Friday, February 29, 2008

Transitions: Cuiously Subdued Emtional Reaction to
My Mother's Death

My mother died a week ago, tomorrow. It doesn't feel so recent - and the whole week has been like that. Tuesday 'felt like' Wednesday, for example.

I've been concerned about my low-key emotional response to my mother's death. Talking with my wife about it last night, and she pointed out that I've had years to adjust, and mourn. That got me thinking. In a way, it's decades: She had a massive stroke in the sixties, which made quite a difference in her thinking. Then, several years ago, she had to go into a nursing home. She's been on a very, very long slide.

Thinking about that last night, I wept. And stopped myself.

Well, it's a start.

Besides, my very ekte Norsk mother might not appreciate a lot of histrionics.

Thursday: Soo Bahk Do, Feeling Flustered, and Music

The big deal today was that members of the family got their stripes in Soo Bahk Do. My wife is now a green belt with two stripes, #3 daughter is a green belt with one stripe, and our son has his orange belt. He got that last week, I believe. The stripes came this evening, at Soo Bahk Do class.

I'm proud of this family.

#2 daughter went to the class, too. She's been a bit distracted, by going to college, and so has lagged a bit behind.

Seriously, I've been enjoying #2 daughter's decision to spend spring break here. She's spent much of her time with my wife and #3 daughter: showing great good sense. I've had a little time with her, too. Including tonight, when she taught me a little of what she's learned in her years as a music major.

"Taught" might not be the right word. "Introduced" is closer to the truth.

We got about an inch of snow today, I think, putting a fresh cover on the ground. Looks nice, and if it melts slowly enough in the spring, we'll get some good groundwater out of it.

"Feeling flustered?" I've got a bulletin to put together by Monday (about noon would be good), and I'll be fully occupied from about noon tomorrow until late Sunday, with some family business.

It's been less than a week, since my mother died. Funny, it seems as if more time has passed.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Wednesday: A Happier Post

I had the house to myself most of the day today. My wife, #2 daughter and #3 daughter were out this morning, learning to play violin (My wife), and stopping in at the Sauk Centre grandpa's (all three). That trio was back for a while, after lunch, then off again for #2 daughter's guitar lesson.

Our son came home after school an hour or so after that. I learned more about Bionicles, or at any rate heard more about them. Then he sat down and merged with the main computer. He and a friend of his from school had agreed to 'meet' on Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean" online game. He has fun with that: and we're restricting his online time.

I actually got some work done, on a writing/graphics project (until and unless there's more to tell, I'm keeping mum on details). I also did some pick-up and sweep-up - no sense in letting my wife have all that fun.

And so, through the evening routines, reading Garfield with our son, and now writing this.


Level 3 Sex Offender Down the Road?

I'll be back with another post, later in the day. Meanwhile, there's something in the news.

Local News and the Released Sex Offender

Some of the Melrose Beacon's headlines this week:
  • "Fire departments called to straw bale fire"
  • " 'For the Love of Kids!'" about a Fishing Derby
  • "Meeting will inform city of sex offender's arrival"
The Sauk Centre Herald's headline about the release is "Level 3 sex offender coming to Melrose."

According to the Beacon, "Douglas James Felix, 36, is scheduled to be released from the Department of Corrections on March 5, and has listed Rose Park in Melrose as his intended destination upon release."

The Melrose Beacon discusses a fact sheet about Mr. Felix. Besides pointing out that Mr. Felix isn't wanted by the police and was legally released, it says that "Abuse of this information to threaten, harass or intimidate a registered offender is unacceptable and such acts could be charged as a crime." The Beacon also says the fact sheet "noted that such abuse of the information could result in the end of the notification laws."

Official Views of Sex Offenders

As a Level Three Sex Offender, Mr. Felix has been identified as belonging to the most-likely-to-reoffend club.

I sincerely hope that nobody is impolite to Mr. Felix. It's nice that Minnesota lets Minnesotans know when sex offenders are going to be released, and where they say they're going to live. The state even provides "Offender Information" pages online. That link is to Mr. Felix's.

Mr. Felix's offense is described as "CSC 1-NO FRC-OTH FAM-13-15-F" - happily, the MN-DOC provides a translation: "Criminal Sexual Conduct ... No Force ... [against] Other Family" - the victim was a teenage girl, between 13 and 15. (The Sauk Centre Herald fleshed that out: "According to police reports, Felix has a history of sexual contact with juvenile females ages 11 to 15.")

A state of Minnesota publication says: "Compared to other offenders, sex offenders are less likely to recidivate in general, but are still more likely to reoffend with a sex crime."1 I also sincerely hope that Mr. Felix has reconsidered his priorities, is among the 96%-plus of sex offenders who don't reoffend1 - and that the experts are right.

Small Town America and the Released Sex Offender

Melrose is only ten miles down the road from Sauk Centre, where I live. Aside from neighborly concern, I've got a family here. That makes me very aware of what's going on.

We've heard about laws that states and communities pass, saying that sex offenders can't live within a certain distance of schools or parks: 500 feet, 2500 feet, whatever. Working with a law like that would be quite a trick in a place like Melrose. The whole town is about a mile (5280 feet) across.

Melrose, Minnesota:

View Larger Map

I doubt that Melrose has any laws or ordinances like that. The Beacon article said that only a few Level One Sex Offenders live there town at this point.

Anyway, 'distance' laws are based on assumptions that may not be true. A State of Minnesota publication2 says that assaults are likely to happen more than a mile, and less than 20 miles, from the caught-and-released offender's home.

That would make Melrose relatively safe, but puts my town near the middle of the potential target zone. I can't say that I'm happy about that.

There's not much for people to do in whatever area Mr. Felix decides to live, other than find out what he looks like and see to it that he isn't tempted by being left alone with teenage girls. (There's a rather unflattering couple of photos on the MN-DOC information page)

That, and behave ourselves, so that the state keeps giving us a heads-up when sex offenders are released.
-- -- -- -- --

1 "Sex Offender Recidivism in Minnesota April 2007" Minnesota Department of corrections

2 "Residential Proximity & Sex Offense Recidivism in Minnesota April 2007" Minnesota Department of corrections

Tuesday: Chores, Errands, and Family

Today was one of those got-work-done days. #1 daughter came over from Alexandria, showed us photos of her trip to Washington, DC, and did some cleaning and organizing around the house.

