Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘family

Why Wordle

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I have been contemplating the rapidly expanding popularity of the online word game, Wordle, and wondering what it is about it that appeals so. Since you can only play one word per day, that seems like it would be a detriment to the ever-expanding popularity. At the same time, it just might be one of the plusses.

The urge to play another round cannot be easily satisfied, so the attraction is maintained?

It seems to me, although individual interpretation will certainly vary widely, the game is rather simple without being too easy. The obvious target audience would be people who are fond of words and playing with words and solving puzzles.

The clues provided and the limitation of 5-letter words offer just enough support to keep the solution within reach of the six guesses available.

The randomness of letter options chosen for each turn creates an exciting mystery that determines the odds for solving on subsequent turns.

What a wonderful surprise it must be for the founder, John Wardle, to see how popular his creation has become.

Something about this game has triggered memories of an old favorite word game our family played in the car when trying to kill time during our frequent 3-hour drives to the lake place when the kids were young. Each player can select a word to be guessed and the first word Julian selected became the name of our made-up game ever after: “labelye” (La [soft A] • bull • yee).

What made the game difficult was that it was played completely in our minds. We had to visualize the letters in our heads to scramble and descramble them. Julian chose the word eyeball and had to scramble them into a pronounceable word clue for us to work with.

We could ask him to spell it, so we had the right letters to decode, but sounding out the scrambled word was one way to keep all the letters in our minds while trying to rearrange them into a solution. It was a trick to do without writing anything down and that probably made it too hard to catch on as a game that we kept playing as time went by, but it worked pretty slick for a while to occupy our attention and distract each of us from the doldrums of being trapped in a vehicle for longer than desired.

None of us were able to solve Julian’s scramble, so he won the round by stumping us and that helped nudge his word to become the name of the game from then on.

I suppose it wouldn’t be too complicated for a skilled game developer to build an app for that old car game so word puzzlers will have something new to play with after Wordle has faded out of the viral game-of-the-moment moment.

“Hey, Alexa! Give me a Labelye word to descramble while I wait for tomorrow’s next Wordle game.”

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Written by johnwhays

January 17, 2022 at 7:00 am

Fresh Snow

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While hiking with Delilah on our trails in the freshly fallen snow, I noticed this uncharacteristic specimen hanging about head-high on a tree.

Maybe the handiwork of some ingenious squirrel?

When we emerged from the woods and continued around the perimeter of our pastures, I caught sight of three of the horses standing out in the open. Only Mix appeared to have enough sense to stay under the overhang. I’ve never understood why horses choose to stand out in the rain or snow when they have the option of cover available.

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Mix was still a little wet, so she hadn’t spent all of her time sheltered.

Thus far, all four horses appear to be coping well with the winter weather we have been experiencing, but the real test comes next. We are expecting a cold spell for a few days that threatens to go below zero (F) at some point.

I went out late last night to plow before the temperature dropped too much for comfort. Clearing snow in the limited illumination of the ATV headlights is an imperfect science. I’ll find out this morning if I missed some spots. Not that I plan to spend much time racing around on the four-wheeler to finish cleaning up when it’s wickedly cold out.

This is “stay indoors and work on jigsaw puzzles” weather.

If we are lucky, Cyndie will return from her mom’s today and it will get a little more festive around here. I’ve been alone since the day after Christmas and the isolation is starting to get old, especially coming on the heels of all the socializing of the holiday gatherings.

Cyndie and her brothers have been working to move furnishings to her mom’s new residence in the Friendship Village community and clean up and stage the old residence for filming by the realty company. That meant immediately stashing any and all Christmas decorations. I wasn’t surprised when Cyndie’s plan for a one-night overnight mushroomed into three nights away.

Too bad I can’t bring the horses inside the house to keep me company and get them out of the cold.

They’d probably prefer to go out and stand on the deck, anyway.

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Written by johnwhays

December 29, 2021 at 7:00 am

Holiday Afterglow

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A particularly precious aspect of family gatherings over a holiday is the physical assembling in collective display of love and affection for each other and the sharing of our immediate concerns and joys. I am greatly blessed to be a member of Cyndie’s family and together we are humbled to be parents of two incredible individuals in our daughter, Elysa, and son, Julian.

The previous two days were filled with hours of family time, regardless of the growing threat of the highly contagious coronavirus spiking once again around the world. We will serve as examples of the full vaccination/booster combinations to constrain any possible infections from severe illness or forced hospitalization if sickness arises in the days ahead. We hold no confidence that the latest omicron variant was completely absent the whole time, despite the lack of any symptoms or known contacts in those present.

