My Sons are Immortalized in Plastic


It seems the Mattel Company, makers of the Barbie and Ken dolls, have stolen my sons’ likenesses for their new “Fashonista” Ken Doll line. The “Comeback Camo” Ken Doll and the “Chill in Check” doll look EXACTLY like my boys.

I will not further exploit my sons by posting their actual images to my blog. You’ll just have to believe me that the resemblance is uncanny, even down to the clothing.

I was sort of creeped out when I saw the TV news story about the new doll line the other day. I mean, what are the chances that two out of 15 dolls could double for my offspring? A follow-up question is, what kind of mother am I to give birth to not one, but two cultural stereotypes?

I should be mad that Mattel has taken my sons’ likenesses without their consent. But it’s also rather flattering.

Either way, I know what my sons are getting for Christmas this year!

When is a Bridge a Bong?

St. Louis River Trip 2015 001

The Bong Bridge as seen from the water.

I was giving directions to an out-of-town acquaintance the other day when I told them they’d need to drive over the Bong Bridge. They looked at me, wide-eyed, and started snickering.

Yes, it’s true. In Duluth-Superior we have a bridge by the name of Bong. The Richard I. Bong Memorial Bridge, to be exact. It’s named after a World War II flying ace, but out-of-towners and the uninitiated don’t know that. The name always provokes some kind of reaction.

I was away at college when the bridge was being built and named in the early 1980s. Whenever I returned home and drove on the freeway down the hill into town, I would notice more bridge pillars in the harbor as it slowly came into being. I can’t recall if there was a lot of controversy about the name, but I assume there must have been some.

Although the name is a nice tribute to a local war hero, the people who thought up the name HAD to know it would get shortened to just “Bong Bridge” or just “Bong” in the local vernacular. After all, we have another bridge that spans the same body of water, which is named after John A. Blatnik. Everybody just calls it the “Blatnik.”

“Take the Blatnik to Superior,” we say. Now we can also say, “Take the Bong to Superior.” Most locals know that won’t get you into trouble with the law.

It’s just such a questionable name. I can’t believe it got through the transportation department’s approval process. But Richard Bong must have had a big fan club that overwhelmed common sense when it came to bridge names.

Bong Museum

A mural of Richard Bong and his wife Marge from the Bong Museum in Superior.

We even have a Bong Museum. But it doesn’t contain what you think it might. Not even one. I know. I checked.

The name does make the Bong Bridge easy to remember, I’ll say that for it. While it’s confusing having two bridges that start with a “B” in the area, differentiating between them is easy. The Blatnik is the bridge closest to Lake Superior and it’s named for a guy. Then there’s the other bridge farther inland that’s named for drug paraphernalia.

Maybe the name was a good idea, after all?

The Fox is Guarding the Henhouse in America

It was with great dismay that I read about the new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator’s removal of nine members of from its scientific review board. The board in question (the Board of Scientific Counselors, or BOSC for short) is one of two that help the agency determine what issues need its attention and funding.

The dismissals hit close to home because I used to be on the BOSC. From 2010-2013 I served as a communications advisor to the EPA on this board.

I know, you’re looking at me and saying, “Really – you?” Yes me. I know I don’t seem like a high-powered research scientist because I am so fun, witty, and seemingly non-scientific. And besides, I get chased by turkeys and attacked by squirrels. But YES, I really was appointed to this influential federal committee not long ago.

The main point I tried to make to the EPA during my tenure was that they didn’t have public communications components to their programs, and that they needed them. I suspect this is one reason why more people aren’t even more upset about some of the changes President Trump has recently made or proposed for the agency. People don’t understand what the agency really does (other than fining corporations for pollution violations), so they don’t understand the significance of Trump’s actions.

Yesterday’s New York Times article says that administrator Pruitt plans on replacing the ousted members with people who represent industries that are regulated by the EPA. Pruitt spokesman, J. P. Freire said, “The administrator believes we should have people on this board who understand the impact of regulations on the regulated community.”


My favorite name tag mistake of all time came from one of my BOSC meetings. The name tag makers just assumed I was a Ph.D. because everyone else on the committee is a Ph.D. Alas, I am only a “master.”

This almost sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? But think about it. These people will be in a position of power to change things. Maybe they don’t like all the regulations their corporations are subject to. Gee, maybe they could fix that.

Let’s say the EPA is like a bank — a bank made up of natural resources, if you will. Corporations use natural resources to make their products. The EPA is in charge of protecting the health of natural resources – rather like how a bank vault protects the money from bank robbers. Take the vault away, and what do you have? Free money for bank robbers!

Allowing corporations to control the agency that regulates natural resources is like allowing bank robbers on the board of trustees for your bank. I don’t know about you, but this doesn’t sound like a very good idea to me. It’s the old “fox guarding the henhouse” deal.

Write your congressional representatives, please. Write letters to the editor. Bang on a drum. March in the streets. I’m going to.

Then I’m going to take all my money out of the bank and bury it in the back yard.

Attack of the Killer Turkeys

Today I meandered over to a gathering at the home of some friends who live in the woods outside of town. I had been to their house before, but this time was different. Instead of my friends meeting me once I got out of my car, I was met by some wild turkeys. Two toms and a hen walked up to my driver’s door before I could get out. The toms were both displaying in an aggressive manner and the hen pecked the ground a few feet away.

It unnerved me that the turkeys knew which car door I would exit. “This can’t be good,” I thought. After futilely waiting a few minutes for them to budge, I decided on an alternate exit strategy. I clambered over the stick shift console and went out the passenger door.

