Posts tagged ‘family’


. . . And so much to be thankful for. 

My dad has been gone for three decades.  My mom for a quarter of a century.  In addition, there have been at aunts and uncles and grandparents that have gone on before me who are part of every single cell in my body.  I miss them all.

My two sisters Jean and Cher and their husbands Tim and Ger and their families – a great start to a list of family that extends to cousins near and far, nephews, nieces, (and GRAND-versions of those relations) near and far from every branch of the family, including a great group of in-laws.  Aunt Shirley, my dad’s last remaining sibling, a 94-year-old sister, adds her energy to our family functions. There’s my wife Sue, who has been with me coming up on four decades, (through rain, or snow, or shine).  Our two kids Heidi (and her Hubby Jon) and Steven (and his fiancé Shea), who have been so wonderful and such sources of joy.  And two grandsons – Jonathan, who will be two years old on Christmas Day, and Henry, who just joined us two weeks ago.

There are so many more – and naming names is simply too voluminous, so I won’t try, but I give thanks to God that I am surrounded by so many fantastic people.

There are many from my early years who I still see online or in person that date back to kindergarten – and that was 1959, folks!  Great friends that have delivered so much to my soul and being … friends from Parkville, from Mt. Iron High School, from the youth groups at church, and then on to Gustavus Adolphus College, where lifelong friendships flourished and still abound. I am proud to include former teachers and professors as well.

I spent half of my life as a teacher for the Pillager School district – a career of 34 years with great people – fellow teachers and students alike.  Some have left this world; some are still a big part of my life.  There’s no end to the list of people who blessed my professional career in Pillager, and then overlapped into my everyday life.

My entire adult life has been spent in the Brainerd area, resulting in so many good friends beyond my work at Pillager.  They are in the church choir, they are from plays and musical performances I’ve been involved with around the area, they are folks I’ve met through a great many different engagements.  After retirement, I found even more people who helped me foster some other pursuits – mentors from writing groups, bowling league team members, photo club gurus, and all-around experiences that have defined these retirement years.

The Facebook way on birthdays is to send comments and likes – and I am so glad to have so many friends and family who will acknowledge me on my birthday – I am always amazed at who takes the time and the good will to send a like or to add a word or two in the comments.  You are all so very special to me.  I always feel so good reading such messages.  And here’s a thought . . .

Facebook will often give the birthday people a chance to designate a charity to honor a birthday – that’s all good, but I want to break out of that notion. Here’s something I’d like you to consider instead of leaving me a birthday comment (but go ahead and do that too.  I am enough of a ham to feed sumptuously on that . . .).  It is immediate, it is easy, and it is beneficial. 

Take that good will I mentioned a few paragraphs back and share it with another.  Allow me to make some suggestions:  ask your grocery store clerk if they’re having a good day. Greet someone at work that you usually don’t see often enough. Let someone go first at a four way stop.  Pet your dog a little longer.  Smile at that person who is on the other side of your political fence.  Call that person you haven’t heard from in a while. Don’t get mad at the news (that’s a gift to yourself, really.)  Give thanks to anyone for a beautiful day.  Have that extra treat with your lunch – and get one for someone else while you’re at it.  Listen a little longer to whoever you need to listen a little longer to.  Add your own ideas – each one of you has it in you to do so.

And if anyone asks you what you’re up to, you can tell them you’re just doing an old TV commercial thing.  (You have to be about my age to know which commercial it is . . .)

Just tell them, “Charlie sent you.”

Thank you all.  Deus nobis familia et amicis.



I first learned my love for the game from my dad. We played catch from when I was old enough to give a ball any form of forward momentum. Mom, too, could bring it when she was available to engage me in a game of catch or a round of batting practice. Even my lovely grandma Hilda took a swing or two with a bat. Aunts Shirley and Inky played semi-pro softball so they showed me some good techniques when they visited from St. Paul. Many other aunts and uncles joined in as we visited them or they visited us.

