Advisory: if you’re squeamish about, or have a special affection of, arachnids, perhaps pass this one by.  Here’s a primer from National Geographic.  It’s only a minute or so.

I was browsing a book about King Ranch in Texas, and inside was a sheet of paper, a story, by Elba Gobar, a neighbor and friend of my parents when they lived in San Benito TX from about 1976-87 (Mom died in 1981).  Elba, who died in 2005 at 85, was a hobby writer, like me.  Her writing speaks for itself.  San Benito is a half dozen miles or so from the Rio Grande, about 20 miles from Brownsville TX.  I’m guess this was written sometime in the 1980s, but it’s pretty timeless!


“Holy Sh..!”  “Holy Sh..!”  Later I could not believe this came out of the same mouth that for the last ten days had been begging God to help me to handle anything that might happen.

This was my first night alone since Bernard had emergency surgery.  To stay alone is something in which I am totally inexperienced.  Five nights spread out over a period of forty-two years can hardly be passed as experience.  And no, in front of the stove, staring me in the face, was a tarantula legs and all the size of a coffee mug – a big coffee mug.  

Now just what in hell does one to at 11:00 pm with all the neighbors sound asleep?  I tiptoed behind it, got the Decon from under the sink and began “squeezing off”.  At the first spray, off it scurried under the stove.  I sprayed and sprayed.  Boy, did I spray! – under the stove, under the refrigerator, the door sill, a path to the bedroom, under the door and around the bed.  I locked the door and asked God to please leave the Persian Gulf long enough to give me paralysis of the bladder, at least until daylight.

The next day I brought Bernard home so I was much braver.  Besides having told Debbie of my “hairy” experience, I was ready to try her procedure for getting rid of tarantulas, lizards, crickets, frogs and roaches.

Take one big bowl

Plop down over critter

Weight down with a heavy iron skillet

Call someone braver than you in the morning

That night I was ready for that sucker.  I put out my ammunition and checked every half hour to see if he had returned.  I did not warn him as I do the roaches by saying, “I’m coming.”  Stomp!  Stomp!  “This is your last chance to hide.  I’m turning on the light.”  Stomp!  Stomp!   Not this time – I was out for revenge.  A flick of the switch – A flash of light! – there he was dining on a dead roach.

This time I figured I’d move him out in the open so I would have plenty of room for action. I took one swing with the fly swatter and damn’t wouldn’t you know, I missed.  Zip – under the refrigerator.  Again I sprayed in, out, and around everything.

I still checked every night and sprayed.  By this time I had enough dead roaches laying around to coax anything out of hiding.  No tarantula!  Several days later, in the middle of the day, I walked in the kitchen.  There it was dead in the middle of the floor.

Had it taken one daring chance to escape me, or had it wanted me to know the “Joy of victory”?

Bernard figures I got three roaches and one tarantula per two cans of Decon.

POSTNOTE: Elba reminds me of a close encounter with a gigantic centipede in a house on the Big Island of Hawaii seven years ago.  The centipede was just minding its own business in a shelf outside the house, and I was just taking something off the shelf.  You know the rest of the story….  Thanks, Elba.

“Shock and Awe”

PRENOTE: Thursday Mar 23 noon to one, Free Forgiveness introduction.  Details here.  I recommend this; a way to get acquainted with an important program..

POSTNOTE: We seem to be on the edge of major developments on the national scene.  A long time ago I said and I continue to say that the legal processes take a long time, and are a hallmark of the best aspects of the “Rule of Law” – expect that.  As for the assorted ideological issues: accusations of “woke”. etc.  The only antidotes are to be well informed first, and then to take some action to make sure your views are known to someone who can make a difference.

My preferred sources for reliable and balanced information are these: Letters from an American, Heather Cox Richardson; Civil Discourse, Joyce Vance; The Status Kuo, Jay Kuo; The Weekly Sift, Doug Muder.  Check their bio at their site.  Act.

There is so much happening, and I seem to have opinions to express two or three times a week.  Check the archive by the month at any time.


Twenty years ago today (March 19, 2003), the U.S. began the Iraq War.  The bombing began the night of March 19.  Baghdad is eight hours ahead of Twin Cities time.  It was expected, but not announced; it was horrific.  Nothing to celebrate.

I recall going to the local Fitness Center, and folks were watching on the television.  It was deadly serious time.  It will likely never be truly over.  The longest war in U.S. history, by far, even though the famous “mission accomplished” appearance by President Bush on the Aircraft Carrier off San Diego on May 3, 2003, was supposed to signal conquest.  From the beginning it was a war of choice, once in, all but impossible to exit.

