Monday, June 30, 2008

Christmas in Almost July -or- Is it 4th of July in Almost Christmas?

We've been trying to decide how to spend the 4th of July this year. Last the 4th fell on a Wednesday. My husband Jon and I and son Dave went to Duluth. We got a room in one of the fancy new hotels at water's edge in Duluth. Their fireworks are shot off over the harbor. No hassles driving in those crowds after the display; plenty of fun things to do and restaurants nearby for dinner before "the show". Mary and Mike and his mom met us there.

The 4th is on a Friday this year and it won't be easy to get a premium room if you haven't planned well in advance. We have been considering our options.
--Stay home and go downtown Stillwater? We have a huge display of fireworks that claims to be the biggest in Minnesota but lots of people. Gridlock getting out of town afterwards but still fun. We've done that most years.
--Go to Marine on St. Croix (a tiny town upriver about 15 miles). They shoot theirs on the 3rd. We did that a few years ago and it was fun. A true "Norman Rockwell" experience. Bring your lawn chairs and gather by the town gazebo across from the old white wooden general store. The town loves its historical buildings and small town ambiance. It looks like a little New England town probably because it was built in 1840 by loggers from Maine. Money to purchase public fireworks is raised by townspeople donating in the jar at the general store. The general store has a great on-site bakery, deli, rents videos, sells groceries and has an old fashioned meat counter. All this in a 150 yr. old building with squeaky wooden floors.
--Drive to Maiden Rock, WI, an itsy bitsy town on the Mississippi 40 or so miles from here. Small crowds (oops, that's an oxymoron) and small fireworks but beautiful scenery by the great river. Sit on the deck of the local bar or by the town park by the river. Nice.
-- A dozen surrounding towns including the Taste of Minnesota have fireworks.

Fireworks are not just for the 4th anymore. We have an equally big fireworks display in July at our summer celebration of Lumber Jack Days. Our church rents a paddlewheeler riverboat. For a modest price you get a dinner cruise followed by on the water view of the pyrotechnics. Oooh, aaahh.....Watch the following You tube video if you have another minute of the Christmas lighting ceremony in Kansas.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Wooden Shoe Be Upset Too?

We have a wood stack but the picture is not our wood stack. It came from the internet and reminds me of those perfectly stacked woodpiles in Germany and Austria. Perfection. Do you think they use a piece of plywood to line up the ends? I digress...
This morning Jon said, "I think someone has been stealing our wood." We cut down two trees last year and have ranks of wood behind the garage and under the deck. The pile seems to have shrunk. Probably was tempting to someone for a campfire. We turned on our motion sensing light again and hope that will help. It didn't seem to be effective today scaring away the moths that set it off. You can guess why we turn it off.
A short time later I made a shocking discovery. The gnarley oak in the park directly across the street from us looks like it has oak wilt disease. There are many branches suddenly is dead, brown leaves. This isn't good news. The disease spreads by the root system and we may be close enough to have it infect our huge backyard oak. This oak overhangs our deck and shades our house and yard. Our neighbor has two large oaks closeby. I was sick thinking we might lose these trees. Sick for the loss of shade and the cost. In the worst case we would really have a big woodpile if that happens. On second thought, that wood would be banished to prevent spread of the disease. I'm praying for that tree.

Cute Kid Story

Excerpt from today's St. Paul Pioneer Press Bulletin Board column:

Reports Terri of Cottage Grove: "Our 5-year-old neighbor boy, Jack, asked me if I had any pictures of Jesus. I found some old holy cards, like the type you get at funerals. They usually have a picture of something religious, like Jesus or an angel, and then a verse on the back.
"A few days later, Jack's mom called and said the kids at Jack's day care wanted me to get them some holy cards. I asked her why, and she said: 'They're trading them like baseball cards.'
"I told my husband: 'Hey, I've got Jesus' rookie card!' "

I like to use Googled pictures to illustrate my blog and probably do it to excess. Today, when looking online for a picture of Jesus, I typed ---drawings + Jesus---in the search column. What? Are there any other images we have of Jesus? Don't think I have ever seen a photograph. Jesus, you better take the wheel here. Bye, Jane

Saturday, June 28, 2008

High Brow vs Low Brow

I wanted to title this, "Who Killed Kenny" but only the younger ones would know that source. Think the animated TV show, "South Park" which I don't watch but have heard referenced.

My Low Brow Story (Garth Brooks song, "I Got Friends in Low Places, come on down to the Oasis" playing softly in the background.)

