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Barbara La Valleur

Barbara La Valleur 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 actually the entire staff as it turns out) of Carib, a 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 young family moved to Germany for over 18 years. After being a stay-at-home Mum for 10 years, she freelanced 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 of an international nursing magazine. She her husband, Arnie Bigbee, have three grandchildren, and reside in Edina, Minn. Barbara was recently honored with the Mayor’s Volunteer Service Award for her years as Public Art Edina Chair. She was also recently 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. She has edited three books, self-published and is busy working on her 17th photo book, on Cuba. 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 (Minn.) 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 will have three photo exhibits highlighting some of the 5,000 photos she took on a recent trip to Cuba. “Hola, Cuba!” runs through May 16 at the Kaddatz Galleries in Fergus Falls. “Our Cuba Family” is at The Westminster Gallery in Minneapolis from April 30 through June 18. She will also be exhibiting her Cuban photos at the Evansville Art Center in October through November. In addition to her blog, Barbara also writes an international blog about her journey loosing 55 pounds — and counting — with Metabolic Balance®, a German nutrition plan.

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.

LA VALLEUR COMMUNICATES: Musings by Barbara La Valleur — Our Cuban Family

Our Cuban Family is the second photo exhibit I have from the 5,000-plus photos I took on a trip with 12 other Westminster Presbyterian Church (1200 Marquette Ave.) members a couple of months ago.

This exhibit opens in the Westminster Gallery on Sunday with a noon reception following the 10:30 a.m. church service. I will speak very briefly as will a handful of others on the trip. It also features other Cuban art including paintings, pottery, fabric and paper maché art.

The photos in this exhibit are a totally different exhibit than Hola, Cuba!, which opened April 6 in The Kaddatz Galleries in Fergus Falls, Minn., and runs through May 16. I will also be presenting a second salon at the Kaddatz from 2 to 4 p.m. May 6 featuring a tour of the exhibit and a discussion about why I took the photos and what I intended to communicate through the photographs.

FYI: For the opening this Sunday, free parking is available at the Orchestra Hall Ramp by picking up a voucher at WPC as you enter.

BARBARA LA VALLEUR: Photo Gallery — A La Farm Morning

Edina, Minn., photographer Barbara La Valleur and her husband, Arnie Bigbee, spend a lot of time at her family’s farm, appropriately named La Farm, near Ashby, Minn. A recent foggy morning provided her with this amazing photo op.

LA VALLEUR COMMUNICATES: Musings By Barbara La Valleur — Life & Death: A Curve Ball

You may have heard the expression “life threw me a curve ball.” Well, that is certainly true in my case. If you’re following my blogs that are about the  ® nutrition plan I’ve been on for 15 months, you may have noticed I haven’t written one for two months. April Fool’s Day seems like a fun day to get back on track.

Because getting back on track occurs to be a theme for me these days.

I have only been on the treadmill once since Jan. 29. Before that, I had had a healthy regime of three to fives times a week on the treadmill plus one to two times a week walking around the lovely, art-filled, piped-in-music, gorgeous- landscaping lake that is just across the street from, La Condo, our home. Both take 30 minutes.

In Minnesota winters, the treadmill is my friend. In summer, I’d rather cycle or walk outside, of course, and with no snow, now, I’m eager to do that.

This group of young women accompanied us on our afternoon at the beach with lunch following at Dora Valentin Presbyterian Church in Cardenas, conveniently located two blocks from the beach.
This group of young women accompanied us on our afternoon at the beach with lunch following at Dora Valentin Presbyterian Church in Cardenas, conveniently located two blocks from the beach.

But Jan. 30, I began another fascinating life altering adventure. (Reminder: I started MB® Jan. 2, 2016.) Along with 12 members of Westminster Presbyterian Church, we flew to Cuba for a nine-day mission trip. As an international photojournalist, I volunteered to be the official photographer for the group and took 5,000 photos plus 50 short videos.

