Saturday, September 14, 2019


Good morning, cats... Wait, you're not a cat!

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Hello, deer!

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Breakfast. It's chilly in the morning.

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I meet my daughter and Snowdrop downtown.

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We visit my mom.

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And shop at the farmers market. (And pick acorns and pretend the ribbon is a snake...)

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So many things to buy today!  Green beans. Fingerling potatoes and heirloom tomatoes. Full grown arugula, shallots. Dahlias. Corn! There are farmers who still can harvest it, so lots of corn. Door County peaches. Broccoli and squash for next week. Uff!

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I have help chopping, steaming, mashing, stirring.

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Still need to cook the seafood. And corn. Everything else -- ready.

Time for a break. Outing to Willie Street Fair. Lots of booths selling funky stuff, if you're in the mood for funky stuff. No photos.

Dinner! With friends that Ed has known for.... decades! And now I have known for.... just a little over a decade.

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As the evening creeps in, the light fades. If you look up from the table on the porch, you'll see a reflection of our table in the glass panels of the roof...

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And now it's night time after a full, lovely day.

Friday, September 13, 2019


Call it a mini whirlwind. The air is crisper, the storms have moved on, fall is inching our way. All predictable, all expected. We do, however, have a few spikes of activity in the next month and this weekend brings one of them: Ed's college roommate + spouse are coming for a visit, which means that I'll be pressing Ed to do stuff I've wanted him to do a little more urgently. That pile of papers by the couch! Washed away wood chips by the path that need to be replaced. Again, small stuff. I'm not even hoping for biggies like mowing the lawn or cleaning the stove. He resists the idea that we should make an effort just because friends are about to descend on us.

Ed, I'll mow the shoulders of the driveway.
Gorgeous, don't bother.

I do it anyway.

But first, there is, of course, breakfast. We're back on the porch! Cool, but very pleasant.

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(view from porch...)

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And grocery shopping and yes, tidying.

The second consequence of having visitors is that my time on the computer plummets. Expect short posts. Which, perhaps, is a good thing!

Snowdrop still does come over in the afternoon...

(Rushing, because there's a Lego set waiting for her inside...)

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(I spend a handful of minutes trying to take a photo of Snowdrop for a needed new passport. Here's one that I like, even as it's not a candidate for the document!)

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And in the evening, I turn my focus to the arrival of the two friends.

Tonight we eat out (at Sardine, because Ed and I have no imagination).

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But for the next two days, I'll be cooking. I'll check in with you between market shopping and chopping up the usual stuff that needs to be chopped up in preparation for a big meal.

(Harvest Moon, over Lake Monona...)

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Thursday, September 12, 2019


We are sitting at Finca Cafe enjoying a decadent breakfast of pain au chocolat and El Salvadoran quesadillas.

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The background music is lovely. The pastries are delicious. The coffee I'm drinking is superb. It's perhaps unfair to compare it to yesterday's in Janesville, but I will: there was no pleasure in sipping yesterday's. Visually, it was a disaster. The taste was unimpressive. (On the upside, the flour sack dish cloths I bought there, to replace our rags, are impressive.)

But I'm thinking that part of my pleasure today is due to the joy of having a tough period now behind us. We've come out of the tunnel!

It was the last day of an early wake up so that we could make it to Janesville in time for a super early post-surgical appointment for Ed. And the verdict is good: the doc now thinks Ed will heal well on his own (for a while, this was not assured). My repeated drives with him there, which started less than 12 hours after returning from Europe, are now done.

The storms held off for the drive once again and though it's dark, dank and dismal, I know that our more typical autumnal fare will return tomorrow. And so we are finally in a good place!


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I have warned Snowdrop that, in her time here after school, we are to have a "clean up" day. Things are not exactly messy in her play room, but we have a problem: Snowdrop's favorite way to play is to take any object and pretend that it is something else, relevant to whatever story she is spinning. Her most common segue into the new reality is to say "How about we pretend that this (here, she takes out anything: a toy, a pillow, a book, a pot, a plastic banana, anything!) is a..." -- whatever her game requires. A book can be a suitcase. A pillow can be a bridge. She says this a hundred times each day and all these items become part of her story setup. And they cannot be touched because the story is never ending. A hundred items, laid carefully all over the playroom and they cannot be disturbed.

Today, I aim to disturb them. We are to have house guests this weekend and though they are Ed's oldtime friends, and they have stayed here numerous times, and more importantly, they are used to Ed's inattention to matters of neatness, still, I have my standards, and they include having a floor you can walk on.

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Do I succeed? Of course not. But we have a plan! By tomorrow, we will apply ourselves and things will look good once more!

Today? Well, there isn't time. Because, you know, there's reading, and playing, and dance.

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Sometimes, I am mush to my children and grandchildren. And that's a good thing.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019


What can I say -- the weather is messin' with us. Humid, unpredictable, stormy -- and hold on to your horses and hats, Hannah, 'cause it's only gonna get worse.


We are up early. I mean, really early. Ed has eye surgery (yes, in Janesville!) at 6:45 and we have to give ourselves extra time for the drive because of the unpredictability of the weather. Stumble out of bed, feed the cats, hit the road.

