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I made a mistake over the weekend.  I accidentally clicked on a YouTube of a couple building a tiny house from the ground up.  I didn’t watch the whole thing but it was enough for cyberspace to jump on it.  This morning my YouTube feed is filled with tiny house videos.  They have not completely supplanted my usual card-making, dogs, Harry/Meghan (proverbial train wreck) videos, but there are A LOT of tiny house stuff.  Sigh.  I know that if I don’t open any more, they will eventually fade away but it’s a little irritating that cyberspace is so completely curating my online experience. 

Then yesterday I opened up YouTube on my work laptop to look for a band for a client.  The feed was nothing like my home feed and had a preponderant amount of “relaxing music” videos.  This didn’t surprise me at first because my main use of YouTube at work has always been background soothing, relaxing music.  When I started to think about it, I wondered how YouTube knew this… after all, this laptop is not the laptop I had before I retired.  And I haven’t logged onto YouTube using a work address since August.  So how did YouTube know, without my even asking, that relaxing music is likely to be what I want?  This is just a hypothetical question – I’m sure I wouldn’t understand a real answer about the algorithms used by YT, FB, etc.  But it is a little eerie and does make me wonder what my feed would look like if I searched for other random items every few days?

Do you care enough about anything to follow it in cyberspace?


I am taking quite a bit of time off this week looking after our grandson. He is quite amiable and happy, and it has been quite fun. He is quite good at entertaining himself, so I have had some time to sit and rest. Yesterday I decided to have Ostfriesentee in the afternoon.

I started drinking tea when I lived in Canada. My mother’s family didn’t drink much tea, but my dad’s parents did. I wasn’t surprised when I ran across an article about the importance of tea in Ostfriesland, as that is where my father’s family came from. Ostfriesland is in northwest Germany right across the Ems River from the Netherlands. People there drink 300 liters of tea per person each year.

The favorite tea in Ostfriesland is Assam tea, strong and malty. There is a very precise way to drink it. First, you put sugar lumps called kluntjes in the cup, then pour in the hot tea and try to hear the sugar make a cracking noise. Next, you pour a teaspoon of heavy cream against the inside rim of the cup so the cream makes neat designs in the tea. You don’t stir the tea, but drink it in layers, so that the last drops are sweetened by the rock sugar. I typically don’t have time in the week for such ceremony, and this was fun.

What are some ceremonies you like? How do you take your tea?


We are now home with our grandson, who was a super traveling companion yesterday. He and I drove out of Fargo Sunday in a ground blizzard for 100 miles west. It was an Oma’s worst driving nightmare, unable to see the road, which was rapidly filling up with snow and ice, trucks and cars trying to pass, and then realizing that the road was slippery. Grandson was very calm and eventually fell asleep for about an hour. I prayed as I drove. Husband had stayed home to take care of the dog, so I was on my own. I drove 80 MPH once with roads cleared and the winds died down west of Jamestown. I just wanted to get home.

Security for grandson is a special quilt and a couple of stuffed animals-a plush elephant named Ellie and a plush T Rex named Sue. He wrapped himself in his quilt and hugged Sue as we drove. I remember having a special security blanket my mother had to wash when I was sleeping, since I didn’t want to let it out of my sight. I eventually left it on a fence post near Two Harbors when I was 5. I also stopped sucking my thumb then. Our grandson is being so brave, and we are having a great time with him.

What were your security objects when you were a child? What helps you feel secure now?

Wrapping Up February

Today’s post comes from Ben.

I took the header photo last week before the snow. Daughter, dogs, and I took a ride in the gator and stopped for this photo. The dogs run halfway, then we load them in the back, and they ride the rest of the way home. Humphrey is not a jumper; I need to find a snow drift or bank so he can get in there.

The news this week is all about the snowstorm.

I spent some time getting things ready: put the gator in the shed, filled the tractor with diesel fuel, made sure the chickens had plenty of food and water. And filled the corn feeder and wall feeder so I wouldn’t have to do it during the snow. At one of the theaters, I hauled out garbage because I knew it would be easier before the snow than after.

An East wind snowstorm is always a problem. There were some deep drifts.

I didn’t hook the blower up at first because I wondered how bad it would really be. It didn’t take many steps to decide I needed the blower– there was no way I could have done it with the blade. Took a few hours, but got it done. Same as the rest of you, different equipment but we’ve all moved snow before.

