Wednesday, March 30, 2011


I found this on my friend, Ann Tucker's blog:

Although I didn't see it in time to post on March 18 for the Bloggers Day of Silence, it at least brought to mind for today the victims of the Tsunami disaster, where over 18,000 people were killed and countless others were affected in some way.

So, pause for just a moment and pray for those sisters and brothers and children who are grieving, or displaced, or orphaned.

We may be powerless over natural disasters, but we can help humankind and make the world a better place.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Wash day

Today is laundry day.

I love doing the laundry. There's just something about putting dirty clothes into the machine with sweet-smelling soap and fabric softener, and taking them out all clean and fresh.

But it got me thinking about laundry days of bygone times. Back to when I was washing diapers in a wringer washer and hanging them on the line to dry, like banners announcing there was a baby in the house. Putting sheets on the bed, fresh from flapping in the summer breeze.  Dishtowels that were bleached and sanitized by the sun.

Come to think of it, doing the laundry has always been my favorite household chore.

My mother tells the story of hanging clothes on the line in our back yard, and the time she cleaned out her cedar chest. Deciding her wedding veil would benefit from a freshening breeze before repacking it away, she hung it over two lines to keep it from touching the ground.

A little while later, from the kitchen window, she gasped as she observed my twin sisters rolling a big rubber ball through the loop of the veil. One twin on one end, one twin on the other end, laughing in delight as the ball rolled through the veil.

When I was 19, my girlfriend, Jeanette, and I shared an apartment. It was in a very large house on the west side of St. Paul, divided into various apartments, ours being on the first floor.  We were free to use the wringer washer in the basement. It was one of those old, dark and damp cement basements. A true basement.

Since the apartment rent took most of our meager earnings as young secretaries at the Great Northern Railroad Company, the washing machine allowed us to save a dollar or two and avoid a trip to the laundromat. 

But we were frightened to be down there in the dark, dingy basement. A stranger could easily enter the basement door and accost us in any manner.  If we did the laundry together, we would both be attacked. And who would hear our piercing screams?

So it was decided that one of us (me) would do the laundry, while the other stood guard in our apartment directly above, kitchen knife in hand. Ready to attack and defend.

It is a wonder we didn't kill each other.  And we never did see a lurking stranger. Or another single soul.

Of course, laundry days of old, with clothes made of cotton, led to ironing days. My least favorite chore.

My son and daughter-in-law recently bought a new washer and dryer. They do everything but cook dinner, and I'm surprised they don't do that. The washer senses the weight of the clothes to adjust the water level automatically, and when you push start, it lights up like it's taking off for Mars. The dryer has a steam setting, along with about twenty more options. No more dry cleaning bills.

The buzzer has sounded on my humble washer here in Mesa, so it's time to put the next load in.

It is Tuesday today.  I thought Mondays were "wash days."  Didn't they always used to be?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Rainy days and Mondays

The Carpenter's sang this song, I'm guessing around the mid-1970s:  "Rainy days and Mondays always get me down."

Well, it's raining in Mesa, Arizona, on this Monday.  Windy and cold, too, for Mesa.

But it doesn't get me down.  In fact, I am grateful.  I needed a rainy day to stay put in one place and get some work done.

So, watching last night's weather report and anticipating such a day, I made a list of things I hoped to accomplish.
Do the laundry. File our annual tax returns. Catch up with some correspondence. Schedule my dentist appointment. Call several insurance agencies to compare rates. Write my monthly column for our church newsletter.
Rainy days are good for getting caught up with such pesky chores. I can usually think of a thousand reasons to put them off on nice-weather days. My favorite reason is that "it's just too nice" outside to be indoors tackling paperwork.

I started the day late, as the sound of the rain on the roof kept lulling me back to sleep.  Then, when I finally got out of bed, my husband informed me some vacationing friends from Minnesota called and were coming for coffee. It was good to see them and we had a nice visit.

But then it was lunchtime. I started the first load of laundry and made grilled cheese sandwiches.  Then I decided to buckle down and tackle my list.

