Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘family

Leaving Us

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It’s Tuesday after Labor Day and plenty of fall activities that haven’t already kicked off will be starting today. Our guests left us yesterday for the next leg of their journey in a vehicle that looked to be packed with everything a college freshman would need to get started.

The Birgens awoke in the morning to the news that the Kenyan Supreme Court has ruled that the candidate, William Ruto, was properly elected President in the 2022 general election. One less thing to be concerned about for them at a time their oldest son is starting a new job and the youngest is starting college.

I find myself thinking about how nice it is to be well beyond the years of taking kids to their first year of college. Feels similar to when I began to appreciate getting past the years when September meant “back to school” during the K-12 phase of our kids’ lives.

The few connotations September holds for me now are the onset of fall colors, Cyndie’s and my anniversary (41 years!), Julian’s birthday, and the start of MN Vikings football –despite my best efforts to stop caring about anything having to do with the modern-day NFL. Nothing about getting prepared for school.

I have already noticed the return of school bus traffic on our road at home twice a day, but the impact from that on my life is negligible.

I tip my hat to all of you who have school-age children starting a new bus and/or classroom experience today.

My time with access to television coverage of the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament is ending today as we leave the lake place and return home.

For some reason –probably related to wanting to witness Serena Williams make one last attempt for a major victory at the end of her illustrious career– I was inspired to watch as many live matches as I could this year. I was lucky to have captured a few dramatic matchups that were really exciting and very competitive.

A couple of them were almost as exciting as the end of the Florida State vs. LSU college football game I stumbled upon Sunday night during a break in the tennis.

It’s probably a good thing we are leaving the lake place and all the cable sports channels I have access to here so I can take a break from spectator sports and get outside and give this gorgeous September weather the proper respect it deserves.

It’s my favorite time of year, right up there with my other favorite, winter!



Written by johnwhays

September 6, 2022 at 6:00 am

Driveway Fun

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On Saturday, Cyndie and I had so much strenuous fun raking gravel up against the edge of our new asphalt that we took yesterday off from doing any heavy labor. Our afternoon was brightened by a visit from Julian who brought over his battery-powered push mower and leaf blower for us to test.

Cyndie has decided a blower is the best way to clean out the large areas of river rock landscaping around our house. I’ve been thinking for a while that a small push mower might be a better tool for mowing around our sloping front yard’s features and might even fit on the labyrinth pathway. One of my hesitancies in adding more power equipment has always been a disdain for small gas engines. I’ve already got three times more than I want to care for so the possibility of switching to electric is enticing.

While we were playing with Julian’s battery-powered equipment, he hopped on his electric one-wheel board and took a few spins on our fresh asphalt.

You would think that the new driveway would give us a break from struggling to maintain a well-tended appearance around this place but I discovered evidence of nature’s tenacious ability to demonstrate dominance over us by way of the first weed sprouting through the pavement.

It didn’t take more than a month. Really?

The electric mower worked well in the labyrinth and finished the job in a third of the time it has been taking us to use the power trimmer. Just a few adjustments of the rocks forming the pathway borders at the 180° turns and the 21″ deck will fit nicely. I think some electric outdoor power equipment is likely in our future.

At least we will be able to keep the labyrinth looking well tended.



Written by johnwhays

August 22, 2022 at 6:00 am

The Dancestronaut

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I would like to introduce you to a video by MKXero, an artist who just released a fabulous electronic dance track, “Gimme That Beat.” If house music is your thing, this song will sound familiar as it triggers your urge to move. For me, the part that grabbed my mesmerized attention was the visual of a space-suited human revealing dance moves never before associated with full-on space attire.

I highly encourage you to keep your eyes on the screen long enough to witness what happens as the wormhole dancing plays out.



If for some reason your curiosity wasn’t spurred to click on that video, let me point out this additional detail: The only reason I know this dance track video exists is that my son, Julian, composed the song, devised the unique nom de plume MKXero, released the track on streaming services, and then used his game development skills and tools to put together this synced music video to go along with it.

Color me proud of such creative artistry and initiative. And a little bit jealous.

Is it possible for me to “inherit” some of the desirable traits my children manifest?

From his Youtube post:

The year is 2034. A wormhole has appeared above Earth. A fearless explorer has ventured into space to investigate. As he passes through the wormhole, the beats begin… The explorer finds himself helplessly trapped in the gravitational pull of a nearby star. As he is pulled to his untimely demise, he does what any rational human would do. He shakes, shuffles, and dances his heart out. Back on Earth he has been dubbed: The Dancestronaut

I wish I’d thought of that.



Written by johnwhays

August 20, 2022 at 9:57 am

Mostly Cloudy

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Some days are so low-key that the excitement of solving the Wordle puzzle is one of the noteworthy highlights. Actually, amazing life events sometimes play out unexpectedly in the midst of an otherwise bucolic ambiance of a quiet cloudy day at the lake. There are only three of us occupying the big log house this weekend. With the cool temperature and cloudy sky doing a lot to set the tone, we didn’t have any lofty ambitions about pursuing laudable accomplishments.

