Saturday, April 14, 2018


There is so much to do and so little time!  That’s how we feel at the end of our school year.  At Preschool we always go out with a BANG!  Half of our students will be graduating from our school and be off to their various school districts for kindergarten.  We will miss them but we know they are well prepared for the next step.  We will celebrate that progress plus the accomplishments of our younger students in the month of May.  During our last month of school  we will have many visitors including Paxton Schmidt’s dad, Philip, who will demonstrate throwing pots (He is a potter.  Had you worried didn’t I?) and teach the four year olds how to create their own pots with real potter’s clay.  The New Brighton Police and Fire Fighters will visit all of our classes this month as will Julie Philbrook the Safety Educator from Hennepin County Medical Center.  
  We like to get out a bit in the spring.  Our four year olds will be spending a morning at Silverwood Park  where the staff there will provide a program about birds and print  making.  The three year olds will be taking a school bus for a morning at Como Park Zoo.  The animals are exciting to see but the real thrill is the ride on the bus!  
Knowing that spring is bound to show up soon, our students have been planting seeds and making plans to get out in our Preschool Garden.  Our students plant the garden each spring to grow food for the Ralph Reeder Food Shelf.  Our Summer Session class and volunteer families care for the garden all summer, watering and pulling weeds.  In the fall broccoli, carrots, potatoes, beets and zucchini  are harvested by our students and donated to the food shelf.  Planting and caring for our garden is one way we can give back to our community!  

We say good-bye to our school year students in May but that leads us to the opening of our Summer Session.  We want to keep the learning going and the fun happening as long as possible!  Your 3-4-5 year olds can join us on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings from 9:00-11:30, June 12 through July 19 for science, gardening, outdoor games, stories, music, a bike rodeo and much more.  During Salem’s VBS week we will join in some of the exciting activities planned for all the Bible School kids!  We don’t want to miss out on anything. ( We will not meet the week of the 4th of July.)  The cost of this program is $237 for five weeks of fun.  To register email Pam Carlson, We would love to have you join us!
As you stroll through the church yard this summer make sure to check out our garden and perhaps snip a small bouquet of flowers to take home!

Saturday, March 24, 2018


Do you have a bucket list of places you would like to go before you’re too old to go anymore?  Sweden has always been on my list, probably because my maternal grandfather immigrated from there when he was 19.  I knew him well and loved him dearly.  We lived above him and Grandma in a duplex until I was two.  They babysat my siblings and me often as we grew older.  Although Grandpa often said the scenery along the North Shore was “just like home” he never talked about his life before coming to the United States.  I never thought to ask.  He died when I was in junior high. 
All my grandparents, on both sides of the family, are from Sweden, most of them second generation.  At Christmas my husband and I received the DNA testing from Ancestry as a gift from our children.  We were excited about this because we have decided to go to Sweden this summer.  So, we spit in the tube provided and mailed it off.  I did notice there  was a disclaimer on the web site reminding everyone that we need to be prepared to possibly find out connections we didn’t want to know about.  Hummmm.  My results were not surprising, mostly Scandinavian with a touch of Finnish/Russian (what?) and a tiny sprinkle of northern European.  Since then I’ve been filling in my family tree on-line.  As I have been looking at the regions  of Sweden most of the family came from I have begun wondering why they left and how they chose Minnesota for their new home.  Why didn’t I ask my Grandpa all these questions?  Did he know he would never go back to Sweden or see his family members left behind?  During the 1800s there were millions of Swedes who left Sweden for America.  Many of them came to Minnesota to farm.  That is what they knew how to do and land was available.  The Swedes created Swedish communities where they were comfortable.  They could speak their native tongue to others as they learned English.  They could comfortably share their Swedish customs with their neighbors.   
Immigrating might have been easier in the rural communities than in the Minneapolis and St. Paul area.  In the city the Swedes looked like most other light skinned  Europeans but when they started saying “Uff dah” or “You betcha”  they might have stood out from the rest.  Or maybe it was the herring and lutefisk that made them unusual.  On a more serious note, life was not easy for these new immigrants who were looking for a better life for themselves and their children.
Not knowing the stories that brought my family members to the Wyanett/Karmel area and to Minneapolis I have turned to Vilhelm Moberg’s book, “The Emigrants,” for some possible answers.  This is the story of the southern Swedes who emigrated to Minnesota in the 1800s.  Although I haven’t finished the book which is the first of a trilogy, it is clear that life was extremely difficult for these people in Sweden and there didn’t seem to be any hope of life getting easier in the future.   Saying good-bye to family and friends and heading off on a long unknown voyage to a strange country was scary.  These people were courageous!  I try to put myself in their situation and I can’t imagine doing what they had the courage to do!
There has been so much talk about immigrants and their families in the news lately.  I am not one to say how you should feel toward them and the predicament they are in.  However, I find myself understanding them more then before.  I feel good about the fact that we have a country others see as a safe and potentially prosperous place for them to live and raise a family.  I understand that this is a courageous thing for them to do.  Their journey becomes a more personal journey for me now that I have looked into my grandparents lives.  Uff dah!  This is complex!  Lord, give us wisdom and help us understand!


