Posted by: chlost | April 9, 2014

Again, I ask, “Why do I live here?”

In the place where I live, although we claim to have four seasons, there really are not. In fact, in a place where it could be 95 F and 99% humidity day in July or a -25F with -50F windchill day in January, there are just two seasons. Winter and mosquitoes.

This is the time of year when it is very difficult to tell if it is November or April. The grass is brown. There are no leaves on the trees. There are little spots of snow on the ground. The wind blows shivers through your clothing.

Only those of us who have survived a lifetime of seasons here can easily spot the telltale signs which differentiate spring from fall. Is it November or is it April?

My favorite tree.

My favorite tree.


Same tree. Different mindset.







How can we tell the difference? Here are a couple of hints:

* The brown grass is flat in the spring, bent down from the weight of a winter’s worth of snow. In the fall, the brown grass still shows the mowing lines across the yard.

*In the spring, a 55 degree day will bring out the flip-flops and shorts. A 55 degree day in November is met with down coats, scarves and gloves.

*People on the street will keep their heads down, hiding the hollow, panicked look in their eyes in November as the impending winter approaches. In the spring, the twinkling, smiling eyes of winter survivors will greet passersby, accompanied by a friendly nod or wave.

Same sunny day, same temperature. Different mindset.

We won’t see flowers or leaves on the trees and the grass won’t need to be mowed for several weeks yet.

But we know. It is April. Spring. Not Fall.


We made it through another winter.

You might think that after a horrible winter of record cold and snow, the entire state would move to a warmer place. That would be logical.

But we have beautiful summers here. Green, lush, fairly moderate temperatures. We have lakes, rivers, wildlife, culture. It is an awesome place to live in the summer.

And we are a bit like the mother who gives birth to multiple children. The birth process of winter is painful and we swear we will never go through it again. But that painful process leads to such a beautiful, wonderfully loved child called Summer .  Somehow we forget the pain, and find ourselves facing another long cold winter each fall.

Here I am.



Posted by: chlost | March 23, 2014


At this time of year, the snow is black, the grass is brown and the general attitude is “Ack! Where is spring?” The seasons seem to have mashed together…winter runs into spring, then summer is here, and before you know it, fall is slamming you in the face with brown and orange leaves. But right now, the winter seems interminable.

We live along the river, in a spot where the water does not freeze during the winter. Because there is open water, we have Trumpeter Swans on the river all winter. They will swim no matter how cold the water gets, and are fed by a local family. There are hundreds of people who come to see them each winter. We often see flocks of them lying in the middle of a snowy field, warming themselves during the day.

A few weeks ago, my son noticed a lone swan sitting in our front yard. It did not move, except to lift its head and shake it as people or animals passed by on the street. Our yard is about 300 ft from the street, so the people and animals passing never even noticed the swan.


It was not quite full grown, as it seemed to still have some darker feathers along its neck.

We became concerned when it didn’t leave after most of a day. We called the family who feeds the swans to see what we could do to help it. They said that often the swans are poisoned by lead after feeding from the bottom of the river. Apparently the river mud can hold a lot of lead. They arranged to stop by and check on it and see if they could get it back into the river. Luckily, before they could get here, the swan began to move, and with some gentle herding assistance from our daughter-in-law, it made its way down to the river. We’ve lived here 12 years and this is the first time we have had a swan in the yard.

In February, I attempted to escape the winter weather by taking a “girls’ trip” to Texas with a couple of friends. We had a great time, but it wasn’t as warm as we’d hoped. In Mission, TX that weekend, the highs were in the 50′s. We did have one day when it was 80. Now, compared to the below zero stuff they were enduring back home, that was great. But we had really been dreaming of several days of 80, and to come back with sunburns.

We northerners have a lot to learn about the southern areas of the country. It was almost like a entering a new country, it reminded me of traveling in the EU. The people were wonderful,, very friendly. But we obviously were tourists. We shopped at a ropa, a very memorable experience. Mountains of clothing 20ft high with little “grey-haired” ladies climbing right on up, looking for treasures. The price….30 cents per pound.

We ate at a restaurant right on the Rio Grande. This is the river infamous for illegal crossings by Mexican citizens trying to reach the U.S.


