So Much Art!

We have the benefit of having lots of friends who are artists, so we have a bunch of work from them, but we’ve also collected much in our travels through the years. Therefore, everything we have has a deeply personal connection to us.

One of the things people notice most the first time they come into our home is how much art fills our walls (generally, right before noting how many books we have). Here’s just a couple of examples:

What many don’t know is how much art we have in our basement waiting to be displayed. It’s… a lot:

Basement Art Pile

Since we’re in the middle of our basement cleanup project and last spring we painted the stairwell area, we now have plenty of empty space to fill with much of the art not yet hung. The side benefit of which is to also get a big chunk of it out of the basement.

First, it was such a mess of stuff we needed figure out what was what. So, that started with staging what we had and figuring out what we wanted to hang for sure and was ready to be hung as is, what stuff we had no real attachment to and wish to pass along, what needed frames or other work to hang, etc.

Staging the art (before)
Staging the art (before)
Staging the art (after)
Staging the art (after)

This is more work than it sounds and, perhaps, the most time consuming part of the process. Especially finding and matching frames with things we’d like to hang.

We are far from done but have made a good start. Here’s a before and after with what’s been hung so far:

Stair bottom (before)
Stair bottom (before)
Stair bottom (after)
Stair bottom (after)
Second Landing (before)
Second Landing (before)
Second Landing (after)
Second Landing (after)

I think it’s off to a good start. But we have quite a bit left to do. We have much space left to fill. I’ll post some final pics once it’s finished.

Fools’s Spring

Up until about 20 years ago, March in Minnesota was brutally cold. It was generally the coldest month of the year. Winter reminding us it was not quite done with us; it would spend February winding up so that it could spend the month of March delivering its final blow. Temperatures would struggle to rise out of the negative digits. Snow so frozen it would squeak under your boots as you walked. When Spring did come in mid-April, one could truly appreciate it and know that the worst of our winter suffering was over.

Thanks to a changing climate, March is much different now. Now we get what we’ve come to call “Fool’s Spring”. Temps in the high 50’s to low 60’s for the past couple of weeks pretty consistently. The occasional nighttime dip below freezing but rare. We even got Thunderstorms and rain all day on Wednesday of last week. It’s enough to cause one to consider packing away the winter clothes. Putting the puffers, and mittens, and scarves back the closet until next year.

It’s been this way for several years now. But, those who’ve been paying attention know, it’s just a trick. It’s temporary. You’d be a fool to believe, based on the past few years, that spring has sprung. Therefore, you put nothing away. You enjoy the warmth of the moment and wait. The cold will return. The snow will come. The past few years that has meant a massive snowstorm near the end of April. Someone should wake Prince and let him know that we’ve gone from sometimes to always since he wrote about it.

Here we are today, after a weekend that saw temps near 60F, parts of the state will see 5-8 inches of snow today. Like Ali ducking and dodging every punch, Old Man Winter is just having a bit of fun with us.

The Couple and The Gander

The family of geese who lived on the beach were once again taking a walk (as they did daily). On this day they came across a couple who were obviously engaged in an argument. The geese, being curious as geese are despite the pains they take at appearing aloof, paused to observe and listen. The couple, being engaged in an increasingly heated conversation did not notice the geese. The moments passed as the couple’s disagreement became more angry. Finally, hearing enough, the father gander yelled, “STOP!” Not only did this startle the couple and provoke immediate silence for all within earshot, after a beat or two the couple realized this command came from a goose and they stood, dumbfounded.

“Follow us”, commanded the gander once he felt the couple’s attention was held. The couple, figuring that if geese felt it important enough to speak it should also be important enough to listen to, obeyed and followed.

The family of geese led them away from the beach. Past the boardwalk, past the kitschy gift shops that lined the boulevard just beyond. Through the town. Up a winding road to the top of a hill. There overlooking town below and the beach and the sea, the family of geese and the couple came to a stop. After a few moments of surveying the scene below the father gander looked at the ground and muttered, “Here.”

The couple, silent and confused, looked quizzingly at the gander.

“Here,” the gander repeated. Realizing it was still not clear to the couple and somewhat annoyed by their inability to comprehend, the gander made it more clear.

“This is the hill you’re going to die on.”

With that, the family of geese walked away leaving the couple to continue what was started.

