Friday, August 26, 2016

The “itch” that wouldn’t go away!

A constant refrain seemed to come through the speeches given at the Dedication Ceremony for the upper body exercise equipment along the Cannon Falls city trail recently.
This was the idea of “persistence”.  More likely they were also thinking: “pesky” or “you’re still bugging about that”?
But the speakers were all too polite!
But they were right.  It’s taken a few years of campaigning to get the exercise equipment along the trail.
In the beginning I considered what I needed to get this accomplished and found I was lacking in many areas.  But I did have “persistence”.  It’s like an “itch” that won’t go away!   And persistence is free.
I had decided not to get a committee together to work on this project.  That could have helped a lot probably.  Or not!   You see I had a “vision” of what I wanted to accomplish and other folks might have had a different one.
And then folks can get to “fussing” with each other.
I only had to fuss with myself.
And I do that very well.
But without a committee...
Keep in mind that without a committe you can make your own rules!   For example: I knew I didn’t want to hold the checks that I received from the  sponsors.  So I told the city not to cash them until I had several pieces of equipment ready to be placed.  
My reason was that I was going to give the sponsors their money back if we didn’t get enough equipment! 
Getting money back from government if a project doesn’t work out?
How cool is that?
(I’m not running for public office but I would include this in my platform!)
Other delays...
Besides my embarrassment and horror when asking people for money to sponsor the equipment, I took time out when my husband was hospitalized or had his own project I was involved in.  
Or more often when I just gave up.
Why get this equipment?
But I had a reason to back this project.  Several years ago I was pretty sick and exhausted.  And it appeared I had to work on myself to get well.
So along with suggestions like using your mind to change your body and eating differently... drinking more water... all those good things... I finally added walking and exercise.
I’m still working at it but am better than when I was younger.
But I really hate being sick and I want to help other people feel better too.  And by getting this equipment along the trail - folks can do this at no extra expense.
 Where did this idea come from?
My encouragement came from growing up in a big city.  There was a park across the street from my home.  For me to run around in... play baseball (I wasn’t the first one chosen!)... fly a kite, etc.
It wasn’t until I was grown up that I realized that someone had planned those parks many years before I was born.
So I started researching the idea of outdoor exercise equipment for adults.
And even though I didn’t have the funds to sponsor such a project... I kept in mind that persistence is free.  (Yes, it can really get boring and feel stupid but just keep the end in sight.)
Thanks to the guests and speakers at the ceremony.  I treasure your coming because I hoped I wouldn’t be the only one to show up!    And it was great to see folks using the equipment.

Thanks to the encouragement and advice of Cannon Falls Public Works DirectorTom Bergeson, the staff at Flagship Recreation, sponsors Dr. Karl and Cynthia Molenaar, People In Business Care, VFW Post 4452, Mayo Health System Cannon Falls, Kay Molstrom and all those I pestered these past few years!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Decisions - what we do...

What we do...

Decisions... life and death.

It’s Vietnam... 1960’s... war zone... enemy everywhere... known or unknown.
The American Army soldier was shaving when he saw three men in South Vietnamese Marine uniforms entering the camp.  The South Vietnamese had been working with his company.
 But in a lightning swift moment he noticed that besides their regulation uniforms they were wearing Japanese style boots and he shot and killed them.
Yes, the three soldiers were the enemy.  Their intent was “to destroy the communication center and destroy everybody in it.”
But the American soldier sweated it out for three days until the official verdict came that he had made the correct decision.
For his two tours of duty he has three Purple Hearts and three Bronze Star Medals for valor in Combat.
Back at home
Nowadays he has been living a quiet life in the rural Cannon Falls area.  He has a steady job and also keeps busy cutting wood to keep his home warm in the winter.  
It was on one of his wood-cutting expeditions that he came across another tragic experience.   
The old tree he cut down split open and inside was a nest of baby red squirrels.  The soldier finished cleaning up the area and putting his cut-up wood in his pickup.
The mother squirrel had left.  One baby squirrel had died.  What should he do with the remaining three babies?
Now keep in mind that squirrels are not the most popular critters in this area.  Too many people have had them destroy bird feeders or chew holes in their roofs and cause destruction.
In fact, some people hate squirrels.
In my mind, especially red squirrels.  
But the old soldier told me: “I didn’t want to leave them to die... their mother wouldn’t take them.”

So he did this

So he brought them home.
And bought a new cage for them... and a heating pad to keep them warm... and combined almond milk and half & half cream to feed them.  Later they got baby food and chopped up nuts.
They love walnuts, he explained.
He fed them every couple of hours.
Even got his wife to fill in when he went to work.
And they are thriving.

