Archive - 2014

June 30th

Campaign site

Put up a simple campaign website this weekend. A web presence is necessary these days, but the big deal is getting out to meet voters so I didn't want it fancy. Had a good day pounding pavement yesterday. So good that last evening when I knocked on Mom and Dad's door to pay them a visit (and consume sister-in-law Kae's first attempt at escalloped potatoes), I said "ouch!" The other knuckle is wearing out, too. 

Kae's escalloped potatoes turned out absolutely scrumptious. She sat and watched us eat them, as she had already had Thai food earlier. I mean, you have to survive. She used no recipe for the potatoes, but we did get it out of her that she added a quart of half-and-half to the dish! 

Then we played Boggle. Playing Boggle with two people (Kae and Champoo) who are just learning English is not fair, but they are good sports and Kae insists that it will help her learn English. Eventually, we played another game which allowed Champoo to demolish us all, as she is so fond of doing in competitive pursuits. 

Champoo was very excited to have the whole family for supper. "Family eat, then play game!" She is not fond of my rude habit of nibbling before the meal actually starts. Nine year olds are rule-oriented, it seems. 

June 27th

Doorknocking, cont.

Had a good day doorknocking. I also attended the Red Lake County Fair.

As I went door to door in a couple of small towns, I was surprised to see people from my past, including a substitute music teacher from sixth grade. I was lucky today--many people were home.

I wore out my middle knuckle on my left hand--it has a big welt. So, I have to use my index finger, and I am concentrating upon using the flat part, not the knuckle itself, so I don't develop another welt there and run out of fingers. 

Also in campaign news this week, I have been "screened" by a couple of organizations. That is, they ask your views and then they decide over the next month whether to endorse you or not. Some organizations aren't worth worrying about; others are so off the wall that you don't want to even visit with them. The two I did this week were easy as I am in basic agreement with their principles and legislative goals. 

The interviews are interesting as the interviewers, to be even-handed, are obliged to read from a script. It is a little like a Lutheran church service when they use the long-form liturgy. It goes on and on. The question is stated, I say, "yes, I do," and the next question is stated, and so it goes.

And also with you.


June 26th


After many tries, Kae (brother Joe's wife from Thailand) passed her written driver's test today. She was so excited she screamed, tore off the headphones at the testing center, and burst into tears. She had tried Monday, and failed, so she studied through the night two nights before taking it again today and passing.

Thai people have a gift for happiness. Kae is ecstatic at this victory. Only three months and she will be able to take her behind-the-wheel test. She should ace that, as she has driven on the crazy streets of big cities in Thailand.

"Five years, citizen!" she said, referring to her anticipation of becoming a naturalized US citizen. She had been doubting her intelligence, sadly, as she is so blazingly smart, but this gave her a boost. 

What got her going was anger at her husband, brother Joe. After she failed Monday, Joe said, well, in about six years Champoo can drive you around as she will have her license!


She got out of bed and went out to the living room to study that very moment, using her phone to translate English phrases into Thai.

Her determination is an inspiration.



June 23rd

Doorknocking, cont.

Today, East Grand Forks. Worked to finish a neighborhood I started last week. An unusual number of people were home.

Memorable scenes:

Two eighty-something grandmothers in a small house who just said, "come on in!" when I knocked. They were surrounded--inundated-- by five toddlers. The grandmas are the day care. Apparently the parents are at work. The women looked exhausted. I don't think daycare was their idea of retirement. 

Some houses look utterly unoccupied. Yet I knock. Somebody comes to the door. You wonder what their life is like. The house shows no sign of any interest by the owner. None. 

Dogs. So many people have multiple dogs in the house, screeching and carrying on. So many houses with nobody home have dogs. Dogs, dogs, dogs. I never realized there were so many in the sleeply looking houses in the neighborhoods.

Flowers. People love flowers. Many try. They buy the flowers, then don't maintain them. Or even plant them. I would say fewer than 50% of the flowers purchased that I have seen in the hundreds of yards I have witnessed in the past weeks have been planted or tended.  

Other yards are knockouts. People work hard. 

