Wadena Deer Creek iPads: the good and the bad

Wadena Deer Creek students, grades 5-12 moved into a brand-new, state-of-the art middle/high school building in September 2012. The previous high school was destroyed by the EF4 tornado of 2010. Each teacher and student, fifth through twelfth grade received a school-owned iPad to help WDC be technologically advanced. One of the selling points was the iPad would be digital information that can be instantaneously updated, no more out-of-date textbooks.  In the school technology plan, a goal was to give students living in the WDC School District who have limited technology, access outside the school building/district.

With everything, there is good and bad. The district, teachers, and parents are facing a challenging learning curve. The kids seem to have caught right on and have advanced at a very rapid speed.

First of all, some may wonder what the heck is an iPad? An iPad was designed and is marketed by the Apple computer company. It is a tablet computer, basically a cross between a laptop computer and a fancy touch screen cell phone. It is approximately 7 ½ inches wide by 10 inches tall and about 1/2 inch thick. It has a multi-touch screen and a virtual keyboard.

On this tablet computer, one can watch movies, read books, listen to music and play games. There are numerous applications, also known as “apps” that can be added. Some of the app categories are business, education, entertainment, lifestyle, music, news, social networking, sports and travel. Apps are the programs or software on this type of computer or fancy cell phone.

The iPad has a built-in camera that can take photos and shoot video. These photos and videos can be uploaded instantly to a social media site such as Facebook. Or videos can be added to YouTube which is a website anyone, anywhere can post videos of everything imaginable both good and bad. With this built-in camera and an app such as Skype, a person can have a video real-time chat with anyone in the world.

From the iPad, a person is able to send and receive emails and browse the internet. It is a wireless device, meaning anywhere there is a WiFi internet connection, the World Wide Web is accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

In the beginning of the year, students, faculty and parents signed a contract on the use of the school’s iPad.

For protection, each iPad is locked by a personal passcode. But the slideshow feature is not locked in order to identify who’s iPad is who’s. Anyone touching the slideshow icon has access to view the photos on the iPad.

Which brings us to the recent incident where a teacher’s iPad was left unattended and a curious student touched the slideshow icon. Apparently, five students reported they saw an inappropriate photo of the teacher. The students did the right thing and notified the office. The office confronted the teacher and the teacher had a different version about what the students saw and how the image got on the iPad. At some point the photo was deleted. The teacher was suspended for ten days. After the ten days, the teacher was back teaching. The incident was under investigation and the iPad was supposedly sent to forensics to recover the deleted photo. It has been reported that the photo was unable to be recovered.

I went to my first school board meeting, Monday, November 19. Other parents were also there to discuss the iPad issue. A father of one of the five students who saw the inappropriate image, tried to ask questions to the school board but one board member kept repeating “we are legally not allowed to discuss this.” The board member also tried to assure us that our children are safe.

It was extremely frustrating.

Our children are safe from ever seeing an inappropriate image of that particular teacher?

They are safe because that teacher and/or any other adult in the school will never have a lapse in judgment?

Or perhaps our children, 5-12 grade, who each received a school-owned iPad and is encouraged to take it outside of the semi-monitored school internet connection are safe because…

  • They can view and search almost anything, anytime what the internet has to offer?
  • They can contact and have immediate conversations anyone in the world via email, chat or real-time video (with the video chat, clothes are optional.)
  • They can immerse themselves into the lives of others through social media such as Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr and distancing themselves from living, breathing people.
  • They can use the camera and video to shoot whatever and post to the internet.
  • The kids are so advanced. If the IT Dept. puts a block on, for example: www.facebook.com the kids have already figured out that if they get a link in their email to the blocked site, they can access the blocked site without a problem. I was told the school took the Skype application off but the kids figured out if they don’t run the updates, they still have access.

If a teacher allegedly inappropriately used the school owned iPad, what are our curious children doing with their iPads? We don’t know. We need to know for the safety of our students.

It was suggested at the last school board meeting when I brought up iPad concerns, that my child could leave her iPad at school. I am not against iPads, nor technology. We are living the technological age. My concern is the safety of the students.

My goal is to open the discussion regarding the capabilities and use of the iPad. As adults we need to teach our children what is acceptable and what is not. But first we need to face this challenging learning curve.

My request from the school district is for parental controls, adult education, along with, open and honest communication regarding the iPads.

As adults we need to accept the responsibility to understand technology. We need to set parental controls for boundaries, we need to know how to monitor the use of this technology and if the boundaries are ever crossed, we need to have appropriate consequences to teach our children what is and what is not acceptable.  As parents, we need to get educated. We need to get up to speed on what is going on so we are able to guide our children into adulthood because the technology is here, the good and the bad.

