Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Christmas at Wooddale

Again this year I was blessed to be part of the Christmas concerts at my church. The theme for this year's concert was "The Heart Is Waiting." With a new choir director as of last this summer, we weren't sure what to expect, but Wow! We were pleasantly surprised!

The choice of music chosen was lovely - and mostly arranged by the director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Here is the program:

A Christmas Festival: orchestra only
Gloria in Excelsis Deo
O Come, All Ye Faithful
Christmas Bells: piano and orchestra only
Organ Solo: Woody Johnson
Infant Holy, Infant Lowly
The First Noel
  Hymns for the audience: Angels From the Realms of Glory; Angels We Have Heard on High; Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
Piano solo: Soojung Hong—a Ph.D. in piano at the University of Minnesota (she was awesome!)
Away in a Manger
Mary, Did You Know
All Is Well (sung while the choir held candles)
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

Due to my recent back surgery, I had to sing the entire concert while seated, it worked out just fine and I'm so happy I could be part of this wonderful tradition.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Back to work!

This morning I went back to work and it felt so good to see my co-workers again. I had missed them so much! I'm going to work mornings only this week since I'm not really 100% yet. In fact, I'm still taking narcotics when needed for the nerve pain in my leg (this was unexpected).

While home, I was very lonely. There were days when I saw no one but my cat. Oh, he loved having me around and he spent a lot of time in bed with me. But I realized—actually I already knew it—I need to be around people. A little bit of time in seclusion is fine, but not an excessive amount.

I'm on the mend, but have a ways to go.

Friday, December 04, 2015

Back Surgery

Last week, on the 25th, I had surgery on my lower back—specifically between L-5 and S-1. I had been diagnosed with two herniated discs and a severely pinched nerve. During the surgery, bone was cut away and a broken piece of disc was removed to give more room for the nerve. This nerve controls the left leg and foot. My symptoms have been a strong ache and tingling on the outside edge of my leg and top of my left foot (picture along the outside seam of your jeans). I have been bothered by this since around the middle of August, and it hasn't been fun.

After being diagnosed, I had an epidural shot of cortisone in the nerve area, but it didn't take. I also did six weeks of physical therapy, and that brought no relief.

The surgery was billed as outpatient, with a possible stay overnight for observation. I think it was the word "outpatient" that made me think this was going to be a "piece of cake." Wow! Was I wrong. It has now been 9 days and I am still having some struggles. The nerve pain returned about 5 or 6 days ago and it has been very uncomfortable. You've seen the pain charts of 10 faces—10 being the worst. I have had a couple of those. Since the Dr. wants me to wean myself from the narcotics, I have tried to suffer through it, but have given in twice. This morning a second prescription was called into the pharmacy that is for a medication that is supposed to address the nerve problem. I'm praying it helps.

In the meantime, Nels is loving having me home and I have been enjoying visits from friends—those who have stopped by with meals, flowers, offers to vacuum, take out my garbage, pick up my mail—all of those things that I have not been able to do. Two individuals from work even donated 7 precious days of PTO to me (anonymously) because I had run out as of Monday this week.

That's about it right now. I have been playing Christmas carols on my stereo, but am not really in the Christmas spirit yet. Just hoping to feel better soon.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Farewell, Brian

Yesterday was a very sad day in our family. Due to cancer, Heidi and Chad made the difficult decision to put Brian, their almost 12 year old Golden Retriever, down. They did not want him to suffer.

Brian came into their family shortly after they bought their first house. It didn't take him long to start writing a blog, Brian Puppy. He loved his family, and they loved him. They took him on family vacations, and took him swimming in lakes, Puget Sound, and the Pacific Ocean.

He loved tennis balls, and would play tug of war with me (tennis ball held tightly in his teeth) whenever I came for a visit. On the occasion I did pull it from his mouth, I would toss it and he would tear after it and bring it back for more. I took him for walks every time I came, and I was so happy that he never pooped on my walks with him, because I shuddered at the thought of picking it up. He would try to pull me a bit, but then I would say, "No, no, Brian. Grandma can't go that fast." He would then slow down to my pace.

