Archive for the ‘Misc.’ Category

A year ago at this time our family gathered for our Christmas celebration. Normally a happy and joyous time it would be cut short and the mood turned somber as we eventually  made our way to the hospital to be with our precious little Amber. Her courageous struggle would finally come to a conclusion with her family members present to bid her farewell. It was not what we wanted at this time but not unexpected. I had written a post called, Amber’s Journey, back in March of 2009 when we learned she would become a permanent part of our family. Her health had always been precarious, but like most parents and grandparents we hoped for the best and always looked forward to the future.  On January 5, 2010 we celebrated her life and then prepared to move forward with our lives. It was and still is difficult at times.

Amber will always be a part of our life and we will remember her this weekend as our family again gathers for our Christmas celebration. We will remember how she taught us what unconditional love is all about. Amber gave us an opportunity to teach our children and grandchildren to accept others who may be ‘different’. Amber reinforced our belief that we must all be advocates for those who cannot speak for themselves. It is incredible the number of lives she touched. We often hear the bad news about children who slip through the cracks but this was not the case with Amber. We are grateful and remember the strong advocacy of the public servants in our community who worked tirelessly on her behalf. We will remember the exceptional group of young adults who supported my daughter and her husband.

We will remember her incredible ability to survive. We will remember her moods, her desire to be cuddled, and the way she  communicated. We will remember her smile, her rosy cheeks, and her beautiful long hair.

We will remember how blessed we were to know her and how much we loved her.

The title of this post is inspired by this performance by Raul Malo and Michael Guerra.

Peace and solidarity,


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11/09/09 UPDATE: Harmon Park is safe. According to members of the Save Harmon Park group the Pipestone city council met in closed session again tonight (11/09/09) and when they came out they announced that they had taken a vote and had declined Coborn’s offer for Harmon Park.

“Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead


If you happen to be a Facebook user then you will know that you often get all kinds of unsolicited invitations to become a fan of someone or something or to join a cause. It is easy to do with a couple of clicks and you can then beat your chest and say, “I support the ____ CAUSE.”  Recently I received a suggestion from a FB friend that I have known for a long time. She suggested that I join the Save Harmon Park cause. My curiosity got to me so I signed up and discovered that the city of Pipestone was considering selling part of their premier city park so that it could be developed  into a Coborn’s Superstore which would include a car wash and a gas station/convenience store. Coborn’s, Inc. is a Minnesota grown corporation founded in 1921 based in St Cloud with locations in the midwest, primarily Minnesota, North Dakota and Iowa.

The Pipestone County Star carried the first story, Coborn’s Superstore on the drawing board, about this development on October 7, 2009 and it was soon after that the opposition formed their group.

The Save Harmon Park group has been busy. They now have 276 members in the FB group and are using this social media tool for discussion, communication and organizing. They have contacted news organizations to get their story out, organized a petition drive which garnered 400 signatures to present to the city council, generated numerous letters to the editor and had over 100 people at a recent city council meeting to speak against the sale.

The city of Pipestione has had a rough year. Bayliner shut down its operations and Suzlon announced significant layoffs. The stagnant economy and unallotment by the Governor have also contributed to the tough situations faced by the city council. While the influx of cash from the sale of the park and future property tax collections may seem attractive now the Save Harmon Park group believes that it is short-sighted and I sympathise with them. I think it is a bit arrogant for Coborn’s to believe that the citizens of Pipestone would give up their park without question. I wonder what they were thinking when they were picking their ideal spot for a new store.

Did the conversation go like this?

 “Here is a great location” !

 “But wait, isn’t there a city park there”?

 “So what, our green will trump their green”.

For me, another reason to dislike this idea is Coborn’s political stance on health care reform and the Employee Free Choice Act. They have opposed both and urged their employees to do the same in an internal memo. In a Minnesota Public Radio report, Coborn’s director of communications, Steve Gottwalt says, ” the company frequently shares information with its employees about factors affecting its business”. Steve Gottwalt also happens to have another job as a  Minnesota state representative in district 15A and  is a member of the Republican caucus.

Visit the Pipestone County Star website to keep abreast of the situation and to read the letters to the editor. Here is just one example. If you are on Facebook search Save Harmon Park.

I can’t help but think of this song.

Peace & solidarity,



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After a day of  zipping around the packing house on my forklift, moving pork to its intended destination, I like to come home and relax and then see what Ollie Ox has to say at A Bluestem Prairie. Today I was a little shocked and saddened to read that Bluestem Prairie will be on hiatus until June 1. In a short post Sally Jo Sorensen announced:


“After posting at this blog for 2 years, 8 months, we’re feeling the need to spruce up the joint. Bluestem will be shuttered after today until June 1, when the blog will return as a venue for nonfiction essays…”

I and many others across the 1st District will miss her vigilant updates on  Congressman Tim Walz and her extensive recaps of the political news in the district. Sally also has kept an eye on the MSM and was not hesitant to remind them to get the facts straight.

