Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘Memories

Date Night

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Cyndie and I were out last night in Excelsior with friends, Eapen and Barb for dinner and some live music in support of singer/songwriter, John Magnuson, from our association of families up at the lake place.

I worked late in Plymouth until the appointed hour of our dinner reservation and Cyndie drove from home after feeding animals and walking Delilah. Then, like ships passing, I drove home and Cyndie went to her mom’s house for the night.

It proved to be one of those days when I left home in morning darkness and returned during the dark of night. Makes it seem downright wintery already.

I did actually see some daylight during the intermediate drive from Plymouth to Excelsior. I arrived with time to spare which allowed for a stroll down memory lane from my days twenty-some years ago when I worked to co-publish “City’s Tone” from a basement office just off Water Street.

It was a beautiful night for the walk. As for a “date,” it could have used a lot more “we” time.

Now, I’m on morning chore duty before logging in remotely to the day-job tasks and waiting for an appliance repair person to show up and assess the leak in our washing machine.

Nothing like the duties of daily life to all too quickly muddy the memories of being out on the town the night before. Guess we’ll just have to schedule another event. Oh! Look at this! We have another dinner date with friends already on the calendar for tonight.

Pretty good planning, eh?

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Written by johnwhays

October 15, 2021 at 6:00 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

Outdoor Adventures

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I started reading a book about an outdoor adventure last night and as the narration described packing a small plane and the flight they took into a remote wilderness, I was transported to memories of my experience flying to Lukla in the Himalayan mountains. That trip I took to Nepal was over 12-years ago now, enough time that I don’t think about it nearly as often as I used to.

I don’t want the ever-increasing span of time to erase the brilliance of my experience. At the same time, I don’t want to endlessly repeat the stories from that trip just to keep them alive.

Maybe just fragments of the stories.

The drama of navigating our way through the gauntlet of locals around the airport in Katmandu, twice, to wait for our flight to Lukla.

Seeing the mountains from the air for the first time.

Realizing that everywhere we would go beyond the airport at Lukla would be on foot.

Walking the same path as so many others who climbed to the summit of Everest.

Experiencing the gift of being guided by the Sherpa people.

Exchanging Namaste greetings with locals and other foreign trekkers as we pass on the narrow trail.

Crossing the deep river gorges on swinging suspension bridges.

Seeing eagles soaring in rising circles on a thermal column of air, while standing above them at a higher elevation.

The mantra om mani padme hum.

The incredible views of Everest, Ama Dablam, Nuptse, Lhotse.

Overnight snow that covered our tents in Namche Bazaar.

Taking a side trail to avoid congestion because our guide was from the region and knew the “backroads.”

The sound of an evacuation helicopter climbing the thin air up the valley between high peaks.

Laughing with fellow trekkers in our group and our Sherpa guides and porters.

Hauling school supplies in our backpacks to donate to small schools along the way.

Finding a property with electricity and paying a modest fee to charge my camera batteries.

Warm milk tea.

The variety of locals, yaks (dzo), and travelers who shared the main trails.

Mani stones with carved prayer inscriptions along the trail.

Witnessing a day of activity when I stayed put on an off-day in Monju.

Prayer flags flapping in the wind.

It all made for a mighty good dose of outdoor adventures that I really enjoy remembering.

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Written by johnwhays

September 1, 2021 at 6:00 am

Cabinet Customization

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The slide-out racks Cyndie found for our kitchen cabinets were not an exact match for the openings, but close enough that we could make them work.

I needed to use the full-width limit of what the door covers to create clearance for the full extension of the metal insert to slide out, but I accomplished it so few people will ever notice the notches.

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This will make it so much easier for Cyndie to access items stored in the back of the deep cabinets close to the floor.

While she had everything removed for the installation, we also made some decluttering decisions that will reduce the number of things crammed into those spaces, too.

Sure, those quirky kitchen devices meant to solve unusual challenges seem valuable, but if we’ve never used them in all the time they have been in our possession, how valuable are they to us?

It can be a tough call. If I applied the same scrutiny to many things out in the shop and adjacent garage, I would be hard-pressed to defend keeping much of what has accumulated out there. It felt a little hypocritical to be telling her to get rid of things from the kitchen.

