Wednesday, September 30, 2015

September 28 - 30, 2015, MN

Wednesday, September 30.  As usual at Ben's house, there is the hustle and bustle of family life: preschool, playtime, walkabouts, dog walks, meal prep, cleanup, boo boos, and small snippets of R and R. Jill was recently diagnosed with shingles, so she isn't feeling up to par and all 3 little ones had a single red spot on their faces yesterday and the twins both had runny noses.  The question of the morning was - could it be chicken pox (they have all been vaccinated)?  So Jill kept Charlotte home from school just in case.  They are fine and no new spots have appeared so we are keeping our fingers crossed.

The weather has turned - it was 42 degrees this morning.  Brrrrrr!  Daily temps are in the mid-60s this week.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

September 21 - 27, WI, IA, MN

The Monday, September 21.  Pat was off work today and it is the last full day that we could hang out before I leave on Friday.  After a quick errand to Madison, we settled in and did things around the house.  He harvested the last of the green peppers and we mixed up a batch of stuffed peppers for dinner.  They turned out to be yummy, although the recipe called for more meat than most and it was kind of like a meat loaf surrounded by pepper and topped with tomato sauce.  For dessert, we had the pear crisp that I made yesterday and that is decadently sweet but sooooooo delicious.

I took Frisco to the vet this morning and they can't find anything definitive.  They took X-ray's and learned that his heart is slightly enlarged but nothing serious.  After a closer look, his spine has evidence of bridging spondylosis which is common as dogs age - the bone along the spine expands or grows Spurs that can break off and cause pain.  It is in his chest area and also the lumbar region.  She also ran a test for Lyme disease which can cause muscle aches and low energy but that came back negative.  I am waiting for blood test results and will start him on an anti-inflammatory for a couple of weeks.  All that and I am $300 poorer, but he's my little buddy and he is worth every penny.

We watched the second episode of Narcos, a Netflix series about Pablo Escavar and the Columbian drug traffickers - it's pretty graphic and violent - amazing the amount of $$$$ those guys pulled in.

Wednesday, September 23.  I have walked 4 miles the last 2 mornings, yesterday around Stoughton with Dawn and this morning at Token Creek County Park with Jim.  The trail was wet with dew this morning and our shoes were soaked within the first 20 steps.  The damage was done so we just stayed on the trails anyway.  When we got back, we visited with Pete for a while before I had to get back to Stoughton.  I quickly changed my clothes, put some makeup on and headed to Culvers to meet with Judy and Jerri - classmates from SHS.  We had a nice visit.

My walking partner, Dawn, on the bridge over the Yahara River.

I love this old boat house that is framed by the river and the beautiful Weeping Willow Trees.

Yesterday, I ran some errands in Madison and then met Jim, Jim and June in Monona.  The 2 Jims and Mike were childhood friends and all joined the Navy together back in 1964.  To me, it is important to keep in touch with those guys and we had a nice chat.

JD, Me, and Jim

After I went to bed last night, my phone rang and it was Rene, so I picked it up.  She had just learned that Ray's killer was arrested and charged with 2 murders - he was released for lack of evidence on the 10th and killed a 41 year old woman the next day.  What a f€*#ing sleaze-bag.  I really don't want to learn the details.  Poor Ray didn't deserve to die that way.

Friday, September 25.  I finally heard from my brother Russ this afternoon - he is also in pretty dire straits in Cedar Rapids, basically in survival mode.  He is safe, does have a place to stay (doesn't hang out on the streets of downtown CR like Ray did) and has access to a phone now and then.  I made arrangements to meet him this afternoon but we will see.  After his call, Pat and I headed straight to St. Vinnies to get him some clothes and then Pat bought a bunch a of toilet articles for him.

We all went out to the local Mexican restaurant for dinner last night, hung out until bedtime and then said our goodbyes.  I was awake at 5 am this morning so I got in another hug from both Pat and Tracey.  I never did get back to sleep, so I took my shower and left Stoughton by 7:30 with a stop in McFarland to empty my tanks.   It was an easy drive to Cedar Rapids, with lots of stops along the way.  It is evident that fall is approaching quickly but there isn't a lot of color on the hillsides yet.  Perhaps in a week when I start the trek back to Arizona.

Saturday, September 26.  I've been dreading this day, but also am ready to be past it.  Julie, Rene, and I got together this morning and put photos of Ray's life on a board for the funeral home.  While we were doing that, Randy checked Russ into a room at a nearby hotel so he could have a night of comfort by himself.  I then had to run back to Amana where the trailer is parked, so I could get ready and let Frisco out again.