Midmorning we received a precious invitation to join with other Wildwood families for a gathering of the Whitlock family next door. They were doing a memorial spreading of ashes for their patriarch, Bill, a founding member of the Wildwood Lodge Club. Afterward, families represented gathered on the Whitlock deck to catch up and share memories.

It was the kind of visit that could have gone on forever except they had a dinner plan. We three returned to our place for dinner and a mix of tv dramas in front of a fire.

Some sunshine would have definitely painted the day with a greater urge to be out but the surprise opportunity to commune with people we dearly love was a bonus that truly blessed an otherwise understated day.



Written by johnwhays

August 14, 2022 at 10:20 am

Staying Longer

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There was a lot of energy this weekend among a large number of visiting guests who happened to be between the ages of newborn to 14. Suddenly, by late afternoon yesterday, everyone had left to return to their homes. It was Sunday night and Cyndie and I didn’t need to go anywhere. The immediate surroundings suddenly took on an entirely different ambiance with the change from squeals and giggles to nothing but ripples on the lake murmuring against the shoreline and the buzzy fluttering of hummingbirds outside the deck door.

As glorious as it is to experience the community of families that are Wildwood, it is a priceless privilege to know the serenity of this place when we are able to be here alone in the unrivaled north woods environment.

We only stayed one night longer than everyone else. This morning we will drive home to spend a few days at our other paradise.

Counting our blessings all the way.



Written by johnwhays

July 25, 2022 at 6:00 am

Wonderful Time

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We are having a wonderful time at the lake with family. Wish you were here.

That’s Elysa’s dog, Diesel chillin’ on the couch with me while I read the digital version of the StarTribune newspaper. The rest of the day consisted of waiting out a rain shower playing a card game; doing a little more tending of the mini-labyrinth pathways; building a jigsaw puzzle while waiting out the second rain shower; catching a couple episodes of Ted Lasso to expose the show to more family members; squeezing in an hour-long bike ride around the lake; enjoying grilled burgers for dinner; ending the day with more card games that included the entire household.

It’s been good to have a break from full-time animal caretaking at home but we miss them and frequently find ourselves wondering how the new sitter is getting along with all the challenges.

I’m not sure that I am fully absorbing the depth of pleasure we are experiencing in not being constantly responsible for walking Delilah or feeding and cleaning up after all the animals at home.

Being up at the lake with family really is a wonderful time, for multiple reasons.



Written by johnwhays

May 30, 2022 at 6:00 am

Started Wet

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The big workday of the weekend appeared to be a washout when we woke up yesterday but the winter’s accumulation of leaves on the beach was surprisingly manageable soon after the precipitation stopped. I spent the morning trying to reclaim our mini-labyrinth in the woods from the thick growth of ground covering wild plants.

That work actually started with a need to cut up a big limb that had fallen across several lanes of the pathway. Then my focus shifted to the ferns, trillium, ramps (a wild leek), and tree sprouts that needed to be removed. I made it about halfway before I needed to join the worker bees who showed up to tend to the beach.

By this morning, all that was left to do down at the lake was a little prescribed burn between the beach and boat docks. Having waited to start yesterday’s work until the rain was done, it was almost time for dinner when we finished raking out the sand.

Today is just the opposite in terms of weather as the morning has been dry thus far but there is a mass of precipitation heading our way. I keep getting warnings on my phone about lightning in the vicinity of Wintervale. That weather will reach Hayward a couple hours later.

We are going to wait for the rain to pass before heading out to finish pulling wild growth from the path of our forest labyrinth. The moisture will make the job easier in terms of the pulling plants but decidedly messier in terms of the footing.

There might be a card game with family relations materializing to fill the indoor portion of our day.

It feels a lot like a holiday weekend at the lake. Oh, did I forget to mention the fabulous meals we have been indulging in, both breakfasts and dinners? Yeah, that kind of family time at the lake.

Experience dictates, wet starts don’t automatically spoil the rest of a day’s activities..


Written by johnwhays

May 29, 2022 at 10:15 am

Multiple Moves

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For what seems like months, Cyndie has been working on a plan to choreograph a furniture swap between three generations of her family. With her mom’s home sold, there was going to be excess furniture left behind that was available for distribution. Like a scene right out of a movie, family members started putting notes on items they wanted.

Over time, small items were moved by personal cars but there were enough large items remaining that professional movers were called in. However, this would be no simple move. Furnishings Cyndie wanted would replace items we already had, so those needed to find new homes.

Same thing for our daughter, Elysa. She needed to jettison items to make room in her house for selected items. At Cyndie’s mom’s house, everything was going, but not to just one location. A portion went to Elysa and a portion to our place.

That meant the truck started at our house, loading items that would go to Elysa or be donated. Next, to St. Paul to deliver a few of our items for Elysa’s house, and after that, the balance to Bridging, an organization that receives donated furniture to distribute to local families in need.

