Thursday, December 31, 2015

End of year PS

I see that the fifth most popular resolution -- who surveys these things? -- is to read more. That strikes me as promising for those of us who like to write. My hope -- not resolution! -- is to complete and publish two novels in 2016, Wacky in WhoVille and Except for His Wings. Perhaps some of those people who want to read more will want to read one of those.

On the other hand, given that resolutions don't appear to have that much impact on behavior, maybe it won't help book sales at all.

I could resolve to be hopeful, though, right?

End of year notes

Lots of people are offering year-end reflections, and I am enjoying reading them. So thanks to you who are sharing your thoughts and dreams.

Today we went shopping at Woodman's. Woodman's Markets is an employee-owned U.S. regional supermarket chain based out of Janesville, Wisconsin. Founded in 1919 as a produce stand, Woodman's has grown to operate sixteen stores in Wisconsin and northern Illinois. Woodman's has appeared on Supermarket News Top 50 Small Chains & Independents list since 2010. The one in Sun Prairie is about five minutes away by car, is absolutely ginormous and has lots of organic and locally grown produce and all that jazz. We are still finding our way around in it.

When we moved, we brought a lot of food for the pantry -- canned goods and rice and other dry things. I packed what was in the freezer into two coolers, too. But we had pretty well emptied out the refrigerator. As a result, our nice big refrigerator in the apartment looked like a cartoon joke: a bottle of catsup, a jar of mustard, a jar of salsa, some soft drinks and bottled water, butter (for some reason, we had three pounds of butter in the freezer), yogurt and cat food. Little by slowly we are getting other things in place.

Tom had gone out after breakfast to run some errands of his own, and I took advantage of his absence to clean the floors a little. With the snow, lots of muck has been tracking itself into the place. And I finally got to the apartment complex fitness center and put in fifty minutes on the treadmill and fiddled around a little (okay, fiddle around a miniscule) with the weights. I had the place to myself at eight in the morning. When looking it over a couple of times, I have seen other people using it. It will be interesting to see if New Year's resolutions result in increased patronage. And if so, how long that lasts!

Of those Americans (I suspect we may not be all that different from others in this regard) who make New Year's resolutions, only 23% keep them. In fact, 35% of such resolutions are broken before the end of January. About 40% of Americans (and in this, we may not be so typical) resolve to lose weight. Year after year after year after pound after pound after. Been there, done that, huh? The most popular resolution is to become more physically fit, followed by improving one's finances and getting healthier. Losing weight comes in fourth. But many folks who say they want to become more physically fit or healthier, when questioned, say that means they want to lose weight. 

Well, resolutions or not, and however you choose to observe the transition from 2015 to 2016, may your own New Year be filled with delightful surprises. And may all its disappointments be fleeting and small.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Bits and pieces

We had two visits today from friends from the Dells. Fortunately we had taken all the empty bins down to the storage locker this morning, but the place is still messy. We got the large paintings up in my room, and it feels mostly done. I still need to hang an icon and make up my mind about a couple of other things. The art for the office and the large monochromatic portrait for the entry way are still leaning up against walls, waiting.

It will probably be another week before the cube organizers that Tom ordered to serve as bookshelves [plus] arrive and we can unpack the boxes of books and DVDs that are in the middle of the living room. That will also give us a place to put some of the tchotchkes that are lined up on the window ledges around the room, to the bafflement of the cats when they try to walk around and look out windows.

Tom is  working on a way to hang the stained glass panel that we brought from the house. We know where we want it to go. The challenge will be installing it. Below is a photo of the panel and one of the way it looked in situ on Berry Road, hanging by the deck door behind Tom's rocking chair. This gives you only an idea of how it looks with the light shining through it. The deck/balcony of the apartment faces almost due west, which will work great.

On a more practical level, Tom went online to the DMV after breakfast, changed his address and ordered his new driver license. He sent me the info and I followed suit. Until the new licenses arrive, the printout works as ID for things like registering to vote.

The one problem we are having with the apartment is that the intercom/doorbell -- which is supposed to be linked to our telephone -- is still not hooked up. We have only been living here a couple of days, but we have been paying rent for two weeks and they have had the information since the day we picked up the keys. I have spoken politely to them on three different occasions and been told each time that it would be taken care of by the end of that day. (I understand that it is not something they can do themselves, but some contractor does it for them.) 

