Monday, August 25, 2014

Goodbye, but not yet farewell . . .

I woke up at 5:30 am this morning in order to make it to my new teaching job on time. Most of this past year, I was a night owl, so it was a difficult task.

Also difficult is saying goodbye to this blog. I have written every day since I started sometime last June. It's been an incredible experience and I'm not quite ready for it to end.

Especially since I haven't written all the blog posts that I wanted. I still need to share the results of the survey for my new blog's name, as well as our largest heirloom, my plans for a local writing group, a recap of the month and year, and so on and so on and so on.

So, today's post is my last  regular daily one. I have to admit that I'm not ready to give it up mostly because I'm not yet ready to start my new blog. I'm hoping to post a couple of days this week and then by next weekend have the new blog up and running. By then I should have figured out the schedule as well.

So have a good day today and I'll write to you sometime soon.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Teaching Work

The leave has been over for a while. But after getting back from canoe camping up North on Wednesday, and being in training or at my new school for the past two days, I know my mind has made the jump back to seeing teaching as my main job.

It's become harder and harder for me to concentrate long enough to write this daily blog. After today's post, there are only two more before it all comes crashing to an end.

But, I still have the dilemma of how to continue writing while the majority of my brain is trying to figure out how to teach English to sixth, seventh and eighth graders. There's still a room in my house that I would like to convert to an office. I plan on taking a short class in September focussing on a special software for writing.

But all of those topics are for the new blog, which will start next week. This weekend, I have to go shopping at the teacher store for supplies, search in my files for some papers I know I will find helpful, and figure out which sappy inspirational posters to hang in my room.

Maybe one of those "hang in there, baby!" cats? 'Cause that represents my life at the moment!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Air conditioning

What I wouldn't give for just one small window unit up in my bedroom, cooling everything off to a modest 78 degrees, making it easy to sleep through the night.

Instead, I drape blue ice packs across my wrists and neck, take a cold shower and then try to use evaporative cooling by standing in front of a fan. After that, I make sure that the two fans in the bedroom (one bringing air in the window and the other blowing on my feet) are on the proper speed.

And finally, I drift to bed, unable to sleep for much of the night due to the heat and humidity of this upper midwest.

And I wake very, very cranky . . .

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Mosquito Bites

Well, we're back home from canoe camping, a little bit sunburnt and with about 100 mosquito bites. More details tomorrow. . .

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Hiking Trails

Often we choose campsites that are nearby hiking trails. There are a number of backpacking trails in the Boundary Waters. Although you can spend your non-traveling days exploring whatever lake you're on, going for a hike is a nice change of pace.

From one of our favorite campsites, there is a spur trail which connects with the Border Route Trail. It's a fair climb, but when you get to the top you get an awesome view.

Those are the border lakes I'm overlooking, which means that's Canada in the distance. It's a good spot to eat lunch.

For the three or four times we have hiked this trail, we've never seen anyone else on it. In fact, the only people we've seen have been far, far below in a teeny, tiny canoe. We have, however, surprised grouse, and we saw a baby eagle in an eagle's nest in a tree next to the trail.

This trip we'll be travelling next to the Kekakabic Trail, affectionately known as the Kek. I don't know if it has any vistas like the Border Route Trail, but I look forward to finding out.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


We don't like freeze-dried food. So we carry in Tasty Bites Indian food, rice and veggies. It's bulky and heavier, but worth it. Besides, we're not backpacking, we're canoe camping. I know people who bring in boxes of wine, and I've heard of a group that brought in a keg!

If my honey has had luck fishing, then we have a little more protein in our evening meal. If not, enjoy Palak Paneer, Jaipur Vegetables or one of their many other choices. Round it off with water and it's a feast.

Our dishes consist of two bowls, two forks, two spoons and four cups. (We each need two cups in the morning, one for oatmeal and one for a hot beverage.)

The best spot to eat is always a rock overlooking the lake, and we use our life jackets to make the rock a little more comfortable. The sunset could be this beautiful.

After dinner and before it gets too dark, we do the dishes by digging a small hole. Then we use leaves and dirt to loosen the food scraps, rinse it all with hot water into the hole and cover it all again. We're told that the bugs will enjoy the treats we leave them.

