Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘family

Different Tracks

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Our grass is growing fast and the ground is saturated from recent rains so I decided to use the power trimmer to mow areas with standing water to avoid creating muddy tire tracks. While focused on the grass in front of me, I was oblivious to what was happening behind me.

As I shuffled along at a slow pace, I was leaving muddy tracks behind me. Ha ha! Oh well.

I trimmed along the paddock fence from the outside and then stepped inside to clean up around the overhang. With no horses grazing the paddocks, the grass in there is growing pretty tall.

It feels very satisfying to transform the place from looking abandoned to freshly trimmed. It’s only partially abandoned.

This morning we are abandoning the property for a few hours to attend a socially distanced graduation ceremony for Cyndie’s niece, Althea, on her family’s driveway in Edina.

I appreciate the attempt to accomplish some traditions amid the upside-down turmoil of a global pandemic and civil unrest.

In the middle of my afternoon of mowing yesterday, I claimed a block of time to watch coverage of the launch of the manned Dragon capsule as it happened. In the evening, I watched the news broadcasts of police and national guard soldiers arresting violators of the curfew put in place to quell the looting and riots that have unfolded amid the protesters who are fed up with police abuse and unchecked murder of black citizens.

Remember when kneeling during the national anthem was the attempt to express protest over police misconduct?

While I am making different tracks in our wet areas, protesters are seeing a need to use different tactics to bring a change in the unacceptable status quo of equality being professed but not enacted.

We shall overcome, someday.



Written by johnwhays

May 31, 2020 at 8:00 am

Mamma Returns

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One explanation I have heard for a dog’s overzealous greetings when their masters return from time away is that the absence was interpreted as a death. I believe that theory was based on an interpretation of wolf pack behavior. When a wolf disappeared from the pack, it was generally due to death. The survivors don’t expect to ever see that missing member again.

If that missing wolf does reappear, it’s a miracle! No wonder they would get excited.

As far as Delilah was concerned last night, the mamma who has doted on her for most of her life returned from the dead.

I was careful not to utter the highly recognizable sound of “mamma” to our dog until I saw Cyndie’s car coming up the driveway. I made that mistake one other time when Cyndie wasn’t going to be home for days and Delilah walked over toward the door to the garage and stared at it for so long I began to feel awful.

There was a blur of spinning and some squeaky sounds and a whole lotta love.

“She’s alive!”

My resourceful wife beat me to the punch and ordered her own favorite Gina Maria’s pizza on her drive home from the airport, and since it wasn’t ready when she arrived, took advantage of that time to go grocery shopping.

Gone for over a month, and she walks in the door with dinner and groceries.

Sheltering at home just got a lot less lonely for me.

Welcome home, Cyndie. Welcome home.



Written by johnwhays

April 16, 2020 at 6:00 am

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Long Haul

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One-hundred years ago today the woman who became my mother was born. Elizabeth Jean Elliott grew up during the Great Depression and as an adult served in the US Naval Reserve WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) during World War II. She raised six kids. She knew about the long haul.

I wonder what she would think today about the way people are responding to the current coronavirus pandemic.

It’s hard to grasp where we are on the curve of the immanently approaching viral outbreak, both in terms of the risk to lives and the fragility of people’s financial well-being.

There have been comparisons to both the Depression and WWII. While some talking heads are trying to convince the citizens that we’ll get over this in a matter of weeks, health experts are struggling to prepare people’s mindset for disruptions that could last months.

Obviously, in the attempt to avoid the sharp exponential rise in cases that would overwhelm our healthcare resources, officials are trying to accomplish restrictions that will flatten that curve to a level the hospital workers and facilities can support. If that wise goal is achieved, the flatter curve becomes a wider curve, meaning a longer duration.

This past week has been a mind-numbing jumble of stressful routine disruptions that felt like it lasted twice that duration. If one week of having our lives drastically upended was this exhausting, how are we going to deal with months more like it?

Mom would know.

I’m pretty sure she was one to practice the philosophy of taking things one day at a time. She had a way of presenting a mental preparedness for the worst possible outcome while maintaining a hope that it might end up being better than that.

It’s a philosophy I am trying to apply to the oncoming mud season. Our snow is gone except for a couple small remnants of piles that were created when I plowed the driveway. Actually, I’ll miss those when they’ve completely disappeared because they happen to be a great place to clean the mud from my boots before going back into the house.

