Category Archives: Gatherings

Pessimist vs Optimist

I must admit am a pessimist. I worry about the worst case scenario happening. I am happy to say I am usually wrong, though. You would think that I would have sufficient evidence by now to be more optimistic about things, but that hasn’t happened yet.

I was really worried during  our recent trip to  my father in law’s funeral.   Husband comes from a blended family with two full siblings and their spouses, three step siblings and their spouses, and various married children and their spouses.  We all have traditionally got along pretty well, but for some reason I was worried about all Hell breaking loose when everyone was together en masse for the first time in 25 years.  My training  as a psychologist causes me to hypothesize about future behavior, and I focus on negative possibilities.

We have a Trump-loving NRA fanatic, two Bipolar Manic types (one of whom refuses to take medications),  some who drink too much, someone with a pain medication addiction, a hoity toity, self appointed manners expert, several evangelical conservative Christians, ELCA Lutherans, and several liberal Democrats.  What could go wrong when everyone is upset over a death?  Plenty, in my pessimistic mind!

Well, I was completely wrong. Everyone was pleasant, no one drank too much, and no one was manic. The NRA supporter was so angry about the scandals at the NRA headquarters he could hardly speak about it, and religion and politics and manners critique took a holiday. Phew!

When have you been wrong? What are you pessimistic or optimistic about?

State Fair Checklist

  • Ask boss for every day of the State Fair off. Check.
  • Get tickets and coupon books (that’s right, two books). Check.
  • Make grid of which kinds of dogs are at the Pet Pavilion on which days. Check.
  • Add what days there are bunnies at the bunny barn to the grid. Check.
  • Check where this year’s Park & Ride lots are situated. Check.
  • Install the State Fair app on my phone. Check.
  • Look at all this year’s new food with YA. Check.
  • Extra points for writing some of the new foods on the grid. Check.
  • Go over possible schedule with YA. Repeatedly. Check.
  • Purchase some more individual wet wipes. Check.
  • Dig the turtle purse out of the attic (it’s the perfect size for the Fair). Check.
  • Start a “take with” pile (purse, sunglasses, wipes, tickets, coupons, address labels, couple of band aids, couple of ibuprofen, collapsible food container). Check.
  • Watch the weather forecast like a hawk.  Check.
  • Do laundry so the clothes you like best are ready on Thursday. Check.
  • Get gas for the car (probably not needed, but what the heck). Check.

Except for getting some cash on Thursday morning, I think I’m ready!

What’s the last occasion you “prepped” for?

Will You Be My Neighbor?

We have a small four year college in our town that is part of the ND University system. It is traditionally a teachers college, and also has a good business  administration department.   I was excited to see one of the new business faculty is a native of Bangladesh, and brings a family history of an uncle who is the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate who created the Grameen Bank, which provides small loans for people in Bangladesh to start their own businesses.  The nephew brings the same sort of social responsibility to his class room, and I am really glad we have in increasingly diverse community.  His philosophy is that  you create business to solve social problems, unlike traditional businesses which are exclusively profit-oriented.

Every summer we have an ethnic heritage festival in which the Germans from Russia, Norwegians, Ukrainians, and Dutch groups have food booths and displays of traditional dress and crafts. The Mexican Americans have now joined the festival, and this year the local Rwandan community featured a traditional dance group.

I am happy to report that everyone in town seems to be getting along for the most part, and I am glad that we have new community members who aren’t like the majority of white mid-westerners.

Who would you like to see move into your neighborhood?


Bad Funeral Music

My father-in-law was buried in a large Presbyterian Church in Littleton, CO.  We met at the church at 10:00 am for the service to place his ashes in the Columbarium in the church yard, and then trooped inside for the memorial service. My father-in-law and mother-in-law had chosen the music for the funeral a couple of years ago. Neither of them knew a whole lot about church music or the pragmatics of congregational singing.  There were issues.

The first hymn we all had to sing was “The Lord’s Prayer”. It is very difficult for a congregation to sing, being better handled by a soloist. (Our daughter-in-law has a beautiful voice and sang it at my parents’ funerals. )  It really doesn’t have a set tempo, and the tempo changes as the song progresses. Then we had to sing “How Great Thou Art”. That went a little better, but the whole thing was made worse by the piano player.

