Alaska — Land of surprises

Beautiful. Vast. Harsh.

One. The sun doesn’t rise until after 9:00am and when it does it is intense and blinding white light. Even sun glasses don’t stop the glare. No wonder northern explorers wear goggles.

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Two. Whittier, Alaska, on Prince William Sound, doesn’t have much going for it in November. Whittier is the fishing and glacier touring capital of Alaska, but only through September. Come November, the few tourist shops there are shuttered and closed. I’m a Minnesota girl and the fierce wind was piercing my coat and long underwear. It was brutally cold. We had an interesting conversation the harbor master. She said that until the 1970s Whitter was a secret military base because the water in the bay doesn’t freeze. After they left the military barracks slowly decayed away. Sad. This big rotting building adds to Whittier’s forlorn ambiance. At the harbor we met two guys who had just came in from scuba diving. SCUBA DIVING, in Prince William Sound, in November, in freezing weather. I asked them if there wasn’t a better place to go scuba diving. They said it’s great scuba diving because the water is so rich with nutrients there is abundant plant life and fish life — it’s very colorful underwater. I just couldn’t get my head around donning scuba gear in that weather and going into the water. But after we left I thought, dang it, I should have asked them to take me out diving. Hmmm . . . maybe we’ll have to take another trip to Whittier. Who else could say they’ve been scuba diving in Alaska in November?

The harbor in Whittier. Sailboats in November.

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The commercial harbor and shipping containers.

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Commercial harbor master building?

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Abandoned military barracks.

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Downtown Whittier.

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Three. Anchorage has 32 foot tides. Which makes the though of scuba diving, or sailing, or boating a treacherous endeavor. I’ve heard sailors talk about confused waters. Alaska has confused waters. The wind was howling from one direction and the tides were moving the other direction. I sat next to an air force colonel on the flight up to Alaska and he told me not to go out on the mud flat during low tide. He said every year people drown because they get stuck in the mud and the tide comes in and they can’t get off the mud flats. What a horrible way to die: stuck in the mud as you watch the tide come in that you know is going to drown you. We’ll take his advice and enjoy the mud flats from a distance. Alaska is beautiful — but harsh.

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Four. The mountains are gigantic and steep. We marveled that trees could even grow on them. They are big, steep, rugged, and everywhere. There are areas of the mountains that are almost vertical with no trees, but where there are trees it’s amazing they can cling to the mountain.

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Five. Glaciers are blue. The harbor master explained as the snow accumulates the pressure squeezes the air out of the snow and that’s what makes the blue color. It’s not ice: it’s compressed snow.

See the blue?

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Six. The $12.00 tunnel to Whittier. It costs $12.00 round trip to go through a four-mile, one-lane tunnel that is shared by 2-way vehicle traffic and trains. After exploring Whittier we laughed about who would ever buy a ONE WAY ticket to Whitter.

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Seven. The food is good. Anchorage has a great restaurant scene. It’s not hicksville.

Eight. Girdwood is gorgeous. And the Hotel Aleyska is gorgeous. It’s ski resort hotel nestled in the mountains; one of only two in the Anchorage area. No wonder — it’s hard to find mountains that can be skied because the vast majority are waaaaay to steep. Even the mountains in Girdwood are steep; definitely not a ski resort for beginners.

The road to Girdwood.

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Hotel Aleyska, Girdwood, Alaska.

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Sunset.

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Missed two days already

And I don’t have a whole lot to say. Other than things are definitely looking up for Minneapolis Swims. My neighborhood voted last night to donate $10,000 to Minneapolis Swims and we received $550 in donations from Give to the Max Day. Next month we are on the Ventura Village agenda to receive $12,500 from them. I’ve been working on the Phillips pool for almost four years and we’ve been struggling financially the entire time. Getting these donations is a huge relief and it will help us conduct the capital campaign.

T minus 4 and counting

In four days we leave on our long awaited trip to Alaska. Alaska has loomed large in my imagination since childhood. My mom graduated high school in Fairbanks and my dad went up the Alaska highway twice in the years following World War II. I remember dad reciting Robert Service and Jack London poetry to me as a child. He memorized many poems and would recite them from heart: Call of the Wild, the Yukon, stories of gold miners and shady women and descriptions of a cold and untamed land overflowing with beauty and danger. He filled the poems with drama and excitement and I would sit, eyes closed, mesmerized, imagining these wild places and crazy characters.

