Why write?

For years, in all sorts of conversations, all sorts of people told me I should write my life story in a book. Perhaps they were suggesting this because a book silently sits on a shelf and gathers dust. It is much easier to ignore than a living, breathing, speaking, shameless agitator. I have read a few memoirs, many biographies, and several autobiographies. Not all of them were by famous people. Several of them became famous after their memoirs became bestsellers. I don’t hold any illusions of grandeur on that account. I’m not from the right demographic. I was born at the peak of the baby boom, in a lily white suburb in middle America to parents who met in law school, the youngest of four children: two girls, two boys, evenly spaced, two years apart each, boy, girl, girl, boy.

My Great Grandma Ingham in her parlor. Cranford Williams Ingham’s mother.

My folks came from very different backgrounds. My mom grew up in a small town in Wisconsin until she was about eight, when they moved to Edina, the new, rich suburb of Minneapolis. They had live-in maids and nannies all through the Great Depression. Her father, my first namesake, Cranford Williams Ingham, was an executive with State Farm Insurance. Cran considered himself to be a very proper man. He smoked a pipe, was Episcopalian; to say he was thrifty would be a major understatement. He couldn’t bear to watch or listen to children eat, so he made my mom and her younger brother, my uncle Pete (Cranford Arthur Ingham) stay in the kitchen with the help to eat. They received quite an education on the ways of the world from the help. By the time I was born in June of 1955, Cran had married his third wife, Wathena Meyers Ingham, who we all called “Aunt Wathena”. She had been one of my dad’s legal secretary’s and my folks set her up on a blind date with grandpa, and they got married within the year, and it lasted until they died, he in 1977, she a couple of decades later. Aunt Wathena became my godmother at my infant baptism in the Episcopal Church.

Cran divorced my grandma, Jane Edith LeMay Ingham. She suffered depression and was alcoholic. Of course, Cran was also alcoholic, but he was higher functioning. Jane’s mother was a nasty woman who destroyed both of her daughter’s marriages and lives by never accepting their husbands and always saying terrible things about them and setting up impossible situations, etc. It was so bad that before my older brother was born, my mom told our great- grandmother that we would never know that she was related to us. She had ruined her daughters’ lives and damaged her grandchildren’s lives. She was not going to have a shot at another generation. My mom was good to her word. As it turned out, we did meet her once without knowing who she was. We did not find out that we had a living great-grandmother until we went to her funeral in Menomenie, WI, in 1969. It turns out, she had outlived both of her daughters, so it fell to my mom to make the arrangements. We stopped by the funeral home on our way out to Ohio to visit my dad’s mom. The place was empty for the visitation. I wandered into another room. It was set up with an old man half sitting up in an open casket for a viewing. That was the first time I saw a corpse. I hung out alone there with him until it was time to go. It was more comfortable than with my family and the closed casket in the next room.

We proceeded from there to Racine, WI, to pick up my dad’s older sister, Aunt Betty Lund. We continued on to Youngstown, Ohio, to visit my dad’s mother, Mae Wise Coulter, in a convalescent home. She would come home again, once after that to her house that she shared with her longtime boarder and housemate, Aunt Phoebe. Mae was Holiness Methodist, but not fanatical about it. She was a practical woman. Her husband, Joseph “Freeman” Coulter, was an atheist, or as they called them back then a “free thinker”. No one called him by his name. they called him Free or Freeman. He was an auto mechanic. He loved his work. He liked his drink. He worked hard. He made decent money all during the Depression. He managed the business and brought the profit home for Mae to manage. Mae gardened and had a little Upjohn business on the side as well. During the Depression, Mae was always sending one or another of the four children out the door with meals and sacks of produce, sometimes with envelopes of cash included to various neighbors who had fallen on hard times. At any given time, they were supporting two or three other families. They were wearing threadbare clothes and going with very little to do it. Free was happy working. As long as dinner was on the table; his work uniform was laundered; his lunches were packed and he had a bit for the pub on Friday night, he was happy as a clam. Times were tough on everyone. From the stories my dad, his sisters and brother told, I think the Great Depression was the happiest times there were in America! And they seemed to be much happier for those who were sharing than for those who were not.