A year earlier, in April, 2002, I wrote a column that was printed in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.  It can be read here: Afghanistan colum 4:2002001.  It was titled “9-11 was excuse to go to war”.  Naive as I was at the time, not once was the word “Iraq” was mentioned or even implied.  We were soon to learn this was an opportunity for certain U.S. elements to seek other objectives than avenging 9-11-01,  Al Qaeda was not the objective.

Of course, the beat goes on.  But the drumbeat is a bit different.

A peacemaker (my gig, too) was chastising our country for its support for Ukraine’s effort to defend itself against Russia.  The narrative, easily justifiable, is that going to war is no alternative to making peace, and brought up our involvement in Iraq.  Our efforts should be entirely on negotiating a peace.

We had the following exchange, shared in my post for Feb. 23, the one year anniversary of the Ukraine conflict.  My last paragraph below is my position.  I deeply respect Buddy.

from Buddy: As I read and hear mass media accounts, I find myself substituting “Iraq” for Ukraine and wondering at the comparison.  The human suffering, the atrocities, the pointless destruction, the long-term spread of toxins, the use of depleted uranium…..When the US was the illegal invader, the Ukrainian resistance would have been called insurgents.  War is immoral. War is murder.  We should do nothing to promote further death and destruction — and planetary omnicide.

War is barbaric whoever perpetrates it.  We need an international security order that is not seen as being run by the big bully who breaks all the rules.
I stand with people’s right to defend themselves but not with insisting that they kill until they themselves are killed, leaving the land and climate poisoned.   There really is a better way.
This is the 21st Century.  We’re 21 now.   Time is up on mass killing as “statecraft.”   How long can we avoid the use of nukes— even being urged by a retired US general on Fox last Sunday?  Ceasefire and negotiate.

response from Dick: earlier in this post (the first comment) I said I could probably be identified as “peacenik” and as “war monger” never guessing that Buddy would demonstrate the issue.

I became a peacenik when we bombed Afghanistan in 2001.  In April 2002 a column of mine was published in the Minneapolis paper in which I articulated my position.  I have noted often, since, that the word “Iraq” was not even mentioned in the column, which I add here: Afghanistan column 4:2002.

In Iraq, the United States was the aggressor.  In Ukraine, it is Russia that is the aggressor.  That, to me at least, is the distinction. between the two conflicts.  I have not changed my philosophy.

On this 20th anniversary of an unconscionable act by our country against another, let us take time to not only take positions, but consider ways to get into constructive dialogue in which the goal is to understand, not to dominate.  We are in a complicated world.

I once again recommend, strongly, viewing the film “Beyond the Divide”, and considering how we fit into its powerful picture.  Yes, it is hard to imagine there is another position, whichever side you happen to be on.  Let’s give dialogue a

ADDITIONAL NOTES:  Nothing is as simple as just going out to bomb Iraq.  There is a process.  In this instance, a crucial act was the Iraq War Resolution which was ultimately passed by the U.S. Senate on October 11, 2002.  There were 23 “No” votes on the resolution, including Paul Wellstone of MN (Sen. Mark Dayton voted “aye”.)

I recall the afternoon preceding the vote I made a decision to go to Paul Wellstone’s office to urge a “no” vote.  In was in the afternoon, and when I arrived there was no one there – I had expected protestors.  Turned out that Wellstone had made the difficult decision to vote “No”, which vote took place in the evening.

Minnesotans, especially those who support Wellstone, know the rest of the story: Paul Wellstone was running for reelection to the Senate, October 25, 2002, Paul, his wife Sheila, and others died in a plane crash at Eveleth MN.   Walter Mondale was pressed into service to run at the last minute, literally, in Wellstone’s stead, and was narrowly defeated by the Republican candidate.

One of the main problems with the Iraq War Resolution was that it gave carte blanche authority to the President to go to War, when the right to prosecute war was the constitutional right of the Congress.

Tension between Executive and Legislative Branch of our government is long-standing and misused.  It’s a good time to review the War Powers Act of 1973, which is summarized here.

COMMENTS (more at end of post):

from Em: Your use of the term “Bully” brings to mind the development of the International Criminal Court.  It was developed because of the situation where nations on the UN Security Council (the bullies) have veto power to protect themselves and associated who have committed war crimes.  I am thinking that if you asked anyone about the ICC, you would get a “deer-in-the-headlight” stare from most people.  Give some consideration of doing a write up on the subject in simple terms to help educate the public.

response from Dick:  Good thought; good idea.  I’m active in an organization which has long supported the idea of joining the ICC.  You may find this brief article of interest: Intl Criminal Court Mondial CGS Sr 2022.

from Brian:  Very moving piece, thanks for sharing!     

And yes, I have my war stories too–avoiding them.   In grade school I was taught by Incarnate Word nuns here in San Antonio.  They saved me.  They taught me Jesus is peace, turn the other cheek.  Be nice.

