Challenges of life...Never easy...Often unexpected...

Last night, we took granddaughter Madighan to her weekly karate class. It was fun watching her and four boys in the same age group, learning the moves presented by Sensei Luiz.
Today, I spent the day at the cancer center at Park Nicollet Frauenshuh Cancer Center at Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park with my daughter-in-law Camille. She has stage three colon cancer which we were apprised of a few months ago.

This heartbreaking news for the mother of three of our grandchildren and wife of son Greg had prompted us to come to Minnesota without an outgoing flight and a level of uncertainty as to how long we'd stay. 
Our original plan was to stay for two weeks but now we've extended it to three weeks based on circumstances and would have stayed longer except for the fact I am grossly allergic to cats which causes severe asthma. Greg and Camille have Morty, an adorable cat.

I am unable to spend more than a few hours at their house each day and thus, we've decided we'll be leaving Minnesota on Thanksgiving Day which is the best time to fly out to avoid the holiday rush on either end.

We feel sad to be leaving early but have no choice since I am hardly in a position to be having breathing problems at this point, or for that matter, at any point.

When we lived here seven years ago I'd only spend a few hours at their home while visiting. More often, they came to visit us or we did activities out and about. Now with winter fast approaching, snow on the ground and bitterly cold weather, outdoor activities aren't practical.

We're spending as much time as possible with the grandkids and their parents, enjoying everything we're doing together. Oftentimes, Tom and I are separated spending time with our respective families.

As for dear Camille, she is doing as well as anyone could under these dreadful circumstances. Her strength and attitude are exceptional, not surprisingly, and we have all the hope and anticipation she will recover from this frightening disease.

Her family and friends have lovingly and helpfully rallied around her and she is in good hands with lots of love, support, and prayers. I hadn't mentioned this in a prior post since I wanted to ensure she was comfortable with my doing so.

Today, while we spent several hours in the private chemo suite, we had a good chance to talk and she agreed that my writing about her condition would be fine especially since she'd posted a few comments on Facebook with periodic updates for her family and friends to see.

There are no words anyone can say to a cancer patient or their family to ease the worry and concern during this painful and difficult process. Having been faced with my own mortality this past year, made us both all the more compassionate and understanding of the emotional upheaval of dealing with a potentially life-threatening condition.  

Although we have to leave Minnesota, we'll be in close touch with Camille's progress and continue to pray for a positive outcome. She has a long way to go with her many upcoming treatments and eventual surgery but our thoughts will always be with her.

At the moment, I am sitting in a Perkins Restaurant working on today's post. At 4:45 pm, son Greg will pick me up to attend the bake sale at the kid's school for which we'd made tons of Rocky Road Bars we placed in pretty holiday tins for tonight's event. 

It was quite a job, putting together all those containers with over 200 bars but it's for a good cause for the Agamim Charter School fundraiser. We all got involved in the process and ultimately I made it through the hours of baking and standing on my feet. My only issue was the difficulty in breathing due to the cat.

Baking for hours was something I hadn't done since last Thanksgiving when I made eight pumpkin pies in the 102F (40C) heat and humidity in Marloth Park when I classified my day as a "Pumpkin Pie Hell." See the link here.

The awful heat had a huge impact on the made-from-scratch dough, almost impossible to roll in the awful weather but somehow I made it through the day. The pies didn't look as good as they tasted, so said our holiday dinner guests!

We would have loved to stay in Minnesota for Thanksgiving dinner but there were limited non-stop flights available and that particular day offered the best options. We'll arrive in Henderson, Nevada in the early evening and possibly go out for dinner thereafter.

That's it for today, folks! Tomorrow's another day.

Be well.
Photo from one year ago today, November 11, 2018:
This morning, Tom stood next to Ms. Bushbuck to prevent kudus from stealing her share of pellets. For more photos, please click here.

How does it feel being back in Minnesota?...

Today, it's snowing in Minneapolis and suburbs and the roads are slippery.
Many have asked, "How does it feel to be back home?"

The answer to this question is entangled with many emotions. We had a good life here in Minnesota. Tom was born in Minneapolis and I'd come to the state back in 1969 when my two sons were two years and an infant.

But, like all families, we each had our struggles, disappointments and tough times interspersed with the happy memories and milestones of our lives and the lives of our children, other family members, and friends.

Now, after being away for seven years, it feels very different and here. Today, I can only speak for myself. Tom can only decide for himself at this point for which he isn't quite certain.

