The Calling

Cape Cod was calling me one sub-zero morning last winter.

Or so I thought.

I’ve always loved the peaceful, beautiful beaches of Truro located on the tip of the Cape, but it’s been years since I’ve made a trip out to the coast.

I busily researched cozy cottages to rent and considered the logistics of getting there from the midwest for a short spring visit. It would make for a complicated itinerary, yet a Cape visit was still pretty tempting.

Yet something else was calling me as well.

It was the sweet simplicity and low cost of a trip to a lovely lake just an hour away. I’d been there as a child and years later with my late husband.

I found some photos of a charming little lake cottage on line and immediately booked it.

As I first walked through the door of the cottage last weekend, I knew I’d made the right decision.

It was built of stone, well over a hundred years ago, and was filled with personality and old world charm.

I saw well worn canoe paddles repurposed as book shelves next to the pictures of sail boats on the wall.

I felt the sea foam green soft throws ready to use for naps on the porch, and as lap blankets on the porch swing by the water.

And I tasted salt water taffy in the big candy jar.

Taking the steps down to the dock that evening with my camera, I smelled the promise of fresh walleye dinners also in that lake water.

I decided to sit for a while waiting for the sunset. I was hopeful the day’s heavy cloud cover would melt into a pool of warm colors just in time for sundown.

I watched what looked to be a loon swimming, then circling in the distance.

He appeared to be watching me.

About twenty minutes later, I bid adieu to the lone loon and started to climb the steps back up to the cottage.

But suddenly the loon abruptly called out to me.

I turned and finally took a picture of my sunset.

Nodding to the loon, I realized I’d found my calling after all.

The Waiting Game

I know that spring in Minnesota always comes on its own terms.

So patiently I stand firmly on shore.

Others choose to take a seat, betting on when the ice will finally go out after one particularly long winter.

90 percent of the slippery stuff needs to melt before an ‘ice out’ is deemed official.

But this morning I do sense some movement.

First inch by inch, now foot by foot, I find us clearly making some progress.

I spot a few sleepy fishermen already in the shallow bay behind me casting into the chilly waters that have recently reappeared.

I also see and hear a boat with a motor off in the distance dancing around the perimeter of the remaining massive ice block.

Perhaps the anxious captain believes that breaking the waves will help the overall ice out effort.

But I remain calm as I do know that all good things come to those who wait.

And I know for sure that I’ve been waiting a very long time.

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.

We have so much to learn

I grieve this morning for my country, my home state of Minnesota, and the city of St. Paul in the aftermath of yesterday’s shootings. I grieve for the families and friends of those involved, and this morning especially for our children.

May there be peace for the sweet four year old daughter of Philandro Castile’s girlfriend who witnessed the violence from the back seat of a car.

May there be peace for the children and tight knit community of J.J Hill Montissori who adored the late Mr. Castile, a cafeteria supervisor.

May there be peace for all children in this country who seek to understand the fireworks of violence that continue to explode before them. And strength for their parents tasked with helping them make sense of it all.

I too work with young children in a Minnesota school. As I pack up my peanut butter and jelly sandwich to join the children in our summer program today, I’m including a spoonful of strength I read from a mission statement for James J. Hill Montissori School:

“To nurture and empower individuals to become lifelong learners, skilled peacemakers, and problem solvers.”

I’ll be keeping those words handy in my pocket this morning.

Perhaps we all should.

It seems we have so much more to learn in this country.

And so much more to teach as well.


These are a few of my favorite things…

It’s November and Oprah Winfrey just came out with her annual list of favorite things.

And so have I.

Mine’s a soupy Minnesota hot dish version, but this hearty list is practically guaranteed to keep you warm at 30 below, with just a 20 dollar bill.

You betcha.

And the list trades in those extra big dollar signs, for smaller dollar and second-hand stores.


Number one on my season’s list are the blazing neon red snow pants I found over at the local thrift store.

They’re sure to be a beacon in any blizzard, especially with the extra 30 pounds they’ll add to any physique.

And that blazing red color is a perfect match for Halls cherry cough drops, number two on my list this year. No holiday stocking is complete with out a bag of these chest clearing candies competing with the odor of traditional peppermint canes.

And how about a pair of blizzard tested boots made north of the border in Canada? They’re number 3 on the list. These second-hand store gems, with thick tire track soles, are sure to give you a heartier grip on snow banks than any pair made in tropical Taiwan.

And speaking of hearty, the fine citizens down the road in Hopkins made number 4 on the list with their ‘rich and hearty’ Italian Sausage soup sold over at the market.

Oh to feel rich at just $1.00 a can!

And to treat yourself for all those snow shoveling sessions this winter, consider picking up one of those dinner plate sized donuts I also found in Hopkins. This heavy delicacy weighed in at number 5 on my list.

For just $.89 cents, you’ll surely be replenishing any protein needs with the peanut butter chips floating on top of that icy glaze.

In the arts and crafts category, I selected a 350 pack of red cotton swabs for number 6 on my list this year. You and your friends can play with the plethora of Pinterest project ideas till purple pansies return in spring.

Cotton swab sheep ornaments, anyone?

Since my cat broke a bottle of make up this week, for number 7 I’ve selected a non breakable replacement tube from the dollar store titled “Sassy + Chic”.

Sounds like a winner to me, and the cat purred in agreement just hearing the name.

I also consulted with my mini dog pack to weigh in on Oprah’s pick of $39.00 faux fur jackets before I finalized my selection for number 8 on my list

The pups were underwhelmed with the jackets and fashionista look, instead unaminously voting for rawhides.

They figured their flying collective dog hair was already enough to keep an extra chi or doxie warm this winter.

As a self appointed Francophile, number 9 practically waltzed from the shelf into my basket at the dollar store.

Wow! A French luxury item for only a buck, “Doigts de Dame.”

The English translation is lady fingers.

Though turning over the package, I saw the company is actually Canadian and the treats are made in Spain. But hey, we can dream ‘April in Paris’ as we munch to keep warm in January.

Oooh la la!

For the 10th and last item on my list of favorite things, I thought I’d revert to my Midwestern sensibility and select something all merry makers and bargin shoppers should never be without.

One new carton of Ibruprofen.

In fact, I’ll open the bottle and take one now.

All the excitement’s got me dreaming of a long winter’s nap.

And that may just be my most favorite thing of all.