Word Press Weekly Photo Challenge: Place in the World

Word Press Weekly Photo Challenge: Place in the World

My place in the world is with my Family surrounded by Nature!

Where ever that place happens to be:

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Looking at a late April Snowstorm against a blue sky from our Wisconsin Home (2018),

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in Bermuda on Horseshoe Bay Beach at Dusk with the love of my life’s hand on my shoulder looking at a dusky sunset, pink sand beach, and turquoise waters in late summer – just as we have looked at this same view three times before (1987, 2007, 2017),

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in a school garden while kids are in class, the caretaker of beauty and knowledge  awaits on this path (2018),

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looking down at a beach from above on a narrow, muddied jungle path, a view holds the dangerous waters and those who dare to swim but might not last (2013).

on the many Florida beaches over the years we visited as one, collecting memories as well as the shells we all saved for none

hearing the roar of waterfalls be it Niagara, Kauai, Buffalo Creek, or Angel Falls (RMNP). Water connects our place in the world (1985, 1986, 1990, 2004, 2010, 2013). I’ve realized through looking back,

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from a spot in my yard to a Great Lake I once knew,

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a cabin I love built in the woods where the wild loons call. Yes, I’ve realized today,

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there is a place in this world, a place for us all. Favorite, I have none, with my family I’ll stay, traveling to store memories all along the way. This life’s been a good one, great in fact, I am at home where I go as long as that is where my family’s at.

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So, whether it’s a stay in D.C. or the Nederlands far, a trip to Jersey over that world-famous bridge, the sunrise on Haleakala or to hear the wild La Jolla sea lions call, the place doesn’t matter for I find awe in them all. As long as my family is with me, I know I belong.

 

This is my contribution for the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Place in the World. This post’s format was inspired by the blog Streaming Through America and their response to this same photo challenge! You really should check it out. Thanks!

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When Music Fills Your Soul

When Music Fills Your Soul

Last night, we went to a senior recital given by my high school senior’s closest friend. It was held in a small Catholic chapel on the even smaller University grounds with which it is associated.  Stained glass windows glowed from the light of the early evening sun shining through the colors to illuminate the holy figures and impart a sense of reverence. It was not the only awe we would experience during our visit.

The crowd included teachers, close friends from school and work, and family, of course.

The musical selections were a mix of modern religious music and popular tunes you might hear on the radio if you listened to the type of stations that carries Ed Sheeran or Harry Gardner.  There were four duets, all sung with female partners, his private music teacher accompanying on piano, and a hand-drum (bongo does not seem like the appropriate word) that contributed a well-rounded, yet soft beat when the composition called for it.

Over the course of an hour, which included a short intermission, this talented eighteen year old treated us to the music that must fill his soul. He sang, played piano, played the oboe (exquisitely, I might add), and played his guitar. It was a beautiful, uplifting performance from a young man who our family has gotten to know well over the last six years.  You could tell he was comfortable in his skin and with the musician he had become. His song choices reflected that the most.  They all seemed to have a theme of love, faith, and family.  What eighteen year old do you know that sings about falling in love, the touch of someone’s hand, or telling someone they love them? What eighteen year old openly shows how much he loves his mom? This one did last night. I believe he shared more than beautiful music, but what was in his heart.

Of course, sitting there with my own eighteen year old, I was proud that he had chosen such a caring person to become his closest friend. In truth, and aside from the musical talent, my son is very much like his friend.  It is commonly known that the teenage years will test relationships between parent and child. It always does. However, despite the fact that my son and I had just had “words” at dinner about something I said which he mis-interpreted, sitting next to him at the senior recital of his friend, I could not help but tell him that I loved him.  And, he can and does say that back to me – more and more frequently, now as the time is drawing near in which he will be leaving to start down his own road. I’ll always be here, he knows he can always come home. I have the perfect photograph for him to carry off to school to remind him of that – “until our eyes meet” again, just like the Ed Sheeran song his friend sang with his mother at the end of the recital.

