The after action report

You know what might be harder than a post about the death of a loved one?  The next post after that…  How can I follow with something frivolous or fun but I can’t keep an endless stream of sad posts either.  So, how about an after action report~

Rewinding to the weekend I spent in a blur of getting stuff done for the week away and I realized with some surprise that I was NOT leaving babies, I was not even leaving anyone who can’t toilet and shower alone, so,  Lars and the kids would be fine.  Who cares if the house was clean or if the valentines were done the way I would have, he is good at making food, they are pretty good at knowing what they need to do, and they had school every day so they were all up for the task.  When I let that worry go (after prepping the things I could at least) and had as much time available to answer the slow coming questions about death that would pop out of them.  The best few were;

Zoe; “What will happen to Grandy’s pills?”  (my original answer “I don’t know”.  the final answer; she had nothing with real kick so they went in the trash)

Fiona; after a long discussion about how people needed to die because people kept getting born etc and so I asked what she proposed instead of babies and her firm and final answer was; “Bushes”

Niamh and I talked but oddly enough she has coped with a few deaths already and didn’t have anything new or wild to say.  She was in the mode of making sure I was ok and Grandma was ok and after we put her to bed she sent a sweet text to her Grandma that shows that empathy does happen.

Getting to NY was a trick.  The plane was super early in the morning so I had to acknowledge the existence of 4am but thanks to a good teacher friend who has to get into the cities early anyway, I got to the airport without too much bother.  The TSA line was incredibly long but also very fast, I’m a big fan of the sniffing dogs, didn’t even have to take out my computer.  I ran into 2 people I knew online, I guess I’ve lived here long enough to actually stand a chance of knowing people most places.  All this was cake compared to getting the airplane to actually take off…. it was running too long and ran out of battery (or something) and we had to wait for a jump start on the taxiway.  Then there were other issues and eventually, they got us a new airplane but it took 3 hours.  I was flying direct and had a little wiggle room for timing so it worked out better for me than others.  I changed into funeral wear at the airport and proceeded to the wake directly.

The wake(s) were what you expect but done very well in my opinion.  We were at the place that I hold all other places against for comparison because it is THE funeral home everyone uses locally.  I’ve been pretty lucky and I don’t even know what the inside of the MN local funeral home looks like and I would like to keep it that way for a long time.

The following day was the actual funeral and we got a nice spring day.  Everything went very well and I made the only error when I had no idea I had a line following the reading until I looked up at 50 faces all mouthing something at me and trying to mentally convey that I missed something.  I ended up just saying “what?!” on the altar and quickly said the line but hey, what funeral doesn’t need a little laugh.  Why my sister the DECON didn’t do the reading I’ll never know.  ANYWAY I know people always say it was a ‘lovely ceremony’ but this time I truly mean it.  The priest that said the mass was a close friend of my grandmother and knew her very very well.  He didn’t say a generic thing at all and I’m glad my grandmother had such a good friend.

Those two days were non stop planned activity that kept everyone busy so on day 3 I did not have a plan.  Since it had been a 4 days since I had cleaned a fridge I decided to go with something helpful and my sister and I cleaned out the fridge and freezer and the majority of the other dry goods.  It was also nice to look at all the things in the house and remember them with my sister.  We both played with these (sturdy priceless antique) and were never allowed to touch those (fragile more priceless antiques).  When this or that was acquired during travel or gift.  So much of my ideas of decorating come from the upbringing that you don’t buy things to decorate a room, you collect things of meaning and beauty around the world in the course of your life and you display them.

Since I am here I’ve taken the opportunity to catch up with a few friends.  I love dropping in on their lives and being a part of them, even for just a day or two.  Next time though we need to have less funeral and more anything else.

It is an odd week though. I have not been without the kids this long nearly ever.  Once I had a business trip for 10 days after Niamh but before Zoe but that was so full of work I hardly had time to think.  This time I’m in a place where I feel like my kids should be because usually, they are.  The time has passed very quickly and I’m glad to be here to help but I’ll also be glad to go back to my regularly scheduled life.

And that is it for now.  I hope my return flight is uneventful and I expect to have a lazy day with the kids and husband ignoring any housekeeping chores and just being there.



Proof I’m here and well in my NY “office”



My Grandmother

Posts like these are not easy to write.  I have a dozen titles in my head but none exactly capture the finality of the fact that my grandmother died on Friday night.


She and I had a complicated relationship.  Mostly good for sure but there were big points of conflict over the years from the way she treated me at times to the way she treated others including her husband.  A big lesson I can see (from a distance) is that I learned that it is ok to fight, people still love you because I know I always did even when I was super mad.

