Archive for the ‘“My Father’s House”’ Tag


I can hardly wait to get back to “My Father’s House.” I have ‘til 1986 to go.

Since my accident, the process is a little different. Sitting at my computer eventually becomes too painful for my back, so I have to choose one of two ways to relieve it. I can lie down on my love seat with my feet elevated. That works very well, but it’s hard to stay awake. Or I can walk – these days outside in the lovely weather we’ve been having, or indoors on the treadmill. I suspect that’s the healthier method. Either way, it takes time away from writing.

So, why tell you this? It’s my excuse for being so remiss at caring for my blog.

Today, though, there’s something quick I want to tell you. Sometimes when I’m on my back I stay awake enough to read something. Right now it’s “The Compassionate Instinct: The Scientific Roots of Human Goodness” by Dacher Keltner, Jason Marsh, and Jeremy Adam Smith. It’s a collection of articles from the “Greater Good” magazine – the kind of thing I need to read to stay alive in this age of anger, cruelty, and violence.

I’m reading it on my Kindle which creates a bit of a problem, because I still haven’t learned how to cite a quote. But I think it’s OK here to include one short one. In pointing out the other way to understand human beings, not as competitive fighters or fearful victims, but as cooperators as well, they describe the other option as “…not to fight or flee, but to approach and soothe.” Then they go on to provide supportive scientific evidence.

I wish my colleague and friend, Barbara McEwen, were still with us to see this development. I learned from her many years ago that survival depends just as much on cooperation as on winning the battle. A physiological psychologist, her major interest was in oxytocin, a major player in the more positive side of our personalities. Don’t worry, that’s as far as I’m going with this little lecture. Just a chance to remember her.

This plays into the observation of “mirror neurons” which lead us to experience other’s emotions. Last night I took note of my doing just that while watching the end of “Wheel of Fortune.” The winner had solved a tough final puzzle with minimal cues and ended up with a big win, a huge smile, and a happy family hugging him on stage. And I noticed myself. I was feeling and looking as happy as a clam.

That’s the kind of thing we’re capable of. Let’s not forget it in the midst of all the negativity, and the assumption that the best thing to do to protect ourselves is to kill the other guy. I hope there are occasions for each of us when someone else’s joy gives us a happy jolt.

By the way, and totally off the subject. I was reminded again recently in conversation with a friend, of two important rules of therapy: (1) avoid triangles; (2) Use no more words than necessary.

I don’t think I have a triangle in this posting, but maybe I’ve used more words than necessary. I don’t want to spend a lot of time editing, though. While I am still sitting in comfort, I want to get my father through the entry of the United States into WWI.


In past years I’ve managed to do something relatively elaborate to wish my friends a happy holiday. This year not so much, but my joy in your friendship is none-the-less nurturing, exciting and powerful.

As I think you know, my big event of the year was turning my lovely little Acura RSX into a flattened pile of metal and stuff that looked in the end like an aluminum can crushed under foot in preparation for the recycling bin. That was on April 15, when I was on my way home looking forward to two unscheduled days to dig into some of my ongoing projects.

Most of those projects are still active in my head, but I’m way behind in carrying them out. I did get to follow through on plans to take part in a forum on forgiveness at the Shepherd of the Hill Presbyterian Church on April 28. With the help of my son who got my computer to me at Auburn Manor where I was rehabbing, I was able to create handouts illustrating my new approach to presenting forgiveness issues, emphasizing that justice and mercy are two sides of the same coin. Auburn manor made it easy for me to work within the recovery schedule, and some very generous folks from the church managed to get me there and back to present from a wheelchair. Quite dramatic, really.

One of my projects now is to write about my crash, what I’ve learned from it, and the impact it’s had on my life. I have started working on it, discovering that I have to go back to check records to remind me where I was when. Memory, never a simple file folder in the brain, is more vague than I thought it would be. But you will probably be exposed to it eventually.

Work also proceeds on “My Father’s House.” Right now it’s mostly doing research about Bristol, Connecticut and life and times around 1910. Totally stalled, however, is the creation of questions for groups to use in discussing “Figs and Pomegranates and Special Cheeses.” I’m hopeful they will eventually encourage more adoption of “Figs … . “ Then there’s my blog, and my facebook page, so badly ignored as they fall to the bottom of the priorities list.

I’ve been out of the three-month sentence to the torso brace since July 17. Whew! What a relief. But regaining my energy is still an ongoing process, along with getting accustomed to my shorter stature after losing two inches to my L1 compression fracture. And what a shock when I realized how it had changed my body structure! Yes, I worked hard at keeping good posture, but my clothes needed a lot of adjusting. The local tailor was wonderful at working around the brace to alter clothes to fit for our July 28 departure on a planned three-week cruise to the Shetland Islands, Iceland, and Norway.