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Dad in front of his brothers (My uncles) Elwood, Willie, Gus, Henry and Ken

Get all the cousins together and you never saw such a festivity of baseball. We played in back yards, front yards and back alleys. We chased balls under apple trees and down the curbs of the streets before the ball would go down the storm drain. We teased each other about our feeble swings or waving at the air with helpless effort. We would drop our bats and gloves right in the middle of the yard when we were called over to the grill for hot dogs and hamburgers, only to return and play some more. This was true of both sides of the family – whether it was the Johnson/Grundstrom side or the Ruud/Strand gang. And by the way, boys and girls played as one. Who knew, also, that decades later I would join my wife’s cousins in the identical games of fun in their own yards and fields.

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The Johnson cousins, all grown up –  front: Chris, Jean, Charlie, Jim   back; Leslie, Aunt Inky, Cher, Becky, Aunt Shirley, Lois


Then we grew up and had our own kids. I first taught Heidi and Steven through simple ‘roll the ball across the floor’ to encourage good hand-eye coordination, just like a good daddy of the 1980s should do. Then it was underhand tossing out in the yard, and finally full games of catch or some batting drills in front of the garage door. Then it was out into the street where I would throw balls as high into the air so they would learn to catch those fly balls . . . and later hearing from the neighbors how fun it was to watch that Johnson family get out and enjoy themselves so much.
There’s the joy of taking the whole family to the game. Down to the Metrodome we’d go, maybe once a year, and we’d experience the grandeur of the game. 2002 presented a nice thrill, when I was selected in a lottery to get tickets to the playoffs against the Angels. I managed to squeeze in a game with each kid at those playoffs … I will remember that for a long time. And again, later on in the first season of the Twins at Target stadium, Sue and I got to take in a game with Heidi and her husband Jon – and it was Jon’s first major league ball game ever – truly memorable when Thome hit a home run to win the game in the bottom of the tenth.


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   A young Steven ready to play

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Jon, Heidi and Sue at Target Field

My sister’s kids, too, found their uncle Charlie (Me) always good for some time outside with a bat and ball …. And now as their own kids issue forth, I suspect I will not hesitate to show those babies of this not so old century a thing or two about the glories of baseball, too.

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My kids and their cousins – kids of my two sisters.  Steven in front, In the back is Karen, Paul, Dan, Adam, Joel and Heidi

Baseball – a family game in so many ways.

San Diego Travelogue – Part 9: This time more of a FAMILYlogue….

San Diego Travelogue – Part 8: This time more of a FAMILYlogue….

Wilma and I got up Sunday morning and took our one foray out of San Diego – and headed for Los Angeles for two reasons – the first being a chance to reunite with some relatives that I hadn’t seen in 35 years.  The second – well, that will wait until the next entry….

We were planning on staying overnight, but my, how we packed lightly!  One bag served us fine as we headed north on highway 5 – and interestingly enough, out in that part of the country, the roads are referred to as “THE” 5… or “THE” 8…. Unlike the Chicago area which ignores numbers at all (The Kennedy or the Eisenhower) … or much of the rural part of the country, which merely refer to the roads by where they go … or who they go to… LONDON road, or WATERTOWN road, or PETERSON Road…

We passed through La Jolla, Del Mar, Camp Pendleton (which is very large indeed) and on up into San Clemente, Irvine, and on into Anaheim, finally landing in Whittier at the home of my first-cousin-once-removed…. Barb Revueltas.

So there’s some explaining due here.  My grandfather Paul Ruud had piles of brothers and sisters, many of whom moved to California in the 50s or 60s… and their children are the folks I was going to meet again after so long.   Paul’s brothers out there included Rudy, Oliver and Gordon, and sisters Clara and Stella… (The Minnesota ones that ‘stayed put’ were Peter, Inga and Rikka .. with Rudy being the one who came back and forth to some degree….he had a very nice lake cabin north of us that was just a joy to visit….)

I had seen Barb recently – she had come to Minnesota a few summers ago for a college reunion, so we took the opportunity to get together … and a few years prior to that, she and her sister Charlotte came to Minnesota so Char could say her goodbyes … she was soon to die of cancer…. Clearly, Barb was my most recent contact, therefore, with the California Ruuds…..

FACEBOOOK has been a good place to be reunited at least electronically with many of them…. And it was Facebook that allowed us to plan and execute this meeting…. We were not to meet all of the relatives – Phil, Marilyn, Lee, Jan, Robert, and their spouses… but we did meet up with Barb’s brother David and his wife Luci (Barb and Dave belonged to Rudy…) and then also Sonia and her sister Margaret and her husband Craig (Sonia and Margaret belong to Gordy) … and of course, let us remember also Barb’s husband Art.

