“Tomorrow is often the busiest day of the week.” Spanish Proverb


I’ve put off writing about procrastination. One would think that this is by design, as if to prove a particular point. While a bit of this could be true, I’ve been trying to find a “balanced approach” to this subject, oft used, oft maligned.

Little support can be found for delaying a much-needed end for the ease of a more convenient day. The Spanish proverb shows the flaw. I’ve always been a “do it now” person, so that I can maintain some neatness in my life–not burdened with the litter of uncompleted tasks. This seems to work well for the simple, well packaged tasks–those that we can get our arms around and tie up.

It is the more thorny tasks that cause pondering, and ultimately delay. I offer the delay between the time when Gwen “thought we ought to finish the basement” at 605 Badger and when it was completed. Truth to tell, our vision of timetables varied quite a bit. For her, it was a need to be fulfilled. To me it was issues of building plans, finance, conflicting corporate travel, et al.

Ultimately, I learned the wisdom of the biblical “in the fullness of time” concept. This reminds us that when all is prepared, then the desired can result. In the case of the basement project at 605 Badger, it ultimately did. I owed that to Gwen. It took approximately seven years though, and even when under way, took longer to accomplish than was my plan.

The danger of not having all plans carefully prepared and carried out, however, raises an even larger problem than the project which never sees a start. I know of someone who set out to build an addition on to his home. That was ten or twelve years ago. The uncompleted section weathers from year to year, unused and unusable. This could be one of the better examples of procrastination.

Copyright © 2017 by Susan E. Johnson
Used with permission
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Tuned To A 440

“Make peace with men and quarrel with your faults.” Russian Proverb


I’ve heard of many who would advise that I listen to the tune within me–and I have. Never am I happier than when I have a tune going through my mind–along with the imaginings of how the chords might enhance the simple melody. All of this can, and should be, done without an audible sound to the outside world.

Even when I sit down at the piano to translate these mental images to sound, the pitch–that correspondence with the rest of the organized world–does not matter as long as the piano is in tune. If not, a call to the piano tuner is required.

In all of my three score and thirteen years, only once have I seen a tuner recommend tuning to anything but A 440. That was with our old family piano which was so badly out of tune, and low, that the only solution was to tune it a half step flat. With that piano, if the world was in the key of C, I was playing in D flat in order to match up.

In music, then, in order to play together harmoniously, one must be in tune with others, not just with one’s self. Tuners have decided that the only way that this is possible is to use the universal standard of A 440.

Is it not necessary to expand this concept to other areas of our lives? While youth may only want to listen to themselves or their peers, the world demands they be in tune with the rest of the world in so many ways. Many who are more adult find it hard to accept this truth, but society ultimately says they must.

Being in tune does not take away music’s interestingess–it enhances it. We can still use chords that show originality and zest, even temporary dissonance as long as it is resolved in the final chord. What makes life interesting is putting together all of the tones of life in such a way that the world will want to “hear our tune.”

We continue to invite our friend Timothy Dixon twice a year to tune our piano. He makes no guarantee that the music thus produced will be harmonious–in fact, because of the malfunction of fingers, some will not. However, he would guarantee that if he tuned to another standard, we would have trouble playing along with the rest of the world.

Copyright © 2017 by Susan E. Johnson
Used with permission
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Travel And Travail

“One of the main troubles about going to Europe is that no one wants to hear about your trip when you get back home. Your friends and relatives are rife with jealousy and are not only sorry that you went to Europe, but deeply regret that you came back.” Art Buchwald


We’re planning another trip. We do it every year or two. Many of our friends do it more often–seeming never to unpack their suitcases. My generation, blessed with the fruits of an expanding economy and an extending life cycle, seem to always be on the go. Some treat Florida or Arizona as people used to treat a “shack up north,” but many others travel.

The topic of conversation often seems to be whether we have been on the same cruises, seen the same statues, eaten the same crepes. Some seem to always travel with the same people–friends who they know “and can trust.” Others would try to find a decent hamburger in Paris. All this leads one to ask whether the motive is learning or just playing on our terms.

