Thursday, December 30, 2010

N is for New . . . .

 . . . York
 . . . . . . . iPod
 . . . . . . . . . . Year

Dale and I had a great time in New York. I did a pretty good job documenting that trip on my BlackBerry with the old FaceBook assist. He had a grand time learning the subway himself and spent Friday at Liberty and Ellis Islands while I was at work up in the office on Second Avenue. We visited amazing restaurants, drank at McSorley's, walked across Central Park, visited MOMA, and saw Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. It was a fantastic trip.

Tonight I'm consumed with my new iPod. With my Christmas gift money from my in-laws I purchased my first brand new iPod. It's a 16 GB silver Nano. I already owned awesome Bose headphones (hate earbuds, they don't fit well). After Dale went to bed tonight (he has to work in the morning, I'm on vacation this week) I assumed the DJ position in front of the iMac and iPod. I've been rocking out to all the classics we have on CD that I have been uploading to my library. I remember what it felt like to be a DJ at WMCN radio at Macalester college back in the mid-eighties. I was tutored by one of the best, Herbie Bookbinder. (Katrina and the Waves just started Walkin' on Sunshine - I CANNOT hold still during this song! Back in a minute. . . . . . ) Amazing sound. Love this new system. Don't know why I resisted for so long.

So, I made a plea to all of my college classmates on FaceBook tonight to help me remember all the amazing tunes we used to rock out to at our parties. We were children of the seventies coming of age in the eighties, heavily influenced by some truly amazing blues, rock, and jazz from the sixties. Call us eclectic, but I think we cut our teeth on some pretty amazing music. My mother taught me about key changes while listening to a Garcia/Weir riff on a Grateful Dead album.

New is also for the approaching year that also marks the beginning of a new decade. It doesn't seem possible that were are so far past Y2K! This year will hold all manner of new things for the Skov family. We have yielded the annual New Years Eve part to some friends. It is no longer necessary to be home with our sons. Dale is up for a new permanent position as a Ramsey County Probation Officer - interview on Monday - prayers said and fingers crossed. I have been accepted to St. Kate's for a graduate program for a Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership. Joren's still in school at Luther in Decorah, IA, and Arthur has his name in at several fire departments hoping to be hired as an EMT.

So what's new for you and yours this year? I would love to hear all about it. And thank you for all the newsy Christmas cards. I didn't manage to pull those off this year. Maybe next time . . . .

Sunday, December 12, 2010

M is for Marvelous and Miraculous

It was a marvelous weekend and a miraculous return home.

On Friday morning nine of my best friends who volunteer as costumers at Dress Me Up Costumes gathered in my driveway to depart for the annual Galena Girls weekend.  This eclectic group of unlikely friends gathers annually (for 10 or more years) to escape our daily routine for a weekend in early December. We retreat to my childhood hometown of Galena, Illinois, where we rent a home at The Territory through Almost Heaven Rentals. We engage in all of the best aspects of a road trip as we wend our way down the Mighty Mississippi River on the Great River Road. Once in residence in Jo Daviess County we indulge in eating, drinking, shopping, hot-tubbing, and games (not in any particular order).

This year we diverged from an established route down US Highway 61 to LaCrosse and south on Wisconsin 35 to the Dickeyville Grotto. Instead we cruised down US Highway 52 on the Minnesota side and made pit stops in Harmony, Minnesota, to look at the Amish furniture, and in Decorah, Iowa, to try and extract my BlackBerry car charger from my son's car at Luther College. Joren was a little disoriented about his mother and her nine friends interrupting his midday nap at the end of the term, but he handled it politely, remembering to give his godmother and mother hugs.

We stopped at the newly opened Potosi Brewing Company and brewing museum while en route. It's a pretty amazing place where we acquired a "growler" of beer for later consumption. After meeting with Eric, who faithfully leads us to our home for the weekend, Harmony House, we headed back into town for supper at Canova's. YUM.

Saturday morning brought rain that morphed into beautiful snow as the day drew on. We shopped with our Holiday Head-gear on full display. I purchased a new holiday headpiece to replace my destroyed Whoville Mistletoe. I call my new look "Blitzed."

We had a lovely home-cooked dinner (group effort) with my father at our rented domicile and took full advantage of all the amenities before we headed for bed on Saturday night. We slept during the blizzard and woke to a truly bleak midwinter.

Driving home to Hastings, which should take approximately five hours by most standards, took just over nine hours. This marks the first time that we have taken longer to return home than to drive to Galena. I believe that it was about seven hours of wheels rolling time. But Galena to Cabela's in Prairie Du Chien, Wisconsin, was a treacherous road. I, in my trusty Ford F150 with four-wheel-drive, drift-busted for my compatriot, Beth, in her Toyota Highlander. It was a little dicey in some one-lane S-curves east of Fennimore, but we made it. I suspect our average speed for the entire drive today was close to 40 mpr.

Mostly, I am so deeply thankful for this group of women. I am blessed to call them friends. This year we even welcomed one of our youngest to the fold. Katie held her own with the grown-ups and proved herself mature, responsible, and full of fun in spite of a nagging cough. Welcome to the Galena Girls, Katie! We hope you'll stick with us.

Until next trip . . . . .


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

L is for Lingerie

Yes, lingerie. For a long time I thought it was pronounced ling-ger-EE, having never heard the term spoken and only having read the signs in department stores as a child. I graduated from diapers to "Lady Pants" and undershirts (the cotton camisole style), which then devolved into plain old bras and underwear.

Wikipedia defines lingerie as:
a term for fashionable and possibly alluring undergarments. The term in the French language applies to all undergarments for either gender. In English it is applied specifically to those undergarments designed to be visually appealing or erotic. Lingerie usually incorporating one or more flexible, stretchy materials like Lycra, nylon (nylon tricot), polyester, satin, lace, and silk which are not typically used in more functional, basic cotton undergarments.

So why have I chosen Lingerie as the L word for this progressive post?

Well, NCIS was on the television keeping me company tonight as I settled into my hotel room in Orlando. And immediately following NCIS was the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show. I couldn't turn it off or walk away any more than I could walk away from morbid fascination with an accident scene, or a fire . . .

The costumer/drama geek in me was fascinated with the creations and the energy and music of the show. The feminist and humanist in me was somewhat disturbed. But I couldn't tear myself away.

Am I rushing off to cybershop for "angel undies?"


I am still more about comfort and function than fashion.

So much energy and expense on so little fabric - fascinating!

Monday, November 15, 2010

K is for Kind

Too kind, that is. At least when it comes to my husband.

I trust you've heard of "Minnesota Nice?" It's a term with mixed connotations.

In its purest sense Minnesota Nice is an inherent disposition for genuine hospitality and kindness extended to strangers and neighbors alike. It's a call to observe the Golden Rule and to hold your tongue, remembering that if you don't have anything nice to say it's best to say nothing at all. (Which causes some to be very quiet :)

Unfortunately Minnesota Nice can also be defined as a passive aggressive habit of untruth, manipulation, and back-stabbing conversation. People are nice to your face, but the pleasantries end there.

My husband embodies the term in the former rather than the latter description. As a born and bread Minnesotan of Scandinavian descent, raised in a rural Baptist farm family by hardworking and intelligent folk, Dale, the younger brother of two, doesn't have a mean bone in his body; one of his more endearing traits.

But his kindness has also been a struggle at times. He's not good at disciplining his children. They learned early on to engage in avoidance of chores, confident that their dad would rather do it himself than hound them about doing the dishes or cleaning out the kitty litter.

