Writing About Nothing

Writing About Nothing

Usually, I write about something important to me.  But, I really spilled my guts in yesterday’s post, so I feel drained. Given that the Slice of Life Challenge is starting this Thursday and I have signed up to participate again, I thought I would just take today and write about nothing all that important. Another reason I do not have a lot to say is that I have a paper due for my Place Based Learning Instructional Strategy Course on Wednesday.  I have not gotten very far on it.  I love the subject matter, but seem buried in other obligations – two other grad courses, a conference presentation on March 10th (not started yet), and a trip tomorrow to visit my son at Iowa State University.  We are going to see Motown the Musical on stage at Stephens Auditorium, which is a wonderful venue.

I am looking forward to being on a college campus for a few days and spending time with my oldest son who is in his first year of graduate school. I figure that I will work on my presentations and course work in the union.  It will be relaxing and hopefully, productive.  We will meet for meals and do some fun things together, like the musical. I’ll go and have coffee, take some winter photographs, and buy some Dutch Licorice Drops at STAM Chocolatiers in Downtown Ames.  I’ve needed this getaway for a while now and excited the time is near.

Today will be about getting as much work done as possible, so I can freely relax and not worry about what needs to be done. My school obligations will all fall into place whether I worry about them or not. So, here’s my Slice of Life blog about nothing at all.

Lessons from a Home Maker Space

Lessons from a Home Maker Space

Just over a year ago, my husband bought a 3D printer for our house. Really, it was bought for my 18-year-old who will graduate from HS in a few months. He’s our inventor, our experimenter, our dreamer.  Over the course of the last year, he’s put the 3D printer to good use.  He played with it enough to learn how to use it well. He’s read tutorials, been on forums, and even fixed it a time or two when one of the axis’ seemed off or the thermostat was not functioning. He’s patient. He is persistent and he perseveres. He’s self-taught. And, he’s great at using the printer, the software that goes with it, and our CNC machine – another “toy” out in my  husband’s shop.


Miniature versions of Groot have been made, some to keep and some to give away.  Car parts have been made as a custom order from a referral made by a friend at the high school. A vacuum table accessory has been developed and more, just by learning and persisting with a new tool, new knowledge, and practicing new skills.


He did not give up when things got hard. Instead, he tried to figure out the problem – and fix it – whether it was software or hardware based. It’s been fun watching him learn with enthusiasm.


And, this experience says a lot about learning. None of the skills he is using are measured at school. There is nowhere to apply them there with the exception of the art class with a very flexible teacher who let him carve a notebook cover of a wolf instead of sketching one for his notebook.  That was so cool!  Even the computer science course being taken now and the AP physics course of last year did not allow application of these skills.  But, he learned them anyway – because he wanted to.  Free of grades, free of judgment, free of the demand to be “right” with his answers every single time.  It seems he has been able to go beyond the walls and narrow tunnel traversing that traditional teaching and learning environment. Instead, he has become able to direct his own engagement in absorbing new material and the manner in which that is done.  The 3D printer and our home maker space has allowed my son to feel accomplished and have pride in what he has learned and produced.

School used to be the way kids obtained these feelings about their skill sets. Maybe it still is the path for “in the box” thinkers or traditional learners. But, the ability to think critically. learn from one’s mistakes without fear of a poor grade or drop in GPA, and continue forward, are traits we want all our children to have by the time they are adults. Where they acquire them should be secondary.  The home maker space, 3-D printer, CNC machine (on which he is also self-taught and produced products), and table saw have been essential for learning and making our son not only college ready,  but life ready.  I am glad we could provide these tools. He’s used them well with only the guidance of his own intelligence, drive, and dreams.

Now we have in-depth conversations about the synthetic production of body part replacement or web-based companies for products made on these machines that he has continued to master.  He is inspirational.  He is a new breed of learner.










Photos on phone


WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Beloved – Grandparents

WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Beloved – Grandparents

My submission for The Daily Post WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Beloved focuses on my Grandparents.


Paternal Grandparents. 1956.


Maternal Grandparents, 1956.


Maternal Grandparents, 1926.


Paternal Grandparents, 1976.

Beloved for all time. You do not realize their influence until they are gone.

Why Would A Lutheran Make Latkes Instead of Lefse?

Why Would A Lutheran Make Latkes Instead of Lefse?

Last night we had potato pancakes  or latkes for dinner! We regularly had these while I was growing up. So recently, when my 18-year-old asked us to switch up what we were serving for meals, I thought this was a great opportunity to try them again.

