Posted by: Jim E | May 24, 2016

Memorial Day, I Remember…

Memorial Day, I Remember…

(This is something I wrote in 2010,  for Memorial Day…thought I would post it again…enjoy and if you can,  fly the flag…and remember how fragile our freedom is…how precious our liberty…and though it seems impossible, how easy it would be to lose it…we have come close in our history a number of times, who knows we could be close to it now…so this is not the time to forget that or to lose hope in this special and exceptional country…)

Another Memorial Day…and I don’t mean, “just another Memorial Day”…I do mean, “It IS another Memorial Day”…I am humbled by the day itself…this is not, as even some presidents mistakenly view it, a day to honor all our men and women in the armed forces…(though we do honor them)…there are other days set aside for that…Veterans Day, Armed Forces Day, days to honor the different services…this day is for the fallen…those who have given their lives for this great country of ours…

On the way to church this morning we went by a sign in front of Parkway Automotive, an auto repair shop, it said…”Closed Memorial Day…to honor those who have fallen”…that pretty much says it all…across our country there are ceremonies to remember what it takes to be free…it takes men and woman who are willing to give their lives to make sure we stay free…I have our flag flying outside our house all year…but as you can see, I add a few others to honor Memorial Day…

Arlington National Cemetery, just outside Washington D. C., is very well known…it was the family home of Robert E. Lee before the Civil War…but it was basically “taken” because of he fought on the side of the South during the war…(there is more to that story if you would like to Google it)…and it was turned into a cemetery during the Civil War…and after…many famous Americans are buried there…this song by Trace Adkins may make the story a little more personal…

But Arlington National Cemetery is not the only place our fallen are buried…my Dad, who served in WWII, is buried in Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Minneapolis, MN…and because of his service, my Mom was is buried right beside him…this picture of Fort Snelling is so beautiful…I remember very well the day we buried my Dad and then the day we buried my Mom…and I remember exactly where it is…I think I could drive right to it…but all those markers sure tell a story…they all served, many of them died far before their “time” in wars that keep us free even today…and many others were able to live full lives because others gave theirs…and my Dad knew the difference…he often told us that the real heroes never made it back…

He served in the south Pacific in the Navy…saw more than he ever wanted to…didn’t talk much about it…but was so proud that he served…and he wanted us to know, when he and Mom died, they wanted to be buried at Fort Snelling…along with all those who went before…he lived to be almost 83…and he along with so many that I knew, were forever changed by The War…and much like that war, men and women who serve today are changed in ways the rest of us cannot know…

One more picture of Fort Snelling…my Mom and Dad are there…I honor them today…but not only them…all of those who served and died to keep us Free…We honor them today…

Posted by: Jim E | May 3, 2016

I Took My Mom To Lunch…

I Took My Mom To Lunch…

Mother’s Day is this weekend…I will post this as I did last year, in honor of my Mom…I wrote this years ago…April 2006, it was over a year after Mom died, but I had to “get it down” so I wouldn’t forget it…enjoy and if possible call your Mom…it will make her day…as my Mom did mine, on the day I describe below:

                                           

“Something reminded me this morning about taking my Mom to lunch…who knows how memories are jarred loose in our minds…but this morning this memory randomly arrived…

It has been only a little over a year since Mom passed away…but most of the memories of those days are still fresh…I know they won’t always be, so I decided this one I would write down before it becomes irretrievable…that happens to all of us as time goes by and other experiences take img070over…this lunch happened a few years ago…after Mom’s stroke and after Dad died, but before Mom slipped away from all of us…she was handicapped by some of the remnants of her stroke but still lucid enough to remember things of the past…she still knew everyone, though sometimes she called me “George” (her husband, my Dad)…and though she knew that wasn’t quite right, we both just let it go…it really didn’t matter to me and it was okay with her to let it go…just seemed like too much work for her to change it after it came out…if you don’t know what I mean, you will soon enough…

That day Mom had a doctor’s appointment…and so I picked her up…and off we went…first to her appointment, then to lunch…I really hadn’t planned to go to lunch but Mom was so “with it” that day…we talked and laughed as we drove along…she was so enjoying the ride, she commented how she would just like to keep driving…so I drove passed things that she would remember, pointed out things that were changing…she was so interested…she was always interested in what her boys thought and were interested in…that had not changed…I often wondered if that was real…was she as interested as she seemed???…I never could see anything to make me feel otherwise…and that day it was more than usual…it was a high point in these last years of her life…

I asked her if she wanted something to eat, “My treat”, I said…she laughed and said let’s go somewhere easy…I knew what she meant, she had lots of trouble getting in and out of the car…”Where do you want to go?”, I asked her…she didn’t know…so I made some suggestions…and she picked the one with the golden arches, she wanted some French fries…andPond with willows and cattails 3 of course, a drive-thru…I knew one not far away and we drove slowly to get there, talking along the way…we got our meal and parked behind the McDonald’s…so let me paint the picture…behind us was one of the busiest roads in the north suburbs of Minneapolis…but in front of us was a large swamp (called a wetlands today) and we were parked on some of the fill that had been put there to build the McDonald’s and paved…there were still piles of fill beyond where we parked…it was a warm sunny day…cattails waved far into the distance…birds flew here and there…the small willow trees along the bank moved to the motion of the wind…and here I was with my Mom…just talking, eating…sharing French fries…me watching to see if she needed help…it was perfect…Elmquist family WW II 1944

We talked of things she remembered, of things she wanted to talk about…I told her how much she meant to me…she waved it off as she often did…and talked of times past…her folks, my grandparents…she loved them…and now in her 80′s, she still honored them…they, like the rest of us were not perfect, but to her and to me…that didn’t matter, both of us agreed how wonderful they were…she remembered the days of her youth, before all this…and all that was before her…we laughed and some tears were shed…but overall it was a wonderful time…right there overlooking that beautiful swamp…

