Tuesday, November 19, 2013

"Fresh Eyes" continued -- Breaking silence . . .

Note: While I have finished my tenure at The Kenmare News, I have moved my weekly "Fresh Eyes" column to this blog. Seems I can't let go of this writing opportunity--I hope you follow me here each week!

Readers of this column may have noticed that while I often express my opinion about various community events and activities, I have remained silent about the $14 million building project proposed for Kenmare High School.

I’m breaking that silence today, the day of the special election.

As a reporter for The Kenmare News, I wanted to remain objective in my writing about the proposal, knowing this would be a story to follow for weeks and months.

However, Marvin Baker has that task now, so here is what I think.

I think if you are of voting age and live within the school district boundaries, you must go exercise your right to vote today, on these issues: should the school district increase its level of indebtedness and should the school district take on a $14 million construction project?

You can agree or disagree with the school district’s stand on this, but go put that view in writing. The polls are open until 7 pm tonight at Kenmare High School—make that one of your stops today.

I also think approving the bond issue and building the addition are the right steps for the school district and community to take, even with the tax burden associated with the project.

Believe me, I understand there is more than one side to this issue. And as the only non-school district individual who attended ALL the committee meetings, regular board meetings and special board meetings centered on this discussion during the past year, along with two of the three public meetings, I can tell you every side of this issue has been suggested, debated, hypothesized, examined, considered, pondered and reviewed.

I do not always agree with members of this school board and their actions and decisions, but I respect the process and procedures followed by the board AND the men and women who choose to put themselves in these positions and accept the responsibility of serving.

Regarding the $14 million proposed building project, they have taken that responsibility seriously.

Oh, the discussions have not been perfect. This board is not in agreement on the proposal, as has already been reported in The Kenmare News. At times through the past year, every single board member and administrator present has voiced doubts, questions or concerns about elements of this proposal.

However, they have taken time with this matter. They have looked at a great deal of data and anecdotal information provided by the construction management company hired to assess the district’s building needs, and closely studied four options provided by those consultants.

In fact, the Kenmare School Board took a significant step in even hiring an outside construction management company in order to start with a more complete and objective picture of the district than they could ever generate themselves.

In those initial meetings with Kraus-Anderson representatives, I can tell you the engineers made statements that bothered and even offended board members and administrators—mostly statements related to student and classroom needs, as opposed to sports program needs.

Yes, the discussion started more than a year ago with an interest in building a second gymnasium. And, yes, the district needs that space, but the continual questions and conversations led to the final proposal which includes so much more than a basketball court and bleachers.

The proposal before you today includes a vision to provide high quality education for children in the Kenmare School District for at least the next 50 years.

Some of you are thinking about your own children who attend the school now and will graduate soon, perhaps before any building project would be completed.

 Some of you are thinking about the increased taxes you would pay for the next 20 years should the bond issue be approved today.

Some of you are thinking the school district is asking for one more thing, again.

And if you’re thinking about those things, you may vote “no” in the election.

However, despite your own relationship to the Kenmare schools right now, remember the fate of a school and its community—and that community’s residents--are inexorably linked.

The school is one of the most visible reflections of any community.

The school also lays a foundation for the future generations of leadership and prosperity in a community.

For the sake of YOUR future in Kenmare—and the futures of your children, grandchildren and, yes, great-grandchildren—I urge you to vote “YES” in the Kenmare School District special election today, November 19, 2013.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Every. Moment. Matters.

Note: I apologize for the silence on this blog. Today's post is in celebration of January 1, 2013, and first appeared in the December 26, 2012, issue of The Kenmare News as my "Fresh Eyes" column. One goal I have for the New Year is to reactivate and use this space...in whatever direction it takes me...because Every Moment Matters. Thank you for reading today, and many thanks to those of you who have been standing by, patiently waiting for Coyote and Darner to resurface.

The year 2012 is in the history books, and that means I should take stock of how I did with my New Year’s bumper sticker resolution of Use it up.

Not bad.

After all, I ran out of the Christmas gift bags this season, using up my stockpile.

Same with some lovely Christmas cards I’d purchased a few years back. They went out in the mail.

I’ve been reading the books on my shelves, and cooking with seasonings, soups, sauces and other ingredients languishing in my cupboards. I planted in the containers stored in the garden shed and resisted the urge to buy even a single new pot.

For the first time maybe in my whole life, I’ve worn my socks until holes have appeared.