#2 daughter, #3 daughter, and my wife got a ping-pong table which has languished in the basement for years taken apart. The idea was to carry it upstairs, but it was too heavy for that: even in pieces. Tomorrow, I understand, some people from a church in St. Cloud will come up here to collect it. That church has been looking for a ping-pong table for some time now, so we have a mutually beneficial arrangement.

Our son was full of news and commentary about Bionicles today. Apparently, he's now read a good explanation for why the toys are going to go up in price.

Some of that frost we had on Sunday lasted into the next day. I took this photo yesterday morning.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Monday: Despite its Reputation, Mine Was Pretty Good

Another Monday is just about over. The blue-ness of the day is somewhat overrated, I think.

My wife is feeling better than she was yesterday, but not quite good enough to get to choir practice. Besides, she had a cinnamon roll to keep an eye on (delicious, by the way - she let me have a small slice).

#2 daughter and I went, and the choir spent most of the session organizing the folders. It's a pretty good idea, actually. She's here on Spring break, and likes to keep in touch with the community, I think. Alas! #2 daughter will be back at college by the time Easter comes.

Minnesota: We Don't Have Climate,
We Have Weather

A young man wanted to know what sort of weather to expect when he came to Minnesota, late this coming March. #2 daughter said that she didn't know.

He's in for a surprise, when he learns more about Minnesota.

"We don't have climate, we have weather" isn't a joke: it's the everyday reality we live with.

Recently, 24-hour weather forecasts are fairly accurate, on average, most of the time.

But anything much beyond that is a sort of educated guesswork.

When my wife was growing up, she once went to Easter Mass through five feet of snow. It's been conventionally warm and flowery on Easter, too. And everything in between.

Even so, it's possible to narrow down the possibilities for a day in late March in our part of Minnesota. These numbers are rounded off.
  • Record high: 75
  • Record low: -15
  • Record rainfall: 1.5 inches.
  • Record snowfall: 10 inches
There are averages, of course (low of 20, high of 40, more or less), but those are more statistical concepts than "typical" weather.

Minnesota weather doesn't spend much time near the 50th percentile.

So, in late March, a visitor could expect: temperatures between 75 and -15; thunderstorms, tornadoes, a blizzard, or a drought; overcast, clear blue skies, or anything in between; and winds anywhere between dead calm to gales that keep trucks off the road.

Whatever else Minnesota is, it's not boring.

Monday: Conversations With a College Kid

#2 daughter and I had a longer-than-usual talk this morning.

One of the upsides to having a kid in college is that you learn without having to sit through lectures.

Like this morning. I knew that in American culture, opera was considered to be for the hoity toity, not the hoi poli.

I'd thought that this was crazy, because opera, even the 'serious' stuff, tends to be the sort of over-played, over-the-top, uber-dramatic display that made the Schwarzenegger action movies popular.

Somebody gets stabbed, and what does he do? Sings an aria! That's like your action movie, where a perforated perpetrator manages to get three or four pithy lines out before collapsing.

#2 daughter explained what happened - she's been learning this sort of thing from music history classes. (In her defense, her description was more conventional than what I'll write here.)

Over in Europe, you couldn't throw a rock without endangering an opera theater. Some cities had opera singers like Hollywood has extras. And everybody went to the opera.

In America, people wanted to see the opera, too. But, it was the upper crust who could afford to ship opera singers across the Atlantic: Beverly Sills and other American-made opera singers were generations away.

So, American opera was a rich-folks phenomenon. And stayed that way, for the most part.

#2 daughter also told me that the music departments in college are the acknowledged leaders in students and faculty with big egos. Second place went to the English departments.

One of my majors was English, and I can believe that ego assertion.

Sunday: Fog, Frost, a Cousin, and Grilling Lunch

We had fog here in Sauk Centre today. I like the way that streets, trees, and buildings look in this weather: and I'm glad I don't have to drive out of town in it.

My wife wasn't feeling all that well today: nothing serious, but enough to give her a slight fever. I've noticed that foggy days and mild illness seem to go together for a few members of the family.

Back to the happy side of fog: it left a highly decorative frost on the trees.

And, since there wasn't any wind to speak of, the frost stayed with us.

A selection of my in-laws and a niece, at least, were over at the in-town grandpa's, visiting. The niece (I think of her as 'one of the cousins,' since that's her relationship to our kids) spent most of the day over here.

I see I forgot to mention something in yesterday's post. One of my brothers-in-law came by yesterday afternoon, and asked #3 daughter and our son if they'd like to go ice fishing with him. Both declined, so he extended the invitation to #2 daughter, who was glad to go. I think he'd have asked all three, if the ice house he was going to was big enough.

#2 daughter had a good time, sitting in a dark hut, staring at a hole in the ice, waiting for something to happen.

I'm sure there was more to it than that. If nothing else, she had a chance to catch up with one of her uncles. I don't know that they caught any fish.

My wife and I stayed home today: I'm still a bit sleep-deprived, or something, and she was able to use the rest. Anyway, there were plenty of folks over at the in-town grandpa's. Our son has been working on a tower, yesterday and today. He finished it today, re-built part of it, and re-finished it again.

That thing reaches almost to the ceiling.

I remember doing something like this, when I was around his present age. Mine was built of Tinker Toys, his is made of Construx.

I grilled lunch today, providing burgers for the immediate family plus a cousin. She was over, visiting with #3 daughter. Those two look more alike than any two of our kids do: and they're also a very close couple of cousins.

#3 daughter and #2 daughter, and the cousin, tried on some very nice dresses, and had our son take pictures of them. He used the cousin's digital camera: an Olympus, and very nice. Our son's impressed, and says that he wants one like it. So do I, for that matter.

I'm pretty sure that we'll both have to wait a while, though.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Saturday: Grilling Lunch, Calling Family, and Napping

I got about three hours sleep last night, so I was a trifle fuzzy this morning. I've no idea why I stayed up so late (early?) last night. Oh, well.

