A Page Out of the American Playbook

When we say “evil” is at work, that a “force of evil” killed the children and their teachers in Texas this week, we absolve ourselves of any responsibility for action. Evil implies something bigger than we can manage and something inhuman. The child (at 18 he wasn’t a man) who chose to kill 21 people is a product of American culture. We are all complicit. We groomed him from birth to glorify violence, desensitized him to death.
Now we seek to explain, combing for details to try to make sense and to calm the dissonance of living in a country that values guns and embryos more than living, breathing children. Was the shooter “mentally ill”? Was he bullied in school? How did he access firearms? Did his parents abuse him? Were there warning signs? The answers matter, yes, but the real question is WHY ARE WE TOLERATING THIS? Because we are.
If we keep doing Thoughts & Prayers we’re going to keep getting what we’re getting: dead children.
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Volodymyr Zelenskyy – Servant of the People, Alpha Male

I love romance novels.  I’m not particularly picky about sub-genre.  Paranormal, historical, contemporary, and suspense are all fine.  I once read a “sweet” romance.  Nope.  Never again.  Christian and Amish are off the list as well.  Regency historical romance novels got me through the last presidency.  I needed a happy ending.  I needed an escape.  I needed to know there was at least one person capable of using “frisson” properly, in a complete sentence.

Volodymr Zelenskyy is charismatic, passionate, unwaveringly brave, a little on the short side, and he knows his way around an assault rifle.  He and Ukraine were friends for years.  There were flirtations – she thought he was funny.  Ukraine grew up in an abusive home and was forced into arranged marriage.  Her “family” didn’t think Zelenskyy came from the right background.

Many men tried to dominate her, but in May 2019, Ukraine chose Volodymr Zelenskyy.  She chose him.

Now, evil forces once again threaten to capture and abuse Ukraine.  Zelenskyy refuses to abandon his beloved: “I don’t need a ride, I need ammunition.”  With the odds stacked against him, he rallies the support of a special ops team including former heavyweight champions Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko.

Ukraine isn’t some helpless maiden.  She’s fighting back and she’s fighting hard with weapons from admirers all over the world.

Please please please.  If there is a higher power..  If there is the Divine within each of us…  Let Ukraine & Zelenskyy have their Happily Ever After.  Let them have beautiful babies to honor those who have been lost.


