Week 31 OUTRAGE!


You could make your own list. This one is just a start.

Lions and Dentists
Abortions pro and con
Walleyes and Lake Mille Lacs
Bernie Sanders
Donald Trump
Flat Footballs and Brady
Precious Metals mining in NE Minnesota
Guns, pro and con
Voting rights
Mass shootings
Oil drilling in Alaska
Oil Pipelines through Minnesota
… and this is just recent things in the news

Do you sense it? Outrage is out there. It is coming from all kinds of people. Old, young, rich, poor, conservative, liberal, various ethnic groups, proponents of this and that, opponents of this and that . . .

I am guilty of outrage myself. I’m guessing so are you. And so is the guy down the street and the lady in the laundromat and the banker and the butcher. And the little kid in the barber chair and the . . . well, it seems like everyone has an ax to grind.

And do you notice how in the media (whether its social media like Facebook or the journalism media members) that name calling and insults are the rule of the day? It seems rare to watch a news show where diatribes don’t get a bunch of the news.

And this outrage sometimes is directed in places you wouldn’t expect. Close, personal friends get teed off at each other. Families argue at the dinner table.

We are all angry about something or someone. Where does it come from? Why is it so rampant? Better yet, how do we tone it down?

My theory – we have developed a certain insensitivity to others. We have forgotten what it is like to actually consider that the other person is every bit as sure of their thoughts as we are of our own. We have started to think that if someone differs with us, they are a bad person. We have been conning ourselves with such thinking. Maybe this arises from our displeasure with our government’s gridlock. Maybe it comes from the ridiculousness of stories we see on the news – or what passes for news (and no, I don’t necessarily mean FOX or MSNBC . . . consider also the ‘news’ shows like ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT and TMZ.)

I think we have forgotten how to be empathic – not just sympathetic; we have lost the skill of sensing how others feel. We have forgotten how to sense what others are feeling and saying. We have diminished the value of good listening skills, of compassion, of true patience.

So look, if you catch yourself getting your neck hairs up, maybe stop a bit and take stock of your motives. Is it really all that crucial to get angry? Is there a better way to handle news you don’t like?

There is more fruit in such things as that. Let’s get rid of the weeds of the negativity and grow us some good stuff.

Week 30 – My sister Jean

With this week’s blog, I wish to say a few words about a gentle, musical lady I know.

tcgm 2014 Shirley Jean Aria

My Sister Jean

I refer to my sister Jean. She has always been so good to talk with for words of wisdom, for words of direction, for words of calm. Even as teens, we had ‘bathtub talks’, where we would sit in the bathtub at home (fully clothed, for those who need it explained to them) … and discuss matters of all sorts.

She is the oldest of the three of us – so she led the way through all those family milestones from first days of schools, to piano lessons in second grade, to confirmation, to getting that driver’s license, to college. She did all this quietly, calmly, and with a seemingly steady demeanor all the way. I can say I never saw her outwardly angry – at least not that I can remember. Sad, yes. Hurt to her insides, yes. Silly, oh my, goodness, yes! Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure she can become angry – I’ve just not seen the kind of anger that comes with yelling/hitting/screaming kinds of behavior.

But what I have seen has come with listening and love and compassion – add your own positive words to the list and you’d be right. Need to have someone listen to get a different outlook on something? Jean is good at it. Then, when she’s done being good at that, she’ll be good at doling out some words that will be helpful and useful. This will often come in a form of a question, as she leads you to a solution.

And have you heard her music? She started on piano with mom as teacher when Jean was in second grade (as did we all … ) then she stepped up to the piano lady of the area, Dorothea Helenius Thomes, who had her playing all the usual piano stuff … the later John Thompson books, then into Clementi and Hanon and all the skill building stuff .. and then into Grieg’s piano concerto, Beethoven Sonatas … and organ at church wax next .. and quick, can you name another ninth grader who accompanied an entire production of AMAHL AND THE NIGHT VISITORS? Probably not. Choir accompanist, etc etc… even through college.