It's not the same, for sure. Years ago when on occasion I traveled for business or pleasure, as the plane flew over the city, especially at night, I had a powerful sense of, "This is my happy place. This is my home."

When we flew over the city and suburbs on Friday night, other than joyful anticipation in seeing our family members, I didn't feel a moment of nostalgia or reminiscence. It was simply another big city we were flying over at night, some of which elicit enthusiasm and excitement and others, very little emotion at all.

When we've arrived in Johannesburg, South Africa on our way to Marloth Park, I didn't feel a speck of joy. But, when we'd flown into the small facility, Mpumulanga/Nelspruit/Kruger Airport my heart was pounding in my chest with sheer joy and excitement. It's all relative. That's the way life is. That's the way our life is.

And soon, when we fly into Mumbai, India is a mere 50 days my heart will be aflutter with hope and expectations for two months of a purely profound cultural experience with a smidgen of wildlife tossed in the mix. (We're booking several days on tiger safaris).

But, is Minnesota still our home? If not, then where is the home of these two nomads who wander the earth, now seven years in the making? It's right here. It's there. It's everywhere.

The old adage, "Home is where the heart is," however corny that may sound is with a doubt a truism. For us, wherever we may be at any given moment is "home" and in our own peculiar way, we call it so over and over again. 

When we say after a long day of sightseeing or visiting with friends, "Shall we head for "home" honey?" "Do you feel like heading home?" We know what we mean and thus, the definition for us in this unusual life we lead is "home is down the road to that place where we lay our heads, cook our meals and find comfort in the activities of our daily lives and each other."

It's cold here now, mostly in the low 20's (-6.6C) and this morning sleet and snow is falling in thin sheets, leaving frosty trees, slippery roads, and walkways. I've yet to drive the rental car and suspect I may never in our remaining weeks in Minnesota.

We've decided we'll stay through Thanksgiving, then fly to Apache Junction, Arizona to our awaiting holiday home, unpack our belongings and then proceed to Nevada for a visit returning to Arizona a week or ten days later. We'll only take a small amount of luggage to Nevada and for the first time in a while, we'll be traveling light. Of course, posts will continue along the way.

Today, we wrapped up the paperwork and got it in the mail for our required visa for India. It's a complicated process that was weighing heavily on our minds. Now we can relax knowing the paperwork is in the mail. We'll receive the visa via email in several weeks.

Next, we need to process our "second passports" which enable us to apply for visas requiring we mail in our original passports to apply for visas. This prevents us from being in a foreign country without a valid passport in our possession.

Tonight, we're taking three of the grandchildren out to dinner after watching granddaughter Madighan at her karate class. 

A special thanks to our loyal readers for continuing to read our posts during this quiet time in our world travels. We appreciate each and every one of YOU!

We'll be back tomorrow with more, however quiet, however mundane, and however uneventful it may be.

Happy day!
Photo from one year ago today, November 13, 2018:
This is my boy "Little".  He visits almost daily.  He'd just returned from eating from the bale of hay left in the neighbor's driveway when they departed after the weekend.  That's why he has grass all over his snout.  He likes to cool off in the cement pond, sleep under the shade of a tree in our garden and climb the veranda steps seeking pellets.  What a guy! For more photos, please click here.

Busy days, busy nights...Life in the USA...

My cioppino (fish stew) at Stella's Fish House was delicious.
Our days and nights couldn't be busier consisting of one event after another. Today, my dear daughter-in-law Camille and I shopped at Cub Foods, Target and the dollar store in preparation for making a fabulous rocky road bar recipe (from my baking days, long past).

The goal was to make as many as we could with the ingredients we purchased for an upcoming bake sale event at the three grandchildren's charter school in Edina which we visited on Monday for a special Veteran's Day celebration.

Maisie, our granddaughter is on the school council and each of the council members planned to participate in the bake sale.  Maisie was excited Grandma was here to help bake something special for the event occurring on Thursday evening. I was "all-in" of course, never wanting to disappoint our precious grandchildren.

Camille and I shopped this morning and my eyes were like saucers at the abundance of "stuff" on sale in the three stores we visited, particularly Cub Foods, a massive supermarket, containing literally everything a person could dream of buying at a grocery store. I was on information overload.

It had been over two years since we've visited the US and as expected, walking into a spacious store of any type makes our heads spin in sheer delight over the vast options, more than we'd ever imagined.

