Category Archives: Media

civic sacrament

About twenty years ago I signed up to be an election judge. I had switched from a full time schedule to working just three days a week, so I regularly had Tuesdays off. It seemed like a good time to step forward and help my community make its voice heard.

You meet all kinds of people in the polling place. I think the most memorable voter I ever met was a woman who called me over to discuss her voting dilemma, I think in 2004.  She said she was having trouble deciding who to cast her presidential vote for, because she didn’t really like any of the candidates. They all fell short of the standards she felt candidates should meet. “The people I would really like to see on the ballot are Paul Wellstone, Jesus, and Princess Diana,” she explained. I gently advised her that while those were not going to be realistic possibilities, since all three of them were dead, and only one of them had even been a U.S. citizen, she was quite free to write in any name she chose.

The other memorable thing about the woman was that she had large plastic bags on both hands, secured at the wrists by rubber bands. She was ahead of her time.

I will be staying home this election day, trying to keep myself safe, after voting early. I’ll miss watching this exercise of political power by ordinary citizens. Of all the unsettling changes that COVID-19 has brought, this may be the most unsettling for me. So far.

Any disruptions, major or minor, that have arisen for you lately due to COVID-19? (Or for any other reason, for that matter?)

Being Number One

I am chagrind to report that my state is number one in the country for per capita Covid cases. I remember how important it was in high school and college for our teams and ensembles to be “number one.”  I don’t want to be number one any more.

I want to be last right now.  Didn’t someone a long time ago say that “the first will be last and the last will be first?”

What are you the best at? What are you the worst at?

The Importance of Pals

I was tickled to see the New York Times article last week about the benefits of baboon friendships.  Researchers have studied the friendship patterns of baboons in Kenya since 1971.  They noticed early on that female baboons with lots of gal pals lived longer than those with fewer friends. Male baboons have been harder to follow and study, but the evidence is now in that male baboons’ life spans are longer the more  platonic female friendships they have.  Female baboons groom both  their male and female buddies, thus decreasing parasites and strengthening bonds that reduce conflict.  The same lifespan and  platonic friendship associations  are noted in many social species from horses to dolphins to humans.  Let’s give thanks for our friends!

Who have been your best male and female friends?

Voting Options – who knew?

This past summer the state sent out a “do you want a mail-in ballot” form and it asked about the primary and general election.  I checked both boxes so wasn’t surprised when the ballot for November showed up two weeks back.

I had actually intended on going on election day to vote but YA wanted to vote early.  In fact, she was rather adamant about it.  So we both filled out the ballot and got then into the envelopes to mail.  That was when she informed me that she didn’t want to mail the ballots because she was worried about the postal service getting clogged up.  I said I didn’t think that was likely, but certainly not a month out.  But I acquiesced and looked up where you could drop your ballot off.  Downtown.  Ick.  I detest driving downtown and I didn’t want to pay $10-$15 for parking either.  But the drive-by drop-off in August didn’t happen until just a few days before the primary and YA was nagging me every day; I knew she wouldn’t want to wait until the end of October.

So yesterday I took a deep breath and looked up the exact location for drop-off and was ready to drive downtown and take the plunge when I saw a link to drive-by drop-off.  Yesterday was the first day!  As I headed into town I was a bit worried that it would be hard to find or that there would be big crowds, but I worried needlessly.  As I turned right onto 4th Avenue South, there were big banners at the sidewalk and there was only one other car in the drop-off area.  The worker who came out to take the ballots was friendly and helpful.  I mentioned that I was glad the weather was so accommodating and hoped it would stay that way.  She told me that they would actually be getting a tent soon so they would be able to operate in the rain.  Way to think it through Minnesota!

How will you be placing your vote this election?  In person?  Mail-in?  Drop-off?  Drive-through?

Christmas Is A Comin’

We purchased scads of stories on audio cassette tapes when our children were young. They listened to them as they drifted off to sleep. Daughter says she still has to listen to audio books before she can go to sleep.  Some of these were stories narrated by famous actors.  Meryl Streep narrated Peter Rabbit  and The Tailor of Gloucester.  Danny Glover narrated How the Leopard Got its Spots.  Jack Nicholson narrated The Elephant’s Child and How the Camel Got Its Hump.  The stories changed as the children got older, and there were crime mysteries, old time radio shows, and, finally, recordings of novels like  A Wrinkle in Time and the Lord of the Rings.  They all sit now in the basement in boxes.

In our effort to get rid of stuff, we are going to have these stories transferred to electronic files and CD’s, and give them to our children for Christmas. Our grandson is old enough now to appreciate stories. It will give us the pleasure of passing on these wonderful recordings and make space in the basement shelves.

Christmas is coming, and we are starting to plan for quiet visits with our son and his family in Brookings. Our daughter is flying to Sioux Falls for a wedding at that time, and we will see her in Brookings, too. It will be a quiet and very much appreciated time together.

What are your plans for Christmas?  What are your ideas for gifts? What stories do you think are essential for children to hear?

Who Dunnit?

Today’s post comes from Jacque.

What a week for dog drama and a Who Dunnit.

