Running Grandma

Two years ago, I ran Grandma’s IMG_5966Marathon as a grandma for the first time.  I proudly emblazoned the fact on my running top, and enjoyed the resulting cheers along the way.  It was a great – no grand – variation on a race that was otherwise an annual affair for me.  And stopping to kiss the baby at mile 21 just before Lemon Drop Hill was definitely a timely energy boost.

Yesterday I was a running Grandma as well, only this time it was behind my second grandchild.  I wasn’t chasing her, I was pushing.  What a great invention these running IMG_7953strollers are!  They glide with ease, turn on a dime (not always where I intend, however), and absorb all the curbs and bumps I might find along the way.  Best of all, they turn drivers into the most polite and accommodating citizens I’ve ever seen. Perhaps it was the wiry but distinctly gray haired runner piloting the stroller that compelled them to stop and grant me priority to proceed at every intersection.  I was fortunate that at two months, the baby wasn’t much of a payload and we managed a good pace.  But I still managed to convince myself that I was getting more workout per mile.

This grandma has plenty of good reasons to keep on running.  And maybe one day it will be with those grandchildren at my side!

New Twist on an Old Game

I come from a family of game players. Our specialty is word games. When my husband and I were first dating, I finally talked him into playing Scrabble with me. At first, I trounced him regularly. Then the tables began to turn. He played with strategy! High scoring words were no longer enough to ensure my victory – he began to block my moves. Deliberately! He could turn a Scrabble board into an unplayable assortment of letters in just a few moves. It became a whole new game. Literally. But that wasn’t a bad thing, and it made for a much more genial relationship by balancing out the scores.

This weekend, we had two 10-hour car trips to attend our youngest son’s college graduation. We carpooled with our daughter, her husband and their new baby to and from the festivities. To pass the time, I reached back to a favorite word game that was well suited to car trips in my youth – Jotto. A quick search on the internet quickly refreshed my memory of the rules. It is normally played with two players. Each person thinks up a 5-letter word. The players proceed to ask each other 5 letter words, and the number of correct letters from the secret word is revealed. By repeatedly asking words to rule letters in and out, one can eventually guess the other player’s word. It particularly appeals to my mathematical and analytical mind, as well as word knowledge. But we had three players, so we dreamed up a new approach – round robin Jotto. Player A tries to guess Player B’s word, Player B guesses Player C’s word, and C tries to guess A’s. Surprisingly, it worked out quite well! And suddenly, our game for 2 was expandable to any number of players. Once a player was out (when their word was guessed correctly), it was possible for them to review other players’ answers to try and guess their word as well.

It was good to revert back to pre-technology times and while away the hours with a mere pen and paper. Try it sometime!

Gardening Surprises

Gardening is not my thing. I like perennials that come up and grow reliably. Annuals are almost always impatiens, prized for their constant and brilliant color throughout the summer with no effort on my part.

The whole idea behind the landscaping for our new home was to be natural and maintenance free. We have “highway mix” grasses that are not meant to be mowed, which give way to woods around three sides of the house. We strayed a bit when it came to the front approach, however, where friends with marvelous gardening skills designed and planted perennials and bushes to line the walkway.

I have to admit to gathering interest in the various plantings, and recently had an uncharacteristic surge of industrious gardening activity. Seeking to fill in the barren wall alongside the garage, and spying an expanding patch of Lilies of the Valley in our woods, I decided to try my hand at transplanting. Getting up close and personal with the plants, I discovered hidden treasure. Trillium! I surprised myself by coming up with the name, but a Google search and Wikipedia confirmed my identification. Something in my memory registered “do not pick” and I thought I had found a rare flower. Although my research revealed that they are protected in a number of states, the reason is that picking the blossoms inflicts lasting damage on the plants, and it takes years for them to recover. Regardless, I delicately avoided disturbing my new find, and plundered my lilies from a safe distance.

We’ll see if the lillies take root and multiply. But even if not, I’ve been rewarded for my efforts. And just maybe I will buy those wild flower seeds I’ve been thinking of introducing In front of the large rocks outside our dining room windows.


Wedding Ice Cream

I love ice cream.  Fortunately, I married someone who feels the same way.  We share mugs of ice cream late in the evening, and it’s amazing what we can cram into those vessels.