His kindness has also caused him to be very conflict avoidance. It's easier to give in than to take a stand. He often keeps his opinion to himself. The advantage is that when he chooses to engage or offer an unfavorable opinion, you know he means it, because it takes great efffort for this kind man to give voice to criticism.

And when I make him answer the damn phone to tell the NRA or the DFL or the People for Polygamy who show up on the Caller ID to take us off their list, it's great fun to watch him squirm and listen to their entire spiel before he finally says,

"Thank you. Please take us off your list. Yes, I'm sure. Thank you."

He is too kind. Clearly I am not!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

J is for Jeep

I love my Jeep.

It's an old beater, already showing rust, with a little 2.5 litre four-banger under the hood. Fortunately I can manage the lack of power by manipulating the power ratio with the 5-speed manual transmission. Crawling through the snowplow ridge at the top of the driveway in four-wheel-drive yesterday was a moment of personal satisfaction. This winter Arthur and Dale will no longer be able to strand me here without plowing after snowstorms. Last year they would depart in the morning leaving me behind with a low-slung Ford Focus SVT in a Ford F150 and a Toyota Rav4. I rarely made it past the curve in the drive way with little hope for cresting the snowplow wake.

This winter it will be different. I have high clearance AND four-wheel drive!

We left the lid off the Jeep until almost Halloween. Now the hard top is on with the wind whistling through the Yakima towers and cross bars. But it's warm and cozy inside if noisy.

One of my boys saw a bumper sticker that I would like to have.

"Silly boys, Jeeps are for girls!"

Monday, November 1, 2010

I is for IDK

Just in case you need an assist in text/FaceBook shortcuts, IDK = "I don't know."

That's how I'm feeling tonight. I don't know how to feel about the bittersweet decision I've made.

Read all about it at

Don't forget to vote on Tuesday!

I DON'T KNOW who will win election! Do you?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

H is for Halloween Weekend

I'm in the shop for the weekend. So the FaceBook focus and blog energy will be directed elsewhere.

Have a Happy Halloween!

I'll try and report back with I is for . . . . . in early November.

Monday, October 25, 2010

G is for Geek (or Gleek?)

Okay, just trying to stick to the alphabet theme I have rolling on the blog for the moment. I love GLEE! But I don't feel called to blog about that at the moment.

So I shall opt to write about being a geek for this post. I had to look up the difference between geek and nerd as my research for tonight. When I consulted Wikipedia on both terms, not only do they refer to one another at some point, they both refer to "intellectual" pursuits. Let's just suffice it to say that not only do I come from a long line of intellectuals (my dad even looked like  a nerd for so many years with his horn-rimmed glasses and 501 peg leg, button-fly Levis long before either was fashionable), I married into a geek/nerd family. My brother-in-law the artist ALWAYS has a pen in his pocket. My husband's school friends call my husband "Doc," because he was always smarter than them. All of us Clarks and Skovs are amazing spellers. I am only slightly embarrassed to confess that in my household the unabridged dictionary gets more use than The Good Book. I suspect my children both have larger vocabularies than mine. The eldest likes to "Geek Out" with his friends. My youngest didn't think the 31 on his ACT was sufficient. (See my eyeballs rolling! I was satisfied with my 24 on the ACT!)

As a lesser Geek/Nerd than my parental units and my rocket-scientist sister, I had to strive for my own expression of geekyness. My little sister is two and a half years younger than me, yet I only managed to beat her to college graduation by two weeks. (I was not a salutatorian in high school, nor did I achieve my BA with honors as she did.) I found my own world of living out my nerdiness in the Episcopal Church. My immediate family wasn't religious so I asked my Episcopal Priest uncle to baptize me when I was 13. (There is a longer story here, but I use that one at work, so I'll spare you the details.)

I began my Church Geek career as one of the first four female acolytes at Grace Church in Galena, Illinois, with Beth McDermott, Tisa Johnson, and Jennifer Clayton. From there I became a lector at St. Paul's Church on-the-Hill across the street from my Macalester College dorm. At St. Luke's Hastings I signed on as a lector, Eucharistic Minister, and Altar Guild helper.

In the early 90s I was recruited to be a Youth Minister and also worked on my Worship Leader and Preaching licenses. Currently I hold licenses for lay ministry leadership in many areas. I take great pride in serving as an Acolyte and perhaps enjoy teaching new acolytes (servers) more than anything else I have done in relationship to our liturgy.

So here's the funny part. (Well, perhaps ironic would be the better word.)

Tonight I took a Spiritual Gifts Discernment survey. My lowest ranking gift was "SERVING."  It ranks in the classification of "I would have to work hard to do this gracefully." Cracked me up. It is one of the hardest things I get to do now and then. I just didn't ever before realize that there was a reason I had to work so hard at it. I guess it's not in my nature!

The good news in the survey is that all the things I do attempt to do within the context of church (mission and ministry) do seem to be in my high range of strengths. I ranked a perfect 20 in "Administration." (No surprise there - one interim rector rightly accused me of being officious - I had to look that one up before I felt both insulted and proud, so you can look it up, too.)

My second place spiritual gift was "Teacher" with one point shy of perfect = 19. I love teaching, even hard subjects like SERVING!

My next highest rankings were "Apostle" and "Discernment," closely followed by "Caregiver, Exhortation, Missionary, Pastor, Deeds of Power, and Wisdom." All of those Spiritual Gifts ranked as 17 or above out of 20. Many of their descriptions identify with Youth Ministry and Spiritual Mentor.

The survey also taught me that I "could easily do" all kinds of things, even the ones ranked at the lowest end of my scale including "Healing, Knowledge & Tongues." I know, weird church words. Sorry. I find it all fascinating. It's somewhat like a Personality Inventory tool for church geeks. I guess my new letters would be ATAD!

The blessing in all of this is that I truly do feel affirmed as well as honored to be called into ministry where I can offer my best gifts for the greater good. Then again there were budget and staff cuts in my office again this month. You'll notice tongues wasn't one of my greatest gifts. So is anyone out there willing to help me translate my Church Geek letters into a Myers-Briggs for another profession if it becomes necessary?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

F is for FaceBook

Many of us have a love/hate relationship with FaceBook. And most of us who choose to remain in the FB game have settled into a routine about how we manage our Social Media habit. I spent a good amount of time tonight showing a friend who is not on FaceBook how it works and how I use it for both personal and professional purposes.

I love it when FaceBook allows us to connect with people and memories we might not share if left to our Luddite devices. My friend Peggy has a FaceBook page but currently doesn't have access due to her computer situation. Her mother died in July, and Peggy's oldest daughter had scanned in a bunch of old family photos (Grama Gayle's album) into a FB album. We had a fantastic time clicking through the album and hearing stories of Peggy and her family. It was a real blessing.

On an entirely different note I connected yesterday and today with some old friends from my hometown in Galena, Illinois, including an old boyfriend's little sister. Today (10/21) is the birthday of my first full-fledged boyfriend, Chuck. Unfortunately he died a violent and tragic death in 1987. But that's not what any of us are dwelling on today. Birthdays are for celebrating life. He would have turned 52 today.

I started dating Chuck the summer of 1977. He was older than me; I was still in high school and he wasn't. But we had some common friends and had so much fun that summer. We lasted as an official couple for the better part of a year. Neither of us had a clue how to be in a relationship, so it was rocky with all of that teenage stuff going on. We spent most of our time out on the Mississippi River with friends. That winter we all practically lived at Chestnut Mountain Resort, working and skiing and partying our little hearts out.