20170507_104836The turkeys immediately spotted me and followed. I walked faster. They walked faster. Soon I was running for my life to the house door. Just in time, my friend opened the door. She deterred the turkeys with a big stick and ushered me quickly into the house. I swear the turkeys would have followed me right inside, had it not been for that stick.

She apologized for the turkeys, saying they “just showed up” about a month ago. Although the turkeys live in the woods, they are obviously imprinted on people for food.

Despite trying several methods, the only way my friends have found to deal with them is to carry sticks whenever they go out. My friends say the turkeys also stand at their sliding glass doors and watch them while they watch television. Creepy!

As others arrived for the gathering, our main source of entertainment was watching their various reactions to the attack turkeys. Most people got off easier than I did because my friends made it out there sooner with their sticks.

Once I eventually left, the turkeys chased my car the whole way down the long driveway, as if getting back at me for my earlier escape. They kept at it until I was able to leave them in a cloud of dust on the main road.

Wild turkeys have been in the news lately because they are becoming more common in northern Minnesota. People are wondering if the department of natural resources (DNR) has stocked them or something. Nope, says the department.

In my travels between the southern and northern parts of Minnesota over the years, I have noticed turkeys along the highway. Every year, they are farther north. (Opossums are coming, too. Yuk!) I guess it was just a matter of time before they reached my friends’ yard.

The DNR calls the turkeys’ range expansion “one of Minnesota’s greatest conservation success stories.” Last year, the DNR expanded the turkey hunt to include all of northeastern Minnesota. The spring season is open from now until May 31.

Turkey hunters, if you are having trouble finding your prey, I know where a couple are. Just ask. 🙂

On Being a “Professional Woman”

business_womanMy fair city has a group for women in business called the Professional Women’s Network. It first came to my attention when I was in high school. I was invited to one of their luncheon meetings as part of a program they had to reach out to students.

I’m not sure why I was chosen – I had no interest in business. I wasn’t even a woman yet (grin). But I went with a couple of other invited classmates anyway, because – free lunch!

I recall that the women were all very nice, but I was too young to understand the need for such a group. I decided it just wasn’t my thing.

And I also wondered about the organization’s name. The wording makes it sound like they are all women who are professionals at being women – leading to visions that their meetings are really about sharing hairstyle and clothing tips, swapping recipes, or divulging secrets on how to work their wiles on men.

Over the years, I would chuckle whenever the organization’s name floated into my field of view. If I ever did end up becoming a member, I would advocate for renaming it the Women’s Professional Network.

Gingerbread House Catastrophe


Tragedy struck the Marie household yesterday with the total and spontaneous collapse of a gingerbread house.

“I was in the kitchen doing something at the sink when behind me I heard this terrible crunching sound and a thud,” said Marie. “When I turned around, I saw the gingerbread house that my son and his girlfriend made spread flat out on the kitchen table. I swear, I didn’t touch it!”

Emergency responders on the scene reported that no people or animals were injured in the collapse. Damages estimated at $10.

Marie said that when she told her son about the incident, he instructed her to throw away the sides of the house, which had already been picked clean of frosting and candy, and to save the roof, which still contained candy.

“I sure hope this isn’t a harbinger of doom for 2017,” she quipped.

Just Your Average Winter’s Day Walk and Squirrel Attack


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My daily noon dog walk yesterday began like many others. Buddy and I took off down my street, heading toward the woods. Snow was falling with a few inches accumulating on the ground. As we neared the intersection at the end of my street with the forest beckoning beyond, I noticed what looked like a pile of brownish-gray leaves on the curb.

Buddy immediately perked up, and before I knew it, he was running at the leaf pile. His retractable leash played out its full fifteen feet, and my shoulder jerked in its socket as Buddy kept trying to run at the leaf pile, which had unfurled into the form of a gray squirrel.

I have learned the hard way that when it comes to my dog and squirrels, the health of my shoulder muscles is more important than trying to save the squirrels from his hunting instincts, so I let the leash go. By this time, Buddy was behind the squirrel, which came running out into the snowy intersection.

One would think that the squirrel would run anywhere but toward another threat (me). But this squirrel headed right at me, my dog on its heels. The squirrel hopped through the snow sluggishly. Whether this was because of the snow depth or because there was something wrong with it, I couldn’t tell.

As the squirrel came closer, its course stayed true — right toward me. I remembered a time when I was young and a wild squirrel climbed up my leg to get my peanut butter sandwich.

I spread my legs a bit wider to discourage the squirrel from any leg-climbing ideas. Did it think I was some sort of stumpy tree? The squirrel kept coming, passing directly between my boots. Buddy was a few feet behind, his leash dragging through the snow.

Uh-oh. Buddy was headed directly between my legs, too. He is a very tall, eighty-pound dog. I lifted up one leg so he could pass under.

Then I heard the tires of a vehicle slowly crunching through the snow. I looked away from Buddy and saw a white pickup truck approaching. More chaos. Just what we need!

The squirrel continued its sluggish trajectory to a tree in a neighbor’s yard. In the meantime, I was able to grab Buddy’s leash and command him to “Leave it!” (As in leave the squirrel alone.) The command actually worked. He stopped and I grabbed up the slack in his leash, holding him tight and out of the truck driver’s way. The squirrel was now high in the tree.

The driver, seeing that all was under control, eased into the intersection. Beneath my scarf I began laughing at the scene that must have confronted him. Through his frosty window, I saw that he was laughing, too.

We waved at each other and he continued on his way.