My Dad is 42. But we celebrated his 70th birthday anyway.

My bro, who makes me think like no one else ever can, asked, “So dad, what age do you FEEL?” My dad, with his sparkly green eyes and quick smile masking quicker yet pinpoint accurate thoughts said, “Mid-40s.”

We did manage to surprise him with a cake amidst the Ham Dinner Feast he'd prepared for us.
We did manage to surprise him with a cake amidst the Ham Dinner Feast he’d prepared for us.

This was during a birthday/Christmas celebration for his upcoming 70th birthday. He’ll be in Arizona for his actual birthday, just another sign that really, he is young.

No pressure on singing happy birthday to a guy with a master's degree and career of vocal music!  If we were pitchy, he didn't let us know we were.
No pressure on singing happy birthday to a guy with a master’s degree and career of vocal music! If we were pitchy, he didn’t let us know we were.

He volunteers countless hours at a hospital and on their Board of Directors. He still substitute teaches. Here–and in Arizona (even though his next-best-language is not Spanish but Latin, good Catholic boy that he is!). He helps with church music in both spots, too, playing piano and organ, singing in the choirs. He answered the call at the last minute this year in Minnesota when the music director at his long-time parish needed sudden hospitalization: a week before Christmas! He was right there for rehearsals and Midnight Mass to celebrate this magical night with beautiful music.

At every family gathering at his house, we sing. This evening, it  was Christmas Carols, lyrics rewritten by my dad {and he was accompanied by his youngest grandkid this year, too!}
At every family gathering at his house, we sing. This evening, it was Christmas Carols, lyrics rewritten by my dad {and he was accompanied by his youngest grandkid this year, too!}

He guides kids for ACT test prep. He cooks, bakes, maintains every inch of his home and lawn and driveway (you know, when it snows before he heads south). He admits he’s never operated a snowblower (no wonder I don’t like those either, it’s hereditary!). He’s a marvelous friend and confidant and advisor to many.

We all wore green, his favorite color, to the Christmas theatre he takes us to each year. The cast and audience sang Happy Birthday to him, too!
We all wore green, his favorite color, to the Christmas theatre he takes us to each year. The cast and audience sang Happy Birthday to him, too!

Best of all, he’s an incredible dad. And granddad. He never misses a music concert, he’ll meet me at a museum anytime–and he sends weekly notes to our eldest (now a teenager), just one of the ways he lets us all clearly know he is our biggest fan. He does so many more little things that just add up in gigantic ways. He’s one of those amazing people who always makes you feel like you’re the most special person on the planet.

Sounds like the energy of a 42-year-old to me!

Happy Birthday to my dad. Soak up the Arizona sun, we all love you very much.

I wonder if he saved any of the cake? Actually, I don't want to know. He's a bit of a sentimental store-er.
I wonder if he saved any of the cake? Actually, I don’t want to know. He’s a bit of a sentimental store-er.
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My top Dome memories aren’t on the Top 10 Lists

Sunday, I’ll be at the last game ever at The Dome (I refuse to call it Mall of America Field). I’m happy to say goodbye, since it’s a dump.

But it’s OUR dump.

And as a lifelong sports fan, many of my best memories took place right there. Yeah, I was there waving my Homer Hankies for the World Series–both of ’em. I saw the Rolling Stones there. Cheered on Kirby. Saw a few of the NCAA men’s basketball final 4 games there. Kept our oldest kid out too late on a school night to watch Carlos Gomez win a game in the 10th inning to make the MLB playoffs. Pretty cool.

But here are a few Dome memories you won’t see on all the Best Dome Moments Lists. I think they’re better because, well, they’re my memories. And I will treasure them forever. Goodbye, Dome. Thank you.

1. Starving to see Nolan Ryan

As a college kid, I knew the pitching rotation of every team. It became clear Nolan Ryan would probably be up while they were in Minnesota. I prayed, skipped lunch for days and used that money for bus fare and a $5 ticket to see Nolan Ryan pitch. Worth every cent. And hunger pang.

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2. Sid’s sage advice

Since I could read, Sid Hartman has been one of my heroes. I met him in The Dome concourse one Twins Sunday afternoon game when I was in college, studying communications and English and contemplating my career. I got up enough nerve to say Hi and he chatted for a bit. I’ll never forget his advice: “Never stop being curious. Newspapers are changing, go into something else. And never act your age.” I’ve always wanted him to know I follow that advice every single day.

Sid Hartman Bronze Statue Target Field Twins Game Pre-Game
I still try to stop by and say Hi to my hero Sid, who now stands sentinel at Target Field.