An interesting perspective as well as hands-on experience with chicken

Many years ago, some of my city relatives came to visit our farm family. Someone asked one of the little cousins, “Where do eggs come from?” and the child replied, “The store.” The farm folk thought that answer was so cute, and I grew up hearing this story many times over. Yes, my cousin’s eggs came from the store. It wasn’t a wrong answer; it was what they knew from their experience.

When I was young, our eggs came from the hen house, and my brother would pay me a nickel to wash the eggs for him. As I washed the chicken poo off, I definitely knew that eggs came from a chicken’s bottom.

That reminds me of a joke my parents tell about the man who goes to the butcher and orders a cow tongue. The lady next to him is grossed out and says, “I would never eat something that’s been in a cow’s mouth,” as she picks up a dozen eggs.

It is all about a person’s perspective.

I love to eat chicken, especially the white meat. Chicken breast prepared a number of ways and buffalo hot wings are some of my favorites. On my journey of trying to eat less processed, more natural foods, I decided I wanted to experience chicken butchering. So I would know where the chickens were raised and how they are processed.

My friend, Brad, butchers his own chickens. He moved to the Wadena area a few years ago and bought what we call the Amish paradise out in the country. The previous owners were Amish, and the house did not have plumbing or electricity, so he has been busy remodeling much by himself. Brad is very talented, extremely artistic and interested in sustainable living.

He has been raising chickens for several years – both broilers and layers. During the summer, Brad has a get-together with friends and family to butcher the broilers. This summer, my husband and I planned on being part of the butcher, but unfortunately, we had to be out of town that weekend.

But this fall, Brad emailed me that he was planning to butcher a few of his old layer birds, and he said we were welcome to come be part of the experience. My husband and I were available the day he was planning to thin out his flock. After I said I would, I began wondering if I could handle the blood and guts. And I heard it smelled, you know, like wet chicken feathers.

On the planned Sunday, we drove over to the Amish paradise, and Brad came to greet us with a pretty, black hen tucked under his arm. He looked like a 4-H kid holding his prize pet. I really didn’t think I could do it.

Brad brought us and the hen to the back of the barn where he had everything set up. He casually hung the old hen upside down in one of the metal chicken leg shackles that hung on a rope from the barn to the shed. He went into the barn and added two more birds to the shackles, then showed us the hot water barrel heating over a wood fire and explained that 150 degrees is the best temperature to scald the birds.

Next, Brad told us about the cold water tanks that had an apparatus that he made to keep cold water trickling into the tanks to cool down the raw chicken. He had also created a free-standing spigot to rinse the birds.

Finally, in the set-up was the cutting table where Brad picked up a really sharp knife. So the butchering process began.

We each got a headless bird to dunk into the hot water. He told us to leave it long enough that the wing feathers could easily come out, but not too long because the skin peels. Once scalded, the birds went back into the shackles, where we rubbed off the feathers rather than pulling them out.

Brad and Dan used a torch to burn off any chicken hairs. Then, Brad patiently taught me how to cut off the lower legs and wing tips. Next came the task of carefully cutting the underbelly open far enough to reach in and pull out the innards. Dan caught on right away. Brad cautioned us not to cut the intestines, for obvious reasons, or cut the green gall bladder because the bile would contaminate the meat. Carefully we cut around the behind and removed the pile of insides we just pulled out. We carefully scraped out the lungs and other organs still in the cavity, then cut off the neck and carefully pulled out the crop, which is a sack of undigested feed.

I was actually fascinated by the organs, identifying the heart, lungs, gizzard, gall bladder and liver. I felt like I was back in biology class, and was thrilled to find underdeveloped eggs of all sizes in one of my hens, until I broke one and the yoke was on me.

Finally, we thoroughly rinsed and placed our birds in the cold water tank to cool.

It really wasn’t as gross as I expected. It wasn’t even smelly. But we did have a nice windy day working in our favor, and it was cool enough that there were no flies buzzing about.

Brad was kind enough to give us some of the freshly butchered birds to take home. We rinsed, cleaned any pinfeathers we had missed, and Dan vacuum-packed and froze the meat. We kept one bird out and put it in the stock pot for soup.

I had a really hard time eating the meat in my soup.

The following weekend, Dan and I went out for dinner and I ordered chicken wild rice soup. As I ate the delicious soup, I remembered the birds we butchered and the soup I made. Even though I do not know how the commercial chicken was raised, fed or butchered, the distance from that process made the experience more palatable. Hopefully, some time with the chicken in the freezer will help me so I can enjoy farm-fresh chicken we helped butcher.

Faith and mother-daughter time

A couple of weeks ago, a friend invited me and my daughter to join her and her daughter in attending a second birthday party. It wasn’t a party for a 2-year-old child but more of a second year anniversary celebration of the “Experience Church” in Detroit Lakes. I like to experiences different churches, so it sounded good to me. And a day of girl time was just what my daughter and I needed.