We won’t be climbing into an old car and traveling the Alaska highway which, back then, was no more than a cow path in many places. The Alaska highway was so rugged both the cars my dad used were totaled by the time they got back home. Nope, we will be flying in luxury directly to Anchorage, nonstop from Minneapolis. November is not exactly the ideal time to go to Alaska, but Kevin is going for work and the company is sending me along. He only works a couple days, leaving plenty of time for vacationing. I definitely want to see the northern lights so I’m praying for dramatic solar storms the next two weeks.

What else? Girdwood, Seward, Homer, Denali, Matanuska and Turnagain glacier, Flat Top, Chugach Park, Whittier, Whitehorse, Eureka? Will I really be able to touch a glacier?

A new beginning

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I tire of Facebook drama. The triviality. I have three friends who have started writing blogs and I am enjoying reading them. So again I commit myself to write for 30 days straight. I start with 30 days because it’s doable — long enough to start a new habit, but not too grandiose.

Good writing — honest and thoughtful — pleases me. I hope my writing can be pleasing.

November is a difficult month. It’s that dreadful anniversary of Graeme’s death. Anyone that says Time Heals, has not lost a child. Time does not heal; time changes grief. Rather than having a gaping, feels like a mortal wound in my heart, I have a constant festering sadness. I wish it wasn’t so. And at times I forget, or choose to ignore it, but it’s always there, right under the surface, lurking, waiting to remind me of its presence.

Kevin spent time this weekend organizing the basement and discovered a CD Graeme had made years earlier that I never knew existed. Finds like these are a treasure because it give me the opportunity to experience something new with Graeme. Oh how I wish it would have been pleasant. I thought it was a collection of his favorite music. I hate techno music, his favorite, but still I relished the idea of listening to his selections. Instead it was a stupid, profanity laden, collection of “comedy routines” that was disgusting. I didn’t listen past the fourth track.

That caused me emotional confusion. And it added to my already emotionally confused week with the girl. The girl got in a fight at school on Monday, suspended on Tuesday, got in a fight on Wednesday, suspended on Thursday, walked out early on Friday, got drunk Friday night, slept all day Saturday, stayed out all night Saturday night, and then we got into an argument on Sunday about her behavior. Uggg . . I think I’m too old for all this drama.

One idea that has helped sustain me for the past seven years — the ability to make a difference in the lives of kids — is in serious doubt. I don’t believe the girl can be helped. She is way too dysfunctional. Hennepin County warned me, and no one is going to be surprised, but still it’s sad. You can’t help anyone solve their problems if they don’t even think they have a problem and they don’t want to change. And the ones who really do want to change don’t need me.

So, my new beginning, and this is probably surprising — I am embracing my European heritage. I love everything European: the culture, history, music, art, architecture, languages, activities (like skijoring), people. For too long, European Americans have been discriminated against, blamed for every problem facing our society, denied pride in our culture, and treated disrespectfully. I’m tired of racist comments aimed at me because I’m White. No more! I am immensely proud of the White people who built this country and wrote our constitution. I am part of them and I am proud of that. Skijoring came from Scandinavia and I am part Scandinavian. It’s a good fit: my dog, exercise, outdoors. Here’s to all us European Americans.

Eleven Who Care award

Again, it’s been a while since I last posted. It’s easy to procrastinate after I haven’t posted for a few days. But I have some exciting news to share. I won the KARE-11 Eleven Who Care award this year. Each year this award honors eleven people around the state for their volunteer work. Here is my bio: Hannah Lieder — Founder of Minneapolis Swims, an organization that advocates for swimming programs to be available for children and families living in the inner city. Hannah has played a critical role in preserving the only public indoor pool in Minneapolis.

The big gala celebration was July 19th at the 3M headquarters in St. Paul.

