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Barbara La Valleur

Barbara La Valleur, a native of Ashby and Battle Lake, Minn., is an international photojournalist of more than 50 years. She was the first person to major in Mass Communications at the Minnesota State University Moorhead (formerly Moorhead State College), working her way through college as a cub reporter at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. She went on to work as the editor (and as it turns out the only staffer) of Carib, a weekly newspaper in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Next came a stint as Chief Photographer of the Daily News in Wahpeton-Breckenridge. After moving to England where she married and had two daughters, her family moved to Germany, staying over 18 years. After being a stay-at-home Mum for 10 years, she freelanced full-time for seven German newspapers, returning to the U.S. in the early 1990s. Since then, her photographs have appeared in The Forum, Women’s Press, Star Tribune, Sun Current, Edina Patch and as cover features for an international nursing magazine. She her husband, Arnie Bigbee, have three grandchildren, and reside in Edina, Minn. Barbara was honored with the Mayor’s Volunteer Service Award for her years as Public Art Edina Chair in 2017. She was also was recognized for six years on the Edina Arts and Culture Commission. Barbara and Arnie love spending time at La Farm, a family farm near Ashby, Minn., which she owns with her daughter. She has edited three books and self-published 17 photo books with two more in the works. A prolific exhibitor, she had a successful photo exhibit, “Love of a Lifetime: 50 Years of Photos in the U.S. and Europe,” in Edina and the Evansville Art Center in 2015. A photo exhibit, “25 Black & White Photos of European Women in Traditional Male Professions & Trades,” had a four-month run at the Germanic-American Institute in St. Paul at the end of 2016. During 2017, she had three photo exhibits highlighting some of the 5,000 photos she took on a recent trip to Cuba: at The Westminster Gallery in Minneapolis; “Hola, Cuba!” at the Kaddatz Galleries in Fergus Falls and the Evansville Art Center. “Hola, Cuba!” moves to the Edina Art Center in January 2018 for her first solo exhibit there. Also scheduled in 2018 are “Love of a Lifetime: 50+ Years of Photojournalism” at the Red Door Gallery in Wahpeton, N.D., June through August, and her European women photos will be exhibited October through January 2019 at the Pearson Lakes Art Center in Lake Okoboji, Iowa.

LA VALLEUR COMMUNICATES: Musings by Barbara La Valleur — Barcelona: Not What You Think

It’s taken me a couple of weeks to return to reality after a 17-day trip to Barcelona, which included an extraordinary side trip of five days in Menorca.

The initial purpose of my trip was to visit my daughter, Andrea La Valleur-Purvis, who has called the Catalonian capital home for over a year. She loves it, and I can see why. It’s exciting, has a mix of old and new in terms of architecture, is international, very diverse and has countless places to eat, enjoy and experience a special part of Spain. Plus, one of my favorite parts was seeing an abundance of public art everywhere.

Yet, it turned out to be so much more than what I imagined. Having spent 20 years living in Europe in the late 1970s, ’80s and early ’90s, I still have friends and family there. So I was thrilled when they agreed to fly to Spain from Germany and England to reconnect, if only for a few days at the beginning and end of my trip.

Allow me to whine before going into the heart of the experience. You may not feel much compassion for me, what the heck you may be thinking, you just got back from Spain! What’s the complaint? But days before leaving, I pulled a hamstring and, damn it, that seriously hampered my flexibility and mobility.

Boarding passes for my 17-day trip to Barcelona.
Boarding passes for my 17-day trip to Barcelona.

Heck, on my trip to Cuba earlier this year, I took over 5,000 photos. On this trip, I didn’t even take 2,000! Waaa waaa. I even had to use a cane the entire time and wheelchairs at all the airports from MSP to CHI to ZÜR to BAR to MEN to BAR to TOR to CHI to MSP. Plus poor Andrea had to push me up steep hills and over rough track to visit historical sights. What a drag.

OK, I’m done feeling sorry for myself.

