Thursday, December 29, 2016

Flying away

It’s a Wonderful Life

When celebrating a life like Little Ruth Marie Nelson Chase Olson’s , especially at Christmas time, one immediately thanks Frank Capra.  He posed the question:  What difference could her life possibly have made?  Having had the opportunity to play Clarence, the angel in waiting, it’s only fair I get to answer that question!

Born a daughter and a sister, Ruth’s formative years began in metropolitan Goodwin, South Dakota.  Sandwiched between her two brothers and “guided” by an older sister, she quickly developed a loyalty and love for them that was boundless.  And of course, there was Miss Cookie!  An amazingly strong and resourceful woman, she raised Ruth to recognize her own worth—to make lasting friends—to fiercely protect the animals in her (and everyone else’s) care.  Miss Cookie raised four highly intelligent, independent thinkers.

Graduating from the cosmopolitan town of Watertown, (Class of 55, an amazing amalgam of phenomenal people) Ruth was off to SDSU, where she received her teaching degree AND established life-long relationships with the women affectionately known as the Knight House Girls.  These friendships would grow and deepen over time, with every effort to stay in touch through letters, cards, e-mails, and the yearly pilgrimages they would make to exotic locations like The Blue Belle Inn near Rapid City and a trip or two to holy city--Saint Cloud. 

It was back to Watertown to teach, to meet her handsome prince, to marry, and to live happily ever after.  Or so was the plan.  Mark, her handsome prince, died unexpectedly one summer while away from home.  Her “once upon a time” did not have the expected ending.  But no one was better dealing with (or teaching for that matter) plot shifts.  With the help of supportive friends, life went on.

Enter Clarence, or more specifically, the loud, obnoxious, freshman debate coach.  Suspect from the start, Ruth and friends were completely unsure as to what had just happened.  I’m not sure how, or for that matter, why, but they accepted me, nurtured me, and began a life-long friendship that even death cannot destroy!

Once upon a time becomes twice upon a time.  Ruth and Chuck meet, discover in each other a part missing from their lives, and have spent the last 38 years traveling, gardening, raising and loving their cats (whose names seemed to change periodically!) and completing each other. 

Retirement.  While a viable concept, no one would say it applied to Ruth.  Although she no longer taught, she enmeshed herself in her community.  Friends of the library flourished.  The Mellette House had its own girl guide.  The Historical Museum had an avid crusader.  Retired School Personnel had a champion.  Town Players enjoyed the fruits (and savories) of her kitchen labors.  And her friends and family had Ruth!

So that’s her life.  Did it make a difference?

Ask her husband.  Ask her brother.  Ask the nieces and nephews and great nieces and nephews.  Ask the Knight House Girls.  Ask the class of 55.  Ask her life-long friends.  Ask any of the organizations to which she gave her time and energy.  Ask anyone who was the beneficiary of one of her greeting cards.  A couple favorites stand out—there was the Easter card with the dyed eggs on the front, and when opened, you were confronted with an extremely bellicose chicken screaming “Who painted my babies.?”  And my all time favorite—the birthday card from Ruth and Chuck that very simply wished me a happy birthday—from the Jungle Stud and his Amazon Temptress! 

But most importantly, ask the children whose lives she touched, whose minds she molded, whose souls she changed.  Upon announcement of her death, over 100 responders spoke to her abilities…her deftness at “learning them” and making them feel good.  This is what one of them wrote to her only last week.
I wanted to say a few things to someone who has touched my life so profoundly.
Not only do I value the things you taught me in the classroom, but far and away the most important and valuable thing to me is our friendship and what that has become. I am always excited to email you and tell you news from life. You encouraged me to go to grad school, to complete the dissertation beast, and always make me feel like you are proud of me. You support me in my academic, and now professional, endeavors. Having you as a cheerleader means more than you may realize. I have come to think of you as part of my family and love you as such. I am angry that we won't get enough time to continue our friendship. I am also angry that something like this happened to such a beautiful person. I am so glad I walked by your classroom saying hi everyday, and am thankful for everything that came after. You have touched many lives, none more than Chuck's, but you have certainly influenced and made mine better. There should never be a day that the earth turns without you in it, but I am so happy I got to spend some of those turns with you.  

Today we celebrate our turns.  Today we give thanks for all the joy and smiles.  Today we eat and drink because she wanted us to, we put away our tears and pain for just a while, and we raise our glasses…To our Amazon Temptress.  The time has come for you to fly away.  Let us give you your wings!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The annual Christmas letter--abbreviated version!


wrote a book.
enjoyed a myriad of organizations.
Have Been
Will Be

May your hearts be merry and bright!
Merry Christmas

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

At no other time.