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Happy Memorial Day

I’m back in the swing of things. On Saturday we finished our 3-weeks of sailing classes at the Wayzata Yacht Club that taught us how to be good crew members. The session ended with a Graduation Cup race around Lake Minnetonka. We had a good stiff breeze which made for a fast, fun race but we finished last. Boo!

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After the race we had beverages and pleasantries with Captain Bruce. Little by little we are gaining knowledge thanks to the generosity of sailors like Captain Bruce who share their boats and experience with newbies like us.

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Last Saturday we packed up a picnic lunch and went sailing on Medicine Lake. Actually we attempted to sail: we never got out onto the lake. We got stuck on the lee shore and eventually had to have Tony hop in the water and pull us back to the dock. We made several mistakes: raised the jib first, (my fault) didn’t put the centerboard down, attached the main but didn’t raise it. After an hour of spinning in circles, rowing like crazy and disturbing the ducks nesting in the reeds along the shore we decided to go have lunch and then try again. But by the time we finished lunch it started to rain and that was the end of our sailing. Sound like fun? It was!!!

Rigging the boat for our attempted sail.

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Taking rigging down. One minute after this photo was taken it started pouring.

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The Muscle who saved the day and got into the water and towed us back to the dock.

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Lunch! Pastrami and cheese sandwiches with Carlyle’s delicious potato salad and Little Debby snacks for dessert.

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Buddy begging for pastrami.

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I accidentally washed and dried my headphones in the washing machine. They came out of the dryer all tangled up but they still worked!

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Hard to believe we hit 99 degrees on May 14th AND it was sunny for like three days in a row. Imagine that.

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Yesterday we visited Johnna and met Robert Clay from Jamaica. He built this clever grill from an abandoned fuel tank. This contraption isn’t pretty but it works great. It’s wood fired although you can use charcoal and even rig it up to use propane if desired. He can use it as a smoker too. It cost him $50 bucks for the whole thing. Robert took his grill and spent several days in north Minneapolis, at his own expense, feeding people who were working on the tornado cleanup. He offered to give Carlyle a cleaned fuel tank to make his own grill.

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Carlyle is guarding my tulips. Buddy (bad dog) trampled them all spring in his crazy chasing around the yard. I put the lawn chairs across his path to stop him. First chance he got he went in from behind and bit a tulip bloom right off the plant. Now we have the chairs completely surrounding the tulips.

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We took D’Shawn hiking on Sunday and he raced Buddy. D’Shawn is fast but he’s no match for the Buddster who is the fastest dog at the dog park.

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Three weeks of pervasive laziness

I intended to keep this blog updated weekly and just like that three weeks flew by with no new posts. I have many excuses as to why: the weather was cold and cloudy, we haven’t been sailing yet, I spent way too much time mindlessly cruising the internet, I got obsessed with Breaking Bad, I was just being lazy. But I did get the boat trailer painted, discovered an eagle nest with two Bald Eagles in residence, found my first geocache cache, took our first sailboat racing class, attended my first precinct delegation and voted for the winner — Alondra Cano, and took Buddy for many walks.

I’ve been doing plenty of thinking too. And plenty of feeling sorry for myself. I’m definitely experiencing some serious ennui — like nothing is worth the effort. I’ve been eating too much just because I’m bored.

Here is the trailer right after I started painting and Kevin had removed the two wooden cradles.

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The roller painted a jaunty gold.

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The finished trailer with Kevin’s new cradle complete with matching blue carpeting and orange nails.

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It’s funny to remember back when Buddy was a little puppy he was so afraid of riding in the car he would throw up. Now he’s as obsessive about going with me as Andy. He jumped into the car and wouldn’t get out. When I reached in to pull him out he jumped into the driver’s seat. When I tried to grab him from the driver’s seat he climbed under the steering wheel. He’s a funny dog.

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Here’s Buddy with a big stick he fished out of the water.

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Here’s my first geocache find. It didn’t have much inside.

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One of my favorite places to be — on the road.

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The sailboat on the clever contraption Kevin made.

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The sailboat on it’s new trailer looking good. Before and after.

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Day one of sailing school. Too bad it was cold and windy. We didn’t get to go out on the water.

