Archive | January 2013

A Book Review: “Unbroken”

Say you are going about your busy day, and you start to think about the character in the book you are reading, and you wonder what’s going to happen next. When that happens to me I know that I have found a treasure in that book. The best thing an author can do is enchant the reader into caring about one of the characters. This is what happened to me while I was reading Unbroken, a World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption, by Laura Hillenbrand. I found that I instantly liked Louis Zamperini, the hero of this story. When I was not reading the book, I felt like I should be because I didn’t want to leave Louie stuck in an awful place. Even though the story was in my mind, I had to keep it moving so that I could find some peace for Louie.

When Louie was younger, he was a little trouble maker, but his brother helped him channel his energy into being a runner. Louie worked hard through high school and became a star athlete by breaking records when he ran the mile. Soon he was off to the 1936 Olympics. I believe that all the stamina that Louie developed as an athlete helped him continue on his journey to survive his trials during World War II and beyond.

I try not to read books that are about war because as Bird, Louie’s arch enemy said after the war was done, “War is a crime against humanity.” It was difficult to read how people treated others during the war. There are very graphic scenes in the book, but since I now had gotten to know Louie, I kept rooting for him and hoping that his situation would get better. I also got to see how compassionate people can be, how they can learn to forgive and move on with their lives.

As you can tell by the title of the book, Louie did not get broken. Louie found a way to save himself, and witnessing his strong spirit could strengthen anyone’s resolve. The life he led is truly inspirational. It’s no wonder this book has been on the New York Times Best Seller List for 114 weeks.

If you can, try to read the book before it becomes a movie. The movie is going to be produced this year. Louie, at 96, will hopefully be able to be a part of the production.

You can find details about the movie here:

Now I look forward to see which will be better, the book or the movie?


A Dog Person

skipper 3

Skipper and Me

“Your Mom used to cry every time we watched Lassie on TV,” my brother told my kids recently.  I tried to think if I ever told my kids about that, but I couldn’t remember.  “She used to drive us crazy,” my brother snickered.

It was true.  I don’t know if my brothers wanted to watch the show with me or if they were just watching me to see if I would cry again.  I would always get through the show just fine, but it was at the end, when the music played, and Lassie just sat there looking at us from behind our TV set.  When Lassie held her paw up to wave good-bye was when I just couldn’t hold it in any longer.  I busted out the tears and howled so loud.  I was just so sad that I wouldn’t be able to see Lassie for another entire week.  My brothers laughed, and I vowed that the next Sunday night I would not cry, but I always did.

lassie photo lassie.jpg
Lassie Photo Courtesy of
Only One Jess @

This entire ruckus might have led Dad to bring home a dog. I can’t remember if I ever asked for one, but Dad brought home one anyway.  One of Dad’s co-workers wasn’t able to care for his dog any more, and that’s how we got Skipper.

When Dad told me about Skipper, I was scared.  I wasn’t really used to dogs.  They were okay to love when they were sitting on the other side of the TV screen, but having one close up was going to be a different story.  Thankfully, it wasn’t long before Skipper and I became friends.  Every night, Skipper sat and listened intently to all my stories as I brushed his brown fur in the back hallway.  Mom wasn’t very happy about having a dog, and that’s why Skipper was never allowed to go beyond the kitchen.  Skipper slept in the basement, and I made sure he had a bed.  Dad taught Skipper how to jump through his arms, roll over and play fetch.  With all the attention that we gave to Skipper, we were surprised that he didn’t stay around our home very long.  He would run away and be gone for days.  When he came back, he had cuts that were deep and bleeding or he had dried up blood on his fur all from a fight with some other dog, we guessed.  Mom nursed him back to health by cleaning him up with warm water soaks.  Skipper healed up, hung around a while longer, and then ran off again.  This scene was repeated over and over again.  One day Skipper ran off and never came back, and we never found out what happened to that dog.  😦  I still wonder…

After Skipper didn’t come home for a long while, I asked for another dog because I missed our conversations.  Unfortunately, it never happened in the family I grew up in.  I had to wait a long time, but I got to get my dog, Music, about 13 years ago.  I’ve written about our dog Music here and here just to name two times so far.  Music was my dog, and I couldn’t have asked for a better one because she was just like a person stuck inside a dog’s body.

Now we are lucky to have Lila, who is a real dog, acts like a real dog, and loves her Dad.

