Like others, I was given strict instructions by Jean, of course, for this day.  My job was to help with today’s Celebration of Life and create the link to people in Jean’s life… Jean’s life was so rich and full.

Almost 10 years ago Jean was the recipient of a surprise 84th birthday party given by 2 of her dear friends Karen and Kay. You see Jean had mentioned she really wished she’d know who would be at her funeral.   

THAT was our Jean…



Very cleverly Karen and Kay secretly reserved the upstairs back room at  Piggy’sRestaurant.

Jean thought she was just going to celebrate her 84th Birthday dinner with the two of them until she was greeted by a roomful of friends in unison yelling“Surprise.” She was sooo pleased-

BUT rest assured, Jean noted who was not there. 

 THAT was our Jean…

That evening every guest stood up and introduced themselves to the room and how they knew Jean. I shared how when I moved here everywhere I went whether it was for any of the campuses ‘ events , cultural/social city events be it theatre or an art opening, I always saw this attractive, impeccably dressed older woman with beautifully coiffed white hair. I even spotted her my first holiday services seated behind us. So, when I eventually found myself sitting across from Jean on a minibus student faculty art field trip to see the Frida Kahlo exhibit in the Twin Cities, I introduced myself and told her how we seemed to frequent the same events and obviously shared similar interests. On that excursion I also discovered we both loved languages and travel.

And so our friendship began… That was almost 20 years ago.

Jean Helliesen as you know was a bright, articulate woman. Sharp as a tack into her 90’s. She scoured daily newspapers and would save articles for friends. Local, state, national and world politics were always topics to be shared. She also stayed in contact with the outside world using the computer for email until her sight began to fail her. Then friends and aides helped with correspondence. I was one of those.

We also were a great pair in our appreciation of food. Over the years I would share seasonal garden veggies, homemade soups / traditional dishes like matzo ball soup and halabkas ( stuffed cabbage rolls.)

And she shared what she made best,  RESERVATIONS.     

THAT was our Jean…

Whether it was a meal at one of La Crosse’s finer restaurants like the Waterfront /LeChateau, her list also included places like the Hungry Peddler and Subway, where the waitstaff at any of the restaurants she frequented knew Jean. You see her dining experience besides food was her relationship with the wait staff. She knew them by name and would request her favorites. Jean knew what was going on in all their lives.

THAT was our Jean…

As it became more difficult to go to restaurants due to mobility in the last couple of years we needed places without stairs so the closest were fast food places.

I confess: I introduced her to Culver’s chicken tenders and made sure Bethany St Joe’s freezer held Wendy’s Frostys for her.

Jean had a way of connecting with people. Children, uh, not so much- BUT Jean loved men. AND men loved her. It must have been that twinkle in her eyes. No matter the age Jean would comment on their looks. In fact, after one hospital stay one of the nice busy medical residents actually came over to walk with Jean around the block to help her regain her strength.

THAT was our Jean…

Jean could be very kind, sweet and charming. Yet, she was a strong woman who could be pretty overpowering. The frustration of losing both her sight and hearing took its toll… Visiting on a day before hearing aids were in/ working was tough-   

 I confess: Before heading into her room I would always check with her attendants if it was a thumbs up/ thumbs down day. Because when Jean was in one of her moods, no one was exempt from her wrath. Jean was never a woman to mince words… One knew exactly what she was thinking because she would tell you. As complimentary as she could be, there could be biting remarks. If anybody wasn’t in her good graces, you would hear about it.

There have been bridges burnt, rebuilt / maybe not.

THAT was our Jean…

I’m proud to have been part of Jean’s ‘posse’ of friends who looked after her and became her family. From her hairdresser David who would personally pick her up for hair and nail appointments, Andy’s friendship, a water aerobic class friend, who involved Jean reading with her 2nd graders, Nancy who included Jean in family holiday meals and constant replenishing Jean’s case of  soda beverage of choice – Diet Coke and Deb, a former student who took Jean to ‘all’ her medical appointments ( and there were a lot of those) and shopping endeavors which could last for hours and last but not least Kathy who besides shopping and correspondence was Jean’s “CFO” Chief Financial Officer who balanced her checkbook and kept track of all her finances.

Jean 92 '19
                                   Around Jean’s 92 nd Birthday table at Le Chateau 2018                                           starting on the left with Nancy, Jean, Andy, Deb, Kathy & me 

To her wonderful aides at Bethany St. Joe especially Janet and staff who took such good care of her along with our spiritual leaders Brian Searle and Rabbi Simcha Prombaum … THANK you all…

I confess: Jean, I ran a couple minutes over my 5 minute allotment.