San Antonio is a military town and later I was an outcast in ROTC, but now my friends who went off to Vietnam to fight are basket-case messes.  They believed our government about war.    Me, I went to Denmark, and had great times with the sexually liberated society there, ha ha.  Actually, a bit too much more me, ha ha.

Oh, here’s a drone video I just made about my grade school.




March 19, 2023

Well, I went to Mass on Sunday at St. Peter’s Catholic Church on Broadway in San Antonio. And after church I had Super Duper Mavie fly over my grade school, and where the nuns live, Incarnate Word.

This is the video.  [Dick: this is worth the 6 minutes.  Brian’s usual haunt is Brooklyn NY.  The background music is the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  I wonder who the angels are rooting for!?)


from Barry:

Twenty years ago this month, America was led into a $5 trillion dollar war.  It cost the lives of up to a million Iraqis and thousands of U.S. soldiers, and threw that country into mass chaos. The Iraq War was based on the transparent lies of leaders primarily based on weapons of mass destruction and that Saddam Hussein was somehow connected to 911. Lies supported by most of our major news sources. A war which President Biden (then Senator) endorsed.

With this information, rather than pausing for reflection, evaluating, maybe even admitting mistakes, we sign on to the proxy war with Russian and possibly China with no real questions asked. Wouldn’t this be the time to ask questions. Instead we put on even darker, aviator sunglasses and are provided with even fewer alternative views from our news sources. NYT, WAPO, and government press releases suffice for the range of appropriate discourse. Does this serve well for understanding and offering our consent? 

Now at one of the worst junctures in our worlds history America refuses diplomacy with Russia and continues to escalate what could become a nuclear conflict. We did not listen to that wider voice leading to the Iraq invasion. Will the media change course to provide that wider course today?. 

St. Patrick’s Day

Happy St. Patrick’s Day.  We were to be enroute to northwest Minnesota to visit a friend but weather interfered, so the trip did not materialize.  In the twin cities, it’s sunshiny, with a very chilly wind.  Better weather ahead, but not today!

I did a post on Activism a little earlier this week.

Source: CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=482629

This column is about 2020, three years back.

I’m not Irish, but I have a good friend who is, and we arranged to have breakfast at the Original Pancake House in Edina March 17, 2020.

It was becoming undeniable that Covid-19 represented a very serious issue.  I had been an usher at church on Sunday.  It was to be the last such in-person Mass for a long-time; a workshop scheduled for earlier that week had already been cancelled.

March, 2020, Basilica of St. Mary, Minneapolis MN

But the Pancake House had notice that it would still be open on  the 17th.  So we decided to follow through, until my friend did a drive-by and found the restaurant was closed.

Basically, everything in Minnesota shut down, by Governors order, by March 18.  Normal became abnormal for everyone, for months.  I heard later that I was supposed to have a surprise 80th birthday on May 4.  May 4 I think we ordered in something for the two of us from Appleby’s, at least that’s how I remember it.  I took a brief solitary drive in the near vicinity on May 2, and took the below photo.  There were no social gatherings.  A suspicious neighbor nearby wondered why I was taking that picture.  I told him….  Oh.

80th and Kimbro Ln Cottage Grove MN May 2, 2020

I recall driving by what was almost certainly a funeral memorial service on somebody’s lawn.  Funeral gatherings were too risky. Even outdoors was a stretch.

So that is how the Covid-19 pandemic took charge, at least for me.  Most everything I valued was closed.  The death toll was just beginning to surface.  Denial was prevalent, but I think everyone was nervous.

Everyone has their own stories, particularly about the year that followed.  I certainly have mine.  (So far, no version of Covid has entered our house.  As you know, it’s not quite like swatting a mosquito.)

About this time of year in 2021, I bought my first book about the pandemic: Preventable, by Andy Slavitt.  It was an excellent choice.  Another author called the book “Painfully good”.

Andy was living in my twin cities at the time (Edina), and pages 33-36 in large part is devoted to his high school son “Zach’s Math”.  Succinctly, Zach computed “that one person could transmit the virus to 4,100 people at the average transmission rate.” (p 35)  Andy’s footnote 43 at page 265 dates this prediction at April 25, 2020….  The prediction was very accurate.

Of course, denial is still out there, but muted.  Something over a million deaths from the disease in the U.S. alone.  Mutations still doing their thing, though somewhat less lethal, it appears.  People still suffering from after-effects: “long-haul” they’re called.

We live in an international world.  There are no borders for things like disease.  What the wind used to transport, imperfectly, planes now import precisely and easily from most anywhere.  We humans are the ‘mules’ for disease.  The next pandemic will happen, and we best learn whatever lessons we can from the one now thought to be past.

But basically we’re back to normal; hopefully quite a bit more cognizant of risks.  So far Cathy and I have not been victims.  My friend was not so lucky – hers hit a few weeks ago, she thinks after a too-crowded birthday party.

