Our quick weekend getaway

We left on Friday right after H got home from work and we had a lovely and easy drive to SE Minnesota.  Descending from Preston into the deep valley where the charming town rests was almost like driving backward into time.  You got this feeling you were going somewhere that time has forgot.  We got into Lanesboro and found our B&B, Habberstad House, a truly gorgeous 1897 Queen Anne home that has been lovingly restored down to the smallest detail.  We didn’t get in until a little after 6:30, so we were too late for the cheese and wine party, but they brought us glasses of wine to enjoy as soon as we were in our room.  The Scandinavian room was just beautiful.  We had this marvelous balcony overlooking the gardens and the water fountain.  You could smell  the sweet scent of magnolia from two trees in the garden below.  We sipped our wine on the balcony and then left for dinner.  We chose a place called The Vintage and we had the most marvelous meal we’ve had in a while.  We each had salads, and H had the paté (he said it was as good as any he had in France) while I had the spring pea bisque.  We each had the pork loin chops, and we finished with dessert.  We ordered a not-too-sweet Austrian Riesling and all that food and the bottle of wine came to $98, which just floored us.  Afterward, we headed back to the B&B and noticed there were ominous clouds to the south and lots of lightning.  We had a stormy evening from there on out, but we slept in that lovely bed with the softest cotton sheets I’ve ever felt and drifted off to the sound of rain on the rooftop, which was something delicious to hear.

We got up on Saturday and I took a long soak in the Jacuzzi whirpool tub.  We went downstairs and I took my knitting with me since breakfast wouldn’t be ready until 8:30.  We just enjoyed our coffee in the period parlors and met all the other house guests as they came down.  It was a charming and diverse group of people – three professor friends from UW/Madison, an elderly couple from Chicago also doing the art tour, and another couple from the Twin Cities, very friendly, just there to get away for a while.  We had apple dutch baby pancakes, and a fresh fruit salad with yogurt, and fresh banana bread served with a warm butter sauce, and fresh juice and coffee and it was quite the splendid set up.  And the hosts of the B&B were a really friendly, outgoing couple originally from the Twin Cities.

We took off after breakfast and started the art tour (see the brochure) in Lanesboro where several of the venues were, then made our way along the Root River (which is apparently a lot like the topography of Norway) to Houston, then on to Caledonia, Spring Grove, New Albin (Iowa), and finally ending up in Decorah at Seed Savers for our garden transplants.  We bought some pottery along the way and I hope to get some good pictures for you.  I didn’t take any pictures on the trip – to be honest, I didn’t want to do anything except take it all in.  And the weather was gray and icky, but we both really enjoy just riding through the countryside seeing new little towns, discovering places we haven’t been before.  We left Decorah about 5 on Saturday and ended up back in town by 8:00, but it felt like we had been gone much longer than that.  Beulah was so happy to see us both she just cried and cried when we got to H’s parents’ house.

We spent yesterday just laying around.  The knitting muse hit me over the head a little after breakfast, and I spent a good part of the afternoon adding some Scandinavian color work patterns into the front of the sweater I am making for Harald.  Oh, it did come out looking a treat.  I can’t wait to finish the front.  Maybe this week.  And it rained off and on all day yesterday, water our gardens and lawns desperately needed, so we just stayed in and didn’t do anything.  I did make a chicken and mushroom risotto recipe with a nice salad for dinner, and that was just right on a cold and wet day.

When I got on the elevator at the office this morning, it felt like I hadn’t been at work for a very long time, even though it was just a normal weekend.  I guess that means we had a really good time getting away.  All in all, I would say it was just what the doctor ordered.  And we love Lanesboro.  We plan to go back, maybe as early as June for a shorter day trip.  It’s only 30 minutes south of Rochester, so it’s completely doable.  And we are definitely going back in the fall when the leaves are changing.  And we are also planning to go back to Spring Grove, which we discovered on Saturday.  Ironically, there was a story in the Sunday travel section of the newspaper all about Spring Grove and how it was the first Norwegian settlement in what is now Minnesota.  And we got great plants at Seed Savers.  And Mom is getting better and has really seemed to turn the corner and has started eating again and sounding much more like her old self.  So, today it’s all good ….

Catching up

Sometimes the best way to let people know what’s going on is just to give lots of little snippets …

1.  Friday morning came and I decided I didn’t have it in me to work another day.  I took a day off just for me.  I ended up calling Marsha, a fiber friend (read all about her here (http://tinyurl.com/dylso6) and went to the American Craft Council show in St. Paul.  On the way home, we stopped at Cosetta’s to do some Italian grocery shopping.