Lassie is where it all started.  It’s when I figured out I was a dog person.  When did you figure out what kind of pet person you are or did someone else have to figure it out for you?

The Story of Our Lives Together

Dad and Mom arranged all their pictures in albums in chronological order. That must be why I like to have our family albums that way too. After Mom died, I grabbed four photo albums out of the bedroom closet in her house to make the picture boards for her funeral. Looking through all the pictures brought back a lot of memories. One memory that I cherish is of how I looked through all of these albums over and over again throughout my life. It was a story of our lives together all neatly arranged.

Dad was the photographer and Mom organized the photos. Sometimes she wrote the dates on the back and the names of the people who were in the pictures. A lot of times the photographer doesn’t get to be in a lot of pictures. Luckily Dad let the rest of us practice. Dad was sure to point out any errors that we made when we got the photos back. If someone’s head wasn’t in the picture or if we cut off someone’s legs or feet, he was the first to let us know since it was probably Dad that got cut off in the picture!  He patiently gave us pointers of how to improve so that it would hopefully turn out better the next time.

After Mom’s funeral, I went back to that closet, and gathered all the other photo albums. Not only did we have to get the house cleaned out, I thought the story of our albums should all stay together. Not knowing what to do with all the albums, I began to ask others what they did when they were in this situation. One person told me that her family divided all the pictures up after her parents passed away. Her sister-in-law got three boxes, one for each sibling in the family. If a person was in a picture, that picture went in their box. If they didn’t know who the people were, she threw the pictures away. At the end of the project, each sibling got a box of pictures.

I thought how that family handled the photo albums sounded like a good idea at the time. Since I was organizing our own photo albums last night, I thought about all the love and care that goes into taking a picture. We do it all because we want to hold onto the events in our lives so that it will help us remember. All those pictures make up a story and we are the main characters.

Mom and Dad’s photo albums are still waiting, and I am still getting used to the idea of taking them apart to share with my siblings. Now I don’t know if it’s the best way to share our story. Maybe some of you have other ideas that you might want to share here. What would you do?

How I Survived the Water Main Break of 2013!

I’m glad this wasn’t me!
“Worker Tim Green carried an unidentified pedestrian
across a virtual river of water along Hennepin Av.
on 1/4/13,” picture courtesy of StarTribune.

“We have lost water pressure in the building,” a monotone voice reported over the loud-speaker. “Do not use any water at this time. We are trying to figure out what the problem is. As soon as we figure it out, we will let you know.” It was around 2:45 p.m. I sat at my desk at work, my hands hovering over my keyboard. “How can we just lose water pressure like that?” I thought. It was not funny the way my mind started to draw a conclusion that surely there was some sort of Joker in the building who was going to start it and all of us on fire. I prayed, “Make it quick, if it’s my turn to go. You know I’m a wimp.”

Yet, everyone else around me seemed calm. I continued on with whatever I was doing and pretended to be a calm person too. I tried not to worry about there being a fire.  When Mr. Monotone Voice told us not to use the water, I knew that meant not to use the bathroom too. Luckily I was okay in that area, but I don’t think others were.

Reports started to come through via co-workers and emails that a water main broke on a street that was a few blocks away. Some people decided that it was time to go home because it was unsanitary. Others worried that it would take longer than normal to get home with everyone leaving downtown at the same time. Did I mention that I thought it was unsafe being in the building in case there was a fire?

A few minutes before 4:00, we received an email telling us to leave the building because it was not safe in case there was a fire. I think I heard that somewhere before. I quickly gathered my things and shut down my computer in record speed.

When I got to the street level, many people with concerned faces were leaving office buildings too. The noise from the helicopters flying overhead and the blaring sirens echoing off the buildings made me feel even more eerie. I just wanted to get home.

As I waited for my bus, more and more people crowded around. There was no water by us, but it did delay the buses. My bus was a little late, and when I got on, I found a spot. A man sat next to me in one of the three seater benches that go sideways. I was at the end spot and my neighbor who was in the middle sniffled all the way home. I don’t think he was crying. I think he had a cold. I felt so squished that I couldn’t even get my phone out of my purse.

When I got home, I watched the news on TV and listened to all the reports. It appears that a contractor was working by the water main, and it broke. The nearby streets were instantly flooded. Any cars parked in underground parking garages were ruined. Twelve million gallons of water floated up and away that day.