We drove into the yard right as noon, exactly as planned.  Barb greeted us at the door in her so gracious and fun manner.  We parked our stuff in the room as assigned us (with her grandmother’s bedroom set in it….) and got a tour of the place.  I was just tickled to see the pump organ that used to sit in the cabin up on Sand Lake, where Barb’s folks Rudy and Janet would spend their summers – it was a close to a place like ON GOLDEN POND as I had experienced…. Anyway, there stood that pump organ with the same regal bearing it had back then…. A glowing memory.

Art came home from running some errands, so we finally met him – He greeted us warmly and stayed that was the rest of or visit… he’s busy in the world of education, and clearly has pondered the issues in that area and is very well versed in it all…. He and Barb both made fine conversation partners…..

And then BRING ON the family …. The rest arrived by 2 pm, so we gathered out on the back yard patio where we visited, discussing our memories of each other’s parents – and discovering that we so thought so very highly of each other’s parents – not only as relatives, but as real people.  During this time, we also learned more about Art’s family – not the least of which is his uncle Sylvestre, who is a rather well-known Mexican composer.  I found out that they all thought I was the fishing fanatic of the family – and yes, whenever up at Rudy’s cabin, I would rush down to the dock as soon as was socially favorable to enjoy the water and the fishing.

This is really first time I had met Craig and Margaret – and so nice to meet them!  I remembered David and Luci from their visits to my childhood home back in the 60s – and I was not at all surprised to find them pretty much the same fine people.  Sonia – she of the light and happy soul – was so good to visit with.  I thank them all for the fine time…..

Barb and Art’s son Alec was home from college, so I got to meet him… he is a true second cousin, as all the others fit into that ‘first cousin once removed’ category…. off to college he went that evening… and it sure seems he’s as active as his mom and dad.

We concluded the assembly with a very nice dinner that Barb and Art produced – a chicken enchilada type thing – and Barb, correct me if I’m wrong about that…. Plenty of food, plenty of conversation, and plenty of rejoining of family ties that weren’t all that severed anyway, regardless of the passage of time.

So the evening was ours – Wilma, Barb, Art and me.  We sat out in the back again, overlooking the woods and enjoying a cool evening, and some good conversation.  An OH SO DELIGHTFUL time!!  I wish I had taken more pictures… I was so busy visiting that taking pictures slipped the old brain… I even had to steal a pic of Barb and Art from Barb’s website….  (by the way …one more RUUD relative coming up ….. )

Jan 26 barbinart  Our WONDERFUL hosts – Barb and Art Revueltas

jan 26 David and Lucy    David and Luci … I didn’t focus so well… sorry…..

Jan 26 Craig Margaret Sonia   Craig, Margaret and Sonia

jan 26 Sue   Wilma enjoying her chat with all these new relatives….

Week 4 of 2014

I’m already a day late for this week’s routine journal entry.  It has to do with timing… so this will be short.  Trust me, though, I will make up for it.

Today’s lesson: family.  I have had the opportunity lately to reconnect with some relatives that I haven’t seen for decades … and that is a great deal of fun and satisfaction.  Some of you may wonder why it’s been so long — that’s not important, really.  It IS important that we all wanted to reconnect – it wasn’t a one way street.  We share some memories, some nostalgia, and some wonder about each other.

Oh, there have been physical change.  Grey hair, more lines in the skin, but those personalities — and I assume the same about me — just maintain.

So I just want to make this week’s entry short and to the point — family is vital.

Week 47

Week 47

We’re at the week — on Friday, I’ll be sixty years old and ready to roll on into the next decade of my life… and you’re asking, what did this week bring?

First of all, I finished the project I started.  There was a challenge online to upload an item every day to my blog for the entire month of November.  I made it, with a bit of a cheat.  My entry for Nov. 30 covers my thoughts on that.

Bowling this week… another slightly under average effort.  No big deal.