Back at hers and Greg's homes, we hustled to get the bar's ingredients mixed together to get them into the oven before Tom planned to pick me up by 5:00 pm.

We told our kids and our thoughtful host not to worry about meals for us. We'd figure them out on our own. Plus, I didn't feel up to standing in the kitchen cooking big meals for hours since in any case, it's in my nature to help out.

But, busy all of these hours made me realize I still wasn't quite "up to snuff" and didn't possess the stamina and strength to perform lots of tasks to help anyone out with their day-to-day lives.

This was the first time in nine months I've had busy full days and I could easily feel the strain on my still recovering body. I'd overestimated what I was capable of doing and in my typical style I jumped in with both feet pushing myself as hard as I can with some consequence.

Going forward, I will take it a little easier, reducing what I expect of myself to a more manageable level. No one in our family is expecting me to push myself. It's all on me.

Tomorrow will be a little more low key. Tom and I will hang around at Karen's home during the day while we work on our visas, two-year passports, and logging receipts. In the afternoon, we'll head back to Camille and Greg's home so I can cut up the bars and arrange them in the pretty containers we purchased to use to sell the bars at the bake sale. 

Afterward, we'll take the three kids out to dinner at their favorite local restaurant, Bunny's, returning them home after dinner.

My sister Julie has flown back to Los Angeles. It was wonderful to see her and in the next month, I'll see my other sister Susan in Las Vegas, Nevada along with son Richard in Henderson. Busy times. Good times. Memorable times.

Back at you soon!

Photo from one year ago today, November 12, 2018:
The convoluted photo is difficult to decipher at first.  Note the one kudu attempting to eat the seeds in the birdfeeder which she eventually accomplished. For more photos, please click here.

Fun times dining with family...Cold, cold, cold...Veteran's Day event...

Out to dinner at Stella's Fish House, charming granddaughter Maisie sat next to me.

Introspective grandson Miles wasn't interested in fish and had a burger instead.

Always-smiling Madighan was loving being with her family and eating seafood along with a taste of Grandpa's barbeque ribs (who like Miles, didn't eat fish). 
We knew it would be cold in Minnesota, even as early as November but we had no idea it would be as cold as it has been today. As of this moment, close to 2:00 pm, the temperature is 15F, -9.44C.  That's cold. 

Considering today's windchill is bitter cold -1F, -18C, walking outside downright uncomfortable. For the locals this is normal. We remember living here seven years ago.

This bitter cold weather takes our breath away with a cold grasp that sucks our lungs dry. Yesterday, a light covering of snow fell which melted a short time later. Upcoming on Wednesday, the snowfall could be substantial enough to cause congestion and accidents on the roads. I've yet to drive a car.

I wasn't a good driver in the best of conditions and I doubt I'd be any good in this slippery weather. We're doing everything we can to avoid the necessity of me driving either the rental car or the SUV offered by Greg and Camille (son and DIL). 

We'll see how that goes since it seems we're always on the move and often finding we need to split up on several occasions to spend time with our respective families. That's how it goes with "blended families." Very few situations allow for the two separate families getting together.

Our grandchildren are delightful and the parents happy to see us at long last. We feel bad about being away for so long but my health issues of this past year kept us away for an additional seven months, over and above the time we'd originally planned to be here.

The price we paid for the unavoidable delay has been being in this cold weather which will only worsen during our remaining time here, depending upon when we decide to leave Minnesota to head to Nevada to see son Richard in Henderson and sister Susan in North Las Vegas.

How's it going here? Very well. It's wonderful to spend time with the family and look forward to plans together over the next few weeks. Thus far, we've been extremely busy, more than we ever have while traveling since my surgery in February.

I'm working hard to keep up with everyone and all the planned events. Previously, we had many more hours a day to lounge and lay low.  Now, its a fairly consistent level of activity and I'm striving to stay in tune with everyone else.

At night, after a long day and evening, we wind up back at Karen's gorgeous home to relax and spend more time catching up. Over these years, Karen and I have stayed in fairly close touch and now our conversations are similar to those wonderful chats we had together, day after day, for many years. 

Tom and Karen's significant other, Rich, get along well. Late last night, they watched the winning Minnesota Vikings game while I wandered off to bed for much-needed rest. It's all going quite well.

This morning at Maisie, Miles and Madighan's charter school, Agamim Academy, a school devoted to educating eager students about US history, the Constitution, and the American way, we attended a beautiful presentation for Veteran's Day commemorating many veterans in attendance and recognition of service provided by our armed forces.

