The good, the bad and who we are
He knows what he should be thinking about and then doing but it doesn’t seem to work out that way.
There is a program of sorts, like software inside of Gator that tells him to be kind and full of peace and goodness. However, those thoughts are not pleasant because he knows he is not kind and peaceful and certainly not graceful toward everyone else. The problem is, not only does he know inside of his mind what he should be like and also knows that he isn’t like that, he is seemingly surrounded by a lot of people having the same problem.
Why does Gator know what he should be like inside? If he is just a random collection of atoms and protoplasm, why would there even be a conflict of who he is and what he knows he should be?
This isn’t just a piece of writing about “don't worry, be happy” soft soap. Gator knows he is falling short of some sort of hard moral standard and he doesn't even know why, and what to do about it.
He wants answers. “How do I get to a place where I can find answers to everyone’s questions of why we cannot be satisfied with anything?” This answer is from a farmer in Ireland to a tourist asking for directions to Belfast: “If I wanted to go there I wouldn't start from here.”
When you get lost, you don't just keep on going. The first rule is to go back and don't take that last turn. Keep going back till perhaps you get to where you started and take the right road. How far back is it when we began going off? Do we perhaps go back to where we made up our own map?
It's time to get to know the builder of the house we are in and not ask the stairway to tell us how it got there.
We know we all are hardwired to admire honesty, gentleness, peacefulness, kindness, honor, love, joy and goodness. We are quite aware we all fall short of these ideals. The creator of all things seen and unseen seems to have given us this “moral code” we could not have obtained by evolving tooth-and-claw style.
Evolution does not give ideals and morals; why would it? But there they are, nonetheless. We don't seem to have been given a “way out” of these worthwhile attributes either. It’s all or nothing and none of us can do it and we all hope in some way it will all work out and the creator of this moral code will “let us off the hook” for not being moral to ourselves and others. Or perhaps if I really focus on one or two attributes and really try hard, maybe this god will appreciate my efforts and I can win approval. By the way, who is the builder of the house we see and live in? Your choice, really. Intelligence is necessary for creation and all the impossible combinations of life, let alone the moral code given to us humans. What sort of intelligence? A God that desires perfect moral behavior, it would seem, and if he is perfect in this way, what does that mean for us? Is he evil or good? Why do we have an intelligence to try and find God and somehow live with him? If he is evil, and we, obviously, are, why does he ask us to be and do the opposite?
After all, what is evil? Perhaps deciding we don't need that moral code and that we can do quite well on our own. How's that working out for you and me? (To be continued.) It's pretty good.
(and C.S. Lewis)
Wednesdays were spent with granddaughter Anna and, later, her little brother Jake. Playground outings on a Wednesday were so fun with Anna and Jake. – Photo by Jim Dueholm
Wednesdays with Anna
My wife Pat and I moved from Minneapolis to the Washington, D.C., area right after I retired in January 2003. We’re often asked why we moved to D.C., an unlikely place to retire. Well, we explain, its winters are a lot warmer than Minneapolis, it’s a good place for me to indulge my interest in politics and history, and it’s where our son Mark and his family lived.
That family included 10-month-old Anna, about ready to graduate from crawler to toddler. What a delightful child she was, and we learned we would get to spend every Wednesday with her. Katie, our daughter-in-law, dropped her off in the morning, and Katie or Mark picked her up at the end of the workday. She was ours from morning to night.
Early on she gave me a title. I was to be Grandpa, but the closest Anna could come was Papa, so Papa I became, and I have cherished that title ever since.
The Wednesdays with Anna are flooded with memories. We read to her before her afternoon nap. We had train puzzle pieces with letters from A to Z that Anna used to learn the alphabet. We made trips to Borders bookstore and hung out at Starbucks over Anna’s hot chocolate and my coffee. We sledded down a nearby hill when infrequent snow made that possible. Anna frolicked at a playground near our apartment and threw bread to ducks in the stream that bordered the playground. She scribbled chicken-scratching letters to uncles Brian and Patrick, letters I “mailed” with her at a place where the postman didn’t pick up the mail. She had an “office” at the end of the hall in our apartment building.
When Anna thought of becoming a teacher we were her students. When her passion turned to medicine we developed fearsome maladies for Anna, M.D., to cure. As a doctor, she set limits. When a neighbor boy broke a leg Anna contacted his parents and said she would come over and tend to him, but the father said she couldn’t come till Saturday. Sorry, Anna said, she didn’t work on Saturdays.
Anna was close to her cousin Mick, but “Dr.” Anna’s interests didn’t jibe with Mick’s abiding interest in superheroes. When I saw Anna drape an imaginary cape around her neck I dubbed her Super Sawbones, and for a couple of years Super Sawbones played superhero with Mick’s Batman.
Anna taught me manners and more. When I spilled coffee at her second birthday party she sidled over to me and said, “Next time, Papa, be more careful.” A year later she volunteered to show me how to fasten the straps on her car seat, which were fastened with interlocking jigsaw-shaped pieces I could never fit together. The first step in the process was slipping the straps over her shoulders, and as she did that she looked at me in all innocence and said, “Even you can do this part, right Papa?” When I walked with her on what I said was a shortcut to our favorite restaurant, she said, “Papa, I think this is a long cut.” Our car odometer proved her right.
When Anna was 3 I walked into her house and a voice upstairs said, “Don’t come up, Papa.” Anna soon came down with a shirt that said Big Sister in Waiting. Jake was born a few months later. Wednesdays soon became Wednesdays with Anna and Jake.
Darcy Kolander | Staff writer
So I wrote about Occam’s razor the first week in February:
“And Hazel, my baby, even though she isn’t really a baby anymore – she is 5 years old, had a fever and a cough last week. So I had convinced myself, and maybe my family, had they not been so used to my nonsense, that her sickness was maybe rabies or maybe the coronavirus, or maybe influenza B. Turns out it was the common cold. We spent the weekend recovering. Her, from the actual sickness, and me, from worrying about her being sick.”
So my worries have seemed to come true. Not of us personally being sick with the coronavirus, but of the world being sick with this virus. And did she really have the common cold? I mean, she wasn’t tested. OK, I’m not going there.
I decided to write not about Occam’s razor again but of Murphy’s Law. Murphy’s Law is a supposed law of nature, to the effect that anything that can go wrong will go wrong. A rule that states: “If something can go wrong, it will.” An addition to this law reads, “and usually at the worst time.”
Murphy's Law was born at Edwards Air Force Base in 1949 at North Base and named after Capt. Edward A. Murphy, an engineer working on Air Force Project MX981, a project designed to see how much sudden deceleration a person can stand in a crash.
Murphy's Law reminds engineers, computer programmers and scientists of a simple truth: systems fail. In some cases, a system's failure means that the experiment must be repeated. In other cases, the result of a failure can be much more costly.
So how much sudden deceleration are we all able to stand in this crash?
The best answers to these types of questions, in my opinion, always come from the Bible. Everything we are seeing now, has already happened. You can build your house on the rock or you can build your house on the sand, but the storm will come.
Layer in a 4” widemouthed jar:
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons flour
1/3 cup cocoa
1/2 cup flour
2/3 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup white sugar
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup nuts (optional)
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
Make sure layers extend all the way to the edge of the jar. The ingredients then look like layers of different shades of sand in the jar. Cover with a lid and ring, then top with a colorful square of cloth tied on with ribbon or string. Attach a gift tag with the following directions:
1 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup oil
To bake, combine contents of jar with vanilla, oil and eggs. Bake in a greased 9x9 pan at 350 for 27-35 minutes.
A lesson in civics
During my years in high school, my favorite class, by far, was one titled American Civics and Civilization, taught by an unusual pair of teachers, Mr. Martin and Mr. Devine. In that class we covered the subjects of U.S. history and English. What made Mr. Martin and Mr. Devine so inspiring was the passion they brought to two subjects which, until that point in my education, I thought to be dry and boring. This column is my way of saying thanks to these two exceptional teachers and to remind myself of some of the things I learned in that class and have come to appreciate since that time.
The Bill of Rights comprises the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The first 10 amendments are collectively called the Bill of Rights because they delineate certain individual and state rights that cannot be alienated by the government. Their provisions include the free exercise of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the right to peaceably assemble and the right to petition the federal government for redress of grievances. Amongst these enumerated rights, there are declared limits on the powers of the federal government.
