Springing ahead with a photo-a-day

Week #12 — and the official arrival of spring — brought us a variety of weather. But any time we’re playing golf in March, that’s an early spring around here.

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(3/19/17)  The ice is out on the Minneapolis lakes. This makes most of us happy, as long as we ignore the fact that we’re living in very unusual climatological times.

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(3/20/17) Golf !!! Roger was swinging like he’s been playing all winter.

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(3/21/17) Yes, this is a puzzling picture. Becky Ramgren is not always easy to figure out.  After talking her family into going to Florida without her, she decided to stop over to “check out” our house. For some reason, she took an interest in these small salt and pepper shakers. And here’s the really odd thing — we can’t find them now.

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(3/22/17) This is the rather disturbing view out the window of Eric the Red, a bar across the street from the new Vikings’s Stadium. I felt like we were going to be pillaged and/or plundered at any moment. When the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome was across the street, this place was called Hubert’s, and it seemed a lot safer.

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(3/23/17) Doug Westendorp’s cut paper design warms up the house on a cold, wet day.  (See my previous post for more about Doug’s art.)

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(3/24/17) It’s raining eggs !!! (Hallelujah!)

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(3/25/17)  The stately Calhoun Beach Club, on the north shore of Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis, lends an air of sophistication to the neighborhood. Construction began on this building in 1928, but was paused when the depression began, and it wasn’t completed until after WWII. It’s always been a multi-use facility, now housing luxury apartments, drinking, dining, and an athletic club. Twin Cities baby-boomers will remember it as the home of WTCN-TV, with it’s local kids shows such as “Lunch with Casey” and the always-popular All-Star Wrestling (yes, they broadcast the wrestling matches from here!) Oh, and don’t forget about Matinee Movie with Mel Jass.

How to take action? That is the question.

To actWe’re now beyond “To act, or not to act”. While it appears that “wait-and-see” continues as the modus operandi for most of those who voted for the person who currently holds the office of President, (although the Trumpcare proposal is causing a few cracks to appear) I think it’s safe to say that nearly all of us who voted against him have seen enough, and that there’s no more time for waiting.

Not since the Viet Nam War have the actions and words of a President produced such a polarized and angry climate.  I don’t think the degree of pissoffedness (or is it pissedoffness?) is not really measured by the public opinion polls. The latest poll has Mr. T at a 37% approval rating vs. 58% disapproval.  What I have observed is this — the 37% has been pretty quiet lately, and the 58% are mad as hell.

We are mad about this madness in Washington (and not just the White House)  and many of us want to be more involved in this fight — this “resistance”.  But we don’t really know where to direct all our new-found energy.

Karen and I were talking to someone at a coffee shop on Friday and “the situation” came up, as it often does these days. The woman we’d just met told us she was going to an event the next day, and that perhaps we might be interested as well.  It was the annual state meeting of TakeActionMinnesota.org, a political action and lobbying group that has been around for 10 years.

So we went.  It turned out to be a very good way to spend 3 hours.

I went to a breakout session on communicating with elected officials, where a large group was divided into tables of about a dozen people, each discussion facilitated by a TakeActionMN leader. Karen went to the health care session.

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My table included (L-R: John Lesch, MN State Representative, Nick Faber, St. Paul Federation of Teachers, a note-taker, and Stephanie Gasca, Minneapolis City Council candidate)

Nick Faber, Vice President of the St. Paul teachers union, led my group’s discussion. Also at my table were a candidate for Minneapolis City Council, a candidate for Mayor of St. Paul, and a State Representative.

State Representative Ilhan Omar of Minneapolis, the first Somali-American elected to statewide office in the the nation addressed the larger group. After lunch, U.S. Representative Keith Ellison, who recently finished second in the quest for the chair of the Democratic National Committee, mingled and chatted with anyone who was interested, and then got up and gave a rousing call-to-action speech.  I feel good about living in a city that elected both of these people — especially in these strange and turbulent times.

The energy level in the Paul & Sheila Wellstone Center for Community Building was high, and the message mostly hopeful and positive.  There’s much work to be done, but it feels like a lot of us are willing to be more informed and more engaged than we have in the past. What will that be for me? I’m not entirely sure yet. It will start with sending a check to TakeAction Minnesota.  Then I will move through the menu of options for involvement and decide what other things I’m willing to do.

Let’s keep in mind that this fight is not about one person. While he’s big and and obnoxious and scary, he’s a symptom, not the disease.