We wondered how it all could possibly get repaired overnight. It did get fixed, and it was business as usual the next day. While some hoped for a day off, I guess I’m just happy we didn’t all float away. It’s a good thing I kept calm and didn’t jump to any wild conclusions!  I’m glad we survived the Water Main Break of 2013.

Loved Ones Present

Loved ones present and close by my side
Smiling, singing and going in stride

Tea and Cup tea_cup.jpg photo
Photo courtesy of Photobucket

Help decorate, bake, share some spiced tea
Straightening rooms, just being with me

Setting nice plates, polished utensils
Finding those things, making it special

Gathering ‘round old fashioned table
Eat and enjoy much as we’re able

Laughing at jokes that others don’t get
Talking of days together well spent

Presents opened, wrappings cleared away
Bows and cute bags we’ll use a new day

Little needles prickled our socked feet
Thanks little tree you looked really neat

Time passes by Christmas Day’s gone
Quickly more days are waiting to dawn

Thinking back at the fun times we had
Hoping our gifts made everyone glad

Realizing now our blessings will be
Loved ones present, our special family

Too Many Dogs!

Bernese Mountain Dog.  Photo Courtesy of

“Want to come with us to the dog park?” I asked Katie.  The words “dog” and “park” are just a couple sounds that make Lila’s ears perk up.

“The dog park stinks,” said Katie.  Not only did Lila’s ears bounce again at the sounds of those words, so did she.

“Plus, I need coffee.”   Luckily, there is a Caribou Coffee on the way.

“We can get coffee on the way!”  I said.  Lila and I can count the number of times Katie has been to the dog park on one paw.  We were happy to have the company.

Lila continued to jump up every once in a while as she watched us search for our sunglasses, hats, mittens and boots.

Lila went straight to the van after I opened the garage door.  When we arrived at the coffee shop, we had to leave Lila alone for a few minutes.  I try not to leave her alone in the van, but she handled the short abandonment very well and the inside of the van was intact after we got back.

Lila started her whiney cry as we got closer to the park.

“What’s the matter?”  Katie asked.  “Is she always like this?”

“Yes, she’s excited.”  The closer we get to the park, the louder the whining gets.

“It’s crowded,” said Katie.

I opened the door, and instructed Lila to go to the gate.  I’ve learned to just let Lila find her way by herself once we arrive.  The times I’ve tried to leash her up and hold her back have not been very good on my sciatic nerve.

Lila barked at the gate as if she were instructing me to hurry.

“I’m coming,” I said while I watched her jump, almost as high as the top of the gate.

“Did you see that lab jump?” a lady commented to her friend.  People are always amazed.

Lila ran fast towards the pink tennis ball after I chucked it across the park.  Even though we haven’t had any snow for a while, the snow at the dog park is still a bright white, all except for the little yellow spots that can be seen here and there.  We followed Lila along the worn away path.

“Do those boots have any sort of grip on the bottom?”  I asked Katie as I looked at her Uggs.  It seemed as if I could walk faster with my unfashionable boots that didn’t slide about.

“No, they’re kind of hard to walk in on the snow,” said Katie.

Lila still does not drop the ball for me, but when other dogs greeted Lila she abandoned the ball and forgot where she left it.  I was able to grab it quick, and Lila noticed right away.

“Don’t even try to keep up, Howie,” a man said to his little dog.  Howie and the man watched Lila run after the tennis ball.

It was nice to be outside and enjoying the day.  All the hustle and bustle of the holidays didn’t leave much time for me to be outside with the dog.  The sunny, blue sky and the white snow made the dog park seem fresh and clean.  One of the joys of winter is that the usual bad smells are frozen.

As a Bernese mountain dog came running towards us on its way to Lila, Katie commented on how she liked the smaller dogs.  Another lab joined us all at the park and had somehow gotten Lila’s pink tennis ball.  For a minute I had a hard time telling the two labs apart.

“Ricky, that’s not yours,” I heard a lady say.  Ricky dropped the ball, ran and jumped up to lick a lady on her face.  I remembered back to the day when Lila used to do that to practically everyone she met.  Ricky made Lila look like a good girl!

“Can we go now?” Katie asked.  “There are just too many dogs here!”  Lila was ready to go too.  We went on our way, Katie still holding her Caribou coffee cup in her hand.