Normally, it's not an unpleasant drive, but it's dark when we get going and if you know anything about the small rural communities that surround Madison, you'll understand that the people who live in them most often work in our state's capital. Even at this ungodly hour, there is a steady stream of traffic into town. Now, we are going in the opposite direction. So, no traffic in our lane, right? Yes, true, but there is a constant stream of bright headlights right in your face. I'm driving and I don't have impaired vision like my sweetie by my side, but, still, it's a strain. Luckily, we dodged a band of storms and so at least we were without the hazard of blinding rain and flashing skies.

Since Ed's surgery and recovery are to take about three to four hours, I search out a place to park myself for the duration in Janesville. I pick a newly opened (in a restored old building) coffee shop on Main Street. Just across Rock River.

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The river is wide here and it's worthwhile to take a pause and consider its course.

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It's a tributary of the Mississippi and though it does not pass through Madison, it does pick up the waters from my city's Yahara River. There was a time Ed and I talked about paddling from Madison, all the way down to the Mississippi and beyond, but a day's run on that mega waterway convinced me that it would be anything but fun to fight big boats and strong currents of America's second longest river (the Missouri is longer).

Janesville's Bodacious Brew (my cafe of choice) is on Main Street. I'll support any eatery that tries to bring life to America's Main Streets.

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Still, I don't quite get the right breakfast. Everybody but me would know that an Acai Bowl is actually a frozen smoothie. Sort of like having ice cream for breakfast, while your heart is craving something decadent like a croissant or at least something warm, like oatmeal.

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At 8 am I walk over to the Firehouse Park (just up the street). There is a small gathering of police, of firefighters, of city workers and presumably their families to commemorate what is so firmly etched in our minds -- this is, after all, 9/11.

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A young man makes a brief speech. He was just eleven on the day of the attacks -- old enough to have a memory of that day. I don't know anyone in this country who isn't in some way scarred by what happened then and thereafter. It's hard to find good words now to express emotion, with wisdom and with respect, but our speaker today hits on some good notes, reminding us that wars have been fought since then, more lives have been lost and yet, here we are in this little park in Janesville. Perhaps looking after each other and reaching out to people who are outside our inner circle is one way to go forward, he tells us. Perhaps.

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I return to my outside table at the coffee shop and I feel the temperatures rising. The sun, poking through for a short while, is in my eyes. Time to move on.

A brief walk up and down the rest of Janesville's Main Street...

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It is what it is: the commercial heart of the city surely can't be found in these few blocks. Consignment shops, a bar, a music instrument rental place. Nothing that brings daily traffic here.

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Janesville (with a pop. of some 65,000) suffered an economic downturn after the GM assembly plant closed in 2008 (it had been a key employer here since 1919; at its peak in the 1970s, it employed upwards of 7000 workers). The SUVs and trucks manufactured here were no longer in demand. Currently, hospitals and schools seem to lead the list of top employers in the city.

And now I get the call from the hospital that Ed is ready to be discharged. I pick him up and we return home.

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In the afternoon, Snowdrop is at the farmhouse once more.

(Continue with story based on art work, or pick grandma's flowers? Hmmm..)

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(Flowers win.)

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Later, when I take her home, I encounter Sparrow...

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What's this? Someone got t-shirts celebrating the accomplishments of a famous tennis player...

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And now it's evening and the storms are upon us once more. Tomorrow morning, we're back in Janesville again, driving against whatever weather phenomenon comes our way.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019


And if yesterday's Madison weather made you prickly and cross, then today's will have really ruffled your feathers.

At midnight (to the minute), a piercing clap of thunder shook the farmhouse and instantly we were without power. An investigation (by Ed) disclosed tripped circuits and several fried electronic devices. Ed, ever the problem solver, set about to repair and replace. By early morning, all was running smoothly once again, even as thunder continued to be our companion throughout these hours and will return for the next several days, along with record breaking high temperatures. I told you: ruffled feathers for us all.

No one had a good night's sleep.

More importantly, it struck me that I have completely abandoned playing any role in household repairs. Ed is a fantastic fixer of things and so my meager skills are completely unneeded. This is a change. When my kids were growing up, I was the one who tracked furnace issues, WiFi problems (in those days, there were many), roof leaks and gutter cleaning. (Indeed, I climbed up on the roof and cleaned the gutters myself.) Now I do none of it and as a result, I am clueless as to what it means when, say, the WiFi stops working. (Ed's set up here is nothing short of complicated. And of course, we're on well water and have our own sewage system, which adds a layer of complexity for us.) I'm going to have to learn. This past week, when Ed's vision was greatly impaired, I crossed my fingers that we would muddle through. We did, but going forward, I need to perk up and learn what's what.

*   *   *

As I noted, we're getting a blast of warm air and so today, we have breakfast on the porch once more. But it's not one of those pleasant autumnal warm spells. It's sultry and Floridian rather than of the upper Midwest. Still, a moment over a morning coffee is always sweet.

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Afterwards, we both have appointments and so we scatter hither and yon (he went hither, I went yon) and reconnect again about the time Snowdrop is due to come to the farmhouse.

