Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘writing

Incredible Person

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There are some things I find difficult to write about, even though writing my thoughts is what I am most often inclined to do. It’s been on my mind for some time that I should consider writing something to honor my father-in-law, Fred Friswold, but the task seemed too daunting. How could I do justice to such a heroic specimen of a human being? Especially when I know some of his flaws.

Well, in the end, I understand that attempting to do justice counts about as much as actually achieving it. And, his flaws are few and rather frivolous.

I’ve already written about the fact I won the jackpot in the in-law lottery. That tells much about the way I feel to have had the privilege of being granted the highest honor of becoming a member of the Friswold family.

Fred Friswold was an incredible person. Often, the first thing people think of about Fred is the robustness of his greetings and the reverberating heartiness of his laugh. It seemed an incredible injustice that his voice was taken from him in the last months of his life. However, not once did I witness him give in to self-pity or anger over the loss.

Suddenly we found ourselves needing to quiet down and look to him in order to hear what he had to say. It became an endearing thing to process the sound of his whispers. It has made the sound of his raucous pronouncements and booming guffaws all the more precious in our memories.

In the absence of my own father, who died shortly after I married Cyndie at my ripe old age of 22, it was Fred who became my reference for figuring out how to be a husband and a dad. It didn’t make things easy for me. When I struggled to navigate challenges that required repair around the house, realizing I didn’t know how to fix things the way my dad did, Cyndie would suggest we do what her dad did. Look in the Yellow Pages.

The man knew his limitations. Not that he didn’t tackle a few of his own do-it-yourself projects. He painted their house once. And, accidentally, a little of the neighbor’s house next door, too, using a sprayer. He must have liked spray painting. Late in life, he enlisted my labor to do a quick job of painting a new baseboard around their deck. Wouldn’t take long. He had all the stuff necessary for the job.

A can of spray paint. I spent 90-minutes taping up newspaper to protect the light-colored siding from the dark brown deck for the 10-minute job of painting.

One thing Fred never did was make me feel like I didn’t belong or wasn’t meeting his expectations, despite his high regard for academic achievement and career accomplishments. I didn’t receive the frequent queries seeking to hear what the 5-year plan was. Maybe a few “What did you do for your country today?” queries, but if my answer was that I rode my bike a respectable distance, he found a way to work with that.

Of course, we are absolutely heartbroken that his life has reached its end, but it pains us even more that it has happened at a time of the pandemic when we are unable to gather the throngs who also knew and loved him in order to process our shared grief.

Fred Ravndal Friswold was a truly incredible person for whom my words are insufficient to adequately describe.

He was an endearingly loud person who went out in a whisper.

We will, and do already, miss him in the extreme.

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Written by johnwhays

June 26, 2020 at 7:36 am

Slowing Down

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I’m going to try something new. With apologies to those of you who have told me how much you enjoy checking in every morning to read or view my daily “relative somethings,” I have decided to readjust my energies to free up time that I have been holding in reserve every day for over a decade.

I am not going to commit to how this change will play out, other than to announce that I am moving away from my old priority of striving to assure a new post every single day. This isn’t the first time I have considered making this sort of change, so I already have some ideas I may try out going forward.

One possibility I have favored in the past would be to post a single picture. That seems like it wouldn’t take much time. However, I have learned from experience that my picture-taking often goes in spurts and days can pass when I don’t get out with the camera. If I committed to posting a daily picture, I would still be in the mode of reserving some time every day to achieve that.

There are also fewer daily stories to tell about our adventures here since we returned the horses and Wintervale activity has dwindled, so, to spare you repeating versions of ‘me walking Delilah’ or ‘me plowing snow’ (two things that have commanded my time and energy recently), allowing some quiet time between tales will hopefully germinate new content of more intriguing substance.

One can hope.

Of course, one other option I considered was to just cease blogging altogether, but being so “all-or-none” extreme was an older trait of mine that has softened with time. There is no reason I can’t keep this blog space open for use as more of a periodical. Weekly? Monthly?

Who knows?

That sort of mystery is one of the fun aspects of creativity. I will be creative about slowing down my rate of publishing posts.