At the same time, I am a big fan of de-cluttering, so wherever we find ourselves practicing the philosophy, I am willing to rally and play along.

Maybe it is a factor of having grown up in a home where we almost never stored a car in the garage because there was no room for one among all the other variety of things taking up that space. We rarely used the porch or the main basement room for anything but storage, either.

It has been a long-term goal of mine to always keep our garage clear enough to fit cars. On the few occasions when situations dictated a need to park outside overnight, it becomes important for me to not let the setup last any longer than necessary. I think that comes from an underlying sense that I could too easily succumb to the pattern I am so familiar with from my formative years.

I mostly reserve that skill for the top of my dresser in the bedroom and any flat surface in the shop or garage.

Maybe I should look into getting some pull-out racks to better organize the debris that accumulates on the surfaces I allow to become cluttered. At least I can park my cars in the garage.

It’s all relative, you know.

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Written by johnwhays

August 23, 2021 at 6:00 am

Remembering Jim Klobuchar

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Among the most influential people in my life, Jim Klobuchar holds one of the top spots. When I learned last night of the news of his passing, my memories instantly jumped to the two treasured connections I enjoyed with Jim: annually participating in his June “Jaunt with Jim” biking and camping adventures around Minnesota for years, and participating in one of his guided treks in the Himalayan mountains of Nepal.

However, the more profound impact Jim had on me was probably his influence as a writer. It’s a bit of a double-edged sword. I read his columns and sports reporting in the Minneapolis Star Tribune for most of my life. My style of wordsmithing is a reflection of how his writing made me feel as a reader. I wanted to write about people and places in the way Jim did. At the same time, it is very intimidating to compare my compositional aspirations with his professional accomplishments.

Reading Jim’s columns describing the bike and camping adventures he led inspired me to sign up the next year to try my first-ever long-distance cycling expedition. It was in 1994, the 20th year of his leading the June event, and I’ve been doing it ever since, minus a few scattered years when I was unable.

After one spectacular week, I wrote out some lyrics to memorialize the annual adventure. I expected it to be a song, but I couldn’t get all the words to fit a consistent rhythm, so I decided it was a poem, instead. I brought it along the next year to share with the group. On the first night, I told Jim about the poem and my desire to read it for everyone. He asked to see it and when I handed the paper over to him, he tucked it in a pocket, then moved on with first-night greetings and leadership duties.

I don’t remember if it was the next day, but some amount of time passed before he finally acknowledged the poem again. He said he liked it and wanted to read it to the group himself.

Here come those mixed feelings again. “Why you controlling SOB...” I thought. “Wait, Jim Klobuchar wants to read my words to a large group of people?” I was more honored than miffed. Of course, I wanted it read as soon as possible, but Jim had his own agenda. One day passed, then two, three, four… I eventually gave up thinking about it. Whatever.

Jim picked post-lunch on the second-to-last day and his timing was impeccable. He called me up to stand next to him while he more than admirably recited the lyrical lines. A couple years on and I was able to forge the poem into a song that tends to get new air-time each successive month of June. Ultimately, I recorded a version and combined it with images from a couple of year’s rides.

At the time, Jim was living close to where I worked, in Plymouth, MN. I burned a copy of the video onto an optical disk (remember those?) and dropped it off in a surprise morning visit. He met me at the door wearing a robe and somewhat dumbfoundedly accepted the mysterious media.

I received the best response in an email a short time later that morning. He implied he wouldn’t have let me leave without joining him in the viewing if he had known what was on that disc.

The year I flew to Nepal for the trek, Jim and I were lone travel companions with a day-long layover in LA. It was a rare treat to have so much uninterrupted attention from this man whom I considered a mentor. I remember thinking how much he and my dad would have enjoyed each other, especially when Jim regaled me with detailed memories of his days covering the Minnesota Vikings football team.

He was a consummate listener and allowed me to tell him more about myself than anyone needed to hear.

Jim turned 81 while we were in Nepal and he was one of only two trekkers who reached the highest elevation planned. Already showing signs of his fading mental acuity, but not a speck of giving in to it, there were some poignant moments on that trip. Our relationship was cemented forever after.

