Friday, January 31, 2020


The last day of the week, the last day of the month, and I hope -- the last of total cloud cover. Hungry for February, hungry for sunshine, hungry for the color that comes with dappled light.

Still, it's a calm and satisfying day. If a bit gloomy.

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I continue to wait for the phone call that will jumpstart my mom's Act III of her saga. I'm eager to take that final step of moving her to a place she'd like. But it's not in our hands. Right now, all that I can do is wait.

It's not unpleasant to be in a waiting mode on this particular day. I do garden planning. This is huge for me. Remember how in late August I had no interest at all in doing anything in the flower fields? That was then. Now, I want to completely replant the field that had succumbed to a fecund sprouting of weeds. It's close to the sheep shed and I always told myself that no one looks at it anyway, but of course, very few people look at the Big Bed and the Lily Field and yet I work hard at making it pretty each morning. So I will prettify the more distant bed. And today I conceive a plan for it.

And yes, it will include the pretty Avante Garde. In a place of honor! And I will again attempt to plant sweet peas that will never make it even halfway up the fence, because the animals will chomp them down, but hey, maybe this spring they wont! Maybe I'll get lucky.

And there you have it: I'm full of that prespring belief that luck may take hold and grow along with the peonies and phloxes and foxgloves. Spring, on the horizon (a still distant horizon, but still, it's there) allows you to dream big.


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On Fridays, Snowdrop is the sole visitor at the farmhouse.

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This is the day when she and I catch up on stuff. We finish a longish book. She brings out her babies for a happy return to the world of baby stories. We hang out.

I show her the painting she did of birch trees last weekend in art class. I found a frame for it. We'll hang it in the second farmhouse bedroom.

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Everyone I talk to these days is tired. The month started off well, but the tail end of it seems stalled. Maybe we just need a dose of good old February. The cornflower blue month. The short final burst of true winter.

Thursday, January 30, 2020


Slippery icy surfaces, gray skies, and a stillness that settled in, as if to trap the winter gloom, keeping it in place day after day after day.

The chickens hate this. They walk slowly and sometimes they seem stuck -- frozen on an icy stretch that is so unkind to their bare feet.

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I go out and pick up first Java, then Peach and carry them to their destination (the garage). Normally, you cannot pick up a free ranging chicken in broad daylight. Only at dusk do they grow limp and sleepy and easy enough to handle. But today, the girls were oh so willing to have me help them along.

Breakfast. I'm scraping the fridge.

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We're out of a lot of foods because last week I had shopped on Thursday. And so this week I must also shop on Thursday. That would be today.

It always amazes me how long this weekly ritual takes. Finding the best produce fills a good half hour. Maybe more. Another 45 minutes goes to reading dates and labels on everything else. By the time I am home, it's noon. And there goes another 45 minutes in unpacking and shelving the purchased foods. And when I'm done with that, the kitties are asking for food again.

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How quickly the day goes by!

Thursday is storybook ballet day for Snowdrop and so the time for reading and playing at the farmhouse is limited.

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(Not so limited that you can't take off your socks and make flags of them!)

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(Or take a moment to show what really counts...)

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So starts ballet again...

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I believe the story is the Princess and the Pea. I could be wrong. I pay attention mostly to the face of Snowdrop. Her joy is worth capturing and preserving.

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It's always late when I return home after ballet days. The skies are dark, the deer have come and gone. Cheepers are in the coop, eyes closed. Another January day at the farmette behind us. Tomorrow, we'll kiss January goodbye.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020


A friend asked me if in these gray gloomy cold days I sometimes look back to photos of flowers. If I recall and take photo strolls through the Luxembourg Gardens, for example. I thought about that a bit today and wondered why it's indeed rare for me to go back. Not "never," but rare. I'm much more forward looking. All these Ocean posts get their fair day in court, but for the most part, I then move on. Maybe when I am old and infirm and my "forward" holds no more walks in gardens of any sort, maybe then I'll scroll and stroll and recall. For now, I spend a lot of time thinking bout the spring before us, perhaps because I am sure that there will be flowers and color and sunshine in that season. Excitement comes from anticipation. And I am very excited that in 49 days, we will have spring.

In the meantime, what can I say -- gray and gloomy and cold.

Breakfast: colorful!

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Yesterday, the second little kitty found her way home again. She was hungry and she looks thin and scrawny (she has been gone almost two weeks), but somehow or other she made it back.

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So now we are back to nine cats, two of them unspayed. Ed and I are starting to talk about how to trap the two little ones without freaking out everyone else.

I have just a few short moments on mom stuff in the morning. Otherwise, I am still waiting for the transition to the Managed Care model to take root. A basically free morning pushes us outside, despite the cold and gloom.