I like this use it up approach I adopted for 2012. It’s sticking.

When in doubt, or short on photos appropriate for the text,
insert a dragonfly photo, taken August 2012 at our front door.

The 2013 resolution has been nudging me for the past few months, however. In fact, I first wrote about this to a friend during the summer--either in late June when we were preparing for the Kenmare Summer Arts Institute performances with the kids or right before Labor Day, when I left home for a week in Alaska.

I can’t remember when, exactly, but both occasions were filled with lists, obligations, countdowns and things that Must Be Done. I rolled from one task to the next and didn’t even mind so much because I was excited about the goal.

What I do remember clearly, however, is telling my friend that it was a time when Every Moment Matters, because there was so much to do.

That’s how I envisioned those words, too, each beginning with a capital letter. Each word important.

I’d forgotten about all that until December and the Christmas rush came, with the church schedules and the change in printing deadlines here at the office and the fact we’re producing copious numbers of pages for the paper in short periods of time and the requests for music and my own list of holiday tasks to include baking, gift-wrapping, decorating and shipping packages and basketball games have started--and then somehow taking time to focus on the significance of Advent and its attributes of joy, hope, peace and love while the world keeps turning and churning around me.

Your schedules weren’t any less hectic, I know.


That’s when Every Moment Matters nudged me again.

This isn’t a new idea by any means. There are all kinds of quotes out there addressing the importance of living in the present rather than regretting the past or worrying about the future. The first embodiment of this I remember was popular in the early 1980s when I was a teenager: “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.”

I can’t disagree with that statement, but it never really sparked anything for me.

Still, something must have taken root, because Every Moment Matters just won’t let go of me right now. I’m paying attention and adopting it as the 2013 bumper sticker resolution.

With each word capitalized.

I don’t quite know where this resolution is going to take me in the New Year, but I’ve noticed a few effects from the holiday season.

Most years, I can expect one Christmas “meltdown moment” when the to-do list overwhelms me. At best, my reaction runs to crabby. At worst, tears flow.

No Christmas meltdown this year.

Then there was the church school Christmas program, put together, rehearsed and performed within two weeks--after we realized the schedules for the families involved wouldn’t allow more time than that.

Believe me, Every Moment REALLY Mattered during those practices--and every child, ages 4 through 14, came through.

They learned new songs and sang them with gusto. Some volunteered to read at the microphone and practiced their parts seriously. Some wore costumes. Some offered to do special music. No one complained or cried, including the teachers involved. The kids welcomed their families and other adults to the service with hospitality and joy. There were hugs all around.

I’m not saying the holiday ride has been smooth or stress-free this season, but I can say Every Moment Matters is keeping me grounded, which keeps me going.

And that’s the whole point of a New Year’s bumper sticker resolution anyway.

I’ll let you know how Every Moment Matters turns out for 2013. You can adopt it, too, if you like.

Happy New Year.

Dragonflies are a symbol of transformation, so here's to
all kinds of transformations taking place in 2013!!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

October surprise . . . .

This post is not intended as the surprise, although some of you may be surprised that I'm finally writing in this space again....

October in our corner of the prairie has been full of surprises:

The tundra swans arrived at the Des Lacs Lakes near Kenmare.

Tomatoes (that survived the one 24-degree night)
are still thriving...

...and tasting delicious.

Mild temperatures and little frost
have encouraged the columbine to bud out again.

A new bleeding heart plant thinks it's spring,

And someone disappeared to make a nest.

Then she brought the chicks home.

Curious onlookers are not welcome.

Lay off, Leghorn....

Finally, everybody is tucked in where they're safe, under Mama.

Happy October!

You can read more about this little surprise here

So much for shutting down the barn for winter--we have a nursery now.  Mama and chicks are doing fine in their own pen, abundant clean straw and plenty of feed.  Last night, she called them out from under her wings to show me.

Winter might be a little more lively in our barn this year, with seven juvenile turkeys running the roost.
And this hen has certainly saved herself from the Thanksgiving table....

So, what surprises has October shared with you?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Hope this brings a smile . . .

It is being a long wait until spring...

Beyond the unofficial start, when the geese return...
Past the official start, when the calendar decrees...
Gray skies, gray landscape,
Gray thoughts...

With no color in sight or in the forecast.
Instead, a city's Christmas decorations still hang
And the winter's detritus reveals itself as snowpiles slowly melt;
Those same piles now fuzzy with dried grass, leftover sand and shredded garbage
All pushed together and aside in the name of safe travel.

