Sir and Mad Visit Aunt Spoon


Madison with my cousin’s dog Murphy- they became best pals during our several day visit (and those are my legs).

“Your Mom’s cousins are here,” my cousin’s husband Marty tells their daughter (an actress) who is calling from LA. My sister (Sir) Julie and her daughter Madison and my niece (Mad) and I (Aunt Spoon) are sitting in my cousin’s living room in Oakland, CA. Sir and Mad are visiting me in Sacramento CA to celebrate Madison’s graduation from high school in ND – their first trip to CA (and Madison’s first plane ride). Cousin Katie takes the phone from Marty and says “we’re watching a little Emma TV,” referring to us watching clips on the computer of Emma’s work as an actress.

I couldn’t fathom such a day ever happening all those years ago growing up in ND. That is all of us sitting in my cousin’s living room in their lovely, homey house with its spectacular view of the San Francisco Bay and its yard dotted with fruit trees. My family wasn’t much for traveling outside of ND, so we only saw Katie (my only cousin on my Mom’s side of the family) and her Mom – my Aunt Mona – (who lives in Sacramento) when they came to ND, which didn’t happen very often. I do remember a snowy Christmas or two when all of us gathered at our grandparents house – another homey home – in tiny Oberon, ND.


Madison, my sister Julie and cousin Katie in front of the Golden Gate Bridge in SF.

Katie gets off the phone and says “Emma said she wishes she were here.” And so do we. Until I moved to Sacramento a little over a year ago, I had only met Emma twice and I had never met her brother Jared. Lots of people grow up and live in one location all of their lives, as do many of their extended family. And even if they only get along reasonably well, they generally regularly gather together for holidays, birthdays and more. For the most part, I’ve never had that, and the older I get the more I treasure family time together.


Julie (Sir) in front of Memorial Church during our tour of Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA.


I’ve also never been able to spend extended, quality time with my sister (I just have one, a year and half older than me) and her daughter. It meant that waiting for Sir and Mad to arrive was like waiting for Christmas when you’re little. It seemed like it took forever, and the anticipation was intense. But the day in June finally did arrive, and I was absolutely giddy when I picked them up from the airport. From start to finish we had 12 days together, and it truly was like 12 days of Christmas. It was non-stop sightseeing, taking in the local culture and great food (ethnic cuisine and local coffee shops were on my niece’s must do list), shopping (Mad and Sir are uber shoppers), fun, travel, exploring, spectacular scenery, beach time, and – maybe best of all – lots and LOTS and lots of laughter. Honestly, I thought I might have to use my inhaler a few times because I laughed so hard I felt like I couldn’t breathe. The 12 days flew by way too fast, and I wished they would never end.

img_0629My sister referred to this visit as a once in a lifetime trip. In a way it was as it is only once that we will gather together at this age with Madison as a recent high school grad. However, I do hope there are more trips together here in CA, back in ND and points beyond! I’d love to do it all over again.

(So what’s up with Sir and Mad and Aunt Spoon? Well the Mad makes sense, a shortened often texted version of Madison. Texting also resulted in Sir, when my sister accidentally typed it instead of sis and it just kind of stuck. For the story of Aunt Spoon and Aunt Fork – that would be Sir – click here.

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RIP Roland Vincent Jager, Jr.

Earlier this Memorial Day morning a friend posted a link on Facebook to a Vietnam War Memorial page listing all those who died in that ugly war. As far as I know, and I truly hope I am not forgetting someone, none of the members of my immediate family lost their lives in Vietnam. I decided to take a look at the Vietnam Memorial page to see if any Jagers had died there. And this is where I came across the name Roland Vincent Jager, Jr.

I did some research on the Internet to see what I could learn about Roland. It’s amazing what you can find in just a few clicks. I learned Roland spent part of his life living in Stockton, Calif., which is just an hour south of here, and where I have traveled to several times for meetings for work.

Roland was born on July 31, 1944. He was the oldest of five sons. His father, Roland, Sr., was a Lieutenant Colonel. In addition to Stockton, Roland’s family also lived in Southern Pines , N.C., when his father, a pilot, was stationed at Fort Bragg. Roland’s mother’s name was Margaret (coincidentally I had an Aunt Margaret), who, according to Roland’s obituary, was active in the Boy Scouts, which makes sense if you had five boys. In Roland’s photo he has short black hair, dark eyes and is wearing a white sweatshirt. He looks like he could have been an athlete, a football player perhaps or a wrestler. He has just a hint of a smile and is, well, quite handsome. I bet he made a few ladies swoon.