Actually, I was fuzzy most of the day.

On the other hand, I had a good time grilling lunch and being with family. I talked to my father briefly this afternoon: Under the circumstances, he's taking things rather well.

The burgers weren't quite incinerated: I'll definitely want to be more on top of things tomorrow.

Tonight, prompted by #3 daughter, I (chatted?) with #1 daughter on the Yahoo chat service that she (#1 daughter) talked me into joining/signing up for.

That's it. I've got to get more sleep tonight.

Transitions in life: Death of my Mother

My mother died about 12 hours ago. We got the call this morning, around sunrise.

I've talked briefly with my father, and #1 daughter, over the phone, and my wife and I have been alerting near relatives.

Actually, my wife has been doing most of the work: but I did send an email.

#1 daughter said that she was glad I called this time. She found out about her grandmother's change in condition by reading this blog.

(Stupid! I assumed - no, that implies some sort of thought - If I'd bothered to assume anything, I'd have assumed that I was at the end of the information chain, and that someone had already talked to #1 daughter.)

I've already experienced some illogical self-recrimination, about how I could have been up there yesterday: and will no doubt be back at it at some inconvenient time in the near future.

Meanwhile, my brain unhelpfully started reminding me of a barely-appropriate song from (I think) the sixties. I think I've got the tune and lyrics out of my head. For now, anyway.

This is going to be an interesting week.

Friday: #2 Daughter is Home

My wife and #3 daughter looked after the shop at the in-town grandpa's this morning. They got back around noon: much sooner than I expected. He'd returned, though, so my wife decided that she may as well come back here.

Our son devised a rolling carrier for his laptop's power supply. He explained that now he could move it, and the school desk it's on, around, and the power supply would follow.

It'll have to be moved, eventually, since the cord is running right across the living room: but it can stay for a while yet.

This evening, about 8:00, #2 daughter came back from college. For about a week. There's some sort of break on. She brought quite a few instruments with her: a violin, a viola, a saxophone, and an oboe. I've got a feeling I'm missing something.

The idea is that she's going to be practicing while she's here.

I think she'll work in visiting with us, helping with a few projects, and maybe even relaxing, too.

#2 daughter and I had some time this evening to talk, and watch an episode of one of the Batman animated series. It's good to have more of the family here.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Transitions in life: Another Call from Hospice

I got another call from one of the people at Hospice. My mother's condition has changed: now her arms are looser, and she doesn't 'jump' when she's touched. I like to think that she's more comfortable now.

My father's going through an emotional time right now. He spent some time with my mother today, recalling their life and, I'm told, saying his goodbys. As he went back to his room, he told her, "I'll meet you there, kid."
This is an opportunity to say thanks to the people with "Hospice of the Red River Valley," who are helping my family.

A concise look at Hospice of the Red River Valley:
"North Dakota Department of Human Services - provider information"

Thursday: More Work on the House

A couple of guys came this morning, to put in an inside switch for the garage light. Now we'll be able to turn the light on, or off, without opening the door. Next step is to put one of those peepholes in. My wife has one, but it got misplaced while we were moving stuff around.

I thought that my wife and #3 daughter would be minding the store today, but that's tomorrow. I got some work (writing, actually) done today, including a press release for my thousandth post in another blog ("Apathetic Lemming of the North"). I figure, if I don't toot my own horn, who will?

#1 daughter didn't come over: She's prudently staying in to keep a slight cold from growing.

There seems to be something going around, down in St. Cloud. Quite a few school kids were going home, or being sent home, because they were dizzy. #3 daughter heard that from one of the cousins.

As for me, I'm going to try to get more sleep tonight. So: goodnight.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Wednesday: Minding the Shop, the Flu, and an Eclipse

My wife and #3 daughter were over at the in-town grandpa's for most of the day, minding the shop. #1 daughter arrived a little after they left, for a weekly meeting here, and to help this household get books organized.

#1 daughter and I talked, ate lunch, and she got some work done anyway. After lunch, I followed her up to the attic, where she's been excavating a path through piles of books. I sat in a lazy boy that we wrestled up there years ago, and read a trade magazine - when we weren't talking.

Or, when I wasn't driving #1 daughter half-nuts with good advice over how to deal with a slightly unstable pile of books. We resolved that issue. Actually, she did, by piling the books on their backs, instead of their edges.

We had a good time up there, actually. And, thanks to having the foresight to wear jackets up there, we didn't get too cold.

I got a phone call around noon. It was the guitarist who teaches #3 daughter. He was letting us know that he had the bug that's been going around, and that there would be no lesson today.

For reasons that I don't understand, I assumed that my wife already knew about this, and so didn't call her. She and #3 found out, when they came here.

My wife is an understanding and forgiving woman, thank God, so I'm not in too much hot water.

#1 daughter called me a little after 10 tonight, reminding me of the Lunar eclipse. Thanks to her call, I had time to get outside, set up the tripod, and take a couple of pictures.

It was cold out there, so I went back inside after about two minutes.
When I looked at the photos, I saw that tree branches were between the camera and the moon. My wife pointed out that they looked like canals. I wasn't going to go back outside for another shot - it was too cold for my comfort at that time - so I'll settle for the photos I have. This photo, and another, are on today's "Sauk Centre Journal" entry.

Wednesday: Finances, Transitions, and a Tear or Two

This household has some month left over at the end of our money. My wife tells me that we're okay, providing to unexpected expenses come up. Translation: Don't buy anything that isn't actually necessary. I'm grateful to be married to a woman who is such a good household manager.

I got a call from Hospice in the town where my parent live. This time, it wasn't a routine touching-base.

My mother's condition has changed. She's having difficulty breathing, she's eating poorly, and her color isn't as good as it was. The nursing home staff is continuing her pain medications, and giving her atropine drops to help with the breathing, but the amount of time she has to live is foe definitely finite now, than it has been for the last many years.

(I checked the use of atropine drops: besides being good for dilating the pupils, that nightshade derivative is used (carefully) as a sort of decongestant.)

