Colorful Sundogs and Delayed Sunsets

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI was able to capture the later sunset and colorful, rainbow like sundogs. The pictures will help explain that better. We are getting longer days for which we are all thankful. Today was negative 15 degrees F and it was a good thing I didn’t know that as I started my car to go to work.  I KNEW it was cold, but not THAT cold.  The day before there was a biting wind so the windchill was probably that or worse!

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We are into Week 5 of our semester with about ten more weeks to go. I am helping my folks clear out their place and burning the extra letters and other debris that they have been storing. My Mom has been a very prolific letter writer over the years and I want to “bless” people with some of the pictures I have found for each of the sibling’s families and my cousins and other more distant relatives.  I have created about 20 different piles of various density, mostly pictures.

My sister came up for the THIRD time from the Cities which is quite a sacrifice because she lives five hours away. She helped this last time combing through all the letters and pictures that were left. Now there are only boxes full of tax returns from ten years ago up to last year.  My Mom will plow through that.

So, when I got home last night I promptly started a bonfire, the third one so far and had the backdrop of the setting sun. On the way home through I was able to capture the colorful sundogs. Life is good…as long as I get enough sleep and keep one step ahead of my students.

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Unexpected turns

We are second day into February and it is Ground Hog Day, officially. Because the groundhog saw his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter.  That means for us in northern Minnesota that it will be that many more weeks of cold!  Today it is bright and sunny but that is not to fool us, it is still cold outside.

The unexpected turns is I just said goodbye to my youngest brother as he visited us for several days.  He and his family had been here just a month ago but things have changed quickly in our parents direction.  They are downsizing from a big two story house with a roomy basement into a two bedroom apartment.  They have a garage that has a lot of room for storage but it is about 60 years worth of living that is getting pared down to a small place.

My other sister (I have three) sees this change or “unexpected” turn as sending a kid off to college and getting ready for the dorm room size of things.  Yes, she has been up two weekends in a row to help with her big van. The first weekend we moved two beds and other big pieces with my dad’s van as well.

Next, my other brother will be here this weekend to look at my Dad’s shop and try to convince him to move out of that, inventory and all.  That is the tough part.  He has a LOT of things in this very old shop that he has to heat at about $600 a month.  He puts in wood for the fuel to cut down on the cost but he drives in the middle of the night with wood to stoke the fire.  He is nearly 87 years old and should not be doing this physical kind of labor.

The unexpected turn is that he has a young kind of energy and wants to do things, but my dad is not of sound mind anymore. That is the tough part to watch. I want to be optimistic and think of him as being ready to take on the challenges of life. Reality is what my 82 year old mom sees everyday…he is not capable anymore. I can’t see him sitting in one place but there may be a day where he will need to go to assisted care living.

All this transition into old age is difficult for me to observe and my siblings who live far away do not understand the sense of immediacy of getting the folks out of their established home.  Bewildering for all of us, especially my dad.

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Mid January in the Heartland again

img_20170112_123055201Okay, we have finished ONE week of classes and have had several blizzards after returning from Arizona where it was sun and fun filled with grandkids.  Now we are bracing ourselves for the brutal, long and cold days. Yet there is beauty in all of this as these pictures show.

I went to a funeral the other day for a man who was a pillar of our community, he would have lived to be 100 years old if he could have made it to July of this year. Not to be…I was there for his daughter who was a classmate of mine.  There were four of us who graduated in the same year who came to support our friend Judy.  My folks were there and it was a nice military tribute to a man who had seen much. Someone alluded to the boating accident he was in where he was fishing with two gals and another guy. The boat couldn’t get started again and so the two girls jumped out but went over the dam. The other guy perished too. But not Russ, he was in good physical shape because he was in the military and was on leave at the time.