Musical Moment

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Unsolicited Medical Advice

I was on a continuing medical education call with Dr. Michael Osterholm a week ago (sponsored by the MN Academy of Family Physicians).  He basically confirmed that, yes, all heck will break loose with Omicron infections in the next couple weeks in Minnesota.  COVID wastewater studies at the U of MN were already showing a logarithmic increase (ten times!!!) in viral load.  Levels of viral shedding into the toilet presage the number of active, symptomatic COVID infections one week later.
So, it’s a week later and I just came from the co-op.  The store closed at 7 pm tonight instead of the usual 9 pm.  Staffing issues.  Meanwhile, Twin Cities health care systems began circulating internal memos detailing “here’s how you can work while you are infected with COVID-19.”
Our hospitals can’t take much more.  The best summary I’ve seen so far comes from Ed Yong in THE ATLANTIC.  Yong paints an accurately bleak picture.
What can YOU do for your local hospitals?
1) If you’re not vaccinated, get vaccinated.  Dr. Osterholm says you’re not fully vaccinated until you’ve had three Moderna/Pfizer shots or two J&J shots.  Expect more shots in the future.
If you decline vaccination for any reason other than known anaphylaxis to one of the vaccine components, ask yourself, “Am I OK with killing a child who needs an emergency appendectomy but can’t get it because I’m occupying the last remaining hospital bed?”
If you decline vaccination for any reason other than known anaphylaxis to one of the vaccine components, you have blood on your hands.
2) Remember that any test positivity or case number statistics are inaccurate, underestimating the true situation by A LOT.  Why?  Because of delays in test processing as well as the number of people who are taking home tests (if they can find the test kits).  Now is NOT the time to have a big family reunion.
3) Assume that any new symptoms = COVID.  Your “cold” is probably Omicron.  If you can’t find a test, simply assume it’s COVID and act appropriately.
4) Mask up with a KN95 or N95.  Dr. Osterholm said fabric masks are a fashion choice and of no other utility.  Omicron will happily pass through your magical rainbow unicorn mask.
5) Think of the Greater Good.  You might say gee, I’m vaccinated with all three shots.  Can’t I go about my regular life and hang out with friends and eat out?  Even if I get Omicron, I’m unlikely to get all that sick.
Here’s the trouble: Omicron is SO CONTAGIOUS that many many many people are getting sick and, even if every person is vaccinated, people will need hospitalization just because of sheer numbers.
If you do your part, wear your KN95 when grocery shopping, get take-out instead of eating-in, you could prevent a death.  Seriously.  Why?  Because you won’t get Omicron from the table next door at your favorite restaurant and then give it to your babysitter who will take it to his grandma who will share it with her paramour and her paramour will keel over dead in multi-organ system failure because he waited in the ER for hours while staff hoped that an ICU bed would open up somewhere.
6) Realize that even FULLY VACCINATED people can contract COVID given the opportunity.  Don’t tempt fate.  Wear masks (see #4) when you’re hanging out with your fully vaccinated buddies.  Don’t eat in groups with folks outside your household.
7) Anticipate supply chain issues.  Order up a three month supply of any medications you take regularly.  Procure extra diabetic supplies if you are diabetic.  Assume that you won’t be able to get what you need within 24-48 hours and make sure you have enough tucked away.
8) Know that the “Standard of Care” is currently impossible for health care providers to meet.  A friend of mine is a Hennepin County judge.  She recently noticed an uptick in medical malpractice cases.  No health care system wants to admit that they are providing sub-standard care but EVERY SINGLE SYSTEM is currently providing sub-standard care.  From the clinic that only has three medical assistants trying to room patients for eight providers, to the ER where you will wait five hours to be seen and then “board” in an ER room because there is no hospital bed for you, to the regional hospital that is accepting patients beyond their comfortable scope of practice because there simply are no other beds in the state.
9) Do tele health visits whenever possible if you need to see a doctor.  Only go to the ER if you’re having a medical emergency.  And do what you can to avoid emergencies.  It’s a particularly bad time to suddenly start ski jumping.
10) Donate blood if you can.  This is another easy opportunity to prevent death!
11)Recognize our US healthcare system for what it is: ABUSIVE and BROKEN.  Our healthcare providers are going to have a collective case of PTSD.  Stop talking about provider “resilience,” such a slap in the face to the frontline workers who have been literally risking their lives for two years for other people’s health.  Do what you can to support a single-payer, national healthcare system, even if you just read about it.
That’s it from me.  Thanks for reading.
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No Air

Buckle up.  This is gonna be a long ride with no potty breaks.

I started writing this on the kind of crisp, sunny fall day that only Minnesota can properly serve up.  The leaves abruptly changed color two days ago and now are headed for spectacular.  Cheering and singing wafted through my windows from spectators at the Twin Cities Marathon.

Things seemed normal.

The lead article for the Star Tribune discussed how supply chain issues may impact holiday shopping habits.  So sad.  In the past several months, I’ve seen only a couple articles that hint at the real impending crisis: our teetering health care system.

I am a family doctor, trained in Minneapolis in one of the largest health care systems in the state.  I’m retired from clinical practice.  For simplicity, I will use the term “doctor” to refer to physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants.  (I retch when I hear “health care provider.”)  If I were a nurse practitioner, I’d use “nurse practitioner” to refer to nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and doctors.  My comments relate primarily to the situation in Minnesota.