2.  I made a wonderful pasta dish on Friday night for dinner using Cosetta’s Italian sausage and tiny little meatballs.  It made for an excellent lunch on Saturday, too!

3.  On Saturday morning, I picked up my MIL and SIL and we went the Yarnover event sponsored by the Minnesota Knitter’s Guild.  I finally joined the guild.  Their monthly meetings don’t do much for me, but it will be good to be well-connected to an organization devoted to knitting.  I bought two socks books I’ve been wanting, some natural fawn colored yarn from a local woolen mill made from Minnesota sheep (enough to make a generous sweater for myself), a kit for a Bohus hat (I’ve been dying to do some Bohus work since seeing the exhibit a couple months ago at the American-Swedish Institute), various cool knit-knacks, and a book of traditional Scandinavian knitting patterns.  This was my one “splurge” I allowed myself after getting my tax refund.  Best of all, I discovered Black Water Abbey Yarns, based out of Aurora, CO.  They import the most marvelous dyed wool from Ireland.  All three of us ended up buying patterns, and getting their color cards for their whole line.  I woke up yesterday thinking about the men’s vest pattern I bought and how I wanted to make it.  Maybe I will buy the yarn soon.

4.  Saturday afternoon we spent opening up all the flower beds because they said it would rain Saturday night/Sunday morning.  We got all the work done, but I’ve been sore for two days.  Geez I am out of shape.  But I love looking out on the bed and seeing green things coming up and all the dead brown growth cleared away.  Right now we see tulips and hyacinth and daffodils coming up, along with peonies and hostas and lots of other stuff.  Spring is most welcome!  Oh, and the hawks seem particularly hungry this year, thinning our population of squirrels and rabbits, which is good, but we don’t like the evidence of the killings we keep coming across.

5.  Saturday night, we went out to eat with H’s parents and sister at Mort’s Deli.  We had fantastic food and good laughs with the staff.  We’ve been there enough they’ve all taken to greeting us when we walk in and treating us like really valued customers.  We like that.

6.  We went to the ACC show in St. Paul, since Harald was working Friday and couldn’t go then.  That was our Sunday morning worship – seeing all that glorious creation!  H bought a gorgeous glass object d’art for the living room.  And I bought a pottery wine coaster and a new clipboard (made of laminated colored wood) for my crosswords.

7.  I was in the mood to make Indian food last night.  I ended up cooking Rogan Josh (a northern Indian braised lamb dish – only I made it hot with chilies) and Aloo Gobi (potatoes and cauliflower) and a fruited rice made with cashews, raisins, cinnamon, ginger, garlic and coconut milk.  We ate like kings last night and enjoyed every bit of it.  I don’t cook Indian very often – it seems like it is as labor-intensive and time-consuming as Chinese food, but the results are so worth it.  We both agreed I need to develop a repertoire of Indian dishes since we both love it so much.  After dinner, we drove to the Edina Creamery for ice cream.

8.  We are both doing much, much better.  I sensed we both felt ready to face into the week this morning.  That is good.  We haven’t had any crying jags for days, and we are both feeling more positive and upbeat and our interests seem to be renewing in the areas of what we love.  It’s all good.  We are still bumping into neighbors and others who are extending their warm hearts to us, but it doesn’t sting to talk about it anymore.  Thank God.

9.  This week is employee appreciation week at the firm.  We get to wear blue jeans on Monday and Friday.  I’d be a new man if I could wear blue jeans to work every day!

Good morning

A good morning to you all.  And I mean it.

I woke up this morning with a sense that the darkest clouds had passed.  I finished re-reading Rabbi Kushner’s book yesterday afternoon and sat down and had a good cry (again).  And the tears felt like they cleaned out the corners of my soul that were still hurting.  But you know what, I cannot maintain any animosity toward Jennifer.  Oh, trust me, I have tried to work up a good head of steam – to get good and angry and go on an emotional tear, but it just isn’t coming. Mostly, I think, because I feel so sad for her.   Is it any wonder she didn’t want to go through it all alone?  Maybe Harald was right.  Maybe our job was to be Jennifer’s parents for five months, not the parent to her baby.  I have no doubt that she never consciously intended to end this the way it did, but I also think didn’t or couldn’t know what she herself was feeling and wanting, and so there was no way she could be honest with others if she couldn’t be honest with herself.  And I think “How can you practice or teach what you have never known?” I feel great pity for the little girl we thought would be ours.  I hope Jennifer is able to make some immediate and miraculous changes, but in my heart I only have a  prayer of blessing for both of them.

