Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Leo Visits Missouri

On Saturday, December 8th I went to Missouri with Sarah and Leo. it was Leo’s first big trip and Sarah didn’t want to do it  all by herself. I was only too happy to help, of course! Lee drove me to Sarah and Erik’s that morning and then Erik took us to the airport. We were bringing the car seat that Lee and I use, because its light and inexpensive so if something happened to it it wouldn’t be a big deal. We checked it so we didn’t have to haul it through the airport either. 

When we got to our gate Leo needed a change before we got on the plane so Sarah took him to the restroom. They started calling our flight for boarding, but where were Sarah and Leo? Finally they reappeared. Leo had to undergo a full outfit change because he had managed to pee all over himself. Ah babies!

We got on the flight without any further mishaps. Leo was ready for a nap, but takeoff hurt his ears and he screamed until he finally fell asleep in Sarah’s arms, and stayed that way for the entire flight.

We arrived in St. Louis, picked up our rental car and drove straight to Michael and Jim’s house, our base for cousin and friend meeting in St. Louis. Soon my aunt and uncle, Ray and Al arrived, as did my dear friend Sarah Moore. Leo had a lot of fun exploring their rec room. He is very good at finding the very thing we don’t want him to find! My cousin Lisa dropped by too, in-between children’s hockey games. She said her daughter Olivia army crawled just like Leo and went straight from that to walking at 16 months. Good to know! Ray and Al brought Leo a musical book that plays a little song when you press a button. It took Leo no time at all to figure it out, and of course he thought it was amazing!

All too soon it was time to say goodbye and head to Columbia. Leo had no trouble taking a second nap in the car on the way, although it wasn’t long enough and we had to stop for a minute so Sarah could get in the back and provide a little entertainment (and snacks) for the rest of the ride. We stayed at Mark and Mary’s house while in Columbia. They are such good hosts, and Mary is an amazing cook. We had a delicious lentil soup for dinner that night, and really great food all weekend. 

Sunday morning I take Sarah and Leo to Maice’s house for breakfast. They live in the Grasslands, a nice neighborhood close to the University. I can run from their house right to the rail trail, my old stomping grounds, where I first really started running, almost 26 years ago. It was cold but not Minnesota cold. I just zoomed along, well zoomed for me anyway. Then I ran back to their house to eat donuts and visit with Maice and John. 

Later in the afternoon, Joanne, Elsa, Sam and Blake all come over to Mark and Mary’s house. Leo continues to explore, as much as we will let him. He is intrigued by Rosie the cat, who lets him get only so close and then slips away. The boxers desperately want to lick him, but their tongues are almost as big as Leo’s face and he doesn’t want any part of that! He is pretty fearless when it comes to animals, considering them just another part of the big wide interesting world that is opening to him more and more as he scoots about.

Monday we drive to Fayette and have lunch with Dot. Sarah comments on the way there that it has been a very long time since she has visited this small town outside Columbia where many of Lee’s relatives once lived. We pick up Dot at her house and drive to Emmett’s, a very good restaurant on the square. Emmett’s in itself is worth the 45 minute drive! Leo loves Emmett’s. There are twinkling Christmas lights throughout the restaurant and lots of people to flirt with too. He also loves Dot, who is dressed beautifully in a red blouse and a bright scarf. She looks great and is doing very well. It was so very nice to see her. 

As we leave the restaurant I see a policeman eyeing my rental car and beginning to write a ticket because we parked in a handicap space. “Wait!” I shout. “We are with Dot Schnell! She just forgot her hanging tag!” He looks at me speculatively. “You know I even called the rental car agency,” he replied. “Oh well, I was pretty bored. Nice to see you Mrs. Schnell!” And that is how you dodge a ticket in a small town!

That evening Sarah goes out with Maice to help celebrate her birthday. Mary makes an amazing frittata for dinner, chocked full of mushrooms, cheese and potatoes. I make a pig of myself, until Mark says disapprovingly,  “Leave some for your daughter!” I have got to stop eating like I’m still training for a marathon. Well I did leave Sarah a slice. One.

Tuesday it is time to head back to St. Louis. It snows lightly all the way there. Fortunately the roads are not slick and I can see just fine. We stop at Kohn’s and pick up some corned beef for Sarah and Erik, some pastrami for Lynn and Lee, a couple of pickles and rye bread for sandwiches, and some ruglach to snack upon on the plane. Then we head over to Nancy’s for lunch. She is doing good, staying busy of course. She always has lots of friends looking out for her. Seeing her makes me miss mom; they were always hanging out together.

