May 31, 2020

Blending Back Into The Community

Blending Back Into The Community
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for May 31, 2020

All seemed pretty calm in Prior Lake on Saturday, even though 30 miles away in Minneapolis this week has seen some of the worst riots in our nation's history.  2020 has definitely become one of the craziest years of my lifetime.

Mystic Lake re-opened this week which was another step back to normal.  They are limiting guests in the casino, so it took me 3 attempts to go there before I could actually walk in the door.  They have a bunch of rules for safety including temperature checks at the door, a mask requirement, and chairs removed from the slot machines and blackjack tables to attempt to force people into social distancing.  I was a bit surprised to see how there was very little enforcement once people got past the entrance, though.  Quite a few people removed their masks or pulled it down off their face once they were inside.  Personally, I'm torn a bit.  I like that many people seem to have confidence that this virus won't affect them, but I also hope we don't see a big new resurgence in cases as our re-opening progresses.     I guess we will see what happens.

Grandma Linda stopped by for another one of her porch visits.  We still don't let her in the house.  It has nothing to do with the virus, though.  She gets really rowdy once inside and it gets to be a challenge to keep her calm and not start breaking things.  We're working on it.

We were very excited to witness the historic space launch yesterday when SpaceX transported 2 astronauts to the space station.  I really loved watching it, but my family became upset when they kept asking me to move out of the way of the TV.  This was history, though, and I wanted a good view!

On Saturday night, we made a visit to see our friends, Jen & Dan Walters.  We were pretty sure they invited us, but they seemed very surprised to see us when we arrived.

I've been much more aggressive than Miss Sheri at re-connecting with people again.  She really keeps insisting on maintaining the 6 feet of social distancing barriers in place at all times.  She's getting better, though.  Although sometimes she feels the need to drag the dog by the collar to push him closer to people as a kind of a canary in the coalmine type of test.  The dog seemed fine, though, so all was good!  

The Walters live on a big plot of land, so there's always a bunch of wildlife in the vicinity.  We were pretty tickled when a flock of deer suddenly ran nearby our group while we sat at the bonfire.

Miss Sheri grabbed the camera and ran after them.  Unfortunately because it was right after sundown, the lighting outside was terrible so catching good pictures was a challenge.  I thought this one turned out pretty neat however.

You may remember my story last week about a fish being dropped on my car.  Several people expressed disbelief on our theory that a large bird must have flown over with it and dropped it for some reason.  Well I was able to secure another piece of evidence by a bizarre coincidence.  I was telling the fish story to my neighbor and she told me that this bald eagle has been flying over our street all week.  As a matter of fact, right after she took this picture she noticed our car stopped on the street but had no idea what we were doing.  I've zoomed in on this picture to see if he was holding a fish in his talons, but due to the lighting it's impossible to tell.  Crazy amount of coincidences on this one, though.

We also get a lot of ducks in the neighborhood, but none have dropped any of their food on us yet as far as I know.

We have a couple of ears of corn hanging on a bungee cord on our porch.  While eating supper today, we noticed these three intently staring at them, but for some reason were hesitant to make their move.  Made for a cute picture, though.

May 25, 2020

Social Distancing in Small Groups

Social Distancing in Small Groups
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for May 25, 2020

Minnesota partially re-opened last week with Governor Walz allowing citizens to start gathering again in groups of 10 or less.  We took advantage of the new rules and started hanging out with good friends again including Ron & Sue Korkowski who invited us over for some cocktails by the pool.  Which is much better than how we had been doing it the previous couple of months which was cocktails by ourselves.

We had an extremely bizarre incident happen while driving on the street in front of our house.  We had just started driving when we suddenly heard a loud bang that was obviously something hitting our car at a high velocity.  We stopped and I jumped out of the car to look around to see if someone threw something at us, but there was nobody around.  I then looked at my car and saw this big splotch spread over the door-handle.  I couldn't figure out what it was, but I started to suspect it looked like scales from a fish.

I then looked in the yard on the side of the road and found this fish lying only a couple feet away.  We are pretty sure a bald eagle had just grabbed him out of the lake and was flying high overhead when something spooked him and he dropped it down on us.  Pretty incredible timing for something like to happen.