I will, no doubt, continue to complain.  But I have to do more than than. We all have to do more than that. Thanks to Cathy at the coffee shop, we at least got started.

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We even had a little march through some of the streets of West St. Paul after the meeting — in support of the diverse neighborhood that will be hit hard by the current administration’s choices and policies.

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Looking through my Photo-of-the-Day choices, I realized that the theme for last week was “getting together with groups of people” — some friends, some new acquaintances, and a couple of krazy kids. I began and ended the week with new groups doing things that were (mostly) new to me — good bookends for the week.

Here are my photos for Week #11 of 2017.

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(3/12/17) John Trepp is a writer of screenplays. Maureen and John invited us to join his group on Sunday morning for a reading of one of the scripts he’s been working on.  I got to play two parts — “Old Man #2” and a juicy role called “Gardener”.  After our reading of his 100-page screenplay, we gave John feedback about his story and character development. John can be seen sitting in the lower right of this photo, listening to us read his work.

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(3/13/17) One of the great old apartment buildings along the west side of the 4800 block of Chicago Ave. So. in Minneapolis

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(3/14/17) “Ten more minutes, you two! Then you can have lunch — IF there’s any left.”

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(3/15/17) This week’s version of our  weekly Wednesday Happy Hour group.  This week we met at Bryant Lake Bowl in Minneapolis. We’re doing our best to hold it together through the winter until our founder and fearless leader, Mary Livingston, comes back to Minnesota and brings the other snowbirds back with her.

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(3/16/17) Modern Times Cafe on 32nd and Chicago brightens up a gray winter day.

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(3/17/17) Guess which holiday? (Don’t get thrown off by the bunny sweater.)

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(3/18/17) U.S. Representative Keith Ellison (Minnesota 5th District) takes a silly group selfie with some of the attendees at the TakeAction Minnesota annual meeting in St. Paul.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two great theaters in one week

We saw two great shows (a play and a movie) at two very different Minneapolis theaters last week —King Lear at the Guthrie and Manchester by the Sea at the Riverview.

Minneapolis and St. Paul are known as a good cities for live theater, for several reasons. There are many smaller companies around town that have managed to thrive (or at least survive), and several renovated classic old theater buildings that bring in Broadway shows and such. But the Guthrie is the big daddy – it has the name, the reputation, and the history. While some may not like the relatively new (10 years) home as much as the old one, and while some may have other reasons for staying away, the Guthrie Theater continues to be a regional — and national — force in the theater world.

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The (new) Guthrie Theater had just been built when I shot this photo (June, 2006) from under the Stone Arch Bridge. It was designed by architect Jean Nouvel to make the most of (and fit into) an industrial site amid the old flour mills on the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis. You can see its big, blue, protruding observation deck jutting toward the river.

This was my first King Lear, and I was enthralled by the whole production. (and the less-than-half-priced rush line tickets in the 6th row didn’t hurt.) It was a wonderful night, with the Guthrie doing what it does best.

An article in today’s paper says that attendance at the Guthrie is up this year, under the leadership of new artistic Director Joseph Haj.  But on Thursday evening, there were plenty of seats available.  So join the “Rush Club”, go on a week night, and get good seats at a deep discount.

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A bar at the Guthrie is dramatically lit — and gives a terrific views of the Mississippi River. The ghost-like projected figures of playwrights show up in unexpected places all around.

On the other hand, the Twin Cities have not been so kind to our movie theaters. St. Paul only has two operating movie houses within its city limits, and Minneapolis only has a handful. But one of them is a gem, and fortunately, not too far from home for us.

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Planning for the Riverview started a decade earlier than its late-1948 opening, but construction was delayed by WWII.

 

The Riverview Theater is a mid-century modern beauty that has managed to stay open for nearly 7 decades in a quiet neighborhood at the corner of 38th St. and 42nd Ave. South in Minneapolis. Just as with every American city, there used to be many neighborhood movie theaters, but most are gone now.

Any baby-boomer who walks through the Riverview’s lobby will feel nostalgic.  The colors, the furniture, lights, shapes, lines all remind us of what the world looked like when we were kids.

How do they do it, you ask? How have they survived when so many have failed?  A loyal following of regulars, yes.  An attention to preserving the mood and style of the time, yes. But here’s an idea for a business model for you:

  1. Show 3 or 4 different movies each day (one screening each) — some big names, some lesser known films or indies.
  2. Charge a small amount per ticket ($3.00 . . . and $2.00 for seniors!!!!!!!) and get very large crowds who buy lots of not-overpriced popcorn and other stuff. This place has a lot of seats, and they often fill most of them.