Leo falls asleep for about 5 minutes on the way to the airport. Then our return flight is a bit delayed because of the weather. The airplane had to be de-iced before it left Minneapolis and then de-iced again before we can leave St. Louis. Leo flirts with people behind us on the flight, then screams until he finally falls asleep. Poor thing. I worry that the people around us will hate us. Sarah has become a true mom, not worried about the others, just her baby that is struggling to get comfortable.
It was a great trip. I’m so glad we went. But I was really tired once I got home. I guess that’s why young people are the ones that have babies! But when Lee and I pick Leo up from daycare on Thursday I get a smile of total delight when he sees me. That’s what it’s all about.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Antisemitism and Me

I’ve seen a few posts on Facebook lately concerning antisemitism. That seems only natural after the horror of the synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh. Some of the posts were written by other Jews, talking about how the shooting affected them, and reflecting on their place in America as a Jew. Some were by people I know that work hard on gun control legislation, despairing on one hand, and vowing on the other hand to redouble their efforts. But there were a few posts that troubled me. One in particular was an article from the  Zionist Organization of America, a conservative pro-Israel organization, explaining how the ADL (Anti Defamation League) has misused statistics to indicate that antisemitic acts have risen dramatically since Trump took office. This was an interesting article, and it had some valid points, at least as far as pointing out some inconsistencies in the ADL’s use of data to point out the dangers for Jews in Trumps’s America.

So where do I stand in all of this? Well, I’ve been reflecting on my parent’s stories and on mine. There are plenty of them, and they make for some interesting reading. 

When I was little, in the early to mid fifties, we lived in University City, a close in suburb of St. Louis. We lived in a neighborhood that was mostly Jewish, mostly German-Jewish, largely refugees and holocaust survivors. World War II and the Nazi’s seemed like ancient history to me, but of course it hadn’t been that long ago. We lived with my grandmother, and every adult in our family was traumatized by what had happened in the 30’s and 40’s.

My dad’s father had emigrated from eastern Europe in the early 20’s. They were very poor, but my dad was very smart. He wanted to be a chemical engineer, but there were quotas for Jews in certain departments at most Universities and his parents told him not to even try. They said he should be a pharmacist instead, which my dad did not want to do at all. He reluctantly took the entrance exam for pharmacy school at St. Louis University, and failed. His parents went to the dean and begged him to let their son in anyway and for whatever reason they did.

My dad hated being a pharmacist. When his father died he lost no time in going back to school. By now, in the late fifties, the quotas were gone and he became an electrical engineer.

My mom’s family came from Trier, Germany. They escaped the Nazi’s at the last minute because her father had two sisters that did not want to leave. He kept putting off going, trying to convince them to come as well, but it was no use. My grandmother came from a large family, many of whom had already emigrated to the US, back in the 20’s. That is why they were able to come here at all. Many other people were not as lucky. My great aunts died in the camps, but my mother, her sister, and her parents were saved.

My Mother's Family, 1930's

My mom had plenty of stories about what it was like to be a little Jewish girl in Nazi Germany. The little girl across the street, who one day couldn’t play with her anymore. Learning to swim in the river, because Jews were not allowed in the public swimming pool. Going to the Jewish school because Jews couldn’t go to the public schools. Going to a scary doctor before they left for America, to get examined before they would be allowed to leave. And on and on.

And she had stories too, about how things were after they arrived n America. There was still antisemitism, but it was more subtle. They lived in Brentwood, another suburb of St. Louis, and there weren’t a lot of other Jews where they lived. One story stood out for me. One evening she was babysitting for some neighborhood kids, and they started rooting around in her hair. They were looking for her horns! In case you’ve never heard this one, it comes from Michelangelo’s statue of Moses, where his halo had been broken off, so it looked like he had horns…yep that’s right.

For the most part, I was sheltered from any outright antisemitism when I was little. But there were confusions in my mind. Sometimes Jehovah Witnesses would come to our neighborhood to proselytize, or the Salvation Army band would come and play on the street corner. My mother would get so upset to find Christian pamphlets on our doorstep, that I had some confusion about the difference between Christians and Nazis. I never said anything but puzzled over it myself. Did Christians want to hurt us? Why was my mom so upset?

And one evening a large group of college age kids, mostly boys it seemed, drove up our street, ran out of their cars and started pounding on our doors. “March of Dimes! March of Dimes!” they shouted. My family turned off all the lights, and terrified, laid down on the floor until they left. When I asked my mother about this years later, she had no memory of it at all. 

When we lived in Washington DC while I was in 5th grade we lived in an apartment complex with a few Jewish families, but not a bunch. There were lots of different types of people there, mostly low to middle class, all striving one way or another to climb the economic ladder. One night we came home to a pile of human shit on the steps leading up to our door. To this day I have no idea if this was an antisemitic act, or some little kid that just had to poop right then and there. My parents knew it was antisemitism, however. It was always there, for them.