Then it's time to brush our teeth, hoist the bear bag and crawl inside the tent for the night. Another good day in the wilderness.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Bagging for Bears

Bearbagging is actually what you do to your bags so that the bear doesn't get all your food. It involves trees, a small rock, and many ropes and pulleys. It is made easier by a strong arm, good aim, and a lone, stout tree branch right where you want it.

The first time we did it, any bear larger than a cub could have reached up, swatted our food bag down to the ground, and eaten all our food. Luckily for us, we didn't see a bear on that trip. Nor have we seen one since. However, we continue to bag our food every time to keep our streak going.

Last year we had our best bear bag ever. It was a classic two-tree system and it looked like the picture in the diagrams, which it never has before. I'm not sure this photo shows how impressive it was, but it's far away from both the tree and the ground, which is important because bears can climb trees.

We can only hope that last year was all about skill and this year we will just keep improving.

Sunday, August 17, 2014


There is an art to carrying a canoe on your shoulders over rocky ground.

I have carried the canoe over short portages, but usually my honey does the hard work so I don't have to. Plus he carries a Duluth pack full of our food on his back so that we can walk a portage in one go. Way to go, honey.

Of course, this trip we will be back to using our own canoe, heavier than the Kevlar canoe in this photo. Someday we won't be able to lift all of our gear. Will this be the year? I hope not.

Saturday, August 16, 2014


One of the joys of camping is to slow down and really look at the details in nature. Here are a few of the beautiful details we have seen over the years.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Boundary Waters

Last year we were in the Boundary Waters from the 7th to the 15th of September. I wrote about packing, choosing a campsite, the dangers of fishing, animal life, skinny dipping, returning home, and more.

Well, that time of the year has rolled around again. The Boundary Waters is great! Canoeing, making fires, and sleeping on the ground. Plus, fishing and swimming naked. What could be better?

Thursday, August 14, 2014


My online writing group is like a slightly wounded Energizer Bunny. We post our excerpts late, forget to give feedback on other's writing until prompted, and we've all had times where something from our personal lives takes over our author personality for a while.

But through it all, we've kept our cool sunglasses on and continued to bang that annoying drum!

Here's where I'm feeling a little out of sorts. I feel like my two fellow writers are way, way better at feedback than I am.

I start out by mentioning parts of their writing that I like, either phrases, paragraphs, or situations. I add in some wonderings about their choices as an author, as well as any direct questions I might have. And finally, I point out spots where I think they might have erred in some factual manner.

As in, "if that kid is in second grade, unless he is pretty far behind in math, he shouldn't come home excited that he can count to 100." Or, "you write that it was a gift from the King of Spain, but your story is set in 1973, and there was no king of Spain at the time, just a Generalissimo." Yes, these are paraphrases of two actual nitpicks by yours truly.

My colleagues, on the other hand, speak about the depth and motivation of my characters, details that would make my historical time period come to life, and questions that they are hoping are answered further along in the text.

Just today I received a fully color-coded, annotated, edited version of the copy that I had sent out last week. It was in windows, but with sidebars and notes. I have no idea how she even did it. It was truly impressive.

So, I pledge to continue to give feedback the best way that I know how, but to carefully read their comments and criticisms, and strive to imitate the serious and conscientious way they assess my work.

But I had better get on it, because I'm already late in commenting this week!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Free Day

Looking back, it seems like I've been taking either Tuesday or Wednesday off for the last couple of weeks. Today is no exception. All day training yesterday and today has exhausted me, which doesn't bode well for managing to write at the same time as I have to work full time.

Oh well, that's next week's problem. For now, I'll learn lots of good stuff, build relationships with new colleagues, and ignore the lure of the world wide interweb.

I'll write to you tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Favorite Childhood Book?

Today is the first of four days of training on teaching Reader's and Writer's Workshop in the middle school grades. Although I am quite familiar with teaching the workshop model, all of my work has been done in the elementary grades.

All of the participants got an introductory email yesterday, letting us know where to park, what time to arrive and asking us to bring a title, sketch, or a copy of a "favorite book of our childhood". I decided that since it's middle school, I need to choose something I would have enjoyed during those years.

Being a voracious reader in my youth (in eighth grade, I was voted most likely to win a read-a-thon), I have too many favorites to choose from. In fact, I still have some of the exact books that I loved so long ago.