It’s one of those “so crazy it just might work” kind of plans. And it does work.

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So, with two memorable theater experiences, a visit from the grandkids, and 5 more weekdays of being old enough to not have to go to work, life was pretty good last week. Continuing my Photo-a-Day project (for 10 weeks now), here’s a snapshot from each day of the week.

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(3/5/17) Fun with static electricity

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(3/6/17) Apparently we’re not in a drought this spring, even with the lack of snow. Lake Nokomis is overflowing its banks in some places, making for some unexpected reflections (and wet shoes).

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(3/7/17) One more picture from the Riverview Theater.  Have you ever seen a cooler entrance to theater bathrooms?

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(3/8/17) Karen made these colorful ladies quite a few years ago out of scrap materials from re-siding her house. They used to be the “Swamp Girls”, living in the wetland behind her back yard.  When she sold the house two years ago, we moved to a rental house and because she wasn’t sure where we’d eventually land, she gave them to her friend Judy.  When we bought this house last spring, Judy thought they would look great in our back yard — and she was right. They are, from left to right – Kayci, Karen, and Karen’s Mom, each one holding a birdhouse or bird feeder.

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(3/9/17) The windows in the Guthrie Theater’s bridge to nowhere provide some interesting views. Glass enclosures around the openings give funhouse-style looks at the surrounding area. The upside down sign is the iconic “Gold Metal Flour” sign from the top of the grain elevator.

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(3/10/17) My neighborhood coffee shop, “Sovereign Grounds”.

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(3/11/17) Minnehaha Creek, downstream from the falls.

Photo a Day for Week #6 (no politics this week!)

Here are my 7 photos from last week, week #6 of 2017.  I’ve decided to take a short break from complaining about President —–.

You’re welcome.

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(2/5/17) A successful day of Valentine making.  (They each did one for the other parent, too — no favoritism here.)

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(2/6/17) I drove through my old neighborhood and thought about how damn lucky some kids are compared to others.  Pretty cool to have this in your yard, huh?

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(2/7/17)  There used to be dozens of movie theaters in St. Paul.  Now there are exactly TWO, and this is one of them. The Grandview Theater and the Highland Theater are both owned by the Mann Theatre Company.  The Grandview opened in 1933.  The interior has retained much of its original charm, however the balcony was walled off and turned into a smaller second floor theater.  It’s still a great old place though, and one of an endangered species of  older neighborhood movie houses. I hope these two remaining St. Paul gems can hang on.

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(2/8/17)  Lake Calhoun feeds into Lake Harriet through this half-mile channel.  It’s been so warm lately that most of the ice is gone.

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(2/9/17) This bridge over on I-94 in downtown Minneapolis was designed (sort of) by Frank Lloyd Wright.  I qualify that because it was built from some of his drawings from 1937 and adapted to fit this curving bridge.  I think a lot of people don’t even realize that it’s a Wright design. (This is not a great photo, but then again, not all that bad considering I shot it out the car window on my phone while driving down the freeway.)

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(2/10/17)  Centennial Lakes park is one of those places you drive past all the time without really taking the time to explore.  When we finally did stop for an hour today and walk around, we realized that it’s really nice — especially considering its location in the middle of a suburban office park and very near Southdale, a big and busy shopping mall.  A string of ponds provides good skating (skate rental available).  Those strips of grass in the foreground are part of a funky natural grass putting course that skirts the water.  It’s kind of like mini-golf, except this course requires actual golf skills.

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(2/11/17)  Near St. Anthony Main, across the river from downtown Minneapolis.  They can’t be called Christmas lights in February, but I think I like them even more at this time of year.

 

 

We hold these truths to be alternative

The Emperor undressed, and the swindlers pretended to put his new clothes on him, one garment after another.  The Emperor turned round and round before the looking glass.

“How well Your Majesty’s new clothes look. Aren’t they becoming!” He heard on all sides, “That pattern, so perfect! Those colors, so suitable! It is a magnificent outfit.

It’s been only 9 days since his coronation.  We’ve all been watching him perform self-proclaimed amazing and alarming feats of strength each day.  His opponents have been vocal, and his supporters have been oddly quiet (at least my Facebook friends who supported him, anyway).  In a way, I get it — there’s no need to stick your neck out right now in support of his impetuous actions and crazy words, because he doesn’t need you anymore. He is now the king, and he will rule. He’s going to do what he said he was going to do for as long as he can do it, and none of us can feign surprise. He’s what we thought he would be.

