Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘Christmastime

Festivities Underway

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The week after the winter solstice has become a time of amplified car commuting in my mind, ever since we moved an hour away from family in the Twin Cities, to rural countryside in western Wisconsin, where we have animals that need tending.

For some occasions, we have been lucky to find sitters to live in our house and care for our horses, chickens, and dog, but holidays are a tough time to ask others to do the job, at the expense of their own family gatherings.

Generally, that means we do the hour drive to participate in a few hours of holiday festivities, and then duck out early to make the hour drive back home again. Although the commute has become second nature for me to get to the day-job, the short time between trips each day around Christmastime makes the driving seem much more significant.

And, on Christmas day, we do it twice in one day.

It is not ideal, but it is always worth it, on both ends. We never regret time spent with our animals, and the time with family is forever priceless.

This year, we have an added bonus of relatives visiting from Norway. That wouldn’t be my relatives. The Fisknes family are from the Ravndal clan on Cyndie’s family tree. Cyndie’s great-grandmother was a Ravndal. We drove out to Eden Prairie last night to greet the family of five who are initially staying at the home of Cyndie’s brother, Steve.

After Christmas, the plan is for them to spend a night or two with us at Wintervale.

We don’t have oodles of snow to show off, but that might just change right in the middle of their visit. Precipitation is coming, but there is a sad chance it could be rain and snow mixed. Yuck.

The horses are enjoying the lack of snow cover during their brief forays onto the frozen grass of the back pasture. Yesterday, when I opened the gate for them, Delilah and I lingered in the field with them to appreciate the moment.

All three horses emptied their bladders in quick succession, and then followed that up a short time later with a rambunctious roll on the ground. Seemed like a very business-like routine in preparation of an afternoon of free grazing.

I am getting prepared for some free grazing of my own. Our kids will visit us this morning for our little personal family Christmas brunch, and then we drive to Edina for Christmas eve gathering with Cyndie’s cousins on her mom’s side.

I will sneak out early to drive home. Christmas morning, I finish chores and drive back for the Friswold gift exchange extravaganza.

The festivities are definitely underway.

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Written by johnwhays

December 24, 2018 at 8:11 am

List Poetry

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• Make a list. It’s the season for lists.

• Use bullets. Bullet points have more “oomph.”

• Be concise. Get to the point.

• Notice the sacred preciousness of every single moment.

• Remember the simple joys of childhood innocence.

• Take care about ever being too certain. Do not be deceived.

• If it seems too good to be true, you know…

• There is still much to do, and not many days left until Christmas.

• Don’t forget to breathe.

• Reserve critical hours for sleep. Be disciplined.

• Be creative.

• Enjoy the sights and sounds of the season, even the crowds.

• Let the music ring.

• Send love to all. Remember those battling depression.

• Make a positive contribution.

• Trust your intuition.

• Know that perfect does not always require perfection.

• Allow for bundles of fun.

• Let your heart overflow with the joy of giving.

• Don’t overthink the details.

• Focus on the positive.

• Check your list twice.

• Remember to feed the pets.

• Always share a smile. It’s a universal gift you can always offer.

• Go forth and enjoy!

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Holiday Spirit

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Even Delilah is getting into the festive spirit lately. We received a gift of hand-me-over dog toys from Katie at work, and I couldn’t wait until Christmas to see how Delilah would react to them. The strange scent was definitely cause for a thorough analysis, but then she succumbed to the irresistible instinct to chomp.

Actually, the squeaky red and green candy cane didn’t draw out teeth until I kicked it away. She initially walked up to inspect it, and then stepped right over the toy as if it didn’t exist. That’s when I gave it a kick across the floor and she ran to get it.

After that, it was just like her squeaky yellow monkey. She wants us to chase after her and try to grab the toy so she can shake it loose from our grip.

Santa’s elves have been working long hours to deliver packages to our door each day this week. Must not be any names on the naughty list, based on the number of things waiting to be wrapped in the “don’t-go-in-there” room.

For the record, there are no children living with us, so I think we just play this game to maintain the spirit of the season.

I don’t mind being free of the burden of conjuring up believable tall tales to keep the myth alive in innocent eyes. Such a weird combination of love and deceit.

Cyndie and I don’t actually hide any intentions from each other. We tend to celebrate the holiday by jointly selecting an item that will be a treat for both of us. This year it just may end up being new bar stools for the kitchen island. We tried doing it once before, but were overwhelmed by the expense of getting what we really wanted.

Sticker shock times four.

I don’t expect that prices have gotten any better, but we are hoping that either our standards will have relaxed, or we will have gotten over the shock of the costs, to possibly propel us toward finding something that can work.

The ones that were here when we bought the place are in need of some tender loving care by someone who knows how to weld. I hope that person happens to browse Craigslist.

Today, at the day-job, staff have decided to modify the annual company potluck lunch between Thanksgiving and Christmas by having Famous Dave’s BBQ restaurant do all the cooking.

Works for me.

Ho ho ho.

The holiday spirit is feeling very merry and bright, indeed.

