Family, 2015

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Drawing I did of Veronica as a child.

 

Family is an interesting thing.  We’re all aware that it’s not just who’s married to whom, and who shared bloodlines.  It’s far more complex–and, simultaneously, simple-than that.

I’m adopted, first of all.  When I was two-and-a-half years old, in the fall of 1968, I was adopted from foster care into the Olson home.  I was Leonard and Leone’s only child (they’d lost a baby at birth nine years before I was born), and they were in their middle forties, and both professionals.

Church photo a week after my adoption: Leone, Karla, Leonard Olson.  September, 1969.

Church photo a week after my adoption: Leone, Karla, Leonard Olson. September, 1969.

I hit the jackpot on families!  No one could ask for more loving, more dedicated parents. I am grateful, daily, for my upbringing.

Also, I’ve been married twice.

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First husband and me, 1994, St. Cloud, MN

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Justin and me, 2007, Clear Lake, MN

My first marriage was ill-advised, but I deeply loved my husband, and altogether we were together ten years. Shortly after he and I began dating i n 1988, he found out he was going to be a father.  The child’s mother was a high school friend of his, Beth, with whom he’d kept up a friendship, and they’d celebrated his birthday that year, resulting in an unexpected pregnancy. To make a long, long, story short, he has not been the world’s best father but I lucked out in our divorce, in 1998, and got to “keep” the kid–well, Veronica, his daughter, lived with her mother, obviously, but Beth was wonderful enough to allow me to remain in Veronica’s life.  As Beth aptly put it–I still remember what she said, and how I cried for happiness–“You love her, she loves you.”

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Veronica at Aunt Geeney’s house, 1992

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Veronica at her father’s and my house, St. Cloud, circa 1995

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Veronica and her father’s and my house, St. Cloud, circa 1996.

 

 

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Veronica at Twin Cities Gay Pride with her father and me, circa 1996.

There were a few family reunions–my ex-husband’s family, mind you–that were non-traditional.  I’ve stayed in contact with my former in-laws, and they’ve accepted my current husband without any problem. I do distinctly recall one summer gathering, at my in-law’s family homestead farm, where sitting together in a row on a picnic table were Veronica, Beth, me, and my now-current husband, Justin.  A few distant relatives, not knowing all the ins and outs, asked how we were family; this led to very interesting answers.  “Well, I used to be married to your cousin, see, and this wonderful girl is his daughter and this is her mother and his old friend.  Oh, and this is my boyfriend…”

Beth, Veronica, Justin, and I have vacationed together (Yay, Duluth!).  When asked, simply saying “family” supplies all the information anyone really needs.

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Brighton Beach, north of Duluth, 2006

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Veronica, Park Point (Duluth), 2006

Skip forward several more years, and Veronica’s now nearly 26 years old.  She lives in Sacramento, holds a Master’s Degree in public policy, and is doing great work on behalf of many people in the capital city of California.  She’s brilliant, funny, creative, and everyone’s dream of a daughter, stepdaughter, or former stepdaughter. I’m honored to have her in my life, and further honored to be friends (family?) with her mother.

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Veronica in Germany, 2006ish.

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Veronica and friend Angela, St. Cloud Java Joint, early 2000s.

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Veronica at Mills, freshman year.

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Veronica and proud mother Beth, Graduation from St. Paul Open School, 2007.

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A favorite picture of Veronica.

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Veronica at Mills. (I’ve edited the wall message for public consumption…)

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Trivia Party, 2007, St. Cloud

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Veronica’s going-off-to-college party, George Street, St. Paul, August 2007.

All this to say that while Veronica was still in junior high and high school in St. Paul, and Justin and I lived in Marshall, MN (four hours from them), our gatherings were looked forward to, and we always had the best of times with hilarious and scholarly discussions on pop culture, literature, current events, politics, childrearing, education, music, and, well, anything.  Games would be played (Wizard of Bees!). We’d eat good food (well, if we visited St. Paul, that is, rather than they visiting Marshall).  Libations would occur.  We’d go home with our bellies hurting from the laughter.

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Veronica, Beth, Justin

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Justin, Bindu, Veronica: St. Paul, circa 2008

 

Additionally, there was the annual KVSC Trivia Contest.  Veronica has played on our team (Those Meddling Kids, then WWSD) via phone when she was young, then in person from adolescence onward.  Beth now plays with us, too, though a latecomer compared with Veronica.

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Trivia nap…circa maybe 2008?

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Trivia, circa 2006

 

Since Veronica left to go to college in California in 2007, our group gatherings have been limited to summers (when she still came home, which ended a while back) and, currently, at Christmas, when Veronica still makes the trek home to Minnesota to see friends and family (and likely organize everything in sight, as she’s wont to do).  While we can connect on facebook and via email and twitter all year, Justin and I very much look forward to when the four of us (now five, as Beth is partnered with Aaron, who’s a terrific addition!) can get together.