Here’s hoping Jim has already regained his full mental capacities for the remainder of eternity. Those of us he has left behind will cherish our memories of him at his very best.

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Written by johnwhays

May 13, 2021 at 6:00 am

Remembering Cayenne

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Cayenne was a most elegant Arabian mare and a particularly precious member of our initial herd of four horses that christened our new Wintervale property as a horse ranch back in the fall of 2013. Yesterday, she departed this world to join Legacy’s spirit in the world beyond our knowing. 

Cayenne was foaled from Dezirea in 2005 and lived 16 years, which can roughly be translated to the equivalent of 48 human years of age. For the five years she lived with us, she seemed to split her time equally between palling around with geldings Legacy and Hunter, but Hunter was her lifelong buddy.

In the image on the right, the two of them were giving me a wonderful reception upon my return from a week of biking and camping one summer. 

That’s Cayenne on the right.

Last night, Cyndie and I reminisced about the time Cayenne scolded Hunter after he petulantly farted his displeasure toward Legacy for being driven off a preferred grazing spot. She amped up her energy and pushed Hunter twice as far as he wanted to go, making her point very clear and assuring he got the message.

Cayenne always looked well kept. When others had rolled in the mud or tangled their mane into a knot, Cayenne looked ready for show. The aroma of her hide was always sweet. I loved to bury my face in her neck and inhale her healthy horse scent.

The word that often came to mind when thinking of Cayenne was, royalty. 

One other word that came to mind was, magical. As in, magician. One morning we found her calmly grazing all by herself inside the web-fenced arena space despite the gate being closed. She somehow either jumped or high-stepped her way over that webbing without tipping a post or tangling a hoof.

Cayenne also maintained the neatest stall out of all four horses. Despite her penchant for painting the back wall with her poop, the rest of the shavings on her floor basically remained clean. I guess she reserved her mess for the water bucket in that stall. She had a habit of soaking her mouthfull of hay or feed pellets in the water as she ate. Made her bucket a murky disaster by the time we came around to refill them.

Wednesday morning the horse manager discovered Cayenne on the ground and in bad shape from an overnight episode of colic that the equine veterinarian assessed as beyond treatment.

Hunter was already grieving and they gave him an additional moment to come close to pay his respects. He brought his head down to the flank of her lifeless body and took a breath to confirm she was no longer in there. As he picked up his head, he smacked his lips in acknowledgement and turned to look out over the distance beyond.

Cayenne is gone but she will never be forgotten.

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Written by johnwhays

April 1, 2021 at 6:00 am

Irish Maybe

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Growing up, I had no clue about my family’s ethnic origins. I’m pretty sure my father responded with “American” when I brought up the question. Today, since it’s St. Patrick’s Day, everybody is a little bit Irish, aren’t they? I’ve never really identified with the occasion, but I probably should.

Even after my many sporadic plunges into my family ancestry, I’m still not convinced about the ultimate origin of the “Hays” name. When a second cousin enlisted the help of professionals, they pointed to a pretty focused area of the counties of southern Ireland, yet the result from my DNA hint at the surrounding region excluding Ireland.

At this point, I’m more inclined to cling to what I know and claim my obvious Canadian heritage.

Cyndie occasionally shares a wonderful recollection of her earliest query about her family ethnicity. The simplified version from so many kids where it gets described as half of one nationality and half of another led her to ask her father, by way of a written note slipped under the bathroom door, “What am I half of?”

She was shocked when the answer came back, “Half-wit.”

I am half my mom and half my dad; a quarter of each of my grandparents. Sometimes I feel a little like a half-wit.

On March 17th, I’m possibly a little Irish.

Don’t tell my DNA.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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Written by johnwhays

March 17, 2021 at 6:00 am

RS Interview: Marie Friswold

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Relative Something is thrilled to be able to present the second interview in a new and ongoing sporadic series where the art of thoughtful question and answer conversation is practiced with participants who are kind enough to respond to my requests.

What a special treat it is for me to be able to present to you, Cyndie’s mom, Marie!


