Well, That Happened.


I spent a lot of time writing about this incident earlier, but then figured what the heck, nobody needs all the gory details. In short, here’s what happened: On Saturday, January 21, I was leaving a downtown restaurant with my sisters after lunch. Walking to our cars and saying goodbye on that sunny and nearly iceless day, I managed to slip on some black ice in the parking lot and went down like a sack of potatoes, breaking my left hip. I actually didn’t know it was broken until I tried to stand up. Yikes!
All Minnesotans know we’re supposed to do the penguin shuffle in the winter, especially the elderly and feeble. (People like me.) It just wasn’t that kind of day, and I was SO close to my car, and we were laughing and saying goodbye and going on to our own errands, and suddenly I was down. Just like that.

“I’m calling an ambulance,” one of my sisters said. I thought “Geez, that’s sort of dramatic and probably not necessary.”  I thought this for about 5 seconds, during which time I tried to stand up, and finally said “Call and ambulance!” A firetruck arrived first for a lift assist, but when they realized that it was more than just an old lady falling, the ambulance arrived. I was taken to a local hospital where I was put on an IV and pain medications, probably to lessen the tragic moment when they had to use scissors to cut off my favorite best-fitting pair of jeans. Boo hoo.

Surgery was on Sunday morning, though I remember very little of that. I remember being wheeled down to a waiting room with one nurse in attendance, and then I remember waking up in my room. My sisters were there, and the surgeon, and a nurse, and I think I told everyone I had had a hysterectomy 2 years ago, which was part of the brain fog I was experiencing, as in fact that other thing happened some 28 years ago. I can only imagine what else I said.

I was in the hospital for several days and then moved to Ecumen Lakeshore, where I was in rehab for 3 weeks. If you have to go anywhere for physical rehabilitation, try to get into Ecumen Lakeshore. The people are wonderful, the therapists are relentless (which is why I’m walking with only a cane right now) and the food is often very good. With one surly exception, the aides were kind and funny and patient and helpful.

But there’s no place like home, is there, Dorothy? I missed my cats and my own bed and my own things and everything about my pre-fall life. I was happy to return home, where my sisters had taken care of the house and cats and mail and all small details, and who took care of me as I resumed my “normal” life.

Today I’m walking with a cane, still in therapy, and have one leg shorter than the other by 1″. The surgeon says 6 months to 1 year to full recovery, and I was hoping that wouldn’t be true, but it looks like it might. I see a physical therapist twice a week and am progressing more slowly than I’d like, but I’m sticking with it. Having never been an exercise person, my advice to the world in general is “lose weight and get in shape before you fall, not after.” It’s good advice. Wish I’d have followed it myself.

So life moves along, and in time I hope to be doing all the things I did before, except faster than I’m doing them today. Lots of changes in my life, like giving up lawn mowing (seriously not a hardship) and being unable to get off the floor in the unlikely chance I find myself there, or getting into a bathtub for a bubble bath as I did all the time pre-fall. (I will get there, though: It is my goal.)

Now that I’m spending quite a lot of time on my ever-widening arse, I expect I’ll have time to write more. (Stop me if you’ve heard this before.) I thank my few faithful readers for sticking around, and I promise to do better.

All 10 fingers are still working.

Be careful out there!

Holiday Baking.


Many years ago (1977, in fact) my friend Wendy and I lived in apartments close to one another. At Christmas, we would get together and make Cranberry Nut Bread, which was awfully good. We used empty soup or vegetable cans for making round loaves, which made great presents (we thought) but these days I use small metal loaf pans. Still makes a great gift for the holidays.

The recipe calls for cranberries to be cut into quarters, and since we were young and somewhat new to cooking and baking, we took it literally and used a small sharp knife to cut the berries into quarters. Talk about devotion to detail! These days I imagine you could use a large knife or even one of those kitchen blade choppers.

Or a food processor, but I’ve never had one, and that seems too easy, and would maybe take some of the charm out of it. This morning I made 3 small loaves, and yes, I actually chopped each berry into quarters with a paring knife. Just like old times.

I don’t think Wendy would mind if I shared the recipe, so here goes.

Cranberry Nut Bread

2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon grated orange rind
1/3 cup orange juice
1/2 cup water
1 egg, well-beaten
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup chopped nuts
1 cup raw cranberries, cut into quarters

Sift all the dry ingredients together.
Combine the orange juice, orange rind, water, egg and salad oil, and add to the dry ingredients. Then add the nuts and cranberries. Bake in a well-greased loaf pan, or use 3 smaller foil loaf pans. (You could probably make muffins out of this, too.)

Bake at 350 degrees for 50 − 60 minutes, until you can insert a toothpick and have it come out clean. For smaller pans, about 30 minutes will do.

July 21 Storm in Duluth.


It is hard for me to imagine the power of a mere wind storm, but those of us who saw the one in Duluth on July 21 this year probably have a new appreciation for Mother Nature. Horrific damage was done to many parts of town; Woodland and Hartley Field most especially.