But, I started to laugh as I grated the potatoes, thinking, “here I am, living in the upper mid-west, a Lutheran, and I am making latkes, not lefse!”  We live in an area of the country saturated with Norwegians and the customs of that Scandinavian country! Common are the names, Hanson, Peterson, Olson, and more that reflect the norse heritage! Personal stories of making lefse are commonly shared like the one my friend told this morning over coffee. And, other accounts are readily available after being shared on social media.

We tried lefse when we first moved here, years ago. I have never tried making it – nor would I, as it is not my heritage and I am simply not motivated to try it. But, potato pancakes – sure. We are not Jewish either. But, I had potato pancakes growing up and thought I would give the meal a try, once again.

Food is not always about ethnicity. Food is about comfort, memories, & taste or yumminess. I served the latkes with applesauce, sour cream, and bacon. Enjoy the photographs of cooking the latkes, yesterday. They were delicious! All of us enjoyed them, except for the guy who asked me to change-up the menus!  He barely ate his, citing a texture “thing”.  Somehow, I don’t think the lefse would be any better received.

So, why would a Lutheran make Latkes instead of Lefse?  Just because – it’s what I know (my own heritage/experience), I like the taste, it reminds me of growing up, and from what I’ve heard, Latkes are a whole lot easier than Lefse!

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!

New York Times Recipe for Lefse

Allrecipes for Latkes

My Trouble With The Holidays

My Trouble With The Holidays

We are late this year getting the holiday decorations up. Yesterday, we finally got our tree – a live one – bummed off some friends with a tree farm for a bottle of whiskey! Hey, it pays to know people! Right? Most of the tree farms have opened and already closed for the season. Today, I will fight with the lights to get them on the tree just right, invite my husband and boys to help hang the ornaments (which probably won’t happen), and by bedtime, maybe get around to putting some gifts under the freshly decorated tree.

I like the house once it’s decorated; the twinkling of the lights with soft Christmas music playing is a favorite scene for me. It is just the process of getting there that seems to take forever. All the other decorations are up and the tree is the very last thing to be done. I have done some baking and wrapped some gifts, as well as sent out packages to family, all of whom are out-of-town. So, it is not like I haven’t been getting ready for the season. It just always creeps up on me, no matter how well intended or organized I am.

The sad truth is that I do not really enjoy it. Our holidays are quiet and have been since we transplanted ourselves in the mid-west. At least nine of the last eighteen years, my husband worked Christmas (hospitals never close for the holidays).  We never travelled back to visit family during the holidays because I wanted our boys to wake up Christmas morning in their own beds. And, other than my sister-in-law, our families did not come here in the winter – holiday season or not. I have always wanted this to be different. You know, using my best china (and, I do have two sets – one from each of my grandmothers), fabulous food, festive music and merriment, all in a beautifully decorated home.  We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to “put on” the type of celebrations we see in the media or house in our own heads. But, you know it really is not necessary.  And I am getting to the point of feeling like we really do not “have” to do it in the “suggested” way.

We are late this year with decorating. So What?!  Why should it even matter? Who does it matter to?  No one, actually. And, it shouldn’t really matter to me. But, as you can tell, it does. I am trying not to let it.  As I get decorations out each year I think I will put them away in a more organized fashion, but that never happens. When it is time to put them away, they just get put away.  I told my husband yesterday, as we went to get our tree, that next year I need to do this differently. Maybe earlier. Maybe not as much. Maybe a fake tree. I don’t know, specifically, but definitely, differently.

I do know that for years, like many other people, I have some problems leading up to and getting through the holidays. I try not to, but I do. I have acknowledged it long before now. It does seem less this year – other than the decorating lateness. Less is bothering me. I think it is because due to a health scare I experienced this fall, I have realized that there are more important things than the “perfect tree” or things finished by an arbitrary date that I have set in my head (the 10th, actually).  I am trying to keep it all in perspective. Some days are easier than others.

On to decorating……….


Getting back to normal…

Getting back to normal…

Late last night I got back from a five-day trip to visit my parents in Western New York.  I have not blogged since last Thursday! Today’s Slice of Life Tuesday post is just that – a slice on what I have been up to since the end of last week and my last blog post.

It was a good trip. I got to visit with them without a lot of distractions except for the Canadian Geese that interrupted our lunch yesterday. My Dad drove me around to see my old high school, the house I grew up in, and new places, as well, like a new Wegman’s Supermarket and numerous restaurants in which we ate good food. I was able to drive to Buffalo to visit my sister and a great friend with whom I have kept in touch with for the twenty years in which I have been out of the area.