The flight on the way over did hurt. I walked the aisles a lot, but three weeks of rest, walking, and fun worked wonders. The trip home was very comfortable. I still need to lie on my back occasionally when pain starts to build up – especially after working at my computer, and walking is amazingly helpful. But my chiropractor/nutritionist tells me things will keep on getting better. Certainly I have no basis for complaining when I think of what might have happened if my Acura, its seat belts, and air bags hadn’t taken such good, protective care of me.

I loved all the places we visited on the cruise. I intended to share a few photos on my blog, but I haven’t made it past the point of beginning to learn how to post movies. Just beginning to learn how – still haven’t done it.

As for photos, I haven’t yet downloaded the few I took on our restful and fun four-night Thanksgiving stay at Cove Point in Beavers Falls, outside Duluth. Because then, of course, came the preparation for Christmas. I am no longer responsible for “creating” the celebration, but, given my propensity to purchase gifts through the year while traveling, it does fall to me to wrap them all and get them to their destinations.

All these words just to explain why I haven’t been writing on my blog and facebook! And I thought I was going to write just a brief paragraph.

Finally,to the point. Two points, actually. (1) Rejoice! The winter solstice arrives in a few hours and we will begin to have more daylight. (2) Rejoice! Things may be pretty awful, but we always have this annual time to at least imagine what love and peace will look like when we decide to practice them. Oh, and (3) Thank you for enriching my life with the creative things you do in the blogosphere.

BILL BRYSON, 1927, AND “MY FATHER’S HOUSE.”   18 comments

Working on “My Father’s House” has been a life changing eye-opener for me. As his youngest child, I had no real sense of the time when my father arrived in America in 1910 to the quiet little village of Forestville, Connecticut. My big sister and brother experienced much more of the earlier years. And of the amazing changes that occurred during his lifetime.

My sister, for example, remembers people traveling by horse and wagon, and isn’t sure just when trolley’s from Forestville to Bristol were replaced by buses. She also remembers as a little girl shouting to planes overhead, “Hey, Lucky. Give me a ride.”

My brother remembered the days when church services at Bethesda Lutheran Church were conducted in Swedish. In fact, he spoke Swedish with no apparent effort. I, on the other hand, begged my father to teach me Swedish. He didn’t, citing the prejudice he had experienced when he first arrived. I suspect it was really so he and my mother could talk behind my back while I was present.

I have come to realize how painful it must have been for my parents when all three of their offspring married outside the church. Some things make real empathetic sense when one works at getting inside the life of another.

And oh yes, I really miss my brother, partly because I miss him, and partly he isn’t here to answer the questions my sister is too young to answer.

So now to Bill Bryson’s “One Summer: 1927.” I’m not really going to write a review. 2164 people have already done that on I will say it’s a great read and I strongly recommend it. But I want to talk about the reason why I read it – to understand the times my parents lived through. And even some of the times I lived through with them, which has me reading David Halberstam’s “The Fifties” at the same time.

I loved Bryson’s book. His writing style is delightful. What got to me is realizing the amazing changes that took place in America and, indeed, the world, almost without people knowing it. Oh yes, people were excited about specific events. I must say, poor Lindbergh had my sympathetic understanding of the misery his Scandinavian shyness created for him as he became such a lauded hero. Some of the stories of how he – and his mother – handled it are really funny. I don’t think you have to be a Scandinavian to appreciate it.

But the thing that got me is how many of our current problems are rooted in the events of those days. Adding to that Halberstam’s events of the 50s – when I thought I was a grownup – just highlights how much things are changing right now right before our eyes, or maybe secretly behind our backs.

Aside from learning more about my parents’ lives, I find myself hoping to live another 30 years (yeah! Not likely!) to understand what’s going on now.

Now I’ll transport myself back to 1910 to write a few more paragraphs of “My Father’s House.”


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.




I know, I skipped a couple of these updates. Lots of things fattened my schedule of things to do — like a couple of blogs on “A Healthy Woman is a Crazy Person.” And, of course, doing my best to get the word out about “Figs & Pomegranates & Special Cheeses.”

I’m happy to say the book has now accumulated 19 reviews. People seem to like the option of the Kindle version — certainly a lot less expensive than the paperback, which also is set at a pretty comfortable price.

I’ve also had some direct sales of signed copies. That could happen for you too if you send me a request, with your snail mail address, at The price is $12.95 + $3.00 postage (+ $0.81 tax if you are in Minnesota).

