Category Archives: Family

Name That Breed

Today’s post is from NorthShorer

His name was Lucky. My father acquired him when we lived north of Isabella where my father was lumberjacking after WWII. A man in the lumber camp was leaving and did not want to take the dog. My father took him before the man shot him. It was that kind of age. My father was not objecting; he simply wanted a dog. We then moved down to our farm near Two Harbors. I suppose my father had in mind to have a farm dog.I remember him but have no visual image of him, except for these pictures. Every time I see these and other photos I am surprised by two things. First, how big and rough looking a dog he was. Second, that the only images of him are with me. Apparently we were buddies, which makes sense because of all the time I spent playing in the woods. He lasted with us for a couple years. I can guess what happened to him. He certainly does not look like a cattle dog. I used Lucky as the image for a short story about a half wild dog living on the edge of northern town in 1908.

He was replaced by a collie, who was beautiful, an image of Lassie. She played with the deer in our garden in the snow in the winter time. She was not around very long. Next we briefly had a female mixed breed, mostly border collie. Then we acquired a full breed border collie from a neighbor who did not want the dog anymore. He was THE DOG of my childhood.

What breeds do you see in Lucky?

My only companions of my pre-school years were two older nasty cousins up in the forest, my sister, and various animals.

What do you remember of your companions of your pre-school years?

Tumbling Socialists

Husband and I attended a family wedding in Milwaukee, WI recently. The ceremony and reception were held in the ballroom at Turner Hall, a historic building constructed in 1882. It takes its name from the German word “turnen” which means gymnastics or physical fitness. It was built for the members of Milwaukee’s Turners, a German-American gymnastic and political association. The photo at the top is of actual Milwaukee Turners.  The building was quite ornate, but under restoration, with murals and photographs all over the walls and stairwells. The hall boasts of a ballroom, beer hall, and theatre, as well as a gymnasium where gymnastics is still taught.

The Turners began in Germany in 1811 to train young men in physical fitness and to resist Napoleon and anti-democratic forms of government.  It was a nationalistic gymnastic organization, usually quite liberal in philosophy.  Men tumbled and planned revolutions.  The Turners were very active in the revolution of 1848. They didn’t do so well in that revolution, and many fled to the US, with a great number serving in the Union Army during the Civil War.  Turners provided an honor guard at Abe Lincoln’s inauguration as well as at his funeral. There were Turner Halls all over the US in the 19th Century in areas where there were concentrations of German immigrants. The Milwaukee chapter was founded in 1853 with the name “Socialist Turnverein”.  All three of Milwaukee’s Socialist mayors were Turners.

The Turners held gymnastic competitions and provided social, political, and cultural support to German immigrants. The Turners are the reason we have physical education in our schools.  They supported women’s suffrage, and, by the 1920’s, girls were also getting gymnastic training at the Milwaukee hall. My sister in law’s 90 year old mother tumbled and did rings and uneven bars there, under the direction of a male coach who would wack her with a stick if she messed up.  They often espoused the motto  “A Sound Mind in a Sound Body”,  but I really like the more explicit motto below:

Liberty against all oppression

Tolerance against all fanaticism

Reason against all superstition

Justice against all exploitation

If you started an organization, what would your motto be?

Adventures in Moving

Daughter and I had a productive time in Tacoma getting ready for her move there in early May. She now has an apartment, a bank, a primary care physician, renters insurance, and is signed up with the electric utility company. She met the people who hired her, and is set to start her new job on May 15. We have arranged for movers to take her few pieces of furniture over the mountains from Fargo to Tacoma. We are set to go.

We took a fun day on our trip to visit the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium. I am ambivalent about zoos, but it was a sunny day and it was interesting to see the different aquatic life in the region very nicely displayed in the aquarium.

The minute we got to the zoo we heard a very loud hooting, whining  sound not unlike that of a whale singing. We followed it to its source and met Dozer, a love sick walrus on loan from a zoo in Houston, TX.  He was hooting for a girl friend, and none of the local girls were interested. I asked an attendant zookeeper how they transported a walrus from Texas to Washington. She said that he traveled by truck.  She explained that walruses don’t need to be kept in water all the time, and so he could go in a truck without a large water tank.  He was due to return to Texas later in the week.