Many voted for him because they wanted a “strongman” — someone who would put a stop to all this compassion, fairness, and unalienable rights nonsense.  Most wanted him in power because he said he would shake up the status quo and “drain the swamp”.  But many Americans didn’t bother to vote at all.  Others chose a third candidate who had no chance of winning. Did they do that because they didn’t mind the idea of being ruled by a narcissistic bully?  Because  now we have one. We have a president that fancies himself as an emperor. To those of you who didn’t try to prevent this, aren’t his new clothes magnificent?  To those of us who see him for what he is, and find nothing but the world’s yugest ego, we need to keep calling out what we see, as loudly as we can, for as long as it takes.

And in alternative news  . . . . it’s been a quiet week here in Lake Wobegon.

Continuing my photo-a-day project, here’s week #4 . . . . . of 1984!

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(1/22/17) This is what some people on Lake Harriet in Minneapolis are doing to avoid hearing about what’s been going on in Washington this week.  But if you ask them, they claim to be trying to catch fish.

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(1/23/17) The Highland Park neighborhood of St. Paul is home to one of 4 great old water towers in the Twin Cities.  Shown here is the top section of Architect Clarence “Cap” Wigington’s design, constructed in 1928. Wigington, an African American, was a renowned midwestern architect at time when there were few black architects anywhere. His tower, covered in Kasota and Bedford stone, rises 127 feet from its hilltop location. The 151-stair climb to the observation deck is only open to the public a couple of days each year.

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(1/24/17) Any day I get to spend time with these two knuckleheads, it’s going to be hard for me to think a photo of anything or anybody else could be more noteworthy. Today, Dr. Svea said, “This is a special stethoscope.  I can hear your heart AND look at it at the same time.” Meanwhile, Nurse Otto took great pleasure in giving me several injections of an unnamed substance.

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(1/25/17)  We were driving down West River Road, it was starting to get dark, and I didn’t have a photo yet.  Karen said, “look at that orange kayak”.  I whipped into the parking lot and met a young man named Cassidy who had just been out kayaking in the frigid Mississippi River.  “It’s still fun when it’s this cold”, he said, “but you have to be really careful, and let somebody know what you’re going to be doing”.  Thanks, Cassidy, I’ll try to remember to do that the next time I go kayaking in January.

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(1/26/17) One of the things I’m very grateful for in the the neighborhood where I live, is that I can walk a few minutes in one direction and go to coffee shop or restaurant, or walk a couple of blocks in another direction and be in a place as quiet and natural as this.

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(1/27/17) Joel Beck is an old friend and a great carpenter.  He built a beautiful deck for us last year.  Today he stopped over to talk with me about possibly remodeling this old side entry porch into the world smallest bathroom. It would be a dream come true to be able to take a leak without going upstairs.

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(1/28/17) We went to the Minnesota Opera’s production of “Diana’s Garden”, an almost unknown (but delightful) work by Vicente Martin y Soler. Soler was a contemporary of Mozart, and his musical style is similar to Wolfie’s.  Lorenzo da Ponte, Mozart’s favorite collaborator, wrote the libretto.  This photo is at the preview session in the lobby an hour before the show.  I love these pre-show shows — some history, some background, some musical theme stuff, and a couple of up-close arias from the show. Out the window is Rice Park, with its trees all lit up for the St. Paul Winter Carnival’s ice sculpture competition.  What a great night in downtown St. Paul.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What the hell just happened?

So . . . . President Trump.

How does that sound to you . . . . ?

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This did not really happen.  Right?

No, I can’t do it. I can’t talk about it right now.  Everybody’s yakking about it, and for one of the few times in my adult life, I want out of the conversation instead of in. We all know where we stand, and we now pretty much know where everybody else stands.  I will say that the enormous crowds at all the marches and rallies yesterday made me feel better.  The videos and photos of all the people were truly inspirational and uplifting. I regret not going to the state capitol and being part of it all. But I’m really proud of all my friends who did.

Even with yesterday’s boost, I’ve not emerged yet out of the damp, dark, gray week we just finished. It’s going to take more than a few million people marching together and vowing to fight the good fight to shake me out of what I was hoping was just the fog of a dream. But with each day, each action, each utterance from the new guy or from the people who got him to the White House, I am going to build my strength and resolve to do my part in fighting back.  It’s time to wake up and get busy.

In the mean time, here is a photo from each day last week — week #3 of 2017.  Did I mention we had a damp, dark, gray, foggy week?