In the years that followed our inevitable break-up we always remained friends. Now and then Chuck, or his parents, came to my rescue (like the night I tapped on the wrong window when stranded in town because my truck was in a ditch with two flat tires! His parents came to the window and let him sleep while they drove me home. Tom and Donna were such understanding parents.)

Some of my favorite memories include being the first water skiers on the water each year. Chuck, Larry, and Phil used to take their first slalom trip wearing sweatshirts and jeans and jumping off the dock on one ski. Every one of them landed back on the dock, not getting any clothing above the knee wet. They were so competitive but so encouraging of one another. I never managed the jumping off the dock trick, but I can still get up on one ski!

Chuck drove a VW Bug for a long time, but once he was out of high school and working he bought a green Dodge Ram Charger. I remember the fall he bought snow tires. Four days after he got the snow tires on the wheels we had a big storm. My sister and I were waiting for the bus at the end of our rural driveway in the snow when we saw Chuck coming down the road. He was beside himself with excitement as he pulled up in front of us.

"It's a snow day! The bus isn't coming. Let's go four-wheelin'! Hop in!"

He trusted me with anything and everything. He taught me to ski (snow and water) and how to drive (cars, trucks, and motorcycles). The day after I slid his precious Ram Charger off a steep curve on a gravel road (Rocky Hill Road to be precise) and through a fence post into a pasture, he picked me up after school and made me drive home. "You gotta get back on the horse right away," he encouraged. My father was furious that I was stupid enough to drive someone else's vehicle again. Chuck took all of the heat and apologized to my father. (Although it was Larry who picked me up the morning of my 16th birthday to take me to the Driver's Exam station. No, I did not have my parents' permission nor did I know that Larry was coming to collect me that day. It was my Sweet Sixteen gift. and yes, I passed.)

The years I spent hanging out with Chuck and his friends were the years that built upon my own parents' love of the outdoors and of living life fully and playfully. I will always be grateful to Chuck. He was truly a generous soul.

In fact, 33 years ago today, when he turned 19 and was "legal" in Illinois I was with him when he drove through The Stable Inn in Galena, Illinois, and purchased his first legal 12-pack of Strohs. That night I confessed that I hadn't known it was his birthday and apologized for not having a gift ready.

"That's okay," he reassured me, "because I have one for you."  With that he handed me a little brass padlock that had the letter B engraved on the front. I had been begging him for it for months. He told me that it would be my good luck charm. It has been on my keys ever since.

Thank you for everything, Chuck. I kicked back with a can of beer, took this picture, and told this story tonight in honor of you. Happy Birthday.

(P.S. I drive a beat up old Jeep Wrangler now, I have my season pass for the local ski area, my junky old boat is out of the water, and I have my motorcycle permit. I hope that makes you proud.)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

E is for Election

I know it's not Election Day until November, and you can't help but miss the season with the annoying political ads of all stripes blaring at us on TV and over the radio. I actually have to travel on Election Day, but I booked my flight in such a way that I should be able to vote in my sleepy little township hall on my way to the airport.

Even though it's not a Presidential Election Year, we have a pretty heated race for governor in Minnesota going right now. As usual we have an independent candidate plus the two "major party" candidates. Minnesotans are more individualistic than party-minded in our voting. And more often than not we win the prize for best voter turn-out in all of the states.

I don't get to vote in the hotly contested Clark vs. Bachman race. I don't live that far north. Oh well.

So I think I'll take advantage of the Minnesota Public Radio "Select a Candidate" tool. It's a pretty good technique for sticking to your own issues and learning about the stands of the candidates'. It will help me learn about some lesser publicized races from an issues perspective rather than attack ads.

A couple of female friends have sent me a fascinating email about women's voting rights and the sacrifices that were made for women's suffrage. I looked up the veracity of the claims and found a good website at It's a pretty sobering reminder about how far we have come in less than 100 years. It reminds me of my pledge earlier this summer to vote as an informed and responsible global citizen, having seen the power and influence of US policy in the Middle East first hand.

I encourage you to click the links above in this post to learn more about the Brutal Treatment of Women and the personal and very physical sacrifices that were made by courageous women who simply wanted to be treated as intelligent human beings with equality and respect.

Most importantly, regardless of your personal party preferences, please join me in making the time to be informed about the issues and candidates, and taking the time to vote on Tuesday, November 2. (It's not too late to engage in the absentee ballot process if you won't be home that day!) Thank you!

(Photo on top is Alice Paul and photo at bottom is Helena Hill Weed.)

Monday, October 18, 2010

D is for Dip

"Dip" is a term of self deprecating affection in my family. I use the term in referring to myself when I commit some form of stupid error in logic or function.

In my family of origin dip is often used in place of accusing one's sibling, parent, or child of being an idiot when one is experiencing a mental challenge, forgetfulness, or a full blown brain fart.

I trust you get my drift.

Today I was having one of those days that I  couldn't seem to get anything just right. You know those days; slightly disorienting, troublesome, distracted, tedious. Sigh.

After walking through the grocery store this evening, list in hand, I checked out and walked to the Jeep to deposit my purchases, cradled in my reusable shopping bags, only to realize that I had neglected to get chicken stock; the reason I needed to go to town in the first place. Thankfully I remembered before returning home. I pulled my little shopping list ouy of my pocket in the parking lot to see how I could possibly have forgotten my essential ingredient for tonight's supper.

It wasn't even on my neat little list.

"I am such a dipshit!" I exclaimed out loud to myself.

Oops. There I go, swearing at myself in public again. Which is also a dippy thing to do.

Dip is such a wonderfully expressive and relatively inoffensive insult. You may not agree with me, but in my family it always brings a smile that helps one recover from the offending moment.

Well, it always makes me smile, anyway. I guess you might need our Clark Family reference to understand why.

Do you ever read Johnny Hart's comic strip, B.C.?

When the eventually famous strip ran in the Sunday funnies my father laughed uproariously and passed the paper around the room. You know, the strip that shows the "Dip in Road" sign as Thor is pedaling past the goofy looking caveman sitting on a rock in the road? In this three panel strip Thor is distracted in the first panel, gains steam while looking backwards in the second panel, and goes sailing across a physical dip in the road and makes the observation, "I don't believe it." in the final panel.

Compulsive confession time: I didn't get it. I didn't understand why my dad thought it was so funny.

He patiently explained to me that as Thor was distracted by the goofy guy, who could be classified as a dip, Thor failed to observe the road-sign warning and then crashed into the dip in the road, having failed to slow down. (I guess it was that visual that I think should have been illustrated in a fourth panel in order to complete the story!)

I still didn't really get it. My dad just shook his head and said, "Think about it for awhile. Maybe it will catch up to you."

I am such a dipshit sometimes. But at least I can laugh at myself. :)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

C is for Costume Shop

It all started with my mother's boarding school trunk and some hand-me-down clothing; mostly dresses and skirts. My mother constructed my sister's and my costumes every year. Perennial favorites on my part included spectacularly spooky home-made witch's hats, or the red velvet and lace dress with some form of tiara or crown. Mother made my sister a truly amazing and cozy lion costume one year using the fringe from an old bedspread to create the lion's mane. We sometimes coveted the sleek or glamorous store-bought costumes of our peers, but we often won contests due to the creativity and detail provided by our clever mother.

Eventually we no longer required her assistance as we got the hang of the create-a-costume thing. Dress Up was one of my favorite childhood games no matter what the season. When my hometown, Galena, Illinois, began the Halloween parade my senior year in high school, I marched in my father's beekeeping gear on ice skates playing my piccolo (which fit inside the netting). I won first place for most creative costume.