Our favorite greasy spoon The Oasis recently changed ownership. The new owner circulates in the restaurant talking to customers and refilling coffee cups. The diner has a bevy of locals who frequent it. Not many tourists show up. They serve a hot roast beef or turkey sandwich smoothered in gravy with a scoop of mashed potatoes. Truck stop food without the truck drivers. Single guys line up at the counter and tease the waitresses, most of whom have worked there for decades. We go for the great coffee and hot breakfast. This is not California cuisine.

We were the first and only customers when it opened at 5:30am today. I asked the waitress how she liked working for new management and got an earfull. Change is hard. The employees are adjusting, except for the three who resigned, and the regulars are casting a wary eye hoping the place doesn't change too much.

Strike one: He changed the coffee. Yuk. Got to understand how important the coffee is.

Strike two: He got rid of the familiar heavy duty restaurant plates. The new look is mismatched china and mugs. The waitress showed us burn marks on her arms. She usually carries several plates of food from the kitchen to the tables. The new plates get too hot under the warmer and there is no room for tray stands.

Strike three: The owner won't allow the dirty dish bins under the counter. Waitresses must carry them (without trays) back to the dishwasher. The old system had the dishwasher fetch the bins of dirty dishes from under the counter. They have a long-time dishwasher named Kenny. New manager doesn't think Kenny should be out with the public. Public thinks Kenny is part of the ambiance and charm of the place. I suggested the customers wear t-shirts with the slogan, "Who Killed Kenny?". Support your local dishwasher. Something is missing without him.

Might be able to find those shirts at Walmart. That was the talk of the diner as folks came in today. It is universal to have trouble adjusting to change. Don't fix it if it ain't broke!!!

New guy watch out. Don't underestimate how strongly your customers feel about tradition.

My High Brow Story

Apparently all of us have been conditioned by eBay to accepting gently used stuff into our homes. Resale and consignment stores are flourishing even among the well-heeled. I heard the following story yesterday and was amused.

In Wellesley, MA it is chic to "shop" at the Wellesley dump. Even the more sophisticated matrons are doing it. Wellesley is a tony, affluent old New England town. Exclusive Wellesley college is located there. When I visited my friend Barb in Massachusetts this spring she took me to Wellesley. Old money. Apparently their discards are a cut above most towns. They have rules at the town dump enforced by a security guard. You may only shop at the dump if you are a Wellesley resident and can prove it. It is an exclusive dump. Do you think they do this in Beverly Hills? High brow dumpster diving?
They can borrow my Garth Brooks theme, "I've got friends in low places" if they chose.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Wonderful Rhubarb Pie

Jon picked the last of the rhubarb yesterday. He has been working hard painting, staining woodward and working on our bedroom. Today he is assembling some Ikea furniture. Smart woman that I am, I arranged to be gone for a couple of hours this morning. Yesterday I made him a rhubarb pie for a treat after working so hard.

This is an old rhubarb pie recipe I've used for years. I altered it a bit by using 1/2 Splenda and 1/2 sugar. Next time I'll try all Splenda. I didn't have a premade pie crust and I ceased making them from scratch years ago. I used the graham cracker crust I had on hand and it was exceptionally good.

The recipe is from the church cookbook of Yellow Medicine Lutheran Church, Hanley Falls, Minnesota printed sometime in the 70's. Mrs. Clara Berre submitted it.

Funny. These days most women would just put Clara Berre and skip the Mrs. Times change.

VERY BEST RHUBARB PIE *my alterations

2 cups fresh rhubarb, cut into 1/2" pieces
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup granulated sugar or *Splenda/sugar combo
2 eggs, separated
pinch of salt
2 tbsp. flour

Pie shell *(I used graham cracker crust)

Combine rhubarb, sugar, salt and vanilla with unbeaten egg yolkds and flour.

Mix thoroughly. Beat egg whites until stiff and fold in. Pour mixture into pie shell.


1/3 cup butter

3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar

Cut together with a pastry cutter. Sprinkle over top. Bake @ 350 for 40-50 min.

The Word Police

I'm being a bit critical today. I just heard someone on a radio talk show say, "It depends on your degree of comfortableness". I reached for the dictionary and verified that comfortableness is a word. Could save a little time, a little ink on the page to just say comfort. Just my opinion.

Deja Vu Redux

Stop. Read the previous blog first.

