Thursday, May 31, 2007


I almost missed it. The Blue Moon, that is. A Blue Moon is defined as the second time in a calendar month in which the moon is full. I was going by the calendar in my kitchen, which says that the month of June, rather than May, has two full moons. Lila at "Indigo Pears" (see link at right) says today is The Blue Moon, so I decided to check it out and found out that Lila was right.

For those of us in the United States, The Blue Moon appears tonight. The makers of my calendar must have been English. England (and I assume all of the British Isles?) will celebrate two full moons in June, with the Blue Moon appearing on June 30.

Because the full moons this summer fall on the cusps of the calendar months, the date you will celebrate The Blue Moon depends on the time zone in which you live. If you live in Auckland, New Zealand, the Blue Moon will be pushed back to July 30, but if you live in Sydney, Australia, you will celebrate the Blue Moon on June 3o.

(by Sofanya)

Today, the phrase "Once in a Blue Moon" means something that happens only rarely or fairly infrequently. In actuality, the Blue Moon happens only once about every 2.5 years.

The reason for the rarity of The Blue Moon is that the 29.53 days between full moons is just slightly shorter than the number of days in the average month.

Just as the moon is not made of green cheese, a Blue Moon will not appear blue. It won't look any different than the regular full moon, and it has no more effect on human behavior than any other full moon.

However, there have been rare occasions when the moon really did turn blue. After the volcano in Krakatoa ("East of Java") erupted, the moon appeared blue for two years, because of all the volcanic dust in the air. In 1927, extremely dry conditions in India caused the moon to appear blue. In 1951, smoke and dust from forest fires in Canada also turned the moon "blue."

The term "Blue Moon", however, has been around for centuries, and only took on the meaning of an infrequent event in the 20th century. Blue Moon is a term that is derived from common language usage of hundreds of years ago. A pamphlet printed in 1528 contained the phrase, "If you say the moon is blue, we must believe that it is true."

The first meaning of Blue Moon was "never". So if an 18th Century gentleman told a maid, "I'll marry you, m'lady, when the moon is blue," she would have wasted her time creating a trousseau.

According to certain folklore, it is said that when there is a blue moon, "the moon has a face and talks to items in its moonlight."

In recent years, the phrase "Blue Moon" has been a symbol of sadness and loneliness: "Blue Moon, you left me standing along, without a love of my own" . . . .

In my lifetime, "Blue Moon" has been a much-used name for night clubs or supper clubs. My Aunt Ina (the world traveler - to the faraway land of Montana) always raved about the famed "Blue Moon" supper club in Plentywood, MT. A few years ago, my husband and I happened to be in Plentywood, and The Blue Moon" is still there, 40-some years after I first heard about it and dreamed about it as a place of ballroom dancing, fancy food, exotic drinks and romance. (My husband, not being a romantic, chose a dining place with fast service so that the dogs would not be alone too long.) It would have been fun to check out Plentywood's Blue Moon, which I imagined to be decorated in silver stars and navy blue walls. (Perhaps it is best for my romantic dreams that we did not dine at The Blue Moon.)

On those occasions when one waxes nostalgic, even after never-experienced events, perhaps one should partake of a "Blue Moon Martini", in which the two-most featured components are Bombay Sapphire Blue Gin and Blue Curacao.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007



Today is the 10th anniversary of the death of Jeff Buckley. I wrote a post about my admiration for Jeff's music in January, but since no one was reading my blog then, I thought I would reprint it today:


Tonight has been a Jeff Buckley night. I have been listening to his CD, "Grace", and skimming through Merri Cyr's book, "Jeff Buckley: A Wished-For Song."

My fascination with Jeff Buckley began with a haunting song I heard on "Crossing Jordan." I HAD to find that song. First I learned its name, "Hallelujah", then I began to search for the singer. Leonard Cohen wrote it but oh my Lord, no. Not his version. Rufus Wainwright recorded a version. Better than Cohen's, but not quite right. I even listened to Gavin DeGraw's feeble imitation. Finally, I discovered that the haunting, ethereal voice belonged to Jeff Buckley. I later read that even though Cohen wrote the song, it is considered to be Jeff Buckley's song.

I bought "Grace" and listened to it over and over. I ordered Cyr's book and became entranced with the man as well as the musician. I checked out Jeff's websites and read "Dream Brother", Jeff's and his father's biography.

I learned that Jeff was the son of 60s folk singer Tim Buckley. Tim wanted nothing to do with Jeff and his mother after his birth. This rejection, of course, affected Jeff profoundly. However, it was his father's death at age 28 that ironically helped Jeff begin his career. At Tim Buckley's tribute, Jeff - virtually unknown - went onstage and played. Who, everyone asked, was that young man with such talent? He quickly drew raves for his otherworldly, (some say) eight-octave voice. "Grace" and touring brought him a measure of fame. On May 29, 1997, the eve of beginning recording sessions for his next album, he drowned in the Wolf River in Memphis, TN. He was only 30.

Jeff left a world of mourners - fellow musicians, friends and fans. His circle of friends was worldwide. Not only was he a tremendously gifted musician, but he was also a very special man: "Such a true artist, such a generous spirit", "So likable, so innocent", "On this earth but not of this earth." "Jeff was from the heart and soul."

Spiritual, introspective, searching, endearing - that was Jeff Buckley. He profoundly affected the people who met him, having "the ability to make every person feel, even if it was for one second, that they were the most important person in the universe".

Jeff was only semi-famous when he died. I didn't know of him during his lifetime. Why then, was Jeff Buckley so important to the world of music? Because he was an inspiration to the best musicians of our time: Jeff Beck, Robert Plant, Patti Smith, R.E.M., Bono, Elvis Costello, Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam. Bono called him "A pure drop in an ocean of noise."

He had a tremendous effect on the music industry. He was called the future of rock and roll and his music "a yardstick by which people compare other music." "Every (singer) wants to be like Jeff," said one friend, "but no one ever will."

So today, I listen to Jeff to not only hear my beloved "Hallelujah", but also to marvel at the pure choirboy voice on "Corpus Christi Carol". (Who else could take a medieval chant and put it on a rock album?)

I listen to Jeff to visualize scenes like this: "I lost myself on a cool damp night/I gave myself in that misty light/Was hypnotized by a strange delight/Under a lilac tree" ("Lilac Wine") or "Looking out the door I see the rain fall/Upon the funeral mourners/Parading in a wake of sad relations/As their shoes fill up with water". ("Lover, You Should Have Come Over")

Jeff had a premonition of his early death, no doubt about it. In "Eternal Life" he sings, "Eternal life is now on my trail. Got my red glitter coffin now, need just one last nail". In "Grace," he sings, "There's the moon, asking me to stay, Long enough for the clouds to fly me away. Well, it's my time coming, I'm not afraid to die".

On that spring evening in 1997, Jeff, waiting restlessly for his band to arrive in town, waded into the Wolf River for a carefree swim. Four days later, his body washed up at the foot of Beale Street, Memphis' famed "musicians' street." I suppose that you could say of many a man, "He died too soon, too young." But I believe that with Jeff's death the world was robbed of a musician like no other.