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RS: Let’s dive right in. If you were told you were going to be featured on the cover of any magazine in the world, which one would you choose, and why?

Marie: First of all, I would be too embarrassed to be a feature, as I don’t like to have attention drawn to myself. Having said that, I know how to talk to people and make others feel comfortable, so I guess I am not as much of an introvert as I think I am. AT LEAST NOT ALL THE TIME. If there would be any magazine, I think it would have to be a Bon Appetit, Taste of Home, or some baking magazine, or maybe a Martha Stewart magazine where I would feel comfortable and more knowledgeable on the subject of cooking or baking.

RS: Oh, that seems perfect! Your ability to feed and entertain family and friends is legendary. In what ways do you think you have refined your gifts and skills for hosting special occasions over time?

Marie: With the help of Carlos and Barry, I have learned to add style, color, placement of dishes, tablecloths, and of course the wonderful flowers that our gifted Carlos has done for the past 20 years. I have kept all the many recipes, vases, candleholders, napkins, tablecloths, and pictures of the flower arrangements and the way the house and tables should look. I feel I’ve learned from both Carlos and Barry how to entertain with a flare. I loved every minute of learning new ways to present the decorations and the food with a touch of elegance and certainly missed not doing so this year of 2020, as no one could be here to enjoy it with me.

RS: Do you remember the first time Cyndie introduced me to you? (For the record, I don’t remember.)

Marie: I believe the first time I met you was when Steve had you, Bill Daly, Chip Gilbertson, and another guy up to Wildwood for a weekend.  Cyndie was also there and knew all of you. I really didn’t know that you were a special friend of Cyndie’s at that time since you were one of the gang that came up to the lake as a group of Steve’s friends.

RS: You know, the only thing I remember about that visit to Wildwood is from the photo we have depicting the gang gathered in the old triangle with me playing guitar. In all fairness, Cyndie and I went back and forth several times (usually my undoing) before we locked in for the long haul, so it is understandable you didn’t know our status early on.

Marie: Then I would add that when Cyndie went to California for college, I didn’t know then how much you meant to her, but she really knew that year how much you were the only one for her, and the rest is history. I do remember the time you came to our house to ask for her hand in marriage while I was arranging the Christmas tree lights all over the living room floor. Fred and I thought that was the nicest part about our whole day – with our answer being YES. Again, the rest is history!

RS: It’s been just over six months since your partner in life, Fred, departed this physical world. How are you doing? There are innumerable ways such a loss impacts a person.

Marie: I am doing very well and am sleeping quite well. I don’t like to show my sadness very much to others. Having said that, I do talk to my family and two or three really good friends to share the way I am feeling at different times. Covid times have not been helpful, as I am a people person and love being with my family and friends, which I have not been able to do at this time. It has been very lonely since Fred died, as we talked about everything (good, bad, different subjects, reading, politics, movies, you name it) and I find it hard to talk to myself about all these various subjects without being sent to a lock-up room. I also reflect on the wonderful life we had together and realize more and more how lucky this person from Manannah was to be the one he chose to be his lifelong partner. I am also frustrated at all the paperwork, file cabinet clean up, business subjects to be addressed, and tons and tons of papers to be looked at and thrown away, so I tell him of my frustration but he doesn’t answer me back. I think there will be ups and downs for the next few months yet to come, but I am aware that eventually there is a brighter year ahead for all of us. Thank goodness for my loving family as they have been the strength that keeps me going and are always there for me.

RS: You and Fred started life together in college and had kids right away, on a rather tight budget. Ultimately, you two succeeded in growing wealth while simultaneously growing your family, raising Cyndie and her brothers to successful adulthood, and gaining grandchildren. What do you feel whenever you look back on how far you’ve come?

