Dancing and Laughing My Way through the World

I love to travel. If it were free and time was of no concern, I would be gone most of the time exploring. People have asked me many times why I like to travel. I have a standard answer: I love to see the natural beautiful sites, meet the people, taste their food, and hear their music. If there is one thing I have learned through travel, it is that most people are very nice, loving, caring and helpful, no matter where you go. I have also learned that no matter where you are, people like to IMG_9829have fun and enjoy themselves, and as a traveler we are also around other happy travelers. It is the perfect recipe for fun!

Before you travel, you will hear old stereotypes like the people in a particular country are rude to Americans, or that the people are cold and don’t like tourists. I have found none of those stereotypes to be true. If I smile at people and I am polite, they are polite and smile at me. It does not matter what country I am in, if I try their food and compliment them and try my hardest to speak at least a few words of their language, they are appreciative and assist me with my terrible pronunciations, and it usually ends with smiles all around.

Recently when I was in New Zealand and Australia we were in contact with many locals, but also were visiting many of the tourists sites that were also being visited by Japanese and Chinese tourists. Many of them were young people, and particularly there were several groups of college age girls traveling together. Of course, like our kids of the same age, they were constantly taking IMG_1786selfies, so I started photo bombing their pictures.

I would jump right into the picture, right before they took it and would smile like I was with them on vacation. Well they loved it. They instantly erupted in laughter and insisted that I come in on another picture, so it was not blurry and they would reposition so I was in a better spot and would take more pictures. Sometimes others would ask me to be in their pictures too, feeling left out. I did this so often I started joining in and I would say to them, let’s take a family picture. At which point they would all smile wide as they could and would be so excited by my saying that we are all family. They would smile and laugh and we would take a nice picture together. I even got a hug from one of them.100_3200

I talked with some Chinese children at a sheep farm in Australia where we were able to pet the sheep dogs. The children were grade school age and the first question they asked me as we were petting the sheep dogs is whether I had a dog in the States. I told them I did and showed them a picture of Yogi with his Mohawk haircut, at which point they cracked up in giggles and they started pointing and showing their other friends, my crazy looking dog. I asked if they had any pets and they only had fish tanks among them, but would love to have a dog. It was a brief, but fun exchange.100_3210

In Australia we ate a lot of delicious seafood, and we had porridge for breakfast, which is one of the best cooked oatmeal’s I have ever tasted, but we also had to try vegemite. It is served in restaurants like jam in small containers, except it is made from left over brewers yeast and is loaded with vitamins. It is an acquired taste especially with its beer on the tongue aftertaste. Now beer can be delicious, but this is served at breakfast. Those Australians are a hearty bunch.

100_3192We have tasted foods and drinks all over the world. We had pastries with meat in New Zealand, drank Blue Lagoons in Iceland, ate alligator in Florida, pizza in Italy and we ate pork hocks with the locals at a small bar in Frankfurt Germany. We sat at a large table and attempted our best to speak enough German words to get by. They all laughed and luckily spoke English with us. We discussed our families and where our travels would take us next. They told us more about their town and about their plans to visit the States at some point and we laughed the night away.

100_3190When our kids were growing up, we went to Mexico a number of times and even though the kids were young at the time they were always willing to try the food. They loved the fresh fish and they ate salsas every day. We also danced to the music that played every night after dinner, and we went to bed tired and happy. The kids learned to talk with the people and respect and appreciate other cultures. We also had a family vacation to Nova Scotia where the residents had a heavy Scottish accent and ate pizza with hamburger and shrimp on it, but no cheese. Interesting and the kids ate it and seemed to like it. They still talk about the cheese-less pizza with shrimp.

Mex03I travel to experience other possibilities and to learn about the world. James Michener is known for saying: “If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people you might better stay home.” He was so right. The people I know who have and do travel a lot, love the diversity of people and their customs and tend to respect others, no matter how different from ourselves. When you talk with people around the world and eat their food and dance to their music, you not only have a wonderful travel experience, but you create family wherever you go. You touch others lives and they touch yours in a way that changes you forever. Laugh, eat and dance your way around the world and you create a world where we can all be family and have connections that survive long after the vacation is over, and hopefully, play a part in creating a better world.



