minnesotans talk about the weather more than many people do. I'm not surprised. The summers here aren't so much of a problem, apart from the occasional drought, flood, lightning storm or tornado. The winters, on the other hand, can be dangerous. An active interest in the weather, it seems to me, increases a person's chances of survival.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Tuesday: A Different Sort of Post

Kenya is in the news again. "Still" might be a more accurate way to put it. Kikuyu people and folks from the other half-dozen ethnic groups are engaged in dialog with guns and machetes. The current debate seems to be mostly over the outcome of the recent presidential election there.

Since this blog is about my experiences, living and raising a family in this part of small town America, what am I doing, writing about Kenya?

The Our Lady of the Angels parish in Sauk Centre is connected to the St. Joseph parish in Migori. This special relationship is within the St. Cloud / Homa Bay partnership. I'm acquainted with a couple of people from Homa Bay, thanks to friendships part of my extended family have with visiting priests.

So, I'm taking what's happening in Kenya a bit personally. We haven't heard anything about Homa Bay or Migori. Hardly surprising, since that patch of Kenya, by the northeast shore of Lake Victoria, is about as out-of-the-way as my part of central Minnesota.

Monday: It's Not Such a Bad Day, Actually

Monday morning is a much-maligned time of the week. This particular Monday, however, was a fine one: at least for me.

After prying my eyelids open, and reaching an acceptable compromise with my eyes over the matter of focusing and tracking, I renewed several domains for my (former?) employer. At this point, considering the amount of work I actually do there, I'm probably more of a consultant.

"Consultant:" I like that. Sounds so much better than "laid off."

Meanwhile, after noon, my body insisted on a nap.

I thought I was getting to that exercise place in the afternoon, but picking up materials at the public library (a karaoke DVD for #3 daughter, and a how-2 book for me), and getting a gadget for putting socks on, took quite a bit longer than I thought it would.

Late Monday afternoon seems to be the time when everyone and his uncle has to pick something up at the Coborns pharmacy. I've been there before often enough, and never say it that crowded.

So, I went to exercise after supper. This business of regularly cycling, lifting, pulling, and all that is a new habit for me. So far, it's working out quite well. A little to my surprise, After about a year of this, I'm feeling better and moving around more.

After I got home, evening routines led to me reading "Garfield" with our son.

Right now, the wind is wuthering outside, I understand that it's going to be a cold tomorrow, and I've still got some writing to do: so that'll be all for today.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Sunday: Back Home

I've been away from home for the weekend, and it's good to be back. My wife, #3 daughter, and our son were at Soo Bahk Do class when I got back, so I had the house to myself for a while: a pleasant opportunity to relax and enjoy the quiet.

Even with half the kids moved out now, it's seldom actually quiet at home.

I only forgot one major item at my father's place: the family's cell phone. My wife was quite understanding about it when I told her about it.

#1 daughter, #2 daughter, and I spent the weekend at my father's place, partly getting some family business done, and mostly having a good get-together with dad/grandpa. I also enjoyed the opportunities to talk with #1 daughter and #2 daughter. Those don't happen as often, now that they've moved out.

And, on the way home, #1 daughter and I tracked down the house I grew up in. It's been moved to Sabin, Minnesota. Most of the neighborhood I grew up in is a parking lot now, so I'm glad that the house was salvaged. This is the first time in many years that I've seen the place.

#1 daughter and I also observed a family tradition of sorts, stopping and Debbie's Home Style Kitchen in Fergus Falls for supper.

Our son, when he, his sister, and my wife came home, made me feel very good. He said that he'd missed our "Garfield" reading while I'd been gone. We read the comic tonight, of course, and read the song that I've sung to, and sometimes with, the kids at bedtime.

It's late, I've had a big weekend, so I'll sign off now.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Saturday Early Evening: Touching Base

Family business has distracted me - and will continue to do so for a while.

I think I'll post something later tonight, but I've been wrong before.

It's more realistic to think that I'll get a post off tomorrow night.

It'll be interesting to see which (if either) prediction is correct.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Thursday: Furnace, Glasses, and a Violin Bow

Being a homeowner has its downside. When you're a renter, you can call maintenance, and gripe about the landlord. In our position, we are maintenance.

Last night, as I was wrapping up some tasks, I thought it was getting chilly. Cold, actually. My first assumption was that I was getting very tired, and feeling the chill more than usual.

Checking the temperature and the thermostat showed me that the house was twelve degrees colder than it should be.

In central Minnesota, in January, that's not good.