Since the Bill of Rights was first proposed in 1789, it has been interpreted in many ways through the Supreme Court, one-third of the U.S. federal government. There have been debates through the years that have shaped and reshaped our understanding of the Bill of Rights. Many such debates were related to the encroachment of personal liberties by both the federal and state governments, with perhaps the foremost being religious liberty.
You may ask why debating the protections of the Bill of Rights is important today. Aren’t such discussions ancient history? Let’s review what is currently happening to all of us during this pandemic. We have shut down our entire economy based upon predictions of virus impact which have proven to be wildly wrong, in some cases over 400%. We have “temporarily” lost our rights to freely assemble and freely move throughout the land, to practice our faith as we see fit, to work as we choose and be fairly compensated for our labor. The Supreme Court, on whom we rely to protect our liberties, has suspended the court. Our legislatures are making sweeping changes in law by a limited voice vote because legislators are afraid to travel and gather. Governors are issuing orders that significantly limit our freedoms and punish those who do not comply.
Certain work has been defined as essential while other work is deemed nonessential. In Wisconsin, motorcycle parts and services are deemed essential, while churches are defined as nonessential. Who made that decision? What could be more essential at this point than houses of worship?
The rights afforded us through the Constitution have never been viewed as absolute, but there must be a compelling argument and clearly identifiable delegation of and limits to authority which is invoked in limiting these rights. Our constitutional rights are not suspended because of crisis. They may be even more important to us now.
In an earlier column, I had said that we needed to make sure that we could still recognize the world in which we live as “The land of the free and home of the brave …” I awake each morning and think that the past month has been but a dream, more like a nightmare. We must find a way to open society once again. We must be able to assemble with friends and family. We must be able to gather in prayer with our congregations in worship. We must be able to get back to work.
Mark, Chuck, Neil and Steve all decked out to sing “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” and “Heart of My Heart,” in downtown Amery. – Photo provided
My first quartet performance
For many years, I have been friends with Chuck Williamson, who is an avid barbershop singer with the Indianhead Chorus. I’ve heard the chorus perform in concert each year, and I was very impressed. I sing in my church choir, and I love to sing in the car, in the shower, at work – wherever I thought that I was alone. My wife and I have been married many years, and I know she loves me, but whenever I started to sing, she would sheepishly excuse herself and go shopping. So, I missed my opportunity to be an opera singer. And I thought, well, it is about time to join Chuck and his crazy bunch, as I’ve never seen anyone leave a concert and go “shopping” while they were performing.
Looking back, it has been more than a year since I signed up. I kicked myself many times, with no success, for not joining this crazy bunch earlier. What great fun I am having! I sing lead, which is the easiest part. The other three parts are baritone, bass and tenor. Each part sounds terrible when you hear it separately. But together, with four parts in sync, heaven weeps.
So, I was singing my lead part away till last Valentine’s Day and then my life made a drastic change. As a fundraising event, we would have our quartets going out to different areas to perform. The First Choice quartet was to perform in the Amery area and others would perform in St. Croix Falls, Rice Lake and the Frederic area. Guess what, the bass singer of First Choice, Jon Buss, was to go on his vacation in Mexico. Since the show must go on, they said, “Mark, can you help out?” The other three guys were all looking at me. No, they weren’t “looking” or “asking,” they were demanding I fill Jon’s spot, or else.
Thank goodness we only had to sing two songs, “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” and “Heart of My Heart,” which I knew quite well, as they are the polecat songs – the basic barbershop songs you have to learn before you can become a member. No problem, I said. It was hard to sing Jon’s part, which is bass, when I used to sing lead. Then Chuck threw a wrench to the already muddy waters. “Why don’t we learn our new version of ‘Happy Birthday,’ just in case?” Trusting him as my buddy, I did. Glad I did, but what a nightmare!
So, myself and three other brothers – Neil, Chuck and Steve – were all decked out in our performing tuxedos and we followed our assignments. I don’t think downtown Amery was ready for us. Everyone stopped or slowed down to take a look at us. How often do you see four big guys dressed to a T in downtown Amery?
It was lunchtime and we decided to have a bite to eat at the Family Restaurant. As soon as we got seated Neil, who knows everyone in Amery, saw a friend who was also having lunch and went over to say hi.
After finding out it was her birthday, we all chimed in and sang her our new practiced birthday song. As we were done with our lunch and walking out, the birthday lady grabbed our hands and told us she was going through a tough time and our song lifted her spirits. Then we got two new valentine orders that folks wanted us to sing to their loved ones.
We visited different nursing homes and memory care centers afterward. It was then that I realized just how music touches the hearts of people. We sang to Chuck’s mom, who passed away two weeks later. She was holding her son’s hands with tears in her eyes. We all sang, but words did not come out.
In a memory care center, as soon as one of the residents saw us, he said, “Holy smokes, you guys are not my pallbearers, are you?” Well, at least let me finish my lunch.” Everyone laughed. I did too. But I looked away as I didn’t want anyone to see the tears in my eyes.
Aldo Leopold, a legendary conservationist and father of wildlife management, was a hard-core bowhunter, duck hunter and trout fisherman. - Photo courtesy of the Aldo Leopold Foundation and University of Wisconsin - Madison archives
“Sand County Almanac” forever links hunting, conservation
Two 1948 books delivered dire warnings and “unleavened gloom” about Earth’s environmental future, and initially outsold Aldo Leopold’s poetic “A Sand County Almanac” after its 1949 debut.
But if you haven’t read “Our Plundered Planet” by Fairfield Osborn or “Road to Survival” by William Vogt, few will judge you harshly. Osborn and Vogt rolled out endless data and depressing examples of poor stewardship to show how mankind was destroying the world, but their books remain in 1950, long since overshadowed by Leopold’s classic.
Scaring readers straight wasn’t Leopold’s style. As his biographer, Curt Meine, wrote, Leopold used irony, humor, science, optimism and insightful storytelling to remind everyone that our conservation impulses require positive fuels like love, respect and connections with nature.
As 1950s conservationists turned to “A Sand County Almanac” for inspiration, Vogt himself conceded people would read it “for decades, and probably centuries to come.”
But at least Vogt’s influence lingers, flirting with the environmental movement’s historical themes. Pity Edward Everett. He awoke the morning after Abraham Lincoln’s two-minute Gettysburg address and knew the president had rendered his two-hour warmup speech irrelevant.
And so it is that threescore and 11 years after “A Sand County Almanac” appeared, Oxford University Press and the Aldo Leopold Foundation in Baraboo are releasing the book’s third edition to coincide with Earth Day’s 50th anniversary April 20.
Either way, “A Sand County Almanac” is available in 14 languages and has sold millions of copies since its release one year after Leopold died fighting a grass fire at age 61.
But the “Almanac” wasn’t an overnight best-seller. Until its 1966 version, it had sold a modest 20,000 copies. Once in paperback and available in nearly every college bookstore in America, the classic exploded with the environmental movement.
Buddy Huffaker, the Leopold Foundation’s president, said the book likely struggled its first 15 to 20 years because its author didn’t live to promote it.
“It lacked that dynamic,” Huffaker said. “Leopold had been prominent in his field, and his book sold in the wildlife and forestry community, but it struggled to find a bigger audience without him. It took Earth Day in 1970 for the world to reassess itself, and find a book with the unique prose and nature messages that captured their ideals.”
Those messages endure 50 years later, writes novelist and conservationist Barbara Kingsolver, who wrote the introduction for the new edition. Kingsolver, author of several New York Times best-sellers, notes that Leopold’s “Almanac” deftly navigates today’s culture wars, even though “environmental news is mostly terrible, and the word environmentalism has become a civic hand grenade,” she wrote. “Throw it into a crowd and watch everybody run to opposite sides of the room, arms crossed, glowering.”
But both sides still get Leopold. Kingsolver thinks most folks picture him driving a pickup truck. After all, Leopold hunted and often wrote about hunting, even though it makes some “Almanac” readers cringe.
Kingsolver suggests getting over it, writing: “People who hunt and fish to help stock their freezers are astute naturalists, of necessity, and most farmers are well aware that the fields and forests they steward are home not just to crops but bluebirds and foxes, spring wildflowers and winter wrens. It’s hard to endure ham-fisted judgments against livestock slaughter and crop-spraying from people who have no fields to shepherd or weeds to fight.”