The Karen Carpenter Connection

In the mid 1970’s my close High school friends and I listened to a lot of Karen Carpenter at our slumber parties. Slumber parties were a big part of our social life. We drank soda and ate frozen pizza, the kind that tastes pretty close to what the box would taste like, if you baked that. It was terrible in hindsight, but we did not know it, because it was before the age of pizza delivery. We sat on the floor and sang to Karen’s songs, especially our favorite, “We’ve Only Just Begun.” We sleepover7had high hopes for our futures, even though we had no idea what that would entail. We dreamed of romance, but, surprising for our age, we were pretty set on going to college and finding our own way in the world. We loved the farm life, but by 16 we were tired of the rock picking and chores. Maybe we just needed new sights; of course I miss the farm now. We did not appreciate how awesome farm life was at the time.

My vivacious, smart, and fun cousin and good friend in High School, Laurie Millner Menke, and Mary Joe Wimmer, Marilyn Gerwing, Linda Faust and Dorothy Weber were all a big part of our Karen Carpenter loving circle. Laurie was actually a professional quality singer and could really belt it out at our slumber parties. She was amazing and usually had the lead in any musicals and skits. She graduated from St. Ben’s and sang for many weddings and has been in plays over the years.

Laurie Millner

Laurie Millner

She came back to Buckman for my wedding and sang. I had a big Catholic wedding with three priests officiating. My uncle the priest, my cousin the priest, and the parish priest, who was good friends with my Dad. When you get married by three priests the marriage sticks real well. We will be celebrating 30 years of marriage next year. Everyone at the wedding had goose bumps when Laurie sang the Ave Maria. Some of my law school friends still talk about that singer and that song, after all of these years. She did a great job and the song was really moving. She has since built a career and raised a family and it is fun to keep up with her shenanigans on Facebook. She still is a fun loving and talented gal.


Mary Wimmer

Mary Jo had big dreams of joining the Peace Corps and she did and spend time in Africa. She met her husband there. They then raised their family and built their careers here in Minnesota. She has a beautiful and loving soul and that has never changed. I love seeing how her family has grown over the years and to see how successful she is in her business.

Marilyn Gerwing

Marilyn Gerwing

I saw Marilyn working at the Minnesota Zoo many years ago and unfortunately a few years after that I found out that she passed away from a severe diabetic complication. It is incidents like this that make you renew your ideal to live life to the fullest, as you never know how much time you have.

Linda Faust

Linda Faust

Linda was extremely bright and was wise beyond her years. She was also artistic and the kind of person that never once forgot to do her homework. She was the voice of reason and the go-to-gal when you needed a well thought out decision. Obviously she is still the wisest. She was the one person who was smart enough to move out of the Minnesota weather and now lives in warm and sunny New Mexico.

I lost track of my good friend Dorothy for a while, but she too graduated from college, had a family and a career, and lives in the city. Dorothy and I went to all kinds of parties in high school and luckily never got into anyreal trouble. Well there was that one beer party in the woods that we had to run from when the cops showed up, but we never got caught! There also was that little fender-bender on graduation day, and luckily the police did not see the empty Boones Farm wine bottle that we drank at the Skunk River dam in the afternoon to celebrate graduation. Oh, and there was that car owned by my brother’s friend Frank Shermers that we called Victor. He had used an Axe to chop a hole in the top of the car sleepover6to make a Sun Roof and someone had put a goat in it all night so it smelled bad. We took that car to the drive in movie one time and when Frank pulled the back seat out and put it on top of the hood to sit on during the movie. We almost got kicked out. The Movie Theatre manager asked us if someone had died in that car. When we agreed to put the seat back into the car, he let us stay. At this point you probably think I am making this stuff up but I am not. It is all true. We did have some fun back then. I wish we would have had cell phone cameras. We would have a picture of Victor the car. I would frame that.

We once staged a sit in to protest the cafeteria food. The School administration could not see why we did not like the cut up hot dogs in tomato soup poured over mashed potatoes. I wish I was exaggerating, but that was a meal we had every week at school. Back then we were not thinner because we had healthier food at school, we were thinner because the food was so bad you only ate enough to survive. The protest did no good at all. Our parents just all told us to knock it off because there are starving children in Africa and we should be grateful for what we have. That was the end of it. The food stayed the same.

Say what you will about Facebook, but all of us are overly busy nowadays. The time since I graduated from High School has flown by. If not for Facebook, I wouldn’t be able to keep up with these fun people. They were a big part of my life in Pierz, Minnesota, up until we all graduated in 1976.