Lucky, our 8 year old Beagle/Terrier mix, had been ill for about 9 months with a tumor in her bladder.  We noticed the problem last January in AZ when we walked her during the day.  We pursued treatment for an infection, but then an ultrasound showed a mass in her bladder.  We knew for some time how this would end, but it became clear that my soft-hearted husband was struggling with the decision.  This caused conflict between the two of us.   Lucky’s illness  progressed, she was not feeling well and her behavior was getting irritable.  Several times she got a bit aggressive with our other dog, Bootsy (Corgi mix).  But it was only growling and barking.

Our neighbor, with whom we have had a very good relationship, was caring for her sister’s three large, movie star dogs (the  neighbor had two for a total of 5).  They are the dogs, a black Airedale and a part wolf dog, in the dog food commercial in which a dog leaps, then turns from an Airedale into a wolf.  These dogs have been escaping lately.  They have ordered a fence, but it was a long waiting list, so the dogs kept escaping despite their best efforts.  Meanwhile, coyotes have been hanging out in our yards and have been getting bold, sometimes showing up midday.

Tuesday afternoon something/someone, the coyotes, our sick dog, or the neighbor dog, mauled our other dog, Bootsy.  She was injured very badly, requiring surgery.  Lou had the girls outside with him in the yard, but he did not see anything happen.  Later, back in the house he noticed she was hiding and would not eat.  I looked around, finding her in the kennel.  Then I found patches of blood on our bed, in the kennel, and two guest beds which she visited looking for comfort. Lou had not seen the blood which left me incredulous.   We rushed her to the emergency vet.  Finally, at 1 am she was sent home from surgery with an external drain, many stitches, and a mesh cover over her torso.

Wednesday evening, Lou let Lucky out and stood at the door.  The neighbor’s dogs got out again, rushed into our yard, and Lucky yipped.  The neighbor texted me apologizing for the dogs getting away from her and scaring our dogs.  But one of those dogs had bitten Lucky on the shoulder.  It was superficial, so we did not even find the bite until the morning.

Friday morning Gentle Pet Vet came out and euthanized Lucky.  It was peaceful and actually, a very sweet experience.  We had a good cry, then buried her in the yard with her beloved squirrels which she loved to chase.  Bootsy is recovering very well.    Now we are still wondering, who mauled Bootsy?   Lucky?  The bite marks appear too big.  Coyotes?  A real possibility.  The neighbor dogs?  That is my theory.

Have you had any mystery or drama lately?  What is your theory of my mystery.

Yard Signage

There are quite a few fairy gardens on the various paths that I walk each day.  Some at the edges of the sidewalk, two different ones in big pots, one on a tree trunk.  My favorite though is a large one near Lake Harriet that wraps around the bushes along the front sidewalk.  It has just about everything you can imagine including a teeny tiny yard side for Black Lives Matter (in the upper right corner).  As you probably can figure, I think this is charming.

I come by my love of yard signs naturally.  My folks usually always had a sign up for some candidate or other at election time.  The year my dad was the campaign manager for a friend running for city council, one whole side of our yard (that faced the busier street) was lined with them.  They even let me put up a “No Nukes” sign when I was in college, although our house at that point was at the end of a cul de sac so I’m sure the sign didn’t get seen by too many people.

I’ve been thinking about adding a yard sign for my presidential favorite almost every morning when I’m walking the dog, but then I get back to the house and promptly forget about it.  After seeing the little fairy garden yard sign, I sent myself an email to remind me, then drove up to Northern Sun (I love them – I was SO happy when I realized that I had moved to the city where their store is located!) and picked up my sign, which is now in my yard, along with my BLM sign.  Somehow having two signs feels quite natural – guess I’ll have to find another sign after the election so I will still have two!

Are you a yard sign person?  Or a fairy garden fancier?

I’d Sure Like to Meet…

Today’s post comes to us from Minnesota Steve

In 1960 when I saw To Kill a Mockingbird, I knew it was a great film that would become a classic. I also knew—or thought I knew—that Gregory Peck must be a thoroughly decent man, not just an actor who played the role of a decent man. And yet, that second notion is actually not as obvious as it often seems. Not all great actors are ethical, friendly or likable in real life. Happily enough, Peck turned out to be as nice as the part he played. His costars have praised him endlessly for his generosity and kindness. Time has been as kind to Peck’s reputation as it has to his most iconic film.

But being a great performance artist is difficult, and not every performer who reaches the high levels of artistry is as likable as Gregory Peck. While it is understandable that fans want to believe their favorite performers are also good people, not all performers are as likable as they are talented.

Some accomplished performers have complicated reputations. John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Pablo Picasso are often mentioned as people you might admire but would not enjoy being close to. In the world of business, Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison, Elon Musk and Henry Ford are usually considered difficult human beings, if not worse. I used to dislike Bill Gates, but either he changed or I was badly informed. He seems admirable now.

Steve Goodman is an interesting person in this context. Goodman was funny, smart and easy to like as a performer. And yet I’ve read that his close friends knew he could occasionally be one of most annoying persons on earth. One person saying that was Goodman’s wife, Nancy, who loved him deeply.

