Those damn commies

The damn Russian hackers mounted cyber attacks which managed to both influence the election and deepen the divide between Americans.  Those damn commie bastards.

My dad was a bricklayer.  I went to work with him a couple of times when I was around 10 years old, which is how I came to find out two things about him that surprised me.  Dad swore a lot at work: “Hand me the f***ing brick”. Dad really did not like commies: “those commie bastards.”

I do not remember him swearing much nor talking about communists outside of work. Sure, at home, he swore and talked about the evil commies once in a while but not much.  At work, he became more passionate about both.

His work transistor radio was tuned to talk radio.  Not the “WCCO good neighbor” kind of talk radio. His was “fight the Communist conspiracy against America” kind of talk radio.  There were communist conspiracies everywhere and assholes in Washington, whose job was to keep us safe, were clueless.

It was the middle of the Cold War (1947 to 1991).  America hated commies. We entered the Vietnam War to defeat the communists. School kids practiced what to do in the case of a nuclear attack by the communists:  Sit under your desk with your hands over your head. Seriously. The Cuban missile crisis happened in this timeframe.

I was young but looking back on it now, my dad’s anti-communist views at the time, were actually fairly mainstream.  Communists were a sneaky enemy who will infiltrate and disrupt our American way of life any way they could. We need to keep that from happening.   

The Cold War ended in 1990 when the Soviet Union was dissolved.  

Jump ahead to 2008 some 18 years after the Cold War ended.  Russia launches cyber attacks on several countries around the world.  By 2015, articles about Russian cyber attacks on the USA are in the mass media.  

Russia’s goal?  They wanted a favorable environment within which Russian interests could be moved forward with the least amount of American resistance.  In particular, they wanted to deepen existing divisions among the American citizens and to widen our distrust in a democratic system of government.

By the time I was in high school dad and I never argued about the war.  He knew I did not consider the communists a big enough threat to justify the horrors of the Vietnam War.  I knew he felt the commie bastards were so evil it justified doing whatever it took to defeat them.

Some 50 years after I spent a couple of days at work with my dad, the communist threat became reality.  The communist cyberattacks managed to influence the election and deepen the divide between Americans.  

Ironically, the talk radio my dad listened to, hated the commies but now Russia relied on talk radio and cable news organizations to repeat the social media stories the hackers planted.  The effect was to amplify those planted stories. Talk radio or cable news was complicit with the Russian attack on America, knowingly or not. Either way, it deepened the divide to further the Russian goals.

Unfortunately, both the liberal and conservative reaction to the cyber attack was not so much to demonize the communists.  Instead, the communists got what they wanted. Both the liberals and conservatives are demonizing each other. The goal of the communists was to divide us.  They succeeded.

I can hear dad quietly say, “We need to do whatever is needed to defeat the communists.”  We never got angry with each other over it But I knew he was not happy at my opposition to the Vietnam war nor how liberal I was becoming in high school.  I was not happy he supported the war.

Every nation in the history of nations always has tension between its citizenry.  The hope is our democracy can do what it has always done. Allow people to disagree and still work together for the greater good.  

The current deep divide threatening America is exactly what the communists had in mind.  Democrats are demonizing Republicans and Republicans are demonizing Democrats.  Putting our head in the sand and pretending we do not have to mitigate the damage done by the communist cyberattacks is not the answer.  

What we need to do is take a lesson from the late great Mr. Rogers.  Let us be nice and respectful to each other. Interact with each other as individuals not as demons.  Just because someone voted for a bigot does not make them a bigot. Just because someone supports universal healthcare does not make them a socialist.  This is a democracy. We are allowed to disagree with the positions taken by others and still work with each other for the common good.

My dad passed away in November of 1970 at the age of 52.  I was an 18-year-old freshman at Mankato State College. Dad and I were never really very close but he was my father.  I miss him. If he were alive to see the communists had succeeded, My guess is his thoughts would be something like, We let down our guard and let the communists bastards undermine our democracy, get to work and clean up the f***ing mess.   


What we perceive often depends on how close we look.

This old house

I hesitated.  We moved into this house with a finished basement about 40 years ago.  When I pounded in the pry bar to peel off the first paneling I had mixed feelings. Real men do demo.  Real men leave good enough alone. Which is it? Maybe my real man’s identity had nothing to do with paneling.  Too late to turn back now. The Got Junk guys already took the first truckload of demo debris.