Should I choose The White Mountains by John Christopher? It was the very first post-apocalyptic teen fiction I read. Alien tripods that control humans thoughts somehow through metal caps.

Three boys that travel across Europe to escape the capping ceremony and hopefully find a band of guerilla resisting the metal triangle evil aliens.

One of my favorite things about the book — then and now— is trying to figure things out,  where the boys are, what remnants of our society they are encountering. It makes me feel smart, which I like.

Or maybe A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle? I'm not sure whether it's science fiction or fantasy, and I'm pretty sure I didn't understand the underlying science, but I do know that it was plain good.

Meg, Calvin, Charles Wallace, Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsis, Mrs. Which, mitochondria, a fight between good and evil. It was all delightful and I read it over and over again.

Then there is a bunch of books featuring magic by Edward Eager. I learned about Ivanhoe from one of the those. And we can't overlook Emil and the Detectives by Erich Kastner, who also wrote the book that the movie The Parent Trap was based on.

Oh! And The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe series by C. S. Lewis. I always wanted to know what Turkish Delight tasted like.

Homer Price, Finn Family Moomintroll, Key to the Treasure, A Taste of Blackberries, The Forgotten Door, Snow Treasure, Detectives in Togas, the Zanboomer sports series, The Great Brain series. . .  And these are just the books that I still have on my shelves.

I could go on and on and on. What's your favorite chapter book from your childhood?

Monday, August 11, 2014

Your Opinion Matters

As I mentioned in an earlier post, this blog needs to be renamed when I go back to work. I thought long and hard about all of your comments about a new title.

There was some good advice that writing doesn't have to be in the title, as that leaves me free to blog about other aspects of my life as well. Then there was choosing an animal that spoke to me. From there I got two title ideas, prairie dog prose and meerkat musings.

Then I started to riff on some of your ideas that I liked. Alliteration has always spoken to me, so from the rosetta stone idea I came up with red rock writing.

It was also very handy to finally pound out the requested post on passion. That really got me thinking about what I love, about what's important to me. Those thoughts led me to yellow blue ramblings, sunny blue ramblings, blue water ramblings, and finally water and words.

But I thought it would be great to let my loyal readers vote, so I created an anonymous survey. Click here, and you can take the survey. Choose which names you like and leave any comments on my ideas. I can't promise that I'll choose the most popular title, but I am curious about what you think. And I will share the results with you before I announce my final choice.

So let me know what you think. Go on, do it!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Make 'em Laugh!

Although I check facebook once a day to see what the folks are up to, I usually don't laugh as hard as I did yesterday at these two very different, but very funny videos. Enjoy!

I'm sure I wasn't that clever when I was in fifth grade.

The Six Nations Rugby Tournament is an international tournament played between England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, France and Italy. The following clip was an advertisement that got some complaints and  was therefore pulled from the airways. It cracked me up!

What are the funniest videos you've seen online?

Friday, August 8, 2014


Swiss river gorge
Today's topic is the last of the three requested from my readers. And it has been one of the most difficult for me to write about.

Merriam-Webster's primary definition states that passion is "a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something."

If you keep going down the list, though, you get to "a strong liking or desire for or devotion to some activity, object, or concept."

Then again, if you google images for passion quotes, you get lots of other ideas, i.e., energy, genius, oxygen, etc.

Why is passion so difficult to write about? Partly because I'm not sure exactly how I define it. And I've been thinking for a long time about what I am passionate about.

Surfers in the Pacific
As far as concepts go, family tops my list of passions. I am willing to do a lot for my family, sacrifice time, money and space to help and support them.

My friends come next, because they are the family I've chosen for myself, over and over.

The activities I feel enthusiasm for generally involve either water or words. From a passion for water comes my love for water polo, swimming, canoe camping, skinny dipping, streams, lakes, rivers and oceans.

My love for words shows up in my ability to read at length while ignoring all around me. It has surfaced in writing, this blog, my writer's notebook, my novels. And it is my enthusiasm for words that led me to teaching English to students whose first language is not English.

Family, friends, water, and words. Passions to be proud of.

* This topic brought to you by request of Alias.

