Uncategorized

Lakers & Indians: A Gathering

Southwest High School in Minneapolis, Minnesota is celebrating the commencement of a 76th graduating class this month. As a finale to a 75th year of celebrations there will be an All-Class Reunion taking place on June 17th with tours of the newly renovated school from 1:00 – 4:00 and a party with cake and refreshments taking place at the William’s Pub Peanut Bar in Uptown to follow from 4:00 to 7:00. Spread the word and gather your friends and classmates. The Southwest Foundation is sponsoring the event and as a nonprofit fundraising organization has a limited budget for such festivities and relies upon the good work of our parents and alumni to share information.

A successful kick-off was hosted last fall, marked with an Open House for the community and alumni and featured the induction of the first seven members into the Southwest Distinguished Alumni. If you are unable to attend the events this June, mark your calendar for September 8th, when our second induction of five Distinguished Alumni will take place in a Saturday afternoon ceremony (the day after Friday night’s Homecoming game). Numerous other events; dedication of the renovated gymnasium and recognition of basketball alumni, a wrestling reunion, performance of anniversary compositions (commissioned by the SW Foundation, created by alumni composers) at the Lake Harriet band shell and a Theater Alumni gathering, as well as the publication of the first Alumni Directory in 20 years (copies available in the SW library courtesy of the Foundation for use in organizing reunions). We are a small but dedicated group of parents, teachers and alumni who receive excellent support from the school’s administration, including current principal Dr. Smith.

High School is/was such an interesting part of one’s development, a place to create lifelong friends, a location to build a foundation for the future, a locale to challenge both oneself and even authority when warranted. It was a place of frustration, fun and fitting in. We made friends, made mistakes and many made bad hair choices.

When I started at Southwest, it was a dual high school and junior high that I attended from 7th  through 12th grades. It was a neighborhood school where one only saw school buses when there was a field trip. By the time I graduated it was the first Minneapolis high school to house an English as a Second Language program (ESL) and a good portion of my classmates are Hmong, Laotian and Iranian. Unfortunately, as a new program the integration of these populations was poorly executed, with little explanation of who these new students were, where they had come from or the challenges they had faced that brought them to Minneapolis in the first place. The ESL students participated in  classes that were mostly segregated and bathrooms, the lunchroom and Media Center were our primary shared spaces. Southwest now provides education to students from literally every corner of the earth, in addition to providing Special Education opportunities to a student population with an array of educational challenges.

Once a Hockey powerhouse led by coach Dave Peterson (who went on to coach Team USA) the Minneapolis Public Schools currently field just one boys hockey team from the entire district. Soccer became a club sport during my time at Southwest and now produces quality competitive Varsity and JV teams in that area. Nordic ski is another athletic program that has seen success and our athletes access to the “chain of lakes” coupled with dedicated coaching staffs has helped produce many successful Cross Country teams over the school’s history.

The Rouser remains the school song, though it seems that sometime after my departure the band continued to play it but the students were no longer taught the lyrics. We dusted it off and included the words on the Distinguished Alumni program and sang it with accompaniment of current band members last fall. Making the event more memorable, was a ’82 Cheerleader who led the audience, resplendent with her original-issue pom-poms! Title IX has provided more athletic opportunities to girls than simply cheering on their male classmates and thus the once coveted roles are limited and perhaps viewed as old-fashioned.

While the majority of the alumni attended the school when the mascot was the Indians (a carefully chosen symbol selected by the original student body to acknowledge those who had settled the shores of the neighboring lakes) the Lakers have been the mascot since the mid-eighties when social conscience deemed that the former mascot was offensive. Like the world, Southwest has evolved and things have changed. The common denominators seem to be the Convention Grill, the Edina theater and the beloved lakes which I hope will always foster good memories and budding youth romance.

Hopefully I have triggered some memories for you of your time at Southwest, the friends you made and even a realization of how much things have changed. I encourage you to reach out to your siblings, friends and others you know who attended Southwest and make them aware of this opportunity to share some memories and make some new ones!

“When from these halls we leave the, loyal we will be. True to the purple and white.” Hope to see you a week from Saturday!