I sit in the basement because it is as close to sticking my head in the sand as I can get.  The ostrich syndrome has struck, with a vengeance.  I just finished listening to the weather.  Brrrrr.  Just Brrrrr.  But I’m a South Dakotan, born and raised, and a little cold weather will not defeat me.  A little snow will not defeat me.  I choose to live here and I enjoy it.  Where else is there as much grist for the complaining mill?  Not why I am in the basement.
Unfortunately, the 5:00 o’clock “local” news is followed by the 5:30 national news.  Russian interference in our electoral process.  Bombing of children in Aleppo.  Reminder of Sandy Hook.  Presidential cabinet appointments.  And I headed to the basement.  No television.  No radio.  No reminder of the evil that lives in the hearts of certain men and women. 
Alone with my computer, the dryer working to finish the laundry, the wonderful sound of the furnace warming the house, and the hum of the freezer (which has just called my name to consume a sour cream raisin bar), I find it possible to center.  Internally I rage at a foreign power affecting my very life.  I marvel at how travel to foreign shores has broadened my knowledge.  I cry for the lives of the innocent.  I thank God for the men and women who teach them.  I decry the violence that comes from guns.  Unfortunately, I “got nothin” to counter that.  I am frightened at the direction our country will turn if the president-elect gets the cabinet he wants.  I am thankful they must be approved. 
I do my best to surround myself with people brighter than I.  I do my best to surround myself with people more caring than I.  I do my best to see the good that is there and avoid the bad that exists.  I am a person of action.  Tonight, and every night until Christmas, I shall light a candle in the window hoping against hope that some will "see the light."  But today, at least until The Big Bang Theory comes on, my action shall be ostrichesque!  Thank god there is a good supply of sour cream raisin bars!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

It has to be said

Sometimes I sleep.  Sometimes I think.  This morning was a combination of both.  My heart weighs heavy with the all too frequent out pouring of violence.  The deaths of innocents have seemingly brought about the death of innocence.  We are bombarded each day by the media describing the inhumanity of man.  Police officers killed.  Races profiled.  Terrorist attacks.  The most despicable deeds performed in the name of vengeance, retribution, or worse yet, religious fervor.  And we wring our hands and lament, “My God, the world is a terrible place.” 
The world is NOT a terrible place.  There are terrible people.  And as trite as it seems, the musical “South Pacific” has the reason set to song.  You have to be carefully taught.  
You've got to be taught

To hate and fear,

You've got to be taught

From year to year,

It's got to be drummed

In your dear little ear

You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught to be afraid

Of people whose eyes are oddly made,

And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade,

You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught before it's too late,

Before you are six or seven or eight,

To hate all the people your relatives hate,

You've got to be carefully taught!
Teach—a verb—an action word.  We teach by our actions.  Tell someone something, they might believe it.  Show someone something, it might matter.  Model the action and it is observed, and internalized, and repeated.  Edmund Burke is credited with the quotation, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”  By our inactivity, we teach fear.  By our acceptance of evil, we breed hatred.  By our shoulder shrugs and desire to crawl in a hole and ignore the world, we allow. 
But what?  What should we do?  What can I do?  As difficult the question, the answer is amazingly simple.  Do good.  Be good.  CELEBRATE GOOD!  MODEL GOOD!!!! 
We raise millions of dollars each year to help the helpless, feed the starving, and clothe the naked.  We do good.  We teach our children that one rule is “golden”.  We do good.  We help our neighbors and care for the sick.  We do good.  Put your mouth where your money is.  TEACH those around you.  MODEL what you want to see in the world.  But for all that is holy, Don’t “do nothing.” 
I used to play a game.  “What do you want them to say at your funeral?”  My answer, selfishly, for years has been, “I miss him.”  I think I’ll change the answer.  My mother used to say it.  My wife says it frequently.  Two of the most important women in my life can’t be wrong.  Here’s what I want said at my funeral.  “You done good!”