Okay. Just when I quit worrying about OJ in Minnesota, I turned on the local station to catch the weather. Caught a sports report saying that OJ Mayo, the Timberwolf, was traded for Kevin Love. Two catchy names there, but I might not like being referred to as OJ. Coincidence. Two OJ stories about different OJs that tie to Minnesota. Both were from California previously. Both athletes. Wonder if the Mayo guy can act. Hope he can control his temper

Oh Gee, O J

It should be the perfect way to start your day. O J didn't work for me today. Today's local paper has a story about OJ Simpson vacationing in northcentral Minnesota. His long-time girlfriend of twelve years is from Fergus Falls, MN. He is up there meeting her family and playing golf. Now, our kids get to pick their own mates. Parents should butt out, but I wonder what her folks said when she took up with this guy twelve years ago.

OJ was found innocent of double homicide at his trial. Many people, myself included, think he got away with murder. I have come to wonder if the police tried to help the prosecution a bit with evidence but I still think he was guilty. Don't see him spending too much time looking for the real killers, do we?

My dad grew up a few miles from Fergus Falls and I still have relatives living there. Wonder if they have spotted him around the area and nearby Fargo. Hope we don't see a real-life sequel of the movie "Fargo" with another grizzly ending.
Minnesotans now have three celebrities in our midst: Jesse Ventura is back contemplating whether he should run for president, Al Franken is campaigning for Senator, and OJ has found a new hideout.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Seven Little Words You Can't Say In Heaven Either

We've all probably watched him and laughed. He was a clever man who noticed the little inconsistencies in life and made us smile. I loved George Carlin's "Hippy Dippy Weatherman" of years ago. I liked his lists. George Carlin died Monday.

I have seen videos of Carlin shaking his fist and daring God to strike him dead if God existed. He would smile when he found himself still standing. He was an atheist.

I am not the judge. I believe God is the judge and life continues after we die on earth. He didn't believe that. I don't judge him. One of us is right and one of us is wrong. You can't have it both ways.
I believe the words of Jesus who said, "If you don't acknowledge me here (on earth) I won't acknowledge you there. Sobering.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

What If We Find Life on Mars?

Summer Reading

Summer reading. Pick up a paperback and waste a little time. Haul it to the beach. Toss it in your tote or shove it in your purse. I love summer reading.
I like to read Minnesota writers and watch the book reviews in the Sunday paper for new leads. Today had a review for "August Moon", a novel by Jess Lourey, a Minnesota writer. She sets the books in Battle Lake, MN. Battle Lake where my dad had an aunt who lived to be about 100. Good old central Minnesota.
I have read all the books by Joann Fluke who writes a series about a Minnesota heroine named Hannah. Hannah runs a cookie bakery. I've read all the Goldie the caterer novels (Diane Mott Davidson) and the series of "tea shop" books by Laura Childs. Innocent, engaging books you could give to the pastor's wife. Summer reading. So I was anxious to read the Battle Lake series the reviewer billed as "murder by the mouth". What was this chic cooking up. I went to the library's online request site and was first in line. It pays to get up early and read the paper and request books before others who do the same thing. I Googled the author and found out about the "Murder by the MONTH" books. Maybe she's not cooking anything up after all. Time to get my eyes checked. I am going to start with "May Day and "June Bug" and then "August Moon".
By then it will be time for September Rains, but she hasn't written that book yet.

War of the Words

I just read a funny tale. A woman was transporting her large dog to the vet. She put him on the backseat of her car which was protected with a tarp. On the way to the vet's, she made a brief stop at a convenience store. When she came out the dog was in the front seat. Bad dog. As she was about to open the car door and scold, "You get in the backseat right now!" she realized it was not her dog. Not her car either, just some woman in the front seat of another car. Good dog. Bad vision.

Years ago, when my husband Jon was still working at 3M, we were out shopping at a big, Big Box store. He spotted an intern who had worked in their department. The kid was pushing one of those flat-bed carts to haul large boxes in those Big Box stores. Jon ran up to him, jumped on the cart, and said, "Take me to your leader!". A moment of recognition--for Jon. A moment of panic for the guy who was pushing the cart. He was NOT the intern. I think Jon slinked away. I was nowhere to be found . I have learned to melt into the woodwork when he does something like that. It sure seemed funny years later, though.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Night Visitors

Newspaper story this morning about a police public service project in Lakeville, MN. Police canvased the town at night looking for open garage doors. They left notes on the doors of residents who had not secured their valuables or left doors open. One resident had his garage door open and the keys in his ignition. Police noted the house door was ajar and quietly entered suspecting a possible crime scene. The owner was awakened at 3:00am by police shining a flashlight in his face. He was not happy. He was not very smart either. He was lucky it was the police but he will probably call his attorney this morning.

