Blogging, childhood, Politics, Uncategorized

That Added a Whole New Meaning to “Lip Service”

v

 

Merriam – Webster                                                                                                                    Definition of Lip Service: an avowal or advocacy, adherence, or allegiance expressed in words but not backed by deeds – usually used with pay

Our country inaugurated a new president a week ago today. The following day there were Women’s Marches from Washington DC to communities and campuses around the United States and in different locations all over the globe. The following are some of my thoughts and observations.

I found the Pussyhat Project to be a well orchestrated and unifying gesture for the women who chose to attend marches or supported the concept of showing solidarity around the topic of women’s rights, through the creation and wearing of pink hats. I was in no way inspired by the numerous march attendees who opted to individually or in groups dress as enormous vaginas, appearing to be birthing full-grown adults. Though I imagine Hobby Lobby appreciated the high sales of varying shades of pink and lavender fabrics. If you’re feeling like being crafty for a cause I have a friend who’s looking for 300 baby blankets to take with her to Africa this spring and I also have a neighbor who can hook you up with a pillowcase pattern to make fun pillowcases for critically ill hospitalized children. Your local high school theater or show choir could also benefit from your handiwork.

In terms of not wanting to objectify women, I’m unclear as to how dressing like genitalia somehow takes the focus off of that. I will say that it was easy to divide the age of the costumed women by those who opted to crown their costumes with yarn and those who opted for a clean V. Though my own children are now adults, my personal litmus for politics is “will this be awkward to explain to a child?”. Before I had children, I gave little thought to such things but I have in a previous blog told the story of my son questioning why the show he was watching was interrupted and me needing to explain that the President was apologizing to the nation. His questions led to me having to further explain that he had previously lied to the country during a similar appearance. That was followed up by my “white lie” of “he kissed someone who wasn’t his wife”. My son was three in 1998 and I have never regretted not getting into the oral sex infidelities of the Commander in Chief at that time.We did discuss that childhood memory during a conversation from college earlier this week.

While pink hats convey a message which might be easily explained as  simply as “they are part of the same team”. The tawdry costumes sort of defy explanation. Most parents have taught their children to some degree that there are private parts of their body. Having grown adults parade around publicly dressed cartoon-like as those private parts seems to have no real benefit. Clearly these were not the marchers who were there because they were concerned about the environment, as I’m envisioning most of those are headed for landfills. Perhaps some will be sold on eBay “One slightly used Cooter. Best offer.” why not just use the same description from their online dating profile? Then there are also the proud women who think that these marches have the same significance as the marching of the suffragettes and will hang onto it for future generations. Fast-forward to 2110 “Mom, what is this?” and then the thoughtful explanation “That’s your great-grandmothers vagina that she packed in moth balls. She fondly talked about the importance of her work with fellow women at the time.” then the poor kid will be looking around for great-grandfather’s penis costume, because after all if the entire objective is equality, that only makes sense.

I have on occasion while writing my blog posted a bold prediction. My crystal ball is telling me that a college student or group of college students, perhaps even those participating in a Greek Life organization (fraternity/sorority) will be kicked out of school, placed on probation or summoned to the Dean’s Office after wearing the very same costume(s) on Halloween next year. It will be deemed as vulgar, inappropriate, objectifying. They will come back with the explanation that they were supporting women’s rights and likely they will be ridiculed and ostracized by various groups on campus. My crystal ball is getting foggy but some people after seeing fellow students in those costumes may need to seek out a safe place. If anything, the costumes struck me as a distraction from what many sincerely wanted to communicate. If all I have in common with you is shared anatomy, that’s not much to base a movement upon. Especially knowing that people of all genders, orientations, melanin content, faiths, abilities and education don’t necessarily share the same political views. When you are encouraging participation by people wearing hijabs for modesty, it seems downright intentionally offensive.

My political activism began as a 17-year-old high school student who was trained by the Minnesota Secretary of State to register voters. The first campaign I worked on was while in college during a fellow students failed attempt to win a seat on the City Council. During caucuses I typically am either the convener or the secretary for my precinct. I serve as an Assistant Head Election Judge in the county where I live. I get one vote, just like everyone else.

I’ll be the first to admit that this most recent presidential election was unlike any other I have witnessed in my lifetime. While the Bush vs Gore election left us wondering who our president would be for an extended period of time, I think the most shocking election result while I’ve been politically active was the Minnesota Governor’s race where former Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey’s son Skip ran against the party switching St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman and they were both defeated by former Navy Seal and All-Star Wrestler Jesse “The Body” Ventura. Minnesota is politically fickle, consistently liberal and is the only state who garnered electoral college votes for favorite son, former Vice President Walter Mondale who was soundly defeated by Ronald Reagan.

Something that I think has changed within my lifetime is how voters respond to a loss by their candidate. I feel that perhaps we are reaping the results of a generation raised to not compete (not keeping score during childhood games) and unable to graciously concede. There is an art to losing gracefully, it has to be developed.  West St. Paul native Harold Stassen serves as a fine example of a Minnesotan who recognized that one does not have to quit simply because they don’t achieve what they desire. Politically successful as the Governor of Minnesota and the only person to ever hold the title Director of the US Foreign Operations Administration (a post that existed during a portion of the Eisenhower administration) his efforts to win his party’s endorsement as a Presidential candidate failed nine times. From 1944 when my father was in junior high and my mother was in elementary school and every four years all the way up until 1992 when I was a parent myself, he threw his hat in the ring.

As I’ve blogged about before, I am a political junky. I watch the conventions of both major parties. I enjoy the debates. I watch news programs and enjoy reading the paper. I love discussions and will call into question a social media post of a friend if I’m unclear on what their point is. I made a discovery only recently when taking a CareerCode Inventory (a job-focused version of the Holland Code) that identified me with a trait most do not have. A skill of my type is the capacity to “See every side of a story”.  Seeing this in my detailed code description, I realized that my friends aren’t intentionally being obtuse, they actually don’t possess the ability necessary to easily see something from a perspective other than the one they identify with. While fiscally conservative and socially more centrist in a liberal state, I am accustomed to having my opinions vilified. Minnesota prides itself on high voter turnout, I have often said that it’s more important for informed voters to vote. As my own children began voting, I recommended they select a few offices and learn about those candidates and choose based on their values who to support and if they didn’t want to learn about the judges, or school board or council members that was okay. Other than when casting a straw vote during caucuses, or during a primary to determine who is on the ticket, I have never felt an obligation to vote a straight party ticket.

Over the years I have had many friends tell me that they “aren’t interested in politics” as though they are picking an interest like sports or theater. One can live without attending a play or following an athletic franchise. Politics are more like oxygen, they impact your quality of life. While this most recent presidential election pulled some people into political activism, it seems that the aftermath is what has really mobilized people who had perhaps not engaged in politics much before. So an election which most Americans were looking forward to getting over and done with has polarized citizens in the aftermath more than during the campaign itself. If that can be done in a respectful way, that strikes me as a win. Having citizens engage may be something that had been set aside with the increase of more couples both working, a greater number of single parents and perhaps a more mobile citizenry. Perhaps it’s the result of taking Civics classes out of schools and people not fully grasping the concept of a “Government of the people, by the people, for the people…”.