"His death was so hard to believe because he was so godlike in his talents. You couldn't believe his life could be snuffed out. That he was mortal. His talent was so immortal. He was so vulnerable with a lot of baggage and problems to work out and at the same time he had this ascendance, talent beyond even him." (George Stein )

Added May 29, 2007

I wrote recently about striving for three qualities in my life: serenity, grace, and class. Jeff's album was entitled "Grace", and recently I ran across a quote from Jeff about grace:

"Grace is what matters. In anything. Especially life, especially growth, tragedy, pain, love, death. About people, that's what matters. That's a quality I admire very greatly . . . It sort of keeps you alive and keeps you open for more understanding."

Rest in Peace, Jeff.

Monday, May 28, 2007


My sister Glori and I went poking around an antique mall on Saturday. I bought a few odds and ends: A book, some silver serving pieces, a little pie bird, a Gurley candle, all for just a few dollars each. I also spotted the china above. This is the American Limoges "Toledo Delight " pattern in the "sand" color, the same pattern Dan's mother used for her best china.

After Lil died, Dan's brother Gordon, as the oldest of the four brothers, claimed the china. This really pissed off Dan. Among other things, we inherited Lil's freezer, which was still full of frozen goods. There, under a layer of angel food cake slices, was one of the plates. It had a hairline crack, so Lil must have felt it was okay to put in the freezer. "At least Gordon didn't get that one," Dan remarked. We have treasured that plate for 14 years.

So, when I spotted eight dinner plates, a big platter and one saucer all for $28.00, I debated about whether or not I should get them. Was Dan really attached to that pattern, or was he just mad that Gordon got it (Gordon not being his favorite brother)? I decided to leave it and ask Dan when I got home. His answer was immediate. "Get it!" he said. I checked this pattern out on EBay and elsewhere on the Internet, and found I would be getting a very good deal on the pieces.

So today, I went back and purchased the set. This will now be our best china. Our previous "best" china had been purhased piece by piece through a grocery-store promotion. We don't mind if there are no matching cups and saucers, and it will be fun to look for the odd serving piece here and there.

While at the antique mall today, I found something else: The print shown below, Maxfield Parrish's "Enchantment", in a gorgeous ornate gold frame. Although I was not planning to purchase anything more, I bought it. I had planned that, when I got a new job, I would treat myself to a print of J. W. Waterhouse's "The Lady of Shalott". But I can order that print on the net anytime, and I am very fond of Parrish's work, so I went for it. And, as the shopkeeper said when she was wrapping my purchases: "And were you planning to line your coffin with the money you had saved your whole life?"

That clinched it. "Enchantment" is now hanging in a place of honor in my living room.


In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow.
Lived and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high
If ye break with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields
(Major John McCrae, MD)
Major McCrae, a member of the Canadian Expeditionary Forces in World War I, wrote this now famous poem in May, 1915, after the Second Battle of Ypres (Belgium). Although I have known about this poem since I was a school girl, it now holds much more significance for me.
After my second cousin Shirl from Golspie, Scotland, "discovered" us members of the North Dakota branch of her Clan Munro, she invited us to read all about the family on the website. There, I learned that one of my Scottish great-uncles was gassed at Ypres and taken prisoner, while another was wounded twice at Ypres but lived to fight heroically in many more battles.
Two other great-uncles fought in The Great War, meaning my Great-Grandmother Hughina had four souls to worry about and pray for.
Since thankfully I have no friends or family members who have fallen since - be it in World War II, the Korean War, The Vietnam War, the Gulf War, or the War in Iraq - I would like to take today, Memorial Day, to celebrate these men who fought against a terrifying enemy, the dreaded "Hun" who threatened to overtake all of Europe and possibly America.
I don't know if many Americans realize how horrid WW I was, as our country entered into the fray so late. Trench warfare was cold, muddy, smelly, bloody, gruesome, terrifying and shell-shocking. In short, it was HELL.
It is said that England lost a whole generation of young men as "cannon fodder" to the war, and I am sure it can be said of Scotland as well. When I first read the stories of my Scottish great-uncles, I bawled my eyes out to think that these young men whom I never had the privilege of knowing had fought and died for future generations, including me, their American relative who was born so long after they died.
Sgt. Archibald Munro
Canadian Army

Three of the Munro lads from Golspie immigrated to Canada in their young manhood. One of them was my grandfather, Duncan, who had joined the Canadian Rifles and was preparing to go to war when the Armistice was signed. Another, Donald, had to have been Hughina's "Fourth Son" engaged in battle, although all records for Donald have since been lost.

The third was Archie, already married and a father. Looking through his records, Shirl and I have concluded that Archie lied about his age - downward - to get into the army as part of the British Overseas Expeditionary Force. He was among the first 30,000 Canadian troops to enter the war.

Archie's service was cut short. He was caught in the first attack in which Germans used gas, for which the Allies were unprepared. He was left in No Man's Land at Ypres for 24 hours, then was captured by the Germans. He spent 18 months as a prisoner of war. At the POW camp, the "Spanish" flu was killing prisoners by the hundreds. Archie, who had gone into a coma, was thrown out with the dead. Fortunately, a Russian doctor checked the pile of corpses and found Archie still alive and persuaded a German doctor to send him to a hospital.

Later Archie was sent to recuperate in Switzerland, where hospital care and the clean mountain air helped improve his health. He was later sent to England in a prisoner exchange. Before the war was out, he was sent back to Canada, where the government sent him on tours to lecture about his experiences among the terrifying Huns.

Archie and his family later moved to Chicago. He succumbed to his injuries and died in 1921.


Sgt. William A. Munro

Seaforth Highlanders

Before the war, William Munro was an athlete - a noted footballer (soccer player) - and a newspaper reporter. He had "a fine manly bearing", and was "a most estimable young man." For a time, his letters from the front were, said a newspaper for which he had worked, "an outstanding feature of the paper."
After a furlough home, waiting to board a train back to the front, he was quoted as saying, "Get your flags ready for victory, and don't forget a good Union Jack for the centre!"
William was, newspaper articles recounted, "an ideal type of Highland soldier and a great favourite with his comrades." He was "a valuable non-commissioned officer and a soldier to his fingertips." His men "loved him and would follow him to the last."
"The last" came on Nov. 13, 1916. He was 25 years old. All of Golspie mourned.

Regimental Sergeant Major
John Alexander (Jack) Munro
King's Own Scottish Borderers

Like his brother, John Alexander (Jack) Munro, was an athlete, a frequent winner in Scottish Highland games. He was "a fine strapping fellow, courtly in manner, held in highest esteem in Golspie."

Jack went to France in 1914, at the beginning of the war, and fought through all of the outstanding engagements and battles of the war: The Retreat from Mons, Ypres, St. Julien, the Battle of the Marne, The Somme Offensive. He was swiftly promoted through the ranks, and achieved the rank of regimental sergeant major, a remarkable feat for a man so young. He went through a long spell of trench warfare.

During one engagement, in the face of fierce shelling and machine gun fire, he carried one of his officers off the field. He was well known for continually denying himself to help his wounded comrades, even to the length of giving up his own field dressing.

Jack was wounded four times, the last most severely. After recuperating, he was posted as an instructor and could have remained in that position, but "his whole desire was to be in the firing line along with his comrades."

On April 12, 1917, he was killed by a shell while again helping a comrade back to safety. He was only 23 years old. His death came just five months after his mother was devastated by the news of William's death.

Jack's obituary reported that "the community of Golspie could hardly accept the sad tidings. They simply refused to believe such a gallant life had at last been tragically ended."