Three little red squirrels... perhaps one of the most hated varmints in the area.

But not by this soldier.
“They’re not dead.” he explained.

And someday he’ll set them free.  
He’s a good man.

(The soldier’s name was omitted because I thought his story represented others who have had similar conflicts.  And they are dealing with their own “red squirrels” every day.)

Monday, May 9, 2016

Drawing your own comic strip!

      Design your world!
       Draw your own comic strip!

Jessica “Jessi” Woken is a California born transplant to Minnesota who is doing just that.  Her “lifelong infatuation with storytelling” has “converged to create a comic strip” that is “silly, slightly cynical, timidly optimistic, yet widely relatable... to color your world...”
Jessi and her family found a home south of Cannon Falls.  Jessi has a Creative Writing B.A. and works as a freelance writer/illustrator through her company, Mountain Owl Ink, LLC (
Her comic strip has taken off as part of that endeavor.

Every Wednesday the strip is published on the internet. Jessi has been doing this for two years.
Recently she auditioned her work to an agency that is online only that had an “open call” for comics they would promote.
Jessi submitted her work but didn’t think she had a good chance.  In fact she believed it would never happen.  But several months later she heard from them.  
Her work had been chosen. It’s unpaid but good advertising and encouraging.

“Le Mieux”

Jessi’s comic strip is about the adventures of an artist cat named “Le Mieux”, a french word which can be translated meaning “best”.  When she first moved to Minnesota she had seen that name on a street sign.   Though Jessi doesn’t speak french, she thought it sounded like a cat’s mew and so it became the name of her lead character.  
This seems appropriate because it seems just about every cat gives the impression that they are the best!
Around that time a stray cat had wandered into their lives and made a home with them.  And now gives Jessi ideas to draw from.
She also has rabbits that give her more ideas.
But, she explains, the characters do not mirror any people she knows!

How do you make a comic strip?

Jessi starts off with a scribble notebook - a drafting book - to sketch her ideas.
Then she has preprinted frames - usually four - to focus her ideas.
She uses a pencil - “You can erase!”
Then she covers those lines with a dark black ink pen - that doesn’t smear.
After this she erases any pencil lines that might show.
Next step is to scan the strip in black and white and put it in Photoshop for the colorization.  Here you can still change things... like adding arms on an animal or changing their position.
Then it’s laid out in nice clean digital form.  You add words, etc. and finally upload it to the internet.

Development of characters

The characters of the comic strip may also change as the story continues.  Jessi explained, “The human doesn't make many appearances now; I've found that his usefulness as a character is very limited, despite my initial plans to use him regularly.”
While the comic strip was in the drafting stage, the cat, Le Mieux, started as an orange tabby but changed to gray.  The rabbit was brown but became white.  See the strip showing the metamorphosis of Phil the Raccoon.

  Jessi got interested in art when as a child she discovered crayons.  With these she could  create new worlds.... like a ‘self-directed movie playing in her head.”
In one “scene”, Jessi explained on her website,  Bunny has to cover for Mieux, who left the house for bigger adventures.  Even though Mieux is the source of “angst”, it's really Bunny who offers the humor. 

And maybe the fun also comes from making up your own world in your very own comic strip!

Le Mieux is on Facebook, ( and plans to have its own website soon.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

"Make my day!" Really?

 “Make my day!”  (Really?)

I love the “coffee scene” from one of Clint Eastwood’s movies that a friend posted on Facebook.
But I have some questions about it!

The scene is where Eastwood has figured out that something is wrong in the diner where he has just gotten his regular cup of “coffee-to-go”. This is after he has left the diner and is tasting his “black only” coffee only to realize it is saturated with sugar... and he spit it out... and he figures out that this was a clue from the waitress that something is wrong.   It was really a signal for “help”! 

Life lesson...
Maybe this could be a point to consider as a “life lesson”:  when nice people - like the waitress - do strange things or just not what we want them to do... is this the moment to look around and see what is really going on?  And adjust our attitude?
Anyway... Eastwood goes to another entrance of the diner and quietly enters and sees several “bad guys” with their guns out trying to rob the patrons.

My questions come here.
When the ‘bad guys” see Eastwood they decide to have a conversation with him.
Really?  At that time? 
Then, when Eastwood reaches inside his suit jacket for what looks like a gun... almost in slow motion... they just stand there!  They don’t shoot.
Really?  (I thought it was only cops that weren’t supposed to shoot.)