Monday, June 6, 2016

My tool

I've lost my tool!  I've used it as long as I can remember.  I occasionally used it in high school.  College saw an increase in its use.  I probably used it every weekend during my first year of teaching, and once I got married, I used it almost every day.  With humility, I can honestly say it never failed me.  Oh, as we've aged and changed our habits, its use declined.  But whenever I needed it, it was there!  And now...nothing.  I was preparing for a main event...a celebratory occurrence...I was in a groove--on a roll--and then--what was one thing became three! One side split left.  One side split right.  And the center shaft stayed intact.  What once was extremely utile was now useless.  Oh, I understand.  I watch the news.  I know that you can now have them replaced.  But I brought this one with me into the marriage and I thought I would take it out with me.  Alas.  I fear they just don't make vegetable peelers the way they used to!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Photo op

As all good photographers will tell you, being in the right place at the right time yields the most significant pictures.  Let me set the scene for you.  We had just arrived home from a performance by the South Dakota Symphony.  Well, members of the South Dakota Symphony.  I claim a little musical ability, an above average ear, and appreciation for skilled instrumentalists.  I am NOT a fan of music composed in a combination of minor keys and major dissonance.  Scratch the first two numbers.  Intermission.  We stayed.  The third performance was an oboe quartet.  That would be one oboe and three string players.  It had its moments of brilliance.  The last piece was a trio of piano, violin, and French Horn. Brahms.  Amazing how one of four can make the whole experience worth it.  Anyhoo, we get home to discover that the pickup is taking up too much space in the garage so the Edge won't fit.  Move the pick-up.  Once inside, we let the horse out (that would be Teddy, the labradoodle) from his kennel and I head downstairs to change out of my symphony clothing.  It's almost time for bed, so I just throw on my robe of many colors.  Back upstairs, only to discover that Teddy wasn't ready to settle down.  He wanted to romp in the back yard.  I open the door.  I find a chair.  I almost freeze my who-has off.  Back inside.  I get my hoodie.  I am now sitting on the back deck in my robe with hoodie.  There's wind.  I come back in and grab the afghan.  I wrap it around me and watch the dog frolic.  There's wind.  With one hand, I hold the hood up and with the other hold the afghan tightly around my legs, not to mention who-has!  My only thrill is, there were no good photographers in that place at that time, but I'm willing to bet you have a mental picture that may keep you up at night!

Thursday, May 5, 2016


Picture it--a gorgeous summer-like evening.  Perfect for a late mowing.  The soaker hose is giving the perennials next to the fence a much needed drink.  And then the flash of white.  With a lot of black.  Have you met our new labradoodle puppy?  Actually, he's probably 16 months old, but oh, is he a puppy.  Like any youngster, mud is a significant attraction.  So too is the dog next door.  The fence between the two properties provides an excellent demarcation, keeping Gus the Schnauzer in his yard and Teddy in ours.  Actually, what it did was keep Gus at home and Teddy at home giving them reason to run up and down the fence line.  Gus?  Carefree!  Teddy?  Happy as a pig in mud--and twice as dirty.  Mud up his legs.  Mud on his stomach (you should see how low to the ground he gets when he's a running fool!).  And after all that running, a drink was in order--from a puddle of mud!  I'm upset.  Who was the idiot that let the dog out to run through the mud?  In fact, when my lovely bride comes out, I ask her that question.  I omit the idiot part, but I'm pretty sure I implied it.  She informs me she didn't let him out.  Well, I know I didn't, and he's a bright dog, but doesn't yet know how to open the door.  Then the truth.  When I went out to mow, Teddy was upstairs.  Apparently, I didn't shut the door as I went outside.  The idiot was I!  And try as hard as I could to blame anyone else, there it was.  The two of us managed to clean him up.  One of us pounded my chest and wailed "mea culpa" vociferously.  Actually, I did say I was sorry for blaming her.  But oh, the frustration of self realization of stupidity!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

It has been busy...

Juxtaposition.  A noun.  That time when everything seems to need to be done at exactly the same time.  We agreed to help with the Boys and Girls club fundraiser.  Starting now.  We are state board members of the State Retired School Personnel.  Convention activities begin tomorrow.  It's national teachers' week and we are involved.  We needed to go to Woonsocket to present a scholarship.  Fudge needed to be made.  Materials needed to be gathered.  And yet, this morning, when all these things coincided, as I walked from coffee in the front porch to take dirty dishes to the kitchen, a glimpse of the back yard caught my eye.  The grass, highlighted by the sun(!) was the most gorgeous shade of vernal green.  The perennials were establishing their right to return.  The class of 2000 pine showed new growth.  And it quite truthfully elicited a sudden gasp-like intake of breath.  What a glorious morning!  The tasks will be done to the best of our ability.  Time management skills will allow us to prioritize and complete.  Stress does nothing.  Action does.  And here's the most important thing.  We are alive and able to act!  Amazing Mother Nature reaffirmed our place in the universe! We're here to revel in her work!  And, apparently, to be busy!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Customer service and the Geeks!

