Posts from the ‘On a More Personal Level’ Category

On the Friday before the Big Vote . . .

Person voting

Person voting

My wife and I voted earlier this week. We are done with it. I am just some schmuck out of over 100,000,000 voters, but my single vote matters – and therefore give the appropriate weight to what I put down here. I honestly didn’t know what I was going to do until I stepped up onto the stairs into the courthouse. I won’t tell you what I finally did, but here were my choices as I saw them.

I could not vote for Mr. Trump. If I said some of the things he has said in my teaching career, I would have been fired, and probably unemployable at any other school. His lack of experience would be like hiring a little league coach to manage the Cubs – even with such personnel as the Cubs have, there’s no way he could have a successful season. He comes across as unstudied, showing no intention of doing so. If I were a Republican, no matter how wonderful I thought the Republican platform may be, I couldn’t see him carrying that standard for the Republicans.

Mrs. Clinton is a policy wonk, plain and simple. All those awkward emails and Bill Clinton controversies and other matters aside, I just have never been comfortable with her since she carpetbagger her way into a senate seat in New York. That never made any sense to me, and it has colored my opinion of her ever since. To continue in the teaching vein as I did with Trump, she reminds me of the teacher in the movie “TO SIR WITH LOVE” who received a love note from a student who had a crush on that teacher, and then promptly corrected the letter for grammar and structure, totally missing the message from that student. Too much procedure, not enough heart. A technical politician in the tradition of some professorial, book-learned savant, not a Happy Warrior like Humphrey or Ronald Reagan.

Third party candidates. Gary Johnson needs a geography lesson. There’s just no ‘there’ there when it comes to what he has to offer. Jill Stein appears so uneducated for an educated person. There were a good amount of names on the ballot in addition to these two. Anonymous is as anonymous does, to borrow a phrase.

Write-in candidates. A waste of a vote? A way to say ‘enough of this crap’? But who the heck would listen?

Not voting at all. Well, no. This is not an option for anyone at all.

As I sit here on my easy chair on the Friday morning before the election, it looks like both major candidates are going to get 40% of the vote each. The two third-party people might get 8% between them. Perhaps 1% will write in a candidate. That leaves 11% of you out there who will make the difference.

Go make the difference.


Community Theatre as a gift …

I have been given a gift.


That gift is community theatre.


Upon the upcoming opening of SPAMALOT here in Brainerd, allow me to describe that gift.


It’s the people, folks.  When it comes to friends I’ve made in theatre, I cannot possibly make a list of names, for fear of leaving people out, so I won’t go that far.  But if I put together a list of people I have gotten to know through community theatre, that list would include custodians, bus drivers, teachers, secretaries, students, computer technicians, professors, nurses, designers – and more.  Many of these remain friends; even though we may have not seen each other in several years, a little contact via Facebook or a chance encounter brings back all the joys of the shows we shared.  I also suspect this will remain true for the new friends I am making with this latest show.


I have shared the stage with people who used to be my students – and that is a very special relationship for me.  Community theatre bridged us from that teacher-student world to the friendship world, and I wouldn’t change that for anything.


I have shared the stage with theatre friends more than once – some going back decades.  Again, no names, but you might say a certain mayor of Finland and a certain member of the round table fit here.  I am sure that I will be able to say the same about the SPAMALOT cast – I am sure our paths will cross again over time as more shows come and go.


And those not on stage – the musicians, the techies, the directors, the ushers and marketing folks in the ticket booths – so many friends out of that arm of theatre are there, too.  I’ve not done much with tech over the years, but I’ve learned a whole bunch of stuff.  I’ve been a member of the pit orchestra several times – in fact, that was where I started with CLC theatre, back in the late 70s when a certain young lady (who later went on to play in a recent production of GLASS MENAGERIE) played the lead in THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN.


And on a personal level, community theatre gave me my wife – In 1982, while auditioning for GUYS AN DOLLS, the rehearsal pianist and I hooked up.  Lo and behold, a year later, Sue became my wife.  I can also say that I’ve shared the stage at one time or another with my two kids – in fact, all four of us were in OKLAHOMA in 1994 – and as far as I know, my son still holds the record for the youngest kid to have a spoken line on the CLC stage – “Who’s gonna be the auctioneer?”.


