Mr. Buen

Everyone has people which touch their lives. There are those that are with us our entire lives like parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts, but there are also those that are with us for a much shorter time, like teachers.

I’ve had countless teachers throughout my academic career, most of which were very good at their chosen profession. Teachers, as a whole, care deeply about the students in their classes, and it shows in the way they interact with these young people on a daily basis. Teachers know that to be effective, they have to reach their students on a personal level, so they strive to do just that, year after year and decade after decade. Most of us have one or two teachers that reached us better than the rest, and they will always have a place in our hearts. For me, that one teacher was Mr. Buen.

Mr. Buen was my high school math teacher for four years. He taught me Freshman Algebra, Sophomore Geometry, Junior Trigonometry, and Senior Math. Senior math was only offered when there were seniors who wanted to take it so Mr. Buen didn’t teach this class every year. The Velva High School Class of 1981 was exceptional in that 11 students (a quarter of our class) enrolled for Senior Math that year, and it was during that time that Mr. Buen became much more than a teacher to myself, James, Don, Shelley, Sara, Robert, Bruce, Rick, Greg, Melonie, and Terry.

Mr. Buen challenged us continually, and with each new bit of knowledge he taught us, our confidence grew at an exponential rate. I had previously considered myself an average student, but during Senior Math I became convinced that I was an exceptional one. I flourished in Mr. Buen’s Senior Math class. Maybe it was because math was my strongest subject, but more likely it was because Mr. Buen was my strongest teacher.

Mr. Buen was special to the Class of ’81, and we were thrilled when he agreed to speak at our commencement exercises on May 17th. I seem to remember him saying something about the mark of a good life is to leave the world better than you found it.

I was deeply saddened this morning when I learned Mr. Buen had passed away. I’m just one of the thousands of students that he taught during his 35 year career at Velva High School, and I’m sure others are feeling the same sense of loss that I am. I just want to say that I believe Mr. Buen lived a good life as he left the world better than he found it: He achieved this one student at a time.

Posted in Life Experiences | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Pancakes and Boston Marathon Finishers

Red River Runners holds a pancake breakfast each spring to celebrate all of the training miles members put in training for their various races. Runners in Grand Forks have many different ways of dealing with the harsh winters and we don’t usually see each other very often during the coldest months. It’s a fun time filled with laughter when we finally gather together again and catch up. We always include family for this breakfast because most runners refer to their family as their “support group.” We couldn’t spend the long hours of training necessary for a marathon without a lot of understanding from those we live with, so it’s important to also include them in our celebration.
Boston Breakfast 2015
We held our breakfast this morning and had the pleasure of welcoming back many of our members who had just completed the Boston Marathon earlier this week. They told of a ferocious head wind and rain during much of the time they spent on the course. They also told of 3 million spectators lining the streets cheering them on: Boston loves their marathon! Nick Flom, who braved the elements to turn in his best marathon ever indicated that the spectators were deafening, but that the cheers he heard coming from Grand Forks were even louder!
Boston finishers 2015
We got to congratulate (L-R) Dan Hanson (3:10:04), Loren Howard (3:03:00), Nick Flom (3:03:24), James Arnason (3:04:54), and Barb Murphy (4:04:26) on their finishing times. I think I speak for all of Red River Runners when I say we’re proud to run with all of you!

Posted in Running | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2015 Boston Marathon

boston aa_logo[1]Running is a competitive sport, but unlike many other sports, runners compete primarily against themselves rather than against others. This type of competition rarely leads to hated rivalries like those that form within other sports, but instead leads to a strong feeling of camaraderie between runners. Red River Runners is an organization built on the philosophy of runners helping other runners, and many wonderful friendships have been built on the excitement that surrounds this dynamic sport.

Tomorrow, six of my Red River Runner friends will be taking part in the most famous marathon in world, The Boston Marathon, and I’m so excited for each of them!

Rachel Hellyer (bib #17404) is a familiar face to the entire Grand Forks running community and is either organizing or competing in every race that takes place in our fair city. Rachel has the distinction of having run in the 2013 Boston Marathon which was shortened by the bombing tragedy.

Barb Murphy (bib #20637), like Rachel, has run the Boston Marathon before, and is a veteran of many marathons. Barb is a fierce competitor in everything she does and has a special passion for running!