With Barcelona being front-page news the entire trip, you might be surprised to learn I saw very little of the political goings on you were reading about on a daily basis here in the U.S. All that despite the fact that Andrea lives only six blocks from the heart of the city center and within breathtaking view of Gaudi’s towering Basilica of the Sagrada Família from her rooftop terrace.

Andrea pours wine while Ingrid takes photos of our spread.

Twice, our taxi was diverted a few blocks due to demonstrations, which still remained out of our sight and sound. Late one evening while on my own and enjoying a glass of wine on Andrea’s eighth-floor terrace, I heard what sounded like three rapid fire gunshots followed by sirens two minutes later. But I was never able to confirm if the sounds were gunshots.

That said, safety was never an issue on my trip. I felt totally safe the entire time.

I photographed numerous flags hanging from balconies. But there were just as many pro as con, for and against Catalonia separating from the rest of Spain. Those flags were identified with Si! signs on their red and yellow strips with a blue triangle and white star indicating their support for Catalonia to separate from Spain. The national Spanish flags are red and yellow with the Spanish coat of arms depicting two crown-topped pillars with red banners displaying the motto in Latin, “Plus Ultra” or “more beyond” referring to Columbus’ discovery of the New World.

My friends from Germany and England, who had arrived hours before me, Andrea and I shared an AirBNB for the first couple of days. It was a newly appointed and very nice two-bedroom apartment that Andrea had booked for us, which also had a balcony view around the corner of Gaudi’s Cathedral.

The bathroom was stylish albeit small, with an open kitchen dining area. A sleeper sofa provided a “third” sleeping area three steps up to a small terrace with two separate seating areas. It was perfect, and we had a blast drinking wine, eating cheeses, breads, Spanish sausages and catching up on the past two-plus decades.

Yes, that’s the Spanish cheese I brought with me from Minnesota.

We had a good laugh when I brought out some snack cheese from my trip that I had in my suitcase when Ingrid, my German friend, pointed out it was “A Product of Spain”! Gez, not only was that illegal, but I could have gotten into deep doo-doo if caught.

Andrea rented a car so that we could cover more ground, especially since I was unable to walk any distance. We drove north to a vineyard and a wine-tasting at a well-known winery, Freixenet. (See note below.)

Thanks to Andrea’s knowledge of the area, we ate at some great places and continued catching up. All too soon, it was time for them to return home. The four of us took a taxi to the Barcelona Airport, with them flying off to England and Germany and Andrea and I taking a 45-minute flight to Menorca (spelled Minorca by some), one of the three Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean See along with Mallorca and Ibiza, where we spent a delightful five days and four night.

I’ll share more about Menorca in an upcoming blog as well as a separate blog about the Gaudi’s Basilica.

If you go to Barcelona, a few of my favorite places and things to do …

Restaurants:

  • El Nacional, www.enlaceionalbcn.com, €58 (a little over $68) for two of us, various tapas and including Cava, the local sparkling wine; it’s a destination as well as a restaurant with four featured sections; be sure to check out their bathrooms.
  • Firebug, www.firebugbarcelona.com, €53 brunch for four, brunch, bar, bistro, very nice, we sat outside both times, bathroom located upstairs; brunch for six including Cava — €74 Euros
  • Patrón, www.patron-restaurant.com, delicious meal, which I didn’t pay for, so no idea of the cost. I sure enjoyed my paella and I ate the WHOLE THING.
  • Cuines Santa Caterina, http://grupotragaluz.com/en/restaurant/cuines-santa-caterina/, various different food bars indoors, outdoor terrace, fun place to share several plates of small, tasty delights! Seven days a week, check website for hours. Again, I didn’t pay the bill, but it was not expensive.

Fun things to do:

  • Freixenet, a vineyard and wine tasting, http://www.freixenet.es. We rented a car, Andrea drove about 40 kilometers or about 25 miles north of Barcelona. It’s in the heart of the Penedés region in the town of Sant Sadurni d’Anora, a lovely drive with views of hills if not modest mountains. Tour the facility and end up in the tasting room where you have a huge selection of wines to taste. Light snacks also available.
  • Basilica of the Sagrada Familia (Holy Family), a trip to Barcelona without touring the Basilica would be like going to Paris without having your photo taking next to the Eiffel Tower. If you’re considering paying extra for the tour up an elevator to one of the tall spirals, beware: the elevator only takes you up. You have to walk down 420 steep and small, tight circular steps, which, given my cane, I was prevented from doing.