The guy who drives the road grader for the county, and plows roads for our township, is on a beach in the Dominican Republic this week. Not a bad deal for him. The guy who drives the big county truck with a wing blade on each side to plow roads, he retired a month ago. Kudos to all those truck drivers filling in and keeping the roads clear.

I’ve spent a few days working on lights for a show this week. I’m climbing ladders again! Left leg, right leg, left leg, right leg… just like the old days! It’s pretty cool. Honestly, I feel 20 years younger!  And fun to be back in the saddle so to speak. Also redoing some storage rooms and an assortment of odd jobs around the theater. Busy busy busy.

I’m trying to get book work done. I meet my accountant for taxes on March 17th. Twenty years ago, I was always behind on book work, too. The snow days were good for getting book work done.

I go to a business and there’s this pillar that isn’t square to the room. I hate it.

It’s square to the entire building, but not the lobby. It makes me crazy.

One other thing I did last week was move the tank that we use to raise the baby chicks.  It normally sits behind the chicken coop, and it can get buried in snow. Last week it was out of the snow and I moved it to a trailer so when I need it this spring, it won’t be frozen down and buried.

If I’m thinking baby chicks, spring must be coming.



Oma and Opa

Starting Sunday, it will be a wild ride at our house. Our son and his wife are flying to Savannah, GA so our son can attend the American Counseling Association conference and they can both have a much deserved vacation. Our grandson, who will be 5 in April, was going to spend the week with his maternal grandparents in Mankato. They are a lovely retired couple, both educators, some years older than me and Husband. We are Oma and Opa. They are Grandma and Papa.

Last weekend Papa fell and broke his upper arm bone. It is painful. He and Grandma are disappointed that their combined health issues make it impossible for them to look after our grandson, so we agreed to take him for the week. Son will drive him to Fargo from Brookings, SD on Sunday, I will pick him up in Fargo on Sunday and drive back here with him.

Opa and I plan to tag team child care next week in terms of work. I will work mornings. Opa will watch Grandson, and then we will switch, and Opa will work afternoons and I will watch Grandson. Opa loves to swim and will take him to the swimming pools at our local recreation center. We also have story time at the local library, lots of books in our home, and Oma’s play therapy room at work where any 4 year old would think he was in heaven. We will have to integrate Grandson and our spoiled dog. I expect to be exhausted, but happy, by the end of the week.

Imagine an almost 5 year old boy was coming to stay with you for a week. What would you do with him? What are you favorite grandparent memories?

Bad News

Last night I was the assisting minister at our Ash Wednesday church service, so I got to smudge people’s foreheads with ashes and remind them that they are going to die. Not the most cheery message to give people.

Over the past several months I have had to tell quite a few people who I had evaluated that it was very likely they had a progressive dementia. Those are the meetings I absolutely dread. There is nothing cheery about suggesting to people that they should probably make sure all their end of life decisions have been made known to their family. I am constantly amazed and humbled at the grace and dignity with which they hear the news. It just isn’t fair that people have to get these awful diseases.

It is only over the last 20 years or so that Lutherans here started to incorporate the imposition of ashes into Ash Wednesday Services. I remember as a child the Catholic children leaving school at lunch time and coming back with ashes on their foreheads. It was all very mystical. Now that I experience it, I just view it as sobering. I giggled last night, along with a 3 year old’s mother, at his protest that he didn’t want to get dusted! I respected his request. He has enough bad news awaiting him in his life, and I sure didn’t need to add to it.

What are your memories of Ash Wednesday? How would you want bad news delivered to you? Any thoughts about T. S. Eliot?

Traveling Companions

I got the idea for this on Sunday as I talked with our daughter. (It is sort of a continuation of VS’s post from yesterday, although I didn’t plan it that way.)

I drove our daughter to Bismarck for violin lessons one day a week from the time she was in Grade 6 until she graduated from high school. That was a 190 mile round trip each week for seven years, but it was worth it. It was a really wonderful experience for our daughter. It gave us time to bond. She made a particular, same-age friend named Michelle who is now an environmental engineer based in Virginia. Friend’s job is to monitor and lessen environmental impacts for a coal mining company. She and Daughter decided to visit their Suzuki teacher this past weekend who moved to New Mexico to care for her aging parents. They had a great time.

They flew into El Paso, had a rather harrowing, late-night drive to Roswell, NM to see what was there, and then drove to Las Cruces to visit their teacher and her husband, and see the sights. They were surprised by the high elevations and all the snow. They drove into the mountains and visited the grave of the real Smokey The Bear, where they both inexplicably burst into tears. They loved the food. They had such fun connecting with their teacher, and pledged to visit her again.