Cyndie and I followed along to direct the action. After Bridging, the truck headed to Cyndie’s mom’s old house in Edina to load up for return trips to Elysa’s house and finally, back to ours. Beds, dressers, desks, tables, chairs, rugs, a gas grill, and a patio table with chairs.

At each stop, the items needed to be loaded in the proper order to facilitate unloading at the subsequent destinations. It was a bit of a circus but the guys understood the drill and Cyndie had prepared all parties well for each step so it was a nicely orchestrated circus.

Even though plenty of measuring was done in advance, there are always some adjustments to consider when given the opportunity to see things for real. The room dimensions in our house are just enough smaller that we are going to move a couple pieces around in search of a more balanced and fully functional layout.

The movers were extremely helpful in freeing us from any heavy lifting. I needed to rely on them entirely because my usual moving partner is using a cane to get around and can’t do any heaving lifting for a few more weeks.

Cyndie continues to wow the physical therapist with her progress. I’m happy that she is remembering to also balance all the walking with a reasonable amount of rest and icing of that new knee.

It really was a flawless day of multiple moves, right up until the last stop at our house. The driver immediately let Cyndie know that he was very sorry for a little slip up he had navigating the driveway. I knew it was probably bad when I saw how much mud was on the truck’s tires.

Delilah and I checked it out on our way to the end of the driveway with the trash and recycle bins.

Yeah, that’s gonna leave a mark. The ground is still a little soft.



Written by johnwhays

May 6, 2022 at 6:00 am

Early Progress

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Yesterday turned out to be a day of multiple small steps of progress with early spring goals. Cyndie and I started the day with a trip to St. Paul to help Elysa with a few house maintenance projects. I’m feeling chuffed for my vinyl siding fixes because I have absolutely zero experience in that area.

If the fixes survive the wild weather predicted for tonight, I will be even more proud of our accomplishments. Our favorite local meteorologist, Paul Huttner paints a pretty dramatic word picture of the potential for hazardous weather this evening in his Updraft weather blog.

Back home for the afternoon, we successfully dug out two portions of the main mass of tall grass and transplanted them to two different spots on our property. I had anticipated the separation to be much more of a struggle than we ultimately experienced. We will be thrilled if the transplanted pieces survive and thrive in their new locations.

I’m guessing it might have been a little too early to attempt this digging because the ground was still frozen under the base of the rootball.

We’ve had two days without precipitation and just enough warm sunshine that I was wooed into thinking we were farther along than we really are.

After that little transplanting task was complete, Cyndie returned to putting up barriers around the strawberry patch and I worked on rejuvenating the contents of our kitchen compost bin nearby. We let it sit dormant throughout the winter months.

We are beginning to see green sprouts peeking up out of the carpet of dead leaves. It is an incredible testament to the miracle of growing plants that progress is underway before it even seems possible.

In a flash of reverse thinking, I sarcastically suggested to Cyndie that we frame our tall grass transplant project as an attempt to get the new plantings to not grow since plants we don’t want (weeds and invasives)re seem to thrive. Wanting something favorable to grow and be healthy has produced more failures than successes so I figure a little reverse psychology might protect us from the usual outcomes.

I don’t want to get overconfident, but if these two grass transplants work for us, I have hopes of doing this on a much more regular basis. In fact, we might even think about dividing them every 2-3 years like recommendations suggest for ornamental tall grasses.

When everything seemed done for the day, I found Cyndie in the kitchen making strawberry jam from the final batch of last year’s frozen berries. I guess seeing her strawberry plants already showing signs of life when she was putting up the fencing around them spurred her into action.

We’ll have new red, ripe berries in the garden before you can say, “How did July get here so fast?”



Small Banquet

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Once again, the phrase “dined like royalty” comes to my mind to describe the homemade feast Cyndie served yesterday for a visit from our son, his wife, and their friends. Beyond her classic culinary artwork of two varieties of scones, Cyndie tried her hand at making hummus out of peas and baking naan bread for the first time.

The main dish of curry chicken and roasted vegetables was followed by her version of a turtle cake from a copied recipe of St. Paul’s Cafe Latte.

As often happens, there was so much delicious food consumed, there was little room for dessert. That’s no problem for Cyndie. She had “to go” containers available so slices of the chocolate caramel decadence were sent home to be enjoyed later.

We were blessed with an afternoon of warm sunshine that felt even nicer than the actual temperature, especially compared to our recent extended spell of rainy, snowy days.

The horses had been brushed earlier in the morning but were perfectly covered in mud by the time we all showed up to visit after a stroll in the labyrinth. While Mix showed interest in checking out the new guests, the other three paid little notice, choosing instead to linger in the altered state of almost sleeping, but not really.

The day was a wonderful celebration of sharing the wonders of Wintervale while we are mired in the muddy conditions of early spring.



Written by johnwhays

April 10, 2022 at 10:19 am