Doorknocking is a human experience, that is for sure. 

One man looked like a "get off my lawn" sort of crab, but of course I approached him. He was blowing dust off his drive. We ended up having a long talk about politics. He was very thoughtful and informed. A delight. 

Not one unpleasant experience today. 

June 22nd


nice basket.jpg 

Spent six hours yesterday knocking on doors in Crookston, handing out campaign literature. It is an adventure. At this place, I encountered the nicest hanging basket I had seen all year. It was from International Falls. However, out back, the lady of the house showed me her Bergeson Nursery roses with were doing very, very well. 

As I go from door to door, I walk a little slowly, absorbing the beautiful weather, the scenery, the plants, trying to avoid the thought that I am out trolling for votes. As Yogi Berra said, you can observe a lot just by watching, and I enjoyed coming across the scene below:


Yes, we thing the old manual typewriters are obsolete. However, on Friday evening I was visiting with Fertile friend Clayton, who works with the Global health organization, and he had just picked up two manual typewriters to send on a shipment to Africa, where they are badly needed. 

It is all a matter of perspective. 

Champoo news: Today, I drove out to the nursery to mow a little bit and Champoo came running up to my car. "Where 442? Why not 442?" 

It took a while for it to sink in: I got new license plates on the Taurus this week. My old ones had the number 442, and the new ones did not. This disturbing change did not escape the sharpest niece in the world, Champoo....

June 20th

End of season


I love this picture, taken today by Dad, of Champoo, Kae and Joe dressed up and ready to go to the wedding of Catelyn, daughter of our book-keeper Cindy. In the background is Joe and Kae's first new vehicle, picked up yesterday. Kae and Joe managed the nursery skillfully in their first year of operation, and it is great to see them have some reward. Of course, having Champoo here is the biggest bonus of all.

It is a great relief to me to have the transition of ownership completed and apparently successful. Not just a relief, but a source of great satisfaction. I was lucky to have a younger brother willing to take over the nursery from me after 17 years. And then to have Joe add Kae and Champoo to the family has brought us all great joy. 


June 18th

New Norske


To me, the test of a good salad bar in this area is if it stocks pickled herring. The Smokehouse in Fertile makes a point of it, but when I arrived at the container which usually contains the herring, it was empty but for juice. Mmmmm. 

It wasn't until I sat down that I figured out why. Champoo had taken it all. Although there is no Thai equivalent of pickled herring, she absolutely loves the stuff. Her mother Kae, left, can't understand it as she hates the stuff. But Champoo? She emptied the bin. 

We thought when Kae was introduced to our familiy that she was a energetic life force like we had never seen. And then...Champoo arrived. Somebody described her as "the least depressed child I have ever seen." She is go, go, go. She is helping plant the gardens. It is actually quite the scene. I drove out to the nursery tonight at about 8 p.m. and there were Joe, Kae and Champoo, still working, designing and planting beds. 


Here they go! 

June 13th


Took Aunt Olive to the doctor yesterday to see about a lump that has been growing on her knuckle. She has been calling it her "button." She was in fine form, telling one nurse that if it got any bigger they would put her in a cage and charge 25 cents to see her at the county fair. 

The lump is not cancer, but we'll get it removed in an outpatient procedure at the end of the month. That was a relief.

Memory problems are making daily life a little less calm for Olive, there is no denying it. She maintains her good attitude, but it is difficult for her to sort out her dreams, which are pretty vivid, from reality, which is anything but vivid. So, you know which perception wins: The more vivid. 

We went for a drive around the countryside the other day--such plush green this time of year. She knew where we were as we drove and enjoyed seeing the light green of the sprouting crops.  This is a vivid time of year, and if Olla got out every day, I suspect she would be better off. Alas, we don't have such priorities. 

Speaking of lush green, this is the season of mowing. 

Living in town has taught me one thing: Mowers go all day long! And another thing: Almost nobody sharpens their blades! How they can stand to do all that work only to have the lawn look like it got a bad haircut from a four-year-old is beyond me. Even one of the mowing services has a mower which cuts a groove every pass. 