It’s a picture I will always remember (now bear with me)…from 50 or 100 feet above…do you see it???…looking down you see a McDonald’s, next to a busy highway…and behind a large swamp…and there behind the McDonald’s…right there in the parking lot…an old white Buick and inside…can you see them???…a son and his Mom, he in his 60′s, her in her 80′s…eating, talking, crying and laughing…but enjoying for one of the very last times, each other…

She was and is in my memory…loved and honored…”

The other night, after Jeremy got home from work and supper out of the way…he said, “Let’s go to Shake’s for ice cream.”…so off we went…for the record, Shake’s is a local ice cream parlor…really, it is frozen custard, concrete and the rest…the kind if you turn it upside down it will not fall out…and for their shakes, they give you a humongously large diameter straw that will in time be used to drink the thick shake…(for the record, Jeremy’s favorite: a hot fudge shake…and it is sooo good, but he doesn’t share much, so I am assuming a bit)…as I said, off we went…it was packed on a beautiful 70 degree evening, low humidity and sunny…a perfect time to go…in fact I have assurance that heaven will be a lot like that night…perfect… 

Lo and behold, (Sidebar, The literal meaning of the expression is “look and see”, and it is always used as if in the imperative. End Sidebar) so, I said, Lo and Behold, there on the Shake’s sign outside Bad Bad Leroy Brown at Shake'sthe drive-thru where they advertise the main attraction, (Sidebar, in the Fall for Thanksgiving, it’s “Pumpkin”, at Christmas, it’s “Eggnog”, and other special flavors at other holidays, End Sidebar)…now they always have chocolate and a host of other toppings, etc…but specials attract attention…and that night, right on their sign, right out front for all to see…“Try a Bad, Bad Leroy Brown a Fudge Brownie Concrete with a Peanut Butter Crown”…I, of course, being of a certain age (old)…recognized the name of that “Fudge Brownie Concrete with a Peanut Butter Crown”…it was the name of a song, made famous back in the 70’s…by Jim Croce…https://youtu.be/Ooq3JbWbdjk

I asked the girl at the window if she knew the meaning of the name…she being of a certain age (young)…she didn’t have a clue…but it didn’t matter, because nothing in the song nor in the concrete had anything to do with the Jim Croceother…someone must have just liked the song…well, it was a “hit” back in 1973…and it is sort of “catchy” even now…as we left Shake’s…the words of the chorus, at least some of them, came back to me…it was the sort of song that was probably played two or three times an hour on those old top 40 stations of that era…

Jim Croce died tragically in the same year he had this “hit song”…he and a few others died in a plane crash in Louisiana, he was 30 years old…he also wrote a few other songs that you may know…”Time in a Bottle”, “I’ll Have to Say I Love You in a Song”…and others…his passing made me think some about how life is filled with hope as well as disappointment…just this week, I was reminded of some friends loss of their young son, someone who had a heart attack, and others who carry some disappointment or problem in their lives…life is full of those happenings…most we can carry without a problem, a flat tire, a washing machine that breaks down, but many are heart-wrenching and we need time to process those experiences…

I read in Our Daily Bread this week about a family whose phone rang at 12:35 a.m….the husband took the call and choked out the words. “Jason has been arrested for the murder of his wife’s first husband. He’s in jail in Orlando.”…their son Jason Paul Kent Our Daily Breadwas being held in Orlando, for first-degree murder…he had been a model son, in the Navy, serving his country, dedicated to serving his God…but here without warning the dreams they had for their son came crashing down…now, as the trial was over and appeals exhausted…they needed to chose life…and they began a new kind of life in the middle of hopeless circumstances…they like all of us, in tragedy, or disappointment in life, need to make hope-filled choices at these times…they left us with the truth of Romans 5:5, “This hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love”.

When great hope turns to disappointment…where do we turn…we turn to His love for us…there have been many disappointments in our lives, but this hope we have will not end in disappointment…for we know how dearly God loves us…and fills our hearts with His love…to face what we need to face with thankful hearts…

 

Posted by: Jim E | March 21, 2016

“My Heart was Aflutter and My Brain was Mush”

We get a magazine called Reminisce…it is all about the past…when we were growing up and even when my folks were growing up…I love to read about history of all kinds, so this magazine is fun for me to read when it comes to our house…it is written by readers, meaning they send in their stories, the magazine is made up of their experiences..surprisingly, it’s pretty good…I was reading an article, in the Feb/Mar 2016 issue, called “Nearest & Dearest, stories of our loved ones”…this was about first date, first kiss, etc…like many of us, the stories of first dates were disastrous…embarrassment and the like…Reminisce magazine

In one of the stories, this guy was planning to kiss the girl at the end of their first date…he was 16, he washed and shined his Dad’s 51 Plymouth…”and after a little dab of Brylcreem and a liberal splash of Old Spice, I was all I could be”… and about half way through the story it had this sentence, “By the time I got to the curb in front of her house, my heart was aflutter and my brain was mush.” (it explains my title some)…he blurted out, “May I have a good-night kiss?”…”As our lips met, the Plymouth leaped the curb and shuddered to a stop halfway on the boulevard.”…”I had forgotten to turn off the engine, and in the passion of the moment, I had taken my foot off the clutch.”…his girl, Peggy asked, “Is it safe to get out now?”…she giggled and she was gone…thus goes most of the planned moments of our lives…

So my post is only a little bit about how this all started…what prompted this post was the part of the sentence “My Heart was Aflutter”…I read this article just before I went into the hospital on March 3…and it wasn’t until I got out the next day on March 4, sometime during that time this sentence kept coming back to me…I was diagnosed with A-flutter…it is a problem with the rhythm of the heart being out of wack…so one part of the heart is racing while the other part is out of rhythm…so lots of pumping, with not much blood being pumped…low blood pressure because of that…very high heart rate…not much blood going to the lungs, short of breath…and not a good thing…

