Friday, May 14, 2010


Just a quick post to say goodbye! Tomorrow morning is the Autism 5K in Minneapolis; and then, as Peter, Paul, and Mary would say, "I'm leaving on a jet plane, don't know when I'll be back again . . . "

Be sure to eat your vegetables and say your prayers while I am gone. Signing out . . .

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Since the purpose of this blog was to document my daily walking (thus the “2 to 4 a Day” title), the last two months have been a blatant, out-and-out, shameless stalling for time.

I’ve told you about my new grandson, about my elderly parents, about flowers and picture projects and big walleyes. I’ve told you about birthday parties and field trips and poetry contests. I've even stooped to telling you about sheet creases, for gosh sakes.

And yes, sometimes I whined about my bum knee.

I’d walk one day and have to take the next day off to rest the knee. I’ve purposely kept my walking routes close to home in case of a knee malfunction—sometimes walking in circles and squares and spirals, just so that I’m never more than a few blocks from my house. And I’ve resorted to the treadmill again (for those of you who've glanced at “Last Movie I Watched,” you probably noticed a larger-than-normal turnover in that section).

But I’m happy to report that I can once again tentatively, legitimately blog under the title “2 to 4 a Day.” With the help of my new unattractive-yet-functional knee brace (see below), I am regularly managing two miles a day, and sometimes throw in a little more for good measure. On Mother’s Day, my daughter and I walked three miles on the Central Lakes Trail (hurray!). And in four days, I am determined to walk that Autism 5K (3.1 miles) around Lake Calhoun that I had originally intended to run.

To tell you the truth, I don’t know if my knee is a whole lot better than it was a few weeks ago. I do know that walking does not make it worse, which was my original fear. And I think a person gets used to aches and pains after awhile, accepting them as the norm, and moving on with life.

I suppose if I stopped to listen to my knee at any given time, it’s still there, protesting any type of an activity like a whiny, overtired child. But just like anything annoying—person, place, or thing—after awhile, it’s best to just tune them out. Life’s too short to listen to my niggling knee.

I’ve got places to walk, you know. The world is full of wooded paths to ramble and hidden lanes to explore.

Monday, May 10, 2010


Everybody gets sheet creases. You know, those lines on your face you see in the mirror right after you get out of bed in the morning. The pillow case folds and wrinkles underneath your facial skin, so you are left with those tell-tale marks. Sheet creases. You know what I’m talking about. Everybody gets them. No use pretending you don’t.

What I didn’t realize is that the older you get, the longer it takes for those sheet creases to relax back into plain-old, ordinary, regular-looking skin.

In your teens, the skin practically pops back out before you finish brushing your teeth.

In your twenties, the skin normally regains its smoothness before you have to be at work or school or wherever you need to go that morning.

In your thirties, forties, maybe even your fifties, the skin boings back eventually. It may take awhile, but you never doubt it’s going to boing back.

But now that I’m in my sixties, there might be a new twist to the story.

Last Sunday morning, Tom was a reader at 8 a.m. church. I got up at my usual 6 a.m. so there was plenty of time to get ready--I thought. What I failed to take into consideration was that this was the morning of the extra-deep, industrial-strength sheet crease. I noticed the Grand Canyon-esque wrinkle slashing across the left side of my face in the mirror while I got ready. But then I forgot about it again as we went to church, came home, and made breakfast.

I ended up back in front of the bathroom mirror again at around 10 a.m. Imagine my dismay when I saw that the pesky sheet crease I had noticed at 6 a.m. was still emblazoned across the side of my face. Like Al Pacino in Scarface. Like Seal. Like Harry Potter’s lightning-shaped blaze. There was my sheet crease for all the world to see.

I figured as long as I’d made it that far into the day (and that everyone around me at church had seen it and knew exactly what it was), I would make lemonade out of my lemons and attempt a personal record. How long could I keep this sheet wrinkle on my face without it popping back out?

I think I set a new record: an eight-hour sheet crease. That would be a personal best. I admit that I purposely was very, very careful not to have my face make sudden movements: no laughing, no crying, no shock, no delight.

Eight hours. I’d like to see any of you young whippersnappers with your youthful elastic skin top that.


Doesn’t it seem like just yesterday that I posted a picture of Colbie coming home from the hospital?

Remember her little pink hat? Remember how tiny she looked in her car seat? Remember how peacefully she slept?