He was posthumously awarded the Military Cross for "conspicuous bravery on the field of battle."

Today, Memorial Day, I am so proud to honor and name among my relatives these stalwart, steadfast, brave men who made, as the cliche says, "the ultimate sacrifice". I am sure that they, like the soliders in "Braveheart", "fought like warrior poets, and won [our] freedom."

They are my heroes.

Friday, May 25, 2007

"J" IS FOR...

I thought I would show you my new note cards, which I found last night while looking for clothes at TJ Maxx. It was the only box of initial note cards there so I was glad it was "J" for Julie, originally Julia, named after my sweet lovely Grandma Julia.
I am a sucker for note cards and stationery, and have to restrain myself from buying more than I will actually use. Like Carmen of "Strawberries and Champagne," I love journals - lined or unlined, cloth or paper covers - but definitely decorative. I also adore those little notebooks with the elastic or snap closures, just right for carrying in a purse. I like all the photo albums, the "to do" lists and the address books, be they decorated with floral or vintage designs, famous art reproductions or original artwork, photos of foreign scenery or towns, collage or nature patterns. In short, I am a goner for all paper products. Last night I also found a cool paper accordion portfolio to store all those papers and little notes that have been stacked in wobbly towers on my computer and hard drive.
I don't know why I went into TJ Maxx for clothes; they never have anything in my size. But elsewhere I did find a beautiful emerald green blouse. My eyes are hazel, but when I wear a green blouse my eyes turn green. I also found a beautiful, floaty, lavender, green and white over blouse with a white tank top.
It is hard for me to find nice clothes in my size, especially since I have fore sworn cotton tops, as much as I like them. Because I am such a schlubbuh (spelling?), as my German friends call me, I am always spilling food down my front, so I need something that is stain proof. I also refuse to dress like a dowdy matron!


(By Tom Chapman)
Dear Mom and Brother John,
Sorry, I did not bring flowers to your graves this year. In fact, it has been four years since Glori, Kelsey and I were at the tiny Larson cemetery on the crest of the little hill overlooking the village where we had so many good years.
I am sure the crosses, ribbons and silk flowers are faded by now. Maybe someone finally tossed them away, although I don't know if the cemetery association is still active. Sorry. I just can't bear to go up that way anymore. It's too depressing. My people are gone; only tombstones remain. The schools are closed, houses are empty, storefronts are bare and bleak, the prairie is reclaiming the land. Northwestern North Dakota was never highly-populated. Now its faced with extreme out migration.
I have to tell you about the last time we visited you. It was Memorial Day weekend, and we had just buried Aunt Mary ourselves. Mary had died at the end of March, and was cremated. We arranged to come up to Crosby over the long holiday weekend and oversee her burial. I had envisioned that the undertaker would be there to place the container in the carefully-dug hole, and the pastor would say some words. Maybe not a full graveside ceremony for just the three of us, but a few words, surely. What a surprise we had in store for us.
When the weekend came near, I called the undertaker to verify arrangements. To my shock I found out that he and the pastor would be out of town for the long weekend, but he would "leave the mortuary's garage unlocked so we could pick up the ashes." Allllrighty then. No words from the pastor, okay, WE could say some words or recite a poem, then place the ashes in the hole. "No, he said, "You have to dig the hole yourself."
Picking up the ashes from the garage was surreal enough. They were in a baggie in a hard black plastic container inside a cardboard box. I was not prepared for this. Then out to the cemetery. This is Memorial Day weekend, you understand, with lots of people placing flowers and grooming graves, and there we were digging a hole. I'm sure people thought we were grave robbers.
The ground was so hard we thought of giving up and throwing the ashes over the fence, but that is illegal in this state. Eventually, we managed to get a shallow hole dug and the ashes placed. The replaced turf stuck up higher than the rest of the ground, but we didn't care. Hopefully the granite marker would settle the dirt. The more this strange day played out, the more macabre it got, and we reacted by getting silly. We even have photos of us taking turns digging the hole, taken by a friend of Mary's who came out to the cemetery with us. So even in the midst of sadness we found laughter, albeit somewhat ghoulish.
Today, I place flowers in spirit on your two graves at Larson. Glori and Kelsey would add flowers for Ole. In Crosby, I place flowers at Mary's, Grandma Julia's, Grandpa Duncan's and Uncle Billy's graves. In Valley City, at Uncle Donny's grave. In Montana at Uncle David's, in Minnesota at Aunt Ina's. In Washington at Uncle Scotty's. In California at Brother Ron's.
So many gone. I love and miss you all.


I just heard from my friend at my former job that she has turned in her two-weeks notice. The last straw, my friend says, is when boss lady threw an abstract on the floor and yelled, "Get it done!" My friend was the last one left out of the group of us who had been transferred over from the Bismarck office.

Even the woman who has worked for the same company for 30 years is now looking for a job, because she has yet again been passed over for promotion by a twenty-something.

Aah, revenge is a dish best eaten cold.

Oh, sorry, Jude. No negative thoughts. Only positive thoughts from now on.


It's the beginning of another Memorial Day weekend in North Dakota, and that means it is cold, wet and rainy. Even though the rest of May might have been nice, Memorial Day - which is the official kickoff to the summer recreation season - always seems to be nasty. That's what they get for changing the true date of Memorial Day - May 30 - to the last Monday in May. Pretty soon they'll change the Fourth of July to the first Monday in July so people can have their three-day weekend.

I have spent more Memorial Day weekends than I care to remember being cold and wet, shivering in blankets around a pitiful smoking campfire or trapped in a tent in a damp nylon sleeping bag. I like my camping warm and dry, with an inflatable mattress and a flannel sleeping bag. I prefer not to camp at all, actually.

Don't get me wrong, I love the great outdoors. I do have some wonderful memories, especially from the days when we lived in Grand Forks, ND. It took but a two-hour drive east to be in the heart of Minnesota. Those two short hours marked a remarkable transition that one small Minnesota town boasted of as being "From The Prairie to The Pines."

Nothing can beat the taste of fresh-from-the-lake walleye dipped in Shore Lunch and pan fried. Or tramping through the tamarack woods at Itasca State Park with my best gal pal on a girls only trip. I love listening to the haunting call of the loon or slowly motor boating on a Minnesota lake. Walking through the spring woods and finding trillium, lady's slippers and marsh marigolds was a highlight in this flower-lover's life. Just being in Minnesota woods and lake country is a treat for a North Dakotan.

The Mississippi River starts at Lake Itasca, just a little trickle with stepping stones spaced across it so you can say you "walked across the Mississippi." Four of us once took a pontoon trip down the Mississippi - small and manageable at that point. The day was hot, drowsy and lush, leading to a warm evening watching the sun go down over the lake from the vantage point of lawn chairs, sipping a cocktail and feeling the sunburn on our faces and the relaxed tiredness that comes from a day on the water.

But at the end of the day, I prefer a shower and a soft bed in that nice big stone lodge or rustic cabin, and a hot meal that does not consist of burned hot dogs, a can of pork and beans and soggy chips.