I asked my daughter if she would like to go, but she had volunteered at confirmation to be an acolyte for the early service at the church we attend. It was a special installation service for the new pastor.

I thought about the service schedule and drive time, and I told her we could attend both services.

After a beautiful celebratory traditional church service, we headed to Detroit Lakes and met our friends at the Historic Holmes Theater.

We were given a program rolled up in one of those popular rubbery bracelets with the web address www.exposedpeople.com printed on it. “Exposed people…that sounds kind of sketchy,” as my daughter would say. We were offered ear plugs and ushered into the dimly lit theater. Playing up on the stage was a very loud Christian heavy rock band with lighting and smoke effects. After a couple of songs, a bald, tattooed preacher gave a down-to-earth sermon on the topic of guilt from a series of “What’s holding you captive?” A clean KFC chicken bucket was passed for the offering collection, and more music from the band followed.

It was definitely an experience.

This church is part of Converge Worldwide, a movement that is planting churches to reach people who aren’t going to church. Experience Church exists to expose people to Jesus, wherever they are in their journey, and excite them to move one step closer in their relationship with him.

I think the people who don’t feel they fit into the traditional church would really like this one. The website states it is the perfect place for imperfect people. Isn’t that what all churches are? But at this service I felt they really meant it.

After the service, the four of us went for a quick lunch, then my friend and her daughter went on their way.

Hope and I had no additional plans for the day and wondered what we should do. I drove down by the lake, and we decided to walk the path near the beach. We walked and had a good talk.

On our way back we stopped at a self-serve frozen yogurt shop that was rather interesting. It was a pay-per-ounce dessert buffet with several flavors of soft-serve yogurt and every topping imaginable. A variety of sprinkles, cookie bits, fruit and candy, from crumbled chocolate candy bars to gummy bears were there to add to the top the frozen yogurt.

We took our small bowls of variety outside to enjoy on the deck, when a bee dropped in to taste Hope’s creation. She quickly flicked it, saying the treat was too good to be ruined by a bee.

After our walk and dessert, we went for a drive, heading for home in a roundabout way. I didn’t know where we were going exactly, but I wasn’t worried. I had a GPS in the car and we had our cell phones if we got totally lost or had car problems. I wanted to test my internal compass.

We headed south but ran into a detour that directed us further west. So I backtracked and took a road through, literally, the lake country, but that road came to a “T.” From the signs, going left sounded like it would take us too far north, so I chose to go right. Yes, right back to the road with the detour. The signs then directed me east onto a scenic byway until I found myself in familiar territory.

The drive was absolutely gorgeous. The fall colors around the lakes were breathtaking. This trip was amazing. We had no plan, no expectations; just my daughter and I on an adventure. It was wonderful.

When we got home, Hope asked if she could go with her friends to an event held at their church. Sure, why not? Go, experience church. Find the place and feel the presence.

Living life: It’s all about healthy choices

I went to the doctor last Friday and I have some good news and some not-so-good news. The good news is I have lost 26 pounds since my last visit to the doctor – which was over a year ago – but I gained seven pounds since my husband’s employers Biggest Loser final weigh-in.

My husband and I had good intentions of eating fresh produce and enjoying summer recreational activities this summer. Eating highly nutritious food for energy and burning off excess pounds through exercise was the goal to continue our weight loss plan.

We have been enjoying our once a week 12-mile bicycle rides the last several weeks, but we have overindulged in our eating. Both of us have been in a funk, and food is comforting. Continuing the weight-loss journey doesn’t need to be a battle, but it does take daily focus. It is all about choices.

At the clinic, the first thing my doctor and I discussed was my column. I am always shocked and amazed to see whose lives have been touched by my simple sharing of my journey and opinion. She encouraged me to continue writing.

Then I told her I haven’t been feeling well for over a week. I am lightheaded, dizzy, nauseous and have been experiencing bed spins when I lay down – especially when I roll over in bed. I rarely drink alcohol, never smoke and I don’t even like to take prescription drugs, let alone use recreational ones. And no, I am not pregnant.

She asked if I had been hit in the head. Physically, hit in the head? No.

The diagnosis was benign positional vertigo, probably caused from an inner ear problem. Deep inside the inner ear there are small tubes filled with fluid, and floating in the fluid are special calcium deposits. This amazing little detail in our body is called the vestibular system. It communicates to the brain what position the body is in and also keeps a person balanced. So if these inner ear tubes get swollen or form extra calcium deposits, a person’s balance can be affected, causing the symptoms I experience.

Vertigo can be caused from inner ear problems. Sometimes swelling from a viral infection puts pressure on the nerves in the inner ear. Head injuries can affect the inner ear and some medicines can damage the inner ear. Sometimes migraine headaches bring on vertigo. Also, brain problems such as a stroke or multiple sclerosis can be the cause.

