Post to the Host

Host Garrison Keillor answers your questions about life, love, writing, authors, and of course, A Prairie Home Companion.

Send GK Your Question »

July 30, 2007 | 2 Comments

Dear Garrison,
I was born in Canton, MN of a Norwegian, lapsed-Lutheran mother and a German, lapsed-whatever Dad. They lived through two World Wars, the Great Depression, and several recessions. As a result, I was raised with a philosophy, namely:

Make it over or make do.

It may not be the best there is but it is good enough. If you can't get what you want, want what you get. It could have been worse.

As a result of this upbringing, I have been frugal (some would say cheap) most of my life. This lifestyle certainly came to the fore when my kids were still at home. I'm still living the frugal (cheap) life, and it has enabled me to retire early and relatively debt free.

When explaining this philosophy to folks, do I refer to it as "Midwestern", "Lutheran", "Norwegian", "German" or "cheap"? I'd like to have another name for it other than "Luddite" because I don't have cable TV, an iPod, photo-enabled cell phone, or any number of gadgets that today's bunch can't seem to live without.

As a fan I remain curiously yours,

Rancho Cucamonga, CA

I was raised that way, Ramona, by people who raised their own vegetables, canned them, and killed their own chickens, and as soon as I was on my own, I rebelled against it and became a spendthrift and wastrel. I bought books and went to fancy restaurants and shows and did other things my parents wouldn't have done, and I don't repent of it, though it's clear how far I've fallen. You stuck with the old philosophy, and good for you — I'd call it Midwestern Sobriety — and the rest of us went chasing off after Expensive Romantic Experiences. I do hope you can loosen up in your retirement and enjoy the years and not be obsessed with financial security. Get on a plane and go someplace for no reason other than that you always wanted to see it. I just got back from ten days in the Norwegian fjords and it was a mystical revelation of earthly splendor. Expensive, but what the heck. You only live once. Whoopee!!!!


Yup, that's my mom. Nothing if not a devotee of "Midwestern Sobriety". She still balks when I do anything she perceives as slightly extravagant, though she says nothing. After all, if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all, right? She had no problem, however, when for her birhtday a few years back, I got us tickets to see a certain midwestern humorist at the Greek Theater. I'm somewhat relieved she didn't know how much the tickets were, or I'm sure I would've gotten a tongue-lashing, or at the very least, the evil eye. I remain a survivor of "Midwestern Sobriety".

Alta Loma, California

I am in my early thirties, not your typical audience demographics, but I enjoy your show a lot. I like what you said about life - we only live once. We'd better do things that please our hearts while we still can. It's too late to roam the world when one has to use a walking stick. It's pathetic to have to say "I wish I had tried that while I was young."

Previous Post:

Next Post:

Post to the Host Archive

Complete Post to the Host Archive

American Public Media © |   Terms and Conditions   |   Privacy Policy