In college I was awarded a work/study grant. My new advisor in the Dramatic Arts Department at Macalester College asked me, "Can you sew?" "Yes," I replied. That single syllable of a response landed me in the costume shop as a seamstress and backstage gopher. I couldn't believe my luck!

Following marriage and children I began creating my sons' Halloween costumes while they were still infants. Arthur was the Pillsbury Doughboy before he could walk. Joren was Rabbit from Winnie-the-Pooh, all cozy in gray corduroy. I also began sewing costumes to help clothe the Hastings Community Theatre cast for our annual melodrama productions.

Then 15 years ago I was approached by a local costume lady who was ready to sell the business and move to Mexico. "I don't have any money, but sure, I'll buy your costume inventory if you'll finance me at a tiny interest rate."

And here I am, kicking off the 15th season of this crazy habit. We're up to 11 volunteers who are the amazing women who gather to play dice and dress up for most of the month. Currently Princess Kathy has seniority amongst the crew. I believe that Mary, Linda, and Barb came on line next. Then we welcomed Beth, Peggy, Janet and Phyllis. Two daughters of the crew are working, too; Katie has earned her grown-up stripes and Danika is close to earning hers, too. This year we applaud Norma for bringing a new element to our habit; prop construction and set design.

I have to also commend my husband and sons. Dale is the handyman that keeps some things in functional order. And when that is beyond his capability he is the official to pronounce things broken beyond repair. Arthur actually knows the collection pretty well and can complete a rental form and transaction correctly. Joren, who spent the first season of his kindergarten year riding the bus from the costume shop the one year we were in downtown Hastings, knows the collection well and frequently raids the shop to costume 24 and 48 Hour Film Festival competitions.

So here we are again. Another month of Dress Up. I am blessed with friends and a wonderfully whimsical avocation. Wanna come out and play?

Check us out at

Monday, October 11, 2010

B is for Bicycle

I bought my current bicycle approximately 10 years ago. It's starting to show some potentially irreparable wear. But we are still good friends who enjoy going out to play.

I don't remember my first tricycle, but I do remember that first time I pedaled down the sidewalk of Wesley Avenue in Evanston, Illinois, the summer of 1966, on TWO WHEELS. My father was chasing behind me - or so I thought! As I glided into a grassy yard to make a calculated crash landing, certain that my father would catch me before I tipped over, I put my feet down and managed to avoid crashing all by myself. I turned around to see my grinning father half a block behind me clapping.

MY HEART SOARED! I was a big girl now and knew the personal thrill of riding a two wheeler, all by myself. All my hard work and the coaxing and encouragement of my Dear Old Dad had finally paid off. Next lesson, applying breaks and turning corners. I was ready to move on.

My first big girl bike was a blue banana bike with red streamers at the ends of the handle bars. I failed to put it away in the basement within weeks of acquiring it and sure enough, it was stolen, never to be recovered. There were many tears over that expensive lesson. My next bike was a far less glamorous garage sale bargain. But it was a two wheeler and it was mine.

I am still in the midst of my lifelong love affair of pedaling a bicycle. Having moved to Galena, Illinois, when I was 8 years old, I learned the challenge of pedaling or walking my bike up some pretty steep hills. But once you're at the top of said hill, the thrill of coasting down has got to be the next best to thing to personal flight. (Yes, I love skiing on snow and water, too!) I bought my first 10-speed from Allison Gillies for $50. That bike lasted me through high school and most of college.

At Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, my best friend and I bought an old school tandem Raleigh that we named Mrs. Finch. We had grand times riding her about. It was good fun terrorizing boyfriends by insisting they sit in the back and pedal while I steer. Dale once wrenched the rear handle bars clean off when he was sure I was steering us into a tree. For the record, we did not crash and I laughed long and hard at how certain he was of my inability to steer. I think he still regularly scrapes the foot pegs on the motorcycle while turning as a method of payback for that incident.

My current velocipede was purchased when I was still working at St. Luke's in Hastings. We live about seven miles from church and I decided to invest in a bike rather than a health club membership. I actually did ride my bike back and forth quite a bit. I rode that particular patch again yesterday in honor of the 10/10/10 Global Work Party Day to make my personal contribution to reducing carbon emissions in the world. 

I felt good about making my personal contribution to the global effort, but I also remembered all the other benefits of using this basic method of personal transportation. In spite of traffic on the highway, it's still a very peaceful means of movement. I like the technical challenge of trying to maintain a steady rpm by using my gears and my muscles and breathing. I thoroughly enjoy seeing evidence of wildlife, especially when I spot a critter that hasn't succumbed to roadkill.

I find that riding is rhythmic and eventually I am lulled into a reflective if not meditative and prayerful state of contemplating my life and the world. It is a good place to think and pray.

I am thankful for my bicycle. I hope I can remember the benefits and be intentional about riding more often, at least while the weather holds!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A is for Ally

I had a sheltered childhood. My relatively young parents (they were 20 and 22 when I was born) sheltered me from all kinds of things, like
  • violence
  • prejudice
  • hate
  • homophobia
  • organized religion
I remember an apartment in Evanston, Illinois, in the 1960's that was often full of adult friends with guitars and go-go boots, people who were black and white, couples who were same gender, and singles who were falling in love. I remember walking in protest marches against the war in Viet Nam, being early adopters of recycling efforts, and knowing that I might see the American Bald Eagle become extinct.

I remember my first understanding of human reproductive systems came in a lesson from an innocent question.

"Mommy, why do Jane and Wanda have to adopt a baby? Why can't they just have one. Wanda already has a daughter, doesn't she? Why can't she just have another one?"

My parents, although not affiliated religiously, practiced a radical hospitality that completely embraced the Baptismal promise to "Respect the dignity of every human being." It was clear to me that this was expected of me and my sister, too. There were no "buts." Humans are humans and all should be treated with respect and dignity.

I remember taking some heat as a mother when people would teasingly ask my primary school-aged sons, "So, do you have a girl friend yet?" And when they shyly answered in the negative, I would often counter with, "Do you have a boyfriend?"  As people assumed that I was making a joke I would explain very seriously that "I don't want my sons to ever have to come out to me or my husband. I want them to know that we love them unconditionally, just as they are."

Several years ago when I was a parish youth minister the phrase "That's so gay" came into vogue as a negative commentary. That became a quick course of study grounded in the Baptismal Covenant and revealing statistics about the number of humans in any random gathering who may identify as GLBT persons. Obviously the phrase was not welcome on the premises nor was it tolerated at any of our community events.

In the midst of the recent heart-breaking rash of teen suicides allegedly due to bullying of LGBTQQI persons, I can no longer sit silent. My own personal sphere of influence thought modeling accepting and affirming behavior is one thing. Attending weddings of LGBTQQI friends is supportive. But sitting silently and politely keeping my opinion to myself is contributing to the deaths of humans enduring misery and inequality who have been treated miserably by other humans.


I want to be an Ally. I hope you will join me. Please keep reading. Below is an explanatory paragraph that I found helpful. To read the full article by Gareth Higgins click here. It is truly an amazing column. I also highly recommend visiting the YouTube website for the "It Gets Better" project. Here's one of my favorites.