The stories families tell shape the lives of the people raised in those families. Some of the stories are true.

Chicken a l’Orange with Quinoa

This is a simple, economical, nutritious recipe that I whipped up because we didn’t have any brown rice; quinoa is too blah to just dump mushroom soup on; so I looked in the refrigerator for alternatives. It turned out to be a refreshing change of pace. It is simple to throw together. Here goes!


  • 3 or 4 Chicken Legs (Breasts would work just as well, if you prefer white meat)
  • 1 cup Quinoa
  • ~3 T Avocado Oil
  • 1 Tablespoon Cinnamon
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 Oranges

In a medium sauce pan, toast the Quinoa in the Avocado Oil until aromatic, then add water, juice of one orange, and 1/2 Tablespoon Cinnamon and boil for at least five minutes, stirring often. Cover and turn off heat. Peel and segment two remaining oranges. Spread the Quinoa in a 10″ x 13″ baking pan. Lay the chicken pieces on top. Slice lengthwise and butterfly spread each segment of the oranges and place them on top of the chicken and the rice. Sprinkle remaining Cinnamon over the chicken. Add a few ounces of water to the pan. Bake at 375ᵒ for about an hour, until the internal temperature of the chicken is at least 165ᵒ.

Serve it with a green vegetable of your choice or a salad, and you have a balanced meal. We had Brussels sprouts.

Poof da boona!

Ginger, Artichoke, Pepper, Pumpkin Soup!

Last Spring I was at the Perelman Center at Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania for some tests and orientation prior to my open heart surgery. I found this wonderful ginger, artichoke and carrot soup at the little lunch bar off the lobby. It was one of a couple of dozen choices. I spoke with the chef who made it and gave him my compliments. Today was my second attempt to  produce something similar. My first attempt was a complete failure. It was totally overpowered by the ginger. Today, I needed to make lunch and we didn’t have any meat to speak of. We will be feasting tomorrow. I have lots of pumpkin that I froze last month, so this seemed like a simple, healthy meal for the eve of the feast.


  • 1 quart processed Pumpkin
  • 3 cups Water
  • 2 Carrots
  • ~ 1-1/2″ fresh Ginger, peeled
  • 2-6 oz. jars Cento quartered, marinated Artichoke Hearts (Cento has 4% DV sodium compared to 18% for most other brands.)
  • 2 green bell Peppers
  • 2 cloves Garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon Nutmeg
  • 6 grinds Black Pepper
  • 1/4 cup Olive Oil


Thaw the pumpkin ahead of time. Pour it into a medium sauce pan. Start heating on low heat. Stir frequently. Rinse out the remaining pumpkin with the water into Ninja blender. Add the Carrots, Ginger, undrained Artichoke Hearts and Green Peppers. Pureé this mixture thoroughly, then add it to the saucepan. Press the Garlic onto a cutting board and let it sit for 15 minutes before adding it to the saucepan. Have a larger pan with water in it to set the saucepan in, to form a double-boiler. Stack them and use it like a double boiler to avoid scorching the soup. Add the Nutmeg, Black Pepper and Olive Oil. Let the soup heat for an hour or more. 6 to 8 tasty servings. It needs no salt.

Preparing to Confront Fascism

Stay ready or get ready, think things through, act accordingly. This piece by Yale historian and Holocaust expert Timothy Snyder is making the rounds on Facebook. I would amend or supplement his reading list but his points are well-taken:

“Americans are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience. Now is a good time to do so.”

Snyder is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations (which includes former Secretaries of State), and consults on political situations around the globe. He says, “Here are twenty lessons from the twentieth century, adapted to the circumstances of today.

1. DO NOT OBEY IN ADVANCE. Much of the power of authoritarianism is freely given. In times like these, individuals think ahead about what a more repressive government will want, and then start to do it without being asked. You’ve already done this, haven’t you? Stop. Anticipatory obedience teaches authorities what is possible and accelerates unfreedom.