There was a few snowflakes and scrapping to do yesterday morning, but nothing had accumulated. I worked on school work – finishing a project on a local conservancy group, and getting the addresses entered in to my data base for my research study.

I did not sleep well during my trip. This is not exactly new for me but it was worse than normal. Over the first three nights away, I had a cumulative total of ten hours of sleep.  I guard my sleep carefully because I know I do not function well when I am short on it. My emotions are close to the surface; I am more irritable, and I do not always process well when tired.

And, now I find myself home. Thankfully, I slept well last night. I already met a friend for our weekly walk. Later today I will be making a grocery list for our Thanksgiving dinner, doing the laundry from my trip, and some light house cleaning. My husband really kept the house running while I was gone, and I arrived to not find any “piles” of things sitting around, other than those I left before my trip.

I am looking forward to having my son who is a graduate student come home for the holiday and my sister-in-law, who is our most frequent visitor, both arrive tomorrow (at different points). My high school boys will be off tomorrow and the house will take on yet a different air – one of talking, activity, and sometimes organized chaos (although, since there are so few of us, this rarely occurs).

So, even though I am home, I am not back to normal yet. Getting back to normal will have to wait until next Monday – when everyone and everything  (I hope to be unpacked from my trip by then), is going about their everyday routine. Then, I will be able to go about mine, as well!

I am thankful I was able to travel to see my parents. I am also thankful I was able to go back and see where I came from by visiting my old school, old house, old stores, old friends, and have it contrast with what I am thankful for now – my husband, my boys, my friends, my home. My “new” normal. Thankful.

Slice of Life Tuesday


Directions to Home, Please

Directions to Home, Please

Next week, I will travel 900 miles by air to spend a few days with my parents at their home. It is something I have never done alone, since having a family of my own. For some, this might seem strange. I have friends who see their parents several times a week, and might even talk to them each day.  I also have a friend who has not seen her mother in over ten years.  I am somewhere in between. For anyone who is honest about families, there is a wide variation of normalcy.

Over the last few years my husband starting going back to where he grew up, to see his parents. He went alone. We are at a time in our lives that our boys are busy and cannot just take off for a lengthy stretch. This, of course, is complicated by not living near our parents.  You have to plan for a trip cross-country, as opposed to dropping in to see grandma and grandpa on a Friday night.

So, our visits started out as being yearly. One year, we went to visit them, and the following year, they came to visit us.  This has become much more infrequent in the last five years.  My husband’s parents were about ten years older than mine and started to fail in health several years ago. Since their last visit here, seven and a half years ago, they have both passed away. But, before that happened, my husband started going back to visit them a couple of times a year.  It was a good thing to do. After his Dad passed away, he continued to go, somewhat more frequently. This amounted to a few times a year to see his mom and try to help his sister with moving their mom from her home of over 65 years. She passed away this past spring, a little more than a year after his dad.

As I have aged and watched my own boys grow up in what seems to be the  blink of an eye, I have realized that life is short.  We had two of our three boys here in the mid-west.  We have been here for eighteen and a half years. We have built a life here with homes, a cabin, a barn, pets, jobs, schools, hobbies and fruit orchards. We have been active community members – not in the sense that we have joined formal organizations like Rotary or the Hunger Task Force, but have made other, solid and continuous volunteer contributions – mostly to our school system and the environment.

We never got in the habit of going back to New York for the holidays. This, I suppose, was mostly my decision. I wanted my boys to wake up in their own beds on Christmas morning. I was selfish enough to want to try to establish our own traditions.  However, this decision was complicated by my husband’s job that demanded he work during holidays – many of which the boys had off. Could I have travelled alone with the boys? Certainly. I chose not too. And, let’s face it, traveling at any time when your family is young, is stressful.

So, my husband asked me this past summer when I was going to start going back to see my parents.  Sadly, I think it is something we should have been doing all along – all during these eighteen years while we have been busy building a life in the mid-west. I did not argue with him. I just made the plans to go.

And, so I will. Go. This next week, I will travel to see my parents. Luckily, they are both still in fairly good health. I know they are looking forward to my visit, and honestly, so am I.  My boys seem excited to know that I can and will go on this trip to see their grandma and grandpa.  For despite having busy teenage lives, they know they have family who loves them, even if they do not see them a lot.

But, I realized yesterday, that I will be going to a house in which I did not grow up. I realized that I might need a little help with directions to that house.  I realized that as long as my mom and dad are there, I will be going home. I am pretty sure I can find the way.