All are welcome here

Soon I’ll be leaving all electronic devices in my comfortable home and making an hour and a half drive back in time to a one room log cabin 90 miles away.

I hope the young grandchildren I take with me do the same.

Originally constructed in 1868 on the Minnesota prairie, this simple cabin of hand-hewn logs and wooden pegs now rests in a park located in a nearby town of 200 people.

My great grandmother Christine lived inside her first winter in America along with family and the other Swedish immigrants who helped build it. In total, 11 people slept in a space no bigger than my 8 by 10 foot back porch.

In spite of brutal blizzards and negative zero wind chills, these immigrants survived and then thrived in the years that followed with dogged determination and dedication to hard work.

They toiled in the fields year after year growing wheat and raising cattle as did several generations after them.

Today immigrants from East Africa and other continents also live in the region surrounding the cabin, along with descendants of the earlier settlers.

Their tastes may lean towards lamb as opposed to beef or lutefisk, but they share my early ancestors’ determination and dedication to hard work.

I’m pretty sure when my grandchildren arrive to see the old cabin in the park they’ll also want to play on the shiny swing set now sitting on the playground in front of it.

I’m also confident they’ll want to share it with any new children in the area that they meet.

It seems parks and swing sets in America still speak a universal language.

And fortunately, so do our children.

This game called life

Ok, so here’s a true confession.

I almost dropped my bowling ball today.

Well, actually I almost dropped it twice.


Anyway, maybe it was because I haven’t played in over 25 years.

Or maybe it was due to the crispy coating from the chicken wings greasing my fingers.

I decided to take a quick break and study my four year old grandson’s technique for a while.

Today was the little guy’s big bowling debut.

I noticed he didn’t care that his bright orange ball bounced over to the next lane.

And he didn’t mind when the ball rolled back towards the pepperoni pizza tables either.

He wasn’t embarrassed in the least.

And he wasn’t wasting time making any lame excuses.

My youngest grandkid was just having fun.

In fact, he was busy ‘high five-ing’ the entire bowling alley.

Suddenly I was as well.

Though there may not have been any strikes for me this afternoon, I sure did score some smiles the rest of the day from my grandkids.

In this game called life, I’m thinking that surely makes me a winner.

Fireflies and fireworks

With my eight year old granddaughter Alexxis riding shotgun, and two sleepy pups in the back seat, we took off for the country.

Or what’s left of it anyway.

I was searching for a simpler, quieter 4th of July weekend. Something akin to the one I enjoyed when I was her age.

A weekend full of front porches, lemonade, ice cream, with plenty of cozy books and crayons came to mind.

And sprinkled lightly with just a spoonful of fireworks.

Hitting the highway out of the city to the south, I noticed the road wasn’t the same as I remembered.

Instead of crops growing tall, it was the Golden Arches of McDonald’s and casinos that now beckoned.

And new treeless housing developments of endless large taupe colored homes. All clustered tightly together, with each house perfectly identical to the one next door.

Yet by the time we took a right to enter the big lot of the state’s largest candy store a half hour later, I noticed the landscape had changed.

Getting out of the car, I could see the corn surrounding me was “knee high by the 4th of July.”

Just as it should be. And maybe even taller.

And off in the distance I spotted grain silos on what seemed be a couple family farms.

At least I hoped they still were.

Alexxis and I smiled as we entered and  then walked through the mammoth isles of the candy shop. Our noses were happy as well as we caught the scent of fresh berry pies from the bakery within.

She picking out her favorite Bazooka gum and gummy bears.

Me selecting the sweet treats of my youth like Sugar Daddys, an apple pie, and root beer candy sticks.

I laughed as the root beer smell brought me back to one particular 4th of July memory when I was a child.

After too many sweets and too many stops at homes of friends and family, the new car smell of my parent’s brand new sedan soon was permanently overtaken with the scent of root beer fizzies mixed with something, well, not quite as pleasant and gifted by me.

Back in my car, Alexxis and I continued our drive through lush valleys until the road evened out some.

Before approaching the small farm where we would be staying, I introduced Alexxis to my favorite books back when I was her age that featured two young girls living in a Midwestern small town in the early 1900s named Betsy and Tacy.

We stopped for a brief tour of each of their original homes and to buy a special book bag for Alexxis’s growing collection of books at the little gift store attached.

After unpacking at the farmhouse, Alexxis rocked in the front porch swing with her new Betsy and Tacy book to the hum of a farmer haying in the field across the road.

And I settled into the rocking chair, dozing for a while.

Then suddenly Alexxis announced, “Fireflies Grandma, Fireflies!”

She’d never seen one before and I haven’t since I was a child.

But she was right.

There they were, dancing brightly near the blooming white snowball bush.

We danced as well, warmed by the light of the fireflies, skipping the fireworks display  in town.

There will be always be fireworks we figured.

But only one chance to be a kid.

Or maybe two, as just for a brief moment I was a kid back in the country once again.

Gifts from the heart

It wasn’t a new car smell at all, but something akin to glue that crinkled my nose.

And put a wrinkle in my spirits.

I’d arrived at the shop to pick up my car after its two week spa visit, which included a partial body redo and plenty of candy red polish.

It sorely needed some TLC after being rear ended on the interstate.

Yet upon opening my front car door I noticed a mirror that was to be fixed had some how been forgotten.

And then the body shop manager happened to mention, “Oh, and by the way I think your battery’s shot.”

My heart sank as I drove off and tried to find someone willing to put one in on a weekend afternoon.

But a nearby station mechanic announced after testing it that there was a spark actually left in the old girl, and suddenly my heart rose again.

Particularly when the mechanic looked me in the eye and said, “No charge.”

Soon I felt my own spark return and so much younger.

I celebrated by traveling to the lake with my car windows down, soaking up the scents of spring mixed with clear blue water.

A soothing sailboat regatta in the distance quickly put miles between the unpleasant memories of rush hour highways and my busted vehicle weeks before.

Near the swimming beach I was greeted by my three young grandchildren to celebrate my grandson’s birthday.

But I found that I may have received the best present of all.

Each of them ran through the grass collecting wispy remnants of blooming dandelions in bouquets just for me.

Great gifts of the heart, pumped so full of love.

And we blew the old dandelions just like kisses, before I received a few special ones to call my own.

Right there on my left cheek, to remember always.

And you can bet I always will.

Little Mr. Innocent

My dog Rex and I were both taking a cat nap on the couch.

Or so I believed.

Until I heard a tapping sound.

Followed by a click.

And then another one.

Uh oh, I thought.

It seems Rex shares my little grandson’s love for technology.

Though Rex’s passion runs towards an iPad instead of a computer.

Which just happens to be on the coffee table by the couch much of the time.

I’d already caught Rex dancing on my Facebook screen where he managed to mess up my keyboard last week.

Then today he discovered something really new and exciting.

Prior to napping, I’d been busy deleting pictures off the iPad as my memory was so full I couldn’t take any more.

Evidentially I was successful.

While I was still sleeping away, Rex had peeled back my iPad cover with his tiny teeth, tapped down on the big button, and managed to take himself a couple of selfies.

I caught him in the act on the third.

But I’ve got to say the boy’s got some talent worth developing.

Just like my sweet little grandson.