Category Archives: Stories

Bonding over Books

This morning at the library, as I was picking up my held books, I overheard a budding friendship in the next aisle over. Two five-year olds had an extended conversation about what books they were getting, visiting their grandparents, puppies and like all good Minnesotans, the weather.

I met my best friend on April 16, 1983, in a small room 4 floors below the IDS Center. It was my first day at the soon-to-be-opened B. Dalton IDS. Since I was new to B. Dalton, there were several training modules that I had to read through and then take corresponding tests. Sara was transferring over from another store and needed to do some paperwork as well.  We talked while we worked, about books and pets and husbands and boyfriends – probably the weather as well.  Then we went to lunch across the street at Eddingtons where we discovered we also shared a deep love of bread and cheese.

We’ve been friends ever since, through weddings, divorces, parents’ deaths, kids, home purchases, health issues, money issues – you name it. I can only hope that the kids at the library this morning can continue a friendship that started with books!

Where did you meet your BFF?

Baby, Wanna Drive My Car?

An earlier blog this week about repairs made me think of a funny story from my youth. My very first car was an old Datsun stick shift.  I don’t even remember what model.  But it was old when I got it, had some rust and eventually a hole rusted through underneath so that when you ran through a puddle, you could easily get splashed INSIDE the car.

My boyfriend at the time (eventually husband, now wasband) and I both wanted to be “handy” so I taught myself how to change the oil/air filter and then we decided to tackle the rust spots. We got a sanding attachment for a drill (which we had to borrow from my downstairs neighbors) and some primer spray paint.  The idea was to sand off the rust, prime it and then paint over it with a coat of matching light blue.   This plan went off the rails in so many places that I can’t believe we didn’t see it coming.  First, as everyone can probably guess, when we started to sand the rust off it became clear that we would probably be sanding straight through if we weren’t careful.  As the old saying goes, the rust was the only thing holding it together in places.  That meant in a few spots, we just sanded it smooth but didn’t get all the rust.   Then, no surprise, the primer didn’t want to stick to the still rusty spots, so we really sprayed it on heavily.  Then we couldn’t match the light blue color of the car for love nor money.  We ended up with seven or eight cans of spray paint and seven or eight swatches of different blues along the back of the car.  BF was sure we could match the color if we went up to the Twin Cities to look (I was living in Northfield at the time).  Since he didn’t want the car to rust while we were working on the correct color matching, he put duct tape patches on all the rusted and primed spots.  (No, I am not making this up.)  From a distance it looked like the car had zits.

We never did find the right color, never did take the duct tape off the zit car. After another few months, we ended up with it in Milwaukee where the car eventually ended its life in the blizzard of 1979.  I’ve never even considered sanding the rust of another car!

What was your first car?

Springtime Plumber

Since February we called the plumber three times to fix leaky pipes, faucets, and toilets. We are lucky to have a very competent plumber who works evenings and weekends and doesn’t charge extra.  He even likes our cats, who try to help him as much as they can.

Tell about heroic repair people you have known.  Tell about when repairs haven’t worked so well. 


A Special Gift

Today’s post comes to us from Steve.

Robert was a painter whose wife, Donna, was his agent. Donna contacted me when I was editing a regional outdoors magazine. Robert hoped my magazine would publish a painting that he would create to my specifications. Although Robert had never painted wildlife before, the February, 1978, issue of Fins and Feathers featured a bobcat painted by Robert.

I later asked Robert to paint the cover for my first book, Modern Pheasant Hunting, which was just about to be published. Because Robert didn’t know what pheasants looked like, I invited him and his family for dinner so I could give him a pheasant taxidermy mount to use as a model. That dinner happened in September of 1979. My wife and I were in our third year of living in a pink bungalow in Saint Paul. Our daughter, a chatty toddler, had just turned two.

Robert and Donna were then living in a dinky rental home in South Minneapolis. Although Donna was ferociously romantic about Christmas, their home didn’t offer enough room to put up a scrawny Christmas tree. Robert, a freelance painter, had a meager and erratic income. He and Donna had not felt secure enough to take on a home mortgage.

In some ways, our dinner was “typical,” typical for how we entertained in those days. We served wine—not a “good” wine, for that would have been beyond our means, but a frisky dry white from Napa. I cooked the pheasant casserole that had become one of my signature dishes when guests dined with us. My wife prepared a side dish of wild rice with mushrooms and sliced almonds sautéed in butter.

Because we dined on a crisp night in September, we set a fire in the big fireplace. The old bungalow glowed and filled with the fragrance of burning oak. Robert described his experiences as a combat artist in Vietnam. I probably talked too much about pheasants. Brandy and Brinka, our dogs at the time, wriggled in next to us when we sat on the soft carpets before the fire.