She and her husband Tim Johnson (yep – Jean never had to change her name) … have been together a long time, and have two good kids in Karin and Joel . . . it has been good to see these parents and their kids become such friends .. and a good deal of that is due to Jean’s gentleness and wisdom … add to that the granddaughters Cadance and Aria, and you have one pretty fine lady full of love for her family.

So Happy Birthday, Jean…. Best big sister ever.


Jean and Tim

Week 29 – Book Review on Colin Powell … and why he (or someone like him) should run for president

A Book by General Colin Powell

As I have been taking in the already overloaded and overdone presidential pool that is expounding itself before us, I decided to read about someone other than the standard presidential molded candidate. I read a book about Eisenhower to get started, and then I came upon this one.

I will say it now, and say it straight, and I hope someone out there will say either YAY or NAY to the following statement:


At least, according to his book, that’s my thought.

In this book, I met a man who grew up in New York City, the child of Jamaican immigrants (LOOK! I used the “I” word….) and was at best a fair to middlin’ student in public schools… and didn’t exactly fire it up in college, either. He got himself going in the military via the ROTC bit in college – and lo, a career military man arose.

In this book, I met a man who rose through the ranks, thought he had made it as high as he was going to get promoted, but then found himself advancing further because he paid attention and worked hard.

In this book, I met a man who learned that leadership is nothing unless there’s followship – and both require loyalty. In his military career, he saw the value of making sure the privates (the grunts of our army) were taken care of … and heeded. He related tales of how the upper echelon brass would screw things up because they did not listen to those on the front lines. In his public service career as Secretary of State, he found the same things to be true – the decision makers that isolated themselves, listening only to those at similar levels, were doomed to major mistakes in policy matters – his big example was the decision to take on Iran on the assumption that they had weapons of mass destruction — and that decision was wrong. Did President Bush and all lie about that as we’ve heard? According to Gen. Powell, no. The fault lay with the sources of their intelligence – some from the CIA, and a legal brief prepared by Dick Chaney pal Scooter Libby … (which I found interesting) … Powell went on to say that he was put off by using a legal brief for an international matter – he would have preferred intel from actual covert groups like the CIA … and the rest is history.

Also interesting – Powell freely states that the conclusion about Iran and WMDS was wrong – and wishes that could be undone. I like the humility in his words.

Powell also spoke of his relationships with so many others – teachers, other military brass, politicians, his family, international ambassadors of other countries – and how he learned something from all of them.

I got the feeling that Gen. Powell is a good man. He chose to not run for president, but as for me, I wish he had . . . and I am keeping my eyes open for one like him if he won’t run.

Any suggestions?

Week 28 – Fishing with Nephews

How do you account the days of time spent on the lake with nephews? How do you explain the particularly cool factor that is present in such an event?

First off, let it be said that I schooled the boys quite well in the art of bass fishing – at least on Lake Thirteen. We all caught several in those two days, but I believe if a true count were taken, I landed the most AND the largest.

Oh, and when I say boys, I say guys who are in the neighborhood of thirty years old, both married, and working men. Paul his wife Jill have a daughter, and as yet, Joel and his wife Angie are without issue. I am 61, my wife Wilma is spectacular, and our kids have grown. The three of us see each other a couple of times a year, so we are not strangers – and what a better way to get to know each other than fishing together.

Mostly I used Rapalas … black top, gold bottom, floating type, no. 11. I would cast out, let it float a bit, and often enough, a bass would hit that puppy with the usual aggressive splash and drive, and the fight would be on.

Me with my 19 Inch Smallmouth Bass

Me with my 19 Inch Smallmouth Bass

One evening I used a hula popper. Same thing – cast it out there, let it float a bit, and then give it a tug so that a nice big BLOOP sounded out of its lip. BANGO, when a hit came, it was thrilling.

My other choice that produced was a deep running FAT RAP, painted to look like a little sunfish. I only caught one on it in our efforts, but it was the largest fish of the entire weekend – a 19 inch smallmouth bass.