The windows were closed and sealed, so were the doors. Then I realized that the furnace wasn't running, and hadn't been for some time. The indicator lights were out: all of them. Back up on the second floor, I noticed that lights in a bedroom and an adjoining toilet were - burned out? At the same time?

Nope. A circuit breaker had tripped, for the first item on that circuit. And, that's the circuit the furnace is on. I know: that's a crazy way to wire a house. It's one of the surprises left from the previous owner's remodeling.

So, I re-set the circuit breaker. The furnace went on right away. Next step: find out why the breaker tripped. The answer was back upstairs. A steamer we hadn't used before was shooting a jet of steam toward the ceiling and making that familiar 60-cycle hum. The thing's electrical cord was warm. I unplugged it, naturally. And, we're not using it again.

And so, to bed.

This morning, I got a call from the place where I'm getting glasses.

Background, to put today's news in perspective: A week ago last Tuesday, I got my eyes checked. Sure enough, I need new glasses. My eyes changed focus when I adjusted my diet, and at this point I see a great deal better without my glasses than with them on. In fact, I've got very decent distance vision now.

New lenses, and frames, were ordered that day, and expected in two to five days.

This week Tuesday, I called to ask about the new spectacles. The lenses were there, but not the frames. There was some problem with the supplier.

Back to this morning: Someone from the place we get glasses called me. She wanted to know if I'd had a problem with the old glasses' seg point. I'd figured out that she must mean something about the way the glasses line up with my eyes when she explained that the 'seg point' was where the bifocals (trifocals, in my case) are.

Nope, seg point was fine. The things just didn't focus right any more.

She called, because the new lenses' seg point wasn't the same as my previous prescription. No idea why.

So, the lenses and the frames go back for another try. Why the frames have to go back, I have no idea. It'll be another 2 to 5 days before the new (and correct?) lenses arrive. I hope.

Apart from that, the day went well. I drove up to Little Falls, about an hour north and east of here, to pick up my wife's violin bow. That was a pleasant trip, and gave me some time to think.

My wife, #3 daughter, and our son went to Soo Bahk Do class tonight. Somehow, my wife managed to whack a board with her big toe, instead of the correct part of her foot. She assures me that it hurts.

"Garfield" reading with me marked the end of our son's day, as usual.

While in Little Falls, I saw someone's effort to brighten up a corner of the world: a welcome sight in January.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Wednesday: The Cold, Hard Facts

The fact is, it's cold today. Beyond brisk, past chilly, not merely nippy: it's cold.

That's part of the reason why I've been spending as much time as I can not outside lately. I even agreed with my wife, yesterday, that grilling a steak outside around sunset wouldn't be the most prudent idea.

And when I let an opportunity to grill pass by, it's serious.

My wife and #3 daughter were off to see the in-town grandpa this morning, off for a music lesson in the afternoon, and practicing with a music group tonight. Wednesday is the family's busiest day, for out-of-the-house activities.

#1 daughter came in from Alexandria, to get some chores done, get some work done on a costume she's making, chat with me, and with my wife.

Our son went back to school today, after that four-day weekend.

And, I got an ad placed in the Sauk Centre Herald, the Shopper, and the Dairyland Peach: all weekly publications. I finally realized that I've got teaching experience in a number of fields: and that people around here probably look for tutors from time to time. We'll see what happens.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Tuesday: Painting the Living Room

My wife's been working on the living room project today. She filled in gaps around a drywall panel that covers the spot where an outside door used to be, and two other spots that were left unfinished after the last major changes. She tells me that I'll be moving an entertainment center for her tomorrow, so she can paint behind it. Nice to know that I can be useful.

I took a nap this afternoon. I must have needed it: after the alarm woke me up, I found out that I'd been trying to turn off a digital thermometer.

Then, well after 10 this evening, the phone rang. it was #1 daughter. She was having trouble sleeping, and apparently wanted to share the situation with me. Specifically, she and I talked about a young man she's met recently. Although her timing could have been better, I enjoyed talking with her.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Monday: Martin Luther King Day, and Wal-Mart

My wife has been planning the next phase of her room-painting project. About half of the living room walls are painted now.

#3 daughter was feeling a bit under the weather in the morning, but seems to have perked up.

It's Martin Luther King Day: marked by flags downtown, and the "I have a dream" sound bite playing over and over on the radio. I lost track at about a half-dozen replays of the recording, and that was early in the day. I was tuned to Minnesota Public Radio: They had a rather enthusiastic program for this federal holiday.

Toward the end of the afternoon, my wife sent me to Wal-Mart for paint and vacuum cleaner bags. Our son went along, expressing the opinion that I'm fun to be around. Nice of him to say so.