As a result and due to intentional planning, I have three Cuban photo exhibits opening this year, two in April and one in October. So I’ve been super busy getting ready for those.

Unfortunately, there also have been two life-altering events that have occurred. One, in retrospect, not so serious. Due to the 12-hour days, in which we did a lot of walking and mostly on uneven cobblestones, my poor already arthritic left knee — which had not given me any problems since loosing over 50 pounds — has flared up again.

It has been extremely painful for almost two months, and that has prevented me from getting on the treadmill.

So this week, at the recommendation of my MB® nutrition coach, Christine Lindell Detweiler, I went to a Mayo Clinic sport medicine doctor.

After several X-rays and an exam, she recommended physical therapy and a surprisingly painless cortisone injection. Thankfully to my surprise and delight, I had immediate relief!

I’ll start going to the pool now that I’ve finally bought a swimming suit that fits. I left my old one, about five sizes too big, with new friends in Cuba. Next week, I’ll be back on the treadmill. Yeah!

I mentioned I had two life-altering events. The second one was tragic. My sister, Sharon Henneman, died suddenly of an aortic dissection Feb. 21, three weeks before her 74th birthday. She had been my inspiration and the person responsible for me being on MB® after she had lost 90 pounds the proceeding year.

Despite enduring many deaths of family members and friends throughout my 71 years starting at the young age of 11 when my grandmother died, nothing has rocked my world in the worst way since my father’s suicide, when I was 12. Absolutely nothing can prepare you for a sudden death, especially since Sharon was the closest person to me my whole life.

As children on the farm where we lived, we played together for hours riding our ponies. In the summer, we’d walk up the gravel road to the culvert and squish our toes in the cool mud. We didn’t have a care in the world.

When Sharon returned to Minnesota after a few years of a hippy fling in San Fransisco and the West Coast during the 1960s, she was a newly divorced young mother with two young children. We became college roommates so I could baby-sit for her kids when she was in class.

When I lived in Europe for 20 years, we wrote letters. Since returning from Europe in the early 1990s, Sharon and I became even closer when along with our older sisters, we bought our grandparents farm, lovingly called La Farm, a play on our last name.

Whenever we went to La Farm — a 2½-hour drive from La Condo — we’d get together and talk for hours while playing Hand and Foot.

So her sudden death has been truly devastating. I’m still grieving. Thankfully, I have been able to keep extremely busy focusing on preparations for two of my photo exhibits, one opening next week in rural Minnesota (Thursday, April 6, Kaddatz Gallery, Fergus Falls) and the other opening in downtown Minneapolis (April 30th, The Westminster Gallery, noon).

Those two life-and-death events have obviously impacted my MB® success. In Cuba, I didn’t even TRY to stay on plan. I did, whenever we ate at restaurants, do my best to make healthy choices. I also drank wine whenever I had the chance, which wasn’t every day.

Lobster dinner.
Lobster dinner.

There’s no way I was going to go to Cuba and not take advantage of the local cuisine. OMG, it was fabulous! I ate a lot of fish, lobster, shrimp, salads, black beans and rice especially whenever we ate at churches. I did succeed in drinking seven bottles of water a day. Temperatures were in the 70s and 80s. I also experienced Cuban coffee and Cuban rum for the first time. The fact that I brought back two bottles of rum, one of which cost $40, and a 2-pound bag of Cuban coffee may indicate my enjoyment of the local fare.

A fruit stand in Havana.
A fruit stand in Havana.

I was thrilled after getting back and inviting a Cuban friend over for a meal and photo slideshow, when he gave us four tiny Cuban coffee cups — and they even match our dishes perfectly!

For the most part in Cuba, I didn’t eat between meals nor have seconds. I did eat a lot of fresh fruits — mango, pineapple and watermelon — and veggies.

