Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘remembering

Any Day

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Lately, I have noticed I am experiencing a pang of underlying guilt over not being fully aware of what day of the week it is. It is commonly expressed that the absence of a work schedule in one’s life will bring about this phenomenon of losing track of the days. It’s truly a luxury to not know. I feel rich beyond my means when I find myself basking in the gentle breezes through the trees at the lake on a Sunday evening when the majority of weekend vacationers have returned to their homes.

There were days throughout my years of gainful employment when I suffered under the pressure of showing up day after day for the grind of my multiple different day jobs. At the same time, I found myself rather well-suited to such a routine of scheduled days. I mostly looked forward to seeing people and tending to whatever business situations required attention.

I wasn’t very fond of being told the toilet wasn’t working in one of the restrooms, but most other issues were useful fodder for doing what I had been hired to do. It’s a bit of a shame that some issues continue to show up in my overnight dreams. Saturday night it felt like I worked hard all night long through multiple dreams. I was trying to train a new employee while simultaneously attempting to cope with other side issues and periodically straining to figure out why I was back at work again after having been gone for so many months.

I found myself semi-lucidly questioning the dream whenever I surfaced toward consciousness through the night and then regretting when a return to deep slumber brought the same dream back to right where it had left off.

During my working years, I had moments of envy for the people I knew who no longer noticed what day of the week it was, but I don’t recall ever begrudging them that luxury. Now that I have achieved that same privilege, I feel bad about celebrating it when so many others still have to log their time.

Facing the undeniable shared challenges of showing up on the first day of the work week. People compare stories of what each other’s weekend entailed and commiserate over the concept of a week ahead. Then, the survival strategy of lauding the midweek milestone of “hump day.” Finally, the thrill of reaching the last day of the week with its lure of soon-to-be-reached days away from the job.

This morning is simply another “any day” of the week for me. Cyndie will be staying up at the lake longer this week and I am driving home today with her mom. I’ll be on my own for a few days at Wintervale before heading right back up on the same day that Cyndie gets a ride home with a friend.

We’ll be like ships passing in the night on any old day of the week.



Written by johnwhays

August 1, 2022 at 6:00 am

Album Collection

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If I were ever to venture from this moment to visit and romanticize a period of my history, I would gladly focus on the pinnacle of my young experience, and it would have everything to do with vinyl LP record albums of my most adored recording artists.

My parents and older siblings all had records and I became familiar with listening to the music and studying the intricacies of the covers and printed inner sleeves. I would guess I was in my early teens when my sister Linda offered to take me to a record store so I could pick out an album of my very own.  My first.

I recall having no clue what to pick and walking up and down the aisle looking at too many choices of which I knew nothing. When I happened upon one in the front of a stack that had a brightly colored sticker touting a hit song, I decided that was the one I wanted. I’d heard the song on the radio, Black Sabbath’s “Ironman.”

When I grew old enough to know better, probably only a year or two later, I realized that choice was barely on the fringes of my genuine interests. Of course, interests evolve. I ventured in a few odd directions that seemed a stretch for me over time, but the constraints were more financial than musical tastes. Albums didn’t come cheap and it was prohibitive to buy an entire LP for interest in just one particular song.

If you didn’t own the record back in the day, you were at the mercy of a radio station to play a song you wanted to hear. Dropping my dollars on an album and bringing it home to break the seal of the clear plastic wrap was a momentous occasion. After setting the needle on the outside edge of side one, it was time to study the images and soak up every word on the jacket.

There is no experience like it today. Not when almost anything you can think of is available in a search of the internet.

The album art was almost as much of an experience as the quality of the music emanating from those vinyl grooves. Or is that, vinyl groove?

My first job after high school was selling records at the local mall. That broadened my exposure to new music and gave me the ability to bring home promotional albums I wouldn’t otherwise have bought.

When Cyndie and I got married, our similar but surprisingly rare number of duplicated albums merged to become one precious collection. That treasure was pared down drastically when digital music became the norm and I sold off all but one hundred gems that were either rare or meant enough to us we couldn’t part with them.