Many of my friends participated in the Women’s March the day following the Trump inauguration. Friends from elementary school showed up in my Facebook feed, some marching with their husbands, others marching with their daughters. Due to the turnouts, most weren’t actually marching at all but were gathered with others, some in the pink hats, others holding signs. There were friends I attended high school and college with. Still more proudly sharing where their college-aged students were marching. A former supervisor of mine posted locations across the country where various members of her family were peacefully participating. My favorite was a college friend who posted a picture of his daughter, a high school senior who organized the “Girl Up Women’s Walk” before school at the American School of Doha that drew 250 participants. I watched portions of the DC event via CNN.

In nearly every post that I saw and every video that I watched the participants appeared to be having a great time. They looked happy, much like people look when attending a music festival or large sporting event. The two exceptions were the arrest of a moronic counter-protester in St. Paul and a video of a Trump supporter having her hair lit on fire at one of the rally locations. Both appeared to be isolated incidents that did not reflect the congenial attitudes of most of the participants.

The messages and reason for participation seemed as varied as the participants. Some stated they were there because they were anti-Trump. Others expressed concern for the environment. Some were asking who the Democrats would have running in 2020, having me hope that EITHER party put forth legislation with some limitation on campaign length, as financially and emotionally these two-year campaigns are not helping the country! There were people concerned about health care, others about LGBTQ issues. Scarlett Johansson and others spoke about Planned Parenthood.

I chose not to go, because despite the name Women’s March there were clearly opinions and values held by many women that were not welcome. I have never thought that an aspect of my anatomy informs my opinions on topics. While I am much more in favor of being “for” something than “anti” something I didn’t feel any real compelling reason to engage on that particular day, in that format. I am someone who has always volunteered, financially supported and contributed to causes and ideals that I believe in. I was pleased to see the freedoms of Americans being exercised, as they are protected. There are many things that I personally oppose, that I have no issue with others being in favor of, that’s what makes America a great country and unlike many others. I think the benefit of such large-scale gathering is that a percentage of those participating may follow-through and engage in supporting causes in their communities. Others admittedly were there simply to get a look at it, or feared they would be missing out on what might be an historic event if they did not attend, or succumbed to the peer pressure of others. Some felt angry and scared and wanted to be enveloped by a group of like-minded individuals. The reasons people chose to participate are as legitimate as the reasons other chose not to.

Many of my friends who participated are educators, nonprofit workers, attorneys and others in positions that are committed to the care of people of all ages and capabilities. Whether through their work, religious activities or simply in their own homes I would estimate that everyone that I personally know who participated or supported the efforts of the Marches is a compassionate person who has legitimate concerns. I would also describe the people I know who avoided the events in the same way.

I found most of the signs to be sincere, clever (“I’m with Her” with arrows pointing in all directions was a popular one) and legible. I will admit the ones that caught my eyes were the ones that can best be described as vulgar, distasteful and some that were just outright confusing. Seriously, if your “menstrual blood is going to flow through the streets” for any cause, you need to see a physician. To put little girls in Hello Kitty costumes and put signs on their backs about not touching their pussies, is about as appropriate as having the same girls dress as pole dancers for Halloween. I’m never in favor of using ones children to further a cause. It’s like putting a tattoo on a child, that’s a personal choice that they should be mature enough to make an informed decision about. One should never make assumptions about their child’s sexuality or political affiliation being the same as their own.

Those are my thoughts. I could have put them on a sign and met up with my friends to share some of them. With social media, there are much easier methods of conveying our messages to people throughout the country and around the world. A luxury the women who fought for our right to vote did not have. One of the great parts of being an American is that we don’t have to agree, with each other, with the president, with our neighbor. We’re not a homogeneous nation. We never have been and it’s doubtful we ever will be. I am mindful that many don’t agree with me and I respect and defend the right of others to peacefully share their message as well. In regards to “Lip Service”, time will be the measure as to if the words are backed by deeds.

Standard
Blogging, childhood, Uncategorized

Spoiler Alert! The Behind the Scenes of My Blog

desk

It’s the first week of a new year and though it may not look like it, I cleaned my desk. Gone are the little scraps with notes on them, some even I could not decipher the significance of. I’ve discussed before both my disdain and obsession with numbers. Here I am on the 4th day of a new year, it is 0 (yep, not a typo, ZERO) degrees here in Bloomington Minnesota and you are reading my 100th blog post.

I started my blog as part of an online class in Social Media Strategy in January of 2014. I’d been out of work for a year and was looking for something to freshen up my resume and supplement my degrees in Communications. My first post was an assignment that involved creating a blog for a fictional business, the Big Round Tomato Company. After creating the page it made sense to me to maintain it on a somewhat sporadic basis. If this is your first visit, I’d love to know how you found me and if you have read my work before I appreciate you returning for more of my musings. I’ve enjoyed the process of blogging, unlike cooking you can’t burn it and dissimilar to gardening I can’t kill it even if I ignore it or give it too much of something.

While a great deal of my writing has been documenting memorable episodes from childhood and my experiences growing up in South Minneapolis, I have also delved into current issues, politics, parenting and relationships. I’m inspired to write by things that annoy and amuse me. I like to document the rituals of celebrations and holiday traditions. I’ve written about the anecdotes of marriage and reminisced about the deceased. Much of my work ties together things that to most people might seem unrelated but I find some sort of connection between. I also enjoy contrasting my parents lives with my own and those of my children. In my most recent New Year’s post I even predicted the future. https://nerpribyl.wordpress.com/2017/01/02/another-perspective-on-new-years

As an extrovert it might seem that blogging is too solitary of an activity for me to spend much time on. I have always been a storyteller and over the years people have encouraged me to retell favorite stories. Once at a wedding reception I met a bar tender who told me he’d made great tips over the years by retelling a particularly amusing story about my black lab and that though funny, until meeting me he had assumed it was an urban legend. A college friend used to request that I tell stories as she fell asleep after a night out. I would ask her what she wanted me to tell her about. A story about “when you were little” or “about your brothers” would be all of the prompting I required and we would lay awake and laugh over the escapades. I don’t think that my life was necessarily any funnier, tragic or entertaining than anyone else, I just oddly remember it in greater detail. My cousin will listen to stories from our teen years together and shake his head, acknowledging that he has no recollection of the events but also with the wisdom gained with age, he is thankful that we lived through it! With comments, “likes” and feedback, I have found the interaction with some of my readers fascinating. More on that later.

My writing space may not look that inspiring but I could likely write a blog about nearly any item pictured. There is my college diploma, a tile under my pen cup that I made in junior high art, a Mother’s Day project from my college senior that he made in kindergarten. My mouse-pad holds a picture of my kids with their cousins during a long ago visit at their grandparents. The photograph behind my laptop is of the door to my freshman dorm room, covered with inappropriate messages pieced together like a ransom note from magazine clippings. That frame traveled with me as I worked for over twenty years with college students on five campuses in three states. My permit to carry certification from 2007 hangs beneath my kids art from days gone by. Pins that once festooned my jean jacket a lifetime ago and Winnie the Pooh and Wizard of Oz memorabilia are all part of my life experience. Then there is the tape, scissors, pens and markers of a typical desk and organized folders of job search related  materials.