The restaurant is to the left, the Rio Grande to the right. Friends of our host had seen bodies wash up on the nearby banks of the river in the past Luckily, we saw nothing but the boat which was moored at the restaurant.

We visited  an outdoor market that sold just about anything and everything you can imagine. On one side of the road, the market had stalls that sold clothing, boots, music, prepared foods, fruit, jewelry, toys, and tourist claptrap. The other side of the road had vendors who simply backed their trucks into a spot. There were cages of goats, chickens, bags of manure, straw, saddles, and gardening equipment. The day was drizzly, so there was mud everywhere. Quite an experience. We bought some strawberries and oranges, which were delicious. Noticeably better than what we find in the stores here.

Back to the reality of winter, it has been a bit of an adjustment. As I drive to and from work each day, I pass a favorite tree. In my mind it is the “196th St. tree”, as it is at the corner of 196th Street. I take photos of it on occasion. It always impresses me to see the tree standing strong against anything that comes its’ way. A few weeks ago, the snow bumped the bottom of the “Stop” on the stop sign.


The tree is across the road behind the pile of snow..



The road tracks are in the foreground. This was taken this past week. This is what spring is looking like here.

And finally, my granddaughters. They are busy, busy girls. All three will be having birthdays soon, and will be 7, 5 and 3. All of them love to take photos with my camera. I love that the photos show the world from their point of view, and shows what is important to them. I have many  photos of their cat, Chamberlain, and almost as many of our dog. They also take photos of their toys, books and people in the family. I just let them have the camera, and I look at them once in a while, deleting all of the ones with fingers on the lens or blurry. Here are just a few……


An illustration from a favorite book.


A kid’s-eye view of the powder room.


The beloved (and extremely patient) Chamberlain

Hopefully, this post will publish just once, and my technological issues are in the past. It is frustrating to fight with the platform when I just want to write and post a few photos. I don’t understand why that is so hard…it is either me or the platform, so I prefer to blame the technology, rather than blame myself!

Posted by: chlost | March 8, 2014

Please stand by. Technological problems.

Sorry all. It appears that my last post may have been published more than once.

I have no idea how or why. But I am assuming that it is something that I did wrong. I am not known for my technological prowess.

In any event, I hope that you stick with me, despite having more than one “copy” of that post. I understand that you can only take so much Mozart….even I have my limits.

I will try to avoid having this happen again. It is the first time I’ve had this issue in four years.

Please stick with me.

My daughter the vocal music major has moved back to town.

It’s only for a couple of months, but I am very happy. She is the child who will do things with me that my husband can’t. Merle just can’t bring  himself to do certain things, even for me He can’t go to a book reading. He can’t go clothes shopping for me .

And he positively, absolutely cannot go to an opera.

My daughter and I decided to see “The Magic Flute”. When my sons found out, they wanted to go as well. Seven of us-me, my children and the spouses/s.o.- will be sitting along the side balcony rail to hear this:

When I became certain that we would be going to the show, I found the youtube video to listen to the music. I was listening to the overture:

The tune is a bit catchy-in a classical music way. I mean, can an overture become an earworm?

When it is Mozart, the answer is yes, indeed it can. I found myself humming and whistling that overture to myself all day.

Later in the afternoon, I was crocheting. My granddaughter loves to “help” me with this. As we were sitting together, yarn wrapped around us, she began to hum the overture as well. She is not quite  7 years old.

Well, you can imagine my surprise. I asked her how she knew that song. “Oh, we listened to The Magic Flute” last year in school.

Keep this in mind. Kids brains are sponges. Not only did she listen, she remembered it, and remembered the name of it. From hearing it in her kindergarten class last year.

Merle will be watching the granddaughters while the rest of us are at the opera. Our granddaughter may sing it for him. As she told me, “I love the Magic Flute!”

Posted by: chlost | February 12, 2014

Do not delete

As of today, it has been four years since my sister died. She was just one day away from her 50th birthday. It was very sudden, and the cause of her death has never been formally determined.

There has not been one day in the past four years when I have not thought of her.