Yesterday, Cyndie pulled them out with a mind of continuing her momentum of purging possessions that we aren’t using. I’m considering pulling out my old turntable to find out if the belt on it is functional at maintaining 33 & 1/3 RPMs.

As much as I’d love to once again hear the music from old records I never digitized, I think I’m finding it even more pleasurable simply seeing the artistry of all those classic album covers another time.



Written by johnwhays

March 23, 2022 at 6:00 am

Time Ravaged

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More than I can remember in my lifetime, we have been cycling above and below the freezing point this winter, taxing everything exposed to the extremes. As I’ve written many times before, everything moves, including what is often referred to as “solid ground.”

Terra firma is not so firm a.

This is the current state of a base I installed for an outdoor sink on the backside of the barn.

It used to be level.

In some places, the ground sinks. In others, it rises up. And it changes back and forth about as often as the freezing and thawing cycle is playing out. Of course, the base in the image above never happens to return to level. Oh, no.

I have no idea what happened in our pile of limestone screenings. It looks a little like maybe it regurgitated all over itself.

A while back, Cyndie posted a bunch of our furniture for sale on the local neighborhood app. Quite a lot of furniture, actually. The app offered a suggestion that she could also post it on another app to be seen by more than just our neighbors. All it took was the push of a button. So she did.

Soon we had people from far and wide contacting us to ask if everything was okay. Why was she unloading all this furniture?

It’s nice to know concerned friends will check on us if we start showing signs of distress.

The reason Cyndie is looking to jettison our old furniture is that her mother is moving from the family home of many years into a smaller unit in a senior living community. We will be taking some of the precious furnishings that didn’t make the cut for her mom’s new home.

In preparation, we have already started to move things around in our house. We took possession of the old flat-screen TV that had been in her mom’s basement and put it up in our loft, replacing the smaller one we’ve had since it was our main television mounted on the wall in our Eden Prairie home.

Here in Beldenville, the old television was in a stand on a table. In a classic domino effect of one change leading to another, we decided to relocate that TV to the bedroom to replace a smaller one in that room. There, it will be able to be mounted on the wall again. That means I needed to find the old wall mount bracket.

I didn’t know if we’d even kept it, but Cyndie remembered seeing it on the top shelf in our storage room. With her direction, I found two of the three primary pieces. The ravages of time have taken a toll on my memory and I couldn’t recall if we’d detached the base plate from the wall when we moved out of the old house.

I actually started researching online to see if I could replace just the base plate before one last double-check in the storage room, where I was actually checking old packaging for information on the name of the wall mount manufacturer. That’s when I spotted a tiny corner of the base plate on a different shelf.

As far as I can tell, we actually do have everything needed to proceed.



Written by johnwhays

March 9, 2022 at 7:00 am

Measured Gait

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When I was a kid in school, I noticed there were others who walked with their feet angled toes-in or toes out and it led me to think the same thing could happen to me. It didn’t look right to me. I didn’t want to walk like that. As a result, I tried consciously aligning my feet with the seams of the floor tiles as I walked down hallways in hopes the practice would keep my gait from becoming misaligned.

How I place my feet as I walk hasn’t been something I constantly think about, but stepping straight ahead in line with those tiles did become a permanent memory that I’ve returned to thinking about many times over the years.

Fifty-some years and too-many-ankle-sprains-to-count later, I’m beginning to notice my right foot “toes out” a little bit in the prints I leave behind in the snow.

What I found interesting yesterday after I noticed my old footprints on the trail was that when I put conscious effort into paying attention to place my right foot straight, it felt like I was toeing it way too far in.

I’m not talking extremes here. The amount of difference is very small. A fraction of an inch. It’s fascinating to me that such a small percentage of change would feel so much larger than it really is.

This kind of correction reminds me of my never-ending quest to achieve an even pedal stroke on my bicycle. I’m decidedly right-side dominant in my pedaling which contributes to a “wobble” of the bike as I unconsciously push stronger with my right leg.

I dream of expending equal power with the push-pull of each leg, but if I’m not specifically thinking about it or I start to get fatigued, I can sense my effort becomes lopsided.

At least I never have to worry about the position of my feet when I’m clipped into the bike pedals. While I wobble down the road on my bike, my toes on both feet are always pointed straight ahead!