A delightful throwback to when I worked as editor of a weekly newspaper in the U.S. Virgin Islands back in the early ’70s was rediscovering the delicate taste of plantain, a type of banana, served as a dessert fried in butter. Yum.

I was delightfully surprised that upon returning home, I’d only gained a pound. That was totally due to the incredible amount of walking exercise I had. The downside was the damage to my knee of excess walking on uneven surfaces.

Sharon’s funeral program featured a photo I took of her on her birthday almost a year from the date she died. I also wrote her obituary.

Exactly two weeks after returning, Sharon died. I don’t know about where you live, but here, especially in rural Minnesota, when someone dies, people bring the affected families food. And it’s absolutely not what I eat on MB®. It’s what is commonly called comfort food, for good reason.

From Day 1, cousins, friends and neighbors brought catering-size pans of homemade lasagne, pork and beans, mac and cheese, scalloped potatoes and ham, tater tot hotdish (for some of you, that would be a casserole) and blueberry crumble.

I didn’t even attempt to stay on plan during that first week. In fact, I was so shocked, that I didn’t even remember to track my food, something, I’ve done every meal since starting on MB®. In addition, another life event was our granddaughter’s 9th birthday when we returned home, so we bought her a Dairy Queen birthday ice cream cake.

After all that, it was seriously time to get back on plan. Due to a lack of exercise for the past seven weeks, I’ve gain 6 pounds, and I still have 36 pounds to reach my goal weight — now that I have a pain-free knee and can start exercising again. That is baring any unplanned life-altering events. I intend to reach goal by this Thanksgiving.

When I reflect back to 2015, before I began healthy eating, between Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s, I gained 9 pounds. After being on MB® for nearly a year in 2016, during the same time frame, I lost 3.5 pounds.

Those are the kinds of results of which I’m proud. It’s important to me to have balance in my life, and when life throws those curve balls, you just have to deal with it the best you can, one day at a time.

The good news is that each new day, I get to choose.


LA VALLEUR COMMUNICATES: Musings By Barbara La Valleur — Hola, Cuba!

It’s not often I willingly rise at 3 a.m. But on Jan. 30, that’s exactly what I did to arrive at the airport to take part in a nine-day, once-in-a-lifetime adventure: a trip to Cuba. What a life-altering journey it was in so many ways!

First view of Cuba from aboard flight from Atlanta.
First view of Cuba from aboard flight from Atlanta.

I’m still processing the whole experience in addition to nursing a painful arthritic knee, brutalized by walking for days on centuries-old uneven cobblestones and nonstop activities from sunup to way past sundown.

One of a baker’s dozen representatives from Westminster Presbyterian Church in downtown Minneapolis, I was privileged to join the growing list of parishioners, Americans and indeed world travelers who are hungry to experience this unique island.

Presbyterians have a long history in Cuba going back to 1890, when a small group began meeting in Havana and made a request to the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. to send them a missionary.

The Bakers Dozen (minus me taking the photo) and our driver, Orestes.
The Bakers Dozen (minus me taking the photo) and our driver, Orestes.

WPC has had a partnership with Versalles Presbyterian-Reformed Church (la Iglesia El Redentor) for over 15 years. Located in Matanzas, a bumpy two-hour bus ride 56 miles from Havana (Habana), on the island’s northern shore. Matanzas, the city of bridges with nearly 135,000 residents, is the capital of the province of the same name. It’s known for it’s poets, Afro-Cuban folklore and culture. It is also home to the Evangelical Theological Seminary (Seminario Evangelico de Teologia or SET), which WPC supports through our other Cuban partner, the National Synod of the Presbyterian-Reformed Church of Cuba (la Iglesia Presbiteriana-Reformade en Cuba).

Even before departing for our trip, we were educated on the type of partnership WPC has with our Cuban churches. Decades ago when forming the relationship, the wise Cuban elders informed us that they weren’t interested in people coming to their country to solve their problems, tell them how to change their way of life nor to answer their questions. They wanted a people-to-people relationship.