Shopping Centers:

  • www.maremagnum.es — a huge shopping center on three levels, open 365 days a year from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., with 80 shops of fashion, home and decor, beauty, kids and services plus about 24 places to eat and/or drink. Andrea and I enjoyed shopping at Swarovski, where I bought her birthday and Christmas present. And a bracelet for myself, too, of course.
  • https://www.barcelona.com/barcelona_directory/shops/la_maquinista — the only open air mall in Barcelona and one of the largest in Catalonia with 230 stores. Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., right on the harbor with a small albeit lively old market, harbor ship rides and Miraestels, whimsical white floating sculptures by Robert Llimós floating in the bay.

Your tax refund:

Remember, if you want to receive a tax refund at the end of your stay, you need to track your purchases, have receipts, fill out the forms at point of purchase and when you arrive at the airport, you need extra time to go to the proper office for your tax refund. I didn’t and probably lost $100 or so I could have claimed.

LA VALLEUR COMMUNICATES: Musings by Barbara La Valleur — Deutsche Einheit

Twenty-seven years ago this past week (Oct. 3, 1990) is a date I won’t soon forget. It was the “reunification” of Germany. East met West or rather East reunified with the West.

For the world, it was a huge celebration — The Wall Fell — it was a strike for freedom, it meant democracy for millions and yes, even the hope of world peace.

Closer to home, as someone who had been living in Europe for 17 years, an American married to an Englishman living most of that time in the former “West” Germany, it was a personal devastation.

It led to the end of my life, my job as an international photojournalist freelancing full-time for seven German newspapers and my family as I knew it. Not that day. Not that month. I didn’t even realize it at the time, but that was the end result.

We had a small scientific instrument manufacturing company employing 10 Germans with customers throughout Europe and beyond. Small companies like ours were left to fend for ourselves, competing with the lucrative “East” for business. The end result was that we lost our home, our business, our retirement and while we didn’t officially go bankrupt, we lost “everything.” Our marriage did not survive the strain.

I’ve always wondered why I’ve never read anything about the hundreds, if not thousands of small companies that went out of business as a result of the Wall falling. After all, the East became an instant investment gold mine.

By 1994, I was back in Minnesota after 20 years (nearly three in England and over 17 in Germany), starting my life over at the age of 50.

Fast-forward to today, I’m a happily married, “refired” —versus retired — photojournalist as busy as ever with a Cuba photo exhibit that opened Friday at the Evansville (Minn.) Art Center and another one scheduled for the Edina (Minn.) Art Center in January.

Last Monday, I spent several hours going through hundreds of letters I’d written to my family, mostly to my mother and two sisters, during those 20 years in Europe, in preparation for writing my memoir. I didn’t stop to read most of them, but in realizing that Tuesday marked the 20th anniversary of the fall of the wall, I set aside a handful written during that time to read.

In one letter, dated Jan. 1, 1990, I was commenting to my mother about the political situation. “The financial drain on the West is enormous at the moment. It’s fabulous that the East is loosening it’s tethers, but it’s costing! There is resentment here and there. But basically, people are breathing easier.”

Only a few weeks later, in February 1990, I wrote of “changes in Germany and Europe.”

On June 23, 1990, my letter reads, “Checkpoint Charlie was dismantled on Friday, that’s really something.”

Then in a letter from my daughter, Andrea, 15 years old at the time, to her grandparents, she wrote, “East and West are joining tomorrow, people are already out tonight and celebrating. On AFN (American Forces Network, the American Army radio station we listened to), they said tons of people are at the Brandenburg (Gate in Berlin) tonight.”