Once while Heidi and Chad were here and in Wisconsin for a visit, Brian came to stay with me. I took him for a nice walk around Normandale Lake and also in my neighborhood.

He hated lightning and fireworks. One July 4th when my sister and I were out to visit, Heidi and Chad had to work so we stayed home with Brian. He stayed by my side the whole time, and even climbed up into bed with me.

He went everywhere with Chad—including Lowe's hardware store. All of the clerks seemed to know Brian. His passing will be particularly hard on Chad. But it will be hard on Heidi, too. Today she'll come home from work, and Brian won't be barking "Welcome Home," to her when she comes in the door.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Happy 6th Birthday to Nels!

Thursday, October 29, Nels turned six. I worked all day and went to an evening event, so we celebrated Saturday afternoon by giving him a big serving of catnip. Wow! Did he dig into it! He ate some and then rolled his face in it. At one time when I checked on him, he looked totally exhausted – his chin and cheek lying flat on the base of his cat tree - right in the middle of this aromatic herb.

In 2010 when my granddaughter, Annika, and I chose Nels from a local humane society, we were told he was three years old. However, at the first veterinarian appointment for him, the doctor said he was likely thirteen or fourteen months old. They told me to pick a date within those two months and celebrate his birthday then. I chose October 29.

Happy Birthday, Nels!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

My Dear Amish Friend, Lovina

In 1988 I first met my Amish friend, Lovina. After stopping at Jake Stutzman's Amish farm to order a cherry rocking chair, my friend Lil and I found our way to Lovina's general store where we inquired about buying a jar of jam. That was the start of an unusual friendship.

Jake Stutzman's farm house. Jake made my cherry rocking chair and all of my dining room chairs.

The Amish one room schoolhouse across the road from Jake's farm

An Amish buggy heading into town

Such a sweet Amish bull

In the late 80's - early 90's, my sister, her husband and I sat on the lawn of this farm to watch this barn being raised by about 50 Amish men and boys. It was a day to remember.

A Minnesota Amish buggy – not fancy like those in Pennsylvania 
Initially Lovina's little store was in the back porch of the house she shared with her Old Order Amish father. Lovina never married, and was a thin, soft spoken, kind woman. I and several of my friends and family members would stop to buy things at Lovina's over the years.

One time, Peder and Heidi went with me for the sole purpose of purchasing Fireballs (hot, cinnamon jaw breakers) to put in the birthday box we were shipping to Hans who was on a 6 month tour around the continent of South America. On our way to Lovina's – about 40 miles from our home – it began to rain. The closer we got to her house, the rain got heavier and there was thunder and lightning. We knocked on her back door and she let us in. Her father came to see who was there. He couldn't believe we had driven so far in such stormy weather and invited us to spend the night in their home. Did we? Sadly, we did not. My kids had pulled me aside and Heidi said, "Mom, we are not staying here. They have an outdoor toilet." Peder joined in and stated, "And they have no TV." I was always disappointed we didn't have this experience.

Occasionally Lovina and I would write to one another.One year she even sent me a Christmas card. I still have one of her letters on the desk in my office.

Over time, a separate building was constructed for her little store. Even though it was still small, it gave her at least three times more space. Most of her customers were Old Order Amish, but there were "Englishers" who stopped by, too. Every time I came to the store, Lovina and I would hug each other.

About three years ago I was surprised to learn Lovina had suffered a stroke. I hadn't heard from her for quite awhile, and when I stopped in her store, I noticed she had trouble holding a pen and was writing with her left hand. She told me about her event and I of course added her to my prayer list. A year after that, Lizzie, her niece who also lives on the same farm, but in her own house, met us in the driveway and told us Lovina was no longer operating her store and she invited us to go to Lovina's house to visit her. That was a very nice time. Lizze told us that she and her husband were selling honey in Lovina's former store building.