I hope YOU all will join us later to add more to the Jean stories at our Condolence Meal at the Synagogue.

Rest in Peace Jean.

You will always be our Jean.

TO Read about Jean’s life click on this link:




My heart is breaking for the fears our Hmong political refugees must be fostering regarding the recent policies discussed with Laos by our administration  to deport Hmong refugees to Laos. The Laotian treatment of the Hmong who aided the U.S during the Viet Nam war was anything but humane. One can only imagine the fate of the Hmong people once returned to Laos.

Last Thursday night those present at the Community Sharing supper heard the story of one of the families who were resettled in La Crosse. It’s important to know the stories and the sacrifices of political refugees.

Tony Yang’s family escaped but it took years.  Since his father and grandfather had been soldiers aiding the U.S. military they had no other choice. First they hid for 4 years in the jungle and having to flee once the Laotian started dropping agent orange to flush them out. They knew they had to head to Thailand and with no maps they forged westward following the sun. They went 32 days with food and traveling mainly at night . Eventually they reached the Mekong River and were successful in crossing  by way of handmade bamboo rafts large enough to hold their family of 4. They traveled with 10 families. Many  lost their lives due to not being able to swim and the river’s current which had a mind of its own. Plastic jugs were used as flotation devices.

Once in Thailand they joined  thousands in refugee camps and had to register in order to receive asylum. Tony arrived at 8 years old to the Thai refugee camps and lived there with his family for 8 more years until asylum was granted to the U.S. in 1986. Many other refugees were granted asylum in France , Canada and Australia.

The Yang Family was resettled in La Crosse,Wisconsin where Tony at 16 with no English was placed in Logan High school with 14 other Hmong teenagers. As a non English speaker he had to begin his language learning with simple vocabulary -numbers, colors, etc… Acclimating to the weather in addition to cultural differences was not and easy transition. Thanks to the help of agencies, various groups and volunteers ,simple tasks like shopping, renting an apartment, going to the doctor, etc… became easier.

So now some 40 years later when the Hmong are integral members of our community, they are being threatened by U.S. deportation lists. Many of the older generation have various stumbling blocks including limited education, language and finances to be able to apply for citizenship. (Exams cost $1000).

If I heard the number correctly some 51,000 Hmong live in Wisconsin with 4,000 in our area.

Wednesday there will be a listening session provided by Ron Kind’s office. Contact your representatives to stop this deportation legislation. We must support the families of those who fought alongside our soldiers.




I don’t know about your Mom but my Mom used to say if someone grows facial hair intentionally, they’re hiding something. Hmm…

As you may remember Natureman started growing a beard while in the hospital after his operation. Being on blood thinner and shaving weren’t exactly a good combo and if truth be told it was a good excuse as ever not to shave and so began his full beard.

It was my first time to see Naturemam with facial hair except maybe a little shadow. Some family members  nicknamed Santa Zayde while others commented he looked just like the guy in Fiddler on the Roof, Tevye (Zero Mostel). Since  Yefet, his brother-in-law had given him a black beret which he wore all the time, he really did share a resemblance to Tevye. People complimented him a lot. I wasn’t so keen.

I guess the growth was starting to bother him and he offhandedly mentioned about possibly getting rid of it. I must admit I didn’t protest.  Well, as of Sunday Tevye has left the house and my younger looking Natureman with a clean shaven face has returned.

I love seeing that shayna punim  (pretty face) again…




I raked it in this Valentine’s Day as I received a new addition to my orchid collection in addition to roses.


How lucky can a girl get?  If you’re wondering who is at the base of the plant that’s  my country mouse… This city mouse certainly appreciates her country mouse for adding flowers to this -6 degree winter day!

Do you want to share your February blooms? Send them this way.

Valentine blooms from Jen’s, Sara’s and Margaret’s.


It’s always fun to look back at holiday pics from previous years. This from Fort Myers February, 1987. Boo Bear is still in the oven for another 6 weeks. Ms L is 5 . You do the math.


It was always fun going South to escape the Midwest cold since we were living in Iowa at the time.

Have any past Valentine’s Days  to share? Please do.



Nowadays bullying stories litter our news.   Natureman and I were discussing some on- line teenage bullying articles we had read that day; senseless, mean acts with onlookers who do nothing to help the victim/ even help videotape the actions. Carefree, laughing individuals who think they don’t have to suffer the consequences of their actions. People are feeling so emboldened, aren’t they?