After we left High school everyone went their directions and I would have lost track of everyone. These people had a profound impact on who I am. We shared some great times and some great dreams. I think we pushed each other subconsciously to be better and to dream big. We had only just begun to live, as the song goes. There were bright lights and promises. We scattered to the wind to follow our dreams. Each person touches us and our life. It is nice that we can reflect back and sometimes reach back, when our busy lives allow it, and rekindle some of those friends from long ago.

The Fishing Connection

I have always loved fishing.   One of my first dates with my husband of 28 years was fishing in a small lake that was stocked with Bass. It was like fishing in a barrel. I thought the guy was the best fisherman I had ever met. He told me years later that the lake was a private lake stocked with tons of Bass for non motorized fishing by the owner of the company he was working for at 20140525_163109the time. He had special permission to fish it that day.   He was clearly trying to impress me and it worked. We have been fishing together for 28 years and now that we are empty nesters we take our boat to Kabatogama for a week of big fishing adventures once a year. So far we have not become lost in the wilderness, which is a real possibility up there, and we have some gorgeous pictures and some very fond memories of driving our boat to the historic Kettle Falls Hotel. It is a fun way to spend time together.

Everyone in the family, including my parents who are now in their Eighties, take part in the fishing opener each year. Our family scrambles around for months before fishing opener, deciding where we are going and guessing about the weather. The anticipation and planning are all part of the fun. We don’t all go to the same place every year, but some of us get together depending on who is available. No matter where everyone is fishing, we all have our cell phones and we send pictures back and forth of our catches. We call it the brag line.

I remember one opener that we spent with my parents and my kids at my brother John’s lake home near St. Cloud. The weather that year was less than ideal, with rain, sleet and snow. We dressed as we would for ice fishing, but we never caught so many fish. We had multiple boats on the water, and my kids and I were on my brother’s pontoon, which we fondly call the party barge. I think it is one of the biggest pontoons that they make and it even has a bathroom on board. It is perfect for taking the kids along. My brother has always had the patience of a saint, so he hung in there with my kids who managed to take turns repeatedly tangling their lines.

Despite the tangled lines and bathroom breaks, we all caught fish that year. My brother barely got his line in the water when one of us would be yelling that we had a fish on and he had to g040515 1455__1940et the net. It was a hell of a fishing opener. When we got back to shore, and before any staking of the fish, there had to be group pictures holding our catches and also comparing to see who caught the biggest or the longest, or the smallest. We have a lot of fish pictures, because we take pictures of them no matter the size or the kind.

I remember another year where my mom and dad, and my husband Joe and I were in the same boat on the opener. The fish were not biting at all that year, but we had beautiful weather and we had a lot of good conversation. As we talked and trolled around the lake in the sunshine, my mom went to cast her line out and accidentally threw her entire rod over board. We all saw it, but it took a minute to register what she had done and to take any action. By the time we got the dip net to try to retrieve it, we were all laughing so hard; it had sunk like a rock, so there was no hope. It took my mom a while to laugh about it. She was in shock and kept saying she just didn’t know how that happened. The more she tried to explain it, the funnier it got. We still talk about it to this day and tease her about throwing her rod away, just because the fish were not biting.

Many people talk about fishing stories, but it is because of the crazy things that happen in boats while fishing. You cannot make this stuff up. We were fishing Green Lake with my parents just a few years ago and my Dad caught a really large Northern. We put it into the live well, even though it barely fit. The live well aerator stopped running, because the fish was up against it. MyPhoto0099 dad went to open the live well to fix the aerator and that Northern jumped clean out of the live well in the back of the boat and into the lake. It was gone. That is one that if I had not seen it myself, I would have said they were making it up. I wish I would have had a camera in hand. The look on my dad’s face was worth a thousand words. I have never seen him so stunned. We were all speechless for a second and than started laughing and said it was good he jumped out because he was clearly part dolphin anyway.

We have so many fond memories of fishing excursions. One thing has become clear over the years. Fishing has little to do with the actual fish that we catch. One year my sister in law and I both caught carp and proudly took photos of those ugly things. Fishing has more to do with spending time with parents, grandparents and kids, in the sunshine or the sleet, on the water BenBass090524 (1)and more importantly together. Those moments with others which leave us with a lifetime of memories of happy moments and funny stories and time spent with family. Fishing has been one of those things that helped bring us all together in a shared life. It brought Joe and me together so long ago, as a couple and it brought us close to our kids over the years and our kids with their grandparents and uncles and aunts. The fishing connection is one of family and fun and most importantly time spent together. It cannot be overrated.