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We walk along the road that snakes along Lake Waubesa. There is rarely any traffic here and the surfaces are free of ice. It's a calm and pretty walk, with occasional views to the wetlands, the farmlands and of course, the lake. Here's a peek at the rural landscape:

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(Oh! Who just crossed our path?)

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In the afternoon, I am with Snowdrop and Sparrow.

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In many ways, our play is a repetition of yesterday's play.

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But of course, it's never a real repetition. (Well, except for the graham cracker!)

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No words are ever the same, no story unfolds along the same lines. Kids like to see repetition, but they themselves never present carbon copies of a previous day's antics. They are clever disruptors and innovators.

The day ends quietly. Ed plays volley ball, I catch up on laptop work and fry an egg for supper. And I think about flowers. The ones resting their roots in a frozen soil. The ones that will burst forth with color this coming spring.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020


They say there is a sun, bright as ever, behind the clouds. If that's so, then it surely is doing a good job of concealing its existence. They say:  just you wait! It will come out again. I look at the weather maps: not today it wont. Not tomorrow or the next day, or the next day, or the day after. Cloudy and cold, cloudy and cold, cloudy and cold.

Fine, I'll just stay indoors. (After the animal feed.)


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We are about to enter Act III of my mom's transition. You could say Act I was the stroke and the resultant hospital and Rehab Nursing Home stay. Act II was the application for long term care and the move-out. Act III is going to be the new normal for her (and thus for me): working with a Managed Care Organization ("MCO") in an Assisted Living Residence. But today I am in a do-nothing state. I have to wait to be contacted  by the MCO. We'll meet, evaluate, select, apply and eventually move my mom into her new place. But for now, I have to do nothing.

I love having the obligation of doing nothing! Love, love, love it! I fritter the morning on reading this, answering that, thinking about the other. It's all very wonderful.

And the afternoon is good as well: I pick up the kids at school...

It can be a challenge to have them both here every day. I used to be able to stock the farmhouse with toys that I knew would appeal to Snowdrop. Books that we could read together. Her place space wasn't large, but we found ways to be expansive.

When Sparrow started school and thus joined us at the farmhouse, I tried to imagine how this small play space could accommodate both, given that they are 3.5 years apart in age. The complicated tiny Lego building projects were put behind a gate. Duplo Legos which target the  2- 5 age bracket were left out for Sparrow. I thought I would be straddling the two spaces.

It didn't work out that way. Snowdrop lost all interest in building Lego sets. The age requirement for them would be 7+ and so she needed a lot of help. I can't do that when little Sparrow is here.

Snowdrop also lost interest in playing with her babies. They were a vehicle for her storytelling, but such stories involved my participation and somehow my inattention now, with an eye turned more toward Sparrow's safety, caused these games to fizzle. Most often the babies are ignored.

Both kids want to play in each others space. He wants to be where she is, and on most days, she wants to be where he and I are. This leaves us with basically three activities and these days, we mostly run through two of the three.

The first is reading. That does not change. Sparrow sits with us as we plow through chapter books. After a while he gets restless and brings me his little books. I pause and we read his little books. Then return to the chapter one for Snowdrop, only to be interrupted again a few minutes later with a little one. We can do this, going back and forth for a good while.

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The second surefire is art work: both kids like it, though Sparrow still does very basic scribbles and so after a while he'll look for a greater challenge. Like stacking markers, or taking caps off of them and mixing them up. My role is to make sure he doesn't start painting the walls.

The third -- the Duplo little kid Legos. Snowdrop has found them to be good tools for story telling and Sparrow loves being able to play with the same toy as his sister, no restrictions, no barriers.

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(with a break for cat watching by Sparrow...)

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Evening. No moon, no stars. We watch serious documentaries. But, there is popcorn. And there are twinkly lights. And blooming potted orchids. And reheated vegetable soup. Not bad, eh? No, not bad at all!

Monday, January 27, 2020


If I were the "easily frustrated" type, today I would have been easily frustrated. It's a gloomy gray day and somewhere in some news story I read that we have 51 more days until spring. I'm sorry, but that seems like a lot. I prefer to think that we're nearly done with January, that February is very short, and that even the first days of March portend spring. Doesn't that sound better?

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Cats. There's some good news, even as I did not dwell here on last week's iffy news and so you wont appreciate it. Nor is it totally good news: sometime in the middle of the night, Stop Sign's little kitty came back. He and his sister (the gender is a guess) had disappeared a couple of weeks ago and we assumed that they were dead. We do have a lot of coyotes near us. Well, the current theory is that they got lost and one of them made it back. He was so hungry that he screeched by the door to get our attention. Ed was up so he got his food.

