Thanksgiving A.S.A.P

praying handsI admit this is not original (gasp!). I found it through a special networking group to which I belong. I have to share it, especially with Thanksgiving at hand.

Ever wonder about the abbreviation A.S.A.P.? Generally, we think of it in terms of even more hurry and stress in our lives. Maybe if we think of this abbreviation in a different manner we will begin to find a new way to deal with those rough days along the way

There’s work to do, deadlines to meet
You’ve got no time to spare
But as you hurry and scurry

In the midst of family chaos
“Quality time ” is rare
Do your best; let God do the rest

It may seem like your worries
Are more than you can bear
Slow down and take a breather

pro-church-media-441073God knows how stressful life is
He wants to ease our cares
And He’ll respond to all your needs


A name by any other name …

Mariucci name.jpgEach year at this time, a package arrives from University of Minnesota Gopher Sports. I do a little happy dance as I zip off the tab. Inside the 15” x 9½” envelope are our long-awaited men’s hockey season tickets (measuring just 6½” x 2”, by the way). I flip through the tickets for a rundown of teams: Penn State, Harvard, Army West Point, Notre Dame, to name a few.

I notice the name of the venue on the tickets and sigh at the sign of the times. The 24-year-old arena, named in honor of John Mariucci, one of the most iconic names in Minnesota hockey history, has been changed to 3M Arena at Mariucci.

And the winner is

It was announced recently that 3M, a major corporate player here in Minnesota, had purchased the naming rights to Mariucci for $11.2 million over 14 years. 3M has donated $94 million to the University in the past 90 years, so their commitment exemplifies continuity.

As many in collegiate sports and higher education have admitted, it was inevitable that the arena would be sold to the highest bidder. After all, the football stadium across the street is TCF Bank Stadium. Next on the “Name that Building” is Williams Arena, home of the U of M basketball teams.

Gonna take a sentimental journey

Yet I’m sentimental about the Mariucci legacy. An All-American for the Gophers in 1940, he went on to coach the team for 13 seasons. He also worked with communities around the state to build arenas and grow the game. His efforts are one reason why Minnesota became the State of Hockey.

Mariucci was inducted into the inaugural 1973 class of the United States Hockey Hall of Fame and was elected to the Hall as a builder in 1985. Appropriately, his birthplace, Eveleth, a community of 3,700 in northern Minnesota, is now the home of the hall of fame.

Larger than life

The season’s first game on Sunday was with the University of Alberta, an exhibition game which Minnesota won, 6-2. (WOO HOO!) As I walked up the sidewalk to the building, I gazed at the front of the building now sporting “3M Arena” in big letters with “at Mariucci” below in letters half the size. Yet, something was added which may have been a compensation of sorts: A larger than life black and white mural of John Mariucci adorns the vast glass façade. As the mural explains, “Celebrating our history, building our future” can be compatible when taken seriously, which I hope is what happens.

3M can be proud to hang its name on the arena. Even after weathering 24 Minnesnowta winters, the facility is still stunning. It has the best sight lines possible from every seat overlooking the Olympic-sized (200’ x 100’) sheet of ice. In 2007, Sports Illustrated on Campus named Mariucci Arena one of the top ten venues in college sports. The facility was the only ice hockey arena to make the list.

But let’s face it, people will always call the building Mariucci. The four-syllable name is long enough to pronounce without adding “3M Arena at,” an additional six syllables. Although I admit 3M Arena is easier to spell.



And the password(s) is/are….

password 2gThe recent and potentially catastrophic EquiFax hacking debacle got me thinking about security—or the lack thereof. Let’s face it, nothing is secure. Everything is available if someone tries hard enough, even personal and financial information of dead people.

Passwords and logins are no longer reliable, but I’m not too anxious to buy into facial recognition or fingerprints. And ain’t no way anyone will plant a chip in me! (But that’s an entirely different topic.)

For better or for worse, the password remains the primary defense against identity theft. I’m overwhelmed by the plethora of passwords needed for shopping, banking, reading news, paying bills, sharing photos, obtaining coupons, ordering prescriptions, applying for jobs, accessing personal medical portals, opening doors.

Dreading the outcome, I finally counted the number of my passwords, logins, and reminder questions: 234. That’s Two Hundred Thirty Four! When I was full-throttle in the job search I had at least 200, as logins and passwords were required for each job applied for; some even if it was for the same company but a different job.