Let's see, it's now 2:30. I've talked to a friend on the phone, skimmed through a magazine, clipped a recipe that sounded good for dinner, knit several rows of a ribbon scarf for my granddaughter's birthday next week, read my e-mail messages, and ordered a book online.

My paperwork pile sits in front of me. Right next to my list. But I'm no longer in the mood for it.

I think I need another rainy day.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


You hear miracle stories from time to time:
near misses with car accidents, terminal diseases diagnosed and then healed, and so on. There are things science cannot explain, and outcomes that appear expected with certainty, but then suddenly change course.

I believe in miracles.  And this past week, I experienced one.

I was called home to Minnesota last week when my mother suddenly took a turn for the worse. She had a thirty-six hour period of complete delerium from which there was no rest. She had a bizarre and disturbing vision which wouldn't leave her and which she would repeat over and over again. No sleep would come, no soothing would calm, no medication would assist.

Alarmed, my family in Minnesota rallied around her, not leaving her side, day or night. Daughters, son, daughter-in-law, grandchildren, all sat by her side, sometimes together, sometimes in shifts. Speaking softly, patting her hand, gently rubbing her arms, massaging her temples.

Those of us living elsewhere were summoned home. Hearing reports of her declining status, we didn't really need to be summoned. There was nowhere else we would have been but home.

My mother's pastor was called; relatives were notified; end-of-life wishes were reviewed, and legal paperwork was retrieved from her safe deposit box.

Many prayers were being said, from her family, to friends, to people she never knew, to people we never knew. Prayer chains were activated through our churches, and even through Facebook notifications.

Then she fell into a restful sleep. And the miracle began.

When she awoke, she recounted her vision again, but this time she knew how strange it all sounded. She knew each of us, asked about our families, why we were all there, and why did I come home from Arizona again when I had just been here?

Now, as the days go by, she continues to be alert, though weak and very tired.  We've changed the constant vigil to visits, and those who came from afar are returning home. I've scheduled my return flight to Arizona.

It is doubtful my mother will return to her assisted-living apartment, and the care center where she's been recovering from a recent fall may become her new, permanent home. But with her usual grace and amazing resilience, she is beginning to understand that this change may be necessary.

The crisis appears over. And the questions continue. What happened? What caused this, and how did it turn around?

Medical interpretation: dehydration and electrolyte imbalance.

My interpretation:  God is not ready to call my mother home just yet.  She still has a purpose here.

I know that she is continuing to teach me things I still need to learn: Acceptance. Patience. Understanding. Love, on its deepest level.

And I'm more open to learning from her. 

A miracle.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Being sick

Last week, while I was in Minnesota, I came down with a sore throat, cough, and generalized body aches.

My sister was sick as well, and then my mother came down with it. I heard news reports that it was widespread, and nationwide. That didn't make me feel any better.

The good old winter crud.

It made me think back to being sick as a child, when it was almost fun.

On those occasions, Mom set up a metal TV tray in our bedroom where we were allowed to eat supper. This was a rare treat and made it almost worthwhile to be sick.

She would deliver our food, make us eggnog, something her mother always did for her when she was sick, and speak ever-so-gently to us.  We relished it.

I imagine we even drew it out a bit.

When we were really sick (running a  fever qualified), a house call was made by Dr. Hedenstrom at the end of the day. Hard to imagine these days, but true then.

And if a prescription was ordered, Dad would stop to pick it up at Lloyd’s Pharmacy on Snelling and Minnehaha on his way home from the office.

Routine medical care was also delivered by Dr. Hedenstrom. Mom didn't drive then, so she took us downtown on the Grand-Maria bus line to the Lowry Medical Arts Building on Fourth and St. Peter.  Dr. Hedenstrom's nurse, Audrey, would greet us first, in her white uniform and nurse's cap.

If we needed a shot for some reason, Penicillin, a Polio shot, or another type of immunization, we were rewarded for bravely enduring the trauma with a fresh stick of Juicy Fruit gum from the top drawer of the doctor’s desk.

