Thursday, December 21, 2017

Winter Solstice 2017 - The Sandstrom-McGuires

It is December 2017, the Winter Solstice. It is this time when my heart, mind, and love anticipates our annual winter camping / Nordic ski vacation between Christmas Day and New Years.  And that is all I really desire: Time alone with my bride in a secluded cabin deep in the cold, snowy winter woods.  Building fires, cooking breakfast outdoors with cast iron and brewing morning coffee over an open flame. A day filled with skiing and exploring;  evenings of flannel, games, wine and romance. All the while kissing Nature as we embrace in the warmth of each other.
Big Blue Stem Cabin at Afton State Park

If the Sandstrom-McGuire's have learned anything in 2017, it is that we have more inner strength and more love to give than we have ever realized.  We have received such a tremendous outpouring of love, not just from our close friends and family, but also from acquaintances and complete strangers who have been touched by the story of our lives. We live with our grief, the absence of Krista with whom I have shared 25 Winter Solstices.  This is the first Solstice in my adult life without her. But I can imagine her, remember her any time I wish.  So as the light begins to lengthen each coming day, so does our family spirit - our Sandstrom-McGuire commitment to each other and to the world. To protect Nature, to act with forethought in every measure with Justice, Compassion, and Perseverance. Inquiring with the unfamiliar, seeking to understand and in all cases, assuming positive intent.  

By now you know that Krista was killed by a reckless / drunk driver on June 1, 2017.  If you are not familiar with this news, I am sorry that this is how you found out. Details on this are well recorded and you may access information here:

You also are probably now aware that after 47 years on this planet, I revealed to the outside world my true self. However you might perceive it, it is certainly not a big change or need  for adjustment for us, as this has been reality and common knowledge among those close to me and Krista. The difference in my life however is that I can now engage the full capabilities of my confident mind, heart, and soul without having to deal with the continual hindrance of discord which dogged my thoughts daily. This has made such a huge positive effect in our family life - making us more capable to deal with the Grief of Krista's absence. So I ask that before you make any assumptions, please first seek to understand and read everything - every link I have provided on this page:

Birgitta at voice lessons with Harriet
The Year 2017 started off rough but we had a lot of hopes.  It began with the unexpected death of our dear friend and college mate "Auntie" Kari Bostrom due to complications with chemotherapy.  She resided on the opposite of Como Lake from us.  Along with Auntie Amy Gilbertson, Auntie Kari was another important role model in Birgitta's young life. Birgitta last night informed me that she is really beginning to like cinema from the Silent Movie era and has filled her room with some of Kari's old movie posters of Douglas Fairbanks and Rudolph Valentino.   About this time, her best friends who live across the street moved away (happily they have returned last month and the 3 of them are all now attending Murray Middle School our regional public school in St. Paul).  Birgitta continued with softball (playing catcher) and her swimming lessons over this summer she wants to do lifeguard training and become an Olympic swimmer. She also gets to play oboe every day in school band! Yayy! Birgitta still practices piano and this past fall she began taking voice lessons with Harriet, Krista's vocal coach for the past 20 years. Her new schedule gives her more time for volunteering, finding part-time work, interpersonal relationships and engaging in the full range of human experiences.

Soren in morning Sabre Fencing Practice
Soren continues to pursue his interest in script writing and movie making. It is such a thrill for anyone who knows him to listen as he elaborates in depth on his storylines, plots, and character development.  He recently discovered "The Matrix" and has taken an interest in the Sci-Fi Thriller genre. He continues to have a quick wit and high aptitude for word play.  The downside is that as genius level as his language ability is, it just does not translate well into necessary school work. So For the past couple of years I have been encouraging him to consider a different school which will enable him to pursue his interest and engage his full potential as a human being, and thus give us more quality time with each other rather than stressing about homework.  Besides our massive home library is on par with the necessary primary sources, textbooks and non-fiction resources to give accreditation to a small liberal arts college. (and hey I'm a trained historian soo…. ;)  He does continue to take piano lessons, play trombone in school band (again, he needs to have band every day), plays guitar (started his own band last spring) and is now taking up Olympic Sabre Fencing every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Soren's cooking ability is also finding an outlet.  While he continues to grow taller faster than I can feed him, he is filling his in between meals with hashbrowns which he has grated and fried himself, eggs, pancakes, and his famous smoothies. His most recent concoction, a blend of fresh pineapple, kale, banana, mango, almond, and coconut water.

All three of us are resuming sparring and training at our local dojo, The Art Martial Arts in 2018.   

The First 5 Months of 2017, Krista and me:  As the year began, I found myself substitute teaching band / orchestra through Hill Murray Middle School's Pioneer Pathways program, teaching lessons at Augsburg and playing in my various bands while trying to hold down home life. 

Krista was still overworked and continually battling levels with her thyroid supplement medication from her thyroidectomy in 2011.  BUT she always found enjoyment in her work as a high level Human Resource Director. She was also taking a Saturday morning dance class with the Minnesota Dance Theatre, and swimming her mile at the rec center on Saturdays and Sundays. She was also taking violin lessons and in the evenings she would join Soren (viola) and Birgitta (cello) and play through some trios from the books I got them last Christmas. One of the great things for us is that now as the kids are older, Birgitta turned 11 in January (she's almost 12 now!) and Soren 13 in April, we were giving them even more autonomy so that she and I could spend more time with each other. 
 Both in resuming work on our home addition project, which we began in 2001, and in performing together in the New Prescriptions and with the Minnesota Chorale.  I bought her a mandolin in March and we were really looking forward to her learning this instrument in addition to her other musical skills.

