Monthly Archives: April 2012

Waiting for “the call”


Sometime this week, “the call” will be made and I’ll hop a plane to St. Paul to meet my granddaughter.  She apparently is in no particular rush to meet her new world.  My prediction as to the day she would arrive was April 24.  Her grandfather is short on predictive powers.

Footnote to last week: The Swallowtail caterpillar must’ve made a dandy meal for some predator.  He/she is nowhere to be seen.

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Here is last week’s letter – the first in the past 7-8 years to be emailed since my *&#$%@ printer ran out of ink.

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April 24, 2012

Ellen/Reid: I can hardly stand all this waiting.  She will come when she’s good and ready, and not before.  So much for the passed-along family trait of early children as exhibited by the kind-of-early entry of both of you rascals.  A load of wash will have to go through this night so as to be ready to pack.  The bag isn’t out yet but I know where it is and it can be packed in a flash.  This is just so exciting.  Just think if it was triplets or quadruplets or something more than that.  You could syndicate a TV reality show and get free diapers and formula.  Unfortunately, it’s when those stop that the real expenses begin.  And yes, Ellen, the third installment of the Hunger Games comes with me.  Reid, you’re gonna be known as “Unca’ Reid.”  Better get used to it.

Cold and blustery down here the last couple of days.  Not very hospitable for the tomato plant but the lettuce must love it.  The herbs want it warmer too but the temps are forecast to be in the 70s and 80s later in the week so they will just have to deal with it.  The lettuce harvest is in full swing and the salads are scrumptious.  I’ve concocted a homemade vinaigrette dressing of olive oil, garlic, balsamic vinegar and soy sauce which is pretty good.  Since potatoes are on the banned list of high-carb foods, lettuce is filling the bill although not quite filling me up.

In another bit of good gardening news, some volunteer parsley sprang up of its own volition on the south side of the porch in the pine straw.  Must have been random seeds from the plants yanked out in the fall once they died away.  It offers me a measure of redemption because last year I summarily executed a horde of caterpillars found munching on the parsley.  Only after the extermination did I see, to my discomfort, that I had offed what would become beautiful Swallowtail butterflies.  I’ve often rued the massacre but now there is a chance to atone.  A single Swallowtail caterpillar is now on one of the plants, eating his/her way through the leafs.  He/she will stay undisturbed where he/she is and I will pamper the plants with daily watering and regular fertilizing so as to be in peak condition when the real swarm of Swallowtail larvae arrives this summer.  I’m not altogether sure how the singular worm got here (was he/she a surviving egg from the discarded plants?).  I’ll take photos of the cocoons as the worms fashion their metamorphosis cages.

I’ve also been watching with interest the blue birds fight off nest-robbing chickadees and Carolina wrens hell-bent on taking over the nesting box.  The male blue bird ain’t gonna let that happen.  He zooms in at the first hint that other birds are threatening the box.  Kind of fun to watch.  The blue birds must have fledglings because they cart food to the box as often as they catch something.

Reid, you are on the right track in looking at other options within Razorfish.  The firm seems to be on pretty solid footing.  Just keep your chin up and attitude good and you’ll come out just fine.  People do ask what you do and I still struggle to adequately explain it.

No real change with Felicia’s son.  He’s still with her, and if he remains clean for the next 10 days or so he can return to the recovery house in Asheville that he bolted from a few weeks ago.  It’s strain on her to be sure.  I’m thankful you guys are like you are.  Things could always be worse.

I’m emailing this today because my printer is on the fritz.  Actually, it’s out of ink so it’s the owner that is on the fritz.

I’ll see you all in a matter of days.  What a combo: a welcoming party and reunion wrapped up in one cute little bundle.

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The massacre of the Swallowtails


Last year, I massacred at least two dozen Swallowtail butterfly caterpillars in a single senseless act of butchery.  Their execution was swift: each was squished underfoot.  They never had a chance to emerge in all their fluttering glory.  Their wingspans  were denied flight.   Brazen cruelty grounded these little winged aviators before they could grace  our airspace with their beauty.

A Swallowtail caterpillar makes his/her way along a parsley stem. Unlike last year when this worm's relatives were massacred, the visiting bugs will be allowed to stay and eat to their heart's content. I'll do all I can to help them thrive.

Their capital offense? Munching my rarely used and mostly decorative parsley plant.  Parsley is one of the Swallowtail’s preferred food sources.   The plant looks good only – if then – as window dressing on a plate and is hardly worthy of protection.  My cruelty became remorse within minutes of the carnage while Googling to see what predacious bugs I had just slaughtered.  The full color image of the very worms I had pressed flat moments before show that rather than be treated as invaders, these were to be cherished and fed and allowed to mature.  But no.  I took the low road.   Early this spring parsley was very nearly planted again in hopes the winged glories might favor my porch garden pots again.

And they have.  Even though it is the cool of April, a lone Swallowtail caterpillar just this day is inching his/her way along the stem of one of two volunteer parsley plants as it enjoys dining priveleges its forbears never had.  Miraculousy, and with no help from me, two parsley plants have sprouted to the side of my porch.  I will protect these plants with daily surveillance and routine fertilization.  These twin parsleys will become the Ritz of parsley plants for visiting Swallowtails.