Marie: As Fred had been noted for saying… “Ain’t we lucky.” I cannot believe I have had such a rich life and not just financial. As a very young couple, we had no car unless we borrowed from his Mother and Father, we made a pound of hamburger last for two or three meals, I washed diapers on a tabletop washing machine, made our meager salary go a long way, and had the time of our life enjoying what we had. As time went on, we made more money and could save a little along the way.  We rented for 10 years before we saved enough money to buy a house and lived in that house for 37 years before buying the house I now live in, which was 17 years ago. During those years, we had the first four children and lived in a double bungalow where we had a lot of other families with children for ours to play with and get to know really well. As a graduate of the NKP teaching degree from the Univ of MN, I learned how teaching young children was an advantage for creating things to do with my own young children. Fred was always so active, funny, and wise and loved reading nighttime stories to the kids. When our fourth child died of Leukemia at the age of four, our family had just built a home in Edina that we moved into just two weeks after her death. The next years were the most difficult of our life and for the remaining three siblings of hers. I think something good may have resulted as a result of our grief, that somehow we learned how to cope, live, and move on when things were tough. Then a beautiful new child came into our lives when our baby son, Benjamin, was born in December 1971. A new chapter was in store for all of us and our children went on to become the gifted, talented, wonderful, precious people they are today. I have been blessed with a rich and wonderful life with Fred, who was doing so much to give back to the community, church, YMCA, University, with kindness to all, and left me with the title that I now believe I will say…      — “AIN’T  I  LUCKY.”

RS: You were a little girl when WWII disrupted the world and now we’ve got the turmoil of a global pandemic some 75 years later. You’ve been through all the events between, assassinations, civil rights protests, and most personal, the loss of a young Michelle to leukemia and most recently, the loss of your husband. As long as I’ve known you, your perspective has been pretty pragmatic and generally positive. What’s your secret? How would you frame our current moment relative to all that you’ve experienced before?

Marie: I grew up with a very loving, caring, beautiful childhood and had the greatest older sister for my friend all my life. My mother and father were the kindest and most thoughtful parents, and I learned at this young age that there was always a safe place to bring friends home. I was taught how to do things for myself at a young age and I learned to be helpful to my invalid Grandmother. I think I became very thoughtful during the time the war ended because my dad was now going to be out of a job and I could sense that he was sad, yet we were happy the war had ended, but then so did his job. It was then that we moved back to Manannah where I had been born and our family became the store owners in this small town of 100 people. My mother was a one-room schoolhouse teacher and a darn good one from all that I have heard. She graduated from college with her four-year degree at the age of 58. She taught me a lot so I guess she had to be really good. My Dad always had a joke to tell and a smile on his face. Never a harsh word came out of his mouth and he was very aware of the needs of others. There was always a solution or a positive answer to my questions. I believe that during the tough times my glass was more half-full than half-empty, and I believe Fred always had his glass half-full or more, as well. We hope we have been able to give some of the positive and not the negative to our lovely children, but also to all our fabulous, wonderful grandchildren in hopes they can truly live a fulfilling and happy life. This current moment is the longest, most difficult everyday life experience to stay positive. There is so little I can do to help others, due to my age and slight difficulties doing things right now. I truly feel there is going to be a better future for us this coming year and hopefully a better understanding of people of all races, religions, and countries to live in peace and kindness.

RS: Amen to that.

Thank you, Marie, for sharing your thoughts so eloquently. I’m feeling pretty lucky myself that you took the time to indulge my unexpected inquiries.  I suspect the family will make a point of getting everyone together to celebrate at the first post-pandemic chance we get with a grand feast where you can be the Hostess of Honor! Keep your apron at the ready.

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Written by johnwhays

January 6, 2021 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

Painted Skies

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One of many fond memories I have of home during my adolescence is the variety of magazines that showed up in our mailbox. I’m guessing I have my father to thank for this. Weekly, I paged through Time, Newsweek, and Sports Illustrated for exposure to the latest images and trends. I remember exploring Popular Mechanics, or was it Popular Science? Probably both. There was Reader’s Digest and a few along the lines of Good Housekeeping, likely for Mom’s benefit, to which I paid a little less attention.

For a spell, there was Arizona Highways with its glorious pictures of colorful western sunsets. I suppose that contributed to a perspective that Arizona was the place where that happened. Obviously, that perception has carried through to now because that magazine came to mind when Cyndie offered me photos she took of yesterday’s sunset and this morning’s sunrise.

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Beldenville, Wisconsin. Land of painted skies…

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Written by johnwhays

November 14, 2020 at 10:18 am