Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘family

Fitting Feasts

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Despite the peculiar Thanksgiving “ungathering” in the U.S. yesterday, brought on by the miserably timed (like there would ever be a good time) runaway community spreading of COVID-19, I am personally aware of many feasts that were had by individual households anyway.

I unwittingly broke a loose promise made to my mother a lifetime ago by not eating our Thanksgiving dinner at the old family table. We were gifted with rights to the table when we bought our first house, with the requirement that we host Thanksgiving on it for years after. Yesterday, since there were just the two of us, Cyndie and I chose to dine at the coffee table in front of the fireplace instead.

Cyndie performed her usual heroics in the kitchen and prepared a turkey with classic side dishes that could have fed a houseful. Luckily, she had baked most of the extras the day before so she could distribute portions to her mom and our kids in advance for a modified version of sharing the holiday feast together. Cyndie did her own custom door dash delivery to each of them.

In true 2020 pandemic fashion, the Friswold clan logged in for a video conference from each of our homes for the chance to see faces and hear voices on a day when we would normally have been together. The typical hijinks ensued.

“You’re muted still!”

“Turn on your video.”

[waving hello]

[all talking at once]

[followed by awkward silence]

Ah, but there is nothing like actually hearing the voices of our loved ones. Priceless.

As Cyndie and I got a few bites into our plates of Thanksgiving goodness, after voicing adoration for each of the fabulous flavors, I turned to her and asked, “Are we supposed to start arguing over politics now?”

Mostly, we just cooed over the fire in the fireplace, the exceptional quality of our holiday feast, and how good we have it despite the national crises simmering all around our country.

Much thankfulness ensued.

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Written by johnwhays

November 27, 2020 at 7:00 am

Tuesday Before

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‘Twas the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and all through the house

all the creatures were stirring because they knew something weird was up!

No one is coming and we’re going to stay home

the pandemic is raging so we’ll feast all alone.

A pandemic Thanksgiving is a very strange thing. It does feel like a holiday week, except for the part where it doesn’t feel like a holiday at all. So far, our family has been lucky. Every time I have started to think I might be getting sick, it turned out to be a false alarm. To the best of my knowledge, neither of Cyndie’s nor my family members have needed to be hospitalized.

The reports getting more and more exposure on the news from doctors and nurses who are burdened with caring for the rapidly growing number of patients who need intensive care are heartbreaking. I can imagine how frustrating it must be to head home from a long shift of being over-worked and driving past locations where people can be seen gathering together and/or not wearing masks in behavior that comes across as disrespectful of the perils and subsequent burdens that fall squarely on the front line healthcare workers.

There is such a disconnect among people with varying levels of concern.

One nurse said they have to eat like snakes. With no time to take breaks, they grab food when they can and swallow it in one bite so they can get back to tending to someone struggling to breathe.

Meanwhile, retail industries are advertising holiday sales like nothing is amiss, hoping to avoid financial collapse of their own businesses by propping up a facade that everything is just fine. Keep shopping!

Just don’t hoard paper products or cleaning supplies.

Who would have guessed that toilet paper would become a treasured stocking stuffer for Christmas?

I’m still commuting to the day job, where stress is high, but looking forward to staying away from people for the coming long weekend. Cyndie has stocked our shelves with ingredients to entertain us both with her culinary arts.

The entertainment of watching spectator sports played in empty stadiums hasn’t hooked me as a desired distraction so I expect I will lose myself in more books and movies or take some deep dives in my music library this weekend.

Think of all the gas we are saving by staying home.

Let’s all offer a toast to the doctors and nurses who are working harder than ever in conditions that are riskier than ever this Thanksgiving.

Maintain safe social distances in their honor and remember to give thanks for every blessing that can still be found, even in an otherwise difficult year.

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Written by johnwhays

November 24, 2020 at 7:00 am

Flashing Back

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I was looking for an image last night and found myself exploring a folder of photos from five years ago this month. Brings back memories.

My, those horses kept that pasture well-manicured.

It is interesting how we adjust our lives to the changing circumstances swirling around us in each given moment or situation. I’ve already forgotten the daily routine of caring for our horses. It’s been 20 months since we returned them to their previous home and herds. They are dearly missed, but I certainly appreciated the freedom from managing concerns about hay and wild weather and daily manure scooping under the overhang.

We still nurture dreams of finding a way to make our pastures available to nearby rescue organizations during summer months in the future.

There is a big void here without the presence of horse energy vibrations.

Now we allow the chickens a greater amount of our attention and this year of 2020, with its protests, pandemics, and politics, combined with the final months of Cyndie’s dad’s life, have commanded a bulk of our limited mental resources.

