Thursday, September 30, 2010

Rosemaling Journey

When I retired from the City of Sioux Falls in October 2008, I knew that I wanted to do something that was entirely outside of my comfort zone.  I have always had an interest in art but never had the time to pursue what I thought was a frivolous adventure when I needed to work to support my son and myself. 

I come from a strong background of Norwegians and Swedes.  My Father's Mother and Father both immigrated from Norway when they were in the teens. My grandfather took the name of his hometown in Norway, "Holsen", as his last name when he came through Ellis Island. My Mother's Father immigrated from Sweden and married a full blooded Norwegian from Fargo.  Although I didn't embrace my Scandinavian heritage as a youth, it became a stronger influence in my later years.  My Dad spoke often of his earlier years growing up in an immigrant family environment and at 92 years old, still can speak Norwegian very well.  My niece Shelby has fully embraced the Scandinavian heritage by opening up her own Scandinavian store called Holsen Hus in downtown Sioux Falls. She has also become our family genealogist. What better way to embrace my heritage than to take up rosemaling. 

There are many styles of rosemaling but I chose the form of rosepainting known as Telemark, which thrived from 1750 to 1850 and is perhaps the most recognizable to the casual observer.  The great thing about my new found passion is that, after two years, I am beginning to establish a little bit of individuality into my works. Make no mistake about it, I am still a beginner. 

I started my journey by signing up for a beginners class at the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah, Iowa in August 2009. The class was taught by a well known and recognized gold medalist who was schooled in Norway.  There were nine of us in the class and they were from Maryland, Arizona, Illinois, Minnesota and Iowa.  I quickly realized that this journey was taking me where I had never been before.  When the instructor started a lesson on how to mix acrylic paints to develop your own palette, I thought I had lost my mind and that I couldn't do. I thought all you had to do what squirt paint out of a tube and be done with it.  

I have stuck with it, though.  I set up my painting studio in the basement of Shelby's store, much to her gracious support and the rest is history.  I have painted plates for family and friends as a beginning venture and have started to sell a variety of pieces in the store.  In July this year, I signed up for two more classes at the Vesterheim and spent six days in July painting non-stop for 9 hours each day.  I have learned so much and have come to enjoy the solitude of painting and creating pieces I hope others will enjoy for a lifetime and beyond.  If I could just find someone who could sand, seal and paint the background pieces and I could just focus on actually creating the patterns, I would be happy.  But, alas, that is an integral part of the rosemaling experience. 

The pictures I have posted are some examples of my works. I hope you enjoy looking at them as much as I have enjoyed painted them.

Monday, September 27, 2010

City Council Staff

The City Council seems to be intent on building an empire. I can remember when the City Council thought 3 staff positions were too many positions. Now the Council has a Director/City Clerk, 3 Assistant City Clerks, a Chief Auditor, and 2 staff Auditors. Recently they voted to add a Budget Analyst to their growing staff. No money was appropriated for this position, however, when the budget was adopted. I guess the idea is to steal a position and funding from the Administration. The City Charter states the administration, staff and personnel are under the authority of the Mayor.  The money should be appropriated from the reserve fund, not from the Mayor's budget. I get their need to understand the budget. It is complicated. However, they already have huge resources available to them.  The Finance Department has quite a staff of Budget Analysts, Accountants, and financial managers who work with and manage the city budget.  Their own Chief Auditor is a CPA and actually came from the Finance Department. This action is a duplication of staff and a waste of taxpayer dollars. I don't understand this age old problem of city councilors who do not use the resources of the city administration to better understnd city budgets and operations.  Why, they have even talked about getting their own City Attorney.  That subject, however, needs to be a whole separate blog entry.  This is not State government where we need to have complete separate branches of government and duplication of services.  There is no need to mirror the Legislative Council. Councils meet weekly, both formally and informally and have easy access to city staff to get information. They are not like State legislators who meet for two months out of the year and are scattered all over the state.  A separate Budget Analyst for the Council is a waste of money at a time when money is tight and city needs for infastructure improvements and just maintaining program service levels are high.  Priorities make for good governance.  This new council position doesn't meet the priority test in these economically challenged times.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Congresswoman Herseth Sandlin Sighting

