Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Precious Gift

I didn't write this...but wanted to share it with you...have a Merry Christmas!

We were the only family with children in the restaurant. I sat Erik in a high chair and noticed everyone was quietly sitting and talking. Suddenly, Erik squealed with glee and said, 'Hi.' He pounded his fat baby hands on the high chair tray. His eyes were crinkled in laughter and his mouth was bared in a toothless grin, as he wriggled and giggled with merriment.

I looked around and saw the source of his merriment. It was a man whose pants were baggy with a zipper at half-mast and his toes poked out of would-be shoes. His shirt was dirty and his hair was uncombed and unwashed. His whiskers were too short to be called a beard and his nose was so varicose it looked like a road map. We were too far from him to smell, but I was sure he smelled. His hands waved and flapped on loose wrists. 'Hi there, baby; hi there, big boy. I see ya, buster,' the man said to Erik. My husband and I exchanged looks, 'What do we do?'

Erik continued to laugh and answer, 'Hi.' Everyone in the restaurant noticed and looked at us and then at the man. The old geezer was creating a nuisance with my beautiful baby. Our meal came and the man began shouting from across the room, 'Do ya patty cake? Do you know peek-a-boo? Hey, look, he knows peek- a-boo.'

Nobody thought the old man was cute. He was obviously drunk. My husband and I were embarrassed.

We ate in silence; all except for Erik, who was running through his repertoire for the admiring skid-row bum, who in turn, reciprocated with his cute comments.

We finally got through the meal and headed for the door. My husband went to pay the check and told me to meet him in the parking lot. The old man sat poised between me and the door.

'Lord, just let me out of here before he speaks to me or Erik,' I prayed. As I drew closer to the man, I turned my back trying to sidestep him and avoid any air he might be breathing. As I did, Erik leaned over my arm, reaching with both arms in a baby's 'pick-me-up' position. Before I could stop him, Erik had propelled himself from my arms to the man.

Suddenly a very old smelly man and a very young baby consummated their love and kinship. Erik in an act of total trust, love, and submission laid his tiny head upon the man's ragged shoulder. The man's eyes closed, and I saw tears hover beneath his lashes. His aged hands full of grime, pain, and hard labor, cradled my baby's bottom and stroked his back. No two beings have ever loved so deeply for so short a time.

I stood awestruck. The old man rocked and cradled Erik in his arms and his eyes opened and set squarely on mine. He said in a firm commanding voice, 'You take care of this baby.'

Somehow I managed, 'I will,' from a throat that contained a stone.

He pried Erik from his chest, lovingly and longingly, as though he were in pain. I received my baby, and the man said, 'God bless you, ma'am, you've given me my Christmas gift.'

I said nothing more than a muttered thanks. With Erik in my arms, I ran for the car. My husband was wondering why I was crying and holding Erik so tightly, and why I was saying, 'My God, my God, forgive me.'

I had just witnessed Christ's love shown through the innocence of a tiny child who saw no sin, who made no judgment; a child who saw a soul, and a mother who saw a suit of clothes.

I was a Christian who was blind, holding a child who was not. I felt it was God asking, 'Are you willing to share your son for a moment?' when He shared His for all eternity.

The ragged old man, unwittingly, had reminded me, 'To enter the Kingdom of God, we must become as little children.'

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Monday, October 4, 2010

Cherished Chairs

Recently, I adopted another member into my family of "Cherished Chairs." It's the sort of thing that just happens... no planning.

This time it happened at a supper at First Lutheran Church of Norway Lake. Paul and I joined the line of folks waiting to buy dinner tickets. As we inched forward, we came to the first of many long tables filled with craft and "pre-owned" items that were being sold as a fund-raiser. Between the first two tables was old wooden spindle-back chair with a bright pink price tag on it. I leaned forward to read the tag. . . $5!

In my head I said, "Sold!" but outwardly I played the part of a real expert. I tested it to see how sturdy it was. I looked under the seat to see what kind of wood it was made of. I ran my finger along it's sleek lines and felt it's somewhat dimpled complection. In reality, I didn't care about any of that. I just plain wanted it and that was that. Paul kind of rolled his eyes but he knew in the end, the chair would be mine. He'd been down this road with me before.

I have a certain weakness for chairs...especially if they are all alone. If you've ever been to an auction, you've heard them refered to as "odd." I've always wondered about that. Does being alone or one-of-a-kind make one odd?

Some day, my children will hold an auction to get rid of all my old stuff. And as people wander among the rows of cherished chairs, I'm pretty sure, someone will refer to me as odd.

I'm okay with that.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Why Fly South?

