Day #61: The Morning Program

When I was a teen, I remember sitting in a friend’s kitchen with the producer of a show on our public radio station. “Are you listening to The Morning Program on MPR?” Um, no. I was listening to light rock, Top 10. I was 16. “You should be,” she exclaimed. “It’s the best thing on radio.” She immediately turned the radio on. We listened while finishing our breakfast. I was intrigued.

Garrison Keillor and Jim Ed Poole (Tom Keith) played folk and classical music and performed skits with characters who became members of the family (Dr. Larry Kyle, B. Marty Barry, Captain Billy). From 6 to 9 am Monday through Friday, listeners were transported to another realm.

Tom Keith and Dale Connelly. [Photo: Bruce Bisping / Star Tribune]

When Garrison Keillor left for A Prairie Home Companion, Dale Connelly became Jim Ed’s co-host. Tom Keith was a master at sound effects and voices. Dale Connelly wrote skits and dialogue which the two performed EVERY WEEKDAY. A true feat. Together, their sense of humor and wry observations of life helped listeners be aware of the world without taking everything too seriously. They were a tour de force. The show stopped broadcasting in December 2008, leaving a hole in my heart.

I have a playlist of Morning Show songs including “Rooty Toot Toot for the Moon,” “Lime Jello Marshmallow Cottage Cheese Surprise,” “Across the Great Divide,” “Little Potato,” “Waltzing with Bears,” and “Easter Island.” I play those songs when I need a reminder. But the music, and the voices of Jim Ed and Dale, play in my mind. I am grateful that they are so prominent in the music of my life. As Greg Brown sang, “What good is the radio without you?”


Day #59: Friday Night Game Night

In 2014, we began hosting a game night for six Friday nights during January and February. Steve and I were having a tough time with winter and grief. We suspected that surrounding ourselves with friends and playing games would be a healthy—and fun—prescription. We were right!

The games are designed to fit a theme, several people take a turn hosting an evening, and the laughter, talents, and wisdom are always heartwarming. I am grateful for those warm hearts, the avid game-playing, and the creative efforts of this very dear group of people because, really, it’s not about the games … it’s about the people. If you’re looking for a way to brighten your winter, give game nights a try!

Friday Night Game Night

Year Five began last Friday night. The theme was “Harmony & Understanding,” a look back at 1968 to 1972. Thanks to David for taking photos. Not all participants are pictured here; poor health kept some people away—get well, everyone!)


Day #57: Star Trek

In 1966, a television show set in Outer Space debuted on Thursday nights. I was twelve. My mother wouldn’t let me watch the show. But I was already reading everything I could find about “outer space.” The show was irresistible for me. When reruns ran during the day, this latchkey kid watched every episode. I read books set within the Star Trek universe and I continued to learn in real-time about the space program, ongoing exploration, and the courageous adventurers who set off into the cosmos. That TV show and its subsequent iterations are a constant thread for me, a connection to story that is strong and vital. I am grateful to the new generations of writers, actors, and crew members who keep the mythology dynamic. (A new season of Star Trek Discovery began last night—it’s on my mind.)


Day #56: N.C. Wyeth

In my early teens, I chanced upon a copy of Treasure Island, written by Robert Louis Stevenson and illustrated by N.C. Wyeth, when I was rummaging through the shelves of an antiques shop. I was immediately besotted with the illustrations. I purchased the book, went to the library to discover what I could about Mr. Wyeth, learned that he was a student of Howard Pyle’s (another artist I admire), and I was hooked. I have continued to learn everything about him and the family of artists he created.

“Nathan Hale,” by N.C. Wyeth

In The New York Times, Adam Gopnik writes, “But in fact his genius lay in making his pictures much less dramatic than pictures like this had ever been before—his gift was for slowing down and sobering up book illustration so that it took on some of the gravity that had in the past belonged only to high art.”

In the same article, Gopnik quotes, “In 1908, after even more commercial success as a cowpunching illustrator of westerns, he retreated into a house on a hill overlooking Chadds Ford and announced that ‘painting and illustration cannot be mixed—one cannot merge from one into the other.”’ Intrigued, I set about learning as much as I could about illustration. My forward path was paving itself before me.

I am grateful for the lasting fascination sparked by the illustrations and paintings of N.C. Wyeth.


Day #55: Cloth Napkins

Many years ago, we stopped using paper napkins. Cloth napkins feel so nice and they dress up even the most informal table. A number of our guests look at us askance and eventually ask something like, “Why would you want to wash napkins?” Well, you know, that landfill thing.

We have white napkins that go with any table setting. Some of our tablecloths have matching napkins, but I love the variety because a tablescape can always look different. And you can sew your own!

And then there’s napkin folding! What a joy! I always reserve five or ten minutes before guests arrive to sit down calmly and enjoy folding napkins. I have a book that I flip through for inspiration but just try looking up “folding napkins” on Pinterest! Wow. Endless inspiration.

I am grateful for opportunities to make everyday life and special occasions beautiful.


Day #54: Our Book Club

It is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s birthday. He was a persistent advocate for a more just and humane life, an inspiration for all of us.

I am grateful for our book club that formed shortly after November 2016 with the intention of better understanding the people (and the politics) beyond our daily sphere. I have read books I know I would not have read otherwise so I could take part in discussions I would not have undertaken were it not for the caring of the people in this group. Thanks to each of you for this opportunity for growth and better understanding.


Day #53: e.e. cummings

Poetry has always sung to me, ever since I first read it in Highlights magazine at the dentist’s office. (Odd that I remember that so clearly.) Later, I asked the school librarian if poetry was available in books. Poetry felt like treasure to me, something exalted above mere words.

In high school, I encountered e.e. cummings’ poetry, which felt closest to the heart. Considered an avant garde poet, he usually wrote without capital letters and often without punctuation and his syntax was outside the norm, all of which appealed to my teen self. “At the time of his death, September 3, 1962, he was the second most widely read poet in the United States, after Robert Frost.” (poets.org) A complicated and controversial person, I am grateful for e.e. cummings’ poetry, which still causes me to stop, savor, consider, and wonder.

“i thank You God for most this amazing
day for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes”

from “i thank You God for most this amazing” (1950)


Day #51: Family History

I am grateful for having a deep connection to history … it’s a family tradition.

My grandmother subscribed to hometown newspapers in two states. She cut out tidbits about family and friends and pasted them with rubber cement into used ledger books and scrapbooks.

When conversation ensued on Sundays after dinner, with the day’s visitors, it was often about family history. I grew up observing the oral tradition of storytelling to keep history alive.

My mother picked up the responsibility for family history by updating a thick book with the births and deaths of my grandmother’s and grandfather’s families (they were related). My mother had 36 aunts and uncles.

Then she began to dig farther back. She subscribed to genealogy magazines, visited the Minnesota Historical Society, joined a German research group, and wrote many letters. She published a family newsletter in her own mission to keep history alive.

Imagine how pleased she was to learn that her great-grandfather’s house had been moved from its site to Old World Wisconsin in Eagle, Wisconsin. He constructed houses for a living and reportedly left Germany when the Navy conscripted all the available wood in his area. In America, he built Fachwerk houses and his own home was constructed as a model. He marked all the housing materials with Roman numerals to show how the home went together, a boon to those reconstructing the house.

We held a family reunion at Old World Wisconsin nineteen years ago. Family young and old were able to tour the house and realize they were part of a long line of interesting people, people who had hopes and dreams, who laughed and cried, who maintained lives that made our own existence possible.

“If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” — Rudyard Kipling