I say this because this is how I hope Ellen and Reid will treat such living things.  My atonement is certainly fodder for today’s letter (alas, yet to be composed) and as is the routine, it will be posted next week.  In the meantime, if I could fashion a “Welcome” sign that is legible to Swallowtails and plunk it in the ground adjacent to the parsley, I would.

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Now to the bigger, more immediate news: The countdown for the birth of Ellen and Tim’s baby girl is now in earnest.

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April 17, 2012

Ellen/Reid: Wow, Ellen, now the clock is ticking and it’s even picking up speed.  Who knows, by the time this letter arrives, your little wonder may be already among us.  My phone is on and at the ready for “the call.”  Nothing is packed yet, and probably won’t be until you sound the ‘Come to St. Paul’ alert.  The chair looks great, and the upstairs is almost unrecognizable.  That will be so cool to have a new bath and upper bedroom done, not for your guests but for you guys.  That is some nice living space.  No sooner had I said it would add value to your house than some nabob from some online living magazine warned against adding bathrooms that would add too much value to a home.  To heck with that idiot.  Can’t you add a room or two simply because it’s nice and makes life easier for you?  What a moron.  It’s not always about resale.  I wasn’t aware you were going to the extent you did, but if you’re going to add a swanky bathroom, why not upgrade the bedroom, too?  Nice.

Had my first salad of the season from the front porch lettuce pot last night, and if you do ever plant lettuce, be sure to add some arugula.  That adds a nice spice to the plate.  Store-bought dressing doesn’t do much for it, but it just prods me to make some homemade vinaigrette.  If it’s acceptable to you guys, I’ll create a little garden plot in the backyard while I’m there.  By the time your daughter is a little one, you can show her how to go out and pick raspberries, which is really a rite of passage for kids – just like you two bumpkins did years ago.  You guys saw to it that very few raspberries ever made it into the house.

Watched the blue birds move in and out of their nesting box this morning, often delivering some bugs to what must be their new brood of hatchlings.  That’s my assumption.  They dive bomb other birds that get anywhere near the box.  Squirrels aren’t immune to the strafing either.  My second box has a nest but I’m not sure what kind of birds built it.  The blue birds held off the chickadees to claim their space.

The forest behind the house has completely leafed out and now we are totally hidden from the condos across the stream and greenbelt.  They can’t see us and we don’t want to see them.  I like that portion of it, the privacy and the quiet.  The front porch is getting a workout.  I might put a tasteful lamp out there to further enjoy my morning paper and a cup – limit, 6 – of coffee.  A couple of years ago I transplanted a sprig of English Ivy, and now it threatens to overrun the entirety of the porch.  It does need to be trimmed back, but not just yet.  It looks vibrant and nice.  Nothing wrong with a little greenery slinking all over the place.  You see some lizards darting in and out of it now and again, so it’s a little arboretum/refuge for them.  That’s okay.

Felicia’s son continues his struggle.  In honesty, I don’t know how she does it let alone holds up under the strain.  It’s just the damndest, God-awful thing.  Hard to imagine the stranglehold drugs have on a person.  It’s been hell for him to try to kick it.

The trip to the Bridger Wilderness may be delayed into early August.  Trying to accommodate some schedules while getting the most people to go.  We will be a smaller group than last year.  Maybe 4-5, tops.  I’m hell-bent on it this year and next.  Felicia won’t go – she worries incessantly about mosquitoes.  If they’re as bad as last year, can’t say as I blame her.  The guy at the Sublette County paper is keeping me apprised of the snow pack.  The guess is that the skeeters won’t be as problematic as last year.  But that’s just a guess.

Okay guys, gotta go.  Ellen, Reid and I will be on full baby alert.  We’ll take care of ourselves; no need for you or Tim to cater to us.  You have bigger – or make that smaller – matters to attend to.

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Saying enough too often


Last week was the second week running that no letter was stamped and mailed.  This is the first two week stretch of no notes in at least a half decade.  After 11 years, I am rethinking my approach.

Not that there’s not enough to say; indeed there’s no dearth of enough material.   It is perhaps, however, that I say enough too often.

I admit this partially in view of my eye-opening trip to Chicago to see Reid, and the impending birth of Ellen’s baby.  They have an enormous amount going on in their lives, and I am wholly uncertain if the notes have the same impact as even 3-4-5 years ago.  Their lives are picking up speed and things are likely not as they were before in terms of the need for information.  Are the pages viewed as just another piece of mail?  We may soon find out.  So far there has been no hue and cry over the missing envelopes.

But there will be a letter today.  I’ll post it next week.

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My son and Chicago…


Chicago is a great place.

It is especially great if you 1) are young, 2) have a good job in the Loop, 3) have a nice apartment in a lively part of town, and 4) have a nice girlfriend who likes you back.  Reid has all those things.

