Sunday, September 30, 2007

Goin' On A Bear Hunt

Maddy and Alaina and I had some fun one morning last month going on a special mission. When Dave was visiting in White Bear, he drew my attention to a now very obvious fact...folks in White Bear LOVE white bears.

Having had an enormous light bulb moment about it, the following project ensued with the help of my nieces.



Behind our house, parallel to Herengracht, is the Langestraat. Dave discovered the calm beauty of walking this little protected stretch when we still had Remmie. He's really loved spending time on this street. And now, I'm hooked.

Picturesque at every corner, music is often being played from pianos and guitars hidden from view. Every tenth window or so has a sign requesting that dog owners take with them their pup's...ahem...treasures. The cobble-laden street itself is quiet, allowing for only one lane of traffic to come through. Glowing in small pools of occasional red light, the flowers, plants, bicycles and handmade signs are what make this strip what it is.

A few snapshots from a place where we are sure to be found...

Home sweet home...

After a mandatory 21-day stay in Minnesota after getting his rabies shot, Number Five was able to board a plane with me and meet his anxious dog dad and many adoring neighbors back in Amsterdam.

He had to ride in the belly of the plane, and was contained in his kennel for nearly nine hours. Needless to say, he was more than happy to get the heck outta there when we landed. After an exuberant exchange between Dave, me and Number Five, we squeezed into a taxi and went home.

After adjusting to a few minor additions such as bicyclists and lots of cars zooming by, he seems to have settled in really nicely. He's getting to know and REALLY love Dave's playfulness, loving to run and jump and chase him whenever possible. And he still has yet to make a mess in the house (knock four-hundred-year-old wood).

He LOVES his dog friends. And he's got lots of them. On every block for a mile radius, there's some four-legged comrade who now knows Number Five and is just as excited to play with him as ever. It's great.

Other things he's learned:

He's figured out that the mysterious, and yet oddy familiar-looking animal underneath the piano is not going to attack him.
He'll lie down on command.
If he chews on mom and dad's beautiful new coffee table, he gets in big trouble.
Even though the moving figures on the wall look and sound real, they aren't.
And he knows that Frolics are really tasty. Maybe not as tasty as grandpa's filet mignon treats. But they're still really good.

With a woof and some crazy-high jumps...
L, D & #5

Celebrities in our midst...

All four of our parents are outstanding people. Through and through. It's easy for us to speak well of them, but to watch them get recognized for who they are and what they do and have done is such an honor.

Both my mom and Norm have been recognized recently for their outstanding contributions to their community within their fields.

Mom recently announced her FULL retirement plans from managing six city-run public transit systems. That has come with noteriety in the local papers, and some well-deserved attention in city government meetings. For over 25 years, she has been the glue between the logistics, the politics and the heart of the Lake Area Bus and the Northeast Suburban Transit Systems. Because of her, an invaluable service has been offered for nearly three decades to many in a part of the Twin Cities is otherwise overlooked, when it comes to accessible transit options. She did everything from lobby at the capitol for funds, to show up at parades with balloons in hand to personally introduce the community to what these services offered, especially to kids and the elderly who may not have many transportation options.

I'm so very proud of her. She has worked very hard and sacrificed much for this work that she's believed in. Here's to a stellar retirement, mom. Enjoy every moment of it.

And Norm was recently recognized as a Distinguished Board Member of the Special District Association in Denver, Colorado. There were only eight (out of 5,500 candidates) members chosen to receive this honor. In the bio written about him, much was mentioned about his commitment to promoting beautiful and ecologically sound spaces for citizens, notably his vision for creating Cherry Creek Valley Ecological Park.

As the years pass, I'm learning that I've only begun to scratch the surface of knowing all that Norm has accomplished in his professional life. I'm convinced I have much more to discover.

Congratulations to both mom and Norm. We are so very proud of you.

September 30, 2007 - Amsterdam, Netherlands...

I could easily dedicate another month to retracing all of my steps in the US. All of those wonderful conversations. Catching up. Going deep. Laughing much. EATING much. Good stuff. Really really good stuff.

Three weeks after my return, and I'm still picking up new memories from my mind. Here are but a few...