Luckily, our fish drop incident didn't keep us from participating in a drive-by birthday party for Jacob Korkowski.  Grace and Sue were out front and center directing traffic as friends drove by to wish him a happy 16th birthday.  It was a very nice event.

Ted and Marcia bought a new boat the end of last year and we'd been trying to find a time to go for a ride so I could see it.  We figured no better time than the present!  They are very concerned about the whole 6 feet of social distancing rules so they rode around like this the whole time so they didn't get too close to each other.

On Saturday, it was rainy and cold for much of the day, but the sun finally started peeking out in late afternoon.  We thought it would be a good time to take our boat out for a spin.  Blue thought it was a pretty good idea also.

The nesting activity in Mud Bay was in full force and we saw this blue heron sitting above everyone else giving orders.  

Miss Sheri is always excited to see all the critters out in full force on the lake.

Mommy Duck....Doot Doot, Doot Doot.

Daddy Goose....Doot Doot, Doot Doot.

On Sunday night, we were invited to a social distancing bonfire with our old buddies, Karl & Tina Zitzewitz.  It was so good catching up with them on all the stories we haven't had a chance to share over the past couple of months.  Hopefully, things will continue going well so we can get rid of all the rest of the restrictions we have remaining!

May 17, 2020

Slowly Re-Entering Society

Slowly Re-Entering Society
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for May 17, 2020

It has been a little more than 2 months since we entered quarantine and for the most part, we've done really good at removing ourselves from society and keeping to ourselves.  Other than walking the dog around the neighborhood, for the most part we've stayed confined to our house.

Our bird watching hobby has been boosted quite a bit lately with our constant desire to see something entertaining out the window.  Springtime is helping by bringing in a more diverse group of our feathered friends.  We saw this great white egret sitting in a tree while we walked by with the dog.  He didn't seem to like us too much and flew away pretty quickly.

These two were in a field down the street from our house.  They stood out because I couldn't remember seeing them around here before.  I believe they are Sandhill Cranes but I'm sure one of you bird experts will correct me if I'm wrong.

I believe this guy comes from Toronto, but I may be wrong.

This guy originated in St. Louis and then moved to Arizona, so I have no idea what he was doing here.

I haven't been to a store since early March, so when I heard that the "Largest Candy Store in Minnesota" was able to open again last week, I thought it would make a good choice for my first visit.

There's been a lot of controversy about a candy store being able to re-open when a lot of other stores in Minnesota aren't able to do that yet.  I've seen accusations online that the owner of the store is friends of the governor and therefore is receiving favoritism.  I don't know if that's true or not, but I did get a smile when I saw this letter posted outside the store explaining why they felt they were entitled to re-open. 

People have been saying this place was being overrun with crowds, but it wasn't all that busy the night I went there.  They had social distancing signs posted everywhere, plastic dividers hanging between aisles, and traffic arrows to follow.  I only saw about 25% of people wearing masks, so that probably wasn't great, but other than that it seemed pretty safe.  

They did have masks on several of the characters posed in the rafters which seemed smart.  I mean those poor things are stuck there all day so that makes a lot of sense.

They've actually done a really nice job at decorating the place with various characters hanging in the rafters.  I didn't stay long but was happy to feel like I was taking steps to be normal again.  I can see arguments both ways for why this place should be allowed to re-open and also why other candy stores should have the right to re-open again if they want to as well.  I think Minnesota's stay at home orders change again tomorrow anyways so all stores can re-open again.  So this should be a short lived controversy.  At least until the next one. 

May 10, 2020

Week 8 in Quarantine

Week 8 in Quarantine
Todd Swank's Diary for May 10, 2020

Grandma Linda stopped by for a visit this week.  We are still practicing social distancing, but decided to get a little bit crazier by having her come on the patio instead of just meeting us in the driveway.  It was nice to have a chance to see mom and wish her a happy Mother's Day.  Happy Mother's Day to all you wonderful moms out there!

We hadn't been to Lakefront Park in ages, so we thought it would be fun to go for a walk down there on Friday.