My friend and I had an early St. Pat’s breakfast at the same restaurant yesterday.  Busy place, no masks that I saw.  No evidence of that long ago year of 2020-21….

This morning my barber was remembering the same March 18 that I did.  Theirs and all similar businesses were shut down.

Let’s hope for a good year.

A good day and weekend to everyone.


Activism 2023

Last Sunday I had more activities that I would define as “action oriented” than I’ve had for awhile.

The one I choose to hi-lite this day came at 4 in the afternoon at Temple Israel in Minneapolis, sister, shall I say, parish of Basilica of St. Mary, my parish down the street.

There were about 100 of us in the meeting room, which apparently surprised the organizers.  Host Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman said they were expecting a low turnout, but ended up having to add tables, all of which were filled.

The event was first of three separate and distinct reports from 15 downtown Minneapolis clergy on “The Pilgrimage: An Interfaith Civil Rights Journey” to Atlanta GA, Birmingham, Selma and Montgomery Alabama.  (more information below).

In my assorted lives, I’ve been to hundreds, perhaps thousands of such gatherings.  Culminating activity Sunday was table talk where the eight of us, all strangers, had a couple of minutes each to share.  I was second from last, and as I listened I wrote my impression on the pink index card provided for that purpose, using the too-hard pencil, also provided.  But you can make out the words I conveyed to my table mates (see also postnote 3):

If you can’t decipher what I wrote: “Evidence of Progress is Pushback”, I said to my bunch.  At least one person nodded affirmatively; we had no time for further discussion. (My entire card is here: Civil Rights Pilgrimage 2023 (2).)

We’re in what appears to be dismal times, again.  My thought was premised on history, generally.  The side that thinks it’s been in charge, and is losing, now throws everything in its arsenal against the other in a last desperate action to win, knowing deep down its on the losing side of history.   My notation of my own history (above): growing up in ND where the race of choice to discriminate against was “Indians”; being in South Carolina on Army maneuvers when MLK gave his I have a dream speech in August, 1963; my concern about the current efforts to “white wash” (my words) what kids can learn in public school….  The vicious assault on “woke“.

I look at this 2023 Pilgrimage group with perhaps a different lens than many.  I’ve been at Basilica for about 25 years, and the interfaith pastors idea was the brainchild, I think, of then-Pastor Michael O’Connell and his friend, Rabbi Joseph Edelheit at Temple Israel.  As it was described to us, the down-town bunch of pastors from different denominations breakfasted once a month.  It evolved as time went on.  Years ago, their then members went together to Israel and had a similar and profound interfaith experience.

If you look at the photo of this years Pilgrims, below, you’ll notice three women and three African-Americans among the 11.

In all, there were 15: two Imams, a Rabbi, two Priests and nine Protestant ministers of assorted denominations, as well as a videographer (a film is apparently in the works).  (One of the panel said, Sunday, that he grew up in the Deep South and was a little kid when the children were killed in the Birmingham bombing in 1965.  He said his Mom reassured him, then, not to worry because “you’re white” – reassuring to him, then, troubling now.)

I wasn’t paying any attention at the Interfaith groups beginning in the 1990s, but I think the initial group might have had two African-Americans and no Women.  For some denominations then, perhaps even now, such an ecumenical group was a bridge too far.  There have been many changes in Pastors over the years for all the usual reasons, but the group endures.

Here’s the descriptor for the last program upcoming: Civil Rights Pilgrimage 2023.  This is the time for Activism. If you can, take the last one in.   You’ll be glad you went.   

POSTNOTE on Activism:  What I scrawled on the card “Evidence of Progress is Pushback” is, I think, generally accurate.  It works for people in power, too easily, too often.

At another workshop the same day at Basilica, a professor was talking about activism, and defined it as many things to many people.  There is no correct way to be an activist.  But you do need to act!

I’ve like to compare personal activism to a basketball game, and this is an appropriate occasion since “March Madness” dominates the television – you can hardly avoid seeing some basketball game on the tube.

Anyway, in a basketball game there first of all has to be a team.  Basketball is a team sport.  It requires practice and working together and following rules of engagement that give both sides a fair chance at victory.

Not everybody has to be on the team to participate.  The folks ‘in the stands’ are every bit as important as the players.  Fans bring energy to the arena or the auditorium.

Of course, most people don’t show up in the basketball example, and that is true in the arena of justice as well, for all sorts of reasons.  But if you don’t participate, especially when the “teams” represent starkly different attitudes about relationships that affect you and everyone on the planet, you’re part of the equation, and in effect part of problem, not of the solution, if  you opt out.


POSTNOTE 2: Overnight March 15, came Letters from an American, about Maine becoming a state, and so much more.  It is about citizen activism long ago.  Take the time to read it.  If our country survives as a democracy, it is up to us, one individual at a time.