And now her brother Luke is coming home, looking so tiny and serious in his car seat.

How can that possibly be when it was only yesterday that Colbie came home from the hospital?

Where did that time go? There's that Warp 10 speed again.

Friday, May 07, 2010


If my current life was a movie, I think “The Project that Ate My Office” would be a fitting title. I have outgrown my desk, moved my stacks to the bed, and finally, in desperation, set up a card table in the middle of the room.

Remember my ambitious goal of scanning the old family pictures and giving copies of them to all my siblings? It was my way of saying to them, “I’m w-a-a-y too irresponsible to be in charge of these family heirlooms all by myself.”

I’m trying to sort and organize the pictures in a logical way: 1) my father’s family, 2) my mother’s family, 3) my father and mother from birth until 1941 when they got married, 4) pictures that show their family growing over the years, and finally 4) individual pictures of each of the six children in my family.

My oldest sister has approximately a bajillion pictures from birth through college graduation. She had so many that I finally ended up scanning them six at a time to save space. My brother, second in line, has about a half a bajillion pictures. Even my next older sister, third in line, has at least a quarter of a bajillion pictures documenting her life.

Below: Six of the approximately ten katrillion baby pictures of my oldest sister. Seriously, Mom and Dad, did you just lie around all day taking her picture?

It’s we three youngest sisters who are in trouble, photographically speaking.

First of all, we are rarely photographed alone. We’re always mixed in with a mob of older siblings or cousins or company visiting from California. It was like my parents were afraid to be alone in a room with a camera and any one of the three of us.

Below: Rare photo of “The Three Little Ones” in 1957.
Second, we must have had leprosy or the bubonic plague because whoever photographed us always stood at least a half-mile away while forcing us to stare directly into the sun. In most of our pictures, we sisters are off on the distant horizon, squinting at the camera. This explains, perhaps, why all three of us were forced to get glasses at a fairly young age.

Then came the early 1960s. My dad, who never bought anything at full price in his life, decided to buy a brand new Polaroid Land instant camera. He probably got such a good deal because it was the original beta model, before Polaroid had worked out all the bugs.

Right: Oh, that’s what the pink goop was for!

I suppose the fine print on the Polaroid camera box warned us that failure to smear the tube of sticky pink goopy stuff on the pictures after they emerged from the camera would result in streaked or faded pictures. (Note to my siblings: whoever of us had the job of goop-smearing is fired.) Whatever the reason, those 1960s pictures did not survive the test of time. An entire decade of family pictures are ghostly, discolored, streaky photos that require imagination to interpret. But since those were our awkward years, maybe it is better that way.

I had thought this project would take a week or so. Now I’m just hoping to be done by the end of May—which, by the way, is National Photography Month. Freaky coincidence.

I’m usually a little on the OCD side in regard to my surroundings. I like things neat and spare. That in itself is an incentive to invest in some overtime and put this project to bed (or, rather, get this project off the bed and back into plastic storage boxes).

Thursday, May 06, 2010


Colbie wasn’t entirely sure how she should react to the news that her new baby brother arrived this morning at 9:52 a.m.

“This will be a good thing, right?” she seems to be asking. “I’m going to like this new arrangement, aren’t I?”

Yes, Colbie. It will be a good thing.

And welcome to the world, little Luke.

Grandma and Grandpa sure wish they lived closer to you. But then, that's why they invented airplanes. We'll see you soon!

Tuesday, May 04, 2010


I spent the day yesterday helping chaperone about 75 third graders who were taking part in a day-long camp at Voyageur Environmental Center in Mound, Minnesota. I was assigned to help herd “Group C,” consisting of 24 very enthusiastic, very energetic 8- and 9-year olds.

As you know, third graders aren’t exactly my area of specialty. So I was given a glimpse of third-grade humor when one of the camp counselors, a “lumber-yack” named “Yohnny Yohnson from Visconsin” welcomed all the “tird graders” to his environmental session on logging in Minnesota. As soon as the Scandinavian pronunciation of “tird graders” fell from his lips, the kids started with the elbows and tittering: “Turd,” “turd,” “turd,” they whispered and giggled to each other in delight. Yohnny Yohnson just grinned at them. He was no fool. He knew exactly what tickled third graders’ funnybones.