My first experience with the Geek squad was not necessarily a pleasant one.  The initial contact was okay, but he was unable to help me and transferred me to the printer division.  I did not have a printing question.  I had a question concerning hooking our new Inspiron to an lcd projector.  The printer guy said I had to talk to parts, so he transferred me to some young lady who would NOT listen to what I was telling her.  Instead of listening, she seemed to have her own ideas of what I should need.  She was wrong.  Once I finally was able to convince her I really did know what I wanted, she informed me that you don't carry "that part" and I needed to contact Dell.  Mistake!  Obviously Dell outsources their customer service to Pakistan, and as such, while I was an English teacher, most of the time I had no idea what he was saying.  By now, I find it hard to believe you can fathom the depths of my frustration.  I contacted the geek squad again and was finally told (after an entertaining attempt to explain what I was trying to do) that you can't get there from here.  The only connection possible was with an hdmi cord.  That I have.  It is now 55 minutes after placing the original call.  Of course the projector to which I had to connect didn't have an hdmi while I ordered the new computer for the express purpose of today's presentation, we took the old one, connected it immediately, and were off and running.  Part of the presentation speaks of a hike in the wine country of Argentina.  We provided samples of a nice Malbec wine.  We raised our glasses, but as you may guess, it wasn't to outsourced customer service, it wasn't to Dell computers, it wasn't to the "parts girl" of the Geek squad, and as a result, it wasn't to Best Buy or their squad of geeks.  It was to patience, and I think you should appreciate that!

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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

My very first time

They say you never forget it.  It was bound to happen sometime.  But one never knew when.  After all, it is simply a matter of urge.  Having grown up with Ms. Lucy spouting words of wisdom, "Wait for it, it will be better", I waited.  But the time comes when you simply can't wait any longer.  The hormones conspire with the brain stem.  Do it now.  Do it now.  Do it now.  It will feel good.  But I had the dog with me.  What to do.  Tie him outside.  Bring him in.  Since I wasn't sure he would be safe outside, I opted for B.
The hormones and brain stem were right.  It was wonderful.  What a relief.  But I can honestly tell you, going to the bathroom for the first time in a porta-potty with a moose of a dog taking up the entire floor space did not make the experience easy!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Low Carb does NOT have to be boring

Okay.  At times, finding low-carb alternatives can be a pain in the derriere!  Most are acceptable, but nothing about which to write home.  Or for that matter, about which to blog.  (June LaRose, there are times when I wish you had NEVER mentioned ending sentences with a preposition!)  Every rule deserves an exception.  Tonight's casserole was exactly that.  The combination of taste and textures was exceptional.  Coupled with a double cheese pepperoni nacho (fun and easy!) and a glass of boxed red amazing dining experience to be enjoyed in front of the Master's (oh wait, the channel just changed and it's the Twins...oh wait, it's the Master's...the Twins...have you figured out we're dining in Cath's lair and one of the two of us does NOT have control of the remote?)  I don't care to know the caloric intake of this meal.  I'll settle for low carb and claim exemption!  And here's the kicker--even if you are not low carbing, I think you would enjoy this immensely.  Give it a try and let me know. 

1 small head cauliflower flowerettes, cooked until tender in chicken broth
4 slices bacon, chopped and cooked until crisp 
3-4 cups diced cooked chicken
1 pound Jimmy Dean pork sausage
2 stalks celery, chopped fine
1 medium onion, chopped
1/4 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced 

1 small can mushroom stems and pieces, drained
8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup sour cream
8 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 teaspoon pepper 

Separate cauliflower into flowerettes.  Cook in a small amount of boiling chicken stock until tender.  Drain and place in a large bowl.  Cook bacon and place in same large bowl.  Cook seasoned chicken pieces in bacon grease until done.  Remove and place in bowl with bacon. Drain liquid from pan. Cook pork sausage in same pan.  Remove and place in afore-mentioned bowl.  (By now you should figure out you need a BIG bowl.  Hit the dollar store before you start cooking!)  Saute the celery, onion, and fresh mushrooms in same pan.  Pour into bowl.  Add the shroom stems and pieces.  Soften cream cheese in the microwave for 30 seconds.  Add the sour cream and the cheddar cheese. Pour over bowl ingredients and stir until incorporated.  Turn into a greased 9X13 pan, smoothing the top.  Cover and let sit until ready to bake.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Remove cover and bake for 40 - 50 minutes.  Let set for 5 minutes, cut into 8 pieces, and enjoy (especially with the glass of boxed red wine!)

I believe food can be love.  And you are! 

Friday, April 1, 2016

Downtown Friday Night

There are things you need to know in advance:

  • This blog is dedicated to the Watertown, SD habitues!  If that's not you, come visit!
  • I love the Goss Opera House.  The whole concept of the building appeals to me.  We worked the Bodies when they were here.  We worked King Tut when he visited.  We love to listen to the symphony in the theatre.  It’s just a special place for us. 
  • I love to eat (surprise!).  The concept of fine dining with ambience appeals to me.