And the audience –  the support from friends and family  who come to watch a show just because they care enough to come see what I’m up to – that kind of stuff is priceless.   Then there’s the random chance of someone recognizing me for having done a part in a show – oh yes, a very special, humbling experience.


So to all of you connected with SPAMALOT, on and off the stage – may you be equally be blessed as I have with all the wonderful people connected with community theatre.  May you continue to enjoy the blessings that come from those people.


And I hope we share the stage again – real soon.

My Problem with Senator Rubio (and Those Like Him)

Look folks, there’s Rubio praising his God and saying everything he does will be based on what he believes – making it sound like it is something that separates him from so many others.  Well, I have a problem with that.  He is no different.  We all bring our beliefs to the table.


Don’t you think that if a guy is a staunch outdoorsman, he’d bring that to the table – or if a lady is a master gardener, she’d be influenced somehow?  Or a teacher, or a pacifist, or a retired person, or a teenage kid, an artist, or an LGBT person?  We all bring our stuff to the table.  You have yours, your neighbors have theirs.  We all come to the table – no one’s background is any more or any less valid than the other.  First point:


I, like the senator mentioned above, would bring my Christian upbringing to the table.  Born and raised Lutheran, with smatterings of other denominations thrown in for fun.  There’s a certain Bible verse of how Jesus stands at the door and knocks.  (From REVELATION 3:20 – Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with me.)


See what it says there?  I see Jesus knocking.  The person on the other side of the door may or may not open the door.  It seems that Senator Rubio sees is quite differently . . . he sees not only Jesus knocking, but barging in, no matter whether the  other person accepts it or not.  This is where I part ways with Senator Rubio. When I share my beliefs, that’s all I can do.  I cannot make someone accept for themselves what I believe.  That’s not up to me.  I am no expert in the scripture, but I know of no place where Jesus chased someone down and MADE them believe what he had to say.  I wish Senator Rubio would do the same.  Next point:


I was also raised as the son of World War II veteran, so I also bring a pretty good chunk of American patriotism to the table, who was taught to respect the basic of that good old American sense of our representative government.  Standing when the flag comes by in a parade, removing my hat at appropriate times, voting, staying in tune with what’s going on in our country – that’s there, too.


One of those things that I have learned is that our country’s government is intended to be a representative government, a republic.  Everyone has the right to be heard by their elected officials, who in turn need to reflect that in their work as senators or representatives or judges or even presidents.


So if I choose to run for an elective office of some sort and actually get elected, you can pretty much bet that I bring what I bring to the table.  My Christian/Lutheran background will be there.  My understanding of how our government works will be there.  I trust that what I have learned from my earthly father and heavenly father will work together and be an asset, working in tandem to be a productive person for those who have elected me.  I apologize for neither, and am proud of both.


Is it fair to expect the same of those out there running for office?  I think so.

Week 48 – A Christmas Story for 2015

Beanie’s Earliest Christmas Memory

Christmas traditions come in all kinds of families, and in all kinds of ways.  The Herbert family was no different.


Any Christmas card found in the Herbert mailbox found itself taped to the woodwork along the ledge of the basement stairs.  The Coca-Cola Santa Claus had to be hanging on the front door every year. Oh, what debates would occur if anyone suggested otherwise.  Certain ornaments had to be in certain locations on the Christmas tree.  The Christmas stockings had to be hanging in the same order every year; oldest to youngest from left to right.


This particular year, Uncle Dave and Aunt Meg and their four kids arrived for a Christmas visit.  Once they brought in their Christmas presents and their suitcases, they all attended the afternoon service at church.   Upon their return, a Christmas dinner was in order.  Beanie’s mom and Aunt Meg set the table with the good silverware and dishes, real cloth napkins, and even stemmed glassware, destined to be filled water, milk, or even wine for the adults.  A platter of ham ruled the center of the table, accompanied by bowls of steaming hot mashed potatoes, cream corn, and all the olives and pickles Beanie could sneak on his plate without his mother swatting his fingers with the gravy ladle.  All were called to the table, a table grace was said, everyone ate all they could and then a dessert of either pumpkin or apple pie was served with ice cream.


