Sunday, April 23, 2017


I am a grammar buff, and proud to be one. I had no choice in the matter. Spelling and grammar were areas where my parents were not lax. They wanted their kids to be articulate. We all had our grammar corrected immediately upon using the wrong word. They had a great deal of help from the Catholic nuns who educated us, who were nothing if not rigorous in teaching us the King’s English. Every grandchild, when visiting, got corrected as well. I thanked Mom and Dad many times for the gift of that early correction. Sam has thanked me many times for the same.

If a wine snob is one who appreciates fine wine, I must be a grammar and spelling snob. I like “buff “or “aficionado” better. My brain lights up when I see misspellings and hear bad grammar! I want to rectify both! I have many friends who use poor grammar and I always notice it. It is all over TV; even my favorite reality TV host uses it. Sports analysts (and Sam would agree) and broadcasters are not known for good grammar. The morning talk shows are sprinkled every day with grammar missteps. Yes, I notice every one.

Mom and Dad raised an S & G buff. I raised an S & G buff, and I have no doubt that if Sam has kids someday, their speech will be readily corrected by their papa. Because Sam had college journalism classes, he is even more knowledgeable about high level grammar rules than I am.

I have been able to use my particular area of passion in my job. My subbing in the schools was a prime place to make a difference. I swear parents don’t correct poor speech anymore. When a student asked or told me something like, “Can him and me go to the library?” I would just calmly say every time, “Ask me again using proper English.” It may have taken 3 or 4 tries, but they eventually got it right. And then I told them how they could not make that mistake again. Of course I was there only one day at a time, and without daily reinforcement, I’m sure my efforts to teach a few grammar rules went by the wayside, but I put my due diligence in anyway. I never let poor grammar slip.

In 20 years, I’ve rarely heard a teacher correct grammar in a student. Many of our teachers themselves have poor skills. THEY never learned well. One day a classroom teacher said in a conversation with me, “Him and Gary played tennis with I and Ann.”(names changed) I honestly cringed to my core. I went home and told my husband that our schools are failing our kids through parents who don’t care about speech and through many of our teachers. Not all of them. But definitely some of them. How can they turn their students into well-spoken adults when they themselves are not articulate?

My biggest bug-a-boo is with pronoun use. Learning how and when to use nominative pronouns and objective pronouns correctly should be taught from 2nd grade on. If kids learn it early----and it’s so easy to learn---- they will know it forever.

The second thing that I hear way too much of is using an adjective where an adverb should be: “He drove real careful.” (carefully, not careful) “He did good in that game.” (well, not good).

Then there is the “like” word that has permeated our culture, used multiple times in a sentence before verbs, nouns, adverbs and adjectives. What a meaningless word. Nothing sounds so “backwoods” to me as someone who cannot form a sentence without using “like.” I just like hope it is like just a fad and that it like eases its way out of our English vernacular like very soon.

Once I was subbing and saw a notice I was to send home with kids for their parents to sign. I read it and found 4 spelling and grammar errors in the notice. I left a note for the teacher and did not send it out. Our college education classes need to stress good grammar and spelling so that these young educators can pass that on.

Okay, this has become a lecture and I never intended it to be that. What I want to say is: Parents and grandparents, if you notice poor grammar, correct it. Teach it to your little ones. Pass on the gift of becoming articulate. If you don’t know good grammar, there are hundreds of resources where you can learn it! Turn your kid into a grammar and spelling buff!

Thursday, April 13, 2017


There is a possibility---a good one--- that I will be eligible to get the drug I need (before it is available through the FDA on May 15) now through a program called Compassionate Use. God's fingerprints were all over how I heard about this. I won't go into all the drama and detail of how it came about, but let me just say that I have passed Steps 1 and 2 out of 4 for final approval. Next Friday I will have brain and chest MRIs, as well as 4 other tests/labs to get an idea of my condition for the research team. If I pass, I could have the drug as soon as 12 days from now.

You may ask what the benefit is of getting it so close to the day I could get it on the open market. I realize there will only be a 3-week differential and perhaps to some it isn't worth going through all this protocol to get the drug early.

Let me tell you, when you have been sitting idly waiting since Feb.1 for the only drug that can extend your life, you grab at ANY advantage. The saddest part is I would have been eligible for Compassionate Use back on Feb.1. Needless to say, I fired my doctor and have hired a new oncologist. 'Nuf said on that.

I trust in God's providence for me. If I am supposed to be approved, I will be. If not, I wait. God is the same either way. When you trust God to order your steps, you have a peace that passes all understanding.

I remain hopeful and I will let you know if I am approved!!

Thursday, March 30, 2017


I am not a person who cavalierly recommends things to others. I do so primarily with books, and not even just good books. For me to recommend a book, it has to be a great read. I may have recommended a terrific movie or two over the years. But this may be the most excited I have been over suggesting something.

Dick and I have just finished watching a 4-part sermon series called Unstrapped. The preacher is a pastor from a large church in Omaha. Even though we have loved every one of his archived sermons, I wasn't sure I wanted to watch four about money. We almost chose not to delve into this series, but something in our spirits compelled us to start the first sermon. And we were totally hooked.