RSVP to: ellen@southwestfoundation.org

SW Reunion

Standard
childhood, Uncategorized

Purple Indians, Red Cow, Golden Friends

X

Despite truly meaning it, when we say “we should get together” somehow life gets in the way and the weeks turn into years and the years turn to decades and it just doesn’t happen naturally to fall into place. There has to be some effort. Social media has been both a blessing and a curse to relationships. Some feel there isn’t really a need to gather physically because they “know” what is going on with someone based on occasional posts and photographs. Others feeling that perhaps when their own life somehow measures up to the vacations, grandchildren and celebrations of others, then the time will be right and they will feel worthy. Perhaps when they drop some weight, have a better hairstyle or update their wardrobe, that will be a good time to get together. If we wait until our lives are perfect, it simply will never occur.

Facebook has allowed my generation to locate people from our past in addition to seeing what our own kids, family members and social circle did over the weekend or are having for dinner tonight. One can get lost looking at friend lists of other friends and trying to decipher if that thin red-head was once the chubby brunet cheerleader who was hilarious in your English class; same first name, married, living on the west coast. Could be her, maybe not. It’s like winning the lottery when you locate someone from your past and reconnect, catch up and find yourselves much the same. There are the other scenarios when Facebook suggests that you “might know” someone and “Yes, you do” and you have been avoiding them at all costs because they are toxic and don’t need to know you “might” meet at Bunny’s for Wing Night next week.

 

Facebook has replaced Hallmark as the way to send a birthday greeting and makes a better source than a local paper for birth announcements, engagements and marriages, as well as obituaries. The arc of life, all happening in real-time and available via phone or computer. Though one is never truly alone anymore, the constant connectivity seemingly causes people to interact less with those around them. Lack of eye contact when checking out with a cashier, tapping on a desired menu item while simultaneously talking on the phone with someone not present or being part of an entire table updating their statuses but not really “experiencing” the company of those present or engaging in the event they are attending.

Yesterday I experienced what is the best of what social media can do, gather people for real social interaction. The only thing that could have made the gathering more like the childhoods we’d all shared would have been convening in the rocket at Linden Hills Park or all arriving by bike and leaving them pedals down on their sides on a grassy spot outside the restaurant (Red Cow) we chose to meet at. My use of technology was having this single picture taken before we ordered, others used their phones as photo albums and one table-mate ignored an incoming call but showed her phone because she was filling someone in on her brother and it happened to be him calling. The two-year age gap meant a couple of the older girls couldn’t place the youngest one, so she pulled up a picture from thirty years ago and got “Oh, I know that girl.” to which she responded “That’s me.” Beyond that, everyone present was truly present!

An initial Facebook invitation to neighborhood girls swelled into an unmanageable number of invitees and then settled back into a table-sized gathering that allowed for multiple simultaneous conversations but conveniently allowed for shared laughter as well. To an outsider (or our waitress for that matter) I imagine we looked like a group of ladies who meet monthly for lunch. The reality being that with six of the eight having been 1980 graduates from nearby Minneapolis Southwest (Purple Indians) we had not all been under the same roof since the Carter administration. We used to bike over to each others house and ring the doorbell to see if someone could play or call their house and hope the line wasn’t busy when we wanted to extend an invitation. With a Facebook invite our friend who has lived in Hawaii for three decades received the same information in real time.

As I pulled up, I saw Laurie arriving. I parked down the street and walked up, giving her time to put our name in for a table. The weather being nice we stood outside as the remaining five arrived and a sixth slid in once we were seated. Laurie and I had played on the badminton team together and she had played volleyball in high school as well as in college. Badminton was a spring sport and we often found ourselves walking home together in weather thirty degrees warmer than the temps of our morning walk. Wet sidewalks and muddy ally-ways, our route included a couple of blocks that had formerly been the path of the streetcar line, a mode of transportation abandoned before our births and replaced with MTC buses that shuttled us to Southdale, our suburban mall or downtown which was a grittier urban destination for us to find everything from magazines at Shinders to department stores, restaurants and where all sorts of options for teenage girls to make bad choices were available. Laurie stood in her overalls and dreadlocks and lamented the fact that she had not seen me since she’d graduated and then she simply said it “We’re old!” and we laughed about it, me realizing only later that I had only been sixteen the last time we had seen each other. When a neighbor girl arrived that I had more recently encountered at funerals over the last several years she hugged me, commented that I’d lost weight and looked great and I glanced over at Laurie and laughed again, “Lost weight, gained weight. All depends when you saw me last.” and the two of them laughed harder having seen each other a few years earlier and a few pounds lighter. Same struggles, different decade.