It was the traditional event after dinner, though, that held Beanie’s anticipation and excitement.  It made Beanie feel that Christmas had arrived in full force.  All other family traditions and practices as lavish and fine as the Christmas dinner dwindled in comparison.  Just the thought of the after-dinner activity would make Beanie’s heart race with excitement.


Despite his enthusiasm, it seemed to Beanie that it took so very long just to get the dirty dishes cleared, even with everybody helping.  The dishes had to be brought to the kitchen for a good washing, and the cloth napkins and tablecloth stashed in the bins down in the basement laundry room.  Any leftovers had to be wrapped in foil or put in Tupperware and stored appropriately.  All of this took no more than half an hour, but for Beanie, it was a good pile of time wasted.


Yet, there was more waiting.  The entire event had to wait for the arrival of even more family members, who had been at their own homes with their own dinner and cleanup routines to attend to before they could come to the Herbert house.  The waiting tore at Beanie’s patience and anticipation of the evening.   His mother made him entertain his cousins in the living room where they sat on the floor playing card games like “Go Fish” or “Old Maid” as they waited.  Christmas music played throughout the house.  By the time the additional family members arrived, Beanie and his cousins had heard Bing Crosby, The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Ella Fitzgerald, and even a recording by the local high school choir.


And then, with little warning, it all began.  Cars pulled up in front of the house, dispensing more people into the Herbert home.  Beanie saw people at the front door, hearing voices of more relatives giving their greetings of “Merry Christmas” and such similar comments.  The new arrivals removed their coats, hanging them in the front closet or giving them to Beanie’s dad who threw them on a bed in the front guest room.  Simultaneously, a coffee pot and a plate of cookies appeared from the kitchen.  Couches and chairs found themselves filled with people.


And then . . . oh, and then . . . Beanie heard a knock at the door as a very special voice came from the other side.


“Merry Christmas!  Merry Christmas!  Ho Ho Ho!!”  This voice from behind the door resounded with great gusto and seasonal cheer.  Beanie was too excited to notice who opened the door, but once that door was opened, in marched Santa, as real as the entire world could possibly be.  Nobody could tell Beanie otherwise.  The waiting was over; Santa was here in all his glory, dressed head to toe in his red hat, jacket and pants, all trimmed with white fur.  His polished black boots reflected the colorful blue-green-red-white lights from the Christmas tree.  His large beard and his bushy eyebrows were as white as the snow that had fallen that morning.


The Herbert home rang with cheers and whoops as Santa unshouldered a large sack that looked as if it was so full of goodies that it would rip apart at the slightest shake.  The minutes flew by as Santa greeted each adult individually with hugs for the women and strong handshakes for the men.  Camera flashes went off over and over again.  His face was all smiles, his voice full of joy and merriment.  His presence in the room amplified the fun of the season.


Next, he turned to the kids.  Santa put his hands on his hips and leaned back to stretch out his legs and spine.  “Oh, those reindeer aren’t giving me as smooth a ride as they used to.  They must need new shoes.  My sleigh ride was quite a bit bumpier that I remember.  Maybe it’s my old age.”


The kids laughed at the thought, crowding around each other as more cameras flashed.  Some greeted Santa with a shy hello, others just looked up and stared.  The youngest cousin, little Paul, scampered and hid behind Uncle Dave’s knees.  More cameras flashed at the activity.


Santa finished stretching and leaned forward to the children.  “Who’s ready for a present or two?”

Great shouts of “ME! ME!” filled the room, along with jumps and waving hands as the kids reacted to his question.


“I need all of you to sit down here right in front of me.  Young ones closest to me, old ones in the back.”  With a wink, he added, “That’s because you old ones get your presents last.”  More laughs, more giggles.


