Saturday, August 25, 2012

My last nerve

The major road construction project here in Lindstrom has landed on my last nerve. 

Bit by bit, it has tested even the most patient residents. I don't believe you could find anyone for miles around with a shred of patience left.

Highway 8, for those who don't already know, is being divided into what's called "split pairs." It's not feasible, apparently, to widen the existing highway, so it is being split by first tearing up the highway entirely and creating two new highways: one going one-way eastbound, and another, formerly a city street one block over, going westbound, also one-way.

I guess we all knew it was inevitable. Highway 8 is notoriously dangerous with a record number of accidents and fatalities. The new project, when completed, should ease the flow of traffic through town and hopefully create new turn lanes which will be safer and more efficient.

That's assuming we live through it all.

Since my husband and I live only one block from the worst of the construction mess, there are days we don't even know how to get off our street or how to get back home again. A makeshift gravel road has been made through the bank parking lot to allow us to get over to another street in order to get anywhere. We tend to think twice before leaving the house.

On foot is not much better. Sidewalks are torn up and closed as well. I walked across the mess today to get to the local alterations shop, Threaded Needle. It was a challenge to walk through the mounds of dirt and dodge the rocks, all the while heavy equipment trucks are moving back and forth, their cranes moving up and down loading and unloading heavy rock.

Possibly the most annoying to us residents is the sudden and unannounced loss of power, or worse, loss of water pressure. We've gone hours without water, cable for television or Internet. Naturally, new pipes need to be laid.

But complain as I do, the hardest hit have been the local businesses. Our little woes are trite compared to theirs. Some have closed, others are near closing, holding their breaths. Still others who would like to open in our town are holding off. Our local grocery market has this sign in their front window, desperate for business from once-loyal customers.

We try to shop local but the construction is not making it easy; certainly more than inconvenient. It really takes an effort.

I've heard they are allowing for bike paths and pedestrian walks, something we've not had before. That will help local businesses, as well as the environment, as it will be easier to get around without starting up the car.

So it's progress and the day will come, although projected to be a year away, when it is finished. Businesses will hopefully prosper, the roads will be safer, and we'll all be very proud. Quiet and settled in at last.

That's assuming I have a nerve left when it's over.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Good news, bad news

Today is Minnesota's primary election. The Minnesota State Fair starts next week. School starts again a week later. And yesterday I happened to notice a few fallen leaves in our yard.

The bad news is that all of this points to the end of summer.

For many Minnesotans, this is a disappointment.  Summertimes here are especially cherished with lake activities, escapes to the cabin, fishing, softball games, picnics, camping, small town festivals, Fourth of July parades, swimming at the pool.

The advent of autumn, though particularly beautiful here with the fall leaf colors of orange and gold, signals what's ahead for us: the long months of winter.

But it's all good news for two little girls (my granddaughters) who can hardly wait to start Kindergarten. One is headed to a magnet school; the other to a Spanish immersion school.

On Sunday, we had a family day, shopping for new school clothes and shoes. In and out of crowded dressing rooms, waiting in long lines, it was obviously a prime shopping day for other back-to-schoolers as well.

School supplies were purchased some weeks back. In my day, one just knew what we were supposed to have: notebooks and pencils mostly. Something to carry them in. If per chance we needed anything special, like a protractor or compass in our later grades, we were just told at the time by the teacher.

But not now. The girls, for kindergarten, had a mile-long list. Not just a list, but a very particular list. Must have this, but not that. Certain color crayons only. Certain brands. Raincoat and rain boots. Two pair of tennis shoes. Kleenex and snacks. Seriously?

A  backpack. $50 bucks. Anything much less wouldn't last through the year. How in the world do parents do it?

After our clothes shopping spree, we went to the fairgrounds which happens to be close to the shopping mall. It was the first day one could bring their entries for judging and display in the Creative Activities building.

This is always a good news day for me as I look forward to entering my counted thread embroidery from the past year.  I have two entries this year. If you follow this blog, you will have seen these already in previous posts.

This is Southwestern Pots, stitched for our home in Arizona. It features the typical southwestern earth tones and turquoise. Most pots originate in Mexico and are clay.

Native American and Southwestern design elements are full of history and beauty. They are featured throughout the southwest. These patterns attempt to capture some of the traditional designs and colors.

Although I could have stitched it on one piece of fabric, I chose to do them separately so I could decide on the spacing in the frame later. These were done on 16-count Fiddler's cloth (which tends to be my favorite fabric if the design lends itself to an earthy textured cloth). 

The second entry is African Drummer. The pattern is actually called "Don" as it is designed after a real-life drummer and teacher named Don. I stitched this as a gift for my church in honor of our African ministry, a partnership with the Iringa Diocese in Tanzania. When I collect it at the close of the fair, it will hang in our church library.

The State Fair itself is something to look forward to, even though most folks know it as bittersweet, coming at the end of summer vacation.

So maybe it is our reward here in Minnesota. A special treat to enjoy, a kick-off to autumn and a wind-down from the summer months.

That's life in Minnesota: good news, bad news. I like to think it's mostly good!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Never too old

My mother was a shining example of the saying, You're never too old to learn.

She was actually a shining example of many good things and I miss her terribly. But since her passing earlier this year, I am trying to use the lessons she taught me and the examples that remain with me of a life so well lived.

One of those lessons was to keep learning and trying new things. She did this all her life. An avid reader and CNN viewer, even in the care center where she spent her last year, she was up to date on world affairs and learned through books, listening and watching.  She could converse intelligently on any topic.

In the middle of her life, she had a thirst for learning that took her back to college. She studied occupational therapy; and then because she wanted to travel abroad, she took language courses at the University of Minnesota, studying Norwegian.

She ended up speaking it fluently and could easily converse with her older cousins in Denmark who did not speak English. She also enjoyed speaking Norwegian with her aunt and her friends in Norway and also friends in Sweden, since the languages are similar. Not exactly the same, but similar enough.

Danish American Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota
And so, I figure if my mother could learn another language in mid-life, I can do it, too.

Tonight is my very first Danish language class. Wish me luck.

I am told learning Danish is a bit more challenging than learning the other Scandinavian languages, but I am ready all the same.

The classes are offered at the wonderful Danish American Center, located in Minneapolis. Also referred to as Danebo, it is a center for Danish cultural exchange and is dedicated to the forwarding of anything Danish. It offers a wide variety of activities and events which focus on aspects of Danish living and culture, traditions, customs and history.

The Center sponsors a week-long resident folk camp at its Minneapolis campus where dancing and Danish crafts are taught. They also have a similar resident camp in a rural setting in Tyler, Minnesota called Danebod.

Danebod, Tyler, Minnesota

My mother attended the camp in Tyler for several years as a participant, and then from 1980 to 1983 as a Hardanger instructor, meeting some valuable lifelong friends and enjoying the traditional dancing and customs of her father's homeland.

I can hardly wait for tonight's class. Besides the thrill of just being immersed in an activity at the Danebo, my goal is to be able to understand all the Facebook posts from my Danish family. Although most of our generation and younger can speak English, it will be nice to be able to speak in their native tongue as well.

Well, I am a bit nervous about my own learning capabilities, but I'll keep you posted and let you know how it goes.

Maybe I'll start writing in Danish...