Life during wartime

On Memorial Day, National Public Radio reminded us that we’ve just concluded a 10-year war, as bracketed by 9/11/01, the day of the Twin Tower attacks, and 5/1/11, the day Osama bin Laden was caught and assassinated. The story that followed was about noble warriors, but as the vets told their war stories, I was reminded of the “Rent” tune that goes, “The opposite of war isn’t peace, it’s creation.”

Yes, please. With that in mind, I asked my Facebook friends what they created in the last 10 years. What came back was a smart, funny and wise tone-poem of what the war-torn media missed over the past 10 years, reproduced here in the singular voice of your friends and neighbors, testifying about what they made:

Twenty-two books, all published. A new community art space in a neighborhood that needs the opposite of war. Countless songs, poems, fragments, photographs. Two amazing young men (co-created, anyway) and the second decade of an amazing relationship with an astonishing woman.

A complete mess of things. An interesting life of integrity. Twenty-two thousand pizzas — fresh, hot and on time. A family through open adoption. Four kids and a gut.

Polished a turd and made it a viable northwestern Wisconsin restaurant/tavern. Feed Them With Music, an organization created by Paul and Tim Frantzich, which fed 25,000 from their last Pantages Theater show. Two CDs and two kids! A community based on love and music in Minneapolis. A sauna in my basement. A bridge between two continents with a bench in the middle to rest my mind.

A home filled with LOVE, stability and hope for hundreds of homeless pregnant and/or parenting youth and their children. Plays and essays — I write; it’s all I know how to do. Self-esteem in my son, and a new life for my son that’s free of abuse, violence, negativity and self-doubt.

A garden, music and a whole bunch of new recipes. A smart and beautiful boy; a greater appreciation for and effort toward sustainability; good food; a tiny piece of the bountiful arts community, and jobs for 30-plus people.

A coffee table magazine; a family-friendly pet parade, pet blessing and pet contest; a regional history book; a loving home; a friendly place for neighbors to visit, and a desire to do more for others in the future. A safe haven for myself. Astounding, loving friendships. Some words and art. Forgiveness within my family. Some drama … and fun!

A strong family life and foundation, and not just for our kids, but for each other and our friends and neighbors — and there was a time in my life when I didn’t believe that it was possible or that it even mattered. A love of reading and writing in hundreds of 6 and 7 year olds, and my colleagues and I wrote and created a Hmong Studies curriculum for public school kids in St. Paul and the world.

A nonprofit dance company for youth that brings 3,200 at-risk and underserved youth to see our shows for free at O’Shaughnessy Auditorium. A new sense of community for myself — new neighbors, new friends, new passions and possibilities. I turned being a wallflower into a rewarding art form. I created a life that makes more sense to me than the one I’d invested in for 20 years. Release a CD, wrote a children’s book, random songs, half-finished script, moved back into my childhood home, cleared it, cleaned it, scrubbed it, painted it, repaired it, planted a garden and hopefully created a sense of peace.

Word of grateful candor and lilting light-hearted humor in honor of grandparents and mothers, cats and good grammar. Space for two different humans and two different pets that is full of enough light to sustain, and enough trust to relax.

A tremendous cobbled-together family of families and friends. We’ve seen weddings, divorces, babies, illnesses and the tragedy of a child’s death. Still, we link arms, laugh, and call out “Red Rover” into the dusk.

Jim Walsh lives and grew up in East Harriet.