Riding in The Back Seat: Christmas and Other Small Town Memories

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St. Olaf Lutheran Church

This time of year when I am Christmas shopping I often think of a favorite childhood holiday candy. Growing up in the small town of Devils Lake, ND, our family belonged to St. Olaf Lutheran Church. We participated in the Sunday School Christmas program and after the program was finished we gathered in the church basement and were given small brown paper bags of Christmas candy to take home. All bundled up in our coats and boots and hats, I remember clutching my bag in my mittened hands and walking out into the frigid night air and snow and icy streets.  During the short ride home, sitting with my sister Julie in the back seat I would open up the bag and look for my favorite candy, which, if I remember right, was bell shaped with chocolate on the outside and medium soft white minty stuff on the inside. I don’t remember what they were called, but.I always keep an eye open for them during the holidays to no avail.

Riding in the back seat in the dark winter night after the Christmas program with my bag of candy is just one of many fond car riding memories I have from growing up in Devils Lake. Before my younger brothers came along, it was just the four of us riding in the car from places like church. We always sat in the same spots. My parents in the front – Dad driving, Mom in the passenger seat – and my sister Julie and I in the back – Julie behind my Dad and me behind my Mom.

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We had a number of different cars growing up, including one similar to this – a blue Pontiac although outs was a four-door.

We would go for drives on summer nights and on the weekends – my Mom sometimes admonishing my Dad for driving too fast – around our small town and and in the neighboring countryside, including the nearby lakes. Almost every Sunday we would drive to my maternal grandparents house for afternoon dinner (aka known as lunch in some parts with dinner being supper), in nearby teeny, tiny Oberon, where we had a choice of taking two routes, one being around a park called Sullys Hill, a national game preserve that was home to a herd of buffaloes. During much of the year it was often dark when we drove back and from the safety of the back seat I liked looking at the black sky and twinkling stars and the occasional appearance of the Northern Lights. No electronic toys or in vehicle movies meant you concentrated on the outdoors and the people surrounding you. Although my Dad did enjoy listening to Johnny Cash when we drove to Manitoba, Canada, for summer drive-in-speakerscamping trips. Even as a young kid I enjoyed the Cash tunes as we crossed the U.S. border into Canada. Summer also meant going to outdoor drive-in movie theater, Julie and I often in our summer PJs in the backseat, eating popcorn and watching our Dad hook up the speaker on our car window..Some summer suppers were enjoyed at one of several drive-in restaurants, where after eating our burgers and fries I would silently say a prayer in the back seat that we would also make a visit to the local Dairy Queen for an ice cream cone of a Dilly bar.

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The Barrel drive-in restaurant in Devils Lake, N.D. I worked there as a car-hop in my teens.

Looking back that back seat felt so safe and comfortable and, well, like home, and it’s now  associated with an abundance of fond memories. It’s where I didn’t have a care in the world. My job, my role was so simple then. Just get in the back seat, always the same place. No decisions to make. Everything was taken care of, and the good times rolled.

 

 

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Why? Why Not Minot

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a few years now. Why? Because I am intrigued and a little perplexed why people keep visiting a post I wrote more than five years ago called “Why Not Minot.” https://jobhuntingwordnerd.wordpress.com/2011/06/17/why-not-minot/ At the time, I was living in Colorado and job hunting in my home state of North Dakota. I had an interview at a library in Minot that resulted in the “Why Not Minot” post. The post was really more about job hunting than it was about Minot, although I did provide some information about Minot and how it got the moniker Why Not Minot. To learn why, visit the original post.

One question I have is how do people find the “Why Not Minot” post? My blog does not have a large following – far from it. If you google the words why not Minot, you have to click several pages in to see the link to my post. And why click on it? There is nothing very intriguing about the few sentences that appear. Also, how did it end up popping up in the search engine results for Why Not Minot? Maybe if I knew that I would have more people reading my blog.