My doctor said she could prescribe a medicine to help with the vertigo or I could wait for my body to reabsorb the extra calcium deposits. I chose to wait it out. Let me exaggerate for a moment: I do not want to take a pill that may fix my dizziness yet could possibly contribute to my left arm falling off if I don’t have to. The diagnosis is something I can live with. I was so thankful the symptoms were not part of some chronic, debilitating, life-threatening condition.

So last weekend, I took it easy.

Sunday afternoon, we took the dogs out to Black’s Grove to walk the trails. We got out of the truck when a man around our age was biking back to the parking lot. My husband knew him and they started talking. The man said he had a heart attack after he competed in the extreme mountain biking race a couple of weeks ago out at Black’s Grove. In fact, this was his second heart attack, but the doctors agree he should continue to exercise, so he was out biking.

He loaded up his bicycle and left as we started our walk. I asked my husband who the man was, and he told me his name and who he worked for in town. Come to find out, he was a good friend of one of my brothers growing up. I immediately called my brother and told him we just talked to his high school friend who was out biking. My brother said it couldn’t have been him because he recently had a heart attack. Yes, yes it was him.

So on the way home, my husband pointed out where the man lived in our neighborhood. As we drove by, he and his wife were working on their yard, so we stopped. My husband introduced us, and they invited us to sit on the deck for a nice visit.

Later, as I was humming “It’s a Small World After All”, I started to think that perhaps I was meant to hear that man’s story at that moment. I felt so inspired by his drive for life, his mountain biking and his enjoyment of the day, in spite of his condition. May he be my example and perhaps yours too.

Managing the horns of the devil

Growing up, my family had a black and white console television that only got two channels.

I remember the TV being on from early morning until late at night when the test pattern screen came on as the network went off the air. It was Mom who used the TV for background noise to keep her company.

Dad wasn’t into the TV all that much. “Horns of the Devil,” he would say in a light-hearted manner, referring to the TV antenna. But as a farmer, he was interested in the news, especially the weather report and the “U.S. Farm Report” with Orion Samuelson.

Sunday nights, Mom, my brothers and I would watch “The Wonderful World of Disney”. It was routine that I would take my shower and get in my pajamas in a hurry so I wouldn’t miss our family movie night.

Mom loved the “Lawrence Welk Show”. She would sing along and tell us all about Bobby and Sissy and the other talent of Lawrence’s musical family. It always baffled me how she knew so much about them. She surely didn’t subscribe to any Lawrence Welk Digest magazine to find out the details.

Another family favorite was “Little House on the Prairie”. I loved Michael Landon as Pa and the wholesome values he taught in each episode. Many shows touched my heart, brought tears to my eyes and taught me life-long lessons.

We would pick on one of my brothers and tell him that he “fell into the television.” He really got into the programs and tuned out the rest of the world. This would drive my parents crazy to the point of yelling “Sonny!” to snap him out of it.

When I went off to college, I would rather hang out with my friends than sit in front of the TV. Even though I had cable TV in my dorm room, I didn’t take advantage of it. Instead, I bought a small black and white TV from a friend, and when I needed background noise, I would turn on old black and white sitcoms like “I Dream of Jeannie” “The Andy Griffith Show” and “Beverly Hillbillies”.

I am not against television, but I refuse to pay for cable or dish to bring a bunch of trash into my home. I don’t have the discipline to research and choose the proper programming, and then have the will power to turn it off. I guess I am afraid of getting sucked in like my brother.

Raising my daughter, I had a TV but no network channels for us. I bought kid-appropriate movies for her. Over the years, we acquired the entire “Little House on the Prairie” collection on DVD. I was hoping she would learn life lessons from the show as I did as a kid.

When my husband and I got married, he tried to live without television. He tried to watch his “MASH 4077” DVDs and he also acquired an “Andy Griffith Show” DVD collection. But he missed not having network TV.

Speaking of Andy Griffith, many years ago, I attended a church Bible study where they used episodes from the “Andy Griffith Show” to teach biblical lessons. We were to learn to be more like Andy Taylor. But I asked, “What if I was born with a personality more like Barney Fife?”

Now that I have been away from network TV for so long, I am appalled when we visit my parents by some of the themes and language on prime time. Even the commercials are far from the good old family values days. I am guessing most people will think I am off my rocker. But it has become normal and society has become desensitized by what we and our children are watching. Garbage in and garbage out, I was once told.

Sure I am out of the loop when my friends and co-workers talk about the recent episodes of their favorite shows. And I am asked if I miss the current news. I work at a newspaper so I get the local news, and I watch CNN.com for the world news.