The passwords, logins, and reminders are not all cached in my mind, available in the blink of an eye. Only Rainman has that brain functionality. They are listed alphabetically on an antiquated communication method – paper. I’d paint them on my wall (the hieroglyphics of the digital age), but they won’t match the décor of my home and I’d eventually run out of wall space. A friend of mine has his passwords and logins handwritten on both sides of the cardboard back of a notebook, the writing no bigger than chicken scratch. His method works for him. Mine works for me. For now.

Picking a login and password has become mind-numbing and thoroughly frustrating. I’d rather use what little brain power I have to sleep. The requirements or suggestions are as varied as the flavors of snack chips: at least eight characters, at least one number, at least one symbol, case sensitive, no actual words, no consecutive numbers, no emojis, no proper names.

A couple of years ago, one password creation technique just about put me over the edge. It denied my choices of password because they were never “strong” enough. I tried combination after combination before I was permitted into the Promised Land of Ultimate Security. Well, it’s Fort Knox “strong” because I had so many combinations scribbled, crossed off, underlined, and wadded up in paper tossed in the waste basket, that I’m not sure which is the right one! Thankfully, I’ve never had to use the password. Ironic, huh?

And I thought it was bad remembering my locker combination in junior high school.

Allen Ludden* must be turning over in his grave.

* For those post-Baby Boomers, Ludden was the host of the game show “Password” in the 1960s and 70s.



Memories, mortality, scrapbooks

My cousin, Patti, caught me off guard recently when she said she felt that time was running out. Gulp. Say what? Girl, you’re 58, not 108. I let her comment slide with a snicker. But it stuck with me, and I found myself facing the ticking clock as people in my circle have passed on in recent months.

Friends Sara and Dale
Neighbors, Doris, Lloyd and David
Robert, the father of kids I knew in my youth
Harriet and Meredith, lovely women at church
Scott, the husband of a former work colleague
Til, my mother’s friend\

They ranged from age 53-95. Sara and Dale’s deaths were the first of my close friends, and the fact they were my age woke me up to my generation’s mortality. More than once I’ve laid in bed at night realizing I’m 56, my brother is 60, my husband is 70, my mother is 84 and my aunt turns 90 in October.

photo albumsMemories Unleashed

So where does it get me lamenting the passage of time? Nowhere. But it unleashes memories of growing up in the 60s and 70s (which I won’t bore you with, dear reader). I close my eyes and see my parents in their 40s, and grandparents who I thought were old and decrepit at age 65. I visualize my high school and the farm where I grew up.

I’m tempted to look at the many photo albums I have stuffed in my closet to relive those memories. While I have paged through them looking for old photos of loved ones to post on Facebook for their birthdays, I never thoroughly peruse the albums. I’m afraid to—that it’ll hit me in the gut how much time has passed, how simple life was back then, how many people have come and gone in my life; how they’ve grown up, grown old, passed away.

Mini-albumI got a touch of that nostalgic stomach-punch when my mother sent home with me a mini photo album of our granddaughters. Through the years I’ve sent her photos of the girls, but she’s downsizing now and returning things to the family. When I opened the handcrafted fabric and lace cover, I gasped at the photo of a sparkling-eyed wide-grinned toddler (the one who is now 16). The next page was her baby sister with well-endowed rosy cheeks (now 14). I flipped more pages and found the youngest granddaughter (now 12) as a pink bundle on her sisters’ laps. Tears near the surface, I slapped the book shut, put it on the stack of the other albums that date back to 1952, and fled my closet.

The Anti-Scrapbooker

While I have family and friends who love scrapbooking (bless their hearts!), I don’t want to open mine. For one thing, the scrapbooks are pathetic-looking thrown-together yellowing relics from the BC era (before computers).

My 70-year-old cedar chest hides my baby book, and high school and college scrapbooks. Also hidden from view are my wedding dress, and a pink and blue flowered school lunch box containing a half dozen time-worn Bibles of my youth.

Cedar Chest.jpgA few months ago I needed to retrieve something in the cedar chest for blogging research, but the lock was stuck. Good, I thought. Now I have a good excuse to never open it. But my husband, bless his heart, hauled out his toolbox (unasked) and fixed the lock. I held my breath, lifted the lid, and quickly found what I wanted. Like the mini-album, I slammed it—and the memories lurking within—shut.

When will I be courageous enough to crack open the photo albums and cedar chest to face my mortality and memories? I don’t know. Perhaps it’ll be family who come after me who will turn the pages and sort through the memorabilia.