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Nonetheless, people have been regularly clicking on “Why Not Minot” for years now. Every year. Every month. Almost every week.

I wonder what the people reading my “Why Not Minot” are looking for? Nobody has posted any comments for quite some time, so I really don’t know. All of these musings have left me feeling compelled to share a little more information about Minot.

Minot is not far from the geographical center of North America, located in Rugby ND.
Minot is the hometown of Hollywood Hottie Josh Duhamel, who I understand visits ND quite regularly. He recently appeared in a TV advertising campaign promoting ND.
There is a large U.S. Air Force base located in Minot
Minot, like the rest of ND, can be downright frigid in the winter
During Prohibition, Minot was apparently a hotbed for Al Capone’s liquor smuggling operations (this is new news to me)
Minot is the home to the North Dakota state fair
Minot is where my Devils Lake ND hometown bestie Shelley and I used to go to the state high school track finals

I know that’s not much, but that’s all for now. Stay tuned for more Minot ND Why Not Minot highlights.

And please do let me know what you’re looking for when you read my “Why Not Minot” blog posts.

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Roku Me Some Gilmore Girls

In 1983 my first real job out of college was as a communications (PR) assistant with an international export market development organization in Denver. At the time the office was being automated, fully computerized for the first time. As the youngest member of our small staff, I had the highest level of computer knowledge, which in truth was at best mildly moderate, Nonetheless, I became somewhat of our resident computer expert. I trained other staff on software, mainly word processing and database management, and answered general computer questions as best I could. Apparently my computer knowledge was so profound that I was sent to our office in Hamburg, Germany, for several weeks to help that office with computer stuff. All these years later my memory is a little fuzzy on exactly what I did – something database related I think.

old-tvIt’s safe to say these questionable computer skills did not advance nor did knowledge of anything techie. In fact I was rapidly left in the dust. Truth be told I am quite techie challenged and find all of it rather bewildering. I have not kept up with the latest and greatest of techie stuff. It was just a few years ago that I got rid of my fat, old school TV (by putting it on the sidewalk with a FREE take me away sign) and just six months ago added a DVR into the cable mix.

My techie knowledge was challenged again, when I heard that new episodes of the Gilmore Girls would be available on Netflix. I figured all I had to do was sign up again for Netflix, get the DVDs in the mail and I would be good to go! Not so. I consulted with some friends and found out my beloved Gilmore Girls would be streaming on Netflix. Streaming? Surely Lorelei would also have been confused. You can stream them on your laptop, a friend said, or a Notepad or even your phone. After a 12-year absence, watch brand, spanking new Gilmore Girls on a laptop, or even worse a small Notepad or phone. I don’t think so. it would definitely not do it justice. At least for me.

It was time for a shout out to my friends on FB – btw I AM on Chatsnap 😉 – how do I watch the new Gilmore Girls on my TV? Do you have Roku, a friend asked. Now if she would have spoken these words to me I might have thought she said do you have a raccoon? This would have been equally confusing, because I had no idea what Roku was – the Japanese word for raccoon?

I did a little research and got the general gist of the thing – it allows your TV to access the Internet. Thank you Mr. Printer guy at work for putting it into simplistic terms. I headed to Target to buy me some Roku. With the help of a cute young sales guy, I finally found the Roku in the dizzying array of Target techie items. I asked him what the difference was between the two available Rokus. He said well one thing was how do you want to use it? I just want to watch the new Gilmore Girls I said.

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Twenty four hours later the Roku is connected (not without a little frustration and hair pulling), and I am all set to watch the new Gilmore Girls, which like many I have been waiting for with high anticipation for some time.

ggSo why all the fuss about the Gilmore Girls? I did not watch the Gilmore Girls when it aired live from 2000 to 2007, although I remember hearing lots of good buzz about it. At the time I thought I didn’t know if a young mother with a teenage daughter centered show would be the thing for me, not having a daughter or kids. It was about five years or so ago that I finally saw an episode in reruns, and I was immediately hooked. I’ve since watched all seven seasons multiple times, and again and again find them enjoyable and satisfying on so many levels.