I was at the Augustana Vikings football game yesterday and ran into Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin.  It brought back a very memorable encounter with her back in 2008.  My niece Shelby Nelson and I were on our way to Norway in June 2008.  We had finally landed in Oslo, Norway and even though we had been traveling for almost 24 hours we decided to venture out in the city after checking into our hotel.  We come to Parliament and there was a big labor demonstration going on in the park.  We take pictures of Parliament and continued on our walk, thinking we want to walk to the Royal Palace.  It is a long ways off and we are very tired so we settle for a long shot of the building. We head off to the National Gallery.  Shelby wants to see the original paintings of the prints she has in her store, Holsen Hus.  There are magnificent paintings in this Gallery. We head back towards the Parliament and the demonstration, trying to decide where to get something to eat before heading back to our hotel. Shelby says to me that I need to look at these three people who she thinks look very familiar but she can’t place them.  It is Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin, her father Lars Herseth and his wife. They were walking away and I hollered out “Congresswoman Herseth-Sandlin.”  They looked backed and I shouted that we were from Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  She just hooted.  I went up and introduced myself and Shelby.  She was so very gracious.  She said they had just arrived in Oslo as well and that she was being given the Norwegian American Heritage Award on Tuesday at Parliament.  She said that she brought her father and step-mother along as a Father’s Day gift.  We talked about what a small world it was and she asked if we had a camera so we could take a picture.  Her step mother took a picture of us in front of Parliament and she asked that I send the pictures to her.  We had so much fun talking to her.  She was a very genuine and warm person.  Shelby and I were just kind of in shock and laughed to ourselves on what a good fortune it was to run into her at the beginning of our trip.  I reminded Stephanie of that encounter in Oslo and there was that familiar smile and genuine laughter we remembered back in Oslo.  She asked Shelby if she was the one who posted the picture on her website and Shelby said yes.  Another chance encounter with a very important person to South Dakota.  I told her South Dakota needed her and that it was important that she wins in November.  Go Stephanie Go, Win Stephanie Win!

Friday, September 24, 2010

City Directors

I was a Director for the City of Sioux Falls for over 23 years.  I worked for 5 Mayors, each with their own styles of management and agendas. As an appointed official I served at the pleasure of the Mayor.  Those past Mayors afforded each director the time to demonstrate their skills and abilities to serve the new administration.  Some directors just didn't "fit" and were told that and were given a timeline in which to find other employment before their appointive service was terminated.  That was a good professional policy.  Afterall, these were career professionals, not political junkies.  Mayor Huether has started something at the Director level that has been feared for a long time with this form of government.  That is, changing the appointive director positions from career professionals to political patronage appointments.  This is apparent by his firing of Directors Hall, Bartunek, and Buseman and appointing either  friends or  political cronies. Two chose to exercise their bumping rights. The other one, when indicating the desire to retire, didn't even get the professional courtesy to leave gracefully and respectfully. This action happened right out of the chute so it appears he had it planned before being sworn in. Clearly, city ordinance provides for the authority to appoint and no director should have any doubt that they are there only by the grace of the Mayor.  The appointive level director team is extremely important to the success of any Mayor.  Mayors need to surround themselves with senior executives that will work to achieve their goals and objectives. How does a new mayor know who will work or not work unless he/she takes time to legitimately evaluate those career professionals. Directors have no political agendas. They are there to work for the betterment of the community and they know it is there duty to serve the elected officials.  The constant threat that more changes were and are forth coming is a poor management trait. The Administration is the backbone of city government which provides stability against the backdrop of changing elected officials.  Employees look for stability. Career professionals at the appointive level provide that stability, but more importantly, provide the wealth of knowledge and experience in which a newbie Mayor needs coming into a brand new and foreign environment.  The appointive director level positions should not be used to pay back friends and political contributors or campaign workers. I fear change is in the wind.