L(esbian)G(ay)B(isexual)T(rans)Q(ueer)Q(uestioning)I(ntersex) is a pretty good start; but another category has been privileged to join: A(lly): which, although its status is ambiguous in the cohort to which it wishes to orient itself, to my mind means anyone who cares enough to commit themselves to be educated about the structures of injustice faced by people whom the dominant culture defines as sexual minorities.  Ally can be a patronizing concept, of course; but I think that the more people who don’t identity themselves (or ourselves) as LGBTQQI consider the A label, the sooner we will experience conversation about sexuality as something that is good for us all, rather than merely stigmatizing socially constructed minorities.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

A is for Autumn

We moved to this Backyard Labor Day weekend of 1997. The weekend Princess Diana died. A weekend I will never forget, for a wide variety of reasons. I remember the numerous people who turned out of the woodwork to help us. We weren't simply relocating a family; we moved the four Skovs, all their stuff, and Dress Me Up Costume Rental's inventory, all from a three bedroom split level on Goodwin Avenue in Vermillion Township, to a sprawling six bedroom house with outbuildings, 10 miles mostly east and a bit south on US Highway 61 in Marshan Township. It was a major undertaking. And the first thing that appeared that night when I finally hooked up the TV to the antennae was the horrific story from Paris of the Princess of Wales' car crash. She wasn't much older than me and I felt so horrible. I remember being very moved by the mountains of flowers that the public left as memorials for her along royal fencelines all over Great Britain.

That first fall on this property I took comfort and delight in discovering the grounds to which we had moved. Gracie Rohr, the only matriarch to have ruled the property prior to me, had been quite a gardener. As I roamed the yard in the crisp fall mornings I found delightful evidence of her planning and lucky assistance from Mother Nature.

This morning a beautiful autumnal day was in evidence at the break of the sun's ascent on the eastern horizon. Nessie and I climbed out of bed to take our morning constitutional out the back field driveway amidst the corn and beans. Upon return to our yard we explored the fall color. Then Joren and I hopped in a roofless Jeep to head for a meeting about Episcopal camping programs in Minnesota. We were both sporting our Copper River Fleece jackets to help protect us from the wind. We plugged in the iPod and sang at the top of our lungs. What a fun time.

Sunday, Ocotber 3, Dale and I celebrate our 23rd Wedding Anniversary. And we get to do it with our sons and friends, in full costume, hanging around at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival. I truly do love this time of year and am truly grateful for all of the blessings in my life.

Monday, September 20, 2010

H is for Homesick

It's true. I'm 48 years old and I'm homesick.

I know it seems weird. And the home I'm longing for is the hometown of my childhood, Galena, Illinois.

It's probably more about feeling nostalgic than it is about being homesick. But as we were driving home from Galena yesterday, having joined friends and family for Kay's memorial service, the 17 hours spent in town wasn't enough. It was the first time that I got to be with most of my best pals from high school in a long time. I missed my class reunion this year and most of these guys were the class ahead of me anyway. And truly, we only had about two hours. It was Phil's mother who died, at the age of 97. We got to celebrate a long, gracious, and well-lived life lived by a remarkable woman. Larry's folks have already passed. I think Marv's have, too.

Yes, my closest friends were boys now all men; some married, some divorced, some with kids, some without. These were the boys of my teenage years who were the band and chorus geeks, the skiers (snow and water), the skateboard and Frisbee gang, and yes - the partiers.

I was a latecomer to the gang. We were the Chicago people who moved to this sleepy yet quirky little town in 1970. I started hanging out with these guys in high school and I essentially had to fend for myself. It was keep up or be left behind. I had to learn to water ski living by the three-tries-and-you're-up, or you're back in the boat rule. On the slopes of Chestnut Mountain, if you didn't make it too the bottom with everyone else, you had a cold and lonely ride back to the top. They tolerated me and I worked hard to keep up and be included. I still ski - on snow and water. Well, at least I try on an annual basis!

But this was also the group that truly took care of one another. We've weathered tragic deaths of friends, affairs, spats, weddings, disputes. Some of us went away to school, some didn't. Some went back home to raise families, others moved away. I don't think there's anything truly remarkable about us. Yet the longer I live far away, the more I long to be in touch.

Perhaps it has something to do with burying our parents. My dad who still lives in Galena turned 70 last summer and seems to be healthy and poised to live 30 more years. My mother, who hasn't lived in Galena since 1981, isn't so healthy.

Some of it is simply that Galena is truly a charming town. I love the setting, I love the people, I love the river.

Many things about my current home are similar. I love the setting, I love the people, I love the river.

I remember having this sort of feeling a few years ago after my uncle died. I finally told my husband that I needed to spend some time at home with my dad. I went home for a weekend and just tagged around, mostly with my father. I felt better, reassured of his presence and his place in the world. This time the home sickness took me by surprise and I simply don't have the time.

Oh, and I miss my little sister, too.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

D is for Dreams

Have you ever had a dream that woke you up in the middle of the night? Ever had a night mare that caused you to whimper and cry in your sleep? Ever been a sleeptalker? A sleepwalker?

I've done it all.

This isn't a point that is worth bragging about. In fact, if you're a person diagnosed with sleep disorders, some of this stuff is truly disconcerting.

My parents said I had night terrors as a child. Both of my boys had them, too. Arthur's were worse and more frequent than Joren's. Everyone in this family sleep talks. It can be highly entertaining. Arthur even FaceBooked his recent sleepy exchange with me from two mornings ago when he was going on about Styrofoam when I was trying to wake him up.

I've had some super strange episodes while sleeping. I once woke up walking in north St. Paul near Como Park as the sun was rising and hitched a ride home with someone taking his bloody dog to the emergency vet on Lexington. I started to become aware of my situation more fully as I was walking back down Summit Avenue's boulevard realizing that I was in my clothing and stocking feet, no shoes, making my way back to my dorm on the Macalester campus. My socks, stiffened with dirt and completely and rigidly formed to my feet, were evidence of how long my sleep-walk had been. I was pretty freaked out about that for several weeks.

I had a strange dream when my mother's father died. I had a sense of impending doom and even commented upon it to my friend Phil on the phone the preceding day. After having a disturbing sort of evening, from which I came home early from hanging out with friends, I discovered my mother and sister at home early, too.  All of us were feeling out of sorts as we went to bed earlier than usual. We all had strange dreams and fitful sleep only to learn the news in the morning that my grandfather had died in the night.

I was then haunted by my mother's second husband on the third night after his death. He managed to die on the day between Christmas and my mother's birthday. My sister and I were on a two day Christmas visit to our father's in Illinois with my kids and we had to abandon them to hot-foot it to Florida to comfort our mother. Alan, her dead husband, visited me in the wee hours of the night in ways that were hard to miss. I came out of my sleep (or whatever state I was in) screaming bloody murder and gasping for breath. That episode was a logistical and emotional nightmare.

This premonition and post-death visitation stuff truly isn't much fun.

So last night I dreamt that I was flying in to some location for work and was curious about the person who was assigned to collect me. As I walked along, carry-on in hand, I began to recognize a Colorado college campus at the foot of a ski resort. I noticed a man sitting on the lawn to my left who stood to greet me. After a silent hug, Phil turned and walked away without speaking a word. As I tried to follow him I became completely awake and couldn't fall back to sleep. After visiting the bathroom at 4:30 in the morning, I found my sleepless self highly irritated and wondering why Phil had woken me.

Today I received a message from a mutual friend that Phil's mother had died. Phil is a high school friend with whom I haven't had much contact at all over the past 10 years. We were close in high school and during our 20s and early 30s, but we've drifted apart and lost touch in recent years. So why the hell did he wake me up last night?

And here I am, at 3:22 am, afraid to go to sleep.

