Saturday, December 18
2010 has been a fun year for us. Changes for Madeline and Peter. A pleasant stability for Kate and Stan.
In August Madeline accepted a one year position teaching 7th Grade Science at River Bluff Middle School in Stoughton, Wisconsin (just south of Madison). She's been going one hundred miles an hour ever since. Enjoyable, challenging and exhausting are all descriptions of her experience that come to mind. After her year substitute teaching, having her own classroom has been great. Hopefully she will soon have a full time teaching position (she seems to me to have a "full time plus" position this year).
Peter graduated from the University of Iowa in May. Then it was back to the Twin Cities to embark on the unenviable task of finding a "real" career job in marketing.
So far he hasn't found a long-term position. So he is doing an unpaid internship with the Friends of the Mississippi River, working as a waiter at a local pizza restaurant and working as a "manny" (a very manly nanny) three days a week.
Living at home has worked out fine so far. We get along well and there are worse things in life than living in close proximity to a "foodie" like Kate. In fact, as I can attest, there are few things better.
Kate continues to shine in every aspect of life - whether it's combating Medicaid fraud at the Attorney General's office, dreaming up culinary surprises, or just being fun to be around.
I continue to navigate my way through life very well (with lots of help and "advice" from Kate - whose only apparent flaw is her penchant for "nagivation" when she doesn't have the wheel). My 80% time job at Scoular is great, trips to the BWCA and get-togethers with "the boys" and other groups of friends are frequent. Life is good.
Our final family member, Greta, has reached the ripe old age of 14 1/2. Since the average life expectancy of Weimaraners is about 10 years - this is quite an accomplishment. She's still part puppy and part old woman. Her muscle control in her hind legs comes and goes. Her appetite is a constant, as is her desire to be on the other side of any door she sees.
Both my mom Carol and Kate's mother Kitty (and her partner Bob) are doing well. Distance makes it hard to see them as often as we would like. But we've seen them regularly this year.
Our biggest purchase this year was a pontoon, which allows us to range farther and wider on our many trips to our cabin. We bought it used, tied it to our dock, and, while we were back in the Twin Cities, it sunk (one of the pontoons had a tiny hole in it). The seller, who lives in the area and had sold it to us "as is," took it upon himself to get it out of the lake, repaired and returned to our dock without us lifting a finger. There really are some great people out there, especially in northern Wisconsin.
A wonderful addition to the cabin experience.
Once again this year's family Spring trip was to Utah. This time a return to Zion National Park. The photos below were taken on our ascent of Angel's Landing in the snow and ice on a warm, sunny day. Kate proved her intelligence by refusing to make the last part of the climb. Peter proved his athleticism by leaving Madeline and me in the dust (or, in this case, in the slush). Madeline and I slowly made our way up and down, being careful and probably kind of stupid at the same time. A very memorable day. It's such a joy to Kate and to me that Peter and Madeline are still willing to join us on trips. The reasons could be economic; but I like to think that it's the fun we have together. Plans are taking shape for a trip to Paris this spring!
A toast to you from snowy Minnesota. Come and see us!
Sunday, August 29
It may have affected my bocce game. We selected teams randomly - but the match ended up being men vs. women. The woofing the men were doing before the match,
Was followed by substantial "eating of crow" upon its completion.
Then it was off to Lake Michigan for a great sailing adventure with the Crosses.
Any suggestion in this photo that I am even partly responsible for sailing the Escapade is just an illusion. Captain Dan and First Mate Francine were fully in control. I was a willing "before the mast" hand, but nothing more.
Then it was on to the Minesota State Fair with Peter and Kate. I did have a beer. And a Donna's Pork sandwich. And a "footlong" walleye dog.
And a porcupine meatball.
Of course I wanted to look good at the fair. After years of haircuts from Madeline, Peter and Kate, Peter and I concluded last time that I could do the lion's share of a cut myself - calling him in for the "fine work" at the end. As I was cutting away, something felt different. When I looked to the floor and saw the #3 attachment lying there, I realized that perhaps I can't cut my own hair.
Did I mention that my toe is beginning to hurt?
Saturday, July 24
Loons are closer.
Wine glasses look better (and they always look good).
It's even more fun to see your grandfather.
I even think my mom and her cousins look happier (though of course I give some credit to the photographer's incredibly witty comments).
The Red Bull Flugtag is even more fun.
Food looks better.
Lots of fun.
It's like magic.
Sunday, June 6
Note the wine stained teeth. I ate and drank like royalty at the cabin with the Boycz, even donned handsome jackets for dinner like a royal entourage. The wine flowed. The food came from the very top of the food chain.
We helped Peter celebrate his graduation from the University of Iowa, again with fine food, beer and wine.
It was truly a month of get-togethers filled with fun (and consumption).
A canoe trip to Canada - again with consumption of food and wine a central part of the experience.