I wrote a little while ago that in so many ways the real person she was slipped away in little wisps and chunks.  She became thin and frail and forgetful.  I understand the reality of what happened with her heart and the surrounding systems slowly failing and robbing the brain and body of blood.  Friday the heart just called the game and quit, not too much more can be said except her kids were there, and more importantly, they had been visiting as much as possible.


Her heart had a busy life.  I think all her yelling could all be filed under the label of Passion.  She was an early pioneer of women’s studies (her mother was a pioneer of women’s vote).  She was an only child and always wanted siblings and would tell anyone (willing or unwilling) that they should have at least 2 children.  I listened, and I agree, 1 would be so easy but 3 triple my views into the world.  She had 4 and occasionally she would call me her 5th because I’m actually only 15 years younger than my uncle. She loved when people thought she was my mom and that happened more often than you would guess.  Of her 4 there are 12 grandchildren and it made her heart happy to see us succeed.  She was extremely education-centric, there was no doubt that I would go to college and my MBA was considered par.  She was also absolutely ok with my choice to stay home with the kids after #3, it was the acquisition of knowledge and the ability to have a career that was the point.


all the grandkids and greats at the time.  Crazy bunch, there isn’t a more settled picture but there is worse!


We traveled together quite a few times.  First to Malta where she and my grandfather were teaching.  I was the first grandchild in the school abroad experiment and I appreciated the immersion in another culture.  I still prefer American but I can tell you why from personal experience rather than blind nationalism.  When I finished college I went to Turkey and she went with me.  That was a rocky trip but I would not have gone solo and we did have fun.  Her pocketbook was stolen our first night there and we had to go to the Turkish police and we didn’t speak Turkish, they didn’t speak English… the nice young officer they assigned to us tried French next and I replied “Habla Espanol?” His reply was “sprechen sie Deutsche?” and mine was “govorite pa rouski?” and he said DA!  so we had a very bad conversation in our 3rd best language but it actually worked out.  I also learned how one can get an emergency passport and that the American embassy is in Ankara.  I traveled so much young thanks to my parents and grandparents example I’ve never been afraid to take an adventure.

When I moved here and missed my family one of the things I did was start this blog.  I knew that she would never, ever, go online for something not absolutely mandated by the university (and then usually one of my aunts or mom would do it) so I called her.  I called her nearly every week for years and years and years.  We talked about her work, we talked about mine.  We talked about what her childhood was like and what my moms was like.  I told her I was expecting flying cars, she said she wasn’t too sure about that.  Our conversations changed with our lives, 2 weeks ago she said all she did was sleep and I asked her to take a nap for me.  Last month I told her there wasn’t a league of woman’s voters here and she told me I knew what to do about that…  Last week she wasn’t too chatty but she listened to plans about the new house and how the book ended that we had been talking about – crazy artists in Paris like ManRay.

My mom and aunts have been truly taking care of her and that is 100x the work I did.  I called myself cheering section because she just liked the chatter of a young busy person and on that, I can deliver.  The hole in my mom’s world is also 100x bigger, but, my hole will be pretty sharply felt every Wednesday at 9:08 when I’ve been calling for the past year, anytime I drive to my old gym, and I’m sure millions of little places that will grief ninja me in the future.

Tomorrow at 5am I head to NY to fulfill her final wish.  We actually talked about it, she said she absolutely expected me but not to drag the babies (who were more babies at the time) to her funeral. The kids would need to be in school and their lives shouldn’t be disrupted.  So that is what I’m doing, kids here, me there, it will work out.  I’m scrambling to get things done before I go but also trying to soak up the kids because I haven’t left them for more than 2 days before.  Who knows if I’ll blog there, I’ll go to help where help is needed and say goodbye for the last, last time.



Cookies; the video

My girls are selling Girl Scout cookies for the next month.  They wanted to make a video and if I knew how hard it was going to be I’m not sure I would have done it but hey, girl scouts is about learning new things.  It took way too long to edit this to something people would be willing to watch but now I learned something new too.

There are some funny bits I’ll post another day but if you feel inclined to support the kids please click.

*It is really odd, Niamh is usually the shy one and Zoe can’t stop talking but something about a video reverses that*

Here are their direct site links;

To buy from Niamh; to buy from Zoe; ** there is an option if you are local or we will see you soonish for personal delivery, otherwise, you can have them shipped directly**

Second hand happiness

This weekend was our premier Air B&B experience and now that it is done, I actually feel pretty good about it.  Everyone was nice, everyone was happy, we got a bunch of the positives of people staying but the added bonus of being happy for the thing they are happy about.  Our crew was all for the super bowl, they were rooting for the underdog but they actually won!  The fact that it made them sooooo happy really made me happy in reflection.