Santa asked for a chair.  Beanie urged his dad to hurry up for Santa, please, hurry.  Dad headed into the kitchen and returned with a chair and set it down behind Santa, who plopped down on it with a big vocal ‘humph”.  Placing a pair of reading glasses on his nose, he reached for his bag and pulled out a present.    “This one says it’s for Snoozie.  Who’s Snoozie?”  He looked across the children with a perplexed face.


“That’s me, Santa.  But I’m Susie, not Snoozie!”  Santa apologized, blaming his fogged-over glasses.  He handed the gift to the young girl in her yellow dress.  “Open it carefully and save the bow,” he instructed her.  With great care, Susie opened the brightly wrapped package. It was a My Little Pony set, just what she had hoped it was.  “Santa, how did you know?”  I only told mom and dad that I wanted this!”  She hurried over to show her parents.  Oohs and aahs rose from the adults as Susie made her way around the room to show everyone her treasure.


After that, it was mostly a blur for Beanie.  He heard more wrong names called and saw more packages opened, but most of the time he kept his eye on Santa’s big bag, wondering when his would come out next.  He could hardly breathe because of his excitement.


Then Santa called out for someone named Barney.  No one responded.  Santa said, “Barney?  Who’s Barney?”  Aroused by his dad, Beanie perked up.  “Do you mean me, Santa?  I’m Beanie. It’s me!”


Santa took his glasses off, rubbed them against his jacket and placed them back on his nose, taking a closer look at the tag on the package.  “Why, yes I do, young man.  Here you go.”


Santa handed Beanie a long, tube-shaped package.  A baseball bat?  It seemed too long and too fat for that for that.  A fishing rod?  Same problem – too fat, too long.  Whatever it was, it was heavy and wrapped quite tightly.  For Beanie’s money, too, there was too much tape on it.   He started opening it at one end, clearing just a very small piece paper off the top of one end of the tube.  It was then that he saw what it was.


Beanie couldn’t believe it. It appeared to be a cloth-like material.  There was no mistaking what it was. He tried to hide the disappointment in his voice.   “A rug?  A rolled up rug?”  His heart fluttered in confusion.  What would a six-year-old boy do with a rug for a Christmas present?  Beanie kept up what he considered his Christmas face as best he could, but he kept thinking, “A stupid rug!  It’s a stupid rug!”


Santa offered to help Beanie with the tape along the length of the rug.  After what seemed like a half an hour, all the paper was off the rug.  It lay on the floor, still rolled up tightly.  Beanie could tell he was about ready to cry, but he knew he just couldn’t do that.  He kept all that  inside as best he could.


“A rug.  A lousy, crummy rug.”  That’s all Beanie could think.


Then Santa spoke up and suggested that the rug be unrolled.  He pointed out the two plastic straps tied around the rug.  Uncle Dave took out his pocket knife and cut through the straps, allowing the rug to loosen itself out of its coil.


Beanie now had no other choice.  The other kids moved out-of-the-way, seeing that Beanie would need room to open the rug all the way.  Beanie grabbed the exposed end of the rug and unrolled it.


He was stunned at the image on the rug.  This rug, which he had thought at first was a huge failure as a Christmas present was the most amazing thing Beanie had ever seen in his whole life.


There, laying on the floor before him, was a four-foot by six-foot rug, containing full length drawings of each and every single Power Ranger on TV.  The colors shimmered in the light, especially when someone took a picture with a flash on their camera.  They were all there – Blue Ranger, Red, Ranger, Green Ranger, Yellow Ranger – and there, right smack in the middle, stood Beanie’s favorite, the Black Ranger.  They were all standing with their right foot slightly forward, their left hand on their hip, right hand pointing out to Beanie as if to beckon him to join them in the rug.  The words “Power Rangers” appeared above their heads in bright three-dimensional red and yellow lettering.  It couldn’t be any better – Beanie’s favorite superheroes right here in front of him in bright, fresh colors – and it was for him, and only him.