It’s invigorating to think back to better times and remember how different life was only a half-decade ago.

With the pandemic spreading unchecked we are in for a strange couple of holidays this season. Home alone is taking on a whole new meaning.

I think I’ll be diving into multiple flashbacks of Thanksgivings and Christmases throughout my life in order to distract from how odd this year has turned out.

Do you wonder if all the U.S. Thanksgiving Day Zoom gatherings will bog down the internet next week? If ever there was a time to have “smell-o-vision” built into the app, the aroma of the turkey feasts wafting from kitchens around the country would be a particularly valuable addition to the virtual family visits.

Trust me, if I could share the incredible smells when Cyndie bakes my mom’s sweet bread bun recipe (Gramma Betty’s Buns), I certainly would. It’s too much for one man to consume. I’ll be on aroma overload.

Come to think of it, that just might be a way to overwhelm the coronavirus. I need to contact the vaccine research people and let ’em know I may have stumbled on to a solution that doesn’t require insanely cold freezers during distribution and storage.

With Cyndie’s tendency to bake enough for millions, we could be looking at a way out of this “stay at home” protocol much sooner than currently predicted. Although, one side effect to note, I think I gain weight by simply breathing in the scrumptious smell of these fresh-baked morsels of goodness.

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Written by johnwhays

November 19, 2020 at 7:00 am

Dream Visit

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It’s a mystery to me, one which I believe equally that either of two possibilities could be true. When a deceased person makes an appearance in my dreams while I am sleeping, is it because my mind conjured up the occurrence or because the spiritual nature of the passed soul placed themselves into the perceptions going on in my mind?

On Wednesday night, or actually, in the wee early hours of Thursday morning, I was having a series of fantastical dreams. At one point, I found myself seated in a booth common to many eateries, with Cyndie beside me and her mother across from me, and then Cyndie’s dad, Fred, showed up, sitting on the corner opposite from me.

It is the first time I have dreamed of Fred since he died in June.

I was shocked to see him, and incredibly thrilled. He seemed to acknowledge my reactions, flashing an impish grin as I scanned Cyndie and her mom who remained oblivious. I was so moved with his presence, the rush of emotions made me want to cry.

It being a dream, and my body essentially paralyzed, I couldn’t get myself to act on the urge.

My question lingers; did my mind choose to create this scenario of Fred’s spirit appearing in my dream or did his supernatural essence actually show up to connect with me?

Either way, it brought me a lot of joy in the moment, joy that lasted all day long and expanded each time I described it to people.

Of course, the best was when I had a chance to tell Cyndie about it.

While he was seated, he took a swig from what appeared to be a beer bottle. He looked really happy to me. The thought occurred to me that he could probably have a beer if he wanted in his afterlife. Fred had been sober about as long as Cyndie and I have been married. He drank a lot of non-alcoholic beers, but I don’t recall him ever looking as happy about it as he looked when tipping that bottle in my dream.

Did my brain conjure all that up? Maybe. Since I don’t really know, I’m happy just relishing the great feeling the dream provided.

It did nudge up the emotions of missing him a bit more than before, but the fun of seeing him again, and his looking so perfectly happy and mischievous was worth it.

Missing Fred is something that a lot of us are adjusting to and will linger long. If we could meet him in our dreams at will, I suspect it would happen more often than it does.

Maybe that lends a little credence to the possibility that appearances of lost loved ones in our dreams is more their doing than our own.

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Written by johnwhays

October 23, 2020 at 6:00 am

Energy Flow

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The intensity of the tug and pull of emotions lately is more drastic because it reflects dramatic extremes playing out, one on top of another. We don’t have time to comprehend the full depth of one calamity before the next arrives to take its place. But with no time between, the issues tend to compound which begins to tip the balance of our energy scales.

I have felt my own energy swaying dramatically from high to low lately, in light of the climate disasters complicating the challenges of coping with the ongoing virus pandemic at a time when repeated white-on-black police violence has brought systemic racism to higher visibility just as the election season revs up the intensity of one-sided fact manipulating.

At the same time, family birthdays and anniversary opportunities have been augmented with measured time among friends, bringing great joy and fulfilling peacefulness.

The glint of familiar eyes; stories of ingenious pandemic-coping accomplishments by strangers who join forces to help others; a slice of incredible lemon meringue pie, served outside after a backyard meal; a playful family cat chasing in circles after a soon-to-be-favorite new toy.