This isn't the happiest news I've ever received, but it is hardly unexpected. Although my mother is a five-foot-nothing 'premie' who wasn't expected to live (except by some very determined nuns), she has a strong will and a body which, up until now, has worked fairly well.

After the call, I passed the news to my wife: as soon as I could, without our son and #3 daughter getting full details. That took us past the end of supper. A few minutes after telling my wife, we broke the news to the two at-home kids. #1 daughter will find out tomorrow, when she comes to to some more organizing here, and #2 daughter may already know: My wife called her this evening.

I was doing rather well with a still-upper-lip attitude, until my wife started talking with me about how, when I see my mother next, I should be sure to recall to her what she's done for me, and how I love her.

That did it.

There's a stoic Norseman inside me, but there's a sentimental Irishman, too. I started tearing up about the time my wife said that I should tell my mother I love her.

And, I'm doing the same now. This would be a good time to stop, for now.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Tuesday: "Project Savespace" is Named

My wife and #3 daughter went over to the in-town grandpa's today, under the impression that this was one of the days they were supposed to watch the shop. In an uncharacteristic lapse, my wife had gotten the day wrong. It's tomorrow. And, I think, Friday.

It was a happy mistake, though, since the two ladies had a good morning's visit out of it. They got back as I was starting lunch.

Our son had an appointment with the eye doctor this afternoon, after school. Quite routine, I understand.

My wife's cut pieces of a sort of felted material, making skids for a couple of chairs in the living room. One downside of having a vinyl floor: unlike carpeting, the stuff can get scratched. Those pads, or skids, should help prevent at least some scratches.

Our son asked me if he could use one of the re-writable CDs I got yesterday. A little later, he excitedly informed me that he'd gotten files moved from the main computer onto that disk. We've got a measurable and significantly greater amount of space on the hard drive now.

He suggested that we call our efforts to free up space in the computer "Project Savespace." I like it.

I spent quite a bit of the afternoon, organizing about three years' worth of digital photos. A long-overdue task, but I'm just about ready to archive the bulk of them. At least, I hope it's the bulk of them. That's something I'll be checking tomorrow morning.

Our son also told us that today, "the snow is real good for more play compatibility." He explained that the snowfalls and wind recently had made a snowfield near the school a sort of miniature landscape. He's making a make-believe about it.

I remember doing that sort of thing. Come to think of it, I still do, sometimes.

#1 daughter called this morning. She's still back, safe from that convention, and is experiencing the logical consequences of several days' lack of sleep, strange food, and exposure to people from all over the country.

She's got a cold, and could develop laryngitis with just a little more effort.

#2 daughter called, or maybe someone here called her. However it worked, she talked with my wife, and then #3 daughter, this evening. Thank goodness my wife found a low-cost, unlimited-long-distance phone service plan. She's one sharp household manager.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Monday: Despite its Reputation, Mine Was Pretty Good

Oh, right: It's President's Day. Mostly George Washington and Abraham Lincoln's memorial day.

Back to my family's doings in Sauk Centre, Minnesota:

When I came downstairs this morning, I heard my wife talking on the phone with #2 daughter. About wedding plans.

Hypothetical wedding plans, my wife told me. Just general, how-does-this-work issues. That had be a little calmer. #2 daughter found a very interesting young man on Ave Maria Singles (I wrote about that last month). I understand that he's coming to meet #2 daughter next month.

He sounds like a nice guy, based on #2 daughter's descriptions.

Meanwhile, #1 daughter got back from Washington DC tonight. She called me when she arrived in Minneapolis, and after getting back to her place.

This family does seem to talk a lot.

Thanks to this being an official holiday, I got to grill burgers at noon. A pleasure, as usual: and a fine opportunity to stand and appreciate Minnesota's weather for a few minutes. Today, it was clear blue sky and sincerely cold temperatures.

My wife continues to forge order from the chaos of parts of the north room. Quite a bit of that is my stuff. Meanwhile, I'm trying to find more duplicate and unnecessary files on the main computer. And, encourage our son to do the same.

Our son and I went out to get groceries this afternoon. My wife, and #3 daughter, were feeling cold today. My wife didn't want to experience the near-zero temperatures first-hand, so she sent the two guys.

That was fine by me. Our son and I had time to talk, he did the reaching-and-carrying, so all I had to do was pay for the cart-full. Our son was impressed by the total.

Before we went to the grocery, the two of us went to Wal-Mart. He had a Bionicle to buy, using money received from a generous relative. I picked up diabetic testing supplies and re-writable CDs. Not quite as exciting, but practical.

When our son and I got home, my wife told me that Wal-Mart had called. I'd left my stuff there, and could pick it up at customer service. Later, she told me that I sounded annoyed. I was. That was a dumb stunt.

But, not a very serious one, in terms of consequences.

I picked the package up, filled the van's fuel tank, and put myself through a longer-than-usual session at Fitness Guru, the exercise place I go to.

My goal is to be able to bicycle from here to Melrose, 10 miles down Lake Wobegon Trail, and back by the end of summer. I may not reach that goal, but trying to get there should be good for me.

Sunday: Rest, Grilling, Long Distance Calls, and the Triple-A

#1 daughter managed to see part of the zoo in Washington, DC, before she left. She hadn't planned on it: she stumbled on it while being lost.

I'm going to be glad when, by the grace of God and an over-worked guardian angel, she gets back to Minnesota. I think she's had a good trip, but it's taken quite a bit out of me. And my wife. #1 daughter tells me that she'd like to get back to Washington some day, and see more of the city.

A little after I'd have expected #1 daughter to be on the bus and headed home, the phone rang. I was in the living room, my wife took the call in the kitchen. I heard her say, "how did you do that?!" Then, "are you all right?"

That got my attention.

I figured that #1 daughter had missed the bus (best-case scenario), run afoul of one of our nation's capital's more colorful residents (not-so-good-case scenario), or - I've got a pretty good imagination, so there was a sort of traffic jam in my mind at that point.

The call was from #2 daughter. She'd managed to drive her car of Interstate 29, a few miles south of where my father lives. She was 'way past being peeved with herself.