Before I step away for my initial pause from daily posting, I’ll leave you with two images that made their way onto the SD memory card late yesterday afternoon…

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No critters were harmed in the recording of that adventure (but not for lack of intent).

I’ll be back before long. In the meantime, send your precious love out into the world during the minutes you would have been perusing new Relative Somethings in the days ahead.

Namaste.

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Written by johnwhays

January 24, 2020 at 7:00 am

Ferocious Feline

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Settling into an upright seated recline on my side of the bed, I positioned my laptop across my legs as Pequenita jumped up to join me. It was time to do some writing, but not before the obligatory routine of granting our feline her daily intense head-to-toe scratching. If I don’t grant her my full attention right away, she begins a pattern of looping around my computer screen over and over again until I change my mind and adjust my priority.

Of course, eventually, I give in. Soon, Pequenita is in a trance of purring while I grind my fingernails across the loose folds of the back of her neck and drag them over her eyes and down her nose. She seems completely willing to stay and receive this attention indefinitely, but my alternative agenda usually brings the lovefest to an end.

As I reach for the keyboard, ‘Nita will stroll away to the end of the bed and give me back my space. Often, after I have entered my own trance of typing and thinking, the calm will be broken by the sudden appearance of “Attack-Cat!” Either it will be my toes under a blanket or a fabric project on Cyndie’s lap that becomes the target of our ferocious feline’s wide-eyed aggression, so we are quickly forced to take evasive action in avoidance of an incidental over-application of a sharp claw in her zeal.

Occasionally, our defense involves a scramble for the laser pointer to give Pequenita an alternative target.

Sometimes, I get back to what I had intended to write about. Other times, I just tell the story that happened instead.

rrrrrreeooOOWWW!

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Written by johnwhays

December 20, 2019 at 7:00 am

Beyond Mowing

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The time of mowing is upon us in multiple ways. Beyond the usual routine of cutting our lawn grass, the big tractors are finally hitting the local fields to cut hay. The neighbors who are renting our fields knocked down the tall grass in opposite corners of our property recently, leaving a very noticeable line of uncut growth along the fenceline that Cyndie tackled with our power trimmer.

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Despite all the mowing going on, Cyndie continues to pull off a heroic amount of raspberry picking which naturally led to canning jam. Since she was going to be in that canning mode, she also made a trip to a local strawberry grower to pick a bulk of that jam favorite, as well as a stop at the grocery store for a couple of bags of cherries.

Even though canning jam deserves to be a single focus task, Cyndie chose to merge it with preparations to drive to Northfield, MN, for a mini-reunion with visiting Hays relatives. There, we uncovered a treasure trove in my sister Mary’s files of family newsletters from the days before the internet took over communication.

I don’t remember writing all those annual reports detailing our children’s school years, but reading back over those missives now gives me the impression I have been writing the equivalent of this daily blog for longer than just the ten years I’ve been posting here on Relative Something. In fact, the old family newsletter was called, “Relatively Speakin’.”

Seems to be a certain congruency there, no?

Who knows what lies ahead for this relative crew? It won’t surprise me if it ends up involving less mowing, but I doubt I will ever stop writing about whatever is happening in all of our lives.

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Written by johnwhays

July 14, 2019 at 9:55 am

Words

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they are just words
but you can’t write them fast enough
because they flow
like lyrics in a song
that everybody already knows
even though they only remember
two lines of the chorus
because the verses wander
all over the map
about kittens and deforestation
cloth diapers, crime, and comedy
lightning, goal celebrations
vegan recipes and political tragedy
ghosts, authors, fancy makeup
chainsaws and Ultimate Frisbee
cyber insecurity, false witness
lost love and fortunes found
like a blog roll of unending topics
scrolling down a glowing screen
ideas on how to make millions with ease
or at least to transform
this world
into a better place
than it could ever possibly be
through song
sing along
with incandescent harmony

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Written by johnwhays

May 7, 2019 at 6:00 am

Another Thought

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Well, tomorrow brings another thought. And, yesterday’s tomorrow, is today’s today. I have another thought this morning about how I might respond to the milestone of completing ten years of daily blogging. What if I did it for ten more? That’s another way to look at this interesting opportunity.