His earlier mood of disappointment evaporated quickly.  His face, which he had kept as blank as he could to hide his disappointment erupted into a huge smile as his eyes opened wide.  He knelt down, ran his hand along the rug from left to right and back again, finally stopping on the Black Ranger.  It was superb.  It was a dynamite gift.


Beanie finally squeaked out a “Thanks, Santa!” with a voice that sounded just a little bit choked up.  He stuck out his hand to shake with Santa, but his eyes never left the vision that was his new Power Rangers rug.  It was going to be in his bedroom forever.  This was the coolest.  This was the greatest.


Eventually the evening’s excitement subsided.  Santa left first, making an excuse that he had to feed his reindeer.  The guests who had come in the cars received their coats, got dressed, and left.  Beanie’s mom, Uncle Dave and Aunt Meg went to a late evening church service.  His dad stayed home to serve as the babysitter, putting all the kids to bed.  Beanie took his Ranger rug up to his room with him, carefully placing it on his floor.  He lined it up squarely with the side of the bed and put on his pajamas.  After brushing his teeth, he returned to his room, took a good long look at the marvelous, wondrous rug.  He wished each of the Rangers one by one a good night and a Merry Christmas.  With a warm feeling in his heart, he slept.




Week 17 – For My Daughter, on her 30th

That’s her.  The short, blond one wearing a flight suit in the helicopter.  She’s a medical flight nurse and she’s my daughter.  She turned 30 today.  How she got there?  Here it is:


Flight Nurse Heidi

April 22, 1985 – 25 hours of labor and a caesarean birth – no kidding!   The doc did all the necessary incisions then grabbed Heidi by the back of her neck and sat her up right inside her mother.  Bingo!  A daughter!

Following that came a good deal of adoration from the extended family over her blond curly locks and cute apple cheeks.  Heidi was a good baby.  She grew and started interacting with everyone, friendly and full of joy.  Her hair went all Shirley Temple on her at the age of two, giving her natural ringlets of blond that flopped and bounced as she toddled her way across the room or out in the yard.


Nothing but Shirley Temple Talent

She always wanted to go to school.  When she turned five, she thought that on that very first day of being five (April 22, 1990) that she would wake up, get dressed and report to her classroom and get busy.  When her mom informed her that no, she’d have to wait until fall, Heidi became angry at such news.  She stomped her way through the house and to daycare, but none too happy about it.  As an academic student, Heidi studied hard and got herself some good grades – and she was even proud of the not so good, because she worked hard at such classes as those advanced placement level courses that found her breaking her butt over writing papers and reading textbooks with quite an advanced vocabulary.

She was always active musically.  The first we really saw of this was back in that Shirley Temple era again, when she could sing for memory the entire ‘PERFECT NANNY’ song from Mary Poppins.  We have her on video, singing the whole thing a capella and screwing up some of the words in a cute way that only a girl of her age could do.  She did piano lessons with our favorite teacher Cleo.  In fifth grade, she started on the flute and then advanced to the oboe.  She sang in the small groups at church (where her mom introduced her Sunday school gang to “JUMPIN’ UP AND DOWN SING HOSANNA to them – and they still sing that song for every Palm Sunday since…) and she sang in elementary choirs, in the middle school choirs, and then in the very elegant and wonderful high school choir – I still listen to the recording of them singing LUX ARUMQUE, which contains one high note from a single soprano right near the beginning of the piece – and that’s Heidi’s clear, high voice ringing out the note.

Then there were the tennis years in high school.  She became known for her tennis tenacity, often taking her matches and her opponents into extra sets – one match  in particular found the coach turning the lights on over the court where Heidi and her foe were engaged in quite the match.  I don’t remember if she won that one, but it was so typical of her to keep at it and keep at it.  Heidi pursued tennis a bit more than her high school team work – she spent a couple of summers down at Gustavus Adolphus college as a camper in the TENNIS AND LIFE camp, led by then Gustie tennis coach Steve Wilkenson – and she thoroughly enjoyed those weeks.