Panoramic view of Havana.
Panoramic view of Havana.

So while the focal point of the trip was absolutely mission-related with visits to several churches, meetings with church leaders and visits to parishioners’ homes, we also had the profound opportunity to experience Cuba’s extraordinarily friendly people, rich pre-and post-revolutionary history and a vast array of healthy, local foods.

It was a wonderful experience to get to know my fellow WPC travelers on a more intimate basis. That said, I have to say that hands down, meeting and talking with the Cuban people was the highlight of my trip.

Our translator, Yosmel.
Our translator, Yosmel.

I had a bit of a scare the first night in Havana when I thought I’d lost my Nikon. Well, frankly, it was more than a bit of a scare. As the “official photographer” of the trip, I have also scheduled three photo exhibits of photographs I anticipated taking during the trip. While trying not to panic, I spoke with Alejandro, our hotel security manager, through our capable young translator, Yosmel.

Though surprised, I was very delighted that Alejandro generously said he would look at their security footage while we enjoyed a walk to the nearby waterfront.

The "famous" Havana Wishing Well.
The “famous” Havana Wishing Well.

Before reaching the gorgeous 1930s vintage Havana Hotel Nacional, we passed a Wishing Well at which I threw down all my loose American change with total abandon and wished with all my heart that my Nikon would be found! The hotel’s soothing waterfront ambiance coupled with refreshments and a wonderful dose of Cuban music by a singer, guitar and bass player trio, allowed me to drown my panic with a double shot of Cuban rum. Wow and yes!

Upon returning to our hotel, an unremarkable place indeed and certainly no comparison to the very elaborately appointed and clearly expensive Nacional, Alejandro assured me that his security camera clearly showed the Nikon around my neck when I went up to my room upon arriving earlier but not present when I came down for our walk to the waterfront. His consensus: The camera had to be in my room.

Thank God — and with a nod to the Wishing Well — he was right. I hadn’t seen it when I searched earlier. It was under my bedspread!

My hotel room view.
My hotel room view.

Given that I took almost 5,000 photographs in nine days, to say nothing of the 45 short videos (from 5 seconds to 1.5 minutes) on our trip, I’m glad that someone was listening to my prayers!

Self Promotion Alert: My first exhibit, “Hola, Cuba!: A Photojournalist’s Perspective,” opens at the Kaddatz Gallery in Fergus Falls, Minn., (where I was born) April 6 through May 13. Opening cheese and wine reception is 2 to 4 p.m. April 8 with artist talk. On April 30, the Westminster Gallery, curated by Dr. Rodney Schwartz, opens a Cuba exhibit of my photos along with a selection of Cuban art and artifacts that have been collected and/or donated by WPC members for decades. That exhibit runs through June 18. In October and November, my Cuban photos will be exhibited at the Evansville (Minn.) Art Center (dates tbd).

A crumbling 19th-century building.
A crumbling 19th-century building.

Let’s return to the plentiful palm-trees, crumbling 19th-century buildings and dozens of 21st-century cranes dotting Cuba’s 745-mile long island that is a short, yet perilous and often life-threatening boat ride from the tip of Florida 90 miles away.

Today’s population of Cuba is almost 11.4 million and exudes a cultural diversity reflecting Spanish, African, French, Asian and U.S. influences.
Today’s population of Cuba is almost 11.4 million and exudes a cultural diversity reflecting Spanish, African, French, Asian and U.S. influences.

When Christopher Columbus arrived in 1492, there were only about 50,000 Cibony and Taino nation members living on the island. History tells us it wasn’t until 1523 that African slaves were introduced to the island. Today’s population is almost 11.4 million and exudes a cultural diversity reflecting Spanish, African, French, Asian and U.S. influences made infamous by the colorful and ubiquitous American cars from the 1950s, ’60s, ’70s and even the 1930s in various states of upkeep from pristine to pretty amazing that it’s still running. More on those later.