There are always features of good and bad mingling in our everyday lives but not usually with such depth of emotion as we are seeing today. It can become exhausting.

It is more important than ever that we pay attention to that exhaustive impact and put in whatever effort is needed to compensate.

We need to give ourselves permission to not feel our best every minute of every day. Claim some time of your own where you can shut out all news and focus exclusively on yourself and immediate surroundings. Bring some balance back to your energy for coping with the swings in every direction. Refill your own tank by finding a way to give to someone in greater need.

I’ve been thinking about some of the negative news and views of powerful people lately and this occurred to me: Have they not seen “A Christmas Carol? Isn’t it a given by now that selfish and abusive behavior is on the wrong side of all that is right and good?

Where are all our ghosts of past, present, and future when we need them?

There are far too many people in power who need to receive a visit to rebalance their senses of what it is to become one’s best self.

It’s a good day to go find a slice of your favorite pie.

Balance your energy flow!

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Written by johnwhays

September 20, 2020 at 10:36 am

Cake Mistake

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Missing ingredient? She swears not. Wrong ingredient? Confident there wasn’t. Overfilled pans? Can’t say it wasn’t, but both to this bizarre degree? Hard to pin down.

Cyndie tried an unfamiliar recipe to bake a vanilla cake for Julian’s birthday. Since it was an untested recipe, she decided to conform strictly to the directions, a somewhat uncommon mode for her.

It didn’t take long to suspect something was amiss.

The batter was boiling over in the oven. Both the six little bunt shapes and the square pyrex pan.

There was nothing very cake-like at all in this failed birthday bake-xtravaganza.

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Old ingredients? Nope, she said.

Baking powder or soda? Both included.

Did you mix up the amounts? No.

I want her to try again to see what happens. She has no interest in going near that recipe ever again.

After a quick visit to the grocery store for more supplies, Cyndie went for a layer cake.

It didn’t boil over.

Happy Birthday, Julian!

(And Happy 39th Anniversary, John and Cyndie! It’s a gorgeous blue-sky September day today, just like that day in the garden was on the shores of Lake Minnetonka.)

I don’t remember the weather 32 years ago, because we were indoors in a hospital room. I do remember driving 2-year-old Elysa to the hospital to see Momma and meet her new younger brother.

September 19 is a special day for our family.

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This year, we celebrate it with a tinge of sorrow in the shadow of yesterday’s passing of Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Here’s hoping she will still be guiding us all from her continued heavenly perspective.

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Written by johnwhays

September 19, 2020 at 9:47 am

Red Leaves

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On my drive home from work yesterday, I accidentally allowed myself to hear news on the radio as it blathered nothing but bad vibes, one after another. It knocked me for a loop that needs an antidote of something hopeful or some promise that better days for all might lie ahead. I can only assume that promise remains somewhere beyond the horizon because it’s not visible to me yet.

I am lucky, though. Home is a sanctuary with Cyndie and our animals happy to greet me when I arrive and the scenery around our house offering a soothing view.

Check out the maple tree leaves turning red over Cyndie’s gardens.

It’s an early adopter.

Surrounded by love in our paradise, I was able to leave the gloomy news behind for the time being.

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Written by johnwhays

September 18, 2020 at 6:00 am

Puppy Love

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While communing with Cyndie’s family over the weekend, I learned of a wonderful photo captured by one of my fellow Friswold in-laws, Sara (married to Cyndie’s youngest brother, Ben). They are the only other Friswold family with multiple pets in the house. In addition to their three kids, there are two cats roaming the house, (and multiple amphibians and reptiles in a bedroom), and two dogs. Mocha is a 3-year-old mix they got from the Humane Society and Hazel is a 4-and-a-half-month-old rescue puppy.

Given that variety of kid and animal energy, it is easy to imagine the perpetual hum of commotion from ongoing activity constantly underway in the background of their everyday lives. In that setting, it is any sudden absence of activity that causes a person to take notice.

Sara reports just that scenario one day while she was occupied at her computer. She noticed it had gotten quiet and turned around in her chair to glance in the direction of the dogs. This is what she saw:

Puppy Hazel had her paws on Mocha’s chest and they were gazing at each other, nose to nose.

Sara quickly, but subtly, reached for her phone and captured the moment over her shoulder in the split second before it was over and Hazel moved on to other pursuits.

I asked how it might have transpired and Sara said it is not unusual for Mocha to sit upright in that spot and hang a front “arm” over the chair to look out the window. It is assumed that Hazel just took advantage of the position to stage an impromptu up close and personal puppy style greeting.