My travel opportunities overseas did not start until 1963. I remember my curiosity about far away places. I wanted to share them with Gwen, and our parents wanted this enough for the two of us that they managed our kids while we were off learning about places far. They allowed us to do this once more and Gwen brought these experiences into her classrooms as she taught. Our parents could not have known what their sacrifice then allowed Gwen to experience in her lifetime; given that she would never savor retirement. How thankful I am for their sacrifice. I blush at how brash I was to suggest it to them at their age. I now realize that they were giving to the next generation what they, no doubt, would have liked to do but could not. Thus, their motivation was learning, not pleasure.

Gwen’s life, my life, and now Beulah’s life are the richer because of what we have observed as we have been allowed to travel. Our life is, perhaps, like a good soup that simmers and every so often finds a new ingredient added to make it richer.

We’re still taking pictures, and making albums of them, but we’ve given up showing pictures. Let the others search for whatever suits them. In the meantime, our next stop is China. That ought to make the soup richer.

Copyright © 2017 by Susan E. Johnson
Used with permission
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Herring And Heritage

Without a family, man, alone in the world, trembles in the cold.” Andre Maurois


Beulah and I went to a Swedish American Society meeting last Saturday. She had found the announcement in the morning’s paper–I had not. She reads the paper more thoroughly, I must admit. At any rate it seemed like a good idea. The subject for the meeting was the churches of the Swedish immigrants in Milwaukee, and the speaker was named Anderson (son meant that he was Swedish, not Norwegian).

When we got to the Lutheran church where the meeting was held, I noted the preponderance of ”white heads.” Did this mean that you have to be old before you become proud of your heritage? Well, the speaker was not allowed to read his speech until the president of the organization, properly gray, went through all the “corning events”–as though she were the featured speaker. From this I concluded that one cannot be properly proud of one’s heritage unless he/she is “organized.”

After the talk (or reading), there was a time for coffee, sweets, and talk. Beulah chose a seat across the table from an “older” couple. Would you believe it, they were Norwegian!

I went away from that church evaluating my own affection for family and heritage. I concluded that it had nothing to do with an organization to which I belonged, or even what church. It was, instead, the admirable values that I saw in my parents and their parents. It was not in the wealth of their financial holdings, or the foods that they served at special occasions, or in any ethnic dress that they might wear.

It was, however, in the traits of risk taking for a worthy goal, patience in adversity and faith that things would be better, gentleness and proud bearing, and hands clasped in prayer to a God who was a constant companion.

Upon reflection, I found that I did not have to be Swedish, or even Norwegian, in order to be proud of heritage; and it certainly had nothing to do with herring (Beulah is glad for that). It, rather, has to do with the best traits shared by all men and women, regardless of race. Therefore, I could be Polish, or Chinese, or African, or Native American, or last but not least Swedish or Norwegian. That way I don’t have to go to meetings where only “gray heads” congregate.

Copyright © 2017 by Susan E. Johnson
Used with permission
All rights reserved


Need To Know Basis

“A man should live if only to satisfy his curiosity.” Yiddish Proverb


Curiosity, at its best, has fueled the learning process. We also remember, however, from our parent’s admonition, that it “killed the cat.” And so, curiosity joins love and hate, oil and water, good and bad, as some of the many two-personality issues of life.

Truth to tell, the journey into the unknown, which we call curiosity, probably starts out without good or evil intent. It is, however, what we do with the new knowledge that we stumble across, that is important. Many of us have found some snippet of information about our families that has been kept quiet for decades, or generations. Whether the truth about a family feud, the parentage of a child, or the incarceration of a relative; these are all things that could fuel the gossip mill. On the other hand, if we find out something that can lift the cloud of suspicion that has unfairly burdened someone, we need to “let the light in.”

Churches, companies, neighborhoods, families, all have their systems for trading gossip for power. I remember the lunch room of my last employer where a popular sport was to trade the “latest scoop.” A part of this sport was to find all the people and all the places where things were ”screwed up”, and give the impression that the bearer of the news had never fouled up himself, or herself. The veracity of the news around that lunch table also left much to be desired. Speculation was a large part of the game, and hope that this circumstance would benefit the listener a part of the whole larceny.