What does it mean when the occasional article mentions a shortage of hospital beds?  Before COVID, hospitals developed their own natural rhythms, with predictable supply and demand variables.  In the summer, expect more near-drowning incidents and boating accidents with orthopedic injury.  Dr. Abc performs an average of X transplants per year, but the doctor takes a two-week vacation every December.  Hospitals are staffed according to predicted need.  If a floor (regular medical unit) nurse takes care of five patients and average hospital census for medical beds at this time of year is 15, the charge nurse will schedule three nurses.  Pre-COVID, “we don’t have a bed” usually meant “we don’t have a nurse” to take care of the patient.  Doctors are another matter, with less regulation of provider to patient ratios.  Doctors will basically keep admitting people to the hospital until they fall over.  If you say, “No, I literally cannot care for one more person,” you look weak and you’re losing revenue for the hospital.

Patients frequently arrive in regional or rural emergency rooms and need to be transferred.  Folks having heart attacks might need a cath lab and an interventional cardiologist.  ATV accident victims are sent to trauma centers like HCMC or Regions.  The greater system had predictable rhythms as well.

In the COVID era, “no beds” means either there isn’t a nurse (and no one can come in from home or from retirement) OR there is no physical space to put the patient OR there is no doctor who can accept the patient.  Doctors and nurses are conditioned to be tough and resilient.  They work when they’re sick.  They know any unexpected absence has a ripple of negative consequences for colleagues.  You can’t reschedule Ms. Meyer’s cerebral aneurysm rupture for another day.  COVID quarantine requirements meant that, perhaps for the first time in their careers, doctors and nurses couldn’t work while ill.  And in the very beginning of the pandemic, they couldn’t work if exposed.  You can imagine the staffing nightmare.

Now, when a patient needs to be admitted to the hospital, a very dangerous dance commences.  If enough people have been discharged to home that day and staffing is adequate, the fortunate patient can be admitted to the facility at which they presented.  A patient might be held in the ER in the hopes of a bed opening up.  Some ERs are even “boarding” patients, continuing to care for them as if they are admitted to the hospital.  People who need cath labs or ICU doctors or trauma surgeons are unable to transfer for specialized care because there are “no beds.”  A nursing supervisor or doctor might spend hours calling hospitals, looking for a bed for a patient.  There is no reliable centralized coordination.

The Minnesota Hospital Association and the MN Department of Health launched the Critical Care Coordination Center (The C4) about a year ago in order “to create and enhance visibility and coordination for patient placement from ED to ICU or ICU to ICU to available staffed ICU beds with ventilators if necessary across Minnesota during the COVID-19 surge…”  The C4 is great in theory, clunky in practice.  Theoretically, a doctor can call The C4 and the cheerful C4 staffer will find an ICU bed for the doctor’s patient.  The bed might be in Hibbing.  In three days.  And you have to call back every couple hours to check while your patient “boards” in the ER.  The C4 doesn’t appear to maintain an ordered list of patients needing ICU care; they merely provide in-the-moment availability.

Some Minnesota hospital systems have started maintaining their own ordered lists.  Finally.  It’s in Fairview’s best interest to keep Fairview patients within the system.  Same for Mayo, Health Partners, Essentia, etc.  So if a patient presents to the emergency room at Regina Hospital in Hastings, MN, and their medical needs cannot be met, that patient should have “dibs” on available beds within the Allina healthcare system.  Which screws up the C4 system since C4 assumes any patient can be dumped on transferred to any facility.

Why don’t hospitals cancel elective surgeries to free up more beds and staff?  Surgeries are lucrative.  COVID reimbursement isn’t.  And empty beds could immediately be filled with patients from other full hospital systems that haven’t cancelled surgeries.  The right thing to do isn’t the economically attractive thing to do.