The boys? Paul and Joel are both well-trained in their fishing skills, and well equipped. They caught their share; I would be hard pressed to say who caught the more fish of the two. They both used green spinner baits, hauling in largemouth and smallmouth bass as I did.

But like I said, I schooled them both. Outfished them, plain and simple.

But that’s just the short-term benefit. What I find so very cool is that the three of us built a new dimension to how we know each other. You might call it respect. You might call it familial ties, but in any case, it was a truly fine two days’ worth of time spent with these two nephews.

Joel holds one for us to see

Joel holds one for us to see

Paul shows a good one

Paul shows a good one

The long-term benefit? I will remember the fun of these two days and these two guys for a long time. I still remember fondly the fishing trips with Uncle Gustie to the St. Louis River, where we caught walleye and catfish – an event that took place in the late evening, well past midnight. I remember going on a camping trip with Uncle Dan and his son Mike. I would hazard a guess that Paul and Joel, too, will recall that weekend on Lake Thirteen with Uncle Charlie. Perhaps someday down the road they will spend some time on the water with their nephews and will build the same memories.

And that’s what it’s all about.  Thanks for the good times, guys.

Week 27 – To My Son on his 27th Birthday

Steven, just this week.

Steven, just this week.

I have seen this guy his whole life. I have seen him grow from that little baby in that first very hot summer (when he was just a few weeks old, we put him in the baby seat and took him to cool off in the theatre while we watched DIE HARD ) . . . to the little boy who played in the sandbox and swung on the swing set in the backyard . . . to the elementary school boy who found himself walking back to school from daycare when he forgot his homework . . . the preteen boy who gave a shot to martial arts and paintball guns . . . the high school guy who dug into the arts, especially choir and theatre, not to mention some self-taught guitar . . . and the college guy (Concordia/Moorhead) who took his work there to heart and learned all he could . . . and then off to work as a professional technical director in Ithaca, Syracuse, Colorado Springs, and Concordia College/Moorhead, MN, again. This has been his own personal arc so far, and I suspect it will continue to soar.

With Grandpa T

With Grandpa T

With Grandpa J


He and I have become fond of conversations of all topics – he is aware of world issues, which makes talking with him a very interesting pursuit as we share our differences and similarities on these things. I look forward to future conversations as we delve into other topics not yet faced – and will do so with respect and honor that we seem to have for each other.

Parent dad

Son and Father


With his mother at Boldt Castle in the Thousand Islands


All of us – Wilma, Steven, Me, Heidi

As a family member, Steven has always been a loyal son to his parents. Never a cross word, never a rolled eye at what ‘the old man’ might say – and he and his mother understand each other in so many ways that I have yet to learn. He and his sister have always been a wonderful team, from their childhood projects of building a construx roller coaster together (it took them all night, but they did it….) and to building some deck furniture for us. They are so good for each other.

That silly momentupcoming used care salesman


So on his 27th birthday, I am proud of my son. I look forward to even more times together, filled with strong bonds that began back in 1988.

Happy Birthday, Steven.  I’m glad you’re my son.

On the Job

Week 26 – Heroes and things

When I was in college, Arlo Guthrie had a song out called ALICE’S RESTAURANT. It was cute and fun and satirical. Many of us could still quote lines from that song. Another cut on that same album (I believe, anyway) was a song about Santa Claus and how we have to wonder about him. The lyrics, paraphrased, asked if he’s a communist since he wears a red suit. The lyrics also wonder about the contents of his pipe … is Santa a druggie?

Santa is that mythical good guy – the ‘he can’t do anything wrong’ guy. Arlo’s song satirizes that whole idea, wondering about Santa’s purity and goodness. Santa’s image is drawn into question. Tongue in cheek? Probably.

Recently, I read a biography about Dwight Eisenhower. It is titled IKE, by Michael Korba. The author is a British citizen, a veteran of the Royal Air Force who flew during World War II. In the introduction, Mr. Korba brings out a point that I found very interesting – he points out that Americans have a way of degrading their figures of note over time. Call them heroes, call them achievers, call them accomplishers, he contends that we Americans do that. We find flaws in such people – Washington and Jefferson had questionable dealings with their slaves. General Ulysses Grant was a drunk. We’ve questioned the fidelity of several presidents of the mid-1900s, from FDR to JFK (remember “Happy Birthday, Mr. President”?) and even Eisenhower, who some say had a fling with his driver during WWII. Such discussion by Mr. Korba got me thinking some more.