Somewhere in the mid-1950s, oral Polio vaccine was introduced. Mom and Dad took us all to a large auditorium at St. Thomas College, where we lined up to receive the vaccine, administered in a small paper cup. It was a huge advance over those painful shots.

Somehow, nobody brought me dinner when I was sick last week, or spoke ever-so-gently to me, or called the doctor to come check on me. The dogs I was caring for seemed to have little sympathy, and the world and its obligations went on.

I am well now, back in Arizona, enjoying the sunshine and warmth. But next time I am sick, I just want to be a little girl again.

With my Mom making me eggnog and speaking ever-so-gently.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Beauty counter

Last week, when I was in Minnesota, I spent a most delightful day at Maplewood Mall, shopping for makeup for my mother.

She asked if, since I was home, I would do some shopping for her. She gave me her list: light brown eyebrow pencil, a compact with vanilla, rose and two other shades of eye shadow, and a tube of concealer. Estee Lauder, no less. Lancome is reserved for her facial cleanser, and Regenerist is her moisturizer.

Mind you, my mother is 87 years old, and is recovering in a transitional care center from a recent fall, with her right leg in a boot for four to six weeks.

I love that she wanted new makeup. I love that she still cares about her appearance. I love that she likes quality products. She has always been, and still is, one, very classy, lady.

The consultant at Macy's was welcoming and most helpful. She had me try on different shades, which was fun for me as I don't wear much makeup. I was inspired by all the choices and couldn't resist sampling a few things for myself. I even took home a "10-day" trial bottle of foundation with the exact color formula written on a little card so I could have more made for me.

That was last week. I have yet to try it.

As I paid for my Mom's purchases, the consultant informed me it came with a free bag of goodies: lip conditioner (whatever that is), lipstick, wrinkle cream (that I can use), makeup remover, mascara, an eyebrow pencil. All in a beautiful blue and white cosmetic bag. The lipsticks even have their own little matching bag to put inside the larger bag.

I decided I'd keep the freebies; my mother later concurred.

Going up and down the various makeup aisles, I also sprayed on several samples of cologne. I especially loved the one at the men's counter. I hadn't even realized I was at a men's counter.

But I walked out of the store feeling so, well, beautiful. Like I was somehow transformed.

As I passed a mirror on my way out, I had a sudden reality check: red coat with fur collar, brown suede Uggs, camel corduroy slacks, black gloves. Thirty (at least) pounds that need to come off. Hair that's in dire need of a new style.

But I smelled so good, and my face was made up perfectly, compliments of Estee Lauder.

I headed out to the parking lot to my car, turned on the car radio, and this is what I heard the announcer say:

You're only beautiful if your beauty is projected onto others.

I was supposed to hear that. I felt better then.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Bedtime trouble

My sister, Christine, and I shared a bedroom for many years, sleeping in a double bed with a special head board, handcrafted and painted blue and white by Dad.

Perhaps he was inspired by our dining room window seats, as he fashioned "window seats" for us as our head board. Hinged covers opened to a storage area, one on each side, so we each had our own. In them, we kept books and assorted treasures. They were also a great hiding spot, though frowned upon by Mom, for candy.

On one particular occasion, we had gotten some root beer barrels (2 for a penny at Dory's), and they were safely stowed away for a bedtime treat.

We crawled into bed, turned off the lights, and had no sooner popped them into our mouths, savoring the strong flavor of root beer, when Mom came into the bedroom to check on us and say good night.

"What's that I smell?" Mom asked.

With our mouths full (root beer barrels are pretty hard to hide in your cheek), we mumbled something like, "I don't know" or "Oh, nothing."

Needless to say, our root beer barrels were confiscated, but we couldn't figure out how she knew about them in the first place.

                     ~~~~~~~     ~~~~~~

One summer evening, Mom had a ladies' gathering at our house. The coffee was percolating, the cake was cut, the glass dessert plates, the ones with the spot to hold the small cup, were set out on the flowery tablecloth in the dining room.

We were all sent off to bed as the ladies began to arrive.

After awhile, we could hear that their party was underway and assumed they were all present.

