Russia’s invasions of Ukraine’s northern regions and seashores are unconscionable by any measure I can imagine. Putin’s greed and his lack of empathy for civilians, especially women and children, are on full display to all but the Russian people whose information comes solely from state radio and television stations. And Putin is only 69 years old, making possible a long future as leader of the country.

I am daily impressed with the resilience of the Ukrainian people, the brave positions taken by soldiers who have urged their families to leave their homes until it becomes safe for them to return. The citizen soldiers, some of them young women, have taken on roles they are equipped only by their zeal and fortitude to engage in. 

The beautiful children whose lives have been forever scarred break my heart. Someone wrote the other day asking how women in this country would feel if all the men were to be drawn into a destructive war that provides little chance of survival. The warriors seem committed to a cause that will likely be futile. David and Goliath.

I admire President Zelensky who has risen to the occasion with courage, wisdom, and apparent willingness to see it through, whatever that may mean. 

If this escalates to a world-wide battle, involving too many countries with nuclear capabilities, some with tyrannical leaders, all motivated by a greed similar to Putin’s, we in this country will not be on the sidelines, across an ocean, out of harm’s way. I pray a solution short of WWIII can be found. 

A secondary concern is that fossil fuels are a prime motivator in this mess. I have been tentatively encouraged by baby steps being taken to save our world from a continued assault on its resources, the warming of the seas, and escalation of destructive storms, fires, and droughts. Maybe this is a topic for another day.

George Fairman

From the time I began working at the church in 1998, George Fairman has been the “face of MVUUF” for me. He and Phyllis made sure I found what I needed to succeed in a job that had no clear parameters. When the building program began, George spent much of his time on site, encouraging, often prodding, running errands, finding contractors, making sure his vision would become our reality. It did.

Serving on most church committees gave him a wide-reaching view of our successes and our needs. In his inimitable style, always with confidence and a twinkle in his eye, he found ways to accomplish things on a small budget. His careful record-keeping made each new committee chair and member aware of what had been done, whom to call for specific services, and how to locate misplaced pieces of equipment. When he was nominated for the Prairie Star District’s “Keeping the Faith” award, no one was surprised at his selection.

His constant positive voice in the choir and the music committee helped those groups stay focused on what mattered to all of us: the joy and satisfaction of bringing quality music to the congregation.

As we contemplate his life, we reflect on his impact on the many people whose lives he touched. His warmth, good humor, timely and thoughtful responses to people’s needs gave him a stature to be celebrated. Having had him in our lives we can say with conviction, “It’s a wonderful world.” Oh Yeah!

As people are emerging from the restrictions and isolation of the pandemic, some things annoy me, some frighten me, and some make me smile. The annoyances may be offshoots of freedom from restrictions and isolation. Drivers are rolling through 4-way stops, racing on straight stretches of road, ignoring zipper merges, texting at stoplights and missing the green light creating a frenzy of impatient honking of horns. Another annoyance is late night fireworks that sound like cannons. I have sympathy for the neighborhood dogs. Robocalls are unnecessarily intrusive; I tend to ignore calls from numbers I don’t recognize. I probably miss a few friendly calls, but so far no one has called me on it.

Thieves of packages from porches, or catalytic converters, or yard signs and lawn ornaments puzzle me. Dishonesty is not part of my understanding of the responsibilities of humanity. Painted symbols or obscenities on fences or on buildings disturb me. Littering and destruction show no healthy respect for our world.

I am frightened by the rising level of crime in cities. Guns take so many lives of innocents. Walking or driving in some parts of the city, especially after dark, has become dangerous. All of the fear caused by people who feel left out or somehow disadvantaged by society shouldn’t be part of a civilized nation.

The divisiveness of politics troubles and often frightens me. I don’t recognize my country in some of the behavior I read about in the newspapers. I don’t understand people who deny climate change even as we are in the midst of fires and floods, melting ice in arctic waters making seas rise, increasing deadly storms affecting all parts of the country. I am bewildered by those who refuse to be vaccinated for Covid, putting others at risk.

