Category Archives: music

“You’re the First, the Last, My Everything” (two years)

Barry White’s 1974 love song referenced in the title still describes how I feel about Lucy two years later. I know many of you love her, too. Please take a moment to remember her today. For those of you lucky enough to have a special someone who is your everything, give him or her an extra hug and be thankful that person is still in your life. My thoughts and prayers are with those of you who have lost loved ones.

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“Sixteen Tons”

After a relatively balmy stretch, at least by mid-winter Minnesota standards, today’s snowfall created commuting problems. Three inches of snow for us is inconvenient but not insurmountable. I was quite puzzled when Bloomington Public Works dispatched a front-end loader and a dump truck to clear the end of the cul-de-sac. The chorus of “Sixteen Tons” popped into my head:

“You load sixteen tons, what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt…”

It is probably true in more ways than one. Snow removal keeps my muscles in a regular state of short-term lactacid oxygen debt whether I use the snow thrower or a shovel. Gasoline for the snow thrower is an added expense. The people who feel “I owe my soul to the company store” endured slow travel and bone-headed drivers who think they have special dispensation from the laws of physics. Today’s snow was fine and granular, ideal for blowing and drifting. The forecast is for falling temperatures and gusty winds to replace moderate temperatures and snowfall later today. Many of the people who endured a tedious commute will need to find alternate parking because of the Snow Emergencies declared in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Even they will feel like they moved sixteen tons of something by bedtime this evening. I am sure that the “something” is not suitable for family friendly reading, but my Norwegian ancestors would probably start saying “fee-da” about now.

We are entering the “endurance” phase of winter. Groundhog’s Day (February 2nd) is exactly half-way between the winter solstice and the vernal equinox, but the middle of January is when our average highs and lows are at their minimums. It can, and does, get beastly cold in February. Lucy’s birthday was February 5th and there were about as many -20°F days as +40°F days in the time I was with her, but the longer days helped make enduring the chill bearable. This year’s Polar Vortex adventure was, with luck, our coldest period of the year. We have had the first seasonal  January thaw and could see another by this time next week. Our temperature swings will make people more prone to upper respiratory infections and asthma attacks, so some parents add pediatrics duty at home to their work load. We just need to endure and spring will be here eventually, and hopefully not mercilessly waylaid like last year.

I have a friend who suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder, which has the appropriate abbreviation SAD. Most of us can grumble about the weather and can “gut it out”; people afflicted with SAD can become moody and depressed. Being stuck in a windowless cubicle farm with the requisite yellow-green hued fluorescent lighting exacerbates the symptoms. The sunnier and warmer weather last weekend was a welcome break. Today’s snow, cloud cover, and wind chill not so much. Every day burdens become sixteen tons heavier with SAD. It pays for us to be nice to everyone, for we do not know who is battling a disorder.

Two quick lasts of arctic air might be on tap for this week, with snow and seasonal temperatures in between. Next week’s forecast hints at seasonal temperatures. There will be a couple of days of hot chocolate for me and ethanol-free gasoline for the snow thrower. Give your special someone a meaningful hug and feel your sixteen ton burden grow lighter. For my friends baking in Australia, I would be happy to send some of our -5°C weather your way in exchange for your +35°C weather. DHL still delivers Down Under, don’t they?

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“Back In The Saddle”

Aerosmith’s song is “Back In The Saddle” while Gene Autry’s is “Back In The Saddle Again“. They are completely different songs and lyrics, but both are appropriate for this post.

The blog is back in the saddle after a hardware issue. Unfortunately, I was running an out-of-date WordPress extension that was responsible for making backups of the content and the backups are useless. I will be back-filling the missing posts over the next week. It does give me a chance to make some subtle changes and to clean up some of the cruft that accumulates over time.

I have been back in the bicycle saddle again when the weather has permitted. It’s not as exciting as a motorcycle saddle (it’s been over 30 years for me), but the challenge of riding either a shorter hilly trail or a longer flatter trail is nice. Lucy and I would ride about 200 miles per year, and I miss my riding partner. It dawned on me I have not been horseback riding in over 45 years, so I may have to add that to my activity list…if I can find a place to ride and a riding partner who wants to laugh hysterically at my attempt to stay on the horse. I am sure it would be the next viral video on YouTube.