In February we volunteered to sing in a practice choir to help a friend of ours prepare for a national Choral directors competition. At the end of that experience, Kathy invited me to sing in the baritone section in the Minnesota Chorale for the upcoming performance of Carl Orff's Carmina Burana with the Minnesota Dance Theatre and Minnesota Orchestra for the annual national conference of the American Chorale Directors Association (ACDA).  I hadn't sung with the Chorale regularly since Soren was born, and I had forgotten how much fun it was to get in the car with Krista every Monday night to rehearsal with her: Warming up on the way there and jamming to Zeppelin on the way home.   
Krista on Stage with MDT during undress rehearsal for Carmina Burana

Soren and Birgitta at Wild River
Right after the Chorale experience, Kathy invited me to join the next chorale project with the Minnesota Orchestra, performing the Dream of Gerontius by Elgar. We had just begun rehearsals in March when we used the kids Spring break to do another Cabin Camping event up at Wild River State Park.  We had not been there for a while so it was nice to return.  We hiked during the day, and in the evenings we played games with the kids and then practiced our chorale music while drinking wine. It was really such a beautiful experience. So I committed to working on a German Aria for my Minnesota Chorale Audition for the 2017-18 season.  She suggested at that time that I study with my Augsburg University colleague Susan Druck as Krista just loves her voice.  We were getting excited about this turn.

In April we found some time to perform again with New Prescriptions and begin working on more duets. Getting excited to add Battle of Evermore, Operator by Jim Croce, and some Cat Stevens.  My sister happened to capture two of our performances from that gig on film: Joni Mitchell's A Case of You and George Harrison's While My Guitar Gently Weeps

As May arrived, we got our bikes tuned up. We even biked one Sunday morning from our home in Como Park to HCMC in downtown Minneapolis. To practice her new morning commute. We actually hadn't biked that way since the 1990s -- and we got confused at all these new bike lanes that seemed to take us out of our old accustomed direct route.  Then with Auntie Amy, we attended the Syttendemai celebration and parade at the Mindekirken Norwegian Lutheran Church in Minneapolis. We purchased a cookbook and I entered Krista into a drawing for a homemade kransekake (the same kind of cake we had at our wedding). Krista won!
Krista's Kransekake from Syttendemai 2017
In the last week of May, we went to REI to use our dividend on camping gear and supplies, laid our the wood we planned on using to lace patch our oak floors in the music room, and began planning for our garden anticipating on getting new wildflowers on June 3rd. I had a really great experience on May 31st and I couldn't wait to talk to Krista about it, but with her heavy work schedule that week, she got home late and I tucked her into our bed with the brand new sheets I had picked up that week. She got up really early on June 1st, I made her coffee, travel coffee, breakfast and lunch and kissed her good-bye, and she never came home…
Krista and Xenia, July 1991

…I have cried every single day since.

That first week I had about a total of 20 hours of sleep. And I still do not sleep well. Even with sleep aid. Yet I remain committed to the health and well being of our children and myself. I strive to walk the dog for four to five miles each day. The 3 of us, talk, bond. So as Birgitta told me that June 1st morning, "We are going to be strong, we are sad now but we are going to be happy and live the lives Mama wanted us to live." So that is what we are doing.

While I have not been able to emotionally bring myself back to singing in the Minnesota Chorale or the New Prescriptions, I have their love and support.  I am also blessed with my bandmates in Shoop! and in KISSin Time. Performing in gigs that same June. I am only teaching at Augsburg University right now, but I will probably resume my private students on Classical Guitar and Electric Bass in 2018.

The kids and I continued with swim lessons and did some family travelling. We were visited by some good college friends Reed and Cecilie from Norway and Kirsten Akre from Chicago! And Stef and her boys came up from Texas for a few days of fun and canoeing. The kids and I Took in the St. Paul Irish Fair (and annual tradition) We also took my back roads way to the Sandhills of Western Nebraska to visit the Rosfelds: first at my cousin Kyle & Missy and his family in Cody, then Uncle Lowell's in Rushville and finally at Cousin Emily's in Alliance to take in the Total Solar Eclipse--- THAT was cool and really aided by the Blue Moon beers and Moscow / Munich Mules. 

We did a few days at the Minnesota State Fair (nice that its just a quick bike ride down Hoyt Avenue) and got a free live concert of George Clinton and Parliament / Funkadelic.  On October 2nd, I took the kids down to Decorah to visit where Krista and I married 24 years earlier. We also took some time to visit the Old Stone Church to visit our ancestors and toured the Bily Clock Museum / Dvorak House in Spillville
Soren and Birgitta with their Great-Great-Great-Grandpa Johan Herman Jungck
Old Stone Church - Ridgeway, Iowa 

My spirit has also been recharged with my old friendships as we text, email, and call Luther Alumnae Vegan Potlucks; and a few trips to St. Cloud, 

We have done a few other excursions and dining out, as well as maintaining group efforts in cooking (and trying to clean). But making fun where we can find it.  We are looking forward to 2018 and hoping to get in more family bonding time, music making, travelling.

We are good.  We are sad…but we are good and continue to find joy.

Scroll to the right and you can see Krista singing in the Finale of Handel's Messiah with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra

With much Love,
The Sandstrom-McGuire's
Xenia, Soren and Birgitta
Minerva & Odysseus (the Cats) and Sigyn (The Dog).   

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