While Facebook, Instagram and Twitter garner more immediate social interaction, I have had some peculiar and rewarding contacts as a result of my WordPress account. After a rant on old country music and some childhood recollections about the juke box at Indian Creek Tavern (in a tiny unincorporated community in Wisconsin) I received a spelling correction on the name of a bartender from over forty years ago. Months after a posting about my parent’s best friends (after their passing) I got a message from their daughter’s long ago boyfriend who I’d last seen in the early 1970’s, when I was in elementary school and he was in his early twenties. I’ve had childhood friends who have told me that I brought them back to a simpler time and place. Strangers have told me that while they don’t agree with me on a topic, they like the approach I have taken. My favorite comments are when readers tell me that my observations have made them laugh.

As a little girl who grew up across the street from Linden Hills Library and devoured the contents of the children’s room before moving upstairs to biographies, autobiographies and paperbacks I kept hidden from my parents, I could not have imagined that people would someday have access to my writings. At the time my biggest fear was that someone would actually see what I had written in my diary that documented my unrequited crushes and  my suspicion that a nuclear holocaust would have me departing this planet a virgin. Good news, that didn’t happen. At least not the virgin part, those diaries got sold by an estate sale company when my mother moved out of my childhood home in the early nineties. I was busy with a one-year old and took what I could of my youth to our two bedroom apartment. Oddly, I guess that means if I had remained a virgin then my elementary school journal and high school diary wouldn’t be in the public domain.

As someone who obtained a college degree with only a manual typewriter, the idea I would ever master the use of a computer was inconceivable. Computers were the realm of the brainiac kids I went to Lake Harriet elementary and Southwest High School with, the ones I’d assumed would end up at NASA, which as a child of my era was the coolest employer for the brightest minds. I was fairly certain I’d get by fine with my Smith Corona and wasn’t cut out for computers. This can be verified by Martin Fritz who in 1988 was given the task of teaching Stevens Point grad Kim Moistner and I how to use our office computers as Hall Directors at UW-Stout. That might actually be decent material for a future blog!

The fact that my words are being seen by people I do not know and many of them in places I will never go is exciting. That I can share about what a Minnesota childhood was like with people who will never visit here is almost overwhelming. I’m sharing the picture of my space so you know I’m not in a snow bank on the frozen tundra but using my 2017 technology from my very 1950’s basement. While this is my one-hundredth post, there are also 27 “drafts”.  Some drafts were ideas that were fleeting, others are thoughts I’ll get to someday and nearly all of them are incomplete because I got distracted by life.

100 blog posts. Thirty of them generated in one month as part of a writing exercise. On Facebook I often respond to Six Word Short Story, an assignment that requires telling an entire story about a typically vague or unusual photograph using exactly six words. Sometimes that is more challenging than an entire blog because of the need to be succinct. I write like I talk, a lot. Growing up my brothers often teased me that I was a “veritable font of useless information” but now they actually encourage my writing and appreciate the little details I weave into my remembrances that are as familiar to them as they are to me. Last year for Christmas my brother gave me a subscription to Writer’s Digest and this year his wife gave me two books which they enjoyed that they hope will inspire me. I feel a bit like Justitia, blindfolded while holding the scales, one with reading to do and the other with writing to do. Both tasks difficult while wearing a blindfold but you get the picture. Just hoping to maintain some balance.

I will close this 100th post by acknowledging the countries where people have read my blog. As a child of the Cold War the fact that someone in Russia has read my writing is a mind blower.  I’ve had readers from places that did not exist on the globe I daydreamed about in my school classroom. Regardless of where you call home, I appreciate you taking the time to read my blog and encourage you to repost the link, share my words, follow me and I’d love it if you would comment about how you found me. I welcome the opportunity to share my ideas and bring laughter to even more locations throughout the world.

Thanks!

WordPress shows over 2000 readers from the following locations have read this blog: United States, Germany, Japan, Italy, Thailand, Guatemala, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, Australia, Canada, Mexico, India, Malaysia, UK, Russia, Qatar, Singapore, Czech Republic, Norway, Brazil, New Zealand, Belarus, Antigua Barbuda, Hong Kong SAR China, Ireland, Austria, Netherlands, South Korea, Philippines, South Africa, Panama, France, Columbia, Jordan, Spain, Turkey and Romania

Standard
Uncategorized

Another Perspective On New Years

Today is the first day of a New Year. A blank slate full of hopeful possibilities for people who choose to be optimistic. For others it is emblematic of the start of some dreary foreboding anxiety-inducing era. It’s the same year for everyone and though our individual experiences will vary, it is how we choose to meet the situations and challenges of life that determines if 2017 will be the best year of ones life or the worst year in history. A year from now it will have been both. Not all of that is choice but much of it is. While we can’t control all of lives circumstances, how we choose to frame those situations determines our perception of them, not just at the time they occur but for the rest of our lives. The same event can be a trauma for one person, while having a positive impact for someone else. This year in particular seems to have people strongly divided regarding the future, our quality of life and mankind in general. Some are excited, while others are terrified. In reflecting on my own life, it seems to me this is a recurring theme and hopefully others can learn from my observations.

Looking back there was the year that I arrived in a foreign land where I knew nobody and could not speak the language. It was pretty intimidating but people helped me out and I knew that even though I was a stranger that they cared about me. Some of the basic rituals of their daily routines were upsetting to me and often it felt that nobody understood me. Some would say I was depressed because I slept a lot and when I wasn’t sleeping I was often crying. I wasn’t depressed though, I was a newborn infant and the experience is one commonality I have with more people on this planet than any other. I’d say the year I was born was a good year. Though from a historic standpoint, the year I was born is remembered by most Americans as the year that made phrases such as “grassy knoll” and “School Book Depository” synonymous with the assassination of JFK, an historic event that people identify with in the way others recall the Challenger Disaster or September 11th. I’m not old enough to remember where I was when JFK was assassinated but as with other major historic events, it is one where people not only remember where they were, they recall who they were with, how they heard, perhaps what they wore and how they felt. It’s this type of event that shocks the system and briefly one imagines things will never feel “normal” again. A single event in a year can make a huge impact. JFK’s death left a permanent void in the Kennedy family. My birth filled a hole in the Rose family; they had a baby girl, their family was complete. I imagine that my parents questioned the type of world they were raising their three children in. 1963 goes down as a good year for me.

The first year that I was really cognizant of in a meaningful way was 1968. Many Americans will recall the year because of the assassinations of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. that spring and Bobby Kennedy early that summer. The year was rife with racial tensions and Americans rioted in major cities, in the nation’s capitol and in Chicago during the DNC. It’s memorable to me because I started kindergarten at Lake Harriet elementary in Minneapolis that fall. The summer Olympics took place in Mexico that October, with George Foreman winning the heavy weight gold medal in boxing with a TKO in the second round against a Soviet. American gold and bronze medal winners in the 200 meter took to the medal podium shoeless in black socks and raised their black-gloved fists in silent protest against racial discrimination and were banned from Olympic competition by the IOC for life. My kindergarten class held a mock election that November in which  native son Hubert Humphrey won Mrs. Ostrum’s kindergarten class election by a landslide. However Richard Nixon exceeded the necessary 270 electoral votes by garnering 301 to Humphreys’s 191, with George Wallace bringing in a third-party 46 votes. I remember the election day clearly, as it fell on my father’s birthday and we had company that evening, which was highly unusual on a school night.While the nation was divided, that December brought us the iconic Earthrise photo which so clearly depicts that we actually are all in this together. The picture was taken  Christmas Eve from the Apollo 8. That same day brought us the most watched television broadcast in history (at that time). The astronauts took turns reading the creation story from the Book of Genesis while orbiting the moon. Tension, division, chaos and hopefulness were major components of 1968. For me it was a positive year of new beginnings.