My "splash" cup was never far away and rarely empty.
Lots and lots of laughs, some big fish. Yes, exercise was part of the equation. But a smaller factor than fun with food and drink.
I returned from the canoe trip, and Memorial Day was upon me. Kate's cabin menu was amazing, supplemented by woodcock wrapped in bacon at the Olson cabin.
We watched birds, ate, drank, talked, laughed and then we watched birds, ate, drank, talked, laughed.
Fun, frivolity and food have been the more or less constant order of the day for me for the past month. But it appears there is a price to pay. Over the last couple of days I've been afflicted with an attack of the dreaded Gout. My right big toe looks like an alcoholic's nose, red and swollen. Wikipedia helpfully points out that "Historically gout was known as "the disease of kings" or "rich man's disease" - so perhaps you could call my current condition a royal pain in the toe.
We always told the kids as we were raising them that actions have consequences. It appears that an aching toe is the consequence of my behavior in the recent past. It's a small price to pay for all the fun - so I find it hard to feel too badly about my condition. Until I try to walk somewhere. Ouch!
Sunday, May 2
She still seems puppylike when the subjects are either food (anything with carbon in it) or walks (which at this point are mostly a search for food, though she will walk all day without any real regard for how her legs feel). But she sleeps more. Wheezes. And her hips are failing her. To land on the couch she builds up speed and executes a long, flat jump. She can’t go straight up any more.
My favorite visual of Greta was one that occurred several times when she was young and running around with other dogs. Her speed was a thing of beauty. And with long legs and high center of gravity when she was up to speed she couldn’t stop on a dime. Sometimes she’d come to a pack of dogs, realize she couldn’t stop, and jump over them. A steeplechase dog. An amazing sight to see.
Kate has a seemingly infinite amount of patience for Greta. She gets real joy from having her around and, in what must be for her a bonus, she has developed a style of doggie-talk in speaking to Greta that bugs me mildly (it’s one of the few things she has in common with Big Red). She does it now partly I’m sure to get a rise and a laugh out of me.
I have a small and finite amount of patience for Greta. She has never seen a door she doesn’t want to be on the other side of. If she wants something, she wants it now. So she will whine or bark if you don’t let her in or out within three seconds. I get a little grumpy on this score. I’m actually slightly more patient on this score with her advancing age. But I’m not really a person who wants or needs a pet. Humans are infinitely interesting to me, but not pets.
So Friday night at the cabin when Greta began barking in the middle of the night I took it to be one more example of her advancing senility. At home she sleeps in a room in the basement. But at the cabin each night’s sleep is interrupted by Greta’s movements. She is never on our bed at home. But our queen-sized bed at the cabin always ends up with Kate, me and a long dog who is convinced (we trained her this way) that she is the center of the universe. And as soon as it’s light at the cabin she’s always ready to go off on a search for carbon. Guess who is the one who gets up and takes a walk with her as the sun breaks over the horizon. Those walks are some of my favorite cabin times. Regardless, I always feel put upon when I’m dragged out of bed. I watch birds and stroll along in the woods. Greta is never happier than when she is chasing hither and yon through the woods after deer (never caught one), rabbits (two caught over the years) or game birds.
She’s a pointer, instinctively pointing at birds and other game. These days she points less, and often at sticks or piles of leaves. Creeping closer until she realizes her prey is a stick, then sauntering off as if to say she was just practicing her craft – kind of like the way I break into a jog after tripping in a failed effort to look less clumsy.
Saturday night as we were eating dinner there was a big commotion outside. Kate and I got up from the table to check and discovered that a good-sized black bear had knocked over the garbage can with sunflower seeds and dog food. Greta was going nuts as Kate saw the bear vanish into the night. She went outside and was in her prime again for a few minutes – tracking the bear’s movements by smell. Weimaraners were originally bred as bear hunting dogs. And you could get a glimpse of generations of Greta’s family at work as she moved through the yard.
What I assumed was senility was her following her most basic instincts. She kept hunting for the bear until we enticed her into the cabin with a dog biscuit. She took the sure reward over the long shot of capturing the bear. Maybe she has learned something in her fourteen years.
Monday, March 15
After what can only be called a challenging Saturday making our way through a snowstorm to Zion National Park from Salt Lake City, we arrived wearily late Saturday night as beleaguered travelers. But Zion revitalizes spirits almost instantly.
The day, which was supposed to have been cloudy and rainy, dawned clear and stayed that way all day.
Entering the town in the dark made the surroundings invisible to us. What joy to see this view from our hotel room! As usual, I was the first one up. I made my way to the Mean Bean for a coffee, sharing the establishment and pleasantries with two mountain bikers. Soon the family was rolling and we made our way to Oscar's for an amazing breakfast.