I try to imagine what it must have been like for the folks driving home at that hour of the early morning, perhaps from partying or from a night shift at work, and trying to avoid the trees that were falling over like matchsticks. I wonder, too, about the animals who must have been frightened (to death?) of the devastation. Deer, bears, skunks, raccoons, birds, snakes… what did they make of the noise that sounded like the end of the world?

I took these photos at a local cemetery. Trees were uprooted and pulled out of the ground as if they’d been plucked out like a simple flower. Many cemetery roads were closed while workers cleared the fallen trees, and many tombstones had been knocked over  by powerful winds, or hidden under debris.



cemetery4Closer to home, many neighbors on my street suffered huge losses to their property, while our power was out for nearly 3 days. Not as bad as some in town, who went a week without electricity. Not an easy task. I am grateful to helpful neighbors who used a generator to clear trees on the block, and who brought me a thermos of hot coffee one morning. Lovely!

These were taken on my block:




Much closer to home, Asn my own back yard, two trees behind my garage. My handy neighbor came out with a generator and a chain saw, and made light work of them. One landed on his aluminum boat and caused a rather large dent, and the other was a spruce tree that I loved simply for its wonderful scent. Boo hoo. A tiny problem compared to others.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAside from some of Woodland Avenue and much of Hartley Field and Nature Reserve, much of the cleanup has been completed. Life goes on.

Okay: Life Box.


My sisters winced at the notion of a “Death Box,” so I’m calling the Life Box, which is probably more appropriate. And speaking of appropriate, I found this wonderful box at Michael’s, and it was even on sale. I think it’s perfect.

For Jill!


I still don’t have your Email address. Do send!

PS: Those are pie weights on top of the cabbage. Two people asked if it was moth balls. Sure does look like it, huh?




The Death Box.


Every month when I pay my mortgage and insurance and utility bills, I ask myself: “Who’s going to take care of this stuff when I’m gone?” Lacking a husband or children, the answer seems to come back to my family, which means my sisters. As if they didn’t have enough to do.

Though I am organized with paperwork and bills and household matters, it does not follow that the rest of my family will know where things are kept. And thus, The Death Box.

I probably won’t call it that, except to myself. I’m going to go to Michael’s and try to find an appropriate memory box to store this project. Which I think is utterly brilliant, and will be helpful to those left behind. Immediately helpful, I mean, unlike a last will and testament or other “legal” instrument.

Knowing that none of us will get out of here alive, I’ve started a collection of papers that will help my family clear up my personal business as quickly as possible. Social Security card, names of contacts at my financial institution, information about and title to my car, birth certificate, marriage license, keys to the safe deposit box… it’s all gonna be there. In The Death Box, on the dining room table.

I think it’s a great idea. It’s been a good feeling to get this done. I have a long way to go, but each day I go through certain file drawers and gather information and business cards that will be helpful. Also going to add passwords for my online accounts, and the name of my financial advisor who will be so helpful to my family.

Seems like a good thing to do, especially this time of the year when skeletons and the Grim Reaper are in almost every store window, reminding us that we’re not going to be here forever, but that pretty soon we can shut off the porch lights and enjoy some fun size Snickers bars.

So that’s my story. Taking care of business, I guess you’d call it. I may even write my own obituary in due time. I think it will be appreciated.

That’s all for now!


Recipe Giveaway.


Little gets my heart going as much as old recipe collections at auctions. (Well, there’s Cowboy Dave, also at auctions, but that’s a whole other story.) I’ve collected bunches of them, kept some that I might actually use, but the rest are up for grabs.

They’re lots of fun to read. Some have been used so often they’re barely legible. Some have handwritten notes in the margin. (Use less butter! Henry loves these, etc.)

If you’d like to have some of them, drop me a note and I’ll stuff an envelope for you. I can’t throw them out, can’t send them to Goodwill, but would love to share them with people who would appreciate them as much as I.

Leave a note here, or send an Email: pjackson@pattjackson.com, and I’ll send ’em out until they’re all gone. Watch your mailbox!

Furnish Your Home. Free!


Still getting your furniture the old fashioned way, like going to a store and putting out MONEY for it? Sister, please. Here in Duluth, you can get all the furniture you want absolutely free!

Some examples shown below. Driving around town one day, I found all these pieces just ripe for the taking. Sure, a few stitches may be needed here and there, a coat of paint, some duct tape, perhaps, but you’re a handy, creative type, and soon you’ll have more stuff than you know what to do with.

Free furniture in Duluth.

Bring a truck!






Behold The Tig.


I think Mittens and I were both missing our old cat Winston, who died of myriad health issues last April. Over the Memorial Day holiday, I went to Animal Allies and found “Curious George,” now named “Tigger,” which is much easier to yell when he is running through the house with your car keys.

Tigger is 2 years old, and if the Terrible Twos happen with children, it’s possible they happen with cats, too. Though affectionate and silly and mostly good mannered, Tigger is a thief of all things not nailed down. Pens, nail files, keys, coins, bottle caps, forks, combs. If it’s movable, it’s stealable!

Here is a quick photo of Mittens and Tig getting to know each other, a process which took nearly 8 weeks and is still touch-and-go. Mostly he runs after her to touch her tail, and she goes beserk.