Everyone who has seen the image has enjoyed it so much, myself included, that I asked if I could share it with my readers, too. Let’s amplify and spread the puppy-love joy it brings.

It’s better than the “chew on everything in sight” puppy energy that is more the norm.

Congratulations, Sara, for the deft achievement of capturing this image in the moment’s notice!

It’s a winner of a photo. Thank you for letting me feature it and your pooch smooches.

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Written by johnwhays

September 15, 2020 at 6:00 am

Final Rest

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Under the wearisome pall of constraints in place due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, Cyndie’s family orchestrated a laudable graveside service for a small number of family and friends to say final goodbyes to her dad, Fred Friswold, under a mostly cloudy but otherwise dry Saturday. Masks were required and reasonable social distancing requested for the limited 30-minute window of time allowed by Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis.

We were instructed to arrive at a precise time and remain in our cars until ushered in a parade of vehicles to the gravesite.

The Friswolds have a family plot where Cyndie’s grandparents, her aunt, and her sister have now been joined by her father’s ashes.

In an unfortunate but inconsequential oversight, the canopy ordered to protect from possible rain was missing. The threat of precipitation waned as the appointed hour drew near and by the time we stood as a scattered group to hear various readings and prayers, there were a couple of brief openings in the clouds that revealed blue sky and bathed us in sunshine.

A flock of wild turkeys idly wandered past as if we weren’t there.

Masks served to catch many tears.

From the cemetery, we all drove to the University of Minnesota where the staff of the McNamara Alumni Center –the building Fred and two alumni buddies were instrumental in shepherding to existence– provided a pandemic-constrained space for a meal and program.

It was a day for which I’m confident Fred would approve, partially because only a fraction of the people who would have gushed over his greatness were able to be present so to do.

He touched a lot of people’s lives and impacted exponentially more who never knew him.

I appreciated hearing three different perspectives from people in his world of financial guidance to the YMCA and U of M, as they revealed to me how little first-hand exposure I had to anything but his home and family life.

Fred died in June from a cancer diagnosed the previous December which only compounded preexisting heart and lung ailments. He was clear-minded and fully aware right to the end. In the months since he died, the new reality of his being gone from us was settling in. Yesterday’s events have served to punctuate anew the depths of how much he is missed.

It’s a shame the end of life celebrations are so difficult to hold during a pandemic.

Cyndie’s family did a fine job of achieving all they possibly could under the circumstances.

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Written by johnwhays

September 13, 2020 at 9:06 am

Holding Out

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Turns out, our adult Golden Laced Wyandotte layer hen has been holding out on us. Yesterday, Cyndie’s mom, Marie, along with Sara and Althea, stopped by to see the new chicks on their way home from the lake place. While they were here, the group took a stroll to find the three adult hens free-ranging away on the property.

When they heard the Wyandotte cooing in a thicket of growth, closer inspection revealed she was sitting on a batch of seven eggs!

Why that little stinker.

When I got home and Cyndie shared some pictures of the scene with me, the thing that stood out more than the eggs was the appearance of poison ivy leaves around the spot.

That chicken really doesn’t seem to want us to take her eggs.

For that matter, I suddenly have very little interest in handling that hen! Her feathers are probably covered in poison ivy oils. I start to feel phantom itches all over just thinking about it, and I didn’t even touch any of the hens or eggs yesterday.

I touched a lot of cute little “henlets,” though.

Whose idea was it to allow our chickens to free-range around here, anyway? A fenced run off the coop would be a lot simpler than all the risks due to predators and the hens’ creativity with laying locations.

Speaking of predators, I believe there is now one less fox we need to worry about. Yesterday morning, just as I turned off our street on the way to work at the crack of dawn, I saw a roadkill fox in the oncoming lane.

I’m a little surprised no other marauders discovered the pile of eggs free for the taking from the ground in the last week. Maybe that bodes well for the chances of continued good luck for the last three surviving hens from our 2018 batch.

If it weren’t for the occasional random incursions of passing bands of coyotes, our regular number of free-ranging adults might increase from the usual three that we always end up with toward the end of their productive egg-laying years.

When we were in this same situation two years ago, with 3 adults and a new brood of twelve young-uns that we expected would need merging together, the adults all got taken by a fox over a series of a few days. Sad as that was, it saved us the hassle of introducing the different aged birds to each other.

This time, I may need to actually follow through on a plan to remodel the inside of the coop to add a barrier that will provide shared-but-segregated accommodations for some period of introduction.

We never run out of new things to learn around here. Particularly, how to outsmart a hen that decides she’s too good for the silly nest boxes in the coop for laying her precious eggs.

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