Thursday, August 17, 2017

A Much Needed Break

A sweet treat at a frozen yogurt
 shop and Zak and Scarlett,
as usual, steal the show.
I have been working at a frenetic pace at home, preparing for the 'big move' to Indiana which is now less than a month away. 
A stop at Canal Park in Duluth.   I'll miss
this place so much and hope to get back there
once in a while.
Sorting, packing, holding a garage sale, taking care of endless details such as getting new flooring installed, lining up utilities, and listing my current home led to 16-20 hour work days with just a couple of short breaks to walk the dogs and grab a few hours of sleep.    I didn't dare get away until I had the basement fully sorted and packed and I finished that up last week.   The night before we left for the cabin at Au Train, I had a last minute showing which meant leaving the lawnmower in the middle of the back yard and taking the dogs to the park on short notice.   Ninety minutes later, I returned home, thinking the realtor must have forgotten to notify me that she was done, but lo and behold, they were still there!    I figured that was a good sign - and it was.  I got the call on Saturday morning as I was driving across the upper peninsula of Michigan that I had an offer. It was a good one for several reasons, and an hour and a half later, I pulled into a McDonalds parking lot, and signed the documents electronically.   It was a great way to start my week of vacation.





Curiosity

We've been having a very relaxing week here. kayaking on the Au Train River and swimming with the dogs.   Tim plays with the Falling Rock Jammers at the Falling Rock Cafe on Monday and Wednesday evenings and that's always a lot of fun too. Tomorrow we'll head up to his property at Grand Marais, MI in hopes of finding some raspberries.   They are pretty sparse this year  - almost non-existent, to be honest -so I don't expect to find enough to make jam but hopefully we'll be able to pick enough to put on ice cream when we get back.

On Sunday we'll return home to MN for the last  time,  and I'll have just three weeks to finish packing things up there before the big move.   I  still can't get my head wrapped around all that  has happened over the past sixteen months.   It's  surreal and impossible to make sense of.   I'm asking for closure on a few things before I can leave, and once I have that, we'll be heading East to a new community and a new home.

After some initial panic, Scarlett and
Zak settled in to the kayaks and did
very well. 
Kayaking on the Au Train River


Sunset at Au Train

Sunday, July 16, 2017

A New Home

The best word to describe my life right now is 'fluid'.  In my last post I mentioned a big camping trip to the West Coast.    I was all packed and we were set to leave on Friday, July 7.   I'd been watching the very fast moving housing market in northern Indiana for three weeks, when on Wednesday, July 5th, I happened to see a house 'for sale by owner' that looked like the house of my dreams at a price I could afford.  What to do?    It was a tough call, but I made the decision to scratch the vacation and fly out to Indiana last week where I saw the house, made an offer which was accepted - all in the space of 36 hours!   I am excited, and nervous at the same time.   It's a beautiful home in a newer development, but old enough to have wonderful trees and sidewalks and parks nearby.  My brother went with me and it was so helpful to have another set of eyes (not to mention another brain) asking questions and helping me think things through.    It wasn't until I saw two other homes in a similar price range, that I knew that this was too good an opportunity to pass by.    One of the things that this house has, that Scarlett and Zak are going to LOVE, is a patio door that they will be able to look out of and see the back yard!    We are moving from a house on the busiest street in town to the second to the last house on a dead end street in a quiet neighborhood!   That, alone, will be quite a change!
A new home for a fresh start

I am now back in Minnesota where I have worked hard this week to get my house staged and start the long process of packing.    Since I have plenty of time (closing isn't until the end of September and my house here isn't even being listed for another week or so), it is kind of fun because I have time to sort and downsize my 'stuff'.   There will be a gigantic garage sale in a couple weeks.     My biggest challenge is pacing myself, since I tend to be a 'full steam ahead' kind of person.    My brothers and close friends are afraid I'll be all packed by Labor Day and then sit around for a month with nothing to do!   So I'm intentionally building in some breaks - getting together with friends,  day trips to the lake, and this week, taking in the Fargo Street Fair this week for the last time.  As usual, Scarlett and Zak got plenty of attention and drank it up.   Zak is good for anyone's self esteem and the lady pictured here, new to our community, said "Zak made my day" after he snuggled up to her for 30 minutes.