Even after we moved to Bismarck, we took a fabulous canoe trip down the Little Missouri River in the Badlands. Even though it started as a typical Memorial Weekend it ended up hot and sunny. I remember floating down the river coursing between the buttes, out of sight and sound of all other humans, trading my time between watching the wildlife and closing my eyes and listening to the desultory comments traded back and forth among the occupants of the four canoes. At night, we camped on the shore and enjoyed the camaraderie that existed among 10 close friends. No kids, no cares, no curfews, nothing else existed but the sound of the river and the sight and feel of the primal bonfire holding back the night.

Now, my husband works Saturdays and Memorial Day, so we don't even have to consider plans. It will be an ordinary, albeit longer weekend for us.

Now for some unrelated questions:

1. Would any of you book lovers like to receive up to 36 books just for mailing one already-read book of yours? If so, please let me know and I will give you the details.

2. Does anyone know of a catalog that offers cool, fun clothes (but appropriate for work) for a woman of a certain age and weight?

3. Regarding a previous post of mine, does anyone want to set up a letter correspondence?

4. A lot of you have digital cameras and post wonderful pictures on your blog. What do you think is the best digital camera for a not-exorbitant price?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007



(And imagine Vern Troyer singing the "It's my birthday" song in that commercial): I got a job, uh-huh, uh-huh. It's a good job, uh-huh, uh-huh! I'm very happy, uh-huh, uh-huh!

I applied for a job with this company without knowing they had just posted an opening. How serendipitous! I had actually waited a couple of months to approach them. I was hesitant because I felt somehow unworthy. (Ridiculous, I know.) I interviewed with them yesterday, and they seemed to be very interested in me and so appreciative of my experience. The interview went very well, but you just never know. Anyway, they called me a little bit ago and it's official! I start Tuesday, the day after Memorial Day.

The job is with Bismarck Title Company, which is the competitor of my former company. I am starting out at almost exactly the same salary it took me nine years to achieve at ND Guaranty and Title. Because of my years of experience, they are giving me more vacation this first year than they usually give new hires. And the profit sharing is astounding.

I will be on the ground floor, so to speak, as they start a new office in Mandan and prepare to take over the market share from Mandan Title, which is NDGT's sister company and the place I worked during the last 15 months of my 9-year tenure with the company. I have dedicated myself to doing everything in my power to help my new company succeed in this venture.

If that sounds to you like gloating, I am. I think I deserve to gloat a little. It feels like poetic justice to me. As those of you who read my blog know, it has been a tough two months. I have related the jumble of feelings one goes through after losing one's job and while being in a toxic work environment with a manager who is a bully.

I know it could have been a lot longer than two months. I have read the tales about downsized middle-management people who have sent out hundreds of resumes and are still unemployed for a year or more. I am lucky and blessed. I am especially blessed to have the support of Dan and Kristen, my sister Glori and the Fredericksen relatives. And I cannot forget to thank my new blogging friends, my in-town friends and former fellow employees who gave me reassurance, encouragement and advice, coddled me when I needed it, assured me how smart and deserving I am, and gave me a smack upside the head when I got to be too much.

I haven't gotten a lot accomplished during my enforced time off. Now, I have five days to do all the projects I thought I would finish during my unemployment period, which in all possibility could have lasted all summer. Hah, I know I won't get them done, but I do have to get a haircut, maybe a get a perm. I have to buy a couple of decent outfits because my work wardrobe had gotten really shabby, and I have to buy a couple of pairs of new shoes/sandals because of - that's right - Gracie. Those have-to's will be so much more fun than sending out resumes, reporting to Job Service and throwing those pity parties!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


Look what I found between a cabinet and the wall in my living room! (Cleaning house does have some rewards!) I made this collage some years ago. If you think it looks familiar, you probably saw something very similar in "Somerset Studios."
At that time, I stuck pretty close to duplicating the examples in the magazines. I know people pooh-pooh that today, but I was a beginner then. I went so far as to order the exact stamps used in the original. I found my "Instant Ancestor" at a flea market. That's an actual sealing wax seal in the lower right hand corner, and I burned the edges of the papers. I did add my own background stamp and embellishments.
I had no qualms about putting this on the scanner today, as the banner rolls have been flattened for quite some time. I'm amazed at how much the brown ink has faded in places. I actually convinced the owner of a local stamp shop to order the required stamps and display my collage in the store for a time.
Today, I would not copy a magazine sample so closely, but I had huge fun making the collage and telling people that my work was on display in a store.
I am also passionate about the art of letter writing. Two of my favorite books are exchanges of letters between two people: "Stillmeadow and Sugarbridge" by Gladys Taber and Barbara Webster and "84 Charing Cross Road" by Helene Hanff.
For a while, my niece Lisa and I were really good about sending each other long, handwritten letters. In order to write even better missives, I bought "The Pleasures of Staying in Touch: Writing Memorable Letters" by Victoria magazine. Each of us bought a bunch of seals and sticks of colored sealing wax. When Lisa tried wax chips, I did too. We tried special inks and pens. We added little ribbons under our seals. I also once sent Lisa a very swanky writing set with inks and nibs.
There is just something about opening a letter with swirly writing on the front and a seal on the back. For one thing, it tells you the writer really took the care and time to compose your letter.
Lisa and I really have fallen out of the letter-writing practice in recent years, especially since it is so quick and easy to email each other. I actually don't mind corresponding via computer, but it is still fun to get a letter in the mail. And besides, you can't attach stickers and seals to an email, or tuck little surprises inside it.

Sunday, May 20, 2007


"Light Warrior"
Zoe Kaufman
Musings on a few things that aren't long enough for posts of their own:

I love Christina Aguilera's song, "Fighter". I believe that all the events that have happened to me over the years have strengthened me. ("What does not kill you makes you stronger.") She writes, "After all you put me through you'd think I despise you but in the end I wanna thank you 'cause you made me that much stronger."


"'Cause if it wasn't for all that you tried to do
I wouldn't know just how capable I am to pull through
So I wanna say thank you
'Cause it makes me that much stronger
Makes me work a little bit harder
It makes me that much wiser
So thanks for making me a fighter
Makes me a little bit faster
Makes my skin a little bit thicker
Makes me that much smarter
So thanks for making me a fighter"


Vicki from Victoria Station offered the following quote in a comment on my post about books. It deserves its own spot in a post:

"When I have money, I buy books. If any is left, I buy food and clothes."

Looking at the sorry state of my wardrobe, you would know this is certainly true of me.

The following was my horoscope the other day: "CANCER: You have money. Remember? Now where did you misplace it? Practice walking, talking and working your spunky self. Woe to the person who gets in your face, as you're a victim no more." As to the first part, now where did I put that pesky money? But the second part is certainly true. I am a victim no more.

Did you know that when lilacs have been blooming for about a week their color starts to fade? I had never noticed it before, but this year the lilac blooms were so thick and massive it must have been easier to notice when a whole block of color changed over time.

On Thursday's "ER", the new doc played by Stanley Tucci told the staff that they had better get used to his "authoritative style of management." Whoa! My head snapped up. Deja Vu!!! I had heard that phrase about a year ago, and that's a reason why I am no longer working at that place. The ER docs and nurses very much resented that comment, and so did I. I REFUSED to get used to that style of management. Authoritative only means "mean". I am a proponent of the theory that you can get more flies with honey than with vinegar.

I am reminded of Aesop's fable in which the sun and the wind had a contest to see who could get a man to remove his coat faster. The wind meanly blew and blew, but the man only wound his coat tighter about his body. The sun came out and gently warmed the man, causing him to soon shed his coat. I know I respond better to kindness, and I thought I had taught "the boss" that too, as she responded positively for a time. But although she may disguise them for a while, a leopard doesn't really ever change her spots.