Written by johnwhays

March 8, 2022 at 7:00 am

Remembering Winter

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It has been a couple of years since we’ve had horses over the months of freezing temperatures and blowing snow. I’m finding it a little comical that neither Cyndie nor I remember how we handled the nuances of our barn chores during the winter months.

It’s not difficult to make it up as we go along, except for the nagging knowledge that we already had a smoothly functioning routine once before. Seems like we shouldn’t have to start anew.

Yesterday, we found the waterer was freezing up, leading me to believe one or more of the heating elements are failing. At least that is a new problem because we never needed to worry about that before.

Manure management is a little wobbly. Sometimes, frozen poop is easier to scoop up. A lot of other times it isn’t. I keep telling Cyndie we used to leave it all in place until spring but she doesn’t remember it that way. The difference, I believe, is that we haven’t received much snow yet and we can still roll the wheelbarrow around. She’ll be happy to leave it all when/if real snow begins to accumulate.

I’ve reminded Cyndie that we plowed a path from the barn to the compost area and only scooped under the overhang and in the stalls over winter. Since we don’t have any snow yet, the obvious limitations aren’t there.

I’m already trying to recall my routine of resuming active composting after winter releases its grip. Those of you who keep dogs in your backyard in places where snow covers the ground for months know what the ground looks like when the snow first melts. Multiply that mental image by the volume four horses produce.

We are getting hit with seriously cold temperatures and aggressive winter winds already. The unknown element of snow accumulation remains to be revealed in the weeks ahead.

I’m waiting to find out if this will turn out to be a winter like the snowy ones I remember most from the recent past.



Written by johnwhays

December 7, 2021 at 7:00 am

Contrasting Visuals

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I’m so happy that Cyndie carries her phone on walks and shares the views she captures. This first one has the cool effect of blurring around the center focal point that adds energy to the scene.

We have reached the time of year when there are a lot more hours of darkness than light but she didn’t let that stop her and I love the murky mysteriousness of this next one.

There is a lot of action in some of those tree trunks. I don’t quite understand the source of light behind those clouds. Was it really just the last traces of sunlight so many minutes past sunset? I cannot confirm.

A couple of other shots she showed me from the night walk revealed the snowflakes that were blowing around at the time.

It was brought to my attention that this happened seven years ago:

That was when Cyndie rolled the old farm pickup just a few days before she had hip replacement surgery. When responders fretted over her painful limping, she had to tell them that was how she walked even before the rollover.

In contrast, now I’m thinking about what we’ll be taking pictures of seven years from now and how different it might look.



Written by johnwhays

November 12, 2021 at 7:00 am

Nine Years

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Nine years ago this month we were attempting to close on the purchase of our new home in Beldenville, Wisconsin. After twenty-five years in our Eden Prairie home, it was quite a leap to pack up all our possessions and head for the countryside without having locked in the legal papers to make anything official.

We hadn’t signed off on the sale of our EP home or the purchase of our new horse property in Pierce County but the moving van was en route.

Each year since has been remarkable, but the power of those days of transition was possibly greater than everything that’s happened since.

Scroll over to the “Previous Somethings” and select the month of October in 2012. Roll down to the posts for Steps 1, 2, & 3 to read what it was like to have our dream complicated by real difficulties.

Obviously, everything worked out for us in terms of ultimately taking ownership and making Wintervale the place we’ve called home for the last nine years.

It is a real blessing to now be entering our tenth year here.



Written by johnwhays

October 19, 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.



Written by johnwhays

October 2, 2021 at 6:58 am

September Eleven

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Twenty years later, I’m pausing to remember my trauma of that day, witnessing so many other peoples’ trauma over the unimaginable death and destruction unleashed by fanatical terrorists hijacking commercial jets containing passengers to use them as explosive missiles.

I spent the first moments, and then the unfolding hours, trying to grasp the reality that such things could be happening. We didn’t learn of the events after the fact. We witnessed much of it as it was happening. I’ve never really liked hearing the sound of a commercial jet flying overhead after that day twenty years ago.