I am not alone in watching the Gilmore Girls post run. One of my nieces in North Dakota img_1010has been binge watching the Gilmore Girls. I am sure there are many more. Even my celebrity crush Jimmy Fallon, showing that the series is not just a chick thing, is binge watching and has been offering witty commentary about the the Gilmore Girls on his show.

Just what is it about the Gilmore Girls that is so appealing to so many people? Well it’s funny, amusing. It has interesting family dynamics, including two mother/daughter scenarios. It has romance, both for younger and older folks. It has the character of Rory, which at the time it first aired there weren’t many of in a TV series – a smart, kind of nerdy AND also very pretty girl all rolled into one. There is the charming small town setting with lots of feel good things in it – including a cozy diner where everybody knows your name and Lorelei and Rory chug gallons of coffee and consume massive amounts of burgers and fries. There are all the quirky and highly lovable town residents. But I think what might be most appealing for me, and many, is the rapid, witty, well written dialogue often loaded with pop culture references.

download-2The four new episodes will air the day after Thanksgiving. I was listening to NPR this week, which is doing a series where people call NPR and express their thoughts on gathering with family and friends in this still contentious post-election atmosphere. One woman with two young children said she would not be spending either upcoming holiday with her parents due to what she perceived to be virulent political comments made by them on Facebook. Her words made me sad.

Whether you are boycotting your relatives this Turkey Day or the day leaves you tense or angry or sad after political Turkey Talk – which I hope neither scenario of is the case – there is always the new Gilmore Girls to watch. And remember although over the years the girls and their family have had some pretty heated family arguments, anger and periods of time not talking to each other, in the end they always come together and still love each other.

Lastly, thank you to my friend Shurette, who told me about Roku, for reminding me that it’s Roku, not Raku, preventing it from appearing incorrectly in this post!

Posted in Entertainment, family, Gilmore Girls, Pop Culture, Popular Culture & Entertainment, Thanksgiving, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s Not Because He’s Republican, Stupid

Get over it. Shut up. Quit whining. It’s payback time, we put up with a Democrat for the last eight  years. You diehard Republicans don’t get it. For that matter diehard supporters of either party. You assume if someone is critical of a Republican or vice versa we support the other party. Not necessarily so. You Trump supporters also don’t get why people who didn’t vote for him are so upset. As an Independent over the years I have voted for both Democrats and Republicans – again something the diehards would never dream of doing, although some Republicans did in this election, which speaks volumes. When I look at a candidate I consider a lot of factors. First and foremost I want them to be a decent human being who respects others and who I think will do good things for this country. That should just be a given, especially the respect others part. Donald Trump does not fit that bill and in such a grossly exaggerated way.

So I am going to be a little upset if he wins. And he did. If you’re a Trumpster you’re going to strongly disagree with me. So be it. But don’t you dare tell me how I should feel, or think or speak. But yet you continue to do so. When I told someone I was disappointed they told me to be excited. People are saying, in a general sense, get over it and shut up. So in the spirit of the wise words of the Dixie Chicks, don’t tell me to just shut up and sing, or in this case just shut up and live.

And if you are upset by the headline of this post because you think I am insulting you if you voted for Trump, then google it. Something people who supported both candidates should have done far more of during the election.
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Halloween Gratitude

It’s been five years since I posted I Got a Rock – Tales of a Job Hunting Coloradan when I was in the depths of chronic underemployment and job seeker frustration. I go back and read it every year around this time, and it reminds me of how ever so grateful I am to be gainfully employed, and it makes me appreciative of my perseverance. If you are job hunting keep plugging away and don’t give up! You truly can realize your dreams even if there are a few, or more, bumps in the road.

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Sir and Mad Visit Aunt Spoon

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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.

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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.

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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 http://www.vvmf.org/Wall-of-Faces/25468/ROLAND-V-JAGER-JR 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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