Today my sister and I drove down to see her and to take in the fall color. We first stopped at Lizzie's store to ask how Lovina was and to see if we could visit her. She informed us Lovina had passed away in January. She had suffered a heart attack in December and didn't improve. She died in her home, which was her wish. Sadly, over all the years of going to see her, I never took a photo of her farm house or of her store. And due to the Amish not wishing to be photographed, I have no photo of her. I'm feeling sad about her being gone.

While driving around the area to relive some of our memories, we spotted a young Amish man tying these corn stalks. We stopped to watch him for a little bit.

Even Main Street in Harmony was in the fall spirit.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Signs of Autumn

We've  been seeing signs of Autumn around my neighborhood. Some trees have turned to yellow, and a few have a hint of orange or red. I really love this time of year!

My hummingbirds stopped coming to my feeder about three weeks ago. I left their feeder out until last week just in case a migrating oriole or hummingbird needed to drink while on his/her journey. I emptied the bird bath last week, too. My 3 big pots of pink geraniums continue to bloom. They are hardy and so pretty.

The temperatures have dropped into the 40's at night, so I have been running my furnace. I don't feel bad about this at all. I want to be comfortable.

We have been predicted to have a beautiful Autumn due to the lovely rains we had all during the summer. I hope it lasts a long, long time.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Health Problems

(This photo is from the Internet.)
Since July 1, I have been experiencing some health problems. It started with a kidney infection which I thought I could self-treat with cranberry juice. This occurred when I arrived in Seattle. While I was there, I had a fever, chills and shivering. Heidi offered to take me to the doctor, but I declined, thinking it would just go away. I flew home on July 8, but still ignored my symptoms.

July 17 my sister, cousin and I drove to Branson, Missouri. I was still dealing with the infection, getting up during the night every hour to use the bathroom. As you can imagine, I was getting more tired. My symptoms were increasing.

Very early Sunday morning, July 26, I woke up shivering. I got up and took my temperature. It was 101 degrees (my well-temperature is 97). I took a couple of Tylenol, covered up, and went back to sleep until my alarm for church went off. I went to church and sang in the choir, after which some of my dear friends took me to eat a brunch for my birthday. When the brunch was nearly over, I began to shiver and my teeth were chattering. I went directly home, put on some warm pajamas, took some Tylenol, and hopped into bed. I fell asleep, but woke up around 3, burning up. I took my temperature and it was 103 degrees. I knew I had to bite the bullet and go to Urgent Care. I prayed all the way there for protection against running into someone.

When I arrived at Urgent Care, the receptionist informed me there was only one person ahead of me. That was good news, as I was shivering and shivering. Other people arrived after I did, and the lobby was getting full. They called the little boy who was ahead of me, and then called a woman who had come in after I did. I went to the desk to inquire, and was told her symptoms were worse than mine. Before returning to my seat, I asked if they had any blankets for me to cover myself. She brought 2. I was called in next.

The receiving nurse had me to go the restroom to provide a urine sample and then returned me to a room, where I again covered with the blankets. It wasn't long before the doctor came in. She informed me I had a severe kidney infection. Did I want to take an ambulance to the hospital, or was there someone who could drive me? I chose to call Peder. Bless his heart, he came to get me and we took off for the Emergency Room in  my hospital where they were already waiting for me.

We spent about 3 hours in the ER where I was hooked up to a heart monitor and other testing equipment, all the while being interviewed, and even scolded by a doctor for not having seen my doctor before my situation got so serious. I informed her I didn't like my new doctor, to which she retorted I should have sought out someone else. Around 7:30 pm I was wheeled to a room. I spent 5 days in the hospital (July 26 - July 30), because my kidney infection escalated to my blood stream on about day 2. By the 5th day, the infection had cleared the bloodstream and I was sent home with 10 days of antibiotic. I was also instructed to have an appointment with my doctor within the next 14 days. I made that appointment, and when I saw her, she said "You were really sick. Why didn't you come to see me?" I told her my reasons, and we had a "Come to Jesus" meeting. Since then our relationship has been good. I wanted to write all of this down so I can remember the lessons I learned.