Out of an abundance of caution, not all family members chose to participate in-person, in order to protect those with greater vulnerabilities to the threats of infection.

This morning, Cyndie and I are warmed by the residual energized emotions of heartfelt sharing with so many relations we dearly love.

My body feels hyper-nourished and a little over-sweetened by the feasts we gleefully enjoyed. Man, this family cooks and serves regal holiday meals.

The time shared at the home of Cyndie’s mom in Edina was a bit more emotional than usual due to activity underway to prepare the house for sale and the thought process and physical work of transitioning Marie to new living space at Friendship Village in Bloomington.

The next few days will involve intense effort by many hands to replace Christmas decorations with a much more austere simplicity in preparation for the realty company to film the full walk-through for online “open house” reviewals.

I will do my part by holding down the ranch so that Cyndie can offer her full-time attention to helping her brothers carry out the herculean task of processing in just a few days, lifetimes of accumulated family possessions.

In a perfectly timed gift after my final day of commuting to a day-job, Elysa gifted me the perfect shirt reflecting one of the responsibilities that will become an enhanced focus of my increased hours available to manage the ranch.

The EFRU has gained a new full-time member and I couldn’t be more proud.

I feel great pleasure every time I push our wheelbarrow out of the barn door and under the overhang with a calm greeting of, “Housekeeping!” for our horses to know what comes next. It doesn’t hurt that they smartly recognize what usually follows the tidying up of their accommodations. That is when their feed pans are served up.

Today is my half-birthday. December 26th is always a day I feel rather celebratory in the afterglow of Christmas magic.

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Single Week

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Less than a week, actually. The holiday season is long but the actual day of Christmas is just a single day and it is now six days away. I am also down to a single week left commuting to the day-job. Three days, actually. It feels like a lot is happening that will hopefully lead up to a period when not much needs to happen, for the rest of my life.

For the last six months, I have only been commuting to the far side of the Twin Cities three days a week. I am already aware of the complexity of noticing what day it is when Saturdays and Sundays become blurred with Fridays and Mondays. When seven days a week all require the same attention from me, I will join the throngs of others who are in the phase of life when every day is simply “today” and not so distinguishable from all the others.

Yesterday was Cyndie’s Christmas Cookie baking day. I failed to provide much warning but the post I created in 2017 is still very applicable. Check out: Advance Warning.

Cyndie invited helpers to contribute to the extravaganza. They captured and shared some images of the frivolity…

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Cookies galore are being shared far and wide. For reference, if you ever have a chance to help Cyndie in the kitchen, you will be stocked with plenty of goodies upon your departure.

Despite this being the second Christmas season under the pandemic, glad tidings and good cheer still shine through.

Merry Christmas, everyone! Enjoy this last week.

I know that I will.

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Written by johnwhays

December 19, 2021 at 11:46 am

Not COVID

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After almost two years of the pandemic, I finally had a reason to get tested for COVID-19. The Delta variant is raging and the Omicron variant is beginning to spread but so far I have survived in general isolation, mostly buffered from first-person contact with known positive cases.

On the Sunday after we hosted Thanksgiving, I sensed a tickle in my throat. It seemed like a wimpy cold until the fourth day when it intensified significantly. Worried that I may have misjudged what I was experiencing and sensitive to the fact we are in the midst of a pandemic, I called my doctor and was told to come in to get tested for COVID.

I had received my vaccine booster shot on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, but no masks were worn when sixteen of us spent the holiday together at our home, some of whom had traveled from other states.

When my son called with news that he was experiencing the same symptoms as me it raised my alarm a little, but he had good news of already receiving a negative test result for COVID. It restored my confidence that I would likely receive the same result.

Yesterday afternoon I began to feel my cold symptoms had plateaued and this morning my temperature has returned to normal. An hour ago I received the call confirming my test for COVID was negative.

So, my avoidance of the pandemic virus continues but my run of good luck for freedom from illness has ended. It was a little strange to experience “normal” cold symptoms during this time when a more lethal contagious virus is filling hospitals to the brim but in the grand scheme of things, it was just a normal cold.

Normal isn’t normal, usual, typical, or what is expected anymore.

Uncertainty is probably the better descriptor.

Be vaccinated out there!

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Written by johnwhays

December 5, 2021 at 11:21 am

Powerful Hug

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It was in a dream, but not all dreams are equal. It was a physical hug that my brain perceived as a more tactile reality than any dream I’d ever experienced. Sometimes, dreams feel so real that waking from them results in a confusing reconciliation of the conscious world from the dream world.