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

MARCH 2018

Many of you who have been at Salem for a few years may know that I am a horse person.  I had a horse, Indy, who was a big part of my life outside of school.  I rode him and drove him hitched to wagons and sleighs.  He was a big Shire but he was gentle and trustworthy.  On February 2nd I had to put my buddy down because of a sudden intestinal emergency.  Standing in the equine clinic, looking into his big brown eyes and hearing the vet say that his kidneys were failing and his heart was being affected made my heart sink.  There were really no choices that would reverse this condition.  He was dying.  I had to make the decision to put him down.  I stayed with Indy until the end so he would not be alone with strangers.  I said goodbye and took a snip of mane to keep in a shadow box with his picture.  When I left the clinic I felt crushed and strangely isolated.  He was my only horse and now he was gone.  Was I going to loose my connection to all horse activities?  Would I be able to contribute to the horse and carriage club I belonged to?  Would I be able to keep in touch with my equine friends and the other horses I have helped train and drive?  I felt alone.
Shortly after I lost my big buddy my friend  from the farm where I boarded Indy recognized my dilemma.  She kindly said she felt like I had become part of their family and I should come out as often as I wanted to and continue to work with the other Shires they owned.  They would continue to need help bringing the horses to club events.  There would be times when they needed “horse sitters” if they wanted to travel.  I began to feel a sense of relief.  I was   not alone.  Perhaps I still had a purpose in the equine world.
Not meaning to sound trite, but this experience, happening at the beginning of Lent, has given me a new perspective on how Jesus’s friends and family may have felt after his crucifixion.  This person that meant everything to them and gave purpose and meaning to their lives was suddenly dying before their eyes and there was nothing they could do to reverse it.  They must have felt isolated.  The focus of their lives was gone.  What would they do now?
When God closes a door he opens a window!  Alleluia!  Christ was raised from the dead and He appeared to his disciples to remind them that they continued to have a purpose in this world.  He was sending them out to spread the Word of God to all the world and they would not go out alone.  Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to walk with them.  Once again they had purpose and direction in their lives.  What a wonderful feeling.  

We are all part of God’s family.  Lent is a time for us to feel sorrowful as we recall Jesus’ death.  My recent experience has reminded me of how deep this emotion can be.  In contrast, we will come to the resurrection on Easter morning experiencing true joy as we witness Jesus, raised from the dead, giving us hope and purpose for our lives.  We are not alone. Jesus wants us to join with others in witnessing to the love of God throughout the world.  Thank you, God, for Easter!