I have written about 1976 before (https://nerpribyl.wordpress.com/2016/07/23/the-rnc-saved-my-life) it was another Olympic year and Presidential election (Jimmy Carter). Additionally, it was the year I became a teenager and got my ten-speed bike. It was also the year I didn’t die in a house fire because I’d slept downstairs in order to watch the final night of a political convention, instead of succumbing to smoke-inhalation upstairs while a fire slowly burned. Regardless of what else happened that year, not dying a tragic death mere days after becoming a teenager makes me appreciate 1976 as a good year.

1977 thru 1981 were spent in high school. Some people hated high school, I happened to enjoy most aspects of it. I made some good decisions, some bad choices and like many teenagers spent too much energy on superfluous matters and may have benefited from focusing more on other things. It’s a cruel period where you care more about how you look than any other time in your life but go through acne, braces, body transformation and often regrettable hair choices. While I didn’t obsess, I do recall some of the really superficial things that I thought at the time mattered, that in retrospect were pretty trivial. On the national and international level the Iranian Hostage crisis lasted 444 days from the day before my father’s birthday my junior year and not ending until the day that Ronald Reagan took office midway through my senior year. Months later Reagan was shot in an assassination attempt. Two months after that Pope John Paul II was also the victim of an assassination attempt. The week of Southwest High School’s commencement my community was hit by a tornado. While some lamented the horrible luck, others were thankful that only property was damaged and nobody was killed. Whether you’re Ronald Reagan, Pope John Paul II or some high school kid who might have been killed the week of graduation, sometimes being brought to the brink of a horrible situation or surviving a tragedy makes one appreciate the things they have more than they would be able to had they not had the life-altering experience. I’m certain there were many new parents that year who  likely questioned what sort of world they were bringing a child into. I have to say that 1981 goes down as the year I graduated from high school, the year I left for college, a year of fond memories.

In reflecting on my life I can think of no year that was perfect. I can’t even think of a year that went as I assumed it would from the outset. Whether it be a car accident, an illness, the death of a friend, loss of a family member, an injury or some other life changing situation, there hasn’t been a year where some sort of  unanticipated crisis hasn’t surprised me. By contrast, life has been full of surprising situations and opportunities. In 1988 I could not have envisioned that I would meet a man and marry him seven months later. At the onset of 1992 it would have seemed unimaginable that nine months later I’d be a mother. The year I married my husband is the year I buried my father. During the months  prior to giving birth to my daughter I drove my husband to the ER when chest wall spasms had us convinced he was having a heart attack. I rushed to retrieve him from work when he called to say he’d gone blind in one eye from what turned out to be an oculur migraine. Temporary inconveniences that made us thankful, helped us prioritize, kept things in perspective. While I’ve experienced bad things in my life, misfortunes and setbacks, I don’t believe they ruined a year. There is much to be learned by challenges and misfortunes. While we try to avoid bad situations, rare is the individual who makes it through life without them. Though it’s not hard to identify our own, it’s good to remember that we aren’t always privy to the very real difficulties that others endure.

As we enter a new year we are not certain that we will be present to usher in the next one. It’s not macabre, it’s simply how life works. It seems wasteful to spend too much time planning for a bad year or dwelling on how awful the past year was. What age has taught me is that there will always be world events that disturb, disgust, upset and even scare us. As an RA at St. Cloud State in 1983 I recall having to console a floor member after the TV movie The Day After was shown. While it won two Emmy Awards and holds the record for most viewed TV movie of all time, the fictional story of nuclear war left viewers overwrought with anxiety about something that simply did not occur. There was a lot of energy expended over fear of something that felt so real but didn’t exist. It struck me as wasteful.

As 2017 begins, perhaps it’s healthy to exhale and recognize that much of what will happen this year you won’t have much say or control over. Don’t let that make you feel helpless. With that knowledge go into the world with the objective of not fixing every real or perceived wrong but with the simple goal of being an asset. Donate a pint of blood, volunteer in an area you are passionate about. My neighbor sews pillow cases that are distributed to sick kids who are hospitalized. There are opportunities to foster animals. Programs exist for helping both adults and kids learn to read. If you have a hobby or interest there is likely an organization that would allow you to share of your talent or passion. Maybe your contribution is eliminating some of your own excesses and donating items. You can think globally and act locally. Don’t be paralyzed by your fears of the unknowns of the future, whether that means tomorrow or the next four years. Despite our differences, our commonality is that none of us truly knows what the future holds for us or others. What our attitude is, that is something we can control. It’s your choice if you want to begin the new year cynical, mean-spirited or judgemental. It’s not beneficial, unless you’re wanting to make your year miserable and to be “right” when next December 31st you can say “I knew 2017 was going to be a horrible year.” Having watched people this past year who faced seemingly unbearable challenges but who had fantastic energy, inspiring courage and positive attitudes through their battles (some to the very end of their time here) I see it as wasteful to exert so much negative energy. Negative energy is like any other pollutant, too much becomes toxic.

Though I’m not psychic, I’m going to make a prediction about the coming year. I foresee that locally, nationally and internationally there will be man-made problems, natural disasters and injustices. I predict that some people will do selfless acts to benefit their fellow-man. I imagine some individuals held in high regard will disappoint us. I’m guessing that educators, doctors, scientists and inventors will find new ways to make life better for people from all walks of life. If this all sounds somehow familiar, that is because like 1963, 1968, 1976, 1981, 1988 and 1992 (and all years prior, in between and since) I believe despite mankind’s frailty and inhumanity that ultimately  2017 will be a good year!

Standard
Uncategorized

Feeling Stupid After Wisdom Teeth Extraction

nerp-wisdom-teeth-hospital

Teeth are sort of a big deal in my family. My mother had all of hers pulled when she was just 29. The fact she had been a preemie likely was the primary contributing factor as to how her teeth formed. Despite having  received extensive dental care and aggressive treatments by high school (in an attempt to retain her natural teeth) gum disease and decay resulted in the ultimate decision to pull them all. If I ever have nightmares, typically they involve my teeth being broken or falling out. I have awoken many a night over my lifetime to run my tongue over my teeth and am always relieved when my tongue finds no hole.

The only time I have had any of my teeth pulled was when my wisdom teeth were extracted as a fifteen-year-old high school sophomore. A Facebook post earlier this year by my nephew Charlie brought the experience rushing back to me. I asked his permission to use his x-ray, showing his pierced septum.  He’s opted with his wisdom teeth to not have them all removed at the same time. While everyone’s wisdom teeth experience is different, I think mine was unique in that I spent two nights in the hospital to do it. When I gave birth to my son and had a rambunctious two-year-old at home, I got just one night of hospitalization.