To quote a bit of history according to a PC(USA) website, “Cuba’s first liberation movement began in 1868 — 50 years after most other Latin American countries — when a wealthy estate owner named Céspedes freed his slaves and called for a revolt against Spain. After 10 years of guerrilla warfare, this struggle was finally put down. Another insurrection was begun in 1895 by the poet José Martí. The Cuban people gained independence from Spanish rule in 1898 after the Spanish American War, but they immediately fell under U.S. domination.

“The first Cuban constitution contained the famous Platt amendment, which gave the United States the right to intervene in Cuban affairs and keep a naval base at Guantanamo Bay. The United States used this “right” liberally, sending U.S. Marines there in 1906 to 1909, in 1912 and again in 1920.

“At the time U.S. companies owned or controlled half the natural resources in Cuba. Cuba was ruled by the dictator Fulgencio Batista most of the period from 1933 to 1959. This ended with the successful insurrection led by Fidel Castro’s 26th of July Movement.”

The 20-story star-shaped Memorial José Martí.
The 20-story star-shaped Memorial José Martí.

Evidence of Martí’s impact on Cuba are ubiquitous. We were fortunate to take the quick elevator ride in the 20-story star-shaped Memorial José Martí with a spectacular 360-degree panoramic view of Havana at Revolution Square (Plaza de la Revolución). The tower had been closed for over five years, and that day was the first day of its reopening.

Everything was sparkling. The first floor contained an outstanding collection of photos, stories and quotes fromCuba’s national hero of the Cuban War of Independence from Spain for which Martí wrote poetry and inspired many and in which he died in combat.

A stunning 59-foot white marble sculpture of Martí at the base of the museum was the largest one that we saw. The infamous black metal sculpture outlined images of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara are on full display.

Havana's Revolution Square.
Havana’s Revolution Square.

However, I saw more Martí busts and images dotting the streets, squares and private gardens as much as billboards and graffiti images of the late revolutionaries Castro, prime minister and president, and Che Guevara,
Argentinian Marxist revolutionary, physician, author and guerrilla leader.

Over the following days and weeks, I’ll write more about this life-altering trip. For now, I invite you to mark any of my photo exhibits on your calendar. I’d love to share my photos Cuban with you.

LA VALLEUR COMMUNICATES: Musings By Barbara La Valleur — ‘The Alzheimer’s Epidemic: Every Minute Counts’

As sustaining members of tpt public television, my husband and I are sometimes invited to their St. Paul studio to take part in special events. In preparation for tonight’s nationwide roll-out of “Every Minute Counts,” a program about the national Alzheimer’s epidemic, we were among about 100 select guests attending a screening Tuesday evening of program highlights and a panel discussion plus audience Q & A.

Giving Voice Chorus.
Giving Voice Chorus.

Following a reception with drinks and tasty bites catered by Lund’s & Byerly’s, the group moved up three flights to the recording studios, where the program began with a wonderful performance by Giving Voice Chorus, a metro area working and learning chorus for people living with Alzheimer’s and their care partners.

What a delight! The friendly group sang with gusto and joy waving to those present throughout their performance. They were enthusiastically joined in song by members of the audience whose average age I would imagine was over 50.

Jim Pagliarini, tpt’s president and CEO.
Jim Pagliarini, tpt’s president and CEO.

Introducing the evening was Jim Pagliarini tpt’s president and CEO who welcomed us and introduced sponsors and other VIP’s including Gerry Richman, executive producer and vice president of National Productions at Twin Cities PBS (the official name for tpt). “Every Minute Counts” was produced by the same team that created “The Forgetting: A Portrait of Alzheimer’s” for tpt including Elizabeth Arledge, producer and director.

In 2004, that Emmy-winning program was hailed as an urgent wakeup call about the national and global threat posed by Alzheimer’s, which is the No. 1 public health crisis facing American and the developed world today.