Our front entry is a cruddy disaster between dirty boots and muddy paws umpteen times a day. (I’m pretty sure I picked up “umpteen” from Mom.)

The trails in the woods are teetering on being unusable where the mud is so ferocious it threatens to keep a boot that steps into it. Yesterday afternoon and evening we received enough rain to take things to level-two messy.

I fear the month of April is going to be a long haul in more ways than one.

Stay home and space out.



Written by johnwhays

March 26, 2020 at 6:00 am

Discovering WikiTree

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At the risk of posting too many times lately about genealogy stuff, I feel compelled to advertise my latest discovery of an online tool for chronicling family ancestry. Frustrated over the number of times I get stumped by a paywall between my eager eyes and the precise bit of data I’m seeking, I started looking for alternatives.

That search led me to WikiTree where I discovered I could create a profile for free and begin contributing my records to the collaborative single tree of the entire human family.

My energy has previously been put into, where I can often see glimpses of other people’s trees who have records similar or equal to people in my tree. Sometimes, it’s helpful, but often it leads to confusion.

It makes so much sense to me to be working on one big tree with all other genealogists to establish well-sourced single entries for each human of every branch.

I have barely begun to grasp the details of Wiki-level record keeping and proper source formatting, so my participation is no deeper than the creation of my initial profile at this point, but I’m inspired about the opportunity to learn the ropes and begin using my puzzling passion to cross “t”s and dot “i”s in keeping records complete, accurate, and unique.

Using to explore my Pierce County, WI relatives recently, I stumbled upon a photo of someone’s family details that had been published long ago in a book. It included a paragraph about a husband and wife from my family tree with so much valuable information that I claimed it all to fill out details in my records, including their marriage in 1838.

A few days later, I came upon a source that provided a scanned image of the original hand-written marriage record for that same couple. Much to my relief, it revealed the correct date to be 1848. Ten years is a significant amount of time when going from a child to an adult with respect to marriage.

Not having the authority to alter that erroneous record, I decided to add notes on the records for my ancestors to inform anyone who might visit my tree during their research.

If we were all working on the same tree, one fix would correct it for all.

I’m looking forward to getting my clan officially entered into the WikiTree records for the world family tree.



Written by johnwhays

February 20, 2020 at 7:00 am

Fly South

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Cyndie made plans to spend a couple of weeks with her parents in Florida long before the details of the latest snowstorm had materialized and didn’t guess that her planned departure would be timed smack dab in the worst of the wind and snow. Luckily, the impending weather allowed for a no-charge rescheduling and she nabbed a seat a day earlier, right as the heavy weather was beginning.

That just meant a little delay while the ground crews worked frantically to plow runways and de-ice planes. Not unsettling at all for wary travelers, I’m sure.









Cyndie is a seasoned airline passenger and has been through this routine multiple times, so I’m sure she was able to take it in stride. I can’t honestly attest to her level of confidence because I was not there. No, I am not in Florida today, unlike her and our two adult children visiting their grandparents over the MLK holiday weekend.

More power to them.

While they were enjoying the bocce courts under beautiful blue skies, I had a day filled with a fair amount of folly. I had hoped to swiftly plow, shovel, and rake snow off the roof so I could also entertain the pooch who was otherwise woefully neglected in the warm confines of the house. When I left her tethered outside with me where she could watch, Delilah just sat forlornly.

If I have to ignore her while I work, I decided she might as well be inside where I don’t have to witness her sad face every time I pass.

When I started up the ATV for plowing, I discovered one of the front tires had an audible air leak. It was spitting out some of the green sealer that had been an earlier attempt to solve the problem. All that did was delay the inevitable, it seems. Short of a quick fix to remedy the situation properly, I opted for frequent returns to the shop garage for added air from the compressor.

Worked well enough to get the main driveway open for travel. I would come back later to plow around the barn and hay shed.

After walking Delilah and eating lunch, I raked the valley of the roof over the front door and then unburied the steps. By leaving the rest of the roof for today, my hope was to quickly finish plowing before needing to tend to Delilah’s dinner.

Then the cable that lifts the plow broke in the middle of pushing a deep pile of snow at the edge of the driveway turnoff that drops toward the barn.