Late summer days in Minnesota can be some of the most pleasant and most beautiful of the entire year. I caught these geese basking in the morning sunshine today on the banks of Lake Minnewaska in Glenwood.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The First Annual "Rock Pickers Triatholon"

It was a beautiful summer evening in rural Minnesota when my husband (the Agricultural Engineer) asked me to give him a hand and pick a round of rocks in the soybean field. I was working on my stairway project but agreed to wrap it up and head over to meet him at the 'Olson' farm about four miles from our place. He and the dog had taken the 'Gator' to the field and planned to keep the little safari vehicle there for a few days in order to finish the rock harvest.

I arrived and we took off up the soybean rows, finding plenty of rocks that could potentially end up in the combine if they weren't gathered. The round was a long half-mile and after we finished, we decided that one of us ought to walk 'overland' to the next farmsite toward home with the dog. Copper had been swimming in the pond and hunting in the field... he was filthy. Riding in the car wasn't an option for him.

I volunteered to take the walk across the pasture, through woods and down another field to the farmsite...a little over a mile away. On the way, a doe ran across my path...not 20 yards ahead. I should have counted all the little critters I saw, many of which scolded me for being there.

I walked through an open meadow where, two years earlier, we had planted some pine trees right out there in the sod. It was fun to see them peaking above the tall grass, showing off their new soft green needles.

I rounded the edge of a pond and picked a nice little bouquet of wildflowers and watched the geese and their fuzzy little ones swim away from me. One of the parents led the family and the other followed a distance behind, stretching its neck to be sure Copper and I weren't dog-paddling toward them.

Finally, I made it to the farmsite, hopped on the waiting bicycle and headed home with Copper following along in the ditch - tongue hanging out (the dog's not mine..okay, well maybe my tongue was hanging out, too). The wind was strong and fought with me all the way down the highway. I had only gone a mile when Paul appeared in the car. He must have known about my aching legs and my losing battle with the wind. I traded my bicycle for his car and drove home, leaving he and Copper to finish the last leg of the race.

As I arrived at home I congratulated myself for taking first place in the Rock Pickers Triatholon. It was then I realized that I had been joined in the event by an army of woodticks... 19 of them to be exact. What a prize for my first place finish!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Time for Planting

This past Memorial Day weekend, we decided it was time to plant our garden. Paul took one look and determined that it was way too lumpy and needed a better seed bed than he could prepare with just the walk-behind-tiller. He asked me to help him hook one of his tractors to the disk so he could run through the plot a couple times and smooth it out.

This is what a disk looks like all folded up.

I walked over to the disk and yelled at Paul to stop backing up the tractor. He jumped down out of the cab and came over. I pointed to a problem. There, propped on top of one of the folded up disk wings was a robin sitting on her nest, looking a bit nervous.
I told him, "If you unfold the disk, the nest will fall out...I'm sure she's got eggs in there. We better not bother her."
I was kind of surprised but he agreed that we didn't want to disturb the little family. I figured we'd just have to wait a week or so until the babies were gone.

Here's the nest...can you see the mom sitting there...scared to death? Poor thing!

Then, Paul had a brilliant idea. (He gets those sometimes.) He suggested that we lift the nest off the disk and place it temporarily on the digger that was parked close by. Then we could work the garden, bring the disk back and return the nest to its place.

That's just what we did. While I was busy moving her nest, the mama robin flew nervously overhead chirping and calling. I kept telling her it would be okay. But, she disappeared. I was hoping she'd stick around and watch where I set her nest down while we used the disk, but she didn't.

Here's what I found in the nest as I was moving it. Not too cute, are they?

We finished our work and carefully put the disk back into its place all folded up and neat, just the way it was. I moved the nest with the ugly, naked, fuzzie critters back to the exact spot they were before we invaded their world.

I thought maybe the mama wouldn't come back to her mobile home after all the craziness.
So I waited and watch....and she came back!
I'll probably check back in on her in a few days to see how the naked little uglies are doing.
For now, I'll leave the little family alone. I've caused them enough stress.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Taking it One Step at a Time

I like to take on a new 'house project' each spring -- a 'legislative assignment,' if you will.

This year, I'm refinishing my staircase...actually it's not fancy enough to be called a 'staircase.' It's just a tired old stairway that leads to the second floor of this 100-year-old house. I know it's tired because it complains OUT LOUD with squeaks and wails whenever someone walks up or down its 13 steps.

I started the assignment weeks ago and I've done six steps...that's it...SIX! (Why is it that every assignment I tackle is way harder and much more complicated than it seems at the start?)