Thursday, August 7, 2014


Apparently, dealing with memory lapses is a sign that one is growing older. I must be growing older, because about forty-five minutes into our eleven hour drive to our recent family reunion, I had an episode.

I realized that I had forgotten "the Book", my jackpot genealogy purchase from Germany. I wanted to bring it for multiple purposes. I wanted to have it for the reunion, since this particular branch of the family also descended from the town on my visit in May. I also had planned on showing the book to the acquisition librarian at the local genealogy library, thinking that they might be interested in purchasing a copy.

But most importantly, I was going to bring the book to the reunion to give it to my mother, so that she could bring it back home with her and give it to the genealogist in the family. It seemed way too important to put in the mail, even with insurance.

So there I was, almost an hour away from home, wondering if it was worth it to return. At first, we decided to keep going, but I kept obsessing and my honey announced that he was turning around at the next opportunity.

By the time we stopped for gas, made it home, went upstairs and got the book and were back in the car to start over, two hours had passed. My honey never complained.

Just one of the many reasons I love him, as we grow older and more forgetful together!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Middle of the Week Holiday

I'm taking the day off, sleeping and reading on my couch. Maybe I'll even go swimming.

See you tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Returning Deja Vu

Back home yesterday evening after eleven hours in the car. Boredom, folk music and heavy rain punctuated the trip. The best decision we made was to get an automatic toll pass for the roads. The cost for the tolls with a responder inside your car is half the cash price. But rolling past all the toll booths that we used to have to stop at? Priceless!

Since I have traveled so much this year I feel I have written the returning blog post multiple times. And I am correct. For a glimpse into how I am feeling you could read Home Again from last August, or Back Home Again from December, or even Recovery from November. Hmm, repetition, never good.

On the other hand, travelling never gets old. And the chance to hang out with cousins, visit cemeteries and eat fresh sweet corn is one I'll take every time. Can't wait for the "big" reunion next year!

PS Someone asked me what the difference between this reunion and the "big" reunion was. The answer? About 300 people. That's a big family!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Summer School

Last night someone asked me when my school started. Here is what I answered, word for word:

"Well, I have a half day training next Monday the 11th, then full day workshops on the 12th and 13th. My department has a meeting all day on Thursday the 21st and I think I'm supposed to go in for two hours on the 22nd. But officially, teacher work days start on Monday the 27th."

I'm hoping all that training will help prepare me for the first day of school the day after the Labor Day holiday. I'm learning about iPads, co-teaching, reader's and writer's workshop for the middle school, and many other things I don't even know about yet.

So it turns out even when I'm not working at summer school, I still have to attend summer school.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Family Reunions

It's important to attend these semi-regular gatherings. You'll see lots of relatives, some close and some distant. You'll tease and be teased. And at least one person will call you by name, give you a big hug and tell you how happy they are to see you,  all while you have no idea who they are.

The recent reunion I attended was a blast! I couldn't play in the golf scramble, but I did talk and talk and talk with many, many cousins. And I learned some things I hadn't known about our family.

It turns out that my grandpa is an honoree in the local bowling hall of fame. When he was alive, he ran a variety of bowling alleys and was always an excellent bowler. His nieces, nephews, grand-nieces and grand-nephews still call out his name in one particular bowling situation.

Apparently, Grandpa was convinced that if a split is bowled in the lane next to yours, chances are good you will also bowl a split.

He persuaded everyone else of this fact, so they refuse to bowl until the nearby split is clear. If a bowler is not paying attention and doesn't realize that there is a split next door, a cry of "Uncle Art" is raised by more attentive team members and the bowler slowly backs away from the approach, thereby preventing the split by association.

Grandpa lives on!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Saturday Photo

This weekend you're getting a Saturday photo instead of a Sunday one.

Reflections of Century City architecture

Friday, August 1, 2014


So I have sprained my middle finger (yes, that one) and it is hard to type. The splint looks a little like this one, although mine is longer. Luckily, if I'm wearing the splint, the sprain doesn't hurt.

How did I do it? I have no idea. I am easily injured, much to my dismay, but the only activity that could have caused it was that I went to the gym for a session with a trainer on weights. No trauma, just silly wear and tear.

So, I'll work on getting the hang of touch typing with only nine fingers better tomorrow, but this is all you're getting at the moment.