Saturday, November 7, 2015


Mayhem has been hanging around my house a lot lately.  A couple of weeks ago, I had been watching TV in bed with my snoozing puppies. Just before midnight, I turned off the TV and settled my head for a long fall's nap.
All of a sudden, we hear a giant CRAAACK and thump. The dogs and I were shaking in our boots. I bravely got up and looked out the patio door where I was shocked to see that a giant limb from my old elm tree had come down on the roof.
After staring at it in awe for a while, I went back to bed - after all there was nothing else I could do. But the limb kept shifting on the roof (did I mention this happened because we were experiencing hurricane-force (over 80 mph) winds? Holly hid under the bed for about an hour, and then she was fine.
But Gracie shook and shivered all night. Every time I managed to get her calmed down, the limb would shift some more, and she would start shivering all over again. The two of us were awake all night.
I called in the next morning to tell my boss I was exhausted and traumatized, then I began the work of calling my insurance agent, contractors and my neighbor. (Some of the limb's branches fell on her roof too.)
Eventually the limb was removed and the roof was temporarily patched. (It had a six-inch hole and a 12-inch hole in it.) The roofer ultimately replaced half my roof, and a new gutter will have to be added to that side of the house.
But, life calmed down, I got my insurance money (minus the deductible, of course), and Gracie calmed down. I bid adieu to Mayhem.  However, he came back Monday evening.
Just before 10:00, I let the dogs out for the last time before bed. As usual, Holly comes tearing into the house, across the kitchen, the living room and dining room, and leaps onto a chair right by the front windows. All of a sudden I heard a crash - she had broken a window! "Oh, crap", I thought. "I'll have to call the glass guy in the morning."
But all of a sudden, I realize she's bleeding. Before I get her corralled into the bathroom, she has bled in my living room, dining room, kitchen and bedroom (under the bed). Blood is just streaming out. I call the vet - let's just call her Dr. Leslie. She was majorly uninterested. Put some pressure on it, she says.
First of all, it took me a while to find the actual wound. I though it was on one of her feet or legs, because they were covered in blood. I finally realized that she was bleeding heavily from a cut on her nose. I tried for a long time to put pressure on the wound but the bleeding wouldn't stop.
I called Lazy Dr. Leslie again. Once again, she was very uncaring. I think she was in bed and wasn't about to get out from under her cozy covers to help Holly. Put some cornstarch on it, try the pressure again, and keep me posted, she says.
I had visions of sitting in my bathroom watching my dog bleed and waiting all night for the vet's office to open, while Gracie whined from the bedroom, where she had been sequestered out of the way.
It took me an hour to finally stanch the blood, which kept pouring out at a steady rate. By then, Holly's head, which is almost all black, was pure white from nervous attempts to apply cornstarch, I had cornstarch all over my black slacks, and the bathroom floor was a mixture of blood and cornstarch.
There was more blood on the tub, floor, door and cabinets than you see in the true crime shows I love to watch.
After that, I had to clean the house, including rolling back the bloody oriental rugs to make sure the blood didn't seep into the hardwood floors. I also wanted to make sure the blood had stopped before I went to sleep.

Holly is just fine, although part of her nose may be pink for a while. The window will be fixed Monday. Mayhem, stay away from our house for a while. (PS - insurance doesn't cover Dog Mayhem.)

Monday, August 24, 2015


"WOMAN READING" by Ivan Kraniskoy
It's been a long one, but I think the drought is finally over. I don't mean lack of rain here in North Dakota (however the downpour we had Saturday evening was the first time that we'd had a real soaker since the middle of July).
No, I mean my reading drought. I basically quit reading about the time that Dan was the sickest - the winter of 2013. I remember trying one dreary evening to get into a book after I had gotten him settled for the night, maybe a week before he died. I poured myself a drink and sat down in the living room. using his hospital table as my side table.
"You look tired," Dan said to me, the last sentence he ever uttered that was personally directed at me. I never did finish that book, and to this day I can't even stand to look at its cover without feeling sick.

From that moment on I quit reading, cold turkey. I think I equated reading with his illness and death.

Until this summer, I had picked up a book here or there but never gotten into any. I had not purchased a single book of fiction, except "American Boy" by Bismarck native, Larry Watson, and this only because my friend had encouraged me to attend a reading by him at Bismarck State College. I felt guilty about not supporting him when copies were being sold after the reading, so I bought one. That book also went unread.
All this, from a person who has devoured books since the time she learned to read. A person who at one time belonged to about eight book clubs at one time.
I majored in English literature in college, for Heaven's sake. And afterward, through the years I kept track of the bestsellers and the best-reviewed books. Although I didn't always follow recommendations, I read a lot of books from those groups.
I belonged to a book club for 17 and a half years. And in 2010, a year in which I was mostly unemployed, I read over 200 books.
And then came the drought. I never looked at a bestseller list once. I didn't know the names of any of the "good" books, the ones  lauded by critics.
My sister-in-law, herself a prolific reader, knew about the drought and would ask me from time to time if I was reading again. She told me she had gone through similar sad times and had also stopped reading for a while. I thought I would begin to read again in a matter of weeks or months. I could not have imagined or fathomed the depth of this disconnect from the world of books.