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Written by johnwhays

December 13, 2018 at 7:00 am

Happy Christmas

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But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,

“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

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Written by johnwhays

December 25, 2017 at 7:00 am

Sticky Mess

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Sure, it’s beautiful, but it was a sticky, wet mess of a snowfall yesterday. Today’s episode of the ongoing saga that is our adventures on the ranch involves wet horses, warm winter precipitation, Christmas preparations, and knee replacement recovery.

Who could this be?

dscn5628eWhy, it’s none other than our stoic herd leader, Legacy. The wet snow had given his long winter coat a curly design that called out to me for a close-up photograph. I find it interesting that so many of his little ringlets contain a strand of color.

A first impression generally perceives him as a white horse, but he does have a subtle distribution of color to him.

I was walking Delilah around the perimeter of the hay-field fence and the horses were out standing in the wet precipitation in the far distance of the field. The horses are well familiar with our routine of trekking this path and most days pay us little attention. Yesterday, at a moment of pause for Delilah to bury her nose in the snow in search of some potential snack, I noticed Cayenne’s energy kick up a bit toward us.

dscn5626eI stepped up to the fence and invited them over, and to my surprise, they came! It is funny how Legacy reacts to these situations, as Cayenne was definitely the instigator and leading the way, but he makes sure to get right on her flank as leader and protector.

When they have closed the distance, he takes command and steps up to make first contact. The other three obediently concede his authority and stay back a length or two.

We visited for a bit and I took pictures of them. Then it was time to move on with Delilah and the herd responded immediately to my movement by turning and running off through the snow back to the fence line in the distance from which they had come. It was a gorgeous visual, their playful equine energy gallivanting away through the falling wet flakes.

They knew what was on the other end of Delilah’s and my little walk. We completed our loop and made our way back to the barn to do the daily afternoon housekeeping, serve up pans of feed, and refill the hay boxes.

I decided to wait out the falling wet snow before starting the plowing and shoveling routine, so spent the afternoon wrapping Christmas gifts and doing laundry. Cyndie had her last in-home physical therapy session and achieved the milestone of reaching 120° bend on the leg with the new knee. She has completely ditched the walker and is getting around with just a cane.

She went on her first outing last night to a Christmas party of the Wildwood Lodge Club clan, the community of families with vacation homes on Big Round Lake near Hayward, WI.

I can see some light at the end of the tunnel of full responsibility for chores around here, and none too soon. I am exhausted. I think the horses miss seeing Cyndie, and I have to admit, I’m growing tired of being their primary caregiver. It’s a bit much when I am also working full-time an hour’s drive away. Add in the requirement of walking Delilah several times a day and my candle is burning at all three ends.

Happily, Cyndie is active again in the kitchen, so at least I’m no longer needing to pretend I have skills there. The next two days will be a whirlwind of driving to and fro from the ranch to Cyndie’s parents’ house for Christmas events.

I hope I can stay awake behind the wheel.

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Written by johnwhays

December 24, 2016 at 8:08 am

Precious Memorial

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The Christmas holiday brought a bundle of family events which required that we do a lot of driving. For three days in a row, we drove the over two-hour-long round trip distance, twice a day on two of those. It was all worth it, but when yesterday arrived with no agenda requiring we leave our home, the exhaustion hit and we luxuriated in the gift of staying put.

IMG_4211eIn the afterglow of the Christmas eve and Christmas day events, Friday the 26th became an additional day of precious activities with Cyndie’s family. We started in the morning by gathering at Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis, where we visited the graves of some of their relatives, including Cyndie’s sister, Michelle, who died at the age of 4 in 1967 as a result of leukemia.

It took some hunting to locate the grave sites, but with the benefit of the lack of snow cover, it didn’t take long to find the markers. Some flowers were laid and then a few members of the family read portions of a memorial prayer that second brother, Barry, had composed.

IMG_4209eThis is the first time the entire family has visited the graves together, which made this a particularly special occasion. Michelle’s death occurred on December 14th, so the Christmas season for Cyndie and her parents and siblings has a way of bringing with it memories of that time in 1967.

As the middle of the day approached, we headed across the city to take a tour of the new auditorium under construction at the Masonic Children’s Hospital at the University of Minnesota. The family connection to the U of M is strong, but the connection to the Children’s Hospital is especially poignant.

IMG_4217eThe Friswold family has adopted a room in memory of Michelle. We were able to visit a similar adjacent room which was vacant, to see the special features available to children and their families as a result the financial contributions.

A significant effort is made to give the kids being treated as much control over their environment as possible. A touch-screen monitor is suspended on an arm that, among other things, allows the child to remotely control the window shades and alter the color of the room lighting. Of course, I only remember those features because they are the ones our group played with while exploring the room.

To top the day off, we finished with a special private dinner event at the U of M McNamara Alumni Center UofMAlumniCenteralong with the family of Fred Friswold’s frat brother from the class of ’58, Larry Laukka. The Friswold and Laukka families have been getting together regularly at Christmastime the last few years, and this year the two patriarchs took it up a notch, bringing us on campus to share the full story of their incredible persistence as the volunteers who dreamed up and pulled off the incredible accomplishment of this world-class building.

It was a spectacular way to conclude the flurry of holiday family gatherings. Cyndie’s family is very precious, indeed, and I am a lucky man to be included as one of their own.

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