I think daughter’s move to Washington, although complex, is far less complex than moving Dozer back to Texas. All that hooting!

What moving adventures have you had?

A Bed a Day

Today’s post from the keyboard of Verily Sherrilee.

Nobody has ever accused me of being OCD about cleaning. I can leave a paper towel on the dining room floor for days and just walk around it (especially if a kitty is sitting on it). I can put a sweatshirt on a chair and ignore it for a week.  Dishes stack up in the sink just like at everybody else’s house.

But many years ago I got the idea that I should make my bed every day. No matter what.  Now it’s such an ingrained habit that the room looks bad to me before the bed gets made up.  Even when I was sick last month, in the morning I made the bed and unless I was going to take a serious nap, I sat on top of the comforter while reading or watching tv.

So it was a little startling to look into the Young Adult’s room over the weekend to see that the laundry baskets had thrown up all over her bed. I tried to channel my mom; I pulled the door closed and walked away!

Do you have an every day habit?

Family Names

My father’s family is from Ostfriesland, an area of Northwest Germany bordered by Holland and the North Sea.  Their language was Frisian/Low Saxon.  They were the people of Beowulf, and they invaded the British Isles early and were in turn invaded by the Romans, the Franks, the Saxons, the Vikings, Germanic tribes, and so on.  My ancestors were simple, poor farmers, and my did they have funny names.

I have tried to build family trees using the data bases in Ancestory, and I have found the most wonderful and weird names (actually, Wiard is one of their names). I can only imagine the trouble people had to go to to do this genealogy work, since there was a very unusual naming system, called Patronymics, used in the area until Napoleon invaded and ordered everybody to settle on a permanent last name. The system didn’t die out until the 1830’s. According to a German researcher named Ines Weissenberg, this is how first names were derived in Ostfriesland:

The first male child was named after the paternal grandfather.

The second male child got the name of the maternal grandfather.

First and second daughter were named after paternal and maternal grandmothers.

The third son was named after his father.

The fourth son was named after the father’s paternal grandfather.

The third daughter was named after the mother.

The fourth daughter was named after the mother’s paternal or even maternal grandmother.

Then, there were also other aspects of choosing a first name such as reusing a deceased child’s name for the next child of the same sex and naming the first daughter/son of a subsequent marriage after the deceased former spouse. These rules expressed the belief that a person continued to live through the descendants.

Last names were even more confusing, since your last name was usually your father’s first name.  If a man called Harm had three sons named Gerd, Jan, and Menno, their last name would be Harms, indicating they were Harm’s sons.  If Gerd had children, their last name would be “Gerdes”.  Jan’s children would have the last name “Janssen”, and Menno’s children would have the surname “Mennen”.  Last names changed from generation to generation.  The same names were used for first and last names.

One of my ancestors named Okke Poets had a son named Poet Okkens.  Lubbe Habben, a far distant grandmother, had a daughter she named Gretje Lubbens.  Zeede Ecken and her husband Riko Fredrichs name their son Ecko Riken, after her father, Ecko Focken.

Gertien, Taalke, Gretje, Geert, Geske, Mimke, Trienke, Lauke, and Evertje are some of the more wonderful women’s names I have found in my family.  Freerk, Harm, Weert, Wiard, Folkert, Heyke, Okke, Ullfert, Harrameke were some of the men’s names. Ostfriesland is no further than about 50 miles from places like Bremen, where people had names like Otto, Lena, Ernst, and Dora.

My name, using this system, would be Tilla Jacobs. My husband would be Christian Williams. Our son would be William Christians. Daughter would be Evelyn Christians.  How confusing.


Go back a couple of generations and figure out some family names for yourself using Patronymics.

Kindness Gone Wild

Today’s post is from Bill.

Our conversation about kindness brought to mind a story told by my elder daughter.

She returned to her third floor condo having bought some greens at the farmer’s market. On the greens, when she went to wash them, she found a worm. Now you or I might have simply flushed it but she didn’t feel right about that. Instead, she wrapped it in a lettuce leaf and drove it to a park where she could set it free.