Our dinner happened on a Friday evening. On Monday morning, quite unexpectedly, Robert appeared at my office with an object wrapped in paper. He thrust it in my hands, mumbled something and disappeared.

The gift—for that is what it was—was a watercolor Robert had made of my taxidermy rooster. Robert had painted it in one long, passionate session over the weekend. The painting included squiggly lines on the lower right side where Robert had cleaned his brush when going from one color to another.

On the lower left side Robert had written a message, a note to our daughter. He described the magic meal we shared when she was very young. Robert said he and Donna would never forget that special evening.


I later learned more about that. Robert and Donna were bowled over by the feel of our shared evening. It all blended together—the wine, the talk, the food, the charm of a 75-year-old bungalow, the dancing fire. By the time Robert and Donna got home they had decided to buy a home.

We had dreams, or at least the adults present that evening did. The dreams did not fare well, although Robert and Donna did buy an old Victorian home in South Minneapolis. My wife was going to get her PhD and teach English, but she never did. Robert anticipated a satisfying career as an artist, although that never happened as he pictured it. While I was thrilled by my work as an editor, that dream died in a long, sorry struggle. Worse, both marriages eventually failed. I don’t know what became of Robert and Donna’s children. I don’t know what will happen to the little girl to whom the painting was dedicated, although a splendid outcome is still entirely possible for her.

That’s how it goes. I could dwell on the ways our dreams unraveled, but I don’t. I remember a lovely aromatic evening when everything seemed possible. This is easy to remember because Robert’s pheasant and its heartfelt message are on my wall, and I smile to see them every day.

Do you remember a special gift?


VS’s Opioid Crisis

I had a tooth pulled on Tuesday – one of the big, two-rooted ones. Along with the gauze and pamphlet about after care, the oral surgeon wrote out a prescription for four Vicodin.  I was a little skeptical but since I’m not known for my stoic-ness where my dental work is concerned, I decided to get the prescription filled, just in case.

As the pharmacist was going through all his required drug implications, I suggested that I was hoping not to use any of the four tablets. He was very serious and said I should probably take one right before bed so that I didn’t wake up at night in pain.  “Stay ahead of the pain” were his exact words.

By bedtime at 9:30, all the Novocaine had worn off and with a few ibuprofen, I was actually doing OK. Remembering the pharmacist’s words, I thought maybe I should try the pain killer for overnight but couldn’t bring myself to take a whole one, so I took a half instead.  I slept really well.

Unfortunately, when I got up I had an upset stomach and was pretty woozy. Clearly I should have slept several more hours as that’s how long it took the drug to work its way out of my system.  I felt a little incapacitated at work and decided that all math and emails needed to be either re-figured or re-read to make sure I wasn’t spreading my idiocy throughout my world.  Even after the wooziness subsided I still felt a little wiped out. All of this from one half of a tablet.  The instructions on the side of the bottle say “1-2 as needed”.  Sheesh, I’d be in a coma if I had taken 2!

When were you woozy last?



Hi, Daddy Bunting

I have been accused of producing fake news and alternative facts.

Last year our maintenance man, Kevin, who is by far the best naturalist I have ever known with a life-time acquaintance with wildlife and conservation, spotted an indigo bunting in the brush 20 yards from our patio. Indigos are very shy – tiny and they blend into leaves and shadows despite the blue. When I looked up indigos, I solved a mystery. A small dull gray bird was in my seed feeder all the time, but I could not identify it. It was the female. I only rarely saw the male last year, and Kevin never did again.

I waited to see if they would come back this year. Sandy saw him first, sitting on our patio table looking in at her, which is not indigo behavior at all. An alternative fact according to Kevin. The indigo has done it once more that she saw. I see him often in our feeder or more often on the ground, even when I am sitting on the patio. Kevin keeps looking. No luck, even though he takes breaks on a deck above and to the right of me. That apartment is between tenants. Fake news he says, when I boast about it.

By dumb luck I have proof. On my first try I got a shot of Daddy Bunting, gone a hunting for food. Not quality photography, taken through a closed window to avoid spooking him, but acceptable in a court of law. Monday morning we go on trial.

I declare this boast day. What do you want to crow about?

They say, the people of science, that an indigo is not really blue, but black.  It is, they say, a trick of how the light reflects off the feathers. I get it a bit, but is not all color just a trick of how light reflects off something? Red looks red because all the colors but red are absorbed, I believe the people of science say.  So how is the blue of the indigo . . . oh, never mind.

What is the mystery in your life today?