This morning, I turned on some of the television coverage of memorial events being held at the three locations where the planes crashed. In Minnesota, they read the names of people from the state who were killed that day, as well as Minnesota members of the military who died in the wars since.

Thinking of John Lennon’s lyric “Imagine there’s no countries…,” how many more names would need to be recited if loved ones from Afghanistan were to read the names of all who died in the twenty years since.

Meanwhile, in the idyllic surroundings of our home on this beautifully warm September day, we are living life in peace. The first hints of color continue to slowly transition in the panorama of trees along the edges of our woods.

On this third day of being the only person feeding our animals, they are all settling into my way of doing things. On Thursday evening, the horses demonstrated a fair amount of uncertainty navigating the feeding routine, but as I have adjusted my methods and they’ve responded willingly, this morning was as serene as ever.

Having watched Swings lose as many pellets out of her mouth as she consumes, I’ve started soaking her servings in a little water first and that seems to be making it easier for her. We had hoped having their teeth floated would help her more than it appears to have done.

This morning I decided to try again to use the hay boxes I built. They were powering through a single bale so fast the last time we tried using these that we switched to providing the net feeders from which they were used to eating.









If they make it through a bale too fast today, I’ll plot a modification to the grate that might slow it down to something comparable to grass-grazing speed, if I can guess what that actually is.

It seems illogical to me that they would prefer dry hay bales over the two large fields of fresh grass that we provide them full access to day and night, but I’m not a horse. I trust they know why they make the choices about what to eat.

As rescued thoroughbreds, they know about memories of trauma.

Today we are soaking up the peacefulness we have been afforded and adding another day of distance from the source of our past traumas.

We will never forget, but we will always seek that world where we all be as one.



Written by johnwhays

September 11, 2021 at 10:01 am

Exercising Memory

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My memories are fading, but as I revisit many of them, the details I review slowly grow more memorable and probably less accurate with each iteration.

I remember what my life was like before my eyesight declined to the point of needing glasses to see with functional clarity. Those memories often arise in response to needing to clean my glasses in the present day.

I remember how free life was before the coronavirus pandemic.

I remember when there were no personal computers.

I remember getting my first mobile phone when my workplace at the time made them available to all employees for personal use.

I remember how awkward it always felt to walk alone in front of the entire length of the high school bleachers on the way to get a bag of popcorn from the concession counter.

I remember how much I liked the popcorn purchased at those basketball games in the high school.

I remember using our basement for a kitchen in our Eden Prairie house while we were having the upstairs remodeled.

I remember putting a vinyl Crosby, Stills, & Nash record on the old hi-fi phonograph with the sliding glass woodgrain top panels when it was in the closet of my boyhood bedroom and then laying on my bed to listen until I fell asleep.

I remember when the impacts of the greenhouse effect on our planet were hardly noticeable and mainly the subject of scientific predictions.

I remember when we first set foot on the property we eventually purchased in Beldenville, Wisconsin. I will always remember walking one of the trails near the house and coming upon the gnarly oak tree that remains the most prominent.

I remember when the sky turned a deeper blue during the two times when air traffic was greatly reduced: After the September 11 attacks and when the pandemic lockdowns stopped almost all travel around the globe.

I remember the morning I called our health clinic to ask to be seen in my first step of treating my depression.

I remember how moved I felt after learning about the extent of hidden added sugars in processed foods that occurred with increasing frequency throughout my lifetime.

I remember tying one of my deceased mother’s handkerchiefs to a branch as a prayer flag in the Himalayan mountains around the highest elevation I achieved during the trek I did in 2009.

I remember my son inspiring me to start a blog to chronicle the trek I would be doing.

I remember learning I was an asthma sufferer during my physical that was required by the adventure travel company before the trip began.

I remember waking up stressed from breathing the smoke that had leaked from the woodstove all night when we slept in the lodge of the Sherpa sirdar guiding our trek.

What I can’t remember is any reason I started this exercise and whether or not I had a point in mind. Having a point would have come in handy when it came to reaching a conclusion.

This reminds me of how often I find myself laboring to come up with a closing line for daily blog posts.

Sometimes, I just want to “Say goodnight, Gracie.”



Written by johnwhays

August 12, 2021 at 6:00 am