We finished the series in about 8 days (watching about a half hour a day) and the fourth sermon was as good as the other three. Friends, I urge everyone to listen to this series. It is about so much more than money. It is about a new lifestyle choice, your heart, what you worship, your stewardship, obedience, tithing, the way you view your life, and blessing yourself and others.

Dick and I agree that we have NEVER heard a sermon about money like this one. Six decades, and finally, a series of money sermons that felt like fresh oxygen. Each one touched us down to the marrow. We could hardly stop watching the streamed video each night. Pastor Les is so easy to listen to, so authentic, and yes, funny too.

If more believers (and non-believers for that matter) could hear this, how different things might be. We could see altered lives, and marriages coming together and restored families. If these principles were taught in churches, we would have a revival which could change the lives of many people in our fellowships, and by extension, in the community.

Friends, I am inviting you to try out the first sermon. If you don’t buy into it, don’t watch it. If you finish it and felt as inspired as we were, share the series with others. Tell people at your church about it.

Living the unstrapped life matters. Check this link out and please let me know what you thought.

Sunday, March 26, 2017


I waited in the shade in front of the cafe for her. When she walked up to me, after 33 years, we fell into each other's arms. We both had tears. Nearly simultaneously, we said "I would know you anywhere." I looked at her and said, "252-2218." And not skipping a beat, she answered, "252-4598." Our childhood family phone numbers. Decades later, fresh on both our tongues.

My long-awaited reunion with my best friend from grade school was the highlight of my trip to Florida this year. Life and careers and distance kept us apart for all that time, but to hug Patty was coming full circle.

Patty and I met on the first day of kindergarten and became best friends. Our parents were going to send us both to the small parochial school in town so we maintained our close friendship all through school. Together, we did life through spelling bees, sleepovers, grade school dances, piano lessons, dance lessons, 60's music (the best ever), 6th grade boyfriends and the horrific day in 3rd grade when JFK was shot. 

We spent lots of time at each other's houses playing....she had the most awesome Barbie set-up under their basement stairs complete with a Barbie and Ken house and car where we spent hours. My Barbie and her large case of clothing was always in transit between houses. She remembers thinking our basement as the coolest thing ever. Until she told me why, I had never realized that Mom and Dad had, indeed, designed a perfect 2000 sq ft space for kids and teens downstairs. As a kid, I had taken it for granted.

She spent summers with her mom at their lake cabin and her dad would often bring me out on weekends. We played "house" in her bunkhouse and spent time on the beach.
As we got older, we had crushes on lake boys and would take her boat and cruise around the lake. 

One day, the girl next door said she couldn't go swimming with us and we pressed her into telling us why. That was the day Patty and I learned all about menstruation, which sounded really gross. When the 4th grade girls had "the talk" with their moms, Patty and I had a pact to act dumb so our moms wouldn't be upset that someone else had told us.

Oh, yes, we shared many secrets. Isn't that a hallmark of a bestie?

Patty considered Mom and Dad her second parents. She was a later-life bonus baby with 4 siblings much older than herself so I think she enjoyed being part of the chaos at our house. When Dad was dying, she wrote a letter to my parents telling them how much they meant to her growing up. It meant the world to them, because they always had loved Patty. Dad never did stop telling the story of scaring her to death when he jokingly told her that if she didn't eat her creamed peas, he would give them to her in an IV. Patty well remembers it. He loved to tease.

Patty and I were best friends but we were friends with others. Colleen and Mary Kay were another set of best friends that we did things with together and individually. But we always gravitated back to each other. In the 8th grade, our school closed its high school, which meant for 9th grade, we would be going to the huge public high school. The only thing that made that less daunting was knowing Patty and I would navigate it together. Going from a class of maybe 25 to a class of 350 made me tremble. I was so shy by nature. I needed her for this big transition.

Weeks later, my universe shattered. Patty was moving to a city 90 miles east. I will never forget sobbing in my mom's arms the day she told me. It paralyzed me.

We tried to stay in touch as much as possible. In those days it was mainly by a monthly phone call and written letters. Lots of letters in the beginning. We both made other friends in our new high schools and our connection got stretched out. We saw each other a few times during college years, but didn't really re-connect again until I moved to Minneapolis (where she was living) for a 3-month graduate internship. She was newly married (yes, I was her maid of honor) and we started seeing each other regularly again. 

I got a faculty position at the University of Northern KY and moved there. And eventually landed back in Duluth which was only 3 hours away from her, but our careers, life, kids and commitments got in the way. I had no idea that my wedding would be the last time we would see each other for 33 years. 

At the cafe, I pounded her with questions about everything in those intervening years. Tributaries of our memories came rushing forth. She has experienced so many losses but Patty exudes a joy about her that is infectious. I couldn't get enough of her. She was always my leader and I always looked up to her for wisdom. Our lives have taken very different trajectories, but that didn't matter at all.

My beautiful lifelong friend Patty

Our reunion was indeed the high point of my week in the sunny south. After being with Patty for 15 minutes, I knew that if we had continued to live in the same city, we never would have lost our connection. For at its foundation, it is deeper than the roots on a North Dakota oak tree.