That being said, I had been disappointed of late with the direction the Goss had gone.  We celebrated St. Patrick’s day with the Celtic music concert and dinner before.  The music was delightful.  The dinner?  Not so much!  Service was SLOOOOOOOOOOW.  And when the food came, it was less than stellar. 
I used to cook in a place similar to this.  I know neither of these problems is unavoidable.  I also know that unless one explains one’s lack of contentment, things will not change.  I wrote to the new management.  I let them know they had problems.  The next day, I got a phone call.  They were changing the menu.  They were hiring a chef.  They were hiring new wait staff.  Would we come back as their guests and see if they could do better?
We did!
They did!!!! 
We started with the crab cakes.  I highly recommend them.  Share  them—there are three and they could be a meal.
Cath had the Jambalaya (Okay, she skipped the pasta and had it on Romaine!  God bless Emily, our waitress.  She didn’t even flinch!) I had the rib-eye with the smoked Gouda scalloped potatoes.  Cath suggested they make her “salad” a menu item.  She was impressed.  My steak was cooked perfectly.  It could have used a touch of butter on top, but was tasty.  But the potatoes?  Amazing!  And of course, we had to have dessert.  For Cath, bananas Foster, (as directed!) flamed at the table.  For me, the turtle cheesecake.  When we waddled out, we were happy!
As we ate, there was live music playing in the bar—far enough away to not be intrusive, but loud enough to enjoy an amazing rendition of Alleluia and sing along under my breath.  The bar has a new menu as well, and it looked appealing.  Next time, we’ll give that a try!
It is so exciting to us to see downtown coming alive!!  We’ve tried the new brewing company and were impressed.  We’ve tried Harry’s and were impressed.  And now the Goss as a GREAT option?  Wow!  Now, if there were only a positive correlation between my belt size increasing and my wallet decreasing!  Give downtown a try, and as Julia would say, Bon App├ętit!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The teachers' lounge

Ah yes, I remember it well.  In the old building, it was in the basement.  Three flights down a set of stairs that should have been condemned years prior.  Between classes, a dash for a cigarette (yes, 1 1/2 minutes is enough time to light, inhale, exhale, and head back upstairs!).  Lunch?  A time to try and blot out the aroma of the phys. ed. class taking place just around the corner (and of course, another cigarette or two!).  Planning period?  Ah, the entire reason for survival.  During this time we planned quickly and then communed with each other.  I remember the time spent trying to "humanize" a new teacher.  (He didn't smoke.  He didn't swear.  I mean, really!)  I remember the time spent discussing the best method of not committing acts of violence on students who were pushing our buttons.  But mostly, I remember the unshakable bonds that were formed during this 50 minute period.  It was here that we recognized the humanity in each other and established a life-long bond that exceeded normal friendships.  Of course, I should note, it was also during this time frame that on occasion I would simply join my female friends in the women's lounge on third floor--much to the chagrin of one female teacher who didn't yet realize the benefits of coeducational elucidation!  But that's another story for another blog!  On several occasions, the teachers' lounge saved a life--sometimes a student--most times, one of us!
Then we moved to the new building.  The teachers' lounge was just on the other side of the office.  With pass through mail boxes in between.  Not exactly sound proof.  But we managed on occasion to avoid too much criticism.  The bonding continued.  Cross-word puzzles.  Anecdotes.  And that one day we sang Stars and Stripes Forever, each of us taking a different instrumental part.  Let me tell you, it was awesome.  It was again time to be adults having fun.  Due to its location, however, the consensus of opinion on the other side of the mail boxes was perhaps we were not setting the best example for the students in the office.  The lounge became a work room.  It may have been more politically correct.  But it wasn't as humanistic!
We soon moved over to the big house, integrating into the existing confines, and rarely spent time together.  There was a women's lounge, but it was sacrosanct.  Even I didn't attempt to integrate.  I think there was a mens' lounge as well.  But, I know this will come as a surprise to you, I didn't have many hunting, trapping, or fishing stories to share.  My saving grace?  I shared my room with an amazing woman with amazing children, and another bond was formed.  Mostly, planning periods were spent in there!
Why, you might ask, do I think of that now?  It's been over 11 years since I've taught.  Since you asked, I can tell you.  I was out for lunch with my beautiful bride today.  On a whim, I ordered a glass of wine.  It was a generous pour.  It was delicious.  And I realized one more thing about the teachers' lounge.  How much better would it have been if it had lived up to its name?!  A little wine might have made the day move more smoothly.  And doc says, it's good for me!  Just a thought!!!!!!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Cry to remember...