Boy, we are a fickle lot.  Favre could do no wrong last year.  He was the knight coming in to save the day. After two losses this season, the paper and the public, it seems, views him as an old man, a has-been. One day you are loved, the next day you are tossed aside.  Kind of like politics.  There is an intolerance in this country that is worrisome, I think.  We are quick to judge.  We are quick to criticize.  We are in it for the fast solutions and there is no room for error. It is our way or the highway.  Sometimes I can see myself in these comments and it is not a pretty picture.  I wish others would look in the mirror and recognize that fickle finger wagging at them, as well.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


My grandson Finn turned 4 years old last month. He has brought so much joy to my life. He has also provided me with some quips that have made my heart sing. Here are a few Finnisms spoken this past year.

Finn washes his hands and says, "Clean and dry Daddy."

"Look me in the eyes (as he points two of his fingers towards his eyes). I am not happy."

Grandma Jen took Finn to the doctor because he was sick. When the doctor finished examining him Finn said, "Thank you doctor for making me well."

Finn was told he could watch SpongeBob until Noon. Then Mommy and Daddy were going to watch the Minnesota Vikings. Finn said, "I don't think that is a good idea."

Finn was spending the night with Grandma Jen.  He told me to lay down next to him when it was bedtime. He moved over so his face was right next to mine and said, "I need to lay close to you, put your arm around me."

Finn went to the doctor and when the doctor asked him if he hurt anywhere, Finn rubbed his stomach and said his brain hurt.

"Daddy lives at work, Mommy lives at work, I live at daycare."

Finn and I are in the backyard and he sees a plane overhead. I said I wonder where that plane is going. He says, "It's going to the airport, Grandma."

Finn gets into his toy car on the patio and says he is going on a date.  When I ask him who his date is, he says, "It's Jessica."

After 3 days of going through separation anxiety when I took him to his first stint of Bible School, he says, " I am not a big boy and I am not going to Bible School."

Finn got done with his bath and I dried and combed his hair.  He took the mirror out of the drawer and looked at himself and said, "Cool looking man."

Finn got a donkey watch from his McDonald's Happy Meal.  When I asked him what time it was he told me it was 40 to 10.

We were watching the movie, Where the Wild Things Are.  When the movie was done, Finn looked at me and said that Carol will be very sad that the boy is leaving. Carol was the big monster who befriended Max.  The monsters gave this mournful growl as Max floated away.  When I was leaving his house to go home, Finn was in the bathroom.  All of a sudden I heard this mournful growl coming out of the bathroom. 

We were going to the doctor (again) because he had strep throat (again). At the last minute he said he had to poop.  When I told him he needed to hurry or we would be late, he said, "Grandma, you need to be patient."

Out of the mouth of Finn at 3 years old.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Request for Documents Denied

I read in the paper today that the Mayor and his staff presented the City Council with a PowerPoint detailing draft notes and recommendations along with a drawing depicting the Events Center attached to the Convention Center. Public Works Director Cotter states the documents were used as a deliberative process with the Council members. I get it, these documents, notes, and drawings were intended for consideration and discussion. But, why not own up to what you developed for discussion. This sure sounds like a detailed proposal for achieving an Event Center, not just something to think about in the future. A vision, a plan, whatever! Quit playing semantics with the public and own up to the fact that you want it at the Arena/Convention Center site. The proof is in your PowerPoint. I see now why Rolfing was so confused at the Council meeting last Monday. He said he thought there was only one location being discussed and now he was getting a different message from the Mayor. When city officials don't stand on their convictions and actions, they create suspicion and distrust. Secrecy and lack of transparency will kill this very important public project. If you are confident that you have a good plan, let the public in on it. The longer you withhold information, the opposition becomes stronger. We need leadership now.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Two Dollar Room Tax

What is it about some Sioux Falls citizens who can't seem to see the forest for the trees? These naysayers are overtaking what is supposed to be a progressive city. The latest small thinkers, supposedly encouraged by Minnehaha County Treasurer Pam Nelson, wants to put together petitions to take out the room tax. SIGH! I suppose there are 4800 people out there who don't have clue about economics.I am still scratching my head over Democrat Pam Nelson's comment in which she challenges the Tea Partiers to drive the petition to refer the tax to a vote. She must have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed again and had an identity crisis. The objective of this room tax is to provide working revenue to the Convention and Visitors Bureau to woo visitors and conventions To Sioux Falls. Let me get this straight? People will pay $2 a night if they stay in a Sioux Falls hotel larger than 40 rooms. The upside is that the money will provide the resources to bring millions of sales tax revenue to this city. Brush those tree limbs out of your eyes, people! The CVB books events, activities, and conventions to fill hotel rooms. Those visitors shop at the Mall and Downtown, buy gas and eat in our restaurants. The opponents say local residents will end up paying a significant amount of the tax. How do you figure that oh wise ones? Like the guy who goes to a local hotel to swim one weekend in the Winter? Yea, all of us locals are swarming to the local hotels for a little R & R to escape from the comfort of our own homes. Even Rapid City was smart enough to capture more revenue through a room tax 4 years ago. The people against this must never venture outside the city limits. I applaud Councilor Entenmen for providing the leadership and kudos to the rest of the City Council for their vision in supporting this revenue generating legislation. The rest of you, get your blinders off and try to see the possibility of a revenue lined road beyond the forest.

Monday, September 20, 2010

My Very Own Grocery Man

Who would know that one of my favorite people is the Schwan delivery man? My man Jim is my personal food lifeline to the freezer. Now if I could just get him to carry milk, eggs and butter, pop and a little Jack I would be oh so happy. I can't make peanut butter chocolate chip cookies any better than what comes out of a schwan box from the freezer. Those puppies barely make it to the cookie jar before they leap into my mouth. Jim from Schwans is my new best friend.

Special Privileges

With all the items on the Mayor and his Directors' plates, what do they do to improve efficiency in city government? The new Economic czar, along with his boss, develop an Executive Order to give out a special perk in the form of a free parking pass for themselves. The mayor has his own parking space in City Hall, so does the Economic Czar. The Councilors can park in the city lot right next to the Carnegie Town Hall. The last I looked, both City Hall and Carnegie Town Hall were smack dab in the center of Downtown. Instead of driving your cars to Minerva's or other places of business downtown, maybe you should walk so you can breathe the air the public breathes. This is such a poor use of authority and indicates a total lack of common sense. Get back to your offices and work on some important priorities like turning that Event Center "vision" into a concrete plan.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Mayor Promises to the Good Folks of Sioux Falls.

Let's see - the mayor says he is going to do something about airline competition to get lower airfare rates in Sioux Falls. Mmmm, we have an Airport Authority which is a separate governing entity and which the City has no authority or control. He is going to build an Events Center to be opened by 2014. Mmmm, last week he convinced 5 City Councilors to approve his spending of $500,000 over the next 2 years on his "vision." No plan, just a vision. He even stated publicly that there was no plan. Mmmm? Now he is going to tackle the SAM route system. SAM, although a necessity, is a big money pit in the budget. Making changes to SAM fixed routes requires money, money, money and making some hard decisions about Paratransit which sucks the money life out of the whole transit budget. He is like a one man super hero. How did the City manage before he came to save the day? I just wish there were two of him. Mayor, since you seem so intent on solving matters you really have little or no authority over, how about tackling events at the Pavilion? I would really like to see the Broadway play, Jersey Boys and how about a Bon Jovi concert? What he is good at is talking. I think he loves the sound of his own voice and exhibits a grandiose view of his own talents. Personally, I could use a little less talk and a lot more action.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Crazy Women in Politics