While I'm busy sorting, packing and carrying boxes, Scarlett and Zak are living the good life.    They enjoy having me home all day,  Scarlett spends a lot of time on the hardwood floor of the guest room (it's cooler there) and Zak is outdoors almost all day (sometimes up to twelve hours.)   He just loves to watch the traffic and the people walking by.   Lately we've had a black cat stalking the neighborhood.    That crazy cat LOVES to taunt Zak and Scarlett.   It hides in the shrubs next door, waits for Scarlett and/or Zak to come out, sticks its head out and once they notice it and start barking madly, it arches its back and hisses, which sends Scarlett and Zak into an absolute frenzy!   Crazy cat. And a black one too!  Zak doesn't mind the heat, and will often nap on the hot pavement of the driveway.   I make sure I bring him cool water every hour or two.  But now and then, I make him come inside for a while.   His favorite place to nap IN the house, is just under the bed where it is cool and dark.

I am sleeping very little these days (2-3 hours a night) and am praying for some closure on several fronts before I leave.  If I am to truly get the fresh start that I so desperately need, I have to understand all that has happened here in the past 15 months.   Closure would also allow me the ability to sleep in my own home for these next 9 weeks and that would be a huge gift, as it is a busy and exhausting time.



Saturday, June 24, 2017

A Season of Change

This week I resigned my job of 29 years due to complications from a small stroke last year.    I wanted to hang on until retirement, approximately 4-5 years from now, but it became increasingly clear that wasn't to be.  I love this community and especially my home, but one loss after another after another made it apparent that doors were closing.   I just haven't found the open door(s) yet.     Since I anticipate moving East - I decided to take one more big camping trip to the Western US.  Scarlett. Zak and I are leaving July 7 for Bozeman, the Sawtooth Mts of Idaho (my favorite place in the continental US), the San Francisco Bay area, Sequoia National Park, Crater Lake,  Priest Lake,  Idaho and Glacier National Park!   We'll be gone three weeks; mostly tenting, but spending a few days with friends in California too.    I've taken some big trips with the dogs before but never one this long.   Am I crazy?   Stay tuned for the answer.


We'll be home about a week and then leave for the North Shore of Lake Superior, drive the loop all the way around the lake and spend about ten days at the cabin at Au Train.    By the time I get home, summer will be winding down and I will start seriously looking for a new place to live and work.    It will become my retirement home in a few years, so I'm more focused on finding the right house than the right job.   I love my home here so much that it will be hard to let it go.

Suffering is a part of life and the last year has been in a class of its own for me.   But there have been glimpses of God's grace amidst the pain, and I know He will lead me to whatever He has in store for me next. The possibilities are endless, and it is both scary and exciting at the same time.


Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Splooting

Yesterday on Good Morning America they shared a clip of a corgi puppy running across the floor and sliding into a perfect sploot. Corgi puppies are SO stinkin' cute, and that clip brought back memories of when Zak was a puppy.    Living on a busy street, I would take him outside regularly and on more than one occasion, a perfect stranger drove by, turned onto the frontage road and stopped to admire him.   One time I caught a cab driver, between calls, sitting in front of my house watching Scarlett and Zak play in the yard.   

Urban Dictionary defines 'sploot' as "The position a corgi takes, lying flat on its belly with his/her legs spread out." Of my four corgis, only Dee Dee did a classic sploot. Before I knew the word, I called it her 'flying squirrel' pose.

Scarlett lies with her back legs off to one side - sort of a modified sploot.    Tim's dog, Elvis, often took this same position. 

Zaccheaus does an inverted sploot!   His legs are tucked underneath him, facing forward.   This boy LOVES to be outdoors and will spend the entire day resting in the grass or watching the cars go by if I let him.




Princess usually took this position - one back leg straight out and the other was often tucked underneath her.  I suspect this was her position in the womb because it was natural to her. 