33000 feet.  Post Hawaii.  Pre home. Just finished watching "Mamma Mia" for the nth time.  Absolutely love ABBA.  Likewise Meryl Streep.  For some reason, I discovered that I had tears in my eyes.  Of course, it could just be the hours waiting for and riding the plane.  Tiredness coupled with restless rump could bring tears to anyone's eyes.  (It certainly seems to be having that effect on the youngster in the row ahead!).   It could be we just flew over Sioux Falls on our way to board another plane to take us to Sioux Falls!  It could be a result of the anti-climactic doldrums that affect me at the end of an adventure.  It might even be the knowledge that the Delta cookies won't be available after today (sad face!).  Whatever the cause, they precipitated a period of reflection.  When we get home, the house will be empty.  No four legs to meet us.  That pain remains.  When we get home, there will be no amazing tropical flowers to perfume the air and titillate the olfactory.  When we get home, there will not be a cadre of like-minded hikers commenting on the day's adventure.  And the eyes well up.  I turn to my left, and there, in quasi sleep mode is the woman I love.  She makes home, home.  She is the stability that guarantees even though I may not deserve it, she will recognize the best in me.  And I realize the tears are not sadness, but how lucky we are to have a home to go to; of how lucky we are to be able to have amazing adventures; of how lucky we are to have friends who recognize just who and what we are.  Deep sigh!  I am indeed blessed.  I am also a sentimental old fart!  And I can live with that.  Even at 33000 feet!

Friday, March 4, 2016

Postcard from the edge!

To roll a pair of dice

The day arrived quite splendid for meeting our new group
In circular gazebo, in ones and groups they troop

The East coast? Represented!  New Jersey and New York.
The south?  It's Carolina, and Georgia pops the cork.

The farthest west?  Dakota!  We represent with four.
The leaders and miss Maurine complete our common corps.

But regions?  Far too easy!  It's names we have to learn.
By number?  Two and twenty.  Oh see those brain cells burn!

We've Tina and the Kriegmans, Elizabeth and Andy
Rebecca, brother Sam, the same last name quite handy.

But then there's James and Katie, a daughter--son-in-law
The last name game is over, on other memes must draw!

We've Jane and Lisa Tilney, we've Hersh and his bride Fern
There's Deborah and her Donald, but prefer he Pat we learn!

There's Karen and her husband who goes by name of Mark
And Andrea does join us she's her for such a lark.

That brings us to Dakota, it's Sarah, husband Jeff
And we?  We're Bz/Cz...decidedly not high def!

We are but NeNe gaggle without our leaders strong
Nathalie, Mo, and Katie...they're in it for haul long!

The introductions over, to vans we all head out
For hike our first--exciting.  This place ain't bad no doubt!

The sugar cane provides us with tantalizing juice
We're off on our excursion...for some?  The map no use!

Unsure of what direction, we manage to get lost
But found us just as cost.

Then supper it does call us, and bed for every one!
Good night!  Sleep tight!  And dream well. For now day one is done!

Day two

We ride to Haleakala and pray it won't erupt
Dear Maui, mighty demi god Imprisons sun--corrupt!

For some the hike is four miles that's enough
But others take the long route.  They're mighty and they're tough!

Tonight it's after supper that we head home for to pack
Tomorrow we will ferry..Lanai's next on track!

It's really quite amazing how quickly friendships form
There must be something to it....Aloha! Is the norm.

Day 3
The bags are packed, we're ready to ascend the mighty trail
The asphalt it is's not for weak or frail

But once the road o'ertaken by trees and roots galore
The visuals?  Impressive!  It leaves us wanting more!

Then off to sweet Lahaina, we lunch where ere we wish
Then Lanai by ferry, some whales we spot...delish!

The hotel is quite frugal...amenities?  A few
But sports like us do comment...we think this might just do!

Day 4
It starts with auto rodeo, let's get the sow o'er hill
Go back go up and back again, the early morning thrill!

Then down to lunch exciting, we end up on the beach
Then off to yellow taxi, and chance to see a breach!

The scenery was amazing, it's hard to rate the scale
But obviously greater was chance to see the whale. 

Then supper was a challenge, we do it on our own?
We're up to task as given, then head we back to home!

Day 5

It's inland that we're headed...the ridge provides the trail
The gulches are amazing, but lunch our holy grail!

The salads were stupendous...the chicken we could take
But glorious in content, the very chocolate cake!