As the story goes and what I heard from the speaker at the funeral was that he remembers climbing and climbing stairs and when he awoke he was on the shore of the river bank. He believed that the angel had brought him enough strength to keep climbing to the surface. I had found this story out in the obituaries for the two sisters and the one man who drowned in this accident. I talked to my friend Judy to find out what she knew…she told me her mother had told her about this mishap that everyone in town knew about. However, what is interesting is that everyone in town knew him as the hobby shop guy, the one who had all the games to sell. He told jokes and did little pranks and had earlier been involved with several of the movie theaters.

img_20170112_101659283Well, it was fun to have my friend Suzi stay with us after the funeral, she got to see our sundogs. Yes, we were stormed in the next day so we sat and sang songs together. Good use of our time.  So, today was the last day of teaching for the week, my husband and I went to a Chinese restaurant to celebrate our first week of teaching. My friend Suzi joined us and then she went off to spend time with her family.  She came for the funeral from Florida but also to see her 93-year-old dad who is failing quickly.

So, looking out our windows upstairs and downstairs was quite a scenery shot for my friend Suzi from Florida.  I wanted to share these with you so you can see the beauty of our winter scape even though you might not feel the very cold temps of minus 20 F. Only the few can stand this. I am just glad my car started right up this morning despite the cold. I had baked some pumpkin bread and blueberry scones that I brought to my students.

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End of an interesting but productive year

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo, I am less than two hours away from greeting in the new year of 2017. I’m reviewing in my mind what happened last January at the start of 2016. No doubt we had just come back from Arizona to see the kids and grandkids.  Then the spring semester started and it was a good crop of students where we met in a big classroom with about four screens that could turn on.  Then was graduation ceremonies and work at the Carnegie started in earnest.  The two guys were able to move the archived newspapers from the big room in the lower level to the fire proof vault.

I moved out all the files from what was in the vault and another smaller reference room into about 70 acid free boxes.  That was moved over to the museum grounds and then our wonderful volunteer went to work with painting the rooms, the hallway and staining the floor before varnishing it.  I went to get the wainscoting and he cut them in half so that I could stain that before he put them up on the walls of the bigger room. Then I varnished and we were ready for our annual town’s summer celebration in August.

We had painters come to the Carnegie who were local artists and we also had on display a photographer who does outdoor shots of what we see everyday off the highway. Old buildings, vintage equipment, scenic shots and that was on display for four days.  On Saturday we had a classical painter’s paintings shown from what people had bought from him in the 1970s when he had escaped with his family from Czechoslovakia. Turns out he died several years after coming to the U.S. but his daughter in law, Ruth Boubin came with four of her children to see their grandpa’s work.

That was probably the best part of the year to see all the beautiful, large paintings that Antonin Boubin had done in such a short time.  He had been a dentist but he was put in prison and the guards broke his fingers to he could not do dental work once out of prison. Then he was put in prison again, a total of about 2 1/2 years.  His wife and two boys came with him via Austria to New York but no one was their to receive them so they came to my hometown in Minnesota.

I don’t know that we can top that event but I’m hoping with the money donated that we will get the lower floor finished and then we can have people come to see that with art displays in the Carnegie for our August event.

Meanwhile I had a good semester with my students this fall but technology with laptop, projector, printers were not good.  I went to Plan B and then Plan C with this problems and the students rolled with it.  I do NOT want to have this same room next semester, I just want to have a normal time with what has never been an issue before.

I also have articles to write for a grant that I wrote, I have two other writers working alongside of me to accomplish 15 articles about our agricultural area of Minnesota. I think we will get them done before May so that we can get other work done at the Carnegie. In any case, it has been a very fruitful and productive year of fundraising. I need to get all my numbers put in order so that I can have another Carnegie restoration committee meeting with the others before our historical society board meeting.  Seems some people are either lazy or do NOT have the same passion to bring back the Carnegie to function for the community.

I am hoping that the year 2017 will be a very good one for my family and for my getting more done.  Happy New Year.