One morning, having moved back to St Louis, we woke up to a disturbing sight. There was a synagogue behind our apartment house (Share Emeth). Someone had painted a swastika on the back wall of the synagogue. My parents were horrified and upset. I wanted to believe it was just ignorant kids, but who knows?

When we moved from University City to Creve Coeur, farther out in St. Louis County, there were a lot more non-Jewish people where we lived. There were still plenty of Jews but we were no longer the majority. It was the first time that most of my friends weren’t Jewish. 

I don’t remember experiencing outright anti-semitism in high school, or in college, or later on in life. I remember being shocked when my roommate in college told me that her father called University City “Jew City”, and having to gently tell a co-worker that using the term “Jewed them down” when describing a bargain-hunting spree in Mexico was perhaps not the best choice of words. And sometimes I would wonder, did that girl not want to be friends with me because I was Jewish? Did that boy not want to date me for the same reason? When I look back on these instances I’m confident that I was wrong, that it wasn’t my religion. But the fact that I wondered is telling.

My Parent's Wedding Day

There is a great scene in Annie Hall, where Alvy, Woody’s Allen’s character, is walking down a street in New York City with his friend. They pass a couple talking and Alvy says, “Did you hear that? He said, did Jew eat yet! See? SEE!” Its funny and sort of ridiculous. Of course those people weren’t throwing an antisemitic slur at Alvy and his friend, but Alvy THOUGHT they did, and Alvy was upset.

In the article about the ADL and their possible misuse of statistics to bolster their claim that antisemitism has risen since Trump has taken office, I think the writer has really missed the point. He talks about the rash of Jewish Community Center bomb threats back in 2017, that turned out not to be motivated by antisemitism but by one person that was trying to frame his ex-girlfriend, and another in Israel with mental health issues. Yes these acts turned out to not be driven by a hatred of Jews but at the time we sure thought they were. And we made an easy target, didn’t we?  Why didn’t these individuals choose to threaten YMCA’s? Jews will wonder, no matter what the statistics say. He also talks about the Jewish cemetery vandalism that also occurred in 2017. He states that the ADL included one damaged cemetery in their statistics that turned out to be caused by old headstones toppling on their own. But 150 Jewish headstones in St. Louis and another 100 in Philadelphia WERE vandalized. So gee, it was “only” 250 headstones instead of 275? Wow.

 Maybe he’s right, maybe antisemitism isn’t on the rise, or at least not as much as we might think. Maybe Trump has nothing to do with it. BUT, many, if not most Jews I know are afraid. We’re worried not only for ourselves and our families, but for others, Muslims, immigrants, LGBT people. Most of us have experienced very little antisemitism ourselves, but we are our parent’s children, and our parents experienced hell, in one form or another. We were raised to be vigilant, to be cautious, and to never say, “it can’t happen here”. 

Were those college kids soliciting for the March of Dimes out to get the Jews? Of course not, but they terrorized our neighborhood just the same, because of how it looked when they drove up our street and jumped out of their cars, shouting and pounding on our doors. Was that pile of shit on the steps leading up to our apartment antisemitism, or a kid that just had to poop, or someone in the neighborhood that disliked my dad for some reason that had nothing to do with his religion? There is no way to know, but to my parents it was directed right at them and it was because of who they were.

There is a big difference between a prosecutable hate crime, and an act that upsets someone because it FEELS like it is because of their religion. On one hand no one should be prosecuted for a hate crime unless their action can be clearly seen as just that. But feelings are different. No one has the right to tell someone they aren’t justified in feeling how they feel. Jews have been persecuted throughout their history. Some of it dates back centuries; the worst one happened less than 70 years ago. When it comes to how Jews FEEL statistics don’t really matter than much. It might cause us to relax a bit, to think things aren’t as bad as they seem. But we’ll never relax completely. We know only too well how things can change, how the unthinkable can happen anywhere, even here. 

I want to hope for the best, of course. I’d much rather live in a world where people can feel safe and secure, where acts of injustice and horror never happen, to anyone. My little kid and my younger self certainly didn’t want to entertain the thought that my parent’s view of the world was right. And most of the time I’m not looking for antisemitism under every rock. But I’m never that surprised when the inevitable happens. I might be disappointed, but never surprised. And at the same time, I haven’t given up hope.

I’m not a very religious Jew, but the Jewish concept of Tikkun Olam, repairing the world, resonates with me. If we are on this earth for any reason at all, I believe it is to try at least a little bit to leave it better than we found it. This obligation can take many forms, but one form it must take for most Jews is to be sensitive to injustice whenever it occurs.  And there is something more of course. What happened to our people 70 years ago was horrible, but it left us with a conviction. We say “never again” but we’re not just talking about the Jews. “Never again” means never again for all people, everywhere. And “never again” means we must remain on guard. So when acts of injustice occur you’ll find us there, trying to improve the world in big and small ways, trying to make sure “never again” holds fast.