Heidi Johnson Woerheide

The college years were spent in Duluth, Minnesota at St. Scholastica, where Heidi earned her degree as a registered nurse – and that choice came as a true ‘ah ha’ moment in her life.  Prior to applying to college, Heidi checked out several schools, but it wasn’t until a career day at St. Scholastica that Heidi felt the concept  of nursing jump into her mind in such a way that she never let go.  There were presentations by professors and some tours of hospitals – the clincher being the roof of St. Mary’s hospital, where she was given a tour of the helicopter and learned what it takes for a nurse on such an assignment.  Out went any other plans: Heidi applied to St. Scholastica and earned her degree with super grades and with lots of work, playing tennis for the college on the way.

Upon graduation, Heidi began work at a hospital in Duluth in the emergency room – where she is superbly fit to work, what with her ability to think quickly and make decisions in high pressure moments.

Up to now, Heidi was never much for boys.  She dated one guy for a short period after college, but then she met Jon Woerheide – a young man from Lutsen who had just signed up for the army, where he was to become a helicopter pilot.  She followed him to Alabama for his army training, (where the weather was hot when we went down for his graduation) – and then Heidi and Jon got married.  They now live in upstate New York, where he serves at Fort Drum and she – as could be expected by her past experience –  is a flight nurse on helicopters.  She and Jon have a nice country home, a few fine dogs, and enjoy being each other’s best friend.  They work hard, they play hard (scuba, motorcycles, camping and so much more) – and they have a glowing future together.


Heidi and Jon

If a dad can get personal and put it in first person, let me put this down:

Happy Birthday, kiddo.  You’re wonderful.  You are a good daughter, a good sister (younger brother Steven loves you, too.), a good wife, and a good nurse.  Luvya.


Heidi, Dad, Mom, Steven – the family







Week 2 – Dad’s Birthday Goes By

My dad, gone since 1991, would have been 94 as of the Wednesday of this week.

I grew up with a father who did everything with his kids. He played ball with me and the neighborhood kids. He kidded everyone mercilessly with a fine sense of humor. He took me hunting and fishing. He taught me to drive a stick shift. He made sure my sisters and I watched historic moments on TV, memorably the coverage of the Kennedy assassination in 1963, and the moon landing in 1969. He made sure we did our homework, and supported us in our musical studies as he’d watch the news with the sound turned down as we practiced our piano lessons. I don’t think I ever heard him use four letter words. He took us out for treats on occasion – the A&W for supper, or we’d get take-out hamburgers from Steve’s Place. He treated his wife as a partner – they certainly taught us what a marriage can be. He was a good neighbor to all – a good son and sibling to his eight brothers and one sister. He did his best to see that we had what we wanted and needed – and we never wanted or needed.

And there’s one moment in my mind . . .

It was my first day of my higher learning career at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota. Mom, dad, and I took the four-hour drive down with the car loaded as much as a car can get loaded. The drive down was completed in the waning weather of summer, sunshine all the way. We arrived at the college and moved everything up to my room in the dorm. There were a few orientation meetings to take in, and then lunch in the school cafeteria.

At last it came time for them to leave and for me to hit the college halls on my own. We headed to the parking lot, making small talk as we strode to the car. Mom gave me a hug, of course, which was pretty much standard issue for her.

And dad, as if intending to pass the torch of some kind, looked me in the eye and shook my hand.

That moment, I became a man.

Johnson; Chet and Gladys church shot  Johnson; Chet in the railroad newspaper  Johnson; Chet with Hector and Peanut

Pictures: Chet and Gladys Johnson:  Dad at work for the DM&IR Railroad:  Dad with Peanut and Hector


Week 1 – A Word or Two about Hilda Ruud

Hilda 3  It’s a new year, and since New Year’s Day fell on Thursday, my first entry will be a throwback Thursday picture and weekly journal blog entry combined, dedicated to a very special someone – my grandmother.
You see, this week is the 30th anniversary of my dear Grandma Hilda Ruud’s death on December 31, 1984. She died in her sleep that afternoon at the age of 79,