The bottom line = people are dying.  In a system over capacity, there is a deadly mismatch of patients with facilities and resources.  We can’t magically reshuffle everyone to the exact right place with the right doctors and operating rooms and nurses.  Regional hospitals are caring for patients that are beyond their capability, hoping that COVID patient Y doesn’t go down the tubes and require ventilation.  Emergency room doctors are taking care of “boarding” patients for days instead of the typical hours.  For many ER docs, care of the hospitalized patient wasn’t part of their training.  Patients aren’t getting timely vascular intervention or cancer surgery or the routine primary care screening that can prevent medical catastrophe.

Additionally, we’re unintentionally exploring the ethics of resource allocation, health disparities, and medical futility and not in a planful way.  Early in the pandemic, doctors at long-term care facilities were warned that they might have to inform patients and their families that they would be “dying in place.”  In other words, nursing home patients would not be offered hospital admission.  Every day, doctors and nursing supervisors are deciding who gets a bed, who gets surgery, who gets transferred, who has the best chance.  A man with a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm is kept alive in the ER with fluids and pressors while staff frantically try to get a vascular surgeon on the phone.  When they finally find one, there is no way to unite surgeon, patient, and OR in a timely manner.  The man bleeds out.  Pre-COVID, he might’ve died anyhow, but the surgeon would have had an opportunity to do their best.

The long-term ramifications of the above morass are multitudinous, and include:

1)    Serious ongoing staffing problems: doctors and nurses are retiring, leaving the profession (burning out), and dying of COVID/suicide/stress-related health issues.

2)    Health decline (body and brain) in nurses and doctors due to ongoing extreme stress.  Anticipate higher rates of depression, anxiety, PTSD, heart disease, and hypertension.  Moral injury – how can a doctor trust the system that put them in such an impossible position?

3)    Potential failure of the healthcare system.  What would that even look like?  Italy?  NYC?  Will our Mississippi River become India’s Ganges, with bodies of COVID victims floating down, down to the sea?

4)    Financial fallout: individual bankruptcy, rising insurance premiums, bankruptcy of health systems or insurance companies.

5)    No more Dr. Nice Gal:  Will doctors finally unionize?  Will they demand better working conditions?  Will they refuse to admit COVID patients who declined vaccination due to Freedom Infringement?  We are trained to deliver compassionate, competent care to whomever is in front of us, be they fascist, serial killer, or pedophile.  The critical difference with the delta variant surge is that doctors have to care for patients who refused vaccination and are now consuming finite medical resources and imperiling staff and other patients.

6)    Cultural schism: A doctor told me recently of an unvaccinated patient who refused to believe they had COVID, got admitted, tested positive, still denied having COVID, wound up ventilated, and died.  Anti-mask, anti-vax, anti-mandate.  Will e pluribus unum shift to non obstante multis, unum solum?  Despite many, only one.  ME!  ME!  ME!

You might be wondering what you can do.  Here are some ideas:

1)    Wear a mask.  I’ve heard estimates ranging from 10-25% of patients hospitalized with COVID were fully vaccinated prior to admission.  That’s not zero.

2)    Put masks on your kids.  Even if the school doesn’t require them.  Terrible is being born into slavery.  Terrible is growing up in an internment camp.  Terrible is being ripped away from your parents at the US border when you’re seeking asylum.  Terrible is NOT having to wear a mask while you learn to take care of your community.

3)    Know your boundaries.  Keep your boundaries.  Be unapologetic about your boundaries.  I won’t be eating indoors at restaurants until this surge ends and I get a booster.

4)    If you are fully vaccinated for COVID, thank you.  And please go get your flu shot.  We’re already seeing cases of flu in Minnesota.

5)    If you are not fully vaccinated, please do it.  You might be a lovely specimen of health, but you are putting other people at risk.

6)    If you won’t get vaccinated because of Freedom Infringement, please do not seek medical care.  Tend your broken bones at home.  Treat your MI at home.  DIY a ventilator and show your dog how to run it in case you are incapacitated.

7)    This is not a good time to have a stroke or diabetic ketoacidosis or appendicitis.  Plan accordingly.

8)    It’s also a bad time to take up ski jumping, rock climbing, and slacklining.