As we left, in my excitement, I left my Plasticville cap on my seat. One of the intrepid mountain bikers - who had also migrated to Oscar's - kindly kept me from leaving this valued possession. It was with a smile we hiked under waterfalls to Upper Emerald Pool. An easy and pleasant hike to get loose.
And a sloppy one with recently melted snow as we made our way back to the valley. The red mud was slippery, but Kate - ever the one to keep things neat - ensured that her hiking pants stayed neat by pulling up the legs.
We had loads of fun on a few short hikes around the area. Then it was on to dinner. As we entered the restaurant I saw a stocking hat on the floor near the hostess' stand. I picked it up and was about to give it to the hostess when who should come out of the bathroom but one of the mountain bikers - who had dropped his hat on the way in. Amazing serendiptity. It is admittedly a small town. But when that sort of coincidence combines with the natural beauty of this place it's hard not to ponder higher powers.
Today our troupe of intrepid wanderers does a more strenuous hike to Observation Point. More observations (with accompanying photos) to come.
It's NCAA basketball season, so maybe that's the reason. We started our hike to Observation Point yesterday uneventfully.
Excited. Ready to go. And breathing hard after a couple of minutes. Winding our way up this shady group of switchbacks toward Echo Canyon above.
But the results of the snowstorm that was our nemesis on our trip to Zion hit us again on what I will now think of as "Mutumbo Corner" when an inch of ice on the trail rejected our shot at the top and slapped us back to the valley. So, in an ironic twist, ice forced us to spend the day in the valley working on our tans by the pool.
With a beach day behind us, we are now armed with ice cleats to put on over our boots. Today we try the route to Angel's Landing with hopes of success.
At Our Angelic Best
Yesterday we made our way up to Angel's Landing, a rather daunting hike physically and mentally. I thought the hike showed each of us at our best. Kate's self-knowledge in deciding when to turn back and patience and grace in waiting for our return (a wait measured in hours and not minutes). Peter with his athleticism and humor, usually in the distance as Madeline and I plodded along to the top of Angel's Landing.
Madeline and I were the question marks in getting to the top. As this photo illustrates, the hike is nothing if not daunting.
Especially so with all the ice and snow. Peter was kind enough to wait until our return to tell us that the ice and snow made it a much harder climb than when he did it four years ago. Those dropoffs are steep and real.
Madeline was wonderful. Patient, and with a "go for it (but safely)" attitude that was just perfect. Here's a photo of us at the top.
Oops, that's the Staniforth clan in San Antonio. This damn computer age. But I know that part of at least Art and Ben are here in this area in spirit. Here's Madeline and me high atop Angel's Landing.
To say the view there is amazing is understating things.
You can look as hard as you wish, but you still can't see our car down in the valley. But it illustrates that the hike is a long, steep one.
Both MO and I found the trip back down even more daunting than the trip up.
But we reached the bottom happy and healthy.
A beautiful day. Sore muscles and high spirits. Even with a 10 second timer I couldn't quite get into the photo - I'll be a slow hiker today.
Day of the Condor
Yesterday's hike started identically to the hike to Angel's Landing. So it was cardiovascularly challenging. But when we reached a place called Scout Point we went a different direction toward the much less populated West Rim Trail. A rewarding choice. Soon we were looking down over the valley watching three condors fly below us. Odd to watch such a magnificent bird soar from above.
This is not my photo, though it might well have been taken here. The three birds had apparently been sitting where we were only 10 minutes or so before. Seeing them at that range would have been great, but for a bird watcher like me (and for all of us) it was quite a treat even from a longer range.
Our hike was much more a solitary exercise. The West Rim is beautiful but not as popular or populated as the route to Angel's Landing. Still, for reasons that are probably obvious, we felt right at home and found it great.
We had a nice lunch in the sun while watching the snow melt into rivers. That's a sight that any Minnesotan in March is happy to see.
A lovely day.
Going Home Again
They always say "you can't go home again." But that has proved untrue in two ways in the last couple of days (and hopefully three as we fly back to St. Paul today). Our last hike of the week was a special one. Back to Echo Canyon, an incredibly beautiful spot that was a real favorite when last we were in Zion.
It was blocked by snow and ice on Monday, and the snow and ice were still there but significantly melted on Thursday.
It's hard to capture how beautiful this place is. But here are a few attempts.
You can see and feel the effects of time and pressure.
Just amazing. Peter hiked to the top and Observation Point.
Madeline and I joined Kate in the valley below, where we could concentrate on our other major interests this week - food and basketball.
Peter remembered with great fondness, an Aussie Burger breakfast special at Oscar's. He and Madeline went off menu and ordered one - to great effect!
An Achiever to be sure.
And last night, after returning to Salt Lake City, we returned "home again" to the Red Iguana - our favorite Mexican restaurant.
So maybe you can go home again. And when we do, Kate will be free to watch only part of Badger games.