I'm just guessing here, but I'd say this stairway was stained and varnished by the builder and remained that way for, say 40 years. Then, someone came along and decided to glue down some rubber treads and call it good for another 40 years.

Then came the 'carpet days.' Anderson (only people with the name 'Anderson' have lived in this house) pieced together some old carpet pieces on top of the rubber treads, stapled the pieces down and added a tad of glue just to make sure the 500 staples on each step would hold forever!

Then, years later, another Anderson ripped up the carpet pieces with great anticipation, hoping to find beautiful hardwood steps shining underneath. Instead, that Anderson found rubber treads and a hard layer of glue on top of them...and underneath them. Enthusiasm may have dimmed as she pulled out hundreds of staples from each step and attemped to scrape the rubber treads and the glue layers that were completely fused to the wood. Overwhelmed, she tacked down some rubber-backed carpet treads on the steps to mask the hideous layers underneath and things were good for a few more years.

ENTER: one more Anderson, volunteering to be the 'committee chairperson' for the assignment. (That's me!)

I tried a number of different strategies: an electric sander, putty knives, steel wool, steel brushes, liquid stripper......and lots of elbow grease!

Now that I've done six steps, I have it down to a routine. It involves all the above mentioned tools plus a hammer for pounding in the nails and staples I can't pull out with my needle-nose pliers, two more electric sanders, each with a different purpose and a vacuum cleaner.
Each step takes about 4 hours.

Last week I 'unalloted' the assignment....or maybe it would be better to say that I 'tabled' it.

But today is a new day...I have made a motion to take the assignment off the table and move forward with vigor!

All in favor of the motion say "aye." Opposed "nay."

Friday, April 23, 2010

Plant a Tree...Save the Earth!

Arbor Day always brings back memories of the spring afternoon when our son, Matt, then about 6, decided to save the earth...all by himself.

I was out in the yard when he came tripping off the bus and up the driveway, backpack bouncing, shoes untied, struggling with a huge bundle of 'sticks' that was nearly as big as he was.

He and his classmates had learned about the benefits of planting trees and each were given a 'stick' (seedling) to plant at home. For some reason, many of the kids left the doors of school and chucked their 'sticks' as they ran to the bus or to their bikes. Upon seeing this, Matt positioned himself and began piling the abandoned seedlings. More kids passed by and added their sticks to his pile.

When I asked about the bundle he was toting, Matt told me how he was going to make the air better for us to breathe...."Trees suck up all the bad stuff in the air...." (Translation: Trees absorb carbon dioxide.)

Without being told, he changed his clothes, found a good shovel and began his task. He was on a mission! I didn't pay much attention but this little project kept him occupied for a long time. He finally came to the house for supper, red-cheeked and dirty...and all smiles!

After supper he proudly took me by the hand to show off his little plot. He had planted all his seedlings in the woods near our house. Oops, one problem. He had put them only a few inches apart! (Matt's compact reforestation project)

We sat down on the steps, had a popsicle and a little visit about how planting trees was like planting corn......and how it was different. In the end, he allowed me to help him transplant some of his precious seedlings to other places around the yard.

Twenty-seven years later here are some of Matt's treasures...

If every American family planted just one tree, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere would be reduced by one billion pounds annually.

Plant a the earth!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

One Foundation.......Volume 2

I just have a 'thing' for churches! I like visiting them, exploring them and taking pictures of them. I hope to feature some of those we visit during our weekly wanderings.

United Methodist Church
This week, we didn't travel too far from home to enjoy fellowship and a good meal. Our wanderings took us to the United Methodist Church in Villard. Although the church is 127 years old, its members are enjoying their new building, dedicated last summer. It stands proudly across the street from a building that previously housed the congregation.

Clearly, new life has come to this congregation.

After the meal, I left the church's large gathering area and I took my little walk-about, ending up in the sanctuary. As I approached the front I could see an inlaid wooden cross fitting like a giant puzzle into the wood floor beneath the altar. It was beautiful! Turns out that a local craftsman was responsible for the amazing work of art. A member told me that the young man did most of the work by the light of a kerosene lantern as the sanctuary hadn't yet been wired with electricity. I could just picture this young man, on his knees, consentrating on the details of fitting, measuring and cutting the small individual pieces of teakwood in the intricut pattern until, at last, the final piece was tapped into its place.

I see him stepping back, looking at what he had done, and saying to himself, "It is finished."

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Holy Humor

At our church last Sunday, we celebrated "Holy Humor Sunday." People wore funny hats, team jerseys and lots of different garb. I didn't participate in the dress-up part but enjoyed the day and took some pictures. But it wasn't until today that I saw first hand God's sense of humor. Let me tell you about it.