This weekend was also cookie go day where the kids could sell cookies.  Niamh loves cookies, seeing her sell cookies is another second hand happy.  She is good at it, she is sweet and happy and just has something about her that makes people say ‘sure’ and then she tells them  “5 for $20” and then they say “that sounds like a deal” and proceed to pick 5…  I need to do an inventory but she has done pretty well for the amount of time she has had.

I’m pretty glad to have the happiness around me because otherwise, it would have been a kinda bad weekend.  That is why we get out and do things, experiences – even second hand – are the best.


Air B&B update – day 1

We are still alive!  ha ha, I really had no fear but I know one or two of you out there were worried.

They arrived yesterday fairly late, perfectly post bedtime so no need to choose between putting the kids to bed or being a hostess.  We knew they were from NJ and I bet Lars and Konrad that they could find a mutual thing in 5 min or less.  I won my bet.  The younger guy is living in the town Lars went to college in and his dad works in Newark so Konrad and he swapped ‘crazy Newark’ stories.



cozy cot in the closet


Niamh enjoyed bunking in our closet.  The upside to all our moving declutter and pre-cleaning is that she could easily fit in the closet.  I didn’t enjoy Niamh’s wake-up alarm at 6:30 but hey, getting a jump on the day isn’t a bad thing.  I pre-cooked muffins and set up coffee stuff so breakfast service was pretty easy.  They actually slept in (or hid?) but when I was back from kid drop off they were on the way out to Superbowl festivities at the Mall.

Tomorrow we gain 2 more guests, 2 ladies from PA.  I decided to stick with advertising for just one team to not start anything between guests.

In other news, cookie selling season starts tomorrow!  The kids got links for online ordering and once we ‘go live’ I’ll stick them up here just in case you would like to support the kids you have seen grow up here on the internet.

Adventure in capitolism

Our city is hosting a giant (American) Football game this weekend and that is great news for the travel industry.  There was a short tense moment when it looked like in a crazy twist, the home team would win their way into the Super Bowl,  meaning great things for local fans but cutting the possible earnings by 50% because we would only be attracting one team’s worth of out of town visitors.  The Vikings didn’t let me down (like their true fans) when they did not win and thus economic goals did.  The team that beat them is actually one I have a soft spot for.  Can’t go so far as to say fan because I know next to nothing about them but they are beloved by many people I like from my college days so I’m happy they are happy.


Anway!  What does this mean for us? Well, first the once in a lifetime opportunity to go see the spectacle that is a Superbowl village.  MN transformed our downtown prediction street into an open-air festival.  Tons of inside space was transformed into venue area and we spent a very nice half-day playing tourist and seeing all the fun.



sled ride around the park complete with cookies and hot cocoa.


(can’t caption the video but look how fun!  Like a pro he is)

The real adventure in capitalism is that we took the leap into Air B&B land to rent out our guest room.  I have toyed with the idea over the years, we do have a nice guest room that is dedicated to guests.  I started the listing and then stopped, full of the nagging doubts that trying anything new has swirled around it.  Then a person from Air B&B actually called me to ask if I needed help or had questions.  That is a real mark of both service and anticipated demand in the area so I held my breath and just did it.

In for a penny, in for a pound, we also listed Niamh’s room since it is next to the guest room and both are on a different level so easy to have a ‘guest floor’ with a living room and bathroom and 2 bedrooms.  Upon the advice of Air B&B man, I listed each room separately and within 3 hours my first room was booked.  A day later the other was too.  Today our first guests arrive and I’m excited!

I’m going to focus on the exciting part but yes, I’m nervous too.  I’m letting strangers into the house with my family and all our stuff.  I need to arrange my week to accommodate being here when needed.  I’m kicking my kids out of a quarter of the house. I have to push away the media fed fears of crazy people and rely on the goodness of the general person.

I’ve learned fast about how the system worked and after a mistake on the first round, I priced things so that it is worth my trouble.  In an odd way, I’m getting paid to clean my own house because cash is an incentive to actually get the rooms in order.  Niamh is getting her share, I’m giving her $30 to vacate her room and sleep in ours.  Good thing we have a big closet and she is pretty excited to camp out in it.  The other girls’ opportunity up the opportunity to earn.  There is $2 each per day on the line for being good and helpful, Zoe is taking it quite seriously.

The only thing I have not totally worked out is what do we do with our earnings from this side venture?  Should I be a great parent and split it into the kid’s savings accounts? Should we use it to go out to a really nice dinner?  Do we save it for a fun vacation fund?  I have no idea if post Superbowl there will be much demand for our guest room so this might just be a small windfall but hey, money is money.

Now I need to get back to the hostess game and make sure our house is visitor ready.  Let me know what you would do with a  little windfall you don’t actually have to use for bills.