The kids were dressed in all kinds of outdoor attire. It was a windy, cloudy day with the temperature in the low 50s. Most at least had a hooded sweatshirt. But there were shorts, sandals, hockey jerseys, blue jeans, sun hats, stocking caps, sweaters, and even a plastic grocery bag from Cub Foods—you name it and some kid had it on.

However, all day long, there was one shirt I couldn’t seem to shake. Every time I turned around, there was that pesky third-grade girl in her gray, long-sleeved tee-shirt. At first I couldn’t quite make out the words; there was so much printing on the back of the shirt that it was hard to read. Third graders sit still for approximately two seconds at a time and third-grade girls just love to hang all over each other. So between the moving and the fabric wrinkles and the draped arms of classmates and the fine print, it took me three or four tries before I got the whole message. This is what it said on the back of that little girl’s shirt:

"Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.” – Lance Armstrong

For some reason, that girl’s shirt reminded me of an incident a few years ago when some members of my family decided to climb Camelback Mountain in Phoenix. Everybody climbs Camelback Mountain when they go visit Phoenix. I knew I could do it because I was a walker, a hiker, and a darn-stubborn woman.

But to this day, I can recall what that rock looked like about three-quarters of the way to the top—the rock where I stopped, sat down, and declared I couldn’t walk another step. My legs were like rubber. I couldn’t breathe because of the altitude. I just sat down and quit. Everybody else kept going, and there I sat, waiting for them to descend again. After I had regained my legs and my wind, I was embarrassed and regretful. But by then, it was too late. I had missed my chance.

I remember what the sky looked like that day because I had plenty of time to look at it while I waited. I can’t think back on that day on Camelback Mountain without feeling regretful, and I know now that I might not ever get a chance to try again. Like Lance says, “ . . . If I quit, it lasts forever.”

Next time I chaperone a bunch of “tird graders,” I’m going to stand behind someone wearing a “Lookin’ Like a Fool with Your Pants on the Ground” tee shirt. My mom-jeans are always neatly pulled up right around my waist, snapped nice and tight. I could read that shirt without any of those annoying conscience pangs that haunted me throughout the day yesterday, with Lance Armstrong gently reminding me that sometimes if we quit, we don’t get another chance.

Saturday, May 01, 2010


When I stopped by to visit my parents today, I mentioned that Tom and I were going to Minneapolis on Monday to help chaperone a field trip at the school where my daughter is an elementary school social worker. Each spring, she helps plan an outing for all the third graders to a nearby environmental camp for a day of learning and fun.

Me: Last year when I helped chaperone Shannon’s camp, I was really proud of her. She was so organized and efficient. And the kids just loved her.

Grandpa: We couldn’t say we were proud of you kids. We would have been criticized.

Me: Why would you have been criticized?

Grandma: People just didn’t brag about their kids back then. It wasn’t right.

Grandpa: We knew you were all above average, but we had to say that you had trouble with this or that in school. It was expected.

Me: That doesn’t seem fair. Why did you have to say we had trouble?

Grandma: You didn’t want people to be jealous—in case their kids were having trouble in school. So we just didn’t brag about our kids.

Me: Maybe there just wasn’t that much to brag about. I seem to remember that we got into trouble a lot.

Grandma: No, you all behaved very well in public. You were very good children.

Grandpa: It was the paddle, you know, the one without the ball. (He made some up and down motions with his hand.)

Me: Ping pong?

Grandpa: Without the ball. And no rubber string. The paddle.

Me: Ah! The paddle! So did you learn that trick from your own parents? Did they scare you into behaving with a paddle?

Grandpa: No, my father was soft-hearted. Once my mother was mad at me for teasing the girls [his sisters]. She made Pa take me out to the woodshed. But after we got to the woodshed, Pa and I just stood there. He didn’t paddle me. He couldn’t do it. We never mentioned it to Ma.

Me: Did your pa warn you not to tell?

Grandpa: No, Pa didn’t say anything. I just knew I shouldn’t mention it to Ma.

Me: Maybe your dad could afford to be tender-hearted because your Grandpa Martin and Uncle Carl [my dad’s grandfather and bachelor uncle who lived with the family] were so tough on you kids.

Grandpa: Sometimes when Grandpa and Uncle would get after us children, Ma’s face would be bright red, she’d be so mad at them. But she never said a word. I think that’s why Pa joked and laughed with us so much—to make up for Grandpa and Uncle.

