Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Oblong pools of orange, spots of yellow and white surrounded by black edging. The wings of a monarch butterfly are like beautiful stained glass windows. Each butterfly has a slightly unique pattern. Their black bodies are speckled with white dots. Each spring they start their journey from the jungles of Central America flying northward to Canada, a journey of several thousand miles. I’m in the Twin Cities, Minnesota area so it is still a long distance from the mountains of Mexico. Early summer is official when the first monarch butterfly flits by.

My yard is filled with native perennial plants and I purposefully grow a plot of about 50 milkweed plants. They are not particularly attractive but their blooms smell wonderful. I place them inside a fenced area because they tend to tip over mid summer. Monarchs lay eggs on the milkweed plant and the caterpillar larva eats the leaves. Unfortunately, approximately one in one hundred eggs will mature into a butterfly due to weather conditions and predators. I aim to increase those odds by gathering caterpillars and raising them inside. Not all live to maturity but more than ninety percent in my care survive to become a butterfly.

Caterpillars need a space to eat, poop, and a location to attach their pupa chrysalis. They all have bands of white, yellow, and black but there is a lot of variety in the pattern. Last year I had a larva that was mostly black with tiny bands of white and yellow. Their job is to consume calories and grow. In ten days or so they will enlarge by 3000%. They procure all their nutrition from milkweed leaves. However, the frass (poo) is rather gooey and smelly. I will explain the best method to set up a Monarch Caterpillar Hotel. As soon as I see the first caterpillar I prepare the hotel, usually during the first week or so of June in the Twin Cities.

First, obtain a growth tank. I acquired an barely used plastic salamander cage from Goodwill. It is about twelve inches tall, eight inches wide and fourteen inches long. Most importantly, it has a lid with air holes. It is imperative to have good airflow for the caterpillars. Secondly, make a vase for the milkweed plants. I use two disposable plastic containers 2 inches tall and 4 inches square, which perfectly fits the bottom of the cage-hotel. The lid is prepared by poking holes about on fourth of an inch in from the corner and in the center; it looks like a five of dice. Make certain that the hole is about the half the diameter of a pencil so that it will accommodate the stem of the milkweed plant. I extended the hole with cross hatches (like the plastic lid of a soda-pop cup, with an expandable hole to hold straws of various sizes).

Thirdly, prepare the tank. Make certain that it is clean; use a 10% bleach solution (one cup of bleach to 10 cups of water). After it is dry, place a couple paper towels on the floor of the tank. This will sop up any errant fecal matter or chrysalis fluid. Put water into the plastic containers. Place a layer of wax paper over the top of the plastic containers (the wax paper should be a bit larger than the size of the floor of the tank. It will catch the poo as it falls. Make certain that you always close the lid or the caterpillars may crawl out.

The fourth step is food. Pull out some small milkweed plants from the garden. I concentrate on the “volunteer” plants that grow outside the designated milkweed patch. Take the small plant and treat it like a flower, keep the leaves on the stem, just cut the stem to the point that the stalk can be shoved into the hole in the plastic container but not taller than the lid of the container. Usually, mature butterflies lay their eggs on small plants so you might end up with a bonus caterpillar! I use a magnifying glass to look for tiny caterpillars. Don’t attempt to pluck them from the plant, just bring in the whole leaf. Place one plant per caterpillar in the tank. Depending upon the size of the bug and the leaves, they eat about one or two leaves per day. They will chew on the stalk if the leaves are gone. The caterpillars will starve and die very quickly if they do not have adequate food. Don’t touch the larva because they are delicate. I use a dry artist brush to move them if they don’t stay on a leaf.

Maintenance is the fifth step, Replace the stalks every other day or whenever they look droopy. I clean out the whole tank on my back steps because it is too messy to do inside. I temporarily relocate the bugs and the old leaves onto a couple sheets of newspaper while I wipe out the tank, wash the plastic containers, replace the layer of wax paper if it is falling apart, and put in new stalks. Carefully check the old leaves before composting them because sometimes little caterpillars will be on them. Gently transfer the bug to the new leaves. Gently return the caterpillars to the new stalks and they will eat again.

