27 June 2011

Remnants of a City

I had lunch here today, at First Bridge Park. First bridge over the Mississippi. I went to watch the river and get out of the office on a nice day. The river runs a bit faster here than in Missouri, or Arkansas. There it is wide and brown. Here it narrow, with a rust color that comes from the iron laced streams of northern Minnesota.

I noticed on my walk how many remnants there are of parks, plazas and statues in my ten minutes walk to the river. Plaques and markers that someone once thought important, something that might help revitalize a declining area. I passed an empty fountain labeled "1948" and an obscure marker honoring George Washington, unveiled on July 4, 1917. There were assorted steps that once led somewhere and many sculptures and parks that are still too young to have been forgotten. 

I had lunch at the site of the first permanent bridge over the Mississippi. Once upon a time someone thought it very important that the people remember this. In an earlier time people simply thought it was important to get across the river.

23 June 2011

Street Preacher

In this photo you will see a young man preaching on a street corner in downtown Minneapolis. He is standing on a stool. This is a common sight in the summer. I was not aware of the One Way sign when I took the pic, but it is fitting.

On this particular day I stopped for a moment to listen to him. Most people walk by with heads down, chuckling or shaking their heads. No one looks him in the eye and listens. The message either is too disturbing or they do not want to be seen listening.

I stopped for a moment last week and listened. He preached mainly about judgement and how sins grieve the Father. He also spoke about the Christian message of redemption. He did not use the code language of the church today, such as calling sins "bad choices". He was very blunt and straightforward about what God has done for us, what He expects of us and the consquences for those who ignore or reject the message. While the delivery is from another time, I was at a loss to hear anything I disagreed with or that wasn't right out of the Bible.

17 June 2011

The end of the line

Yesterday I took Rocko to the vet to have him put to death. He was almost 17 years old and a great family pet. Rob was about eight when he got this little puppy, Rachel in early days of highschool and Caroline was a toddler.

In the past year he had lost most of his hearing and eyesight and was spending most of his time sleeping or getting sick. This picture was taken a few minutes before our trip to the vet.

He was well behaved on the drive over, just sitting in the front seat, enjoying the air conditioner. When we got to the vet I let him roam around outside for a bit as he smelled the scent of other dogs on the bushes, rocks and grass.

I told myself that since I didn't cry at my grandparents funerals it would be really weird if I cried over the loss of an animal. But still, we all hated to see him go and this was not something anyone would look forward to. The vet was nice and I could tell he really loved animals and did not enjoy this part of his job. We held him down and he wimpered slightly as he was given an injection. This was followed by a nice long sigh, as he laid his head down and closed his eyes.

I took him home and placed him in a hole I had dug in our back yard under some trees. I covered him and packed the soil down firmly. I placed a nice sized rock over the spot to mark where he was and to keep any curious racoons or dogs from digging there. I walked out to the spot this morning and everything was fine.  It has been good to have a pet like this one.

16 June 2011

A Dog, A Darling, A Daughter

June 16, 2011. Today is my 32nd wedding anniversary. On this blessed event I take a look at my calendar and note that...

...my youngest child has left for Guatemala.
...my wife is boarding a plane to spend the weekend with her mother.
...i have to take Rocko, our dog of 16+ years to the vet to put him to death. (Dads always get the fun stuff)

I've had better days. But hey, at least the market is up and when the market is up I can tolerate a lot.

14 June 2011


My youngest daughter graduated from high school three days ago. The ceremony included what was her last performance on a public school stage as she raised her voice high with her choir singing the spiritual "Beulah Land" and "Bridge over Troubled Waters" (a version much better than the one that came out in the 70's). It was a fitting end to thirteen years in the Missouri and Minnesota school systems. Caroline always seems happiest when singing and you could tell by the look on her face the joy she felt that evening. As I look back it seems that she emerged with a stronger and warmer soul at the end of each year than at the beginning, which is as it should be for all of us. Her senior year set the stage for many good things to come.
High School is full of academic and personal struggles and it is so easy to forget this when you are decades removed from it. I found the period of life from 16 to 26 to be the most trying, tiring, stressful thus far. This is true for many people. So many big decisions are made during that time, decisions that need to be right, or close to it. She is about one-third through that stretch, and handling it much better than her father. During the past year I watched her labor over classwork from the morning until late at night. On any given day she worked much harder than most people I know.