We love walking or driving through our neighborhood. Some of the landscaping is notable and creative. Painted rocks or friendly messages chalked on a sidewalk make me smile. Young people playing a friendly game of ball or tennis and riding bikes are healthy signs of summer. I love seeing a young person pulling weeds, mowing lawns, or shoveling snow. Neighbors helping neighbors remind me of growing up in a small town where it was a common sight and where I always felt safe.

I suspect it’s my age talking. I long for days of peaceful and loving behaviors. I miss feeling safe and useful. May we see once again some of what made this a place to be proud to call home.

Growing up in a small town was a blessing. Our neighborhood was safe, and we knew most people who lived near us. Mom and Dad had four children; I was the first. Since they had three more, I must have been a success. Or maybe they kept trying until they got it right. I prefer to think I was the prototype. We lived near the city park with a playground, ball fields, picnic area, band shell, roller rink, and a beautiful lake.

On our block were thirteen children, always something going on. We played ball, decorated our bikes and wagons for parades, gave original plays in our garage, and were outside most of the time. I can’t recall being too hot to do any of the things we did. That could be because the memories are happy ones, and they involved the activities and the interactions with friends.

As we got older, there were piano lessons, band practices, dance classes – I learned tap from a man from “the cities” named Harry Croskin – and we spent time with friends from early morning to dark. It was an interesting childhood.

During the mid- to late-forties, polio happened. Our mom and dad were extremely protective of us; we went nowhere in crowded places. All the neighborhood kids were as restricted as we were. Parents were more afraid of exposure than we kids were. We were being deprived of all the innocence of our previous unprotected days. We didn’t totally understand what was happening. A cousin who lived in our town and whose family were very close to ours, contracted the awful disease. We finally had some idea of polio’s devastating effect on a family.

I titled this blog post “Graduation” because I have seen a connection between that early quarantine and the past year and a half. During our recent sheltering in place, schools were unable to serve students in a usual manner. Senior year experiences like games, concerts, plays, proms and graduation celebrations were modified or simply not held. In a small town, the athletic competitions are part of the town’s identity. Music and theater departments’ performances normally drew support from the entire community. Award presentations were missed. All things that are usual rites of passage, especially in a small community, didn’t occur. In our family we had a college graduation and three high school graduations during 2020-2021. Somehow it all happened without the usual fanfare and celebration.

As a former teacher I felt empathy for students and teachers alike. I understood the difficulty of teaching remotely, and I sympathized with families who had to figure it all out to make some kind of educational sense of an extremely complex situation. Making accommodations for individual learning is more easily accomplished in an in-person classroom. Even there some students struggle. I suspect learning has been set back at least a year for too many.

Everywhere I look I see a need for rain. Lawns are getting brown in spots, flowers need daily watering, temperatures continue to break records for heat, and it’s barely summer. We have been in our little bubble since the beginning of the pandemic. It’s been 450 days since we began to stay at home. I have begun to feel more contented with this, and as friends urge us to get out of our comfort zone, aka home, we hesitate.
Our family are all vaccinated, we think. I know of one cousin who has refused, but we can avoid seeing her. I am full of fear. I do not want Covid. I wear a mask when I am not at home. I avoid crowds where some nut who has a gun with a high capacity magazine and rage could take advantage of his right to bear arms and shoot randomly at my friends and me. Activities we enjoy, concerts, theater, the state fair, and family gatherings, are not enticing me now.
Today I decided it isn’t good for me to read comments on facebook attacking things I care about. I fight anxiety, and so far I seem to be managing it. It is interesting that I am happy, mostly. Life has been good to us. We love our home and our neighborhood. We have food and comfortable surroundings. Unlike many I know, I do not crave the companionship of friends.
What lies ahead?