The letter had a Deutsche Einheit (German Unity) stamp on it and was mailed the day after reunification.

LA VALLEUR COMMUNICATES: Musings by Barbara La Valleur — Once In A Lifetime

As a 72-year-old, I sure didn’t want to miss the once-in-a-lifetime Great American Solar Eclipse. So I went to our local library around the corner — Hennepin County Public Library on York in Edina — along with nearly 1,000 other like-minded Metro area people from infants in push chairs to seniors in wheelchairs.

It was totally fun. Even the long line to wait to get into the library was made interesting with conversations with folks like Adolf, who lives in Bloomington for four months of the year but goes to Florida to play golf with all his buddies.

Once inside, all the chairs were taken. Three kind young Edina high school students — Karsten Swanson, Addie McCuskey and Nora Clarkowski — scooted together and gave me one of their seats.

Solar eclipse photo, courtest www.lucnix.be.
Solar eclipse photo, courtest www.lucnix.be.

Nick Skuza, an educational assistant from the Bell Museum of Natural History and fourth-year Astro Physics major at the University of Minnesota, gave a presentation before guiding the crowd went outside. There he guided viewers to see the eclipse through a telescope.

His colleague, Kaitlin Ehret, also a Bell Museum educational assistant, showed young and old how to view the eclipse for those without eclipse glasses by using a Sunspotter, a devise that showed the eclipse on a piece of paper.

Many parents attended the free event with their children, who had made pinhole boxes to view the eclipse.

Like I said, it was totally fun. And I didn’t even have the proper glasses. Although the library staff handed out a good supply — about 200 — and many people brought their own, the majority of us didn’t have them. Not to worry. People were incredibly gracious and kind sharing their glasses with anyone who asked or didn’t! One little tyke, he couldn’t have been more than 3 years old, was randomly handing out his glasses for others to see.

Wow, it was a coming together like I haven’t seen in a long time! No one talked politics. Maybe that was it. Everyone was focused on the one thing they had in common: a keen desire to witness a once-in-a-lifetime natural phenomenon.

The next solar eclipse over the United States will be in 2024. After that? 2045. Then 2052, 2078, and, for my great-grandchildren, a great one over Maine in 2079.

What Is A Solar Eclipse?

A solar eclipse is a natural event that takes place on Earth when the moon moves in its orbit between Earth and the sun (this is also known as an occultation). It happens at new moon, when the sun and moon are in conjunction with each other. If the moon was only slightly closer to Earth, and orbited in the same plane and its orbit was circular, we would see eclipses each month. The lunar orbit is elliptical and tilted with respect to Earth’s orbit, so we can only see up to five eclipses per year. Depending on the geometry of the sun, moon and Earth, the Sun can be totally blocked, or it can be partially blocked.

During an eclipse, the moon’s shadow (which is divided into two parts: the dark umbra and the lighter penumbra) moves across Earth’s surface. Safety note: do NOT ever look at the Sun directly during an eclipse unless it is during a total solar eclipse. The bright light of the Sun can damage your eyes very quickly.

Facts About Solar Eclipses

  • Depending on the geometry of the sun, moon, and Earth, there can be between two and five e solar eclipses each year.
  • Totality occurs when the moon completely obscures sun so only the solar corona is showing.
  • A total solar eclipse can happen once every one to two years. This makes them very rare events.
  • The longest a total solar eclipse can last is 7.5 minutes.
  • The width of the path of totality is usually about 160 kilometers across and can sweep across an area of Earth’s surface about 10,000 miles long.
  • Almost identical eclipses occur after 18 years and 11 days. This period of 223 synodic months is called a saros.
  • During a total solar eclipse, conditions in the path of totality can change quickly. Air temperatures drop and the immediate area becomes dark.
  • If any planets are in the sky at the time of a total solar eclipse, they can be seen as points of light.

LA VALLEUR COMMUNICATES: Musings by Barbara La Valleur — Justice Choir: Something To Sing About

Saturday was quite the day. If you follow my blogs, you read my take on the re-opening of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden with a couple of dozen photos.

