Sunday, November 19, 2017


We continue to be many degrees below normal. Plenty of sunshine, but cold. Just a tiny, wobbly step above freezing.

After a thorough farmhouse cleaning, Ed and I sit down to breakfast and review our options.

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The grass needs to be cut. Not so much because we are looking for that perfect grass length, but because the maples have shed their leaves and if we do not either rake (how tedious!) or mow (shredding the leaves to smithereens), the grass will not survive, come springtime.

Ed goes out to start the tractor-mower. What a surprise -- it's dead. I turn to baking cookies.

(The ingredients are a giveaway, no? Moroccan semolina almond lemon cookies.)

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(Ready to bake!)

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(Ready to eat!)

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Ed has been volunteering his labor at a maker space downtown (it's where people come together to build stuff) and he goes off to work there. I have only one requirement for the both of us this afternoon: that we take a walk. Somewhere.

But where?

We live near a city rich with urban parks. This one, by Lake Menona, offers a number of trails.

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Some of them take you down to the star attraction here -- the lake. With, of course -- the view.

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The lake isn't anywhere near frozen yet, but there are signs of winter. Look! Thick icicles dangling from a fallen limb...

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If you want proof of our current winter madness, you need only cast a glance at the shoreline here...

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Still, there's a hazy sun and a lovely path that beckons. We feel energized!

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It's one of those rare Sundays where the parents of Snowdrop have evening work obligations and so the young family is not with us for dinner. Ed suggests we buy a Subway sandwich and split it for our evening meal.

Perhaps I should have nodded a yes to that. I am right in the thick of planning the Thanksgiving meal. But I could not do it. On a late fall Sunday, the smell of food baking, cooking, percolating is heavenly! Chicken in garlic, olive oil, lemon and rosemary... Potatoes roasted at the side... a veggie, a salad... This is what makes a Sunday evening special.

The crazy busy week begins tomorrow. Tonight, the farmhouse is quiet. Peaceful. Getting ready for what's ahead.

Saturday, November 18, 2017


Remember the ad about how you can "let your fingers do the walking through the Yellow Pages?" No need to go from store to store in search of just the right sweater for your sweetie. Call first! Spare yourself the bother of shopping. Or at least searching. Use the phone book's Yellow Pages!

Ha! What an old fashioned concept!

Or is it?

Several weeks ago, I was telling Snowdrop's teacher (the same one that is leaving to teach in Egypt) that I had purchased something online for the little girl and it didn't fit. She thought for a while, then said -- you know, I don't think I have ever bought anything online.

That gave me pause.

I would say that apart from grocery shopping, 90% of my buying is with the help of the internet. Sure, I don't have stores within walking distance. Would it be different if I didn't live in the country?

Shopping in Wisconsin at this time of the year is not pleasant. The stores are full of very grumpy people (I did not bother detailing on Ocean my encounters with unhappy shoppers during last week's purchase of a new computer -- so much angst, so little patience!). And then there is the weather...

This morning, for example, we woke up to the first (wet, but very real) snow outside.

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Even the birds were surprised.

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Oh, sure, it melted quickly enough...

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But man oh man, it felt cold! And dark enough that we ate breakfast with lamps glowing.

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(The chickens took it in stride.)

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And so Ed and I proceeded to snuggle in comfortable reclining positions in the living room. He worked, I shopped. Online, checking off holiday gift after gift, indeed -- letting my fingers do the walking.

There was a welcome break. Right around noon, I was to meet the young couple and my daughter's super awesome visiting college friend (and various important to this group others) for brunch downtown.

I adore my daughters' friends and especially the ones who have been part of the fabric of their lives for the past decade, or even more. In my experience, these young people are engaged. They haven't given up on the world -- they still have passion for it. Too, they're funny. As are my girls and their husbands: they share a take on life that is uniquely different from ours. And I love it!

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There is beauty to this day for sure. At brunch. But too, spending that quiet afternoon afterwards at the farmhouse: Ed is clicking away on his machine, I'm clicking away on mine. It's warm inside. At some later hour he says -- look outside! The sky is so pretty!  And I say -- let's order sushi for dinner. And we do. And it is so delicious! I throw out some words about how good this day is. Ed responds with his usual "alright, gorgeous." I smile. Secretly, he does too.

Friday, November 17, 2017


This one short paragraph will give you a fine idea of our day:

It is late afternoon. It feels dark, though it's not really the dark of dusk. Rain clouds have moved in and they are relentlessly pounding rain on the windshield of my car. The wipers are going at full speed. Both the splash of rain and the rhythm of the wipers have put the little one (who is strapped in to the car seat behind me) to sleep. It's been a very long week with no naps to speak of. She has rallied. She has excelled at maintaining a good outlook on life. In school, the teachers tell me that during naptime, they will sit next to her, but instead of rubbing her back, gently, soothingly, she insists on rubbing theirs, gently, soothingly.