3. Air Jordan

I knew someone who got us court side seats for the MN Timberwolves first home game. Yes, they started at the Dome. They played the Chicago Bulls, including Michael Jordan in his prime. Seeing him fly, literally fly, from so close was amazing.

4. “I can die happy.”

August 25, 2009, the NFL player who I so loved watching joined OUR TEAM. #4, Brett Favre, had beat up our Vikes so many times but now, he was ours. I went to the game, thanks to great seats from my husband and his amazing connections. It was electric. We all stood for Brett’s first drive as OUR QB. Then, the older gentleman behind me eased into his seat and breathed happily, “I can die happy.” We’ve returned since, and I always look for that gentleman. Perhaps he is gone now. I’m glad he’s happy. (And after I got off suicide watch when Brett & co. got beat in the playoffs, I went back to the Dome to see #4 again. It wasn’t as memorable.)

5. Left field bliss

Again as a college kid, all I could usually afford were cheap seats. But left field, with a great view of Dan Gladden from, ahem, behind suited me just fine.

See? Nice scenery from this side, too.
See? Nice scenery from this side, too.

6. Introducing a new generation

In the chunk of time we lived in North Dakota, we always made time for a Twins game when we returned here for a visit. I proudly watched our kids get sucked out of the Dome, taught them to keep score, and cheered on the team. The Twins sucked their last __ years in the Dome. But we loved them. When we moved back to Minnesota, we spent more time there. One afternoon, we donned our Joe Mauer sideburns as part of that promo. Another Sunday, we intentionally skipped church to see Francisco Liriano pitch.

July 2003, with my dad, little Julia, Matty and Caroline, who arrived a few weeks later!
July 2003, with my dad, little Julia, Matty and Caroline, who arrived a few weeks later!

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matt and nick on field

Matt got to see his then hero, Payton Manning, up close.
Matt got to see his then hero, Payton Manning, up close.
Matty as Joe.
Matty as Joe.

7. Sharing the joy

My mom, an equally rabid Twins fan, came to the very last Twins game at the Dome. Still makes me smile, her right behind home plate soaking it all in… And now we know the pure joy of Target Field and outdoor baseball together!

mom and i last game

8. Introducing my generation

Just a few weeks ago, my husband used those great connections again to, again, get on-field passes. My brother in law, at his first Vikes game, met Carl Eller on the field. Priceless. (And then new gun Cordarrelle Patterson ran back a kick for TD on the FIRST play of the game.)

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I think these memories are better because, well, they’re my memories. And I will treasure them forever. Goodbye, Dome. Thank you for giving me reasons to never, ever act my age.

We live with Mary, a Wise Man, Baby Jesus and an Angel

A look back in these last hours of sweet anticipation of church services of this blessed night. In Christmas pageants, our kids have been Mary, a Wise Man, an Angel and Baby Jesus, making this magical time of year come alive.

Neat how their roles have fit their maturing personalities. This year’s Christmas Card:

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And now, a peek back:

Little Caroline was baby Jesus at 4 months old. She got rather hot, but didn't cry.
Little Caroline was baby Jesus at 4 months old. She got rather hot, but didn’t cry. Fit her nicely, as the one who completed our family — Jesus completed the world.
Julia was Mary, complete with red glitter shoes (!). Hey, we told her this was a big deal and to dress nicely.
Julia was Mary, complete with red glitter shoes (!). Hey, we told her this was a big deal and to dress nicely. Fit her perfectly, a quiet leader with deep faith she doesn’t sound from the rooftops but lives serenely beautifully.

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The next year, Matt was one of the Wise Men, following a star and bringing gifts to someone they knew was very, very important.
The next year, Matt was one of the Wise Men, following a star and bringing gifts to someone they knew was very, very important. Again, fit him. Great costumes, part of a group, supporting role, opportunity to smile.
Caroline was an Angel, full of joy and tidings, singing and sharing the good news, which is pretty much her  role every day!
Caroline was an Angel, full of joy and tidings, singing and sharing the good news, which is pretty much her role every day!

angel caraSo we, luckily, get to live with quiet grace, leadership, joy, and proclaiming all good to the world.

And sometimes, they’re just happy little elves:

Christmas 2005
Christmas 2005

Merry Christmas!

 

A Christmas in Scandinavia (and we were back by suppertime)

So what happens when a Norwegian/Swedish girl, Irish/German lassie and English Canadian lady spend the day together?

Lovely things!

Especially for our field trip to the American Swedish Institute, which was all dolled up for Christmas.

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The majestic front staircase.
The majestic front staircase.