2. DEFEND AN INSTITUTION. Follow the courts or the media, or a court or a newspaper. Do not speak of “our institutions” unless you are making them yours by acting on their behalf. Institutions don’t protect themselves. They go down like dominoes unless each is defended from the beginning.

3. RECALL PROFESSIONAL ETHICS. When the leaders of state set a negative example, professional commitments to just practice become much more important. It is hard to break a rule-of-law state without lawyers, and it is hard to have show trials without judges.

4. WHEN LISTENING TO POLITICIANS, DISTINGUISH CERTAIN WORDS. Look out for the expansive use of “terrorism” and “extremism.” Be alive to the fatal notions of “exception” and “emergency.” Be angry about the treacherous use of patriotic vocabulary.

5. BE CALM WHEN THE UNTHINKABLE ARRIVES. When the terrorist attack comes, remember that all authoritarians at all times either await or plan such events in order to consolidate power. Think of the Reichstag fire. The sudden disaster that requires the end of the balance of power, the end of opposition parties, and so on, is the oldest trick in the Hitlerian book. Don’t fall for it.

6. BE KIND TO OUR LANGUAGE. Avoid pronouncing the phrases everyone else does. Think up your own way of speaking, even if only to convey that thing you think everyone is saying. (Don’t use the internet before bed. Charge your gadgets away from your bedroom, and read.) What to read? Perhaps “The Power of the Powerless” by Václav Havel, 1984 by George Orwell, The Captive Mind by Czesław Milosz, The Rebel by Albert Camus, The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt, or Nothing is True and Everything is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev.

7. STAND OUT. Someone has to. It is easy, in words and deeds, to follow along. It can feel strange to do or say something different. But without that unease, there is no freedom. And the moment you set an example, the spell of the status quo is broken, and others will follow.

8. BELIEVE IN TRUTH. To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights.

9. INVESTIGATE. Figure things out for yourself. Spend more time with long articles. Subsidize investigative journalism by subscribing to print media. Realize that some of what is on your screen is there to harm you. Bookmark PropOrNot or other sites that investigate foreign propaganda pushes.

10. PRACTICE CORPOREAL POLITICS. Power wants your body softening in your chair and your emotions dissipating on the screen. Get outside. Put your body in unfamiliar places with unfamiliar people. Make new friends and march with them.

11. MAKE EYE CONTACT AND SMALL TALK. This is not just polite. It is a way to stay in touch with your surroundings, break down unnecessary social barriers, and come to understand whom you should and should not trust. If we enter a culture of denunciation, you will want to know the psychological landscape of your daily life.

12. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE FACE OF THE WORLD. Notice the swastikas and the other signs of hate. Do not look away and do not get used to them. Remove them yourself and set an example for others to do so.

13. HINDER THE ONE-PARTY STATE. The parties that took over states were once something else. They exploited a historical moment to make political life impossible for their rivals. Vote in local and state elections while you can.

14. GIVE REGULARLY TO GOOD CAUSES, IF YOU CAN. Pick a charity and set up autopay. Then you will know that you have made a free choice that is supporting civil society helping others doing something good.

15. ESTABLISH A PRIVATE LIFE. Nastier rulers will use what they know about you to push you around. Scrub your computer of malware. Remember that email is skywriting. Consider using alternative forms of the internet, or simply using it less. Have personal exchanges in person. For the same reason, resolve any legal trouble. Authoritarianism works as a blackmail state, looking for the hook on which to hang you. Try not to have too many hooks.

16. LEARN FROM OTHERS IN OTHER COUNTRIES. Keep up your friendships abroad, or make new friends abroad. The present difficulties here are an element of a general trend. And no country is going to find a solution by itself. Make sure you and your family have passports.

17. WATCH OUT FOR THE PARAMILITARIES. When the men with guns who have always claimed to be against the system start wearing uniforms and marching around with torches and pictures of a Leader, the end is nigh. When the pro-Leader paramilitary and the official police and military intermingle, the game is over.