Then back to Seasons Quattro, the afternoon was ours
Some snorkeling, some resting, some time to find the bars.

And now it's off to supper...together our last meal
A time for some tell you how we feel.

In five short days they've miled us...they've fed us once or twice
They've housed us very plushly,, the sand and ocean, nice!

But as the waves are breaking, it's memories we've made
It's old friends and the new ones, the joys I'd never trade.

Aloha is a spirit...embrace it as you will
It's changed my life simply fits the bill.

Again I am reminded, it's not about the trip
It's not about the hiking or the cocktails that you sip,

It's all about the people with whom to choose to spend
The time we have together... you now can call them friend.

So life?  It's just a crap shoot.  It's how you roll the dice.
To you I say aloha!  You made it paradise!

Saturday, February 27, 2016

I don't know why they call it pair o' dice!

A trip was in the offing, to Paradise we go,
To get there? Time consuming.  It's far away you know!
It's Sioux Falls, Minneapolis, Seattle, Maui last
But late at night we get there, and now the die is cast.

Up early the first morning, the flowers they do call,
"My picture it needs taking!"  I try to get them all!
Then off to Fern and Hershel, big breakfast and great walk
The tender skin does color, this place does really rock!

Then clean we up for supper, good food, great friends, great fun
And just like that it's over...our first day it is done...
But not without an homage to product made right here
The rule says must be local...the item?  Must be beer!

The siren call of flora does beckon us day two
There's still a lot of're no where half way through.
But whilst we amble onward, a niggling thought does spread
We've flora but no fauna, "Come find us" they have said.

A challenge I will rise to;  but birds?  Too easy these!
Let's capture unique species...a snail perhaps will please!
Or better yet a reptile--those little devils quick
Success with each endeavor...and each a single click!

Successful with the camera.  Success at finding sun!
Successful day two hunting, but now this day is done!  
Tomorrow starts the friends we've yet to meet
So time to get some sleeping, another sweet!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Life is like a book...

unless you travel, you're always on the same page.  That's what it said in a book store in Nova Scotia.  I tend to agree.  To that end, we are turning yet another page on Wednesday, as we head for the islands of Maui and Lanai to hike.  The prelude to travel always amazes me.  What shall I pack?  What can I unpack?  Will I need the Immodium?  Will I need the XLAX?  Pack the Advil.  Don't forget the Tums.  An extra pair of undies makes sense (especially at this age!)  Now understand, this happens for me about 1-2 weeks before we go.  There's that inner child that gets so excited to go new places and do new things.  I enjoy him! 
This trip "requires" me to break out the Hawaiian shirts.  Everyone knows a man my age has Hawaiian shirts.  It is a rite of passage into Y Chromosomal dotage.  I went shopping (in the totes in the shed).  I was successful.  In fact, as I sit here, I am wearing one and looking at seven of them hanging on the line.  Here's the frightening thing.  I have already packed the eight I am taking along!  Knowing me is to know nothing succeeds like excess. 
Before we go, the hairs need to be cut, batteries need to be purchased, money needs to be arranged, and I probably should take a Valium!  Sleep?  Well, that's really iffy.  We'll see.  I'm just glad our reading assignment is growing!  Know you are loved!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

The empty house

The door to the dining room stands open.  The doorway from the hall to the living room is not blocked with a gate.  There are no water drops on the kitchen floor extending from the water container to wherever.  The door to the basement is left open.  The couch is once again a couch.  And the days go forward, bringing surprise and joy.  There are no dog beds in virtually every room of the house.  The food dishes are put away.  The daily medicines are gone.  And the days go forward, each bringing surprise and joy.
We've done this before.  It is the price one pays.  For unquestioning love.  For a devotion unusual to behold.  For the surprise and joy every time we come home.  So we will do it again.  Not just yet.  But again.  And until then, we will revel in the surprises to come.  And we will celebrate the joy that comes from each other, from family, and friends.  Life IS good.  But today, when we came home...the house was empty.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Bad Words