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In the winter, there are better places to be enjoying

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter a delayed start in the cold climes where winter has finally descended in snow and cold, we ended up in warm Arizona on Saturday evening.  While we were waiting in the airport I said that we were delayed while using up time on Facebook. My friend asked which airline I was flying, turns out he knew someone who was delayed at our destination because of a suspicous package on the plane. They were all de-planed before they boarded and ended up at our terminal with the plane we were to take back from whence they started. Small world.  Of course the clerk behind the counter at OUR location didn’t suggest that it was a security risk but only told us about our 1 1/2 hour delay. In truth we were 2 hours delayed but it was so warm and sunny at 4:00 p.m. that we didn’t mind. The three hour flight was uneventful.

We wanted to get to Mesa so that we could celebrate my 97 year old aunt’s birthday that very day.  Missed seeing my one cousin but got to have a nice meal at Olive Garden with my other cousin and his wife.  We stayed at their home and saw how they had really made a nice new place for my Aunt Alta.  When we had heard they were converting their garage and part of their living area into her little place, I was thinking rustic.  Turns out that they used top of the line everything and she has a cozy little home that is a doorway away from her son and daughter-in-law…and ALL the grandkids and her great grandkids as well. She is a rich lady.

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So after going to church the next day with Alta to help her celebrate her 97th b.d. with her church family, we took off for parts south of us to be at a place where we have stayed for the last four Decembers.  This way we get to see Laura and Steve with their four year old Andy and also 40 year old Liam.  We went out to a Mongolian restaurant last night but the night before we went to a farm festival with walls and walls of haybales and many more Christmas lights and decorations. We took a train ride and then we had good talks on our way there and back.

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Our time to celebrate but I am still in high gear mode from home and have been sending out e-mails and other information because they had been put to the side while I was in the throes of teaching and finally getting grades submitted.  I realize that my students are still probably taking their final exams this week but I push to get papers done earlier so that they have the freedom to study for their other courses once their final presentations are done.

My 35 students had chosen different topics for their fourth research paper and I learned a LOT from some of them.  I’ve read before about horse slaughter and how that is a good thing rather what the options are for dying or older horses since the law passed in 2008.  Another student wrote about land and oil rights in North Dakota, another about raw milk. Every semester I get a student athlete who believes that college football players should be paid and there will usually be other topics that are controversial as well. One took on the electoral college which is a relevant theme now with our elections being over, but he did NOT show the counterclaim to his claim that this should be abolished.

In any case, this should be my vacation and I am enjoying the outdoor pool and also the hot tub but I can’t seem to get into that mode of relaxing and unwinding until some other projects are completed.  Okay, I should really enjoy this place that I am at right now because it will be all too soon that I will be back again to the cold temps and grading more student papers for next semester.

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Well, would you look at that!

…end of the year already!  Indeed, we have already turned the 2016 calendar to the last month of December and that will go into overdrive with all the activities that have to happen before the end of the year. I just started having my comp students do their powerpoint presentations today, four of them.  They were all good, however, two read from their note cards, one had good eye contact using a Prezi presentation and the last one did the best. However, I didn’t agree with his topic or the position he took. Just the same, he did an outstanding job, he is my top student in that class.

Then afterwards I met with a student who is failing and it would seem that she does NOT quite understand some of the important APA formatting rules that I had already gone over with her in Paper 3. I’m flummoxed by how some of these students seem like normal, nice kids but they do NOT seem to connect with key concepts.  I found out that I am not the only one experiencing this as a teacher to these freshmen students. Other teachers have commented on the same thing.  Okay, that means these students that were born just before the turn of the century have something else going on in their upbringing? Or is it their education?

We have students from all over the country and I have another class with mainly Korean and Chinese students.  My three Korean students are getting top grades and they understand the concepts I have given them.  Getting back to my one student who is failing, she may just give this class a drop and do it over again next fall.  In any case, she told me she is not doing well in her other classes either.  I think she needs to just focus on those classes so she doesn’t fail on all of them as well.