What if our Savior had traded in this sport. What then would become of grace? How, in the court of the hereafter, could we find any restitution from our all too obvious sins of omission and commission?

Come to think of it, are not those who would mine our lives of the dirty little secrets trying to think of themselves as gods (small g intended), with the right to judge and mete out justice. That job is not open, so none of us need apply. Everyone has a need to know that.

Copyright © 2017 by Susan E. Johnson
Used with permission
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The Aha Moment

“Inspirations never go in for long engagements; they demand immediate marriage to action.” Brendan Francis


We have all had the experience of a vexing problem that seemed unsolvable as we went to bed, but whose solution was clear as we brushed our teeth the next morning. Many years ago, I read an article that suggested that we use this operation of the sub-conscious mind as a tool for solving life’s problems–that we “sleep on it.” Thus, our Creator has given us the wonderful “aha moment,” as one author has called it (or “Eureka, I have found it!”)

Many of us, addicted to a strong work ethic, may feel a little squeamish about such a gift, unworked for, that can give us reward from others. We soon get used to this concept, however, and lean back on its advantages. It is, however, the aha moments that come very slowly, or perhaps not at all that now bother me. Let me explain.

Take, for instance, the times when we, after many years, realize that the actions of parents, friends, even employers, were taken for our good, when at the moment we thought for our ruin. It has become popular to call some of these solutions “tough love.”

Or, in another way, we finally recognize the actions of parental sacrifice on our behalf, or the constant prayer of a parent or friend for a condition in our life that we would like to overlook. Such an aha time is more like the sunrise that starts with just a sliver of understanding but proceeds slowly to full sunlight. The travel from darkness to full illumination of this kind of aha is far more grand than the flash, like lightning, of a single answer received.

The sunrise of realization generally comes as we become old enough to understand, and not just receive. A son or daughter does not really understand the gifts from parents until they become parents, too. At such a time, we only begin to understand the gifts from and the wisdom of our Father God, as well.

That some will never see the sunrise of such understanding must hurt us that do, but we must try to help them.

Copyright © 2017 by Susan E. Johnson
Used with permission
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Understanding The French

When describing the Frenchmen to an American waitress, “They eat lots of bread, they talk a lot, and they are lousy lovers.” Hans Lieberherr, Nordberg European Representative


My Nordberg days included liaison with two French firms; Chantier Navals de la Ciotat and Hispano Suiza. One was a shipyard building ships powered with Nordberg designed and licensed diesel engines. The other had built the famous “Hisso” luxury automobile, military aircraft engines, and industrial gas turbines. Because of these associations, I had the pleasure, and honor, of presenting two technical papers to CIMAC, an international society of “machines of combustion.” What a good experience!

I started my French experience with the typical reactions of Americans, as well as an old Erickson myth that one of my forebears had married a French noblewoman.

Upon first dealing with these two companies, I found two things: that they were very good technically, and that they preferred to speak French. As time went on, I found that they do not invite you to their home as we Americans do, yet they can make good friends. I further found that they have a very independent mindset–something that I admire.

Having been in France last spring, I found that the French value time with family, time to talk over a dinner, and a penchant to maintain traditions. Were we Americans more like the French, I suspect that we would be less frantic, with more time for beauty of all kinds. Some days I think I could live with that. Come to think of it, I found some of the same things in Sweden. I wonder if everybody is out of step but us!

I remember the first time I got off an airplane and found that the people were speaking a strange tongue–French. I’ve tried to pick up a bit of French along the way. At Nordberg we had a French woman, Marie Mlynarek, with whom I practiced my French. Each morning, as she came in past my desk, I would say, “Bon jour, madame, et tout le jazz” (good day, madame, and all that jazz). I always looked forward to that interlude and Marie always smiled.

Looking again at what Hans said about the Frenchman, I note that I must be at least 2/3 French (liking bread and talking, and who knows about the third.) They are my friends. They can be yours.

Copyright © 2017 by Susan E. Johnson
Used with permission
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