December 27, 2020

The 2020 Swank Family Christmas Letter

Wow!  What an uneventful year it’s been.  It feels like we've hardly even left the house. 

The year started off for the Swank Family with a vacation to Disney World which frankly was quite terrifying.  It was the week the pandemic fears started becoming fully realized.  The NBA shutdown and Tom Hanks announced he would be doomed to what certainly would be a horrible death.  Every day became more stressful than the day before.

   We literally were cramped in a crowded queuing station at Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway when we heard the parks would shut down indefinitely in 2 days because they were too dangerous.  That’s a comforting situation when you’re shoulder to shoulder with sweaty strangers.  We are now used to the “New Normal” and insist we only focus on the positives we are gaining from the quarantine.  For example, we haven’t worn underwear since March.  What a feeling!

Some special birthdays happened this year with Todd turning 50 and Luke & Avery turning 21.  Since those kind of milestones are no fun during a pandemic, we decided to celebrate our 51st and 22nd birthdays instead.  We’re saving the good birthdays for next summer and then it’s going to be one heckuva hootenanny!

Sheri also hit a milestone this year by receiving the first stitches in her life when she slipped on a pile of acorns and tore her kneecap wide open.  She’s a nut!

Todd quit his job at Oracle and joined Stibo Systems selling Master Data Management platforms to large enterprises.  He’s not sure what that means either, but it sounds kinda cool.

Unbelievably, Luke and Avery are entering their final semesters of college and will be graduating in the spring.  Luke will earn a degree in finance and Avery in computer science.  Then they’ll need to find jobs so we can finally take them out to the woods and release them into the wild.  It’ll be hard, but good for ‘em.  

And what about Blue you ask?  Since we started walking 2 miles a day, he’s received more exercise the past few months than he’s ever had before.  He whines as we taunt him with made-up names we gave to the various animals seen on our usual route.   We gleefully point out critters like Big Guy, Little Guy, Mudder & Brudder, and his absolute favorite, Kitty.  We really miss being able to be with people.

Our goals for 2021 are to get vaccinated and then spend the rest of the year invading as many personal spaces as humanly possible.  Only then will things truly feel back to normal.  

God Bless Us Everyone!

The Swank Family

December 20, 2020

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for December 20, 2020

The critters around our house have been lined up to let us know they are ready to celebrate Christmas and the 2021 New Year.  

Our albino squirrel friend actually became quite sullen when he started telling us how tough his year has been.  Apparently he lost one of his close relatives to a hungry eagle earlier this summer.  I guess it's really hard for white squirrels to blend into the trees like their gray counterparts.  They stick out like a sore thumb.  Poor guy.

We bumped into one of the local muskrats and he said it was such a bad year that all he can afford to eat is this green seaweed crap.  I especially felt bad for him because I couldn't imagine having to choke that down.

A bunch of local ducks had to start living together in this little space for some reason.  We heard a lot of them complaining about it as we quietly walked by trying not to disturb them.

The Happiness factor for the Swank Family has ramped up since our boys came home from college for winter break.  We're always excited to see Luke & Avery!

We even had the pleasure of getting to visit Grandma Linda for a little while to help her celebrate her birthday!  It will be really nice when we can see Grandma without having to breathe through cloth.

My sisters and I surprised Grandma Linda with a new iPad for her birthday.  It's always a mixed blessing giving her new technology.  On one hand it's great to help her enjoy all the new possibilities for entertaining and informing herself as well as giving her new options to communicate with us.  On the other hand, teaching Grandma how to use new technology is always a special kind of treat.  It's amazing to discover how many possible ways there are to touch an iPad and how many of those don't actually achieve the desired result.

I love having the boys home to have new challengers in the various games we like to play.  But man, I'm getting awful tired of them beating me at everything.  It really used to not be that way!

We're all excited for Christmas and to celebrate the New Year!

From our family to yours, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and Happy Holidays!!!

This Week's Tik Tok Videos


Blue gets a Llama for Christmas! ##christmas2020 ##goldenretriever ##dogs ##puppies ##llama

♬ original sound - Todd Swank

##stitch with @haveyouseenmyolives ##thinkingabout ##lonelychristmas ##lockdown ##nutcracker

♬ original sound - Todd Swank

December 6, 2020

The Richard T Anderson Conservation Area in Eden Prairie, Minnesota

The Richard T Anderson Conservation Area in Eden Prairie, Minnesota

Todd Swank's Diary Entry for December 6, 2020

We are finishing week 2 of Minnesota's 4 week lockdown.  We continue to seek entertainment options that don't take us inside and keeps us socially distant from human beings, so our options are pretty much limited to hikes.  This week we discovered the Richard T Anderson Conservation Area in Eden Prairie, Minnesota.

We entered through a residential neighborhood called Settler's Ridge which sits high on the bluffs overlooking the Minnesota River Valley.  We had to go off the beaten paths to discover the best overlooks of the river, but once we discovered these views we were glad we made the effort.

There were actually quite a few people on the trails.  One lady was even nice enough to volunteer to take our picture which never happens any more so we jumped at the chance.  Then Blue had to blow everything by blinking during the shot.  Maybe we'll get another opportunity at a family picture in a few months or so.

There's a couple of miles of trails scattered throughout the bluffs.  Some are paved, some are dirt and some were probably created by deer and not meant for human travel, but we like to explore so we're not too fussy on who made them.

Blue is always up for adventure and will happily go anywhere we let him.  Usually he finds something disgusting to eat along the way, so we try to keep a pretty close eye on him.

The sign at the park entrance describes the area as being 125 acres of high quality woodlands, prairies, and exceptional vistas.  I agree with all of it except that first part.  These were medium quality woodlands at best.