We tolerated the water coming in the basement since the week after we bought the house.  Oh, the stories I could tell. Bailing water after midnight from the floor into the tub because the floor drain was not up to the task. Caulking this or that.  Re-landscaping. Special paint. Heavy rain, lots of snow melt. For over 40 years, we had water seeping in the basement. Sometimes it flowed.

Signed a contract to get a drain tile installed. I have until mid-February to remove most everything within 5 feet of the perimeter walls.  They will tunnel under the hot water heater. The basement has been used for storage for about 10 years now. A lot of stuff is stored there.  Some things will stay but for the rest, several different charities will benefit. The remainder will go to wherever the Got Junk people take it.  

The drain tile salesperson surveyed the amount of work that we were facing and asked why after 40 years of living with the problem were we dealing with it now.  My answer was, “This old house has taken care of us for 40 years. It is time to return the favor.”

Returning a favor to an inanimate thing sounds cool.  It is true, sort of. I actually sort of feel that way.  However the real answer to, “Why now”, is actually I got tired of lying to myself about taking care of the problem, “someday”.  Time to face the reality I am getting older and likely as the years continue to pass, our ability to take on a big project will diminish.  Time to make the house meet the needs of the older people (us) who will be living in it.

I did not take another class at the U of MN this semester (travel, burned out) but one of them was to do something about “the basement”.  So we are dealing with the basement.

Like it is for all people, the place we live is a part of our identity.  I was very hesitant to allow people into our basement because I did not want them to identify me as a person who tolerated water seeping in with every heavy rain.  Who had boxes of stuff from my adult children’s childhood. Who had boxes of stuff from our long deceased parents tucked here and there. Who had sports equipment that literally had not been used for 3 decades here and there.  

So it is going to take some time.  The first step is to deconstruct. Then fix the underlying water control issue.  Then we will let it have bare walls and only a couple boxes of stuff stored in it while we figure out what a basement for a couple of older people should look like.   

I have some ideas but what is next for the basement is still a blank canvas.  I need a place for the workbench. We still want to store the holiday decorations.  Maybe we should add a small bathroom. We will definitely increase the amount of light.  

We have decided to add a small rain garden in the front yard.  The rain garden will surround the basin which will be fed by the buried pipe the sump pump will discharge to. The salesman thought that was a great Idea. I did not bother to tell him I used to work for the water quality section of the MN Pollution Control Agency.

So the future of the basement is yet to be determined.  The design of the rain garden is yet to be determined. One thing I know, right now, this old house does not have a finished basement.


What we perceive often depends on how close we look.


Christmas movies can be helpful

Linda just shakes her head as I wipe away a tear while watching Christmas movies.  Yes, I know they are sappy. I am not proud, I watch and enjoy Christmas movies.

The setup of every Christmas movie is a character unable to move beyond a past traumatic event and thus causing them issues. The bulk of the movie is about this person learning to accept the traumatic event for what it is and learning to move forward with their life.  

The main character of the movie is forced by circumstances out of their comfort zone and to  interact with a person(s) who is not part of their old comfort zone. It is never easy. The process of moving out of a comfort zone is fraught with drama and takes time.  We humans, and the lead characters in Christmas movies resist, change with a passion.

Just before the end of any Christmas movie, the main character chooses whether to go back to their old comfort zone or move forward and beyond the old.  Quite often the lead character ends up paying homage to a past traumatic event, and then, literally, looking in a different direction as they announce they will move forward to embrace their new life.  

I tear up at the scene which includes the moment where the character accepts the past for what it was, but realizes they are able to go beyond the past trauma and move forward.  It is a bittersweet moment. They loved their former life. Something dramatic happened. Life will never be the same again. Except, of course, they just learned life can be good again. It is a powerful realization.

The reality is, most everyone has past traumatic events in their lives.  People in our lives die. Jobs are lost. People get sick, disabled, distant, and the list goes on and on.   Over a period of a lifetime, life-changing stuff happens to most everyone.

One difference between real life and life in Christmas movies is in real life, people only mostly get over a past tragedy.  People only mostly move on. Moving out of a comfort zone is really hard. Moving on for most of us includes keeping a toe back there in the past.  We kind of move on but we can mentally go back to the past in a flash.

Then come the holidays. Events and circumstances can remind us of a point in our life we hoped would remain undisturbed.  Yet there that repressed memory is, staring us in the face. Maybe it was triggered by seeing that person at the get together, that commercial, or hearing a name not thought of for years.  The holidays often trigger a mental journey back to the past. Sometimes that memory is not a great place to visit.