In the meantime, the cedar chest makes good seating for guests, and I’ll keep dusting the photo albums.

Delightfully overwhelmed by the Minnesota State Fair

Ferris wheelI look up…up…up at the Ferris wheel and get a creak in my neck. Is it just me, or is that unusually tall? I’m no expert on fair rides—in fact, I’ve only been on slow moving carousels and county fair Ferris wheels a handful of times. A tidbit from the local news pricks my memory and I Google on my phone. Yep, the traveling Ferris wheel is unusually tall at 156 feet and the tallest in North America.

Since I’m not a roller-coaster-bungee-jumping-giant-slide thrill seeker I continue on my annual pilgrimage of the Minnesota State Fair. Branded as the Great Minnesota Get Together, the 10-day extravaganza is THE event of the summer in the state. Almost two million people flock to the fair, which is spread over 320-acres straddling St. Paul and Minneapolis.

To say the fair is overwhelming is an understatement.

Getting there is an adventure

The fair has developed a sophisticated Park and Ride network where people can ride one of dozens of city and charter buses in air-conditioned comfort for free. IF you get to the parking lots before they’re filled. The key to success is getting there early—before 9 a.m.

Passengers are squeezed in the seats and aisles; strollers are stuffed in the luggage compartment. The drivers are adept at carrying hyped-up fair-goers through city traffic. Who needs to go to the Midway after swerving from lane to lane, speeding up interstate ramps, and rounding curves at break-neck speed?

Walking. And walking. And walking.

This year, after spending watertowerseven hours at the fair, my pedometer registered 7.5 miles and 18,000 steps. Walking an even space is impossible as you’re dodging strollers, garbage haulers, groups of people moving at different speeds, tripping up and down curbs, navigating through people sitting on the ground eating roasted corn on the cob, trolleys, and an ambulance crawling along through the masses to aid someone probably overwhelmed by the heat.

Seating is hard to come by even though there are plenty of benches, picnic tables, stairs, curbs, grassy spots, bleachers that edge the local TV and radio stations that air live newscasts, and benches at amphitheaters scattered around the grounds. Usually, when I’m balancing a cup of pop filled to the brim (no cover), a bucket stuffed to overflowing with hot French fries and a tiny cup of ketchup perched precariously on top, I see a spot at the end of a bench 10 feet away. A split second later a kid chomping on a mustard-slathered corndog plops himself down. I find a spot on a curb and hope I can get up in 15 minutes.

Speaking of the food

The legend is true. The Minnesota State Fair is noted for its vast menu. With 300 vendors, the selection is wide, plentiful and often, odd. Here are a few newer ones:

  • Duck-Bacon Wontons
  • Brown Ale and Onion-Gouda Tipsy Pie
  • Bacon-Maple Doughnuts
  • Sweetcorn Chocolates
  • Itty Bitty Skewer — This takes a description “Peeps make their fair debut, cruelly (and hilariously) skewered between three sanely sized marshmallow/cold-cereal (Froot Loops, Cocoa Krispies) treats.”

IMG_20150907_093143The culinary standbys are fried Snicker bars, gyros, falafel, fried green tomatoes, lefse, fried pickles, SPAM curds (Remember, this IS Minnesota), and bacon-wrapped-bacon.

Then there’s Chicken on a Stick, Cheese on a Stick, Walleye on a Stick, Peach Glazed Pig Cheeks On-A-Stick (really!), and 70 other foods on a stick.

Two’s company, two million is a crowd

From the sky ride above the fairgrounds, the 156-ft. Ferris wheel, and even from a slight crest of terrain, a colorful slow-moving mass of people smothers the streets. A dozen semi-organized lines to the Mouse Trap (cheese curds) in the food building and the home of Sweet Martha’s Cookies progress at a snail’s pace. Lines to most midway rides wind around and around the turnstiles, and even the men’s restrooms have lines.

Yet people don’t mind the walking, lines and crowd as I rarely hear complaints. It’s all part of the charm of the experience. (Then again, the whiney five-year-old impatient for the bus to arrive didn’t find the delay charming, and neither did those standing next to him!) Instead, they brag how they conquered the pushing, shoving, tripping, and sweaty procession to reach their destination.

001 (2)People-watching is an attraction in itself. A wide-eyed toddler dares to reach his hand out to touch a new-born lamb. A teenage girl hugs a giant stuffed purple teddy bear with one hand, the other holding her boyfriend’s hand. Her face registers love. His registers the reality of how much that teddy bear cost. People motor deftly along in mobility scooters. A trio of older gentlemen stand at attention and salute as the American flag is raised heralding the beginning of the fair. A dad carries a toddler boy on his shoulders. The boy is using his dad’s head as a drum.