The hour before the dog’s dinner was spent rigging a way to lift the blade so I could drive back to the garage so I could work on reattaching the hook to the next section of cable. That’s a project that needs three hands, so with my two cold hands (and one bloody finger) I dragged it out long enough that dinner ended up being late.

Yes, I was thinking about my family who all just flew south.



Big Think

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I’m not sure about the trick of living in the moment while trying to make big decisions that have the potential of dramatically changing the rest of my life, but that is the reality that simmers beneath my every minute lately. As Cyndie slips ever deeper into focusing her time on caring for her parents, decisions being contemplated have the potential of defining whether we will stay on this property or go.

There is a challenging balance in a committed relationship of cultivating what we want together as a couple while also honoring each of our individual desires. That would be made a little easier if we both definitively knew what it was we wanted the rest of our functional years to look like.

I had no idea that our empty-nest years would lead to the gorgeous property we found that became our Wintervale. The seed for this dream originated from a supernatural meld of both Cyndie’s and my interests and experiences, but I would not have arrived at this point without her energy driving most of the outcomes.

That same inclination has me leaning toward following her lead again as her focus has changed, despite my heart increasingly being gripped by the sanctuary of the forests and fields, and beautiful log home where we’ve been living for the last seven years. If I could figure out a way to afford it, I’d stay here even if she moved in with her parents –sighting the year we lived apart when she moved to Boston as a case study precedent– but that might be at odds with achieving our best long-term joint effort.

Neither of us knows how well our health will hold out, how climate catastrophes will impact the coming years, whether our meager retirement accounts will protect us from the next recession, or what future life events will demand our attention, but those unknowns are all lumped into our thinking as we consider the big “what next.”

I want to also include the simple joys of standing still in the woods and listening to the natural sounds that surround me. Breathing in the forest aromas and feeling the reality of temperature and precipitation against my skin. Walking over the rise in our open fields to feel the wind when it blows, or the stillness when it doesn’t.

At the same time, I’ve lived in town and know the conveniences associated. I would welcome the opportunity to reduce our carbon footprint and return to riding my bike more than driving my car.

I tell ya, living in the moment of planning the future is one heck of a big think.



Written by johnwhays

January 12, 2020 at 8:57 am

Hays Siblings

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Yesterday we made the surprisingly easy drive up to my sister, Mary’s house for a post-holiday gathering of the Hays siblings. North Branch wasn’t as far away as I expected. These are my peeps. I always find it refreshing to discover how special it feels to be with my brothers and sisters again. No one else in the world can match the connection we share with the people we lived with during our formative years.

Thank you David, Mary, Judy, and Elliott for all the years!

You are the best.

Here’s to a bigger reunion of our relations this summer. We’ve got a date!

Somehow, the Vikings pulled out a victory while we were half-watching. Cyndie and I tried to listen to the end of it on the drive home over a radio signal that was only barely discernible.

There was no question that Pequenita was happy to have me home again. She made haste to claim one of her favorite perches when I settled down to see who was getting recognized by the Hollywood Foreign Press on the Golden Globe Awards show.

She is so not a Hays sibling.

We did not have a cat when I was growing up. Judy or Elliott can correct me if there was a barn cat on the farm before I came along.



Written by johnwhays

January 6, 2020 at 7:00 am

Grasping Hope

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I’m trying. Against an onslaught of gloom and doom coming from the extreme escalation of Middle East tensions by an impeached President who hasn’t been removed from office, I am trying to dredge up some hope for the triumph of peace and love around the planet. It involves squelching a feeling that my tiny contribution to the world is woefully inadequate toward fulfilling this dream, and as a result, futile.

We are back at Wintervale this morning, being smothered with love from Pequenita and surrounded once again by fields and forest, animal tracks, snow, and chickens.

There is a fire in the fireplace. I’m home for most of the weekend before returning to the regular routine of my 4-day work week and the commuting it involves.

We will be out for a little bit tomorrow to gather with Hays siblings for a post-holiday get-together that tends to happen only rarely.

Cyndie’s increasing role of support for her parents as needs dictate will shift a little as they prepare to return to Florida. I expect she will be taking an increased number of flights south in the coming months as a result.

Today we will try putting away Christmas decorations and clearing snow from the icy valleys on the roof, as well as shovel the deck and a few paths that I skipped when I came home to plow last Tuesday.

This place is such a sanctuary. It is hard to meld in my mind the peace here with unrest in other parts of the globe.