The majority of us had attended Lake Harriet Elementary school, most starting kindergarten in 1967, I started in 1968 and Doreen, the youngest attendee being a 1969 kindergartner who looked exactly like the little girl Buffy from the show Family Affair (with ringlet pigtails) when she started school. Though the school was physically gone by the time we entered high school, one of our lunch friends currently resides in the home she was raised in, located across the street from the massive brick structure my own grandmother had attended. Her renovated childhood home located diagonally from my block, the other two corners being where responsible sixth-graders stood as school safety patrols and lowered their flags to grant me safe passage on a daily basis.

There we were; infants of the sixties, school kids of the seventies and all having graduated on the cusp of the eighties. High school graduates before most of us had heard the word “aerobic” and at a time when Ayds was a dietary candy to be taken with a hot beverage, a half hour before meals and AIDS was not yet coined as the name for a sexually transmitted plague. We were a new generation of women with Title IX rights. In addition to Typing (later useful for keyboarding), Clothing (sewing) and Foods (cooking) classes we could take Metals, Woods and Electricity classes, once considered the trades classes for boys. Thirty-five years later all of these basic skills classes that provided one with the capacity to sew on a button and press a shirt before a job interview or prepare a nutritional meal on a budget, even classes that taught one how to simply follow directions to complete a basic task in an office or factory setting are gone. A multi-million-dollar renovation and addition to our 75 year-old Alma mater has added dance studios, put a greater emphasis on the arts and offers computer coding, now considered the skill that one might learn while a high school student that could lead to employment beyond graduation. Most of us did not touch a computer before we graduated, ditto for the majority of our teachers.

Teachers; we reminisced about the ones we loved, the ones we feared and the ones that reminded us that we were in fact skipping class when they encountered us in the hallway. There were the ones whose children were our classmates, the ones who coached us, the ones that encouraged us, the ones who prepared us for college, believed in us and were well suited to their careers. There were the ones who seemed miserable, hated their jobs, likely hated us and took pleasure in tormenting our classmates who really didn’t want to be there in the first place. My childhood neighbor shared an amusing anecdote about being a server at a country club and being invited to a coworkers home for drinks after work, only to realize that her coworkers “boyfriend” was actually a despised teacher.

We were a  mixed-bag of women, many of us the youngest (read “least supervised”) of our families. Some of us were involved in student activities, while others cut class frequently, hung out with older kids, pushed the envelope and took part in risky behavior. None of it mattered, then or now to us, we were kids with friendships forged in youth that treated each other kindly. One girl mentioned that she quit ordering yearbooks because of the unkind remarks other classmates wrote in them. When another asked for an example she tossed out “Titless Wonder” as one of the more repeatable torments, when asked who said that I realized he was the same guy that thought it appropriate to opine on my breast size (too big apparently) like some perverse male Goldilocks looking for “just right”. Neither of us realizing his Napoleon complex, his insecurity that he lost four inches whenever  he took off his Hockey Skates. I’m sad to say that he likely continues to take out his “shortcomings” as a Minneapolis Police Officer.