But now, in the car, there is no more oomph left. She falls asleep.

How did it come to this? Well, remember, it's Friday.

Morning: I must grocery shop. But I am really struggling to rev up my motor this morning. In the middle of the night, Ed and I both heard a mouse behind the bedroom wall. You cannot trap a mouse behind a wall. The only solution is to bang on the wall a number of times and eventually the animal will retreat. So I banged. Ed, working downstairs until the wee hours of the night, commented -- I may as well come up and join you. Neither of us are sleeping much tonight.


Breakfast. Yawn.....

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Grocery shopping... And then I pick up the little girl.

It's a tough pick up even under the best of times (meaning even if she, the napless girl and me, the slumberless Gaga, were fully rested). We'd just found out that her teacher (adored by her, by me, by her parents) is departing to be with her family in Egypt. As I hang on to a squirmy Snowdrop, I also want to tell this wonderful teacher that she has been a pillar for Snowdrop (and thus for,me, Gaga, who picks the girl up each day), but words fail.

And the little girl knows none of this. She is just antsy to go go go and of course, the rain begins right about now, lightly at first, but still, dark, dank, cold wet -- hey, little girl, want to go to the mall?

I thought she'd remember the mall. We'd been there maybe two or three times in her life. But she is puzzled. I talk of stores and possible Christmas decorations. Of warm inside spaces. Of my big need to find a pair of farmhouse mittens for her that fit. (And while we're there, might I return ones that do not?) So we set off. Ever the adventurous spirit, Snowdrop is curious. Somewhat excited.

First stop Gap. The mitten hunt is on.

The last time I was in this store with Snowdrop, I went in, she touched this and that, I got what I needed, we left.

That was when she was LITTLE. Now she is full of opinions.
Grandma, I like this pink cap.
I'm not looking for a cap.... 
And these mittens. 
They're too small, how about these?
No, I like the pink ones!

Did I think this would be easy?

I find a table with crayons. Snowdrop, can I interest you in pursuing an art project of your dreams? How would you like to color in the letters of the word GAP?


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(Wait, can I color in this book too?)

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(It's getting to be a long day...)

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After, I do my returns (quickly, while she munches on a croissant) and then I take her to the Mall's special Christmas corner where, you guessed it, there is a Santa.

Now, I have no great desire to put her on his knee. Snowdrop doesn't really know who Santa is and what his business plans are. Too, the whole thing about paying a lot of money for a photo that will likely be stupid doesn't grab me. Still, I want to see her reaction to this big white bearded guy (she wont remember that she did sit on his knee last year).

She turns her face away and hides it into the stroller.

I ask her -- you didn't like the looks of that Santa guy?
Oh, I did like him.
Go figure.

We turn toward a store that surely will have Christmas decorations (she loves the glitter and shine of this holiday!) -- Pottery Barn.

Snowdrop is delighted.

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Hard to lure her away from the millions of fragile holiday pieces around a tree, but eventually I do, with the promise of a visit to a mall toy store, ostensibly in search of a new coloring book.

Of course, once I am done negotiating with her, it's more than just "a coloring book." That's okay, I truly do believe that the kids' size snow shovel will come in handy.

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We drive home in blinding rain. She sleeps. I dream of sleeping.

Soon after, she goes home. I miss her already! 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

so how do you feel about Thursday?

Each day of the week has its flora. And its place in your heart. Some people hate Mondays. Some people feel that Wednesdays are just so blah. When I was little I did not like Sundays. In my more adult years, Saturdays were unreasonably tough. And so on.

But what about Thursdays?

I think Snowdrop and I are on the same page about this day: we're hanging in there, but the realization of a week gone by begins to seep in. For her, if she hasn't napped all week, she begins to feel more fragile. For me, it's not about sleep, but about getting things done.

Once again this morning was technology oriented. I had signed up for a (free) online tutorial on how to get the most out of my (new) computer. After breakfast, of course.

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Much more useful were the hours Ed and I spent on trying to figure out the interplay between my laptop and various web browsers (far trickier than either of us thought).

But note the reference to "hours." Another day, another set of hours dedicated to technology.

Still, there were lovely sparks. We learned stuff about computers that neither of us had known (and that's saying a lot for Ed). And for once I felt I hadn't just purchased something that I would never quite understand.

Too, I worked on tech stuff in the bleakest part of the day. By early afternoon, the sun was starting to poke through and though it never climbed out of the low 30sF (above 2 or 3C), nonetheless, the absence of a wind made the day, well, not too bad!