She was 5 years younger than me, lived half-way across the country, and we both had busy families. But we talked at least once every week or two by phone. The conversations almost always lasted an hour or so. We never ran out of things to talk about.

Here is something I have never admitted before: I still have a voicemail message on my phone from her. I haven’t had the heart to listen to it. But every time the “save” option runs out, I always skip the message and then “re-save” it.

It has been re-saved every month for the past four years. I don’t think I can ever delete it.

It makes me wonder how long I can keep the phone.


Posted by: chlost | January 29, 2014

Warming with a chance of tax

When I leave for work each morning I check the thermometer in the car. A few days ago, as I left the garage, it read 10F. As I drove toward work, it steadily went down, finally reaching -18F. Yesterday it started at 10F and dropped to -13. This morning, after starting at 10F in the garage, it went down as well. But it stopped a -5F. On the way home, the car’s thermometer registered 23F.

Without a negative sign in front of it!

Yes, here it is considered a heat wave at 23F. Balmy.

In Atlanta or other places in the South, they’re not enjoying temperatures in the 20s. For us, it’s a relief.

I went to the car wash and waited in line for nearly 15 minutes. Everyone’s car has been covered in dirt and salt. My car was so badly coated with salt that it looked white instead of dark brown. It’s amazing how great you can feel driving a clean, shiny car when everyone else is driving a dirty car.

Tonight as we drove home from dinner, I noticed that a young man was working outside in shirtsleeves.

With it being Groundhog Day on Sunday, perhaps there is some hope for Spring’s arrival very soon.

Of course, the very first sign of impending Spring is the sight of Uncle Sam or Lady Liberty holding tax preparation signs and dancing around on the streetcorners. When they dance, the daffodils can’t be too far away.

Posted by: chlost | January 26, 2014

And now, some good stuff

Some pretty exciting stuff around here. Good stuff for a change.

Our son-in-law, the mathematician, has been offered a new position. First, they will be here in the Twin Cities for about 2 1/2 months. After that, he will begin his new job at the University of Pennsylvania.. They have been in Lincoln NE for the past two years. Let’s just say that Lincoln is not their kind of town. They’ve been miserable.

They’d nearly lost hope, as the funding for hiring him has been up in the air for several months. Didn’t they know about the new STEM initiatives? Why wouldn’t there be funding for a PhD math position?

Our daughter works online, so she is able to work from anywhere. Now all they have to do is figure out where they will live, how they will get there, and what they will move with them. It is a little complicated with the 2 1/2 month position here in the middle of it. It’s a fun problem to have Anyone have any suggestions for a moderately priced place near the University campus?

A second good item: For the first time ever, I am going to take a short trip to someplace warm during the coldest winter weather. A couple of high school friends and I are going to South Padre Island. A friend of one of my friends has a place there, and she invited us. It took us all of about 10 seconds to say yes. We found very cheap tickets. I can’t wait. Sun, warmth and water, here I come.

These women friends and I traveled together for a weekend once before. We had a great time. Neither of them have done much traveling, so it is a big deal for them to travel. It is a big deal to me to get away from this gawd-awful weather. (Tomorrow the HIGH is supposed to be -12, with the low -20 something, and winds of 50-60 mph.)

It is nice to have something good to forward to right about now!

Posted by: chlost | January 25, 2014

Bad is bad

We don’t have cable, and our network television is limited to whatever stations our old-fashioned antenna is able to suck into the house.

Of course, the quality of the picture often varies depending upon the position of the viewers’ legs. Or arms. Or hair.

So, I recently started a Netflix subscription. As a result, I spend even more time with my computer. The laptop does provide some warmth on these very cold winter nights. Remember, I have been married over 30 years….sometimes this is the best I can hope for in the warm lap department.

In any event, I have been watching many British dramas. I love them. Inspector Morse. Inspector Alleyn, Miss Marple. Hercule Poirot.  Jack Frost. Inspector Lewis. Inspector Lynley.

Perhaps I am fixated on solving murders. Or trying to learn about the perfect murder. As noted above, I have been married for over 30 years.

Primarily, I love seeing the English countryside, and listening to the variety of British accents. I also love to see the actors-a somewhat fixed group who seem to rotate through all of the shows. I recently watched the actress who plays Mrs. Hughes on Downton Abbey marry the character Jack Frost in a twenty-year-old episode of A Touch of Frost.