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Successful Phillips Aquatics Center community meeting

Wednesday, April 24th, I did a presentation to a standing-room only crowd who came to learn more about the plans for the Phillips Aquatics Center. This was a monumental day for me. Starting at 4:00pm I was interviewed by Alec Fischer, a fellow Eleven Who Care awardee, who is making a documentary film for us on swimming. At 5:00pm I was interviewed by KARE-11. Both Alec and KARE-11 filmed the meeting. The meeting went from 6:30-8:30.

We had many groups and institutions represented: the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, the Minneapolis Public Schools, Augsburg College, the University of Minnesota, Minnesota Swimming, our fabulous attorneys at RKMC, the Minneapolis City Council, DJR Architecture, Isaac Sports Group, US Aquatics, the Minneapolis Public Health Advisory Council, the Youth Violence Task Force, the South High School swim team, and our Minneapolis Swims board and volunteers.

These photos were taken by Brandon Hunt and Jaylen Williams, two wonderful young men who worked with us last year on the Swimming and Sailing program.

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April snow: 103 days and counting

Today is April 20th, 2013. We have exactly 103 days to learn to race our sailboat before the start of LOWISA on August 3rd. As each April snow delays spring, our time to learn grows shorter. And with the temperature 20 degrees below normal we may still have ice on the lakes in May. I’ve looked into taking racing classes but they are expensive. I’m thinking instead of joining the Wayzata Yacht Club so we can race often this summer. They have a robust sailing schedule all summer and run a great sailing program for kids.

April 19th, 2013:

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Earlier this week a stray cat took up residence on our back porch. Buddy was not happy about it and his barking brought Nico who was even more unhappy.

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Tuesday I attended the DFL caucus and became a delegate for both the 9th Ward and city elections. Being a delegate allows me to have a bigger voice for the issues that are important to me: kids, the outdoors, education and swimming.

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Last night I attended a screening of Nefarious: Merchant of Souls at CityLife Church. Breaking Free facilitated the screening. This was a very disturbing movie. The horror of sex trafficking is beyond comprehension.

But I have an issue with redefining the term ‘prostitution’ to ‘sex trafficking’. Both exist. Both are exploitative. But to call all prostitution sex trafficking diminishes the absolute horror of actual sex trafficking. Women and girls who have been kidnapped and taken against their will and forced into prostitution are complete victims. Women involved in prostitution of their own choice will almost always be victimized and it is an awful lifestyle but they can quit. And often chemical dependency drives their prostitution; they sell sex to pay for drugs. This is a different situation from actual sex trafficking and I think the terms should be kept separate.

I recommend this movie:

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Ready, set — a whole lot of not much

There have been many complaints about the weather this spring 2013 and now I’m no exception. This never-ending winter is getting on my nerves. We went to Clearwater on Saturday to check on the sailboat. We hoped to pick up the trailer and bring it back to Minneapolis to rebuild the cradle. No way — St. Cloud has a foot of new snow.

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We can be thankful we aren’t living in Bismarck, North Dakota. Look at all the snow they got over the weekend. This photo is from my friend Michelle.

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Sunday we found our first geocache — Hiawatha and Minnehaha. It took me a while to figure out how to use our new GPS and now I understand why it’s easy to get lost or get into a sticky situation if you’re not paying attention. The GPS shows a straight-line to the cache; it does not show the path to get there. Our friends Donny and Kay Stellflug do a lot of geocaching and they’ve told stories of getting stuck in swamps because they weren’t paying attention to where they were walking.

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Sunday I gave Buddy his first haircut using Kevin’s brand new clippers. I attempted to make him look like Buddy the Lionhearted. I’ll do better next time.

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LOWISA — two steps forward

It’s April 11th and it’s snowing. According to the weather report it may snow on and off for the next four days. The average temperature for this time of year is 58 degrees. We are 20 degrees below normal. Do I care? Only slightly. Yes, I would love to be frolicking outside without a jacket, soaking up the sun, dreaming of fair winds and fast racing. But we got two things in the mail this week that made the sailing season seem ever-so-much-closer: a Garmin Montana 650t GPS and three nautical charts of Lake of Woods from the Canada Hydrographic Service. We only have to buy a VHF radio, a compass and a plotter and we will have all the equipment we need for LOWISA. We are going to Clearwater on Saturday to pick up our sailboat trailer and bring it back to the house so Kevin can begin rebuilding the cradle.