We checked out where the Bionicles would be. There's shelf space cleared for the 2008 releases, but nothing in place aside from price tags. Then, our son and I found everything except of of the kinds of paint we'd been sent to get.

After supper, I went to the Fitness Guru: I'm trying to make exercise there part of the weekday routine. It'll take time to catch up from decades of relative inactivity, but I can already notice some improvement.

Finally, I read "Garfield" with our son.

My wife fielded a couple of calls from #2 daughter today, and I had an excuse to phone #1 daughter. Actually, she called me, and I made two return calls. My excuse was that she was helping me write a press release for some webcams I set up. (You'll see links to them in the sidebar.)

Sunday: Cold Air, Hot Grill, and Squirrels

It was warming up by the time the family went to church: a couple of degrees about 10 below. Happily, the van started, and ran smoothly. #1 daughter stayed in Alexandria today: a prudent move, since she was a bit under the weather.

As usual on weekends, I grilled lunch. One thing I like about cold weather is how clear the air is. Happily, there wasn't much wind. I had two birds for company, briefly. They were one of those varieties that seem indifferent to gravity as they hop around branches. This duo seemed unusually anxious to check out this family's old willow quickly, and then move on to a point north of us.

At least two squirrels were out while I was grilling. The old willow serves as a sort of condominium for them, and there's a convenient overhead connection to another tree. Convenient to a squirrel, at least.

Most years, boxelder bugs are not part of everyday life by the time January keeps December from bumping into February. This year, they keep paying uninvited and unwanted visits.

I napped part of the afternoon, enjoyed listening to my wife talk with #2 daughter on the phone, got some planning and organizing done while the rest of the at-home family was at Soo Bahk Do, and read "Garfield" to our son.

There may be a better life than this, but it's hard to imagine right now. Boxelder bugs and all.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Saturday: Four Day Weekend, Day One

This is the start of a four day weekend: for our son, at least, as noted yesterday. My wife has declared Monday a normal (home) school day for #3 daughter.

This morning was off to an - interesting? - start as I was waking up.

The first thing I heard was the sound of our son carrying too many books at a time up the stairs. I didn't open my eyes, and so avoided seeing several volumes falling back down a few steps.

Down on the first floor, my wife told me I could sit where I usually do, to eat breakfast. She'd paint around me. I had started on the day's first meal when I felt her pushing against me, a rolling table, and the tray my breakfast was on.

I asked if I should move the tray. She said 'yes,' and pushed against me and the table. Since the table was touching the tray, the tray moved an inch or so to the east.

It's remarkable, how quickly a bowl of yogurt, a mug of tea, and a shot glass of assorted tablets and capsules can tip and fall. The couch is dry now, about 14 hours later.

Meanwhile, my wife got another dozen feet or so of living room wall painted.

Just before noon, going out to grill lunch, I noted a sort of alluvial fan of trash bags in front of the door from the garage, out to the grill. The proper disposal of those bags had been our son's responsibility. I went in, giving him room to work.

We don't usually have that much trash to deal with, but debris from the living room floor project has stretched the envelope of our waste-disposal routines.

He got the bags out of the way - except for one leaning against the door. And another that fell to the floor when I moved the one by the door.

At that point, I dropped one of the hamburger patties under the garage stairs. I went in to get a replacement, and told our son to recover the patty I dropped.

When I went back to the garage, our son was down by the rear of the van, about 12 feet from the steps.

Comparing notes later, I learned that our son, unable to locate the burger, went back to take care of some more trash bags. By the time that burger patty stopped bouncing, it was about the same color and texture as the rest of the floor.

My wife insisted on throwing it away.

It's been another cold day, but it was still fun to grill. And, I had a beautifully clear blue sky to enjoy.

Before supper, my wife sent me to Wal-Mart. Our son went along, to see if the 2008 Bionicles had arrived yet. They hadn't but we had a good trip together.

The highlight of the evening, for me, was hearing #3 daughter and our son in the north room, practicing a song for a dramatic piece they're doing with some cousins.

Which brings me up to date.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Friday: Getting Caught Up

Wednesday and Thursday of this week were one of my less well-organized periods. Thursday wasn't particularly outstanding, except that my wife, our son and #3 daughter had a test at Soo Bahk Do class in the evening. We don't know how that turned out, yet.

My wife declared a moratorium on painting the living room walls. She's still sorting through some of the clutter that accumulated there, though. Quite a bit of it seems to be mine.

The exercise place I go to, Fitness Guru (odd name, good place), had a sign up on the bulletin board. A family is trying to get a very favorite toy back:

I hope that toy gets back to its owner.