Tillie, the cat, likes to sit on the lid. I have moved the tank to several locations but she still climbs on board. At least she only weighs about eight pounds. I think she is attracted to the smell since caterpillars don’t move much. Sometimes the bugs will climb onto the inside of the lid to molt their smaller skin as they grow. It falls to the floor of the tank. It takes about ten days to two weeks for the caterpillar to reach maturity. When it is at about an inch and a half long, it climbs to the lid and attaches itself. It takes about a day and it will shed its exoskeleton skin to form the chrysalis. It is enthralling to observe a larva dance out of its skin.

Inside the chrysalis, the bug takes about ten days to transform into a butterfly. It is interesting to watch the pod slowly elongate, occasionally wiggle, and then wings can be seen. The pod turns translucent just before it breaks open. The new butterfly emerges with a large abdomen and shrunken wings. It only takes a few minutes and the butterfly forces the fluid from its abdomen to inflate the wings. Fascinating to watch. The wings are very fragile because they are not dry. Don’t mess with the new butterfly until it starts to flap its wings. I take the whole tank outside and gently open the lid. Oftentimes, the butterfly will alight off into the wind. Sometimes, it isn’t quite ready to fly so I coax it onto my finger and I carry it out to the milkweed patch. Gently attach it to any open flowers or a leaf so that it can finish drying its wings. I place them in a sheltered spot so a bird doesn’t swoop down upon the newbie.

Finally, don’t wait to place the butterfly outside. It needs food and flight. It could die very quickly if you leave it inside the tank. I don’t like visiting Butterfly Houses because the bugs are not allowed to reproduce and may not have access to food. They are purely bred for human enjoyment, it is a zoo. Captivity can be cruel. However, I do keep two felines but they would only live a couple years in the wild and they purr a lot.

A second batch of caterpillar eggs are laid approximately the last week of July through the first couple weeks of August. I repeat the procedure above after thoroughly cleaning the hotel with the bleach solution. Otherwise, they will be prone to disease. These hearty creatures will start the migration to the winter grounds in Mexico. Five generations later, a new crop will arrive in my garden to start the process over again. My grandparent’s farm was on the migration route. If your timing was right, you could watch them mass together in the tree branches at night and as soon as the sun warmed their wings, they would fly off in the morning. Alas, after my grandparents died the farm was sold so I can’t watch this wonderful sight.

2011 totals: 31 in summer batch and 19 in fall batch, twice as many as last year since I was super diligent about looking for wee tiny caterpillars. Next year, I’ll note their gender when releasing them. In the fall I collect some milkweed seeds to reseed the area in the spring. is an excellent source of information.

Wish that I could fly.
© 2011

Monday, September 26, 2011


Attended concert of the Johann Strauss Orchestra conducted by Andre Rieu on Friday, September 16th in St. Paul, MN. Procured tickets which were donated to a nonprofit where I volunteer and took my dear friend, Allie. Our seats were in a good location but the seats themselves were not comfortable. Allie banged her leg on the beverage holder, which is black and not obvious in the darkened Xcel Energy Center.

Performance began with the musicians marching in carrying their bows. Clever method to perk up the audience on a windy and chilly day. Talented professional musicians and singers. Very solid presentation of romantic classical and rousing traditional tunes, not one wrong note. Cameras showed the members of the orchestra as well as Mr. Rieu up close. Impressive that he used body language to conduct while playing. It would have been cool to hear him solo on the Stradivarius and show off his multilingual skills.

Nice to include some comedy, the Blacksmith skit was very cute. The snowstorm was funny since it doused people with a couple inches of fake flakes. The kids loved to throw the fluff around. Balloons were popular though people popping them were rather distracting. Musicians sat on chairs with no cushion, which could not have been appealing for two hours. Female musician and vocalist gowns were beautiful but beading and lace would have been uncomfortable. It would be amenable if the men could wear colorful vests. Orchestra lacked diversity except for one musician and one profoundly skilled singer.