From the Walker event, I went to Westminster Presbyterian Church and continued my artful day with songs in an inaugural event that I hope will multiply throughout this great land of ours.

Song: “A Bridge is Stronger Than a Wall” by Emily Feld.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve experienced a shortage of hope in the last few months, and I refuse to “take it” sitting down. In fact, I’m taking a stand and singing, which isn’t difficult as I’ve sung in choirs as a child and in a German secular choir when I lived in Europe.

The first Justice Choir sponsored by WPC was a mixed group of about 200 people from the Twin Cities with a rehearsal in the morning and performance in the great sanctuary from 1 to 3 p.m. It wasn’t just about singing songs of hope, peace, love, human rights and freedom, though.

Song: “Another World is Possible” by FLOBOTS.

Thoughtfully organized by Tesfa Wondemagegnehu (won-dih-MAWG-nee-you), our director of Choral Ministries, among others, it also featured a dialogue with Tesfa and Nekima Levy-Pounds, activist, attorney, former law professor at St. Thomas University and currently running for mayor of Minneapolis. But she didn’t mention that.

They spoke about social justice, speaking out when we see injustices and taking a stand.

Song: “Love is Love is Love is Love” by Abbie Betinis.

Everyone present received a Justice Choir Songbook containing over 40 new and familiar songs, co-edited by Tesfa and Abbie Betinis, a St. Paul composer who coincidently was compiling a songbook to be used across the country for a national movement of justice choirs, and Ahmed Azald, a pianist and conductor from Minneapolis.

New songs will be added to the songbook in the coming weeks and month.

Song: “Resilience” by Abbie Betinis.

Tesfa said Saturday that the free songbook will be a resource for choirs across across the country due to special arrangements so other congregations, choirs, schools and communities will be able to download it soon.

I’m proud to be part of a progressive church that sponsors events such as this. In his forward to the songbook, WPC pastor, Rev. Dr. Tim Hart-Anderson wrote, “The longing for a just and peaceful world is not limited to any one religious tradition or practice. People of faith and good will everywhere want to build a new future. Westminster invites you to join the movement for justice wherever you live. There are others who will work with you. Together we can transform the world.”

If you’re interested in joining the choir or starting one of your own in your own state and/or community, go to the Justice Choir website www.justicechoir.org.

Song: “Sing for Justice” by Ar Had Y Nos.

LA VALLEUR COMMUNICATES: Musings by Barbara La Valleur — What The Cluck?

What the Cluck! Have we been Cluckolded?

No one can convince me that a 10-foot bright blue rooster is more interesting, artistic or pleasing to look at than Claes Oldenburg’s and Coosje van Bruggen’s “Spoonbridge and Cherry.”  I’ve loved that sculpture since I first saw it over 20 years ago. And with today’s high 90s temperatures, the water mist that fell on my face was a welcomed relief.

However, in promoting today’s (Saturday) reopening of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden complete with official ribbon cutting ceremony, the Walker is clearly communicating the blue cock has what it takes with Hahn, the German word for cock or rooster.

Despite all the negative press the Walker has received the past two weeks due to an ill-planned choice to include “Scaffold,” a sculpture by California artist Sam Durant, in its new collection.

The Native American community powerfully and peacefully protested that it was not OK to display the “sculpture” meant to be a commentary on capital punishment in the U.S. with design elements from the gallows used in the 1862 hanging of 38 Dakota men in Mankato.

Some have said Walker Executive Director Olga Viso should resign. I disagree. She acknowledged the mistake, which I might add was not her’s alone, apologized and worked with the Native American community through a mediator. The sculpture was removed in less than a week. Native American elders will be meeting this month to determine what should happen to the wood used in the sculpture, whether it should be burned or used to make something positive.

We all make mistakes. This has been a huge learning experience for countless people; I would assert far more than if everything had gone smoothly in the beginning. Who among us has not made a mistake? I believe Director Viso has learned from this mistake and in the process, due to local and national media attention, thousands of people have learned more about Native American and our history as well as how some works of art are not viewed the same by all people. I say move forward.