(Cheepers, following me to the mailbox...)

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(Winter blue skies are exhilarating!)

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When I pick up Snowdrop, I'm not quite sure whether it is warm enough for the outdoors, but the girl settles the question for me quickly. She begs to go to the school playground.

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... As does her school buddy.

They are a delightful twosome!

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True, her school pal does decide to shed all outer garments, but I think he is just trying to impress the rest of us. Very shortly afterwards, he is ready to give up on the great outdoors, whereas Snowdrop keeps on chugging along...

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Moreover, afterwards, when her friend has long ago retreated to the warmth of the indoors, Snowdrop insists that we go to the park playground. I acquiesce. Off we go!

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She is totally delighted.

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The lake waters are still. The sun is fading, but even small bits of its rays make a difference.

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Happy Gaga. Happy girl indeed!

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At the farmhouse, after the initial "I'm hungry!"...

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... she settles into the cozy part of life: lots and lots and lots of books, followed by a brisk game of ball and finally -- drawing.

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It was a good way to work through any issues that a Thursday, especially a napless Thursday might present.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

November 15

We wake up to a cold, wet day.

At breakfast time...

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... Ed, who is not fully awake yet, says -- you should get Snowdrop a keyboard.

Say what?? Get the little girl something? Did I hear right?

That and of course, you should teach her French.

Where are these ideas coming from??

The thing is, I do not disagree. Snowdrop loves music (and possibly might like knowing bits and pieces of another language). A keyboard can be a great exploratory tool for a young child.

But I should have known: agreement on the premise does not lead to agreement on the execution. Satisfied that I did not reject his idea right off the bat, he begins the laborious task of exploring what kind of keyboard would be best for a very young child.

Cheap. Used. He logs on to Craigslist. Not enough. What does it mean that the keys do this, or are set to do that? Must read articles to discern the difference. Then, must read articles on what people in the know say about children and keyboards.

I tell him -- I have spent two days on technology. I do not want to spend even two hours on this project. Here, I picked one. It's cheap! It's well regarded. Boom!

Ed looks crestfallen. I know you're busy. We could read up some more tonight...

I calculate all that I have to do today, all the hours I have already spent on discussing this very inconsequential purchase. No, no more reading. You've helped tremendously. Thank you. Now, let me just get this small keyboard which, as you have pointed out, Snowdrop will bang on twice then forget about.

It's time to pick up the little girl. Miraculously (and I mean miraculously, because this was not in the forecast), the clouds part and you can almost pretend that this is a fine fall day. True, there is a hefty breeze, but still, it definitely opens up the possibility of playground time for Snowdrop!

Is she happy? You decide...

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Later, at the farmhouse, oh, the usual...

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... except that I tell her something: that it is my mother's birthday. Meaning, her great grandma's birthday. (My mother is 94 today!)

I tell Snowdrop that it would be cool for her to send my mom a birthday message. We put one together. I want to take a picture of her with it. Except that Snowdrop gets the giggles!

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She is overcome with hilarity.

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Finally, she sits still... enough. So... happy birthday great grandma helen! (GGH for short)

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From all of us. With love.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

tech crescendo, then exhale

Well, it came as no surprise. In the end, the ten year old laptop (my home computer) refused to cooperate. All fixes lead to temporary smiles and grins (perhaps smirks) and then a return to the messages, the waits, the threatening innuendos.

I buy the replacement.

Breakfast is little more than a blip in my morning.

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The rest of my time is spent in running between store and tech support getting the new, pristine new baby to work.

By early afternoon, it looks like everything is set to go.

And oh, the loveliness of the new machine! The speed! Did you know that a computer does not ordinarily take ten minutes to wake up from a nap? That it can move seamlessly from site to site without a spinning rainbow circle keeping you in suspense as to how or if it will get there?

Sometimes I feel that I've lived most of my computer years with Chunky by my side. Before I supplemented it with a small thin travel machine, I dragged Chunky along on camping trips and on bike marathons in France with Ed. Ocean was mostly written on its keyboard -- that same keyboard over which bowlfuls of chips have been eaten.

I bring the new machine home. I've upped the size: it's a whopping 15 inches. It's beautiful! It shines! I reach into the cabinet for a special tea towel with lovely flowered design to cover it protectively from dust (and food stuffs that routinely fly around here).

In the evening, Ed looks at me... You're using your old computer? The slow one that throws you all those threatening messages?
Of course! -- I say, reaching into a bag of Dill and Sour Cream Lentil Chips. I could not possibly use the new one! It's far too beautiful!
Well, you know. Soon. Just not today.