Grandma: Your father was cheerful. My father was stern.

Me: Did he ever take you kids out to the woodshed?

Grandma: He didn’t have to. He just looked at us and we knew we’d better behave. If he was reading the newspaper and we were acting up, he just laid that newspaper down and gave us that look. [She shivered.] That was all it took. We behaved.

Me: What about your mother? Was she tough on you?

Grandma: She just nagged. We behaved so she wouldn’t nag.

Grandpa: [thinking] Ma had a buggy whip laying on the top of the window frame in the pantry.

Me: Did she use it?

Grandpa (looking thoughtful): I don’t remember that she ever used it. But we knew it was there. When you have six kids, you have to have some way of keeping them in line.

Me: I suppose if parents used ping pong paddles and buggy whips today, they would be in big trouble.

Grandpa: I suppose they would. It must be harder to make kids behave nowadays. Sometimes talking doesn’t get through to them.

Grandma: My father was always in charge, even when my brothers were grown up. When my father got older, my brothers did all the planning and field work on the farm, but Pa kept the checkbook and his billfold locked up in his safe.

Me: I suppose that was the way he could stay in control.

Grandma: He was in charge, all right.

Grandpa: We didn’t go to Europe. Instead, we took you kids with us to a restaurant once in awhile. You always behaved at the restaurant. Some people go to Europe. We took you to a restaurant instead.

Me: [slightly confused, trying to make whatever mental leap my father had just made] Um--that was good of you to spend your money on buying hamburgers and milk shakes for us instead of going to Europe. And I’m glad we behaved at the restaurant. We were probably just scared of the ping pong paddle at home.

Grandpa: No, you were good kids. We just couldn’t brag.

Grandma: No, we would have been criticized.

Full circle. We had come full circle. Time to go home.
My parents in 1941--before they started having children. Not a ping pong paddle in sight.


It’s May 1st, decision time. If you were with me in January when I made my bold yet ill-fated decision to run in the Minneapolis Autism 5K on May 15, then you were probably also with me when I reported on my knee failure in March. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, count yourself lucky. You can skip this entry and spare yourself hearing about one more old-lady ailment.

After injuring my knee, I decided to hold off making a decision about running in the 5K until May 1. I figured by then, I would know—one way or another—if my knee would miraculously heal or whether I would have a weak link in my otherwise goddess-like, jock-machine of a 61-year-old body.

Well, it’s May 1, and I have a weak link. But I have decided that my knee is recovered enough to walk the 5K. I just will not be running it.

After this experience, I will no longer take any well-performing body parts for granted. For years, I just assumed that my left knee would always be there, doing what it was supposed to be doing: bend, straighten, bend, straighten, day after day, ad infinitum. No more. I’ve learned my lesson. Every day that the knee feels like it’s improving, I heap on the praises: “Wow, left knee! Way to go!! You are really coming along.” And on the days I feel it slipping backwards a little, I say encouragingly, “Come on, left knee! You can do it! You’re a champ. Think positively.”

I’ve also tried to pay more attention to body parts that in the past I would have ignored because they weren’t causing me any problems. When was the last time you thought of your elbows, for instance? Yet, they’re hard-working hinges that don’t get any credit. “Yea, elbows!” I’ll shout in a random, Turrets-style moment, startling fellow Target shoppers. “You guys are the best!”

And when was the last time you gave any credit to your liver? Or your spleen? Or any number of other internal organs that just do their jobs, day after day, without complaining? For example, I’ve decided that May 13 is going to be Gallbladder Day, and I’m going to go out of my way to thank my gallbladder for its many years of faithful, uninterrupted bile-secretion service. "Go, gallbladder! You rock my world!"

So the decision has been made. My left knee injury scared me. It made me realize that even though I’ve been walking 2 to 4 miles a day for ten years, that privilege could be taken away from me overnight. I’m only one injury away from an idle life on my faux-leather couch clutching the TV remote control. It made me re-appreciate an important life activity that I had begun to take for granted.

So, here’s to May 15 and appreciating that I will be able to at least walk those 3.1 miles!

You’ll have to excuse me now. I’m on my way to Hallmark to buy a thank you card. It’s Vertebrae Day, and I’ve got about 33 extremely special vertebrae that I need to thank for their years of faithful spinal service.