Maestro Rieu had to coax the audience to dance but many couples went out after he urged them. Perhaps the show producers could have “planted” some couples to start dancing after the first song. There are several amateur ballroom dance groups in the Twin Cities. Time went by quickly. Sad that there were many empty seats since Rieu’s shows have sold out before. As a kid, I would have been thrilled to attend. The producers should have invited school orchestras from around Minnesota to fill up the arena. Needed close captioning in English for the songs. Many audience members sang along with the traditional songs (I know some of the words). Allie’s dad, who died this past spring, was a member of a German vocal group and played the accordion so she got weepy during several of the songs. The show could have included another break. The encore was rather lengthy without a second break but overall it was a delightful show. American tunes were unnecessary.

I played a stringed instrument for about ten years and continue to be a strong appreciator of orchestral music. I was not a talented musician. My left hand had been injured as a child, which severely limited vibrato. My favorite classical music station was destroyed by MPR, I like The Current, but deeply miss St. Olaf Collage’s WCAL.

Waltz with me.
© 2011

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Gorgeous weather permitted a proliferation of ingenuity displayed on lawns. The League of Longfellow Artists (LoLa) coordinated an art crawl and I attended on Saturday, August 27th. Too bad it coincided with the Minnesota State Fair, many people probably procured food on a stick instead of traversing the art crawl. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow would be proud of his namesake neighborhood, which encompasses Minnehaha Falls (Minneapolis, MN) featured in his lovely poem The Song of Hiawatha.

The bright neon yellow LoLa location signs are terrific but the artists should display them perpendicular to the street, it makes it easier to see when driving. It would be great if a detailed pre-printed map were available since the yellow program map was not to scale. I tried to download the Google map from the website but it would not work. I don’t have a GPS system in my auto and am unfamiliar with the neighborhood. I unwittingly passed by several exhibits because I didn’t notice the sign. One artist placed his sign in the alley because his studio is located in the garage. I hesitated entering through the fence from his front yard but I was hopeful to locate his display. The artists at stop #29 on Isabel Avenue positioned extra direction-arrow signs from a thoroughfare and it made it easier to locate their showcase home. I wish that all the artists would follow their example.

It would advisable for the artists to make certain that there is an open pathway to their artwork and prices are clearly visible. I had to fight my way past an overgrown patch of plants and low hanging branches to find one artist in the back yard. She was much more interested in entertaining her family and friends than speaking with patrons. Some artists were very hospitable and offered refreshments and snacks. Nicole Fierce wins high marks for being the most gracious host and she makes really cool artwork, too. Glaciers Café offered a yummy custard sample, but park for free on Minnehaha Avenue.

Please contact these talented folks and let them know you read about them on this blog. No specific order after the first listing. Alas, I only had time to visit about a third of the locations All artists should offer readable business cards…

Best In Show:
Bedazzled by Katherine Clayton’s originality. She makes cement basins, printed floorcloth rugs, paintings, clothing, and grows plants. Moon over Minnehaha Falls is breathtaking and the kelpies are stunning. She is a beekeeper (yeah) and has a beautiful yard.

Honorable Mentions:
* Steampunk fans will enjoy the reworking of GI Joe, Barbie, and Ken dolls by Michael L. Treat. Excellent imagination and miniaturization skills.
* Watch where you are walking or at least see beauty revealed in manhole covers. Mark Barsness has a special skill in replicating all types of pavement in paint. Perfect for the Public Works person in your life.
* Nicole Fierce creates fantastic glasswork, earrings and photographs. She had an impressive display of paperweights at
* Moody ominous storm cloud paintings don’t match the sunny personality of Jamie Lauler Solberg. she should become a trained Skywarn Spotter for the National Weather Service!
* Mary Rose Van Popperin would be my favorite auntie. She paints lovely landscape watercolors. Charmed by her quirky folk pet portraits, which would be a great gift since she meets the animal to paint its soul. 612-670-0661
* Margaret Pezalla buildings funky three-dimensional architectural imaginations and paints meteorite studies. Her hubby, Timothy Granlund, is a skilled wood artisan and cabinet maker.
* Wallace and Anita White are talented siblings. They each have their own style. Wallace has a childlike naiveté as a folk artist, very evocative work. Anita works in myriad mediums to create flower and nature images.