We all met at Cedar Memorial Chapel to remember Ray and say our final goodbyes.  The room was full of family and friends and a few people got up to share their memories and stories.  The takeaway from each one was his smile and how he loved to make others smile; either by doing something nice for them or by doing something silly.  After the service, we congregated in that same room and talked with the many people there - his birth siblings, his foster sister, Joanie, his ex-wife Lisa and their 2 children Anthony and Lindsay and their families, his girlfriend, Rose,  of 25 years and her family, and many friends from his work years and some from the streets.  The stories were all the same - a loyal friend who loved to see people smile.

Ray's life started hurdling when he could not be longer control his drinking.  His relationship fell apart, he couldn't hold a job, and then, two years ago, he ended up on the streets.  Joanie helped him get into treatment programs a couple of times and he cleaned up for short periods but the curse took over again.  Lately, he had been living on the streets of downtown Cedar Rapids and we talked to people from stores that he frequented (for beer or a bite of food), from street friends, from shelter workers, and from food pantries.  He was a well liked guy.  We were invited to a shop that he frequented where a local artist drew a picture of him and folks that knew him wrote their sentiments on the borders.

He was a well liked guy and it is so, so sad that he drifted down that hole of alcoholism and ended up in the hands of a stinking murderer.  Rest in Peace, little brother.  Your spirit is with those who have passed before you - Mom, Dad, Rocco, Tony and Virgene, Kristi.

Sunday, September 27.  After a nice breakfast with Bob and Penny at the Ronneburg House in Amana, I headed north to Minneapolis.  
The drive was only about 4.5 hours but it seemed much longer than that and I saw miles and miles of cornfields along the way.  There still isn't a lot of color in the trees but a few reds and yellows were spotted.

I was welcomed back to Bens by the two little ones watching and jumping in the window.  Camille ran and gave me a big hug but Norah was a little reserved at first.  Charlotte was all smiles when she came back downstairs, saying that she could hear my voice.

We stood out in the alley with the neighbor's watching for the blood moon during the eclipse.  Pretty fascinating stuff - never did see the bright red that some did.

I'm not sure if this link will work - it could be copied and pasted.  It is about my brother, Ray.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

September 14 - 20, 2015, WI

Monday, September 14.  Boy, the bad news just doesn't stop.  While I was shopping with Tracey this afternoon, a call came in from Mike's childhood friend, Jim, and I learned that his only sister died in a car crash yesterday as she and her husband were pulling into their driveway.  They were hit by s car with 3 teenagers at a high speed and Joan didn't make it - her husband and all 3 teenagers were injured.  Jim was on his way to the airport to come here.

I also learned that my brother-in-law, Hobe (in Ocala) is back in the hospital with congestive heart failure.  Fingers are crossed and I'm praying that he pulls through this one.  Patty is a mess and all by herself down there.

Tuesday, September 15.  First of all, Hobe is doing better and I talked with Patty, she is feeling relieved.  They are draining fluids and he will probably return home in a couple of days.  It sounded quite critical when I got the message.

The trailer got a bath when I got home from my walk today - it really needed it.  The road dirt really shows on the shiny white front and back.  I could hardly see out of the roof vent, so that got a good cleaning too.  

The days have been gorgeous, with just a hint of fall in the air; bright sunshine, warm days, and light breezes.  I spent a lot of time sitting outside with a book.  This evening, I walked over to Dawn's house to hang out and ended up having wine and dinner with them and sitting around talking until 10 pm, a late night for me.

I heard from Ray's sister, Joanie, and funeral arrangements have been made.  There will be a memorial service at Cedar Memorial Chapel West on, Saturday, September 26 at 3 pm.  We had a nice, long conversation

Thursday, September 17.  The Pipsqueak went in for new tires this morning.  Joe came and picked her up and took her to her shop.  

After walking this morning, Dawn and I went to her friend Robin's house and picked pears.  We both came home with a large basket full.  The trees were so heavily laden that some of the branches were breaking. Now, I have to figure out what to do with them.

Late this afternoon I got the Pipsqueak back with all new rubber, greased bearings, and a clean report card - ready to roll.  I patted myself on the back because when it I as ready to be picked up, I was in a crunch for time, had to go pick her up, pay for the install, get back home and get parked and hooked up, then get my clothes changed and makeup applied in 40 minutes - I did it with a few minutes to spare.