And THIS is a PERFECT sploot.   Doesn't get any better than this.   Dee Dee had broad hips so the sploot was even wider.  This picture brings back memories!   I adore Scarlett and Zak and they have brought me great joy, but I still miss my girls.    Just like children, no two corgis are alike.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Happy Memorial Day!

Life is full of uncertainties and one never knows if this day may be their last.   In honor of the men and women who have given their lives for our freedom and in memory of loved ones who  have gone before us and in gratitude for the days spent upon this earth.   Happy Memorial Day.



Sunday, May 7, 2017

Spring - and the Blowing of the Coat

It is finally Spring in the Northern Plains.   Although the calendar identifies the first day of spring as Vernal Equinox, we don't start to see many real signs of the changing season until well into April.    And, although our snow was gone early this year (avoiding a flood!), the second half of April was cold and extremely windy.   So it wasn't particularly pleasant.   The few nice days that we did have, however, fell on the weekends.

So .... what are my favorite signs of spring.    Here are a few:

  • Being able to sleep with the windows open - and better yet, having them open during the day.
  • Replacing the flannel sheets with my cotton percale sheets.
  • Wearing my capris and flip flops (of which I have a ridiculously abundant supply). 
  • Putting out my windmill and wooden tulips. 
  • Tulips!!   (Real ones!)   After years of the rabbits chewing my tulips right down to the stalk, I finally bought some liquid fence.   Putrid stuff (don't spray it on a windy day!) but it really works.   My tulips are really nice this year. 




  • Budding trees.    
  • Seeing the grass turn green, aerating my lawn and mowing for the first time.   ("First time" is significant here, as I am tired of mowing by about the middle of June!) 
  • Spring Cleanup Week .... which means my garage is decluttered and cleaned up.   
  • Curbing and Garage Sales.  OK;  I admit I do not get into either of these activities but I have so many friends that do that I have to include it on my list. 
  • Putting air in my bike tires and going for my first long bike ride.   ("Long" is a relative term.   For me, it means 15-20 miles .... not 40-50!) 
Zak and his new 'best friend' Pauline 

  • And last, but not least, the BLOWING OF THE COAT.  This is not the normal, year-round shedding that most breeds do, but the seasonal shedding that dogs with a heavy, dense, undercoat do.   That downy fur is incredibly soft and wonderful for burying your face in when you cry or for just warming up your lap on a chilly winter day.    The downside is that it changes at least twice - and up to three times a year.    When I got my first corgi, I invested in a high-end vacuum cleaner.    Now I have two - one upstairs and one down.   For anyone who's interested, my favorite brands are Riccar (the Radiance is wonderful) and Miele, a German brand that has expensive parts but some wonderful features including a great swivel mechanism, and is especially good for hardwood and tile floors.    With my first two corgis I had a heavy shedder (Dee Dee) and a not-as-heavy shedder (Princess).  I have the same again. Zak's coat is a bit more coarse and he sheds plenty but nothing like Scarlett!   Oh my goodness ... that girl sheds!!   Spring is definitely the worst time of year, as the undercoat is completely shed in preparation for the warmer days of summer.    I brush every day right now and use several different brushes to get the maximum benefit.   


Zak and his pile (20 minutes worth)