We've been getting calls from #1 daughter and #2 daughter more often than usual. That Ave Maria Singles website seems to have been a good idea. Both are carrying on correspondence with guys they met there.

Meanwhile, our son is looking forward to a four-day vacation. Between Martin Luther King Day on Monday, and the end of a quarter, they have Monday and Tuesday off. I suspect that the school system has some sort of meeting planned: they don't always take MLK day off.

Our son told us that he hasn't gotten grades for last quarter, and may not for this quarter, either. The school is having computer trouble. They've been changing the system, and this time got buggy software.

Flags were up this afternoon, downtown, to be ready for Martin Luther King day on Monday.

I grew up across the river from Fargo, North Dakota, in the Red River Valley of the North, so central Minnesota is "down south" for me. This afternoon, I felt right at home here, weather-wise. A brisk wind, about 20 mph, blew out of the west, emphasizing the sub-zero temperature. That's sub-zero Fahrenheit.

My wife had called #2 daughter, urging her not to try driving up to see my father this afternoon. Good idea. They're both up in the Red River Valley, and her car isn't as robust as it could be.

This was an invigorating day, even by my standards.

By the time I was heading home today, the sun had set, and the thermometer was exploring the lower part of its scale. Frost was forming on the door frame of the building I was in.

That door frame is as cold as it looks.

Now that I've read some pages of a "Garfield" comic to our son, there's not much left to get done before the weekend.

I'm looking forward to grilling burgers tomorrow. If all goes well, I may talk my wife into letting me grill all four days of our son's four-day weekend.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Wednesday: Due to Lack of Attention, I Missed This Day

Oops. I missed Wednesday's post.

One of the non-routine things for me that day was driving to Alexandria, 20 miles up the road, to apply for a job in customer service. The outfit had a standardized test: and I missed the target score by four points. Frustrating, but maybe they'll be interested anyway.

Back in Sauk Centre, I called our telephone provider to report a lack of incoming calls. The come-ons for credit cards and aluminum siding I don't mind missing, but three places that I wanted to hear from couldn't get a response from our phone: not even a busy signal. I did a little checking, and found out which telephone company two of the three use. It's a regional outfit, one that I've had a little experience with.

An hour, maybe, after I called our phone company, I got a call from that regional phone provider. I knew the person who was calling - well after normal business hours. That's not so unusual around here. Like most small towns, after living here a while, the folks you talk to at businesses are also people you know through other channels.

Anyway, she was checking up on the call I made to the other company. At least, that's what I assume.

Then this morning (It's the next day, Thursday, January 17, as I write this), I got another call - this time from our phone provider. They weren't able to find a trace of any of the three calls made to this number in their logs, and figure that the regional service never routed them our way.

I was told, if this happens again, to say "we can call them, but they can't call us." Apparently that's a good way of getting a technician's attention.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Tuesday: Dentist and Eye Doctor

This was a medical day for the family. My wife took our son to the dentist this morning, and I spent part of the afternoon getting my eyes looked at. The dental checkup came out okay, I understand, and my eyes are in good shape.

And now it's official: I need new lenses. It turns out that high blood sugar leads to nearsightedness. Lower the blood sugar, and the eyes get closer to normal. So, now I've got a sort of built-in blood sugar tester. After I get those new lenses, if my vision goes blurry, I've eaten to much of the wrong stuff.

Back home, my wife and #3 daughter got more primer on the living room wall. This project is moving along faster than I thought it would.

The usual routines happened, too: the last of which was my reading three weeks' worth of a "Garfield" comic to our son. I'm glad he remembered that routine, and asked me to revive it.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Monday: Swahili Song and Catholic Singles

Our son told me that he likes a song that the school choir is singing "Wakati Wa Amani" - I think that's close to the spelling. He explained that it means "Time of Peace" in Swahili. I hope I'll have a chance to hear that.

My wife's gotten started on re-painting the living room. She, our son, and #3 daughter got primer on about six feet of the wall. I knew she wanted to paint the wall some time: but hadn't expected the project to start this soon.

We got a call from #1 daughter last night: at about twenty minutes to midnight. Happily, I caught the phone before anyone got rousted out of bed. She was excited about a young man she met on, a website "for marriage-minded Catholic singles." She and #2 daughter signed up with the service recently, and have encountered some young men who look promising - and some that don't. It seems to be a very good system. The only down side, from my point of view, are the calls this household gets at odd hours, from our two oldest kids.

#1 daughter called again, at about 7:30 this morning. My wife reports that #1 daughter hadn't gotten much sleep last night.

