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.


Week 24B – My Little Sister


My Sister Cher

She had her birthday earlier this month, so I would like to write about my little sister.

Cheryl. Cher. Vanilla. Blondie. Li’l Hilda. (an homage to Grandma Ruud) Ger’s wife. Paul, Adam and Dan’s mom. Jill’s mother in law. My other sister Jean’s sister. Sister in law to my wife and my older sister’s husband. Grandma to Raelyn. Auntie to several, friend to many. And more.

She’s just a kid, as far as I’m concerned. She’s a whole 2 years and 6 months younger than me – well, minus one day. Either way, she’s a young’un.

Of the three of us, she is the outgoing one. She warms up to folks easily, converses well with everyone – it’s not that Jean and I are curmudgeonly, Cher’s just
our Miss Congeniality.

She likes to be busy. Need a volunteer to help out at a bake sale? Call Cher. Need a host for something or other? Cher can do it. Need a pan of brownies? “Done”, says Cher.

She is good to talk to. She and I spend a good deal of time online visiting, and we’ve exchanged family news, keeping up on hometown news, chatting about other folks we know . . . She’s also quite formidable at online Scrabble, for that matter.

She is down to earth and practical. All you have to do is watch her raise her boys. No nonsense when it was time to do what mom says, but hey, fun and games are there, too.

Cher was the first of us three to get married. She and Ger have been together since the mid 1960s – and they are quite a pair. They complement each other, and when I think of it, they compliment each other, too. They share so much – common goals, common thoughts, common sensibilities.

Cher started out as a dental assistant, which she did for several years, and now she is a kindergarten aide. Both jobs she pursued with her best efforts and enjoyed the work and the people she worked with.

Let it be said, Cheryl is a wonderful sister, and I am glad to share her with all these other folks and with the world.

Week 24 – On Hearing Bette Midler’s DIVINE INTERVENTION Tour Concert

jeancher sue me

My wife Wilma, my sisters Cher and Jean and me in front at the Bette Midler concert.

From row 19 of section 110, I took in Bette Midler’s DIVINE INTERVENTION touring concert, along with my sisters and my wife.

She’s 69, Ms. Midler is. She can play the good ol’ broad, and she can play the part of a singer who is capable of singing her heart out as far as it will go. She can be as bawdy as anyone and yet bring so much class and style to a show. Her selections of music shows a huge respect for popular music of all ages – -not just her childhood, her teenage years, and her movies, but also for the musicians and their songs of today.

Confession time: this is my first arena concert ever. Yes, EVER, as in virginal concept of ‘ever’. My sisters have seen many concerts like this – Herman’s Hermits, Paul Revere and the Raiders, Linda Ronstadt, — many more that I don’t know about. My wife’s big arena concert was the WHO is 8th grade – and she has stories about that.

My limited concerts – not of the arena nature – include Peter, Paul and Mary and the Minnesota State Fair – and also James Taylor at the same place. My wife Wilma and I have seen the Gatlin Brothers twice – once at the now defunct Carlton Celebrity Room, and then at the Iron Range Interpretive Center in Chisholm, MN. That’s it. None of those had big visuals, or stirring lighting or costume changes. So what did I get for my first arena concert?

bette opening screen

Our view

Oh, what a show! Let’s start with a chance to look at all the technical things at hand – a pair of projection screens to either side of the stage, more projection surfaces as part of the stage . . . and lights, sound equipment – all sitting on the floor just below us, ready to be activated and used as it what designed – You want costume changes? Oh, yes, starting with a pink short dress, through a few other changes that reflected the various segments of the show – and ending with a red sequined dress that was eye popping and perfect for the last set.

light crew up

The lighting crew up in their nest — loaded on the floor with safety harnesses and all, then hoisted 60 ft. in the air.

Which was to bring us a big arena show.

A few songs from BEACHES, a few girl-group songs a tribute to Sophie Tucker (more on this later), a salute to HOCUS POCUS, and then those songs that we all think about when we think of Bette Midler.

The ‘new’ songs? At least for me, hearing her do BEAST OF BURDEN was fun – and highly energetic. She also did a song by Leonard Cohen called “EVERYBODY KNOWS” which is a sorrowful and sour song – and also TLC’s “WATERFALL” – with such musical touch and passion.

Like I said, she’s 69 years old. That’s 8 years away for me. I haven’t had that much energy for two hours straight in a long time – and here she is, bringing it in song and patter like she was fresh and new to the career.

The patter – she didn’t merely talk about the songs as if she were an NPR classical music announcer. She effused. She bubbled. She gushed. She loved every song she had selected, no doubt about it. Funny, witty, clever, honest, warm – Favorite comment (and this comes from a review I read from the Miami Herald as well, so I know it is a line she uses): “Remember when Sally Field saying YOU LIKE ME – YOU LIKE ME at the Oscars? Little did we know she was inventing Facebook…..”

Clever. And funny. There were more, but I’m not spoiling it any further.


The Sophie Tucker segment was singing interspersed with the bawdy jokes of that day … told with a flair, told with a grin … and even though the jokes were racy and raunchy, Bette delivered them with a vocabulary and with a storytelling style that it was nearly impossible to realize that they were INDEED racy and raunchy. Shall I tell you one? Nah. You’ve heard them all – just not like this, so I’ll make you wait.