Similarly interesting is the singer Loudon Wainwright III. Several people close to him have accused him of being a shoddy human being. One person expressing that opinion is the singer himself. While he has admitted to philandering and other mistakes, Wainwright’s open way of discussing them makes him more interesting or even likable.

My daughter has met several authors, and it wasn’t always good. Bill Holm and Michael Ondaatje behaved like jerks at book signings. Louise Penny, by contrast, could not have been more friendly and fun.

Garrison Keillor has been an important personality in my life for 56 years. I am a fan of much of his work, but not of the man himself, for I know he can be discourteous or even cruel. It is a cliché that humorists are often gloomy, unpleasant people, but remember, sometimes clichés are true. The charges of sexual harassment complicate the reputation of a man who was already highly complicated in my mind.

While it is difficult to know what celebrities are like in real life, with some performers you just know in your heart that they are someone you would enjoy as a friend. Bonnie Raitt has so much compassion and respect for other performers that I can’t imagine not liking her. Similarly, Emmylou Harris is unfailingly generous with other performers. Who could possibly dislike her?

Who among famous people would you like to know as a friend? Why?

Bathroom Reading

Last week I was coming to the end of Travels with a Tangerine by Tim Mackintosh-Smith (a travelog in the footsteps of a famous Middle-Eastern traveler, Ibn Battutah) and I came across a passage that made me laugh out loud.  The author has found a battered copy of a reference book that had been in his home when he was a child:

“I checked.  It was the same edition as my father’s – Nelson’s Encyclopedia of 1913 – and had the same slightly animal odor that clings to reference books long thumbed.  People had often hinted to my father that it was out of date…but he remained loyal to those tatty maroon volumes, his contemporary.  I ran my hand along the spines.  I too was fond of Nelson’s, companion of many happy hours on the loo. (How deprived are the squatting nations!  Defecation and ingestion of knowledge are such complementary activities.)”

I laughed because, as an adult, I am also a bathroom reader.  My most ambitious bathroom choice was back when I was still at the bookstore.  In those days, when we did returns to publishers, we stripped the front cover off the mass market paperbacks and sent just the covers back; it was cheaper to publish a new paperback if needed than to pay return postage on a whole book.  One of the perks of working at the bookstore was that we could help ourselves to the coverless books (called “strips”) on the understanding that it was for our own reading pleasure and not for profit.  So it was that War and Peace ended up at my house without a cover.  I figured that if the book were in the bathroom I would actually read it, since I wasn’t sure I would pick it up off the nightstand!   Every couple of weeks, I would rip off the pages that I had already read and toss them.  It wasn’t like I was going to keep a strip on any of my bookshelves (with my real books).  Over the course of the next year, War and Peace got skinnier and skinnier until I was down to about 25 pages and I took it to the bedroom to finish off.

For several years it has just been National Geographic, Smithsonian and Scientific American in the bathroom, but now that I’m furloughed, I’m caught up with my magazines, so have a book in the basket as well — Lost in the Arctic by Lawrence Millman.  I think I may have gotten this book from Clyde or Bill or maybe Steve; I rarely buy books so it had to come from somewhere!

Are you a bathroom reader?  Willing to share your current bathroom tome?  Or your most ambitious read (bathroom or no)?

Putting On A Show

I was the assisting minister in church yesterday. That required me to sit up front with the pastors and read aloud a selection from the Old Testament, read the Psalm responsively with the congregation,  and then read a selection from the New Testament.  This week I read from Jeremiah and Romans. I really love reading the lessons, and I try my best to convey the meanings in them to the congregation.

Last year we hired a new Worship and Music director.  It is a lay position.  She has done a nice job revitalizing our worship services. I must confess, however, that I find her presentation more than a little disconcerting .  She really, really, loves the Lord, and during services she beams with this beatific glow from her head to her toes.  The problem is that she expects those of us assisting in the worship services as well as musicians to exude the same joy she does. I was raised in a more somber tradition, in which you don’t show much emotion in church, and public displays of religious fervor are highly suspect.  This passage from Matthew sums up what was deeply ingrained in me growing up:

And when you pray, be not like the hypocrites.  For they love to stand in the synagogue and on the street corners to be seen by men. . . But when you pray, go into your inner room, shut your door, and pray to your Father, who is unseen.

Our services are now in person (we are all masked), as well as broadcast over a live Facebook feed and over the local radio. The other Sunday after Husband was the assisting minister, our Worship and Music Director emailed him to  chide him for looking too serious and glum during the service. Husband always looks glum. Moreover,  it is hard to exude joy in a mask, or when you are reading something gloomy from the Old Testament.  We just ignored her email.

Yesterday as I sat in front and read the assigned verses, I couldn’t help but smile surreptitiously behind my mask as I thought about this number from The Producers.

I imagine the Worship and Music Director wouldn’t think it was very funny, but it really sums up her idea of putting on a church service.  Her tenure is limited, as she and her family have moved to another state. She brought us some good ideas to enliven worship, but I am relieved I won’t be chided for not putting a sappy look on my face as I assist or provide music.

When have you had to put on  a show?