Speaking of ER, what did Neela whisper to Ray? And if you were wondering what that haunting song was at the end of the show, it was Jeff Buckley's "Hallellujah." Read about Buckley and the song in my post from January.

Gracie has a new trick. Since we leave the patio door open when the weather is warm, she gets a running head start from outside, bounds up the steps and across the deck, gallops across the kitchen, dining room and living room and LEAPS onto the couch from five feet away! Woe to any person sitting on the couch.

I got a message this week from the human resource person at a business to which I had sent a job application. She tells me there are 80 applicants for the job. Oh, my. Well, it is one of the best paying positions I've seen, with some of the lowest requirements, so that stands to reason, but this is scary!

What with the high gas prices, I'm GLAD I'm not driving the 16-mile round trip to work every day.

My husband dug up half the front lawn two weeks ago and hasn't seeded it yet. My question is, what should I use to smack him over the head? I'm thinking the medium-size fry pan.

I went back and added more to my post about my Serenity and Grace Place. Can't forget the clothes, the yoga classes and the women's empowerment seminars!

Saturday is usually the day I watch my Netflix movies, since my husband doesn't like to watch DVDs and he always works Saturdays. Yesterday I watched "The Painted Veil" with Naomi Watts and Edward Norton, and last Saturday I watched "The White Countess" with Natasha Richardson and Ralph Fiennes. Veddy, veddy good in a Merchant/Ivory movie sort of way. At least the former was a M/I film. I don't think the latter was, but it has the same vibe. Now why, why can't studios made intelligent, well-scripted, well-acted movies like that for women in my age group? I am so sick of cartoons, sequels, action flicks, horror movies and re-makes of 60s TV shows filling up the theatres.

A British blogger recently mentioned "Miss Potter", about the life of Peter Rabbit creator Beatrix Potter. It isn't available on DVD here until June, but it is on my Netflix list. It stars Renee Zellweger, Ewan Macgregor and Emily Watson, so should also be veddy, veddy good.


Monday, May 21:

DISCLAIMER: I would never really hit my husband with anything (though it would be fun to have a go with those big foam bats) and he has never hit me either. Although the song "Fighter" is about a male-female relationship, it is not about ours. My friends are always telling me what a great guy I have, and they are right.


My Darling Dusty
(PS: Don't know why her leg looks striped; she had no stripes at all.)
(PPS: Gawd, did I hate that kitchen linoleum. I now have lovely Tuscan "tiles")
I have been tagged by Lila of Indigo Pears to list seven random things about myself. I have never been tagged before, so this should be fun. Here goes:
1. Although I post a lot about my dogs, I also had the privilege to be owned for 19 1/2 years by Dusty, the greatest cat ever.
2. I am somewhat of a grammar snob and get really irritated when people say "I done it" or "I seen it" or do things like use apostrophes incorrectly. However, I am not perfect, as my daughter corrects me when when I say "Where are you going to" or when I mix up "lie" and "lay". (Did I miss the days when we covered these topics in school?) I just laugh when I hear people say, "Come here once." Is this just a regional thing, or do people say that all over the country?
3. I am not a good housekeeper. Oh, sure, the garbage, dishes and dirty clothes are taken care of, but the rest can wait until I finish my book. Dan is a slob too, so we live in perfect - if imperfect - harmony. I am a REVERSE snob about this subject. I have seen plaques that say "If you wanted to see a clean house, you should have visited last week," and "A clean house is the sign of a dull mind," and both would fit into my house very well. (INSTANT APOLOGIES to those of you sharp-witted ladies who know that having a clean house has nothing to do with one's intelligence.)
4. I often discuss my longing to visit my ancestral home of Scotland, but I would also like to visit Florence and then spend a month in the hills of Tuscany.
5. I wish I knew how to draw, and I wish I could play the guitar - or music of any kind.
6. I hate math but forced myself to study and always got all "A"s in it. I was a "savant" in trigonometry. No problem ever stumped me, and I got 100% for the semester.
7. I have read other tags in which one of the questions is "Do you drive a stick shift or an automatic?" (British blogger response: "What's a stick shift?") In case I never get asked that question, the answer is "automatic." My husband once tried to teach me to drive his Volkswagen Beetle. It was a disaster, with me ending up in tears and refusing to ever consider the possibility again. My mom never did learn to drive. I remember my step dad trying to teach her with ALL FOUR KIDS IN THE CAR! She ended up driving over my sister's tricycle. Her response was "Never Again" as well.
I have been asked to tag seven other bloggers. This is the hard part. Other than Lila, I don't think I have that many regular visitors to my blog. So I am going to pick a couple of my regular commenters [Spell checker doesn't like this word. Commentators?] and some people who have commented in the past but may not be reading my blog lately. If you don't care for tags or have been tagged lately and don't want to again, that's fine.
(There are links to all of these blogs on the right-hand side of my blog under "Blogging Kindred Spirits.")
1. Vicki at Victoria Station
2. Annie Elf
3. Lisaoceandreamer
4. Kelli at There's No Place Like Home
5. Daisy Lupin
6. Anyone else on my Kindred Spirits list
7. Anyone who reads my blog but doesn't comment (Link back to me!)

Saturday, May 19, 2007


I just discovered these cards by Mina Lee on another blog. Luvs it! Check out the link on the right side of my blog under Favorite Artists, etc.
I picked these three cards because I do have an attitude and love it, because I am just beginning to realize my power as a woman, and because I belong to this book club . . . Maybe my book club should change its name from CRS (Can't Remember S---) to the Bad Girls Book Club.
By the way, speaking of book club, I have to admit to something. My book club members call me the Book Nazi (after Seinfeld's Soup Nazi), because I insist that they actually read the book every.single.month.
Here's another thought regarding books: "A home without books is like a body without a soul." My husband and I were invited to a party at a beautiful new home a couple of weeks ago. I really liked the style - it was basically decorated in Old World fashion and was very tasteful. On closer inspection, I could see that the only books in the house were part of the carefully-arranged vignettes. Perfectly matching, dust-jacket-less books in sets of two or three. I knew that they had been chosen by the decorator specifically for that purpose - for the subtle color of their covers, so that they would blend in with the urns and clocks and silk arrangements.
I cringed. I'm sure that the spines of those books have never been cracked. Of course, I am too much the other way, to the chagrin of my daughter. I have books piled in corners of my bedroom and in hallways. My closets are full of books, and so are my bathroom shelves. When I bring a book home, it usually stays there forever.
When my home burned, I mourned my books as much as I did my plants and my family photos. In fact, one of the firemen remarked to a friend of Dan's, "Wow, they sure had a lot of books!" (Dan's a great reader too.)
Of course, I do have friends who buy books and then pass them on. Some borrow from the library instead of buying. My book-loving librarian daughter keeps some books but is firm about winnowing out the rest. But to me, a home without books usually means a home of non-readers, and I see lots of that type of home. It saddens me.


"Serenity" poster by Jennifer Sosik

The more I've been thinking about it, if I had my druthers I would not go back to work in an office. The office politics, the cubicle mentality, the bowing and scraping and saying "Yes, Massuh" and "No, Massuh." Who needs it?