The big finish – her songs – THE ROSE, FROM A DISTANCE, and BENEATH MY WINGS and BOOGIE WOOGIE BUGLE BOY – oh, yes, the house went nuts.

Bette at her best – Bette was wonderful.

Week 23 – I’m getting caught up so here’s some poetry

I’m a week behind my goal of writing something every week, so I’m stretching my goal a little by putting up some writings I’ve already done.

So here’s a few little things for your consideration.  i would appreciate any comments that will help me be a better writer.


This first one is just to be silly.



I’ll never forget good old


You know who I mean

The one with the funny right eye that looked off to the left

Hair white and black like a skunk, except the stripe ran ear to ear

One leg shorter than the other with arms to match.

No sense of style so he wore stripes with polka dots

A lot.

I’ll never forget good old


You know who I mean

He lisped when he talked, but not the esses – it was on the Pees.

He had a habit of twitching his foot when he was talking to girls

To the point of driving them loony

He bit his fingernails to ragged edges

Like uneven hedges.

I’ll never forget good old


You know who I mean

He drove that beat up car that he painted lime green by himself

He sang out loud in church, usually a word or two ahead of the congregation

His laugh could call crows from three counties away

and played shuffle board with the old folks down at the city hall

every fall.

I’ll never forget good old


You know who I mean

He lived where the Baptist church used to be

And grew cabbage and onions every season and

Made his own stew –

Always had three or four stray dogs

But there is something I can’t claim.

His name.

I’ll never forget good old


You know who I mean


This one comes from a memory of that first day of spring, and since we’re just past that, I thought this might be appropriate.



When I was growing up

every spring

I’d roll out my bike from the back of the garage

brush off the bars, oil the chain, adjust the seat and

Ride –

Ride –



Speed down the road

lean into the turns

fingertips on the handlebars as I go

shirttails randomly flap behind me

cap nearly lifts off my head.

a master of dexterous, natural skill –

the audience of my own joy.


I look back now from my vintage age

my body less limber and supple

yet I sense those long-ago motions

echoes of youthful speed invoke the notion

that in a couple of seconds I could be

perched on my bike

freely careening


And again I am fleet.

Once more the wind fills my ears

and the years



Week 22 – Tempests and Good Weather for Caitlyn, California, Texas and the Twins

The Big CAITLYN Decision.  Well, not THAT big.


Right.  I know.  Bruce Jenner was that guy who did all that stuff back in the Olympics and even had his picture on those boxes of Wheaties.  He has been in the limelight over the years for several things, so he does have some celebrity status.  Ergo the excitement.  That may or may not be important.


Checking out some of the numbers, there are almost a thousand such procedures done each year in the U.S.  (http://www.gendercentre.org.au/resources/polare-archive/archived-articles/how-many-of-us-are-there.htm)  That makes our celebrity here one in a thousand this year.  One in a hundred is one percent.  One in a thousand is even less.  This same site says there are about 50,000 transsexual women in the U.S.   That makes our celebrity 1 in 50,000.


So what do you say?  Let’s be aware of the news, and leave it at that.  It is not a moral victory for those who wish to endorse this kind of stuff, it’s not a moral loss for those who belittle it.  It’s just a story about a once-famous guy who has chosen to go through something that a very tiny, miniscule, microscopic portion of the country chooses.  Period.


Texas and its water problem.  California, too, for that matter.


Some of those videos have been amazing.  All that water has been a big surprise to many, since Texas has this image of being so hot and almost desert-like.  California is drying up like a raisin (get it?  California Raisins – oh, never mind)   Some are saying that such things are evidence of global warming.  Maybe it is.  I am too unschooled in the whole meteorological world to really have an opinion matter, but I think of this . . .


Our world has an extensive atmosphere.  Weather and climate occupies every single cubic inch of the air.  That’s a great deal of space.  That weather is constantly changing in those cubic inches.


If we humans weren’t here, would there still be storms and cataclysmic weather phenomena? Of course there would be.  These would come in cycles – ice ages, and then periods of melting, and then ice ages … on and on.


But we humans ARE here . . . all 6 billion of us, and that number is not going down.  For all intents and purposes, we humans are at the top of the chain.   Therefore I have to consider that we do indeed affect the weather patterns with our behaviors.  I mean, really – add six billion to anything and you’ll notice a difference.  Give those six billion highly active behaviors and you’re likely to see even more effects show up.


So, how much of the weather in Texas and California would happen if there were no humans on the planet?  How much of that weather is due to the existence of those humans?  You sure can’t say we humans cause 50 percent of it, but you certainly can’t say we have no effect either.


So how’s about we get our head around the idea of being good stewards of our planet and being a bit more cautious over how we do things?


The Minnesota Twins and a successful May.


Oh, I just love it that the Twins have had a good start so far this year.  I have been pretty much beaten up by their play over the last 3 or 4 years, so the wonderful record of 20-6 in May is a heart-lightening thing for those of us who hang on our Twins caps on our heads every summer.  It may not continue, or it may, but it has been a fun ride this year.  There are several new names: Rosario, Nunez, and others … and a few old names who are working well, particularly Dozier and Plouffe… The big addition as far as I am concerned is the clubhouse leadership of Torii Hunter, who should never have left the Twins in the first place.


May this continue this year.










Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 955 other followers