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Advice From a 100-year-old Card Shark
     Do you ever think about how people will remember you?  What your friends and family will say about you after you’re gone?  If you live to be 100, what are the adjectives an interviewer might use to describe you?      In Millie Becker Duffek’s case, card-shark was not the first adjective that came to my mind when I greeted the soft-spoken centenarian who has been a member of Bethany Lutheran Church in the Dells for over 50 years.  Nor was it foremost in my mind when she talked about the importance of honesty.  “Always tell the truth,”…
Lessons Learned From the River
“What are the chances we’ll get dumped?” I asked Bob, the owner of Sylvania Outfitters in Watersmeet, Michigan. “Let’s just say you shouldn’t worry about fixing your hair tomorrow,” he replied. The following day my husband, brother, and sister-in-law joined me for a three-hour kayak trip down the middle branch of The Ontonagon River. The scenic river winds through undeveloped forested land in the western Upper Peninsula of Michigan, a four-hour drive from Wisconsin Dells. I had come prepared with a hat, dry bag, and cookies, but I hadn’t been prepared for the lessons I was about to learn. Eli,…
Solve the Mystery of Two Kind Kilbourn Families
“I arrived at a little town on the Wisconsin River,” Frederick Louis Haeberle wrote in his nineteen-page essay, “Why I Came to America.” He arrived in early March, 1884, after immigrating from Germany. “It was very cold, and my clothing was light – no overcoat, no overshoes, no mittens. As I walked along the main street I saw, through the store window, red flannel mittens. They looked so warm that I spent my last money—a half dollar, for them.”  The little town was Kilbourn, Wisconsin, now called Wisconsin Dells. Fred arrived penniless, cold, and unable to speak English. He didn’t…
Stories Entertain and Connect Us
We are all storytellers. We all live in a network of stories. There isn’t a stronger connection between people than storytelling.—Jimmy Neil Smith, Director of the International Storytelling Center. Since human life began, we’ve shared stories. Whether the details of the buffalo hunt or the dramatic polar bear escape were told around a campfire on the plains or inside an igloo lit by whale oil, stories have entertained and connected us.  Here are three stories told by master storytellers that have stuck with me, and they’re worth sharing. My sister-in-law, Shirley, a nurse and missionary, tells the story of helping…
Words of Wisdom from Josie the Cockapoo
Hi, it’s Josie the Cockapoo, hoping to get this into the paper before Mum-Amy catches me. She doesn’t let me write often—something about too many run-on sentences and getting off track—but I’m turning 12 on the 12th of this month and I have some words of wisdom to share. Not that I understand everything.  For example, the other night I saw the sky light up in flashes of colors and heard blasting and smelled gun powder. At first I thought Mum might have planned a pre-golden birthday party for me, but then I didn’t get any bacon or jerky, so…
Dude Ranch Adventure Fills my Memory Bank
Think about a pleasant memory you have of your grandparents. I’m guessing it isn’t opening a Christmas or birthday gift from them, but it’s a fun experience you shared. That was my hope when I set out to spend a weekend with my daughter and young grandsons. When I learned there was a dude ranch in Mauston, only 20 miles from the Dells, my jaw dropped. After I made the reservation, I kept wondering how someone who loved horses hadn’t known about this incredible place. I quizzed locals and found out many of them didn’t know as well. My daughter…
Finding the One
My husband’s and my 45th wedding anniversary is days away. Our older granddaughter has a boyfriend and is the same age I was when Frank and I married. The world has changed dramatically in 45 years, but the basics of a good relationship haven’t. Join me as I give advice to help my granddaughter and any others who are deciding if he’s “the one.” Choose a life partner you can trust, someone who has integrity, and who keeps his word. Find someone who shares with the chores. A good marriage is having one partner who is willing to shower with…
In Honor of Fathers
It was 2007, but I remember it like it was yesterday. I walked into the funeral home for my beloved step-father’s visitation. He’d married my mother a few years after my father died, when I was in my late twenties. Needing to work up courage before I viewed his body, I read the cards on the potted flowers and vases. The sheer volume proved what I’d know, that Harold had been a true friend and generous neighbor, always ready to share anything, from his garden tools to a cup of coffee. The family flower spray included the word Grandfather. Besides…
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