My husband and I have found a compromise on our television desires. Our family now has Netflix streamed off the Internet through our Wii gaming system. We choose what programs, without commercials, when we want to watch them. It also tells us the recent shows watched so we know what my daughter is watching too.

The three of us sit on the couch together eating popcorn and apples, watching “The Biggest Loser” series, as Jillian the personal trainer tells at-home viewers to get off the couch and move.

Currently, I am hooked on the “Take Home Chef” reality show, where Chef Curtis Stone goes into a supermarket and chooses a person to go home with and make a gourmet meal to surprise their family.

It was quite the coincidence the other night when my daughter and I were watching “Biggest Loser” and they previewed to a guest chef. Hope said, “That’s your guy.” I said, “No, it was the regular guest chef.” Sure enough, Curtis Stone was the special guest. And I got a two for one.

For me, television programming is not black and white, good or bad. It is about choosing your choices and not just getting sucked into what society says is OK. There are good programs that can teach the family and touch the heart. And even though I feel more like Barney Fife, I want to learn to be more like Andy Taylor because in the end people will remember you not by the deeds you have done but the way you have made them feel.

Trammers appreciate ‘Wadena nice’

It makes my butt hurt just thinking about riding my bike more than a few miles.

But from July 22-27, approximately 730 people got on their bicycles and rode a 250-mile journey through Minnesota on the MS TRAM (Multiple Sclerosis: The Ride Across Minnesota) to raise money for the MS Society. Money raised from this event is for support and research programs to serve the more than 17,000 people in the upper Midwest who live with the disease, which currently has no cure.

Multiple Sclerosis affects the central nervous system; the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves. The body’s immune system attacks the protective sheath that covers the nerves. This interferes with the communication between the brain and the rest of the body. It affects muscle function, which creates difficulties in a person’s movement and other issues.

This year, the MS Society organizers chose northwestern Minnesota into the Central Lakes region for one of its routes. Riders met in Alexandria and were bussed to Bemidji as the official starting point. On Monday, TRAM bicyclists traveled to Walker. On Tuesday, they rode into Park Rapids. Wadena welcomed riders on Wednesday. As for Thursday, cyclists headed for Fergus Falls. And finally on Friday, they ended up back in Alexandria.

This was the seventh time the Wadena Chamber of Commerce, along with more than 60 volunteers, welcomed the trammers to Sunnybrook Park.

It was my second year as a volunteer. My co-worker ribbed me that the Chamber wanted people “who were in the know” to work the information booth. It helped that I work at the newspaper and have worked on the special map the Chamber provided the trammers, which included park and city locations, activities and other information.

This year, an early Wednesday morning booming thunder storm startled me from a deep sleep. I thought about the trammers camping overnight in Park Rapids, hoping the storm missed them.

It was still raining when I headed out to Sunnybrook Park to deliver the donated bundles of Pioneer Journal newspapers. In my opinion, it was not a very pleasant morning for a long distance bike ride.

It was estimated that the riders could arrive in Wadena as early as 8:30 a.m., but it was closer to 10:30 a.m. before the riders started to trickle in. Some of the 270 support people started to arrive early and set up the soggy camping gear from the previous night. We were told that the campsite in Park Rapids was evacuated the night before and the trammers were sent to the high school to wait out the storm. They were running late, but it was raining and I am sure a lot of them were exhausted from the lack of sleep. By 11 a.m. or so, the rain stopped and the weather became hot and humid.

A man in a motorized scooter and his sister-in-law anxiously waited for the man’s wife to bike into Sunnybrook Park. His sister-in-law told us this was the woman’s 23rd tram, and she was 71 years old. Talk about dedication to the cause, “Join the movement to end MS.”

More and more trammers entered Sunnybrook and set up their portable homes, filling the park with a sea of tents. They were thrilled with Wadena’s luggage trailers and the volunteers who unloaded and loaded their gear for them, using 4-wheelers donated by West Side Sports.

In the information booth, we offered trammers a golf towel, courtesy of the Wadena Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. When some said they didn’t golf, we playfully changed the name to a “brow towel” to hang on their bikes. They appreciated the gift. Arvig offered free internet access on laptops donated by M-State. The Chamber offered a charging station for cell phones and other electronics. A free shuttle to downtown Wadena for shopping and dining, local lodging and Walmart was available. Tri-County Health Care parked an ambulance for first aid and emergency care.

The Rotary, Lions and Knights of Columbus served food in the park, while local restaurants stayed open late to accommodate the trammers. Miss Wadena sold root beer floats, and classmates of Jane Fiemeyer had a lemonade stand to raise money for their cause. Entertainers performed music, dance and Tae Kwon Do. Massages and haircuts were also available.