If I HAD my druthers I would open a shop/gathering place/meditation and teaching center/mini retreat with the sole purpose of promoting the three things by which I strive to live my life: Serenity, Grace and Class (true class of course having nothing to do with money or social standing).

Of course, I have no capital, and having no business sense I would drive the place into the ground before the year was out, but I can dream, can't I?

There would be a meditation room with times for guided meditation and time set aside for private, personal meditation. I would offer classes and bring in speakers, but not the booming, hearty, "I can change your life in 8 short hours" motivational type speakers. Instead, we'd have seminars on subjects like bringing small grace notes into our lives every day (a la Alexandra Stoddard).

I would offer classes on growing herbs, on aromatherapy, on journaling and visual journaling. Maybe my friend Jude would come in and talk about Feng Shui. I tease Jude about her dedication to this art ("The Little Book of Wrong Shui", for example), but she has really simplified, soothed and calmed her life with this practice. I would have poetry, short story and essay readings.

I would bring in Lakota wise men and women to talk about Native American ways and spiritual beliefs. I would bring in traditional Native American dancers, drummers and flute players. I would have speakers on goddesses, Zen Buddhism, Rumi and the Sufi Mystics and pagan beliefs. Raised in a strictly conservative Lutheran church, I am now at a place in my life where I believe that my God is the same God as that of Abraham and Mohamed. In fact, I think any religion or belief involving practicing the Golden Rule and honoring Mother Earth is "good." However, there would be nothing in my shop or my programs involving the dark arts.

I would offer certain types of exercises and body healings, such as yoga classes and stone massage sessions, but my business would not be a spa. Instead of tanning beds, I would have individual aromatherapy chairs, in which patrons could dial up a scent formulated for their particular spiritual need that day. Because I can't abide the scent of incense, and because my daughter and others are the same way with potpourri, I would only offer these for sale in my shop, but each morning my assistants and I would burn cleansing sage that we had gathered ourselves from the prairie.

Maybe Kathleen Norris would come up from Lemmon, SD, and talk about her book, "Dakota, a Spiritual Geography". Perhaps Clay Jenkinson could expand on his Tribune column by lecturing on "The Spirituality of the Plains".

Roxanne Henke, a North Dakota author who writes Christian novels about fictional Brewster, ND, would be a top-of-the-list invitee for my visiting authors series, as would Debra Marquart, the Linton native who wrote "The Horizontal World: Growing Up Wild in the Middle of Nowhere." I would go to the Dakota Woman's Song retreat this September and scout out writers, performers, artists and artisans and invite them to Bismarck.

There would be classes ranging from building confidence in our teenage girls to the empowerment of women of a certain age. We would study matriarchal societies and the power of the goddess in us all.

Maybe my business would get so successful that I could attract famous authors like Oriah Mountain Dreamer, SARK (Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy) and Sara Ban Breathnach. Eventually we would grow so big we would have to move to a large space in the country where I could construct a labyrinth and create a series of herb gardens.

For my shop I would hire a buyer with the uncanny ability to find unique items that were surprisingly affordable. There would be some New Age items like healing crystals and chakras, but since we are SO NOT California here, I would advertise it as "Lite New Age for Middle Agers", because I would be targeting my business toward middle-age women, although all ages and both sexes would be welcome. I would sell my friend Lila Marquart's Jewelry With Meaning (see my earlier post), sculptures, candles, art work, water fountains and Zen gardens.

Although I am not keen on self-help books, I would offer up the best. My blogging friends would help me choose those, of course. I would for sure have Veronique Vienne's "The Art of . . . " books, Julia Cameron's artist series, as well as "Writing Down the Bones," "Writing To Save Your Life," and "Pencil Dancing."

I would sell yoga mats, meditation cushions and cashmere prayer shawls, journals and art supplies, serenity and mystical (but not weird) posters, CDs, easy-to-grow plants and fresh flowers that aren't often seen around here like ranunculus, calla lilies, and big spikes of delphiniums. I'd have a section for boho/gypsy/princess/airy-fairy/Stevie Nicks type clothes.

My serenity and grace place would not be just a venue to shop or attend class, however. I would have a large room filled with couches and overstuffed easy chairs and pillows where one could come and just be. It would be filled with green plants, the sound of cascading water and live bird song. It would be "green" even on the darkest, bleakest, North Dakota winter's day.

I would bring my books from home and scatter them on tables for people to pick up and read: my gardening and flower arranging books, my books about fairies, angels, history and travel, my Nick Bantock books, my simple abundance and follow your bliss books. "Lark Rise to Candleford", "Cider With Rosie" and other country life books. There would be lots of blank books for people to scribble their thoughts for others who came after. Knowing how hard it is to keep a gratitude journal, I would supply those so that people could add their gratitudes to others'. I would have a corner called "Bring a Book, Take a Book." There would be a couple of Zen gardens for people to rake.

There would be listening stations with headphones where one could choose from New Age, native and world music. I would offer free juices and coffees. And at the end of the month my accountant would tell me I had overspent my juice and coffee budget by $6,000.00 and that no one had bought those calla lilies. "No problem," I would blithely remark, "cut the budget somewhere else and give the lilies to the staff to take home."

SOUND OF A LOUD "POP"! (as in a bubble bursting)

"Oof, what time is it, morning? Ooh, that was a good dream, wasn't it? Let me see if I can turn over and go back to sleep. That's better. Okay now, where was I? Say, I was thinking we could organize a spiritual journey to Tibet. . . "

Friday, May 18, 2007


The Standing Stones of Castlerigg Stone Circle, Cumbria, England
In a post written yesterday, Daisy Lupin of "Cats in the Kitchen, Flora in the Garden" wrote about the phenomenon of liminal times and spaces. I have never heard of these mysterious events (or at least I had never heard them identified as such), but evidently they are thresholds betwixt and between two realities, where you can pass through a portal into another reality. (Instead of my having to repeat all of Daisy information, read her post at the link under "Blogging Kindred Spirits" listed on the right side of my blog).
After reading her post I had a better understanding of an event that happened to me not quite 25 years ago. My husband and I and another couple were spending a June day fishing and boating on Lake Sakakawea, a huge man-made lake created from the damming of the Missouri River. (North Dakotans spell Lewis and Clark's guide's name Sakakawea.)

In order to eat lunch, we pulled up to an island and got out onto a nondescript beach. After eating, the others relaxed and I wandered down the shore. Rounding a corner, I came upon a dozen or so huge boulders scattered along the sand. I knew that they could not be sedimentary concretions like the famous boulders of Moeraki, New Zealand, because the Missouri was only dammed in the 1950s. I know that the glaciers that once covered North Dakota deposited big granite rocks from Canada that farmers have to pick out of the fields each spring, but I had never seen such huge boulders, or ones gathered in a group. They appeared as if a giant hand had tossed them on the ground like bowling balls.

Entranced, I hauled my eight-month's-pregnant self onto one of the boulders and sat looking out at the lake. It wasn't cloudy or foggy that day, but all of a sudden the boundary line between the lake and the sky disappeared. You could not tell where one ended and one began (which can be very disconcerting, visually). I was looking at one silvery, misty continuum of . . . ummm . . . space. Exactly as Daisy describes it, the air was hazy and shimmery.