So fooled you, this is not about a romantic heart, but a real heart, my heart…let me tell Baptist Health Center, Little Rock, ARyou of my experience…I was a bit short of breath for a couple of days…finally I decided that breathing deeper was not helping…and nothing I was or was not doing was helping…so off we went to the hospital…nothing like a heart problem to get immediate attention in ER…we walked in, after I drove to the hospital…but I did use the valet service, so we walked right in…told the woman at the desk what the problem was…after checking whether I had insurance or not…two people came through the doors and escorted me to the next step…they took my vitals and then an EKG…that was enough to know I was having some kind of problem…they took me to a room…and as I moved on the the bed about 10 very busy people attacked this patient…needle in my right arm, needle in my left arm…those sticky pads all over my chest, etc…they were busy beavers…another EKG…etc…

The ER doctor came in and introduced himself…asked me a few questions, then asked me who my doctor was…I told him my cardiologists name…he said, “Dr. Jones is right out in the ER.”…well, he was just in the ER…he went out and called him…back he came…we talked a bit and he told me what was wrong and what they were going to do to correct it and not let it happen again…no blockage, I had been in to see him in the fall…so I thought it was not that, no symptoms but shortness of breath, so it had to be something else…he explained that they would try to get it in rhythm with medication but if not they would have to shock it into normal rhythm…so they, by this time, had me on medication to do just that…and they were now going to move me to CCU (cardiac care unit) because they had to watch so closely…so off we went…I high-fived the triage nurse on the way by…he said, “good luck”…what great care so far…

On through the maze of hallways from ER to CCU at Baptist Hospital in Little Rock…when Judie and Jim hospital stay March 2016we got to CCU they put me in a great room, well, not really a room, you know the drill…it is open with only a curtain in the front…I could see the whole room…it was great, a panorama of everything…computers all around and I was stuck with needles, oxygen dealies to check my oxygen…heart beat, all kinds of tubes and checkers of all types (forgive the lack of medical terminology, I like mine better)…the nurses got used to me yelling out to Judie, “How’s my oxygen level?”…and “How’s my heart beat?”…(well, the truth be known, the nurses never got used to my yelling “How’s my oxygen level?” nor “How’s my heart beat?”)…there were people traipsing through to visit others…and my nurse came in the check once in a while…one time as she was looking at all the computer stuff…she said, “It just switched over. Right as I watched it. It just switched over.”…that’s good I said…yep, good…my doctor told me if it didn’t correct by the meds they would have to shock it back in rhythm…

Later the doctor came in…they were going to transfer me upstairs to a regular room and spend the night…most of the tubes came off…and when they came in to ask me if they could get me anything…I had the same request for them since I got there…”Pizza”…they denied it every time…what a place…

Let me shorten this by going to the next morning…I will skip the trips to the bathroom, collecting urine, and other such highlights…when the doctor came in the next morning at 6:00 and told me I could go home…I was ready right then, but he told me the nurses will let you know…he went over the happenings of the day before…he had someone shadowing him…so he was telling her about it…he said something like, “I just happened to be in ER when he (me) came in.”…I broke in somewhere in there and told him, “I’ve been reading a book by Eric Metaxas, called “Miracles, what they are, why they happen and how they can Miracles by Eric Metaxaschange your life”…you mentioned that you ‘happened to be in ER’, and most would say that, but I believe I will call it a miracle. You were there for a reason and I guess it was for me.”…”So I will always call it a miracle that you were there.”…he turned to me and said something to the effect, “I wouldn’t argue with that.”…

So that’s that…no longer is “My heart A- flutter’…though there is some controversy about “My brain being mush.”…

50th Wedding Anniversary…Skylark…Jackson…Royal Wedding…And Love Becomes Devotion…

(I thought just before Valentine’s Day I would republish this post from July 2013, for the love of my life…well, also to others who may deem this fit to read…of course it is more than our 50th anniversary…we are headed to our 53rd year…but why quibble, I just love to be married to Judie)…

Can you imagine, Judie and I will have been married 50 years on August 3, 2013…now thatJudie and Jim doesn’t seem possible except the math of the deal proves it…We met the summer of 1961…I in my 1953 green Ford and she with a group of college girls just coming out of Feld’s grocery store on Highway 55 in Golden Valley, Minnesota…being the great guy I was, ah, change that…being the great guy, I am…I tried to make those girls comfortable in their new surroundings, if you know what I mean…no motives on my part, of course, except to be helpful…but it did only take about two years before Judie and I were married…so something happened…I’m still trying to figure out what and how it happened…

Johnny Cash and June CarterJust the other day someone a bit younger than we are asked how love changes from the beginning of a marriage and throughout that marriage…if I understood the question…not that after 50 years you don’t love your wife/husband, but how does it change…both Judie and I said yes, love changes but it all starts with an attraction…all I could think of was a song by Johnny Cash and his wife June Carter, called “Jackson”…it’s a fun song talking about a “big talkin’ man”…it starts and ends like this…”We got married in a fever, hotter than a pepper sprout.” and then says, “We’ve been talkin’ about Jackson, ever since the fire went out.”…Oh, I think all marriages begin with that descriptive phrase…and it’s what I thought about when asked this question…”We got married in a fever, hotter than a pepper sprout.”…I think everyone begins at that level of love…but what then…

I remember very well that “hotter than a pepper sprout” time and it was important…but when we started talking about marriage…there were more important things that became important…spiritual things, children, etc…and if couples Skylark Glenn Close, Christopher Walkendon’t…50 years of marriage is a lot harder than if you do consider them…I remember the movie “Skylark” with Glenn Close and Christopher Walken…it is a great movie…the middle movie of a trilogy…”Sarah, Plain and Tall” was the first…but in “Skylark”, they were now married and they were suffering a terrible drought on the prairie…and Jacob had to send Sarah and the two kids back to her home in New England…when the rain finally came on the prairie…Jacob went back East to bring them home…that love scene is one of the best I have ever seen/heard…and opposed to what is around today…it was not in bed or in private…but out in the open for all to see…I will add it here with this explanation…I gave this to Judie, in written form, for Christmas in 2010…it will help that questioner with how love changes, yet stays the same…it is a wonderful scene…with a little written by me, for Judie, that Christmas, then the scene…here goes:

 

Skylark: Sarah Plain and Tall

A memorable quote

(The best quote I know…I have loved this scene since the first time I saw it…and wondered how I could use these words with you…this Christmas seems to be the time…I love you with this kind of passion…and though it may not be exactly like the passion of our youth…it is as powerful and even more real…read and enjoy…this is my love for you…and us for one another…as it is, today…)

Jacob Witting: I love you, Sarah. There are some things that can’t be written… in a letter. I’m not good with words.
Skylark Glenn CloseSarah Witting: You’re fine with words. I never thought you’d come. I dreamed about it at night when the sea sounded like wind through the grasses. I thought about it at night when Caleb had bad dreams. I saw your face everywhere, Jacob, everywhere. I’d look at the sea and see your face there, and in the sky. When I looked at Anna and Caleb you were there. Once in the street I saw somebody that looked like you and I rushed after him. Once I met the train because something told me maybe you’d be there… but I never thought you’d come. Here I was like a child come home to my beautiful sea and I should’ve been happy but I was frightened. And I am frightened because… this terrible love for you is so strong I, I’ve never known such a thing before.
Jacob Witting: [whispered] I know.
Sarah Witting: I never thought you’d come.
Caleb: [Jacob kisses Sarah] They’re kissing and hugging!
Chub ‘Chubbers’ Horatio: Of course they are.
Sarah Witting: Once Matty asked me how long I’d stay here and I know now. I came to stay long enough to say goodbye. I think, Jacob, our baby should be born on the prairie. It’s the right thing.
[pauses]
Sarah Witting: You were right – some things can’t be written in a letter. You, you said it once; sometimes words aren’t good enough Jacob?
[he smiles, they laugh and hug]

Now that still causes tears to come to my eyes…and those of you who know this kind of love or have had this kind of love, understand the words and the emotion and the feelings…you feel it now, don’t you?…the scene goes on with some words like this: “This terrible love for you is so strong.” and “Nobody ever told me how hard it is to love someone.”…all this is a love that I term, “is turned loose”…not holding anything back…and it develops over time…

In thinking about this post, I read again something from a “My Daily Bread” that I use everyday…it was about Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding…”Be who God meant Prince William and Kate Middleton Weddingyou to be and you will set the world on fire.”, the Bishop of London began his message to the Prince and his bride…he quoted St. Catherine of Sienna…he affirmed their choice “to be married in the sight of a generous God Who so loved the world that He gave Himself to us in the person of Jesus Christ.”…then he urged the couple to pursue a love that finds its center beyond themselves…it was a serious ceremony as you can imagine, full of pomp, ritual and ceremony…if you have a few hours you can watch it on Youtube…or watch bits and pieces…I recommend it…the brides brother read from Romans 12: 1-18…”I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God…what is good and acceptable and perfect.”(vv. 1-2 nrsv)…

Fairly serious stuff…but marriage is some serious stuff…there will be highs and low…ups and downs…but if love finds its center beyond ourselves…love will grow to something we cannot fully explain…and in talking to those who have lost their mate after many years, they can tell you that that love still remains in their lives…with reminders that keep on blessing their lives even years later…

Molt Prairie Winds CafeA number of years ago we took a trip to Billings, Montana…it was September of 2007…I have written about Molt, Montana before…a very small town outside Billings…about 20 miles…and in one of the few buildings left in town is the Prairie Winds Cafe…a great restaurant…but I’m not going to talk about that now…while there, I was looking around and on their bulletin board was a news clipping…I wrote about it back then…here is some of that:…While we were there last September we found a picture on the bulletin board…I had Judie “take a picture of the picture”…the picture of John and Grace Leuthold…it was an article about them being married 71 years…but the thing that caught my eye was the statement John made…”Love becomes devotion. That’s what we have.”…that spoke volumes to me…it really doesn’t matter the relationship…with a spouse, children, parents, with others or with our God…as I wrote just the other day: a committed love always turns to devotion…a loyal, steadfast, faithful love…the idea of belonging together in the relationship…Molt...Love Becomes Devotion

Both John and Grace are gone…even before we saw the article on the bulletin board at the Prairie Winds Cafe last fall…Grace passed away peacefully, Thursday, May 22, 2003 at 90…and John passed away at his ranch home of 75 years, in Molt, Wednesday, May 26, 2005 at 98…The picture we saw on the bulletin board is below…the caption on the picture from the “Billings Gazette” in Billings, MT, February 14, 2002, (Valentines Day) was...John and Grace Leuthold, who live near Molt, have been married 71 years. “Love becomes devotion,” John said. “That’s what we have.”