My weekend there was roughly 48 hours of sorely needed, long overdue catch-up time.  Most of the catching up was over copious amounts of food and and somewhat less copious amounts of drink.  All the better to ply the facts out of him: How’s work?  How’s the agency biz?  You spending much time with Liz?  Show me photos of India.  We need to talk about St. Paul when Ellen‘s baby arrives.  Are you going to stay in Chicago?  When will you visit Charlotte?

His answers were expansive and well beyond the shortish texts that punctuate some of our weekly exchanges.  All of which a parent hopes to glean on just such an extended weekend.

There was next to no chit chat about Charlotte.  He’s been filled in all along about what’s going on down here.  This was about where he’s been, what’s he’s doing, and where he’s going.  So in that vein the weekend was all good.

There was no letter sent last week; I put all my eggs in the Chicago basket.  Ellen had to do with no letter for one week.  Trust me, that’s no deal breaker.

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I used to love to run…


I haven’t thought about running for a long, long time.  My cousin Tom jogged my memory about it in a comment last week.  Literally, I rarely ever talked about running to Ellen and Reid, and certainly never in a letter.  But Reid broke a little bit of ice last week when he called to say he hit the bricks for an 8K (about 5 miles) in Chicago.

There was a time when I used to love to run; now I can hardly imagine lacing up the shoes again.  Where I once wondered how to run a race, now I wonder why I did it at all.  This month marks the 30th anniversary of my last competitive marathon (2:25).  The next day I went cold-turkey and haven’t run, nor missed it,  since.  Bad ankles – even to this day – serve as a reminder of too many miles too fast.  The trophies – Grandma’s, White Rock, Oktoberfest, Drake, Omaha, Lincoln, etc.  – and such went into a box and stayed there until they made a final trip to the dumpster when I moved to Charlotte.

And here’s how last week’s letter went down:

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March 26, 2012

Ellen/Reid: Reid, it’s pretty impressive to be able to run an 8K as fast as you clipped it off yesterday, especially with very little training.  You ought to keep at it.  You ought to Google a running coach – now deceased – named Arthur Lydiard.  He coached a lot of good New Zealand runners back in the day.  His shtick was that runners ought to concentrate on long, slow aerobic distance running rather than anything fast and anaerobic.  I wish I would have paid attention to that.  It might have saved my ankles, but his larger point was you only have so much energy in terms of energy stores and when that is used up, it’s gone.  I would think you would be good at it.  It’s in your genes.  Your cousins were pretty good, your uncle pushed 9:45 in the two mile and I was 2:24 in the marathon and 1:02 in the 20K.  I just wouldn’t push it to the max.  That’s a recipe for disaster down the road.

I’ll follow your advice, Ellen, and buy a ticket now for around May 1 to head north to see your new daughter.  You make a good point that for a change fee the ticket can always be amended.  Nothing like being gouged by the airlines.  The CEO of US Airways said last week the fee is here to stay.  We get Southwest Airlines down here relatively soon, and that should turn the screws on the other airlines somewhat.  My preference would be to stay at a local hotel.  That would suit you all better.  I’ll find something in downtown St. Paul.  I’ll stick around for a couple of days and leave before Ben Franklin’s truism, “Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days,” comes to pass.  There’s probably a lot to be said for that.  I’m glad you will take me up on the cleaning service for a few months.  That should make your life somewhat easier.  Just let me know who you have picked so I can chat with them about payment options.

Speaking of which, the cleaning service came in today and for the life of me I have to wonder why they haven’t been here all along.  It is just better in all respects; neatness, aromatically, etc.  They are pros and I am a non-pro.  It’s worth the money.

It was kind of a blah weekend in these parts.  With Felicia’s son’s situation, there wasn’t a lot of levity so we just sort of hunkered down for the duration.  Felicia is very strong.  I’ll keep you posted.  We did go out for a bite Friday night but that sort of dissolved and we made burgers Saturday night and watched the basketball tournament.  The first week of the tourney is more fun than the latter stages.  Without being able to pinpoint why, I’m sort of a Carolina fan although they got rolled last night by KU.  That they stayed in the game longer than they had any right to is testament to their personnel.  They had a couple of key folks out and they paid the expected price.

Saw my first copperhead of the season last week down at a course in South Carolina.  Trust me, when you’re poking around in the weeds for golf balls, the visage of a snake gets your attention real quick like.  It proves that white men can jump.  It wasn’t a monster, a couple of feet long, but length is of no issue once the venom starts to work.  At least I’m rustling around with a club rather than my feet.  Still, all it takes is one lightning strike and you’re done for the day if not far longer.  The dogwoods and azaleas are out right now, and it made for a nice drive to the course which was in the boonies.  My guess is the spring blooms will mostly be gone once the Masters rolls around.  The nesting box we put up last year is now the residence of the Eastern Blue Birds.  They apparently have won the scrap with Chickadees over nesting rights.

Well, you two keep your heads up.  Reid, let’s kibitz about when the two of us will get up to see your niece.  I’ll wager that the day she says “Hello, world” will be Sunday, April 29.  Any takers?

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