The past fifteen months have seen me attempt to get back in the saddle to move forward with my life. It hasn’t been easy and my seemingly getting bucked off the spooked horse and then trampled by the buffalo herd several times reminds me that life has challenges. We see rodeo riders get bucked off and get right back on the horse. Sometimes the injuries are serious and the rider needs some time to recuperate. Getting back on does not ensure a smooth ride and that pesky buffalo herd sometimes roars back into the picture. I’m learning a new way to ride and hope I can stay on. You all have been wonderful with helping me to my feet and dusting me off so I can try again. And again. And again.

Three friends have gotten back in the saddle and started new relationships; all are at different stages, and I am overjoyed for each of them. Each had a previous relationship end badly and each is proceeding with caution. After all, getting bucked off is quite unpleasant. There is also overcoming the feeling of wondering if something is going to wrong because everything is going well; the cost of the previous relationship abruptly ending is the price for today’s happiness. It is probably strange spending time with someone new; I have experienced that just having a cup of coffee or going for a walk with a female friend. For all of my friends in their new relationships, I hope you stay happy, that things continue to progress wonderfully, and that your happiness turns to joy.

I know some people have problems seeing a couple get affectionate after a loss or divorce, but it really doesn’t bother me. The staged crap on TV is bothersome to me because of how false it is. Seeing a couple holding hands or walking arm-in-arm is different. Lucy and I acted like newlyweds our entire married life. We kept each other young because we were filled with joy. Instead of feeling sad that I no longer have that sort of affection, I am happy that I was blessed to have it for all those years. Seeing their joy is comforting and it brightens my day. I had an incredible ride with Lucy and I will always treasure that.

It is time to get out of the saddle for this evening. Give your special someone an extra hug for me. Life is a long ride, but it is so much better when you have a riding partner you enjoy. Happy trails!

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“Silver Threads Among the Gold” (25th wedding anniversary)

Today Lucy and I would have celebrated our silver (25th) wedding anniversary. The post title is a love song from 1873, where an ailing elderly man professes his love for his wife. In his eyes, she is as young and beautiful as when he first met her even though many years have passed.

We never had the chance to grow old together. Cancer stole that future from us just as cancer eventually stole her life. For all of the things cancer stole from Lucy during her battle, it never stole her love for me, her love for her family, her love for her friends, or her love for life. She fought hard to steal back precious time from the cancer and for that I will always love her and I will always miss her. She did not lose her battle.

I had thought today would be a very difficult day to get through, but I was wrong. Julie found time in her busy day to meet me for lunch. A half-hour spent with someone smiling brightens up a difficult day. After lunch, I went to the cemetery, gave Lucy a bouquet, and spent some time with her. I wish I could take her to dinner as we normally did for our anniversaries.

Please remember Lucy and give your loved ones a meaningful hug from her. Thank you for your love and support today.

25th anniversary bouquet

Happy 25th anniversary, Lucy! I love you and I miss you.

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“Cherry Pink (and Apple Blossom White)”

I have two apple trees in the backyard that are full of white flower buds. The older tree has some open flowers. There are no cherry trees in the neighborhood, although two houses east of me the yard has several flowering crabapples with bright pink flowers. The Twin Cities seeming skipped spring and rushed headlong into summer, so some mambo music is perfect. Perez Prado recorded “Cherry Pink (and Apple Blossom White)” in 1955 as an instrumental and it seemed quite appropriate for today. The weather has provided a mambo beat with a steady drone of thunder and syncopated drumming of raindrops on the porch roof. The only thing missing is “more cowbell” (or at least some cowbell).

Skipping spring is not an exaggeration. One week ago today, the low temperature was 31°F, which just missed tying the record low of 28°F. Within 48 hours, the high temperature set a record high of 98°F. Even though Minnesota is known for extreme weather, going from frostbite to heat stroke in such a short period is unusual. Over 4 inches of rain falling since Thursday has accelerated blooms in the gardens. A cold and snowy April added to the precipitation total. I hope the copious rains also do not create a bumper crop of ticks, mosquitoes, and sandflies. The area is under its first tornado watch, first severe thunderstorm warning, and urban flood watch of the season. Ah, summer in Minnesota. I am positive there will be a push to put a retractable roof on Target Field even though the architects say it can’t be realistically done. The Twins might have to finish their game today wearing scuba gear.