On that day in 8th grade, when my heart cracked open at her leaving me, a hole was created in me that I didn't even know I still had. In Florida 2 weeks ago, she returned that piece of my heart to me. For me, Patty was and always will be home.

Thursday, March 23, 2017


I interrupt this programming to shamelessly share with you a clip of Sam's play-by-play in a quarter final game in the state MN basketball tournament yesterday. He got the call for the game involving the #1 seed in the 4-A division. The game's last half was especially good, but the last 5 minutes were really good, and the last 15 seconds were great. Sam's call is of the tie-game's last 2 seconds.

The clip has had 90,000 views and has been on ESPN and WCCO and a Sports Illustrated website. The way the whole thing came together has God's hand prints plastered all over it. I take great comfort in knowing God has a plan for Sam's life.....a plan to prosper him (Jer 29:11). Who knows what could evolve in Sam's future someday from someone who heard him broadcasting yesterday? 

It is pretty cool clip. Tears spring into my eyes every time I watch. Note that the last scorer had not scored the entire game. Check it out.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017


So thankful to still be able to travel to Florida every spring break. Richie and I spent a week alone and then Sam and Gretchen came the second week. Had a very fun time. We followed through with all our "traditions".....Der Dutchman restaurant (where you leave when you are finally in a food coma), Kilwin's ice cream cones, Smuggler's Cove mini-golf, shuffleboard and pool. Lots of walks on the beach. After 30 years, we finally went and saw the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens.

My chemo prevents me from sun exposure so I had to be completely covered at all times, but I just put on my long-sleeved swimsuit and big hat and went to "sun" myself around the pool.The heat felt wonderful. After being bald and even now, having ugly kinky hair that doesn't grow, I am really beyond caring what others think of how I look. Cancer frees you in the realm of self-image.

The first day I laid out, I was 100% covered, except for the bottoms of my feet which I gave no thought to. Well, 15 minutes later, they were very burned and we had to run to CVS for lidocaine to try to deal with the pain. (it didn't help) Thus, shoes needed.

Here are a few pictures of our week.



Ice cream cones at Kilwin's

My most-beloved family

Celebrating being alive!!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017


After Mom came, my parents spent a second honeymoon in Paris. Their reunion was joyous. They moved into the 300-year-old house, but ate many of their meals with Madame Salm at the inn with other American army families. They moved a bed and Mike's crib into the kitchen to keep warm because the kitchen had an oil stove. There was no central heat. "Mike slept in his snowsuit between us the first night. It was that cold," Mom told me.

While Dad was at Captieux, Mom took long walks along the promenade and went to the market in the square. Her favorite friend was a vegetable farmer, Monsieur Garliss. He had a turtle that Mike loved. Garliss would take Mike behind his store and call for Fifi and the turtle would come. Mom was in her glory with all the beautiful flowers sold in the market.

I was in this picture!!

Neither of my parents were big wine drinkers, but the water wasn't safe so they drank more wine. When in France....  Mike was given evaporated milk diluted with chlorinated water. They bought bread and meat, fresh every day, at one of the market stalls.

When the Tour de France came through Bazas, as it still does to this day, they went to the highway to stand and watch the cyclists.

Life in Bazas was rich. They never felt that the "lacks" in their life were significant. Bed in the kitchen? So what? No indoor toilet? No problem. They were so content.

When the car arrived from the US, they felt their time there really took on a new level of excitement. They put 23,000 miles on the Chevy by taking trips all over Europe on weekends. They made up their own itinerary and just took off. They saw Spain and Italy and Netherlands. They spent time in many locations in France. They took in England and Germany and Switzerland. In the wintertime, they'd go to the ocean-side city of Biarritz and get a motel "so we could take a hot bath."

Traveling all over Europe with a toddler was easy-breezy in the '50's. No seat belts. "We'd plunk him in the back seat with a pile of books and a few bananas and we never heard a peep out of him." When they stopped for the night, they would have Mike run up and down the motel halls. He was speaking French quite fluently before they left just by playing with other children.

I wrote a book about (from interviews with them) their years in Bazas and I cherish knowing the details about this time they spent exploring another continent. Mom wrote details from every trip to her parents and Dad's and most of those letters still remain.

They stayed in touch with Madame Salm. She sent a dress and bonnet when I was born. I don't know if they stayed close to the Garliss family.

"I'd go back to Bazas tomorrow," Mom told me. "I don't know if there was ever another time in our lives that we were more carefree and we were surrounded by all that awesomeness of Europe."

Were the 2 years in Europe the highlight of their married life?

"Other than the joy of our children, it was. Absolutely," Mom confirmed. Dad echoed, "It was such a wonderful experience. I would do it all over again in a minute."

When I wrote the story of their life in France, I learned the "rest of the story," but I had never read these letters to Mom that Dad wrote to her. It filled in those missing months of Dad's life when they were apart.

I come away from all these letters from Dad knowing that my parents had an incredible love for each other. They lived a love story. I feel so lucky to have been born into that love and raised inside of their nurturing arms. 

Thanks, Dad, for leaving these letters for us. The journey with you through them has been a joy.