Taking turns?
And then - how come each one of the “bad guys” seems to take his turn shooting at Eastwood?  So Eastwood has time to aim and shoot at each one of them in succession!
Oh yes... and then say his famous line...  “Make my day!”
I still love this scene.  
But it’s a “movie”.

On the other hand I like what one of my favorite real-life deputies taught me:  “It’s only about three percent of the people who are bad guys... the others have just made poor choices.  And you deal with them with those options in mind.”

Maybe someday they’ll make a movie of that too.



Friday, April 8, 2016

Your own Hall of Fame!

 Your personal “Hall of Fame”?

A big city high school recently decided to honor some of their graduates by electing them to their new Hall of Fame.  They had a lot to choose from since over 50,000 had graduated from Minneapolis Roosevelt since it opened back in 1921.  
I had never thought much about anyone besides my own classmates when I went there.  Of course we have since heard about Jesse Ventura becoming the governor of Minnesota.
But now I’m learning there were many others with distinguished careers, including a Nobel Laureate, a former U.S. Army Chief of Staff, many prominent professional athletes, noted authors, university professors, and other prominent political figures.  
Talented though goofy...
I knew my classmates were talented and smart even though we might act like "goof-balls".  But how would they fare out in the “world”?
You might think the same way about your classmates.
My nomination...
Last year I nominated a person for the school’s Hall of Fame but he wasn’t accepted.  Later I found out they had never received my nomination!
But when this year’s “Hall of Fame” nominees were announced I was glad to see he was accepted. 
The nominee was Dave Mona - the radio, TV and newspaper reporter.  Whoever nominated him this year explained that he was a “titan in the public relations field.”  Dave also has a weekly radio show, Sports Huddle, with Sid Hartman.  He won the Edward R. Murrow and Associated Press awards for his work.  He worked as a reporter for the Mpls. Tribune and served as a color analyst for U of Minnesota Gopher football.   
But back when I knew Dave he was just the little brother of my girlfriend.   At a slumber party at their home,  I remember Dave hanging around as a 10 year old... but as 15 year old teenage girls, we just ignored him.
The mayor...
Then there was Charles Stenvig who became mayor of Minneapolis.  He had graduated from college with a degree in sociology and become a police detective.  He won election twice in a row.  And then came back later on and won a third time.
But when he ran the first time, I didn’t know that we had gone to the same high school.  As a fledgling reporter, my city editor showed me about ten candidates running for the office.  
I recall that the editor was writing up the two major party candidates.  That pretty well gave me the choice of all the losers!
But I chose Stenvig!  And when he won I had good access to the mayor’s office!  (I’m still chuckling over that one!  “Hah! city editor!”) 
Plus there were sports figures who went on to play in the pros and the US Olympic team.  
And another student who became the Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court.
So now what?
So where does this leave me?
Well, I don’t imagine I’ll be in competition for the school’s Hall of Fame.
But I’ve had some very nice experiences in life.  And met some very nice people.  And hopefully my writing has encouraged or enlightened some too.
They’re all in my personal “Hall of Fame”! 
And you get to choose yours too!

Friday, March 18, 2016

“Left behind”...  not only on Mars!

The Martian...
A popular movie...
A good book...
But is it more than just entertainment?  
What about the story giving you direction in your collapsing world?
Relating to any probem you might be forced into.
A movie can do this?
Before a personal crisis changed my world, my son had seen the movie and encouraged me to do it.  But I’m pretty careful with my finances (also called cheap), so I just got on the waiting list at the library to see it for free.
I was about number 92 on the list!
And I was busy with other circumstances.
But all of a sudden, I was surprised to see the movie had come in for me!   I have no clue how I bumped all the others!
And I took time out to watch it.    
Not knowing that I would then refer to it day after day... just to keep on going.
The Martian
The story is about an astronaut to Mars whose team is in an emergency situation and thinking he is dead they take off and leave him on the lonely planet.
So what does he do?
The lead character is Mark Watney.  
Another lead character...
Compare this to the the lead character in my personal story... as I was also left behind, in a way, when my husband died.  But since I am on another planet, the title of my story would be “The Earthian”, I guess!
Granted, “Earthian” is not as romatic as the sound of “Martian”.  It sounds more like a burp.
Anyway... on with the story.
Our hero...
Now Astronaut Mark Watney is a cute kind of guy.  Not like the “larger than life” heroes, John Wayne or Superman.  I couldn’t have related to them.
And I can’t swear like Watney does - although it seems appropriate to do so in his situation.  This is not because I don’t know the words... I’ve slipped on too many manure piles on the farm.  But it’s because I’ve been trained in newspaper journalism and we can only use symbols to express frustration.  “#$%*”!”
Also, I love Watney’s wry sense of humor... that helps you keep on going too.
 Keeping on...
I have corresponded with the author, Andy Weir, to express my appreciation for his lead character’s ability to keep on struggling.  It was helping me.
So I used Watney’s slogan... “You just do the math and solve the problem... and then on to the next problem and solve that problem.  And solve the next problem too.  And if you solve enough problems, you get to go home.”
I wasn’t very good at math so this scared me a bit.  But I could do the next step - take one thing at a time.
Although one day I tried to organize too many “problems” and was overwhelmed.  
But I had Mark Watney in my mind and I settled down to just handle one issue at a time.
And I figured that I was making progress when I could feel sorry for Watney because he was all alone... and I had friends and family around.
And my faith.
And now I found some other symbols that I can use -