I just realized that today’s title sounds like a movie sequel, as will the next post. The choir had a rehearsal last night via Zoom. In preparation I was advised by my friend Beverly to be sure to put on lipstick. We could see everyone as we sang, but I could hear only Nicole, our director, and me as we sang through parts sight reading some new music. It’s a work in progress. I thought Nicole and I did just fine singing the alto part. It was fun to have a check-in at the beginning to find out everyone’s days are similar right now; none of us has had symptoms of Covid-19. Some were missing the chance to sing with others in their sections. In order to make music look and sound like some we’ve seen on line, with all the faces and voices seen and heard, we’d have to make a sizable investment. And then there would be the “retakes.” What we have right now is more than some choirs manage. I’d say that’s enough for the time being.

Lately people have been making lists on facebook of things they’ve done, foods they do or do not like, or places they’ve visited. Another that has appeared lately is  a list of performers you’ve seen in person with one “ringer” in the list. Do I ever feel old when I only recognize one or two performers or groups out of 10. Picking out the odd one would really be a guess for me. I suppose I could do a list of plays I’ve seen.

One thing I’ve found soothing these days is music. It makes my heart sing and be soothed. This morning I was again delighted by 4 of the actors who had played the title role of Evan Hanson singing “Forever” together. Another recent post on Fb featured a father and daughter singing “The Prayer.”  I lose myself in “Bring Him Home” from Les Mis when it’s done with tenderness. I have always turned to music when my life has been unsettled. Creative spirit is revived in times of despair, and right now I need to be reminded of how much beauty is present is a moving performance, or art, or tiny plants emerging after a long winter. When I open myself to the light, it brings me peace.

  • I’m proud of my community’s response to Governor Walz’s “stay at home” order. We see a few people walking,  and we see parents and children biking. All are keeping distances as they meet or pass others. We wave to people we pass on our walk; we are appreciating the weather. I love to see the sunshine. It makes spring seem possible. Little sprouts are appearing in our gardens, and our pussy willows are in full “flower.” The catkins are a delight. I already have two big dried bouquets of pussy willows in the house, and I’m considering adding two more. The problem I have is getting rid of the old ones.

    Speaking of gardens, I watched Leslie Mills give a tour of her gardens on facebook, identifying so many little sprouts of perennials that are a promise of spring. I was impressed that she could name all the little plants by seeing just a peek of green. She planted a wide variety of green and flowering plants to have something in bloom spring to fall. New growth provides a promise of a new beginning for our post-coronavirus world. We just need patience and determination to get through this time. And we need to find hope in the natural things that go on in spite of us.

    Staying at home is providing time for writing, so I’ve revisited my blog. I want a personal record of this time for my grandchildren to have. I confess to spending too much time on facebook and reading newspapers on line. We may be in for a long wait for the pandemic to ease. I hope we do wait instead of easing the restrictions too soon. As an introvert, I can last. George really misses playing tennis each morning, but he can last with me. To survive, we will do what’s necessary.

  • Today is Sunday, a day when church activities play a usual role in our lives. The choir is no longer rehearsing, and services have been suspended until further notice. We were able to watch “Sunday Morning” on CBS in real time. Our day is filled with the things of staying home: reading, writing, exercising, cooking, and later we’ll watch some British television via Acorn TV. Son Todd brought us some eggs from his shopping trip this morning. He left them in the garage – no direct contact.

    Minnesota has had 14 fatalities from covid-19 as of a few minutes ago.  Hospitals are not equipped as they need to be; health care workers are weary from too much work with not enough support. This is not going as well as it should in this country.

    Yesterday we had some sad news about a long-time friend from our Minnesota Education Association (MEA) days. Bill Haring was active on the Government Relations Council and the PAC Board (Impace MEA) with me for several years. We lobbied in Washington D.C. and at the MN legislature. We attended state and national NEA activities, and he and his wife shared many interests with us. We’ve remained in touch since the 1980s. Now Bill has stage 4 cancer of the pancreas and liver. He’s at home, and his friends are caring from a distance as we are all in Covid-19 Stay at Home mode right now, and for the foreseeable future.