Loren Howard (bib #5041) is fairly new to Red River Runners. I got to know Loren a little when he joined me for a Saturday morning run earlier this year. It’s always nice when a fast young runner doesn’t mind sharing a few miles with an old guy like me!

Dan Hanson (bib #4744) has been with the group for a couple of years, and is quite the accomplished runner. Dan has completed races in remarkable times like when he won the 2013 Wild Hog 10K (a field which included Olympian Carrie Tollefson), but has also ran leisurely like when he encouraged Barb and myself along during the 2013 Twin Cities Marathon (posting many “selfies” in the process).

Richard Dafoe (bib #670) is a pillar of the Grand Forks running community and the driving force behind the Wild Hog Marathon. Richard is the fastest of the group, and will be starting in the same Boston Marathon corral as the elite professionals!

Nick Flom (bib #6555) is the one that I’ll be cheering loudest for! Nick has been SO close to qualifying for Boston for three years, but always missed the necessary time by mere minutes, and one time, just three seconds! Nick continued to work hard and Red River Runners (and his family) continued to cheer him on, and last June he finally qualified! Everyone in Red River Runners will be especially cheering for Nick tomorrow!

If you want to receive Boston Marathon updates about any of these runners, text their bib number to 234567. Good luck everyone!

Posted in Running | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Perfectly Healthy?!

Everyone dreads going into see the doctor for their annual physical, right? We all know what we should be doing, and we resent our doctor telling us what we already know. You should lose weight. You should quit smoking. You should eat more fiber. You should eat better. You should exercise more. You should drink less alcohol. You should get more sleep. The list goes on and on…

I had my annual physical today and do you know what my doctor told me? He said I was perfectly healthy and to continue doing exactly what I’ve been doing!

I’m reporting this, not because I’m bragging, but because it seems like every month or so somebody is tell me that running is bad for a person. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but the person I trust most concerning matters of my health, my doctor, is encouraging me to continue running. Running has worked miracles for me so I have no plans to hang up my running shoes anytime soon, and now my doctor agrees with me; how great is that!

Posted in Running | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment


watercolor rainbowI try to get the watercolor paints out at least once a year in my Sunday School class. The kids always enjoy using them, and as a teacher I can use the project to fill a little time when we have a shorter lesson.

Today’s lesson was about water (Naaman being healed after washing seven times in the Jordan River, to be exact), and since it was quite short, I decided make this the week we used water colors. I also thought it made sense to use watercolors on the week we were talking about water!

The thing about today was that my class was exceptionally small (one student to be exact), so I decided to sit down with her and create a masterpiece of my own. I chose a rainbow because I thought it tied in nicely with today’s theme of water. I also pointed out that my rainbow was scientifically accurate because I remembered from junior high that the order of the colors spelled out ROY G BIV. She rolled her eyes as I explained they were red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet.

The paint set I used didn’t have a well labeled “indigo” so I asked for some help from my second grader. She thought about it for a minute, and then explained that violet and red mixed should do the trick, so that’s what I did.

I must admit that I had fun using watercolors. I even thought my picture turned out well enough that I dared to add my name. Now I wonder if Sue will let me hang it on the refrigerator door…

Posted in Faith | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Augustana Rainbow

1997 was a year that Grand Forks will never forget. When the flood of the millennium ravaged our city, everything in its path was either damaged or destroyed. Augustana Lutheran, the little church in downtown Grand Forks that I call home, was caught right in the middle of the torrent. After we briefly considered moving to a new south end location, we quickly decided to instead repair the building we already had.

We began holding worship again a few months later and Sunday School followed a few months after that. Our Education Wing received a new coat of paint but it still lacked the color and warmth that makes a building a home. The teachers talked about having the children paint a mural and soon the idea grew into a plan. Each student would place their hands into permanent paint and then make an imprint on a wall. The smaller ones would go first and make the first arc of a rainbow. The older children continued with arcs of their own; using different colors. Eventually we had a rainbow made entirely of children’s hand prints.

The words “Remember the Promise of the Rainbow” were placed under the hand prints along with “Augustana Sunday School Kids” and “Fall 1997.” Thankfully the teachers glued little white cardboard doves above each set of prints with the child’s name and grade.