Sunday: A Day of Rest and Grilling

I like Sundays. This one was a fairly routine example. We got up, got ready in a relatively leisurely fashion, went to church, and came home again.

Church wasn't strictly routine. Our Lady of the Angels, our parish church, has new vessels now. Three families got together and anonymously donated a new set. The timing is good: the existing set was due for some rather expensive repair.

#1 daughter had lunch with us, and later hung out with me and her brother. The three of us were clustered around the main computer, of course: and had a great time. Those two kids are the ones that are more like me, in terms of personality: #2 daughter and #3 daughter are more like my wife.

I fiddled with webcams this afternoon and evening. #1 daughter helped me focus and adjust the one that looks out on a corner north of us. (There's a link to it in the sidebar.) I'm not going to count that as "work:" we were having too much fun with the project.

My wife, our son, and #3 daughter went to Soo Bahk Do this evening. There was a test: they won't get the results for some time, which gives them a good opportunity for cultivating patience.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Saturday: Scraping the Floor,

This morning, our son told me that he has 71 friends on his LEGO® network. I'm not exactly sure what that means, but I'll probably learn as he tells me more.

My family, the part that's still at home, took turns pushing a floor scraper across the living room this morning. The thing makes a lot of noise and vibration, but more to the point, it peels that stuff that's between carpeting and the floor up quickly and effectively.

My son took a picture of me, one time when it was my turn. Although I don't think that's what he had in mind, my memory of that photo will help encourage me to keep losing weight for some time.
See what I mean?

I grilled the burgers early, then my wife stored them so that our son and I could get the floor scraper back to Centre Rental. They've moved into the new NAPA building, east of the Sinclair Lewis Interpretive Center and River of Life Church. Centre Rental has a sign over a door that says, "you don't have to be crazy to work here, we'll train you." I like that.

Peter wrote a paragraph for tomorrow's Soo Bahk Do class. I understand they're having a test tomorrow.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Friday: Farewell to the Carpet

My wife, #3 daughter, and our son got the last of the living room carpet up. Tonight, strips and patches of carpet are rolled, folded, and heaped against the back door of the garage.

That's the door I hope to reach tomorrow, on my way to grilling lunch. I'm assured that the plan is to have the door excavated by then.

Next step in the living room floor project is scraping the black cushioning off. We've got newspaper sheets strategically placed, so we don't track the stuff through the rest of the house. Too much.

Aside from that, and the meeting I went to this morning, about the sidewalks on South Ash Street between 9th and 12th Streets, this has been a fairly routine Friday.

Next stop, the weekend.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Friday: Sidewalks, Street Lighting, and Homeowners

I was at a neighborhood meeting this morning. Details of the Ash Street project are changing, or getting more definite. There's talk about putting new sidewalks on both sides of Ash, from the Lake Wobegon Trail down to 12th Street.

At least a hundred feet of the west sidewalk would go through the driveways and parking lot of John Weis Ford, and cross two driveways for Coborns. I can see the point of folks who would rather not have a sidewalk there. Playing dodge ball with cars wouldn't be fun.

A pretty good idea seems to be to have a sidewalk on the west side of Ash running north from the Lake Wobegon Trail, a crosswalk at the trail, and a sidewalk on the east side of Ash from there, south to 12th Street. Of course, it's easy for me to like the idea: I live on the east side.

Just the same, using the existing sidewalk on the west side, north of Lake Wobegon Trail, and putting a new sidewalk on the east side from the trail to 12th makes sense.
  • For starters, it should be less expensive than putting new sidewalks on both sides.
  • I'm not convinced that a well-marked crosswalk would be more dangerous than a sidewalk running through an active auto shop's lot.
  • Coborns' driveways wouldn't be a picnic to cross, either.
There's the matter of who pays for the sidewalks, too. I've heard and read that they're needed so that Sauk Centre has pedestrian access to Wal-Mart, and the retail area that's planned south of the fairgrounds, That's reasonable, but if that's so I wonder if individual homeowners should be assessed for the sidewalk.

I'm hardly neutral on this: It's likely enough that I'll be one of the homeowners.

Three thoughts, and I'm done for now.
  • Talking over a project like this is a good thing, bringing up good ideas and exposing not-so-good ones.
  • Projects get much more efficient, when people (and organizations) are spending their own money.
  • Holding public office isn't fun - No matter what you do, someone's going to complain.

Thursday: Back to Work, for a While

I was engaged in gainful employment for over four hours today, at Vocational Biographies - the publishing house where I worked for a little over 20 years. I'm glad to be able to help with a project there: and glad to have a paycheck coming. That doesn't happen as often as I'd like.