We began to think we had a night visitor or stalker at our house. On these nice cool summer mornings we have coffee on the deck in the morning. Twice we noticed green fuzz on some of the chairs. Was it from the trees? Pollen? It didn't look organic. It looked like it was from someone's clothes. Night visit from The Incredible Hulk? Then a smile crept across Jon's face. "What color is my bathrobe?" he asked. He was coming out at night to smoke in his dark green terry robe.

I'll double check tonight that the garage door is closed and the front door locked. Not sure what I can do about that nighttime smoker but I think I will wash that shedding robe.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Board Silly

My mom used to say, "If you are bored, it is your own fault". Don't wait for someone to entertain you. Once in a while I hit a retiree's plateau and have to pause to think what I want to do. Usually this is solved by grabbing a book or blogging. A better solution is when I call a friend and do something. Now I may have a new option.

Rising property taxes on downtown businesses has seen some long-time merchants pull up stakes on Main Street. The Red Hat Store, a unique doll store and an antique mall closed. Stillwater lost one of it's used book stores. This little town was one of the best places in the country and English speaking world to find a vintage book.

In prime corner spot where the book store vacated a new store recently opened. A Board Shop. Surf's up dude. What on earth is a board shop doing in Stillwater? Surf is never up here. Further investigation reveals a shop that sells the clothes, skateboards, snowboards and maybe wakeboards. Equipment for the active set. I wonder how that fits with the antique shops. Different shopper demographic.

Most local residents avoid downtown unless they are entertaining visitors. The real stores are up on the hill. Downtown has been relegated to antique shopping and dining/drinking establishments. Parking is tight. We are probably the exception. We go down by the river levee and people watch. We go downtown to eat. Now I can go downtown if I want to take up a new sport. Hang ten and out.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Twins

No, not those twins. Not even the Minnesota Twins. This is about the Twin Cities. Twin in name only. Connected or disconnected by the single umbilical cord of that great river, the Mississippi.

I just finished reading "The Florist's Daughter" yesterday and feel the melancholy way I usually do when I have been absorbed in a book and it is finished. Never one to reread a book, my people thin into the air at the end. They remain in my mind with no fresh revelations. Memoirs always provoke my memories of my life. When I woke during the night my mind actively dusted off vignettes from my mind's attic.

The book is a memoir of a daughter growing up in 50's -60's St. Paul, MN. "Old St. Paul"--the author's name, not mine. A frozen upper middle west capital she longed to escape from but never did except for when she traveled. It is the remembrance of a daughter about her adored handsome immigrant father and somewhat flawed mother. It's about relationships, the passing of values intergenerationally that are not easily taken by the offspring, and the observance of changing times. I don't agree with all of the author's worldviews but have gone through some of the same struggles.

Someone else once described St. Paul as whole wheat bread and Minneapolis as Wonder Bread. The contrasts are lessened now. National broadcasters often stand in front of a St. Paul landmark and generically refer to being "in Minneapolis", the bigger, better-known, flashier twin.

You navigate St. Paul with a map or good memory. A local politician in recent years described St. Paul streets as having been laid out by a drunken Irishman. Probably true. Not logical or on a grid like the other twin. Minneapolis is numbered or in alphabetical order. Look for Knox Avenue between James and Logan. Streets run one direction and avenues the other. Most blocks are similar lengths and rectangular. Good luck figuring out St. Paul. We have now lived on this side of the metro twenty-five years and I still navigate mostly by landmarks in St. Paul. In defence of St. Paul, it is more homey. More charming. You may be lost but you may not mind.

Minneapolis has the Timberwolves, Twins and Vikings. St. Paul had to scrap like a hockey player to get hockey back. The Wild filled the void in this hockey crazed town.

St. Paul has more colleges and universities but Minneapolis has the biggest--the U of Minnesota.

St. Paul rules--literally from the State Capitol and from the Archdioceses with it's impressive Cathedral on the hill.

St. Paul is Garrison Keillor. He does "The Prairie Home Companion" radio show here. He lives here on and off between fits of pique with neighbors or newspapers who print his address. Mostly you can hide out safely in St. Paul unless you are Garrison Keillor. Gangsters in the 20's and 30's loved to hide out in St. Paul. Police were okay with that as long as they lived quietly.

St. Paul with it's Irish Catholic history. I love this quote from the aforementioned book, "St. Paul was so baroquely Catholic that even Lutherans described themselves as being 'non-Catholics'."

Scandinavian Lutherans built Minneapolis. Irish immigrants settled St. Paul.