Fast forward to August 12 or 13. While watching TV in the evening, my upper left leg began to ache and the top of my left foot tingled. I thought it was a fluke – stood up and tried to shake it off. It continued. This was the beginning of a pattern I was familiar with—1988, left arm, which led to neck surgery. August 20, I phoned my doctor's office to see if I could get an appointment. Bingo! They had an opening that afternoon.

After examining me, Dr. W. said she was ordering an MRI. She gave me the scheduling number so that I didn't have to wait for someone to call me. Again I scored! The hospital had 2 openings the next day (August 21), so I took one.

I got the MRI results August 28. I was diagnosed with multi-level degenerative disc disease, with a small herniated disc between L3 and L4, and a large herniated disc between L4 and L5. Also, I have a very pinched nerve between L5 and S1. They also reported a 1 centimeter spot on my left kidney. Oh, oh. This was not good news, and of course I began to worry about it. My doctor told me a concierge would be calling me to set up an appointment with a spine specialist and an ultrasound to look at the kidney.

September 10 I had the ultrasound. This was a totally new experience for me. I had to fast (nothing to eat or drink—not even water) 4 hours prior to the test. The technician searched and searched for the spot, but could not locate it. She brought another technician in to locate it. She didn't find it either. I told them I had been praying for God to remove it. Perhaps He did! They paged the radiologist to come in to have a look, but he was unavailable and instructed them to send me home and that another test could be given to me. However, after he had seen the test results, he concluded the spot had been residual from the kidney infection I had had. Good news!

September 15 I saw the spine specialist, a very nice doctor. He went over my MRI pictures with me and told me his plan of attack. I was to have an EMG September 17, and an epidural yesterday, September 25. This test, by the way, went very well, for which I am grateful. I had fear going in, but prayed to God to help me through it, and He did. Already today the ache in my leg has gone away. We won't know for sure if it was successful for 7 - 10 days. Also scheduled are appointments for physical therapy—both traction and stretching. My first appointment is Monday, October 5.

This has been a lot, but I'm grateful to be on the mend. During the night I woke up and couldn't go back to sleep. For the first time ever, about 3:30 am today, I stepped out onto my porch and sat in a lawn chair to look at the sky. I live in the city, so it never gets really dark, but as my eyes got used to the lighting, I could see stars – about 11 or 12 bright ones. This is party due to trees and buildings in my view. Nels and I stayed out there about a half hour. It was a wonderful time of communing with our Lord.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Cousins' Weekend 2015

Yesterday my Cousin Linda, my sister, and I met at my Cousin Pat and Cousin Pudge's home. Linda had driven up from Chicago the day before and stayed overnight with my brother and sister. It was so nice to see her again.

Pat and Pudge had set the table and living room and dining room for a Minnesota dinner, complete with pine trees, pine cones, a kerosene lamp, the sounds of loons, crickets, and tree frogs, plus a delicious dinner of fried walleye and northern pike that Pudge had caught. Filling out our dinner we had cheesy hash brown potatoes, vegetable salad, hot rolls and homemade apple dumplings. Everything was delicious!

L to R: Linda, Janet, Pudge, and Pat

L to R: yours truly, Linda, and Janet

These apple dumplings were wonderful!

After dinner we had a lovely evening of visiting and looking at some of my Aunt Liz and her mother and grandmother's sewing.  Linda is shown here holding up some of the hand crocheted lace. Neighbor Denny came over to Pat's to visit for awhile. He has been a welcome guest/friend for many, many years. 

After a nice breakfast this morning, we checked out Pat's gardens and then boarded the Patty Wagon (Pat's golf cart) to take in some garage sales. Each of us scored a few things. We also took time to tour one of the Parade of Homes in the area – a beautiful model home, complete with a half basketball court, with a price tag of $975k. The realtor was impressed that we had arrived on a golf cart! 