I’ve taken many a child to the Augustana Rainbow; pointing out hand prints of some of their family members. The hands of older cousins, sisters, brothers, uncles and aunts all bring this piece of art alive to the children of Augustana. Just this Sunday I had the opportunity to show a little girl a set of hand prints that belonged to her own mother! How wonderful is that!

Seeing the hand prints of loved ones, frozen in time, is what makes the Augustana Rainbow so special. This is true for the children I teach, but it’s also true for me. Yes, all of the children I have in Sunday School hold a place in my heart, but there are two pairs of prints in the rainbow that are just a little more precious to me. I stop and look at these two pairs of prints each and every Sunday when I go by to teach my class. I sometimes touch the paint and think back to when these two people I love so dearly were tiny enough that I could pick them up, hug them, and tell them I love them.

Kris and Ana are both adults now and no longer allow me to pick them up. I do however, want to tell them that I still love them and that I think of them every week when I teach Sunday School!

Posted in Family | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

American Sniper

Sue and I enjoyed a stop at River Cinema this evening to see “American Sniper.” The film, directed by Clint Eastwood, is a biographical account of Chris Kyle, a decorated Navy Seal who served four tours of duty in Iraq. The movie has been portrayed as both a pro-war and an anti-war film by the media and we wanted to judge for ourselves.

I can see why the film would appeal to the Pro-Iraqi War crowd. It portrayed Chris Kyle as the product of a conservative Christian upbringing; learning right and wrong from his strong father while sitting around the dinner table. His Dad told him: “There are three types of people in this world: Sheep, wolves, and sheep dogs.” Kyle quickly identified himself as the sheep dog which protected the helpless sheep from the evil wolves. It was only natural then that after watching the horrors of 9/11, he quickly enlisted in the Navy to protect his country from those that wished to destroy it. Conservatives love a war hero and Chris Kyle fits the bill well!

I can also see why those opposed to the Iraqi war would see “American Sniper” as making their case as well; it certainly spends much time detailing the horrors of war. First, there are the young Americans killed in Iraq. Then we see the pain and suffering experienced by Kyle’s wife Taya, as she waits for news of her husband. Lastly, we see the scars inflicted on the soldiers like Kyle who do return home. Their missing limbs and post-traumatic stress disorders make a strong case that war should be avoided at all cost.

I saw “American Sniper” as a great tragedy. The death of American soldiers was tragic. The death of Iraqis friendly to American soldiers was tragic. The fear experienced by families of the soldiers was tragic. The way Kyle suffered during and after his tours in Iraq was tragic. The maimed war veterans were tragic.

Every now and then I need to be reminded of the great tragedies that accompany war, and “American Sniper” delivered.

Posted in Movies and Entertainment | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Dedicated Runners

It’s January 17th, a Saturday, and my alarm wakes me at 6AM. I get dressed and go downstairs to let the dogs out and am greeted by a blizzard; there’s heavy snow and a howling Northwest wind is severely reducing visibility. I make some coffee and eat a bowl of cereal as I prepare for my morning activity. You may ask what I am planning on doing when it’s so miserable out, but you probably already know: I’m going running… outside!

Today was Red River Runners first Saturday training run. I’m sure all of you realize that the Fargo Marathon is precisely sixteen weeks from today, and that sixteen weeks is just about the right amount of time to train for a half or full marathon.

I arrived at Choice Health and Fitness Center, which is where RRR meets at this time of year and was greeted by many familiar faces along with a few new ones. We exchanged jokes about how crazy, stupid, or hardcore (you pick) we had to be to run in weather like this. While all of the above descriptions accurately describe us runners, I think the best wasn’t included. That description, of course, would be “dedicated.”

You see, at this time of year almost everyone has made a resolution to get into better shape in 2015. While most simply talk about it, these runners are making it happen. If that means running in a blizzard, then that’s what they are going to do! Now that’s dedication!

Posted in Running | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Celebrating Bison Football in Grand Forks

Only two states have fewer people than North Dakota. Only one state is colder. In terms of national relevance, few would consider North Dakota important for much of anything. To paraphrase Rodney Dangerfield; “We don’t get no respect!” While this holds true for many things, there is one notable exception and that would be football.