9)    Think about supporting a single-payer, universal health care system.  Un-link insurance and employment.

10) Do you want to be seen by a dentist, chiropractor, doctor, hairdresser, or aesthetician who isn’t vaccinated?  If not, ask their status.

11) In the middle of a pandemic, there is no “it’s just a cold.”  Assume any new symptoms are COVID until you test negative.

I’m wrapping this up the day after the Twin Cities Marathon.  From the Star Tribune page A3 today (reprinted from the New York Times): “Virus outbreak forces grim choices in Alaska.”  The grim choices are local as well.  They just aren’t in the news yet.


Musical Moment



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What is “Essential”?

Minnesota’s Governor, Tim Walz, issued an executive “STAY AT HOME” order Wednesday that goes into effect Friday night.  All non-essential businesses will temporarily close.  I’m sending love to all the service-industry workers, the tattoo artists, the flower shop employees, the servers, the administrative assistants, the assembly line workers who find themselves suddenly without employment.  May you find the help you need quickly and with the least amount of economic and emotional pain.

In Walz’s plan, liquor stores are allowed to remain open.  We can’t have folks withdrawing from alcohol and taking up hospital beds.  This is the actual truth.

Let’s talk about essential.  I slurp down maybe four alcoholic beverages per year.  NOT essential FOR ME.

Join me while I take a break from crowd-sourcing my husband’s Personal Protective Equipment to generate a list of “non-essential” businesses that I’ll miss during hibernation:

1) Old School by Steeple People:  My favorite thrift store.  I’m a donor, customer, volunteer, and Board member.  We closed voluntarily nearly two weeks ago to enable social distancing.  I miss the store almost desperately.  Just being in the space, interacting with neighborhood customers, brings me much joy.  Over the past forty years, we’ve donated our modest profits to local charities.  Our store will likely be needed more than ever after COVID-19 rattles through our community.

2) Flying Pig Thrift:  My other favorite local thrift store.  This shop is relatively new on the scene.  It’s cute.  It’s little.  Look for it on the other side.

3) The Hamline library:  I love this petite library, all cozy in one big room.  Thank goodness I stopped in just before the libraries closed.  I snagged a huge pile of Romance novels.  And now they aren’t due for basically ever.

4) The Goodwill Outlet on Fairview and University:  Are you seeing a trend in this data?  (I threw the library in #3 just to screw up your theories.)  A colorful cohort of resellers populates this store, many of them every single day.  I love buying books (19 cents per inch) for our Little Free Library.  When I’m feeling adventurous, I free range out into the fray, picking up a sweater or a lamp or a handful of elastic.

5) Gerten’s Garden Center:  I could live at Gerten’s.  I’d set up my hammock under the gazebo amongst the stylish porch furniture and cook my meals on the display grills.  During the winter, I’d snuggle down with the houseplants or curl up under the twinkle-lit Christmas trees.  Acres and acres of plants.  Nirvana.

6) Cake:  Any blessed place that sells cake.  Cafe Latte would top the list for their chocolate layer cake with chocolate frosting between layers and pink decadence on top with a chocolate strizzle. Technically, I might be able to get take-out cake.  But if we’re really trying to abide by the “stay home” order, I’m forced to confess that cake isn’t essential?  (silently weeping)

7) South High Community Band:  Sigh.  I’m afraid our band season may be over for this school year.  I love hanging out with this talented group of musicians.  We’re a great bunch of alums, current students, parents of students, and community members.  There is nothing quite like the pleasure of making music in-person with other folks.

8) Bachman’s Garden Center:  Gerten’s is the Tesla Model S of an outdoor plant experience.  Bachman’s is more like the Toyota Corolla: compact, reliable, comfortable.  But the indoor experience at Bachman’s is tres groovy, with home decorating, humid greenhouses, and koi ponds.  I’ll live at Gerten’s during the summer and Bachman’s during the winter.