Good news: She was in good shape, and had a cell phone.

Bad news: The cell phone was low on charge. At that point, #3 daughter was peeved with #2 daughter, too. #3 apparently has been extolling the virtue and prudence of keeping cell phones fully charged.

It's an interesting age we live in: a young woman is stuck in snow in the Red River Valley of the North. The people best positioned to help her are about 150 miles away.

My wife had decided, some months back, that with #2 daughter and other members of the family spread out so much, and on the road so often, that signing up with Triple-A made sense. I wasn't so sure at the time. Now, I'm glad she set that up.

As it turns out, a trucker came along and pulled #2 daughter out before the AAA-sponsored wrecker got to her.

Aside from that, it's been a nice, quiet day. I grilled lunch, but over-did the burgers a little. Walking that fine line between done-right and faux-hockey-puck is surprisingly challenging.

I said that I'd try to get some photos ready. Here they are:

Our son's Valentine's Day card bucket, and delivery system. No simple box for that lad.

A few inches of snow shoveled away, and I was ready to grill. That's the track of the Amazing Appearing Rabbit, just off the corner of the grill.

Track of the Amazing Appearing (or Disappearing) Rabbit. Being a little less dramatic, but more realistic, I suppose a rabbit heading south stopped, and did a fast 180 to head north again.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Saturday: Guitar Lesson, Grilling, and Rabbit Tracks

#3 daughter gave another guitar lesson this morning. She and her student seem to be enjoying the process: and I'm enjoying the music.

I grilled lunch today, after shoveling a few inches of snow out of the way. I think I'm finally getting the hang of not incinerating burgers: today's batch came out looking pretty good.

While out there, I had a chance to study rabbit tracks in the snow: including one set that seemed to be from a rabbit that popped into existence near the grill. A more reasonable interpretation of the marks is that a rabbit started heading north, made a long leap, turned around and hopped back northward.

I'll try to get photos up, tomorrow.

One of my wife's sisters - and a cousin - came this afternoon. They were having a mother-daughter day that took them half-way to Sauk Centre, and decided to go the rest of the way. Mostly to see the Sauk Centre grandfather, with us as a side-trip.

We had some difficulty, extracting #3 daughter's cousin from #3 daughter. Those two enjoy their time together.

Our son is still having a great time with the new floor in the family room. He's discovered that it's smooth enough to let him 'fly' his Bionicles on it - allowing aerial make-believes. It's a little loud, but he's having fun.

#2 daughter called, twice, this evening. She forgot her cell phone at my father's place, and needed to recover it. I think she enjoyed visiting him, too.

#1 daughter called, too. She's still enjoying that anime convention in Washington D.C.. That trip of hers is impressive, in its own way. She travels a thousand miles to America's capital, and it looks like the most she'll see of the place is the inside of a swanky hotel, and a distant view of the Naval Observatory.

At least she's learned something during the trip: talking over what's in Washington the other day, I mentioned the Library of Congress as a place to see. She didn't remember that it was something besides an online database.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Friday: Me and My Son

My wife and #3 daughter are off to St. Cloud today, combining a medical appointment with getting together with one of my wife's sisters and family.

That left me and our 11-year-old son here. My wife put him in charge of making lunch, with specific instructions.

He explained to me that he couldn't find the jelly, so was it okay to make a peanut butter and peanut butter sandwich?

I'm enjoying my pb and pb now: we'll see how the rest of the day goes.
The rest of the day went fine.

I saw - and heard - the mail come. Generally the mail carrier isn't that noisy, but today we nearly got him with a mound of ice.

Since my policy is to avoid maiming the people this household depends on, I went outside a little later, with what I call an ice pick: a sort of hoe-shaped blade at the end of a long handle.

Ten minutes of aerobic exercise in near-zero temperatures later, I had cracked off most of the mound. That thing was over an inch thick: probably an accumulation from the roof, on one of the recent warm days.

That's what it looked like, about half-way through today's process.

I put a sort of salt on what was left, and am hoping for the best. Maybe I'll get the rest of that hazard taken care of tomorrow.

My wife and #3 daughter came home before supper, as predicted. They found me taking a nap on the couch. Our son had gotten his chores done, and was doing something on the main computer.

Toward the end of today, our son and I read Garfield, as usual.

Friday Morning: The Out-of-Nesters and Us

We were getting frequent updates yesterday via cellphone from #1 daughter, as she experienced a cross-country bus trip in the depth of a North American winter. She finally arrived in Washington, DC, and was very, very impressed with the hotel that her convention was at.

The glass doors and bellmen seemed to attract her attention the most.

That, and that the room ("suite," I suspect) she's in is shared by a large number of people: including some young men. Neither #1 daughter nor her friend knew that it would be co-ed, apparently.

She called again this morning, about 6:40. My wife and I hadn't gotten up yet, but our son had. He tells me that he thinks #1 daughter hasn't figured out time zones yet. Also, that she said she'd call back.

I'll be interested in learning how her dis-advised, unsanctioned, excursion is going. But, as I said before, she's of age. And, I think she's learning something.

Meanwhile, up in Moorhead, #2 daughter has been impressed by the four school shootings (so far) this week. I think the killings at NIU DeKalb, in Illinois, impressed her.

I can understand that: She's on a college campus, and there'd been a shooting at a school once a day, on average.

She called yesterday, and had a long talk with my wife. I think that helped.
Update, about 10:30 a.m.
Back to #1 daughter: She called, a little before 10, talked with #3 daughter, then with me.

Last night she addressed her roommates, holding her bokken (a wooden sword) aloft, and announced her both her intention to protect her virginity, and her proficiency with the bokken. The girls, she said, regarded the announcement as "stupid." On the other hand, many of the guys thought it was cool.

The girls stated that the guys were okay, and could be trusted. I'm a man, and have rather well-defined standards of behavior. But even now, in my fifties, I would keep a sharp eye on myself, in the unlikely event that I found myself sleeping in a room full of young women.

Men in their twenties? Never mind.

#1 daughter, after her head dropped on the bokken several times, decided to give up her intention of sleeping sitting up, and retired to the floor of the closet. Curled up with her bokken.