POSTNOTE 3: Sunday March 19 was the second followup session for the Pilgrimage.  This session was at Westminster Presbyterian, Minneapolis, similar format, probably higher attendance than the previous Sunday.  It was another powerful afternoon, with 8 of the 14 clergy on the journey presenting their thoughts.

Those of us attending were again in tables of perhaps 8-10 people, and the last segment, as last week, was a brief conversation, this time with three starter questions, but basically open-ended. Most of my table group were from Westminster.

In my minute I suggested a very simple action suggestion: if each one of us in the room did “something” for a better future we would make a huge difference as opposed to simply the eight pastors on the stage doing our action.  One of the pastors at the end said he noted that their 15 congregations in aggregate totaled about 30,000 members, simply amplifying what I had mentioned at my table.

We can all make a possible difference.  We simply have to get to work.

Daylight Savings Time

The clock on the wall of my computer says 5:04 a.m.  I woke up 20 minutes ago and the clock in the bedroom said 3:46 a.m.  I remembered I had forgotten to “spring ahead” last night, after plenty of reminders.

I happen to be an early riser – I’ve always been an early riser – so this is no big deal.  Shortly there’ll be a reminder that it’s officially Spring, the Vernal Equinox, but as I’ve said often, my Spring starts on Feb. 1 every year.  I know there’ll be bad weather after Feb. 1, but January is usually the worst month overall and for me, anyway, Feb. 1 is over the hump…..

I suppose today is only 23 hours long.  At least I don’t have to worry about Leap Year this year.  I’ve got another year to prepare for February 29.  And this year Easter is April 9 – at least in the western world. I think (I’m not looking it up) it’s always the Sunday after the first Full Moon after the Vernal Equinox, at least in the Christian venue.  On and on.  Succinctly, I don’t agree with the hubbub about the one hour.  Tomorrow, back to normal.

Have a great day.

My friend Christina got today off to a great start when she sent a link to a 3 1/2 minute piece from Carl Sagan a few hours back.  “I listened in on [my daughter’s] community meeting today. This is one of the video clips that was played. I was so moved by it that I wanted to share it with you.”

An early bonus for today came at the Minnesota Orchestra  Friday night.  It was the live Orchestra playing the magnificent sound track for National Geographics 2019 Symphony for the World.  (The link is to the National Geographic internet version of 55 minutes.)  Our evening was 2 1/2 hours of the most magnificent background music for the film, which screened on a huge screen behind the Orchestra.  Magnificent.  Here are the program notes.  Especially note the hi-lited section and take a look at the YouTube link: NatGeo World Symp.  Conductor Sarah Hicks is our own treasure.

Molly is another treasure, another on my list whose contribution is a rich assortment of seasonal writings and poetry gathered from here and there.  Here is her most recent, from March 9: Leopold March Geese Return.  Her note with the essay: “I have already seen a few geese, honking & moving north, plus some friends have also already seen some sandhill cranes heading the same direction…and swans and some ducks are also moving…

The author, Aldo Leopold, was a forester, wildlife biologist, professor at U of Wisconsin-Madison. He wrote a wonderful book of essays–A Sand County Almanac, which I highly recommend, even though it was published in 1949–the same year he died fighting a forest fire.  
Don’t scan the essay–instead, save it until you have time to sit down and really enjoy his writing… It’s great.
Blessings of this March day–snowing here right now.”

Finally, earlier this past week, I watched a lady draw a Ukrainian flag on the chalkboard at Caribou, and posted it in an earlier blog.  Since then, it has been slightly embellished by unknown persons.  Here it is as of Saturday, a not so silent witness – a reminder that each of us is only one, but we are one, and we do make a difference….

March 11 2023, Caribou Coffee Woodbury MN.  I saw the flag drawing being made, quietly and publicly, by another customer.  Later someone, perhaps the same lady, added “Slava Ukraine”; on another day came the tree, happy spring and friendly animals.  This is how communications can work.  A thought leads to action leads to….

We have difficulty, in these polarized times, talking with persons with different points of view.  Much of this is intentional political strategy – to build walls, not bridges.  My good friend, Larry, a story-teller, sums it up: “if I can hear your story it is harder to hate you”, or words to that effect.  I recently watched a superb documentary on the process of communication between people with profoundly different opinions.  The film is Beyond the Divide, which is available on-line.  It is about 90 minutes, worth every single minute.

POSTNOTE: Another must-read item, similar, was received early Sunday afternoon.  At minimum, start with the paragraph that begins, “Finally…” to the end.

Women, and all of us.

Today is International Women’s Day, and this is Women’s History Month, What follows fits the themes, in my opinion.