Go Figure.

Monday, September 6, 2010

C is for Camping

We just returned from our annual Labor Day Weekend outing; Camping with The Village. We are blessed with an extended family of friends who have for years ventured into the wilds of various Minnesota State Parks with us for Memorial Day and Labor Day weekend. (We did cross the river to a Wisconsin State Park last Memorial Day to accommodate some Illinois family members joining us with wee ones.)

Last Thursday afternoon several of us pulled into the primitive group site in Sakatah State Park, west of Faribault and not quite to Waterville. This particular site is situated near the boat ramp but far from the noise and light of the regular camping loops, as most group sites are. We have a beautiful lake view, a convenient place for putting canoes in and out, and easy access to the bicycle trail.

This weekend actually called for a smaller crowd than usual since we were missing the back-to-school collegiate crowd. My goddaughter Maria is the latest to abandon us for adventures in higher education. Dale and I also realized that this was the first time camping on Labor Day Weekend without either of our sons present in 18 years. Wow. They really do grow up!

It was a fantastic weekend with all of the predictable predicaments; cold weather, rain, hail, high winds, major mosquitoes, camp fire smoke in your face, stinky pit toilets, and a discourteous boater with a loud motor heading out for the Goose Hunting Early Opener at 4 am!

But we endure all of these challenges together in order to spend time cooking and eating and hiking and canoeing and biking and story-telling and laughing together. We play cards and ladder ball, dominoes and dice. We engage in coloring projects with the youngest and engage in shopping expeditions with the oldest, always in search of the latest camping gadget that we can't live without.

This time that we set aside twice each year is part of what anchors our friendships and sustains us through the busier times. Our pace of camping is cooperative and far slower than the pace of lives we live at home. We are all growing older, and we even have a regular granddaughter camping with us now. Our tents have increased in size to accommodate cots rather than sleeping pads or leaky air mattresses. Our kitchens and chuck boxes continue to undergo repairs, improvements and upgrades. We are learning more and more about the art of cast iron cooking with multiple dutch ovens.

I come home from these weekend retreats deeply thankful for my treasured friends. I may be a little bitten up from the winged critters sometimes characterized as the blood-sucking state bird, but I return rested, relaxed, and refreshed. My soul is at peace.

Thanks be to God.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Chapter 1

Charlotte Grace was river rat through and through.  Traverse Island on the Upper Mississippi had been her summer home before her parents ever knew they would have a daughter, much less fall in love with one another. Charlotte was sure the river water was part of her blood, she felt it in the very marrow of her healthy bones. Her parents never quite understood her obsession with the place, but they did seem to indulge it, helping her to grow her grandfather's little summer resort fishing business into a year round enterprise.

As she swatted at mosquitoes walking the long, shaded path along the Wisconsin channel she noted that Nessie, her trusty old Jack Russel Terrier was still taking great satisfaction in her favorite past time; squirrel spotting. The industrious little dog had always taken her varmint control function very seriously, smart enough to comprehend that she would never run a gray squirrel to ground like a fox, she had become quite expert at squirrel spotting as they leaped from tree to tree.

Woman and dog were on their evening constitutional, returning from their walk to the western tip of Traverse Island having watched the sunset from the old rope swing. Charlotte began cursing herself for her repeated failure to bring along bug spray, knowing full well that after a wet summer the blood-sucking parasites would prey upon her naked ankles if she hesitated for even a moment on the muggy, shady path. But Nessie had become distracted, as her breed tended to, and she was not readily responding to Charlotte's sharp whistle.

"Damn dog," Charlotte muttered under her breath. "NESSIE, come NOW!"

Fine fine fine. Just give me a minute to see if I can sniff out this big squirrel over here in that huge cottonwood. Wait a minute. That's not a squirrel. It's that funny big eagle that lives up by the dam.

Hey. What are you doin' down here. We never see you down here this time of year. You usually don't grace us with your presence until you're hungry for open water in the winter time. Do ya miss us?

It's too loud down here in the summer time. I just want to warn you that there's trouble up on your little sandbar by the dam. You better tell your people. Nobody's gonna want to eat the fish or play in that part of the river for awhile if they don't deal with the mess.

Okay okay okay. I gotta go, Charlotte's whistling and she gets pissed when the blood-suckers are this thick. Thanks for the tip. See ya!

Charlotte had just swatted a particularly full insect that splatted blood across the top of her foot.  She did her best to smear away the viscous fluid as she attempted a second burst of whistles when her beloved canine companion burst through the bushes to revisit the walk home.

"Where the hell have you been?" she griped at the dog. And then a particularly large eagle gave a cry and circled over them across the end of the island as he skimmed over the treetops and dropped into the river valley, cruising for fish.

"Aha," Charlotte surmised, "keeping tabs on that big eagle. Looks like he finally got his adult plumage this year. I think he must be that same one we saw a couple summers ago when he was learning to fly. It's nice that you two have maintained your friendship." Nessie wagged her tail faster in her odd pattern of an up-and-down stutter rather than a side-to-side swipe. Charlotte always suspected that damage had been done when Nessie was a Wisconsin farm puppy and had been hauled off to the vet to have her tail docked like all good Jack Russels. Silly habit. Poor little Nessie just had a snub of a tail, but she was adept at using what she had to express her emotions.

Sometimes Charlotte Grace had some funny notions about all the critters in her river centric world. Having spent so much time alone on the island as an only child, she had often "adopted" wild animals and domestic critters alike to populate her domain with characters that resembled all the folk of A.A. Milne's Hundred Acre Wood. The adult Charlotte had not shaken this habit and her husband, friends, and family all tolerated her anthropomorphizing animals with respectful interest and a little bit of good natured teasing from time to time. But Charlotte always maintained that the island critters gossiped just as much as the human folk, and if you paid attention you could learn as much from the critters about the local environment and the antics of the local inhabitants.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

A is for Atlanta Airport Adventure

This is Bronwyn reporting from, of course, the A concourse at ATL International. I pray that this blog, expressing mild panic, minor drama, and genuine gratitude doesn't jinx my flight home :)

On my short hop from Richmond, Virginia, this afternoon I was given a complementary "Medallion Upgrade" = First Class Cabin. YES!

A flight that was scheduled to take off 30 minutes prior to ours was "cancelled due to mechanical issues" and their passengers were relocated to our flight. We were all assured that those holding first class seats would still be seated in the first class cabin. One of my new traveling companions was completely skeptical about the reason for the delay/cancellation of his flight. I tend to agree with him since both loads of passengers still totalled a less than full flight, including empty first class seats.

I was seated next to a Army National Guard Cavalry Soldier headed back to Afghanistan for his fifth tour in Iraq/Afghanistan, having been home for a two week leave to be with his wife as she gave birth to their twins; yes, folks, a boy and a girl. All are healthy and mom is well. I warned you there was drama!

I have an affinity for those Army National Guard troops thanks to Mary, Bud, Tom and Beth. Go Guard!

This soldier had never been upgraded to first class before. When I told him the drinks were free he hesitated. I get it, he's not supposed to drink in uniform. I said, "We sure as hell are not gonna think less of a soldier on his fifth deployment if he accepts one cocktail on the airplane." (I do have a reputation for encouraging less than compliant behavior in some circumstances. It's kind of like watering your livestock on the Sabbath. . . .)

