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The Long Way Home 11.25.2022--the Medical Bills

My sister tells me that in her medical records from when she was a wee one it was noted that “the mother is a hypochondriac.” My sister always “corrects” my memory of our family from those days. Yet she didn’t disagree when I said that our mother, who lived to be almost ninety, enjoyed ill health for a very long time. Even when we were young. She was a great caregiver for family members who faced health issues. Our house was the place to be when preparing for or recovering from hospital stays and for the family to gather for tears and laughter during those visits. She also took great care of us kids. She was a Florence Nightengale when I had Mononucleosis in the fourth grade and was quarantined for six weeks. The tutor my school sent encouraged Mom to get me to read-- and let me read anything I wanted. Comic books to Hardy Boys and the biographies of sports heroes were on the list. That’s when I picked up a lifelong reading habit. When she didn’t have others to care for, Mom would find

Grand Marais Poet Captures the Minds of Readers Young and Old

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Ron Engler of Grand Marais, who writes under the pen name Christopher Eng, wrote a book of poetry titled “The Old Man’s Poet.” It was published last year by Dorrance Publishing. His second book of poems is currently in production at the publisher. Engler is a vigorous 82-year-old veteran born in St. Paul, MN. He served eight years in the US Navy. Next, he served with the US Marines, spending 13 years in Vietnam and then13 years in Japan. Before settling in Grand Marais in 2016, Engler traveled for 15 years throughout the western United States. This book is the culmination of his observations during those travels and visits here on the North Shore. Engler received his BS degree at West Texas State in Canyon, TX, and an MS degree from Baylor University in Waco, TX. “I was told by my professors back then that I could write poetry,” Engler said. “I made a couple of attempts but not really seriously until I was traveling.” Engler shared some of his poetry with someone at the Grand Marais Li

The Long Way Home 11.18.2022

At family gatherings when we were just a young couple, barely into our twenties, with two blonde-haired pixies (there was more to come), we attended family gatherings during the holidays that sometimes included Aunt Betty. Betty had a hard life, including poor health. She also had a nasally voice that grated on me. Every time, she would greet me she’d add a comment, especially after seeing the girls, “You’re so lucky.” Back then I was a hard-working and semi-intelligent young man who did a passable job providing housing, food, and love to my family. I, and my unfortunate ego, deeply resented the idea that I was just lucky.  Now that I’m officially an old man, and can reflect on a long life with humility and gratitude, I have to admit that I shouldn’t have been peeved at dear Aunt Betty--or most of the other folks who rubbed me wrong with their conclusions when humility still eluded me.  In his book, The Luck Factor, Professor Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertfordshire, England

The Long Way Home 11.11.22

By now the election results should be final in most contests. If you’re happy or not with the results, let’s agree that democracy as we’ve created it is a powerful governing system. It’s been another campaign season where people are cruel to each other, sneezing out lies like they are the coronavirus.  People might be more interested in elections and governing if this weren’t true. Still, those in charge of the system make the most money when they turn people off to the process, getting them to vote against people and policies (or not at all) rather than voting for someone or something. We all give in to nostalgia for simpler days, when people didn’t seem to despise each other over policy disagreements and elections. Those days didn’t exist. I recently found a column I wrote in July of 1997, 25 years ago, about arguing and compromise. Spurring the column was a guest commentary by a local Real Estate Broker about the affordable housing shortage and how arguing among citizens needed to s

The Long Way Home 11.04.22

Early in my mid-life career change to newspaper publishing, I learned a valuable lesson--always spell a person’s name correctly.  After getting a nasty phone call or two, or maybe even a letter that gave off a little heat, I made it a priority that we check for the correct spelling of the name of anyone mentioned in a story or column and for sure the caption on pictures. Sometimes we’d miss. It’s true that other errors bring a response. In one edition we had a photo that Jon Kettunen had taken of a few geese on the harbor shore in Grand Marais. The caption we wrote was something like, “Canadian Geese on the harbor.” Turns out they were Canada Geese, not Canadian as a couple of astute readers pointed out. I thought they might have been down from Ontario which would have made the caption correct. Back to names.  A rather gruesome photo of an old man (me) shaking hands with his One Small Step partner in front of the radio station WTIP was published recently. The caption on the photo missp

Federal and State Funding Resources for North Shore Home Buyers

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The Cook County Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) has published links on its website to a number of resources for homeowners and home buyers in the Arrowhead region.  The HRA, which began earlier this year, has been working on identifying all of the current and future housing needs in Cook County. The county has been dealing with affordable housing issues for the last several decades. Among the resources listed on its website are links to the Rural Development (RD) agency of the  U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA). The RD offers several programs to provide homeownership opportunities to rural Americans, and home renovation and repair programs along with rental assistance programs for seniors, the disabled, and low-income rural residents. The RD homeownership programs feature the so-called Sect. 502 loans. There is a Direct Loan Program where the USDA (the government) is the lender and a Guaranteed Loan Program where a private firm is a lender and the USDA guarantees 90% of th

Empty Bowls Community Gathering is Back in Grand Marais after Pandemic Shutdown

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Empty Bowls Cook County is hosting its simple soup lunch and dinner fundraiser on Thursday, November 17th at St. John’s Catholic Church in Grand Marais. Lunch will be served from 11 am to 1 pm with dinner from 5 pm to 7 pm. Meals consist of a bowl of soup provided by local restaurants and accompanied by bread, water, and coffee. The group wants people to realize that for some people in Cook County, this meal may be all they normally have to eat in a day. The donation for a bowl of soup is $8, $12 if you are consuming two. Kids will eat for free. In addition to the meals, there will be a bake sale. The Grand Marais Art Colony will be on-hand with bowls crafted by local artists that will be on sale. Folks who may have Art Colony bowls at home from previous Empty Bowls fundraisers that they no longer want may bring those in to donate for resale. Started in 2006 with the Grand Marais Art Colony, Empty Bowls is a local non-profit battling food insecurity in Cook County by publicizing the is

The Long Way Home 10.28.22

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MEA weekend went out with summer-like temperatures and thunderstorms Sunday night. You could say it, and the 2022 summer tourist season, went out with a bang. Business owners that cater to the tourism crowd are breathing a sigh of relief--I think. The pressures of a steady onslaught of customers while coping with staffing shortages seem immense. As much as they profess to love it, the ones I’ve seen over the last week or two seem a bit weary. I talked to a visitor here in Grand Marais on the Saturday of Moose Madness. He marveled at the crowds, and the lines extending out the door and down the block from various food and retail establishments. Evidently, he had a bit of an entrepreneurial spirit as he said, “What I see is an opportunity for new businesses.”  I didn’t suggest he visit again in a month. Why spoil the vibe? I had a brief conversation with another visitor, the same day. She was lamenting the staffing shortages at businesses along the shore. (It’s a nationwide problem, but