I was particularly proud when viewing and photographing the ribbon-cutting ceremony to witness the four powerful woman doing the honors. They were Jayne Miller, Minneapolis Parks superintendent; Lt. Gov. Tina Smith; Olga Viso, Walker Art Center executive director; and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

So, I’m happy I went today. I’ll enjoy the sculpture garden even more in a few weeks when I can walk on the grass and take photos at the angles I like to take them for my best results. No doubt, I’ll head first for the Spoonbridge and Cherry. I’m not going to be “clucked.”

LA VALLEUR COMMUNICATES: Musings by Barbara La Valleur — The Eyes Have It

OMG! “What a difference a day makes ♪♫♫♪♪♫♫♪,♪♫♫♪,” as the Dinah Washington song goes.

Went to Mayo Clinic on Wednesday and had cataract surgery on my left eye. It was a surprisingly easy procedure. The prep time actually took longer than the surgery.

I’m now officially a “Patient Lens Implant Identification Card” carrier. The brand name is AcrySof out of Fort Worth, Texas. My mother, a staunch Texan who never did quite loose that Southern drawl despite moving away as a teenager, would be happy to know I now have another Texas connection.

A few years ago when I had an eye exam and was informed I was getting cataracts in both eyes, I wondered allowed how I would know when it was time to have surgery. As a photojournalist, my eyes are my everything. The ophthalmologist assured me, “You’ll know.” I wasn’t so sure about that.

Fast-forward to the end of my nine-day Cuba trip earlier this year during, on which I took over 5,000 photos. I knew. No question. I made an appointment at my favorite health care facility when I got back. For that, I give thanks to my dear husband, Arnie Bigbee, a 32-year Mayo Clinic retiree, who provides us with outstanding health care insurance. Sure enough, time for surgery.

So Wednesday was the day. After about 40 minutes of prep time and 20 minutes of surgery, it was over. I was awake the entire time with slight sedation and numbing in and around my left eye, laying motionless in the reclined medial chair, while Dr. Sanjay Patel did his “magic.”

A corneal specialist and professor of ophthalmology at Mayo Clinic, Dr. Patel’s skilled hands inserted that 13-millemeter devise that looks like a contact lens with two tiny, curved appendages, into my eye.

The “light show” that I had during surgery was, in and of itself, fascinating; incredibly colorful.

After putting a patch over my eye, I was sent off to rest for the remainder of the day. Given the drive from Edina to Rochester, Minn., we opted to stay there overnight, especially given today’s 7:20 a.m. post-op exam.

Once the patch was off, I could not believe my eye(s)! It was like viewing a tropical jungle from my left eye and a dry dessert with my right eye.

The difference is best seen in the following two photos. The one on the left is how I “NOW” see out of my cataract-free eye. The one on the right (which I altered in my computer’s Photos program) is how the same view looks through my right eye.

I assured Dr. Patel he’d be seeing me again soon.

LA VALLEUR COMMUNICATES: Musings by Barbara La Valleur — 500: One Day At A Time!

Today marks another milestone on the path with my German Metabolic Balance® journey: Day 500! And it’s still working — “when I am ‘on plan.'”

It’s been challenging the past four months for a variety of reasons, all of which would come under the heading of “life and  death events.”

It started with an incredible trip to Cuba in late January to early February, followed by the affects on my arthritic knees of walking those cobblestones and uneven streets for nine days. It’s boring to talk about aches and pain, so I’ll just say it kept me from exercising for a couple of months.

Everyone knows how to lose weight: eat less and exercise more. So suffice it to say that only in the past few weeks have I been able to get back on the treadmill or walk five days a week. I have really enjoyed getting back to the Y and going to the arthritic pool class.

Another challenge was the sudden death of my sister, Sharon Henneman, in late February. Along with my sister, June, my sisters have known me the longest and best. Nothing prepares you for an unexpected loss like that.