The piano player was an elderly man who played the grand piano in the sanctuary like Liberace. I was surprised there was no tip jar.  He is the main keyboard player for the church, and he is a soloist, not an accompanist,  who seemed to not care a bit if he helped the congregation get through the hymns. He was loud and bombastic. and played with lots of arpeggios and ornamentation.  It was all about him and how flashy he could play. I would find attending regular services there really annoying.

I suppose I have been spoiled by the wonderful  music I have been exposed to in the Lutheran churches I have attended in my life.  This experience made me decide to to write down  what music I want at my funeral.

What music do you want to celebrate your life when you are gone?



A very Special Dinner

Today’s post comes from Steve Grooms.

Imagine that a very special person will be visiting you soon. Maybe this is someone you were once close to, but life sent you along different paths. This is a person—or possibly a couple or a family—that you haven’t seen in a long time. Now they will become a guest at your home. You aren’t worried about the reunion. You will hug and have tons of news and memories to share. Conversation won’t be a problem!

Here is your challenge: you have to decide what meal you will prepare. You want to put out the best meal you can. You wouldn’t consider a catered meal, even if you could order a terrific restaurant meal. That just wouldn’t be personal enough. You want the meal to reflect your respect and affection for your old friend.

I used to have such a meal. The main recipe was given to me by a fascinating man I met only once. Dan Brennan was a novelist and professional tennis player who lived most of his life in Minneapolis. Before the US joined the Allies in World War Two, Dan traveled to England to volunteer as a fighter pilot for the RAF. Amazingly, he survived the war. He told me he married “a girl from the English countryside.” She was the source of the recipe for this pheasant dumpling pie.

That recipe looks a bit odd to me now. It includes a wonderful made-from-scratch white sauce with several store-bought ingredients (including Pillsbury biscuit dough from a tube, frozen broccoli from a box and a pie crust from a box mix). When I was a hunter the dish inevitably starred pheasant meat, but over the years I began substituting chicken thigh meat, and both were wonderful.

I always cooked this dish in a heavy crockery casserole dish. At the bottom of the pie was broccoli, carrots, onion and the meat. Everything floated in a white sauce made from pheasant stock, whipping cream, pimiento, flour and several whole peppercorns. (I came to regard the whole peppercorns as the secret ingredient that made the sauce work.) Chunks of raw biscuit dough were placed on top, then a double-thick pie crust went over everything. After baking, the chunks of dough puffed up and became flavorful dumplings. When I was learning to cook I saw nothing strange about the recipe. Although the cook was incompetent, the pheasant dumpling pie was never less than spectacular.

The dish was perfect for our special guests. It was something nobody could order at a restaurant. Pheasants have been prominent throughout my life, starting when I was three, so I never found a more appropriate dish to serve guests in my home. We entertained frequently. Half-jokingly, we referred to our little bungalow as Grooms Rooms, as if we were in the hospitality business. We even had that name on a signboard on the front of the house. Pheasant dumpling pie was the signature dish at Grooms Rooms.

The rest of the meal varied little over the years. We served our pheasant pie with baguettes of French bread, a good light red wine and wild rice cooked with nuts and bits of onion. You might wonder: shouldn’t poultry be served with a white wine? Yes, usually. But pheasant is not exactly a delicate meat. A light red seemed better to us. A frequent desert was pecan pie with cinnamon ice cream.

What would you serve for a really special guest?





My Little Rock Star

My company does a fun summer program that includes concerts out on the big lawn between two of our buildings. On Thursday it was Chris Kroeze.  As I was tapping my toe I noticed a toddler towards the front of the crowd, not more than four.  His folks and younger sibling were sitting on the grass behind him but there was no sitting for him.  He had a small electric guitar (probably not real) and he was wailing on it.  Non-stop.  And he had moves; he looked like he would have been right at home up on the stage.  I stayed out on the lawn for about 30 minutes and this kid was playing his heart out the entire time.   I thought about going over and introducing myself and asking his name, because I’m sure in 15-20 years, he’s going to be famous and I would be able to say I knew him when.

Have you ever met a famous person? Was it what you expected?

Branded For Life

I read with a great deal of amusement about the redheaded two year old who drove his electric John Deere tractor to the Chisago County Fair.  He made the national news and it was a relief to see something fun in the media for a change.

He is certainly an enterprising youngster, and I am glad his adventure was a safe one. I only hope this isn’t something that people bring up  for the rest of his life.

I hope there are other, more edifying things that will define him.  It would be terrible to be branded as a wild man at age two.

Tell about your experiences at the fair.