It's my birthday today! And I started the day like I start every day...with a shower. And, as usual, I had a talk with God in the shower. (No, he's not in the shower...he sits right outside the shower curtain on the toilet.)

Anyway, on THIS day, I told him what my dreams were for the next year..what I wanted to do...what I wanted to achieve...where I wanted to be in a know, that kind of stuff. I remember mentioning that I'd like to lose the pounds that I've gathered over winter..."I'm going to need your help with that," I said.

The girls at the office gave me a nice little birthday party, complete with sugar free Cool Whip! Mmmmmm! I had the rest of the day off so I headed home. I turned into our mile-long driveway and my 'little plastic car with the paper roof' died! Not a murmur nor a groan. There was no convincing it back to life. . . believe me, I tried. I even slapped the ducks! Battery was good, full tank of logical explanation what so ever!

I pondered what to do. Please understand, I could live in my car for a week with no problems. I've got blankets, clothes, treats and lots more. But today when I looked in the back seat, the first thing I saw was my tennis shoes! And I laughed. Yup, God does have a weight loss plan for me. It involves walking...and probably other things too, like sugar free Cool Whip! Of course I thanked him for answering my prayer...and told him how funny he is!

Anyway, I strapped on my walking shoes to begin the long trip up the driveway. I had a hard time deciding what, if anything, to take with me. I ended up taking my purse....and the sugar free Cool Whip. (Just in case I felt a little faint at the half mile point!)

Yup, I believe it. God has a great sense of humor...and a plan!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

More Than Optimism...

"Who plants a seed beneath the sod and waits to see, believes in God..."

Sunday, March 28, 2010

One Foundation

I just have a 'thing' for churches! I like visiting them, exploring them and taking pictures of them. I hope to feature some of those we visit during our weekly wanderings.

South Lake Johanna Lutheran Church

This quaint wooden structure and its surrounding cemetery are nestled peacefully in an oak woods along County Road 37 in Pope County. Although there was still snow all around the day we visited, it was a beautiful day for a walk. So after we finished a wonderful turkey dinner (and Paul continued visiting, of course), my camera and I took a little walk into the sanctuary, around the grounds and down the lane and I chatted with some of the members as I toured.

Words came to mind during my 'walk about'... natural splendor, simple truth and humble beauty.

On my tour, I learned that the congregation was formed 150 years ago and the first structure lasted 56 years before a fire destroyed it. But the faithful folks of the area found the funds to replace it in 1942. And so it stands today as a sign of the faith, determination and priorities of the people who knew the importance of coming together for regular worship experiences.

As I walked up the hill away from the church, I spied this little 'watch duck,' sitting atop a large wooden fence post, keeping a broken eye on the church in the valley.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth where rust and moth corrupt or where thieves break in and steal but lay up treasures in heaven where moth and rust does not corrupt and thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is there will your heart be also.
Matthew 6:19-21

Monday, March 15, 2010

A Tasty Cup of Kindness

Last week as I was exploring downtown St. Paul, I found the most unique little restaurant called the "Q Kindness Cafe."

It was 2 in the afternoon. I was weary and tired so I wondered into the cheerful little place and was greeted by a man standing behind the counter who explained that they were closing but that I could have something simple like a pastry or something. I ordered a coffee and a homemade oatmeal raisen cookie to go. After I got my treats, he said, "You know, we'll be around here cleaning up for a while if you'd like to sit down." My feet were hurting from all the walking so I accepted his offer and took a seat on a stool at the bar. They offered me a's free with every purchase.

As I sat there, I asked a couple questions about the name of the cafe and it's origin. The waitress, who turned out to be Lisa the owner, began to tell the story which she had undoubtedly told a million times. As she spoke she wiped counters, swept the floor and absolutely glowed with such an infectious smile and zest for life that I couldn't help but want to know more. It seems that she and her husband started this cafe to serve good food and lots of kindness.

At the Q, they believe in handing out random acts of kindness ....and they do it all the time. Somehow, it always seems to come back to them in some way, shape or form. As we visited, a teenage girl ran in and asked Lisa a question. "We'd love it," Lisa said. And just like that, the girl began to sing...and wow, could she sing!

There's a hero, if you look inside your heart,
You don't have to be afraid of what you are,
There's an answer, If you reach into your soul,
And the sorrow that you know will melt away...

The sound of two people clapping brought a smile to the young girl's face and she sang another song before she went running out the door to get back to class. Lisa explained that there's a charter school for the arts that is housed upstairs from the Q and kids from there drop by all the time to share their talents...and a little kindness.

