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

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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

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Uncategorized

Siblings: the most expensive gift your parents give you

Siblings

When I was pregnant with my oldest I was teaching for a class of two-year-old kids. In September of that year they were all the youngest in their families. Grace had three old brothers (“by the Grace of God we finally got a girl” I was told was the source of her name) and would remain the baby of the family for the rest of her life. Through pregnancies and adoptions, most of the members of the Blue Bear class were no longer the youngest by the time we parted ways that May.

One of the moms had believed that she really just wanted one child and thought that asking her pediatrician (himself an “only”) would provide her with the reasoning to satisfy friends and relatives who were insisting that her seemingly contented son somehow “needed” a sibling. Standing before me after class that day, visibly pregnant, she told me how he had responded “it was a privilege to have the undivided attention of my parents growing up, always knowing I was very special to them. I was taken to concerts and plays and traveled extensively in a way that would have been more difficult if I had brothers and sisters. Financially, I was able to choose the schools I wanted to attend.” Thinking she had all she needed to justify what others had been telling her was a selfish choice he continued. “It was great up until my father passed away during my final year of undergrad and my mother while I was attending medical school.” He went on to explain that while there was no squabbling over decisions or inheritances, there was also nobody to spend his holidays with, nobody to regale his future spouse with memories of his antics as a child. There was nobody who really shared any of his memories or to help him confirm a year that something had happened or even have an inside joke with. He confessed that it was wonderful to be an only child but one does not remain a child and in his case he found it particularly lonely being an “only adult”.

I have two older brothers, one by seven years and the other is four years my senior. I have many memories of our childhood growing up during the ’60s and ’70s in Linden Hills, a little neighborhood in Minneapolis Minnesota. Today I am thinking of my brother Steve. It is March first and he is turning 55, I turned 50 back in July.

Steve got to be the youngest for four years, a distinction he was none too keen to simply hand over when I arrived. In early family snap shots my mother holds me, my father looks on adoringly, my oldest brother smiles appropriately and Steve is either looking at me with a disapproving scowl or some more intentional facial distortion. My understanding is that he was a bit of a mischievous ham until I arrived. My father had no sisters, my mother had no sisters and through no fault of my own my birth was sort of a big deal.

Four years is the sort of age gap where you don’t really share secrets, your activities don’t overlap and your peer groups are separate. I was young enough to be an annoyance and close enough in age to bicker. I remember that he could upset me with teasing in ways that nobody else could and he had a special way of keeping a knuckle extended when he would punch me in the upper arm that really hurt. He loved Hardy Boys Mysteries, had excellent skills with a pocket knife and took Judo at the YMCA as a kid. Though we fought some as kids I would say that looking back I was really more of an attention craving aggravation to him at the time and it was our mothers “nerves” that made our typical childhood antics seem like some infraction that was somehow greater than the sibling rivalries that existed in most every house on the 4200 block of Vincent Ave South.

I remember that when he would clean his room I would find treasures at the foot of my bed (a place that could be safely reached from the doorway without actually entering the room). I fondly recall that when a new Tom Thumb Superette opened on the next block he took me there with his own money and let me choose a bottle of pop and then proceeded on to the new Queen Bee’s Bakery where he let me select a cookie. Sure we might still have had childhood arguments after that but it was an early glimpse of what our relationship would look like when we were older.

By the time Steve was in high school, with our oldest brother away at college and me in junior high it was evident that Steve was the responsible one of us three Rose kids. He worked at a Christian boys camp during the summers, had a high school sweetheart who would eventually become his wife and maintained a 4.0 GPA in an era when there was no grade inflation to exceed that. To some it might seem like he was the classic middle child who did not want to make waves. It was during those years that after returning from dates on the weekend he would ask my folks if he could take me somewhere. We would go ice skating in the moonlight at Lake of the Isles, he’d take me for crepes and hot chocolate at Perkin’s Restaurant or after making me promise not to tell he’d take me driving on an ice rink or spinning out in area parking lots.

He was a gifted photographer who worked on the yearbook and despite his status as class valedictorian and NHS president arranged for the following epic photo to be in the yearbook. He and a classmate met for an early morning photo shoot which required driving over the boulevard and sidewalk and up the front lawn of the school where they parked their cars on the cement landing between sets of stairs at the schools main entrance and with the use of a camera on a tripod and a timer took an awesome shot of themselves posed with their cars.

The autumn of my 9th grade year Steve left to join our oldest brother Bob at St. Cloud State University. I looked forward to him coming home. In a strange coincidence my school choir tours first stop on a trip to Winnipeg was at SCSU. My brothers attended the concert, along with perhaps a half a dozen music majors who were likely doing it for extra credit. Four years later Steve graduated and then I began college at SCSU. He first moved to Michigan and then to Texas, getting married during the spring of my sophomore year. It was during those years that Steve and I exchanged letters. His first letter to me at college was filled with advice of little known places on campus that were available for study, methods for keeping up on laundry and other useful suggestions for surviving freshman year. Steve’s letters were hand written in precise uniform print, on graph paper. Most letters ended with a stick figure scene accompanied by fill in the blank spaces for a quote I was to send the solution to in my next letter. For years his wife thought we cheated but they were phrases from comedians, movies, story albums we’d listened to as kids. These were the inside jokes that the pediatrician had wanted to share with an adult sibling.

By the time Steve and I both had children he had been back in Minneapolis for a number of years. I have a daughter and son in college and he has two teen boys. For each others birthdays we try to arrange for a meal out together. A few years ago he drove me around to see the homes our relatives lived in around Minneapolis and the surrounding suburbs. Some were houses we’d spent time at as children and others were places dating to the late 1800’s that he’d found by going through old census documents. Those were the places our parents and our grandparents shared memories and likely some inside jokes with their own siblings.

As much as I respect the choice of people to have just one child, I feel fortunate that despite the board game cheating, bruises, frustration, angry words and hot tears of childhood (that come with sharing your parents with other offspring)I was not an only child. With our parents gone I will say as well that I am most appreciative that I am not an “only adult”.

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