Family 1999

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Twin Cities Marathon 2018

I was really really nervous before this race, more than usual. I knew why. I had trained well, and hard. The weather was going to be perfect for marathoning, cloudy and cool, with the high barely inching into the low 50’s. There was only a light breeze and the rain was supposed to hold off until later in the afternoon. There was no reason I couldn’t do really really well in this race, no reason except my brain which often got in the way when it came to running marathons.

I had a plan and I thought it was a good one. I had practiced my average  marathon pace of 12:20 mpm a lot on my long runs. I thought I could maintain that pace through most of the race. I knew that because Twin Cities was a pretty twisty course I was going to run more than 26.2 miles, so if I wanted to run less than 5 hours and 30 minutes I needed to aim for more like 5 hours and 25 minutes, so that was the plan.

Lee was kind enough to drive me to Minneapolis for the start of the race. He and maybe Sarah and Leo would meet me later in St Paul at the end. It was something to look forward to!

I got to the start a little before 7 AM. The 10 mile race was almost about to start. Tom was running the 10 miler so hopefully we would find him and Nicole and Harrison at the end as well.

I found my gear check, my corral, the porta potties with the shortest lines. Basically I stood in the potty line, used the facilities, and turned right around and got back in line. I did that 3 times and then took some Pepto Bismol and hoped for the best. My nervous stomach is always a problem before big races but with a little help it settles down once the race starts.

Back in corral 3 I was surrounded by a lot of people running their first marathon. 8 years ago Twin Cities was my first marathon too! They asked me for advice and I tried to be helpful. I hope they all had a great time!

Our corral got started around 20 minutes after corral 1. I started out at an easy pace, using a 30/30 run/walk interval. But with the weather, and nerves I was running awfully fast. I tried to slow down a little but I wasn’t going to really force myself to slow down a lot, as long as things felt really easy, which they did.

After 2 miles I changed my run/walk interval to 45/30 and that’s what I used for the rest of the race. The first couple of miles winds through downtown Minny and then heads to Uptown and the Lakes. This time I knew where I was more or less for most of the race. 8 years ago I really had no idea most of the time.

Miles 3 through around 13 run through the neighborhoods around Lake of the Isles, Lake Harriet, Lake Nokomis, and Lake Calhoun. Its really really pretty and the crowds are great. Sometime around mile 5 I started talking to a girl named Kim. She was doing a run/walk interval too, but a longer one, 3 min/1 min. She was intrigued by my shorter intervals and we started to run together. We were very closely matched in pace, although her legs were a little longer than mine and I think she was actually faster than me. We ran together for miles, all the way to the river, around mile 18.  When we would get split up, because of the aid stations, or a potty break, we managed to find each other again. It was fun to have someone to talk to and I think running with her made me run a little bit faster. I certainly was killing a lot of those miles! If I hadn’t had to stop a second time to pee who knows, we might have run the entire race together!

The only point in the race where I got a little confused about where I was was when we were getting close to the Mississippi River. I didn’t realize that we were running along it until we crossed the bridge over it into St Paul and started running on the other side! 

Somewhere along in here there were people handing out beer. I felt great so I took a couple of slugs. A guy behind me said “Wow, you are brave! How do you feel?” I laughed and said I’d know in a couple minutes. And then I said, you know if you aren’t going to have fun doing this, what’s the point? And that’s how I felt, for sure.

Even though I had come over and run miles 20-26 of the course a few weeks ago, I was still anxious about approaching mile 20. I knew it was the biggest uphill on the course and in my mind it just grew and grew! Marathons can be such head games! But when I finally got there it just wasn’t that bad. I walked it when I needed to but even walking I kept my pace up.

While trudging up the hill I passed a lot of people because of course 20 miles is where the dreaded wall rears its head for so many. There was a youngish runner that I passed that looked really bad. I told her to hang in there and asked her if she had anything to eat. She said no and I said, find something! There will be people with candy, take some. Voice of experience!

Miles 21-23 are a gradual uphill but I had planned for it, allowing myself to go a little slower as needed. I still kept myself below a 12:40 pace. Around mile 22 I started to realize I was going to do it. Unless something awful happened in the last 4 miles I was finally going to break 5 and a half hours for the marathon. I got a little emotional. Someone had a sign with little smiley faces and it said to touch the one that was how you felt, going from #1 for great to #10 (with a crying frown face) for awful. I punched #2 and startled the sign holder. I knew I was going to finish strong.

My mind was playing tricks on me, as it often does. I was trying to calculate what my finish time was going to be and in my feverish fantasies I had myself finishing in 5:10 or 5:15. That wasn’t happening, but it still was going to be really really good for me.