On the Road

Over the years, I’ve developed a basic route based on attractions in relation to the foods I like.

  • Area One: Creative Arts Building to Merchandise Mart to World’s Greatest French Fries
  • Area Two: Agriculture Building to International Bazaar to Wild Rice Hamburger
  • Area Three: Coliseum to Miracle of Birth Barn to ice cream in the Dairy Building
  • Area Four: DNR building to Grandstand to Sweet Martha’s cookies

Within those areas I meander through the John Deere exhibit (once a farm girl, always a farm girl), the Minnesota Newspaper Museum (once a journalist, always a journalist), and peek inside elaborate ice houses (yep, this is the land of 10,000 lakes). I sit in briefly on horse shows and dairy judging; listen to Patsy Cline sound-alikes singers in the amphitheater; and sail above the fairgrounds on the sky ride.

State fair map)When the long, hot, crowd-pressing day comes to an end, I make one final stop at the About a Foot-Long Hotdog stand near the fairgrounds exit. I buy two with fried onions, wrap them in extra paper and stuff them in a plastic bag I brought from home expressly for this purpose. My husband has no interest in the fair, except for the hotdogs. Since I’m in no physical shape and stuffed from the fair food to cook his supper, I gladly honor his request. Surprisingly, the hotdogs are actually still warm 45 minutes later. They’re also squishy and soggy, but he doesn’t mind—it’s all part of the charm of the Minnesota State Fair.


Spacing out … literally

Period artA recent Facebook post stirred a spirited grammatical debate that garnered LOLs, protests and trips down memory lane. It called into question the validity of education, and even branched into use of the comma in mailing addresses (another blog topic!). And it all revolved around the space between sentences.

I hear a collective groan, “Must we discuss this AGAIN?”



Because I said so, that’s why. (I’m channeling my father.)

Evolution of Space

Way back when the earth was flat, it was common typographical practice to put two spaces between sentences. But with the advent of computers, one space disappeared into the grammatical Bermuda Triangle. For a brief and witty history, check out one of my favorite grammar experts.

History and reasoning aside, the graphic illustrates that there are many who haven’t adapted to the change, and, yes, they are mostly over age 35. Like me, they learned how to type on either a manual or electric typewriter. Some took typing classes in school; others picked it up on their own. Typing wasn’t offered until high school when I was a kid, but being a budding writer in junior high, I couldn’t wait so I learned on my mother’s manual using the hunt-and-peck method.

I learned to drop the extra space in the mid-1980s when the newspaper where I worked converted to computers. It was a hard habit to break. My thumb had stuttered the extra space for over a decade, and to overcome that stutter took repeated use of the proofreader’s blood red pen. But I finally got my thumb under control and it hasn’t let me down.

One Space: The Final Frontier

As an editor and proof-reader, I’ve spent the last 30 years taking out the extra spaces in other people’s work. It’s gotten to the point where I can spot the stutter-space a mile off. I turn a page or open a document and BAM, the extra space stands out like a sore thumb. (OK, enough of the clichés!) So, laboriously and with a mixture of triumph and frustration, I delete the extra space.

Yet I’ve frustrated people who haven’t heard about the change, haven’t gotten control of their stuttering thumb, or just plain don’t care. “Why is she so picky? What difference does it make?” Plenty! Consider Twitter. Why waste what precious few characters you get on an unnecessary space? And I’ve learned from experience many times that even one extra space can make a difference in an article fitting on a page or bumping the final word onto a blank new page.

Bottom line, I don’t begrudge those who still use the stutter space, and I hope they don’t begrudge me for taking it out. If you eventually adapt, terrific. If you don’t, that’s OK. Some habits are hard to break.

Speaking of habits, shall we talk about the legendary Oxford Comma now?

Maybe another day.



Can you go home again?

In consideration of the Thomas Wolfe) novel, “You Can’t Go Home Again”, I asked myself recently, can I go home again?

My answer? Nope.

I’ve been gone from my home state, Iowa, for 24 years. I only live three hours away in Minnesota, but whenever I visit Iowa it feels like I’ve been gone for a lifetime. Maybe that’s because I live in a large metropolitan area of 3.5 million, which is more than Iowa’s entire population of 3.1 million.