What a fun evening!  I picked up Jim and Sue and we headed to Toby's where we met Pat and Roger. Had a yummy Old Fashioned, Lake Perch dinner, and lots of good laughter and conversation.  After dinner, we went to the Country Corners Bar to hear Frank and Bobby playing traditional country music.    These guys have played there since 1985 and Mike and I were regulars there for years.  I chatted with Bobby (a classmate of Mike's) and we all really enjoyed their music.  I even recognized some of the regulars from way back when.  Connie, this is a place that you would love!

The drive back home wasn't so great, as there were thunderstorms and visibility was not very good.  We all made it home safely and then I layed in bed listening to the rumbled and watching the flashes of light in the sky for a while.

Sunday, September 20.  Yesterday was a busy one, starting with coffee with Pat and then a walk with Dawn.  Pat and I went to Farm and Fleet and then to the Edna Taylor Nature Preserve and walked the trails there.  We went through prairie, marshland, and an oak Savannah on this beautiful, crisp fall morning.  Pat had never been there before, so I was glad to show him a place that he might want to return to some day - a place that Mike and I walked through many times.

Some of the plant life in  the prairie, showing signs of fall.

The asters were in full bloom.
We had to do a selfie.

And then later on, Jim called and had some free time, so I went to DeForest, visited with him and Pete for a while and then we went and walked the Windsor trail.  So I got in about 7 miles of walking yesterday - perfect day for it.

Today, we hung around the house, did some yard work and housework (my freezer needed defrosting) and I cleaned and cut pears and made a Pear Crisp - it became our lunch - warm from the oven with whipped cream on top.  Yummy!

Tonight, Tom and Karen treated me to dinner at the Tornado Club in Madison, one of their favorite spots.  I had a Caesar salad, tenderloin, and roasted kale - that and a glass of wine and great company made for a perfect dinner.

When I got back home, Frisco was acting strange again, something is hurting him, he yipped when I tried to pick him up.  It seems to be his front legs or chest.  What is up?  I will take him to the vet tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

September 7 - 13, 2015, Wi

Tuesday, September 8.  I got back to Pat's house yesterday afternoon and it only took me 3 attempts to get backed into my parking spot in the driveway.  My backing skills are definitely improving.

Pat made a nice dinner of pork enchiladas and a salad, we chatted for a while and then I turned in early as I hadn't slept much the night before because the rain kept me awake from 10 pm until about 3 am.  Still no word on Ray, but I did talk to Anthony.

This morning, I went with Pat to Madison to Cabela's so he could get some fishing gear.  He didn't work today because of the rain,

This afternoon, I met some of the girls from the Class of 1966 at Culvers and we had a great visit - lots of stories, memories, and laughter.  We were there for almost 3 hours and my cheeks hurt when I left.

Friday, September 11.  You just can't get past this day without remembering the horrible terrorist acts of 2001.  That was awful, but we were also stressing because Ben was returning from a vacation in Japan that day and we sat on pins and needles until we heard that his flight had landed.  They landed in San Francisco, although they were scheduled for landing in LA, escorted by F-16s and it was the only international flight allowed to land in the states once the airports were closed down.  It was a sad and scary day for America.

This has been a rough week and yesterday was especially hard when we learned that my brother Ray was strangled and left to die next to a church.  A suspect has been arrested, but as of this morning had not been charged.  Just the thought of him dying as a victim of homelessness was hard to take but this news just knocked me down.  I hope that he is resting in peace now.

  Ray and his son, Anthony, about 3 years ago.

I've not been doing a lot this week, walking with Dawn, putting around the house, cooking, talking on the phone, and just hanging out.   After the rain on Thursday, the nighttime temps have been in the upper 40s and cool clear fall-like days.  Days where the sky is a clear, sharp blue and the leaves are turning colors and falling, and the sound of the Canada Geese fills the air - you know what is around the bend but nobody wants to say it.  Tracey shared this photo of a Stoughton sunrise with me.

Dawn had her 2 grandkids, Lila, age 7 and Nolan, age 4, on Saturday and we all walked to the playground.  It was fun to be around kids again.

Friday, September 4, 2015

September 1 - 6, 2015, MN, WI

Wednesday, September 2.  Happy 4th Birthday to my sweet little Charlotte.  For a special treat after school today, she and I headed to Como Park to go on rides at Como Town.  Jill took the twins with her this morning to her parents house to help her mom with some painting projects.  It is always nice to have some one on one time with any of them and Norah and Camille are too small for that kind of outing yet.  We had a great time and she rode on several but where she actually drove a little electric car, she didn't have a clue.  And they didn't do a very good job of telling her what to do, just put her in and let her go - but she didn't go - and when they got her going again, she ran into things.  I was cracking up laughing and she didn't have a clue.  I guess she's not driving material quite yet.