Sorry for the delayed report, I was belayed by the Minnesota State Fair and the 10th Anniversary of 9/11. The Powderhorn Art Fair was reviewed on August 25th. The Minnesota Artists website has a comprehensive listing of art related events at but it is difficult to locate art crawls and art fairs.

Love to crawl.

Monday, September 19, 2011


Wowza! This is my one hundredth post as a blogger. I have had a lot to write since casting my words onto the Internet in January 2010. I am grateful to people around the world who read this blog; I strive to make the entries interesting and post on a regular basis.

I’m just an opinioned 40-something single female residing in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota, USA. I grew up in a small farming community and moved to the metro area for post-secondary education. My life is rather boring except for the odd antics of my two cats, Zozo and Tillie. I enjoy gardening, reading, and all things creative. Self-declared political perennial with social-liberal and fiscal-moderate leanings that votes in every election. I’ve actively volunteered on numerous campaigns and for special causes, though I have never desired to run for an elected position.

I’m an “actionist” I volunteer, give in-kind gifts, and donate money to non-profit organizations (NGOs). Per example, due to my current restricted financial status, in addition to volunteering on a weekly basis, I have been donating extra produce from my garden to others. My family does not reside nearby so I help friends, neighbors, and strangers. I am compelled to assist; I cannot stand idly by and watch others suffer. I have been trained in emergency response, first aid, and carry a disaster response kit in my auto. I do what I can until someone with more training arrives. I am a citizen of this planet and it is my duty to help.

I worked my own way through college (no scholarships or help from family), saved money to buy an auto, paid off enormous student loans, saved money for a house, and now am in huge debt with an abode that is losing value. I love being in a home with a small yard but I worry about the mortgage payment and repairs on the nearly hundred-year-old structure. I generally work for non-profit or educational agencies but have been without a job since July 2010. It is quite disconcerting to seek employment for so long. I have sent out nearly three hundred resumes and been on nine interviews. I possess education and experience but “No” is the consistent reply. I worry that I will lose my home if I don’t find a job soon. I want to work. I have had to delay home repairs, eyeglasses, dental work, auto repairs, and spaying the cat. I only purchase absolute necessities and fear a financial catastrophe. Even my underwear has holes…

Animistic Universalistic with a dash of Atheism is my spiritual outlook. I don’t think that any organized religious sect can state that it has all the answers. I’m a geek with some social skills. Alas, no beau at this time. I always expected to be a parent but don’t want to do it on my own. Since I’m over 40, my hopes for marriage and children have dimmed. I don’t mind being alone but sometimes I feel lonely. It would be wonderful to at least be dating a nice man. I’m plump and sassy but not always happy. I strive to remain positive in a world that dwells on the negative.

I consider myself fortunate, even though life isn’t what I expected. What I write is real, my personal memoir. I only use a pseudonym because I know a couple bloggers who have been harassed. Since I live on my own and am seeking a job, I can’t take that risk. Please feel free to give feedback about my opinions. I’d be most honored if you would join as a Follower on Blogger, friend me on Facebook, and connect via Twitter. I enjoy learning about your life, too.

Thanks and please continue reading!
© 2011

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Spiral by Paul McEuen Four and a half worms
Complicated thriller focused on biological weapons of mass destruction. Bio-technology WMDs pose a frighteningly possible scenario. Intelligently written with multifarious plot twists. Cornell University is glorified but the romance elements were not nauseating.

Sheepish by Catherine Friend Three worms
Funny in a healthy, platonic, non-gross sort of way. Farming is a soulful experience. Sheep and wool product promotion usurp the story. She never states if Muffin’s operation was a success or not, I hope it was and that everyone is healthy now.

The Secret History of the Mongol Queens by Jack Weatherford Three worms
Interesting tale about the leadership of the females while the males get all the credit (no surprise). The first half of the book was fascinating but then it became mottled in histology. He stitched together as much fact as possible.