Family was the center of the week – which is no big surprise at all, since it was Thanksgiving on Thursday.  I started the holiday myself by going to the Congregational Church for their Thanksgiving Eve service – nice and ordinary, the usual American Hymns (We Gather Together…etc etc) and pie after the service.  I enjoyed the company of several friends from my own church, since the two churches combined efforts for this service… always a good time.

Thanksgiving Day itself found some time for Wilma and I to have a nice dinner together.  COSTCO sold us a very nice stuffed turkey breast dinner with a cranberry glaze that was amazingly satisfying …. Wilma added some asparagus and some rice, and we had a very nice Thanksgiving meal for ourselves.  Later that night, our son and his special lady joined us – they stayed overnight.  The next morning we headed south to celebrate what my sisters and I (and our whole families….) THANKSCHRISTGIVINGMAS … we have seldom had the chance to get together on Christmas over the years, so we decided to combine the two – and we’ve been doing so for 17 years now….

Now for the fun surprise.  Our daughter flew in from New York to surprise everyone — EXCEPT us… we picked her up at the airport and then drove the rest of the way, conniving on how we would get her into the house, fully surprising everyone … as we got closer to the house, she dived into the back of the van and stayed down.  We went into the house, did our greetings, and after about five minutes, we announced that it was time to head out to get more food and some other things… which gave her the prime chance to sneak up on the house.  WE barely had our stuff out of the car – she dashed to the house, staying low — we didn’t get to see their faces as she entered the kitchen, but we certainly heard the shouts and screams of joy upon seeing her…it was a worthy prank to pull….

Then the festivities … turkey dinner, complete with all the fixings, ready to eat for all 18 of us, I believe it was.  We looked like a Norman Rockwell painting, if I say so myself…. following that, it was Christmas present time — we swap silly ‘white elephant’ type gifts, and this year was just as silly…. a wine bottle cork with fishnet stocking legs, a bag full of balls, silly kinds of candy (when is the last time you had FIZZIES?) …. and so it goes…. then some fine visiting and more fun and games… a hotel room for us (our son, his girlfriend, our daughter and us) for the night, but then back to the house for a great breakfast.  What a wonderful time!

We left for home after breakfast, taking a shortcut into St. Paul, where we stopped in on our daughter’s sister in law’s house … we had never met her – very nice…. father in law was there, too.  After some visiting, off to lunch we went at one of the Mexican places in the neighborhood … we ate, visited, and said our goodbyes.  We were back in town by early evening.

So that meant we had our daughter to ourselves for the first time in a long time…. Sunday morning church and then brunch with some good friends, then we took in THE HUNGER GAMES:CHASING FIRE… (review to come later….maybe…) and we’re due to bring her back to the airport Monday, which promises snow …lots of it.

Can we move to a southern climate, dear?  Soon?

It was a good family week …. and I’m looking forward to my sixtieth birthday coming up …. stay tuned….

Thanksgiving – My sisters and I…

(NaBloPoMo for Nov. 28, 2013)

On Thanksgiving of 1996, my sisters and I sat in vigil as our mother suffered a heart attack and died in the hospital in which we were all born, and where she was a nurse.  Each of us has written a short bit of memory of that day as part of our Thanksgiving memories… and I share them here as well…

(My younger sister’s words….) Thanksgiving Day-Thursday,Nov. 28th, 1996…..Mom had surgery earlier in the week. I visited her Thanksgiving Day morning, then left to have a feast with my brother-in-law and his extended family. Charlie Johnson received a call from the hospital to come quickly, as Mom was NOT ok. He had to track me down-(no cell phones then)As I left the feast in tears, and turned on my cassette of The National Lutheran Choir-the song was “When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder,” Followed by “It Is Well With My Soul!” I knew then that we were going to send Mom on her way to heaven soon. It was a long afternoon, and evening at the hospital waiting for family to arrive. I will always be grateful to Linda Pogorelec and Julie Phaneuf-Hill for their love and support as friends and nurses that day. I am THANKFUL that we will gather tomorrow as we have for these past 17 years to celebrate our family and love. “For I am convinced that NOTHING can separate us from the love of God through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.” Romans 8:38-read at Mom’s beside as we said our goodbyes that night.