I saw a girl wearing the 2018 Boston Marathon jacket and holding a glass of champagne, watching the race. I yelled that I loved her jacket and she actually came over and ran with me for a little bit. I told her that I was going to be about a half an hour faster than I was at Boston and she laughed. She definitely understood.

At mile 23 the course gets more rolling, with still a few uphills but some nice downhills too. I ran as much of the uphills as felt comfortable and really flew on the downhills. My quads didn’t hurt so hey, why not, just don’t fall! At mile 25 some serious downhills wind above the capital as you head to the finish. I really booked it that last mile and a half. When my Garmin hit 26 miles I ran the rest of the way as fast as I could, even though I knew I was a quarter mile off. As I approached the finish I heard “Lynn! Lynn!” and there were Nic, Tom and Harrison. I smiled and waved and drove on the the finish. 5:24:37. I finally broke 5:30 after 8 years of trying. I was SO HAPPY!

I blinked back tears. Suddenly that feeling of my throat closing and not being able to breathe started happening, but since going to a speech therapist this summer I knew it was only my vocal cords constricting and I knew what to do. I calmly took a couple deep breaths, filling my chest and belly with air, then slowly exhaled, making a whistling sound through my lips and teeth as I did. After a few breaths the feeling was gone. SCORE!

I got my medal and my mylar blanket. And food! A cup of canned peaches, a bag of chips, power aide, energy bar. By the time I got to the gear check area my hands were full! Good thing for that gear bag, I just plopped all my goodies right in there. I wasn’t ready to eat anything yet anyway.

I exited the runner area and there were Lee, Sarah, and Leo! I told Lee what I had done. Nicole and Tom joined us and Nicole said you have to go ring the PR bell! So that was our next stop. Leo and I rang that bell like crazy. Actually Leo kind of stared at me with alarm. It was pretty loud!

Next up, food. We decided to go to Revival in St. Paul so we all headed there. The babies were both missing their afternoon naps and were pretty tired but they were both very good sports. Suddenly I was starving. I ate most of my snacks in the car on the way to the restaurant and then had some fried chicken, fried green tomatoes, cheese grits, baked beans and sweet potatoes at the restaurant. Oh and an Old Fashioned too! Leo tried the cheese grits. He made a funny face because it was a new food but then opened his mouth readily for more. Harrison was tired of sitting and wanted to try out his walking skills around the restaurant. It reminded me of going out to eat with Gail and Michael and Matthew, many years ago, when Matt was also just learning to walk and couldn’t sit still. I was still childless and I questioned whether I really had enough energy to be a mom!

Well that was a great race. I won’t be surprised if I do Twin Cities again some day. After all its one of the top ten marathons in the US and its right here in my new home town. Right now I’m having delusions of grandeur, fantasizing about just how much faster I can get. A BQ (Boston Qualifying time) is still almost 50 minutes faster than I ran Twin Cities so I’m not entertaining that, but 5:20 or 5:15? Heck, why not!

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

House Building Update October 2018

Well a lot has happened since I last reported on our house building progress. For one thing, there is actually a HOUSE sitting on a SLAB! The house is in the process of being framed. Its fun to watch. Every couple of days I go by the lot and see what has transpired. Yesterday they put in the stairway to the bonus room above the garage. I was having trouble envisioning it but as soon as they created it I was like "of course, now I get it!".

The slab was kind of a nightmare but now it done and its fine. I won't name names, but the company that did the slab really screwed up. We think maybe because subs are so busy, or maybe because they thought "hey its just a slab no biggie" they sent us their "B" crew and they made a lot of mistakes, like not getting the slab square! Some of it they corrected, and some of it WILL be corrected. We're getting a concrete driveway out of it at cost so there was a little bit of something positive that came out of it, I guess.

Once the slab was done the framers went to work. They have been great. They are very accomplished and seem to really know their stuff. One thing that's very different about building a house now as opposed to back in the 90's is that a lot of it is done with trusses. All the floors, the roof, its all truss work. Again, the framers found some errors in the trusses too. If a truss is wrong they have to send a different one since they are all prebuilt. Too bad for them!

Trusses that Make Up the Ceiling in the Greatroom

While the slab was being created and the house was being framed, Lee built his garden shed. Its adorable; a miniature house. It was good practice for him, too, figuring out the best way to do the trim work. He's got a lot of trim to put on the actual house when the time comes. We used a couple of windows from the old farmhouse in the shed as well. It looks great.