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Crisis Intervention!

What to do in a crisis…

A professional actress and a former cop showed how they train law enforcement personnel to deal safely with people with apparent mental health issues at a Cannon Falls Area TRIAD meeting.
The program helped one member of the audience deal with a difficult situation she found herself in a few days later. By responding calmly in the interaction and then calling the police she was able to get help.
Crisis Intervention Team
“The Minnesota Crisis Intervention Team (MN CIT) is a law enforcement mental health crisis response team. They stage a simulated environment for crisis intervention professionals which includes law enforcement officers, teachers and school administrators, crisis intervention workers, mental health service providers, mediators, dispatchers, hostage negotiators and hospital staff to practice verbal de- escalation techniques in a safe learning environment.”
Kari Pohl LeVan, the daughter of Bill Pohl, former football coach at Cannon Falls High School, also is a graphic artist and musician and helped demonstrate various scenarios that law enforcement officials might encounter along with Michael Peterson, Executive Director of MN CIT.

Before using force...
The scenarios are taken from a 40 hour training that promotes the use of verbal de-escalation skills before using force. “CIT training gives officers the tools they need to understand what someone in a mental health crisis may be experiencing and to direct someone in crisis to appropriate care.”
“The professional role-players have specialized in the accurate portrayal of persons in crisis and/or suffering from mood, thought or personality disorders.”
Mental illnesses affect one in four adults in a given year statistics show. Many of these individuals will experience signs and symptoms such as risk taking, impulsive behavior, aggression, paranoia, substance use, grandiosity, hallucinations, delusions, disordered thoughts, etc.
The first scenario that day showed a disturbed woman (played by Kari Pohl LeVan) threatening to jump off an overpass of a highway. It was explained that if you try to stop the person by grabbing at them they may jump. Also, if you are close enough they may grab you and take you with.
So Michael stood a short distance away and only used his voice to try to connect with the somewhat incoherent woman.

He explained that he purposely identified himself by his first name, Michael, rather than Officer Peterson to make his presence softer but included the fact that he was with a police department.
The woman was babbling on about something beeping and that she kept hearing it.
Michael kept talking to her... “I’m concerned... what happened today?”
He listened to her.
He told her to keep focused on him.
She kept babbling on... “Beep beep beep...”
He suggested, “Come with me to the squad car.”
She didn’t like this.
Would you like to go to a doctor’s office?
Would you like lunch?
Woman: “Can they help me?”
He might have to say that he’ll go along with her to the doctor’s 
office... to help her get there.
Michael stopped the scenario and explained, she’s focusing... she’s
much safer than she was.

Desperation crying...
Second scenario. A woman (played by Kari Pohl LeVan) is desperately crying.
The officer says: “Ma’am, I’m worried about you... My name is Michael. I’m with the police department... you seem very upset... 
Woman keeps sobbing...
Michael gets her name... and gently lets her know that he is concerned. “I see that something bad has happened...”
Let’s review what is happening...
Michael takes a “time out” and asks the audience, “How is my voice? It’s softer than the first scenario."
One member of the audience said, “She appears to want help.”  Michael explained that he is offering help but its up to her if she wants to take it.
He continues with the scenario: “I can tell something bad happened to you. I am here to help you.” They don’t want to pile guilt on her.
Not a quick fix...
Crisis Intervention Training explains that these methods aren’t a quick fix but they are trying to establish a trusting relationship and get to the next step.
Programs like these at the Cannon Falls Area TRIAD educate the public as to what they can do and what officers can do to create a safer environment.