But after having watched just about all of the British crime series offered by Netflix. I’ve had to move on to shows recommended by friends. The one most highly recommended was “Breaking Bad”.

The concept of the show seemed unique. A plain, middle-class guy who begins a life of crime (“breaking bad”) during a crisis in his life. I decided to watch it. I’ve now seen the first four episodes.

I’m not sure I’ll watch any more.

In my job, I see  lot of criminals. I also see a lot of “criminals”. The “criminals”, people who are mostly just mentally ill, poor, or just plain sad, make up the majority of the caseload.  In all of the time I’ve done this, I have never seen anyone like Walter, Breaking Bad’s main character. No one I’ve ever seen has gone so far as Walter within such a short period of time, after having been a “model citizen” throughout his life. In order to avoid being a spoiler, I will just say that he has done some extremely horrifying things in these first few episodes. It bothers me that this show seems to romanticize the concept of a regular guy doing really bad things….and then he goes to work the next day as though nothing was amiss. He is not portrayed as a psychopath, just a normal guy who has made a decision that this is how he will live his life. He does have some minor moral struggles with decisions he faces, but in the end, he continues on his chosen path. I’ll acknowledge that it does have a bit of a comedic edge to it, but the series is more of a drama than a comedy.

Could this be a playbook for other frustrated, good, middle-class folks in a similar situation? Maybe, maybe not.

There is one character whom I do particularly like-Walter’s son, Walt Jr. He is a teenager who happens to have cerebral palsy. The actor does a great job. And the character is very sweet.

Ok, maybe I will watch just a few more episodes. Just to see what happens

Posted by: chlost | January 8, 2014

Nine digits-and a dash-perfect!

Note: I have been away from WordPress for several months. In my absence, apparently the method of inserting photos has changed. I have tried numerous times to insert photos on my posts, to no avail. If anyone can tell me what they H&*% they have done to this process, I would sincerely appreciate your assistance. In the meantime, I am reduced to inserting only links on my posts. Much less interesting. Sorry.

Parenting styles have changed throughout the years.

“Let them cry it out”. “Meet every need-don’t let them cry”.

“Feed on a schedule”. “Feed when hungry”

“Rock the baby to sleep”. “Allow the child to fall asleep on its own”

“Family bed” “Baby should sleep in a crib”

But did you know that in the early 20th century, you could mail your child? Yes, you could send a child through the US Mail.

Apparently, packages of fifty pounds or less could be sent through the parcel post system. It was cheaper to send a child by parcel post than to buy a train ticket for the child.

Yes, you could send your child (or the child of someone else, presumably) through the U.S. Mail-Postmaster General Hitchcock received a letter from an individual seeking to obtain (adopt) a baby through the mail.

In fact, a few babies were sent through the postal system before the regulations were changed to prohibit the practice. Slap a few stamps on them, and pop them in the ol’ mailbag, and off they go to grandma and grandpa’s house for the summer.

You know, email just can’t compete on this one.

Posted by: chlost | January 6, 2014

Quiescently Frozen

Apparently it’s been claimed that today, January 6th, is the most depressing day of the year.

I know that I certainly found the day quite depressing.

The high temperature today was -13F. That is not a typographical error.

The “high temperature” tomorrow is predicted to be -20F.

The wind is howling. The snow is swirling. The teeth are chattering. Schools have been closed. Many businesses were closed, others encouraged employees to work from home where possible. When I drove to work this morning, the streets were eerily quiet. There was very little traffic.

It made me think of all of the people who don’t have the option to be “closed”. Police, firefighters, ambulance drivers, tow truck drivers, banks, courts, and even funeral homes.

Yes, a friend of mine’s father died at the end of last week. Today was his funeral and burial.

It is dangerous. It is scary.

And yes, depressing. I’d definitely vote for January 6, 2014 as the most depressing day of the year.

At least so far. Who knows what the rest of the year might bring. That thought makes me shudder. I have always maintained that I will not ask “How much worse can it get?” because right about then you will find out that it can be so much worse.

Ironically, the sun was brightly shining all day.

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