I'm still hoping - and expecting - that my online business efforts will pay off, but that will take time to happen.

It was a dark, foggy day today, with temperatures right around freezing. Those well-disguised little patches of non-stick pavement made walking and driving a bit of an adventure.

My wife and #3 daughter put the carpet-removal project on hold today. I think they're pooped from yesterday's work. Also, they wanted to have energy left for tonight's Soo Bahk Do class.

As soon as I got home from work today, our son told me - in considerable detail - how he managed to achieve some goal on a LEGO® website. I think I followed most of what he said, but I wouldn't try to repeat it.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Wednesday: Sad News from the School

I spent a fair fraction of yesterday afternoon doing a few errands, and then getting some exercise. My wife picked up where she left off Monday, ripping carpeting off the living room floor. #1 daughter came home to get some chores done, and #3 daughter finished a digital slide show of photos of her and some of her cousins.

Our son brought a letter home from the school today. Two girls who had attended the elementary school died Sunday. They'd moved with their family to Sioux City, Iowa, in April of 2007. I checked the "Des Moines Register" articles, and found that this was they were killed in a very disturbing way.

A friend of our son was also good friends with one of the victims. This is a rough situation, particularly for those who were closest to those little girls.

On a happier note, my wife asked me to lend my muscles to the carpet project this afternoon. I was flattered, of course. We did a pretty good job, I think: I stood and pulled at the carpet, while she kneeled on the floor and sliced the occasional stretched thread with a utility knife. Carpeting is made of remarkably tough material.

#3 daughter's music lesson this afternoon was canceled, so she and my wife had more time for the floor project.

Our son is playing with a Bionicle right now, making appropriate sound effects. My wife is talking with #2 daughter on the phone: and I just learned that I'll be recruited to move the entertainment unit soon. Probably tomorrow.

Also, that #3 daughter and our son, seeing how much stuff was coming out of the carpet, agreed that it was time for a change. They hadn't wanted the carpet to go: it's been part of their lives for, in most cases, all their lives. They'd had games involving it, they could only step on certain colors or patterns.
I'm going to miss that bold, colorful rug myself.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

"Affordable" Vacation?

My wife and I saw a television commercial for Disney World last night. The Florida tourist destination's selling point was the price. All I noticed was that the ad was promoting family packages for Disney World. What my wife noticed was '$1600 a night' on someone's computer, while the announcer discussed how affordable Disney rates were.

Now, it's possible that we didn't see and hear the commercial correctly. I found "Packages under $1600" on the Disney World website, for a six night - seven day mom-pop-and-two-kids junket.

Still, sixteen hundred dollars? Affordable?

I suppose so, for the 19% or so of American households with over $100,000 a year coming in.

This family could buy four or five affordable cars for what that affordable vacation costs.

That's okay. Decades ago, I made decisions that led me to being married, with four surviving kids, in a small Minnesota town: and it's a good life.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Monday: Catching Up

We're having a January thaw here in Minnesota: It got to almost 40 Fahrenheit, officially. It was almost 50 around the thermometer by our front door.

Judging from past experience, about two weeks from now, there's going to be a lot of sneezing and coughing on college campuses around here. Mid-winter thaws are a wonderful opportunity for kids to go out in their shorts, do some sunbathing, and (for some) begin a voyage of discovery in which they learn that 40 may be warmer than 20, and yet not be warm.

I went to Fitness Guru today, for the first time this year. That'll be a more common part of my routine - a sort of new year's resolution. F. G. is an odd name for a good exercise place on the south side of Sauk Centre.

Points that I meant to write during the last few days, but forgot:
  • That 'Santa Claus' beard I had during Christmas is gone until next year's season. It took a while, last week, to get past the 'hit by a weed whacker' look.
  • When I got back from visiting my dad and #2 daughter, my wife was chipping up part of the wood-look tile on the living room floor. She's been planning to replace the, ah, colorful carpeting there for years: ever since we moved here, I think.
  • I got a flu shot about a week ago. The nurse who did the injection seemed apologetic when she explained that the Band-Aid® she used was the only kind left. It's got Tweety Birds on it.
  • My wife found a new home for a weird little statue of a wizard on a motorcycle - shaped like a dragon. I noticed it in its new home this afternoon: on top of the main computer's monitor.
When I got back from Fitness Guru, the couch was moved into the middle of the room, and she was attacking the carpet with a utility knife. She's enlisted our son and #3 daughter in the campaign, too.

Meanwhile, I've set up a second webcam. It'll be keeping track of me, until I think of something better - which shouldn't be too hard.