For me, Christmas movies are a reminder we are able to move on after traumatic events.  Sure, it was tough for a while, but life is good. The best we can do is the best we can do.  The best we can do is move forward with our lives as best we can.

When I shed a little tear during the moving-on scene in a Christmas movie, it is not only for empathy toward that character.  Part of it is a tear of joy at being reminded we can acknowledge our past traumatic events and still move forward to lead a happy, fulfilling life.

So please be a bit extra tolerant of each other during the holiday season.  Be understanding when a person’s reaction seems out of proportion (too much or too little) or even a bit inappropriate.  Sometimes a memory triggered by a holiday is not a happy one. What they might need most is support and understanding.

In all Christmas movies, there is a person who helps the lead character to find a path forward and beyond a past tragedy.  The funny thing is the person who helps the lead character is often helped the most. Each of us can be that person who helps others and thus gets helped.


By the way.  Happy holidays.   


 What we perceive often depends on how close we look.

Leadership occurs with the consent of the led

The dare was to ride my bike as fast as possible to the bottom of a big hill over the just-built jump.  The bike and I landed in a tangled heap.  It hurt.  My appendages were skinned and bleeding. My back hurt. Dirt in my hair, rips in my pants and the air knocked out of me.

Mom was mad at me for ripping my pants.  She did not blame the kids who dared me. I still wince at the memory of the pain from the brush used to clean the dirt out of the bloody scraps. She said something like: “I hope you learned a lesson”.   Those scrapes did not mark the last time I did something stupid when I had a choice not to.  However, that experience taught me it is less painful to use a garden hose or faucet to clean out a wound.

That was about 56 years ago.  I have learned many lessons about leadership and taking a dare since then.

If a leader tells you to jump off a cliff, whether you actually jump off the cliff is still your choice.  We often blame the leader but whose fault is it?  The 10-year old who did the daring or the 10-year old who accepted the dare.   It takes two to tango.  If I had successfully flipped a bike in mid-air and stuck the landing, I would have been legendary. It was a risk I chose to take.  I do not even remember who did the daring.

I would probably have made a different choice if instead of daring me to make the jump, the other kid dared me to find someone to train me over a period of many months on how to safely flip a bike in mid-air.  If he explained that first you need lots of practice going off a small jump, then work your way up to bigger jumps and more speed.   Explained I needed the right kind of bike and the right kind of jump.  Explained I should wear a helmet and various pads.  Doing epic things takes much resources, training, sacrifice and support.

Daring a kid to do a mid-air flip on a bike is not leadership.  Helping a kid understand what it takes to jump safely would have been leadership.  But that is the problem.  Very few 10-year-old kids have access to the resources and the support system it would take to learn the proper way to flip a bike in mid-air.  Even if the 10-year-old me had the resources (I did not), I probably would have chosen to do other things instead.  Flipping a bike would be really cool and I was more than willing to spend two hours to do it.  On the other hand, there is no way I was willing spend all of my free time for a couple years in order to be able to do it.

When a leader dares you to do something, stop and think for a minute or ten about what it would actually take to safely accomplish what the leader is asking you to do.  Once you understand better what it would take then consider whether it is a price you want to pay. Leadership only occurs with the consent of those being led.

Have you ever noticed that when people who accomplish something epic talk about it, they almost always talk about what it took for them to get there?  They talk about the years spent training, all those who helped them, all they and their families sacrificed, and the list goes on.  The downhill run took a couple minutes, but it really took them 10 years of hard work and sacrifice to get from the top of that hill to the bottom.  In the end, learning to safely flip a bike in mid-air is not so much about flipping the bike in mid-air, it is all about learning how.

Many so-called leaders are people who jump in front of a parade and call themselves the leader.  They amplify the voice of the crowd asking you to do what they perceive those in the parade think might be cool to do.  The leader dares them to be bold. Take a risk.  It all sounds great. You can be the person to flip a bike or whatever it is the leader says you already want to do.  You can do what most are not brave enough to do.

Which is all good until you get to the bottom of the hill where the jump is.  Then it depends on whether or not you have done the hard work of learning how to safely stick the landing.  Whatever it is.  Remember you have a choice.  Just because you were dared to be great does not mean you can be great without taking the journey required to be great.

It is one thing to want to do something epic.  It is a whole other thing to spend the years and the resources it actually takes to accomplish epic things. Accomplishing things by doing them the right way makes for a great story.   Cleaning the dirt out a wound with a brush is not fun.  Most of the time I skip the part when I came home crying because it hurt so bad.  The story of the cool things I accomplished in my life is all about how hard I worked to get it done.