I once gave a neighbor woman twenty dollars as my contribution toward cab fare so that a baby squirrel could be driven to the wildlife rehabilitation center. Because, you know, you can’t have too many squirrels.

Is that going too far?

Have you ever committed an act of irrational kindness?

Let’s Pretend

A couple of years I bought I bought a new, three-story doll house for my play therapy room. My old one was posh and well-appointed, but it had no stairs that led from one floor to the next. This was a real problem for many of the children I see in therapy, as they couldn’t figure out how to get the dolls from one floor to the next, and it got in the way of their play. They couldn’t suspend reality and pretend that there were stairs, or just have the dolls jump up and down. I notice that children who pretend do much better in life and in play therapy than those who can’t or who have limited pretend skills.

The new doll house has two sets of stairs, and the dolls can run up and down at will, and so do, and therapeutic play can go on impeded.  I haven’t read any recent research about the capacity of modern children to pretend in their play. I hope my clients represent a special group not representative of our children as a group.

My nine month old kitten has better pretend skills than may of my young clients. I know Luna doesn’t pretend using words. I suppose she pretends in images or actions, but I know she pretends. She hides from, and then pounces on, unsuspecting foil balls. She knows that the balls only move if she bats them or she carries them to us to throw. She walks away from them when she is finished playing, and doesn’t act as though they will move if she turns her back. It is as if she assigns some temporary identity to them when she hides and pounces, and then thinks about them differently when she walks away and goes on to new activities.  You can see her on top of a cabinet in our living room. She loves to jump up there and pounce on the Tomten figures and attack the Finnish straw goats. They are all in a closet now until she slows down and loses interest in them. I wish I knew what she was thinking about them.

How do you pretend? How do you think your animals pretend?




Michigan or Bust!

Today’s post comes to us from Steve.

I have always had a strong sense of place. Born in Iowa, I grew up regarding Minnesota as my natural home. I left Iowa in 1960, and for 54 years I was proud to call myself a Minnesotan. Then in 2014 I sold my pink bungalow and moved to Portland, Oregon, driving 1,745 miles in two ferocious days. The main reason for changing my life so dramatically was a desire to be closer to my daughter and grandson. On Trail Baboon “Saint Paul Steve” became “Happy Valley Steve.” I settled into an apartment near the top of a small mountain. In view of my age, I was sure I’d never set foot outside of Oregon. Indeed, because of my physical limitations, I have not often set foot outside my apartment in three years.

Guess what? In June I will travel 2,400 miles to set up a new home in Michigan. “Happy Valley Steve” will become “Port Huron Steve,” or something like that. I’ll get a Michigan driving license and slap Michigan plates on my old Subaru.

Why make such a dramatic move when I only got to Oregon three summers ago? My son-in-law has accepted a job in Port Huron, the town he grew up in and where his mother and brother still reside. He, my daughter and my grandson returned to his childhood home for Christmas a few weeks ago. That home, built in the 19th century, is parked right on the edge of the Saint Clair River. The photos with this article were taken of that on their visit. My son-in-law came back to Portland convinced he really belonged in the Midwest, and that he should do something to make a return to Port Huron possible.

And me? How is it that I’m moving back to the Midwest? I’m like a gimpy old dog that my family rescued from a canine shelter. Having adopted me, they cannot abandon me now. I should start rooting for Michigan athletic teams, for they routinely kick the butts of Minnesota teams. In any fight between a gopher and a wolverine, my money is on the wolverine! But my heart still hopes the gopher will prevail. Hey, you Gophers, Ski-U-Mah! Whatever the hell that means.

I hope the upcoming move will be less wrenching than the one I’ve done. It would be even nicer if I feel more at home in Port Huron than I have in Portland. Oregon is astonishingly beautiful, at least in places, and Portland is a fascinating city. It is only slightly less quirky than “Portlandia” suggests. I expected to feel at home with Portland’s progressive politics, but each day I spend here offers fresh proof that I am a Minnesotan and always will be. I have found Portland to be like a gorgeous girlfriend who chain smokes and makes a toxic mess of her personal finances. She’s irresistible, yet it is hard to believe things will end well for her. And whenever I drive through Portland a little voice whispers, “This isn’t home, is it? We don’t belong here.”