Now I am turning it over to the family lawyer -- that is, to Tom. It didn't matter too much before,  but now with visitors arriving and finding our apartment not even listed on the intercom directory downstairs, it is unacceptable. And we are expecting deliveries. So ... get with the program, please!

Otherwise, loving the place. Cassidy is still unsettled, but Sundance seems to be making her peace with the new situation. I suppose with time, we all will.

If they just get the doorbell working!!!!

Okay ...?

The ever-reliable (cough, cough) Wikipedia includes this interesting bit on its list of December 30 events:

2011 – Owing to a change of time zone the day is skipped in Samoa and Tokelau.

You just know that someone in Samoa or Tokelau used this as an excuse for failing to show up for work the day after over-celebrating for New Year's.

Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and I was a student at Michigan State, one night on the Channel 6 eleven o'clock news the woman who did the weather announced, "There will be no high tomorrow."

Now that is scary. And you can imagine the reaction it got from a bunch of university students.

I learned later that for meteorologists, if the temperature drops steadily or does not rise even one degree between one midnight and the next, that day is considered  to have no high.

At any rate, as startling as hearing that there will be no high tomorrow, try to envision the reaction if the late night news anchor calmly announced, "There will be no tomorrow tomorrow. Instead, we will skip immediately to the day after tomorrow."
The switch to the Gregorian calendar from the Julian led to a bigger loss of days, from ten to thirteen depending on when your native land made the change. Click on the highlighted link for the deets.
PS -- This is why Damien should be maintaining his blog! How are people supposed to learn these things without his help?

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Cleaning up after the storm

The city of Madison declared a snow emergency this morning after five inches of wet snow fell in yesterday's storm. The snow tapered off around sunrise and things are getting back to normal. The snow plows kept on top of the main roads in our area through the night, which was no small accomplishment. The winds meant that snow just kept blowing back onto the roads as soon as they were plowed. This morning, though, traffic on the major roads is moving along. They say it will take all day to get the side roads in good shape. 

What I see now as I look out over our neighborhood is the clean-up, people trying to clear sidewalks and plow out parking lots. Tom commented last night that it was nice to have a storm and he didn't have to shovel or run the snowblower. 

Actually, I think he liked doing that, but it was nice not to have to go  out into that wind. And such things have become harder for him, a major factor in our decision to move. Our first night here and already we are reaping a benefit of no longer being home owners responsible for dealing with nature's whims.

On the other hand, our own indooor clean-up continues. Little by slowly, as our friend Elton says, things are getting done. I told Lee that we are in the "Where the hell did I pack the regular envelopes? Where is the French roast coffee?" stage.

It will all come out in the wash if you rub hard enough, as my mother is wont to say. 

And yes, that photo below is part of the view north and west from the balcony/deck.The building in the distance is American Family Insurance.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Looks like we made it!

The snow started here a little before nine, but Tom and the movers were able to get here. The worst part, Tom said, was not the snow -- which was not all that heavy at the time they were on the road -- but the forty-five mile an hour winds. 

By 11:30, the movers had done their job and left us to try to create some order in the chaos. We have not arrived yet at anything approaching what Sheldon Cooper would want, but we are on the way. The study and bedrooms are pretty much set up except for getting art on the walls. The living room is at least usable and the kitchen is more or less so. Bathrooms are in good shape. There are about a dozen empty bins waiting to be taken down to the storage unit. And we are both pretty much worn out. The cats continue to adjust, all the while demanding more attention than usual. I, for one, did not know this was even possible!

The wind is howling outside, visibility is low with blowing snow. But we are inside where there is no wind and pizza is cooking in the oven.

Perhaps not everything is right in the world, but in our little corner tonight, things are pretty good.

Once everything is in place, I will take a few photos to share.

Moving van

Sometime between eight and nine this morning, the moving van is due to take what remains of our stuff -- mainly the large bits of furniture -- to Madison. So that's what Tom and I will be up to today, but not quite the way we expected.

The winter storm forecast changed our original plan. This morning is supposed to bring a wintry mix, turning to snow and accumulating perhaps as much as six inches before it ends tonight. The movers say they will move us no matter what the weather, which meant someone had to be in the Dells to deal with them there and in Madison to let them into the apartment. When we heard this on Saturday, we decided that I would come to the apartment Sunday morning with the cats and all their stuff.  Originally we thought I could take off after they arrived to start loading this morning, but the forecast made that sound iffy. The movers might be confident that they can deal with any weather problems, but we were not so sure we wanted to take any risks. So yesterday morning, after a few hours of helping Tom move things around to make it easier for the movers, I said my goodbyes to Rich and Peggy, loaded the cats into the Equinox and headed south.