Good leadership is about encouraging us to put in the work it takes to accomplish epic things.  It is about the journey.  Less good leadership fails to mention the effort, time and resources it takes to successfully make the journey.

A leader can only lead with the consent of those being led.  We might consider whether the leader talks about the journey or the only the destination before consenting.


What we perceive often depends on how close we look.






My sense of belonging at my former job – not so much

  Four months after I retired, I got an email from a friend at my former job asking for assistance on a technical thing.  Arrangements were made, and I stopped in to help. It was nice to be asked and I was happy to try.  In the end, I had lost my admin privileges upon retirement, so advice is all I could to offer.

The surroundings felt familiar and everyone was friendly and nice.  However, I was only there a couple minutes when the little voice in my head quietly whispered the observation:  I no longer feel a sense of belonging here.  I looked around wondering what had changed. What was different?

The interconnected sense of belonging I felt at my former job was gone.  I no longer wanted to immerse myself into the mix of life in that organization.  The “who said what, to whom” reality of life in the organization is irrelevant to me.  I care about the mission of the organization.  I care about the people in the organization.  But my desire to belong there was gone.

They did nothing to cause it, but my former job and I are on different paths moving in different directions.  What has changed is me.

This is paraphrased from a Wikipedia article:

“Whether it is family, friends, co-workers, a religion, or something else, people tend to have an ‘inherent’ desire to belong and be an important part of something greater than themselves. The need to belong is the need to give and receive attention to and from others”.

Based on what I learned getting my psychology degree (U of MN – BA Psychology 1975) and a lifetime of reading and experience, the need for feeling a sense of belonging is a basic part of human nature and a very real need of all humans.

We humans are a communal species.  There are serious consequences when humans do not feel they belong.  Being a lone wolf is not good for our survival.  Seriously, if you feel truly alone and like you do not belong, please seek help.  Not kidding. Take it seriously.  You do belong, let someone help you see it.

However, realities need to be faced.  I no longer felt the “we are all in this together” feeling I felt on every project team of which I was a member.  I no longer felt part of the solution because nobody copies me on emails so that we can together solve an unusual issue.  The camaraderie formed by jointly enduring endless project meetings is in my past. I no longer share an eye-roll reaction to the corny weekly emails from the commissioner’s office urging us to do our best.

The emails and meetings gave me a sense of belonging. I was part of an interdependent team of people who worked to accomplish a mission.  Our job bound us together and it felt good working together for the common good.  The feeling of belonging I had with my job is gone but I still feel I belong in many other aspects of my life. Just not at my former job.

My life is not empty because I no longer work for a living.  I have a marriage. I have friends.  I have family.  I talk to neighbors and relatives. I frequently rollerblade with my sister.  I attend classes and frequently get emails from the University reminding me I am part of their family. I have more Facebook friends from high school than actual friends I had in high school.

The need to belong is universal.  All people throughout history across every culture have the need to belong.  It is not a weakness of character.  It is not a gender thing.  It is not a generational thing.  It is not a national origin thing.  It is not an occupational thing. We all need to belong throughout our entire lives no matter what our individual circumstances. It is a human thing.

The need to belong is a very powerful motivator.  Otherwise, honest, intelligent well raised teen agers have been known to fib to their parents in order to sustain their sense of belonging with their friends. Some people will jump up and down in public screaming just to show they belong to group called fans of the home team.  People mourn the loss of a group member and celebrate when new members are added.

The need to belong guides many aspects of our lives.  How we dress.  Who we associate with.  How we behave.  It is a big part of our day to day life.  Politicians, advertisers, coaches, religious leaders, moms, dads, siblings, bosses, and the like all use our need to belong to motivate us into doing or not doing this or that activity.  We do the same to others.

Belongingness is a mutual thing.  There is no group of one.  “We” are a group.  I or you, alone, do not constitute a group.  Our group, not their group.  I affect the group; the group also affects me.  The need to belong is the need to give and receive attention to and from others.  Belongingness is a messy set of complex interconnecting relationships between real people who are interconnected.

A movie star is not a movie star unless others consider the movie star to be a movie star.  I can say I belong to a group called super smart geniuses.  I might in fact be a super smart genius however, I do not belong to the group unless other super smart geniuses interact with me and I with them.  Curiously I am still waiting to interact with other super smart geniuses, so I guess do not belong to that group either.