Viewing “Every Minute Counts” was a real eye opener. I’m writing this blog with the intention that everyone who reads it will tell others and spread the word to tune in tonight and watch or record it for later viewing.

Chances are you or your family already know someone with Alzheimer’s or some form of dementia. We sure do. The statistics are staggering.

In Minnesota alone, 91,000 people over age 65 live with Alzheimer’s, and the numbers are growing. That’s one in nine. Of those 91,000 who are over age 85, it’s three in nine or one-third. It’s not surprising given we’re living longer.

For those with the disease, there are 249,000 people looking after them. That’s almost three caregivers for each person with Alzheimer’s.

Interestingly, nearly 60 percent of Alzheimer’s live in their own homes.
We watched only half of what will be aired tonight, and then Richman introduced Don Shelby, retired Emmy-winning news anchor with WCCO who in turn asked the four experts on Alzheimer’s panelists to introduce themselves.

They were Dr. Ronald C. Peterson, M.D., Ph.D., director, Mayo Clinic Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center and a world renowned expert on the subject; Olivia Mastry, JD, MPH, Dementia Friendly America; Debbie Richman, vice president of Education and Outreach for the Alzheimer’s Association Minnesota-North Dakota Chapter; and Dawn Simonson, ACT on Alzheimer’s and executive director of the Metropolitan Area Agency on Aging.

During my years before retiring as executive director of the now defunct Payne-Phalen Living at Home/Block Nurse Program, I attended numerous events with Dr. Peterson and Simonson on aging and dementia, so it was fun to see them again.

In the Q & A after the panel discussion, the last question discussed was one I posed, asking if there are racial differences for who is likely to get the disease. And yes, proportionately, older African-Americans and Hispanics are more likely than older whites to have Alzheimer’s or other dementias.

In addition to the experience always being interesting and fun, one of the benefits of attending these tpt special events is the opportunity to meet extraordinary people.

Me and Brant Kingman.
Me and Brant Kingman.

One such person I encountered was Brant Kingman who was featured Jan. 3 in a Star Tribune article, “The latest in memory care? Minnesota creatives use art to connect with dementia patients,” by reporter Jenna Ross.

The article was about Kingman and how he uses art to communicate with his mother, Polly Penney, 87, who was diagnosed with dementia three years ago. In the article, Kingman was quoted as saying that because of “absolute out-of-my-mind frustration,” the Minneapolis artist decided trying to draw together.  It’s worth a read so here’s the link:

There are many organizations to support those impacted by Alzheimer’s. For example, Act on Alzheimer’s has a website to which addresses the question “Is Your Community Prepared?” Their toolkit has a four-phase process for bringing people together to help communities.

Dementia Friends USA is a global movement developed by the Alzheimer’s Society in the United Kingdom that, according to their literature, “is changing the way people think, act and talk about dementia.”

I’m including dates, websites and contact information for those wanting more information on this critical subject that is bound to impact you or someone you know and love sooner or later.

The Alzheimer’s Association also has round-the-clock information and support. Their 24/7 helping: (800) 272-3900.

Save the Date: Meeting of the Minds Dementia Conference 2017, Saturday, March 18, 2017, RiverCentre, St. Paul.

Senior LinkAge Line:  (800) 333-2422

Here are websites that will provide additional information:

For more about “Alzheimer’s: Every Minute Counts” see:

And please remember to tune in at 9 tonight for tpt’s “Every Minute Counts.” Check local listings around the country for the time where you live.

Sponsors of "Alzheimer's: Every Minute Counts."
Sponsors of “Alzheimer’s: Every Minute Counts.”

LA VALLEUR COMMUNICATES: Musings By Barbara La Valleur — 54 Pounds And Still Going Strong

It’s been a year today that I started on my Metabolic Balance® journey. Back then, I figured I’d reach my 88-pound  weight loss goal by the end of 2016. That didn’t happen. But you know what? I’m OK with that.