I will grasp for hopeful embers of energy to fuel an escape from worst outcomes being bantered about in the media and within the vengeful souls who have suffered offense. Somewhere in the universe, there must exist a remedy with power to forever sever cycles of violent revenge.

I tend to perceive it as, simply, the power of love. Obviously, it requires significant investment from all parties involved, but the secret (and not-so-secret) ingredient has to be love.

Unfortunately, love isn’t a very quick solution for the climate catastrophes of fires and floods that Australia, Indonesia and other parts of the world are suffering.

I don’t envy the task of mustering hope by the people living in the vicinity of major weather impacts.

It makes the blessings of our precious home all the more impressive.

Sending love as best I can!



Written by johnwhays

January 4, 2020 at 10:48 am

Plowing Challenge

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Last Sunday, when we left home in Beldenville to drive to Edina for a few days, it was raining outside.

On Monday, the precipitation turned to snow. In Edina, the accumulation was about four or five inches. On Tuesday, Cyndie texted our current animal sitter and asked if she would stop by our place to check on the chickens and Pequenita. The answer was yes, but after she arrived we received a report that there was too much snow for her to drive up the driveway. She walked the quarter-mile up to the house.

That triggered me into action and I drove home to plow.

There was 6.5 inches of snow up by the house, maybe an inch more farther out in the open. It was the most snow at one time that I have needed to plow so far this year. Between the large amount of snow and the icy coating beneath it, I needed to get a little creative about plowing angles. There was a fair amount of time spent sliding sideways as the wheels spun when I attempted to back up after pushing snow all the way off the edge of the paved surface.









It was a beautiful day to be outside working in the snow, but I needed to get cleaned up and drive right back to Edina so Cyndie and I could attend a New Year’s Eve party with friends who invited us at the last minute when they learned we were in town.

I had successfully managed to drive my Crosstrek all the way from the road to the house without getting stuck, but I didn’t think to clean the snow out of the wheels after I pulled into the garage.

The return trip to Cyndie’s parent’s house was like driving on a washboard because of vibration from the wheels being a little out of balance. On the plus side, it gave my voice a great vibrato when singing along with my music the whole way back to Edina.



Written by johnwhays

January 2, 2020 at 7:00 am

First Time

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We are on something of a “stay-cation,” in that, we didn’t go up to Hayward with Cyndie’s parents for the New Year celebration, but we are spending a few days with them at their home in Edina. Like we did for Christmas, we’ve brought along Delilah and left the chickens cooped up and Pequenita by herself at home.

Cyndie’s eyelids are showing signs of good recovery and she has begun to only occasionally stray from doctor’s orders to NOT bend over. Most importantly, she has thus far successfully avoided inadvertently rubbing her eyes as the healing process causes them to itch.

I can’t say the same for myself. Since the day of her surgery, I have been rubbing my eyes more than ever out of sympathetic response to her situation.

For the most part, Delilah seems to be taking to our sudden suburban living with impressive ease. I, on the other hand, am being pushed beyond my boundaries. For the first time in my life, I have needed to pick up my dog’s poop. I never thought I would allow myself to be stuck in this situation.

Cyndie and I have taken turns walking her around the neighborhood and both of us are making adjustments to avoid contact with any other dog walkers. She has failed to accomplish successful introductions so many times that we have pretty much quit trying. The only way I would try again would be if someone told me they wanted their dog to be grabbed and shaken like a rag doll. Delilah has proved she is able to offer that service. Otherwise, I’m thinking we are beyond the point of trying to socialize her with other dogs.

While out with her last night in the latest snowstorm, my feet slipped out from under me on the polished packed snow beneath the new-fallen layer on the once-plowed street. Can you say, “Hip plant!”? I’m gonna have a bruise there, I think.

Delilah seems to be doing her best to claim territory on the streets surrounding Cyndie’s parents’ house. Mailbox posts get an awful lot of attention. Safe within the confines of the basement rooms, she boldly barks at the sight of any activity at neighboring properties.

It’s certainly not the first time she has barked at something she sees outside the window.

Here’s wishing you all a safe celebration of the end of a decade and dawn of a new one!

Tomorrow will be the first time we’ve ever been in the year 2020. May all of us experience a new year filled with more peace and love than ever before.

Wouldn’t that be a priceless first?



Written by johnwhays

December 31, 2019 at 7:00 am