Private Patient by P.D. James Three worms
Foretelling of the upcoming story spoiled the first few chapters. Stiff upper lip is more like a stone upper lip featuring characters without much emotion. Exquisite examination of the internal mind of the characters but lacked heart, why care about unsympathetic people? A bit heavy with literary references and philosophical inquiry. Romances were tidy and with little emotion, like the rest of the book.

Cat in a Topaz Tango by Carole Nelson Douglas Two worms
Better than most serial mystery writers. Well developed writing skills though it can be difficult to follow whom is speaking during dialogue. The cat provides a unique narrative with human-like thoughts. Saboteur was easy to determine early in the book. Overweight people are never portrayed in a positive manner. The secondary story was distracting. What happened to Gloria’s injured wrist? Editor should have caught these errors because it could have earned another worm.

Five worms is top of the bookshelf! Most recent review was posted on August 15th.

Curl up with a book (paper or e-version), and a cat on your lap.
© 2011

Friday, September 9, 2011


Divided we fall. Encouraging religious freedom starts in every person’s heart and mind. You don’t have to agree with other belief systems but never denigrate them. Explore other religions, read their literature and attend services. I’ve found that the basic tenants of each faith are nearly identical; it’s just how and when they are invoked. The best method is to venture beyond tolerating other religions and celebrate the diversity of all faiths, agnostics, and atheists. Practice inclusiveness. They all have a right to exist. Intolerance is taught and violence is perpetuated by the weak. It takes real strength to live a life of peaceful coexistence. No religious system is superior, period, end of discussion.

Religious extremists are born out of ignorance, lack of hope, fear and anger. One method to reduce their power is to raise the standard of living worldwide. Adequate food, water, shelter and safety are essential. Access to education is imperative, especially for the females. Elevating the status of women will improve the health and wealth of the community. Extremists will always exist but their attraction will be lowered when day-to-day survival isn’t in peril. Don’t permit extremists to control your faith. Don’t let them weaken your community with violence.

Coalition building is key to promoting global stability. America can never again unilaterally decide that it “knows best” and march ahead with sanctions or military efforts. We must work with other countries and coalitions to promote stability. The United States must become a bright beacon for democracy again. The United Nations needs to be strengthened and redesigned to be more efficient and effective. War is the failure of politicians and diplomats. The world can’t afford it anymore.

United We Stand, Aloha We Serve.
Volunteer or
Donate to nonprofits 501(c)3s which offer programs to better the world.
Vote for politicians who will uphold democracy in a positive manner.

One World, One People.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


Part III of the series, which began with “That Dreadful Day.”

I mourn for the thousands of innocent people who were murdered on September 11th, 2001; the valiant first responders who ran into the disaster and perished; those who were injured physically and or psychologically; and the loss of America’s naiveté. We were so confident that nothing could harm us that it made the United States vulnerable. I mourn for the cockeyed hopefulness that has been consumed by paranoia and fear; the civil rights that have been stripped away by the so-called Patriot Act (which was recently extended); the members of our military and civilians in other countries who died or were injured by the continuing wars; the desecration of the Geneva Conventions and Protocols that harmed prisoners and placed our military at risk; and the waste of money, time, and effort. So much lost potential will never be recouped. The family and friends directly and the people indirectly affected by the terrible events of 9/11 and its aftermath continue to suffer.

I don’t remember much about September of 2001. My mouth gets dry, throat tightens, eyes tear up, and heart hurts every time I see the images of the towers being hit and crumbling, smoldering remains of the Flight 93 crash, and the torn Pentagon. I was employed at the American Red Cross, Minneapolis Area Chapter, arrived before sunrise and remained until after sunset well into October. We were open 24/7 for three weeks. My boss was concerned that I was working too much but I asked her, “What am I to do, sit in my apartment and fret?” I felt better by staying busy. I never had time or energy to attend the memorial events. My work assisted the survivors, family of victims, and first responders who were on the direct line. I didn’t have time to be sad, though in retrospect I wish that I had taken time to mourn.