Then there were the distractions — albeit great, fun and welcomed activities — sorting through more than 5,000 photos that I took while in Cuba to choose 45 to 50 photos for each of two exhibits. “Hola, Cuba!” at the Kaddatz Galleries in Fergus Falls, Minn., had a good run and closed May 16. “Our Cuban Family” at The Westminster Gallery downtown Minneapolis at Westminster Presbyterian Church (WPC) runs through June 18.

Another project I completed Monday is my 17th self-published photo book titled “Our Cuban Family” after the WPC photo exhibit.

My next two projects, which I’ll start in a few days, are creating a small photo book of my MB® journey and working with my daughter, Andrea La Valleur-Purvis, who is visiting from Barcelona, Spain. She’s a graphic and web designer. I’m excited that she will be creating a photo website for me.

What I’ve learned in the past 500 days on the MB® plan, above all, is to “take one day at a time.”

Being a competitive person, I like to set goals that stretch me. My initial goal was to lose 88 pounds —  similar to Sharon’s weight loss — in 12 months. I want to be at the same weight I was when I left for Europe 22 years ago. That is still my goal. But I set an unrealistic time-frame. I thought I’d reach it in the space of a year. That didn’t happen.

It is not easy losing weight when you’re 71 and obese. Dang it! At least now, I’m in the “overweight” category and no longer obese. And I’ve rescheduled my goal date to Dec. 31, 2017 — just in time to pop the cork of a bottle of Korbel sparkly and ring in the New Year!

For sure, the biggest challenge has been to limit my favorite wine intake — Chardonnay — to once a week vs. the previous 40 years of enjoying more than one glass of wine in the evening.

Considering my dear husband continues his nightly Merlot imbibing, I’m doing quite well!  It’s my body, and I’m the only one who can make it happen. Trust me, if I can do it, anyone can.

Results Down 60 pounds in 500 days on Metabolic Balance® with 28 to go.

Tip: Take one day at a time!

BARBARA LA VALLEUR: Photo Gallery — Minnesota State Capitol

Take a look at the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul, which has been undergoing a comprehensive preservation effort since 2013, the first since it opened in 1905. The Capitol Restoration Project returns the Capitol to architect Cass Gilbert’s original 1905 vision. There will be new and expanded space, for public use, tours and school educational programs. After 100 years of service, the Capitol building had reached a critical deterioration point with a crumbling exterior, antiquated infrastructure and inadequate life safety systems. The project will be fully complete, and a public Grand Opening celebration will be held in August. Edina, Minn., photographer Barbara La Valleur was at the Capitol recently, and this is what she saw.

LA VALLEUR COMMUNICATES: Musings by Barbara La Valleur — Something Missing At 50th Anniversary Event Of Minnesota Department Of Human Rights

With anticipation and excitement this morning, I headed to the celebration marking the Minnesota Department of Human Rights 50th Anniversary celebration in the new multimillion dollar renovated House of the People.

I went with my husband, Arnie Bigbee, one of the state’s champions for Human Rights who helped Edina pass the first suburb’s Domestic Partnership Ordinance seven years ago when he headed the city’s Human Rights and Relations Commission. We were joined by my sister, Dr. June La Valleur and her husband, Dr. Duane Rost, also two huge proponents of human and sexual rights in Minnesota.

It wasn’t just seeing the gorgeous ubiquitous restoration work throughout the Capitol that I was looking forward to. The program in the rotunda was titled, “Creating a More Perfect Union,” no small order.

Gov. Mark Dayton proclaimed today Minnesota Department of Human Rights Day.
Gov. Mark Dayton proclaimed today Minnesota Department of Human Rights Day.

Commissioner Kevin Lindsey, who heads up the MDHR, did a fine job of emceeing the event, introducing Gov. Mark Dayton, who briefly addressed the crowd and showed the framed declaration marking the day as Minnesota Department of Human Rights Day.

There were several interesting and historical black-and-white photos on easels surrounding the back half of the circular space highlighting struggles of years gone by. I liked the one of woman voters from the early 1900s. Then there was a portrait of Frank Kent, who was the first African-American to head a state agency (MDHR 1967-1969). Fittingly there was a great photo of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speaking against the Vietnam War at the University of Minnesota. The date: April 27, 1967 — 50 years ago today.