That’s kind of it for my essentials.  I don’t get out much beyond the above.  What will you miss during your hibernation?  (Ace stated unequivocally, “I’m leaving liquor stores on the list.”)

Musical Moment

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Pussy Prerogative

Dear JLo:

I hate football.  I never watch the Super Bowl.  Teenage Me once watched the Rose Bowl because I was dating a boy who watched the Rose Bowl with his extended family.  He tried diligently to explain the game.  I did not listen with rapt attention, fascinated as I was with his grandmother’s incredible braids.

Football is our enlightened equivalent of gladiatorial fighting in the Colosseum.   Teams, comprised primarily of African-American men, are generally “owned” by White men.  Now, the warriors only fight to the Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy or the Total Destruction of the Knee instead of to the Death.

I’m off my soapbox.  Thx 4 listening.

Back to you.  Almost.  As I mentioned, I don’t watch the Super Bowl.  Occasionally, I’ll catch the half-time show in real time if Ace is watching.  More often, I check out the act after-the-fact.  A quick trip down memory lane (with the help of Google) shows us that half-time shows historically relied heavily on Up With People and marching bands.  The world shifted in 1993.

Michael Jackson, the King of the Crotch Grab (his own and others’),  did absolutely nothing for the first 77 seconds after he hit center stage.  He did absolutely nothing and people went completely ballistic.  After a minute and seven seconds, he turned his head.  Pandemonium ensued.  He went on to grab his crotch.  A lot.  In fact, his crotch is the entire beat of “Billie Jean.”  Without it, there simply would be no tune.  He ended the show surrounded by children, with a babe in his arms, singing “We Are the World.”

Bono didn’t grab his crotch in 2002.  Neither did he lip sync.  In 2004, as you recall, there was a bit of a kerfluffle with Janet Jackson.  The kerfluffle participants, JJ and JT, have gone on to relative obscurity and relative royalty, respectively.  The woman of color is the one who was shunned.  Shocking.  In retrospect, the way out of this situation would’ve been to borrow a baby from the crowd and breastfeed her/him on national TV.  Texas, believe it or not, passed a law in 1995 stating that mothers could breastfeed anywhere in the state, public or private.

2007 brought the man who requested “Can u make it rain harder?”  Prince.  His guitar fingerboard became a gigantic erect penis and he wasn’t barred from subsequent Grammy Awards ceremonies.

Beyonce didn’t grab her crotch in 2013.  More remarkably, she didn’t break her ankle whilst dancing in wicked heels.  I think of Bruno as a crotch-grabber.  The 2014 TV crew must’ve censored.  Red Hot Chili Pepper’s front man Anthony Kiedis (who in the world thought RHCP + Bruno was a marriage made in heaven?) managed a grab moment.  In 2017, Lady Gaga’s crotch definitely got some closeup airtime but no grabbing.

Which brings us back to you.  Culturally, we aren’t used to seeing women grab their own crotch.  Women’s crotches/butts/breasts are grabbed all the time.  By other people.  Without explicit consent.  I just heard Peggy Orenstein speak about her new book Boys & Sex.  In her conversations with young people, she found that men are disconnected from their feelings while women are disconnected from their bodies.

I read your performance as ironic – the juxtaposition of your incredible feats of athleticism  (“I dare you to try that horizontal pole situation, gentlemen.”) and then your hard stare combined with a crotchgrab (“We all know you can do this, boys.”).  You are not disconnected from your body.  Your body is strong and beautiful and powerful.  I wish you had written “MINE” across your belly with a Sharpie and an arrow pointing down.

The only person who can grab your pussy is YOU.  (“Take that, Mr. President.”)


Anne, three weeks your junior, threw-out-my-back-on-Monday-with-a-sneeze

PS: Don’t forget to get your colonoscopy.  You’re fifty.


Musical Moment #1

Musical Moment #2



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Notes from the Third Circle

Greetings from the Third Circle of Hell, formerly known as Gluttony.  Now simply called The Kitchen.