Tuesday, January 23, 2018


Knowing that I am a preschool teacher it is no surprise that I love picture books.  
While others are reading historical novels, theology or science fiction I am enjoying the rhyming words, fantasy and illustrations found in short stories by authors such as Jan Brett, Mary Ann Richmond and Ezra Jack Keats.  While the text is simple, some would say very basic, the details are often in the illustrations for the reader to discover on his own.  In an adult book one can skim the pages and come away with the gist of the story.  If you read a picture book you must s-l-o-w down and scan the illustrations for the details of the story.  Jan Brett’s book, “The Mitten” is a good example.  This is a story about a boy, Nicki, whose grandmother reluctantly knit him a pair of white mittens.  She feared that if Nicki dropped one of his mittens he would not find it in the snow.  Sure enough, Nicki unknowingly did drop one of his mittens in the snow.  One by one, various forest animals found the mitten and crawled in to stay warm.  Although the text does not tell us, as the pages of the story are turned the artwork shows us Nicki dropping the mitten, playing in the snow with only one mitten and finally discovering he is missing one mitten.  Unknown to Nicki, eight animals crawled into the mitten as it laid in the snow, stretching it to many times it’s original size.  The last visitor, a mouse, caused the bear to sneeze and all the animals exploded out of the mitten which then flew into the air.  Only in the pictures do we see the animals sprawled out on the forest floor.  At last we see Nicki spying his mitten, grabbing it and running home to show grandmother that he still has his mittens.   The last page of the story is wordless.  We see grandmother holding the mittens, one small and one very large, in her hand with a questioning look on her face.  Nicki is sitting by the fire with his back to grandmother.  The reader is left wondering if either of them ever learned of the animal adventure in the forest.
Looking for the details …….that is something we can do from the moment we wake each day until the time we fall in bed at night.  When our feet touch the floor and we greet the day we should be awake to the world around us.  Although the frustrations and difficulties we encounter daily can dominate our thoughts we can see God’s constant presence as we look for the positive details around us.  That snow is heavy to shovel but the beauty of the snowflake is amazing.  A colleague’s  comment is degrading but we know we are one of God’s children, loved just as we are.  When a smile comes our way, when we taste hot coffee in the morning,  when a cardinal comes to the feeder or a squirrel performs a gymnastic feat to get to that same feeder we know God is there wanting us to smile and see Him in our day.  He loves us!  Seeing is believing.  Look for signs of his love all day and teach your children to look.  Believe in God’s love.  It is real! .  When we are quiet and watching, God finds an opportunity to speak to us or point out the answers to our prayers.  

A couple years ago I was challenged by a Face Book friend to name three blessings at the end of each day for a week. What a blessing it was to end each day looking back at all the positive events of the day.  God was present in my day, whether I looked for signs of it or not.  It was up to me to see the details and thank him for his love.  I challenge you to end your day naming at least three blessings.  It will help you see your day in a different, more positive way.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

“I can do that myself!  I’m three and a half now you know!” announced my grandson, Karl.  

If you want to put a smile on your face, have a conversation with a preschooler and find out what they really know, or think they know.  That’s one of the things I love about my job at Preschool and why I like hanging out with my young grandsons.  Just when I think I have a handle on historical events, current events or life in general I am humbled to learn there is a different understanding of these things from the eyes of the little ones.   Here are a few examples.
Recently we were having a discussion about the first Thanksgiving.  The Pilgrims came to the new land sailing across the ocean on a big boat called the Cauliflower.  And did you know, some of our students parents didn’t even get to ride on that boat!  I had to admit I didn’t even get to ride on it either and I am much older than their parents.  Can you imagine how long ago the Cauliflower set sail?!
Sometimes we don’t realize our children are listening to our conversation until they respond.  When paying for a ticket to enter a museum, the cashier said, “Can I have your zip code?” Thinking she was speaking to him,  Karl (see above) said, “Yep, I can zip my coat!”  It took a minute to catch on then we all laughed hysterically.
If you want some help in the kitchen ask a group of preschoolers how to cook a turkey.  First you chop it’s head off but when do you take the feathers off?  Before cooking it?  After cooking it?  How hot should the oven be?  That’s a hard one.  It could be 20 or it could be 1000 degrees.  Take your pick but don’t burn it!  So much indecision about the turkey prompted us to have pizzas for our Thanksgiving Feast.

Then your children grow up and they begin to accumulate more knowledge than we  adults have.  They are computer geeks.  They look up information about everything from drones to dresses and they have the current event news at their finger tips.  I’m not sure that’s all good but it is what it is.  At a younger age one of my grandsons asked, after hearing the news, “That’s not really true, right?”  I turned off the radio and put on some fun music.  In the end, I’m thankful for our teens.  They are the ones who help answer my computer questions when my adult children are too busy.  They know how to research  my ancestry so I can plan for a trip to the “old country” before I’m too old.  If it weren’t for them I wouldn’t know about Star Wars or Harry Potter.  At this stage of their lives they may be the ones thinking we p

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Winter solstice, December 21!  Get ready! 