Roland was a private first class in the U.S. Army and served in the military police (his maternal grandfather was a chief of police). Roland died on Dec. 6, 1964, at age 20. He was listed as single, which must mean not married, although that’s not to say he did not have a significant other back home. His parents received the news of his death while they were attending his uncle’s funeral. How awful that must have been for his parents. The listed cause of death – a reported suicide or self inflicted injury. On the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Fund site page for Roland one of his fellow soldiers said he knew Roland, and that they had only been together for a few months in Nha Trang when this happened.

Of course I don’t know the details of his death. Did Roland have a history of depression? Back then there was far less knowledge about depression and even fewer treatment options, and an even bigger stigma that still lingers today. Roland is buried in San Francisco in Golden Gate National Cemetary. One day I think I will go pay my respects.

Roland was one of many, many young men and women who have lost their lives to protect our country, our way of life and to preserve our freedom. Rest in Peace Roland Vincent Jager, Jr.



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A Snowless, Cold-less Winter

FullSizeRenderIt’s been eight months since I last wrote my last blog post last June. It’s not been from lack of time, but more lack of focus, direction and inspiration. For those of you who have been with me since the beginning this blog was originally about my job hunting and employment journey. It then morphed into my small town living experiences and observations. Quite frankly I would like to write a blog that isn’t about me, but about a particular topic or passion.

However, since I am still mulling over a new theme, for this particular post I will cover


On some 100 plus degree nights, it was often too hot to even sit by the pool.

territory from my last blog – California living. I have been living and working here in the Golden State capital of Sacramento for almost a year. I experienced my first summer of multiple days of 100 plus degree weather, which was more than a little toasty and at times uncomfortable and stifling. My strategy for dealing with it – other than cranking up the AC – was to reach back to my hardy North Dakota roots and tell myself that 105 degrees wasn’t that much different than 95 degrees, just like 20 below zero isn’t that much colder than 10 below zero. However, that line of thinking didn’t really help, because 105 felt like 150 compared to 95. And I am pretty sure that back in North Dakota I thought -20 felt a heck of a lot more frigid than -10, which segues nicely into winter in Northern California.

After surviving the sweltering summer, I wondered how I would like my first winter in such a moderate climate after experiencing a lifetime of cold, snowy winters. Would I miss snow? To be honest, I thought I might even though I have never been a big fan of winter no matter where I have lived. However I have to say as we approach the end of February I don’t miss either cold or snow one single bit. In fact, this kind of winter suits me to a T. The coldest temps we have had so far were in the 30s at night and only for a few days back at the end of November. On average highs seem to range in the 50s and 60-ish, and we get a fair bit of chilly (relatively speaking) and rainy days to at least give you a change of seasons and pace.

IMG_0375In addition the relatively balmy temps, I fully enjoy the amount of greenery and color that stays throughout the winter months. Although some trees lose their leaves, plenty of them do not, and there are still a fair number of flowers blooming. I wasn’t sure if flowers would survive on my deck in planter boxes, however, they did and even thrived. It also is exhilarating  to visit the Home Depot throughout the year and find a variety of flowers to plant.

As I approach almost a full year of California living, I’ll close the same way I ended my last blog post eight months ago – all in all not a bad place to live. I think I’ll stay.


Blooming all year round!


I am not sure what kind of tree this is – but it is green throughout the year!


Some of the most gorgeous trees in Sacramento are on the large grounds adjacent to the Capitol.


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Blog Year in Review

Greetings from CA blog readers, that is if there are still any of you left out in the blogosphere still reading my blog, since I haven’t posted anything new in six months. Overall, life in California is good. And here in late December, I am certainly enjoying the weather after living for 50 plus years in colder, snowier climes! If it floats your boat, click on the link to the 2015 annual report for my blog! No surprise that my most popular post was about friendship.

Happy New Year! Here’s hoping for more blogging in 2016!