I’d love to cooperate with someone local who might like to have a home reading for the book. (and maybe my other books on forgiveness.)

As for the web site, it is still slow in the making. The talented man who is putting it together had to take time out for health reasons, and I’ve been slow in providing him the materials he needs. I hope soon he and I will be rolling along to the final accomplishment. Once that’s up and running, you’ll be able to order any of my books via that route.

I have sent out close to 100 postcards asking people to check out the book on amazon, and the reviews, and send me an e-mail at telling me they’ve done it. I gather from some of the personal reactions that my terrible handwriting is standing in the way — like people can’t read what I’ve asked them to do.

Anyway, I still have hundreds of postcards left if you have any great suggestions for me.

Oh, by the way, one of the time-consumers is “My Father’s House,” the fictionalized version of the biography of my father. Right now a couple of volunteers are giving me some great feedback on a sample of the first 27 pages. I’ve asked for people who are not of Swedish heritage and who do not know me to read it just from the point of view of seeing if it is an interesting read. So far, very helpful and positive reactions.


Finally I’ve spent time on Minnesota’s north shore and it was beautiful to look at and relaxing to enjoy. Doug and I arrived at Cove Point on the day before Thanksgiving, staying in a Fjord Cottage a short walk from the main lodge. (I’m writing this a week later while snowed in in Chaska. Glad we went the week before.)

The drive there from Excelsior was clear and beautiful, but shortly after we arrived it began to snow, creating our first of the year winter wonderland. Inside the unit it was warm and cozy with the gas fireplace.


For dinner we took a short walk through the snow covered path to the dining room at the lodge where the menu gave great satisfaction to my Swedish heritage appetite. I ended up with a first course of herring salad and a stuffed portobello mushroom for the main meal. They very kindly substituted quinoa for the gluten free rotini. And for desert they gave me what I asked for — a scoop of vanilla with lingonberries. It was all good!

Doug enjoyed tomato basil soup and crumb crust walleye -crushed pretzels, mustard, wild rice pilaf and green beans. For desert he chose the root beer float they were offering free at the bar.

See what I mean? It was relaxing – no rushing off to “see the sights.” Later, back at the unit, Doug began the project of teaching me cribbage on a hand carved board in the shape of a fish. Just one of the toys provided.

Thanksgiving morning I awoke to the sight of a lovely sunrise over the lake.


and the lake waters greeting the snow covered rocks on shore.

Lake Superior

We made our own thanksgiving dinner in the kitchen beautifully supplied with everything necessary. I’m not including the photo of our cooked chicken, even though it was beautiful in “person,” because the photo had something equivalent to red eye, except it was red crust. Looked weird.

The rest of the day was a hanging-out day except for a brief walk to the lodge, a quick swim in the pool, and a soak in the whirlpool. Then more cribbage. Whew. And seconds on the pumpkin pie.

We did go see some sights the next day. First it was the Split Rock lighthouse – a beautiful structure, in use from 1909 t0 1964, or was it 1946? Oh well, Here it is.

Split Rock LIghthouse

We couldn’t see the inside because it’s only open in the summer months, but we did see a brief film of the crashes that brought about its being built in the first place. And we got a sense of what life was like for the keeper and his family.

Later, on our way to Gooseberry Park we got a glimpse of it again through the trees.

Lighthouse thru trees

Then it was on to Gooseberry Park where I did get a photo of the frozen falls. Actually there was some small amount of water still running, but not a lot.

Gooseberry Falls

I was particularly taken with what seemed like a tree that nature had decorated for Christmas.

Gooseberry Park Xmas tree

And then another relaxed evening at the unit.

On our way home from Cove Point we stopped in Duluth to visit the Glensheen mansion. Here are a few quick photos. First, the entry.

Glensheen entry

And the dining room.

Glensheen Dining Room


Plus a lovely tiled fireplace.

Glensheen fireplace


and one of the rooms.

Glensheen Mansion Duluth


As you can see,it was decorated for Christmas. Referring to a guest who had visited from Radcliffe, there were costumed guides at several points on the self-guided tour to elucidate what the guest would have seen, and what delight she took in being there.

I loved seeing it, but I wouldn’t want to live there. I guess because if I did, I imagined cleaning it all myself. But they had servants, and very pleasant servant’s quarters.

And so, I’m back to work today — more fun rehearsals for “The Sound of Music,” gift wrapping, trying to keep up with e-mail, friends, and clients, and telling myself each day that I’ll get back to work on selling “Mrs. Job” and writing “My Father’s House.” A snow day does help.


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