It has definitely become a comfortable habit that continues to offer me multiple benefits, and occasionally, surprising rewards. Also, by writing about my life every day, I avoid accumulating a build up of some wild idea about someday writing an autobiography.

I should try an experiment where I choose a memory from my past which I have already chronicled here years ago, and write a fresh version to compare how different they might come out. Last night, Cyndie and I met our friends, Barb and Mike for a fine dinner out in Red Wing, MN. One of our conversations touched on the fact that memories get reshaped a little each time we recollect them.

One way I have been contemplating a recognition of ten years of Relative Something is to mine the archives for a variety of gems from years ago and repost them anew. I’ve also begun seeking possibilities for resurrecting a couple of my old “games.” One involved guessing images from an extreme closeup, and another required readers to conjure their own picture in their minds from a description I write. A day later, I provide the picture I was describing for comparison.

Meanwhile, there is no shortage of new stories worth telling happening every day around here. The flooding wasn’t catastrophic for us, but it still caused me more anguish than I care to experience. I think part of that came from the fact that Cyndie was dealing with it alone, while I was so far away at work during the days.

The days of rain have passed and the return of below freezing nights has eased the worst of flowing water for now, but there is still a ton of snow yet to melt, so who knows how long this will last.

The horses were absolutely heroic in allowing Cyndie to guide them out of the barn through the standing water without panicking over the scary reflections and sounds, of which they have had little exposure in their time with us. They’ve dealt with a lot of mud over the years, but rarely, if ever, been asked to traverse water over their ankles.

Oh, the horses.

Man, we are going to miss the horses.

There will be much to write about with the pending re-homing of our herd, but it’s hard for us to even think about, let alone put into words. Maybe that contributes to my pondering the idea of ceasing to write.

If you know me, that is a pretty unlikely result. Writing is how I best process my thoughts.

Here’s to the possibility of ten more years of somethings you might find relative.

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Written by johnwhays

March 16, 2019 at 10:11 am

Who’s Counting

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Who’s counting? Apparently, I am. Today marks the 10-year anniversary of Relative Something. My first post here was March 15, 2009, after my son, Julian, recommended that I create a blog to chronicle my planned trek in the Himalayan mountains to best share my stories of the great adventure for friends and family to follow.

I’ve posted almost every day since.

Now, on this anniversary, I’m faced with a computer problem that has me stuck poking letters on my phone to compose these thoughts. It’s humbling, to say the least.

The barn has flooded and I am brooding after trying futilely to influence the water to drain around instead of through.

There is a new lake where our back pasture used to be.

The troublesome weather has sapped my energy.

We are back to dealing with icy conditions, as the temperature has dropped below freezing once more.

I had visions of composing some deep review of what ten years of writing daily has been like for me.

Instead, I’m now wondering if this ten-year milestone might be a time for closure on this chapter of my daily memoir project.

We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

Please stand by.

Written by johnwhays

March 15, 2019 at 6:00 am

Latest Word

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I have a habit of getting stuck on a pattern of frequent reuse of a particular word. The latest word that I’ve noticed –usually it happens without my being aware– is “gorgeous.” In terms of a hot August day at the lake, the word is well suited to describe yesterday.

After a lazy soak in the lake, Cyndie and I lost ourselves in an over-fascination with picking rocks that grabbed our fancy.

“I like this one.”

“Oooh, look at this!”

“Here’s one for you.”

In the water, they look so shiny and bright. Cyndie brings up a pile of them to keep, all of which tend to turn into much less spectacular stones after they’ve dried.

I like shapes and textures. Tear drop and smooth.

Both of our eyes are drawn to the ones with lines of different color layers.

I noticed an urge to break some open to get another view of the layers. That thought brought back a memory of hammering different colored stones to dust with my siblings to make layered sand art jars.

I remember thinking those always turned out gorgeous.

And for the record, this August weather totally rocks!

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Written by johnwhays

August 12, 2018 at 8:33 am

Next Act?

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Watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat. Nothin’ up my sleeve… Presto! It’s definitely time to get a new hat.