Veronica and Beth, Milaca, MN, January 2012 or 2013.

Veronica and Beth, Milaca, MN, January 2012 or 2013.

Which we did this past Friday.  In the Twin Cities.

Theses were written on the implications of Breaking Bad and Fight Club.  Second wave feminism butted against third wave, as it normally does in our gatherings.  We spent a good forty-five minutes discussing whether “mansplaining” was appropriate or obsfucating.  Knitting occurred.  There were liters and liters of coffee drunk. Snacking and eating in interesting establishments happened (Longfellow Grill, Peace Cafe, Riverview Cafe and Wine Bar) . There was disagreement on The Decemberists (Veronica votes Nay, Karla votes Yay) and The Shins (Karla votes Yay, Veronica votes Meh).  Presents were exchanged.  Dogs were fed (and pigdogs carried…). There were hugs.

And, my God, the laughter.  Open-mouthed, head back, full-throated laughter.  The absolute best part of being with these people.

I love my family. And how I look forward to these Christmas get-togethers!

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Veronica and Justin, Peace Coffee, Jan. 2015

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Beth and Veronica, Peace Coffee, Jan. 2015

 

A Walk in the Woods

I’m 46, I’m fat, I’m sedentary, and I have a gazillion health problems.

For years, I’ve viewed my body as my enemy, or at the very minimum a foreign entity with which I’m saddled against my will.  Not a healthy perspective.  Moving has helped a great deal–I’m not sure how I can explain the connection between my self-concept and my immediate environment, so you’ll just have to take me on faith that the ground I walk on is important to me, as is the view from my window and the smell in the air. Now that I’m surrounded by trees, smelling pine, I’m happier.

But I’m still 46, fat, sedentary, with health problems…and possible more surgery upcoming (but I won’t think about that now, because it may not happen).

For a couple of years, I’ve had the pipe dream that I wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail. Not all 2100 miles of it, certainly not at once, but *part* of it. Even a small part. For someone with my health conditions, as dependent as I am on pharmacology multiple times a day to keep living, that’s a big pipe dream.  Lately, I’ve decided, against all conventional wisdom, that I’ll do it. A hundred miles a year, maybe.  Starting (as we all like milestones) the summer after I turn fifty.

Which gives me four years to slim down, get in shape, try to get rid of some of the medicines I need (or least find ones lightweight and easy to pack…), and learn what I need to learn to not die the first five miles.

I’m very, very excited. Seriously excited.

Aside from just reading books (another blog entry, that one) and looking at maps, I’ve had to start, well, *walking*. Not quite hiking yet (although I have hiking sticks with me), but at least forward motion, not on pavement, for more than a few minutes at a time.  Another good thing about my move is that there are gazillions of hiking trails in my area, not least of which is a series of trails many miles long, of varying difficulty levels, practically out my front door.  Seriously.

I’ve gone out walking a few times now, and this week I set a new goal: I need to get at least a half-hour of exercise in, every five days out of seven, minimum. So far so good.  Aside from walking, I have big plans of joining the golf course here and taking up golf (after twenty-five freaking years), and getting my canoe water-ready and in the Rum River which is a block from my house.

My first few attempts were wonderful disasters.  Wonderful in that I felt awesome and walked and walked and walked and walked–for two hours or more–which left FibroGirl here *wasted* for days and days afterward, barely able to breathe. It feels so good at the time, I don’t feel like stopping.  But I’m learning.  I need to build. (Note: it’s not muscle-pain that slays me–there’s not even a whole lot of that–but absolute exhaustion, mental and physical, that is the fallout in fibro, and the deep, chronic, non-muscle-strain type of pain that is debilitating.)

My short terms goals are simple: by this upcoming autumn, I hope to be able to walk for a day (a few hours, with breaks) with a small pack with lunch, without wiping out my whole week. And lose 50 pounds.

By next summer, I hope to have lost another 50 pounds and by the following autumn, be able to weekend hike to walk-in camp sites, with full pack.

I’ll worry about further goals leading up to the AT (I figure three weeks’ worth at a time, every summer, for that) later.  These first ones, first. And if takes me longer, who cares.  I’m not going to fret about that.  As thruhikers on the AT tend to say, “Hike your own hike.” This is me, doing something for me, on MY damn time.

In order to help me forward with my goals, I plan to blog fairly regularly about my hikes, with photos.  I’ve already made lists of places nearby (within an hour or two of home) to hike on weekends this summer, and I want to keep it interesting.  I want the hikes themselves to be worthy, not just a means to an end. I want to live in the present while I’m preparing for the future.

To begin, some pictures and notes from walks (hikes) already taken this spring, in and around Milaca, MN and Onamia, MN:

Hike #1: March, 2012.