It seemed to me that if I could look long enough or hard enough I could see through to "the other side" and find . . . ?? I don't know. Something. And why did I think of it as "the other side?
What I do know, though, was that it was a transcendent experience for me. I have read about standing stones like the ones at Stonehenge, Avebury and the circle shown above, and know they are considered mystical places. My stones may not have been standing or placed by human hand, but they created the same otherworldly effect.

I returned to the picnic spot, not long after - I thought - I had left it. The other three exclaimed how long I had been gone. They were afraid I had gotten lost or fallen in the lake. How absurd, I thought, they could have just walked 'round the bend and found me.

But could they have? Maybe I wouldn't have been there. Maybe I was in another time and space, a liminal time and space that gave me an enormous sense of calm, peace and oneness with the universe (believe me, I am not a New Ager and do not - have never had - these feelings before or since.) Was it the place? Is there a mystical spot in the middle of Lake Sakakawea? Did an Indian village exist on that spot? Or was I, because of hormones, in a more receptive state? Was it a time of thinning of the veil? I'll never know.

The story doesn't end there. We returned to Bismarck, and the very next morning, our home burned down, leaving us with only our clothes, our cars and our dog. For a long time I have pondered why God/Higher Power/Wakan Tanka (Lakota Great Spirit) had given me such a great gift one day, and handed me such a great sorrow the next.

But now that I have read Daisy's post, I realize that it was perhaps just a sign that great changes would be coming to me. Within weeks, I was a mother for the first time. Within months, I had a brand new home. At the time I thought that adjusting to the loss - and to even such a welcome gift as a child - were the hardest things I have ever had to do. Now, of course, the sharp edges of those difficulties have been weathered by time into a form that seems remarkably like those smooth, round, ages-old boulders, pummeled and shaped by time and water.

If I ever have such an experience again - and I hope I do - I will greet it and embrace it.


Suzanne Tofte's "Kransekake Girl" Tile
There's nothing like a day out with one's sissy to revive one's spirits. As I mentioned yesterday, we celebrated Syttende Mai with a day on the town. The first stop was lunch, at a new steak house. A shared blooming onion, a prime rib sandwich and Wisconsin cheese soup left me barely able to waddle out the door. But we proceeded valiantly onward to the Norwegian store in the mall, where they had 17% off in honor of May 17.
I purchased the tile shown above, part of Suzanne Tofte's "Takk for Maten" (Thanks for the Food) series of tiles, which feature flaxen haired children in traditional dress, famous Norwegian dishes and borders of rosemaling. I discovered she has two new tiles in the collection, a Vafler (waffle) Girl and a Julekaka (Christmas bread) Children, making 10 in all. I am just beginning this collection and someday hope to feature them all in my kitchen, which becomes a Norwegian Jul (Christmas) kitchen in December. Glori found a little Nisse (Troll) Belly Mug by the same artist. (That's a little troll admiring the Kransekake above.)
Then we were off to purchase a birthday present and card for a housebound mutual friend whose birthday is Syttende Mai. This friend had gastric bypass surgery on Halloween Day. Complications from the surgery led to a 5 1/2-month hospital stay. Her kidneys and her lungs were damaged, and she still doesn't know when she will return to work. A visit with her quickly dispelled any traces of my pity party. Here I am, able to enjoy a beautiful spring day, walk through the mall, drive a car, go anywhere and do anything I want. I don't need dialysis,
breathing treatments, a dozen medications or wound care. It really puts things in perspective for me.
Then it was back to the mall, because my sister's 16-year-old daughter had just started her shift at the Prairie Peddler, a coffee and gift shop. Kelsey whipped us up a couple of Peach Mango Italian sodas. I can't drink coffee after noon, or I'd be awake all night. My sister could drink three cups of coffee at midnight and still fall fast asleep. I think she ordered the Italian soda just to be in step with me.
Our final stop of the day was in front of my computer, where I showed my sis all the information and photos our Scottish second cousin has gathered about the Munro Clan. So we began the day celebrating our Norwegian heritage and ended it celebrating our Scottish heritage.

Thursday, May 17, 2007


Children's Parade in Norway, May 17, 2006

I often natter away on this blog about my Celtic background, but I am half Nordic too, and today, Syttende Mai, I celebrate my Norwegian heritage - one fourth from my mother's side and one fourth from my father's side.

Syttende Mai (sitten duh MY), or May 17, is Norwegian Independence Day or Constitution Day. It is Norway's Fourth of July, if you will. Celebrated with children's parades in Norway, it observes the day Norway won its independence from Denmark in 1814.

Syttende Mai is also celebrated among Americans of Norwegian descent. If I were in Seattle today, I could attend a parade and hear speeches and proclamations. If I were in Wisconsin, I could attend several celebrations, including those in Stoughton and Westby, which would include folk dancing, woodcarving, fiddle music, traditional costume fashion shows, trolls for sale, demonstrations of hardanger (Norwegian cutwork embroidery) and rosemaling (Norwegian tole painting), and of course huge smorgasbords of Norwegian foods.

Even here in North Dakota, I could find Syttende Mai festivities in Minot, Grand Forks and Fargo. North Dakota was settled by Scandinavian immigrants in the Red River Valley, where Grand Forks and Fargo are located, and all across the upper half of the state. For some reason, the Scandinavians arrived via the Great Northern Railroad, which traversed that part of ND. The Germans From Russia came in on the Northern Pacific Railroad, which ran across the southern part of the state, including through Bismarck.

Therefore, we don't have a lot of fellow Norwegian celebrants around here. There is a Sons of Norway chapter in Bismarck, and I did attend one meeting, but the members were SO old (this was some years ago - I'd probably fit in better now). There is a stabbur, or Norwegian storehouse, in a local park, which sometimes is the scene of Syttende Mai celebrations. I used to wear a rosette in the colors of the Norwegian flag - red, white and navy blue - until someone asked me what prize I won at the State Fair.

Years ago, while a reporter at the Tribune, I did a story on a lovely Norwegian American lady who invited people to her home on Syttende Mai for fruit soup, pastries and, of course, coffee. She and her daughter, who hosted one party in the morning and one in the afternoon, would wear traditional Norwegian costumes called bunads, along with their solje, the beautiful Norwegian filigree silver jewelry.

The entire home was decorated with Bing & Grondal and Royal Copenhagen plates, beautiful sky blue hardanger tablecloths and runners, Norwegian pewter, rosemaling and framed immigration records. As a parting gift, she gave each guest a small piece of her handworked hardanger. The next year, she invited me as a guest. However, she warned me (in typical Norwegian "tell it like it is" fashion), "Now, dear, you won't be invited every year. There are just too many people on my guest list."

To celebrate Syttende Mai, my sister and I are going out to lunch, but we won't find any Norwegian delicacies to order. One could find a variety of German foods, from knoephle (potato and dumpling) soup to fleischkuechle (deep fried meat pie) and kuchen (fruit filled pastry). But there will be no lutefisk, lefse, Norwegian meatballs, risengrot (rice pudding), rommegrot (sour cream pudding), rullepulse (meat roll) or fruit soup to be found in any restaurant in town.

We won't be having any of the lovely Norwegian cookies and pastries like sandbakkels, fattigman, spritz, rosettes or krumkakke. The trouble with most of these treats is that you need special equipment to make them. Neither of us has a lefse griddle either. (Lefse, pronounced lefsa and made with mashed potatoes, is something like a Norwegian tortilla.) I prefer to spread my lefse round with butter and sugar and roll it up.