One story dealt with two high school girls purposefully tripping a mentally  challenged student causing both physical and mental anguish for the victim. This time these two perpetrators were not getting  off scot free as a suit had been filed. Good, we agreed.

We  share the disgust in recognition our ‘civilized’ western society is anything but civilized…

I had something happen to me the other day when I was driving home on a familiar south side 4 laned main artery littered with strip shopping, Wal-Mart and the final gas station. That same road becomes a 2 lane highway.  The speed limit varies from 30-40mph by the businesses and eventually turns into 55mph.  Folks tend to speed up early but they also decide at the last minute to stop for that forgotten grocery item/ gas and don’t always signal.

Well, you get the picture…

Anyhow, I was jarred hearing a horn blaring. Glancing in the side and rear view mirrors I look to see what the issue was. I see nothing amiss. Then, the big black pickup truck behind me honks again. “What? What’s the problem?” I utter aloud as I have no clue. Maybe something was wrong with my car. Should I pull over? I turn on my blinkers, slow down a bit and then decide against it since the shoulder wasn’t large enough, so I stay in the same right hand lane. The truck driver switches lanes and slows down next to me gives me the finger angrily, mouthing something. I know this may sound strange but I have never personally received nor given the bird and it rattles me.

The more I think about it, the more upset I become. Like seriously, I was going the speed limit which obviously wasn’t fast enough for that pickup truck driver. I watch as the his black truck passes the car in front of me but then becomes sandwiched between two slower moving vehicles. A couple miles  later once on the highway I see the truck hasn’t passed the slower moving car in front of him maybe because of on coming traffic.  I smile thinking he’s having to go slower than he’d like, a mile later he turns into his driveway. Yeah, I now know where he lives and I pass it every day.


En route home I diffuse a bit and decide when I get a chance, I’m going to write him a note. Remember I know where he lives… The next day I have some time and I write that note. I mention the intentional left space I leave between me and the cars in front of me, how his honking caused me to slow down, worrying that something was amiss, that he should keep both hands on the wheel and how his anger was rewarded with karma having to slow down being behind a slower moving vehicle. After writing “Have a Great Day” I added, “Karma’s a bitch, isn’t it?”  I felt so much better… I wish we could solve everything with a note, don’t you?

P.S. That’s a stock media photo, not of his house… You don’t think I m stopping to take a photo, do you?  BTW his mailbox is on the opposite side of the highway.










Let me preface the following decision with the fact neither Natureman nor myself are tech savvy and I feel I’ve been left out in the cold…

I just received a reminder from WordPress that in March I’m approaching a one year anniversary with 200 + postings. Yahoo. BUT since I haven’t ever mastered their customizing and my frustration level has peaked, I’ve decided to save my money and spend more time writing and taking photos than figuring out their spacing.

So dear readers here’s a heads up – I will be returning to Blogspot in March where there is no charge and the learning curve is less demanding without a fee. I think my space is still there but I will double check and pass on my address as the time nears…

Meanwhile here’s a pic of our Monday am. even the barn looks cold blanketed in a weekend new 8 ” of snow.

Have a good week!



IMG_0673Last Friday afternoon we had a nice treat having one of Natureman’s nephews  and his GF come visit us here in the End of the Rainbow Valley.

It’s always refreshing to speak with young people who are just starting their careers and pursuing their passions. They both work as nurses at Mayo in Rochester.

We thought it only fitting to add their photo to our fridge collection…

Thanks for taking time to come see us. Come back anytime!




This collection dons my friend Pam’s Atlanta fridge…








I was taken aback as I viewed the recent cover of  The Nation magazine. Here take a look and tell me what you see…


If you answered an Explorer Border Patrol Scout Troop that is the correct response. The thing is this interest group supported by the Boy Scouts and the NRA is not new. This extension of the Boy Scout program has its roots from 60 years ago.  Thousands of youth have received training  “to confront terrorism, illegal immi -gration and escalating border violence —an intense ratcheting up of one of the group’s longtime missions to I’m adding ‘supposedly’ prepare youths for more traditional jobs as police officers and firefighters.”

If this doesn’t bother you, then we are on different pages because children ages 14 + are given beebee guns that look like real weapons and actually shoot them at our Southern border at others acting as patrol officers is scary as it brings back images of another country training its youth…

Compare the photo above to the black and white  photo below…

These young men below are members of the Hitler Youth movement…