And then on a local level, here I sit, living in the center of Minnesota, home of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox. Yeah, sure, you betcha I do.

A handful of years ago, a pedestrian bridge was built in town. On that bridge, an ironwork was placed, showing a black silhouette of Paul Bunyan walking through the piney woods of the area. Paul Bunyan, man of the woods, man of tall tales, man of legend.

And then the furor began. Oh yes, there was the discussion asking, “Did we really need to spend that much money on a bridge?” Fine, let that issue be honestly considered. But guess what? There were those who were just as angry about the ironwork image itself; that the silhouette showed Paul Bunyan smoking a pipe – what sort of message did that send to our kids? How horrible to have to look at that. What sort of artist would do such a thing?

A hero, as far as academically pure circles would say, is one who selflessly and without consideration of their own safely, takes action to preserve the life of others. I give you the soldier who throws himself on a grenade so his brothers don’t get killed. I give you the person who pulls someone from a burning building. Heroes of honest work and duty.

Some of our heroes less distinct, and can even be legends, such as I’ve already mentioned. Some of them may better be described as ‘role models’; people we look up to. There are sports figures, musicians, people in the clergy, movie stars, political figures … the list goes on.

On personal levels, we all have our own list of heroes and role models. My list includes family members, teachers, and some famous people. Your list would be different, and we might even debate some of them. I may revere someone you wouldn’t even consider, and vice versa.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, that brings me to this. I have to agree with Mr. Korba. We Americans could use a bit of reality in our heroes in how we treat them.

Sometimes, they get taken off the pedestal. Columbus serves as an example here. For years, he was the epitome of the New World Explorers. None better. But then, out came the news of how he dealt with the people who lived in the New World., and down came that image. The result? Movements to remove Columbus Day from the official American Calendar.

Sometimes we put up some who shouldn’t be there. Those who come to mind are those who are famous for being famous. Paris Hilton? The Kardashian girls? They may not be heroes, but I certainly am uncomfortable that they’d even be considered role models.

And some seem to arrive where you wouldn’t expect them. Dennis Rodman, elder statesman supreme. Yes, that’s sarcasm on my part.

Who’s next to suffer the deflowering of this American attitude when it comes to heroes and role models? Charles Lindbergh came close when he was seemingly tied to communist leanings. How about the astronauts? Any skeletons in the closets of the shuttles or the other spacecraft? How about our political figures – oh wait, they’re under the microscope like nobody at all. The most minor act can be inflated to something so heinous that you wouldn’t tell your grandmother about it.

And let’s not get into how certain heroes can do no wrong. That’s not healthy either. Yet, we have people who are willing to say that if this person says something, that’s good enough for them. Nope, folks, we need to be careful about that kind of hero-worship.

My point is this. Maybe we need to be more careful of our heroes – who they are, who they have been and who they should be. Let us be thoughtful in who we put up there, and be careful about why we take them down. Our best heroes are few and far between – let us honor them as such with all our effort in heart, mind, and soul.

WEEK 25 – A Walk through the Northland Arboretum

Brainerd, Minnesota
(Following this Summer Map)


This spring, I have discovered a small joy in the Brainerd area: The Northland Arboretum.

In preparing for an upcoming trip that would require some walking, I decided to get ready for it by walking the arboretum. Let’s take a walk now.


Out on North Star Trail

We’ll park at the visitors’ center, facing the landscape pond and garden. We get out of the car and find koi in the pond, a good many flowers, a waterfall, landscaping, a butterfly garden, and a nice trail up to a gazebo overlooking the parking lot and the garden area.


Watch for these guys all along the way.