Where are the smart, articulate, sane women in politics? Right now, it seems all we hear about is Palin and the Palin look-a-likes or wannabees. Palin threw her constituency aside for money and fame. For the life of me, I do not understand this over the top fascination people have with her. I listen to her and I am so uncomfortable. It is like fingers raked over a blackboard. She is like a false prophet. Watch her mannerisms and speech patterns; gives me the creeps. Then there is the new Republican Primary winner, Christine O'Donnell. Even the Republicans are quaking over that upset. There is so much background press on her that you have to wonder where all those people parked their brains when they went into the voting booth and pulled the lever for her. I think the Republicans should kick the Tea Party fringe out of the party. The Tea Party needs to stand on their own wobbly legs. This is a crazy time in politics. People are upset with incumbents in both parties and their answer is Tea Party candidates? If these people actually get into Congress, this country is in deep trouble. A bunch of goof balls who play to people's anger and dissatisfaction. Makes me wonder who they really are and what they actually believe in. All I see is a big flashing sign saying FALSE.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Politically who am I?

I have had a political identity crisis for a long time. When I was young I was a Democrat, big surprise. I used to love to drive my Father nuts with my political leanings. My dear Dad is a Republican no matter what or who is running. He has been a Republican his entire life, young and old. My Mother voted the way Dad wanted her to vote, pure and simple. I lived in Virginia and would call him long distance just to razz him about Nixon. Of course, he got me back when I voted for McGovern. As I got older and I moved to SD, I became a Republican. Big surprise, since I worked for government and practically every living being in SD was Republican. It was called survival instinct. I hate to admit it but I voted for Bush. I had high hopes. What was I thinking? I was thinking I was just so tired of the Clinton drama and I needed a fresh perspective. I lost my Republican ways when the Republicans started to lose their way. What has become of the Republican party when one can feel so disenfranchised because one doesn't follow the leanings of the Right? When did the Republican Party become the "Right" Party? When you become "old" people naturally think you are Republican, I don't know why. I changed my registration to Democrat although I really wear the cloth of an Independent. I am comfortable with the fact that I use my mind and my choices independently and am not locked into this partisan thinking that the only way is "my party way." The demonizing of the "other party" whichever party it is, has got to stop. Mean politics just mean poor government. Take a look at Congress. What happened to working for the party of "the people?"


Kristi Noem says a vote for her means a return to a voice for South Dakota. What planet is she on? Stephanie Herseth Sandlin has been an independent voice for South Dakota from day one. She has been so indepepent that sometimes SD Democrats have questioned her loyalty to the party. She leads the Blue Dogs in Congress. Noem thinks she can ride Palin's coattails to election. Let's see, a lawyer versus a high school graduate; a woman who has worked tirelessly for SD versus a woman who won't pay her traffic tickets which went to warrants. Noem is beginning to sound like Christine O'Donnell. Heaven help us if Noem beats Herseth Sandlin. Yard sign goes up Saturday.

A Confusing Adjustment

I am taking care of my grandson for the next 10 days because he had his tonsils and adenoids out this past Monday. It is interesting how accustomed I have become to my lazy and cozy mornings since retiring almost 2 years ago. Going to bed late, sleeping in late, a cup of coffee with my morning paper is like my very own warm blanket. My Nurse Betty duties require me to be up, showered and dressed and over to my son's house by 7:30 am. I told myself on the drive over this morning that I need to look at it as if I was going to work. After all, I did it for over 40 years. What is different however, is that I am retired. My whole mindset has been going through a turbulent adjustment since retiring. Who am I now? I loved working, I miss it and the collegues I worked with but I love this new phase of retirement too. For the first time in my life, I am actually in control of how spend each and every hour of the day. It is pretty powerful stuff. I am finding that when demands are made on my time, I feel a rebellion of sorts rising up within me. A call yesterday, inquiring whether I would be interested in doing some HR work for a private company in town got my professional juices pumping through my veins. I said yes and am going to be meeting with the grand poohbas to discuss what they want me to do. Then last night I said to myself -self, what on earth are you doing? The call was like a lifeline to my past. The problem is that I am not sure my professional life needs resuscitating. like I said, a most confusing adjustment.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Beginning

Well, I finally decided to create my own blog. This is definitely a work in progress so if anyone reads my musings, bear with me. I haven't really decided if my musings are going to be personal, political or just ordinarily boring. Like I said, a new beginning.