Of course, I am spoiled. I have been doing a lot of mowing at the nursery with a brand-new zero turn radius Husquvarna with a 60-inch deck. You want fun. That's it. Almost got depressed this morning when I realized there was no more grass to mow out at the nursery. If it rains tomorrow, we'll have plenty to mow next week. 

However, my campaign literature will have arrived by then, which means I will be out doorknocking. That will be when this campaign really turns into an adventure. I have never door-knocked before, and I have always been thankful that I am not a Mormon or a Jehovah's Witness so I would have to door knock just to be keep the faith. But! Door-knocking is a politicial necessity, and so I will venture forth, hoping that I enjoy and and take to it. Practice run in East Grand Forks tomorrow. 

June 11th

Nomination secured


Last night, I was nominated by the DFL to be their candidate for the Minnesota House of Representatives in district 1-B. Here I am with Hon. Bernie Lieder, left, and Tom Jorgens of Crookston. 

Collin Peterson aide JoAnn Zutz of Red Lake Falls nominated me with a nice speech, and my campaign chair Wendell Johnson, who I consider a neighbor from the old nursery stomping grounds, seconded with a nostalgic speech about listening--and about the connections we have shared over the years. His mother Bernice was a roomate of Aunt Olive's at the Hilton for two-and-a-half years. Wendell and his wife Penny treated Olive like their own. Although our paths didn't cross much at the Hilton, we sure heard about each other!

I gave a brief talk in which I talked about my Grandfather Melvin, an arch-Republican, and his brother Burnett, a liberal Democrat, and how they found ways to work together on some issues despite their differences. I also quoted from a pamphlet written by Rollo Bergeson called "A Republican Creed" which he wrote in 1960. Rollo is Cousin Tina's father. He was attorney general in Iowa in the late 1940s, and always active in Iowa politics. He was a progressive Republican, always standing up for the underdog. Cousin Tina just sent me the pamphlet in a packet last week. I have no quarrels with what he wrote. 

This afternoon, I stopped in Crookston for a visit with Bernie. He encouraged me like nobody else could, gave me tips, and sent me out the door on a high. Running for office is a sometimes overwhelming experience. He understands that, and has been a great help. 

June 9th

Summit and Villa St. Vincent

Spent yesterday at the Villa St. Vincent nursing home and the Summit assisted living apartments in Crookston. I performed three times, once for the nursing home residents, another for the Alzheimer's unit, and then for the assisted living residents. 

In between, I was given a tour of the complex and had lunch with some of the management. I got a feel for how nursing home care is changing. For instance, a vast majority of people in the skilled care area are there for rehab which will enable them to go home, or go back into assisted living. A big part of that is the wellness center, which is modern parlance for an exercise room, where people were working on weights and other exercises. 

The Villa is a place where younger people go who are recovering from a major accident or injury to rehab. That is becoming a bigger part of their mission, to the extent that they may soon erect a new building specifically for that purpose. 

As usual, changes in regulations create new challenges and unforseen consequences. The financial transition between hospital and the rehab isn't always easy, as each institution has to fulfill a different set of regulations and they aren't always in harmony. As a result, patients sometimes fall through a crack here or there and end up with an unanticipated bill. 

Dental care amongst nursing home patients is a great problem. Very few dentists treat patients on medical assistance because the reiumbursement rate is so low. Rep. Bernie Lieder and Sen. Roger Moe worked on a bill in the mid 1990s to address the problem, but it was part of a larger bill vetoed by then Gov. Arne Carlson. So, for dental care, nursing home residents must be transported a long way (in this case 75 miles) to a clinic for low income patients. 

Mental health is something which also has been given short shrift in eldercare institutions. It is usually dealt with by medical doctors and prescription meds rather than by mental health professionals. The Villa has a video conference room where a psychiatrist from another state visits with patients, gives counseling, and diagnoses problems. 

Dental and mental health can be the root cause of so many other problems, problems which can be even more expensive to fix. 

It was a great day. The Alzheimer's unit was in fine form, singing along and laughing and having a good time.