We’ll walk around the west side, turning onto Prairie Road, just past the butterfly garden. Keep your eyes open for birds all the way – songbirds of all sorts, maybe a few hawks or eagles – they’re there. This road takes us into the arboretum, leading to all the trails. Once we get to the trails, we’ll stay left, going west along the trail labelled ACORN. We’ll notice that the trails are quite wide – 3 people would have little trouble walking side by side for the whole system. The trail turns north, and we’ll stay on the west side all the way up to the POTLATCH trail. There have been some rises to walk up, but not so very bad at all . . . yet. As we walk on POTLATCH, we find ourselves coming out of the woods some, clearing a view to our right so we can see RUDY’S TRAIL coming at us, and then trail off back from where it came from. POTLATCH curls east and then a bit southeast along a ridge – perhaps we can walk over to the ridge and look down on the wetlands. Maybe we’ll see a deer or two down there.


This was early March this year — right on Prairie Road.

We’ll walk until we get to the NORTH STAR trail, going to the left, heading north into the upper north portion of the arboretum. (Use the summer map to find NORTH STAR trail). It’s a short walk downhill, and then we’re walking along the wetlands on our left, woods on our right. A stream crosses under the trail, and then we get more trail, flatter than we’ve seen in the southern portion of the arboretum.

We’ll come to point where the trail offers a turn to the left – we’ll continue straight, headed for the Johnson Plantation of the area. There’s quite a gentle rise as we go. We come across the outdoor classroom area, and then the path turns left where a small field opens – I’ve seen milkweed here, and one pass here not so long ago found clouds of dragonflies darting across the field.


The usual view on either side of the trails.

We continue west, passing the RED PINE trail (I haven’t explored that one yet) and pass through long, straight rows of pines, clearly a part of the Johnson Plantation. We meet up again with the NORTH START trail, and we’ll cut to the right, heading to the scenic overlook. We’ll stop there a bit, looking for waterfowl on the beaver pond. I haven’t gone any further myself, but clearly the map shows a trail around the north and around the west side of the beaver pond – we’ll go back and stay on NORTHSTAR trail as we head south on our way out.


Mushrooms, of course.

We meet up again with the south end of RED PINE, curl a bit to our right and meet up with the west side of NORTH STAR, coming up a hill at us. I’ve only walked a short way down the hill that way, so I won’t lead you into unknown areas – but I will get there and report back on what’s out that way….

NORTH STAR continues along the northeast side of the wetlands, and we meet up again with the JOHNSON PLANTATION trail. We’ll turn south again, now retracing our steps past the wetlands, across the small creek, and then up the hill to the NORTH STAR round-a-bout. Here we can head down BIG BEN, which is rather hilly all the way back to PRAIRIE ROAD, or we could take LITTLE BEN, which is a gentle uphill walk, also taking us back to PRAIRIE ROAD. (We’ll save the interior trails for another trip – they run between ACORN and RUDY’S and are just as forested as we’ve already seen.)


The first deer I ever saw in the Arboretum – right near where ACORN and RUDY’S trails meet.

But let’s take ORAN’S trail, a short jaunt that ends with an uphill climb to RUDY’S trail. We’re back in the woods now, so keep your eyes open for deer. We’ll turn right and follow a rolling RUDY’S trail. We meet up with ACORN trail, (I took a picture of two deer here – which was the first deer I ever saw in the arboretum two years ago.) which we’ll follow out and around to the east, coming out near the old entrance of the arboretum. There’s a road going along the east side of the maintenance buildings, which we’ll follow down to the trail that go around the ponds. We’ll come to the GAZEBO GARDEN, which is full of flowering trees in the spring, and all sorts of blooming flowers. We’ll come back and take the trail north of the creek, where we may see waterfowl, turtles – who knows?


       Down along the creek


Flowering trees on PRAIRIE ROAD

Here we are, back at the parking lot. It’s been a long walk, but we’ve traveled up and down over gentle hills, and perhaps seen some wildlife and some wildflowers. Let’s do this again soon.


Colorful flowering trees


Walking along POTLATCH trail.


Lovely lilies in the Gazebo Garden.



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