(My older sister’s words…) Seventeen years ago today, my mom died. My brother, sister, aunt, uncle and many friends spent time in the ICU waiting room. Some of my sister’s friends even brought us Thanksgiving dinner from their own homes so we could have dinner together. The pastor from Our Savior’s came to be with us and send Mom on her way home. An aunt from California called to tell us to “carry on” the legacy of Mom and her family – and we have. Our children now are grown; we have grandchildren whom we are teaching the legacy of love and music – and for the 17th time tomorrow, we will have ThanksChristGivingMas – where we all get together, laugh, sing, share goofy gifts, wonderful food and each other. When we sing grace tomorrow, I will be aware of those “who have gone beyond”, believing they will be singing with us. “Blessed” is such a tiny, weak word to express our lives…but it is what we truly, deeply are.

(My words…) My sisters have posted that on Thanksgiving of 1996, our mother left this earth to join her husband and so many others in the Great Hereafter. She had gone in the day before to have surgery – and it unfortunately ended this way. I can’t add to what my sisters have said – how we are so thankful for those friends and family who sat vigil with us that night – so I will add my own pieces to the puzzle of the day. Mom had come the weekend before to visit me and my family – to have our own Thanksgiving dinner, which we did in earnest. We had a nice meal and a nice visit. We knew the surgery was scheduled and that I’d be going up to be there…. so as she left our front door to return back to Parkville, we hugged as she left, and then waved as she drove off (in her tan Ciera, all you FARGO fans…. yes, that was her wheels of the day…). I had no real idea that I had had my last feast with her … as we gathered later that week, and then established our family tradition of getting together every Thanksgiving Friday, we have come to celebrate those sad days as we recall her, dad, and so many others that have gone on … and we are so THANKFUL for all of our family, past and present… and NEW, as we have our first celebration with two new faces in Aria and Raelyn…. Thanksgiving, indeed!us

A Seemingly Safe Welfare Poll Assumption… Not so safe after all?

I was getting some car repairs done, and the TV was tuned to one of the morning news shows.  A crawler inched its way across the bottom of the screen, telling me that there had been a poll taken, asking how people saw the use of our welfare system.  Unfortunately, I have not been able to find the exact info on my good ol’ GOOGLE search, so I will use my memory as best I can ….

I didn’t mind the percentages of how many people thought how many welfare recipients were scamming the system…. I didn’t mind how many people felt how many welfare recipients were playing by the rules.  Those numbers are what they are.  What I minded – and what concerns me — is how many people thought that most welfare recipients should turn to their friends and families before they come to the government.

Yes, indeed, I see the point.  I would much rather have my kids come to me for help before they go to get help from some institution.  I would have been more comfortable turning to my parents had I need some kind of assistance.   That, in theory, is simple to do and reasonable to work out.  It seems like the idea should work.

But here’s my caveat.  That works when the family and friends you turn to CAN help.  I am most fortunate to be able to say I am surrounded by many who can and would help me out if I get in a welfare-type situation.  However, I cannot assume that is true for everyone.

I am middle class, at least statistically.  All those who surround me are pretty much in that same category.  In the past few years, I have had the opportunity to observe those who are definitely in the upper wealth categories… and they surround themselves with each other, just like us middle class folks do.  They can help each other also.

Why would we think any different of those of the lower-income echelon – and ergo, the   welfare qualifiers?  Are they surrounded by those of a lower-income?  Is that as reasonable to assume as it is that middle class folks associate mostly with middle class people and the upper income folks associate more with upper income folks?  Is it also reasonable to assume their circle of friends can help them?

Think about your own circle of family and friends.  Disregarding circumstances that ego would bring up, how many of them can you turn to for help if you needed it?  How many of them CAN help you?  All of them?  Half of them?  1 of 10?

You can bet that the ability to help is different from one circle of friends to the other.  Like I said, my middle class friends can and just very may well wish to help me out if I need it.  I imagine that those ‘upper income’ folks I’ve met lately surely have the capacity to help out.  As you consider the lower-income folks, I’m just not so sure that those at that level out there has the people around them who CAN help, no matter how much they may want to.

So, I DO take issue with the idea that we can automatically turn to our circle of friends and families when we’re in need.  It is an unfair generalization to assume, as much as we‘d like to, that it is possible in every case to turn to our friends and family for any kind of financial assistance.  Those friends and families may just not be ABLE to help.