According to Wikipedia, winter solstice is defined as the the time of shortest light and longest night.  The sun is at its lowest point in the sky.  It’s tough!  
Each December my husband and I and several friends are invited to a solstice party at our friends’ home.  We enjoy a meal together, shiver as we stand around a campfire singing songs and sharing favorite readings.  The snowy yard is lit with ice candles allowing us to see our way through the snow.  Solstice  seems like a strange reason to celebrate.  Short days, long, bone chilling nights, snow, outdoor activities at a standstill, all this can be a challenge to our mental health.  Yet, we celebrate, embracing this dark time of year  knowing that this is a turning point, when light begins to return to our hemisphere.  It fills us with hope for the coming year.  And, so, we celebrate as many have done for centuries!
I embrace winter solstice because it seems to enhance the joy of Christmas.  Having lived in Hawaii for a short time I discovered how much our Minnesota weather made Christmas more meaningful.  It was lovely to spend the holidays on the beach but images of Santa coming to town on a surfboard seemed odd for a fella who lives at the North Pole.  Our Norfolk Pine tree was fresh and we could plant it in our garden after Christmas where it would root and grow.  A Norway Pine smells better.  Sun, sand and ukulele music couldn’t replace snowmen, sleighs and bells.
Winter solstice days are short but the sun on white snow is brighter than on a sandy beach, and the sky is a brilliant blue.  Long, dark nights are an opportunity to showcase Christmas lights and shining stars.  The experience of the Wisemen following the star from the east  to find the Babe in Bethlehem seems easier to imagine knowing how long the nights can be and how brilliant the stars shine.  Likewise, the angels, who appeared to the shepherds, came at night sending them on their way to the Child.  So they all gathered in the stable to worship Jesus as the Christmas star shone down from above.  
Jesus came to a  dark world bringing light to the world.  

John 8:12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."

Solstice, marking the beginning of longer days of light seems symbolic of His coming to our world.  Get ready.  Embrace the solstice and Jesus the light of the world.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

It’s not what we gather but rather what we scatter that defines our life.
Jon Francis

That quote seems like an unlikely motto for the Thanksgiving season.  Fall is our time to focus on harvesting.  If  you have been following the Preschool Face Book page you may have noticed an occasional  post, including pictures, of our preschool garden.  Our students planted seeds and small plants last spring.  Family volunteers watched over the garden through the summer, watering and weeding when it was needed.  By mid-summer we  began to harvest cabbages, zucchini, broccoli and cherry tomatoes.  In September our students participated in digging potatoes, onions and carrots.  They picked green peppers, more tomatoes and flowers.  It was an exciting time as we dug through the dirt and found edible treasures hiding there.  Now we have gathered over 150 pounds of produce from the garden.  That’s not bad for three, four and five year olds and their helpful adults.  
We are not just gatherers!  To live a thankful life we must also “scatter.”  We have received the gift of food from the land, rain and soil.  We have done the work of planting and received more than we could eat.  Now we needed to gift others with our food.  Ralph Reeder Food Shelf was the recipient of our produce.  We want to say, “We love you!” to our community and this is one way we have chosen to define ourselves.  
Thanksgiving is about “scattering”  much more than gathering.  The Pilgrims were able to celebrate their survival in the new world thanks to the friendship of the Native Americans who shared their knowledge of  hunting, fishing and agriculture with the Europeans. They were also thankful for plants that blessed them with medicine, food, shelter and light and for animals and their gifts of food, fur, and bones for tools.  In return the Pilgrims planted, harvested only what they needed and worked to preserve the clean water and air.  We receive, we are thankful and we give back.  Life is reciprocal.  
We can all “scatter” this fall, whatever our age, economic situation or ethnic background.  A smile for someone, helping a neighbor rake leaves, walking someones dog, watching a friend’s child are all ways to define ourselves as instruments of God’s love.  Caring for the earth by living sustainably shows our thankfulness for the blessings of our world.
Who is Jon Francis you may ask?  I first met Jon when he was in high school.  He was a friend of my daughter’s.  God became a part of his life in high school. In college he earned a major in Religion.  He spent summers as a Bible Camp counselor and youth minister.  In 2006 he was on his way to seminary to become an ordained pastor.  Before his studies started in the fall, his love of nature and rock climbing brought him to The Grand Mogul in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains where  he climbed to the summit.  He never returned.  It took a year to find Jon and bring his body home.  It was heartbreaking for so many!  As a part of their healing his parents formed the Jon Francis Foundation.  It honors Jon’s life and helps others who are searching for missing adults.  Promoting safe wilderness adventures, training Minnesota law enforcement officers for search and rescue, and offering grief support for families are all a part of what the foundation does.  The Jon Francis Foundation is an example of reaching out and “scattering”  in our community.  
I am thankful for the many blessings I have gathered.  Lord, now help me scatter your love to all around me.  Amen