At what she called "some unholy hour," a very concerned young man approached the door. He said, "I'm just here to get my costume. Please don't hit me." Offhand, I think she gained a level of respect in that group.

Meanwhile, convention registration is underway, and #1 daughter has been meeting people and taking photos. I think she'll have a good time.

Thursday: Valentine's Day

I put my wife's Valentine's Day present under a sheet of paper, where she sits at the kitchen table. With the work that's been going on, and my relative lack of familiarity with my wife's systems of household organization, I couldn't find conventional wrapping paper - or those decorative and reusable bags we use these days.

I think she liked it: a copy of "The Virginian."

Besides that delightful snow-card from yesterday, I got a "Cisco Kid" DVD from my wife: and a very cool combination flashlight/pen/laser pointer. My wife is well aware of how gadget-happy I am.

Our son showed me his new public library card. It's an impressive thing: plastic, with their new GRRL logo (Great River Regional Library), and a place for him to put his signature.

That outsized Valentine Card deposit system of his came home today: My wife and #3 daughter took the van over to collect it - and him.

Apparently, the Valentine's Day party at school went well. They let him set up that Star Wars / Lego Playstation game that he and I picked up yesterday evening. (I see that I forgot to put that in yesterday's entry.) Then, one of the adults at the school got concerned about the game and asked him to do something else: which he was quite willing to do. I suppose it was too violent, or something of the sort.

Finally, a funny thing happened to me on the way out of Wal-Mart this afternoon. There was a car parked perilously close to my rear bumper. That wasn't what was so funny, though. Take a look:
What's wrong with this picture?

This driver had
  1. Judging from the angle of the front wheels, driven the wrong way down one of the lanes
  2. Swung into the handicapped parking spots, covered part of one, plus the loading/unloading area next to it
  3. Without the authorizing tags, stickers, or windshield card
I'll admit that snow had obscured some of the lane and other markings.

Just the same, I think whoever did this deserves credit for getting three errors in one go.

The good news: there were plenty of other spots available, and I got out without scratching the poor fellow's paint.

To be a little serious: I'm impressed at how few people take those handicapped-parking spots without authorization.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Wednesday: Tomorrow's Valentine's Day

This morning, I discovered what our son and #3 daughter had been up to in the back yard yesterday afternoon.
They'd aligned the Valentine's heart with the bathroom window: right where my wife and I would see it. what a great way to start this day.

The rest of the day, for me, was spent getting work done on the computer - and doing some long-overdue clearing out of un-needed files. It's amazing how much space photos take up.

At the other end of the house, my wife was getting her living room flooring put in place. The methodical pro she'd found to do the job, and his helper, have the room looking better than it ever has. My opinion. She's been wanting to get a hard surface, and something that looks classier than the wildly-colored carpet, in that room ever since we moved here.

There's going to be some nostalgic remembering of the carpet. The kids used to play 'shape tag' on it, where they could only step on certain shapes. Even so, I'm pretty sure they'll like the change.

It was worth not being able to use the room for a day.

Tomorrow's Valentine's Day. And, to my slight surprise, I actually remembered to get something for my wife.

Our son told me that, when his teacher got a call from the office to tell her that his Valentine's card holder had been dropped off, she said something like, 'it's what size?!'

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Tuesday: Two Days to Valentine's Day

Our son was back in school today. And, his contraption for getting cards into the Valentine box is just about complete. Even better, it works! A sort of car runs down a ramp and tips the card into a bucket. Usually. He'll want to add a barrier at the far side of the bucket, to catch flying cards.

#1 daughter is off to that anime convention in Washington, DC. We got a phone report form her in Minneapolis. Apparently, there's some sort of weather delay for the buses. I hope and pray that her trip goes well.

#3 daughter had an animated talk with someone on the phone this afternoon: I think it was #2 daughter, but couldn't be sure.

My wife had a brief, but lively, talk with one of her sisters on the phone, too. My wife is going to have the family over around Easter time: She's sort of inheriting the assignment from the sister she talked with. I'll be very interested in seeing how this turns out.

I've been getting some work done: including a tutoring session this morning. I also learned that the main computer is getting perilously short of space on the hard drive. I spent some time this evening, checking on the progress of a clean-up program. Tomorrow, I'll want to go in and see what sort of housecleaning I can do by hand.

Also tomorrow, I hear that the man who'll be laying the flooring in the living room will be here.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Monday: Here We Go Again

Our son was home from school again today. If I didn't know that my wife is very sensible and astute, I'd suspect that he had a case of "Mondayitis." This is the second Monday in a row that he's been sub-par.

He made use of the free time to work on a complicated Valentine-card delivery system for his Valentines Day card container. He's done a 'Rube Goldberg' contraptions before: and I think he's pretty good at it.

Something I didn't mention in Sunday's entry. #2 daughter got a slight shock as she was packing the van. For reasons that I don't entirely understand, she had her hands exposed outside: and noticed that they were steaming.

She reports that she thought something along the lines of "what kind of temperature is this?!" In a word, cold. I see in the news that International Falls is the official "Icebox of the Nation" again: with temperatures to match. In was 40 below zero there today. That's still-air temperature. Not wind chill.

I got two calls from #1 daughter today. She's excited about a trip she's taking to Washington, DC. To be at an anime convention. My wife and I did not recommend or endorse the trip, but she's of age and can make her own decisions.

I hope, while she's there, that she bothers to look at something besides anime and manga and fan art.

My wife finished painting the living room today. She saved the most challenging section of wall for last. It's the part over the stairs going down to the basement. Her solution was to
  • Put the paint can on a shelf between the wall and the stair
  • Set herself up in a rather dramatic pose, with her right foot on a stepladder and her left on the built-in shelves that surround the stairs
  • Grasp one end of a cardboard tube that she'd affixed the paint brush to and
  • Dip that brush with a four-foot handle into the bucket and paint the wall
All in all, an impressive bit of work: and the results look fine.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sunday: Photos

I took some photos while traveling. Here are three of them:

Mid-morning shadows in the Red River Valley of the north.

This little girl was praying this afternoon at St. Mary's Cathedral in Fargo, North Dakota.