Much of this blog is from my long-time friend, Annelee Woodstrom, native of Germany, 96 years young.  That follows below.  At the end of the post I add my own comments.

I recommend an upcoming on-line workshop on Forgiveness.  I’ve enrolled.  At the very least check it out.  It begins next week, four sessions, all online.  Here’s the workshop; and here’s more about Louisa.  For those who don’t know about Louisa’s work, her next complimentary session is Thursday, March 23 at Noon and will be offered via Zoom.  Apply at her website.

And here are two commentaries on the Sunday event at Edmund Pettus bridge in Selma, Alabama.  Heather Cox Richardson’s Letters from an American; Joyce Vance’s Civil Discourse, both columns for March 5, 2023.

Now, Annelee’s letter, what she would like to say to potential Republican nominee Nikki Haley, sent me in a real letter! on Feb. 23.  The contents are shared with her permission:

Dear Nikki:

In your announcement running for Republican candidate for president in 2024, you stated “In the America I see, the permanent politician will finally retire,” said Haley, who served as U.N. ambassador during Donald Trump’s presidency. “We’ll have term limits for Congress. And mandatory mental competency tests for politicians over 75 years old.”  [from Politico by Kelly Garrity, 2/15/23]

Do you remember the elderly who had great impact on the world around the time they had celebrated their 75th birthday?

You would do well to remember Gloria Steinem, 88, who through her work earned the title of Hero of Feminism and without her you most likely would not be where you are today.

Let us recall those who had no brain tests; many were over seventy; they changed for the better the way we live today.


Buddha died when he was abut 80.  Buddhism is one of the world’s major religions over 400 million followers.

Pope Benedict died at 95  1.3 billion Catholics world-wide.

Martin Luther, the reformer, who died at 63, has millions of followers world-wide (over 800 million Protestants, about 80 million Lutherans).


Gandhi died. assassinated, at 78 – remember the changes he brought to India?

Sir Winston Churchill died at 90 – He inspired and led England to victory against Germany in 1945.

Konrad Adenauer, 91 when he died, called the oldest head of government – was leader of Germany after WWII.

President Biden is 80; his predecessor, who wants to run again, would in his 80s in much of a term as President.


Albert Einstein,who died at 76, is considered as one of the greatest and most influential physicists in the world.

Mother Teresa, who lived to 87, ministered to the world’s poorest.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, recently 82, guided America and the world through Covid-19.

Timeless Beauty

Michelangelo, lived to 88, for centuries his paintings  have inspired artists throughout the world.

The Brothers Grimm,  Jacob and Wilhelm, 78 and 73, at their deaths.  Their fairytales are enjoyed by children world-wide.

All of these 70 plus people, and countless others, contributed selflessly to today’s world and they enriched our lives.

Today’s grandmothers seventy’s and eighty’s take care o their grandchildren and great grandchildren while their parents work.

Nikki, millions over seventy built America to what it is today.  I resent your statement.

I am an immigrant who in 1947 spoke five words of English.  Since my family refused to join the Nazi Party, my formal education ended after 8th grade.

In 1967, I was married, had two children and attended college; in 1970 I fulfilled my life’s dream.  For twenty-two years I taught High School English, psychology, mass Media and I managed two libraries.  In 1998, after years of home care, my husband died.  At age 72 I wrote “War Child” published in 2003.  In 2007, “Empty Chairs” was published.  I was 91 in 2017 – “And So It Was” followed.

I am 96.  I truly believe that we must remember our past history and we must strive to learn from it or we will be condemned to repeat it.

Annelee Woodstrom


POSTNOTE by Dick Bernard.  I’m 100% northwest European ancestry.  In other words a white man.  That is my disclaimer for writing anything about this topic.  Most everything about me appears to set me on the wrong side of the issue of Women’s rights, native rights, etc.  Not so.  I’m by no means alone.  I’m only one of a very large crowd….

I noted that Annelee’s historical celebrities were 13 men and 3 women (I include Annelee as a wonderful representative of her crowd).

I assume that Annelee basically listed the first people who came to mind, which is fair enough.  But her list seems to show that only men were worthy of recognition for most of recorded human history including in our own country.  A more fair list would be at least 50-50, men and women, throughout history.

A given:  roughly one-half of the population is men, the other half, women.  In the United States, women did not achieve the right to vote until 1920, and the Equal Rights amendment to the constitution has not yet been ratified, and we’ve been a country for over 235 years.

(In the family archive, not immediately accessible but it will appear here soon, is a wonderful/awful photo of about 20 women in 1940s North Dakota.  It was a group of Church ladies, including my grandmother, and unlike most photos of the time every woman was identified on the back of the picture.

There was just one problem: Every single woman was identified as “Mrs. somebody or other”.  Not one had a first name.  One of the women, I later learned, likely didn’t have a known husband, but had a family, and a surname.  That was how it was.)