The excavation guy has come, dumped a bunch of dirt around the house, dug the ditches for the in-ground gutter system. Once the dirt came we realized that we had a problem. The house sits pretty high above the surrounding ground on the north and west sides. The slab has to be mostly covered by dirt, to keep it insulated. There really isn't room to allow the dirt to gently slope away from the house on those sides, so we're ending up with a retaining wall. Lee is out there today with some guys he hired to do the heavy lifting. Its going to look pretty good, I think, but I'm not sure what I'm going to do about plantings in those areas.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

A Visit to New England

I hardly took any pictures on this trip, sorry!

In the spring my cousin Sheila’s oldest son died of a brain tumor. He was only 37 years old. He had been diagnosed in 2014, went through treatment, and did well for a time, but eventually it came back, as these sorts of tumors so often do. 

There was no funeral, but a couple “celebrations” one on the west coast where he and his wife Miriam lived, and one on the east coast, in Watertown, a suburb of Boston. I really wanted to go to the east coast one, not only to support my cousin, but also as an excuse to visit my Westie friends. So that’s what I did.

I flew into Boston on a Friday. I landed around 11:00, plenty of time to grab my rental car and head to the North End for a lobster roll. There was one catch. I had mistakenly rented a car in downtown Boston, not at the airport as I thought. So that’s why it was such a great rate! Oh well! I grabbed a taxi and he took me to Atlantic Ave without too much fuss.

Then I ran into another problem. I had applied for a Minnesota drivers license on July 26th. At the time they said to expect it to take 6-8 weeks to receive my new license and in the meantime I’m driving around with a slip of yellow paper indicating that I have applied for a Minnesota driver's license, plus my voided New Hampshire license. Of course in order to fly I brought my passport, but National didn’t want to rent me a car without a valid driver's license! The Minnesota Driver's License website was indecipherable, and they weren’t answering their phone. He finally figured out a way to rent me a car but it wasn’t pretty.

By this time it was after noon and I was getting pretty hungry. I drove over to Lewis wharf, parked the car and headed to Neptune Oyster. As usual there was at least an hour wait, except for the fact that I was a single person. There was a  stool available at the oyster bar and they let me take it. Yay!

I told the waitress I didn’t need a menu. Lobstah roll with butter, fries, and a Diet Coke. So good! They are huge and I ate it with a fork, but I managed to eat most of it. The marathon runner’s hunger is real!

I staggered back to the car. Next stop, Finesse Pastry in Somerville. I had an old gift card I had never been able to use from when they were still in Manchester. I got a dozen French macarons, and a chocolate torte. Delicious!

A quick stop at the New Hampshire Liquor store and then I drove the rest of the way to Amy Dion’s house. I got there before her, but let myself in and said hello to the dogs. Before very long she was home, and soon after that Carol arrived too. Bill was out of town and it was time for a girls night. It was like I never left. Diane, Paula, AmyC, only Stephanie was missing because she had to work. We talked and laughed and it was great. I even stayed up all the way to 11 pm!

Next day I had a 14 mile run to do, 10 of it at marathon pace. I drove over to the rail trail in Salem, New Hampshire, and parked in the Tuscan Kitchen parking lot. As I got out of the car I realized that I had forgotten my Garmin! Damn! Well no help for it. I used my Fitbit to figure out the distance, and I counted my steps, to do some sort of run/walk ratio for 3 freaking hours! I have no idea what my pace really was but I’m sure I got the distance in, or something close to it. 

Then it was back to Amy’s, a quick shower and into the car and over to Diane’s, to meet the new puppies and Mr Whiskers, her new kitty. It’s been a long time since I’ve been around Westie puppies. They are so much fun, so energetic, curious and affectionate. Mr Whiskers was inside away from all the crazy dogs, but I went inside to pet him. He’s very sweet and he has weird double paws too, with an extra toe on each.

I drove back to Amy and Bill’s and then we turned around and hopped back into the car. We all met at The Common Man in Merrimack for dinner. We sat upstairs in the bar while our table was getting ready. I ordered an Uncommon Manhattan which was delicious and very strong! I got drunk on my ass! I had a great time, but wow. Good thing I wasn’t driving.

I had their meatloaf for dinner. I’d been craving it and it did not disappoint. And we split the ding ding dong cake and the ice cream tollhouse cookie sundae for dessert. It was all so yummy! 

An Inebriated Me and the Ding Ding Dong Dessert

Strangely I didn’t have a hangover the next day, and I’m glad. It was the day of the celebration for my cousin’s son Sam. I drove to my cousin Mark’s house in Newton first. Mark is a child of my father’s sister, Aunt Ray, and Sheila is the child of my mother’s sister Ruth, but when we were all kids in St. Louis we all played together, a lot. I was the oldest cousin on both sides of the family, and when I was little I felt a lot older, often too old to play with all those babies, but when we grew up the difference in age didn’t matter as much, and many of us have stayed close.