In past decades there was a fierce rivalry between the battling twins. Street brawls broke out between fans of the Minneapolis Millers and the St. Paul Saints baseball teams. The author relates her father's dismay she wanted to attend the University of Minnesota "over there". The Catholic women's college in St. Paul seemed a better choice.

Both cities had their immigrant roots and ethnic neighborhoods. When we were first married we lived on Minneapolis's University Avenue close to the dividing line between southeast and northeast. "Nordeast" had distinct ethnic enclaves. Even in the late 60's you could walk into a shop on East Hennepin avenue and the clerks would switch from speaking their slavic tongue to English for you. There were large Catholic churches appropriately named with the national patron saints. Polish, slavic, Ukranians etc all had their own churches and shopping areas and the bars on every other corner for social life. Similar patterns were seen in St. Paul with Swede Hollow being a place where the newest immigrants squatted in little shacks on land the city owned. The Italians lived by the river flats until the great flood of 1965. The rich lived on the city bluffs enjoying river views.

I was raised in outstate central Minnesota. Eighteen-year-olds deserted most small outstate towns and headed to live and work in "the cities"; the city of choice was usually Minneapolis. Minneapolis with its nightlife and energy. Later, you discover Grand Avenue and the charm of St. Paul and relish the quieter town. These days you just need to stay away from the eastside. Some formerly embracing neighborhoods have changed into unsafe areas, but the city is still very neighborhood oriented. Consider the Rondo neighborhood which was bulldozed to make way for a swath of freeway that tore through town in the 60s. Rondo days are observed every summer with a nostalgic look back to what was lost-- an African-American neighborhood where kids growing up were watched by the neighbors and misbehavior reported to parents or a word spoken to the errant child to bring correction. A neighborhood of strong families, businesses and churches. A lost neighborhood. The eastside, now maligned as a dangerous place to live, was once a neighborhood like that for blue collar families to raise families. The newest immigrants live there now trying to live safe lives amidst the chaos of drugs and crime.

My mom was raised in the little Wisconsin almost border town of Somerset and was acclamated toward St. Paul. That is where she went when she moved to the city. The St. Paul newspaper is where she looked at obituaries for a familiar name. That is where our aunts or mom took us shopping when we were very young. I vaguely remember the street cars. My husband recalls taking them from his North St. Paul town to the city. St. Paul had department stores like The Golden Rule, The Emporium, and Field-Schlick. Stores that were one of a kind in times before shopping malls lead to duplication or national companies bought up successful local names and reproduced them logirhythmically.

Minneapolis had the venerable Daytons. For decades the large store dominated downtown Minneapolis. It was one of a kind until the 50's when Southdale opened another Daytons. Daytons came to St. Paul in the mid-60's. Daytons is not more. It has been lost in transit from being sold to Marshall Field and now Macy's. I don't think Macy's owners understood what a blow they dealt.

The twins. Related by proximity but divided by history. The twins. Watch this fall when the Republican National Convention comes to St. Paul's downtown. Some reporters will sign off saying , "that's it from Minneapolis. Back to you."

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Kind Look Back

We're headed to a funeral this morning for a boyhood friend of my husband's. 65. Dead suddenly from a heart attack. Too much of that lately. I went to a funeral of a 55 yr. old husband of a former co-worker of mine a couple weeks ago. Heart failure. Tim Russert. Too much of that lately.

I'm reading a book that begins with a daughter keeping vigil at the bedside of her dying mom. It is one of the most well written memoirs I've read lately. I had to wait on queue as #134 to get it at the library so feel compelled to read it before the other books waiting for me.

"The Florist's Daughter" by Patricia Hempl is an award winning memoir. I checked if it was still on the best seller list. No. Maybe it is just a local favorite. If you are about my age, or raised Catholic, or Irish descent or definitely if you were from St. Paul, MN you might enjoy this book. It's warm and funny and lovely.

Her reminiscence of her mom telling her to "offer it up" struck a chord with me. This book has heartstrings. Review:

Monday, June 16, 2008

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

It's 3:00am and I've been awake about an hour. Bedtime was after the 10:00pm news. Here I am keeping my computer company and reading my book. Everyone else in this household is sleeping. Hello. Anybody out there?

Last evening we watched (a rerun I think) of a segment on "60 Minutes" about the value of a good night's sleep. The downside of cutting corners on sleep is a change in metabolism. Research showed healthy college-aged subjects becoming pre-diabetic after five days of disturbed sleep. The participants were sleep deprived either by quantity or quality of sleep. Some were bombarded with noise while they slept that kept them from deep sleep. The researcher proposed one cause of our national obesity epidemic was lack of sleep.