I have ONE more week of teaching and then I need to start working on my historical grant that I was awarded and write on things relevant to my region of the state. Not much is known about our farmers working the rich agricultural soil. Unfortunately, we are so out of the way for people 4-5 hours from us to the south. I kind of understand and can relate to what the people in Kazakhstan must feel like with the rest of the world. I know they are hyper sensitive to either being ignored or not given the respect they should have with their long traditions and rich history. In a small way, that is what it feels like to be from this area of the “fly-over” country where our voice is not heard or at least disregarded by those elites in a crowded city setting who are the “big shots” and seemingly call all the shots.

Okay, enough of my grousing, I should really turn in for the evening. I have Christmas cards that I am writing out. Today I mailed out about 35-40 and I have about 25 more to write.  My husband has about 60 of his own to write but he is on a different schedule than me.  I have packing and Christmas presents to put together.  At the end of the month we will drive with my folks to see my brother and his family in Wisconsin and celebrate his birthday on Dec. 31st.

More about my Christmas vacation plans later.   OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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Spoons and rain

Okay, I realize I haven’t written for most of November but I do have my reasons.  First of all, I have been busy with student papers. Then next, I have been busy with music and practicing the piano and singing at the same time.  Quite an accomplishment for me since I learned to read notes and to sing and play simultaneously is a stretch.  Next, I started a new series in our local newspaper which puts added stress on me to get things written once a week. Also, I should be researching for the grant that I was awarded about history articles about our area of the state. Finally, we had guests over for Thanksgiving, my family from the Cities and also my folks.

I forgot to mention that we celebrated my parents’ 62 wedding anniversary and so that was part of Nov. 14th that we took them out to a local restaurant. Now I have had papers to grade that I handed back yesterday and today. They were all rough drafts but I needed to put my comments down about their doing APA formatting right or getting their thesis statement done concisely.  My students needed to show their claim about their chosen topic and then also the counterclaim.  Most of my American students didn’t get that concept, my Asian students did.

So, you may ask why am I doing another series for the newspaper? I just finished an 8 week series with my students writing about their grandparent. I had to put that all together but it was their writing and my doing a bit of editing or touchup.  I hear from people that they like to read what I write and that is affirming. However, when I write history, I want to get my facts right and sometimes that is what takes the extra time to get it right and yet keep in readable.

I talk to my students about their voice and about their reading audience. Now I will have them convert their research papers to a 10 minute powerpoint presentation and many of them have done it in their own language. It will be a challenge for some to talk in their second language of English. I’m not too worried about my international students. I think it is my native born American students who have entered our college and the standards from high school have been lowered. Therefore, they have some catching up to do. Some are getting it and writing perfect References pages, others seem to not care.

Well, it was good to have my family over for Thanksgiving during our break away from scholarly pursuits. My nephew, who was adopted about ten years ago from Russia, mentioned that we should play SPOONS. That was after we had eaten to our fill, the traditional turkey, ham, potatoes, sweet potatoes, lefse, etc.  It was a good meal. We then passed out cards and proceeded to have spoons placed on the table minus one of the people sitting around the table.  Once the playing cards were passed after each had four cards to work with, then the fun began. Whoever got the first set of four cards would quietly grab a spoon and at that point then everyone else is grabbing for the spoons.

We downsized and got the table smaller for our next round after my one sister won. That may have been our first mistake because when we had another play 3 rounds later, that is when my brother overreached and broke our table. We all had a good laugh about that and then we realized that was the end of our night. Everyone had to take the VERY muddy roads that the rain had left us.  We played spoons and then my company left in the rain. I followed all three cards heading back into town and they made it through the mud at a much slower speed.

I am grateful to be alive and that my husband is living. Oh, I forgot to mention that this month involved his being in the hospital for three days with a blood clot in his lung. I think that would be ONE more reason why I haven’t written that much this month. I was happy to have him returned home after that scare.  Yes, I have a LOT to be thankful in the aftermath of this Thanksgiving season.

 

 

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