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What a crazy forecast for April.

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Our new GPS and nautical charts.

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Dreaming of summer.

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Enjoying winter. Oops I mean spring.

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Kevin bought me flowers on Sunday. They are still beautiful.

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How did they survive?

I finished the book “A Storm Too Soon.” This is the Sean Seamour II’s 8-foot life-raft on the side of a mountain of water. These still photos are taken from the raw video footage of the USCG rescue. How did these three guys survive? How did the USCG rescue them in these conditions?

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This storm, Andrea, came out of nowhere and within a day produced winds in excess of 85 knots and waves averaging 70 feet with rouge waves much higher. Andrea formed as two nondescript low pressure cells merged at the Gulf Stream off the coast of North Carolina. No wonder sailors feel angst at crossing the Gulf Stream. What treachery it can produce.

The sailboat Sean Seamour II sunk but all three crew members were rescued by the USCG. Here is the website of the sailboat’s owner, Jean Pierre de Lutz: Arts and Provence. The website has photos of the Sean Seamour II, more information on the storm and the rescue, and an autobiography of Jean Pierre. I’d love to meet him.

Where is spring?

Spring is certainly taking its merry time coming this cold 2013. While we wait, wait, wait for the ice to melt from the lakes and rivers (and our backyard fire pit) I read. Today I bought two books Fatal Forecast: An Incredible True Tale of Disaster and Survival at Sea and A Storm Too Soon: A True Story of Disaster, Survival and an Incredible Rescue I hope both books include a lot of weather and storm information.

I’ve been struggling again with my worry problem. Yesterday I got frustrating news and it set off every one of my worry triggers: awfulizing, obsessing, panic, anxiety, fear, despair. Is this dumb or what? I mean really, I have one life to live and I’m making myself miserable for no valid reason. Worry ruins everything. So why do I do it? Do I like to make myself miserable?

Random photos of the week: Buddy being a good dog.

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Buddy when he chews my shoes! Bad dog Buddy!

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After quite a hiatus we are back into pizza making mode. This is a fire-roasted tomato and blue cheese pizza before and after cooking.

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Buddy loving up Kevin after chewing his shoes. We need to get some bitter apple spray because he can’t help himself.

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Our fire pit. The photo doesn’t depict well the amount of standing water in the center. Hopefully we will be able to have a bonfire next weekend.

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Bald eagle bonding and a sailboat name

Yesterday I took Buddy down to the river for his regularly scheduled most-favorite-thing-in the-world walk. Right away we met up with a couple of dogs that liked to run as much as Buddy does. After a few minutes of high speed frolicking with his friends we took off walking alone together down the beach. A few minutes later I spotted a Bald Eagle circling overhead; around and around it flew coming ever lower and closer to me with each lap. The eagle was hunting what it thought was something edible on the surface of the water. When it went in for the kill the eagle flew within 20 feet of me and as it flew by I could hear the whiiish, whiiish of the wind coming off its wings. Very cool! Very powerful! And with every lap as the eagle came closer to me Buddy barked and took a circle around me. Unfortunately the eagle got skunked — his tasty morsel turned out to be a stick. I wish I would have remembered to take photos but I was so enraptured with the experience I completely forgot about my camera.

I’ve seen bald eagles in the wild before and often down at the river but this the the closest I’ve ever been to one. It felt like it was a special bonding moment between me and the eagle. I was even holding out my arm hoping it would land. I wonder if it would have gotten closer if Buddy hadn’t been making so much noise. Walking back I ran into the group with the dogs and I asked them if they had seen the eagle. They said, “we were all saying wow, look how close that eagle is to that lady.”

That got me thinking. Yesterday I went to officially register us for LOWISA but discovered we needed a name for our sailboat. Then it came to me: Eaglet Our lovely little sailboat now has a name.

Random photos of the week: Skiing at Theodore Wirth Park on March 24th.

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Buddy found a big stick.

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Key Lime Pie for my birthday. It was delicious!