This was the day we discovered the trails just across the road from us.  It was an unseasonably warm day in March, not covered in snow (but only patches) because this spring has been so weird, and we set out to see what was up Riverside Drive across the highway from us.  We found, first of all, a gorgeous, hilly, expansive cemetery, and secondly, paths from it to all over the place.  This particular day we chose to walk down to town via the path over the Rum River, to Rec Park,  then across town to my mother’s nursing home for a visit.

Justin, on the road leading up to what will be new discoveries for us:

Justin, Riverside Drive Milaca, March 11, 2012

Forest Hill Cemetery, MilacaMilaca Trails

 

Bridge from cemetery to Rec Park, over the Rum River

Hike #2: April, 2012.

We walked up to the cemetery again, but decided to take the paths west from it to see where they went.  There are many categories of trails here…miles and miles of them…but they all start here.  We walked around a slough, through some woods and bogs, to the river, and back again via a stand of pines. We walked for hours, and it was incredibly pleasant. I’d forgotten my walking stick, however, and only grabbed a branch partway through.  Not a mistake I’ll likely make again.

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Discovering new paths!

Rum River

 

Hike #3: April 23, 2012.

Took the Milaca trails again, but this time on a different route, one that resulted in very up-and-down, hilly, densely wooded trails, and our getting lost, basically, not knowing the way back.  It was hella fun, though, and we did make it back after a couple of hours.  Wiped me out, but was pretty darn worth it!

 

Off we go! With walking sticks!

 

Smile! We're walking!

 

 

Hike #4: April 24, 2012.

Onamia, MN, is on the Soo Line Trail, a long ATV/bike trail that runs from Genoa, MN (southwest of Onamia) to Superior, Wisconsin, over 114 miles away. Across Highway #169 in Onamia, the the Soo crosses via an immense bridge, and I’d always wanted to walk over it.  S o, we started in the heart of town and followed it out a way, on a warm, sunny afternoon, and returned.  I want to do various sections of this trail, too; preferably in the woods.

 

Overpass on Highway #169, Onamia

 

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Hike #5: April 28, 2012 (today!).

I had the idea to go to Riverside Park in Milaca and check it out, which we did…but a walking wonderland, it’s not.  Great for picnics, or landing your canoe, and would be fantastic for frisbee.  So, after walking the river as far as we could, we headed back to the Milaca trail system and did the “red” (difficult”) section again, for about an hour.  Lots of up and down, lots of trees, and since today was very cold and overcast, it was, at times, nearly spooky…but that only added to the fun.

 

 

Canoe landing, Riverside Park, Milaca MN

Riverside Park

Into the Woods, Milaca Trails

 

Mushrooms, anyone?

 

I. Love. Forest. And Justin...

 

Trestle bridge over the Rum.

I’m Here!

Sort. Pack. Stack. Load. Unload. Sort. Store.

Scream.

Yeah, so we’ve all moved before.  I’ve moved (at last count) 12 or 13 times. But this summer had the added excitement of not only moving my and my husband’s household (which is still in-process), but move my parents’ household and sell their house, AND move my mother’s room from one Alzheimer’s care facility to another one.

And our combined five cats.

While I’m preparing for a new teaching position, with totally new courses, in a whole new part of the state.

The fact that I’m actually using a computer in my new home, hooked up to internet, with a coffee mug full of coffee that was actually brewed right here and isn’t from a Starbuck’s paper cup (not that there’s a Starbucks here in east-central rural Minnesota) is a testament to all the hard work done by my husband, my father, our loyal and selfless friends and family members, and my in-laws.

So, while I have a minute (I’m taking a break from my course planning, as classes start in THREE DAYS [gasp]) I’ll share some of the truly lovely things I’ve noticed about my new town, new school, and new life living with “my guys” (my 87-year-old father and my husband, and, again, our five cats).

I love, love, LOVE my new house. Seriously.  It’s so great that all the consternation over getting it (see previous entries) is worth it, several times over.  I’m undeserving of this, and so very, very lucky. I’ll share some of my favorite snapshots over the last couple of weeks so you can see what I’m talking about.

My backyard, during a light rain. Seriously. I live here.

 

Having breakfast with my husband in the gazebo.

Scandinavian collection on mantle on one of the TWO fireplaces.

A fibromite's dream bathroom!

I love my new town; everyone I’ve come into contact with from the hardware store to the grocer’s to the pharmacy to the cell phone shop have been delightful and extremely helpful. I’ve been enjoying the farmers’ markets around, and natural resources.

Behind our woods, there are forest trails!

Farm Market Café, in Onamia, MN...uses all local ingredients from local markets.

I love my new school!   The administration and faculty and staff have been some of the loveliest and most helpful people I’ve ever met. I’ve laughed with my colleagues, and been included on gatherings, all week during in-service, and my initial reactions to the school during my interview (I thought it was welcoming and happy) have been borne out. I’m excited to begin my new professional life here.

 

My new universe. 🙂