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California Girl

(This column appeared in a recent edition of the Devils Lake Journal newspaper in my hometown of Devils Lake, North Dakota)

I’ve always been intrigued by California – the geography, the people, the weather and more. I took my first trip – and my first airplane ride – to sunny southern CA when I was a senior at Devils Lake Central High via an organized trip through the school. All these years later I can’t be sure what time of year I went, but I believe it was early spring in ND, and I remember marveling at how warm and green it was in CA for that time of year. I’ve returned to California many times over the years, primarily on business trips and also to visit my UND college roommate in San Diego (who hails from Hoople, ND)

And now some 30 years later I am again marveling at the greenery and more in CA – as a permanent resident. Last Christmas when I was decorating my Christmas tree in my apartment in Brush CO, I wondered where I would find myself next Christmas. I hoped it would be somewhere else, as I had been looking for some time to return to my former career in public relations in a metropolitan area. Just a few short months later, I found myself on a plane to Sacramento, CA, for a job interview. Not long after that I packed up my belongings and moved to CA to start my new job as the marketing and communications director for a lobbying organization. So far I am thoroughly enjoying CA and being back to living in a city. Following are some of the things I appreciate about Sacramento and city life:

  • Restaurant choices. One thing I missed about living in small towns during the past three years was the limited number of restaurant options. In Brush, I got excited when a new gas station/convenience store opened that sold homemade sandwiches. Here there are at least 30-plus restaurants in a five-mile radius from both where I work and live and endless other options throughout the city.
  • My second day in Sacramento I had a Korean Banh Mi sandwich at a local restaurant.

    My second day in Sacramento I had a Korean Banh Mi sandwich at a local restaurant.

    Restaurant diversity. Sacramento is an ethnically diverse city which is reflected in its restaurants. You name it, it’s got it. I think even more so than the Washington, D.C. area where I lived for eight years. The grocery store shopping complex near where I live has not one, but two Indian restaurants, a Thai restaurant and more.

  • The trees. Sacramento is the city of trees, including many I don’t think I had ever seen before. My aunt who lives here seems to know the names of all of them, but I am coming up with names of
    The Walmart palm trees.

    The Walmart palm trees.

    my own, such as the tall, skinny pointy ones and the one that looks like a tree from a Dr. Seuss cartoon. And did I mention the palm trees? They are everywhere. They even line the long street at the Walmart shopping area near where I live. Oh and the fruit trees. Not only pretty but scrumptious.

  • The yard sale tree.

    The yard sale tree.

    The flowering trees and bushes. Well, they are just drop dead, colofully gorgeous. I’ve never lived anywhere where I have snapped so many pictures of trees. I went to a multi-family flowering treeyard sale a couple of weeks ago where the biggest find for me was a line of large, green bushes with the most gorgeous pink and orange flowers.

  • The snails. No worms on the sidewalk here when it rains. Instead, not-so-small snails slither across the sidewalk with their shells looking almost prehistoric. I haven’t stepped on one yet, and I don’t think I
    When it rains, it snails.

    When it rains, it snails.

    want to.

  • The Delta Breeze. It’s your friend here in the summer, coming off the Pacific Ocean from the San Francisco area. It makes the 100 plus degree days here a little more bearable and cools things off most nights.
  • The pool at my apartment complex. It’s open year round and includes its own gorgeous greenery. Small town life, at least in my experience, didn’t offer pools in apartment complexes, or apartment complexes for that matter. I love sitting by the pool at dusk and watching the stars come out. pool
  • Small town touches. My Aunt Mona, who along with my Mom hails from Oberon, ND, lives here. There also is cat living at the Home Depot Garden  Center where I bought my
    Roses and jasmine in Aunt Mona's backyard.

    Roses and jasmine in Aunt Mona’s backyard.

    flowers. Also most of the people I have met so far are small town friendly.

  • Geographical diversity. A day hike in the mountains or a dipping your toes in the ocean are both just a couple of hours away. Sacramento has mild winters and snow is very unusual. However, if I feel in need of a snow fix or want to go skiing, again just a hop, skip and a jump away.
  • Down by the River. Two large rivers flow through Sac (that’s what the locals call Sacramento) offering multiple recreational opportunities.
Discovery Park. The confluence of the American and Sacramento rivers looking toward downtown.

Discovery Park. The confluence of the American and Sacramento rivers looking toward downtown.

All in all, not a bad place to live. I think I’ll stay.

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Free Falling

Greetings from Sacramento CA! About a month ago I wrote a blog about my “impromptu” trip here that was actually a trip to interview for a job, which I was offered and accepted! You longtime followers of my blog know that I started writing this blog a few years back about job hunting and unemployment. More about the job and my search in another post! This blog is about the drive and road trip from CO to CA, which was a little dicey in a number of ways.