Up near the counter, there's a large roulette wheel of kindness. All around the wheel, there are names of things you can buy at the cafe. . . a muffin, a cookie, a cup of coffee, etc. and some spaces have things to do written on them --acts of kindness. You spin the wheel and pay for or do whatever it lands on. The agreement is that if you pay for something, the next person to come in and order that item will get it free and you will have performed a random act of kindness. You will probably never know whose day you brightened or how they felt but Lisa assures me that there's a special joy that goes with having given unselfishly of yourself to someone else. "I've seen grown men moved to tears when some kind person pays for their cup of coffee," said Lisa. "It's just heartwarming."

Lisa's a big fan of paying it forward. You know, it's true...when I return a favor, only two people are involved but when I turn around and do something for another person, that's how this whole kindness thing spreads!

Check out their Website:
or become a 'fan' on Facebook: The Q Kindness Cafe.
Lisa is always posting new ways to spread a little joy.

I enjoyed my visit to the little cafe, tucked into the center of the big city. As I left, I saw the little bowl of kindness quotes by the door. I picked one up and it said, "Kindness is infectious...pass it on. And I will!

At the Q Kindness Cafe, the 'Q' stands for 'Quality' ...and 'Kindness' is always on the menu.

Monday, February 15, 2010

It's RAK Week!

February 14 - 20 is Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) Week. Did you know that?

I've always liked the spirit of giving without expecting anything in I decided to see if I could find ways to celebrate RAK Week this year.

Of course there's a Random Acts of Kindness Website ( As I read different ways to observe this RAK Week, I decided that, at least in the small town I'm from, there's a lot of RAKing going on day-to-day --it's really not such a rare thing. And of course we claim 'Minnesota Nice' as a virtue.

So, my immediate mission will be to spread some kindness and take note of others doing the same. So, here are a few RAKs I've spotted so far:

I walked from the dentist's office to the coffee shop and saw an older woman doing the "Minnesota shuffle" across a huge patch of ice, guiding herself with a cane. A young person came up from behind and offered her arm in assistance. I could tell that they didn't know each other, yet the two of them continued across the slippery spot, arm-in-arm. A few words were shared and they parted.

I spotted a 'chunk-kicker.' A young man was trying in vain to remove a huge chunk of ice/snow that had built up in the wheel well of his small vehicle. A big, rather burly guy made a bee-line across the sidewalk, gave it one crack with his steel-toed work boots and the chunk fell like a rock to the pavement. They exchanged a laugh, a handshake and each went on his way.

Visiting the local grocery story after work, I stood in the checkout line behind a child who was purchasing a gallon of milk...and a candy bar. When the cashier said the total amount due, the child was a few coins short, probably because of tax on the candy bar. The cashier looked at the wide-eyed child, reached in his own pocket and made up the difference. The boy thanked the cashier who then said, "You're enjoy that candy bar, ya hear?"

It took me a while to get into the mode of actually finding ways to spread a little kindness but watching others has given me some new ideas. The acts of kindness I noticed were simple. It's about making a difference, one kind act at a time!

Okay...your turn. Start noticing random acts of kindness in your workplace, community or home. I know you'll be moved to share a little more kindness of your own. Let me know how it goes.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sometimes You Gotta Prime the Pump!

Okay...I'm back! I haven't been gone, sick or in any way incapacitated...I just couldn't get myself going this year to get some blogging done.

I'll blame it on the Blogger's Law: The more one forces one's self to write a blog, the more one's mind becomes a total blank.

Speaking of laws, here are a few more you may not have heard of before. I didn't write them, but I do abide by many of them.

Law of the Bath - When the body is fully immersed in water, the telephone will ring.

Variation Law - If you change lines (or traffic lanes), the one you were in will always move faster than the one you are in now (works every time).

Law of the Result - When you try to prove to someone that a machine won't work, it will.

Law of Biomechanics - The severity of the itch is inversely proportional to the reach.

Law of the Theater/Arena - At any event, the people whose seats are furthest from the aisle, always arrive last.

The Coffee Law - As soon as you sit down to a cup of hot coffee, someone will ask you to do something which will last until the coffee is cold.

Law of Logical Argument - Anything is possible if you don't know what you are talking about.

Brown's Law of Physical Appearance - If the clothes fit, they're ugly.

Oliver's Law of Public Speaking - A closed mouth gathers no feet.

Wilson's Law of Commercial Marketing Strategy - As soon as you find a product that you really like, they will stop making it.

Doctors' Law - If you don't feel well, make an appointment to go to the doctor, by the time you get there you'll feel better. But if you don't make an appointment, and you'll stay sick...for sure!