18. BE REFLECTIVE IF YOU MUST BE ARMED. If you carry a weapon in public service, God bless you and keep you. But know that evils of the past involved policemen and soldiers finding themselves, one day, doing irregular things. Be ready to say no. (If you do not know what this means, contact the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and ask about training in professional ethics.)

19. BE AS COURAGEOUS AS YOU CAN. If none of us is prepared to die for freedom, then all of us will die in unfreedom.

20. BE A PATRIOT. The incoming president is not. Set a good example of what America means for the generations to come. They will need it.

Monochromatic Hero and Suicide

On Sunday, I painted my first monochromatic painting. It is an 11″ x 14″ acrylic on stretched canvas of André Trocmé in burnt umber. He is one of my heroes. That turned out so well, I followed it on Monday with an 11″ x 14″ painting of Bobby Glaeser in phthalocyanine blue. Bob was a classmate and neighbor of mine growing up. In early December 1974, a year and a half after we had graduated high school, he killed his parents, his younger sister Ann, and himself, with a 12 gauge shotgun.

trocmeAndré Trocmé was a Huguenot pastor in southern France. Before and during the Nazi occupation of France, he led his city and the neighboring city and surrounding countryside to give refuge to Jews fleeing Hitler’s genocidal death camps. It started with the boarding school his church ran. He did not believe in discrimination, so the school accepted Jewish students, who wore the school uniforms and lived lives indistinguishable from the Christian students. It grew into families sheltering families. He trained them on how to blend in and how to respond to the authorities. They set up an underground railroad to help families escape from France to safety in non-Nazi occupied countries. No one in their network betrayed a refugee into Nazi captivity. His nephew’s class was raided, where he was teaching a few dozen Jewish children. The Nazis seized the children to take them to a camp. Trocmé’s nephew insisted on going with them, as their teacher. He died in the concentration camp. It is estimated that they saved over 3500 lives.

I read Pastor Trocmé’s story over 30 years ago. It was also made into a movie.  As always, the book was better. He had with Dietrich Bonhoeffer and with Gandhi. He was a pacifist and had a strong ethical belief in honesty, charity and non-discrimination. He never made excuses for having to lie to the authorities. He felt that it was still sin, but to tell the truth would make him complicit in the deaths of fellow human beings, which would be a greater sin. He had been taught a hard lesson by his strict father, when he was a lad. He learned that it was not only right to do good; “it was essential to do the good on time!” It was his position that Hitler’s rule, the rise of the Nazis, and World War II was totally preventable, if only people of good conscience in Germany had done the good on time. Once he and his cohorts were in power, it was too late to stop him without doing evil and causing death and destruction. This is an important lesson and one that America needs to heed today.

We have both major parties putting forward the most despised presidential candidates in our history. Both are bigots. One is a capricious fool; the other is a shrewd politician committed to endless war. One would incarcerate Muslims and Latinos here; the other would (and already has) kill Muslims, Latinos and others overseas. They have 30% acceptance rating between them from the electorate. Yet people are deciding their votes on fear of one or the other, instead of doing the right thing and rejecting both.

It is time to do the good on time.

bobbyBobby was a good friend in grade school and junior high. His family lived two blocks away from mine in Golden Valley, Minnesota. We would bicycle together, sled and skate together in the winter, and sometimes camp out in our backyards together in the summer. He was a beautiful boy! He was handsome, with thick, dark hair, athletic and smart. All the girls loved him. Most of the boys wanted to be him. He did not appreciate all the attention. He was shy and became more withdrawn in his junior and senior year in high school; to the point of not allowing any pictures of himself to appear in the yearbook. This painting is based on his two pictures in the 1971 Robin. The pose is from the soccer team’s group shot, but his eyes were closed, so I looked at his yearly picture for details of his face.