This fall I had the privilege to meet the one and only Ollie OX at the annual Turkey Day celebration in Worthington and was honored to be her ‘union goon’ for the day. Although the vultures were circling overhead, we did manage to have some good discussion about blogging and politics.

We look forward to reading her new stuff on June 1 and hope she still has time for birding and gardening.

Cheap Trick says it all…

Peace & solidarity,


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March 1st marked the end of one journey and the beginning of another for a remarkable little girl by the name of Amber. She is now part of our family as my youngest daughter and her husband were named permanent legal guardians by the court effective March 1st. This has been a long process but has been worth the wait.

Amber was born a little over 5 years ago to parents who unfortunately were substance abusers. At the age of 3 months she fell ill with meningitis and as a result is severely disabled with numerous chronic health conditions. Her grandmother JoAnne, a friend of ours, realized that her son and his wife could not properly care for Amber so she quit her  job in Minnesota to move to Louisiana. It wasn’t long and she had Amber in her custody and was loving and caring for her and working hard to get her the necessary medical care .

In September of 2005 Hurricane Rita hit the Gulf Coast and as a result, JoAnne and Amber had to evacuate. They were unable to return to their home and after being shuffled around ended up in a shelter for hurricane victims where JoAnne connected with some medical personnel from the Mayo Clinic. They were able to look after the medical needs of Amber and strongly suggested that she leave Louisiana and go back home to Minnesota. Arrangements were made to have a friend fly down and the two of them packed up JoAnne’s car and headed north.

Amber and JoAnne got settled into Luverne with the help of friends and JoAnne began the task of seeking proper medical care for her granddaughter. The Mayo Clinic was accessible, with the help of her contacts made in Louisiana, and Amber was able to get a proper evaluation of her medical needs. They were able to establish a routine and JoAnne went back to work. Amber was enrolled in Children’s Care Hospital and School in Sioux Falls, South Dakota where she could receive therapy during the day.

My daughter, Alicia, was working at Children’s Care while working on her nursing degree so it seemed only natural that JoAnne would ask her to care for Amber when she was working and Amber was not in school. Alicia and her fiance David, learned  how to care for Amber but also bonded and grew to love her during this time.

In October of 2006 tragedy struck again. Amber’s father had decided to get on a bus and come to Minnesota to visit his child and mother. He never made it. He was found dead on the bus in Kansas City. JoAnne was devastated. Her son had his faults but she still loved him. She buried her son in Louisiana and returned to continue with her life.

That life would be tragically cut short. On April 4, 2007, less than 6 months after laying her son to rest, JoAnne, at the age of 55, had unexpected massive fatal stroke. We were all shocked and saddened. Amber had lost a caring grandmother who probably saved her life and we all lost a dear friend. After the funeral attention immediately turned to Amber. Who would care for her? Who had the legal right to care for her? Those questions would take almost two years to be answered.

Amber was placed at Children’s Care until a temporary foster home could be found. My daughter and her husband, without hesitation, decided that they wanted her in their home. JoAnne had spoken highly of them to her family so they were in agreement that Amber would do well with Alicia and David. Once all the legalities were taken care of Amber was placed in their home. I had my concerns that they were taking on more than they could handle but when I thought about it, I knew the bond and love between them was strong. I knew my daughter had the medical knowledge and experience. I also knew that her background prepared her to be an advocate for what was in Amber’s best interest.

Permanent placement was still an issue. Amber’s mother had already lost  custody of her and another sibling so that was not an option. It looked like David and Alicia would get permanent custody of Amber. But things are never as easy as they look. Amber’s maternal grandmother decided that she might want to have custody of the child. Thus, the long legal process began. There were many hearings, delays, more hearings, home studies, depositions, etc. The local Rock County Family Services agency was totally involved in the process. As advocates for Amber, they were in agreement that she should stay with my daughter and her husband. A guardian ad litem was appointed by the court and I must say that he worked tirelessly to keep Amber here. Rock County’s interest was of course represented by the county attorney and Amber’s mother had an attorney appointed for her. The testimony of the medical team that had knowledge of Amber’s condition was very important. They were all in agreement that because of Amber’s fragile health a move would not be in her best interest.

A two day trial was finally scheduled for January of this year and we all anxiously awaited the day. The parental rights of Amber’s mother were to be terminated which would allow the court to then decide custody. We were confident that all the evidence, testimony, and depositions would make the decision easy but always aware that the biological family has an edge. On day one of the trial there was another delay. Alicia and David waited anxiously. After several hours it was apparent what was going on. Amber’s mother had decided unexpectedly to voluntarily agree to allow the court to appoint David and Alicia as permanent legal guardians. This action by her was a surprise but I believe it was  an act of love for her child. She knew that she could not provide the necessary care.