Restaurants were kind enough to donate meals. I was profoundly grateful since didn’t have time to shop or cook meals. I especially remember the Holy Land Deli dropping off delicious food. Bigots had vandalized their store but the owner said that more kind people came to offer support than cause harm. He is a gracious person to forgive the fools who blamed all members of a religion for the actions of a few mislead zealots.

Minnesota is blessed with many people who want to others. Unfortunately, due to the nature of 9/11 it was not possible to send untrained people to the sites. The military took care of the Pentagon, unions took control of New York’s Ground Zero, and the local authorities and the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) were responsible for Shanktown, Pennsylvania. I knew several people who helped at each site. They were and continue to be deeply affected by their experiences.

Myriad Minnesotans were directly affected by the repercussions of the multiple tragedies. They had friends and family in New York, Washington, DC and on the Pennsylvania plane. The Red Cross helped to connect people who could not find each other. The debris of the falling towers displaced families and several came to Minnesota with few or no belongings. The Red Cross provided assistance for many people in a variety of ways for years afterwards.

In the ten years since that horrific day, 9-11, America is worse in many aspects. Fear and paranoia has given power to people who want to tear apart the government, aka Bitter Tea Party. The arrogance of George W. Bush and cronies squandered good-will from other countries; stole rights from the American people with the so-called Patriot Act; and, manipulated us into an unnecessary war with Iraq war. We are now hog-tied politically, economically struggling, environmentally battled, and spiritually drained. The pre-9/11 optimism has morphed into a bitter pile of bile perpetuated by negative media personalities and political pundits. We have accomplished more harm than four airplanes by trashing our democratic values, stripping government, empowering corporations, and being negative. Osama bin Laden must be laughing in his watery grave, he is winning because we wound ourselves more than the Al Qaeda minions ever could.

Every American has a duty to reverse this negative path. We can become strong again, not dominate, but have strength through peace. Don’t go along with the nasty rhetoric. Tell the mean-spirited politicians and media personalities that they are wrong. Vote for positive people. Boycott companies who advertise on negative media shows, and tell them why. You don’t have to be a Pollyanna and ignore the truth but at least hold onto optimism. Shake off the malaise and anxiety. Be thankful for those who help you and then help others yourself. You have a responsibility to be a good citizen of the world. It starts in your home and you are linked with every human on this planet. Be good to every person and prove the weak violent zealots wrong. Only the strong can maintain peace but it’s our only hope for survival.

Peace Be With You & The World.


Tears continue to run down my face after watching the PBS Frontline episode “Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero.” I sobbed off and on during the entire two-hour program. I didn’t have time to mourn during the aftermath of that dreadful day. I was too busy working. I had responsibility to support first responders, people directly affected by the disaster, and the families of victims. I didn’t have time to grieve or feel.

I wasn’t numb but I had to tamp down my emotions. It was the only way to survive the experience and still function. I now know that this non-reactive state can lead to PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). That is probably why so many first responders and members of the military develop mental health issues. If you don’t deal with the emotion soon after the event/disaster, it will morph into something worse and cause problems.

As a disaster worker, I felt responsible for helping others. I put their needs ahead of my own. Was that wrong? No and yes. No because I knew that I was actually helping. Yes because it caused unintended personal consequences. Vulcans aren’t as vulnerable as humans so I began to revert to emulating Mr. Spock. I had a very difficult time for several years. I sought out counseling in 2003 and it really helped me deal with the delayed emotions.