They were fairly well behaved on the trip down. The vet had given us Valium for them and it helped. There was very little complaining. About ten miles north of Madison they decided to have a spat, but it was over quickly. I got them into the apartment without running into any dogs -- of which there are many in this building! -- and they wandered around suspiciously -- "What fresh new hell is this?" clearly in their minds -- before deciding that Tom's walk-in closet was the best place to hide and sleep off their meds.

Last night they and I spent our first night in the new digs. We were not exactly roughing it, but between the cats' constant prowling and exploring and trying to join me on the leaky twin-sized air mattress I tried to sleep on, it was not the best night we've ever had. But at least we were warm, safe and sound and that part of the experience is over, for us at least.

Now I am trying to get the apartment ready to receive the movers late this morning. Tom is back in the Dells directing operations there. Once the movers leave the house with our stuff and head in my direction, Tom will make a decision about whether the weather will permit him to join us here. Much depends on when the snow arrives in its full force. With luck, he will be able to get here not long after the movers arrive. By the end of the day we hope to have furniture arranged and, most importantly, beds reassembled so that we can collapse in comfort and snooze the snooze of the just. 

If weather forces Tom to wait until tomorrow, the cats and I will arrange what furniture we can, unpack bins and put things away. My bed will not be put back together, but at least the cats and I can sleep on a queen-sized mattress instead of on an air mattress that was designed for one human, not a human and two cats in need of comfort.

After a quick breakfast, I ran over to Woodman's Market and picked up some food to tide us over until the storm passes: frozen pizza, chips, frozen breakfast stuff, cheese, frozen Chinese. Oh, and some yogurt and granola bars so that I can pretend I at least thought about our health.

I will post later to tell you what happened!

Hope your own day is a bit more relaxed.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Happy ...

Feast of Stephen, Protomartyr (The reason "Good King Wenceslaus" is a Christmas carol is its association with this feastday: "...on the feast of Stephen...")

Boxing Day, celebrated in the United Kingdom and many former British colonies, supposedly the day servants and tradespeople received Christmas boxes from employers or bosses.

Kwanzaa, which honors African heritage in African-American culture. Today is dedicated to the principle of Umoja (Unity), seeking to build and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race.

Friday, December 25, 2015

And for our friends in the southern hemisphere

May your days be calm and serene; 
and may all your Christmases be green!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

We're blowing into the Windy City

To paraphrase the musical Calamity Jane,

We're blowing into the Windy City.
The Windy City is might pretty ...

And we hope and trust that no calamity awaits us or you!

It is a quarter to seven and we are almost packed and ready to head out. I hope any travels in your holiday plans go well and that, whether at home or abroad, you enjoy your hosts or your guests or your own fine solitary company. May we all meet here on the other side of the feasts, a little plumper, a little happier, and if a little more exhausted, pleasantly so from time spent with loved ones. 

This year for the first time we will have young (grand)children as part of the holiday experience, which will add immeasurably to the pleasure.

And so now we exclaim, ere we drive out of sight, 
"Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"

Wednesday, December 23, 2015


Yesterday we moved the last things to the apartment, that is, the last of the things we plan to move ourselves until next Monday when we go down with the moving guys. That gives us today to take a breath, do a few small errands and relax before the four-hour-drive into the heart of Chicago tomorrow. 

I did not expect us to have a day off from what has become a daily trip to Madison for the past week, hauling things up to the apartment and unpacking, then taking bins and boxes back to the car and truck and driving back to a mess of a house. I am grateful for this small mercy of a break!

In other news, Tom took Sundance to the vet yesterday morning, and she -- Sundance, not the vet -- is responding well to the thyroid medication. She has gained half a pound and her thyroid level is in the low normal range instead of way over the top. 

Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out.

Just keep breathing.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Empty hands

What did you think when you looked at the previous post's image of the hands?
  • Those hands are empty.
  • Those hands are receptive.
  • Those hands are begging.
  • Those hands were holding a gift and just handed it to a loved one.
  • Those hands have been robbed.
  • Those hands are open.
  • Those hands are waiting to grasp other hands in friendship.
  • Those hands are ...
And now for something entirely different ...
Humbug Day is today, December 21. According to the creators of this day, Humbug Day  "Allows everyone preparing for Christmas to vent their frustrations."