Backtracking on earlier this week, I got a small planting area prepped and out in some coneflower seeds for next summer, took the twins to the pool yesterday, and the usual busy days of helping with the kids and chores. 

I made this collage of photos of Camille last Saturday when she spent a long time trying to put on some of Charlotte's dress up clothes.  They now want to do everything for themselves and they are learning fast.

Thursday, September 3.  Little Camille has a cold and isn't feeling too great today, so she stayed home with me this morning while Jill and Norah went to an early childhood event.  We walked to the playground but she wasn't much interested in playing a lot, but she didn't want to go back home either.  She was interested in eating her snacks though.  These kids are all about eating and they let you know it too.

Tonight, Jill and I went to Costco - she wanted to see if it would be worthwhile for her to shop there.  I think it would be and she ended up buying almost $400 worth, so she must have too.  When we got back home, the project was to divvy up all of the meat for freezing and find a place to store the rest of the stuff.

I was thinking today, that I am getting short on the time that I have left to be up north, less than a month now and part of the time will be in Wisconsin.  The summer starts and I'm thinking it is a long time and I will be able to see and do everything that I had wanted to do, but then it just flies on by and there is a long list of things that I haven't done or people that I haven't spent much time with.  

Friday, September 4.  Camille is still it feeling good today, so she stayed home with me this morning while Charlotte was in school and Jill and Norah went to another class.  I needed to get a few groceries for the weekend so she and I went to Trader Joe's - something she hasn't done a lot of, so it was new and she was very interested.  When we got back home, I thought a walk about would be nice, so we grabbed the trike and set off.  This held her interest for a little more than a block and then she wanted to be carried, so we took the shortcut through the alley with me carrying her all of the way.  No wonder my hips are burning when I go to bed at night.

Charlotte and I walked to Pershing Park (about 8 blocks away) this afternoon, and she played in the pool with a new friend named Lulu (also 4 years old) and we learned from her Grandpa that she also has twin sisters that are 3 years old.  Grandpa and I had plenty in common to talk about, as we both were involved in helping with the little ones.  The girls had lots of fun together on this hot, humid summer afternoon.

We were supposed to clink our glasses together and say "Cheers" but instead they both grabbed my bottle and wanted to feel the cold.  As you can see, they love necklaces and sunglasses these days.

Poor Jill, she had a battle with the dreaded "P" tonight at bathtime.  When Camille was done with her bath and Jill was getting Norah out of the tub.  While her back was turned, Camille pooped right in front of the door, then stepped in it and ran around the bathroom before Jill realized what was going on.  The door couldn't be opened without smearing it all around and Ben and I were both outside, so neither of us could hear her pleas for help.  When Ben came in and heard the ruckus, he gave her a hand and then it all had to be cleaned up.  What a mess!  

Saturday, September 5.  I have just learned that my 56 year old brother, Ray, was found dead in Cedar Rapids today and his death is considered to be suspicious, although I haven't heard any more details.  He has been a homeless alcoholic for years but has been in contact with his foster sister, Joanie on a regular basis.  When I spoke to her this afternoon, I learned that his health has been bad and he has been in the hospital several times in the last month.  She was planning to commit him to a treatment program today, a day when the 3 signers could present, because he was in such rough shape.  

He has been in contact with some of my siblings recently but it has been several years since I have spoken with him.  I am feeling very sad that he died alone and was never able to fight off the alcoholism that controlled him for years and what a terribly, lonely way to die.  Sadly, my brother Russell is living in those same streets, fighting the same battles, and they at least had each other.  Unfortunately, some day he will probably meet the same fate.  Worse for him, he has no family members nearby either.

Sunday, September 6.  I loaded up my bike and hooked up the car this morning, had breakfast with the family, and then headed out.  I was on the road by about 10:00 with a 4-hour drive ahead of me.  Add an hour for pit stops, coffee, a liquor run, gas, and it was actually 5-hours before I arrived at the land in Richland Center.  It was nothing to get set up because I wasn't planning to plug in (I have lights with the 12-volt system), so all I had to do was get the fridge running on propane and I was set.  It was good to see that group of friends again and our visit was pretty low key but as always, lots of good memories to share and to laugh about.  It was truly strange without Tom there (he died back in January) and he was the reason that we started the tradition of the 4th of July camp outs that continued for about 30 years. His wife, Leslie, and I have much in common after losing our husbands way too early.

I have received no new information on Ray's death but I did get a call from a Linn County investigator who was looking for contact information for his son, Anthony.  After that, I was in a land with no cell phone signal until I got back in the Madison area.

Such a beautiful spot this is.