I call the new webcam Little Brother. I think you can see why.

I think I see the nurse's point: I'm probably not the sort of person usually associated with Tweety Bird Band-Aids®.

Commenting on this little statue of a wizard and a (dragoncycle?), my family said, "it's you."

Epiphany Sunday: and Glad to be Home

I've had a good Sunday. The family went to church today: me, my wife and #3 daughter up with the choir, #1 daughter and our son in a pew.

Home again, by way of Coborns to pick up lemon juice and butter. My wife gave our son the money, and he went in for the supplies while I waited with the van. That gave me some time to listen to Minnesota Public Radio, and still leave room for a chat on the way to the grocery and back.

When the French fries were far enough along, I went out to grill the burgers. My technique is improving. After studying what happened while #2 daughter was watching me, I flipped the burgers a bit sooner than I would have. The results were better: This batch wasn't as crunchy as many.

This afternoon, #1 daughter chatted online, she and #3 daughter had fun taking pictures of each other, our son did something on his laptop, and I leaned back and enjoyed the show.

After supper, we were back to church for Vespers. That was a good way to wrap up the Christmas season.

I started going through photos I took while visiting my dad.

This is I-94 in Minnesota, between Sauk Centre and Moorhead. It's nice scenery. Nothing spectacular: low hills, little valleys where streams run, that sort of thing.

My father lives in the Red River Valley of the North: some of the flattest land on Earth.

The Red River Valley has gotten a lot more built-up than it was when I was young.

Some of those shelter belts were barely visible then.

It was good to get back home, to Sauk Centre.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Saturday Night: Home

I was glad to talk with my dad, and #2 daughter, but now I'm back where I belong: home. It's good to be with my wife, #3 daughter, and our son. #1 daughter was there, too, which surprised me. She got a ride to Sauk Centre today, I understand, and will be here until some time tomorrow. That's good news.

It's late, and it would probably be prudent to get some sleep tonight.

Saturday Afternoon: Homesick?

I was drawn to the computer here, to take a look at my part of Sauk Centre through the WebCam. Maybe I'm homesick. I'll be glad to get back: which should happen sometime this evening. #2 daughter is getting the van packed, and I plan to be on the road soon.

Friday: Distractions?

#2 daughter and I are still sorting things out. We talked with my father today: both a sociable chat, and later a more businesslike meeting with a lawyer. I'm enjoying this situation in a way: #2 daughter and I have had some really good talks today. And, of course, there's seeing my dad.

On the other hand, I'm probably distracted. Or something. At the medical facility, on our way out, I
  • Put on my cap
  • Looked at a poster my daughter pointed out to me, of a young man rather protectively holding an infant
  • Started searching my pockets for my cap
Then, in the parking lot, I discovered that I'd left the keys in the ignition of the van. Again. I'd pulled the same trick Wednesday.

Once back at my father's place, I turned off the engine, picked up my cane with my left hand, put the keys in my left hand (not going to forget those again!), looked between the driver's seat and passenger seat, and asked #2 daughter if I'd brought my cane with me.

#2 daughter says I need more sleep. She's probably right.


Friday, January 4, 2008

Thursday: Generations and Transitions

I'm getting some family business taken care of today, with #2 daughter and my father. We're in the process of tidying up paperwork, and making decisions, for my dad's last days, weeks, months, or years.

There's nothing to be done about that Interstitial Lung Disease that my dad has, except deal with the symptoms (I know: ISD isn't, strictly speaking, a disease - it's a cluster of conditions). The hospice folks in the town where he is are doing a fine job with him.

If I write much more today, I'm going to get downright sentimental. I expect that I'll post some more tomorrow, God willing.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Wednesday: Still Chill

It's still cool here in central Minnesota, although we're done with the below-zero air for now. The ladies were out this afternoon, picking up supplies, and told me that it felt cold. As soon as they came back, #3 daughter walked over to where I was sitting, took off her gloves, and warmed her hands on my head. they felt cold.

It was a pleasant sensation for me: and, I understand, for her. Apparently the top of my head makes a good hand-warmer. There are advantages to have a hairline that's working its way down the back of my head.

This evening our son and I went to Wal-Mart. I was picking up diabetic testing supplies, he was checking out the Bionicles, and we both had a good time, talking. We checked on his Bionicles first, then I went to the pharmacy. I had a few questions there, which led me to the Vision center, about a hundred feet over. Another conversation there gave me the information I needed. I also discovered a new line of cartoons, Mark Parisi's Off the Mark. That was a double bonus for me: I think they're funny, and they gave me something to write about on another blog, "Apathetic Lemming of the North."