Journal Without Journaling (Using Day One)

It only occurred to me at the beginning of the year, when I casually mentioned that I was printing a book of my Day One yearly journal ( Day One allows for multiple journals and I organize my journals by year), that I don’t really use Day One for journalling in the traditional sense. I prefer to do that by hand in a paper notebook. That’s where I may capture thoughts and feelings about the day or, in the case of my Daily Log, what I did and when I did it. I use Day One to capture all of those other things that are not journalling in the more traditional sense but, in a way, are as much journalling as anything else.

Lately, I’ve been thinking that this may be helpful to others — especially those that have struggled with traditional journalling, have desires to do so, but can’t seem get into the rhythm or make the time. Here’s what goes into my Day One:

  • Instagram — Do you use it to post photos of what you eat? Vacations? Pets? Selfies? Any or all of the above? Maybe you add a short caption. Well, these are snapshots in time. These are “here I am and what I’m doing”. This is journalling. And, instead of just leaving it on the doorstep of some Facebook owned silo where you are unlikely to go back and reflect on your days, you can hook up Instagram to Day One and have those photos automatically imported in. Now, instead of your snapshots being blasted into the ether, they can become part of a meaningful record of your life.

  • Twitter — I use IFTTT (If This Then That) to pipe every Tweet I post on Twitter into Day One. Once again, if you are using Twitter beyond posting links to news sites to own your perceived enemies and, instead, are posting what you are doing and thinking — that is journalling. Why not make it less ephemeral and more lasting, intentional, and meaningful by sending those Tweets to Day One?

  • Blog Posts — Everything I post to my blog, Rhoneisms, gets routed to Day One via IFTTT as well. Since I often use my blog in a way many people may use Twitter and Instagram, it makes sense in the context of what I’ve said above.

  • Tweet Without Tweeting, ‘Gram without ‘Graming — Maybe there’s a thought you have or å photo you take but you don’t, for whatever reason, want to post it to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, your blog, etc. Maybe it’s too personal or not completely formed. Maybe you’re afraid it might get taken the wrong way or you just simply want to keep it to yourself. Well, why not “post” it into Day One? Not everything has to be out there for the world to see. Some things can be just for you.

Also, here’s another thing to think about while setting all of this up: How might it change what you post to Twitter if you know those things are going into a personal journal? One that you plan to print and maybe pass down to those you leave behind. How about what you post to Instagram or Facebook? Would it become more personal? More a reflection of what you did and how you feel about things? More like the old days of Twitter where the post box asked, “What are you doing?” and posting “Eating lunch” or “Stuck in a boring meeting” was not only OK but was what everyone did? Just some thoughts….

So, for the most part, my Day One journals are populated automatically. They capture those things that would otherwise be forgotten in a corporate silo. But, here’s another thing I do to make sure they are a lasting a permanent record…

Because I organize my journals by year (my current journal is titled 2021, for example), on January 1st I order a printed book of the previous years entries directly within Day One. Because, as many know, I’m a firm believer that if you really want something to last for generations, it should be on paper. Plus, I find it nice to randomly and occasionally pick up a journal from a previous year, flip through, and dwell in those memories.

My Reading Plan for 2021

As has been the case for the past few years, I develop a reading plan for the year. Having a plan helps provide some gentle guidance in my reading choices and helps ensure I don’t get stuck in reading ruts. For example, in the past these have included such things as reading more recognized classics that I’ve never read or more mass market paperbacks that are easy to take with me and occupy my attention instead of a screen.

This coming year will be no different. Here’s the plan…

Read big books that scare me.

That’s it. That’s the plan. What does it mean and why? Well, there are a number of big books (500+ pages) that I have always wanted to read but I avoid them when it actually comes time to choose from my to-read pile. Here’s why…

  • I’ve always been a slow reader. So I see them and think to myself that I could read two or three books in the time it would take me to read those.

  • I tell myself that I don’t know if I could spend what for me would be a whole month or two in a single book.

  • I tell myself I can’t finish it.

  • I tell myself I’ll get bored.

  • I tell myself I should be the sort of person who reads at least 20 books in a year (my wife averages 75+) and choosing the big ones will make that impossible.

Bottom line, I need to stop this. After all, looking back over my reading list there are several big books on it. There were years when I read The Mueller Report, Hamilton, or the Steve Jobs biography and still managed to feel like I read “enough” books for the year. If I only read big books and only read 10 for the year, does it really matter? No; not in the grand scheme of things.

So, I’m going to use this year to tackle some of those big ones I’ve been putting off for far too long. I’m going to let go of any numbers-based reading goals I have. I’m going to acclimate myself to getting lost in a single book for a month or more. I’m going to show those pages who’s boss.