My husband and I watched the show together. When he went to bed he dug his sleep apnea equipment out and plugged it in. It usually sits idly by while he snores, whizzles, and struggles in his sleep. I must have cast him a look or commented on his "noise"also disturbing my sleep.

I'm still woke up tonight long before the early sunrise.

I worked the night shift most of my working years with compromised sleep. That might suffice for an excuse of sorts for gaining weight but not sure it works as an excuse when you are retired.

I am still struggling with gaining weight easily after the big diet. Perhaps months of too low calorie intake set me up for failure. I don't know. I am currently 7 lbs. up from my low of last December when I declared I would stop dieting for a while. I am getting a good amount exercise but not obsessively walking ten miles a day. I'm behaving most of the time but paying dearly for the day or two a week when I don't.

Maybe I am just too self centered. Too food obsessed. Can I still blame the starving Chinese children for my predicament? Growing up, the mantra was to not waste food because children in China were starving. Last year I age the egg whites and tossed the yolks. Then I felt remorse for the waste. Without a dog it was hard to know who to feed all those yolks. In the last year and a half I have asked God's grace to just eat what I should, not everyone else's food. Grace. Abundant grace is available and that will be my answer. It's not all about me.

Time to change the words to that Dylan Thomas poetry. ---Do go gentle into that good night. No rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Good Night all.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Good Pig / Bad Pig

My sister just mailed me the book "The Good Good Pig' which she highly recommended after reading it. It's next on my list to read.
This morning's paper has a story about another pig. The pig is named Alaina Templeton. Her owners were charged with animal neglect. The 50 # pot bellied pig was "farmed out" when the owner had ankle surgery. Alaina gained 100# at the farm. No one loosened her collar and that was a problem. What do you suppose the judge will say to the pig's owner? Your pig is too fat?
Apparently the pig bears no responsibility much like all those who sue fast food establishments when they gain weight. Maybe we need the food police after all to protect us and our pets. Better check Fido's food dish. Better buy the diet dog food. I don't get that either. Never seen a dog who filled it's own food dish.

Meanwhile, I am back to trying to diet. I am now addicted to Kashi cereal. I was amused to read the label on one of the Kashi GO LEAN boxes. It says: "Crunchy Fiber Twigs, Soy Protein and Honey Puffs". Twigs? That should keep ME out of the courtroom. Grazing on wood chips can't be far off.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Big Man, Big Loss

Sometime during the last years while we were watching Tim Russert comment on one of the political primaries, I commented to my husband that I would prefer him (Russert) to any of them. I trust him. Not one to rant like so many political pundits, he seemed to stand out above the rest. Truely, he won my heart last years when I heard him promoting his book "Big Russ and Me". It is a tribute to his father.

Yesterday saw many tributes to Tim Russert. Besides his professional excellence, hats were tipped to him as a friend, father, son and spiritual man. Everyone who knew him will miss him plus a lot of people like me who only trusted him.

I doubt if he would have ever entered the foray as a candidate, but I would have been pleased if he had. Meanwhile, as a Minnesotan we are stuck with Al Franken and Jesse Ventura. Yup, Jesse has his toe in the water. They may run against each other. Could Tim Russert have suppressed a smile if he had covered that contest?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

You Know You are Old When.....

You Know you are old when you know this yellow shape is not a pie chart, but Pac Man.

You know you are old when --you hate Hip-hop music. IT'S NOT MUSIC. We thought we would always be young. We would always like "rock music". That would mean we were young. Oh, dear. That just means we have taste. We can still be old. I still hate rap.

You know you are old when ---you grumble when gas hits $4.00 / gallon. Your first car ran on 25cent/ gallon gas.

You know you are old when---all the remote controls to run TVs, DVDs, stereo system, VHS etc confuse you. Maybe this just applies to women. I only use 3 or 4 buttons on any of them. They have about 20 or 30 buttons.

You know you are old when ---you thought it was a mistake to tear up all those train tracks to everywhere in this country and have been vindicated.

You know you are old when ---you can't pluck your eyebrows when you take off your bifocles. You can't see your wrinkles without your bifocles either. Might be better to forego those bifocles and live in fool's paradise.

You know you are old when---you miss churches where people were members cradle to grave and didn't keep moving to a better church.

You know you are old when-- you wish kids just played outside during the day.

You know you are old when--- you remember taxes that were about 10% of the family income (the early 60's).