Over time, things change.  The need to feel a sense of belonging is always there.  What changes, for all sorts of reasons, are the groups we share the sense of belonging with.


What we perceive often depends on how close we look.



Retired and a student at the University of Minnesota

For those who do not know, my status is a 66-year-old retired person enrolled at the University of Minnesota (UMN) in pursuit of a degree in Communications.  One class a semester, about to start my third semester.  I am thoroughly enjoying the experience.

It feels like writing papers and making speeches is easier with a lifetime of experience under my belt than it was 45 years ago when I originally went to the U of MN.  I might be better at papers and speeches today, but I was better at test taking back in the day.

When class is in session, I averaged about 10 – 12 hours a week reading, doing assignments, writing papers, practicing speeches and the like.  We gave 4 speeches and took a final in my Public Speaking class.  For the Analysis of Argument class, we wrote two outlines and 3 papers, gave a 20-minute group presentation and a final exam.

Here is an actual question from my last final: Define Pathos as it relates to grounds for a claim in an argument?   Another question was something like: Match each of 7 terms with a definition from a list of 10 definitions.

Back when I last took tests at the U of MN, 1971 – 1975, the trick to tests was to understand the concepts.  Now, I think it is: know the concept, know the term for the concept and understand the relationships between related concepts.

How to study for an exam is a work in progress for me.  The phrase, “memorize to learn” is contrary to my instinct but might be the key to test taking, me thinks.

My professors took attendance every class period and lecture with slides.  They ask leading questions to get the students engaged in the topic of the day.  Students still try to avoid eye contact in hopes of not being called on.  There are still a student or two who raise their hand to answer anything that even sounded like a question.

The biggest difference then to now is the technology.  We access most stuff through the one-stop portal called MyU.  MyU is where we register, pay tuition, view our class schedule and generally interact with the University.  MyU is where we also find the app called Moodle.  Moodle is where things get specific to individual classes: the syllabus, assignments, handouts, grades, class list, etc.  It is where the professor and students interact with each other.

Preparing the group presentation was a ten-minute meeting at the end of a class. In that 10 minutes, one of the students created a Google Slides template.  We each then “volunteered” to author one part of the presentation.  As the next week progressed we all added our material and added comments to the material being added by others. Based on comments some modifications were made by the author of that section.  By the next class, there was a collaboratively developed presentation which got a very good grade by a group who only met physically together for 10 minutes.

My textbooks are online.  There was an option of getting a hard copy text, but it costs over 5 times more.

I took handwritten notes but most students take notes into an app on a device.  Which is what I will do next semester.  MacBooks are the most popular device but some have tablets or other devices such as a laptop computer.  Notes are taken using a note-taking app.  Notability is the most popular app although several other apps are also used.

My plan is to use an iPad with a Bluetooth keyboard and an Apple Pencil.  I have been practicing taking notes in Notability.  I am getting better, but time will tell if it will work for me.

Linda had the observation that I approach my class similar to how I approach past projects. What I enjoy most is collecting the tools to do the project with.

I started with a Bluetooth keyboard paired to my old iPad mini. Then upgraded to the latest iPad. Of course, I needed  a new cover for the new iPad.  I researched note taking apps and purchased Notability ($9.99).  Then an Apple Pencil was purchased which meant I needed a new cover to replace the cover I bought month earlier with one that had a spot for the Apple Pencil.   Obviously, I needed a new bag to carry the iPad, keyboard and USB cables to class.

Taking a class is more than just attending the class.  To be a student one must actually become a student.  Go to class, do the reading, think about the topic, talk to others about the topic, study the materials, take notes, write papers, give speeches, make presentations and use the technology.

Just in case you were wondering.

  • Pathos = Proof by emotion. Appealing to the sympathies of your audience.
  • Logos = Proof by reason. The logic of the argument you are trying to make.
  • Ethos = Proof by the credibility of the advocate. Who says it, can matter.
  • Kairos = The context. Using the right word at the right time with the right audience.

For the record, these definitions did not come from memory. I looked them up. Although it literally only took 3 minutes because I understood them enough to know what to look for.


What we perceive often depends on how close we look.

We are all here together

The new neighbor down the street asked about my ancestry. I told him I was Swedish and Norwegian and maybe something else.  The maybe was a rumor that a great – great grandmother on my mother’s side entertained the sailors for money and who knows where the father was from.  It may or may not be true, but I like spreading the story. I am certain my neighbor’s curiosity about my ancestry was not sinister in any way.  However, it gave me pause.