"Crown and Coke" he replied to our fashionista flight attendant. She didn't bat a bogus eyelash. But she did return to confess the lack of Crown Royal on the airplane and very discreetly offered him a choice of Seagram's or Jack Daniels. He's a Virginia boy and took the Jack. Heineken in hand, I clinked his glass and offered a toast in thanksgiving for his service, his children, a successful mission, and a safe tour. He downed his cocktail like he was dying of thirst and promptly chased it with two mugs of coffee. Our flight attendant properly announced his presence and story over the intercom before landing and asked us to remain seated at the gate until he stood so we could all see the "true American hero" in our midst. He and I got misty-eyed, and we all clapped enthusiastically. He is praying to fly out of Atlanta within 24 hours to return to his mission. He hates getting stuck in Atlanta with nothing but a uniform when waiting for charter flights to fill. But he did say the local USO would take pretty good care of him. I will continue to pray for peace and the conclusion of our missions in the region.

Once in the airport I made my way from the B to A concourse to identify the location of my connecting flight gate. Upon arriving at A29 I was just in time to welcome the passengers disembarking from Kalispell, Montana. An elderly gentleman tripped over his toe on the door to the concourse and went sprawling to his knees and narrowly avoided a face-plant. I joined two other potential passengers in rushing to him to see if he was okay, my knees throbbing in sympathy pains. He was very slow to get up, announced that he thought he was okay, allowed us to assist him to a chair, and thanked us for the help. I reluctantly left and made my way to the restroom and then on to Houlihans for a Heineken and some Potato Soup.

"May I see your ID, please?' asked the 20-something female server.

HA! Okay . . . .

"Oh crap! I don't have my wallet! It must be in the restroom. I'll be right back!"

Can you imagine the sinking feeling in my stomach? My travel wallet contains my Minnesota Driver's License, Credit Cards, Receipts for Reimbursements, Passport, and Boarding Passes!

Prayer: "Thank you for carding me, ridiculous as it is to card a 48-year-old woman. Please let my wallet still be in the bathroom. Please let some Good Samaritan have found it and turned it in to the cleaning woman who was in there, please, please, please, please, please . . . . . ."

"Excuse me, Ma'am, did you or anyone find a black travel wallet in this stall or at the sink?"

I knew it wasn't there. I have a very visual memory and upon walking back in there I had ZERO recollection of having it in my hand when I was peeing or washing my hands. Damn. And she confirmed its absence. She suggested a couple logical and local places to check on this concourse and sent me away with a prayer for it to be found quickly.

I backtracked to A29 where the falling man had disrupted my normally careful airport routine. As I gained ground my visual memory kicked in. I had my wallet out to check my flight number against the gate information. When he fell I placed it on the counter, let go of my carry-on, and moved to assist him. As I departed I hadn't noticed the black wallet on the black counter and had walked away with my carry-on and tote-bag.

Prayer: please, please, please, please, please . . . .

"Ma'am," did you find . . . ."

She was smiling and holding it out for me. She said she had checked my boarding pass and was getting ready to page me, knowing I probably hadn't strayed too far from the gate of my departure.

"Thank you. Thanks be to God!"

She grinned and said, "You're welcome."

I did stop back in the women's room to let the cleaning woman know that it was found. She was pleased.

I then returned to my table and produced my ID. I thanked the server for carding me stating that it would have been really troubling and even more embarrassing had I not realized it was missing until she presented my bill!

Then again, she wasn't going to serve me a beer without my ID!!!

Therefore I also offer thanks for my vice. Thanks be to beer!!!!

Monday, August 23, 2010


I love this part of the river. It's always been my home. I remember the first day I flew, if you can call that first plummet from our nest in the tall cottonwood a flight. It was a peaceful afternoon in August and I was terrified. I remember that couple in the blue boat with a feisty little dog were carefully cruising close enough to watch, but not too close. They were peering at me through those huge and heavy mechanical eyes and they quietly encouraged me. Even the dog was rooting for my success. At least they all followed my progress. My parents just sat in trees screeching at me as I whined and cried. 

That couple comes back to check our old nest every year on their way up to the little sandbar below the dam.  Nessie's Island, that's what they call it, after the dog. She loves playing in the sand and water in that quiet little spot. Too bad that branch fell and toppled our nest over there. That was always a good summer fishing spot. But our new nests further across the river have a much better view. I prefer watching the sunset from over there. Besides, it's closer to my new friend's childhood nest.

I think I'll follow this thermal up and over to the lock and see if any fish are rising below the dam. I love soaring up this high. The lift on my wings makes it effortless to circle up and up and up . . . .

Aha, crappies are rising to something. I'll need to get situated so my shadow doesn't spook them.

Okay, dive time.

Whoa! What the hell is that?! I thought it was part of the tree caught above Nessie's Sandbar. Looks like someone's swimming? No, the crappies are eating . . . 

Oh, yuck. Thank God I have eagle eyes so I don't have to go in so close that I smell it. That would drive Nessie crazy. I swear she smells everything before she ever lays eyes on it. But I guess that's the disadvantage of being a ground-bound little mutt. I wonder if she knows her favorite sandbar has a body floating above it. . . . .

B is for Boating

I contemplated naming this post P is for Pathetic. Perhaps D is for Determined might have been a good subtitle. But I found the silver lining of my boating woes in the cloud of friends with which I am blessed.

Friday afternoon Dale and I headed for Red Wing to try yet another can of Sea Foam in the gas tank of my dilapidated vessel. We were greeted by a full campground and dock loaded with a Glastron Classic Boat Convention. It looked very interesting, but we didn't want to waste any more daylight, so we drained the additive into the gas tank and took off.

Usually when I find myself on the river, especially the Mississippi, I feel as though I can breath more deeply, relax more fully, appreciate creation with wonder. This summer, hopping into my poor ancient boat, my stomach twists into a knot of hopeful anxiety. I find myself intently focused, not on the majestic and peaceful surroundings, but on the boat, wishing its mechanical systems into compliance and desirable behavior, listening keenly for the least little engine hiccup, primed to feel the slightest hitch through the frame of the vehicle.

For the second time in as many days we were able to make it out of the no-wake zone above Bay Point Park and open up the throttle a little bit . . . . and sure enough, there it was, the warning hiccup that precedes certain disaster.


So back we went. We stopped at the fuel dock, barely able to keep the boat running. After inputting a few gallons of gas we limped back to our own marina, fingers crossed, lurching through the swift current. So we tied off the boat and began looking at all the classic Glastrons gathered. Our first boat was a Glastron. We named it The Honeymoon because we spent Dale's pittance of a pension on its purchase when he changed jobs just prior to our wedding.

Sitting on the end of the dock near the boat landing, sipping beers and watching the antics of couples dropping boats in the water and pulling boats out, we were entertained for nearly and hour. We witnessed the near catastrophe of a beautiful big, new, Crownline Cruiser being crashed into by a rookie river guy in a hot rod Glastron. The Glastron was louder than any boat I've ever heard and had a James Bond logo on the stern; "007" with a pistol (white boat at right in photo). He was caught by surprise when the current took his stern, and he yelled at the Crownline owner to protect his boat that was safely tied to the end of the landing dock (was to the right of where the white Glastron sits in this photo) awaiting it's First Mate to back the trailer in (as you can see, she's already there and he has moved the boat to the trailer by the time I got the phone camera on them). Crownline guy (yellow shirt in the photo) scrambled from the dock across his tall bow and over the port side to prevent the crash. His protective handstand on the Glastron's stern became a slow-motion cartwheel atop the offending engine compartment. He flopped on his back, rolled to keep his hands on the hull of his own boat, managed to retrieve his hat from the water, and prevented a nasty scrape in the process, while 007 pretty much ignored the whole incident. Once on the dock 007 turned around lethargically and spotted the body sprawled across his stern, "Oh, ya okay?" Didn't even give the guy a hand to get up and off his boat.