Land Tawney, president/CEO of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, said Leopold remains relevant to that wide audience because his “Land Ethic” recognizes all parts matter in nature: “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”
“I think of that quote every time I hunt,” Tawney said. “When I’m hunting ducks, I watch kingfishers diving for their food and great blue herons stalking the shallows for theirs. A common purpose connects us. We’re all participants in a larger ecosystem. Leopold captured ideas that never grow old.”
Steven Rinella, a noted writer, conservationist and host of the “MeatEater” TV show and podcast, said “A Sand County Almanac” so influenced his family that two older brothers, Matt and Danny, focused their careers on ecology and biology.
Leopold continually inspires Rinella to make details fascinating. One such inspiration is chickadee 65290 in the “Almanac.” Leopold wrote that 65290 was the only “chick” of 97 he banded to survive five Wisconsin winters.
“Leopold looked intensely at nature,” Rinella said. “When he watched sawdust flying from an oak, he pictured annual rings getting cut inside the tree, and recalled details of what happened those years in history. It fascinated me that he could get people to read, listen and pay attention to that kind of detail.”
Rinella isn’t surprised by Leopold’s staying power. “Leopold could have written that book today, and people 50 years from now will be reading it and talking about it,” he said.
Likewise, Leopold still resonates with Rinella and other hunters because he was one of them. “He’s legit; he’s not a poser or interloper,” Rinella said. “He talks to hunters about hunting, and he’s first and foremost a hunter himself.”
Tom Heberlein, a retired rural sociologist at UW-Madison, and the originator of organized Leopold readings and Wisconsin’s official Aldo Leopold Weekend each March, said it’s important to honor Leopold’s hunting legacy.
“The idea of tearing the hunter out of Leopold would be like taking his soul,” Heberlein said. “‘A Sand County Almanac’ wouldn’t have the deep appreciation Leopold had for nature without hunting. It’s possible to try, of course, but then it wouldn't be Leopold.”
The Aldo Leopold Foundation, aldoleopold.org, is offering a 25% discount off the new edition’s $15.95 price, and free shipping with the coupon code aldo25.
One spring my son and I canoed down the upper Cloquet river north of Duluth, Minnesota. At some points the river had flooded to nearly half a mile wide. No one else was brave enough to confront the fast-moving water. Though far from calm, the water’s peaceful flow managed to fill our spirits.
Spring runoff always begins humbly by forming puddles that run under leftover snowbanks, then along ditches and then through culverts, until overflowing creek beds and rivers. The speed of spring runoff is amazing. Slow-moving trickles join each other, then move toward bigger streams that become fast-flowing rivers and eventually reach oceans. Such runoff helps sustain our planet with life. It carries with it a whole winter of dirt and grime and debris and plant litter. Spring rains and runoff bring life to emerging buds and shoots.
The sound of flowing water is music to our winter-weary, thirsty senses. It nourishes our soul and spirit. It brings hope of new life to us after enduring weeks of cold and snow and ice. In fact, God’s Spirit is referred to as living water. He removes the debris from our lives, sins kept hidden under cold winter snows, when we choose to allow his cleansing. He sustains us when we travel rough, uphill roads of life. And he helps us cling to Jesus, the bread of life, so we can bear the fruit of his love, joy and peace for his kingdom.
Uncontrolled spring runoff may require attention. So does the flow of God’s living water. We may be spiritually thirsty but too unaware, too busy or too distrusting to ask for much. We may be satisfied with a gentle trickle of his love and mercy, enough to keep us comfortably filled but not enough to give us the strength and power we need to face life’s obstacles.
God’s Spirit can come to us in a flood like spring runoff, if we allow it. God’s word, presence and power will wash away our sins and give us much-needed strength, sustenance and healing. It will spill over into the lives of those around us, for their healing of body, soul and spirit, as well.
Lord, thank you for giving us the living water of your love and salvation, your freedom from sin, your righteousness, peace and joy. Cause us to thirst after you and be like a spring runoff that will touch everyone around us with your life-giving flood of love, mercy and power. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Gator wrote and copywrote a song decades ago when he thought the world was his burger to devour (with fries) and songwriting and performing were his reptilian destiny.
Only the title of the song now makes perfect sense in the situation our planet has landed onto.
We are indeed dancing about. Whizzing down the road, against all declarations of our leaders.
Going somewhere, anywhere, just to once again be free to go somewhere. It doesn't work.
Coming home to safety without the plague hitchhiking on us, we do the usual things. Make supper, get the parlor stove laid in and lit. Do the family business out in the shop, get ready for planting and work at one of the few shops down the road a bit, deemed necessary by the government. What? We cannot gather with our new friends and worship the living God?
We cannot, we cannot, we should not. We are in danger, we are all in danger under a death threat as is the whole planet. Inconceivable! But we accede and say, As you wish.
I feel so much disconnect with almost everyone on the planet except a handful or so. The imposed oddness, the imprisonment before imminent execution as we read about in scripture and history. The comfort of my cell, even driving in our car, I feel as distant as I feel the shrug of being rapidly passed. Don't look at me, don't get close to me. Don't, don't, don't. Please wear a disguise around your face for I know you fear me as I fear you.
Shop till you drop dead and we'll send the wooden cart for you. Wear the white or yellow or blue mask, it won't help. It lets you feel how I feel about you.
“With due reverence, but very plainly, let it be said that God can do nothing for the man with shut hand and shut life. There must be an open hand and heart and life through which God can give what He longs to. An open life, an open hand, open upward, is the pipeline of communication between the heart of God and this poor befooled old world.” – S.D. Gordon (1859-1936).
I am stretching out, looking fondly upon memories of freedom I fought for in the military.
My leaders are many and none of them make any sense to me. It is a dream almost forgotten as I stumble in the dark at one in the morning to the bathroom. Walk back to bed and actually try to remember the power and lack of it in my dream. It's gone with a few remembered scenes. A mission of sorts, confusion and almost palpable in my ‘real’ life.
The blue pill or the red pill. Got to remember at least to take my pills in the morning.
I look upon my desk when I awaken again and cast my eyes upon books, journals and the book with all the answers if I would just open it and read. Jesus loves me, this I know.
For the Bible tells me so. Little ones to him belong, we are weak but he is strong.
It may not be funny now
In the past, a gag gift would be a roll of toilet tissue. The person wrapping the gift had hopes that people would “fight” over who would receive the enticing package. Even if it weren’t for social distancing and the game was played today, I’m not sure if people would consider toilet tissue a gag gift. For some it is a prized possession.
With the threat of impending Safer at Home orders, people rushed to stock up on toilet tissue. Did you know there was another time in our history when people panic-bought toilet tissue? I didn’t recall it until viewing the show “Sunday Morning” on a day when I was forced to attend church online rather than on-site due to the threat of the COVID-19 virus.
In 1973, when Americans were experiencing gasoline shortages, Wisconsin Rep. Harold Froehlich stated, “The next thing to worry about is a potential toilet paper shortage.” When comedian Johnny Carson’s writers wrote a joke for “The Tonight Show” they left out the word “potential” and Carson said there was “an apparent acute shortage of toilet paper. We’ve got to quit writing on it,” he joked. This sent a false alarm and people stormed supermarkets to stock up on the product. A month later, news anchor Walter Cronkite set the record straight by saying it was “unfounded rumors that led to an excessive demand.” Carson later stated, “It was a joke.” And, “he didn’t want to be the man known to create the toilet paper shortage.”
When watching the “CBS Morning Show” last week, a story was done on Wautoma, Wisconsin. The local doctor was interviewed and he commented, “People who live in rural areas are more self-sufficient. They may have 96 rolls of toilet paper in their homes. That is because they bought them back in January.” Also in the story was a farm family who commented they are “used to isolation.”
I do feel that I am able to handle social distancing better in my home than some others. I usually do have in my home things to entertain me, things such as reading material and crafting items. In fact, I have gotten items out of my “stash” to work on that I hadn’t planned on doing yet. I am grateful that I picked up the items at garage sales and local thrift stores when I saw them. And, of course, there are always the usual things to do such as cooking, cleaning, doing laundry and now spring cleanup.