I’ll preface my story by saying that I am the youngest of three and the only daughter in my family. That may be a contributing factor as to why I spent two nights in the Pediatric ward of a hospital in order to have four teeth extracted. Another factor may be that when my eldest brother had his wisdom teeth removed, my mother took him on the city  bus. He had the last appointment of the day and the anesthesia was still wearing off when he was brought to her in the waiting area. She had to work him into his letter jacket while he cried from the after-affects of being put under. A high school kid, taller than his mother, being led to the bus stop for a return trip home was not a scenario my mother would have enjoyed repeating. I imagine perhaps that my father provided transport home in the blue Plymouth station wagon as a courtesy to my other brother when his time came. For whatever reason, when it was my turn it was determined that I would have my four impacted teeth removed at Fairview Southdale hospital.

I was checked into the hospital the evening before the surgery, in order to be prepped and ready early the next day. I shared a room with a girl that was having her extraction done by the same surgeon the following morning prior to my own procedure. She was a model, who had a shoot scheduled two days later. I’ve always been a bit curious how that turned out.

Prior to being taken to pre-op I  was told that my surgery was scheduled for six AM and that once the anesthetic had warn off enough in recovery, I would be brought up to the same room and could have as much to drink as I desired, fluids having been withheld since the previous evening. The procedure ahead of mine must have gone more quickly than anticipated, as I remember waking up to the annoying sound of crying and trying to focus on the clock on the far wall that appeared to be bouncing like a basketball. The clock indicated it was about five minutes prior to the six o’clock hour. I was terribly thirsty and confused and I remember thinking that I needed to get it together, as I was going into surgery in five minutes and also, the annoying crying I heard, that was actually me. I then realized my mouth was so dry because it was stuffed with gauze and little foam tubes. I was being suffocated (so I thought) with a plastic mask. I wasn’t having it, I yanked the mask off and started digging the packing out of my mouth. A nurse sat knitting in a chair a few feet from the left side of my gurney. I remember very intentionally wanting to hit her knitting with the bloody gauze. She rose and tried to calm me, attempting to keep me still. I then realized that my one arm was on a board and still had an IV in it. Then I was drawn to a commotion to my right, a boy, perhaps eight years old who was crying for his mother. I’m pretty sure he’d had his tonsils removed. His crying annoyed me and I looked over at him and drooled blood out the side of my mouth, completely  on purpose, in hopes of shutting him up. It’s bizarre how clearly I remember the details of this event from 1979, perhaps because the behaviors resulting from the sedation were entirely counter to my normally good-natured and nurturing personality. I was irritable, downright mean and despite the clock continuing to bounce I lied that I was ready to return to my room because I was so incredibly thirsty.

With social media so prevalent, it’s not uncommon now to see posts regarding patients coming to after outpatient procedures or Youtube videos of oddly emotional passengers on their way home from appointments. From my era, we just have our stories and mine doesn’t end with the trip back up to Pediatrics. When it came time for my own kids to have their teeth removed, I made sure to schedule them at a time when they could recover leisurely at home. The office had a lovely waiting room but the waiting patients never saw anyone who had already had their teeth pulled depart after their procedure. A rear exit was used and patients were brought down in wheelchairs. My daughter’s extraction took place between Christmas and New Years. Just as the oral surgeon indicated, the swelling and discomfort was the worst on the third day following surgery. My daughter and I were convinced that my son would be hilarious after surgery but the only unique behavior he exhibited was a general annoyance at us asking if he felt okay. He had hardly any swelling and was disgusted by the quantity and strength of the medications he was sent home with.

I had several friends visit me after school that day. The surgeon also came up later and brought me a cup filled with liquid and my teeth (and the skin around them) in it. When I requested to keep my teeth I had assumed I would get them in a small brown envelope like the one my brother had brought his long rooted teeth home in. I was a little disgusted.

I rested off and on, watched TV, ate a liquid diet of hospital offerings and dosed in and out of sedated slumber. I awoke confused and disoriented in a darkened room with illumination coming from the hallway through a partially opened door at my far right. To my left was a large window and a midnight blue sky speckled with stars. I had no recollection of where I was or how I got there. My eyes adjusted to the limited light and at the end of my bed was a figure. I realized it was a nurse and cradled in her arms was a baby. The nurse asked how I felt. What? How do I feel? How would you feel if you were fifteen, never had a boyfriend, had only kissed a boy through an obligatory activity such as Spin the Bottle or some other such “game” and suddenly you’re in the hospital with a newborn baby? I was panicked! I asked “Do my parents know I’m here?” She responded that it was too early for them to be here but they would come later to take me home. By “me” I assumed she meant “us” unless I’d put this baby up for adoption or something. I was pretty sure I was grounded for life. Then I suddenly felt a beautiful aching in my jaw. Wisdom teeth!!! I’d had my wisdom teeth pulled, there was still a metallic blood taste in my mouth. I’ve never experienced anything like this again in my life, a moment where something that seemed so insurmountably wrong resolved itself with that sort of instant clarity. While it was a “situation” that simply wasn’t, the relief that rushed over me was very real!

Later that day my parents did come and pick me up. In the days to follow, I swelled like a chipmunk and then bruised as though I’d been in a fist fight. Yet I felt relieved to have dodged teen parenthood. In retrospect it’s a hilarious story but at fifteen I was too embarrassed to even share the amusing anecdote. There is no good way to say “Mom and Dad, I thought I had a baby. Funny, right?” In an ironic twist, the next door neighbor brought her newborn over to visit during my recuperation. Looking at this picture nearly 38 years later reminds me of what I briefly thought life was going to look like for me. While the nurse took a tiny restless patient on her rounds to offer comfort, I doubt she realized she almost gave a teenage patient cardiac arrest!

nerp-wisdome-teeth-home

 

Standard
Uncategorized

Christmas Traditions Change as We Do

grace-2016-christmasThere is a an evolution to Christmas, a continuum one travels throughout life. Though the reason for the season is unchanging, our relationship with it does change to fit not only one’s age but life’s circumstances as well.

My early memories of Christmas involve the red vinyl stockings with jingle bells on them that we placed at the ends of our bed on Christmas Eve and were full when we woke in the morning. Falling asleep on Christmas Eve was always difficult, virtually anything in the Sears Wish Book might be awaiting me in the morning. I remember awakening to the sound of the jingle bells and seeing my father back-lit from the hall light, his hand on my stocking. “Just checking, he hasn’t been here yet.” was his reply to what must have been my curious Cindy Lou Who sleepy-headed expression. My own children’s stockings reside by the fireplace but the rules regarding the contents of stockings are the same, they can be opened whenever the “child” awakens but they need to leave Mom and Dad alone. This must seem like a rule to allow for parents to leisurely begin their holiday by sleeping in. That has never been part of the Rose family tradition, for at least three generations, though I suspect further back than that. The Rose Christmas breakfast involves gathering at 9:00 am, by gathering I don’t mean meeting up at the dining room table in ones pajamas. As children we had done our stockings, opened our Santa gifts and those from family and were scrubbed, polished and in our finery at Grandpa Roses’ pink house in Golden Valley by nine o’clock sharp. We arrived to the aroma of Grandpa burning the bacon and high ball glasses painted with festive holly that were filled with quality eggnog. Ten of us surrounded the same table where the “adults” of my family will gather this Sunday (you know what time) and there was always a candy cane at each place setting and perhaps some other little token item. After my grandfather died we had breakfast at home, in a less formal manner. After my own father passed we took our celebration to a hotel buffet for a few years and once my brothers and I all had places of our own, we began a rotation of hosting. As adults we have taken the item at each place setting to a new level we refer to as “table gifts”, sometimes amusing, often practical and occasionally inappropriate selections that I start looking for on December 26th for the next year.