I was delightfully surprised and thoroughly enjoyed a short, yet beautiful executed artistic performance by Deneane Richburg dancing to the powerfully spoken words of Thomasina Petrus as part of the celebration.

I was delightfully surprised and thoroughly enjoyed a short, yet beautiful executed artistic performance by Deneane Richburg dancing to the powerfully spoken words of Thomasina Petrus as part of the celebration.

No doubt most people came to hear the esteemed Dr. Josie Johnson, Minnesota’s most recognized human rights, social justice and civil rights activist who was there at the beginning five decades ago.

Dr. Johnson provided an historical backdrop to the beginnings of the MDHR and spoke about the 1961 State Commission Against Discrimination.

The esteemed Dr. Josie Johnson, Minnesota’s most recognized human rights, social justice and Civil Rights activist who was there at the beginning five decades ago.

She talked about the jurisdiction of housing and education discrimination, pointing out that, unfortunately, we’re still dealing with things in Minnesota — and I’d include the rest of the country as well — that we thought we’d “dealt with” 50 years ago.  Unfortunately, not.

Dr. Duchess Harris with Hidden Human Computers: The Black Women of NASA at ABDO and professor and chair of the American Studies Department at Macalester College, gave a 50-year overview of Minnesota protecting human rights emphasizing MDHR’s role as it pertains to the law.

I was pleased to see several legislators, on a short break from their sessions, address the group, especially Sen. Foung Hawj, St. Paul, District 47; Rep. Peggy Flanagan, St. Louis Park, District: 46A and Rep. Mary Kunesh-Podein, New Brighton, District: 41B.

A birds eye view of the empty seats at today’s MDHR 50th anniversary event.

But it was what was missing that was most noticeable to me as I photographed the event knowing I’d be writing a blog about this momentous occasion. It was all the empty chairs in the rotunda that I couldn’t help but notice. Where were all the people to listen to Dr. Johnson’s stirring words and warnings? 

There were probably 40 to 50 people standing while listening to the speakers. But only half the 60 chairs for the “crowd” were occupied.

Looking back to 1965, the population of Minnesota was 3.6 million. The latest census puts our state at 5.5 million people.

What a missed opportunity for our grade school, high school and university student groups to say nothing of the general public to witness this historic occasion!

There were sure a lot more people in the photo to hear Dr. King 50 years ago than turned up today. Dr. Josie Johnson’s message today pointed to the same message of the ’60s: We need to organize.

We obviously have a lot more work to do if we’re going to accomplish “Creating a More Perfect Union.”

LA VALLEUR COMMUNICATES: Musings by Barbara La Valleur — Maple Sap Levels Low This Year

My cousin, Ron Bowman, and his wife, Marsha, and their siblings have been tapping about 190 trees for the past eight years in an 80-acre forest not far from La Farm in rural Ashby, Minn.

But this year was not a good year, according to Ron. They started tapping in February.

“It started early, got too cold, our trees never ran like they did the the year before. That was an exceptional year,” he said on their last day of tapping April 8, a Saturday.

Ideally, he explained, the temperatures need to freeze at night and have temperatures above freezing in the during the day. There are many varying factors to produce a bumper year like precipitation including snow, rain and temperatures.

While they only make maple syrup for family and friends and have no interest in selling their “gold,” they enjoy the family closeness that results from the tapping tradition. The land has been in the Bowman family for over 140 years.

According to their handwritten log, last year’s exceptional year yielded 1,500 gallons of sap compared to only 1,000 gallons this year. The ratio of sap to syrup can vary from as high as 53 to 1 down to 29 to one.

The colors of the syrup varies as well from a light honey tone to a dark maple look with the number on top of the bottles referring to the batch which they then can track back to the day of boiling down the sap to syrup.

It was a blast riding in Ron’s four-wheeler on the rough back trails where I’d never been before.