Drinks, food and eye contact with Dan and Cady. And seeing their beautiful new house.
Shoe shopping with Brenda and discovering that I qualify for Macy's "foreign shopper" discount. Who knew?
A marathon Target stop with Audrey, lots of good card time with her and Craigery, and splashing in the pool with the boys.
A fabulous chance to meet up with all of the Denver and many of Norm and Brenda's good friends.
Operating a massive movie exchange with Marcus at a Coffee Bean parking lot in Hollywood.
Encountering strange waitresses at Pain de la Quotidien with Annie, Marcus and Jason.
Brilliant views and quiet at the top of Laurel Canyon.
Seeing Janae in her pregnant state, glowing and functioning as effectively as ever.
Oh my goodness. Sydnie Loeb and a swimming pool. A lazy day at the Kretchman's.
Learning what's new with pianos and their concepts with Arthur and Jeff.
Blue Moon ice cream with Jon, Janice, Ollie and the Friedlanders.
Saying good bye to Pac 9 once and for all.
Seeing Dave's awesome group of friends at an only-in-L.A. bar within minutes of de-boarding.
Knowing that Dave was getting up to go surf.
San Diego playtime with the family ("Good night, Sheldons!").
Lily's ponytails, Jonah's smile, Jack's calves, and Ben's first wave.
Seeing Neil and Shayna's amazing house project. It's going to be incredible.
Donatelli's. Plain and simple.
Roller skating the night away with so many friends and family members that it felt like our second wedding.
BBQ with the Johnsons and Jacksons.
Boating, sporting and Wii-ing with Dave, Beth and the girls.
Time on the Hannah farm.
Lakeside dinner with Sue.
Bonding with the staff at Macy's in Maplewood.
Playing piano for Imogene and grandpa's nursing homes. Always the best audience.
Taking Dave to the cottage on the river. We'll be back for sure.
Being there when grandpa got visited by his old drum and bugle corps boys.
Boating with the two Daves and the girls.
Finally giving in to learning how to ride the wave board. It was fun just to be playing with my dad.
Being around for lots of new phases in mom's life: retirement, 65 and iTunes.
Going on a bear hunt with Maddy and Alaina.
Kung Pao and Lo Mein with the Fabyanske's.
Re-connecting with the Natives, the Douglases and the Kernkamps.
Meeting Heather at our favorite catch-up spot, Panera Bread.
Splitting a MASSIVE brownie with Bridget.
Talking about shoes, parenting and Pole-ish politics with Sara.
GNO with Alaina.
Playing tennis with mom.
Spending time at the Polo Match, at which time Adam sadly discovered that the party he had agreed to attend involved roller skating. Not his cup of tea.
Nordstroms and manicures with Beth.
Lots of Aggravation with mom and dad. (That's a card game, not a state of mind!)
Everything to do with getting Number Five into our family. Much of it, with Alaina's irreplaceable help.
Catching up with Jenn Alexander over square burgers in the Wendy's parking lot.
Precious wonderful time with Jenny Bays and her little Mess Maker in Nashville.
Caribou and great conversation with a glowingly-pregnant Michelle.

I love you guys all so much. Our guest room is yours for the taking. Come visit anytime.

And to Dave...Thank you so much for always supporting me when I want to visit my friends and family. You're the best. Really. Thank you for offering up our time together so I could be home for a while. Love you huge...


September 6, 2007 - White Bear Lake, MN...

Well, Number Five had to leave a definite impression on grandma and grandpa before taking off for Amsterdam. On our last night in MN, the humans in the house decided to play Aggravation (had to see if dad's "lucky chair" theory could hold water for one more round), and the canine decided he would repay grandma and grandpa's generous hospitality by helping with the dishes.

Only wish I could've captured on film the the fast-paced racing action of dad and N5 playing "kitchen" (running in lightning-speed circles round and round the kitchen island. Hours of fun for everyone, really.)

I can't thank you both enough, mom and dad, for welcoming us both in the house for an extended stay. Number Five hopes to see you soon. He has all sorts of new tricks to show you.

Love you,

August 10, 2007 - White Bear Lake, MN...

Dave rigged his camera to take these fantastic shots of our family the night before he went back to Amsterdam. Mom had the t-shirts made. The artwork is a drawing Alaina did of a mermaid (or "mermenaid," as she used to called them).

(That look on my brother's face in the second shot...Classic Brosef.)

Monday, September 24, 2007

August 11, 2007 - Nashville, TN...

I'm starting to think that we should've had t-shirts made for our U.S. Summer Tour '07.

Not only did I get to see friends and family in California and Minnesota, and I had the WONDERFUL pleasure of spending a few days in Nashville with dear life-long friend Jenny (Johnson) Bays, her husband Greg, their almost 2-year old son Theo, and Jenny's big bellyful of her daughter, who is due in only a matter of weeks.

I had a fabulous time. I love spending time with Jenny and her family. Theo is such a sweet boy (and, not to mention, a dead-ringer for the 5-year old Jenny of our first meeting long ago). And Jenny and Greg are great parents.