I love a good road trip – always have. There is nothing like loading up the car, filling up the gas tank and hitting the open road whether it’s to a familiar destination, somewhere new or wherever the wind takes you! I had taken this particular route only once before some 20 plus years ago with a dear friend of mine – a SF native – who moved back to SF from CO after a divorce. If I remember right we also had her little shih tzu dog as part of our entourage. As I was preparing to travel the same route, I tried to remember the details of our trip together all those years ago and couldn’t summon up much. I remembered spending the night in Salt Lake City and seeing the expanse of the Great Salt Lake and traversing Donner Pass. My friend via FB filled in a few blanks, such as we listened to Basia, which I had on a cassette tape. (Anybody remember Basia??)

What I thought about most as I prepared for the trip, other than the excitement about the new job and living in CA, was how I  was going to handle some issues I have had in recent years with “open road driving anxiety” especially that related to driving in the mountains and even more so driving over mountain passes, something I hadn’t done by myself in a very long time. I didn’t come up with any particular plan other than just to try and conquer it. Lest anyone reading this think I am a big old wimp – I used to be quite fearless about such driving. When I was younger my sister came to visit me in Denver and we took a road trip to the Grand Canyon. I didn’t even bat an eyelid or sweat one single drop when I drove over the Million Dollar Highway in southwest CO and traversed several mountain passes. But times they have a changed. I am not sure why I have developed this particular type of anxiety, and I don’t think it really matters. What matters is learning to deal with it.

Utah mountain range preceding Parley's Summit

Utah mountain range preceding Parley’s Summit

I am not going to go over all the details of the trip. There were definitely some moments of some intense anxiety and times when I wanted to bail, although that is not an option high on a mountain pass. The first big pass I encountered was Parley’s Summit in Utah, and I had no idea it was even ahead of me. I had only heard about Parley’s Canyon on the Salt Lake City TV news, due to snowstorm the days preceding (the snowstorm and high winds are another story). As my vehicle was climbing up the mountain to Parley’s summit the Tom Petty song “Free Falling” came on the radio, and I somehow found comfort in this song as my sweaty hands gripped the wheel. As it turned out the song spoke to the way for me to tackle and how I had been tackling this 1,000 plus mile drive. It was to jump in feet first, free fall so to speak, and not look back. The song continued to play as I sailed down Parley’s Summit. I also took a lot of deep breaths, uttered self affirmations and looked for inspiration to road warrior and 17 year old kit kat

Kit cat Jenni is one awesome road kitty!

Kit cat Jenni is one awesome road kitty!

Jenni, who fortunately doesn’t suffer from my afflictions and is cool as a cucumber on road trips – flat land or high country. And glad I am that I jumped feet first. The beauty of Parley’s Summit and Canyon, and all the passes, deserts and mountain forests that I drove through was spectacular and well worth every drop of sweat. I have faced similar fears before in other situations and come out on top. When you conquer your fears you feel – at first a little relieved – and then empowered, liberated and ready to take on the world.

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Sands Saved

The Sands Theater in downtown Brush.

The Sands Theater in downtown Brush.

In late 2013, I wrote about the Sands Theater here in little ole downtown Brush being in dire need of raising funds to convert to digital or risk not being able to show movies any longer on its archaic movie equipment. The situation also prompted me to reminisce about the former movie theaters in my home town of Devils Lake, N.D., including its own downtown theater as well as a drive in movie theater.

Some $60,000 needed to be raised for the pricey equipment and the community rallied and held a variety of fund raisers and also launched a Save Our Sands Facebook page, which eventually garnered nearly 2,000 likes. The thought that the theater might have to close its doors touched the hearts of many former Brush residents who had fond memories of the theater over the years. The donations came pouring in with many sharing theater recollections. Fast forward to about a year later – the Sands Theater was saved.

Brush’s Sands Theater was not alone in its need to convert to digital. Small town theaters throughout Colorado found themselves in the same situation. It prompted an organization called downtown Colorado to launch an initiative called Save Our Screens to help provide grant money for theaters to convert to digital. And convert they did, with small towns from throughout Colorado rallying their communities to save their theaters. About a month ago the Brush Chamber of Commerce invited me, the town’s newspaper reporter, to attend a celebratory lunch in downtown Denver where small town theater owners would share their success in converting to digital and other stories about their small town theaters.

The theater owners’ dedication to their theaters was impressive and infectious. It was interesting to hear how other small towns were working to multi-purpose theater use including using them for other functions from film schools to funerals. The devotion to small town theaters was best expressed by one owner who said every small town should not be without two things – a library and a movie theater. Amen.

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