Freed slave African-American men achieved the right to vote long before women.  Of course, that experiment came to an early end in the reconstruction south, not to return for a great many years.

I did a quick internet search: about 75% of Americans are white; 63% of Americans are Christian – of course these definitions are very subjective because even within those demographics there is great variety.  None of the above subdivisions are monoliths – not all white men think alike, for instance.  Nor do women as individuals march to an identical drummer.  Stereotypes are self-defeating.

In the first U.S. election in 1790 less than 2% of the population of 3 million voted.  2.4 million of these were free, 600,000 were slaves.

We are one country, likely one of the most diverse in the world.  Those of us who can vote certainly should vote, very well informed.  We are liable for the results through our action or inaction.

A FINAL FOOTNOTE:  Ironically, one of the readings at my church, Basilica of St. Mary, on February 26 was from the book of Genesis, presumably but very unlikely authored by Moses; more likely by some unknown scribe or storyteller, a man or men sometime long before the Christian Era (BCE).

The text for Sunday was Genesis 2:7-9; 3:1-7.  this is the Adam and Eve and the serpent and the apple narrative….

What was left out of the reading were sections 2:18-24 (where woman was created out of man’s rib) and Ch 3:16-17 (where Eve takes the fall for eating the forbidden fruit, condemning she and her husband….)

This is not an easy reading in these times.  The Priest, who I  respect a great deal, in his sermon pointed out the missing pieces, added that even the Bible includes another creation story; and he also referred to one other creation story among many others outside the walls of the Christian Bible.  There is more than just “Adam and Eve”.  I think the decision of the Priest to flesh out a bit more of the story was important and enlightening.

Read all of the sections in your own Bible, if you have one, or on-line if you don’t.

We have the right and the responsibility to look beyond mere words for meaning.

Have a good International Woman’s Day.


As I was writing this a most interesting article came in authored by George Takei and Todd Beeton on the topic of Christian Nationalism.

Anyone who knows me in person knows that organized religion has always played a very important role in my life.  Belief in a higher power has never been an issue for me.  Who, What, How even Whether the Higher Power does his/ her/its thing is not a big deal for me.  There is something beyond us, beyond our comprehension as mere mortals.  Our fate is ours to make, manage, enhance or destroy within the bounds of our own being and background.

Organized religion has always played a role in social systems; by no means always positive or constructive role.  Look at War and Religion is not far in the background.

As I publish this, I think of what seems to have been almost an anthem in my own imperfect life: John Lennon’s “Imagine” here sung by John himself in 1972.

This morning at coffee I watched a lady draw this obviously heart-felt sketch of the Ukraine flag. It was touching.  As she was returning to sit down, I complimented her.  She also remarked on the tragic situation in Syria.  Watch, listen, speak, support, encourage….

COMMENTS (more at end of post):

from Christina: Thank you for sharing your blog with us. That Annalee is so impressive. You know some interesting people!

We sent a copy of this to my sister who is in her 70s and has just started substitute teaching, particularly with special needs children. This, after a full career with Northwest airlines and then another career with H&M.  She was like a mother to the young people working in that store.  They loved her, including her blue hair.

from Mike: Another great read.  Thank you.


If you know the names, you’ll want to see the below items:
A documentary is making the rounds nationally, about Julian Assange, including a showing in Woodbury MN on April 11.  Seating limited.  Information accessible here.

Dave sent along a piece of news about Daniel Ellsberg, here.


Carla, Jim….

Within 24 hours earlier this week came news of the death of two people I know: Carla, the sister of my brother-in-law; and Jim, a long-time friend.  Like each of us, Carla and Jim were unique, and I bid them farewell.

Carla, my age, I’ve known for over 50 years.  That entire time she lived in France, so I only saw her rarely, on special occasions like weddings, graduations, funerals….

Her brother, Carter, sent a few personal reflections to family: Carla and I grew up in a loving two parent family, in St. Paul, Minnesota, that being a north central USA location. I was three years younger, and we generally got along well. As an adult Carla grew to enjoy nature, especially the little things such as chipmunks, interesting rocks, animal tracks, and bird feathers. She also liked to meet people from other countries, traveling to both Israel and Uganda.  Of course, as she lived in Paris, she explored that city and was our tour guide when Florence and I would visit.  As she lived in a Paris suburb, we would often walk to a bus stop, and travel into the city where she would lead us to famous places, which we certainly enjoyed.  And then on the way back, we would stop at a local bakery to buy a couple of baguettes to accompany lunch back at her apartment. We would also sometimes rent a car, and traveled in France, Germany, and Switzerland. When visiting us, she enjoyed going for walks in town, but especially up to our cabin on the shore of a small lake.  There she would walk with us on forest roads, and explore the lake with us in a boat or canoe.