This is a garden in Pat's yard dedicated to my Aunt Liz. Double click photo to enlarge.

This is a close-up of Aunt Liz's garden

Sail boats on White Bear Lake

For lunch we ate at a local restaurant and then headed back to Pat and Pudge's. I gathered up my things and started for home. The other gals headed off for Duluth to take a boat tour of the harbor on Lake Superior tomorrow. I know they'll have a good time. These times spent together are precious.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Harvesting My Pineapple

About six or seven years ago I bought a pineapple at a local market and after cutting it up, decided to plant the top (crown) of it. I had read up about it and learned that is the way to grow one. It took root and eventually got too big for my pot. My boss had a big, empty pot in his office—an office with windows—and he invited me to transplant the pineapple into that pot. Over time, it got bigger and bigger, and its leaves stretched out to over 6 feet.

Fast forward to February of this year: on the 23rd of the month, the first day back in the office after my trip to Japan, I was in Paul's office and in the course of conversation, he said perhaps it was time to do away with this giant plant which was taking up most of the counter. I thought about it and said I would look around the office to see if there was another spot where I could put it to still get natural light.

The next day, while watering it, I happened to look down inside the plant and saw what looked like a small pine cone. What? What is this? I called Paul over to look. "I think it's growing a pineapple!" And from that point on, Paul was all in favor of keeping the plant in his office.

Looking down into the pineapple plant

A few weeks later

About the third week of March, the pineapple had sprung up on a stem about the size of my index finger and little purple flowers appeared on what would become the "eyes," starting at the base of the fruit and progressing upwards. The flowers each bloomed about one day and then closed up. From that point—according to the Internet—the fruit would ripen in six months. As it turns out, mine ripened in five months and one week.

About a month later, checking it every day, the most change was in the expanding diameter of the fruit and the growing crown. The stem was reaching higher, too.

By mid August, the pineapple fruit was getting bigger and the crown was also growing. The fruit had gotten so heavy, one day I found it leaning over about 90 degrees, so I attached the venetian blind cord to it and staked it up.

 A week or so later, the pineapple showed definite signs of ripening. Ten days after that, when I came into the office, it was totally yellow and ready for harvest. Another sign was how sweet it smelled.
Totally ripe pineapple, ready to be cut from the stem
LaVonne, severing the pineapple from its stem
Yours truly posing with the long-awaited pineapple
Once the pineapple was totally cut by LaVonne, I portioned it out for some of the people who had come along side me in the journey. We all exclaimed how delicious it was—the best we had ever had. Too bad it took so long to grow.
Minutes after it was eaten, I planted the crown (seen on the table) in a smaller pot to start all over.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Happy Birthday to Me!

This title sounds selfish, but it is not meant to be. You see, I don't usually buy expensive things for myself, but when I got the opportunity to buy something I have wanted for many years, I justified it by thinking of it as a birthday gift for me.

It all started in sixth grade when our teacher assigned us to pick a foreign country to follow in current events during that school year. I chose The Netherlands. Consequently, my eyes—even to this day—stop to read whenever I see it in print. Then in 1968 I got to go to Holland, Michigan, with my Aunt Liz and some cousins, for their annual Tulip Festival. I fell in love with every aspect of this unique little town.

We went to the parade at which the mayor of the town declared the streets were dirty and ordered them to be cleaned. About 500 high school students, some dressed as milkmaids in traditional Dutch clothing, poured water from the buckets held on their shoulders by yokes. Others brushed the water to the edges of the street with big brooms. Then the klompen dancing began—wooden shoe dancing. It was so much fun.

Dutch Village in Holland, Michigan, really spoke to me. It has a working, authentic Dutch windmill—the last one permitted to leave The Netherlands. There are canals, lift bridges, and Dutch stores. It was at one of the stores I purchased my first piece of Delft, this large plate.