Since our bedroom faced the front of the house, Christine and I often perched on our elbows by the window, just to look out to see what was going on. In our quiet neighborhood, usually nothing.

But on this particular evening, we noticed a woman walking up the street. Unable to resist, we leaned out the window and hollered, "Hey, you, Lady!" or something to that effect.

We knew we were in for it when the woman proceeded up our front steps and we heard our doorbell ring. Sure enough, it was Mrs. Melander coming to join the ladies' gathering.

But what wasn't so amusing the following morning sure is funny to us today.

You know, I really think we'd do it all over again.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Lincoln house, continued

In my reminiscing about my family's years at the house on Lincoln Avenue in St. Paul, I neglected to take you through the other, most interesting rooms.

So, to continue our little tour, off the dining room was another room that might be described as a den. However, it was never actually used as a den, but served as my Dad's home office as it had a built-in desk. A black Royal typewriter sat atop a metal stand, and a green swivel chair made it look pretty official.

But the room had other uses as well. A baby changing table made it "baby headquarters" as my new little brother arrived into the family. It also served as an "ironing room" for the many baskets of ironing that seemed to multiply by themselves. The ironing board was kept at the ready in this room, awaiting the laundry was that rolled up after being sprinkled with water from an old 7-Up bottle.

And, if a bottle of Mogen David concord wine and a few stemmed wine glasses qualify as a liquor cabinet, then, yes, that was kept there as well.

The second floor could be accessed either through the kitchen or the living room.

There were three bedrooms and a very large, spacious bathroom that was about the size of a bedroom. We had an old-fashioned porcelain sink; no double-sink vanities for us, though we sure could have used them. A plain tub and toilet, linoleum flooring, a couple of wall medicine cabinets, no frills.

We had a clothes chute in the bathroom which continued down through the kitchen. As the clothes made their way down the chute, they would sometime land on a pregnant cat, about to give birth. Or a new mama cat and five or six little ones. Then, of course, we wouldn't disturb the laundry.

The only other bathroom in the house was in the basement. We hated it (cement floor, cobwebs, no door), but when it was needed, we were glad to have it, pulling the chain to flush as the tank was mounted above the toilet.

Dad had a workshop for his tools and woodworking equipment. He was a handyman-wannabe, good at patching and improvising repairs. He was creative in his woodworking, and eventually refinished the third floor attic, dividing it to make a bedroom for me.  My very own bedroom! He even built in two shadow-box shelves.

The attic, we'd all agree, was our favorite part of the house, and was accessible through the upstairs bathroom. It was our general playroom, but was transformed into a dentist's office, a library, a school, a store, or anything else our imaginations inspired us to create.

Our doll house, a desk, some old furniture, shelves for our plastic dishes, a miniature wooden ironing board and an iron that actually plugged in and heated (well, slightly warmed) made playing "house" seem quite realistic for us girls.

Remember, my little brother was downstairs, never far from Mama's apron strings, running his little Tonka trucks up and down the window seat.

Although we tussled, argued, and generally questioned each other's existence, there was much laughter and fun coming from that third story. Many happy hours were spent there together, usually when we couldn't be outdoors.

I end the tour with the outdoors.  Our back yard was large, bordered by shrubs which created privacy. Unique to the yard was a stone fireplace, set slightly askew next to the large vegetable garden.

Gardening occurred haphazardly, I guess depending on my Dad's ability to devote time to the effort. But on a good year, we enjoyed tomatoes, carrots, and a large rhubarb patch. Sometimes the produce made its way to the table, or the blue speckled canner; other times we'd simply pull it out of the ground and eat it on the spot.  Especially rhubarb.

There were two apple trees in the yard, and the side of the house contained plum trees and Lily-of-the-Valley, still one of my favorite springtime flowers.

The front yard was set on a hill and was the neighborhood gathering place for the games we played at dusk. The sloping of the hill, the shrubs and pine tree made it perfect for hide-and-seek.

I once described my years growing up to a friend, who, after listening patiently to my recounting, concluded that it doesn't get any better than that.

So true.