BristowI actually have two hometowns. Technically, my hometown is Greene (population 1,100) as I spent my first four years on a farm outside of town. My parents moved 15 miles away to a farm a mile north of Bristow in 1965. I graduated from the Allison-Bristow School District in 1979 and attended college in St. Paul, Minnesota. I’d return home on holidays and for the summers, but when I got my first job in 1983, I left Bristow for good. Thus, in my heart, Bristow is my hometown.

Memories Return

My memories of Bristow are few and fuzzy; probably a case of out-of-sight, out-of-mind. My parents retired to Greene, so that’s been my destination for almost 20 years. As I pondered a visit to Bristow this summer, sites and memories began to emerge. Perhaps some were legends passed down.

  • The two-story red brick junior high school with its Quonset hut gymnasium where I attended for two years.
  • The grocery store with a pop machine where you pulled out glass bottles from behind a glass door and popped off the caps using the opener on the machine.
  • The post office, grain elevator, three churches, beauty shop, bar, feed and seed store.

When the meat locker burned down one frigid winter night, threatening to take the entire town with it (so the legend goes), the volunteer fire departments from Bristow and area communities saved the town. My mother still marvels how the meat we bought that survived the fire had a wonderful smoked flavor. Ya think!?

During my high school days in Allison, Mom would pick me up in Bristow, parking in front of the feed and seed store, to save me a boring 30-minute bus ride. I’d get my hair cut in the beauty shop; the poor lady having to deal with my unruly curls. We filled our car with gas at the station on the corner. We didn’t dare set foot inside Dora’s Tap.

The Trip Home

Bristow schoolThe decline of the rural population and difficult ag economy over the years took its toll on Bristow and many small towns. The population dropped from 250 in 1980 to 160 currently. The junior high moved to Allison, the schoolhouse was torn down, and low income housing was built on the site. The post office closed, often considered a death knell to a community, and some buildings were torn down leaving vacant lots or crumbling foundations.

I set aside time on a recent trip to visit my mom to check out Bristow. I walked around town seeing it with wide-open 56-year-old eyes. The homes are quaint, well-kept and surrounded by lush lawns and colorful flowers and shrubs. The tree canopies over the streets are mature and full.

The town is re-inventing itself. A playground, splash pad, and concession stand have been built in the park. There’s a quaint museum in which my novel “Embracing Hope” has been placed for posterity’s sake. The “main drag” through the center of town is being repaved and sidewalks are being replaced. One resident (a neighbor when we lived on the farm) has created a beautiful garden oasis featuring the smallest church in Iowa.

Community Pride is Alive and Well

pullThe day I visited was Bristow’s annual summer celebration featuring a tractor and pickup truck pull. I had never seen one and my cousin had to explain it to me. (Photo.) Other activities were a pancake breakfast at the fire station and a street dance that night.

fire truckThe parade exemplified rural middle America’s values: public safety Horsesvehicles noisily leading the way (Nice fire trucks, by the way!), veterans, plenty of American flags, Miss Bristow, the grand marshals, horses, antique tractors, a politician, and lots of candy thrown to the curb for the kiddos.

I’ve been to dozens of parades in the Twin Cities, obviously on a grander scale: 200 entries, two hours long, two-mile routes, award-winning high school bands, and impressively decorated floats with Miss Name Your Community and her court waving graciously to the crowd of thousands. Yet as I stood there on Bristow’s Main Street watching the parade, I realized the sentiment was the same: community pride. Maybe that’s why a tagline has emerged among residents, “Bristow America.”

Not the Same

Yet as I wandered around Bristow and watched the tractor/truck pull, I felt a little (OK, a lot) out of place. I didn’t recognize anyone, although an elderly lady who is my mom’s friend recognized me. Her son and my brother were in the same high school class.

I realize I’m not the same. Bristow isn’t the same. The times in which we live aren’t the same. After being gone for 35 years, I no longer feel at home in Bristow. However, I will keep track of the town via Facebook and return occasionally to see how Bristow America continues to re-invent itself.

I write this with fictional George Webber in “You Can’t Go Home Again” on my mind. Webber, a fledgling author, writes a book that makes frequent references to his hometown of Libya Hill. The book is a national success but the residents of the town, unhappy with what they view as Webber’s distorted depiction of them, send the author menacing letters and death threats.

I don’t think I’ve distorted the past or current depictions of Bristow. If anything, this blog has rekindled memories and insights that I feel comfortable sharing. And I hope any Bristow residents and those who have moved away understand that.