    1. The Zoom Groom (by Kong) is a rubber bristled brush that removes loose dirt, stimulates new hair growth, and gives the coat a nice shine.    My dogs love this one the most as it feels like a massage.   
    2. If you have a heavy shedder, the Furminator is a 'must have'.   You thought you were brushing your dog before??   Spend 5 minutes brushing with one of these and you'll have a pile of hair that's a foot high and a foot wide.  The teeth are heavy steel and it almost feels a bit like a razor, but Scarlett really doesn't mind this one unless I'm working in sensitive areas along her tush or legs.   I would not use this brush on her tummy.  It really is an amazing tool and you DEFINITELY want to be working outside with the wind blowing the tumbleweeds of hair away from you!  If you have an overabundance of rabbits in your neighborhood, you might want to consider furminating at a local park, as the rabbits LOVE the soft, downy fur for building their nests under your deck.  (Nests= more plant-eating nuisance rabbits.) 
    3. My personal favorite (and my go-to brush most days) is the natural boar bristle brush (palm style with wooden base and hand strap.)    This one works almost as well as the Furminator and both Scarlett and Zak love it.  The hair quickly accumulates in the teeth but is easily removed.    It gets a lot of the downy undercoat, but also the loose, longer top coat.    
    4. The two-sided stainless steel shedding blade removes loose hair but the teeth aren't long enough to pull a lot of the undercoat.    I use this as my clean-up brush, or for a quick brushing when we travel and I want to control the hair in the back seat. 
      Scarlett and HER pile  -  about 15 minutes worth of brushing!
 There are many other great brushing tools on the market but these are the four that we use.  

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Hijack to Asia - Part II - YUNNAN, CHINA

Yi People of Kunming performing an
ethnic dance at the Stone Forest
The Stone Forest
As mentioned in my previous post, Yunnan Province, in far southwestern China (bordered by Tibet, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam) is home to an ethnically diverse population.   It has more ethnic minorities than any other province, including the Yi, Bai, Tai, Dai, Hui, Nakji, Mongolian, Tibetan and Pumi - just to name a few.  These groups are distributed throughout Yunnan, and most are clustered in compact communities of a few thousand.  Chiang Mai is located in the northwest corner of Thailand, so it was just a short two hour flight to Kunming, capital of Yunnan Province.    It was a pleasant enough trip except for the incessant chatter (all in Chinese, of course) of one of the flight attendants, informing us of all the sites we "must see" while in Yunnan. 

Oh the stairs we climbed!
We were in Kunming just one full day, and we spent it at the Stone Forest, a natural display of limestone formations that have the appearance of trees; located about an hour from Kunming.  The Yi people were there in their full, colorful costumes, performing an ethnic dance for the tourists.    Then we spent several hours 'leisurely' walking through the stone forest.   I say 'leisurely' somewhat tongue in cheek, because there were quite a few very long, steep stairs that one had to literally squeeze through in places.   I knew my knees would be complaining the next day but the scenery was worth it, and at the end, we emerged into a gorgeous meadow, just as the sun broke through.   It was a lovely day. 


From Kunming, we flew northwest to Dali City.  The minority group inhabiting Dali are the Bai people.   When people ask me what my favorite place was from my whole trip, I'd have to say it was Dali.   We stayed in the walled 'old city', where we had a lovely hotel room and walked through the village shops, fruit markets and ate at sidewalk cafes.   Dali is located along Erhai Lake, which - I'd have to say - is prettier from a distance, than it is up close.   We took a gondola ride up up to Mt. Cangshan to enjoy the scenery and overview of Dali.   There wasn't much to do once you got up there, but for $10 (US) you could have your picture taken with a monkey and a peacock and I fell for that little tourist trap! 
We had a very nice room in Old Town Dali


The fruit markets were so much bigger, cleaner
and more appealing than what I remember from
my last trip to China.   

I was intrigued by the elderly, and would
have loved to have heard their life stories. 
Ancient Chinese cities were protected by a wall.  In modern times, as the cities have expanded in size and population, the 'old town' inside the wall has been preserved and become a tourist shopping area.   Dan was in this same area about 20 years ago and commented on how much of the 'old' has been lost as tourism has raised the standard of living for most people. 
The north gate of Old Dali was particularly beautiful





Dan on the Dali City Wall.

The Christian church (state run) in Dali is very active,
with two hundred people attending worship on
Sunday and three Bible Studies (two in Chinese
and one in English) during the week.  Although
state run, these churches are allowed to preach the
gospel and restrictions are few. 





Gondola ride up into the mountains
over Dali City.   

Such a cute little friend.  I could
have taken him home with me.


I wasn't impressed with the pedicure and Thai massage I had in Chiang Mai (my own fault for not asking more questions).   But in Dali, we had a truly unique type of massage, known as a Fish Pedicure.   You put your feet in a tank of warm water, filled with about a hundred hungry minnows and they nibble away at the dead skin on your feet.   This is not something you want to do if you're ticklish.   Dan made sure we found the place with the hungriest looking minnows!