If time spent in the garden is gold, time spent in the kitchen is that nasty base metal (that turns your skin sickly green) in mercury-laced trinkets made by child laborers.  I learned another hard lesson recently and because I’m feeling Oh so generous, I thought I’d share it with you.

I grew up with “sloppy joes.”  Ace suckled at the teat of “s*%t on a shingle” in the backwoods of Northern MN.  Regardless, nothing says Make America Great Again like a good old vat of pink slime simmered in a packet of something and then dumped on a squishy bun that turns to pure glucose by the time it hits your soft palate.

The palates in our domicile are a bit particular so I actually used a recipe.  I’ve made it before and it’s good.  Here it is.  I generally follow recipes, even mostly exactly.  The first seventeen times I made this, I followed the recipe exactly.  Except I substituted some ground pork and ground turkey for the beef, used garlic-infused olive oil instead of avocado oil, ditched the green pepper in favor of red, slopped on whatever mustard I could find in the fridge, and utilized an unlabeled red substance I dug out of the freezer in place of “7 oz organic tomato paste.”

For whatever reason (Jupiter in retrograde, cruel fate, or Satan smirking from the Ninth Circle), I paused to consider Ace’s handwritten note on the recipe.  “If uis one – no veed % matle BBQ savle 5epanite.”  I put it through Google Translate Ace –> English and got “If this one – no need to make BBQ sauce separate.”  Oh.  Great!

I dumped everything into our cast iron beauty: three pounds of ground meat, peppers and celery, spices, and a boatload of water.

Which brings me to today’s hard lesson: Always brown the meat first.  Even if your spouse’s illegible scrawl implies one-pot all-at-once cookery, always brown the meat first.

Our sloppy joes have the consistency and appearance of Toddler Turd post ingestion of a pound of cherries, three cans of Fancy Feast, and a Miralax milkshake.  I’m sure they’ll be delicious.

Musical Moment – oops.  Got sidetracked by an orange Pomeranian.

Real Musical Mo-

(one hour later, after Hope For Paws doggie rescue video, watching an emu egg hatch, metal detecting in Hawaii, etc)

Musical Moment (The Mac Miller ((rip)) x Pharrell project entitled PINK SLIME wasn’t fit for familial consumption.)

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Creativity in the Face of Adversity

We just returned from several days at the in-laws lake shack.  The Big E dragged a friend up, also named E.  They’ve been friends since kindergarten.  We walked in the first day of kg with a class size of 18 kids and LO!  There was another boy named E.  Unbelievable.  But that’s not the story.

E Squared had a high old time driving the 1947 Farmall tractor, putt-ing around on the riding lawnmower, tromping through the wood picking up wood ticks, tossing each other off the floating swim mat, and fishing.

They demonstrated a valuable lesson that I want to share with you.  They were bass fishing off the end of the dock, tossing lures into the cattails in search of the big ones who like to lurk.  If you fish, you know it’s dicey to toss a lure into cattails.  Best case scenario, you catch a fish and the slippery caught fish guides you out of the weeds.  E & E tossed a lure in and got snagged.  In their efforts to disentangle, the rod snapped (remarkably) before the line.  They retrieved the pieces of the rod and kissed the lure goodbye.

Instead of hemming, hawing, swearing, complaining, or quitting, they immediately began strategizing a fix for the rod.  We arrived home and my Big E took to the basement.  He carved a wooden dowel, filed some stuff, and procured epoxy.  Fixed.  Permanently.

There you have it.  Creativity in the face of adversity.  Try it out, use that energy in a positive way.

Musical Moment

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Life Skills – Teenager Edition

My young teenager has big plans this summer.  He doesn’t know about them yet.  An underground network of mothers (including his) is currently conspiring to create an exhaustive list of LIFE SKILLS to be reinforced or learned this summer.

Here is the list so far with contributions from MANY.  Please tell me what to add!