This morning, the exchange between Stop Sign and the little one was telling: she accepted him into the lair but fought him off when he tried to join her for breakfast. And she teaches him exactly those bad manners. When later I bring out food for him, he utters a little hiss, even though he knows I am bringing him food. The two of them are the world's grouchiest cats!

(the little one)

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Breakfast. All good. No frustration there.

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The rest of the morning is devoted to mom stuff. Petty frustrations throughout.

No kids today. Just mom stuff. I visit her and guide her through some paper signing with one agency person standing by, handing one sheet after the next. This should have been straightforward. It wasn't straightforward. Too, she asked for one more thing out of her old apartment. Dang! I had already given permission for the managers to enter it and take away (as donations) any and all items left behind. I don't want her to be charged February rent.

And so after my visit, I hurry over to the apartment one more time. I get the item she identified today (phew!) and the two chairs she changed her mind on last night. However, stuffing the two chairs into my small car is a problem. I try the trunk. I try a folded down back seat. I try the front seat. Ed happens to call just then and suggests the roof. I have no straps to tie them there so I shove them somewhere between the front seat and my lap. Driving back is an adventure. I can shift gears into the first, second or third, but I'm not so sure about the fourth and fifth. Just as well: I cannot buckle my seat belt, so going slowly is probably a good idea.

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At the farmhouse, it strikes me that Ed and I are in a very serious mode. This stuff with my mom is serious. Too, we've been reading too much news. Laughter has fizzled. It's all sweet and kind but still,  somber tones are the new normal. Perhaps it's inevitable. Nonetheless, I'm hoping for a reset to cheerful in the days to come.

So, a day littered with small issues. Perfect material for major frustration. Still, I'm not the "easily frustrated" type. Give me something to chuckle about and I chuckle. Tonight, as Ed pops some corn, I suggest we start with a few episodes of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" before moving onto Band of Brothers. Laughter, followed by humility. It's a good combination.

Sunday, January 26, 2020


Early in the morning, I feed the animals...

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... then feed us.

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We're in a hurry: a truck is waiting for us at the house of a friend of a friend (Ed's truck is out of service for the rest of the winter season). We'll be using it to move my mom's stuff into storage so that she wont be obligated to pay another month's rent come February 1st.

It's a large truck, with a cab that has a back seat. We stuff it to the max and in piling one thing onto another, we're able to move all the stuff that I deemed worthy of taking in one trip.

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I had been fretting about this for a while, but in the end it was doable. With Ed's hand truck, we were able to transport even the heaviest pieces of furniture first to the elevator, then to the truck and finally to the storage shed. (It would have been so much easier if we had had full use of an elevator, but the building manager did not make it available for us and so we had to make do with a lot of threatening beeping and buzzing!)

Afterwards, we return to the apartment and arrange all the stuff for donation (meaning things I deemed not worthy of a move to assisted living) neatly. We cart out endless loads of what my mom may have called "collectable items," but I call trash. (There's lots of plastic unfortunately.) One last look at her old apartment and I turn the key on that chapter of her life. (Or so I think then.)

We have one last lug: of an old dresser that we had bought for her when she moved here. She doesn't want it, preferring a more conventional one off of Amazon, so Ed and I are taking it back to the farmhouse. It's so solid that no kid can turn it over under any circumstance ever. (As opposed to my old dresser, now in use by a UW math student... remember that story?) And this is actually the hardest part of our day: lugging that monster up our narrow farmhouse steps. For me, the steps just kept growing in size and toward the end I swear I had to hoist the damn thing up ten feet into the air (or so it seemed). But we manage and now everything is where it should be. For now. Once my mom's new residence is secured for her, we'll put on our moving caps again!

Late in the afternoon, as we collapse on the couch at home, Ed asks me -- so why would you feel anxious about the move? You do it and then it's done. Why fret?

Why does anyone fret or worry about the unknown? Why not just accept each day as it unfolds, take on each challenge, walk through it, move on to the next?

I suppose because we are not all like Ed, who moves at his pace without ever contemplating that the world may come crashing down around him. And if it did come crashing down, he's sit there under the rubble and remove one board after another until he could get himself up to move on to the next task. With a solid pause and a nap on the couch in between.

In the evening, I take note of two things. First, I call my mom and find out that she changed her mind about relinquishing a couple of chairs. She wants them back. It means another trip back to her apartment. They may not fit into my car. Sigh...

The second thing is light and lovely: the young family is here for dinner. The five photos below say it all.

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Later, much later, Ed and I watch episode 6 of the mini-series we'd been occasionally plugging into -- the Band of Brothers. It's a World War II drama -- a good one to watch on days when you're feeling whiny about the drippiness of any particular January day. Your peanut issues seem even more peanutty. I mean, really really peanutty.

The farmhouse is warm, the dinner was so good, the candle burns slowly, the night is quiet, the popcorn is near perfect. How lucky can you get!