Recently I saw a posted meme listing things about “us” vs. “them.”  One item stated “us” – Americans, not Muslins.  The logic was stupid, I have no doubt, the intent was sinister.

Nobody picks their ancestors, yet we did not get here without them.  Ancestral paths are long and often twisting.  The ancient world was brutal.  I suspect along the line we all have ancestors who ranged from almost saints to truly evil.

Fortunately, who our ancestors were, does not predetermine the settings of our moral compass.  No matter who our ancestors are, trying to be a good decent person is probably the best path for any of us to actually be a good and decent person.

The bottom line is our ancestors got us here, how we move forward is no longer their fault.  Sure, circumstances such as inherited propensity for addiction can cause us to stray from the straight and narrow but blaming our ancestors for what we did with what we got seems a stretch.

None of us is perfect. What would perfect even look like?  But here is the deal.  A good and decent person does not assume someone else is not a good and decent person based on that person’s heritage.  That is just wrong.  We judge others by their individual actions not the actions of their ancestors.

If you go back far enough, all of our ancestors come from South Africa. As we migrated from one region to another, over many thousands of years, slight differences in DNA developed between groups in different regions.  Persons from different regions often had different skin tones, certain body types, propensity for certain diseases and the like.  Today, it is possible to test a person’s DNA and estimate what regions their ancestors inhabited.

To be clear there is only one species of human, Homo sapiens.  All of us share about 99.9% the same DNA.  When they test for differences between us they look at the 0.1% of our DNA.  Persons from every region can and do successfully mate with one another.  We have about the same amount of variation in our DNA between persons within our primary ancestral region as we do between persons from different ancestral regions.

In the past 500 years or so, new transportation methods allowed persons to more rapidly move between the regions.  For example, in the 1700s, ships brought people from Europe and Africa to South and North America.  The people native to both North and South America were nearly wiped out by disease that the Europeans had developed an immunity to.  Today, ships, planes, trains, autos, motorcycles, and who knows what else are mixing the populations between regions.

The population of almost any region on earth now has mixed ancestry.  The results of the DNA test never came back 100% South African. All of us have ancestors who migrated over time.

I was born in the Swedish Hospital in Minneapolis. That hospital is now HCMC (Hennepin County Medical Center). I have lived in the Twin Cities my entire life.  Over 3.28 million people live within the Twin Cities metropolitan area.  The ancestries represented within this region include people from every continent (except maybe Antarctica) and most countries within those continents.

Virtually every one of the 3.28 million people who live here are not native to the area.  The thing is because we live there now, the Twin Cities metropolitan area is now part of our ancestral line.  All descendants of the 3.28 million people living in the Twin Cities area will have ancestors who were from the Twin Cities area, even if it was just a short while.

Me saying I am Swedish and Norwegian actually means three generations ago I had some relatives who lived in Sweden or Norway.  Thus, I can say I am from Sweden and Norway.

Sure, you can pretend some who live here are “them.”  However, once we live in the same area we are from that area. Everyone who lives here is an “us.”

If you live in the Twin Cities area, you are from the Twin Cities area.  The Twin Cites is part of your heritage.  Since the Twin Cities has people from all corners of the earth, like it or not, so does your heritage.  The Twin Cities region has people of many religions and many who are not religious.  It has educated people and those not so educated.  It has the cultured and the not so cultured.  It has the rich and poor.  It has all sexual orientations.  It is a diverse area by virtually all measurements of diverse.

Yes, we and our ancestors come from many different backgrounds. Our children and our children’s children don’t even see most of the silly things we think made us different one from another.  The result is an area with an amazing diversity and richness of culture.  It is not always easy for those of one culture to understand those of another. Sometimes it can seem threatening for some.  Yet,  together we are what America is and always has been.

So, let me end with this thought.  We should each do our best to be a good and decent person.  Look around a bit and realize you are part of a wonderful community where we judge people by what they do as individuals, not by some weird idea that we should be judged by our heritage.  The golden rule is, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.  However, remember, most often the “others” are not them, we are all us.


What we perceive often depends on how close we look.

Moving forward

I was a management analyst.  That is no longer my job.  I retired.  Being a management analyst is still part of my identity, but it is no longer a good description of who I am. My retirement goals are not about becoming a better management analyst or about even being a management analyst.