You know you are old when--- You miss warm summers when people were out on porches or in yards talking to neighbors.

Ma Bell's monthly bill was for a phone and about $7 / month in the 60's -70's. There was no package for all the other electronic "conveniences" that are now necessities.

Babies learned because someone smiled at them. Someone talked to them. That someone was usually their mom. Baby Einstein wasn't a necessity. Baby videos didn't exist. Kids did just fine starting school at the old age of 6 or 7.

There weren't any video games. No video games to make antisocial bachelors out of our young men. No video games to cause carpel tunnel (I'm getting it from too much Collapse). No video games to occupy those kids who should be playing outside. Anyway, in my opinion, they haven't done much to improve on the games since Pac Man. Maybe I am a little corrupted myself. Maybe I'm getting old.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Daughter Mary had her five months ultrasound today. The news: It's a Boy. It's a Girl.

One of each. Just what we were hoping. One to fix cars with daddy Mike. One to bake cookies with Mary. I know. Those are stereotypes, but I am delighted to have both a new grandson and granddaughter on the way. Score will be 2:2. Two granddaughters. Two grandsons. Sweet.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Unbelievable !

Copy of my mom's hospital bill 1953. She had a nephrectomy (kidney removed) and stayed three weeks in the hospital. Look at the itemized charges. Anesthesia: $10.00. This was major surgery, she had several blood transfusions etc. Very few charges for supplies. I think those sweet Franciscan sisters showed some mercy. No insurance. Self pay--and she paid it all on a waitresses wages. Total bill: $195.67.

Imploring the Prize Patrol to Have a Heart

The following story was reported as NEWS. Not Hollywood gossip, hard news: Ed McMahon's house is in foreclosure. 85 yrs old Ed McMahon, one of the hardest working showbiz announcers, has a mortgage? His explanation: He injured his neck a year and a half ago and couldn't work. He is 85. I am appalled he has a mortgage. There must have been some good earning years when he could have tucked away a buck or two. Maybe I am old fashioned. Maybe that young wife of his likes to spend freely. Maybe Publisher's Clearing House could rig the awards this year for old times sake. Maybe FEMA has an extra trailer. Maybe I really don't care.

Thursday, June 5, 2008


We've been notified when our GE dishwasher model was on recall because some had caused house fires. Honda sent our recall notices to our son that the gas filler tube could rust and leave debris in the gas tank. It already had and they reimbursed us. Nightly news publicizes recalls on certain hanmburger, medicines and produce. We are used to recalls. When I read the headline today, "Train Your Dog to Respond to an Emergency Recall" I scratched my head. Time saving strategy? Seems like this would only work with dogs who can read or at least understand radio or television recall announcements. Perhaps if you trained Fido to get the mail and find those recall notices.... Not. The writer meant to urge dog owners to train their dogs to come quickly in response to a special calling. Train the dog to stay out of harm's way by coming rapidly to the owner. Do you think this would work with husbands and kids?

"Train your dog to respond to an emergency recall
Pioneer Press

In addition to an everyday "come" command, it's a good idea to train a dog to respond to an emergency recall. Teach him a different word that you save for when the dog's safety is in danger and you absolutely need him to come.
An emergency recall is important even if you never let the dog off-leash to play, because there are many ways a dog can slip away from you.
Leslie Nelson, owner of training center Tails U Win in Manchester, Conn., teaches what she calls the Really Reliable Recall.
"Practice in the house, three times a day, when you're 100 percent sure the dog will come," she says, for example, when he's greeting you at the door, or at mealtime.
Even if the dog is 3 feet away, she says, "Call it out, like you're calling from 50 yards away."
When the dog comes, she says, get very excited, just as if you really did just keep him from running into traffic, and give him a special reward.
"The reward has to last for at least 30 seconds," she says. Dole out a large number of little pieces, and make the treats variable and unpredictable.
"Usually within two weeks, you have dogs who are killing themselves to get to you," she says. "They don't stop to think 'I wonder if I should come or not,' they're already halfway back to you."