But as I said, I think the drought is over now. I have read about six books this summer, sitting out on the deck during the long, light-filled evenings. One of the books I finally got around to reading was "American Boy",  which I highly recommend.

Otherwise, I just scrounged around the house for unread books. And Sunday, I went to Barnes and Noble and actually purchase a book! I also spotted another one, but considering it too spendy,  I went home and ordered a gently-used copy from

Now let the reading begin! 

Friday, March 6, 2015



During this long, long winter, I have been addicted to two kinds of TV programs - true crime and DIY. Regarding the latter, I have seen programs where homes were built of freshly-cut logs, ones re-constructed from old barns, houses where contractors come in and "crash" a specific room (in a good way) and apartments re-decorated with a mind to eventually moving the fixings and trappings on to another home.

I've seen houses that have been flipped (including Vanilla Ice's million-dollar but slightly-tacky Florida homes) and houses that have been rehabbed - the difference being that rehabbers are purists who bring homes back to as close to original as possible while the flippers bring in all new materials and design. ("Rehab Addict" Nicole Curtis of  Minneapolis, MN, being the best of the rehabbers. What that cute, petite little blonde won't do to rehab a house! She is first and last on the site with all of the tools, and I mean all tools - she can drive a payloader with the best of them!)

Therefore, it was with great interest that I noticed that my cousin Kevin from Minneapolis had e-mailed me a link to a house listed for sale in Mankato, MN.

The ad reads, in part: "Classy, brick and stone 2 story with Craftsman style flare in the historic Lincoln Park neighborhood. Charming features include high coved ceilings, bay windows, oak flooring, open staircase and 2 enclosed porches. Main floor: Over 1400 sq. ft., entry with open stairs, formal living room with bay window and oak floors, archway to spacious formal dining room also with oak flooring.  Front bedroom with bay window."

Living room: I love the bay window with its leaded glass insert, and the hardwood floors.

Living room and dining room: Although my home is a one-story stucco cottage, I have archways in my living/dining areas very much like these, and red oak hardwood floors. The ceiling fixtures are ones I might pick out myself.

So good, so far. But then we get to the kitchen with its explosion of knotty pine. Oh, how I hate knotty pine. In my opinion the only place for knotty pine is in a rustic cabin deep in the Minnesota or Wisconsin woods.

And dear lord what is this room, with the sick green carpet/laminate (?) floor, a strange-sized and strangely-located window, and that brick wall and stove set into the corner by a patio door. What were they thinking?
These latter rooms, at least, add weight to Kevin's description of the house as being "re-muddled". I've never heard the term before, and I don't know if Kevin invented it or not, but what a great description.
But anyway, why would I devote so much space on my blog to a house for sale in Mankato, MN? The simple answer is that this was my Great-Great-Grandmother Jorgine Wangen's home, where she lived with her family from about 1900 to 1930.
How I wish I could see what the home looked like when Jorgine lived there. What kinds of furniture and draperies did they have? Did they own fine china and linens? Did she entertain a lot? Did they have servants? They must have had some sort of economic and financial status to afford a home like this. What kinds of bric-a-brac finds were unearthed during the re-muddle?
I only found out about Jorgine a few years ago, thanks to Kevin's genealogical sleuthing. What is most surprising to me is that my Grandmother, Julia Wangen, from Crosby, ND, never mentioned her. Did she not know that her grandmother lived just one state away? Did she know but had the family somehow disowned Jorgine?
Jorgine was Grandma's paternal grandmother. While Jorgine emigrated from Norway to the U.S., her son, Ole,  and his family stayed in Norway. He and his wife, Margrete, lived on a farm surrounded by mountains in the Gudbrandsdal valley.
Why did they choose to stay behind in Norway? Both Ole and Margrete died at relatively young ages, one shortly after the other. It fell to their four teenage children to sell the farm and bravely immigrate  to Canada (where Julia met my grandfather and eventually moved to Crosby with him).
Oh, such family mysteries and house mysteries. As much as I enjoy the DYI shows, I have let contractors do my work for me on my house. So far it has been mostly utilitarian - a new roof, new gutters, new front door, garage totally re-built. I did design my own deck to replace the rotted-out one but admittedly I did not stray too far from the original except in size.
As far as the interior of the house it only requires cosmetic changes which I will make if I can afford them. The basement has had water damage but I'm not touching it. I can't afford the major reno it would take to bring it up to par so it will fall to the next owners. I only use it for storage and laundry anyway. (And if I only could I would have the laundry on the main floor.)
No, there will be no flipping or rehabbing of my little house. But I can dream. What if I could get my hands on my OWN Great-Great-Grandma's house for a mere $139,900 and rehab it (for a gazillionmore dollars)? That would be a dream-come-true for this DIY-show addict. I could research the newspapers and see if the house was shown in any photos, see if Jorgine threw any grand fetes (hey, this is MY dream), and do research on the styles of Craftsmen homes.
Most of the hard work is done already. Although I didn't show their photos in this post, I could definitely live with the bathrooms and bedrooms. I would only need to tackle a few nightmares like the two rooms above and the enclosed porches. (Do not get me started on enclosing porches! What a way to ruin a great house!)
Anyway, as I said, I can always dream. "Hmm, let's get rid of that dreadful brick wall and stove and put in a real fireplace in another location with an oak mantel and an oak and Craftsman tile surround..."