In the future, when we all get back to face-to-face socializing, I hope we can find humor in some of the things that may have caused us to panic.
By postings I have seen on the internet, people are optimistic and are looking forward to celebrating with others. In fact, I have seen advertisements for Christmas ornaments shaped like toilet paper rolls with the sentiment, “2020, I love you more than toilet paper” written on them. Oh, and by the way, they are being offered for 50% off if you buy 10 or more. But wait, you may have to purchase right away before they become scarce as well.
Help! I’m confined to home and going crazy
We all are feeling like the world is in chaos. The kids are home when they should be at school. We can’t visit friends when we want to. We don’t want to get anyone we know sick, but we feel like we’re going crazy not being able to leave the house. Don’t panic. You can still get out and work in the yard. You can still start getting ready for gardening. Today I spoke with friends at Bergman’s in Clayton, Dragonfly in Amery and Abrahamson’s in Scandia and they all assured me that their greenhouses are full of beautiful seedlings just waiting for warm weather so that we can fill our planters and gardens with lovely flowers and veggies. They are still figuring how the logistics of sales will be handled, but all assured me they would do their best to find a way.
With this great news in mind, let’s think about getting ready to plant. As promised earlier, here are some thoughts about planting those containers. Can containers be both gorgeous and practical? The short answer is yes. If you either don’t have the space or don’t want the work involved in maintaining a large garden, why not try container gardening? Containers can be used for growing everything from the standard flowers to many vegetables.
Let’s start with the typical containers we are used to seeing, those with flowers. There are, of course, several methods that can be used to get those full, gorgeous containers you see in the garden centers. You can purchase them already done for you, but this will come at a higher cost. They will still require the same type of watering, deadheading and nipping back that flower containers you do yourself require. If you choose to create your own containers, you need to make sure your container has good drainage. Most plants do not like their feet to be constantly wet. Decide if you want a hanging container or one that will sit on the ground or in a stand. This year I am experimenting with stacking various size containers to make a pyramid. This is done by using three larger pots, each one a bit smaller than the first. This is one way to create a little design element to your containers. You must also decide if your container is being done for a sunny or shady area. This is necessary to determine the types of plants to use. Just as when we plant an in-ground garden we need to carefully read the tags to be sure our plants will play well together in our container.
I like to use Miracle-Gro with Soil Moist when I do containers. I’ve found that this seems to work well for me. Whatever type of potting soil you choose to use, make sure that your plants are kept fertilized throughout the season to keep them blooming profusely. I like to use Soil Moist in my potting soil to help with the amount of watering I need to do during the summer. Remember not to overfill your containers with the potting mix. Allow enough room to be able to water without the water running over the edge of the container.
I follow the ABCs of planting when doing my containers. “A” plants are taller and go in the center of the pot; “B” plants are medium height for the next area and to fill out the container’s center portion; and “C” plantings are the trailers for the overflow of the edges. Plants should be planted fairly close together to get that full look of the nursery planters. When planting your container you might consider planting a container for pollinators. Use any plants in the daisy or mint families or those which produce large quantities of flowers throughout summer. Don’t forget that you can grow many veggies – such as tomatoes, bush cucumbers, peppers and most herbs – in containers. You may want to try a combination of flowers and veggies or herbs.
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You’re making a difference
The other night my little granddaughter, Lilah, asked me whether she would ever be able to hug me again. Staying safer at home is hard on my family, and I know that it’s been hard on yours too. Joe and I missed gathering all our kids and grandkids around our table for an Easter meal. I have missed visiting my dad in his nursing home, although I was able to wave through the window the other day. But the good news is that our sacrifices are making a difference. We are flattening the curve, as they say, and we can’t let up yet.
Wisconsin’s model indicates that, without action, COVID-19 would have caused 22,000 infections by April 8 and between 440 and 1,500 deaths. These projections were based on data compiled by our Department of Health Services between March 3 and March 15, 2020. This data showed that, without action, Wisconsin would have seen exponential growth in COVID-19 cases, doubling every 3.4 days. We had no choice but to take action.We have been able to change our trajectory because our governor, his administration and all of you stepped up. Those bleak projections have not become our reality because so many of you stayed home and kept your communities healthier. Now, we have to stay the course because while the number of new cases is smaller each day than it could have been, the cases are still increasing. Last week, Polk County had its first two cases confirmed while cases in Dunn, Pierce and St. Croix County are also still increasing.
The Department of Health Services has developed a tool to review the capacity of our health care system as this pandemic continues. As I’m writing this, our Northwest Wisconsin facilities have 62% of their beds already filled, three COVID-19 patients in the ICU, and six patients on ventilators. Rural hospitals are at particular risk of becoming overwhelmed by this virus so it’s on each of us do our part to keep our number of positive cases low and slow.
I know it’s hard. I wish with all my heart that I could wrap Lilah, and all my grandkids, in a big hug. But especially in my role as chief medical examiner, I am exposed on a regular basis and it is not worth risking the health of my family. So I stay home. They stay home. And we stay physically distant.
Peppermint ice cream
“I love seeing all the people in the park,” my sister told me on the phone the other night. “I can tell who is together because they are walking in little clumps!”
I love that idea: little satellites orbiting the park, usually with a dog, keeping a safe distance from the other orbiting clumps nearby.
My sister is in a clump consisting of herself, her husband, their two children, a dog and a cat. (I’m not sure if the cat considers himself part of the clump or not. Possibly not.) The kids are doing their homework in record time, sports are discontinued but music lessons continue. They are playing a lot of pingpong and canasta.
My cousin, Dane, is in a clump of one so I was kind of worried about him and called him up. He seemed to be doing OK, all things considered. He’s laid off but getting a lot of house projects done. I caught him when he was out walking.
“I’m on my annual walk,” he told me.
“No, I meant daily. I’ve been walking every day.”I was prepared to believe it was annual, as I don’t generally think of Dane as being big on exercise. But I’m glad to hear he’s taking care of himself. I think that’s what we all need to do, as best as we can.
I’m in a clump of three these days, it’s just me, my husband Peter, and my anxiety. It wouldn’t be crowded with just Peter and me but it’s true what they say, three’s a crowd. I get free-floating anxiety and these times seem to promote it. Peter is amazingly patient with me, although he gets anxious when I get anxious and the atmosphere starts to get a little electric in the house. That’s usually when I go for a walk. A walk helps. But peppermint ice cream is what really works wonders.
My consumption of peppermint ice cream has shot through the roof.
In the past, Peter has accused me of being an ice cream snob. I scrutinize the ingredient list. I try to buy ice cream with fewer thickeners and additives and more natural ingredients. But none of this matters if it’s peppermint ice cream. There are no rules for peppermint ice cream. Everyone knows that.
I don’t even read the ingredient list because, what do I care? It’s peppermint ice cream! It’s bright pink and has little pieces of peppermint candy right in it! No matter how bad the news of the day might be, a little peppermint ice cream is certain to make things better. No matter how anxious I might get, I can always eat peppermint ice cream.
Two days ago, we went to the grocery store. We are trying to minimize our trips and hoped to buy enough to get us through three weeks. We donned our masks, packed our hand sanitizer and went together—I bought all the produce and Peter bought dairy and dry goods and we reconvened in the parking lot, feeling like we had just completed a major expedition.
Back at home, I was rinsing off the huge supply of fruit and vegetables while Peter unloaded his bags. That’s when I noticed.
“You only bought one carton of peppermint ice cream?”
“Well, yeah, but we have one in the freezer.”
“That one is almost gone.”
“Oh. How much peppermint ice cream to do you think you’ll need?” Peter asked me. This was a difficult question to answer. How much peppermint ice cream will I need?
I’m hoping not too much more.Till next time,
I’ve been studying and practicing Buddhism for some time now. Unlike popular beliefs, Buddhism is not a religion; it is just a philosophy that discusses simple issues of life – giving birth, getting old, getting sick and death. It is a journey that none of us can avoid. Yet, we can choose the path of how to travel our own journey. I never want to discuss politics or religion with others, as everyone has their own opinions. So yes, I practice and study Buddhism; but no burning incense and no chanting or bell ringing. Just a lot of reading and meditating on my own.