One of their most memorable eating experiences was at a hole in the wall place in Las Cruces called Perk and Jerk, a breakfast place with award winning jerky and great coffee. Its interior was less than welcoming.

Daughter said it was the best jerky she ever had. I guess appearances can be deceiving.

Daughter and her friend decided that they want to have more travel adventures together. Daughter said that being together seems to cancel out their respective anxieties, and that they are extremely compatible. Their next trip is to West Virginia to visit a coal mine museum in September. I reminded Daughter that her ancestors are Scots coal miners, and that her great great great grandfather died in a coal mining accident near Glasgow. The family immigrated to Ohio and West Virginia and continued to mine until they found other work. Her friend has an adopted grandparent couple in Bismarck who are from Norway, so in the spring of 2024 they want to travel to Oslo and the Faroe Islands and honor those folks’ relatives. I think it is wonderful.

Who are your best and worst travel companions? What makes for a great traveling companion? Ever been to the Faroe islands?

Not Cooking

Ever since we defrosted our freezers several weeks ago and were able to see what frozen leftovers we had, Husband and I have been making a point of eating those leftovers and trying not to put any leftovers from new dishes in the freezers. Every night during the week we say to each other “we’re not cooking or baking this weekend, are we.”

Then Saturday rolls around, and our resolve crumbles. This weekend, “not cooking” resulted in an Italian Pie of Greens and two loaves of Leinsamen Mischbrot, a German sourdough bread made of several kinds of flours and flaxseed. The previous weekend, “not cooking” resulted in a cod and mussel stew with harissa, chicken tortellini soup, and four loaves of French bread. We tell ourselves that since the Swiss chard for the pie and the makings for the stew and the soup were already in the freezers, that it is good to have homemade bread on hand, and that none of the newly prepared main dishes went in the freezer as leftovers, we are kind of, sort of, sticking to our plan. There are noticeably fewer containers now in the Lutheran freezer where all the leftovers go.

Husband informs me that we are now eating the last loaf of rye bread from the freezer. Beatrice Ojakangas, the Duluth cookbook author, said that her father would complain to her mother that “there isn’t anything to eat in this house” if he couldn’t find any rye bread in the kitchen. Husband loves rye bread, but insists that he isn’t going to bake for a while. I notice, though, that there is rye sourdough starter in the fridge, and we just got some rye chops we had ordered, so I can guess what we are “not baking” next weekend.

When is your resolve the weakest? What is your favorite bread to make or eat? How do you deal with leftovers?

A Slight Misunderstanding

Wednesday night Husband and I were talking about a recent complaint that my regulatory board received about a licensee, as Husband is the new Board Investigator. It is an unpaid position that I volunteered him for because he is semi-retired and very fastidious in his work and there wasn’t anyone else to do it and he is my spouse.

He said we would need to finesse the written response to the complaint. I thought he said defenestrate the response. I was confused. Once we got that cleared up, we had a good laugh and both did some research on The Defenestration of Prague. What a strange word and even stranger concept!

What have you been “volunteered” for something by virtue of being related to someone? Have you ever wanted to be an investigator? Who or what have you wanted to throw out of a window?

Legal Eagle

The regulatory board of which I am a member has had the same attorney for the past 11 years. The Board attorney is provided to us by the State Attorney General’s Office. He has been very helpful. We were sad to learn at our most recent meeting that he is leaving to be the executive director of a medical practitioner regulatory group. We will miss him.

I am happy to say that my experiences with attorneys have been pretty limited over the years. I mainly interact with the local county attorneys in my capacity as an expert witness and when I am the expert examiner for mental health commitments. I get along quite well with all the county attorneys and district judges. We used to have a quite inept local attorney who everyone referred to as “The Dumb Swede” to distinguish him from “The Big Swede”, a very tall district judge. I keep waiting for the retirement of another local attorney who must be in his 70’s and who has had the same really awful toupee for the 35 years I have known him. The toupee looks like it is being devoured by moths.

The other day in the grocery store, Husband and I ran into one of our district judges (not the Big Swede) who also attends our church. The judge made a comment about a rather flamboyant older member of the congregation who had recently died. Husband told His Honor in jest that he really needed to stop judging people like that. The judge thought that was pretty funny.

What have been your experiences with attorneys? Any good lawyer or judge jokes? Any stories about toupees?