I was back in Minnesota by the time the sun started setting. I took this north and west of Fergus Falls.

Sunday: It was Cold Last Night

It's good to be home.

Thanks to good engineering and design, pretty good maintenance, and a headbolt heater, the van started this morning. It was a cold night.

#2 daughter, her friend, and I went to visit with my father again this morning. #2 daughter also got the van packed. The three of us set off for Moorhead, then back to Fargo for Mass at St. Mary's.

#2 daughter and I had some time after that, so we talked in the front room of her dorm. Then, off again for me, stopping for a meal at Debbie's Homestyle Kitchen in Fergus Falls: that's a sort of tradition for the family.

As good as it was to talk with my father, it's good to be back with "my" family. I got back in pretty good time today: about 7:15. #3 daughter, Our son, and my wife, were in the living room when I got back.

Probably because I hadn't carried it in, my wife asked me if the CPAP had been packed. I hadn't a clue: #2 daughter's so reliable, I just assumed that she had (and, I'd seen it in the to-go pile). And, the assumption was right.

I'm sure there's more to say, but I can't think of it right now.

Except for this: I collected a Weather Service wind chill factor report (all in degrees Fahrenheit) for places in North Dakota last night. Then, I put them in order, 'warmest' to coldest:
  • -30 Hettinger
  • -31 Dickinson
  • -37 Williston
  • -40 Carrington
  • -40 Ellendale
  • -40 Killdeer
  • -40 Robinson
  • -40 Stanton
  • -40 Watford City
  • -41 Tioga
  • -42 Harvey
  • -43 Bismarck
  • -43 Gackle
  • -43 Edgeley
  • -43 Moffit
  • -43 Wishek
  • -46 Garrison
  • -46 Jamestown
  • -47 Minot
  • -49 Mohall
  • -49 New Salem
  • -49 Rolla
  • -53 Rugby
  • -54 Bottineau

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Saturday: Wind and Snow in the Red River Valley

I slept about eleven hours last night: more evidence that I should pay better attention to my wake/sleep schedule. I picked up #2 daughter and a friend of hers from college in Moorhead. The friend wanted (needed?) a break from the college routines, and got it.

So far, the trip has gone well. The three of us went into town to talk with my father in the morning, and again in the afternoon. The second time, #2 daughter brought her violin along, and played a few pieces: using an easel for a music stand. I offered to hold the music for her, but apparently she thought it would be safer, and steadier, with the easel.

As usual on these trips, we (#2 daughter for the most part) have been going through stuff up here, putting together a load to move down to Sauk Centre. The process is going more smoothly than I had feared.

However, it's an odd feeling, going through the material of the family I grew up in, deciding what to do with it. I've been taken on quite a few trips down memory lane recently. Happily, the memories are mostly good ones.

#2 daughter brought my attention to a book of Fontaine Fox's "Toonerville Trolly" cartoons. I'd glanced through the book, several years ago, but hadn't 'gotten' most of the cartoons. This time, I read the introduction first: and that helped. The "Toonerville Trolly" cartoons are getting to be a century old now, and describe a culture that I'm not all that familiar with. The bit of understanding I got from that introduction helped me appreciate the cartoons much more.

I got through about half the book last night, and will probably finish it tonight.

It was zero when we went into town this morning, -3 when we went back in the afternoon, and -4 as we left. It's going to be a cold night.

I'm glad we can get in these visits with my father. He has trouble getting oxygen in through his lungs, even with an oxygen supply running under his nose: and this limits conversations to about 40 minutes. We have good talks, though. And, #2 daughter has been helping things along. I think she may be a better conversationalist than I am.

I didn't mention the wind. There's an old joke from the Red River Valley of the North: "Does the wind always blow this way?" "No, sometimes it blows the other way."

Okay: I hear that another load is coming down from the second floor. This is as good a spot to stop as any.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Friday: Family Business and Fun

My first (or second) tutoring session went pretty well this morning. It was the second time I'd met the tutee, if that's the right word, but the first time we'd been working on reading and comprehension. It feels good to get back into an instructional sort of work.

Next step was to get some organizing done, mostly digital: making sure files were in the right folders and that sort of thing. I was working on a deadline: This weekend, I'm visiting my dad and taking care of some arrangements up in the Red River Valley.

#1 daughter stopped by in the morning, as my wife and #3 daughter were leaving to visit the in-town grandpa. #1 daughter needed to pick up driving instructions for a place in the St. Cloud area, about 45 minutes down the road. She didn't get them from me: She looked them up online.

I like to think that her stopping by for directions was an excuse to say 'hi' to me and the rest of the family.

I got the writing I had to do finished, and set off for the Red River Valley only about a half-hour late. Picking up #2 daughter and a friend of hers, the three of us got to our destination before the light completely faded.

Next step: get organized up here, or at least try.

Thursday: Ever Have One of Those Days?

I've had two of "those days" in a row now. Maybe you've had them, too: days that end with you feeling like you've run around all day, and accomplished next to nothing.

I'm a bit distracted right now, with my father in a nursing home and perhaps to an assisted living facility after that, quite a few details to work out with coming changes, and adjusting to the passing of the final milestones in my father's life.

On a happier note, we enjoyed a heavy frost on the trees in Sauk Centre this morning. I'll probably have a photo to show tomorrow.

Vinyl flooring came this morning, along with the man who'll be doing the job. He made some measurements, and stacked the flooring inside, to let it warm up and settle.

My wife, our son, and #3 daughter went to Soo Bahk Do tonight, leaving me free to get some writing done. Also, to sit and think for a while.

Now, it's getting late, and I need to get a good night's sleep. I'm tutoring tomorrow morning: Another thing to think about. #3 daughter reassured me this evening, telling me that the first lesson is the hardest. She's still giving guitar lessons - and, I think, doing a good job.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Wednesday: Ash Wednesday

I spent the afternoon with a cross of ashes on my forehead, like a great many other people here in Sauk Centre.

There's more to say, but it's late. I'll be back tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Tuesday: Busy, Getting Little Done

I got up this morning, finished that Knights of Columbus Bulletin and took it to the printer. Next stop, the Post Office, to make sure that a postal permit was up to date. It was.