“Did that just happen?”

“Where am I? What day is it?”

It was the kind of dream where my next reaction was that I needed to talk about it as soon as possible before it was gone; before I couldn’t remember it anymore.

Shouting, “Cyndie!?”

My first perception was that it started with my seeing a photograph of a youngster and older siblings sitting on the railing outside the back door of our Cedar Ridge Road house in Eden Prairie where my family lived in the 1970s. That was a railing that would not have actually supported us in the way depicted in this dreamed photograph.

I strained to clarify whether the kid was me or my little brother. The kid had just been given a fresh haircut and it appeared to be a bizarre customization of a mohawk. The front hairline –multiple steps of a hairline, actually– (how dream-typically unreal) was visible where it had been buzzed like a sheered sheep.

When trying to intensify my observance of the kids’ face, it morphed to defy clarification, so I decided it was my brother since I don’t recall ever getting a haircut like that one.

I looked up from the photo to pass it around to my siblings in the room, hoping someone else would be able to provide clarity and found myself looking into the face of my sister, Linda, who I haven’t seen in real life since she died back in 1997. What a shock!

Reaching out in disbelief, I touched her and found she was actually there and discovering that, embraced her in a bearhug of a hug, crying emotionally over the experience of having her in my arms once again.

In my real life of late, I am not aware of any particular triggers that would have refreshed memories of Linda in my mind, so this visit felt extremely out of the blue.

As amazing as that part of the dream was, it became additionally intriguing with the following.

After that powerful hug, the “dream me” moved into another room to process the experience and in that space, two figures moved past me to walk through a door to outside the house. It was Cyndie’s deceased father, Fred, and a young version of her living brother, Steve.

As he passed by me, I told Fred that I had just experienced being able to physically hug my dead sister, Linda, and he acknowledged my words with something of a knowing smirk as he continued on out the door. In my thoughts, I marveled that he knew exactly what was going on, while I was grappling with the unbelievable amazement I was experiencing.

That hug was a powerful and priceless experience with a loved one who has passed away.

The whole dream was almost too deep for me to decipher. It started in my unconscious and, beyond sharing it here, I am happy to let it continue to simmer and steep in my unconscious for me to absorb with time.

Feeling a lot of love this morning for loved ones who have passed during my lifetime.

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Written by johnwhays

November 21, 2021 at 11:27 am

Outliving Dad

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The reason I easily remember the last time I saw my father alive is that it was my wedding day on September 19, 1981. Forty years ago, October 2nd was a Friday. Just out of college with a degree in education, Cyndie had unexpectedly nabbed a job with the Edina Police Department and I had yet to find employment. That Friday, on our first week home after our honeymoon, she was on a ride-along with a patrol officer.

I was home alone for the first time since we’d been married and the guys at the station found it humorous at first when I needed to contact her in the middle of the shift.

“Is it an emergency?”

“Well, sort of.” I was in a state of shock over having received the news in a phone call from my younger brother. “My dad died.”

Cyndie came home early from that ride-along shift.

Myocardial Infarction. My dad was 62.

On October 2nd, 2021, I am 62, a fact that seems to mean more to my doctor than me when it comes to my ultimate longevity. But I can’t deny a certain level of awareness about reaching this milestone.

I’ve spent the last forty years navigating being married, working a technical career, and raising children without my dad available for advice or guidance. Now I will embark on the rest of my life journey without having had his example of being an old Hays man.

After Cyndie and I returned from honeymooning up in the woods on the North Shore of Lake Superior, with a stop in Hayward for a couple of nights on the way home, we were taking our very first steps navigating life together in an unfamiliar rented duplex on Cedar Avenue near Lake Nokomis in Minneapolis.

A few days into our first week, it occurred to me that I should pay a visit to my parents before my dad took off for his weekend jaunt “to the lake.” The little fishing cottage on the north shore of Lake Mille Lacs was his version of heaven, I think, or simply a place he could go to be away from, well, the rest of what he found depressing at home.

It was Thursday afternoon and Mom said, “You just missed him.” He got a jump ahead of weekend traffic leaving on a Thursday. I would never see my dad again.

The story I was told is that it appeared as if he had pulled the bedcovers back, sat down on the edge of the bed, and fell back, dead.

This was six months after an initial heart attack that he described to me from his hospital bed as being “a pain I would never wish upon my worst enemy.”

That description helped inspire me beyond merely not wanting to be a depressed alcoholic like him, but not wanting to develop that classic beer belly and clog my arteries with an unhealthy diet. My doctor thinks that still might not be enough. He worries about my genes.