Once I retired, it only took a couple days to realize management analyst no longer describes who I am.  I turned in my ID key card.  They waited for my retirement to remodel my former workspace. My space has been replaced by a new configuration of meeting rooms and a break room.  I may still have the skill set needed to do management analysis work. What I no longer have is that job. I do not regret having been a management analyst, however, I am moving on.

My old job was largely satisfying.  I liked most of the people I worked with.  However, it was how I made my living, it was not my life.  Management analyst matched my skill set and I enjoyed the work.  It was a decent way to earn a living and being a management analyst became a large part of my identity.

The weird thing is, now that I am not a management analyst I do not feel there is a vacant hole in my identity.  I was me then and I am still me now.  The sun still rises in the morning and sets in the evening.  My life changed upon retirement, but I still spend 24 hours a day being me.  My identity is not about my old job.  My life is about how I spend my time now.  My identity is about my life now and not what it was a couple months ago.

It is a cliché but life is a journey, not a destination.  Turns out my identity is also about the journey and not some sort of destination.  I am a work in progress.  My identity is a person who is trying to move forward on the journey I call my life

So, now that I am no longer a management analyst, who am I?  The reality is that while much has changed, mostly the fundamental stuff is the same.  My sleep schedule is a bit different, however, I probably get about the same amount of sleep as I used to.

I still eat food. All of my bodily functions are pretty much the same.  Socially, I still interact with people both in person and online.  I still have friends.  I still do things with them.  I am a student at the U of MN, so I am still trying to learn new things, some of which are challenging.  My daily routine has changed but the results are pretty much the same.  The house gets maintained, laundry gets done, meals get prepared and eaten.

Most days, I still create a mental to-do list and get some satisfaction from completing the tasks on the list.  I still try to have some long-term, mid-term and short-term items on my mental list.

The short-term items give me a daily feeling of having accomplished something.  The long-term items are more like goals that I spend at least a little time working on. Taking classes to try to be a better writer is a long-term goal.  Long-term to-do items give me a sense of heading in a positive direction.  The mid-term items give me a sense of working on something of a bigger scale than making the bed.  Cleaning out a lifetime of old stuff as we transition to a lifestyle with less baggage or weight is an example of a mid-term goal.

I no longer have a job so, yes, my identity is a bit different.  The fact that I no longer have a job does not make me a different person.  I still have short-term, mid-term and long-term goals.  I still work every day to make those goals a reality.  I still have hope that I can make a positive difference in the world.  I still try to make that hope a reality.  The venue where I try to implement my hope has changed.  I no longer work at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.  I am still an environmentalist but the environment is no longer where I focus as much of my energy.

All of that said I am still who I was, which is a person working on becoming a better me.  My identity is still evolving like it always has been.  As long as I can remember my goal and my identity have always been to just keep moving forward and to help others around me to do the same.

What we perceive often depends on how close we look.

The secret truth about government workers


I am now retired but over the past 35 years of public service, I have been behind the closed doors of government.  I have been in the room.  I have been in the back-room.  I have seen and heard things that cannot be unseen and unheard. I know them, I was one of them.  It is time the truth is told about who they really are and who they are not.

They, public service workers, are individual people with individual differences.  They are not clones of each other. I think the individuals who make up any group of people are always different one from another.

Every single government employee I have ever worked with or even heard about, is a unique individual.  None of them are the same one to another.  They are not all alike. Some are male, and some are not.  Some are smarter than others.  Some are older than others. They have different personalities from each other. Some are outgoing, and some are not.  They do not all think alike.  Some are more compassionate than others.  Some are married, and others are not.  They act and are, pretty much, as normal as any group of people are, which is to say some are not normal at all.

Next time you hear someone talk about all government employees as if they are all alike, please know that person is misguided and or misinformed.  Government employees are as individual one to another as any group of individuals are.  Some government employees are not good at their jobs.  Some government employees really do not care about your personal well-being.  However, most government employees are good at their jobs.  Just like most people, most government employees do care about the well-being of others.

Compare any government employee with any other government employee and you will be amazed at the individual differences between them.  Some are very funny and some not so much.  Most just do their jobs the best they can just like most other people do.

Public service people are unique individuals and there is only one thing that is the same about every current or former public employee, the fact that they were or are a public employee.

It is human nature to want to categorize people into groups and then think of all members of that group as if they all share the same characteristics. It is much easier to assume that all moms are the same and that all dads are the same.  It is mentally easier to think of all salespeople as being the same.  Name the group and by our very nature, we humans most often will categorize that group as having the same characteristics.

The fact is, all humans are different, one to another.  None of us are the same as any other individual human.