Yesterday was our 29th wedding anniversary.  We had a picnic, went for a walk, and – of course – completed the evening with a trip to our favorite ice cream shop.

It was a fitting celebration, as we did the same thing 29 years ago.  In between the wedding ceremony and the reception, we made a slight detour – to the Dairy Queen.  It was the old style DQ, where we ordered from the window outside.  The servers were so surprised and enamored with the situation that our ice cream cones were on the house!  We arrived at the reception with our treats, linked arms and licked our cones.

Our daughter was married a few years ago.  Guess where the stretch limo carrying the entire wedding party stopped en route to the reception?  DQ.  It must run in the family.

Minneapolis – Most Bikeable City

As part of the commentary on yesterday’s National Bike to Work Day, I heard a report on NPR announcing that Minneapolis came out #1 in a new ranking of the Most Bikeable Cities.  Curious to learn more, I went on to find out about the method behind the scoring process.  I discovered that it was developed by Walk Score, which describes itself as “the only site that makes it easy for apartment renters and homebuyers to find neighborhoods where they can drive less and live more.”  They launched Bike Score just this week, and currently report details on on the top 10 most bikeable cities in the US, and the 10 largest cities in Canada.  The primary factors in computing the score are the availability of bike infrastructure (lanes and trails), the hilliness of the area, amenities and road connectivity, and the number of bike commuters, then weighted by population density.

As it happened, I had planned a bike route through the Minneapolis area this morning to meet a friend for coffee at the Depot Coffeehouse in Hopkins.  That location is a magnet for cyclists, as it is situated at the juncture of three urban bike trails.  So I decided to do a bit of exploring myself on my return route.  I had never cycled into Minneapolis proper on the Cedar Lake Commuter Trail, and I was amazed at the extensive trail system with numerous spurs into local neighborhoods and how it drew me right across town in the safety of a secluded bike lane.  First I found myself cycling right alongside the base of Target Field, under the superstructure of the stands. Continuing along, I made it all the way to the Mississippi River – back to my old stomping grounds from my lunch-time running days.  From there, access to the West River Parkway and miles of additional bike trails beckoned.  What a delightful surprise – I can’t wait to plan another ride there and beyond.

My limited experiment quickly confirmed the results of the Bike Score, and gave me pride in this metro area for developing such bike-friendly routes.  Bike Score deliberately publishes its criteria, to encourage other cities to invest in these elements to make their environment more attractive to cyclists.  I’m all for it!  I hope other cities in the Northland are checking it out.

What’s your idea of Camping?

To my mom, it was “a picnic with tents.”  She was not a fan, but being a good sport she was willing to go along with it.  When my high school friend and I planned a camping trip with our two families, however, she landed in the hospital with a mastectomy instead.  We told her that was going a bit too far to get out of camping.

To my kids, it was “taking a break from the cabin.”  Kind of embarrassing really.  When we bought our cabin, I was thrilled but mourned the inevitable loss of camping trips.  So my husband fulfilled his promise of keeping it alive by taking the family camping just 10 miles away from the cabin.  Walking through the campground, we felt a bit sheepish when our kids proudly announced to other rustic campers, “we’re here from our cabin!”

On a real family camping trip in the Black Hills, it was “more toast please, Mom.”  A rainy morning meant the cooks got wet, but a roomy old canvas tent allowed the kids to play and have breakfast in the dry interior.  It didn’t curb their appetites any, as their hunger for toast seemed insatiable.

On a Boundary Waters canoe trip with friends, it meant sharing dreams.  We were land-bound by thunderstorms and tent-bound by the rain.  Much of the day was spent reading and snoozing, until a voice emanated from the other tent.  “Here’s an assignment for you.  Name 10 vacations you would like to take.”  We whiled away much of the afternoon exchanging fantasies of adventures and destinations.  We’ve even done some of them since.

To my friend, Mary, the mere thought was horrifying.  “What, no hairdryers or make-up?”  The idea of going without for days on end was unfathomable.  But we love her anyway.

Camping seems to mean something different with each outing.  No matter what the circumstances are, it promises plenty of memories.  And with the passage of time, they almost always become good memories.