The Institute is the historic Turnblad Mansion, a castle-like mansion on Park Avenue in Minneapolis. Swan and Christina moved here from Sweden, built the impressive home, and started living here in 1908.

great hall

Just 21 years later, they donated it to become the Museum. It’s French Chateauesque style, and includes 11 tile stoves (I learned a Swedish word for stoves: kakelugnar). No two are alike. Since central heating had been installed in the mansion, they were probably purchased mainly for decorative purposes.

One of the stoves. We agreed we all prefer a nice wood, heavy stone look, but these were nice.
One of the stoves. We agreed we all prefer a nice wood, heavy stone look, but these were nice.

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Each room detailed the Christmas traditions of a specific Scandinavian country, with an emphasis on traditions, especially Christmas baking and their Santa Claus-esque Tomte.

Little Tomte's were hidden throughout the mansion for preschoolers to find, sweet.
Little Tomte’s were hidden throughout the mansion for preschoolers to find, sweet.
A holiday baking recipe with 13 eggs! I should have been Norwegian.
A holiday baking recipe with 13 eggs! I should have been Norwegian.
Oleo?! You betcha.
Oleo?! You betcha.
We got to see the entire kitchen, too!
We got to see the entire kitchen, too!

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We agreed the best room was the restored solarium. With full windows all complemented by window seats, we sat a spell and had a marvelous chat (well, we chattered the entire tour, but this was a really magical spot with two amazing ladies and it makes me smile just remembering it. The snow was falling softly outside as we talked of Mrs Turnblad, a Minnesota girl like us, sitting right there not so very many years ago, with her own pre-Christmas joyful anticipation.)

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I loved the light fixtures most of all.

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The cabinets and woodworking are all original, including the intricate hand-worked designs.

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A few other glimpses of this amazing place are below… If you can spare an hour, stop by the Institute. Whether it’s Christmas or another season, your time here will leave you smiling at our Scandinavian ancestors, guaranteed. God Jul!

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Tulips at Christmas. Now that's something I can embrace. Melting pot, indeed!
Tulips at Christmas. Now that’s something I can embrace. Melting pot, indeed!

Why? Why not? How we handled 4 extreme days.

There is only one sure thing about teenagers: every moment is absolute bliss. Or absolute agony.

It is either the “best day of my WHOLE LIFE! I am SO HAPPY!” or “this is the worst day of my WHOLE LIFE! I am so SAD!”

A parent of kids older than ours once told me “If you can parent through a hitting slump, goal drought and first-love breakup, you can parent through anything. Just pray all three don’t hit at once. That’s superhuman parenting.”

Oh was she right.

Our little corner of our little community just went through a week of extremes. And one thing helped us through it all.

First, “Why not?”

On Sunday, our teenage son Matty and his Bantam hockey team won the Championship in a glorious Roseau, MN, tournament. We’d spent the long weekend with amazing families who share our values, passion for active kids–and craving for a good drink and a lot of laughs. We rode a coach bus to and from Roseau and all over town together. We stayed in the same hotel and spent nearly every moment together.

So could a bunch of boys from a southern suburb beat tough North Dakota and northern Minnesota hockey teams? Why not? They believed and played hard…and they did win. They were so proud. We all were. Are.

It was a weekend full of awesome memories. Makes me smile just thinking about it.

Suddenly, “Why?”

Three days later, teenager Alyssa Ettl was killed in a traffic accident, less than a block from Lakeville North High School. It hit hard. Perhaps especially her schoolmates, left wondering not only why?, but what next? what if? If your best friend or sibling or parent is suddenly gone, then what?

One sure thing

So how do these kids … or any of us … get through such extremes? One thing: Faith and understanding of God and His Word. Not to go all God Squad on you, but it became very clear to the teenagers I have been around that there is one sure thing, and that’s God. He may give you the talent and opportunities to win a Hockey Tourney Championship. And He may call back one of his angels like Alyssa.

It’s not enough to recite a few prayers over supper or at bedtime. Talk about faith. Ask questions. Listen to kids’ questions. Try to find answers. Find a church. Go. Even if you have newborns or toddlers, go. How else will they learn to behave in God’s House? Enroll kids in religion classes so they gain a deeper understanding of God’s Word. They’ll see His Touch in all that is good in their lives…and feel His Hand in helping them through all that is horrible. None of us will be here for them forever. Give them Someone who will be.

Another friend told me, “I talk to God all the time. He’s my best friend.”

That’s what I want for today’s teenagers.

Then the answer to Why? and Why not? will always point exactly where it belongs: their Best Friend. And that’s something that will ease these teenagers to adulthood.