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Look at all the snow at my parents house in Hudson, Wisconsin on March 28th!

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Dreamer

“All people dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous people, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.” T.E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom

One dream shared: by August 3rd we will be ready for LOWISA. This is a big task. We have little sailing experience and only once has it been with any amount of wind. We are sailing newbies. But by August 3rd we need to know how to sail and how to race. And the logistics of getting to Kenora, camping for several days in a new place each night, carrying all our supplies in a day sailor, learning the course, dealing with weather and storms, meeting new people is rather daunting in itself. But keep reading and you will be able to track our progress as we dream with open eyes.

Sailing appeals to me in so many ways. First, it is in the glorious outdoors on the glorious water. Sailing is filled with beauty. Sailing is difficult and requires a lot of knowledge: navigation, wind, water, tides, equipment, weather, communication, and sailing itself. A sailor is always learning.

Here is a foretaste of our upcoming sailing season — photos from last summer. Our first day in Ashland, Wisconsin an exciting storm rolled in. It poured rain at the marina barbecue and then the rain stopped and the sky turned dramatic. We have lovely memories of our first night on board the sailboat.

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Sunset in the Apostle Islands. See the sliver of a moon?

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Hiking the islands.

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At the sea caves in northern Wisconsin. This was a frightening hike. We hiked through the woods for three miles and came up a hill to see a life preserver hanging on a tree. The view was dramatic but scary because of the drop-off to Lake Superior below and there are no safety fences. I liked that.

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Grand Marais, Minnesota, Lake Superior sunset.

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This is the day

that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:34

My whole life I have struggled with belief. I was raised Christian but a combination of my crazy emotional turmoil, my natural tendency to worry and fear and take them to bizarre extremes, my stubbornness, and my pervasive distrust of almost everyone, has made it difficult for me to have any real functioning belief in God. And this causes me to be incredibly defensive because I’m constantly fighting this cesspool of negativity in my head.

Yesterday I had a long (like five hour) conversation with someone I consider my Christian mentor. Talking to her helps me realize how glorious Christianity truly is and this is an important understanding because Christianity in the West has been criticized, marginalized, dismissed, ridiculed, and blamed for every evil known to man. But she reminds me Christianity is glorious and it is a miracle it has survived the past 2000 years.

We take Christian morals and values for granted and often don’t recognize how much they have formed the foundations of our concepts of freedom, government, democracy, human rights, and goodness. In Christianity we have a treasure of faith and love and beauty and grace and truth to share with the world. Thank you Carol Pass. I am honored you are my friend.

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Spring begins

Although the temperature here in Minneapolis does not feel like it’s spring, the glorious sunshine does. And with the sunshine comes thoughts of sunny days on our sailboat this summer. We still have ice on the lakes but sailing season seems near. Kevin has been in California for the past two week. When he comes home we will be rebuilding the cradle on the trailer of our sailboat. It is covered with long, green shag carpet over a wooden frame. The wooden frame is broken and needs to be replaced along with the 40 year old carpet. Kevin figured out a method to hoist the sailboat up and place it on a frame and hold it and then pull the trailer out leaving the sailboat on the frame. Just the thought of working on the trailer makes sailing season seem closer.

Last summer we went to North Carolina for a week and I spent one day at Cape Hatteras on the Outer Banks. Later in the year this area got hit by Hurricane Sandy and areas of the road below were washed away. If you haven’t been to Cape Hatteras I highly recommend going. I don’t recommend taking photos while driving.

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I like being at the furthest points.

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Seagulls entertain.

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Dreams of the coming summer. Sunshine streaming down on our lovely little sailboat.

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Aleppo Lentil Soup

Today marks my first day of being intentional with my time rather than wasting it. In celebration I made Aleppo Lentil Soup from one of my favorite cookbooks: Classic Vegetarian Cooking from the Middle East and North Africa. Coptic Christians spend a good part of the year fasting and that means eating vegan. This is a vegan soup. I made it with steamed swiss chard, rye bread, and two clementines. Very delicious. Lentils are among the most nutritious of legumes, rich in iron, calcium, vitamin A and B, and protein. Dried legumes have more protein than an equal weight of choice lean sirloin steak.