Around this time a franchise of Dutch restaurants called Pannekoeken opened in Minnesota, They served the famous Pannekoeken (Dutch apple pancake) and were decorated with Dutch Delft chandeliers, and I fell in love with them. They also sold Delft vases and other Delft knick knacks. Over the years, I have returned to Holland, Michigan, and have also been privileged to visit The Netherlands on several occasions. It still draws me.

This past December I hosted a few of my co-workers for supper. One of them, after seeing my Delft collection, mentioned her grandmother was selling her home and had a Delft chandelier. Wow! This piqued my interest. I asked her what it looked like and she described it. Could this be like the ones the Pannekoeken restaurants had? Would her grandmother be willing to sell it? She had her father take pictures of the chandelier, and I agreed to purchase it. Today it was hung in my dining room. I love it!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

When is it time to part with things?

A couple of weeks ago when Heidi and her kids were visiting me, I told her I was ready to part with a bunch of the vases and glassware that collected dust above my kitchen cabinets. These were things I hadn't used in a very long time, and there was so much gathered there that it was no longer attractive.

As Heidi handed them down to me, I loaded them into the dishwasher. After three dishwasher loads, we packed them up and took them to my office where I set up a table to sell each for a small dollar amount. Of the pieces pictured, I think I probably sold half. The remaining items were taken to a local charity. These are things I probably will not miss.

Do I have more stuff to clear out of my home? Of course, I do. I have been collecting many things for a very long time. Some still bring me happiness; others I have not looked at in so long I do not remember having them. It will be a process, but I hope to keep on purging.

On the other hand, I have some items that still give me pleasure, and those things I will hang onto for awhile.

Four Delft stitchery done by yours truly. Each flower container is Delft, or has Delft handles. (Double click photo to enlarge.)

My cranberry glass collection: each piece has a memory. The round ornament on the top right was blown by me in Alaska in 2008. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Heidi and her family came for a visit

Early this month, Heidi and her family came to Minnesota and Wisconsin. On my birthday, August 3, they came to my office with lunch and spent a little time playing with the stuffed toys and balloons decorating my office. Corinne had fun with balloons and taking books from the shelves. Marshall loved the stuffed animals—especially Spunky, the puppy.

On Wednesday, August 5, Heidi and the kids came to my house and spent the next couple of days. We went to my pool on Thursday, and that was really fun. Marshall has had some swimming lessons, so he was alright to move around the perimeter of the pool. We had our eyes on him, however. For awhile Corinne was content to sit on my lap on the second step of the pool. But eventually she wanted her face in the water and Heidi took her and played with her in the pool.

Later that day we went for dinner at Broadway Pizza. Marshall and Corinne loved the electric train that traveled along on the railing just under the ceiling. This pizza shop has train memorabilia all over, and their pizza is delicious!

Friday we went to Peder and Sarah's and the kids played together for awhile. This was really fun for the cousins! They rarely get to see one another. For lunch, we went to the International Bazaar, not far from Peder's home. They have a food court with restaurants from around the world. And the following weekend I picked up Heidi and Corinne in Hudson and they came to spend the weekend with me. Saturday we drove to Rochester to attend the wedding of my great-nephew, Chad.

I loved having them at my house! Here are more photos of our time together.

Corinne at the International Bazaar food court.

Grandma D with L to R: Leo, Aurelia, Marshall, and Corinne. Felix didn't want to be in the picture.

Aurelia sporting a Viking's helmet.

Felix, standing between Sarah and Peder
Isn't this a great picture of Peder and Heidi?!

Marshall and Aurelia

Heidi holding Corinne and Marshall at the Eden Prairie Mall

Corinne sitting in her cousin's car and wearing his "shades." My nephew Keith is in the background.

Corinne had a lot of fun playing in my cottage.

Here she is playing peek-a-boo with Heidi who is on the other side of the screen door.

Corinne and my cat Nels had fun trying to catch the bubbles I was blowing.