Dear Jenny: Here's wishing you a safe delivery and lots and lots of excavators.

Love you...

September 5, 2007 - Maplewood, MN...

We were lucky enough to get some time with some of my extended family before making the big flight home. Number Five was on good(ish...see the second photo above) behavior as we visited Imogene at her assisted living apartment. He showed off his big trick...sitting...and made a solid attempt to get a hold of some gum drops that Virgie (grandma Marian's sister) brought with her. Betty (wife of Gary, daughter-in-law of Virgie) coordinated the afternoon (thank you, Betty!).

Thursday, September 20, 2007

September 6, 2007 - White Bear Lake, MN...

Girl meets boy. Girl and boy move to Amsterdam and make great new friends. Girl meets said friends in her hometown...a small town five thousand miles away.

Carly and Bas stopped by my folks' house on a random crossing of paths. It was totally strange and completely cool all at once.

After a wonderful conversation sesh with Carly, Bas, Scott and Judy, I couldn't help myself but to take them (especially Bas, who is Dutch) to visit the local Pannekoeken Huis (for those of you unfamiliar, P.H. is an American suburb take on Dutch food and culture...complete with windmills, plastic tulips, and lots of pancakes).

I could almost hear the faint distant voices of waitresses past..."PAN-nekoeken! PAN-nekoeken!"

(Janae, I think you know what I mean.)

September 7, 2007 - Dellwood, MN...

I remember when my mom turned 37. I made a card for her with exactly thirty seven smilie faces on it.

Although I could've repeated the theme this year, somehow sixty five smilie faces just seemed a little...uh...exhaustive. A fancy dinner with the family (my Dave excepted, unfortunately) seemed much more apropo for such a classy lady.

Mom, I wish you the happiest of birthdays. I am so proud of you, for all the things you do and for who you are. I'm so glad I could be there on your special day.


Tuesday, September 4, 2007

August 30, 2007 - Stillwater, MN...

It was picture perfect, each visit to the Hannah farm. A nice leisurely drive from Crestline to 40th Street, followed by a swirling canine greeting by Tova and Dodger, and some uber-exhausting puppy play in the hours to come. Number Five couldn't have been any closer to nirvana then when we were there.

Happily, we were both in our bliss. His, covered in doggie saliva and an elated panting version of burnout. Mine, laced with root beer and irreplaceable great conversation with dear friend Karen and her husband Ken.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

August 26, 2007 - Dellwood, MN...

"I was were there...two worlds colliding..."

My, my, the unplanned extension to my trip has provided me all sorts of wonderful surprises. This one, I could not have drawn up from the most far-fetched reaches of my mind.

Hundreds of moons ago, I was approached by a couple of senior guys (I was merely a freshman) who had heard I played the piano. They were looking for someone to play keyboard in their band. Was I interested?

Nineteen years later, I think aout it and a smile my heart thinking about what I said yes to, having no idea that the experience would be the tool to carve large portions of my future.

I was going on 15 years of age, and I got to make music with five (count 'em...FIVE) senior guys, who were the coolest, sweetest guys anyone could know. Andy, Greg, Lance, Jim and Jerry (with an occasional appearance by Denny, who left the band before I joined). We would meet up in the basement of anyone whose parents were willing to tolerate the high decibel, rugged sounds of our musical team....The Natives.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen. In my adolescent world of playing all over the place and doing neat things, it wasn't until I was a rock star that I knew the burden of being so dang cool. Oh yes...I was down with it. All of it.

And I loved these guys.

I had five extra big brothers who looked out for me ("When should we bring Lynn home, Mrs. Hutchinson?"), taught me about chords and licks, and talked to me about life and love...all before my 11pm curfew.

As it turns out, we have all found wonderful soul mates with which to spend our lives. Andy recently got married in California, where he now lives. Fortunate for all of us, his parents hosted a Minnesota reception. And we were all there. For the first time in ten years, we were all together.

Having been there, I can't imagine having missed this chance. I don't think I broke my smile the entire night. I got a chance to look each of these guys in the eyes and laugh and reminisce. My mind was speaking the same message to each of them so loud and clear, I thought my inner ear was going to burst..."Because of you, my life is what it is. Your presence in my life really left a beautiful impression. I am so grateful for that."

Honestly. Would I have been playing keyboards for John Torres the night I met Dave if it weren't for The Natives?

So many people come and go in a lifetime. And that's reality. But these guys will always hold a very special place in my heart. And they can never tear us apart...