Football is undoubtedly America’s most popular sport, and when it comes to college football, there is tremendous respect across the entire country for North Dakota football, or should I say more correctly, North Dakota STATE football.

The North Dakota State Bison have captured the attention of football fans everywhere with two appearances on ESPN’s “Game day,” a string of impressive victories over larger FBS programs, a 34 game win streak, and three consecutive national championships.

Yesterday, the North Dakota State Football legend grew to new epic proportions.

Playing in their fourth consecutive national championship game, and trailing the Illinois State Redbirds by 4 points with 1:38 remaining, the Bison looked to their quarterback Carson Wentz to deliver something special. The kid from Bismarck completed three long passes to get his team into scoring position, then ran the ball in himself to score the go ahead touchdown. Oh, by the way, the victory was actually sealed a couple of plays later when another Bismarck native, Esley Thorton, intercepted a Redbird pass, ending any possible comeback. North Dakota State is the first college football program in history to win four consecutive national championships!

So, are the people of North Dakota proud of this championship team? I heard several players speak during the pregame, saying that wherever they travel, whether it is Bismarck or Minot, people tell them that the entire state is proud of Bison Football. That would be everywhere except Grand Forks, of course.

I watched the game with a couple of friends at Buffalo Wild Wings in Grand Forks yesterday. While there were many people cheering on the Bison, there were also many people wearing “Fighting Sioux” attire that were cheering for the Illinois State Redbirds. I overheard one person comment to his friend “If anyone in this country really cared about this game, they wouldn’t be playing it at noon.” Nope, I failed to sense any warm, fuzzy feelings flowing out of Grand Forks. I guess a Native American head needs to be on display before any North Dakota pride can be felt in Grand Forks.

There’s a wise old saying: “If you can’t beat them, join them.” Yesterday North Dakota was celebrating how good our state is at football. Too bad you didn’t join in, Grand Forks: It was a fun day!

Posted in Sports, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Running Circles at the UND Wellness Center

It’s the time of year to be nostalgic. I ran 105 laps today around the UND Wellness Center, equivalent to 13.1 miles, a distance commonly known as a half marathon. This distance isn’t a big deal for me anymore, but today I was continually thinking back to a few years ago when it was something truly special. Please join me as I return to 2009…

June 13th, 2009 is the first day I made an entry in my running journal. I completed a couple of little jogs before I began keeping track, but this is the date I call “official.” I usually give credit to two people for motivating me that first year: Jill Thompson for getting me to start running, and Brian Gregoire for giving me the confidence to continue.

My first race was a 5K benefit run in July called the “Ta-Ta Crusade.” The race was being held by Red River Runners to raise money for Denae Grove, a member fighting breast cancer. I met many runners that day who would later become great friends.

Brian encouraged me to try a 10K (6.2 miles) next, so when I heard Red River Runners were holding a race called the “Fall Frolic” in September to raise funds for the Empire Arts Center, I signed up and ran it.

By the time October came, I was running longer distances as well as running shorter distances faster: In other words, I was hooked on running. I listened to Brian talk about marathons and I began to believe I could do it too. There was going to be a training class in January put on by Red River Runners to get people ready for their first half or full marathon in Fargo the next May. I knew I wanted to be in the class, but which distance would I train for?

In November, I began running 10 miles each Saturday. I felt I should complete a half marathon before I attempted a full, but when I looked at the calendar, there weren’t any half marathon races in North Dakota or Minnesota that winter.

On December 5th, a Saturday, I was running circles at the UND Wellness Center, getting in my 10 miles when it hit me: I wanted to run the Fargo Marathon. I decided to complete my prerequisite half marathon that day, at that time, on that track. I was going to do it!

I have competed in numerous half and full marathons in the years since, but that Saturday, running in circles around the UND Wellness Center, just like I was today, was my first one! There wasn’t a starting gun, because I didn’t even know I was running the race until it was almost over. There weren’t any spectators cheering at the finish line, but you know what? That December Saturday at the Center was just as important as all the others since. It was my first half marathon, I felt elated when I finished, and I’ll never forget it!

Posted in Running | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment