Category Archives: Happy Holidays

To bind up our wounds the Prez-Elect bids a Happy New Year …

…to the new deplorables!

Donald J. TrumpVerified account
?@realDonaldTrump
Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don’t know what to do. Love!
RETWEETS
81,497
LIKES
187,945
Susan StevensMatthew GademskeOGmWesley GoodwinKiana ShannonlibertymomKerry-Lynne FindlayHogy Vanilla
5:17 AM – 31 Dec 2016

This looks like a good book for Denfeld and East students to ring in the New Year courtesy our New National Etiquette Trend Setter.

When our better angels songs grow faint

My dove of peace still holds up a sprig of olive in its beak but it will probably melt away and drop it soon. That’s a proper metaphor for where I think our school board is going. I’ve enjoyed sharing my Mother with you this season. I’d like to spend the year writing about her but I think instead I will be writing about a school board so hostile to letting a stubborn colleague ask questions that they decided it was better to smear him with the toxic accusation that he is a racist. Since they made that hideous claim I feel little compunction about pointing out the all too human flaws of other board members who would trade the work of improving our schools for the dirty business of character assassination.

As I wrote before “Damn us all.” I wish I could write a sentiment more worthy of the Season but I find myself feeling more like the poor wretches cackling about the dead Scrooge’s old rags.

Thank you for visiting. Once again this month has been a busy time for blog visitors. Lincolndemocrat.com is just shy of 3000 “unique” visitors this month. Even though I have decided to spend the rest of my holidays with family in order to rest my fingers I know I’ll cross that barrier with five full days left, not counting today, to finish the year. Heck, I might even feel compelled to write something else new. But not today.

Best wishes in finishing up your holiday leftovers. Ours are so plentiful that they threaten to do me in if I don’t go gentle on them.

12th Day of Christmas

This is an early Santa my Mom made and an angel bearing a Christmas Tree that was made closer to the end of her decade plus ornament run.

Every Christmas going back many years my Dad insisted that his family sing the Twelve Days of Christmas on Christmas morning before opening presents. Whoever joined us for the holidays was dragooned into singing at least one of the choruses. Because most people can’t remember which gift goes with which day he made up a tag board chart that listed everything from one to twelve. The tag board was always put on top of the tall secretary that belonged to one of his grandfathers where it collected copious amounts of dust which had to be blown off after its year long wait.

We all sat in a circle of chairs gathered in the living room. We all had to sing the first five verses together up to the gold rings at which point we went around in a circle singing solos. The first soloist sang about the six geese a laying the next the seven swans etc. until we got to the Twelve drummers drumming. As we counted back down with succeeding verses whoever sang a particular verse had to re-sing it during the countdown. Once we got back to the five gold rings we all joined in again to sing down to the partridge in a pear tree.

Claudia recently remembered it as an ordeal of Christmas but it was our family’s Christmas until 1986 the last one at which we all gathered together before his September death in 1987. He was a regular old Fezziwig.

I just got back from my second church service singing nonstop with the choir. My voice has had it. I couldn’t even eat the pear in that song.

Merry Christmas!

11th Day of Christmas B

Older women will remember the magazine Harper’s Bazaar. It was the inspiration for the store my Mother and a dozen other Mankato woman formed called Harpies Bazaar. They were the “Harpies” and they poured so much love and work into that store that it had a twenty year run as one of the most popular stores on Front Street.

Mom never made any money to speak of but it was rewarding work. She did the artwork for the ads and applied her years of decorating department store windows to arrange arresting settings for the goods they sold. Other than the sheer fun she had one of her few material rewards was the ability to buy items below cost. So every Christmas she treated her children to a late night buying binge at the store when it was otherwise closed to holiday shoppers. This was the first of two such binges we were treated to each Christmas. My Dad took us all to Musicland for us to choose Christmas Albums.

At the Bazaar Claudia and I always bought a new building for our “Dickens Village.” Our collection complete we always spread it out on my Grandmother’s grand piano where Mom practiced as a child and played American tunes for me to sing along with her.

I mentioned some posts back that we have an extra Jacob Marley. Our grandson Jacob loves the Marleys. Yes, that’s two of them. You can see them placed forward. He really enjoyed the Muppet version of the Carol and he likes to move the two of them around in the village. We wince a bit when he does it. The figures are all ceramic. Of course, we also have two cats who sometimes take a stroll through the village so everyone in the community is at some risk during the holidays.

11th Day of Christmas A

I’ll post one more image of my Mother’s Christmas Ornaments tomorrow and explain the significance to my family of the Twelve Days of Christmas. Its not a big deal but just an anecdote my family jokes about when we get together which sadly, as we’ve aged and feuded, has become less common.

Yesterday I brought my Mother home. Literally. In a box in a shopping bag. Her cremated remains weigh about five pounds. I hid her in my office closet and thankfully my grandchildren have not been here or they might go pre-Christmas snooping and get the wrong idea. I had thought my Mother’s remains would be shipped to the cemetery in Mankato where she will be interred near my father. Guess not. My Mother was widely read and, as an amateur student of people, I think she would be amused by the day I had.

Two days ago I was censured by the School Board. Officially it was because I stupidly disclosed the price of Central High on my blog. I voted for the censure myself and afterward Bill Westholm called me over to shake my hand and thank me for doing the right thing. Unofficially I was censured as a shot across my bow because my fellow school board members hate my blog. For some of them it was payback because I’ve written about things they’ve said and done which don’t match the sainthood which they and the rest of humanity aspires to.

At the outset of our meeting someone, I think it was Art Johnston, made a cutting remark about holding the meeting next door to Christmas. Taking umbrage at this my seat mate Rosie Loeffler-Kemp explained earnestly that because the Board members knew of my Mother’s death they wanted to postpone the censure vote during my period of grief. I thanked Rosie for her thoughtfulness. I’ve recorded the exchange on with the help of a friend who will help me put it on youtube. I’d like folks to know that I did not spend the entire hour plus scowling as ferociously as my picture on the front page of the Trib might have suggested although scowl I did.

So I woke up on the day before Christmas Eve with a banner headline about my censure as my kids came back to Duluth. Its nice working with folks who have an exquisite sense of timing.

If it is not already apparent some of the optimism I woke up with yesterday morning has begun to wear off. The Ghost of Christmas past is already fading before that of his successor. I got a call from Christmas future and was told I needed to pick up Mom now or sometime after the holidays so hustled over to collect her. I brought her in as my son’s girlfriend and her sister were baking Christmas cookies in the kitchen. I tucked Mom away in the closet and then noticed the approaching troop of cleaners who showed up and spread out busily to spiff up our house.

I retreated to the sun room where we keep the Christmas jigsaw puzzle and my Mom’s ornament arrangement and sat across from Claudia with a thousand yard start. I told her about Rosie’s and my fellow board members consideration and we had a chuckle. Then I told my wife that I thought I would remember this Christmas. Ah, You should have heard our peals of laughter. It was the sound of Christmas Cheer.

Oh, and the cookies were delicious.

10th Day of Christmas B

This is my Christmas jigsaw puzzle.

I’m not sure how many years I’ve taken over Claudia’s sun room to work on them but its been quite a few. This year I didn’t buy any of them while on vacation because we didn’t go anywhere. We even skipped our 40th Anniversary cruise. So, my new son-in-law saved the day with some old jigsaws of his. I put one together already and this is the second.

The keys to putting jigsaws together are shape and patience. The pieces are very subtly different from each other but a good eye will sense when one shape matches another. With a 1000 piece puzzle like this it takes patience to match all the pieces together. As you can tell I organize pieces by color to reduce the number of shapes I have to match. I’m not a super fast putter together-er but I’m dogged and disciplined.

I’d given up putting the School Board together until a better angel showed up and tried his hand at it and was dashed against the hard rocks of No. I thought we were doomed but last night’s meeting inspired me to think of another route to peace. Like my jigsaws it will require patience and a good eye for what pieces can be fitted together.

I had been thinking Christmas Eve was my deadline for finding peace but now I’m thinking New Year’s Day. If you are tired of the Soap Opera please wish me luck. Everyone on the School Board is a good person. We should get a new year to prove it. Our children deserve to have grown ups on the school board.

10th Day of Christmas A

Well, there is only one thing my readers will be interested in and that is the big meeting to discuss the difficulties this Board has with Harry Welty.

I think the second most important thing I have to report is already old news. I voted to censure myself for spilling beans that I shouldn’t have. That was a very easy decision for me. I had incorrectly anticipated that the meeting would be about some really sordid information that I possess that if kept under wraps may help our School Board return to a more sane normal. That expectation kept me at a high a very high level of anxiety all weekend because I want normal much rather than the scorched earth I see on the horizon.

I demanded that the three board members who were well within their rights to call for the meeting be identified. I did not make it easy for them and getting me censured took a full hour and fifteen minutes. That was the price they had to pay for not putting the breaks to our increasing dysfunction. The vote to censure myself, however, was no problem for me after I had an opportunity to speak. I was a bonehead. I deserved to be censured. If the sale of Central doesn’t go through in three years the voters can exact revenge. Its as simple as that. I’ll only add that this is what should have taken place with Art. A quick slap on the hands and then we escape from being the circus’s center stage.

The only thing I regret about the censure was the Fox story I saw afterwards. The sound bite of me made me look like an arrogant ass. It was one of the few occasions that I was not in dead earnest. I was asked how the Censure would affect me and the simple answer is, not much. That is not properly contrite enough however and I launched into an accurate but silly metaphor. Pigpen from Peanuts came to mind when Fox questioned me and I began by saying I’d have a black cloud over me for a while. I should have stopped there but then I corrected myself about four times putting Linus under the cloud then remembering it was a dust cloud then remembering that it was Pigpen not Linus under it.

In that addled confusion I looked as though I was mocking the censure which when I saw that that was the chosen soundbite made me wince. It made Claudia wince even more than me.

So, anyone who is reading this please understand. I spent an hour and a half treating this episode like a big deal and only a fraction of a minute swatting it away like a fly. Though most of you didn’t see the hour and a half that is the more important portion of what took place not my confused arrogance at its conclusion.

In fact, what I hope is even more important is a new idea for redirecting the focus of the School Board back to our schools. That’s the next post.

8th Day of Christmas A

I’ve already been up once today reviewing my blog for mention of the things which could get me kicked off the Duluth School Board. Its not easy to sleep when you know your colleagues are dreaming of donning their black caps like a British judge in a capital case.

My son is sleeping off his eleven hour drive to get home for Christmas and I’m trying to be quiet. It didn’t help that our cat hurried upstairs after his breakfast for a noisy bout of tossing his cookies close to his benefactors and slaves.

I’m glad Claudia and I got our Christmas shopping mostly taken care of yesterday but it wasn’t without interruption. I had sagely decided that the School Board’s attempt to hush up Monday’s meeting had be scuttled so I left a message on the Trib’s answering machine to encourage them to check out my blog. I got a call while heading into the Target parking lot from their reporter John Lundy. His beat is not the School Board but I did my best to fill him in before catching up with Claudia who was none to happy that my community service was breaking up her Christmas reverie.

My paper just got delivered but I’ll set it aside to listen to my taped interview by Mary Rice who managed to mangle what I told her when I questioned her a few weeks back. I’ll have to keep her botched job handy Monday when something will happen, only God and my Chairman knows what.

So, I’ll do a little transcribing and then go to the basement to listen to a complicated choral work by John Rutter that I haven’t quite mastered for today’s worship service. After that perhaps I’ll have the stomach to read the story I had to make sure was slapped on the front page of the Trib before my appearance Monday in the witness stand.

Like my other Christmas Season posts this one is cataloged under “Happy Holidays.” This one, however, is more like an advertisement for my school board colleague’s Winter Fishing Season. I just hope I’m the big one who got away.

7th Day of Christmas B

While my Grandson was conquering the world in our enthusiastic game of Risk I got a call on my cell. It was the District’s HR Director just checking in on me to see whether I had looked at my District email today. “No, I haven’t,” I informed him. (I’ve gotten a little casual about checking it recently.) He told me that a meeting had been scheduled for Monday at 4:30 to begin an investigation of me and that I had the option of a closed or an open meeting.

“Oh an open meeting, by all means.” I replied jauntily but with a the beginning of a sharp pain in my chest.

Here’s the resolution we will be discussing”

R E S O L U T I O N

Executive (Closed) Session

WHEREAS, Minnesota Statutes section 13D.05, subd. 2.(b) provides that the School Board shall close a meeting for preliminary consideration of allegations or charges against an individual subject to School Board authority.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, By the School Board of Independent School District 709, St. Louis County, Minnesota, that the School Board shall meet in Executive (Closed) Session on Monday, December 22, 2014 at approximately 4:30 p.m. in the Board Conference Room of Historic Old Central High School for the purpose of discussion related to preliminary consideration of allegations or charges against an individual subject to School Board authority.

Golly, its only been seven months since we had the last such meeting.

Since the Twelve Days of Christmas posts began on Lincolndemocrat I’ve been having secret meetings trying to arrange a big kiss and make up meeting among school board members. This isn’t what I had in mind.

I will honor my promise not to comment on my fellow board members through the Season.

7th Day of Christmas A

My Mother’s inspiration for this ornament was the daughter of one of her friends and fellow Harpies, as the co-owners of her boutique called themselves. I was looking for a bird ornament because of the nature of today’s first post but the loon with a stocking cap is one our children painted when she gave them a craft project to do so its not quite authentic.

I was going to write about my visit with Art Johnston at his house the other day. Like Gary Glass who lived a short walk in East Duluth from his work at the Federal Water Lab, Art worked a short walk in West Duluth from the old Riverside School where the Federal Forest Service has its office. Art is an avid skier and a sail boater and it always seems I call his phone when he’s out on the bay or shushing along the railroad tracks that lie near his home. The wind is often as bad as the static from the dead spots when we talk.

There are a lot of things about Art the public doesn’t know so I was pleased yesterday when Loren Martell listed them in a long paragraph in his most recent column in the Reader. Because of the Holiday I won’t link to Mr. Martell’s column but I will steal his paragraph:

Really? It was reasonable to fear that Art Johnston a respected, educated citizen, a retired engineer and five-year member of the school board, someone civic-minded enough to be a Denfeld High music booster and log several hours reading to second graders at Laura MacArthur Elementary school, someone who is a volunteer driver for Meals on Wheels and a donor to both Woodland Hills Academy for troubled youth and First Witness, an organization dedicated to preventing child abuse, someone who has a Coast Guard pilot’s license and teaches adult education courses in celestial navigation, someone who is a member of the NAACP and a member of the district seven DFL Executive Board, someone who has passed the very stringent background check for security clearance for a TWIC card (established after 9/11) for someone entering a site of potential terrorism (the Duluth harbor, as a Coast Guard pilot, for example) and also recently passed another rigorous background check through an application process as a foster parent, someone with a resume few others in this town can match.

My parents did some birding when I was young. I remember their delight at spotting a scarlet tanager when I was a kid out on one of their forays. I have an old Roger Torrey Peterson Guide myself from a few forays Claudia and I did in our years together. I fondly recall the time twenty years ago as a chaperon on a week-long church mission trip to help fix up poor folks houses in Trinidad, Colorado when I noticed a group of scissor tailed flycatchers fitting about. I dragged my daughter over to get a look at them. I hadn’t seen one since living in Kansas twenty years before that.

Sitting in Art’s dining room looking over at his feeders I saw some interesting birds which wasn’t surprising due to the forested nature of his property. At one point I stopped a discussion on a fine point of the law to exclaim, “what’s that? A warbler?”

“It’s probably a pine sisken” he called back before looking over his shoulder. Nope it was a warbler something I’ve never seen at feeder, let alone at this late point in our winter season. As it flew off I could clearly see the yellow mark on its rump. “Its a Myrtle Warbler,” I shouted. “Its a butter butt! Art shouted back.

Art explained that twenty years ago birders rechristened Myrtles “yellow rumped Warblers.” He added that at Bird Counts his buddies called them “Butter Butts” a far more memorable sobriquet. We spent half an hour looking out at the birds that were flying too and from his feeder. He offered me one of his binoculars which I declined because those fine points of the law were waiting and because I’d promised to get back home to play a game of Risk with Claudia and the Tan Man who still had that persistent fever.

Art pestered me to join him today in the annual Christmas Bird Count but I declined the offer several times. My son is coming home today, I’ve got a truck load of papers strewn all over my office to clean up and remove the dust bunnies from. Settling my Mother’s estate requires some foot work. We are late with our Christmas Shopping. The list goes on and on. But that’s what Art and his “friend” will be doing today. I wish them a long count.

6th Day of Christmas

When I just popped over the the Damiano Soup Kitchen there were more than enough volunteers from our church to serve food so I begged permission from Flo to return the the work of tidying up my Mother’s estate.

I wish I had a flying reindeer. I could use a little magic. At the moment its in very short supply.

5th Day of Christmas

I’m imperfect. That is something we all are encouraged to accept in the message of the man whose birth we celebrate at this time of year. My own ongoing imperfections were outlined in this letter today in the Trib. (So far I’ve only read the headline and the Author’s name. I will have ample time to do read it in the coming day and ample time to reflect on it over the course of the coming year.)

Why have I been too busy to pour over the paper? Well, I’ve been watching Box Car Children this morning with my grandsons one of whom I just delivered to his daycare. Yesterday I played a three-hour marathon of Monopoly with the older boy. I think its been twelve or more years since I last played the game. The Tan Man clobbered me and, like most seven-year olds, derived much satisfaction in his triumph. He was staying with us because he had a fever and couldn’t go to school. We were just pulling grandparent duty and that duty continues today. I hear him and his Grandmother now playing Angry Birds downstairs.

This will be my last mention of politics for the Season and, as it all relates to me, I think I’m safe in doing so without damaging the spirit of good will that these posts are meant to foster. Its a spirit rather well embodied in the paper mache figure (pictured above) that my Mother sculpted twenty years ago.

Last night I received an email subject titled “Control Freakish”.

It read in part:

Hi Harry,

I’m growing concerned at the amount of control you are trying to assert over this whole political pot hole mess.  You really shouldn’t be advocating to people to not speak their minds. To leave meetings to go request people not speak at the board meeting is completely counter productive towards the goal of wanting people to be more involved, and getting people to speak up is a constant battle. Not enough people, including myself, speak out. Now you are running around requesting people not do it? That is not cool….

From afar, I’m seeing you get obsessed and absorbed by a political in the end, as I believe others are only going to see you as a person who is manipulative and scheming.

I responded in part:

If I fail this is what I think I face:

Raising a hundred thousand dollars. Spending all my time with lawyers in court and no time time in schools. A community civil war. Years of delay in fixing the financial drain that the Red Plan has been. Making half of Duluth hate me and the rest of the School Board for the damned good reason that we have placed our vanity above the interests of the children we were elected to serve.

This explains my reluctance to imperil my diminishing hope for peace. And you are wrong. I do have some control over things. My Mom always told me it takes two sides to fight. I’m just not taking any swings right now.

God damn me. God damn every one of us.

Had I been a little more reflective I would have concluded: “God save me. God save every one of us.”

My Mother, whose own father was the elected State Auditor of Kansas for 24 unblemished years, often told me that she wished I would not go into politics. Its really her own fault that I did. When I told her in Junior High, at the time I was reading JFK’s “Profiles in Courage,” that I was ugly she turned my adolescent insecurity on its head. She didn’t argue and tell me that I was pretty . Instead she told me that Abraham Lincoln was a terribly homely man. That idea came as a shock to me. I’d looked at his pictures in those years following the Civil War’s Centennial hundreds of time. I especially remember pouring over all his photo portraits in a Life magazine article in 1961 or 62. All I had ever seen in his photographs was nobility, sagacity, resolve and in a few of them a small hint of mischief. My Mother helped me see Lincoln the way people of his time saw him in the gruesome cartoons they drew of him. Because of my Mother my new attitude was “By God, if I’m ugly why should I let that bother me?”

Appearances are often deceiving. In this Season might all ask ourselves why we still worship a pathetic man who was executed in the most humiliating way his own followers could possibly imagine. And yet, despite that degradation, even Kings like Good King Wenceslas would come to emulate and worship the Carpenter.

4th Day of Christmas

Even when I was little and my Mother made her first tiny paper mache angles she began using other materials where the mache was structurally insufficient. I remember she used some stiff board for angel wings long before she began making ornaments for her store. I’m not sure what this little sprite’s flute is made out of but I’d guess its from wood or bamboo.

It would be hard to deduce from this light little bauble that my Mother had a deep and probing mind about people. It seems so carefree its hard to think in terms of complexity. My first serious conversation with my Mother concerned an older boy, perhaps a seventh grader, who I saw burst out in tears when some other kids called him queer. I’ve written about this before.

When we moved to Minnesota at the same time her Father was moved to a senior citizens center she was consumed with guilt for leaving him alone. She and her older sister began traveling to Topeka, Kansas for a week alternating every other month. I remember my Mom spent the week ahead of her sojourn making casseroles to freeze for our family to eat while she was away. When she returned after spending a week with her father talking to him she would talk to me about her conversations. I’ve only recently realized the part I played as her debriefer. I now have been left that legacy. The people who stories I was told will die with me when I too pass on from the Earth. I’d like to begin writing those stories down to live on as long, at least, as paper or the Cloud lasts.

3rd Day of Christmas A

I’m the curator of my Mother’s Art and would some day like to print a little coffee table book of her work. I looked though my computer just now and discovered that this bear was made in 1982 as her second batch of Christmas ornaments. I took pictures of each year’s graduating class that I have samples of. She made them from 1981 through my Father’s death in 87 until 1994. In the early years she didn’t put the year of creation by her signature, “by George.” Somehow I deduced the year of manufacture eight years ago or so when she first was sent to live in a dementia wing of Walker Methodist in Minneapolis and I began my curating. I spent the year taking pictures of all her work and began collecting images of everything I could lay my hand on. New old stuff pops up every so often.

Recently I found one of her painting from around the 1970’s that was given back to my sister by the family of one of my Mother’s best friends. The friend had died and the family thought the painting should go back to us. My sister, in turn, gave it to my daughter as a wedding present last summer.

2nd Day of Christmas C

Thanks Mom.

I sent out a request for graphic ideas that suggested miracles. Maybe it was my Mom who sent it to me from the stars although she was more of an agnostic like me. She also got the scare of her life when newly married to my Dad he told her he thought he’d like to be a minister. Today she maybe holding my Grandson’s lost silver star helium balloon.

Still, I mentioned in one of my recent posts about some paper mache doves she made for what I presume were Christmas decorations. Within a couple hours after that post it occurred to me that this was the perfect symbol for my snow sculpture. Furthermore, the rains had not completely melted my little pile of snow and, after dark, it was supposed to go back to freezing. Those would be perfect conditions lasting but one night for me to make a dove.

Its done although its not much to look at. I can’t quite bear to post my night time camera phone pictures of it taken without a flash. Modest as it is the ones I took do it little justice. I got it built before midnight so it was worth a mention in the 2nd Night of Christmas series. I’ll take a picture of it tomorrow if vandals haven’t had their way with it and post it then.