So I bring you full circle…how does love change?…well, I don’t really know, but I do know it does…and it become better and Jim and Judie 2013better…deeper and deeper…so for your 50th Judie…I may have to change my gift to you…maybe it will be more than a trip to McDonald’s for coffee and a Sausage McMuffin with Egg and Cheese…I may have to add us sharing some Biscuits and Gravy…or maybe even an apple pie…or maybe this post can be part of our 50th…I love you more than you know…or maybe you do know…Happy 50th Wedding Anniversary…

Posted by: Jim E | February 11, 2016

Home…Right Here…Right Here In River City

Sometimes, well, anytime, I love home…for most of us, home has been a variety of places over the years…in past generations home may have been in one spot, even one particular house…or one particular area or place…what may have been called “the farm-place”…where “our people” have always lived for generations, some may say…but now days that is no longer the case for most…most of us have lived in a number of houses and places, different states, even in different countries…so home, I guess, is where you make it…

Almost every time I drive into our neighborhood, I say, “I’m glad to be home.”…and I am…it is the most comfortable place I know…I belong…as I heard someone say on TV the other night, “Home is my happy place.”…sounds a bit like Pooh Bear, he had happy places too…and though Pooh is a figment of an author’s imagination, I find myself there too…Home is a happy, comfortable, warm and loving place…I receive that love, but also give it…it is what home is really about…is it any wonder that people feel such loss at the destruction of their home by fire, tornado, etc…home is a special place…

I remember my Mom when she witnessed the destruction and then burning of her Reggin's house 1926childhood home…her Dad, my Grandpa Reggin bought the land, built the house with his own hands…it was a small home…built in the 1920’s…Grandpa and Grandma raised four children, other relatives in and out, over the years..and though my Mom hadn’t lived in that house for more than 50 years, when it was burned by the fire department for practice and because the land was to be used for a large office building…she took a picture, it’s blurry…she was crying…that was “Home”…Reggin house burning 1979 1

I’ve thought of all the houses Judie and I have lived in over the years…now married 52 years and counting, we have had a few…(in fact we lived in Grandpa and Grandma’s house for a few months after returning to Minnesota from Croswell, Michigan, where we taught for three years)…though I don’t necessarily think that moving is a good thing, it is our thing…it’s what happened to us…though sometimes I wonder if I could have lived in one place what would it have been like…I know a few people who have done that and there is something about that which intrigues me…draws me; to that something I truly know, and that knows me…but it was not where life took us…and we just followed…

So where is this going in my mind…well, I remember my Dad told me about when he Broadway Bridge Minneapolisgrew up and lived in Northeast Minneapolis…or as those from Minneapolis might say it, “Nordeast”, or however they would spell it…he told me he swam in the Mississippi River…dove off the Broadway Bridge, his Mother, my Grandma, would warn him not to swim in the river…she didn’t want to lose him that way, in those days death for children was not necessarily unusual…disease and accidents were a fairly normal happening…but not too many years went by and she sent him into WWII…it must have been a fright for all those Mothers and Dads…but I digress…

What I am trying to “get to” is “the River”…we have always lived “on the river”…or should I say near a river…it lets us know, how many cities and towns were started along Croswell, MI our farm house 1965-68 2rivers…America is blessed with a huge number of rivers and river systems…we have always lived in a river town…so have you…or at least most of you. just think about it for a minute…just for the transportation element alone, towns were established on rivers…just after we got married in 1963, we moved to Croswell, Michigan, it was my first teaching job…Croswell is located on the Black River, just a few miles West of Lake Huron…and our home there was on a farm near town and the school…home of “The Swinging Bridge” over the Black River…

Most of our kids growing up years were spent in Andover, Minnesota…after we moved back from Michigan…we lived in that house for over 36 years…that is the house our kids Flag Memorial Day 2005call “Home”…and we lived within a mile of the Rum River…a tributary of the Mississippi River…really most of the rivers in Minnesota are tributaries of the mighty Mississippi…though in far northwest Minnesota the rivers run North into Canada…but in our case the Rum River ran into the Mississippi just south or us, about 5 miles at Anoka…another river town…most towns have river history too…as do most towns around where we lived in Minnesota…

And now we live in Little Rock. Arkansas, and as we did in all the places we lived…whether it was Minneapolis, Mankato, Minnesota for college, Croswell, Andover, or in Little Rock…all these places were home, we loved them all…because we brought Home with us…and so when I say, as I DO say, “Right here, right now…ln River City”…when talking about most anything…like, “There’s a traffic jam, right here in River City”…I’m really speaking the truth…but I thought the other day…”Just where did I get that saying, “Right here in River City.”…well, some of you already know…but lets tell you with this short song from the musical “the Music Man”…

So no matter where I land…it seems like I’m in River City…Meredith Wilson’s, “the Music Man” didn’t arrive at River City, Iowa by accident…it is where all of Middle America has always been…near a river…drawing their sustenance from that river…

So my life started with my Mom and Dad in 1942, a different world really…we lived in a tiny box of a house next to a swamp, that during early spring runoff would have water around the house and under it…no indoor plumbing…no electricity…the depression was beginning to wane…WWII was on in full fury…and it would be after the war that we moved to a little house just a block away…and then to the place I would call home for most of my growing up years…a basement house, no plumbing, but had electricity (we were moving up)…and then all the years since then…all were Home to me, all I remember with great clarity…

So, I’m a happy man…I’m home…”Right Here In River City”…I suppose you are too!!!…

 

 

 

 

Posted by: Jim E | January 25, 2016

Time…Time…And Rest A While…

Time has been on my mind lately…I was sitting in the living room waiting to go somewhere…I looked up at the clock on our wall…and saw the time…let’s just say I had some time yet to wait before I left to pick up Jeremy…but it struck me, I use everyday a timepiece that was invented in the 15th or 16th century…in fact the very clock on our wall, I look at, is 100 years old, and more…pendulum clock Jim Burton

But the truth is though, I depend on that clock everyday…if I really want to know the “exact time”, I look at the cable box or at my cell phone…those are as accurate as we have in our house…

It used to be, when I was young, in the 50’s…I didn’t have a watch, there were no cell phones, no cable, no TV, the radio was the most accurate for telling time, and no money to buy a watch…but the radio always gave the time, I think they still do…at least where they still are live and not recorded…I always thought they were somehow connected to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT)…a “magic time machine”, I figured…in school we learned about a town somewhere in England called Greenwich that all other clocks around the world where counting on to have the correct time…it was established in 1847 and used most importantly for ships to know where they are at all times throughout the globe…I won’t go into that any deeper than that…you know, time zones, longitude and latitude, and on and on…Greenwich Mean Time