My childhood Christmas Eves varied, sometimes we were at my aunt and uncles where the children played and the grownups consumed hot drinks called Tom & Jerry’s or sipped amber liquids from short ice-filled glasses. Typically we got to open a package from under the tree on Christmas Eve, a tradition we have maintained with our own children. As I got older I would often hang out at my best friend’s house and attended midnight mass which was festive with song and fragrant incense. Despite living only across the street from each other Santa delivered her families gifts during Mass and on my side of Vincent Avenue the gifts didn’t show up until the next morning. I’m thinking Santa needed some sort of routing system to help make his job more efficient and less labor intensive. Once I met my husband we began spending Christmas Eve with his family, though on occasion the Pribyl celebration would take place on another day entirely to accommodate a sibling traveling and rotating celebrations at their in-laws. On those “off years” we would stop in at my best friend’s parents house or attend an open-house hosted by the parents of the children who were in our wedding party. Though the people were not always the same, I always enjoyed the festive gatherings, the people and the food.

When it comes to holiday food traditions I loved any baked good my aunt Patty made; rum balls, corn-flake wreaths with Red Hots and fudge come to mind. My best friend’s mom was a veritable Mrs. Claus who baked twelve months out of the year, I can think of nothing she made that I didn’t like. At my house, the Christmas baking consisted of Spritz cookies, with the heavy buttery dough being so dense that we actually broke the seam on the metal cookie press one year.

Once we had children of our own, my husband and his siblings began hosting the festivities. Our traditions are less formal when it comes to food, though my husband loves to make multiple batches of Chex Mix from Thanksgiving through New Years and his Korean Chicken Wings are a family favorite. I make caramels. After the death of his brother and the aging of his parents, the Christmas Eve traditions have changed as well. This is the first Christmas since his father has passed away, having spent his last several years in a Nursing Home. It was a number of years ago at my sister-in-laws on Christmas Eve when I first observed how terrified he was of the Alzheimer’s that was eclipsing him. While we sat on the couch watching others open gifts he looked at me in panic and said “I’m afraid I won’t remember who gave things to me.” I tried to gently reassure him “That doesn’t matter Pop, when you wear something or use something just know that somebody who loves you gave it to you. Nobody minds if you don’t know it’s from them.” It was only a couple of years later while we were hosting that I noted a distinct change in his mother’s behavior. Almost immediately upon arrival she exuded an anxiety “Are we eating now or opening presents?” she asked. I told her that we were simply enjoying each others company while waiting for others to arrive. She was worried that it was getting dark, which at 4:00 pm on a December day is typical. She seemed to be made anxious by the crowd, though it was simply her children, their spouses and her grand kids. It seemed cruel that a gathering that she had once enjoyed was now clearly causing her stress on multiple levels. I suggested to her daughters that perhaps in the future each family could independently visit her on her turf during the last couple of weeks of the year, to help eliminate the confusion of so many people, the anxiety brought on by the travel and to allow her to enjoy time with each of her children. We continue to open our home on Christmas Eve, the gatherings are smaller as new traditions form and the next generation reaches adulthood. We continue to enjoy the company of Jeff’s uncles and others whose plans allow them to attend.

Last night we celebrated Christmas with Jeff’s mother Grace. While Betsy worked selling Christmas trees, Eddie and I joined Jeff for a visit to Le Sueur. We arrived at 4:00 and gave her her gift. As the years have passed we have moved from the frivolous to the practical. It’s a clock designed for those with dementia, it not only provides the time but also the day and date and when in the day it is (six settings ranging from morning through night). Unlike his father’s Alzheimer’s which had him confusing who people were to eventually no longer recognizing them, his mothers dementia has erased her short term memory and has her fixate on a topic. During this visit she asked Eddie how tall he was perhaps a dozen times, then would follow-up with whether or not that was taller than his dad and ending with whether or not he thought he was done growing. On a couple of occasions she wrapped up with “Probably when you’re 18 or 19.” (he’s 21). Other trips it’s been the large trucks on the roads that catch her attention, yet another recent visit she was fixated on a child with special needs who was in the restaurant we took her to. Despite the confusion and the repetition, visiting her in her own space and taking her out locally for a meal or coffee as a small group seems to keep her anxiety at bay. So despite it not being “the same” as how we used to enjoy the holiday, it’s the best way for us to allow her to enjoy the holiday now.

Throughout this year and especially in recent weeks, I have seen a lot of social media posts regarding the loss of loved ones, parents and spouses alike. I know for many that as family situations change, so do many of the traditions that we hold dear. The changing of traditions to accommodate the needs or situations of others does not detract from the memories of Christmas past or the hopes for Christmas in the future. Situations change and whether it is financial, travel, health or loss of a loved one that changes your celebration this year, may you find comfort in the special memories and traditions that have made this holiday your own. Merry Christmas to all and best wishes for a happy and healthy 2017.

 

Standard
Uncategorized

Time Passes Even When the Battery is Dead

watches

The photograph at the top of this page tells a story, not the story that watches are intended to tell (the actual time). What this article covers may come across as familiar to those who read my work, it is the skeleton of an October 2015 blog with updates of the past 14 months. Like these watches, despite the passing of time, things look much the same. Though I am writing on my lap-top, I choose to be in the confines of my basement where I have crafted new versions of my resume’ and wordsmithed cover letters for what is now 48 months. Being here feels more like a job and I don’t want to forget what having a full-time job feels like. Each of these watches has the capacity to work, they simply are not working right now. While the watch is certainly more useful when it is working, it is not actually anymore valuable. There is a lessen in that. While I realize my value is not based on my employment status, I have a burning desire to put my skills to good use. I am hoping 2017 to be re-energized with a new battery!

Though some may envy what appears to be “free time” I have to admit that until experiencing it, I had no idea that a job search would be more exhausting than any work I had previously done, including the physical labor of landscaping one summer during college or juggling three jobs early in my marriage. I think that’s because even if you work a twelve hour shift, when you come home you know that you are no longer working. In contrast, when you get up from your computer when unemployed, your mind still knows that your job is to find work and you therefore are not off the clock; not when driving, not while lying in bed, not even when socializing at a party.

Despite beginning to look for my next position immediately upon receiving the news that my job of nearly twenty years was being eliminated, I am still occasionally asked “have you started to look yet?”. The length of my underemployment (I have had some limited work helping out businesses owned by those I know) has others asking “So where are you working now?”.  So this is my opportunity to share that I am still in the hunt. I feel fortunate that I am currently enjoying a part-time gig  selling poinsettias, wreaths and Christmas trees at a local garden center. I am thankful for the human interaction and chance to spread some holiday cheer. The only issue with working part-time while job hunting is that it poses some distraction from the daily cycle of the search.