Other than having my older brother, Elliott for a sibling reference, I am now in uncharted territory.

I hope you are taking good care of your ticker, E.

Mine is just a little uneasy today over all the remembering. I expect its got plenty of mileage left, though. I work to keep my heart filled with plenty of love, both coming in and going out.

Thanks, Ralph, for everything you have taught me, in life and in your sudden death forty years ago today.

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Written by johnwhays

October 2, 2021 at 6:58 am

Brilliant Day

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The weather yesterday was perfect for a September outdoor event. A lot like the day 40-years ago today when Cyndie and I were married in a garden on the shore of Lake Minnetonka. Blue skies, warm sunshine, and tree leaves turning colors right before our eyes.

I took Delilah for a walk in anticipation of the arrival of Hays family visitors and paused on the first hill of our driveway to enjoy the fresh breeze and take in the panoramic view of the horses peacefully grazing in the hayfield. The beginnings of the rainbow of fall colors are noticeable along the horizon.

Throughout the day of visiting and gorging on delicious food, we took time for walks in the woods and visits with the horses. The herd is growing more welcoming of human presence and they all made very obvious movements to approach us as we arrived near the areas they were grazing.

I had turned off the electric fence for the day to remove that concern while larger numbers of people come around, but that change is a little confusing for the horses. We try to have our greetings happen at one of the gates to give the horses consistency but the spontaneity of yesterday’s connections had us at unusual locations along the fenceline.

At one point, a group of us made our way up to the barn overhang, hoping the horses might follow along, despite them being over the rise on the far side of the hayfield. Initially, only Light decided to make the journey back and she was rewarded with some hand-offered treats.

After a time, Mia came into view as she returned as far as the waterer before deciding to reverse direction and head back out. The two chestnuts looked as though the distance of separation between them and the other two horses was something they preferred to minimize.

Their bond with each other is still stronger than any bond with us humans.

The bond with my family is as strong as ever and we enjoyed catching up on a few details and comparing experiences and perspectives. We share a lot of traits and laughed over how much our lives and behaviors tend to resemble our parents.

After the first couple had departed, we realized our neglect in capturing a group portrait. By the end of the day, we never got around to posing for any specific group pictures. I guess we will need to get together again soon so we can make up for that oversight.

The only picture I took included the spread of scrumptious delights available for human grazing presented on the center island of the kitchen.

Today, we hop from one family gathering to another as this day of Cyndie’s and my wedding anniversary is also the day of Julian’s birth. Cyndie’s mom and brother will be joining us for a brunch date in St. Paul at Holman’s Table in a renovated control tower of St. Paul’s downtown airport to celebrate the occasions.

Happy birthday, Julian!

Happy September 19th, everyone!

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Written by johnwhays

September 19, 2021 at 8:24 am

Dancing Cranes

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Cyndie is home again! She received a wonderful greeting from Delilah, got ignored by Pequenita, adored by me, and most surprising of all, warmly loved by all the horses. She said they were all behaving like the four Arabians we used to have, showing that same desire to receive attention from her.

On Friday morning, she was cleaning the waterer and heard the sound of horses snoring.

We can’t remember the last time we saw them lay down for naps while either of us was around. The serenity didn’t last for long, though.

Two sandhill cranes made an appearance in the hayfield. The trumpeting vibrato trills of sandhill cranes have been reverberating for weeks from a dry creek bed beyond our trees in a neighboring field. Yesterday, they showed up in plain sight and grabbed the attention of the horses.

Cyndie recorded from a vantage point where she could capture both the horses and the two posturing, squawking cranes. Wait for their hopping around toward the end…

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Today, we host a gathering of some of my family. Siblings and kid cousins will be here for a long-overdue get-together.

We will probably remind the horses of the sandhill cranes, but without the dancing.

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Written by johnwhays

September 18, 2021 at 7:00 am

Wild Sky

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The sky was alive with energy last night when I took Delilah out for her evening walk.

It feels like that energy is going every which way.

Delilah’s energy was a little off-kilter when I decided to take her out. Cyndie left yesterday for a trip with her mother to visit Barry and Carlos in Boston and Maine for a week. Cyndie had been gone for under a couple of hours when Delilah started waiting at the door to the garage for her return.

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It’s going to be a long week if she keeps up with this perseveration.

Of course, after about six days, I will be joining her at the door, similarly pining for Cyndie’s eventual return.

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Written by johnwhays

September 9, 2021 at 6:00 am