1) cleaning: dusting, vacuuming, toilets, sinks, product use/avoidance

2) taking the bus/train: schedules, transfers, managing challenging situations

3) laundry: how to deal with grease, ironing, washing by hand

4) money management/budgeting

5) banking: credit/debit card, check writing

6) snail mail: where to put the stamp/addresses

7) cooking: meal planning, grocery shopping, cooking, dishes

8) rudimentary childcare: changing a diaper, Heimlich Maneuver

9) condom application: cucumbers needed

10) driving: pumping gas, checking oil, checking tire pressure

11) grilling

12) firestarting

13) manners: holding doors, opening doors, looking people in the eye, smiling

14) typing

15) conversation: eye contact, asking questions

16) talking on the phone: hello/goodbye protocol, conversing, mute button

17) internet safety

18) “feminine hygiene products”: comfort around, identification

19) CPR

20) shopping: clothes, groceries, thrift

21) sewing: replacing a button, fixing sweater hole

22) home catastrophe management: how to break/jump out a window, turn off gas/water, call 911

23) occasion clothing: what to wear to a wedding/funeral/interview, how to tie a tie, polish shoes

24) cultural awareness: eye contact, head covering, shoe removal, what not to say

25) sex and legality: “age of consent,” state-specific rules


Musical Moment

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Enough Already!

Dear Weather:

Remember way back in January when I was super sad about the lack of snow?  I rhapsodized about how winter and cold and January are fine as long as we can have some decent snow.  I fell prey to nostalgia, harkening back to the halcyon days of my childhood when the drifts were higher than me and we snowshoed to school, uphill both ways, because it was more fun than sledding to school, downhill both ways.

Now it’s past February (technically it’s MARCH) and you, Weather, said Fine.  Here’s some snow.  Only you didn’t seem to have any plan.  You simply dumped big piles when you felt like it.  And then there was the time that you rained before dropping twenty degrees, making ice rinks of the roads.  You added a couple inches of snow on top just to lull us into a false sense of security.  The herd of Minnesota Subarus grew restless until their owners finally relented and opened the garage doors. “Awesome!  Playtime!”

SoCal transplants emerged, blinking, from their early 1900s brick apartment buildings in the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis.  They quickly realized several unfortunate facts: 1) their Dolce Vita Santo Booties weren’t gonna cut it 2) their Prius had been literally buried by the plows 3) they didn’t own a shovel and didn’t know how to use one even if they did.

Fortunately, winter brings out the best in Minnesotans.  We grab our shovels and pickups and chains and turkey gravel and cardboard and we dig each other out.  Minnesota babies learn the routine early.  Rock it, Rock it, Rock little baby.  Help your neighbor.  Push them out.  Please go easy on the gas, baby.  Help your neighbor.  Push and shout.

But Weather, enough already.  Really.  The stunt you pulled in southern Minnesota ten days ago with the ground blizzards?  Zero visibility?  Not cool.  (Admittedly, we made our own bed by clearcutting all the trees and draining the wetlands, but still…)  We had to call in the National Guard, a serious blow to our self-reliant Minnesota identity.  The hardy folk who actually live in SoMin scoffed; they had already arranged to send hotdish to the Torgersons, determined how to get the large-animal vet safely to her urgent appointment, and opened their VFWs, churches, and schools to the travelers stranded on the roads.

Don’t even get me started on the school closing situation.  Six snow/cold days in the past four weeks?  SIX?????  Oh, you’re claiming it was five.  Whatever.  Felt like six.  #togetherness.

Perhaps it’s because you’re an overachiever that you felt obligated to set some Low Temperature records on top of the snowvalanche?  March 3, 2019.  Minus 13 Fahrenheit.  Nice.   Minnesota Nice.

We’re there, Winter.  We’re at the point where not one thread in our closet brings us any joy whatsoever.  And the Land of Retail has decided it’s Spring?  Let me show you what Spring looks like around here.  (photos borrowed from Ken and Marit)

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Musical Moment

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