The pre-holiday season has been unbelievably busy. The best I was able to do with blogging was to follow and comment on what others had to say.

Now I’m doing something that feels like a bit of a risk, but considering how I have enjoyed reading about other people’s activities and family, I’ve decided to post what was my Christmas letter to friends.

And I do expect to be back on a more regular basis now that I’m getting 2015 under control.

Warning: This letter is long

“This season of the year reminds me why I moved to Minnesota – so much beautiful choral music with a heavy emphasis on Scandinavia. Minnesota Public Radio’s classical station fills my days with Christmas in the background and the remembered presence of my Swedish family at what was an annual celebration of Christmas joy – family, church, presents. I was so blessed. (It didn’t hurt that I was the youngest.)

This season started on December 4 with the St. Olaf Christmas festival –500 student singers and orchestra joined by an audience of 3000. There are some five different choral groups who begin the evening processing in after an orchestral introduction to initiate an evening of familiar and lovely Christmas choral works. Even the audience gets involved with standing and singing a couple of familiar carols. (I was amazed the first year I attended the festival. Everyone in the audience faithfully follows the direction of the leader, even with perfect accuracy abiding by the directions “women only,” “men only,” “choir only, and “all.” My son reminded me that probably everyone in the audience is, or once was, a member of a church choir.)

This year, as we left the festival, I commented to Doug that my mother and father enjoyed it, but my brother was especially pleased – that delighted look lit up his face. No, I wasn’t hallucinating, but I did feel their presence. I mean I really felt their presence.

And so it continued. “A Christmas Carol: The Musical” was delightfully presented on December 7 by a local group. The talent here is amazing. All the Brandenburg Concertos were the program for the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra on the 11th but my Gustafson Christmases came back most powerfully at the Vocal Essence concert on the 13th. If only my brother were still here, he’d be able to tell me the name of the traditional Swedish song with which the huge singing group approached the stage after the intermission. My son remembered it and how he and his sister made up their own interpretation of the Swedish words – something to do with pizza. (Yes, they are half Italian.)

Indeed, I enjoyed a few nostalgic tears. And then I delighted in the performance of Christmas carols and related stories on December 14 by the Minnetonka Choral Society of which Doug is a part. It has been quite an advent season.

Beyond that, what can I tell you about the year 2014 as I lived it? Well, for starters, I’ve adopted a new mental health rule – pay attention to the news – ‘cause so much of it is disturbing – from 6:00 a.m. ‘til noon, and then avoid as much as possible. All for the sake of uninterrupted sleep. Sleep has also been helped by the nutrition program I’m in – the same program than got my hypothyroid back to normal without meds.

Also, to paraphrase The Paul Simon song, “Still singing after all these years.” I’m one-eighth of the choir at Shepherd of the Hill Presbyterian Church in Chaska, and enjoyed the role of Sister Margaretta in “The Sound of Music” at Mount Calvary Lutheran Church in Excelsior in February-March. And still sporadically taking singing lessons.

Traveling? Yes, “Still traveling after all these years.” A two week cruise to Alaska in June-July. Truth is, I’ve been so busy since that I still haven’t put together my slide-show of that trip.

Other things? Yes, still seeing some clients. Would like to see more, but I refuse to have anything to do with managed care. About writing, I’ve become part of a writer’s group that meets about once a month. And in August “Figs & Pomegranates & Special Cheeses” hit the market as a paperback and on Kindle. It was a real pleasure working with the cover artist, Marilyn Brown, and the graphic artist, Jenny Janson. Now I’m busy trying to market it. Reviews available on

There must be some reason why I’m still too busy to do the Alaska thing. Maybe it’s working on “My Father’s House,” the fictionalized biography of my father. This is a really tough job, trying to get as much as possible of family history, and then the social and world history that influenced his life. Plus, it’s just plain hard to fictionalize a biography. I’m still not sure I can do it.

Any other excuses for not getting the Alaska thing done? Doing my part working with the web designer to create is a task almost finished. It should be available soon.

Now I’m also preparing for a four-session series leading a study of forgiveness at Mt. Calvary in January.