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And here’s a photo of Buddy with one of his favorite toys.

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LOWISA here we come

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Kevin and I attended the Minneapolis Boat Show twice this year. We stopped in at the Northern Lights Sailing Club booth and had the good fortune to meet a couple Canadians who were in Minneapolis to promote the Lake of The Woods International Sailing Association (LOWISA) 48th annual sailing regatta. This splendid event starts in Kenora, Canada, on the north shore of Lake of the Woods. The event starts with a barbecue the night before the race begins, then we race for three days camping on various islands in the evening. Then we spend two nights in Sabaskong Bay at the lovely Buena Vista Resort. Then we spend three days racing and camping back to Kenora.

LOWISA is the greatest freshwater sailing race on earth and we are going! In fact, I volunteered to organize the Minnesota contingent of sailors. I don’t know how many participants we will have this year. With having to trailer a sailboat, setup and take down camp six nights, possibly charter a houseboat for support, and figure out how to carry and cook food for six days, it’s a lot of logistics to sort out. I made a little presentation at the annual trip night last night for Northern Lights Sailing Club and one person in the group had participated in LOWISA a few years ago and he said it was a lot of fun.

Saving Sailing

Earlier this year Kevin and I joined the Northern Lights Sailing Club. (http://nlsc.org) One nice feature of being a new member is being assigned a ‘navigator’ to help us meet fellow NLSC sailors and learn about the club. Our navigator, Keith Holloman, suggested I read the book, Saving Sailing.

I read the book and turned around and re-read it. The first half was good, really good, but the second half blew me away. The author did a multi-year in-depth scientific study of sailing and sailors to understand why sailing is losing participants. What’s interesting is his analysis applies to any long-learning-curve, lifelong pursuit. He breaks free-time activities into two categories: charter experiences or time-investment. Charters are any activities where we are consumers of the experience rather than shapers: movies, cruises, all-inclusive resorts, watching television, going to professional sporting events. These are experiences where we pay and we expect to be entertained and if we are not entertained it’s someone else’s fault.

Time-investment activities are those that we create and shape ourselves and we are responsible for their outcome: going for a walk with friends, going sailing, going fishing, going to dinner together, going on a vacation we planned ourselves, cooking together, singing in a choir or playing in a band. And he argues it’s these time-investment activities that truly enrich our lives.

He also wrote about the consumerization of free-time activities using his grandfather as an example. When he was a child his grandfather took them fishing. They would get their tackle and bait, drive to Wisconsin, rent a boat and spend a week fishing together. It wasn’t about the boat or specialized gear, it was about the experience together. Now boat manufactures have created brand loyalty and fishing clubs based on boat brand. Fishing resorts have become places where the kids can play in video arcades and mom can have a spa experience while dad goes out on his fancy boat and fishes. Now days it’s less about fishing and bonding with the people you are fishing with and more about the pride of having a particular boat and feeling good about that. Very interesting.

I realize I escape to charter experiences when I’m tired or stressed. And then it becomes a crutch, an easy habit to expand because it requires nothing of me. I am a passive observer of life as I sit in front of the television. This morning I was reading the news and it struck me how boring and unconnected to my real life so much of what I do on the computer is. It’s another distraction to consume my time.

So, this needs to change. I am going to spend considerably less time on charter experiences and more on three activities. First, more cooking. I want to eat better and to do that I need to cook more. If I spent half the time I waste on the computer in the kitchen cooking we’d be eating delicious food every day. Second, creating mosaics and tile. I’ve let this whole part of my life slip away as I’ve been consumed with saving the Phillips Pool. I’m going to start in again making things. I like the zen-like process of mosaic — it’s restorative to my mind much more so that mindlessly sitting in front of the television. Third, I’m going to learn to sail with Kevin. Northern Lights Sailing Club had it’s annual trip night last night and I am excited there are many opportunities to race. I didn’t have much interest in racing until I read Saving Sailing. Sailing is a life-long learning experience because it is difficult and requires a lot of knowledge. It’s outdoors. It’s green. It’s technical. I am looking forward to Summer 2013 as the year we learn to sail.