Saving lives is in their blood: Three generations donate blood

Back in 2012, I was travelling with one of my daughters to Oregon to see my dad. As I have mentioned elsewhere, my dad has long been a blood donor. Kelsey was interested in starting, so this happened. Story from TV station KVAL in Eugene.

John Bredesen, his son John Jr. and granddaughter Kelsey, all stopped by Lane Community College for the blood drive.

Saving lives is in their blood: Three generations donate | KVAL

Phoenix Residence: My sister is now on the Board of Directors!

My younger sister lives in a group home operated by Phoenix Residences. The staff do an awesome job in a challenging financial situation. My older sister** was recently elected to the Phoenix Board of Directors. I think her analytic and communication skills, along with her compassion, will be a great addition. Congrats Sis!

** Special Note: she is indeed my older sister as she is the older of my two sisters. She is, however, definitely younger than me. And hates this joke.

Phoenix Residence, Inc. is committed to developing person-centered, quality living experiences for individuals with disabilities.

The Christmas Model Train

The Christmas tree train went up today. Like every year.

I remember having a model train when I was a kid. The old 3-rail O scale. It had a diesel engine and some really cool cars. Ok, John, stop with the description and search the internet for it…bingo — found it on my first search FTW. Here it is. You can see each of the cars in the first 30 seconds. Note the starting image of the video isn’t the train I had.

I played with that train for hours. The submarine was driven by a submarine and could actually go in the bath tub. The helicopter could not fly. Firing the missiles was fun, but not reliable. And nothing, you know, exploded when the missiles hit so that was anticlimactic.

As I got older, I picked up some HO scale track and trains. The track was touchier as we didn’t build a permanent setup. I enjoyed changing things each time I put it up. The HO train never felt like a Christmas train — that needed to be something bigger.

The Christmas train started with my first father-in-law. He had been a model train guy since he was a child and always had a train under the tree. On their first birthday, each of my kids got a O scale Lionel set from Grandma and Grandpa. The sets are still on the garage, eventually to make it to their houses when the time is right.

Each Christmas, we would rotate through the kid’s train sets, trying to give them equal time. A few years ago, my son worked at the seasonal Lionel Train store at a local mall. He gifted us a new train set and that is what you see in the first photo.

A model train is a long way from the spiritual meaning of Christmas. Nevertheless, it is a part of my Christmas tree decorating.


Today is Thanksgiving, a time to be thankful. 

I am very thankful for my health. Knock on wood, I have dodged severe health issues. 

I am very thankful for my family. The household I grew up in had love and books, both of which, through zero effort on my part, set me on a good path in life. My kids and stepkids are awesome adults. My grandgoobers make me smile. 

I am very thankful for my job. My particular career interests have aligned with what society is willing to pay for. My coworkers care about their jobs, work hard, and have fun.

I am very thankful for my wife. We found each other when we were both lost and struggling. She is my anchor and support which allows me to take chances in the world and always have a safe place to come home to.  

I am extremely fortunate to be where I am in life. Much of it is not of my doing. Every day is a day to be thankful — that is something I’ll have to work on.

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

Rainier: Remembering a great dog

In 1999, our family moved back from Seattle, WA to St. Paul, MN. Shortly after arriving, we got a dog. A black lab/springer spaniel mix that we named Rainier. In 2012, Rainier passed away. He was a great dog. I wrote a short piece when he died.

A quick note about the photo. The original photo had lots of people standing around Rainier. I wanted a good photo to remember him but I have zero Photoshop skills. Fortunately, my nephew, Spencer, does. I sent him the file with no guidance. He came up with the sky background idea and did the work. It turned out awesome and has been my avatar ever since.

A Very Good Friday

It was a Good Friday. Both literally and figuratively. I was sure about the literal part as we were heading up North for Easter, and it was Friday, so, you know, Good Friday. The figurative part was going to depend on whether I could pull it off.

Joyce and I had been dating for a year. From the beginning, it was clear that there was a strong connection. We both had messed up our first marriages so we had some experience with not so good connections.

I had realized that this was the woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. A heart the size of an ocean, competent in everything she tries, and, well, lets just say that other things were awesome also.

Continue reading “A Very Good Friday”

Laugh lines by age 40

Saw an ad on TV the other day for wrinkle removal. They called them crow’s feet or laugh lines.

I’m not going to get into the larger women, appearance, society conversation as there are better posts by smarter people covering that topic.

What I want to do is write in defense of laugh lines.

First, the name “laugh lines” actually indicate a significant cause: laughing. I think this is a good thing. Someone who laughs more is going to have laugh lines. Someone with laugh lines probably has spent a lot of their life smiling. Yes, they can be caused by squinting, but unless you are Clint Eastwood or never got the glasses you should have had, chances are they are caused by smiling and laughing. I also rule out psychopaths like the Joker for obvious reasons.

I have kids and that brings me to my second point. How do I know if I have been a good parent? Obviously, there is no test, no true/false checklist to answer that question. Realizing that there are lots of valid definitions of good parenting and lots of opinions, I humbly submit that someone having laugh lines by age 40 is part of my definition. A person that has smiled enough to earn them, is a person that has a decent chance of being in a good place.

My kids are not 40 yet but they seem on their way to earning laugh lines.

I hope when they get them, they don’t view them as a defect or something to fix. I hope they view them as a signal to the world that smiling and laughing is a regular part of who they are.

Childhood Books

Amazon threw a recommendation at me the other day: The Little House. It got me thinking about other books from my childhood. I bought most of them when my kids came along and read them many times all over again. Some of them are still on the shelves down in the basement.

In no particular order:

  • Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel (Virginia Lee Burton)
    • There is something about the underdog. As a kid, I didn’t really understand the idea of technology replacements and such. But I knew that it was a sad thing that was happening. Getting one final victory was very satisfying. As an adult, the ending is a tiny bit bothersome (a mobile anthropomorphic machine stuck in a basement?) but as a kid I thought it was a cool and clever ending. Still do.
  • The Snowy Day (Ezra Jack Keats)
    • I grew up in Wisconsin (US upper midwest) with serious winters. I did all the things in the story and liked reading about it. I remember the line “and he thought and thought and thought about them” — that stuck with me. The snowball in the pocket was exactly the kind of thing I did as a kid.
  • Katy and the Big Snow (Virginia Lee Burton)
    • The map of Geoppolis was cool to look at and think about. Reading how Katie came in and saved everyone. She worked her way through town and the story explains each stop.
  • Caps For Sale (Esphyr Slobodkina)
    • A man with a stack of caps on his head. The color pattern of the caps was repeated and I remember saying the colors over and over again. But the monkeys made the book. “Tsz! Tsz! Tsz!” said the monkeys. Clever ending too.
  • The Little Engine That Could (Watty Piper & Loren Long)
    • Classic.
  • Go Dog Go (P.D. Eastman)
    • This one was fun. Lot of things going on. You have the Dog Races. You have the Dogs in the trees. And you have the hats. “Do you like my hat?” “I do! I do like your hat!”

Beer Can Collecting

This is a picture from the little history display at the Debuque Star Brewery. It brought back memories.

I was a beer can collector in my early teens. It was fun and since I had no clue what beer was like, was the closest I could get. My friends and I would check out the trash cans down by Menomonie Park on Saturday or explore trash dumps on the sides of roads.

Astounding that I never got tetanus.

My parents tolerated it as long as I cleaned them out so my room wouldn’t smell like beer. I came home once with some acid to clean the rust of the cans…that didn’t go over well.

I recognized a few of these but not very many. At the beginning, I would look for any little change in the printing and consider it a new can. That quickly spiraled out of control.

My collection had cone tops, Billy Beer, Chief Oshkosh, and the rare (at least in eastern Wisconsin) Schell’s cans with the wildlife on them.

Don’t remember what happened to the collection. I presume that my parents disappeared the collection at some point when I wasn’t interested in it. That would have been smart of them. I don’t think I sold them, that would have been smart of me.

What is yet to pass…

Nothing like a graphical representation of every day of your life to put things in perspective…

It turns out that when I graduated from high school, I had already used up 93% of my in-person parent time. I’m now enjoying the last 5% of that time. We’re in the tail end.

It’s a similar story with my two sisters. After living in a house with them for 10 and 13 years respectively, I now live across the country from both of them and spend maybe 15 days with each of them a year. Hopefully, that leaves us with about 15% of our total hangout time left.

Tim Urban, Dec 11, 2015. The Tail End [Blog Post]. Retrieved from

Sometimes a little math can illuminate life, or what is left in life, in “oh wow” ways. 

Home-made Marshmallows

My sister makes marshmallows for Christmas. Toasted coconut for me. Other lesser flavors for other people. I eat them slowly throughout the year.

Leave a bag of store bought marshmallows on your shelf unopened for a month and you can pound nails with them. Leave my sister’s marshmallows in the cellophane bag tied with a ribbon that she gave me, and they will stay soft all year long… well at least until I eat the last one around October.

Built To Last (or How My Dad built something electronic that has lasted for 300,000 hours and still is running)

My dad (John Bredesen Sr.) had a career where he, among other things, built radio and television stations. The technical stuff. Transmitters and studios and really tall antenna. Took me about 3/4 of the way up one of his towers…1200 ft…gave me some serious willies. And he climbed them. Voluntarily. With safety harness, but still. On purpose. Not a gene that he passed on to me. Continue reading “Built To Last (or How My Dad built something electronic that has lasted for 300,000 hours and still is running)”