For those who want to know about my family. Doug travels constantly, for fun, for creativity (building musical instruments), for photography, for representation on a number of boards. In the meantime, he serves as Council President at Mount Calvary, and set designer and director for theater 318. Most recently directed “Lost in Yonkers.” And designed the set for The Sound of Music” and now for upcoming “Fiddler on the Roof.” Oh yes, he is retired.

My Lisa and her husband are living temporarily in Colorado Springs, Colorado where Jan has accepted a three-year assignment with Lockheed Martin as he moves toward retirement. Lisa has gained in so many ways from the practice of Yoga which is helping her survive those three displaced years. Traveling also helps. She’s studied at John C. Campbell, and comes to Minnesota to oversee the painting of Doug’s sets. They make a great team.

My granddaughter KJ is currently in New Zealand, leaving soon for Australia, and my grandson, Erik, is at work in Philadelphia.(Update – she is now in Australia as of January 1st)

I intended to keep this short. I just hope you were smart enough to stop reading when you got bored.

And to the whole purpose of this letter – to express the longing for a world at peace, and for comfort and joy in your corner of the world.



13 responses to “BACK IN A VERY PERSONAL WAY

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  1. Loved the letter. Wasn’t Alaska wonderful? Did you take the helicopter to the top of the glacier? The color of the water is just beautiful. Wishing you and yours a very Happy, Healthy and Peaceful New Y.ear
    • So good to receive your comment! Yes, I did love the helicopter ride. I also loved the day on board the ship just circling the glaciers. — beautiful. I have to confess, though, that I feel about the Alaska cruise as I do about Hawaii that I’m glad I did it — enjoyed it. But, unlike so many on the Alaska trip, I feel no need to return. Doug, on the other hand, joined in lots of the more athletic activities and would be glad to go back. I never was very athletic, but now I’m even less so …. I guess that happens.

  2. You had a busy but awesome year. Now you can dive into 2015 and if you really want to get that Alaska trip complete, you will make it a priority in your life. Other wise, you will always cherish your memories of the trip. I am glad to see you and enjoyed reading your post. Happy New Year’s day Mona. hugs

  3. Thanks so much for responding, Terry. Now I feel like I’m back with my friends in the blogger world again.

  4. Wonderful you’re in the writer’s group and heading up the one on forgiveness, Mona. You’re getting and giving and giving and giving. =) Thank you for having given as you have (yes, alliteration intended ha ha ha) on my blog. I appreciate your love and support. May wisdom and joy light your way in the new year.


  5. What a wonderful and productive year you have had Mona. I wish you many blessings for the coming year.

  6. 1st of all my very best for 2015: health, joy, serenity and plenty of inspiration! have a positive, optimistic and prosperous year! cheers! 🙂
    2nd of all: your letter is long, interesting and sooo American! 🙂 All our American relatives and friends send us a “résumé annuel”=
    annual summary in December… 🙂

    conclusion: you’ve had a year full of awesome “stuff”… 🙂 thanx a bunch of sunny mimosa flowers for dropping by my playground! I did/do appreciate your presence and your direct comments. Friendly thoughts and respectful regards, Mélanie

    • Ah, Melanie. You do manage to make me feel like we know each other. As for the annual American resume, I’m glad other of your friends have exposed you to the same kind of thing.

      Your comment about its being “American” is interesting at this point in what I’m doing – writing “My Father’s House,” the fictionalized biography of my father. I’m at the point where it’s 1910 and he is just leaving Sweden for America. I guess he did indeed transition well from Sweden to America, leaving me — his youngest — as distinctively American. I often regret that he refused to teach me Swedish, apparently to protect me from the derision he had experienced because of his accent. My big brother (deceased) — 11 years older — was proficient in the language, having lived when the church services and some conversation at home were still Swedish.

      There are times these days when I wish I were more “Swedish,” ’cause I think it would be a good place to live. But here I am, and here I’ll stay, making excuses for my linguistic failures.

  7. I enjoyed reading the letter. Happy New Year!

  8. Considering all I’ve enjoyed from you, it makes me happy that you enjoyed my letter.

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