The early blooming flowers and shrubs are done for the season. There were no crocus blooms this year, but the squills and snowdrops were above average, and the forsythia was absolutely loaded with yellow flowers. Tulips, daffodils, the apple trees, and the miniature irises are blooming along with the early blooming white lilac. The purple lilacs are close, and the pink Canadian lilac will bloom from the time the purple lilacs are done in early June until mid-July. It will rebloom in mid-September.

The winter took a toll on some of the plants. The Russian sage, the red twig dogwood, the cottoneaster, a shrub rose, and the Miss Kim Korean lilac did not make it. All had been looking sickly for the past couple years so I was not surprised. The red twig dogwood is replaced by a lilac with white edged purple flowers. I will not replace the cottoneaster, but will plant a knockout rose in its place. The Russian sage gets replaced when the weather dries out.

Gardening has taught me many things through the years. Dealing with adversity, not having total control over the environment, and learning to complete as many tasks as possible because the weather may not cooperate are some of the life lessons. Gardening also gives me an appreciation for the intricacies of nature, the fascination of seeing a startled chirping hummingbird staring me in the face, of watching robins and cardinals tending to their young, of finally seeing bluebirds on a regular basis, and of dragonflies, damselflies, butterflies, and moths adding grace and color to the scenery.

So maybe the dahlias will get nailed with an early frost or get shredded by hail before they finish blooming. Maybe torrential rain like today will wash away carefully planted seeds. Perhaps a drought later this season will stunt the apple and raspberry growth or Japanese beetles will cause damage. These are all outside my control although I will take reasonable steps to minimize or mitigate damage. Perseverance is the most important life lesson learned from gardening. Lucy’s determination to overcome gardening adversities helped her in her cancer battle.

The second wave of showers ended, but a particularly strong third wave just hit my area. It is still too early in the day for a rainbow or double rainbow. If the humidity stays this high and the cloud cover to the west breaks up, perhaps this area will be fortunate to see one.

Take the time to give your loved ones a meaningful hug and let them know you care. Please help me wish a happy birthday to cousin Mary, and a happy birthday to Micaela!

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“Edge of Seventeen” (inches of snow)

I was on the on the edge of 17” of snow, though that wasn’t what Stevie Nicks had in mind when she wrote “Edge of Seventeen”. Several days of dire forecasts trumpeting record-breaking snowfall, freezing rain, and other wintery unpleasantness slid about fifteen miles to the south and east of me. My neighbor spent time putting the blade on his Ford Bronco last night. This morning he spent time removing it without using it.

Snowfall amounts ranged from a trace to 18” in a band about 50 miles wide and about 400 miles long. Other than some sloppy flurries, cold wind, and ½” of rain, it would have passed for a late February day. My old home area, Emmons, MN and Lake Mills, IA, picked up close to a foot of snow and saw many crushed trees and downed power lines. Weather forecasts are not 100% accurate, and one person’s good fortune is another person’s misfortune.

Not that winter has fully left the area. Normal temperatures may not visit again until Monday and there is a minor threat of snow Friday and Saturday. After that, I hope this area gets a second chance at a normal spring and that the areas bearing the brunt of get a chance to clear out and clean up. A couple of sunny days will get rid of this round of winter.

The four decent days this week have the snowdrops blooming, daffodils and tulips budding, and the forsythia finally showing flower buds. The red remains of silver maple tree flowers litter many driveways and the tree rats, er, squirrels are becoming fat, happy, and stupid by gnawing near a leaf bud and lapping the maple sap. That also causes sugary drips on driveways and parked cars. Everything is running almost three weeks behind normal. Maybe the growing season will run three weeks later this year.

I replaced my weather station without falling off the roof and only dropped one wrench. Of course, it did necessitate a trip down to get it. Lucy and I shared a strong dislike of ladders. Mine is exacerbated by a mild rupture in my right ear drum with occasionally plays havoc with balance. The top of the roof is about 14 feet above the ground, but an asphalt driveway and a concrete patio increase the likelihood of a hard landing. I’m glad that chore is done for another decade or more.