I was told by a repeat trammer that it was tradition for the mayor to walk around and sell beverages while extending a warm Wadena welcome. For those standing in the long lines at the showers without money, they were given a beverage on the honor system that they would stop at the beer garden and pay later.

In the information booth, we helped with lost and found, sold post cards, gave out maps and information and chatted with the trammers. We also answered questions, such as where is the closest ATM machine, laundry facilities, best place to get a salad, authentic Mexican or steak, and the classic how do we get there from here?

What struck me is there wasn’t a negative person in all the people that I met. So many trammers exclaimed “We love Wadena!” Several came to buy their bus tickets for the shuttle service. When we told them there was no charge, they shook their heads in disbelief. “Heard of Minnesota nice? Well, this is Wadena nice.” They loved our hospitality.

If I rode that many miles, in rainy weather, with all my belongings soggy wet, having lack of sleep, I don’t think I would have been that upbeat and pleasant. They were.

But in the big picture, these riders are sacrificing their comfort probably because someone they love is battling Multiple Sclerosis. They take this journey to raise money for support and research for them. Trammers are good people doing what they can to help. For me, it was a pleasure helping them and being a part of “Wadena nice.”

Taking a step into my daughter’s music

When I was pregnant with my daughter 14 years ago, I went to both Metallica and Kiss concerts. Metallica because her dad wanted to go and Kiss because I wanted to see them live. I grew up listening to my brothers play Kiss albums. I loved their make-up, costumes and theatrics, but I especially loved their song “Beth.” I also related to Gene Simmons because we both have a long tongue.

Since my daughter was three months old, we have been going to concerts through the local concert associations. We have experienced a ton of top-notch performers ranging from folk to big band.

I enjoy a variety of music genres, but my favorite songs are the ones that I have an emotional experience or memory attached to.

I do not enjoy super loud, head banging music, especially blaring out of a cheap speaker. And sometimes music featuring the saxophone can really grate on my nerves.

My daughter is really into her music, which is today’s rock or alternative metal. I was clueless. What I did know is when we went to her favorite store in the mall, the loud music with screaming vocals would drive me crazy. She wanted to buy the t-shirts featuring the bands “Blood on the Dance Floor” and “Falling in Reverse.” She talked with her friends about their favorite bands, their songs and of course, “Falling in Reverse’s” super hot band members Ronnie and Jacky.

A couple of weeks ago, my daughter asked if she could go to Vans Warped Tour outdoor concert at Canterbury Downs in Shakopee. She really, really wanted to go.

I do not drive in the cities. My husband takes on that responsibility. I asked if he would drive, but we recently made a couple of trips down and back, and he was not looking forward to another trip or the rock concert.

A few days before the concert, I was talking to my young co-worker, Cara. She was telling me about her recent trips driving friends to the cities. I asked her if she heard about Warped Tour and her eyes lit up. She had always wanted to go. This music was also her music.

So I bought the tickets and Cara drove us down.

Cara took charge, Hope followed and I was at the rear. We navigated the huge crowd of 13 to 25 year olds in the sweltering heat. We watched a few bands getting up front with Cara’s boldness.

Hope was on her cell with her best friend Missy, who had seen Warped Tour earlier in Texas. Missy gave Hope pointers over the phone. We needed to find the “Falling in Reverse” booth, and buy a CD to receive a bracelet to get the band members autographs. With Cara’s perseverance, we found the booth and waited an hour and a half in line for the signing. Hope got her chance to meet, for a brief moment, the “Falling in Reverse” band while they each signed her CD. But when she met Ronnie Radke, she handed him a small stuffed animal with a handwritten note safety pinned to its belly. He graciously accepted her gift. As a proud mom, I snapped pictures. Hope was flying high and shaking. She called Missy, who recently moved away and told her what just happened.

The note was to Ronnie about Missy. Missy was born without her left forearm. Yet with Ronnie’s musical influence, Missy is learning to play guitar. Hope just wanted to tell him that.

The final concert was “Falling in Reverse.” Hope, by herself, took charge and elbowed through the crowd and found her place near the front to watch her band.

At that moment I could relate.

Time continually gets away from me

People have been commenting that I look like I have lost more weight. I don’t know for sure because I haven’t weighed myself since our dietitian has been out on maternity leave. In fact, I missed the final weigh in for the part two of my husband’s employer’s Biggest Loser competition. Time got away from me.

Bam! It is June, school is out and my daughter has started drivers training. Whoa! In my mind, she is still my baby girl. Where did the time go?

Speaking of time, when my husband and I got married four years ago, I promised him that we would combine our households and move out to his place in the country as our forever home. But I also said I wasn’t moving until we remodeled and everything was finished. Only because we are both laid back and I feared that what didn’t get done, would never get done. And I have to admit I was dragging my feet a little because I am quite attached to my home in town which we refer to as our “town house.”