There is this “Heart Sutra” that I read every morning before I start my day. Would you believe that the sutra was written around the seventh or eighth century? Goodness, that was 12 centuries (1,200 years) ago. During the T’ang Dynasty (eighth century A.D.) the emperor sent a monk, Xuanzang, to India to obtain more Buddhist preaching. The appointed monk travelled on foot across China, Central Asia, through the deserted lands and high mountains, and finally got to the destination – India, where Buddha was born. It took him three long years to accomplish that. The hardship of the journey inspired a writer, who many years later wrote the famous “Journey to the West” (Story of the Monkey King).
In the few short years in India, not only did Xuanzang learn the language fluently, he could also translate the scripture from Indian to Chinese, and managed to bring hundreds and thousands of scrolls of the translations back to China. The emperor was most delighted and he gave the monk the highest honor by giving him the official name of T’ang. Hence, instead of his birth name Chan, his new name was T’ang Xuanzang. What an honor indeed. Just like the preaching of Jesus, which was written in the native dialect first and was later translated to English, the Sutra had the same destiny. Can you imagine how painful it was to translate the old Indian language to old Chinese first, and after many years, it surfaced again in modern Chinese language? I read the Sutra many, many times and just couldn’t figure out what it was all about. There was no point trying to figure out the ancient Chinese translation, as many quotes are from the Indian scripts.
After many tries, I figured my very own script of the Heart Sutra. It is not official by any means, but it is my own interpretation. We all look at the same object and we may all come up with our own interpretations. So, who’s wrong and who’s right? I remember the fable of seven blind men who were led to an elephant and each was asked to describe his perception of the animal. One was led to experience the trunk, one the ear, one the tusk, one the foot, one the tail, one the stomach and one the head. So, with the same animal, there were seven different descriptions of just what the animal was like. And just imagine how the arguments can continue for days. Each was absolutely right and telling the truth. But just what was the truth? An eternity question which lingers over our heads for thousands of years. Just what is the truth?
“We humans are the masters of all species. We can think and ponder, we can analyze difficult situations, we have feelings and we can dream. But then, there’s where all the troubles and heartaches began. After understanding the difference of what is black and white, right and wrong and the difference between being rich and being poor, we will begin to become prejudiced and form our own opinions. When we have feelings, we will encounter emotions of happiness, anger, sadness and joy. And that’s when the temptations of greed develop. We begin an urge to possess materials that we don’t have. And we always want more afterwards. However, the more we gather, the more we worry that we will lose them all one day. Hence, we will be living in fear and anxiety forever, is that what life is about?”
If our heart is like a bowl of still water, with no interference and worries, then where do the worries come from? What we see or hear in our lifetime, actually they don’t really exist. It’s just an illusion. Come to think of it, even if we live our lives over and over for a hundred years, a thousand years, or a million and more years, in eternity, it is just a blink of an eye. Our past, present and future all exist in the same time zone. So, in which time zone are we living?
I love to study the galaxies around our own universe, just to realize just how small our earth is when compared to these billions and billions of galaxies around us. In a sense, what is eternity? And how do we fit in in this scheme of eternity? Our lifetime is considered rare if we live over 100 years. So, what is 100 years old when compared to 1,000,000 years old? Or more, 100,000,000,000 years old? Mind-boggling, isn’t it? Somehow, the Heart Sutra explains that we do not really exist in this eternal life – we are but a speck, a dust in the wind of eternity. So, does it matter then, if our existence matters at all?
In a sense, we do matter. We should do our best to make sure that during our existence, we do our best to ensure that our world around us is peaceful, calm and in harmony. And we should do our best to ensure that our existing world should be avoided of hate, agony, sadness and anger. Sounds a lot like Jesus’ preaching, doesn’t it? I can’t help but smile. As when Jesus disappeared for many years from the scriptures, rumors are that he went to India and studied the Buddhism preaching, and came up with many quotes from the Buddhist practice.
To me, as long as the quotes are to become a better person and to make the world a better place, where people are harmonious with each other and live peacefully with each other; I am all for it.
“Yes, I have become the world and the universe and it is my responsibility to make sure that it is a better place for everyone. That’s what my heart wants to do and that’s where it will rest.”
God’s Wheel | Shel Silverstein
God says to me with kind of a smile,
“Hey, how would you like to be God for awhile And steer the world?”“OK,” says I, “I’ll give it a try.
Where do I set?
How much do I get?
What time is lunch?
When can I quit?”
“Gimme back that wheel,” says God. “I don’t think you’re quite ready yet.”
Be our guest’ is our simple prayer request
Taught by those who came before To farm the land and fight the wars.
Humble people Filled with pride While hardships Tore them up inside
Some lost their sight some lived for years. Some battled cancer and lived in fear.
Grandmas, Grandpas, Uncles, Aunts, Cousins and Parents Gave us the chance
To learn and live and to belong
To a family Unbendable strong.
So as we end
Our simple prayer One small addition We’d like to share.
‘Let these gifts
To us be blessed’ And thanks for those Who with you rest.
7 lbs. sugar
4 oranges (grind peeling and all) juice of one lemon
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. allspice
Let rhubarb, sugar, oranges, lemon juice, cinnamon and allspice marinate overnight. Cook for an hour and put into jars and seal.
Daisy crosses the street
My desk faces the window and that is where I spend most of my time.
I spend about as much time at my desk as I do in my bed, which is conveniently located about 30 feet away. It’s a pretty short commute and there’s rarely traffic. Occasionally, my husband, Peter, might be coming or going from the bathroom, but that’s about it.
Once a day I take a walk in the woods, but the rest of my time is spent sitting at my window. My life used to seem kind of odd, and sometimes a little lonely, but it appears I was a trendsetter. Now, it seems, everyone is working from home.
I read how different people like to orient their workspace in different directions and how this says something about us. There are apparently people who can’t stand the idea of having their back facing traffic (as I do), I guess because they worry someone might sneak up behind them. (Peter is not that sneaky.)
There are people who like to be in the middle of the room and others who like pinning down a corner. I like to face the window and see out as far as I can, which isn’t all that far, but I can see the sidewalk on both sides of the street and that keeps me entertained all day.
Mostly, it’s dogs I am watching and lately there have been more to watch.
People are walking their dogs as never before. I am sure the dogs are puzzled and delighted. Whereas it used to be this chore that was done quickly, early in the morning or late at night, (“Come on, Rex, let’s get this over with!”) now more walks are happening in the middle of the day and, as often as not, the whole family comes along and makes an event out of it.
Happy dogs are leading the pack with Mom, Dad, and a couple of kids in tow. The dog is saying, “This is so great! Everyone came on my walk with me!”
One dog in particular I’ve been watching for lately. Her name is Daisy and she’s an old dog. Her owner comes jogging by himself at midday. He doesn’t run fast, but he runs too fast for Daisy, so, later in the day, he goes for a walk with Daisy. Daisy is very stiff. She stops a lot. She spends a lot of time sniffing things. (I’m pretty sure she’s just resting when she does this.) I watch for Daisy every day, making her slow progress down the sidewalk.
Yesterday, I just couldn’t help myself. Daisy and her owner were walking by on the far side of the street. I went downstairs and called out, “Daisy! How are you, Daisy?” Daisy froze in her tracks. Daisy’s vision isn’t that great but her hearing is fine.
To my surprise, Daisy’s owner unclipped her leash.
Daisy slowly made her way across the deserted street and over to my side of the sidewalk.
“Hey, Daisy!” I said, when she finally made it. I petted her gray muzzle and she licked my hands. I looked across the street to her owner. He’s a quiet, retired fellow.
“Thank you,” I said. “Thanks for letting Daisy say ‘hello.’”
“No problem,” he said.
“How’re you doing?” I asked.
“We’re doing fine,” he told me.
“We are too,” I said.
“You’d better go now, Daisy.” And Daisy crossed the street again to her owner.
As the arthritic dog limped back across the street, I no longer felt I was alone at all.Till next time,
Soul Shine Creative Studio
For those who have read my new book, “Have You Eaten?” I hope you enjoyed it. The book is a recap of me growing up around foods many years ago (50 years, to be exact) in Hong Kong. When my wife and I went back for a brief visit 10 years ago, I was saddened to see that the old Hong Kong that I grew up in is not the same anymore. The little temple that my Pao Pao (grandma on my mother’s side) took me to visit had disappeared, together with the farmland where the water buffalos once roamed; they all disappeared and were replaced by high-rise apartments. The little village where 300-some farmers and their families once lived is now replaced by buildings that house 30,000 residents. Very sad indeed. The second half of the book has tasty recipes from my cooking classes, with vivid pictures taken by Micah and Genevieve “Gena” Davis, the owners of Soul Shine Photography.
If you happen to check out my website, phkwong.com, you will have the opportunity to watch a short video about the book. It is only about a minute and a half long, but would tell another side of the story about the book. Again, that’s Micah and Gena’s doing. There was a lot of long hours put into that short video. So, I decided to interview the couple and ask them how they got into the photography business and what inspired them to keep the business going. Even though I’ve known them for a long while (well, I am married to Micah’s mother), I never really knew him. Through the years, I found out that he attended Madison Area Technical College in Madison first, then transferred to University of Stevens Point; he met a beautiful girl while attending a film photography class there; and they fell in love and eventually got married and decided to travel the world together. They both enjoy photography and filming.
While I look at life in black and white format, they have keen eyes looking at everything in a different perspective. From a different angle, everything looks different. That’s why I admire my wife’s talents. While we are just taking walks, she notices the shades of different leaves, even though they are all green to me. She could notice a piece of bark that has been gnawed by a beaver. I would just look at it as a piece of fallen branch.
While attending MATC, Micah was working for Pizza di Roma, a local pizza joint in downtown Madison. He helped the owner design the logo for his company, and the menu, and took pictures of the entrees for the menu. It was then that he knew that was his calling, to get into the graphic design profession. He bartered the owner for a $2,000 computer for his work; and would use that computer to solicit more business down the road. He transferred to the University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point, knowing that they have an excellent art department with a graphic design program. It was there that he met his dream girl who would share his ideas and philosophies. After living in Costa Rica for a year, they moved to Colorado for some time, and finally decided to come home (to Wisconsin) so they could be closer to all their families. They chose to settle down in Eau Claire, which is only an hour and a half away. I can’t describe the glow on my wife’s face after she heard that. Especially after learning that Gena was pregnant with our grandson shortly afterward.
So, after finally settling down, Micah and Gena decided to focus on promoting their dreams. They started Soul Shine Photography to spread the peace and joy of their spiritual beliefs – a combination of God, Buddhism and Hinduism. They believe in uplifting people’s spirits, helping them love and appreciate themselves and the world. Micah teamed up with Steve Betchkal, an Emmy Award winner for producing local short stories. Together, they have created many episodes that touch the community with different local stories that reflect the positive aspects of living in Eau Claire.
Soul Shine Photography has since been contacted by many companies, asking them to help promote positive messages of their services and products. The latest one was from the Eau Claire Transit System, who would ask them to interview the bus riders on their “Walk About, Talk About” program that the couple has started not too long ago. The response has been tremendous. The couple would go out and actually interview bus riders and asked them soul-searching questions. It is a gift, that people are willing to respond to a question with sincerity and honesty, followed by a heart-warming laugh. People are actually waiting to be interviewed by “Walk About Talk About.” Amazing, isn’t it?
So, the company is doing well and have appointments booked three to four months ahead. I asked them why folks would choose to use their service. Their answer surprised me (which shouldn’t be a surprise, knowing them all these years). Gena responded, “We are not a company focusing on just making a profit. We focus on people, their lifestyle and the connections with each other. Our final product reflects the togetherness of the family; it should be able to tell a story of how everyone is connected to each other. Yes, the lighting is important, the posing is important, the background is important. However, if you cannot feel the passion and affection of the togetherness of the picture, it is just a portrait. What we do is make everything feel natural, comfortable and relaxed. They might act a little goofy, yet folks looking at the picture can feel the happiness and togetherness, and the love flowing between them.”
Goodness, I never knew that taking a picture could be so sensational and emotional. But I guess that there is a secret to every trade. At least I can make you cry with my cooking. What’s so hard about adding a few more pinches of chili peppers?
Keep the whole world singing
Yes, we all love to sing. For some it starts out as a hobby and it becomes an addiction. At first you just sing in the shower, sending your pets into hiding and your kids slamming their bedroom doors. But ahh, it feels good, whether you are belting out a song by Pavarotti or the Beatles. Music is universal. Even if you don’t know the words, people around you can feel the message that you’re sending. Are you mad or angry? Are you in love or want to be loved? Are you hurt and heartbroken? Ahh, thanks to singing, we can let the world know just how we feel. We never realize the power of singing, just how we can touch someone’s hearts.
Our chorus has sung at many occasions – Valentine’s sing-outs, church services, funerals, celebrations – just about anything.Here is a touching message from one of our brothers in songs:
“Our quartet, First Choice, sang for a funeral on Monday, March 16, for a good friend. We sang ‘It is Well’ and the ‘America’ overlay.
“We, and another quartet, Vocality, went to River Bend two years ago for Marie Williamson’s funeral and sang. Somehow Barb Madson, who heard us perform, told us that if and when she was gone, she would appreciate if our quartet would sing at her funeral. An invitation that we hoped would never happen, but somehow, we were contacted about the sad news and we kept our promise. Our quartet showed up and performed the songs she requested and received lots of compliments. Barb’s husband, Gordon, died about 10 years ago, and Gordy was a member of my hunting cabin outside Spooner. For many years, we played lots of 500 cards, cribbage and other games after supper. What fond memories we had.
“Singing goodbye to Gordon was hard and singing to Barb was even harder. But, somehow, it was heartwarming to know that our songs touched them, even if they were in a different place. They do hear us and get our messages.”
So, singing is not just about singing. It is about reaching out and touching others. Yes, keep singing so the world will sing with you.
Darcy Kolander | Staff writer
Educational free websites
Here is a list of some online resources for the kids to use at home, and a recipe you can make for them or with them. Remember, you know your child better than anyone else, so although there may be a curriculum to follow and some parents may be falling behind or unable to participate in it at all due to leaving home for work, the best lesson is to give your children hope and love! Rejoice!Math
Hellokids.com (coloring pages)
Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 cup butter, softened1 cup white sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons hot water
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Beat the butter with the sugars until creamy. Add the vanilla and the eggs; beat on low speed until just incorporated – 10-15 seconds or so (if you beat the egg for too long, the cookies will be stiff).
Add the flour, baking soda and salt.
Roll the dough into balls and place on a cookie sheet. Bake for 9-11 minutes until the cookies look puffy and dry and just barely golden. Warning, friends: Do overbake. Take them out even if they look like they’re not done yet.
Let them cool on the pan for a good 30 minutes or so. They will sink down and turn into these dense, buttery, soft cookies. These should stay soft for many days if kept in an airtight container. I also like to freeze them.
The tie-dyed church
There it was in a well-written documentary about a society within society. Gator was engaged in the book and suddenly the old memories of conversation style emerged even before he knew what he was reading. The “oneness” of a piece of art, the “universal symbol” of prehistory. Stuff like that.
If they are all the same, then what's the big deal of all the disagreement on doctrine, statements of adherence, and so forth?
You most likely have seen a bumper sticker with symbols of all the major streams of faith spelling the word “Coexist.” On the surface, a good idea, to love your neighbor as yourself. It's a partial summing up of the Christian faith. It's impossible. There is a precept to this simple idea.
Gator must love God with all his heart, mind, soul and strength. How is this done when the very idea of God is anathema to a great many people?
A lot of spiritual-sounding bits and pieces of language that mean absolutely nothing come to mind in the old Gator's memory. “All paths lead to God.” “The God lives inside of you” (you are god, he assumes). “That painting represents the goodness of man in all his deepest places.” “Today's sermon is the pathetic … I mean prophetic dance showing our oneness with the universe.”
The First Church of Berkeley would be defined as having communion with pot brownies and Pete's coffee. (It is terrific coffee) and then standing around the barista bar in an old Grateful Dead T-shirt and chatting about how the waves at McClure's beach represent the oneness of the water within us. A laid-back religion that relies on sussing the vibes for when to meet and where.
Much later in Gator's life, the appeal of that church's statement of faith lost its appeal and Gator began reading books written for grown-ups about life, the universe and everything (kudos to Douglas Adams). However, the Christian writers and the Bible made startling claims that the answer is Love and Sacrifice for love eternal. It didn't sound like the others and with a singular claim to all of the answers. No fables, no stories of the corn king, many gods and odd deities with statues.
Jesus' life, his death and reversal of that death a few thousand years ago is true. There are historic authors that document those events, even government records. Jesus had no rules about special clothing, rituals, fantastic statues, deadly orders. Nothing like those religions that say you will attain nirvana, have thousands of sex slaves in the afterlife, a huge stomach, and worship your favorite god, yourself, with no promise of freedom, purpose and romance with the creator of the universe. Complicated religions, with often-dangerous and horrid instructions and precepts that are like the ones children make up when they play Dungeons and Dragons. Easy to believe, akin to science fiction. With only one author instead of 60 or more in their histories and declarations of “the answer.”
Not long ago, Jesus Christ claimed to be God. You have probably heard this, but it bears repeating: He was either demented, a liar, or who he claimed to be. Make up your own mind. Gator did. Jesus lives. It's pretty good.Jack Gator
Parking lot church service
An eagle soared overhead as I sat in my car during our parking lot church service. The eagle reminded me of God’s strength and power and presence, reaching down to me and a parking lot filled with cars and people all desperate to hear his word during the fearful time we’re facing. The eagle reminded me that we should look upward to God for our sustenance and for the healing of our bodies, souls and spirits.
The eagle reminded me of the psalmist’s words: “He who dwells in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in him I will trust.” Surely he shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the perilous pestilence. He shall cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you shall take refuge; his truth shall be your shield and buckler.” (Psalm 91:1-4)
God would have us look toward his protection at all times, whether times are dark or as bright as the sun. He would have us praise him for everything. The word “praise” is evident in over 250 Bible verses. The Psalms especially speak of the value and necessity of praising our Lord. Yes, praising him is not an option, it is a command.
Sometimes praising the Lord comes with a cost. “Therefore by him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to his name.” (Hebrews 13:15) Choosing to praise him for and in all things may mean giving up our negative, “poor me” attitude. Or perhaps changing our to-do list, giving up our favorite things for his sake.
Continually praising God will make you “feel good,” instead of feeling sad or fearful. It will change the way you think, speak and act. You will receive a new mindset about God, others and yourself. Your heart will be stirred to praise him all the time. “Let my mouth be filled with your praise and with your glory all the day.” (Psalm 71:1)
As we celebrate the resurrection of Christ this week, we have every reason to praise him. Allow him to transform your life into one of constant praise. You will experience joy unspeakable and will reflect his love and salvation to everyone around you.
Lord, thank you for the gift of praise. Cause me to praise you all day long. Compel my thoughts to be focused on all your wonders and works so my words and actions toward others will show you are worthy of my praise. In Jesus’ name, amen.
The coronavirus pandemic forced the Wisconsin DNR to cancel in-person participation for the statewide fish and wildlife hearings April 13. All polling will be done online for 72 hours starting at 7 p.m. that day. – Photo by Patrick Durkin
Patrick Durkin | Columnist
Online spring hearings tackle deer hunt, lead shot changes
One year ago Wisconsin allowed citizens to participate online in its tradition-bound fish and wildlife hearings for the first time in the hearings’ 85-year history.
Participants in April 2019 had two options: vote online by tablet, computer or smartphone; or grab a pencil and mark their ballot in person at one of 72 county meetings. Little did hunters, anglers, trappers and other conservationists realize they wouldn’t have that in-person option this year. The COVID-19 pandemic canceled all upcoming in-person meetings and balloting.
Instead, starting at 7 p.m. on Monday, April 13, voters have 72 hours to answer the questions online. Simply visit the Department of Natural Resources’ home page, dnr.wi.gov, type “spring hearings” into its search window, click the “2020 Spring Hearing Online” tab, and answer the ballot’s 55 questions.
Participants have until 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 16, to finish. Don’t despair if you lose power or get called away unexpectedly. Just go back online using the same device, and resume where you left off. Your votes won’t be filed until you hit the “submit” button.
To preview the questions and background information, visit the DNR’s Spring Hearings page and click the “2020 Spring Hearings Questionnaire” tab to download the 40-page file. If you have questions about the online process, click the “Online input FAQs” tab.
Based on the popularity of online voting a year ago, most participants prefer the online option anyway. Of the 10,712 participants in the April 2019 statewide hearings, 7,310 (68%) voted online.
In-person attendance at last year’s hearings plunged to a record low 3,402, but online voting pushed participation to its fifth largest input of the past 50 years. Only twice before since 1970 did attendance fall short of 4,000: 3,830 in 1997 and 3,527 in 2007.
In contrast, 2019’s participation total has been surpassed only four times since 1970: 30,685 in 2000, 13,350 in 1975, 13,126 in 2005, and 11,007 in 2002. In-person attendance averaged 5,657 from 2009 through 2018.
The annual spring hearings are joint efforts of the DNR and Wisconsin Conservation Congress, which consists of five citizen-elected delegates from each county. The WCC is legislatively sanctioned to advise the DNR’s seven-citizen Natural Resources Board on agency policy.
Voting outcomes differed little in 2019 between online and in-person participants. Of 88 questions on last year’s survey, only four issues generated split decisions between in-person and online voting.
The WCC, DNR and its governing board combined to place 55 questions on this year’s survey, 15 fewer than the average over the past 10 years. The questions generating the most talk since their release at the board’s Jan. 21-22 meeting come from its chair, Frederick Prehn, of Wausau, and board vice chair, Greg Kazmierski, of Pewaukee.
Prehn and Kazmierski hope to eliminate the nine-day holiday firearms deer season; extend November’s general firearms deer season by 10 days, thus eliminating the muzzleloading season; eliminate all hunting except for waterfowl Monday through Friday before the firearms deer season; and restrict crossbow hunting to October and December for those younger than age 60.
Mark Noll of Alma is chairman of Buffalo County’s WCC delegation, and longtime chairman of the WCC’s big-game committee. When contacted April 2, Noll expressed profound frustration with Prehn and Kazmierski’s “deer-season meddling.”
“The question I’m hearing most is whether we can impeach members of the Natural Resources Board,” Noll said. “We don’t have effective tools for reducing deer herds, and the board keeps ignoring chronic wasting disease. And for reasons no one understands, most board members treat Kaz like he’s a deer expert, which he’s not. Far from it.”
Board members put at least two sensible pro-hunting questions on the ballot, however: Should Wisconsin ban deer baiting statewide, given that it’s currently banned in 52 of 72 counties? Also, should Wisconsin offer a spring bear season? It’s already illegal to shoot a sow with cubs, and the DNR reliably manages the fall bear season, so why not expand bear-hunting opportunities for those lucky enough to draw a tag?
The DNR, meanwhile, is seeking feedback on whether to expand bans on lead-based hunting ammo on state-owned lands to reduce lead poisoning in wildlife. The agency fears toxic lead buildups are more likely on heavily hunted DNR-managed lands. It offers seven options for reducing lead poisoning in waterfowl, game birds and other wildlife.
In the explanation preceding those questions, the DNR writes: “Cases of lead poisoning in bald eagles and scavengers spike dramatically during fall hunting seasons due to the accessibility of gut piles and carcasses from harvested deer. If ingested, relatively small amounts of lead can poison birds; two or three pellets are fatal in some species.”
Therefore, the DNR is asking if nontoxic pellets, bullets or shotgun slugs should be required on all state-owned and managed lands, except for shooting ranges. If that sounds too restrictive, it asks if nontoxic pellets should be required to hunt pheasants, ruffed grouse, wild turkeys or small-game animals on state-owned lands.
It’s already illegal to hunt mourning doves on state lands with lead pellets, but the DNR is asking if that ban should be statewide. Lead ammo is already banned on over 20,000 acres of publicly hunted federal lands, and on all national wildlife refuges in Wisconsin when hunting migratory and upland game bird species, including wild turkeys.
Another change on this year’s ballot is a “No opinion” option for most questions. The DNR and WCC ask participants to mark that box rather than skip the question. That makes it clear that participants didn’t overlook the question.
The DNR will post county and statewide results on its website as soon as they’re compiled. The April 2019 tallies were available about a week after voting closed, but the agency isn’t predicting when they’ll be posted this year. Most DNR staff are working from home because of the pandemic, and the agency won’t know the volume of the workload until voting closes April 16.
It's all about space
Whether you have a huge yard or simply a large container, you can have a garden. This week's column will address vegetable gardens. The first step is to determine what types of vegetables you like.
For some, it may be as simple as fresh tomatoes, in which case you can go to your favorite nursery and purchase a tomato plant, large container – at least 14 inches across, soil – I like Miracle-Gro, a cage to stake your tomato as it grows and a sunny spot – six hours of sunlight a day is necessary. Others may want to plant a salsa garden. In that case you will want to use an extra-large container, purchase a meaty variety of tomato, two hot pepper plants and a cilantro plant. You will need also need onions for your salsa, but they are cheap and easily purchased. A tip to remember with container planting is to be sure to keep the plants watered. The container gardens will dry out more quickly than a regular garden.
Some may want to plant a larger garden. Determine which veggies you want to grow and how much space you will need. Most seed packets or plant tags can help with this. The rule of thumb would be 18 inches between rows to enable easy access. A 16- by 20-foot garden will feed a family of four. Your garden requires at least five to six hours of sunlight a day. Make sure the spot you want to plant has been worked up so that planting can be done easily. You may wish to add some compost to make sure there are adequate nutrients to grow your veggies. Always leave enough room between plants such as tomatoes, peppers, etc., for them to spread and so you will still be able to walk around to weed and harvest. Make sure you have ready access to water as you will need to water at least once a week, depending on rain. Keeping on top of weeding your garden is a good idea.
A third choice would be to have a raised garden, which saves bending. You may want to check out the community garden beds available through the city of Amery.
A few tips for first-time vegetable gardeners: Onions, carrots and radishes are some vegetables that give you one vegetable per plant; others, such as cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, etc., will give you large quantities of produce. Always be sure to read the information on packets or plant tags. Remember to start small. You can plant cool-weather veggies such as lettuce or radishes in with your tomato plant and harvest before the tomato plant is too large. Make sure to keep your garden watered during extremely hot weather.
“During our priest’s sermon, a large plant fell over right behind the pulpit, crashing to the ground. Acknowledging his reputation for long-windedness, the priest smiled sheepishly and said, ‘Well, that’s the first time I actually put a plant to sleep.’” Taken from “Sermon Time.”
During the month of March, and now into April, there have been Sundays when regular on-site church services across our country had to move to online services due to COVID-19. Due to this change in not attending a church service in person, I was able to watch services from other churches from the comfort of my own home. I listened to services from larger churches and from smaller churches. I took the time to listen to a message given by a pastor in Rice Lake who attended Frederic High School at the time I did. Even though I don’t attend a church of the same affiliation as Pastor Sue, we are connected because of our shared belief in Jesus, his birth, death and resurrection.
At Eastertime there are many family traditions. This year, it’s very possible that typical traditions won’t be able to be observed. There are many creative ideas being shared on social media on how to have different types of Easter egg hunts. One idea shared is for children to make large colorful paper eggs and display them in the windows of their home. Families are encouraged to drive through their neighborhood and spot the eggs to get an Easter greeting.
As I won’t be with my children and grandchildren this Easter, I haven’t bought any Easter candy. Perhaps you have been able to purchase some traditional Easter candies that you and your family enjoy. You may even have a bag of jelly beans. I am including a little message about jelly beans that I received several years ago. I wish at the time I received the handwritten message about jelly beans, I would have written the name of the person who gave it to me. The message on the yellowing lined paper is written with beautiful penmanship.
Red is for the blood He gave;
Green is for the grass He made.
Yellow is for the sun so bright;
Orange is for the edge of night.
Black is for the sins we made;
White is for the grace He gave.
Purple is for the hour of sorrow;
Pink is for our new tomorrow.
A bag full of jellybeans –
So colorful and sweet,
Is a “promise of this child’s treat!”
Even though you may not be able to attend a traditional Easter church service this year, where Easter lilies, tulips and other spring flowers adorn the sanctuary, I trust you will still have peace and sunshine in your heart. Happy Easter!
The longest Saturday
Suddenly, there was a prison for the Gator. Probably the most luxurious and comfortable prison he had ever been in or heard of. All the time off for good behavior and all activities allowed … as long as visiting other facilities/mess halls/rec areas and libraries was not attempted.
He could find so many things to do that he never had the time to do before prison. Write, play music with fellow inmates and even watch movies and read those books that sit unread because of outside activities before.
The punishment of prison is on the surface, inability to go outside the walls. That is not true, however, Gator could go and drive, there just isn't anybody to visit and no place to sit and visit anyone. So we hunker down and eat a lot. Gator looked at the half-empty bottle of Cabernet on the counter.
It was from the previous night’s Shabbat and the urge was there to just open it again and sit by the fire and have a glass. Nine a.m. Still in pajamas. An old fiddle tune comes to mind “Whiskey before breakfast.”
The Gators got into a heated disagreement in the kitchen a bit later. It got into a character flaw that has been doing a lot of damage to Gator over a lot of his life. The urge to run away was strong but that did not happen because the lie of fear has been dealt with a bit ago by a professional helper. It was deep, very deep inside that Gator felt unworthy, damaged and not being up to snuff.
Nothing really described it well but the little sliver of a deeper lie began to surface. It was hard stuff and very uncomfortable for both of them. Logic did not really help. Thoughts of past issues just made it harder. One of the Gator boys came in and let the old amphibian have it direct, a broadside going right into his starboard side. Unexpected truth, stunning really. A perfect shot.
It caused a startling time of the possibility of a new personality, an entirely new way of looking at himself and Greta (Mrs. Gator) even though they had been married for decades. This had never been an outcome of arguments before. Still reeling, both of them knew the tide had turned and the grounded and stuck emotional ship of Gator, still smoking from the direct hit, was afloat on the waters of life. No longer seeing himself as a ruined hulk but a sturdy craft, unhindered now by a bad list and a frozen wheel, Gator began the journey out of the harbor of his selfishness.
A harbor of the port of pity now fading, and his destination now charted and unbelievably new and exciting. Fuel, long bunkered and forgotten, was building up the engine and the chart spread on the bridge. The continent of peace and beautiful relationship was ahead and the port listed on the chart, before not seen, was the destination. Worthiness of the convoy and his cargo, very visible to others, would be carried strongly and ballasted well. A promised cargo that Gator forgot so long ago. Flank speed, compass now visible and the chart straight and true. The joy of the sailor, once slowly rolling at the quay in the ship, underway in a clearing sky. It's pretty good.Jack Gator
Attached to the vine
The branch of our apple tree leaned so far to the side, it looked like it might snap off any day. Surprisingly, it remained and kept bearing apples year after year. Any day now, it will show new blossoms and a new crop of fruit.
In order to thrive, it must be fed by the sap that flows from its vine, its trunk. We too must receive nourishment from Christ, the True Vine. “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser … Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, bears much fruit, for without me you can do nothing.” (John 15:1, 4-5)
God chose us to bear much fruit. Galatians 5:22-23 states, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering (patience), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Apart from me you can do nothing.” Like an apple hanging from the branch of a tree, we too cannot bear any fruit unless we’re firmly attached. The word “abide” means to adhere to, cling tenaciously to. God would have all of us cling to him as our Savior and Lord. And when we choose to do so, he will help us keep from breaking off. The best way to abide in him is through his word, the Bible. We should read it and study it, meditate on it and memorize it. Such a discipline takes daily diligence.
Sometimes we may find it difficult to abide in Christ. We may be leaning too far from the center of the tree, Jesus, to remain upright. For instance, if we face a problem of any kind, we may become fearful and run from it. Or perhaps we start to doubt God’s promises. Or jump in headfirst and try to solve the problem ourselves, perhaps for selfish reasons. A typical excuse is to stay so busy, so distracted, that we blind ourselves to the situation that should be dealt with. Solving problems means changing things, and some of us don’t like change, even within ourselves.
Keep your mind focused on the picture of an apple clinging to its branch as a way to help you remember to cling to Christ, your life-giving vine.
Lord, thank you for being the true vine. Cause us to adhere to you so we can bear much fruit for your kingdom. We want others to see you through our love, our joy, our peace and every other part of your fruit. In Jesus’ name, amen.
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