Despite a disrupted night, the girl is in great spirits. I dont press her about the details of her school day. She gives a one sentence synopsis and unless I smell trouble, we move on. Later, at home, she'll often go for the details. Yesterday, for example, her mommy asked her what she talked about at lunch time with her new friend. Snowdrop was assigned a seat at a little table with a new girl and she has taken seriously the duty to be a good friend to this younger child. Snowdrop is a verbal kid and it's doubtful that they ate in silence. She reflected for a moment and answered -- "we talked about what is interesting about grownups and what is complicated in our hearts."  Of course, one is deathly curious about what she finds interesting about grownups, but there's only so much that you can find out on any one day.

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(More Ramona reading...)

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*   *   *

In the evening, I have dinner with former work friends. We tend to return to the topic of work, which is understandable, I suppose, even as I feel more and more removed from those years of deciphering difficult materials in a class packed with anxious law students. They were good years, but I am in a different orbit right now.

*   *   *

More storms tonight, tomorrow, the next day. May they signal a transition to a beautiful next season. I think we're all ready for Fall.

Monday, September 09, 2019


Well, if yesterday's Madison weather made you grumpy, today's will have made you grumpier. Same gray skies, same coolness in the air, add to it occasional showers -- you get the idea.

September weather here rarely disappoints and so I don't expect this to last, but it does remind me how quickly poor weather pushes us inside. How reluctant I am to work or play outdoors when the sun disappears. How sedentary many of us become with the coming of winter.

But today, it's all for the best. There's cat care...

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a glance at the garden... (so autumnal, don't you think? A chaos of gold and purple and fading green...)

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(the lily bed isn't devoid of color, just not lily color!)

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(though even now, occasionally, a lily will pop open in one of the flower fields)

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(looking out from the path to the door)

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And then there are the final pages for my photo book to put in place.

And of course, there is breakfast.

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Ed is bravely venturing out to the eye clinic in Janesville on his own ("if I put a patch over the injured eye, I can see okay out of the other one!"). A roof guy comes to give us an estimate on what a new roof would cost. In other words, we're moving through a regular old Monday. Not especially a pretty day, but a day that's beautiful from within!

And in the afternoon, Snowdrop is here once again.

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We've been reading Ramona books (a series out of the 1950s by Beverly Cleary) -- ones that I loved reading with my girls decades ago. Snowdrop is fascinated by Ramona's naughtiness. There's a bit of a desire to be like her: to be that spunky, that full of mischief.

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The genius of Cleary is to know that every kid has an inner Ramona, itching to eat one bite of a dozen apples. But in the end, most of us, like Ramona herself, take a deep breath and say "I'm ready to behave now." Because being kind and good is the better path. Snowdrop is old enough to get this. But oh, is she fascinated by the misdeeds of those who haven't quite gotten there yet!

In the evening, Ed and I spend a bit of time with the cats. It seems ludicrous that we should be suddenly tending to so many. And yet, this is where we are. Life pushes you in interesting directions.

Sunday, September 08, 2019


A cold and gray day. The kind that reminds me why I would not love living in Seattle. There isn't rain today, but it feels like a sprinkle can happen anytime. At least that's what I tell Ed when he suggests we bike over to play disc golf.

No, not today. Better to tidy the farmhouse, eat breakfast in the kitchen...

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... then lose myself in this photo book project, before the grains of sand run out and I wind up paying more for the production than I would if I finish up quickly. The sale after all, ends in two days.

The only time we devote to outdoor play is in the middle of the day when we step out to engage the kitties in a little more bonding. This is deliberate: we want to be able to handle the little guys so that we can get them to the vet in a couple of months. Too, it's more pleasant to have friendly cats around than to have cats that are skittish.

Perhaps our determination also comes from the fact that we've grown exasperated with Stop Sign. Remember her? She's the mother and grandmother of them all. She's responsible for us having 11 cats in the garage in the first place. She herself doesn't hang out here much anymore, though recently she has come around, asking for food. Maybe she has a litter somewhere -- we don't know.

We stubbornly refuse to feed her outside the cages. She, on the other hand, sees us put the food in the cage and carrier, but she wont go in. Even the cats who were actually trapped in these devices have come to terms with them and they freely go in and out. Not Stop Sign. And so our chances of ever catching her and spaying her remain pretty small.

She has grown to be a hissy cat who lashes out at any kitty who comes near her. Does she not remember that these are her children? She ought to be the benevolent matriarch. Instead, she is the cantankerous old hag. Ah well, perhaps the seven cats here who are her actual offspring don't realize that she is their evil mother. Perhaps they wont really need a shrink to guide them through the psychological trauma of being spat at by your own kin.

I do make progress with my photo book. I should finish tomorrow. No, really, I'm getting there!

In the evening, the young family comes to dinner. It's lovely to see them, of course, but it tells you something about this day that we decide to eat dinner in the kitchen. Forget the porch -- too cold. September 8th and I'm already tempted to start the furnace!

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Night time comes faster now. The light fades, the farmette animals grow quiet. Eleven cats, six chickens and two old guys, shutting the farmhouse windows against the cold.