We are all elated of course that Amber will stay as part of our family. She has touched all of our lives. Her dog, Rose, watches her like a hawk. Logan, the newest member of David and Alicia’s family converses with her in their own special way. We have all  learned a lot about the court system, family services, disabilities and being advocates for those who cannot speak for themselves. Amber’s medical condition is very precarious at times but Alicia and David are able to recognize when she is in distress and take appropriate action. We do not know how long she will be with us so we treasure every day that she teaches us about life.






Peace & solidarity,


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Seasons Greetings


Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from my family to yours.


Peace & solidarity,



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Wal-Mart has once again become the symbol of our nations over-zealous consumerism. The BlackFriday death of Jdimytai Damour is tragic and my heart goes out to his family. Many words have been written and spoken about this event. Brian Ojanpa of the Mankato Free Press writes about the event in his column, Black Friday finally claims a life.

Ojanpa writes:

“The safety of our customers and associates is our top priority,” Wal-Mart lawyerly intoned post-stampede.

OK, then, prove it by doing this: No more whipping waiting mobs into a shark frenzy by teasing them with pulse-quickening prices on purposely rationed items.

Go read the rest of his opinion piece here

The death of this worker was preventable. The barbaric crowd bears some responsibility for this death but the police in Long Island will find it difficult to bring criminal charges against anyone. Wal-Mart, on the other hand, has a legal responsibility to provide a safe workplace and failed dismally in this case.

CNN reports that UFCW Local 1500 President Bruce Both has called Wal-Mart’s actions, “blatant irresponsibility”. 

This incident reminded me of a song I downloaded a few years back by MC Lars called Wal-Mart Nation.


Peace & solidarity,


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Over the past few months I had been actively working to help elect Barack Obama to the presidency of the United States. Sometimes it was tedious-setting up phone banks, door knocks, work-site visits and recruiting volunteers. As November 4th grew closer the anxiety and excitement became more intense. The poll numbers were looking good but nobody was leaving anything to chance. The final four days were intense but enjoyable. I had the opportunity to work with a diverse group of excited volunteers. A young African immigrant who was voting for the first time was actively participating in getting her community registered to vote and getting them to the polls, retired teachers were training door knockers, college students were volunteering, packing house workers and professionals were knocking on doors side by side. We all shared the same goal and dream. November 4th was our day to bring about change and we were successful.

While I went home that night to sip a little brandy and watch the returns and celebrations on tv and the internet, others took to dancing in the streets in America and the world.


Mick Jagger and David Bowie do a little dancin’ in the streets in this music video that is older than many of the volunteers I worked with.




Peace & solidarity,


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Just in case anybody was wondering.

He may have said it a gazillion times tonight but I am not convinced that John McCain thinks of me as his friend.

Peace & solidarity,


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The bailout of Wall Street was the top story of many news organizations this week. While reading my local weekly newspaper, the Rock County Star Herald, I took note of the Remember When column. Remember When takes a look back at the headlines throughout the last century. Surprisingly, there were several that dealt with banking.

Twenty-five years ago this week a tragic banking story was in the news.

From the Star Herald:

25 years ago (1983)


•Rock County Law Enforcement officials are continuing to comb all areas of the county in an effort to locate two men wanted in connection with the gunshot slayings of two Ruthton bankers Thursday morning. The suspects, last sighted at about 2 p.m. Thursday buying ammunition at a Luverne gun shop, were still at large and considered armed and dangerous. James L. Jenkens and his 18-year-old son, Steven, are sought for the killings of Rudy Blythe, 42, president of the Buffalo Ridge State Bank, and Deems (Toby) Thulin, 37, vice president and ag loan officer.




Deputy Ron McClure spotted the suspects in Rock County and was shot at during a pursuit. Shots were also reported in Woodstock.



(Read more about this story hereCHC)





75 years ago (1933)

 Robbers obtained $1,793 at the Pipestone National Bank during a daring daytime robbery. Three women employees, including Ruth Conrad, formerly of Luverne, were taken as temporary hostages as the gunmen escaped.

100 years ago (1908)

A bank robbery attempt was reported at the First National Bank of Hills. Unknown robbers gained entrance into the vault during the night, but because they could not enter the safe, they left empty handed.


Yes, a lot of unconventional banking going on during this week throughout history although things have changed a bit. The thieves sit behind a desk now and have a BlackBerry instead of a gun.




Watch a couple of famous thieves:







Peace & solidarity,














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I do…Well, at least this version.




Peace & solidarity,


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