Unfortunately she became seriously confused with dementia which has led to her demise.  As her brother, I will miss her, but considering her severely diminished quality of life, I am glad her life has ended.

Jim, was a friend from teacher representation days, whose beat was 2nd graders, and was also active in his teacher union.

For years now, he’s lived on the Hawaiian island of Molokai.  I had last heard from him in a phone call a number of months ago.  I gathered he had been seriously ill, but no details.

His friend, Kiko, sent his farewell obituary, with a brief message:

Aloha Dick. 
Jim passed away peacefully in the hospital 2/12/23. 
He had a wonderful life he said. 

Molokai, Hawaii. I had sent this map to Jim May 3, 2022.

I wrote Kiko, in part:

I also had affection and fascination for Molokai, which I’d never actually visited.  Mostly, I think, this came from knowing about the Leper Colony and Fr. Damian, and in graduate school I did a paper about the island.  Somewhere in the residue of Jim’s life, he may have kept the paper!
We all have life stories.

As life goes on, there are ever more of these messages, all saying, without a word, that life is temporary, use it well.

Recently I received a “forward” that spoke wisely to this:  I share it again, here:  Inspiration from a friend
Also, this week: Potpourri.

COMMENTS (also see end of post)

From Leo: I noted the article about getting calls about people in your life passing to the “NEXT”.  The tough thing about our age are those calls….I have had five since the first of the year….”Leo, just wanted you to know that ……. passed yesterday….some came in the form of texts with details in emails.  Some were expected but some were not….you just have to brace up and accept the fact that someday the call will be about you…….

Off the subject a bit….I jokingly say that I always read the SILVER ALERTS that are posted on the highway message boards….to make sure they are not about me…..
Take care….Leo…

response from Dick: “Silver alerts” didn’t ring a bell with me in Minnesota.  Apparently they are common in areas with many seniors and relate to missing persons who have cognitive disabilities.  At my age that isn’t an abstract issue.  The phrase “losing my marbles” comes to mind.


There is so much happening these days, I can almost understand relying on Tweets, Texts, Mimes and such to avoid paying attention. Just in my own tiny corner of the world, following is some recent

In State of the Union, Feb. 7, I chose to focus on Education policy as I learned it, as opposed to how it is being advanced by the Governor of Florida.  In the last few days came some comments, by Laurie Hertzel, Rich Lowry and Marion Brady, which I feel richly deserve your time.  They are included in the comments section of the blog.

A Year of War (Ukraine), and Snow Days (the recent blizzard), both accessible here, have both had interesting comments added since publication.

The President’s Day blog mostly focused on President Carter.    He was dismissed by critics during his presidency, but more and more his great service to the country both during and after his presidency is being recognized.  Some interesting additional commentaries have been added at the blog.

Sunday night, I watched a film, online: Beyond the Divide, about division and then dialogue between Vietnam war veterans and the peace community in Missoula MT. Regardless of your bias, on whatever issue finds you polarized against someone else,  you will find this film informing and inspiring.  The film is about 90 minutes.

There continue to be very informative easily accessible commentaries on national issues.  The Weekly Sift, most recent, comments on Rep. Greene’s not-so-novel notion about dividing the U.S. into Red and Blue.   My summary: be very careful what you pray for, if you agree with her nonsensical proposal.

Joyce Vance gives a clear-eyed lawyers view of what’s ahead legally on particularly the Georgia election case.

Heather Cox Richardson’s Letters from an American are always worthwhile, and almost daily; ditto for Jay Kuo’s Status Kuo.  It’s worthwhile to stay informed; a responsibility of a citizen in this country of ours.  And stay actively engaged.  This is no time to sit on the sidelines.

I won’t predict the Alex Murdaugh verdict.  If the lawyer were Raymond Burr, and the show Perry Mason, justice would be administered right after the commercial…and it would be Mason’s genius that would win the day.  As I write, the jury is being taken to see the scene of the crime.

POSTNOTES: As you know, guilty verdict for Alex Murdaugh.  I didn’t follow much of the actual trial; it seems evident that lying was not a useful character trait when push came right down to shove.   Lives destroyed and his in ruins.

Fact of the matter: we all lie, often to ourselves.  That’s doesn’t make it right.  Some make it a very bad habit, and ultimately pay for it.  Someone – I think it was one of the Nun’s I had in elementary school – taught us a lesson years ago.  There are two kinds of lies: Omission (leaving something out of the story); Commission (telling a whopper).  It stuck.  Watch your step.

It was noted, quietly, and very positively, that the Judge in Murdaugh trial was African-American.  In South Carolina.

Also yesterday, a military hero from Vietnam was granted a richly deserved Medal of Honor from service years ago. African American, officer, PhD….

There remains a long way to go, but slowly but certainly positive change is happening.