Tom’s family sure knows how to throw an 80th party…Happy birthday, Margie!

Margie with one of her two birthday cakes.  This photo was taken by nephew Joe’s wife Donna before our arrival around 4:30 pm. The party had started at 2:00 pm, and by the time we arrived the cake was cut. Thanks for the good photo, Donna!

The birthday party invitation read the event was starting at 2:00 pm. Knowing how late Tom’s family can stay up to have a good time, we decided to head out a little later to get a few things taken care of in preparation for our upcoming departure from Minnesota in a mere 12 days.

With few daylight hours together at the hotel (other than while I’m preparing the day’s post), we did some laundry while I began the process of taking all the tags off Tom’s new clothing, neatly folding each item into a tidy pile.  Sure, he could do this himself, but there are just some things better left to me. So, he did the laundry while I snipped and folded.

When I met Tom three days short of 26 years ago, I attended a party in a garage for the first time in my life. I’d never heard of such a thing but now all these years later it’s the expected location of his family parties in my mind. Many lingered inside Paulette and Mark’s home and around their exquisite lakefront yard with the huge group.

The shirts, tee shirts, socks, and underwear, all overly tagged and wrapped in excess amounts of cardboard, plastic, and paper, took longer to prepare than I’d expected.  What’s the deal with all this “packaging?” A simple price tag stuck to the item’s promotional tag is all that’s required.

Those little plastic tags that, once snipped, leave a “T” shaped piece often caught in an unreachable spot are quite annoying.  If it weren’t for those, I’d have been done in half the time. Leaving one of those items behind is a huge annoyance for the wearer when these little buggers hurt and scratch until they’re found and removed.

After we were done, we packed our handy Celebrity Cruise Line shopping bag (I don’t own a handbag) with iced tea, tea bags, and zippered sweatshirts. It’s been cool these past several days, and a party in a garage could become chilly as the day wore on. At the moment, at 11:00 am, it’s a chilly 57 degrees in this area.

Tom’s blind brother, 24 years his senior, and his daughter Kathy who is a big help to him in his day-to-day life. Every day Tom sends our post to Jerry after deleting the photos.  He has a computer with text-to-talk technology suited to the blind and enjoys “hearing” our daily posts.

We’d expected hot weather while in Minnesota in late June. I guess we’ll have to wait for warmer weather until we arrive in Las Vegas soon, where at 9:00 am, it’s already 100 degrees with an expected high of 112 today, a little cooler than last week’s record-breaking 117. Wow!

The drive to Ham Lake didn’t take as long as we’d expected, with light traffic on Saturday. With the help of the navigation system in the red SUV, we quickly found niece Paulette’s lake home.

Kaitlin is Tom’s sister Margie’s great-granddaughter which makes her Tom’s grandniece. Oh, gosh, how can I keep up?

We hadn’t been to their home in years, and after extensive remodeling, we hardly recognized it at all. We couldn’t help but admire the attention to detail, quality design, and amenities. 

But, oddly (or maybe not so oddly), we imagined (and easily recall) the commitment and cost required for the upkeep, maintenance and constant cleaning, an aspect of most people’s lives we gave up long ago. No longer do our weekends revolve around a trip to Home Depot and the time required to complete one project or another.

The party was held at Tom’s niece Paulette’s (husband Mark) beautiful lake home in Ham Lake, Minnesota. The food and drinks were abundant and delicious.  I was happily able to eat some roasted meats and munch on nuts.

Recently, when we stopped in a market for a few items Tom noticed the giant bags of water softener salt. He couldn’t stop smiling over how hauling those 50-pound bags was a part of his long-ago past.  

Tom recalls waiting until the salt was on sale and subsequently buying eight or 10 bags, loading them into his vehicle and bringing them into the basement.

Both white and chocolate cakes were served along with giant muffins.

Now, in this simple life we live, the only salt we haul is a little hand grinder filled with pink Himalayan salt to season our food. Ah, life is not only good, but it’s easy. Relatively.

No, we don’t have any negative feelings or perceptions of those who live a busy and fulfilling life of home ownership, of entertaining guests, or of spending time on projects they find meaningful and enjoyable. We did that. At the time, it was all we knew. 

Tom’s two sisters seated here are Margie and Mary.   Margie is talking to son-in-law Ken, Tom’s niece Ann’s husband.

And, we admire those who bring meaning and significance into their world with their dedication and commitment to their homes, families, and friends. It’s in this same manner we admire those who branch out in their retirement and find a warm climate where they spend the cold Minnesota (or other states) winters in a second home or traveling the country in an RV.

Then, of course, some cannot afford an RV, second home, or winter escape. And yet, we find ourselves reveling in other ways that those retirees and others find purpose in their lives.

Tom’s sister Colleen is hiding from the photo but showing her adorable granddaughter, Ella.

Yesterday, while I sat at Jerry’s side during the party, he shared with me how he orders talking books through an organization for the blind read aloud on discs he inserts into his computer. It’s easier than trying to figure out and pay the outrageous fees for online text-to-speech books offered at various outlets. 

Daughter-in-law Tracy helps grandson Vincent hold Ella for the first time.

We’re so proud of Jerry, almost 89 years old, for finding ways to make these later years of his life enjoyable and with purpose. For him, this means of reading brings him considerable pleasure. And that’s why Tom never misses a day in sending him our posts with the photos removed. 

Jerry, you’re a great inspiration to us and Tom’s many other family members who celebrate life together regularly and with such enthusiasm. We find them all delightful.

Today, I’m off to a stage presentation of Shrek at a local children’s production company with daughter-in-law Camille and granddaughters Maisie and Madighan for a “girls only” afternoon. No doubt, it will be yet another great time spent with family.

Tom’s sister Margie with Kaitlin, her great-granddaughter, and Kaitlin’s baby Harper, who is Margie’s great-great-granddaughter, making Kaitlin Tom’s great-grandniece and baby Harper, Tom’s great-great grandniece. Whew!

We love all of you and are grateful for the efforts our family and friends have expressed in sharing valuable time with us during this memorable stay in Minnesota.

Thanks to Paulette and Mark for hosting the party and for all those who contributed food, drinks, and support for the large group. And, happy 80th birthday, Margie! It was a fabulous celebration so richly deserved by YOU!

Photo from one year ago today, June 25, 2016:

On our last morning in Bali, we had the joy of seeing this final “sighting on the beach. Wow! Was this Mother Nature’s way of saying goodbye? We were happily returning in two months for another two months after we visited Southeast Asia. For more Bali photos, please click here.

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