Ruud; Paul B and Hilda 2

Hilda Evelyn Strand, born in Eveleth, Minnesota in 1905. She grew up there with a bevy of brothers and sisters, married Paul Ruud in 1925. She gave birth to three children – Gladys (my mother), Paul, and Dan. The Ruud family lived on a farm in Wolf, Minnesota, just a few miles west of Eveleth, where they ran a small dairy. I think it was in 1946 that they sold the farm and moved to 114 3rd Street in Parkville, Minnesota. Hilda became a widow in 1955. My family (Gladys and Chester Johnson and their kids Jean, Charlie (me) and Cheryl) moved in with Hilda shortly thereafter, intending to stay a few months – and we stayed a little longer – all the way to her death 29 years later. But this isn’t about the Johnson family.

Hilda was a gem of a lady. She was the kind who found good in every person she met, in every situation she experienced. She enjoyed her family – her own kids and their families, and her brothers and sisters. She enjoyed her friends and neighbors. She enjoyed her time at church, where she had more friends and family. She was totally dedicated as a mother, wife, aunt, grandparent, and friend.
There she is, performing some of her feats in the kitchen. She could put together some good meals for us, which often fell to her to do. Dad worked on the railroad, and mom would work as a registered nurse, so grandma took to feeding us kids – or at least getting supper started. She was also right up there with baking – she would conjure whatever baked goods were needed for whichever event – cookies, pies, cakes; and even into making jellies and jams. Those preservers would be made from the wild cranberries, blueberries or gooseberries she went and gathered herself out in the country side. At Christmas she would bake up the spritz cookies, the saffron bread, the cardamom bread, the rosettes, the lefse – and even though I never partook, she fired up the stove with my dad as they joined forces to produce the annual batch of lutefisk.
Like I said, she took care of us kids when mom and dad were at work. She knitted items for us, she repaired our clothes, she was there just to talk, to play games with, to enjoy, to serve as a role model. She was like having a third parent.
She had her own interests as well. She belonged to the community club of our small town, where she had a circle of friends – ladies who I later came to know so very well. That circle included Mae Thayer, Anne Norberg, Gladys Kujala, Ruth Dall, Bertha Harney and so many more whose names escape me at this time.
She was active at church in her ladies’ circle – more friends, and more duties which she did so gladly and so willingly. She would prepare communion, she would work weddings and funerals. And mostly, when I think of grandma and church, she was at my side, singing all those Lutheran hymns in her sweet voice.
And she had her hobbies. She spent at least one night at week down in Mrs. Lavalier’s basement, where she and her buddies would paint and prepare all kinds of ceramic items. There were vases, nativity sets, cheese trays, ornaments, and even tomtegubbes – all painted and fired right there. She made items for everyone – I still have a Charlie Brown statue, complete with the zig zag t-shirt painted and the look of ‘loser’ on his face. I also have a few nativity pieces and one of her tomtegubbes.
She also knitted and crocheted. Mittens, scarves, hats, anklets, booties – she did it all.
And she loved crosswords and word games . . . which explains a good deal of my own infatuation with those very same diversions. If she was sitting alone and the knitting needles were idle, the pencil was busy on the crossword books, and if there were folks in the house who wanted to play, the Scrabble board would come out with some highly competitive games with her sisters, sisters-in-law, with us kids, or any other person who would unwittingly fall to her pleas of ‘just one more round’.
She worked out of the house, too. Many of my friends will remember her as the lady in the kitchen of Parkville elementary school, serving up hamburger gravy and mashed potatoes or the simplest peanut butter sandwiches. She spent several summers working at Camp Warren, the boy scout camp just south of Eveleth – I think she again was kitchen staff. We would go visit her occasionally, or she would drive the fifteen miles home on her day off for a visit.

But still, her prime gift to all of us was herself. She gave all of us every bit of love she had – and every bit of laughter, and every bit of industry. She never put herself first – she saw the role of being servant. I wish my kids had had a chance to know her. I hope I bring them a little of what grandma instilled in me.
Thirty years later, I still miss her. Thanks Grandma.

Ruud; Hilda, 1980