The program dealt with people's approach to faith after 9-11. I’d like to address the questions posed:
1. Where was God on Sept. 11?
First, you have to believe in a “higher being” of whatever name(s). I don’t know if I believe in a Creator(s). If there is a Source(s), it doesn’t have a gender and may not be singular. Second, if it does exist why would it give humans the capacity to destroy each other? Why create a being that is so self-destructive? I don’t see the logic...
2. What is the nature of evil?
What is the nature of good? If “Evil” is a noun and outside of humans, then so must “Good.” Forces of Good must be equal to the Forces of Evil and we are mere pawns in their game of chess. Not so! Each person is responsible for his or her own choices. We make choices every day to do good or to do evil. No outside Force compels us.
3. Is religion itself to blame, or is it our last refuge?
Religion is to blame only when it is used as a weapon. As one of the program’s spiritual leaders said, we all have blood on our hands; all religions have been manipulated as a reason to harm others. In this instance, Islam was contorted but you cannot blame all Muslims for the actions of a few zealots. You must make certain that your religion is not used to harm others. You have a responsibility to not permit extremists of your faith to use violence.
4. What faith can be salvaged from Ground Zero?
I don’t know. I have been questioning organized religion since I was a child. I know that something exists beyond this mortal coil but exactly what, I don’t know. Each person has to decide for himself or herself how their faith (or non faith) reacts to this horrific day. I’m still working on my answer.
Probably one of the best Frontline programs ever produced. I hope they do a follow up program and re-interview the participants (add in more women and people of diversity, too).

Still doubting faith.
© 2011

Monday, September 5, 2011


A beautiful sunny crisp fall morning morphed into a deeply dreadful day. It began innocuously enough as I listened to my favorite Minnesota Public Radio program The Morning Show (Dale Connelly & Jim Ed Poole) while I traveled to a meeting on a college campus. I parked the car and walked in a happy mood to the building. As I entered the office, the receptionist said to me, “A plane hit the World Trade Center in New York City.” I asked if it was an accident or on purpose. She looked confused and stated, “No one would do that on purpose.” I frowned, shook my head, and asked to see a television. She and another person dragged a TV out of the boss’s office and turned it on. A group gathered around it. I had a sinking feeling of dread and asked them to keep me updated. 9/11 had begun.

I served as an officer on a professional organization’s Board of Directors. The Executive Officer meeting started and I told them that I might have to leave early because of what was occurring in New York City. A fellow officer said, “It won’t affect us.” I stared at her and said, “We don’t know that, at least people from Minnesota live there and many people have friends and family in the area.” Instinctively I knew that it would be horrible, but I could not fathom to what ghastly degree. When the receptionist came in to say that the second tower and Pentagon had been hit everyone looked stunned. I excused myself. I quickly walked by the TV with live shots of New York City and Washington, D.C. surrounded by sobbing office workers. I could not stop or I would have melted on the spot.

My poor twelve-year-old Toyota Tercel rattled as I zoomed at over 70 miles per hour westward on I-94. I didn’t worry about the Minnesota State Troopers, a speeding car was not important at that moment. No radio on because it would have been a distraction to me. The interstate was mostly empty and I feared the worst when I observed cars stopped along the shoulder with the drivers and passengers weeping. My journey was just starting.

I arrived to a flurry of activity at the American Red Cross building near downtown Minneapolis. The Red Cross’ Emergency Operations Center was being set up (it serves as a classroom and regular meeting room when not activated as an EOC). Our phone line was overwhelmed by calls (they have fixed this technical glitch). Many offices in the Twin Cities were closing for the day because they feared another attack. The WTC Twin Towers had fallen during my speedy journey and countrywide panic started to rise.

Immediately I walked to the EOC and spoke with Bill who worked in Disaster Services. He said that a plane had crashed in Pennsylvania and I experienced a mild panic attack. Bill is an extraordinary person, he lead me to a quiet place and helped me breathe. I calmed down and he made sure that I was able to function. He went back to his work. When a disaster occurs you fall back onto your training. My boss and co-worker were out of the office so I was on my own. I knew what to do after I stopped panicking. I had to focus on my job. I could neither concentrate on the profoundly horrible events that had occurred nor speculate about what might happen next. No one knew if more planes had been highjacked and that caused uncertainty and fear. Our office received a call from the airport that they were bringing in flights with hundreds of passengers. We sent supplies to the airport.