Sure, venting frustration over the stress of Christmas is appropriate for this day. But, we believe Humbug Day is much more. We believe Humbug Day brings out the Scrooge in all of us. Scrooges all over have been waiting for this day, and come out of the  woodwork in great numbers. They go far beyond venting a few frustrations. Many scrooges are negative towards Christmas in general, and can put a real damper on your Christmas spirit. 

Use Bah Humbug Day to release the stress of the holiday season. But, whatever you do, avoid becoming a real, bonafide Christmas Scrooge. 

I nearly bought a Bah humbug tee shirt the other day ...

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Moving is work!

This is both of us today. So much progress, so much done, so much ... tiredness ...

Yesterday was very hard on the cats. They have been stressed for weeks by all the boxes and bins that keep appearing and cluttering up their space, but yesterday the couch and chairs that they sit on got moved. And that's just wrong! I told them about the beautiful perch that I put together for them so that they can relax and enjoy the view at their new apartment, but they were not convinced.

As the vet says, cats like change as long as everything stays the same. (I think that may be the meaning of a bumper sticker I saw the other day: "My cat is a Republican.")

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Checking in

Wanted to let you know we are alive and making progress. At this point, I think we have more things in the apartment than in the house, except for the larger bits of furniture, of course, which are waiting for Two Guys and a Truck after we return from our Christmas trip.

We have the art hung in the living room and the dining room; Helen's pots adorn the shelf above the cabinets; the televisions are in place and connected to the U-verse (I thought we were all about the Me-verse) as are the telephones and the internet. Tom's room is all arranged and waiting for the arrival of bed and dressers. My room is serving as a staging area and is filled with tool boxes, yet-to-be placed art and boxes filled with things waiting to be put away. My office is 80% done and usable. All that is lacking is to get the paintings up and find a comfortable reading chair, preferably one that can flip out into a bed when needed. There are paintings to be hung in the entryway and such areas.The dishes and related bits -- including Tom's gazillion clear coffee mugs -- are in place. Since we are still cooking and eating at the house, we will have to wait to take pots and pans later. And we are shopping for cubes to use for books and paraphernalia in the living room and in the entry hall. (There is a story about the cube shopping and Tom's heroic patience with incompetence, but I will spare you the details.)

The apartment has great almost-new appliances -- the previous residents were the first to live there and only for a few months while house hunting -- including a built-in microwave above the stove, dishwasher and full-size washer and dryer. So we are not having to move any appliances, and the woman who is buying the house gets ours as part of the package deal.

This morning I got up early, packed the car with things to take to St. Vincent de Paul and things to take to Madison. Right now I am doing laundry. I will head over to St. Vinnie's when they open at nine, drop off the boxes and bags of donations and then go to Madison. Tom is staying in the Dells because he has people coming to take care of things at the house. I will unpack and put things away and enjoy being alone in the new place for a while before returning home (?) to cook dinner.  

Home is beginning to feel imprecise as a designation.  Part of me is thinking of the apartment as home already. Which seems like a good thing.

It has not been painless, but we haven't shed any blood yet either. Notice I said yet.

Thanks to those who have made suggestions about getting Sundance to take her meds. At the moment she is co-operating as long as the pills are served up inside Fancy Feast cat food of any flavor. I suspect next she will demand we put it in a crystal bowl.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Thursday, December 17, 2015

What is that photo? [See previous post]

In February 1979 an astonishing sight appeared on Wisconsin’s Lake Mendota. The top of the Statue of Liberty seemed to emerge from the icy water. Astonished local residents flocked to the lake to witness the bizarre spectacle. It was not a mirage. It was, instead, one of the most famous college pranks of all time.

The presence of Lady Liberty on Lake Mendota was the handiwork of Jim Mallon and Leon Varjian. They were the two leaders of the “Pail and Shovel Party” that had gained control of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s student government in the Spring of 1978 — much to the surprise of everyone, including themselves.
For years the affairs of the university’s student government had attracted little interest. Turnout for elections was invariably low. Mallon and Varjian decided to shake up the status quo by running an absurdist campaign. They made outrageous campaign promises. For instance, they promised to convert the entire student government budget, all $70,000 of it, into pennies and allow the students to dig into it with pails and shovels. (Thus, the name of their party.) They promised to order all campus clocks to run backwards so classes would be over before they could begin. They said they would put dormitories on wheels and roll them to different parts of the campus each morning to provide students with a new perspective. They pledged to flood Camp Randall Stadium and wage mock naval battles. And finally, they said they would buy the Statue of Liberty and move it to Lake Mendota.