My own heart was reminded of the importance of music in our lives. It can transport you to another place and time – when you were falling in love, when you had your first dance, when you so tentatively touched the hand or lips of someone who in an instant becomes more than a friend. Music can lift you up in a way spiritually so your worries are less. Through the notes and music that come to life by being sung or played, you feel connected to those you love, those you have loved, and to life itself.

As we departed the recital chapel and moved to have refreshments, I hugged this young man and told him he has a gift – I hope he guards it well. The gift of music is shared when we listen……really listen. Just like a photograph, the gift of music is something that can be carried with you, always.

Loss: We Do Not Talk About Everything

Loss: We Do Not Talk About Everything

This past weekend was Easter Sunday. As my husband was texting his sister (in New York State) and brother (in Pennsylvania), he looked up and asked me – “How long has it been now? When did the twins die?”

Of course, I immediately knew what he was talking about. His brother and sister-in-law had twins prematurely that lived for only a short time, and then died. They, “the boys” as we lovingly refer to them, were in neonatal intensive care for their entire brief existence. We never knew them. But, we remember them. A framed photograph sits in our television armoire of two tiny babies, covered in lanugo, with ventilator tubes taped ever so carefully to their tiny faces. They look like they are “best buds”, with their arms swung over each other’s backsides.  The back of the photo was marked 2007.

“Eleven years,” I replied, “They would have been eleven years old last week.”

“Eleven years. Wow. That’s a long time.”

The conversation had an effect on us for the next few hours on our Easter Sunday. Sadness and grief were revisited. The blessing of our three boys was recounted (again).  As a family, we haven’t talked much about the tiny twin nephews that died in April of 2007.  Maybe, we would have if my boys lived closer to their uncle and aunt and were more aware of their loss, their grief, and feelings of emptiness that probably will never go away.  Strangely enough, we lost both of my husband’s parents at this time of year – the time of rebirth – Easter. Two years ago my father in law’s funeral service was filled with Easter lilies – white blooms spilling out all over the sanctuary wrapped in pastel colored pots. It was very beautiful. Serene. My mother in law passed away in March of last year. We have talked of those loved ones, their lives, and their deaths on more than one occasion during the recent past. But, not the babies. We haven’t talked much about the babies. I don’t really know why – other than it is painful to even think about.

The memories bring to mind our own losses of unborn babies. We had four miscarriages in all – at least two of which were multiples (twins/triplets). It reminded me of a time when I thought I would never be a mother, nor would my husband and I ever be parents.  A time when I was verbally accosted in a grocery store over the use of a cart that would carry more than the one child I had at a time in my life when I desperately wanted more. I remember the rising fear that accompanied being told I was pregnant again. Not joy, as it should have been, but fear. Fear that again we would lose another baby.  Four times that fear became a reality and grandparents had to be told – “The baby is gone, she miscarried, again.” And, again. Again, And, again.

People don’t talk about fetal loss.  In the U.S., it is somewhat of a taboo subject and it really should not be.  The lack of communication and expression of feelings leads to isolation and sadness. I’ve recently learned that the Japanese deal with this occurrence much better than us, as explained in this New York Times newspaper article from last year.  But, I can tell you miscarriage and infant loss is much more common than you think. My advice is this: try not to judge that childless couple you see holding hands, the couple that has one child not three, the couple that wants more than anything to have a baby, but don’t. You do not know who they are. You do not know their struggle. You do not know their grief.  So, just be kind.  Do not assume, anything! Ever. Please. Do not!

On this past Easter Sunday we remembered those not with us, from the unborn babies, to the babies born too early to survive, and also our loved ones we had the good fortune to know well and love over a lifetime. It was good to remember.

It is also apt to remember that people handle these losses in different ways….ways that might be right for them but not right for you.  You cannot assume they don’t understand.  Because, maybe, just maybe they do, more than you know. They just don’t want to share it.

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.

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Paternal Grandparents. 1956.

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Maternal Grandparents, 1956.

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Maternal Grandparents, 1926.

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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