There have been phrases in my life that have had the ability to almost immobilize me with fear.  As a child, "Wait until your father gets home."  As a student, "Put away your books, it's quiz time."  As a student teacher, "You will be teaching this group Moby Dick!" As a teacher of a creatively unruly student, "I am the oldest of six children."  Again as a teacher, "I will be observing you tomorrow."  As a "just over the given leeway" speeder, "May I see your license and registration, please."  As a scamee, "This is the IRS and you are going to jail."  Obviously I have survived each of these and probably am the better for it.  However, my entire life, one phrase has consistently held me in the grips of terror.  Its very presence has altered my decisions, increased the shakiness of my hands, and ignominiously reduced me to vocabulary that Miss Loosewheel would inform me was unnecessary from someone with an IQ above 20!  The phrase?  "Some assembly required." 
We needed a new file cabinet.  Off to Menards.  After two sales associates and a bit of wandering, we discover exactly what I'm "needing".  Two drawers--on casters so it is movable. Ideal.  $54.00 later, we're home and the box is open.  Styrofoam packing.  Among my least favorite items.  I conquer the unpacking only to discover the box is not complete in its description.  The casters must be attached, as must the handles.  Merde!  (Check out French to English dictionary explanation!)  The front casters--no problem--two screws each--two holes in the cabinet.  Clever!  Then, it's the back casters.  First I have to position the plates.  Yeah, right.  I look at the picture.  I position.  I look at the picture.  I position.  I look at the Grand Coulee picture.  I position.  By now, the hands are shaking, the mood is fevered, and the language is profuse.  By mistake, I inadvertently correctly position the plate.  Eureka.  Quickly I attempt to screw it into place.  I drop the screw.  I drop the plate.  I swear!  Somehow, I miraculously re-position the plate, find the screw and one caster on.  Being a quick learner, it only takes me three tries to get the second caster on.  Sweat pouring, hands shaking, but with a feeling of overwhelming pride, I start with the handles.  One handle.  Four screw holes.  Two screws.  And of course, since the handle probably should be to the outside, the screw must go in from the inside of the drawer.  Have I mentioned the shakes?  When I finally get one screw in, I obviously have chosen the wrong hole because the other side doesn't line up.  I unscrew, re-position, and screw again.  Correction.  I attempt to screw again.  I can't see the top of the screw head, and my screwdriver is doing the tarantella in my hands.  15 minutes later, the air a bright blue, my blood pressure approaching 350/300, the handles are attached, the file is in position, and I'm headed for the box of wine! 
I have decided.  Dad really wasn't all that scary.  Quizzes didn't really matter!  Moby Dick was less problematic when taught as an adventure tale.  Kids are all different.  I knew more about what I was doing than anyone observing.  It's only money.  And the IRS really will never call.  But those damn assemblies!

Monday, January 25, 2016

An open letter to the South Dakota Legislators

Let’s be LAST in education!

Let’s make this the LAST year we undervalue the worth of all educational professionals.
Let’s make this the LAST year we foolishly cling to the belief that size doesn’t matter.
Let’s make this the LAST year that arbitrary tests evaluate learning.
Let’s make this the LAST year we “make do” with what we can rather than attract what we want and need.
Let’s make this the LAST year we ashamedly have to say we’re LAST in teacher pay.

We who taught you how to read and write:
We who taught you how to add and subtract:
We who taught you how to dribble a ball and walk a balance beam:
We who taught you how to draw, paint, sing, and play:
We who taught you history and civics:
We who taught you foreign language and how to balance your checkbook:
We who taught you the scientific method:

We who instilled in you the desire to serve and the ability to reason

We, your teachers, urge you to place educational finance as your FIRST priority!

You have the responsibility.  You have the resources.  You have to act now to make an educational difference that will LAST.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Heading home

There is a quiet beauty of the plains at sundown.  Looking out of our warm car, I see the vast expanse of white.  Drifts hugging fence lines, reflecting an eerie white.  A full moon hanging in the east, waiting for the sun to set so it can rule the sky.  And the feeling of satisfaction that life is good.  We choose to live in a place of seasonal beauty, and tonight, although the dashboard proclaims that it is eight degrees outside, the warmth resplendent in that choice strikes home!  

Friday, January 8, 2016

Random Reactions response.
It's extremely hard to believe that any social medium can provide so much anti-social dissonance.  Radical thinking, either to the left or to the right, does exactly what our legislative process has mastered...encourage the skill of non compromise.  How can increased background checks for gun sales and/ownership possibly be a bad thing?  How is it possible for the president to be wrong in EVERY decision he has been forced to reach due to lack of legislative reasonableness?  How is it possible for a party affiliation to demonize an individual?  How can anyone in the name of their "god" dare to judge another?  Instead of hate, offer solutions.  Instead of bigotry, offer tolerance of opposing views.  Instead of venting, celebrate the good in your lives.  We are profoundly impacted by those with whom we associate.  Imagine the good we could accomplish if we practiced the power of the positive!  We have the right to our opinions.  We have the right to express them.  But more importantly, we have the responsibility to leave the world better than we found it.  Negativity, by its definition, leaves less, not more.  The world is not a bed of roses... But oh, how much better it would be if we could accentuate the flower, not the thorn!