Saturday, October 8, 2016

Can religious folk have a sense of humor?

Offensive or not... it's just me!

I figured I wasn’t dressed correctly.  I just hoped nobody would mind.  Or be offended.
The public presentation of Muslim beliefs at the Cannon Falls Library recently had not been publicized much.   
And it was at the same time that I had volunteered to help some folks do some fall clean up at a church.  I’d try to do both.
It so happened that I was one of only a couple people who were there at that time and I got to ask lots of questions.  I love asking questions.   
They were representing a segment of the Muslim community from a northern Minneapolis suburb that was reaching out to share their belief system.   
Apparently they were part of a moderate group and they showed respect for Christian and Jewish religious prophets.  
My apology for my clothing...
The first thing I did in this informal setting was apologize for the clothes I was wearing as I hadn’t wanted to offend them. 
My old jeans and shirt had seemed appropriate for the cleaning project but not for meeting them.
The speaker said they understood and explained that as a woman I had the right to choose what I was going to wear.
That surprised me a little.  I was used to seeing their women wearing full garb covering most of their body.  Now I was also covered but it wasn’t the same!
Asking to shake hands...
A while later as I was getting ready to leave, I went to each of the men and held out my hand and asked if I could shake their hand.  I meant it as a demonstration of respect and as a good-by.
They did shake my hand but one explained that a Muslim man usually would not shake a woman’s hand out of respect for her.
Be careful in Cannon Falls...
That seems to be a nice idea... but if they are that cautious I thought I should really warn them about folks in Cannon Falls.  Here they do more than just shake your hand.  They like to hug you!
I’ve been here for many years and they’re still trying to get me used to that!  :)
Another question...
Also - here’s a question I didn’t ask them.  I wonder if Muslims can laugh at each other like Christians do?  At least the Christians I know!  
You see, someone sent in some more “light bulb” jokes in response to my column last week.
These came from a person named Johnson....  or at least someone using a Johnson email address!  
So don’t be offended.  Just enjoy!  

How many  Christians does it take to change a light  bulb?

Charismatic : Only  1.
Hands are already in the  air.

Presbyterians :  None.
Lights will go on and off at predestined times.

Roman  Catholic: None -  Candles only.

Baptists : At  least 15.  
One to change the light bulb, and three committees to approve the change and decide who brings the potato salad and fried chicken.

Episcopalians: 3.  
One to call the  electrician, one to mix the drinks and one to  talk about how much better the old one  was. 

Pentecostal :  10.
One to change the bulb, and nine to pray against the spirit of darkness.

Unitarians :
We  choose not to make a statement either in favor  of or against the need for a light bulb.  However, if in your own journey you have found  that light bulbs work for you, you are invited  to write a poem or compose a modern dance about  your light bulb for the next Sunday service, in  which we will explore a number of light bulb  traditions, including incandescent, fluorescent,  3-way, long-life and tinted, all of which are  equally valid paths to luminescence.

Methodists :  Undetermined.
Whether your light is bright,  dull, or completely out, you are loved. You can  be a light bulb, turnip bulb, or tulip bulb.  Bring a bulb of your choice to the Sunday lighting service and a covered dish to  pass.

Nazarene :  6.
One woman to replace the bulb while five men review church lighting policy.

Lutherans :  None.
Lutherans don't believe in change.

Amish :
What's a light  bulb? 


Friday, September 9, 2016

“Keep the dream going...”

The Olympics!  
A miniature replica of the world - 
or of the USA!

That’s because every day in the USA we can see a similar variety of human beings and ethnic heritages that populate the entire planet.
  Sometimes while watching the games I could identify the athletes and their countries because their features looked similar... whether it was the color of their skin... the shape of their eyes... the texture of their hair... etc.
But not the athletes from the US!
What a variety!
They had an idea

Who knows if this mixing of heritages was even a probability in the creation of this “Great Experiment” back in 1776.  That’s when a few men, looking like they were wearing some definitely uncomfortable clothes, decided to announce to the world that they were forming a country in which “… all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights...”  etc.
I know it hasn’t worked perfectly.
But how many other countries have tried to do it?

Keep trying

As Timothy Egan explained in an opinion piece in the New York Times, “... there is no country on earth with our size, our racial diversity, our mix of religions that is close to bringing most of its citizens the rights and comforts of the modern age.”

So keep trying USA.
It's definitely worth a gold medal!
The world needs your dream.

     Can you match the athlete with their country?  


Answer:  They're all from the USA!  1) Gymnastics - Simone Biles    2) Soccer - 
Julie Johnston    3) Fencing - Muhammad Ibtihaj   4) Table Tennis - Lily Zhang   
Para Olympics Track and Field - Josiah Jamison   6) Water Polo  - Alex La    
Swimming - James Feigen    8) Wheelchair Basketball - Matthew Scott   


Monday, September 5, 2016

“He followed me home! 
Can I keep him?”
 “This grouse just followed me home... can I keep him?”  This is how Ray LoPresto of the Sogn Valley recalls telling his wife Judy about his new friend who accompanied him back from his hunting trek near home last fall.
 He named him “Gord”.  He had a book identifying the sex of a grouse by a description of its tail.   
How they met...
The two first met when Ray was hunting in his hills with a muzzle loader.  Ray was situated in a ground blind.  Gord was up in a tree but flew down to be near him.
Another time Ray was bow hunting and walking through the woods looking for a lost arrow   Gord flew down and decided to run alongside him.  He was so close Ray was concerned he might step on him!
Gord would also fly along with Ray’s ATV when he headed back home.
Or he would fly onto his head and knock his hat off.
Back at home Gord was comfortable too.  With Ray sitting on the back porch, Gord would sit on his arm.  
Or after supper, when Ray would went outside on the deck to smoke a cigar, Gord would show up to sit on the next chair.
And when Ray would split wood, Gord would come to watch. 
Did Gord like anyone else?
It took a while, Ray explained, but later on Gord adopted Judy too.  Gord would jump and whack their legs when he wanted attention.
  It seemed like Gord enjoyed being part of the family.
When the grandkids came to visit last Christmas, Gord would repeatedly jump up to the window in the front door to be able to see them inside.
Later on, when their youngest son and family were driving away, Gord was seen running after their car... down the driveway.
He likes to run, Ray explained.
Then when their oldest son was packing his car to leave, Gord was there too.  Ray looked out the window and saw his son on his knee talking to Gord.  He even patted the top of Gord’s head.
The future?
Recently Ray was gone from home for awhile and and hasn’t seen Gord since he got back.
He’s a little worried.
Ray and Judy are hoping that Gord might have found another bird-friend and that might mean more grouse friends for the LoPrestos.


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.