There were big, colorful signs scattered throughout the trails explaining the area's history and pointing out the native critters that live here.  I didn't see anything dangerous like bears, wolves, or cougars, but I do know that raccoons can be pretty scary if you catch them in the wrong mood.

The park was named after Richard T Anderson who apparently spent 25 years on the Eden Prairie city council and was a huge advocate for preserving land like that found in the conservation area.  I'm guessing he was also buried here somewhere, but they probably just don't advertise that on the monument.

This Week's Tik Tok Videos


Richard T Anderson Conservation Center ##Nature ##hiking ##trails ##edenprairie ##minnesota

♬ The Night We Met - Lord Huron

Richard T Anderson Conservation Area ##nature ##creek ##edenprairie ##minnesota

♬ Smoke on the Water - Deep Purple

November 29, 2020

Glow Holiday Festival at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds


Glow Holiday Festival at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for November 29, 2020

 It took a lot of stressful conversations, decision making, and a pile of negative Covid tests for this picture to be possible.  In the end, though, we were so happy Luke and Avery were able to come home from college and spend Thanksgiving with us. 

Normally we spend the holidays with friends and relatives, but this year the only way we were able to see others was via Zoom Video Calls.  We had a bunch of them including this one with my sister, Tammy, and her family.

We also had a ZoomsGiving with my sister, Tracy, and her family.

We even hooked up with Uncle Cliff and joined him while he smoked a turkey.  He had to have an awful big pipe to fit that turkey in there!

Since we were short on things to do with our boys while they were home for the holidays, we thought we'd check out the Glow Holiday Festival at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds.

It was touted as a drive-thru holiday light experience featuring a one-mile drive with a dozen seasonal scenes and more than 1 million holiday lights, illuminated trees, icicle and art installations, a festive gingerbread house, and other attractions.  We were excited to check it out.

I was impressed with the number of cars lined up to enter.  I guess we weren't the only ones sick of being stuck in the house.

In Minnesota, pretty much every festival has at least one night with a Prince theme.  We happened to be there for this one which was a little bit cool.  Basically we heard a couple Prince songs played at various spots along the drive and saw a couple video screens with his concert footage which was hard to see.  And this Symbol which never did make much sense to me even when he changed his name to it.

I still can't decide if seeing Santa with a face-shield was a festive thing or a depressing thing.  He was a nice man, though, so I'll go with festive.

In some ways, I liked how they brought in elements of the fair in a fun way.  The facemask on the pronto pups guy was pretty clever.

Some items seemed a little forced.  I'm not sure what a cowboy lassoing something has to do with Christmas, but let's get it in there.

The gingerbread house looked interesting at first until I looked closer and saw the scary looking barbed wire fence protecting it.  I guess the person baking the gingerbread does NOT want to be disturbed.

I'm not sure if there were a million lights or not, but some of the displays were nice and others didn't look any better than what you'd see driving through someone's neighborhood.

I'm pretty sure this was the first year doing this, so I'll give them an A for effort since I'm sure it takes a lot of work to create this many displays.  It will be fun to see how it evolves if it becomes an annual tradition.  I could see how this could turn into a really fun event if we could actually get out of our car and be around people.  We can dream of being able to do that for Thanksgiving 2021!

The boys stayed home for a few nights and have now returned back to college.  It's only a couple more weeks before we'll look forward to them coming home again for Christmas.

In the meantime, we'll keep taking boring nature photos on our daily walks.  It's a good way to pass the time.  Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

This Week's Tik Tok Videos


A muskrat on thin ice. ##muskrat ##priorlake ##animals ##thinice ##cute

♬ Ice Dance (From "Edward Scissorhands") - Ashton Gleckman

Glow at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. ##Minnesota ##Glow ##christmas ##lights

♬ Winter Wonderland - Dean Martin

Christmas light show on a building at Glow. ##Glow ##minnesota ##christmas ##lightshow

♬ original sound - Todd Swank

Prince Night at Glow at Minnesota State Fairgrounds. ##glow ##minnesota ##prince ##purplerainchallenge

♬ original sound - Todd Swank

Glow Christmas Light Show. ##minnesota ##glow ##christmas

♬ All I Want for Christmas Is You - Mariah Carey

November 22, 2020

Back to Lockdown

Back to Lockdown
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for November 22, 2020

The virus has been running rampant in Minnesota so our governor, Tim Walz, announced a new statewide lockdown that started Friday.  No more indoor dining or bars.  No more  in person school or high school sports.  No more fun.  They haven't yet banned Blue and I from going to the lake so he can swim which keeps him pretty happy.

I don't think the ducks who were congregating  peacefully in my neighbor's backyard were quite as happy about it as he was.  He eventually cleared them out of the area.

The lockdown hasn't affected our friendly neighborhood albino squirrel from stopping by for a visit.   Although sometimes I have this weird feeling that he wants to be more than friends.  Either that or he's some kind of Flasher or something.

We saw this bald eagle hanging out on some thin ice on a weekend drive we were having.  We pulled over to get some pictures and see if he'd fall through.  Apparently he's pretty lucky or pretty lightweight because we didn't even see the ice crack underneath him.

This Week's Tik Tok Videos


The Mandolorian Puzzle! ##mandolorian ##puzzle ##starwars ##babyyoda

♬ The Mandalorian - Nstens1117

Sweet Drops ##jackpot ##bonus ##slot ##slotmachine ##gambling ##candy ##sweetdrops

♬ Sweet Drops - Cennet Jönsson

31 degrees out and all he wants to do his swim. ##golden ##dogs ##swim ##coldasice ##bestfriend ##puppy

♬ Ice Dance (From "Edward Scissorhands") - Ashton Gleckman