Like most parents, I'm proud of all my children, equally so. Each had accomplishments and obstacles to overcome that made me so thankful to have been their father. Caroline has creative gifts that could come only from God, as nothing in that area could have been inherited from me. How she will use them remains to be seen but the view from the high school launching pad looks most promising from these biased old eyes.

I am glad that this young woman, who as a little girl would tell me, "it's my world daddy, but you can play in it", is building her world with an eye not on her daddy, but on her Father above. The toddler who would place her hands on my face and force me to look in her eyes when she spoke to me, will soon have other messages and will be just as determined to be heard. Cars, trains and planes will now take the little bike rider, who feared the slanted part of the sidewalk, to places not yet on her mind. The kid who was afraid of scary clowns at Six Flags will face a new set of scary stuff during college years. Regardless, she is a descendant of pioneers with their blood in her veins, and if it doesn't show yet, it soon will.

09 June 2011

The morning walk

This is the summer route from the bus to the office. About seven blocks. I work in one of the buildings on the left at the end of the street. In the winter it's a bit painful to walk these streets, even to the skyway entrance two blocks from this intersection.

On summer mornings I pass an array of the homeless doing their morning business.... smoking, drinking coffee, talking to the voices, recycling trash, texting the governor, etc. I also walk by a tv station, numerous restaurants, an art gallery or two, drug stores, Macy's, the Target headquarters, the Mary Tyler Moore statue (someone please take it down), the IDS tower. On Thursdays there is the "farmers market" which only means that it was grown by a farmer somewhere. No way those tomatoes were grown in this state by June. I've never had a bad walk down this street, it's always a good way to start the day.

07 June 2011

Punk Landscaping

My attempt to trim back our crabapple tree took on a life of it's own over the weekend. My punk landscaping turned this twenty foot tall orb of lush green leaves into the humble totem you see before you.

I have been known to take out trees from our yards over the years, usually because they are too close to the house. I hate for trees to touch my house, which is like installing an escalator and red carpet for squirrels.

On Sunday I started out by trying to take out some of the higher branches that were squeezing up against the roof. I thought I might be able to actually trim it, like a shrub. Deep down inside, I knew this was impossible, and that the tree would eventually end up as shown in this photo. Anyway, this was how I spent my afternoon, chain saw in one hand, tree limbs in the other. I filled 15 lawn waste bags and also got assorted knicks and scrapes on my legs, head and arms. I am betting that by August it will be looking somewhat like a tree again. My spouse is skeptical.

Also a photo of the house in June as we enter our brief, but welcome, summer. New landscaping in and starting to come alive. Eventually those electical boxes will be hidden, at least that is the plan. It was 102 in Minneapolis today, though with the windchill it only felt like 99. Nice to have a little taste of true summer, which is rare here.

03 June 2011

Have a good day at school

"Have a good day at school" is a phrase I have repeated each day to my children since around 1985. In the past year it is something I have done almost fanatically, never missing a day. Sometimes I would get in the car, realize I had forgot, and headed back into the house. I have three school days left to say this to my youngest daughter. A week from now she will be out of high school and getting ready for her high school graduation ceremony.

Her reply is often a simple, "Thanks". It's probably evolved over the years. At one point it may have been, "I'm going to have a great day daddy, cause we're going to the zoo and having a picnic and riding the bus! Mommy's coming with us!" But there is something in that "thanks" that is uniquely hers, a way of saying it that is distinctive. Each morning send-off has been preparation for bigger ones to come. This week, which once seemed so far off, is now here. Soon it will be August and college.

"Have a good day at school" has been as much a prayer as anything. A mutual wish by parent and child that the day would bring good things and that evil things would be kept at bay. I am sure there were times when she dreaded the day ahead and thought, "if my dad only knew the kind of day awaits me". But there were also days of victory that belong just to her. This prayer has been answered many times over. I hope that all of my children look back on their time at home and in school as a very special, almost magical time, when all their needs were met and almost all their battles were won.

This journey started with Rachel at David O. Dodd Elementary in Little Rock and continued with Rob through Wren Hollow Elementary, Hanna Woods Elementary, Parkway Southwest Middle, Parkway South Middle, and Parkway South High in St. Louis, and on to Oak Point Intermediate, Central Middle and Eden Prairie High School in Minnesota. Three cities, three decades, several schools, numerous teachers and classmates.

Although it is not easy to see this time pass, it would be even worse to have things remain as they are. Like her older brother and sister, she is ready. Not quite ready for her own home, but ready to leave this one. And ready to spend four very special years become more and more like the type of person God would have her to be.