The Top 5 Meanders of 2021

Thank you, dear readers, for meandering around with me again this past year. Although our travels and musings were not as far-flung as in the past, we tried to make the best of things despite Covid. We narrowly escaped being infected just recently and hope you have remained healthy.

Here are the five top posts from this year, along with news about an exciting project I have in the works.

But first – a couple more numbers: views almost doubled again this year, with 47,600. My blog has about 700 followers.

An image of one of my favorite commercials, courtesy of Progressive Insurance.

The #1 new post this year was “A Keen Grasp of the Obvious.” I wrote it in homage to the Progressive Insurance commercials that feature Dr. Rick,” a pseudo-therapist who tries to ensure his customers (patients) don’t turn into their parents once they become homeowners (a.k.a. parentomorphosis). The commercials earlier this year reminded me of a saying one of my high school friends used to espouse. Several more commercials in the series have aired since then, and I still like them all! Other people must like them too, if they are finding my blog. If I had a second chance at a career, I’d like to work at whatever agency produced these ads.

#2: “A Review of the Lungplus Device.” This gadget is distributed by a Duluth-area woman. It’s a mouth-worn humidity and heat exchanger you can use while cross-country skiing to make your lungs happier. Yes, it works, and yes, it makes you look like a dork. But it’s worth it to have happy lungs.

#3: “Letting go of the Past.” The elevatorized Baby Butler was a combination highchair, play table, and bed for young children that was manufactured in the 1950s and 60s. I survived being placed in the contraption as a baby and in this post, describe the process of letting go of it.

#4: “A Time for Photography: Madeline Island.” This was about a life-changing photography class I took at the Madeline Island School for the Arts on a small island in Lake Superior. It features some of my favorite photos from the trip. Because I took the class for work, and I work for a public university funded by taxpayers, the photos are available for reuse. BUT, just a reminder that photos appearing in my blog that have my signature on them are ones I took on my own time with my own equipment and are not for reuse without permission.

#5: “The Path of Totality.” One of my short stories based on the 2017 eclipse was printed in a local literary journal. This post is about how I developed the story idea and what I hope to do with the collection of which it is a part. I’m still looking for an agent for this collection, hint, hint. Although I’m not having much luck with that.

Since you’ve read down this far, I have news to impart. During a bout of insomnia in the wee hours of the morning about a month ago, I got the idea to create a northern Minnesota memoir collection of the “best” stories from my blog over these past eight years. I thought “Meander North” would make a good title. I’d arrange the stories by season, plus add a couple of other miscellaneous chapters.

I developed a book proposal and sent it out to a couple of well-known Minnesota publishing houses. I heard back from one, and they want to publish it! EEEEEeeeee!

In 2022, I’ll be polishing up a bunch of these posts and they’ll be coming out in a book. I must say, I’m pretty darn excited for the new year. It’s about time one of those crazy insomnia ideas paid off.

A Review of the Lungplus Device

The first time I cross-country ski each year, my lungs revolt in the form of tightness while skiing and coughing afterwards. I have allergies and have had pneumonia a couple times in the past. I think my lungs just don’t like the stress of breathing in all that cold air while I am working hard skiing. I guess you could call it exercise asthma, but does it count as asthma if it only happens once per year?

This year, among the “joys” of the pandemic (she said sarcastically), I realized that my lungs did not seem to be adjusting to cross-country skiing. I was coughing afterward every time, not just the first time. And I’ve been skiing a lot this year since the snow conditions and temps have been good.

So, it was with interest that I watched a TV news story about a local lady who is the U.S. distributor for Lungplus, a mouth-worn humidity and heat exchanger you can use while skiing to make your lungs happier.

I want happy lungs, so I ordered the Lungplus Sport ($50), which is for use with high-intensity activities like cross-country skiing.

As I took it out of the package, I was pleasantly surprised by how small it was – it had looked larger on the people using it on TV. It comes with a long piece of embroidery string that you can use to hang it around your neck, so don’t throw it away like I almost did!

The device works by trapping the heat and humidity of your breath inside an aluminum mesh as you breath out. When you breathe in, the air passes through the mesh, which is already warmed and humidified, and makes lungs happy.

I did a test-ski recently and am here to report that my lungs were about 80% happier. I still had a little tightness and coughing, but nowhere near as much as usual. Another pleasant surprise was how light and easy to use the Lungplus was. You just stick it in your mouth in the space between your lips and teeth. Yes, you look like a dork doing this, but hey, it’s worth it to breathe easy.

Excess condensation collects inside it. The Lungplus lady says the embroidery string will catch the “drool” so it doesn’t end up on your chest, or you can blow out the water or suck it in and swallow. That last suggestion grossed me out, but that’s what I ended up doing. The condensation seemed to naturally collect in my mouth, so swallowing it was really no big deal.

The string is also handy if you want to remove the device. You can just take the Lungplus out and it will hang like some space-age necklace pendant around your neck, handy for when you want to put it back in.

Besides allowing me to breathe easier, I found the Lungplus had the side benefit of discouraging conversation by passing skiers. This is handy for introverts. Nobody wants to talk to someone with a strange white gadget sticking out of their mouth.

Lungplus is easy to clean. Just rinse it with warm water or stick it in the dishwasher.

So, I’m here to say that it works! And no, I have not been paid to say this.