I have had the unique experience of having six unemployment counselors (technically only four, as twice I have come back to the same person, one ironically after being laid off because of the promising unemployment numbers) all confident in my ability to find work. Each time I meet with one they look at my resume, tell me that my experience and skills are valuable and that I should have no problem finding work. I have taken many interesting classes, attended multiple speakers and learned to navigate various forms of social media. Just yesterday I took the CareerCode test which tells me I am  “Social/Enterprising” which they further define as “The Connector”, I will have a follow-up class next week. This sounds much like my Holland Code which identified me as a SEA, I took that test at some point over the last three years ago.  These are the sorts of inventories I used to administer to those I supervised. While I value and enjoy this sort of exercise, there is not much new insight to what my skills and preferences are. All of the instructors have been very positive and encouraging, telling me that employment should not elude me. Yet here I am still looking at jobs with various communities, nonprofits, institutions and organizations. The one insight that my friends working in HR have confirmed to me is that I am not imagining that my age and ethnicity are not allowing employers to check off certain boxes in my favor. I submitted an application to AARP last month, thinking they might see the value in an enthusiastic and experienced employee. I have not heard back from them.

The Workforce center has undergone dramatic changes during my time job-seeking as well. When I first sought out assistance at the Hennepin South location, it took up the main floor of the building that housed it. Later, a wall was put up that divided the space and it took up just half of the floor. My assumption was budget cuts. More recently the wall has been removed and the space reconfigured allowing for a large lecture space, smaller classroom spaces and computer stations in what once was a hallway. I’m unclear now if it’s a good sign when unemployment services have budget cuts, indicating fewer people need the resources or a bad sign. The once flexible use of the computers has been limited and printing can only be completed at certain times. These issues don’t impact me nearly as much as I imagine they do the young parents who are looking for work and wish to complete these tasks at their convenience, not on some arbitrary timeline that is set by the Workforce Center. It is most annoying when there are four people working, only one client in the place, all computers are available but it’s “not time” to work on resumes.

I have had some interviews, which I enjoyed for the interaction and valued for their potential opportunity. I’ve looked at positions that were the right job in the wrong location, others which I had the experience for but lacked an advanced degree  and still more where I had the desire but not the software training. Still others looked like a fit for my experience but were not a good fit for my temperament. I am of an age where I know that it would be foolish to take on something over my head or that I don’t have a passion for. As an ENFP on the MBT Inventory I am aware of not only my strengths but also the detailed minutia that does not suit me in some opportunities. I seek variety, human interaction, an opportunity to guide collaboration and work that allows me to help others achieve at their optimum capacity.

When I was first out of work a person at the Unemployment Office suggested a class to me that would start in six weeks. My immediate response was “I don’t have six weeks to be out of work.” clearly a naive comment, from someone who had little knowledge or experience regarding the employment landscape. Similar to my friends who have endured illness/injury, the challenges of aging parents or struggles raising children, none of us choose our battles in life and as Winston Churchill so eloquently put it “If you’re going through Hell, keep going.”. While unemployment for over four years (two while both children were in college) has been incredibly challenging, I am realistic enough to know what is and is not a crisis. Someday I may reflect on this time with more fondness than I am currently feeling while in the midst of it. My beagle Millie is the only family member hoping I don’t find another job. She thinks I work for her now. The benefits are great but there is no paycheck.

My business cards define me as a “Creative Problem Solver”, a moniker I arrived at after discussing the roles I have played in professional capacities and volunteer positions over the years.  A motivated group of unemployed students in a “branding class” in 2013 suggested  that it best described my varied skill set. When I say a group of unemployed people is “motivated” that is because of those I have encountered on this unintended journey who were not. Last year I encountered a man in his late forties who arrived at an unemployment session dressed more appropriately for a Jimmy Buffet concert; shorts, flip-flops, a crumpled straw hat and even though I was seated on the other side of the room, I believe there was a slight fragrance of coconut wafting across the room from him. In the fickle job-market it is quite possible that he is working now, while I continue to search. That doesn’t mean it’s quitting time, though it is 5 0’clock somewhere!

I need a job with variety in the daily responsibilities. I am creative and would be wasted in a mundane repetitive setting. I have worked for twenty years in property management but it is not the leasing or administrative tasks that I did, it was the designing of a program, the planning of activities, the marketing of the facilities and serving as a liaison to the surrounding community. I worked in student housing for twenty five years and love identifying strengths in people, building teams and developing leaders. I like making things work effectively, whether through developing policy to make expectations clear or sitting down with parties to collaborate on solutions to issues.

I have volunteered since I was a child and thrive working in a helping role with groups and organizations. Most recently I am back at my former high school, sitting on the Foundation board, helping with a year-long 75th anniversary celebration and serving as the chairperson for the newly formed Distinguished Alumni committee. My profile from yesterday’s class came with this quote “I am a part of all that I have met.” -Alfred Tennyson That pretty much sums me up!

I appreciate all that have passed along leads and suggestions over the past few years and I continue to welcome ideas and feedback. I wish I wanted to be a Realtor, or to sell insurance, work in banking or even sell cars, because there have been opportunities in those areas but I simply know those aren’t my callings. I am thankful for those who have told me they believe I could do talk radio, be a stand-up comic or write a book but I need a paycheck sooner than later. I am confident there is something out there for me and I will share with everyone once I have found what that is. Meanwhile I welcome any leads you may have. May 2017 bring health and prosperity to your home.

Standard
Uncategorized

My Roots Lead Back to November Fifth

Taking off his work boots at the end of the day

My Dad taking off his work boots at the end of the day

If you look at some calendars on November 5th you will see the notation “Guy Fawkes Day” what you won’t see is “Charles A. Roses’ Birthday”. If it falls on a Tuesday (after the first Monday) the calendar may read “Election Day”. For most the date doesn’t mean much at all. Were it not for one of these November 5th events, you would be reading something else right now, I simply wouldn’t exist. This November 5th is my father’s 85th birthday, though he’s been gone over half of my life (https://nerpribyl.wordpress.com/2014/06/16/dad-gone-a-quarter-century) I feel compelled to do what I do on a regular basis, tell some stories about my dad. One might think that I would eventually run out of tales about my father after so much time has passed but I imagine that if I live to be eighty-five myself I will still be able to gather recollections from the recesses of my mind that highlight his humor, brilliance, general cleverness, patriotism  and huge heart. It wouldn’t take long either to come up with some epic examples of his stubbornness. chuck-rose

Chuck with his older brother Dick

Chuck with his older brother Dick

Growing up I sat to the right of my father at the kitchen table, during holidays in the dining room I was seated immediately to his left. It was during dinner, often while he cut my meat when I was little, that I would stare at his hands. My father’s fingers were twice as wide as my own adult fingers and his nails were large squares. The back of his hand had a fair amount of dark hair and occasionally I would ask him about the scar on the back of his one hand, a white crescent that was visible through the hair. Even though I knew the story, I liked to hear it because it reminded me that he was once a kid. The scar came from when he was in the garage as a child and the latch on the exterior of the doors fell into place, locking him in. After yelling for help and assuming he could not be heard he wound up and punched the glass out of one of the windows. This resulted in somebody hearing him and a permanent scar on the back of his hand. Every time I heard the story I felt sad for the scared little boy, admired his bravery and sort of wondered if maybe his brother hadn’t played a role in the situation.