But I have to say, the whole process of launching a new computer has left me exhausted. Perhaps the highlight of the morning was sitting in my most bedraggled state at the DoIT center (a place at the university where you go with all your tech problems), working with the patient staff member to do things that are not easy, and having a young man zip by, do a step back and a shout out to me -- Heyprofessor Camic! How you're doing? I'm in a hurry, but just wanted to say hi! I'm a lawyer for the university now...

Woah! This one encounter triggered memories! Students who mattered to me. So many are, of course, on FaceBook and I follow their lives -- professional, personal. I delight in their children, many now  in high school and beyond. I take in their happiness, occasionally their sad turns in life. But it's always fantastic when, out of the blue, somebody comes up to you and says -- hey, nice to see you again! 

Still, I am a tired beast. And it is a cold gray day, not at all suitable for an after-school  playground romp with Snowdrop.

When I pick her up, she is in full discombobulation mode. Her teacher explains -- she just woke up. Sweet, sweet girl. To ask her to wake up, rise, get into the rhythm and rules of school, get ready to head out -- it's a lot. Sort of like asking me to buy a new computer.

We are both wrecks.

I text her mom asking for permission to watch some TV with the babe. I understand that Daniel Tiger is on. Every kid in her school watches it. It would be a welcome break in a long, indoor afternoon.

And so as I help her with her coat and shoes and try to sooth her poor soul (but I'm hungry, grandma! and I want to go on an adventure and can you please hold me?), I turn to her and say: let's get going! We'll listen to classical music in the car (she loves it!), eat fruits and croissants, play games, read books and watch Daniel Tiger on TV!

Well now.

It is a beautiful afternoon of before Daniel (in anticipation of)...

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(Loving the new Laura Ingalls books for young readers! Fascinated by my suggestion that Laura lived nearby...)

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(Asking for farmhouse sweater, then buttoning every last button...)

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And finally watching Daniel...

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And after? Well, it's time to put her babies to sleep and close all the doors upstairs, then put on pretend boots and jump through scores of (pretend) puddles in the living room.

Yeah! We're both restored and ready to face the world again.

Monday, November 13, 2017

tech Monday

If you hang on to your old devices, sucking every last bit of life out of them, then you have to be prepared to invest time when things begin to unravel. As I sat in the Apple store to begin to address the issues that have cropped up for me, I chatted with another customer who was upgrading to the latest model of a laptop. I mentioned that back at the farmhouse, Ed just bought a computer for the price that Apple would charge for... oh, I don't know, an insurance policy on their comparable model. The customer smiled and said -- how many models has he had in the time you've had your Apple?

His point is well taken. Were it not for storage problems, my computer would be chugging along perhaps indefinitely. Whatever stuff they've loaded into its sleek and beautiful body is slated to endure a long life. (Except for the Apple cords. Geez Louise, Apple! Get a handle on the cords!)

All this to say that after breakfast...

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... I spend the entire morning addressing technology issues -- at Apple and at UW's DoIt. And I have to go back to both tomorrow.

Well so what! Effort well spent! Especially since it really was on the cool side this morning. Pretty, what with the fog and the deep freeze, banding together to give us a spectacular country morning!

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But a cold one.

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I broke away from technology issues to pick up Snowdrop. I had trepidations. She went to sleep late last night. She refused to nap at school. Oh dear.

But, children teach you that you cannot predict life in any fashion whatsoever. Work with what's before you. Do not plan for the good or the bad. Just work with what you have.

I'm handed another golden deck of cards today.

It's not exactly warm. 41F (5C) I think. But there is a hazy wisp of sunlight left in the late afternoon and the wind has not kicked in. So we go to the playground.

Oh, she swings! I forgot my gloves and my hands are beet red from pushing her on that swing. Too, we walk toward the lake and I show her how ice is forming at the edges. I mean, we are in one big cold spell.

But you know, this is when you appreciate warmth. Hands beet red? Face feeling the punch of arctic air? Well now, enter a protected interior -- even as small and unheated as that of a car -- and you feel you are in heaven!

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We're at the farmhouse now... Or, almost. She has to sweep up the leaves. Warmed up from the ride here, she forgets that she is without a jacket...

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Today, she is Galileo! she is Amundsen! She is Snowdrop telling me to be quiet because she is taking care of her babies upstairs behind closed doors.

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In the evening, I take her back home. Her mom is waiting for her. Snowdrop plunks herself down and begins a marathon of book reading...

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On my return drive to the farmette, I listen to NPR news. So, the cavemen (and women, I hope) had already discovered and enjoyed wine? How clever of them!

Ed has work meetings all night long. At the farmhouse, I sit down to my computer, reheat a big cup of chili and drink a delicious glass of wine.