We activated our trained Red Cross volunteer corps to come in to the EOC. We needed assistance with calls and people walking into the office. They wanted to do something, anything to help. It was a very busy time. I didn’t have a cell phone but my parents did call me at the office that afternoon. It was good to hear their voices. Gasps and a hand placed over the mouth is something odd I remember about that day. I observed many people covering their mouth as they realized the extent of the damage. It is the first flash of emotional shock. Later on I learned that it is a method to reduce vulnerability. If a predator realizes that you are in shock, it will pounce. Covering your mouth is a way to hide the shock. I think that almost everyone covered his or her mouth at one point during the day. However, the predators had already struck.

The remainder of September 1st, 2001 is a blur. I don’t remember what time I traveled to my apartment. It was after dusk. There were candles on the bridge decks. I didn’t know why they were there but it was touching to see. I had neither been watching television nor listening to the radio because I was too busy. Someone brought in food so I must have eaten but that is rather foggy.

I arrived home, took a shower and started watching the news. It was too late to call back the dozen people who had left me messages. The televised images were disturbing and I knew that the death toll would be horrendous. I fell asleep on the couch and awoke to a roar. A loud airplane whooshed over my apartment building and shook the windows. I ran over and saw the yellow-orange afterglow of a jet-propulsion burner. I knew that it was a military aircraft but why was it flying over the Twin Cities metro area when all airplanes were grounded? Was it another attack? I freaked out and called a friend who I knew was awake (she never goes to bed before 1am). She told me that the military was flying around for protection. That was good, but they were too damn low. Exhaustion caused me to sleep but I was up by dawn to return to work.

What a dreadful day.
© 2011

Saturday, September 3, 2011


Steaming mouthfuls of dough topped with sweet sugar and cinnamon describe Tom Thumb Mini Donuts. Dissolving in your mouth as each donut slightly scorches your fingertips. Yummy but expensive. I miss the sugary quarters you would get in return when the price was not rounded off to the dollar. Great way to start the day at the Minnesota State Fair.

Returned to volunteer on Thursday, September 1st. The thermometer rose and it became horribly hot. Sad that the animal barns have better ventilation than the exhibit buildings. People peeled off their clothing to expose flesh that ought to have remain covered in public. Not much breeze so I walked through a few buildings, and retreated to the coolest place on the grounds to cool off, Blue Flame Gas Association site. Decided to go home because it was over 95 degrees (heat index of 102) and I was miserable. Smells range from sweet flowers, sweaty people, suntan lotion, hairspray, perfume, heavy grease, and sour beer.

Avoiding eye contact and walking down the center of the aisle is the best way to avoid purchasing items at the fair. Don’t fall for their “state fair only deal” because you can probably locate the same or similar product elsewhere for cheaper and with a warranty. Its difficult to track down a traveling salesperson to replace what should not have broke.

Friday, September 2nd was much better. Final day for volunteering and the temperature was tolerable. Jack Brass Band played traditional funky New Orleans jazz and then steady humorous Country music from Junior Brown. The grounds were getting crowded. I hate loud cell phone talkers. Just move away and stop disrupting the performance! People like to sit at the end of benches to make a quick get away if the music doesn’t suit them.

Great artwork displayed at the Fine Arts Building and the Arts-n-Crafts Building. Watched the 4-H Arts-In Show, Impressively energetic after nine days of performing. Fun to see people walking around with splendidly absurd hats: pickle, crushed cigarette, pig ears, pheasant, fish, etc. Silly is good.

Salty crispy exterior yields to ooey gooey cheesy center. Hot cheese curds are a treat as long as they aren’t too greasy and the cheese is fresh. Mouth Trap Curds are yummy but there are several competitors throughout the fairgrounds. I wish that I could afford to try them all and had the capacity to eat more than five curds in one setting. Too much grease isn’t good for the gastro-intestinal tract these days.

Malty melty chocolate chip cookies are still warm from Sweet Martha’s Cookie Jar oven. Accompany the cookies with cold milk from the All You Can Drink Milk Stand and the gastronomic experience is complete. Bring a bag to hold the leftovers. So much sweetness in one cone, time to go home. Shove a stick in me, I’m done.

See ya at the fair next year.
© 2011