We went back home after that. I wrapped up the paperwork for mailing a bulletin that I edit, relaxed a bit, read Garfield comics to our son, and started catching up on my writing.

I also discovered that my old 'flagship' website, "Brendan's Island," was offline. I don't know why. My hope is that there's something fixable going on at the hosting company, and that it'll be back up tomorrow.

I'll be getting some family business done tomorrow, and probably Friday and Saturday to. #2 daughter and I will be visiting my father, and getting some papers in order up there. He's got interstitial lung disease, and his lungs aren't getting oxygen in anywhere near as efficiently as they once did. He's moved into a medical facility in the North Dakota town he's been living near.

As long as I'm on dull topics, there's the matter of my eyes. During the 72-hour, ah, eating plan that happened to come at the same time I learned I've got diabetes, my eyes changed focus. In a way, it's good news: I'm not as nearsighted as I used to be. The problem is, my glasses don't work right now, and my vision isn't good enough to see distant objects clearly. Not very clearly, anyway.

I've been able to drive, because the 'close' lenses of my trifocals put the world in focus for me. Gives me a crick in the neck after a while, though.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Tuesday: New Year's Day

This household is now cousin/niece-free. The last one left this evening, taking her Gamecube with her. By then, our son had looked up what Gamecubes cost, on We aren't getting one: which is too bad, since I'd enjoy playing with it, too.

It's been a cold day. The news says that this is the coldest New Year's Day in the Twin Cities in at least nine years. Tonight, as I started writing this, it was -4 F (-20 C). Distinctly chilly.

The family went to church at noon, met #1 daughter there, came back with her, talked, laughed (the young ladies, mostly, in the north room), and made some music (same group, in the same place). The father of one of the cousin/nieces came to collect her. He, my wife, and #2 daughter talked in the kitchen while she was getting her stuff together.

It's been a good day.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Monday: New Year's Eve

This morning, I got my first blood-sugar meter, and was shown how to use it. The process is quite straightforward, and much less uncomfortable than I expected. In fact, in a few days I should be skilled enough to call myself finger-prickin' good.

I phoned my father, had a short talk about #2 daughter and my coming to see him. Next, I phoned a company about an affiliate program they're running. After getting some good news, I said to my wife, "someday, I'm going to be rich and famous." Without looking up from the dishwasher rack, she asked, "do I laugh now, or later?"

The fact is, I'd settle for 'moderately well off and not entirely anonymous.'

I finished a bulletin I edit for the local Knights of Columbus, and dropped it off at Main Street Press a little after noon. Then, I drove up to Little Falls to drop off a violin bow for repairs. I got back in time to buy batteries before supper.

We had two daughters, our son, and two nieces/cousins here this evening. The new cousin (from our kids' point of view) came with her dad. The balance of her family is back at their home while she and her dad visit the Sauk Centre grandpa.

Our young ladies and the cousins had a good, and only moderately noisy, evening. The new cousin's dad, one of my brothers-in-law, showed up later, with a DVD.

He's justifiably pleased with a new room on his house. The job got done a few months ago. To save money, he raised the roof on the south part of his house, put in the room, then replaced the roof.

It makes sense, since if he had replaced the roof and the ceiling under it, he'd have had to do a very expensive bit of remodeling. Building codes are fine things, but I sometimes question the wisdom of their details.

The crane he rented had a lifting capacity of 73 tons. That's overkill for lifting a 9,000 pound roof, but it was the only one available. The crane operator, I'm told, was really good. I believe it. That roof came up very smoothly, got set gently down on a pair of cinder-block walls. The crane and its support trailer weren't as gentle on the driveway, I'm told.

The job started at about 8:30. The second floor walls had to be up and the roof bak by noon, since that's when the crane was leaving. Having the walls built ahead of time helped. Not the whole wall: just the framing.

At $335/hr, my brother-in-law didn't want the thing around any longer than necessary, anyway. He had a good way of encouraging the crew to make good use of time: he said they wouldn't eat until the roof was back on.

At least one of my other brothers-in-law was on the crew, plus more of the extended family. My father-in-law was there, too. After the roof was back in its new place, they got the walls sheathed: with sheeting over the windows. The windows were delayed, and didn't arrive until the next day.

That's a lot about a job I only saw on a television screen: but I was impressed by what I saw. And, my brother-in-law's enthusiasm was contagious.

I stayed up to see the ball go down in Times Square, New York. #2 daughter stayed with me. The remainder of the young ladies were watching a movie: one of them had a laptop.

Information technology has come a long way. I remember when television was black and white, and electric typewriters were cutting-edge technology.
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