I didn’t know Sam well at all. I met him a couple of times when our kids were little, at a wedding, and later at a bat mitzvah for one of our kids. But the only time I met him as an adult was when Sheila had a little family reunion in Ogunquit, Maine a couple of years ago. I managed to show up for that and it was nice to hang out with Sheila’s kids. Her brother David and my Uncle Hank were at the reunion too. By that time Sam had received his diagnosis but he was in remission and doing great it seemed. We had a nice afternoon in the sun along the beautiful Maine coast.

Last spring however Sam’s illness came back, with a vengeance. This time the treatment didn’t work, and it wasn’t long before he was gone. 

The celebration was held at the Hibernian Hall in Watertown, MA. There had to be at least 150 people there, friends and relatives of Sam. There were friends from childhood, high school and college, friends from Massachusetts and San Francisco, relatives from all over the country. We talked and hugged, and ate and drank. The food was plentiful and there was an open bar, but I stuck to water and coffee.

At around 1 pm people started to tell stories and remembrances of Sam. They talked about his story-telling abilities a lot. Apparently Sam was a writer even before he could actually write. They talked about his value to them as a friend, cousin, brother. At the end my cousin took the mike and spoke. I don’t know how she did it, but what she had to say was so powerful, it has stuck with me, and likely always will. She talked about how privileged she felt to have been Sam’s mother, and how grateful she was. She said it was such a gift to have been allowed to see him take his first breath, and his last. 

After that Mark and I said our goodbyes and headed over to his house. His wife Amy was home and we decided to go for a walk around their neighborhood in Newton. We walked through the woods near Boston College, past a pond that used to be used as a skating rink in the wintertime. We even walked up Heartbreak Hill, since their house is so close the the Boston Marathon Route. Heartbreak still doesn’t seem like that much of a hill to me.

It was getting close to dinner and we decided to find something close to their house. We found a place called the Shaking Crab in Newton that they had never tried, but that got good reviews on Yelp. Its was good, messy and different! You order your seafood, adding things like corn or potatoes or mini shrimp, a sauce, and indicate how spicy you want it. Your dinner comes in a big plastic bag with plastic gloves and a bib for you to wear. Amy got crab legs, I got a lobster tail, Mark got mussels. It was all very good but you definitely  needed the bib and gloves!  After that I said goodbye and headed back to Amy and Bills for the night. It was a long day, fun, emotional and sad all at the same time.

On Monday Paula drove with me up to Madison, NH to visit Carol. First I had a track workout to do so I headed over to the Pelham High School track right by Amy and Bill’s house. I thought this would work out great but unfortunately their track was closed for repairs. Luckily the school had a huge parking lot that was pretty flat so I made the best of it and ran around the parking lot for almost 7 miles, doing a warm up, a cool down, and 1K repeats at 10k pace in-between. 

After my workout I cleaned up and then drove up to Paula’s in Manchester, with a stop at Dunkin for an egg sandwich. Then we headed to Madison. Its too bad it was a little early for the leaves to be changing, but its still a beautiful drive, just kind of long. It was great to see Carol and hang out with her and her doggies for a couple hours. Ruby and Pia are both 14 years old now. Pia is really showing her age, but she actually didn’t seem as bad as I had braced myself for. She has a lot of arthritis in her legs and walks unsteadily. They really do have a little red carpet for her from her bed into the kitchen where her water bowl is situated. She doesn’t like to walk on the bare floor anymore! Ruby seemed really good, a little slower than before but still pretty spunky.

Carol made us delicious (and HUGE) sub sandwiches for lunch. They had everything on them and they were great! After lunch we went outside and sat in the sunshine. Pia could walk better outside, and Ruby was wandering all over, sniffing and generally enjoying herself.

Too soon it was time to say goodbye and head back to southern NH. We decided we needed one more dinner out, this time at Tbones. Paula and Rich and Amy and Bill came and it was really nice. 

On Tuesday it was time to head back home. I had hoped to be able to drop the car off at the airport but no, they would have charged me $200 to make that change! So it was back downtown and back in one more Uber to get back to the airport. I made it back to Minneapolis without any problems.

I’m so glad I did this trip. It was great to see my friends, great to spend time with my cousin Mark and Amy. And I’m really really glad I was able to go to Sam’s Celebration. Its not much but I hope my presence there cheered my cousin, at least a little bit. 

I don’t know when I will get back to New England again, but I’m sure I will, and if nothing else I’ll see everyone on our Alaskan Cruise next summer!