I hope you are getting the chance to enjoy some pleasant and routine weather. If bad weather affected you, I hope you are safe and any damage was minimal. Life is as uncertain as the weather, so don’t waste an opportunity to give your loved ones a meaningful hug.

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“Walking on Sunshine”

Many people in the Twin Cities metro are walking on sunshine because of the wonderful weather change since Monday. Of course, the 1983 song by Katrina and the Waves has received ample airplay on a couple of the radio stations. Between Monday and Friday, the landscape changed from sooty gray on dirty white to mostly green on khaki. Wardrobes consisting of parkas and Sorel boots now are tank tops and sandals. Car washes and nail shops are insanely busy and Dairy Queen has a steady stream of cars in line from 10:00 am to 10:00 pm. The furnace is getting a rest and the air conditioner surprised me by kicking on late this afternoon. Sun and blue sky replaced the slate gray gloom. We have a surprise thunderstorm underway now rather than freezing rain and sloppy snow.

All my snow melted off Friday and the last of the ice in the backyard shady spot was gone Saturday morning. The temperature had not risen above 60°F this year. Friday was our first 70°F day and today (Sunday) was our first 80°F day. I took advantage of the weather and got the gardens prepped and seeded for the season and did some brush trimming and chipping. I am kicking myself for the wonderful mild sunburn I have on the top of my head from spending eleven hours in the sun between yesterday and today. It shows that I’m not as young as I once was. I am also very thankful for ibuprofen and Powerade.

May could still play a cruel practical joke on us. The weather forecasts for Wednesday night and Thursday night mentioned the dreaded “s” word again. Monday is the last 70°F day for the next week, and Tuesday that last day above 60°F. While the normal high is about 63°F, Wednesday will struggle to make it into the 40’s. The weekend might rebound to the mid 50’s.

I know eleven hours doing garden prep and brush removal sounds like a lot of work. Lucy would help and we would get it done in about half the time. I know she would be disappointed with the late start to the growing season, but she also knew many things were beyond her control. Our reward for a busy day of gardening was dinner at Romano’s Macaroni Grill or Don Pablo’s, then sit in porch on the glider. We savored these warm days with low humidity and no pesky bugs. We would also do some brainstorming and get ideas for the next project (or seven).

We thought ahead and went with low maintenance perennials. The spring readiness and fall clean up were the only two periods of hours of work. Watering, weeding, and cleaning the birdbath amounted to about two hours per week. Mowing takes about 1½ hours when needed, twice per week during the rainier spring and every other week in the drier summer. Thinking ahead gave us more time to enjoy the weather by going for walks. We would average about 200 miles per year walking. By not being in the backyard constantly, it gave the birds a chance to find the birdbath and nesting spots and keep us entertained.

The earlier sunrise time is giving the cardinals more time to sing loudly. I have two males that are in the midst of a territory dispute. One likes to perch in the ash tree outside the bedroom window and sing his own praises at the top of his lungs, usually at 4:30 am (it is still better than an alarm clock!). About a dozen bluebirds used the birdbath today despite my making a terrible racket with the chipper. A crow and a great horned owl had a dust-up, with the crow losing many feathers. The online falcon cam shows peregrine falcons nesting on the Black Dog power plant smokestack about two miles southeast of me. They may have hatchlings because of the flyovers at treetop level. I think they’re ready for spring, too.

Tomorrow is another delightful day, around 75°F with a slight breeze. I have to replace my weather station tomorrow, assuming the new one arrives, and that requires climbing up on the roof. The old anemometer took a hit from an ice chunk Monday. It lost so much weight that it dropped a cup! I know, don’t give up my day job to be a comedian. That will also give me a chance to clear the branches and twigs that fell on the roof after the ice and snow Monday. The old weather station is over twelve years old and the anemometer registered too slowly, even when it had all its cups. The new one accepts data on a USB port and not a serial port, and it has a more accurate anemometer.

My hope is the weather is wonderful where you are. Please give your loved ones a meaningful hug or two, let them know you love them, and take a few minutes to do some “Walking on Sunshine”.

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