We discussed relationships; long marriages, divorces, remarriages, children, grandchildren, even Godchildren. We discussed death; former classmates, siblings, parents and God forbid those who had endured the loss of children. We inquired about our friends siblings and learned that not only relationships of choice sometimes end but even those of blood are sometimes severed when maintaining the bond is no longer healthy and amputation of a limb  of the family tree is the best option.  We talked about work, travel, moving, pets, concerts, camping and the ache that comes when children grow up, gain their independence, lead their own exciting lives and leave us with an empty space that we might lack the collagen to have close quickly and naturally and the choices we have about how to manually fill those open spaces. Nothing we said was shocking or judged or remotely evaluated. It simply was. We learned of those battling illness, those who we lost due to lifestyle choices, those who regained their footing after epic challenges, the wild youth who embraced sobriety as adults. We championed the triumphs of our peers and used each other to connect the dots and locate where some of our other lost childhood friends had landed. We confused names, described physical attributes and referenced addresses based on the family names of others who lived nearby. When I mentioned Kennesaw Drug and then said “It became Butler Drug” one of the women nodded “Where I got caught shoplifting.” I laughed recalling that my own dalmatian had entered the store one hot summer day and exited with an 8-pak of Snickers that had been on display in baskets along the lower shelves in the candy aisle. Kids and canines of the neighborhood all had some experience linked to the store. I remember my brother’s friend getting caught for stealing Hot Wheels it’s where shampoos and cosmetics we learned about from Teen magazine could be procured or you could sample perfumes. There was a pharmacy in the back and their delivery car was a Volkswagen beetle with a cartoon image of pharmacist “Herbie” on the side, it was across from the Tom Thumb “superette” where you could purchase milk in returnable jugs or purchase cigarettes with a note from your parents. Hell, it was an era where you pretty much could do anything with a note from your parents. One of the attendees took her little sister to Canada (while in high school) on a Greyhound bus and was reminded to “bring a note from your parents next time.” Hell, we could do nearly anything, including leave the country without a note from our parents.

Long before a TV show made a zip code synonymous with Beverly Hills, we were the women of Minneapolis 55410, we walked the same lake paths that Mary Tyler Moore immortalized during the opening credits of her TV show. We attended Story Hour in the iconic Carnegie-era Linden Hills Library, resplendent with leaded glass windows, built-in  benches and story-book tiled fireplace. We played SWAC sports at Linden Hills or Pershing Park and went to the Tastee Treet for cones afterwards  or the DQ (which we could see from our table) which closed in just the past couple of months, close enough to the high school to grab lunch at during the allotted half an hour, IF you were willing to eat while walking.

For over two hours, there was no lull in conversation, not even when the food came. We were noisy! We spoke loudly, we interrupted, interjected but mostly we laughed. We misheard, asked for clarifications, jumped conversations. We heard about wedding plans, impending grandchildren and retirement ideas. We agreed to not wait so long to get together again.

We were girls of the transistor radio era, we had listened to American Top 40 together while swatting mosquitoes. Later we tanned at Lake Harriet or skated to those same songs at the Roller Gardens in St. Louis Park, a suburb which provided many of my friends with their boyfriends. Sometimes they were older boys whose tastes in alcohol, music and muscle cars made them an appealing option.

We started our school careers as girls who wore dresses and being Minnesotans we wore pants under them to and from school during the coldest months. Our teachers were the edgy women  who marshaled in the revolutionary pantsuit which in the 1970’s did not consist of a jacket and pants at all but rather a dress that came with coordinating pants of the same fabric. Basically, these fashion monstrosities were the grown women rebelling by wearing pants under their dresses, just like the girls did on the the playground. We were exposed to lots of rebellion during our youth, with older siblings returning from Vietnam; boys grew their hair out, marijuana smoke wafted in public venues, music lyrics grew more graphic and the girls of Linden Hills mimicked the culture of our youth. Some of us followed the rules and some of us rebelled against rules, teachers, parents and laws.

We sat and talked about nearly everything but politics. A refreshing change of pace from a year of divisiveness. Some joked about their therapy. One is a full-time seminary student, having raised her kids and having finally found time for herself. While talking about the pro’s and cons of getting another dog, another joked that she hated to be cliche but she (a lesbian) owns two cats. While a divorcee with two adult children talked about her and her partner of three years going out for a birthday celebration another woman inquired “did you know in high school?” and before she could respond I jumped in “I don’t think that was really considered an option then.” to which she agreed. They talked about the other girls we grew up with whom they thought were likely lesbians as well. I marveled a bit that the last time I’d encountered these women the word “partner” had the singular connotation of being the person you were paired with for badminton or tennis.

We are no longer the little girls who went to school together, were antagonized by the same boys, who hung out at the same parks and venues.  We are all grown up and became the women we wanted to become. Not the ones that others had supposed us to be or shamed us into pretending we were. We’re the women who not only don’t wear pants under our dresses, we’re the women who don’t have to wear dresses if we don’t choose to, the women who could choose not to comb our hair if we don’t want to. We grew into the best versions of those sassy, silly, sneaky and snarky little girls and regardless of how different we are, we all have each others backs and appreciate each other for our shared beginnings. We have moved, we have traveled but we have in our DNA the water of Lake Harriet, the appreciation of the Indians who settled on the shores of Lake Calhoun and whom the original students of Southwest selected as their mascot and an abiding thankfulness that our parents opted to raise us in Minneapolis 55410. Hope to see you ladies all again soon (Golden Friends)!

 

Standard
Blogging, childhood, sports, Uncategorized

Super Bowl – You Betcha

I hate to say it but were it not for living in a cold climate, I might not even follow pro-football. Yet, as someone who has lived the majority of my life in Minnesota (and a couple of years in Wisconsin) it’s a pastime whose bulk of the season takes place during our coldest, darkest, snow-covered weekends. While I most enjoy watching players doing their jobs in locales where they can see their breath, it does feel like a mini-vacation when a game is played somewhere sunny and warm and tailgating doesn’t require snow-pants and I imagine the fans smell of sunscreen.

Attached you will see the picture of my Superbowl. That’s right, that’s the vessel that typically holds the Tostitos, yesterday it was the bite-sized, sometimes it’s Scoops. If I plan in advance, occasionally it holds ripple chips, a sturdy transport for my homemade onion dip that is best made a day prior to consumption.

I have been a lifelong Vikings’ fan but with one peculiarity among most of my peers. I have a healthy respect for the Green Bay Packers, as I love the loyalty of their fans and have many friends who bleed green and gold. I also admire them for playing outside, the way the Vikings did when I first started watching them.

I’ll be honest, that I remember football being confusing as a kid, I recall watching games on black and white televisions where it was necessary to know if you were cheering for the light jerseys or the dark jerseys. Yet, I began watching football in an era when many fell in love with the Vikings!

The year I started kindergarten is the year the Vikings won their first division title. The following year, they won the title and their first ever play-off game and went on to their first ever Superbowl game which they lost to the Kansas City Chiefs 23 – 7. By the time I was in third grade the Vikings had won four consecutive division championships, meaning they’d held the title for half of my lifetime! What’s not to love?

The Vikings went on to lose two more Superbowls while I was attending elementary school. Followed by their fourth loss while I was in the eighth grade. It was an era of winters where I proudly wore my purple winter hat with the gold and white pom-pom on it and the Vikings logo patch sewn on up front. I wore it on my walk to school, I wore it when shoveling snow and I wore it while ice skating with friends at Linden Hills Park and on the rink at Lake Harriet. I even wore it in Wisconsin when I snowmobiled. I came to realize over the years that no amount of Vikings-apparel-wearing impacted the outcome of their seasons. My purchase of the Wild Card sweatshirt while working at Winona State during the ’87 season (probably the result of some euphoric pro-sports high after the Twins World Series victory) did not garner a victorious outcome. My most recent sweatshirt purchase for a party when the Vikings played the Saints for a 2009 NFC championship loss didn’t create good karma either. You may recall that last game mentioned as the era where the Saints did not behave like Saints but were incentivized to injure players with a bounty. Some thought it was wonderful they beat the Vikings because New Orleans was still recovering from hurricane Katrina and others thought that rewarding cheating and being poor role models blemished their eventual Superbowl Victory. Choosing to be an optimist, I look at each Vikings apparel purchase not as a means to ensure a win but rather as a wardrobe item that makes getting dressed for several Sundays each year an effortless task.

The Vikings have been having a bit of a dry patch, a spell only four years shy of the length of the Cold War. I’ve looked forward to having a couple of beers and watching the Viking’s play in a Superbowl game. I was thirteen the last they made a Superbowl appearance. Gerald Ford was packing up and preparing to move out of the White House. Fran Tarkenton was nearing the end of his second reign as the team quarterback and was less than a decade from being inducted into the Hall of Fame.

This season began as another hopeful one, undefeated in the first five games it seemed like this was “our year” but any true Vikings’ fan knows that it is when a season appears to be going our way, heck even when a game seems to be going our way, the Vikings are able to lose a great lead in the waning minutes like no other. This is especially true when the stakes are high! If there is an opportunity to clutch defeat from what appears to be an obvious victory, the Vikings are notorious for it. Perhaps it builds character, puts the whole thing in perspective of “it’s only a game.”. The Vikings have allowed us to raise our children humble and learn not to take things for granted. The Vikings have taught us how to love family, even when the members disappoint us and we’d like to give up on them. Sometimes in life, if you want to bathe yourself in Gatorade you are going to need to pour it on yourself because even though you gave your best, you simply were outplayed, outsmarted or outscored.

With my own children in their twenties, they see pro-football as a tradition of Dad napping on the couch, Mom yelling at the TV and our family dog looking for a handout. As young kids they went along with the annual ritual of the season, lured in by Velveeta-based concoctions and midday pizzas. Once my son became a pescatarian the Hormel Chili-based temptation no longer worked. Instead of viewing regular season games, they would watch the Superbowl for the food, the commercials and halftime show, tolerating the intermittent interruptions of football game. Teams to cheer for were selected by jersey color, a disliked team member to cheer against or varied pop culture reasons such as being married to a hot super model. What do you expect? It’s been four decades since their “home team” has even been in a Superbowl.

Crockpot.jpg

Yesterday my daughter and her roommate came by after work to participate in the American tradition of the Superbowl. The disappointments did not come (for us) from the plays on the field but rather from a lack of Clydesdales and puppies and too many previously seen commercials. The bright spots included both the Justin Timberlake and Melissa McCarthy ads, the Honda CRV celebrities yearbook commercial and the series of amusingly awkward T-Mobile promotions.

The main attraction was actually gathering around the crockpots, a midwestern custom akin to gathering around a campfire. This act is less about warmth and survival and more about salty and savory concoctions that could be made any day of the year but cardiologists recommend against it. Totino’s pizza rolls in the oven at halftime and even the most cynical sports fan has something to celebrate!

The halftime show did not disappoint. It was an energetic spectacular. As a Minnesotan I am keenly aware of our most recent Superbowl legacy. In 1992 we hosted and the halftime show remains an epic embarassment. If you have time and don’t recall the winter wonderland themed showcase that seemed better suited to a 1970’s variety show than a major sporting event, I encourage you to look it up. The opportunity to regain our dignity is upon us, as we are on deck to host the 2018 Superbowl. While it seems inevitable that we will have some sort of tribute to Prince, I’ll be anxious to see who is selected to perform. How amazing might it be to have the Vikings compete with home field advantage? Shoot, I hope that didn’t jinx them.

While the game yesterday was unlike any former Superbowl with a huge comeback and firstever brief overtime, I’m going to say that the final outcome was that my daughter and her roommate were the winners. Sure, maybe it wasn’t the Lombardi trophy they took but they did not leave empty handed. The crockpots were emptied and we sent them home with Rotel-dip, Hormel dip, Italian meatballs in marinara, an unopened bag of Scoops. We Vikings fans may not have a Superbowl title but we have our traditions none the less!

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

The Seasonal Musings of a Lifelong Minnesotan

bench

I was born in Minnesota and I have raised my own children here. It is a four season state where the months are disproportionately divided. Our winters are long and bitter affairs where we natives spend a great deal of time comparing the current one to epic ones of the past. People like to commemorate the Armistice Day blizzard that was able to sneak out of nowhere and strand those who were out with their cars and kill the unsuspecting hunters who having the day off had headed out in their shirt sleeves before the weather turned. The Halloween Blizzard of 1991 is still a fresh memory in the minds of many and is likely to be used for comparative purposes for generations to come.

July isn’t even over yet and you might wonder why I am talking about winter. I’m from Minnesota and that’s what we do. Sure it’s July and we have weeks of potential stifling heat but will be reminded by Fair time (our Fair is so great you don’t have to insert State in front of it to let folks know what you’re talking about) that “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity” which could be our state motto were it not for the fact that it does not mention snow. The summer brings the heat, the humidity and the mosquitoes which are worst about dusk each evening and whose buzz in your tent or cabin can drive you nearly as crazy as the intense itch and welt that their bites cause. They never travel alone and though they have always been an annoying part of summer there are certain diseases they carry that make them more of an issue today than I recall as a child. Disease carrying insects come in the tick variety here as well and you have not been in Minnesota long if you don’t know someone who has been impacted by Lymes disease which can have a long term impact on ones health.

Fall is the perfect time of year in Minnesota for me, it is the briefest in length and the showiest if given the opportunity. An ill timed rainstorm or early snowfall can strip our many variety of trees of their leaves before they have the chance to show off their magical color changes. The nights are cool and the days are sunny, a weekend drive can take you to a pumpkin patch or apple orchard. It is football weather.

Our seasons in Minnesota are indeed not just passing months and weather changes, our seasons are in fact divided among athletic seasons as well. Certainly there are the pro seasons, which for some reason seem to have expanded over the years so that they all seem to have extensive overlap. Our evening news last night just featured the Vikings moving into training camp, seems like the NHL just wrapped up and baseball is in full swing (yes, I meant to say that). A sure sign of the final blizzards of the year and that spring will truly be coming again comes from our high school athletics, the March tournaments for basketball and hockey are as much meteorological events as they are sporting competitions. The treacherous weather combined with school buses of athletes and fans coming to the metropolitan area from our smaller towns where the community shuts down when their boys or  girls make it to “The State Tourney” make for excellent conversation from reporters and neighbors alike.  I’ve come to learn that the tradition of watching televised high school sports is primarily reserved for those whose home teams have been to the tourney or former high school athletes who dreamed of the opportunity.

Spring is the season we wait for so intently, the one you dream of on a day when you are clearing snow for the umpteenth time during the same weather event. It is the promise of warmer weather and the knowledge that the man made mountains of snow created in the giant parking lots of malls and superstores will in fact recede to reveal their content of discarded bags, fast food wrappers and Starbuck’s cups. It is the tricky time of year when farmers speak and we learn that we have either too much or not enough rain for this years crops. The melting snow combined with spring storms can result in swollen rivers, overflowing lakes and flooding. For some communities instead of summer street dances to commemorate their unique crop or fictional characters spring could be called “Sandbagging Days”. Men, women and children are called into active duty as fortresses are built to protect homes, businesses and civic buildings from eminent water damage.

Beyond the dangers of flooding and freezing we have our share of tornadoes. The unique aspect of having a tornado in the Land of 10,000 Lakes is their ability to dip into a body of water and then dump their load in another location. Who can forget the 1981 tornado that damaged the band shell and picnic shelter at Lake Harriet in Minneapolis, taking a dip in the lake and then heading over to Har Mar Mall near the Fair Grounds (yup, that Fair) and dropping a bunch of fish in the parking lot? Who can forget? Not a Minnesotan, we live for that sort of story to add to our local lore. We wonder about harnessing that capability and using it to extinguish forest fires which are another seasonal disaster that can happen in a place as heavily forested as Minnesota.

I have lived in other states on a short-term basis and have friends who were raised here who now live in a single climate area and miss the seasons. Each winter as a Minnesotan ages they question their capability to live here forever. I know my musings may not be sanctioned by the state tourism board and I may have portrayed that between insects and natural disasters you would really be taking a risk to visit. That truly is not the case. Read polls and they will indicate we are a golf-crazy, bike friendly, literate bunch with fine restaurants, corporate headquarters, great theater, comedy and other performance venues. People here tend to be nice, though we argue about politics and religion, but only because we care and are engaged. If you have never been here, I encourage you to come. Our Fair is next month, come get a food item on a stick.

Standard
Uncategorized

Valentine Reflections

Four months before our first Valentines Day.

Four months before our first Valentines Day.

My husband and I are not the sort of couple that have a lot of complicated rules about “our relationship”. Seldom are there occasions that “we need to talk”. Part of it is that we are both incredibly immature for our ages and that sort of activity might seem too grown up for our liking. One rule that I do have that he has committed to memory is “no flowers on Valentines day”. Don’t get me wrong, I love flowers! I just think that flowers any other day of the year are both more economical and thoughtful. The first Valentines Day after we met he was living in Mankato Minnesota and I was residing in the college town of Menomonie Wisconsin. He called me that evening when we were both done with work and after asking how each others days were and the typical small talk he sheepishly asked “so did anything arrive today?” and my answer was “No”. He had ordered flowers for me well in advance but for whatever reason they were not delivered to me and he felt horrible about it. I appreciated the gesture and I thought the flowers were lovely when they arrived the next day but I never wanted him to stress like that again on my behalf.

I’m awkward. In high school when I was home with mono over Valentine’s Day a really nice guy stopped by to see how I was doing, as he left he gave me what obviously was a Valentine and I said thanks and tossed it on the couch as I walked him toward the door. This was not some elementary school Valentine that came 30 to a box, this was a serious Hallmark card that the poor guy had selected specifically for me. It was simply too much for me to handle. I felt ambushed and though I’m sure he wasn’t expecting me to have a reciprocal card for him that was all I was familiar with to this stage. I’m not certain that I ever even acknowledged the card beyond my nonchalant toss of it. All these years later I still feel guilty for his effort and my dopey adolescent reaction.

Elementary school, that is where Valentines Day reigned supreme! There was the crafting of your mail box that was the receptacle for receipt of you Valentines, which it was mandatory for each of your classmates to give you. Paper doilies and festive construction paper (cut in heart shapes) applied with that minty scented school paste made for a beautiful creation. Lake Harriet Elementary had what was a somewhat unique tradition, an Indoor Picnic. During that era in the Minneapolis Public Schools kids went home for lunch. The majority of moms were not working outside the home and after clearing the breakfast dishes and doing some laundry  they prepared lunch for their children to come home to. I lived a half a block from school and had a 90 minute lunch period, as some of my classmates had nearly a mile to walk to their homes near Lake Calhoun. Indoor Picnics took place on Halloween, before Christmas break (yep, that’s we called it then) and Valentines Day. The day consisted of making a place mat for your desk that was suitably festive for the holiday being honored. The hallways of the school were soon fragrant with the scent of boiling hot dogs from the basement kitchen. It was a PTA fundraiser and all of the important moms were there assembling the lunches they charged a quarter for. There was the hot dog in a doughy bun that had been wrapped in a paper napkin, a bag of potato chips, a large bakery cookie and a milk or an orange drink. It was an incredibly exciting event as the class lined up to wash their hands and a PTA mom distributed the fine cuisine in their individual brown bags. It took about 10 minutes to eat those lunches, everyone was sort of in a hurry to get to the Valentine distribution. Depending on the weather we were typically required to bundle up and take a recess at this point. In retrospect, I think this was a time when the nonsmoking teachers supervised the playground while the smokers headed to the staff lounge and discussed if it might be better to just make a contribution to the PTA and have them eliminate these Indoor Picnics.

After recess was when the real fun began, the distribution “in a calm and orderly fashion” (sure, I’m in first grade and I just had lunch at school and am about to get Valentines) of the Valentine cards and any additional treats. It was just too much, boxes of chalky conversation hearts, mini boxes of Red Hots, an entire roll of cherry Lifesavers! After all of the deliveries were completed then it was time to open them and (depending on the penmanship) see who they were from. There were duplicates, homemade ones, the ones that were from the same variety pack as yours that came from Kennesaw Drugs (that you could almost see on the next block from your classroom window).

You would think that would be about all a kid could handle but then we got to head down to the gymnasium to sit on the tiled floor and watch a movie. I probably saw The Red Balloon a dozen times in that gym. For the Christmas Indoor Picnic it was an ancient black and white Twelve Days of Christmas that had music instead of audio. A silent movie that was probably about the same age as the school. Then we returned to our classroom and packed up whatever project we had created as a gift for our parents to commemorate the holiday. No math, no reading, just art and eating and still the graduation rates were higher then.

As an adult I know that a lot of people celebrate Valentines Day because of me. I have introduced several couples who have walked down the aisle and some of them have produced children of their own who participate in whatever today’s version of Valentine’s Day in school is. I am a cupid and think that for many people going through life with a companion is better than going it alone but when it comes to Valentines Day it is the small gestures and surprises that I appreciate most. Of all the days in the year it is the one that should have the least pressure but somehow creates the most.

Go easy on yourself and whether you spend this year watching the Olympics alone with a frozen pizza or get down on one knee to ask someone to spend every future Valentines Day with you, know that it is the other 364 days of the year that truly define you and not this one. I wonder how Jeff would feel if I suggested chips and boiled hotdogs for dinner tomorrow?

Standard