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Daniel and Kelsey Visit Minnesota

Uncle Dan

Dan arrives on a Thursday in early September. It’s perfect timing; we pick him up at the airport and then go pick up Leo at daycare. Instant Leo time for Uncle Dan! We hang out with Leo at Sarah’s house until she gets off of work, then we head for home in Waconia. Dan is tired and we all crash early. The next morning Kelsey’s flight gets in very early, 6 am. The boys go get her and I go run. She and Dan go back to sleep for awhile. It’s crazy hot for September, but they don’t really mind, since summers are so cool in San Francisco, but we’re sick of it. 

Daniel, Kelsey and Friends

Everyone but me goes to play with Leo. They try out a brewery and then go for a walk. But I’m busy; I have challah and brisket to make, so I don’t join them until later. We are going to celebrate Rosh Hashona tomorrow. We’re a week late but we are all together and that’s what’s important.  

The recipe I use for the challah says that it can make either one loaf or two. I decide to make one large loaf and boy it really is large. I think next time two loaves would be a better idea.

The Ginormous Challah

Once the challah and the brisket are done I go over to Sarah’s.  When I get there they are just getting back from their walk. Leo fell asleep in the stroller so Sarah and I walk him around the block again so he can get a few more zzzzs. He’s given up his third nap and has been struggling with naps in general but sleeps great at night.

Saturday I’m doing the rest of the cooking for our Jewish New Year feast. Lee makes apple dumplings. I make the kugel, green beans and fruit salad. I put the brisket back in the oven to heat up and cook a little more. I say the blessings over the wine and bread, or at least I try. I couldn’t light the candles because they’re packed away and I can’t find them. Next year!

Leo Enjoys Rosh Hashona in a Famous High Chair

On Sunday we go the Minneapolis farmer's market and then head over to Surley Brewery. We eat bar snacks and sandwiches; Sarah joins us as Leo’s nap allows. We hang out, sampling beers, relaxing. When its time to head to the airport we stop at Izzy’s for ice cream on the way.

Making Faces at Grampa at Surley

It was a really nice visit. They are off to Japan in a couple weeks and will go to Hawaii with Kelsey’s family for Thanksgiving so we won’t see them again til Christmas. But Minnesota and Cally are much closer together than the West and East coasts, and now so many of us are in the same place too. It really is wonderful to have our family right here.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Harrison's First Birthday Party

Sarah, Leo and I drove up to Duluth on a Sunday for Harrison’s first birthday party. This was going to be a long drive for Leo, but Sarah timed it just right on the way there. I got to her house around 9 AM and by 9:30 we were on the road, with Leo fed, nursed and ready for a nap. He slept for about an hour and then woke for a bit, babbled and sang to himself and fell asleep again.

We got to Duluth around 12:20 PM. We stopped to get some coffee for Sarah and let Leo nurse a bit and then we drove the rest of the way to Harrison’s house.

Nicole and Leo

Nicole and Tom had invited friends and neighbors (and us!) to Harrison’s party. There were children, but nobody else as young as Harrison and Leo. Nicole and Tom had come up with a bunch of games to entertain both children and adults. There was a piñata that even Harrison got to take a swing at. 

Harrison Hits the Piñata

They put out a tent and a canoe from their camping equipment and they were a huge hit with the kids. There were water balloons and some kind of grownup lawn game, but we were all having too much fun chatting and passing Leo around to get around to that. They had a fire in their fire pit and the weather was perfect, low 70’s and no rain until later.

They had brats, watermelon, potato salad, chips, beer and soda and sparkling water and lemonade. They had the fixings for s’mores, so of course I had to have one!

Sarah and Leo Enjoy the Firepit

It was time to sing happy birthday to Harrison. He was getting a little sleepy but he was game for whatever was going on. He liked his candle, and Tom helped him blow it out.

Happy Birthday to Youooooo

They had a special strawberry shortcake just for him. They put it on his tray but he wasn’t sure how to go about eating it. His solution was to finally just put his entire face in it! Yikes! He had strawberry shortcake from the top of his head down to his elbows. Tom and Nicole were sure good sports to let him do that; I’m not sure I could have!

They had special Duluth cupcakes too, a forest of them!

It was time for us drive back home. This didn’t go quite as well as the drive up. Leo fell asleep right away at first, but we ran into a HUGE thunderstorm and Sarah had to stop driving for awhile. The lack of motion woke him up and then he was hungry. I climbed into the back seat and let him have some bomba’s (Israeli peanut butter flavored puffs) and some bread but it wasn’t enough. He wanted more and he probably wanted mom. When the bread and bombas ran out I climbed back into the front seat and he pretty much screamed his head off for the last 30 minutes of the drive. That boy is like his mom AND his grandma - when he’s hungry he wants to eat NOW! Oh well another lesson learned in Leo-land.

We had a good time in Duluth. It was nice to see Nicole and Tom and Harrison and to meet some of their friends. Of course I had met some of them before at Nicole’s shower but did I remember? Nope.

Buddies Already!


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