Next on the agenda was lunch, and a nap. I spent the latter part of the afternoon updating blogs, including "Apathetic Lemming of the North." I feel like I got lucky on that blog today, finding an ancient architectural wonder, and one that hasn't been built yet.

Then my computer became passive-aggressive, refusing to let the webcam-on-the-street update photos. While it was on a roll, it made it hard for me to get a set of ballots updated and printed for tonight's caucus. And, just to be thorough, stopped recognizing the other webcam. Then it crashed.

I'd gotten the ballots printed by that time, and so was just about on time to convene the caucus. From that time on, I could just relax, turn in my ballot, report the results, and go home.

Our son stayed home from school today, too. He's better, but definitely not up to par. My wife isn't feeling all that well, and neither is #3 daughter. Me? I'm [snuffle] fine. Just fine.

Now, at the end of the day, the highlight was reading Garfield with our son. I got home in time for that routine, so I guess I accomplished something useful after all today.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Monday: Chicken Soup for Everyone

Very early this morning, I cleaned up a mess in one of the bedrooms. Our son had upgraded his 'upset stomach' to 'sick to the stomach.' Happily, I was able to take care of the situation without disturbing my wife or #3 daughter. Too much. I learned that they'd heard the episode.

Following instructions from my wife, I heated and served soup this noon. Any other family would call it stew, I think. My wife doesn't seem to believe in thin soup. I'd have helped with supper, but slept through the hour before 5:00. For some reason, I felt like a nap this afternoon.

We're feeling better now, quite possibly to the chicken soup we had for supper.

Our son doesn't mind having to stay home from school today. This way, he was here when his godmother came. With his Christmas gift, last birthday present, and the next birthday present.

She and her husband run a dairy farm ten miles or so east of here. When she comes into town, it's generally for parts: and in that situation it's a matter of get in, get the part, and get back so that their equipment has as little down time as possible.

Today, she budgeted time to see my wife. The two ladies had a good talk, while our son built Bionicles.

I got some writing done during the day, and handled a little of the preparation for tomorrow's precinct caucus in town. Now, it's time to put the local Knights of Columbus bulletin together. If all goes well, I'll have it to the printers tomorrow morning.

And, as usual, our son and I read "Garfield" before he retired.

Sunday: A Day of Rest - and Grilling

I like grilling, and generally get to fix burgers on Saturday and Sunday. As I did today. Only one of the patties was a bit charred around the edges: that one was assigned to me, since I like well-done burgers.

We've had frost on the trees this weekend, so I had a postcard-quality winter scene to watch while I grilled (incinerated?) the burgers.

#1 daughter was in town, getting a ride from someone who drives in from Alexandria each Sunday. I enjoyed having her around for church, lunch, and a while after that. My son, #1 daughter, and I make a talkative threesome when we're together.

My wife, our son, and #3 daughter, went to the in-town grandpa's for the latter part of the afternoon. Some cousins were visiting: always a good reason for going over there.

I didn't get much done today: appropriately enough, since this is supposed to be a day of rest.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Saturday: Grilling Amidst Frost

Grilling lunch today had a bonus. Frost on branches and twigs lasted until noon, so I had a special scene to see while treading the fine line between getting raw burgers and incinerated hockey pucks.

We found out that the flooring we were planning for the living room has been delayed twice - and probably won't be coming at all. There's some sort of technical problem with its manufacture, I understand.

So, it was off to select a reasonable substitute. I think my wife found a good 2nd choice. It may wind up being being better that our original choice.

Other than that, the afternoon was pleasantly bland.

At some point, our son and I went to that Disney "Pirates of the Caribbean" online game, and set me up with a free account. It's remarkably engaging. The sea battles even take gravity and ballistics into account for the cannon shots. If I don't watch out, I'll get as involved as our son.

We got a call from #2 daughter. She mostly talked with my wife and #3 daughter, but I got a few words in.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Friday: Two Weeks to St. Valentine's Day

Yesterday wasn't one of my banner days.

When I got to Fitness Guru, the place where I exercise, the towel that (I thought) I'd packed wasn't in the duffel. Going back to recover the towel, or get another, would take time that I didn't want to spend.

Besides, I had an idea. Over a month ago, I accidentally put a T-shirt in that duffel: and kept it there. Yesterday, I discovered that a T-shirt and a recently-worn polo shirt, used judiciously, are an adequate substitute for a conventional towel.

I can't say that I'd recommend that substitution, though.

Then, I went to the place I get my glasses. About two and a half weeks ago, the eye doctor confirmed that I needed new glasses. After a minor snafu, involving a re-ordering of the lenses, and another week's wait, I learned that the new glasses were ready.

On my way in, acting on an impulse, I tried on my old glasses. I'd left them in the van, to be sure that they'd be on hand.

When I put them on, every twig on every tree snapped into sharp focus.

In contrast to the new glasses, that don't do as good a job at correcting my vision.


The focus issue is almost certainly connected to my efforts to get my blood sugar level stable. I'm still learning how to do that.

I don't think we appreciate how effectively our bodies monitor and maintain the interacting chemical processes that keep us alive - until we have to do some of the monitoring and maintenance ourselves.

That, a quiet evening with my wife, our son, and #3 daughter at Soo Bahk Do, followed by reading "Garfield."

Which brings us up to today.

I did my first (in a while) tutoring session today. It went rather well, I think: It's good to get back to this sort of task. I've done tutoring for English and a few other subjects, and did some ESL work: but that was years ago. We'll see how my current tutoring works out.

Another exercise session this afternoon, after which I went to Jitters Java, a specialty coffee shop downtown. That was a treat. Family finances being what they are, I haven't been there as often as I like. (It's those recurring expenses that can really drain a budget.)

Our son talked me into letting him download and install (free) online game software from Disney. I wrote about that on another blog. Sounds coming from the north room told me that he's thoroughly enjoying the game. He's been asking me when I'll set up an account. That'll probably happen tomorrow.

That, and reading "Garfield," again, wrapped up the day.
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