Christmas Eve Lefse

Our Christmas Eve morning tradition starts with getting out the griddle and tools. Coincidentally, the brand name is the same as my wife’s first name — Bethany.

The tools of the trade.

The hardest part is getting the dough just right — not too sticky and not too firm because flour will be added in the rolling process.


Beatrix handles the rolling and the delivery to Mom in at the griddle.

Mom does the frying.

Leaves quite a mess.

But the finished product is worth the cleanup.

Making Lefse (Day 1)

Lefse making begins in lead up to the cooking Christmas Eve morning. Today I’m boiling and ricing the potatoes so that they can then be refrigerated for a few days to let the moisture evaporate.

I use a KitchenAid equipped with the meat grinding attachment to do the ricing.

Here they are after they’re riced.

The $10 Time Machine

Almost 16 years ago, my wife and I had recently began dating when I invited her to come to San Francisco with me. I was going out to attend Macworld as I did almost every year. And though we had not been dating very long by that point, I knew this would be a lifelong love. Thankfully, for my sake, she felt the same and agreed. It was a fantastic trip. One that I remember every detail of and likely will for the rest of my life.

Just before leaving for the airport to fly home, we decided to squeeze in some last-minute shopping. Amongst that we popped into the Old Navy flagship store in downtown San Francisco. As is my habit, I made a beeline to the clearance section to see what treasures I might find there. Lo and behold, stuffed at the end of the rack was this pea coat. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Not only had I always wanted a pea coat, but for Old Navy this one was particularly and surprisingly well-made. The sort of thing one might find in an Army/Navy store. Heavy wool, top shelf construction, a classic. But the kicker, the truly unbelievable thing, was the price — $10. Yes, you read that right, $10. A no-brainer.

I’ve worn this pea coat every winter since. It’s the most favorite thing I own. Not just because of its utility, the fact that it will never go out of style, that it’s built to last a lifetime, but also because I’m flooded with memories of that time — being so freshly in love with the most important person in the world to me and our first of many trips together.

Yesterday was the 16th anniversary of our first date.

I was wearing this coat when I proposed to her.

Today, as I do every year, I spent time cleaning it up with a lint brush and prepping for another winter together.

This year, at a time we can’t travel, these memories are especially precious.

And I have a $10 time machine that can take me anywhere.

For some, mental health day is every day…

World Mental Health Day came and went last Saturday. I failed to post anything about it. But it is not because it’s not a subject that I care deeply about; quite the contrary. I’ve written about my own personal mental health challenges many times before. I’ve written about what it feels like to live daily with a mental illness. I’ve encouraged others to tell their stories too. I could name a more than a dozen of people just off the top of my head who I knew personally who have taken their own lives due to their own mental health struggles. Finally, my oldest child is currently under state civil commitment for her own mental health treatment as she was deemed a danger to herself and others. I could go on and on about how personally this affects me and the people I love…

For me and so many others, every day is mental health day in our worlds.

As you may (or may not) know, I serve as a board member for Mental Health Minnesota. I recently became the board President (an honor I accept with pride). The organization offers free and anonymous online mental health screenings, referrals to treatment and services, and peer support. As you can imagine, they’ve been busier than ever, with so many people facing unprecedented levels of stress, anxiety, and depression related to COVID-19 and so many other recent events. In just the last three months, nearly 7,000 people have taken online mental health screenings offered through their website. That’s more screenings in just three months than during the entire year of 2019. Two-thirds of those taking screenings are under the age of 24, and many are looking for help. Use of the other services offered by Mental Health Minnesota has also increased. The Mental Health Helpline, which provides information about treatment and services, has more than doubled. And the Minnesota Warmline, which provides peer support for people struggling with their mental health, has seen a record number of calls.

You may have heard me talk about this organization before, or maybe some of you local folks have been to our fundraising events in the past; especially our annual event at Surly Brewing held in honor of World Mental Health Day. This is our largest fundraising event of the year.

Unfortunately, fundraising events are off the table this year because (glances broadly at the state of the pandemic), so I’m asking you to help me raise a little money for them

In honor of World Mental Health Day on October 10, we are seeking at least 100 donors to give $25 (the cost of a ticket for the Surly event in the past) between October 10th and October 16th to support our work. I believe that World Mental Health Day should be about making sure everyone has a chance to get the help they need, when they need it. But, the truth is, those of us that live with mental illness need the help organizations like this provide every day. I hope you’ll join me in making a contribution that will help so many by donating here. And if you want to learn more about Mental Health Minnesota’s work, I hope you’ll visit their website at www.mentalhealthmn.org.