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Great One

Who comes to mind when I say "The Great One"? This is a generational thing and your age probably dictates who "The Great One" is.
I googled the phrase. The first hit refers to Wayne Gretzky. My boys were big hockey fans and they would probably think of him if I used that phrase. I remember Jackie Gleason as "The Great One". He had a variety TV show in the 60's and his Honeymooners series still plays somewhere in TVLand reruns.
Google did not reveal the person most recently dubbed "The Great One". Jon's old friend was in town. They have been friends about 60 yrs. His family is like our family. We had breakfast with his sisters and brother in-law Tuesday. Dick told us (his wife) Peg had a new title: "The Great One". They had their great grandchild baptized last weekend. Peg sat with the three year old big sister, their great-granddaughter, during the service. This little girl stuck by her and differentiates between her multiple grandmas and ggrandma by calling her "The Great One". Cute.
It'll be a few more years before we have great-grandchildren. We're anxiously awaiting our daughter's Dr. appt. next week when the Ultrasound should tell if Little A & Little B are boys, girls, or a boy & girl. Whatever they are, they will be great ones.

Link to another blogger's "Great One":

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Minding Your Ps and Qs --or-- Scrabble Dilema

Honor Game or Game Without Honor

There has been reminiscing in my extended family in anticipation of an August family reunion. Old pictures and letters spur on fond memories. At my age I only entertain fond memories. You need to let go of any not so pleasant ones if you can when you are younger.

My grandpa loved to play cards. Pre-television life in a small town years ago, people socialized by visiting or playing cards together. Grandpa was competitive and my mom said he never wanted to go home for the night unless he won the last game. He called it the "honor game". One could lose all night, but it was important to at least win that last game to feel good when you quit for the evening.

Saturday our daughter spent the afternoon at our house. She indulged me in playing a game of Scrabble. We only had time for one game before dinner and she beat me. No time for an "honor game".

Yesterday another friend, Karen, was here and we played two games of Scrabble. We each won one game. I won the last game. I won the "honor game". When I play with her she does not let me cheat and look up questionable words before I play them. She enforces the rules that dictate playing the word and hoping you are not challenged. I must play an "honorable game" with her.
One of my dearest, long-time friends (Barb) and I love to play Scrabble when we see each other. We play by our own rules. We check out words in the dictionary before playing. It all works out. We have the same advantage as the other. I'll keep working on softening Karen up to the alternate "Game Without Honor" of Scrabble.

Smoker's Remorse

Mural on a ceiling of a smoker's lounge.

Monday, June 2, 2008

The Modern Mother

My friend Mary loaned me her mother's nursing school text books. She graduated in the last class from Lakeview Memorial Hospital, Stillwater, MN in 1930. I just parused a text on Obstetric Nursing printed in 1914, revised 1930. While giving birth has not changed through the ages, medical care has. In 1930 Morphine was injected to control pain. Horror. Morphine depresses the respirator rate of the fetus or newborn, not a good thing. Mom were kept on bedrest ten days after delivering. They probably fainted when they got up the first time after that interval. My favorite section of the book is on assisting nursing moms. Put the babe to breast every four hours between 6:00 am and 10:30 pm. No night feeding. Interesting. This is a hungry newborn. I don't think I will pass along this advice to my daughter who is especting. With twins, I don't think she will be sleeping through the night for a few days.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Memorial Day

My mom died 14 years ago today, June 1st. Her funeral was on June 3rd, my dad's birthday.
Still miss you mom.


We have a mostly shady backyard. I am limited to planting flowers that thrive in shade. The most common, colorful annual is the impatient. I wonder why it is called that? Anyway, it's been a cool spring. Everytime I contemplate a trip to the nursery to get my impatients the weatherman threatens too cool overnights. Not fun to cover all the flowers. I was getting impatient. Yesterday was the last day of May. Certainly I can put in my delicate annuals. I did. By 5:00pm stormy weather moved in. After last weeks closeby tornado, when those warning sirens rang, we watched TV reports. Three storms were in the area. Two were converging on us with possible hail, wind sheer and reports of possible funnel clouds. My first thought? Darn. Why did I put in those flowers! My second thought? Shame on me. Wind threatening lives and property. This is more important than my flower beds.
Today, on my walk, I recalled the story of Jonah, the biblical story about with the whale. Jonah was told by God to go to Nineveh and tell the people to repent. He ran away and was ultimately swallowed by a whale. After he was coughed up, he decided to do as he was asked and went to Nineveh. He preached repentance. Then he went out into the desert and sat under the shade of a gourd plant watching for the "mushroom cloud". The people in Nineveh repented. God changed his plan to destory the city. Jonah's gourd plant withered in the hot sun and he complained. Too hot. Too sunny. God again corrected him and reminded him that God does not want anyone to come to harm. God was tenderhearted toward the city "where there are more than 300,000 who do not know their left hand from their right." (That doesn't mean a city full of dumb people. It means young children.) God was more concerned with the lives of those in Nineveh than Jonah's comfort. I get the message. I repent.