I’m back at the day-job today, after a week of vacation. It’s both soothing in its normalcy, and dreadful for… well, returning to work after vacation. Despite the excitement of a couple more birthday celebrations this week and the coming Independence Day holiday, I’m feeling as though there is a certain lack of the next big thing planned on our horizon.

During last week’s cycling and camping adventures, I had an opportunity to meet and greet a lot of first-timers to the Tour of Minnesota. Never being one to make a long story short, I found myself frequently offering a wide range of the tales which have provided most of Relative Something’s content over the last nine years.

What is this blog about?

I started it when my big trek in the Himalayas was about to occur. Shortly after that, Cyndie and I set out to visit Ian in Portugal. That seeded everything that eventually led to where we are today, providing stories about Cyndie working in Boston for a year, my getting the Eden Prairie house ready to sell, moving to Beldenville, WI, getting a dog, connecting with our friends, the Morales family in Guatemala, bringing horses onto the property, starting up Wintervale operations, building a labyrinth garden, and most recently, our antics with raising free-range chickens.

The cast of characters in my stories evolves, but the basic storyline of what makes the “pages” here rarely strays very far from what is going on in my mind at any given moment. It energizes my mental health to share my experiences with discovering and treating my depression, as well as my tales of identifying my addiction to sugar and the challenges of working that ongoing recovery program.

Currently, my health is good, both mentally and physically (despite an ongoing angst over the fiasco that is the US Government), my car is back from the body shop and looks brand new again, the horses look noticeably thinner after my week away from them, all twelve chickens appear to be thriving, and both dog and cat welcomed me home with loads of sweet attention.

Actually, the horses were pretty affectionate, as well. Elysa captured this shot of me giving Hunter a good scratch around his ears. All three horses lingered for some uncharacteristic extended face-time with me as I offered to scratch whatever itches they presented.

So, what’s next? What do I have up my sleeve for the next act?

I don’t know.

But trust me, you’ll find out as soon as I do.

What else would I do but write about it here?

The next adventure is out there somewhere down the trail. Until then, I expect our animals will continue to provide their usual fodder for lessons in life on the ranch.

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Written by johnwhays

June 25, 2018 at 6:00 am

Parsed Words

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Every last one. Some with meaning, most with none. Flowing from the consciousness stream, but backing up every so often, words that appear and make their way to the forefront grasp what it takes to make the page. First off, they need to beat the sleep that is busy trying to stake a claim on the eye lids. It’s funny how that same claim so subtly plies its trade during the hour-long drive in the afternoon sun after a full day of mental processing. The closer to home, the more tenacious the pull of gravity on consciousness. With the bonus of an unexpected additional night at home before the weekend away, I groggily made my way from the dented Subaru to the lawn tractor. Foregoing the bad habit of guilty pleasure snacks the moment I walk in the door, I moved directly to navigating the terrain to be mowed. Right from the start there was a hint of an appealing aroma in the air. Smokey. Bold. Then I noticed the cut wasn’t looking right. Sure enough, the belt had moved off the middle spindle pulley and was rubbing away. I thought I had checked that last time I re-mounted the deck. About two-thirds through the mowing, I paused to find out what time it was and think about whether I wanted to complete the whole yard at once, or leave some to be done later. It looked like the scattered showers might hold off, and I received Cyndie’s support to forge ahead, so I got right back on the tractor and mowed. Then the clouds started to drip. The rain never fell dense enough to make anything soaking wet, so I just kept on going, eventually outlasting the precipitation to complete the lawn mowing, all on the same day. It was a nice accomplishment. An unexpected bonus. One less thing to wonder about over the weekend. Mowing in the rain is not something I would usually do. It felt good to not fret over the imperfect conditions. Another manifestation of fluidity. The cut did not turn out ideal, but it wasn’t all that bad, either. The damp clippings led to my wanting to clean the deck immediately upon finishing, overriding the equal other “want” to be inside, showered, and eating dinner. That would come later, at the end of a long day, before a long weekend with Cyndie’s family to celebrate a milestone birthday. Whatever happens, I plan to just go with the flow.

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Written by johnwhays

June 8, 2018 at 6:00 am