The last time I saw Bobby was in the spring of 1974. I was visiting a few of my friends at the University of Minnesota’s main campus. At that time Pioneer Hall was for both men and women; every other room for each gender. I greeted Bobby as he darted stark naked from the showers to his room. I was shocked at this, not because of modesty, but his apparent lack of it. He had changed, and changed radically. Early December, 1974, we heard the news that Bobby had shot and killed his father, his mother and his sister, Ann, then himself, with a 12 gauge shotgun in the middle of the night in their Golden Valley home. A neighbor discovered their bodies four days after when North Memorial Hospital called her to check on his father, because he had not showed up for his on call assignment. He was a doctor.

Bobby’s case was written up in a feature article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. He had suffered some sort of mental breakdown prior to this and had been in treatment. He left the treatment and had been alienated from his family. They reached out to him. He was home for dinner that night to discuss re-entering treatment as an inpatient. After they had all gone to bed, Bobby got his hunting gun and shot his parents and his younger sister while they lay in their beds. Then he shot himself.

The four of them had a joint memorial service at Valley of Peace Lutheran Church. Their were four, beautiful Christmas wreaths on stands in the front of the packed church. Pastor Stine gave this horrible message. He said, “Heaven is God’s gift to us at Christmastime. Bobby gave his family their Christmas gift early.”

I got up, then and there, and walked out of that church! What an ass! This was the same ignorant pastor who had kicked me out of confirmation class one month shy of completion for asking too many questions about heaven and hell, and how one gets to heaven, after my best friend, Steve Rainoff had died by falling through a skylight, chasing a soccer ball, in a locked school in New Jersey.

In the spring of 1975, the Mpls. paper had a feature article on Angel Dust. The authorities had just seen a rise in its use. The symptoms of its use and long-term effects sounded just like Bobby. I have always wondered if he could have been exposed to that, and that is what changed his personality so never know.

I painted his portrait in monochromatic phthalocyanine blue, from a happier time in his life. Bobby was a beautiful boy. He had all the advantages. That could have been me.


xMany years ago, I wrote an article in The King’s Jubilee newsletter about the Autobiography of Malcolm X, in which I recommended that every white man in America should read it. I got some feedback on that! Of course, the negative feedback was all from people who were too narrow minded to read it. Several people said that “everyone should read it!” That missed my point. To overcome racism, it is important to gain understanding from other perspectives. Malcolm X became a hero of mine not because I agreed with everything he said or did, but because he had the courage to live a self-examined life in public.  He was not so proud that he would not change his course when confronted with hard new truth.

I painted this with acrylics on 16″ x 20″ stretched canvas. It is available for sale at www.shoutforjoy.net

My Wonderful Weeds!

"Sears Tower" daylily
“Sears Tower” daylily

I was released from the hospital late Thursday night, after six days to treat an infection in the suture line in my chest a month after open heart surgery.  I got home close to midnight because we had to wait for the delivery of the wound vac, which the nurse then had to attach to my chest.

Friday morning, I finally was able to walk in our little yard. I have not been able to weed or do any yard work this year. The crownvetch and the Queen Ann’s Lace are everywhere run amok. Yet I planted so many daylilies and native flowers over the years that they are holding their own pretty well! The Sears Tower bloomed for the first time! Gorgeous! It is so stately right next to the huge, gangly Purple Suspenders. The Coneflowers and the Buttonwood Bush are putting on quite a show out front, next to the hyssop and liatris and brown-eyed Susans.

DSC04745The tulip poplar sapling that was poisoned by something, survived and has put out new leaves. The Florida Tetrapetal St. John’s Wort has surprised us once again. It never comes up where I scatter its seeds, but we always manage to have some in our yard. (The birds have been kind.) We just had one blooming in front of the house. While I was in the hospital a couple popped up in our Monarch Garden in front of the back shed and one is peeking up through the ‘weeds’ on the wildflower hill on the other corner of the backyard.

FL tetrapetal St. John's Wort is pale yellow, upper middle
FL tetrapetal St. John’s Wort is pale yellow, upper middle

There are little surprises on the wildflower hill: tiny false sunflowers, nearly hidden daylilies, native beebalm, a tiny holly bush. The rabbits scurrying through. It has an untamed beauty. I even appreciated the invasive, Queen Ann’s Lace as it just floated above. I wept as I beheld my wonderful, wonderful weeds!