Our final three days in Yunnan were spent in the quaint city of Lijiang, which we traveled to by bus from Dali.   In some ways, Lijiang is similar to Dali, with the Old City surrounded by a city wall and the same type of shopping district throughout.    But the architecture of Old Town was especially beautiful and the night life was especially fun, with lit up shops and live music in the square market. 




These men haul loads for a living and are
waiting for jobs to come their way as they
sit on a busy street corner.

We stayed at the south gate to Old Town Lijiang and were there for three days.   The first day we spent exploring the south gate area and the shopping district.   The second day we took a bus up to Black Dragon Park, on the north end of Old Town.    We spent several hours there, enjoying the scenery and getting photos.    At times, we had the place almost to ourselves and then suddenly a huge group of Chinese tourists would arrive.   The first time this happened, I groaned - complaining to Dan that our nice peaceful outing was about to be spoiled.   "No worries", he said.   "They will swoop in, take a couple pictures and be out of here in less than five minutes!"   And he was right!   I couldn't believe it!   For us, taking photos was just a way to document and remember the experience, but for the Chinese, taking photos IS the experience.



Black Dragon Park, LiJiang, Yunnan, China

A short bus ride away from the city of Lijiang, at the bottom of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, is the village of Shuhe Ancient Town.   It is along the ancient tea route and was settled by the Naxi people.  We spent about a half day there, leisurely strolling along the walkways and stream that runs through it.   There is a beautiful pond, and an ancient water wheel and as you make your way through the town you will see peasant farmers working in the rice fields. It was a lovely place to spend our last day in Yunnan. 






Doing laundry
Street performers




 Our final night in Yunnan we enjoyed the night life inside Old City Lijiang, with the stores lit up, some of the lantern festival (the final event in the Chinese New Year celebration) still around and live music drifting from the eateries.    We really enjoyed our time there.















My last night in Yunnan - and look what
I found!!   A beautiful tri-colored corgi!
As the wealth of the average Chinese family
has increased, dogs are becoming much
more common - especially in the wealthier
cities of eastern China - but we saw many dogs
in Yunnan too.   They are rarely on a leash,
roam freely in and out of stores, restaurants
and Dan tells me most of the have not
had rabies vaccines.  In fact, because of
this, Dan's agency requires that their members
get rabies vaccines.


This corgi's owner spoke no English and
Dan was somewhere down the street, so
I had to pull out my smartphone and show
her the photos of my dogs so she could
see why I was so excited.

Leaving Yunnan was kind of sad.   We REALLY enjoyed our time there.   We flew to Shenzhen rather than Hong Kong for several reasons - one being, that it was cheaper.   These are the foothills to the Himalayas that we are flying over. 
 
 We had a delightful dinner with a former student of Dan's and his wife.   They have a young daughter and are expecting their second child, now that the one child policy has been lifted.  Her parents live with them to provide childcare.   They have good jobs and live well, but housing is so expensive that they have just a 700 square foot apartment for their soon-to-be family of four, plus her parents.
 Meals are served family style in China, so as a group, you choose a number of entrees from the menu and share them.   After a long discussion, we ended up with this spread!   I particularly enjoyed the pork ribs and the snap peas, as well as the corn chowder.   It was a delicious meal.

Another reason we flew to Shenzhen, rather than Hong Kong, is that it is much easier going through immigration at the train station than at the airport.   His friends gave us a ride to the station, we went through immigration in about a half hour and then took a taxi up to Tao Fong Shan Christian Centre - a monestary founded by Norwegian missionaries in 1930 that is now used as a retreat center for Christians.   Its' a quiet place to get away from the chaos of Hong Kong.    It was a special place to end our vacation.


A short walk down a trail and you come to a huge white cross, lit up, overlooking the city below.


All was well in Pilgrim Hall until I saw this sign on our door.
Thankfully, we didn't see any!