Anyway, this winter Dan and I finally decided what remodeling we wanted done to our “country house.” The plan was to break ground on our new addition first thing this summer. We had a goal of June 1. Unfortunately we were not ready. We are struggling with the high costs of building, going deeper in debt at our age especially in this economy. And for the amount of money it is going to take to put on a simple addition and remodel, we could buy a nice home in the country with additional out-buildings. But the fact is, Dan is deeply attached to the home place property. I have to admit, it is a great location with an awesome view. And I made a promise to him.

The financial decisions we need to make are very stressful.

So at the “town house” on June 2 Dan let the dogs out at 5 a.m. and noticed an odd wet spot on our tiny front lawn. At 7 a.m. there was a small gusher of water shooting out of the ground. Dan made some calls and the on-call city worker stopped by and confirmed we had a leak in our water line. Because it was Saturday and we still had water pressure and our basement wasn’t flooding, he told us to trench the leak. The leak drained down the sidewalk and flooded the curb along the side of our house, flowing back to the alley before draining into the sewer, which is at the intersecting corner.

On Monday another city worker and our plumber/excavator came to access the situation. We had a water leak, and it was our responsibility to have the pipe repaired from the city water main in the center of the street to the water meter in our basement. Plus we were told it is our responsibility to repair the city street asphalt, concrete curb and sidewalk that would be damaged in the process.

They decided we needed to shut our water off. The city worker told us we could still have water if we got our neighbors’ permission to hook up to their water. Our neighbors were very gracious. They know all too well about unexpected utility troubles. When they choose to replace their water and sewer lines a few weeks earlier, their excavator hit a unknown buried propane tank that still had propane in it which could have blown up our immediate neighborhood. Our street was blocked off as the workers burned the fuel in the middle of the street.

So for a week we were water parasites sucking off our neighbors’ supply until our plumber/excavator could get to our job. The plumber/excavator called the “call before you dig” to get our lot cleared to excavate and got the required city permit.

Monday he blocked off our street and ripped up the asphalt to get to the city water main. He removed a chunk of sidewalk near the shut-off valve and dug down to the water line. First they tried the less evasive technique to feed the new pipe through the old, but the old pipe broke. Then they tried to run a cable to pull the new pipe through, but the cable broke. The next option was to excavate our lawn, potentially losing both my huge old maple tree in the boulevard and the beautiful mountain ash in the front yard.

But when I got home from work, our house had a repaired water line, both trees were still standing and they were filling in the massive holes.

The street, curb and sidewalk will be repaired. And a large bill will need to be paid.

Sometimes in life, stress can make a person want to eat, to fill that empty pit-in-the-stomach feeling. Other times stress can make a person lose their appetite. I think I have had too much on my plate and somehow time has just gotten away from me.

In honor of my mom’s 74th birthday

Growing up I heard kids say they wished so-and-so was their mom. But I have always known mine is the best and I wouldn’t trade her for anything.

Mom grew up as a city girl and met dad while he was stationed in the Army on the East Coast. They married in their early 20’s. Instead of getting a diamond, practical mom chose a car. Dad brought her home to rural Minnesota, where they bought a farm near dad’s folks. It was four rooms and a path — no indoor plumbing for the newlyweds.

Mom and dad struggled in the beginning to make ends meet, especially having four children in their first six years of marriage. Dad farmed and drove school bus to support the family. He also hauled cattle for extra money.

Dad promised mom a trip back home to Connecticut once a year, but instead mom sacrificed her trip, probably spending the money on things like indoor plumbing and new winter coats for her kids. The hardest part for her was the holidays. She never spent another Christmas with her parents or siblings again.

Mom doesn’t like to be cooped up. She’s a woman on the go. As the youngest and only daughter, I went where mom went. She was the mother hen and I was found under her wing. That was fine with me, even as a teenager because spending quality time with Mom has always made me feel loved and safe. And I got to enjoy a lot of movies, plays and concerts with the ladies.

At home she’s a multi-tasker. She can crochet one of her beautiful original patterned afghans, while watching TV and carrying on a conversation. As a teenager, I was ready to die when company would come over. Mom would be visiting as she continued folding my underwear on the kitchen table.

No matter who came into the yard or at what time, they were invited in for coffee and conversation, even if mom was in her nightgown.

After mom got everyone a cup of coffee, she would ask if they wanted something to eat. They would decline. But she would say, “we have crackers, cheese, zucchini bread, cookies…” and would start filling up a plate. They would politely take, eat and enjoy. I began teasing her that she was a food pusher.

One of the regulars was our Schwan’s man, Bill Barrows. He would come every couple of weeks, and mom would place a big order; a couple of the gold tins of chocolate chip or rocky road ice cream for me and my brothers, a box of maple nut or dark sweet cherry for mom and dad. And in the summer we got Schwan’s bars or ice cream sandwiches, too. She would also place an order for the neighbors.