I’m very proud of my accomplishment of loosing 54 pounds — and I’m over 61 percent of the way there. I’m proud of sticking to my intention of having this nutritional plan be a lifestyle change. I’m exercising five times a week — without pain. That’s worth a lot to me.

At age 71, that’s no small feat. If you’ve followed my blogs, you may remember that I have a history of hard falls on my knees (four bad ones, two requiring ER visits) preceded by being bucked off a horse in the Hollywood Hills five years ago next month. That resulted in a punctured lung, three cracked ribs and six cracked vertebrae. Nasty. And about a month in bed recuperating. And gaining weight.

I’m happy to report I’ve had no more falls and because I also started sprinkling a bit of turmeric on my salads, veggies and meat, no more shooting pains in my arthritic hand joints.

It hasn’t all been easy, nor even fun. The plan requires commitment, tenacity and intentionality. Thankfully, I have a generous supply of all three. And a very supportive husband.

We’ve changed our meal plans, our meal times, our meal styles. That hasn’t always gone smoothly. But it has certainly been easier knowing Arnie has my back on this. For that I am extremely grateful. There are no complaints on his part and luckily, he enjoys making his own meals, which he does most of the time. We’re able to eat together most meals but not always the same foods.

One of the hardest things to do was reduce my previous habit of drinking three to four glasses of wine a night to having wine only once a week for my treat meal.

Yet, that was also the great part: my weekly treat meal. I would credit Dr. Wolf Funfack, the German doctor of internal medicine and nutritionist coupled with Sylvia Bürkle and Birgit Funfack, who founded Metabolic Balance GmBH & Co., as having a weekly treat meal be the winning component in their nutrition plan. Knowing I could have one meal a week and eat anything I wanted as well as having a glass or two of wine at that meal, kept me true to the plan. I have never felt “deprived.”

One of the more difficult parts was having Arnie continue to drink wine each evening while I drank my daily seven bottles of water. That wasn’t fun.

Still, it’s my body, my choice, and I know it.

Many people have asked me about Metabolic Balance®. While it may appear complicated in the beginning, I’ve found complying to it second nature.

These are the easy things to remember, not necessarily easy to do, though:

  • Always start your three meals with two to three bites of protein.
  • Keep five hours in between your three meals.
  • No snacking in between meals.
  • Drink seven bottles of water each day.
  • No alcohol (except with your weekly treat meal).

Because this plan is based on an individual’s blood test results, each person is given her or his individual meal plan. For me, my only red meats are venison and veal; my only cheeses are goat cheeses. (I discovered at least 20 fabulous, tasty varieties.) The only bread I eat is a German style, dense sourdough rye bread. I learned to bake it. I’ve also connected with two local bakeries who will make 5 to 10 loaves at a time, which I now order along with my sister and her husband who are also on this plan.

Getting past the Thanksgiving through New Year’s celebrations, family gatherings and parties without gaining the 11 pounds I did the previous year was a challenge that I’m happy to say I met head on. I probably ate “on plan” 65 percent of the time versus the 95 to 98 percent of the time I usually do, and I still lost 3.5 pounds!

As I told my Metabolic Balance® coach, Christine Lindell Detweiler, I haven’t set a “by when” date for when I will loose the entire 88 pounds. That was a goal that I set for myself and represents what I weighed at age 30 when I left the U.S. in 1974 for a 20-year European adventure. If I reach my goal by my July 7 birthday, I’ll be happy!

Four weeks from today, I’ll be flying to Cuba for a mission trip with my church. Later this year, I’ll be visiting my daughter in Barcelona, Spain. On both trips, I’ll be eating different, healthy foods and will enjoy the adventure.

In the mean time, Happy — Healthy! — New Year in 2017!

Results I’m 54 pounds less than I was a year ago today. I have gone from Size 3X to Size 8 to 10. 

TipsMake healthy choices and take one day at a time.