Archive for the ‘“A Christmas Carol: The Musical”’ Tag


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.



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