I think our farm was one of his favorite stops. Bill would take time to sit and have a cup of coffee and chat with our family.

I remember one time, Bill came in and sat down kind of sullenly. Mom got him his cup of coffee and asked if everything was alright. In a growly voice, Bill said he had a bad case of dog throat. Mom asked, “What is dog throat?” He said come here and feel my throat. She reached over and he let out a loud “WOOF!” We all exploded in laughter.

Our home was filled with mom’s love and laughter. I used to torment her. In fact, I occasionally still do. All I have to do is look at my mom and make this “WAAHAA” sound and she starts laughing and I start laughing. I keep making that sound and we keep laughing until she begs, “quit, quit.” It’s always a good laugh.

Mom is fun. I grew up playing a lot of games. Her favorite is Scrabble, but as a middle school-aged kid, I would lose interest, but she would continue playing for both of us. She was never the mom to let her kids win. We had to earn it. Finally in junior high, I actually beat her at Scrabble and vowed never to play again. That only lasted a couple of years, and we were back at it.

At any family gathering, after we eat, mom will say, “Come on, get out a game.” If it is a new game or if someone questions the game play, she will get out the rules and teach us how to play. I named her “the authority.”

Mom, you’ve got them beat for being the practical, sacrificing, social, multi-tasking, food pushing, quality time, fun loving, game playing authority. I love you — WAAHAA — happy 74th birthday!

We are all gifted and good enough

My good natured husband has no problem striking up conversation with folks around town. Probably because he knows most and he is related to half. While chatting, he often gets a twinkle in his eye as he gives a little gentle ribbing.

I admire Dan’s gift for small talk and quick wit.

Last Saturday at 3 a.m. I finished writing my welcome address for the Bob Zosel Memorial Dedication. It wasn’t hard writing. In fact, it flowed from my heart. I just needed the last minute pressure to get the words out.

I don’t mind public speaking as long as I know what I am going to say. But I’m just not that quick on my feet, verbally speaking, like my husband. Sometimes I get self-conscious talking, and feel like I make a fool out of myself. Someday I hope his ability rubs off on me.

Slightly before 3 p.m. on Saturday, my husband set up the out dated battery-operated sound system I borrowed. It opened up and became a podium, which I thought was rather clever. And I thought it was fitting to use an antique when speaking about Bob’s life, for he was our county historian.

In my script, I planned on making an opening joke: “I don’t know the history of this unit, but I am sure Bob would know.”

But there I was trying to begin my speech when I couldn’t read my writing. I bumbled along until I realized I was having difficulty with my bifocals. My left eye was focusing on the microphone, my right eye on my text and I would look up to engage the audience and it was all a blur. I quickly moved my glasses up on top of my head and was able to get through, with only a few more stumbles. I guess I paused at an inappropriate moment, making it sound like I was a polygamist. “I wish to thank my husband (pause) Dan Kern and Tom Weber…” At least I got a few laughs.

That night I replayed the events in my mind and criticized myself. I felt called to speak at Bob’s dedication even though I have not mastered the skills of public speaking. Was I good enough?

On Sunday my family was invited down to St. Paul to attend my sister-in-law’s ordination as a deacon in the Old Catholic Church denomination. It is a faith, based in Catholic tradition using the Catholic liturgy, but without being governed by the Roman Catholic Pope or laws. I don’t know a whole lot about it, but from what I witnessed, it is a group of equal opportunity believers, all welcome. The ceremony was held in a beautiful old Methodist church and we were ushered to the very front row.

There were six people up front performing the ordination. The Bishop appeared to be a frail man in his 80’s. I later learned he was recovering from a recent stroke. There was a heavyset priest who had the sweetest smile. He often dabbed his head and face for he was sweating profusely. There was a dark complected priest who had somewhat of a language barrier. I was told after the ceremony he was a Native American whose primary language is Spanish. The cantor was a blind priest who had such a beautiful voice. He joked about us receiving visual cues from the blind. He was also the violinist, obviously playing by ear. There was a priest who was a tall, thin, nice looking man and a female deacon who both appeared to be in their fifties. All worthy of serving God.

The most touching part of the ceremony was the laying on of hands. The six took their turns praying over my sister-in-law. Then they invited the congregation to come up front and give her our support with prayer or words of encouragement.

Afterwards my beaming sister-in-law announced she felt called by the people, for the people because the laying of hands came from such a diverse group and a multitude of faiths.

I was honored to be a part of both ceremonies. And I realized when we listen to our calling and we speak from our hearts, we are all good enough.

Our father upstairs knows us and enjoys our conversation with him. I think he must have a good sense of humor, too. Sometimes when I look up, I can almost see a twinkle.