Fascinated by sinks and toilets, especially as they flush, Tigger is always there whether you need him or not. “Curious” was a perfect name for him, because if a drawer is open, he’s in it. If the cabinets are open, he’s so there. If you are getting dressed, he’s literally there, hanging on to your clothing. Changing the sheets? Tig’s there. Wrapping a present? Tig’s there.

But he’s not always going to be two, and so we are patient and amused and enter into play as much as possible, knowing that someday he’ll be old and fat and somewhat lazy, though still lovable.

Tig believes in the power of a good nap, and takes about 10 of them a day. When he’s played out and the late-evening crazies have gone quiet, he gets in my lap, rubs his face against mine, and falls asleep in my arms.

What more could a person ask? The shelter’s full of cats and kittens and dogs and puppies who need good homes. Go get one!



My dear friend Rick died on April 8, after a short and difficult fight with cancer.

Rick and his beloved daughter Gab, at the firehall where she works.

Rick and his beloved daughter Gab, at the fire hall where she works.

It has been hard to write about, because although we were in touch by Email every single day, he lived in Maine, so I didn’t get to see him a lot. And since we wrote each other every day for years and years, I wasn’t too alarmed when he started complaining about neck and shoulder pain. Though he was not a complainer, we both occasionally griped about the aches and pains of getting older. He was getting medical therapy for the pain, and we both figured it was one of those things that would work itself out.

Sadly, it didn’t work itself out. Suddenly diagnosed at Stage 4, with brain tumors, a lung mass and cancerous lesions on his spine, Rick was taken away from us quickly and way too early. The shock of it was numbing.

Rick at the Heinz Museum

Rick at the Heinz Museum.

We had known each other for so many years that how we met is sort of lost in a brain fog, but I think it happened when he responded to a letter to the editor that I’d written to a magazine. (Way before Email, when people still wrote actual letters and then licked a stamp to send ‘em.) We began an interesting and fruitful correspondence that lasted nearly 40 years. “The stuff of Oscar Wilde,” Rick said in our last phone call.

Aside from being silly and introspective, smart and mostly non-judgmental, Rick was a source of inspiration and information. I could talk to him about buying a home, interest rates, the wisdom of buying a used car that hadn’t been checked out by a mechanic, how to fix a leaky toilet, and when and where to plant flowers and trees. We shared recipes, a love of the 1940s Vic & Sade radio shows, a fondness for Coen Brothers movies, and most of the time we could easily make each other laugh. If we had any disagreements, I don’t remember them, and I’m guessing they were minor.

After many phone calls and letters and Emails, I first met Rick in Boston in 2002 when my friend Kim ran the Boston Marathon. I’d gone with her for moral support, at which I turned out to be useless, because Rick came to our hotel and whisked me away for the day. We walked around Boston for a while, visiting Little Italy and having lunch at the Union Oyster House, and then took a train to Portland where we had a real lobster dinner. (The whole lobster. I wasn’t sure what to do with it!) We picked up his car and made the 3 hour trip back to Boston, where Rick insisted on driving me to my hotel during marathon traffic, when I could easily have walked. It was a wonderful day and I hated for it to end.

The next time I saw him, Rick came to Duluth for a visit. He brought along 4 live lobsters on the plane, and we took them to a friend’s house where Jean was able to wrestle them into a pot of boiling water while I left the room. Rick charmed my old cat Sam, who would go out on the deck with him every morning while Rick smoked his pipe. I took him to see the sights in Duluth, thrilled to have him see all the places and people I’d written about. We took a road trip to Hayward, Wisconsin, where Rick found the cabin where his family had stayed many summers during his boyhood.

On the day I had to have Sam put to sleep, Rick called me to see how I was doing, and spent about 20 minutes listening to me weep on the phone. He was that kind of friend: Patient, kind, and understanding. If you needed a good cry, Rick didn’t try to talk you out of it.

When I bought my home years ago, Rick sent me a box of twigs from his garden, which turned out to include a beautiful lilac bush that is now as tall as my garage, and pink and red peonies, which still bloom every year, perfuming the yard.

The only sad thing about Rick was that he died way too soon. I kept many of his letters and photos and Email messages, though I wish I’d kept them all, though I foolishly thought our friendship would go on forever. But of course, nothing does, no matter how easily we fool ourselves.

Rick and Gabby, 2013.

Rick and Gabby, 2013.

I miss Rick’s daily Email message, which always was the start of my day. (He was a morning writer; I wrote at night.) I miss the phone calls. I miss his humor and good advice. I miss the warmth of knowing I could call him with any problem or idea, and he would make time to listen. He was a faithful reader of my blog, even when I wasn’t very faithful to my blog. He left comments; he’d Email suggestions. He was always there.

And now he’s not.

It’s a tough pill to swallow.

I like to imagine Rick is “up there,” wherever that is, with his cats Buster and Chessie, and even smoking a pipe with Sam by his side. It is a comforting thought, and takes some sting out of the loss. His spirit is with us always; with the lilacs, the radio tapes, the peonies, and the million random thoughts of him that occur during the day.

Rest in peace, my dear friend. The world is a bit darker without you in it.