When  I was young, time did not have the importance it seems to today…I can recall during the summer, leaving the house in the morning and not showing up until I got hungry or a time Mom told me to be home…I thought for a while about that the other day, without a watch, how did I know what time it was…well, it was not lost on me the stories I read and heard about Indians and pioneers…they told time by the sun, I did too…when the sun was straight up…it was 12:00, noon…and any other angle, it would “read” to me just like a clock…half way up the horizon, it was 9:00…half way past noon, it was 3:00…and everywhere in between…I don’t remember being very far off many times…or Mom would call…and I could hear her call for miles it seemed…that method was used for centuries, until clocks were invented…

I still prefer the 15th and 16th century windup timepiece…the one on our wall is special to Judie and I…it was a wedding gift from a neighbor of ours growing up…Jim and Mary Burton…he was in the jewelry business for years and his house was full of clocks, all kinds of clocks…we got married in 1963, I was 21, Jim was 91…I went over to talk with Ford 1953 my first carhim…(we had grown up with the Burton’s as neighbors, my Mom basically took care of them until they died…in fact I was going to pick Judie up for a date when Jim started over to get one of us…I was just getting into my car when I noticed him, called to Mom and ran over…he said something was wrong with Mary…no 911, we did what we could but she died that day)…a year or so later I went to talk with Jim…to tell him Judie and I were going to be married…Jim wanted to give us a clock…I chose the one pictured on this post…it’s still on our wall some 52 years later…

I remember Jim, at 91 remember, wanted to clean it before giving it to us…I assured him that was not necessary, but he said he would be happy clean it…I thought, there goes the clock…the next time I went to see Jim, the clock was all spread out on his table…parts here and there…I thought he will never be able to put that together…I was wrong, maybe it isn’t that complicated or maybe his eyesight was better than I thought or maybe he was a better watchmaker than I gave him credit for…it’s been on our wall for over 52 years, and on his wall for many more…I still rely on it and it still keeps good time for a clock invented the 1600’s and probably made in the mid or late 1800’s…so this is all about time, just a few ways to look at it…in terms of a life or two lives, or history of time…its all about how you view it…

Various words we use all the time have to do with time…wait a minute, an instant, a nanosecond, a second, a month, a year, a calendar, a lifetime, a generation…hundreds of words that speak of time or the passing of time…it passes even while we sleep…Jesus talked about time here and there…in Mark 6:30-32…verse 31 “He said to them, ‘Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.'”…”a while”, another term about time…in fact I love that term…rest a while…so many times I remember telling myself and others to take time to rest, retool…heal…

I have never seen “the tide”, though we know the times of the tides, there are tables that show those times…I have seen the ocean, both Atlantic and Pacific…but I never was there long enough to “see” the results of the pull of the moon on our great oceans…heavens, I believe there are people who live by the ocean but are so busy, so Tides, thewrapped up in what they do, there is not time to notice this great event…it happens everyday, the high and low tide…but what is really astounding…at the changing of the tide, there is a brief period of time called “slack tide” when the water is neither high nor low…this is when the water is “unstressed”…it is a quiet pause before the surging of tidal flow begins again…Jesus understood that need and knew his followers needed to eat and rest…”Come aside…and rest a while”…

So as I sit in those early morning hours, and that happens everyday…I sit and look out our front window, contemplate the day…look at the only timepiece I ever look at that time of day…and take that time, that little “while”…to get ready to face whatever God holds for me and “rest a while”, even for a few minutes…

Posted by: Jim E | December 23, 2015

Lutefisk, Lefse And Ring-A-Ding…”Uff da”, I Said…

Lutefisk, Lefse And Ring-A-Ding-Ding…”Uff da”, I Said…

Here is another Christmas post from the past…it will hearken back to Minnesota culture…but you will live through it…just sit back and enjoy the Scandinavian humor and culinary delights of Christmas…Merry Christmas…

Oh, yes it is Christmas time in America…and what comes to mind to a Minnesotan…even a transplanted Minnesotan???…it is all the Christmas traditions of childhood and beyond…and it happens to me…even here in Arkansas…we still have Azalea flowers on our bushes…and it seemed a bit strange for me to be putting Christmas lights on bushes that still are flowering…so it is red, green, blue, yellow lights blinking with pink flowers underneath…quite a sight…and all the while Minnesota has snow and cold…but we do have our “White Christmas” CD playing in the background…maybe that will help…

Christmas traditions…part of ours is to make lefse…every year we make lefse…we learned to make it many years ago in Minnesota…it is wonderful…it is a simple recipe…not simple to make but once you get the “hang of it”, it is…we did it with the whole family…in fact that is the joy of it…the whole crew gets involved…someone mixing the dough…it is made of boiled potatoes (riced potatoes, put through a ricer), flour, melted butter and cream…mixed to the right consistency…someone to roll it out very thin, almost like what a crepe ends up like…and then someone to put on a lefse grill (yes, they have grills just for this, Target, etc. have them)…using “lefse sticks” (yes, there are sticks made just for lefse) you turn it over and then stack it to cool…of course everyone must try some warm…butter, sugar, cinnamon or brown sugar…whatever…it is so good…it is like a flat bread…most cultures have that kind of bread…this one is just a little better than the rest…and everyone gets in on the act…

We have been making lefse for most of 40 years…and it is as loved today as it was years ago…you can eat anything rolled up in it…not only butter and sugar but meat, cheese, just anything you would use bread for…so very soon we will be getting together with the kids and  grandkids and making a huge pile of lefse to be used over the holidays…Christmas Eve with a little pickled herring…and how about Swedish Sausage…Oh wait, that’s another story…ignore my mention of Swedish Sausage…more about that later…But thinking about that…we bought some Swedish sausage and Swedish meatballs when we were in Minnesota last summer…we have already had one “ring” of Swedish sausage and will have more at Christmas…but also Christmas Eve we will serve lefse and Swedish meatballs…with gravy…so good…all this is traditional food from years gone by…and still served in Minnesota and all over the Upper Midwest…as well as the Pacific Northwest…