That year’s election saw the largest voter turnout of any for the past five years. Mallon and Varjian swept into office with 1510 votes out of 4529. Varjian commented, “The students felt we had the best campaign platform. We built it in front of them on the mall with 1,000 popsicle sticks.”

The Pail and Shovel Party proceeded also to win all of the senior class officer seats, five student senate spots, and posts on the boards of the student newspaper and yearbook. This gave them the ability to do almost anything they wanted. And they proceeded to do exactly that.

As soon as Mallon and Varjian were in power, they began implementing their plan of absurdity. They threw campus-wide toga parties, and bought toys to occupy students during the boredom of registration. But their masterpiece was their fulfillment of their campaign promise to move the Statue of Liberty to Lake Mendota.
The statue appeared on Lake Mendota in February of 1979. Varjian claimed the statue had been flown in by helicopter, but that the cable holding it had snapped causing Lady Liberty to crash through the ice until only the top of her head and her arm remained above water. In actuality, the statue had been constructed in a woodworking shop out of chicken wire and papier-mâché at a price of $4,000. Or 400,000 pennies.

Although an instant hit, the statue was destroyed by arson its first year.(Apparently not everyone at the University had a sense of humor.) A fireproof version replaced it in 1980 and 1981, but it didn’t appear for some years thereafter, in compliance with state regulations for removing structures on the ice. It remained in storage in a Barneveld barn, at one point suffering damage by a tornado.

In late 1995, an anonymous donor covered the cost of replacing the torch and touching up the crown, and the iconic statue returned to the ice from time to time, notably in 2009 on the thirtieth anniversary of the original prank.

All I can add is, "Take that, MIT pranskters!"

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

For the last Christmas season from Berry Road

From our house
to your house,
the best of every season!

Michael, Tom, Sundance and Cassidy

I told you our new apartment people are cat friendly!

This was waiting on the kitchen island when we arrived yesterday.

The cats weren't with us, but we are saving the greeting to show them.

Tom and I don't drink, but the chocolates were welcome. The cats are not big wine fans, but I am sure we will find someone who will enjoy it.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Today we begin to move ...

Not sure about time or energy for blogging for a while ...

The plan so far:

Today we pack up truck and car and head to Madison to pick up keys and start moving in. We have to have televisions in place by lunchtime so the installation guy can program boxes or whatever. 

Over the next week we will be bringing a load or two down every day. 

On December 22 we take Sundance back to the vet to check on how well the thyroid medication is working. On December 24 we head to Chicago to spend holidays with family  there, returning on December 26. Sunday December 27 is final packing and prepping for movers to arrive on December 28. The big furniture goes with the movers and the cats come with us.  

And these are totally not our movers! Even if they were, no one is dressing like that in Wisconsin on December 28.

Then moving any remaining bits and pieces and getting the cleaners in on January 4 to have the house in shape to hand over on January 8.


I have a few things scheduled to post over the next few days. But it may be a while before I am back in the flesh, as it were.

So if you don't hear from me before 2016, have a merry, merry and a happy, happy!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

What are you going to do?

Lately many people have asked, "What are you going to do when you get to Madison?" This is often followed by, "Are you going to volunteer at the library? Are you going to finish writing your book? Which one will you finish first?"

And so on.

I realize this is largely polite conversation, social connective talk where content is as meaningless as "How are you?"

It reminds me, though, of when I retired. Lots of people wanted to know what on earth I was going to do. I pointed out that if I wanted to do something, I would have continued to work and get paid.

To be honest, I don't plan to do anything. Madison is full of things to do, museums to visit, events to enjoy, people to meet. And I am sure we will do some of those things, visit those museums, attend some of those events, meet some of those people. (Hi, Glen! Indian food?)

I will probably even finish writing a book or two and maybe -- someday -- volunteer at a local library or some such thing.

But after spending three decades in a contemplative religious community, I find that my priorities seldom start with doing things. Chop wood, carry water. Before and after. Feed cats, take walks. Before and after. In the monastery, we began each day with an hour of silent reflective solitude, and before the evening meal, we had another hour of silent reflective solitude. The most useful part of the day. 

Sometimes it is not even all that important to chop wood and carry water. 

Although, of course, feeding the cats is never optional.

Nations, too