About the only thing we could find around here that's Norwegian would be Aunt Julia's lefse in the grocery store, and maybe some pickled herring and aquavit. Given that we don't like pickled herring, that's out. Speaking of not liking something, we both hate lutefisk too. If you don't know what lutefisk is, it is codfish that's been preserved with lye and cooked to a stinky, rubbery mess. There is a many-versed song about lefse, sung to the tune of "Oh Tannenbaum": Oh lutefisk, how I love you, you smell yust like an overshoe.

My Aunt Mary used to profess her love for lutefisk, and I would reply, "Why do you only have it on Christmas Eve then?" We Johnson kids made sure to stay away from Grandma's house on Christmas Eve. It would be safe to go there on Christmas Day, when the smell of turkey roasting in the oven covered up any lingering trace of old overshoe.

Glori and I will probably do our usual, a Chinese buffet. We'll say skoal over a couple of Cokes, and throw in an uffda now and then. Later we may visit the Norwegian shop, The Stabo, and buy one of the Suzanne Toftey tiles that we both collect.

Happy Syttende Mai!

Here are a couple of Norwegian recipes that even I can make:


2 pounds mixed, dried fruit
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup pearl tapioca
1 cup sugar
1 cup grape juice
2 sticks cinnamon
Enough water to cover.
Soak the tapioca overnight in grape juice. In the morning, add the sugar, cinnamon, fruit and raisins and water. Simmer until the soup is done and the mixture thickens. Serve warm or cold.


1 pound ground round steak
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 pound ground veal
1 onion, chopped
1 cup cracker crumbs
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix together and form into balls the size of a walnut. Brown in a skillet, add water and simmer for 3/4 of an hour. Thicken with white sauce for gravy.

For more Norwegian recipes, go to


Above: Traditional Norwegian Costumes, or Bunads
Below: The Norwegian Stave Church in Minot, ND
(The big red object in the lower left corner is a Swedish Dala Horse)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


The little poster above has sat on my bedside table for years. It really exemplifies my feelings this past week, and its colors are perfect too. I had been feeling blue because of a black mood. In short, I was having quite the pity party.
There have been tangible reasons for my mood: 1. A persistent heavy cold wind blew earlier this week. Strong, incessant wind always gets on my nerves. 2. Problems with my computer. 3. Problems with my unemployment compensation which means I didn't get a check this week and probably won't get one next week either. (It seems I will get them both eventually, but as usual it takes a while to unsnarl red tape.) 4. The auto shop hasn't been able to work on my car, although it's been brought in three days in a row. That means I'm without a car unless I want to drive it with all the windows stuck in the upright position. (Fine in the winter; disastrous in the summer.)
But there are other elements to my mood that can't be so quickly identified. I've recovered from my physical illness (and thanks to everyone who sent get well wishes). But it or something else seems to have thrown me into a mini depression.
I couldn't read. I couldn't sleep. I couldn't do art. I'm ignoring my dogs. I was agitated and unfocused. Until today, I couldn't blog. The world is bursting with blooms right now. I should have been out there reveling in it, but I couldn't. I saw the slovenly dust on my furniture, but I couldn't make myself get up and dust. I needed to make phone calls, but couldn't pick up the receiver. I had the time to do anything I wanted, but I couldn't manage to accomplish anything at all.
I am familiar with depression, having been diagnosed with clinical depression years ago. My daughter was in grade school then. She characterizes it as a time when I would 'never play games" with her. She couldn't understand why mom just wanted to lie down all the time. She was diagnosed with depression in high school and underwent a major depressive disorder episode in college. So, of course, she realizes now what I was going through. (Fortunately, I got help and these past few years I had been feeling even better because of therapy and because my medication was finally adjusted to the perfect degree. And fortunately, Kristen received meds and therapy and is doing very, very well, functioning in school and work, leading an active and happy life.)
I'm calling this down period a mini depression, because the previous episode was much worse. At that time, I literally couldn't get up off the couch. There were days when I don't know how I made it out the door to work. At that time, I could feel the depression literally inhabiting my body, an actual physical sensation.
I think this depression is situational rather than chronic. (Look at me, self diagnosing myself again). I went through many emotional stages after losing my job: relief (yes, relief was my first response), followed by shock, denial (in my dreams I'm still there!), panic, fear, loss, rage and helplessness. I believe I have now reached the stage of depression. And why not? I wake up in the morning and have nowhere to go. There is no structure to my life. I do not have an income. I do not have any health insurance. I may lose my house. I no longer have a work identity. My social life is diminished. I am lonely. No wonder they say that losing one's job is one of the five most stressful life changes a person can experience. (I've experienced all the others - I was wondering when I would get to experience this one too.)
I'm not getting much action in the job search department. What I am getting is: "Gee, someone with your skills, talents, experience...I can't understand why it's taking you so long to find a job." I am beginning to feel that no one will ever want me again.
And although fortunately I have not lost my self esteem, I know there are people who now disrespect me. They believe I have been humiliated, have lost face.
Today I began wondering if there are actual, recorded, observable stages of grief over losing a job, like the stages outlined by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross as seen in terminally ill people and their survivors. My old friend Google tells me there are.
The Labor Market Information Center in "Losing Your Job" ranks depression at Step 4 out of 6 steps. An article on an AARP website called "Typical Reactions to Job Loss" and Theresa Leonard-Wilkinson's article "Dealing With Job Loss" both recognize it as Step 5 out of 6. For Debbie Markel in "How to Get Over Losing Your Job", it is Number 4 of 5.
Mark Gordon in "Stages of Grief" groups depression with Step 3: Rage and/or Helplessness (turning rage inward into depression). So does the Stress Doc on the site . The Stress Doc takes it a step further: "Is it mourning or is it depression?", he asks. He likens depression to a heavy pot lid holding down underlying bubbling and boiling thoughts and emotions.
But grief, he says, "unlike depression's tendency to bottle up and stuff down emotions, works like removing the cover of Pandora's Box....Ultimately, grieving releases and integrates a range of emotions and energies that enables you to regain psychic equilibrium, helps evolve a new or renewed sense of purpose and direction. Vital mourning is also the wellspring of passion and determination for exploring new roles and identities."
I'm going to consider this past week as just a 7-Day Glitch. I'm removing that heavy pot lid, I'm taking off the top of Pandora's box and I'm letting the grieving begin! I am not going to sit passively in a depressive state. I have the tools to help me climb out of this pit (actually a medium-size hole): The Internet research I uncovered today regarding dealing with stress, networking, and getting professional emotional help; my in-person and online friends; my self-awareness and my willingness to explore all avenues, including learning new job skills.
And this, the best information I learned all day: "So remember, there's a real difference between 'feeling sorry for yourself' and 'feeling your sorrow.' When you are feeling sorry for yourself you are mostly blaming others. When you are feeling your sorrow you are demonstrating the courage to face your fears and pain....In mystic fashion, like spring upon winter, the seeds of dissolution bear fruitful renewal." (Stress Doc)
So, no pity party after all!
(I welcome any input/help/advice/or a good "Snap Out Of It!")
"Once we have accepted the fact of loss we understand that the loved [position] obstructed a whole corner of the possible, pure now as a sky washed by rain."
---Albert Camus