But one of the foods we will not be serving (mostly we can’t get it here) is Lutefisk…it is a “lye” cured cod or whitefish from Norway…served with melted butter and cream sauce…I won’t go into “how” it is fixed but let’s say it is important…it is served with lefse, mashed potatoes, white gravy, Swedish meatballs, rutabaga, etc…lutefisk is also served in the Upper Midwest and in the Pacific Northwest, much like lefse…but tastes and smells a whole lot different…Madison, Minnesota claims the dubious title of Lutefisk Capital of the World…they serve and eat more there than anywhere in the world…you can look that up online if you would like and see the huge gatherings of people who come there for their lutefisk suppers during this time of year…

Lutefisk has been on the receiving end of all kinds of jokes…Ole and Lena jokes: We tried the lutefisk trick, putting it under our porch, to get rid of the raccoons living there…but now we’ve got a family of Norwegians living under our house!!!…humorist Garrison Keillor: Lutefisk is a repulsive gelatinous fish-like dish that tastes like soap with an odor that would gag a goat…and it looks like the world’s largest chunk of phlegm…encouraged to eat “just a little” was like vomiting a little, it’s just as bad as a lot…

The jokes and stories go on and on…I have tried lutefisk myself a time or two…probably to say I ate it once…and the next time or so, because good Scandinavians “should” eat it…like it???…nothing ever was mentioned or came to mind that we were suppose to like it!!!…enough cream sauce and melted butter covers a multitude of sins, it was told to me…but for many years WCCO AM radio (in Minneapolis) had a couple of personalities…Boone and Erickson who were very talented…and they did one of their Christmas traditions called “Lutefisk Lament”…I have saved it for the last…it is a poem, of a sort…along with their Scandinavian accent and humor…I hope you will hang on to the end…since some of you are not from the Upper Midwest…the humor may escape you…but open your mind…and think like a Swedish or Norwegian farm kid from rural Minnesota…get in character now…get ready to go on stage…let’s go…click on the link and enjoy Boone and Erickson’s “Lutefisk Lament”…(I will add the words to follow along…not all will be in this version…but you will be able to follow)…Merry Christmas…(click on the link)…

Boone and Erickson – Lutefisk Lament

Lutefisk Lament

Charlie Boone & Roger Erickson

‘Twas the night before Christmas with things all a bustle
As Mama got set for the Christmas Eve tussle.
Aunts, uncles and cousins would soon be arriving
With stomachs all ready for Christmas Eve dining.
While I sat alone with a feeling of dread,
As visions of lutefisk danced in my head.
The thought of the smell made my eyeballs start burning.
The thought of the taste set my stomach to churning.
For I’m one of those who good Swedes rebuff:
A Scandahoovian boy who can’t stand the stuff.

Each year, however, I played at the game
to spare mama and papa the undying shame.
I must bear up bravely, I can’t take the risk of relatives knowing I hate lutefisk.
I know they would spurn me, my presents withhold,
if the unthinkable, unspeakable truth they were told.
Then out in the yard I heard such a clatter,
I jumped up to see what was the matter.
There in the snow, all in a jumble,
three of my uncles had taken a tumble.

My aunts, as usual, gave them “what for”,
and soon they were up and through the door.
Then with talk, and more cheer,
an hour was passed as Mama finished the Christmas repast.
From out in the kitchen an odor came stealing,
that fairly set my senses to reeling.
The smell of lutefisk creeped down the hall
and wilted a plant in a pot on the wall.
The others reacted as though they were smitten,
while the aroma laid low my small helpless kitten.
Uncles Oscar and Lars said, “Oh, that smells yummy,”
and Kermit’s eyes glittered while he patted his tummy.

The scent skipped off the ceiling and bounced off the door,
and the bird in the cuckoo clock fell on the floor.
Mama announced dinner by ringing a bell.
They pushed to the table with a yump and a yell.
I lifted my eyes to heaven and sighed,
and a rose on the wallpaper withered and died.
With wooden legs I found my chair
and sat in silence with an unseeing stare.
Most of the food was already in place;
there remained only to fill the lutefisks space.
Then Mama came proudly with a bowl on a trivet.
You would have thought the crown jewels were in it.

She placed it carefully down and took her seat,
and Papa said Grace before we could eat.
It seemed to me, with my whirling head,
the shortest prayer he ever had said.
Then Mama lifted the cover on the steaming dish,
and I was face to face with the quivering fish.
“Me first,” I heard Uncle Kermit call,
while I watched the paint peel off the wall.

The plates were passed for Papa to fill.
I waited in agony between fever and chill.
He would dip in the spoon and hold it up high.
As it oozed on the plates, I thought I would die.
Then came my plate, and to my feverish brain
there seemed enough lutefisk to derail a train.
It looked like a mountain of congealing glue:
oddly transparent, yet discolored, the hue.
With butter and cream sauce I tried to conceal it;
I salted and peppered, but the smell still revealed it.
I drummed up my courage, I tried to be bold.
Mama reminds me, “Eat, before it gets cold.”

I decided to face it, “Uff da,” I sighed.
“Uff da, indeed,” my stomach replied.
Then I summoned that resolve for which every breed is known.
My hand took the fork as with a mind of its own.
And with reckless abandon that lutefisk I ate,
within twenty seconds I’d cleaned my plate.
Uncle Kermit flashed me an ear-to-ear grin,
as butter and cream sauce dripped from his chin.
Then to my great shock, he whispered in my ear:
“I’m sure glad this is over for another year!”

It was then I learned a great and wonderful truth,
that Swedes and Norwegians, from old men to youth,
must each pay their dues to have the great joy
of being known as a good Scandahoovian boy.