Stoplight daylily at the end of the driveway
Stoplight daylily
at the end of the driveway



resetOn June 8 I had open heart surgery to replace my aortic valve, which had been damaged by an infection. It all happened quite suddenly. We only discovered the damage on April 4, when I had what we thought was a stroke. It turned out to be a severe TIA. It was serendipitous in that it triggered a battery of tests that uncovered the weakness in my heart. It needed fixing quickly. The doctors at Penn expedited my case. I had my heart catheterization on May 9 to make sure I didn’t need any bypasses or stents.

At 6am on June 8, Bethann & I went to the Hospital at U. Penn. and checked me in to pre-op. Later that day, I was so happy to wake up alive! Bethann told me that my first words were: “Where is my keyboard? I want my keyboard.” I wanted to write. Once I got my keyboard, I couldn’t focus to write anyway. I haven’t been able to focus to write or to paint since the surgery. My days have been full of visiting nurse visits, doctor visits, walks, naps. I have researched subjects to paint. I did one sketch that was less than satisfactory. I finally decided to start over where I started in April; with a self-portrait. That is why I call this painting “Reset”. I’m using it to reset my creativity to get back on track writing, painting, editing, etc.

This painting is based on a photo I took using my Mac just before my surgery. My granddaughter Isabella saw my hair blowing around in my face when we were riding in the back of their car. She said I looked like a rock star with my hair in my eyes. I had already started painting this when she said this, but had not painted the face yet. In the photograph, the computer screen is reflected in my sunglasses. I decided to paint an opening door, instead.

Godfather, 4438 Shoreline Drive

godfatherI am the youngest of four siblings, yet my memories have always gone back further than my sisters and brother. This is a painting of the house where I lived for my first six years (June 1955- June 1961). It still stands. The outside finishes and windows have been updated, but it is still the same tiny Dutch Colonial. It is almost totally obscured by trees on Google Earth.  When we lived there, those Google Earth shots would have been impossible! The place was literally crawling with children! (also skipping, jumping, climbing, hiding & seeking, chalk drawing, running,etc.) 1955 was the crest of the Baby Boom after all. Crystal Lake was across the street. That is where the Ericksons, Hostermans and DeLays lived.

Our house was at 4438 Shoreline Drive, Robbinsdale, 22, Minnesota. Postage stamps were 4 cents. Flags had 48 stars. Everybody liked Ike. Our phone number started with KEllogg 7. I knew all this when I was three. My earliest and most powerful memory was being held in the arms of my godfather, Gordon, when I was just two years old, in the dining room of that house. He was looking out the door to the screened-in porch. I remember the feel of his laugh, and that it was one of the few times I felt truly happy and safe in that house.

Not long after that party, Gordy committed suicide. It wasn’t clear that he intended to. There was no note. Gordy had the form of acrophobia that would cause him to have a strong urge to jump from open heights. I have it, too. It is actually an idea, seemingly hardwired in the brain, that the scariness of being on the precipice would be relieved, if one would only throw oneself on the wind and fly.  Gordy flew. His wings burned up like Icarus’ in the Sun.  I simply never saw Uncle Gordy again; never smelled that smell; never saw that smile; never felt that embrace; never felt that laugh again.

That’s me, in the red jumper, asleep in Gordy’s arms. My therapist asked me, yesterday, when I showed her this painting, “So safety must be a big concern for you. What do you do to make sure you are safe?”

I asked her if that was a trick question.

We had much tears. The fact of the matter is, I have had little consciousness of safety since we moved away from that house. First Gordy disappeared, then we moved away from the Ericksons.

When a man strung out on heroin pulled a gun on me, I was too numb to be afraid. My safety is not on my radar. It was beat out of me at an early age. I just calmly sized up the man, determined what his real motives were and helped him achieve them in a way that was best for everyone concerned. It involved me driving with a gun poked in my ribs for 17 miles, but he got into rehab not prison, and, as a side benefit, I got to live.

(If you want to purchase this painting, or others by me, visit www.shoutforjoy.net)