It couldn't have been a more inspiring presentation. Seeing the smiling faces of our three grandchildren and all the other almost 400 students, so proud of their school and country, was inspiring in itself.

At the moment, we're back at Karen's working on today's post and reviewing the prep necessary to apply for our visas for India which we'll need in a little over 60 days. 

That is quite an undertaking as we heard it would be. We'll be using the services of a visa company to assist. Also, we're applying for additional passports...for two years. Our current passports don't expire until 2021. We'll explain more about this later.

Tonight, Tom has plans with grandson Vincent and daughter Tammy while I am going back to Greg and Camille's home to spend the evening with sister Julie (she leaves tomorrow to return to LA), Camille and the kids while Greg is out on business.

We are happy to be here with family and will muster our way through the bitter cold weather and the busy family activities.

Happy day!

Photo from one year ago today, November 11, 2018:
"Little" came back for more pellets on the veranda.  He feels quite at home here.  Who knew pigs climb stairs? For more details, please click here.

Delta, the demon, day from hell...Finally, we've arrived...New phones...

This morning's view from the backyard of Karen's home in Eden Prairie where we'll be staying while here in Minnesota.
With the best intentions, I'd planned to post this yesterday. But, once we arrived at son Greg's house and the fun activity began I had no time whatsoever to wrap it up and upload the post.

Also, Tom's new Google phone had arrived and I had to spend no less than two hours setting it up. I am usually adept at this but the process wasn't as clear cut as it could have been and I spent at least an hour on the phone with tech support, finally getting everything resolved.
This issue centered around the fact that we'd purchased two Google phones and mine had yet to arrive (it arrived at Karen's home last yesterday) making it difficult to set up a joint account for pay as you go phone and data with only one of the phones in our possession.

We are ridding ourselves of our Skype phone number and will use Whatsapp, Skype or Facebook Messenger for future out-of-the-country calls. Our new phones have reasonable international call rates (as a global phone) but there's no point in paying when no cost options are available via the web.

We'll never have to buy a SIM card again when these global phones work anywhere. Today, I'll finish setting mine up and we'll be good to go.  Ironically, Tom forgot to bring his with him when he left to see his family this morning. Ha! I guess now, we'll become more phone conscientious with these new devices.

On to our trip from the pier in Fort Lauderdale to Minneapolis:

Without a doubt, we are always grateful to any airline for getting us safely to our location. I wish we were tolerant enough to feel that was enough. A certain semblance of organization and flow is also required for us to provide anything beyond a one-star rating.

Delta Airlines, masterful advertisers appealing to all of our senses which was evidenced at Fort Lauderdale, Detroit, and Minneapolis airports with the finest of graphics posters at every turn, leaves a traveler with high expectations.

We were sorely disappointed. Both flights were seriously late with few updates offering its passengers little comfort and remained in a perpetual state of confusion. Let's face it, we're fairly savvy travelers and yet we were constantly scratching our heads wondering what was next.

As it turned out an expected arrival time in Minneapolis was at 6:30 pm when it fact we didn't arrive until almost 8:30 pm, not the worst delay but surely the most confusing. 

With the necessity of picking up the rental car and a horrendous walk to the car rental area, we weren't on our way to Karen's home until well after 9:00 pm. We'd been on the move for 14 hours since we disembarked the ship in Fort Lauderdale when we arrived at Karen's home.

Surprisingly, to both of us, we felt relieved and energized, ending up enjoying the remainder of the evening with Karen and Rich, in their comfy living room, in their gorgeous home, sipping on wine, and catching up.

With Tom off to spend part of the day with his family and the evening with mine watching the Minnesota Vikings game, it will be another good family day for both of us.

This morning, son Greg is picking me up to attend a brunch at a restaurant with Camille, his wife, my three grandkids and other family members and friends.  She has been going through a difficult medical crisis and we are all here to love and support her.

My younger sister Julie is also here visiting from California so its all the more special to be together once again. It has been two years and three months since we were here.

We'll continue to post each day during our two plus months in the USA. Photos may not be a prevalent during this period but we'll do our best. I have several for tomorrow's post. Please check back.
Photo from one year ago today, November 10, 2018:
Wildebeest Willie looks into my eyes when I talk to him in a goofy high pitched voice.  In this photo, he was sharing pellets with impalas. For more photos, please click here.