And so to you all, as you face the great test:
Happy Christmas to you, and to you all the best.

Posted by: Jim E | December 21, 2015

A Christmas Story…Well, Make It Two…

A Christmas Story…Well, Make It Two…

I wrote this in 2012, a Christmas story, well, two of them really…they take me back to Minnesota and my childhood…with a dear neighbor…and then a story from a teacher I worked with for years…both very important to me…and I hope will make you think of your life and memories you have…Merry Christmas…

At Christmastime, I reach back to memories of the past…and my childhood…when you get my age, most people that I meet everyday are much, much younger than I am…it gives you Christmas tree snow coveredpause…Oh, it is not a negative thing…it’s positive…I love the fact that I can remember so much more than most around me…that I actually experienced the history that most people talk about…and you know, I remember talking to people who were born just after the Civil War…who fought in WWI…who fought in WWII…these were actual people, who were there…and, of course, with my age comes the passing of most of those people…almost all of them have died…and just yesterday, Judie’s Mom died…she was 92, almost 93…so much history she experienced…and of course, all of that personal history is now gone…only what we remember of her wonderful life is still with us…all of us who knew her will try and keep that alive…

Age is a funny thing…it comes upon us while we are awake or asleep…it comes with or without our permission…and Christmas upon Christmas comes and goes…I remember so many…but in my 70 plus years, they all seem to run together…it is hard to remember each and every one…in fact what happens is we layer them, one upon the other, so we view them as a stack of slides…viewing them as a whole rather than separating them…only special circumstances make one memorable from the others…let me tell you of two memories…one that is many stories, stacked upon the others…and one that someone told me and experiences it over and over every year…these two stories are the same kind of thing, only different…stay with me here…

When I was born on February 3, 1942, Jim Burton was about 70…about my age now…and 26 pendulum clock Jim Burtonyears later, I officiated at his funeral…now that may not seem strange to you…but it does to me…he and his wife, Mary, were great friends of our family…Mr. and Mrs. Burton (as I respectfully called them growing up) were our neighbors…they lived next door to my grandparents on the south, separated by two lots and we lived next to my grandparents on the north…that neighborhood was two generations old when I was born…Jim Burton was the real estate agent who sold those small lots to people like my grandparents…all during my youth, because Mary was blind and they were aging, my mom took care of them and their needs all the years I can remember…this was a close neighborhood and everyone knew Jim and Mary Burton 1everyone…

On Christmas Eve my mom and we three boys walked over to Burton’s (many times on the way home from Christmas Eve services at church)…to spend some of the evening with them…I wish you could have seen the inside of that small house…Jim had been in the jewelry business and the house was filled with clocks (in fact I attached a picture of the clock he gave Judie and I for our wedding, almost 50 years ago)…to a young child they were beyond counting…10 or so grandfather clocks, wall clocks, mantel clocks, “Regulator” clocks…just all kinds…large and small…and it certainly fascinated a young child…inside, it was reminiscent of a “Charles Dickens” scene…dark but welcoming…the furniture was from another century it seemed…overstuffed, worn and it had that “old” look and smell…and there on the table was their Christmas tree…lights and decorations and a fewChristmas lights in dark presents…and we would relax there with a cup of tea and goodies…settle back and listen again to the stories they told…the stories of other Christmas’ in other countries (she from Norway, he from England)…and stories of their time in America…there in the dim light…dancing over our faces…this couple, whom we loved and had become such an important part of our lives…weaved the stories of a lifetime into our lives on those Christmas Eve nights…

On the way home in the darkness, with the snow crunching under our feet…we asked mom questions and rehearsed things we heard…so much of which I have now forgotten…I miss the stories of Jim and Mary…from another age…from another time…

Christmas Tree at nightAnd so with that story of Jim and Mary Burton…in reality, many stories stacked upon each other year after year…I go to a story of someone who grew up on the plains of North Dakota…we worked together in my former life…a friend and a great teacher, who sent me this after I told one of my Christmas stories to the staff…it is a keeper…you will understand after you read it…he virtually re-lives this every year…

“That takes me back to my youth on the plains of North Dakota, when on Christmas Eve afternoon, my mother packed a shoebox of items to give to an old bachelor neighbor who lived by the river a mile south of us…I can still see the box and its contents: cookies, a Christmas napkin, a new handkerchief and a tin of Prince Albert pipe tobacco…About four o’clock, my dad and I walked to his place and gave it to him…It was a Hallmark scene and I can still see the snow falling and hear and feel the wind as it made small drifts on the path in the pasture…That was a long time ago, but I still take a walk on Christmas Eve afternoon around four o’clock…Even though my father has been gone for seventeen years, he still goes along just like he did on that special trip so long ago”…

With that I wish you Joy and Peace…and wonderful memories…Merry Christmas…

December is a wonderful time of year…though, as I remember when I was young, many things happened in December that were hard…I can Christmas Eve snowremember the thought of how can we have Christmas when all this sadness is going on…I guess I thought that other months of the year didn’t bring on as much loss as December did…I was wrong of course, but it was a true feeling I had when I was young…
 
This morning (12/19/15) when I picked up Our Daily Bread, a daily devotion I use everyday, there was an interesting and helpful story Christmas 2015that relates to that feeling…called “The Seventh Stanza”…it is about the America poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and what is now a Christmas Carol called “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”…he titledChristmas Day, I Heard the Bells his poem at the time “Christmas Bells”…it later was set to music…the short article was historically interesting as well as the message of the poem…read the link to this “Our Daily Bread”…then the entire poem, including the stanzas about the Civil War, which was still being fought as he wrote…it will give new meaning to “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”…and the great expectation and hope that still remains for all of us during difficult times…
 
 
 
“Christmas Bells”
(The original poem, complete with all seven stanzas)

“I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till, ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!”

 
 

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