Saturday, January 25, 2020


As I ride the bus through sloppy snow showers, past foggy landscapes, I think less about the mess outside, about the mess in Washington, about the mess in my schedule this week and more about the wonderful young families in my life. Happy, hard working, with generous hearts and healthy spirits. Good people that do so much to make me smile.

I have only a half day in Chicago. And looking back on it, I see that there definitely is a food theme to it!

Of course, we start with a breakfast. A mini meal for the adults, somewhat more milky crunchy and substantial one for Primrose.


And is it coincidence that immediately after, the little girl turns to her own pretend cooking?


And pretend ice cream eating?


(I smile when I recall her real eating yesterday evening: I opened a bucket of real pickles -- made with salt, rather than vinegar which in my Polish opinion is a cheat. I wanted to cut myself a slice and Primrose insisted on eating her own whole pungent pickle. She's got Eastern Europe in her blood for sure.)

And do you really think it's just chance that leads her to pick the book about pizza for a repeat read?


(I did say "repeat read," didn't I?)


Our bigger meal (aka brunch) is at Lonesome Rose. I love this place as much as Primrose does (though she opts for the tacos, while I pick a tostada).


It's just the right amount of food and the atmosphere is always cheerful and welcoming. And they cook well too! Such a bonus!


Oftentimes I linger with the young family after a Saturday brunch. We may visit a bakery, a coffee shop, or a toy store. But not today. I need to get back to the farmette and get ready for tomorrow's move and the week's tasks.

(walking in the direction of the L train that will take me to the bus station)


It will not be an easy set of days, but again, it hardly matters. The young faces are before me and their smiles are lovely and contagious.

At the farmette, Ed has done a good bit of tidying, sparing me the normal Sunday clean up. I cook up a big pot of vegetable and bean soup that will last us into the week. It's always good to have a pot of soup ready and waiting, don't you think?

Friday, January 24, 2020


If you are the type of person who easily gets despondent when dreary weather sets in, you'd be in trouble today. Another inch of wet snow fell overnight, but Madison temps are rising above freezing today and anything more that comes down from those gloomy gray clouds is bound to be super wet and unpleasant.

I have a list of early morning phone calls and I'm tempted to get to them before feeding the animals, but the cats are at the porch door begging and so I relent.


As I set about filling the cat bowls with food in the sheep shed, my phone begins its relentless ringing. (I left messages up and down organizational chains and now come the call backs.) I am amused that this noise -- of my cell phone playing Vivaldi's Spring (which has been my ringtone for years and years) -- terrifies five of the six shed cats. They abandon their food and scramble to escape. It's quite the sight to see the whole bunch of them push to get out an opening that can just accommodate one cat. Only Dance looks up with indifference. I would say that she is, by now, only a little feral. The others are still one foot in a human space and one foot out the door.

Breakfast. Ed and I review the weekend ahead. I'll be coming back from Chicago late Saturday and on Sunday we are planning on moving my mom's stuff out of her apartment. I am apprehensive. Ed assures me that he will take all heavy pieces of furniture apart so that we are able to carry them. I don't quite believe him. The young family has offered assistance, but I will have none of it. I may be insanely busy, but they are all super insanely busy. If we can, Ed and I will do it ourselves. If not, we'll worry about it next week.


One last look at the farmette lands, in their winter rest mode...


And I'm off to spend 24 hours with Primrose and her parents.

Chicago's weather is even less cooperative. The city's snowy surfaces are melting. It's foggy and I'm expecting a barrage of rain. It's a mess out there!

I hoist my duffel bag over my shoulder, zip up my jacket and take out my umbrella, just in case. Primrose and I can take a little rain, right?

(pause for "lunch" at a coffee shop...)


I pick the little one up at school... (just starting in on post-nap afternoon snack)


... and we walk home. Salty slushy puddles are impossible to step over. But we manage to just barely beat the rain.

Home at last. I throw down all the damp stuff and turn my attention to the little girl. She is just about 22 months old now -- a happy, spunky, curious toddler who sometimes still seems close to the toddler of yesterday, but more often, she acts as if she is awfully close to little girlhood.


So many new words! So many playful gestures! (It's interesting to me that none of my grandchildren belong to the broody quiet genre. They all clamber to be heard and Primrose has a vocabulary that allows her to get to the heart of what she wants.)


It's a spirited and splendid afternoon!


In the evening, my daughter and I go out to dinner. We're celebrating her birthday! Our meal is at the wonderful Daisies Restaurant.


On a wet wintry day, can you think of something better than a plateful of extraordinary pasta?

It's a beautiful evening. You can't let the weather get to you. Nearly always, it's what's inside that counts. Especially now, especially when you're with people whose smiles and laughter warm your heart and soul.