    This nightmare experience is having a profound effect on the population. It will be difficult to recover from the death and devastation and the resulting changes in our everyday life. This is an election year, and it is also a Census year. The census is underway, and many of  us have filled out the forms on line. Everything is in limbo right now because the full extent and the outcomes of the scourge are not known. The virus is bringing out the worst in some and the best in others. Hatred and love are at opposite ends of the present life spectrum, and from the sidelines we watch emotions play out. Fear brings uncertainty and it can make people lash out at any target that is “other.” Feelings of helplessness and empathy manifest in neighbor helping neighbor as well as in acts of charity and generosity in other forms. The spirit that has shown itself in other national crises is still part of us if we give it a chance.



    Schools and churches are closed until further notice. Teachers have on-line classes prepared, and students are staying home with the adults. Outdoor activities are acceptable, but 6 foot spacing is advised. Bikers, runners, walkers and strollers are keeping a 6-foot space on paths, in the streets, and in parks on nice days. Spring seems to be trying to make its way here earlier this year with temperatures in the 50s during the day, 30s at night. Rain keeps us indoors on days like today. Climate change has caused some interesting weather patterns with temperatures nearing 100 degrees in Oklahoma today, and it’s still March. Storms are more extreme, and flooding is at its usual spring pace. Meanwhile, the people are staying home. Predictions have a baby boom in 9 months, an increase in divorces, and violence in volatile families.

    Because of technology, we have a glut of information; some of it is conflicting as the government spokespeople don’t want us to panic, and they are concerned about the economy that has been shut down, so we are being reassured. Some responsible news outlets are telling us things are not improved, but are getting worse. Those of us who have people working in health care are aware of the desperate nature of this pandemic. Honesty could make people more careful about staying home and distancing. Many young people spent spring break on the Florida beaches, exacerbating the spread of the virus. Mardi Gras festivities in New Orleans caused a serious uptick of cases there. All of this is happening while essential equipment isn’t getting to hospitals. This will be a long, deadly summer. In Italy, doctors are being forced because of the situation, to give preferential treatment to those whose chance of survival is deemed more possible.

    Another side issue was precipitated by the president’s calling this scourge the “Chinese coronavirus.”  Asian citizens are being harassed, attacked, threatened by some who think this country is only for white people. Blaming immigration for this problem is dangerous and irresponsible. We have become in some quarters a very angry people, acquiring a sense of power and privilege through hatred. I fear for the future.


    We are 2 weeks into “social distancing” in Minnesota. Governor Walz has issued an order to stay at home except for urgent activities such as grocery shopping, doctor visits, buying gas. People are behaving as instructed, mostly. Some are irrational: hoarding toilet paper, hand sanitizer and sanitary wipes, eggs and milk. Stores are restocking essential items that are gone within an hour.

    Some of the confusion is caused by President Trump who daily tells the public that we are taking care of things, hospital are in good shape, businesses should be opened as normal by Easter. Those in the front lines know we have just begun to see the pandemic come to life in this country where more people are infected than in any other nation. Hospitals do not have necessary “PPE” (personal protection equipment). Doctors and nurses are wearing the scarce masks and gowns all day, going from patient to patient without new protection, sometimes putting garbage bags over their gowns which are porous. Ventilators are in extremely short supply. Testing is so scarce that many places are not able to identify those needing extraordinary medical treatment. People are dying for lack of essential treatment. There is no cure or medicine that relieves symptoms and we are probably 18 months from a vaccine.

    We have canceled a trip to California for a Senior Cup Tennis Tournament where George was registered to play. We also will not be going to Broadway for our theater weekend, or to concerts by the MN Orchestra and St Paul Chamber Orchestra. Theaters are closed until further notice, so all our scheduled arts experiences are not being held. Our river cruise to Eastern Europe has been canceled by us. We learned that getting “Cancel for Any Reason” insurance is wise. We were insured for much less than our expenditures for the Gate 1 cruise.

    This may be only the beginning of the frightening life we will face as a new normal.