Cycling Milestones

I’m trying to ratchet up my cycling miles.  If we’re going to do 70 miles a day for the first 5 days of the Trans-Superior Cycling Tour, I need to keep upping my longest distance.  To date, my max has been 40 miles.  I’ve had my sights set on 50, and decided today was the day.  Beautiful sunny day, no wind, and temps in the high 60’s – perfect!  It was a glorious day to be out cycling, and although I started to feel the curse of the saddle after about 30 miles, and found myself choosing easier gears after 40 miles, overall it was a great ride!  Sort of like marathon training – after while, you are on auto-pilot, and the miles melt away behind you.

The other reason for the push was that we have registered for the Tour de Pepin, a cycling tour around Lake Pepin on June 2.  We intended to do the 50 mile ride, thinking it would be fun to take the paddlewheeler back to the start.  But the best ferry times fill up quickly (lesson learned!), so we defaulted to doing the full 72 mile ride.  Being the overachiever I am, I harbored secret desires to do the full ride anyway, so I’m not too disappointed.

I’ll worry about putting consecutive days of long rides together later. And adding more hill work.  I think I have plenty to keep me challenged until the final test in mid-August.

In Memory of Mom

This Mothers’ Day has a new twist for me. It’s my first without my own mother. For the first time I will not be seeking out just the right card and gift for Mom on Mothers’ Day. I won’t be stopping by her house to give her a hug and stay for a visit. Even though Alzheimer’s stole Mom’s memory over time, it was still important to mark the day and look for some way to brighten her life. She was still my mom. And she will always be my role model.

Mom was my best cheerleader. There was nothing she thought I couldn’t do. When I took up running, she was the one to let me know that Grandma’s Marathon was starting up a half-marathon. Of course she knew I could do it. No question. And she was there on the course year after year for the full marathons that followed. Two years ago was the first time she missed, and I found it hard to breath as I passed “her” corner.

Mom was there at all my concerts, my recitals, the talent shows. No matter what the event, she was there. When I had kids, she came for their plays, their concerts, their graduations.

Mom taught me to sew like a pro. We matched plaids so well you couldn’t tell there was a seam. When I asked her to make a dress for my daughter’s American Girl Doll (named Molly, of course!), she bought the pattern and made every single outfit! When it came time to prune my closets in preparation for moving, I admit to squirreling away a few treasures that she made for me. I may never again wear the lace-inserted blouse she made, but it was too special to let go.

I wrote to Mom every week. She loved reading my letters. And when she could no longer read them, her caregivers read them to her. Mom always encouraged me in my writing. It’s because of her that I started up this blog – to pursue writing and see where it can take me.

Happy Mothers’ Day, Mom. I miss you.

Up North at the Cabin

Like all good Minnesota families, we have a cabin Up North.  Ours is a true cabin.  It’s meant for three seasons, but we use it all four.  It has running water, pumped directly from the lake, but with the benefit of a hot water heater for showers and washing dishes.  Drinking water comes in a large jug we bring from home.  Heat emanates from the fireplace, or wood stove – sometimes both.  Appliances are limited to stove and refrigerator.  No TV, no phone.  And limited cell coverage.  I hope it stays that way.

Two bedrooms and main room/kitchen make for cozy space.  Carving a bunkhouse out of the front of the shed when the kids became teenagers was a timely idea – they could make as much noise and stay up as late as they wanted, and we didn’t mind.  Add a sauna, and that’s it.  Simple is best. That’s what cabin life is all about.

Naturally, being in Minnesota, our cabin is on a lake.  There is nothing better than waking up on a summer morning, pulling back the curtain and peering out at a glorious sunrise.  Hearing the loons call is added glory.  Ours is a spring-fed lake, deep and cold.  No matter how warm the summer, swimming is always “refreshing.”  The guys love fishing, the girls prefer hanging out on the dock.  Night times mean playing games or reading books.  Sometimes a bonfire or late-night sauna and jump in the lake.

There is no better place for family time.  We bought the cabin not long after our youngest was born, and we have the best memories from time spent there.  We have a journal recording each visit and photo albums full of pictures.  And plenty of stories to tell.

Tomorrow we head up there to open it up for another summer – let cabin season begin!