No one can ever take away the good things that happened to us over the past five months.  Those times of immense joy, hopeful expectation – those were all very real and they remain with us.  And although we knew we were cared for and loved, perhaps the greatest gift we have experienced is the genuine and extraordinary outpouring of care and affection and true love that we have seen demonstrated for us again and again and again.  That our friends, neighbors and loved ones have grieved along side us has kept us from feeling alone.  And far from being tested, my faith has been strong, because I have felt the indwelling presence of the Spirit so much the past five days.  I have no doubt that God sent the Great Comforter to be with us, and that has given my soul such a feeling of respite.

This morning I went to the Mercy Hospital maternity web site so see if there were pictures of Savannah (Jennifer’s chosen name) and there were, under Jennifer’s name and the birth date of April 2nd.  And it was really OK looking at them.  I downloaded all the birth day pictures from my camera and ordered them sent to Jennifer from the Target site.  Those pictures don’t belong to us any more.  I unpacked my hospital bag and put everything away.  It felt good to do all these things.  I feel like washing clothes, and cleaning off my desk of accumulated mail, and just getting our home back in order.  And I think I will take Beulah for a walk today.  It is far too nice to stay cooped up inside all day.

I know I will never be the same after what has happened.  How could I be?  But I am not immobilized.  I can move again.  I can put one foot in front of another and do the things that need to be done. I am very much alive.  And I belong here.  This is the poem that has been ruminating in my gut for days:

Wild Geese
by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Today’s Thought

Where there is sorrow, there is holy ground.”  –  Oscar Wilde

Today, I sit with my pointy sticks, taking stitch after stitch – the clicking is a blessed distraction and activity.  And I think of Melpomene, the muse of tragedy, and hope she will once again comfort me and bring my soul to the point of song.  It was episode 21, Secret Water, of Brenda Dayne’s podcast last year that helped me so much when we experienced the prior adoption loss and today I am grateful I already knew about it.  Perhaps one day soon I can sing this hymn and mean it:


My life flows on in endless song
Above earth’s lamentation.
I hear the real, thought far off hymn
That hails the new creation
Above the tumult and the strife,
I hear the music ringing;
It sounds an echo in my soul
How can I keep from singing?

What through the tempest loudly roars,
I hear the truth, it liveth.
What through the darkness round me close,
Songs in the night it giveth.
No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that rock I’m clinging.
Since love is lord of Heaven and earth
How can I keep from singing?

When tyrants tremble, sick with fear,
And hear their death-knell ringing,
When friends rejoice both far and near,
How can I keep from singing?
In prison cell and dungeon vile
Our thoughts to them are winging.
When friends by shame are undefiled,
How can I keep from singing?

Sad news about our baby girl

For those of you who have not heard, I just wanted you to know that our latest attempt at enlarging our family failed this past week when the birth mother suddenly changed her mind and decided to parent the beautiful little baby girl, who we will always know as Siri Grace, last Thursday night.  She was born at 10:07 p.m. and Harald and I were both there assisting Jennifer during the delivery.  We were there for almost the entire 26 hour labor, and were with her for every push.  But apparently it was not meant to be.  We worked so hard on building a strong relationship with the birth mother over the past 5 months, and this feels like such a devastating and personal blow.

As you might imagine, we feel a profound, and at times overwhelming, sadness and sense of loss.  It feels like we had a daughter, and then lost her.  I vascillate between being OK and on an even keel and in emotional pain so strong that it bends me in half.  For all the grief I have experienced over the years, for friends, lovers, dear family – I have never felt this.  I can’t even begin to put words to it.  But I know that facing people is particularly hard for both of us right now.  Even though we aren’t making any decisions immediately, both of us have said this feels like it might be the end of our dream to become parents, and that only makes the grief that much more intense.  Maybe time and space will bring different results.

We have each decided to take some time off from work, just to be with one other in our process of grief and healing, and to try to figure out which pieces to pick up and put back and where.  Our faith is a constant help to us and I’ve been profoundly aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit during the past few days.  I have no doubt that God is with us. And I thank my God at all times for Harald’s presence, because I can’t imagine surviving this without him by my side.