There's nice trails there.  We used to go to this park all the time when the boys were little to hunt for frogs and other critters.

This was Blue's first visit so he was ecstatic to have a new place to explore. 

It was pretty chilly outside so we didn't see many other people while we were down there.  These geese didn't seem to mind the weather, though.

It was pretty windy by the lake so we didn't last long on the beach.  Maybe next week it will seem more like Spring again in Minnesota.

On Saturday, we thought we'd give golf another try.  They say practice makes perfect, but I may be the one who proves that rule to be false.

Wednesday makes it officially 2 months that we've been in quarantine.  Somehow we have managed to not kill one another so far, but it will really be nice to start hanging out with other people again one of these days.

May 5, 2020

Rest in Peace, Mike Miller.

I just learned the horrible news that a very good friend of mine, Mike Miller, passed away last week. Mike was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of brain cancer back in September. Despite that fact, he remained so hopeful and optimistic as he endured countless rounds of treatment. I became good friends with Mike on the day he started at Oracle. He was my lunch buddy and confidant and I so enjoyed our times together. He also came to our sons' high school graduation and my wife and I's 25th wedding anniversary party so he felt like part of the family as well. I will really miss my friend. It sucks that there can't be a funeral because I would have really enjoyed the opportunity to meet Mike's beautiful family. I know Mike was close in his relationship with God and is in a better place now and not dealing with the pain I can only imagine he was dealing with through this ordeal. Rest in Peace, Mike.

May 3, 2020

Week 7 in Quarantine

Week 7 in Quarantine
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for May 3, 2020

We had a special surprise on May Day when we discovered this pleasant note and beautiful rock camping out on our front porch.  There wasn't a name included with who left it, but we're pretty sure our good friend, Sue Korkowski, may have had a hand in it.  Such a sweet thing to do!

We've been bumping into lots of friendly neighbors on our walks lately, but we were quite confused when we were honked at by a bearded stranger in a hot red sports car.  We weren't sure who he was until a couple days later when that same stranger drove by again, but then pulled over to say Hello.  It was none other than our old buddy, Jimmy Gilbertson, who was out closing big real estate deals despite the ongoing pandemic.  It's always fun to see this guy and we discussed setting up some social distancing happy hours down by the Prior Lake boat launch where we can be nice and spread out with folding chairs.  Who's with us?

About a week ago, Minnesota's governor decreed that golf course could re-open so we decided it was time for us to get out there to swing some clubs and hit some balls.  It was a beautiful day on Saturday to do this.

There were some new rules in place that we had to get used to, but none were too difficult.

There was a time when I could golf with my sons and teach them a lesson on how to play.  Those days have long passed us by as now both of their skills have seemed to exceed my own.  How the heck did that happen?

Ahh, who am I kidding?  Despite my desire to put together a solid golf game, I just don't think God ever intended me to excel at this sport.  It is fun when I make a good connection every now and then, but there's a lot of bad connections between those times unfortunately.

Miss Sheri's golf skills also have surpassed mine many years ago, but that probably isn't a surprise since she regularly beats me in most sports we play together.  I'm starting to wonder if she didn't marry me because of my athletic abilities?

We were pretty impressed with all the people out at the golf course either playing a round or hitting the balls at the driving range.  We are still under a stay at home order for another couple of weeks at least, but I think people are pretty sick at being stuck in their houses.

We thought the golf course was busy, but then saw the bike & walking trail which was even busier.  I'm starting to notice people's behaviors towards social distancing are kind of going out the window.  Hopefully that doesn't turn around and bite us all in the butt, but I guess we will see what happens.

A local restaurant called Whisky Inferno has been having a "Drive-Up BBQ" every weekend for the past month or so.  They sell meals family style and take donations for the local food-shelf.  We've always enjoyed their food, so thought we'd check it out.

The food was great with a mix of ribs, beef brisket, chicken, baked beans, macaroni & cheese, and rolls.  We spoke with the owner and his fiancee and congratulated them on their innovative attempts to deal with the closures.  Prior Lake folks, if you haven't tried it out yet, it's worth the trip next weekend.