Friday, July 28, 2017


by Bill Slavin

What are your favorite memories of summer vacations? Are they filled with misadventures like moldy-smelling inn rooms, lost IDs, a bear crashing through a cabin, or arriving at the wrong airport?

Our summer vacation this year proved to be an exception to the rule of memorable vacations. We flew to the Midwest in July, we traveled with our grown-up son and his girlfriend, we met relatives, some of whom we hadn't seen in years, and we stayed in the same house with eight other people, including two toddlers. A recipe for a tempest; but instead, our time with family and friends turned out to be one of our best trips ever.

We arrived in Minneapolis to find a hot humid evening; but by the next morning, the weather changed to the 70s and 80s, with a slight breeze even on the hotter days.

Our son drove us all over Minneapolis while his girlfriend navigated with ease as long as the two back-seat drivers kept their mouths shut! We cherished the chance to be in green farm country again. We gathered at a local park in Willmar and took advantage of the good food, games, swimming, and shade available. Our numerous relatives reminded us how funny and playful they can be.

by Bill Slavin

Our reunion with our other side of the family was just as funny and positive as well. We stayed in a brownstone near Lincoln Park, a charming and lively neighborhood in Chicago, with plenty of room for all of us, including the two sweet, rambunctious toddlers.

Chicago from the ferris wheel at the Navy Pier           by Martha Slavin

We visited the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis to see Sondheim's musical Sunday in the Park with George and took in a show at Second City in Chicago. We walked through the Chicago Art Institute to view the real A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of the Grand Jette by Georges Seurat and we trolled through the Shedd Aquarium by the lakeshore.

We ate good food, viewed skyscrapers from a tour boat, walked through tree-lined streets, and talked about family and life. We left Chicago just as the weather changed and lightning streaked the sky. We had the best of a summer vacation.

In Minneapolis-St. Paul, check out
Minnehaha Falls Park, the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway, Lake Calhoun
Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis, MN:
Uptown, Nicollet Mall, Mall of America

Places to eat:  at the Guthrie Theater
Bachelor Farmer:
Places to Stay:  St. Paul Hotel, St. Paul, MN

In Chicago:
Chicago Architecture Foundation Boat Tour:
Millenium Park:
Second City, Chicago, IL:
Art Institute of Chicago:
Shedd Aquarium, Chicago, IL:
VRBO rental in Chicago:
Places to eat:
Hotel EMC2:

Friday, July 21, 2017


Every family has stories. Some of the stories contain the trauma, hard luck, and drama that follow certain members. Some members seem to glide quietly through life without too much disruption. Other stories fill a room with laughter.  What are your family stories?

My dad's parents had 7 children. They lived in the middle of farm country in Minnesota. At a reunion with 77 cousins where everyone around me descended from or were related by marriage to that couple, I listened as some of the old stories brought us together again.

Though none of my cousins remembered my grandparents dancing,
this drawing captures the joy and light-hearted fun that is part of my family's heritage.                  
drawing by Ralph C. Heimdahl

We all had tales of family members, but the stories we all remembered were told by my Uncle Kermit years ago. With his dry wit, Kermit used to keep us in laughter with the tales of the two bachelor tenant farmers who lived on my aunt and uncle's farm. The stories are named the Charlie Arnie stories and everyone at the reunion laughed when someone just mentioned his name.

Charlie Arnie was an uncomplicated man who took things literally. When his partner got lost one day, Charlie reported his disappearance. When asked what his partner looked like, Charlie Arnie replied, "He was wearing a new pair of overalls and a hat." At that time, in farm country that could describe just about anyone.

That's all there was to Kermit's story, just a few phrases that caught a picture of the consternation and amusement revolving around Charlie Arnie. He became so well known in the small community where he lived that they named a one-block street in his honor, Charlie Arnie Way.

Before all my aunts and uncles died, I decided to ask my relatives to remember a short anecdote about their lives growing up (mostly in Minnesota) as a Heimdahl. I asked each one to answer, "I remember...." I collected the responses in a book, which we printed and distributed to all the relations. I was pleased to see younger cousins at the reunion reading the book, which was part of the display of family artifacts brought to the reunion.

Do you have any family stories you would like to preserve? Start by asking the question,

"I remember...."

Heimdal, the guardian of the rainbow in Norse mythology

Friday, July 14, 2017



Sometimes you don't see something that is right in front of you. While we were on vacation last week, I walked right into a tall, metal post. No excuses, but why would you plant a post right in the middle of the sidewalk? Then again, why would you not look where you are going? One of those embarrassing moments we all have, or at least I do. Today I just realized that part of my first name, Martha, includes the word, "art." How unobservant can one be? But what a delightful surprise. Art is not only in my genes but even in my name. And I only have a slight bruise on my cheek.

This summer I've been working to produce one postcard a day. 
You've seen some already. 
Here are others. 

Help me select the ones to turn into real postcards. 
You can email me your choices with your address to  
I'll send you a postcard back!
Or leave your choices in the comment section on this blog posting.

Happy Summer!

#1 Racing Horse

#2 Dreams

 #3 Carrot Queen

                          #4 Grace

#5 Golden Gate Bridge

#6  Letting Go

#7 Sailboat

#8 Traces of Leaves

#9  Geranium

#10  Kindness Matters

#11  Kindness Matters Too

#12 Flower

#13  Bouquet

#14 Roses

#15  White Flowers

Friday, July 7, 2017


We drove down to the DMV in San Jose recently so that Bill could take his written driver's test at the large facility there. We ended up in one of the flat, barren areas of San Jose--six lane roads, few trees or bushes, bare concrete buildings which replaced the groves of apricots and fields of flowers that filled the valley long ago.

While Bill was in the DMV, I looked around the neighborhood for a coffee house. There wasn't a Starbucks outside of the DMV; just a couple of strip malls with signs in Vietnamese and English advertising dental services, groceries, a dollar store, and a bustling laundromat. At the end of the strip mall stood a store with a dark interior, with a mirrored bar at the end. The place was filled with men of all ages. I didn't enter because I thought the place was a bar, there were no women inside, and it was only 11 a.m. I remembered how disoriented I felt when we first moved to Japan and I wasn't familiar enough with the culture or the rules of the area around me. I walked across the street still looking for a coffee house. No luck. I turned and looked back across the street to see the sign above what I had thought was a bar. The sign read: Tully Coffee Shop. I crossed back over, but before I had a chance to get a cup of coffee, Bill came out of the DMV.

We drove down Stevens Creek Boulevard, which for as long as I have been in the Bay Area, has been a wide street with strip malls hugging the edges of the road. As we went by, I noted the signs on the buildings:

A trip for a driver's license ended up with my looking at my world with renewed eyes. I saw the best and the worst of towns in the United States. The worst: the endless concrete strip malls, and the best: the mixing of cultures because we are a nation of immigrants. Where else can you see so many diverse entrepreneurs in one place? And how much richer we are because of it? The small shops inside the strip malls attest to that.

Did you see the two articles in the New York Times this Sunday about the U.S. Constitution? One is a full reprint of the Constitution with annotations; the other is an article, "The Constitution, By Hand," about people who meet in groups to write down the Constitution, word for word. In the process, they develop a better concept of what the Constitution means. Good idea, don't you think, for all of us to do?