My father was a bit of a prodigy on the piano as a child and though he didn’t play often while I was growing up it was delightful when he stood at the piano and banged out a jazz piece. My husband recalls him at the wedding where we met stepping over to a piano and hammering out a tune. It was like riding a bicycle for him, it just flowed naturally and never left him. His mother’s cousin who was born just a few years before my father and graduated high school with his brother shared with me recently that her family would occasionally be awoken in the morning to my father playing a tune. Sometimes upon completion of his paper route he would let himself in (in an era when people in Minneapolis didn’t lock their doors at night) and offer up an early morning recital. He was also a gifted drummer who would occasionally intentionally break a drum head during band in high school. “Why?” you might ask. The band director would then offer up the keys to his car and allow him and a classmate to drive to a music store to pick up a new one. I was sad when the Uptown Bar closed, as it was just down the street on Hennepin Avenue from where my parents (and grandparents) attended school at West High. The proximity meant that my father would stop in after school sometimes and play warm-ups with the jazz musicians that were passing through town in the 1940’s. It was there or The Rainbow that we would go together for a beer after meeting in Uptown for a haircut while I was in college.

On trip with parents before Korea

He instilled an appreciation of music in all of his children, even when our tastes did not always align. Music played most evenings while we ate dinner and when my brother Bob was a senior in high school, that meant his favorite Rod Stewart Album nearly every night. While other homes had stereo, we had Quadraphonics. We listened to 45’s, LPs and old 78 rpm records. When a favored orchestra performance was broadcast live on  a local radio station he would often record it on his reel to reel and replay it later. With no air-conditioning in the the house and his music playing loudly in the summertime there would be the occasional quizzical look of a passerby who overheard the station break from months earlier predicting below zero temps or several inches of snow. When the Minnesota Orchestra opened a new concert venue in the early 1970’s he purchased a pair of season tickets to Orchestra Hall and I loved the nights I got to dress up and attend with him and then go out after the show for a late dinner. It was pretty heady stuff for an elementary student on a school night. He not only enjoyed listening to music, he loved to dance to it and since my mother didn’t much enjoy dancing I relished in the opportunity to join him, whether in a ballroom or neighbor’s living room. The only real luxury item I ever recall my father purchasing for himself was a pair of red patent leather shoes with a red suede accent, they were beautiful.

At the cabin 1959

At the cabin 1959

Other than his time in the Army during the Korean War (he didn’t talk about it much but enough to let me know not to refer to it as a “conflict”) and a stint in Milwaukee while he went to engineering school, worked at a camera store and started his family, the major portion of his life was spent in Minneapolis. His ancestors were among the early tradesman that built Minneapolis and as a foreman of the electricians on the IDS building (downtown) he himself participated in the changing skyline of the city he called home. His sons had memberships at the YMCA he had gone to as a kid. He took pleasure in his children enjoying the lakes he’d sailed in his youth and the independence he had experienced via streetcar was accessible to us via bus. While certainly Minneapolis has changed much since my father’s youth, it was not an entirely innocent place. He had gangsters for neighbors and once witnessed a shootout on the way to the store for his mother, a tale that got him in trouble for lying until she read about it in the Minneapolis Star the next day. News traveled differently in those days and during WWII much of it came from the newsreels shown prior to movies at the local theater or via the radio. He typically attended the movies each Saturday and as a flexible gymnast found humor in tumbling down the stairs from the balcony. He had a lot of freedom as a kid, taking the streetcar all the way out to lake Minnetonka to visit his grandmother and he also had a lot of responsibility, including going to some of his grandmother’s rental properties to stoke the buildings furnace on his way to school in the morning.

Dad sailing as a kid

Dad sailing as a kid

My father was what years later would be described as an “early adopter”, he was the first one in his family to purchase a TV set, a new invention that he was enthralled with. During my growing up years he paid little attention to the situation comedies or dramas that filled the airwaves but opted to watch when National Geographic or Jacques Cousteau had a “special” which is a somewhat colloquial term for not “regularly scheduled programming”. On the occasions later in life when he was home recovering after a hospitalization he would tease my mother regarding her soap operas. “Is that the same phone conversation she was having after my surgery three years ago?” he would inquire. We were the first people I knew that owned  a calculator, a Texas Instruments gadget that was an inch thick and I would later describe to my own children as an invention that could “add, subtract, multiply AND divide!”. It was a $100.00 investment in a new technology. We likely owned the first microwave on the block as well. It was a huge heavy model that simply had a single knob for the timer. He loved inventions, studied how things worked and were he to have had better health and a longer life would likely have his name on a number of patents that he was working on.

Christmas breakfast

Christmas breakfast a Rose family tradition

My father did not like to feel taken advantage of and many of my favorite stories are of times he stood his ground. It’s a quality of his that I am often reminded of when dealing with issues of fairness. I never feel alone when I stand my ground, it often feels like he is right there with me backing me up or chuckling at my determination. A favorite example of this was after a purchase of a refrigerator from Sears. It was delivered to our house on Pleasant Avenue while he was at work and my mother was home. He arrived home to realize that the refrigerator was a lesser model than the one he had ordered and paid for. He called Sears to explain their error and wanted the situation rectified. When they told him it would be a couple of days, that simply was not good enough for him. He asked “Well how long will it keep the food fresh without electricity?” They told him not to unplug it. He claimed he did not have enough extension cords to keep it plugged in, as he had moved it to the back alley for convenient pick-up. Sears had the correct model to our home that evening, at which time my father unplugged the refrigerator and removed the perishable items. He could justify his white lie by having been lied to first. They shouldn’t have told him they could not get the refrigerator to him that night when quite obviously they could and ultimately did.

Playing charades at a Job Daughters event (Electrician)

Playing charades at a Job’s Daughters event (Electrician)

I am fortunate to have friends from my youth who will occasionally mention to my kids that their grandfather was a really nice guy. Typically they’ll say how funny he was but often they reflect on how kind he was and that unlike many of their friends parents he actually took interest in them. My oldest brother remembers him as strict, acknowledging that with me he was considerably more lenient. He had high expectations and he was not a man I wanted to disappoint. He was generous with his time and knowledge and showed a lot of compassion. I remember when our neighbor with young kids got laid off work that I babysat, so my parents could take them to dinner. I recall that when my cousin arrived from New Orleans with a paper sack of possessions and pregnant that my father took her in. After his own father died, his stepmother became someone else he watched over, much like he’d done with his favorite aunt years earlier. Smart, good, kind, funny and compassionate, tempered with stubborn and of strong opinion isn’t a bad legacy to leave.

rose-family-1963

Rose Family 1963

My father never really had any birthday wishes that he shared with us and typically would tell us that he had everything he needed. He did however like to tease that his birthday was a big event. If he saw a delivery truck anytime after mid-October he would suggest “we should get home, November 5th is right around the corner and they may need a signature for delivery.” Living in the flight pattern of the MSP airport he would often look up in the fall and claim “If it’s something big, they may be airlifting it in.” He would joke about November 5th when we passed the Cadillac dealership as well. When I was little I remembered my mother’s birthday was in the month of March but “November fifth” was etched in my memory as my father’s birth date from a very young age. It’s a day I will always fondly celebrate. If you knew Chuck or simply resonate with a father who packed a lot of wisdom and some excellent parenting into a truncated life, I encourage you to raise a glass on Saturday and toast to him as well!

My parents with their best friends Jan & Bill Newland

My parents with their best friends Jan & Bill Newland

Standard