My daughter knew it would not be easy to tell my grandson, Liam, about the move. Ever since he was a toddler, Liam (now seven) has struggled with “transitions.” Now he faces losing all his friends and leaving his wonderful Montessori school to start up life again in a strange land where nobody knows him. Liam raised some concerns, which his mother attempted to address. Then Liam said, “But Grampy, Mom . . . what about him? I can’t leave Grampy behind!” My daughter said, “Oh, no Liam! We’d never leave Grampy. When we move, he comes with us.” Liam reflected and finally smiled. “Well, then I guess we’re good. We can do this.”

When have you taken a leap of faith and moved?

Grandpa’s Wallet

Today’s post comes to us from Jacque.

Recently I have felt a rush of appreciation from family and a newly found old friend.   The most recent appreciation episode is from someone long ago, my Grandpa who died in 1964.  As I have mentioned, I have been sorting through family pictures and papers, slowly making tedious progress.  Last week I took apart my old picture albums, and threw away duplicates (did I really need four copies of the many pictures taken at my first wedding, the ensuing marriage which ended in divorce?  I think not.)  This reduced the picture collection by 75%, to a mere 5 picture boxes to organize and cull more.  I will set this aside for a while.

Now I am starting to pick through the three overflowing plastic bins of papers, letters, deeds, cattle pedigrees and, yes, more pictures that are not mine, but my parents’, grandparents’, and great grandparents’ memorabilia. There in one bin I found Grandpa Stratton’s wallet, which my mother must have kept after he no longer lived with us in 1963.   His wallet contained a 1960 paper driver’s license, hand-typed and signed with no identifying picture, his fishing license much the same as the driver’s license, and my kindergarten picture with a four leaf clover pressed into it.  He and I spent a lot of time seeking four leaf clovers.

Looking at this gives me a poignant moment, remembering a loving Grandpa. My kindergarten forehead is stained with the patina created by a copper snap in the wallet, which ate through the picture sleeve.  The four-leaf clover is flat and fragile and dear.  It brings tears to my eyes.  I cannot throw away the old wallet because of the picture and the shamrock.  It now lies in my desk drawer where I can sneak a peak at it on a bad day(s) in which nobody else loves me enough.

My wallet is remarkably utilitarian compared to Grandpa’s wallet. I carry all my pictures of the Grandchildren on my phone, leaving the wallet to house plastic cards, coins, receipts,  and disorganized bills of various denominations.  No sentiment there at all.

What is in your wallet?

Are You Positive?

Today’s post compliment of tim.

mr ehlers was the badass teacher who taught drivers training at my high school

he hated hippies

he gave hell to everyone I knew except me. he was never nice but never gave me trouble. i think my friends noticed and asked but i didn’t have any idea what was going on.

years later my mom who was the art teacher in the school said mr ehlers had come up and told her “ that’s some son you have”

“why” she asked

he told her that some mean kids had been in the lunchroom and run into mike kennedy on purpose and knocked the books out of his hands.

mike was a big guy who was a special needs kid that was so good natured he had no enemies but he would notice that some people acted mean or stupid or do things to be funny just showing off for their friends. He was very philosophical about life. He had been that way when I was in first grade and met him at swimming lessons. He always had a smile and a story and told me how his sister karey was (i had a severe crush on her) so when the kids knocked the books out of his hands I went over to him and told him that i saw the kids acting stupid and helped him pick up his books. a pat on the back and a see ya later was all that went on that day but mr ehlers caught me doing something right and he was never able to see me as a hated hippy after that.

i try to remember that all the people who are driving me crazy in everyday life are not doing anything mean or intentionally trying to drive me nuts. they are just doing there little moment of life in front of me and that is how I get to base my conclusion as to if i would like to have coffee with them or not.

sometimes I try to remember that I am acting in a way that other people get to respond to too. am I really who I want to be?

i like getting caught being the right person

the one minute manager was a popular book in the early stages of my business life. it was a simple idea. if you are a manager try to catch people doing something right and praise the heck out of them. every time you catch them praise the heck out of them.

have you gotten positive feedback for being yourself?