Once we were confident that no one was bleeding, burned, or in the water I looked down our dock at my beloved to see him attempting to stifle the giggles. He burst into laughter that was no longer containable and cackled for a solid five minutes. It was highly contagious and we both laughed long and hard. One of Dale's favorite past times is people-watching at boat landings. Note to self: bring the video camera so we can win big on America's Funniest Videos!

Saturday we were invited to go out on the Truax's boat du jour. They are proud new members of the Prescott Boat Club. They had a pontoon boat reserved and invited several members of the local village to join them for a day of leisure. Some Skovs and a Schlafge joined them in spite of the cool, overcast weather. I gotta give it to Bud. The minute we cleared the Prescott bridges and were on our way upriver, the sun broke from the clouds and we had a beautiful day before us. Danika tolerated me tubing with her and participated in my stunts and antics. We had a great time giggling and maneuvering. We even went down to Diamond Bluff on the Mississippi to try for a bite to eat at the Nauti-Hog, but they were too busy and the wait was too long. Hastings Old Time Car Show vendors helped us abate the hunger. It was a great day with fantastic friends.

Sunday, after church (and a super sermon by Fr. Frank) I went to Red Wing to clean my boat, pouting and scheming that if I'm going to get it running I should sell it right away so I can use the money as a down payment on something more reliable. It was my passive aggressive mode of cleaning when I'm pissed and wishing that I could play with my own toys. Just as I was working up a sweat the rescue team arrived in the persons of Dale, Beth and Tom. Let's go boating in the Wanamakers' new boat.


So off we went, down to Lake Pepin. I was breathing more deeply, relaxing more fully, and truly appreciating the spectacular view of limestone palisades, marshy sandbars, and eagles. We floated around in the middle of Pepin in our upside down life jackets (diaper mode), played some dice, and even attempted some water skiing. In five tries I wasn't able to coordinate my waning strength and rusty technique to get up on one ski, so we abandoned the plan and decided to call it a day.

Finding both gas docks already closed, we did luck out in getting to tour the model for the newly forming floating condominium concept; The Marquette. It's very similar to our retirement on a barge idea. None of us have that kind of money yet. But the concept is pretty nifty. I posted to the their blog to encourage them to get the motorcycle transport sorted out. We'll see. Could be a deal-breaker for these River Rats.

So this morning, as I get my writing skills honed to create some devotions for work, I sit mostly content, and with many stiff muscles, my heart full of gratitude for friends and opportunities.

And then it occurs to me that I've got to get a different boat. I finally figured it out. The boat is named Never-A-Nuff. That name was already on it. I hate misspellings like that. Cute - not. Clever - not even close. It is rumored that it's bad luck to change the name of the boat. (The paint is the most permanent substance I have ever encountered - much stronger than the mechanical systems.) I think it's bad luck to own a boat named Never-A-Nuff!

So, anyone wanna trade?

Friday, August 20, 2010

H is for Home

I arrived home from the Holy Lands almost two weeks ago. The time zone change and jet lag thing really wasn't that bad either direction. Both times we were flying through the night, so even dozing, if not sleeping, on the plane allowed for staying awake until a normal bedtime in the new time zone. By the second night in either location I was feeling oriented with meals and sleep cycles.

Coming home was harder on my stomach. Two weeks as a pilgrim in the Middle East was a good detoxifying process for my digestive system and mental habits around food and beverage. It was two weeks filled with maximum water consumption, mostly fruits and vegetables, moderate amounts of chicken, beef, and lamb, zero alcohol, and very few sweets. That diet combined with a large amount of HOT weather hiking, a lot of walking, and a healthy sleep schedule truly did this body good.

So part of my re-entry has been to intentionally cling to some of those disciplines rather than immediately sliding into my less healthy habits of my home. It's been a struggle, but I'm adjusting.

I've been doing a lot of thinking and praying about how my heart and brain have been transformed by my pilgrimage. I learned so much about history, culture, religion, politics, and spirituality. It truly is difficult to wrap my brain about it all, and to discern what I'm called to do with the knowledge and passion within me.

Knowing that my readers are a mixed audience of non-spiritual folks and religious practitioners, I think I will continue to keep most of my reflections to myself. I am happy to share with each of you on a more personal level if invited. I have decided that I will get on my political soap box. So either brace yourself for a lecture on global citizenship, or cease reading at this point so I don't make you feel angry or guilty. If you choose to read on anyway, please remember that this is my passion and my hope. But also remember that I carry guilt about what follows, too. My response is to do better and invite others to consider the same.

It has struck me that in general the USA's electorate is apathetic and uninformed. Often we are misinformed if we actually believe all the propaganda spewed in political and campaign advertising. I have learned that our media, the "free" press, that we Americans cling to so fiercely, is still a far more biased press than that which we might suspect or even admit. I didn't accept this statement when it was spoken to me at first. Then I began the research for myself.

If you read an Associated Press story filed by the same writer in a paper published in Israel, compared with the same story in the BBC, and then in the US, you will read three different slants. Editors mess with the story to offer the point of view they want to promote with their publication. If you don't read papers, then take time to compare CNN as aired on the BBC compared with the US version. We citizens of the Global Superpower are being fed, not all the facts, but scrubbed news. I don't know about you, but that simply pisses me off.

The other point I would like to make is that, in general, we take our right to vote for granted. The first time I traveled to Europe in October of 1985 the US became embroiled in the Achille Lauro incident in the Mediterranean Sea. The US Department of State sent travel advisories all over the world encouraging US citizens to guard our passports with great caution, and to pass ourselves off as Canadian so as not to attract the unwanted attention of Palestinian terrorists. It was fascinating to hear what citizens of other nations thought of Americans. Some admired our power, our military, and our freedom. Others despised our arrogance, our pushiness, and our disregard for our affect on the rest of the world.

It has been said that when the USA sneezes the rest of the world catches a cold.

Having traveled to Palestine /Israel 25 years after my first international travel experience I was struck by the similarities. I have always maintained that humans don't evolve very quickly. But you would think that in this global age of instant news we would at least be better at getting along with, rather than bossing around others. The discontent in the Middle East is fueled by millions of US dollars pumped into that region annually to prop up an Israeli military out of loyalty to an historical ally, and as a result of a an extremely powerful and lucrative congressional lobby in the good old USA.

It isn't your average Israeli or Jew that's the problem. It isn't your average Arab or Palestinian that's the problem. It isn't the average US citizen that's the problem, regardless of who the President is or isn't. It's that we all collectively tolerate fundamental extremism within our respective borders, be it religious or military or both, and we forget that most human beings simply desire peace, food, dignity, shelter, respect, clothing, and safety.

My commitment in this transformation I am experiencing is to be an informed, issue-oriented voter who will remember that my vote isn't just about me and what I want as a Minnesotan living in the USA. I will do my best to remember my new friends in the Middle East, especially the Arab/Palestinian/Christian/Episcopal ones, and will vote as a Global Citizen. My relative comfort, safety, and affluence demand that I be an informed and responsible voter, not a narcissistic and uninformed one.

Would you consider joining me?

P.S. Obama is NOT a Muslim.

P.P.S. Not that it really matters anyway!

(Photos from top to bottom: Sunrise over the Dead Sea, Bedouin Camel in Judean Desert, Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, Faithful Muslims at the Mosque)