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(1/15/17)  The week started out great, thanks to Mary Livingston agreeing to stop over and belatedly celebrate her birthday with us.  Later in the week, she took off for a warm beach and left those of us back here in the US of A to sit and stare at our TVs in disbelief.

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(1/16/17)  This guy stopped over, lookin’ all handsome and healthy and happy.

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(1/17/17) You either have to be tough or dumb  — or maybe unable to fly(?) to be a Minnesota duck. A big  group of Mallards is hanging out in the stream that flows from Lake Harriet to Minnehaha Creek. Wikipedia tells me that a group of ducks on the water can be called a “flock”, a “brace”, a “raft” or a “paddling”.  When they take to the air en masse, they are a “skein”, a “string”, or a “team”. (Note: This will be the most educational picture this week.)

 

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(1/18/18) What a great surprise.  Old friend (and now neighbor) Bob Jansen asked me out on a date. Lots of laughs, a little wisdom, tons of bullshit.

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(1/19/17) Tis not the season any more, but I’ll take some bright colors (and maybe a little bit of peace on Earth) wherever I can find them.

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(1/20/17) I shot this just at the moment in the speech when I realized that our new POTUS was ripping the crap out of President Obama, everything he did as President, and everything he stands for. I love the way Mr. Obama looks like he has just shed a YUGE weight and is in a happier place somewhere far away .

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(1/21/17) As millions of people around the globe were marching in support of women, this guy was attempting to win our local Stupidest Male competition. A week or so ago, Minnehaha Falls was all over the local TV news when a DIFFERENT idiot was very seriously injured by a gigantic chunk of falling ice (see the big hole on the upper left?) Everyone was strongly warned to stay away from and off the falls. So after a few days of thawing temperatures and weakening ice, this new genius decides to climb about halfway up the 53-foot waterfall, right next to the cascading water, so that his very proud girlfriend can take his picture.  I didn’t stay around long enough to see if he survived, but he didn’t deserve to.

 

 

 

More than just Survival

The second week of January is alway pretty quiet in this part of the country. Everyone is solidly back in the daily grind after the holiday season.Version 3

The bulk and the brunt of winter are still ahead, which can be a daunting thought.  A small percentage of  Minnesotans actually enjoy going outdoors in the bitter January air. We all like to brag about being hearty souls, but honestly, most of us merely survive the winter — relatively few embrace it.                                 .
If you venture out in single-digit “high” temps, you might see a runner on Minnehaha Parkway, a cross-country skier on Hiawatha Golf Course, and increasingly over the past few years, grown, intelligent-looking men and women riding bicycles with big fat tires on the snow and ice.

 

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These guys are riding ON the creek.

Seemingly every time I shovel the front sidewalk, the ever-chipper neighbor walking her dog with its little boots comes by and says something about what a nice day it is. Not to be argumentative, I find my self mumbling a semi-agreement. It works for a moment, long enough anyway to remember the bigger picture, that life really is pretty darn good right now.  One day, I even found myself thinking (for a split second), “I’m thankful I can still shovel snow”.

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One of us is better at the embracing- thing than the other.

Being retired brings other, more predictable, moments of gratefulness.  We had a mild snow storm earlier this week and a voice on the radio said the usual, “There have been hundreds of accidents on Twin Cities roads already this morning. If you don’t have to go anywhere today, stay home”.  I did, and I liked it a lot.

I’ve managed to keep my photo-a-day resolution going for two weeks.  According to a survey by a site called StatisticBrain.com, 68.4% of those who make a new year’s resolution keep it going for the first two weeks.  I thought that percentage would be lower, but I’ll take it.  I’m already ahead of 31.6% of the resolution-makers!

With my back still stinging from that self-pat, here is one photo from each day of week two. You’ll that see I did manage to get my butt outside a few times. And OK. . . .yes, it was a good thing.

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(1/8/17) We dropped in to see my friend Graydon Royce do his a radio show / podcast called “The New Frontier Lutheran Radio Hour” (More about this in the coming days.)

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(1/9/17) Svea

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(1/10/17) Karen doing all the work, as usual. (Hey, SOMEBODY has to take the picture.)

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(1/11/17) Catching some rays at Minnehaha Creek

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(1/12/17) 4:40 PM – Stained glass (made by Karen) holds onto the last sunlight of the day.

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(1/13/17) Walking on water . . . a stroll across Lake Nokomis at sundown.

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(1/14/17) The rocks in Minnehaha Creek somehow remember their summer colors.