It might be human nature to think that “they”, whoever they might be, are all the same one to another.  We all have stereotypes of people who belong to certain groups in our head.  But get to know some individuals in that group and you will come away thinking they must be the exception because they are not like the stereotype.  The problem is they alone are not the exception, everyone is the exception.

Not all moms are alike.  Certainly, all moms share the same characteristic that they are a mom.  There are, for example, many moms who have not given birth to the person they are mom to.  We have all known several individual people who are moms.  Are any of them, as individuals, even really even close to having the same characteristics as your mom.

My point here is simple really. Always remember, the stereotype of any group does not really represent the reality of the members of that group as individual people. Almost never do all members of any group act a certain way or even close to the way the other members act.

All public employees are not the same one to another.  They are individuals who happen to work in the public sector. Think about other groups of people that you think are all alike.  Then take a step back and remember that they also are individual people with many individual differences.


What we perceive often depends on how close we look.

Who should I be now?

Soon my payroll pay status will be, “retired”. For the first time in about 55 years, (paper route at age 11) my income will not be dependent upon me putting in my time. Instead it will derived from having already put in my time. It has been an interesting ride but it is time to get off and let someone else have a turn.

I have learned a ton from my past jobs. Those experiences are part of what has made me, me. They are part of my identity.  As I face this new beginning, I am not starting from scratch. I am standing on a huge pile of ….., well, let us call it “experience”.  Where I have been will influence where I am going and who I am about to be.  However where I am going is yet to be fully defined. The question is not who I was, the question is, who I should be now.

A retired friend told me what he misses from his working days is the challenge of solving problems. I have taken that to heart. On a related note, almost everyone suggests keeping mentally active. I think being mentally active is literally the definition of being alive. So yes, it is my hope that my retired future includes having brain activity. I am looking for a level of brain activity somewhere between calmly functional and challenging, I guess.

Another retired friend confided in me that as a retiree, other retired people care very little what you used to do for a living. Everyone is up for a good story but that thing that happened on your job ten years ago generally does not make for a good story. His point was you need to have an active retirement so your stories are relevant today. Otherwise you will likely be boring.  I figure boring is not the worst thing I could be, however, I will strive to have new experiences to mitigate my boringness.

“Retired” is an adjective meaning “having left one’s job and ceased to work.  In other words, I used to work for a living but soon, I no longer will. The retired part of how we think of ourselves, our identity, is about the past, not the present or the future. I plan to periodically reminisce about past glories. However, I hope not to live in the past. For better or worse my plan is to live in the present with an eye to the future. The past is past.

So all of the above begs the question, who should I be once my pay status at the State of Minnesota = retired. I suspect you will not be surprised by my plan. I want to report out to you what I see when I look closely at various topics.  Blogging will be a part of that. Who knows what other forms of communication at which I will take a stab. At least for a while, I plan on continuing my communications coursework at the University of Minnesota. My goal is to take it seriously and improve my communications competence.

We want to periodically do some traveling. We want to stay engaged with family, friends and our community. Plays, concerts, events, games, and the like will, I hope, continue to be part of our lives.  There is a fountain in my back yard that needs to be listened to while I sit on the deck reading. With any luck I will tackle cleaning out and remodeling the basement.

Someday I would love to have enough views produce some income so I could legitimately call myself a professional writer.  Note that my standard for being a professional is very low, a couple bucks would be enough. I am already enjoying the satisfaction of others taking my writing seriously.  That is very nice.

The number one thing I hope for my future is that I am able to live in the present.  I cannot do anything about the past.  I have profound faith the future will take care of itself. I am certain life will throw some challenges my way.  My lifetime of knowledge and experience is the best I can do to handle those challenges should they come. I do not want worry to define me any more than I want regret to do so.

The answer to who I intend to be now is a person who is actively living my day to day life as best I can. I enjoy learning new things so I want to continue to do that.  I like researching and thinking deeply about topics and I hope to continue to do that.  I need to work on my interpersonal interactions.  I can be a bit of a hermit, so I hope to work on that.  If I start telling you the same stories about my past over and over again please do me the courtesy of gently reminding me I need some new experiences.

Mister Rogers was maybe the nicest and maybe wisest person who ever lived.  He had the following advice:

“Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.”

“We don’t always succeed in what we try, certainly by the world’s standards, but I think you’ll find it’s the willingness to keep trying that matters most.”

I think I will still be me.  It is just time to get off one ride and onto another.


What we perceive often depends on how close we look.