Sometimes, we can joke about it.
Sometimes, the gray swirls too close and a smile is painful.
And sometimes a kind, kind soul with nothing to gain
Brings a gift with the salad dressing to the table at lunch.
Just a simple sugar cookie, perfectly round and soft,
Not ordered, not requested. Just pure gift.
And one woman says to another, "Hope this brings a smile."
And both women do, and the gray retreats behind the edges of hope again.

No camera along to capture that precious cookie (I must learn to carry it always)
But I had these cookies back at the office (my latest attempts at the quest).
Hope this brings a smile.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Spring break, of the best sort . . .

I've been away from the blog...mostly for district and regional basketball tournaments, with the state Class B girls tournament yet to cover (Go, Kenmare Honkers!), but I also took time for a little jaunt south...

to North Platte, Nebraska....

680 miles one way....

and changed our lives here....

for the better.

I thought I should document the trip in photos--see what you think.

Sunrise in North Dakota, March 4, 2011  --  ready to leave.

Lovely view of the Missouri River north of Washburn, ND, on U.S. Highway 83.

Lewis & Clark Interpretative Center, Washburn, ND.
GREAT museum.
Also, one of the best rest areas in the state.

Brief drive east on I-94, looking to pick up U.S. 83 again.

Aaah, back on U.S. 83, headed south, hardly need a map.

Road signs all along the route; not that a road is necessarily there.

Tourist attraction, Strasburg, ND.

U.S. 83 into South Dakota (stay with me now).

Notice odometer reading and trip distance at this point in my 1999 Bonneville,
south of Pierre, SD (also notice full tank of gas), still on U.S. 83.

View at 196,000 miles (we're getting closer).

Two hours later, on U.S. 83 (stay with me).

Sunset south of Valentine, NE, U.S. 83.
(Still two hours of driving to destination.)
No color adjustments made.
Also, essentially no snow!!!!

Sunrise, North Platte, NE, March 5th.

Best sunrise ever, named Morgan.

Headed north into South Dakota.

South Dakota border on U.S. 83.

Lunch on the Missouri River at the Oahe Dam near Pierre, SD....

Tourists' view of the dam
(Morgan, look at the Canada geese in the open water)....

Morgan's view of the dam...and first experience in snow.

Bald eagles might carry away 49-day-old puppies,
BUT no eagles were to be seen here.
On the other hand, 1 bald eagle and 5 golden eagles were tallied
NORTH of Pierre, directly along U.S. 83, waiting to scoop up
one of the thousands of ring-necked pheasants feeding
in corn and sunflower stubble fields.

(Maybe nobody told the eagles about their roosting area!)

Selby, SD, cemetery. Yes, that's what you think it is...

...Easily visible from the roadway.

Crossing back into North Dakota.

Crossing back into North Dakota.
(Not to be confused with the earlier crossing into South Dakota.)

Absolutely worth every mile.

Thanks for coming along on my little road trip...could be the best "spring break" ever.

Note for travelers who may now be interested in duplicating this route: you drive straight down the center of the Great Plains.  Get out your road atlas and check the route.  You can pick up NPR radio stations all along the way; also local high school sports coverage.  In Nebraska, you have to prepay your fuel, which is most inconvenient as a lone traveler.  The only Starbucks available were in Minot and Bismarck, ND, although the other towns and cities along the way had their local coffee shops--and in Pierre, SD, I saw two real life 2010 National Finals Rodeo saddle bronc contestants acting like normal people at Hardee's!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The quest, continued . . .

The quest continues, with batch number two....

As a former biology major and science teacher, I am familiar with the scientific method, and I shamefully disregarded it as I experimented with three variables, instead of one.

Variable #1 -- Dark brown sugar, and even less white sugar.
Deemed successfull!!

Variable #2 -- Flour -- used two types,
but I'm not ready to reveal the new formula yet--
still working on this!

Variable #3 -- Refrigeration -- a suggestion
that came from even more research.
Who knew the New York Times could be so helpful??

Photo experiment --
did not actually impact the cookie taste, color or shape.
I'm just trying for a different look here.
Which cookie says, "Pick me, pick me!!!" most loudly to YOU?

These were actually baked earlier in the week, and already consumed--shared with two of the stalwart volunteers at the Class B District 12 and Region 6 boys and girls basketball tournaments (more about that to come later).

By the way, I'm staying with REAL BUTTER at this point.  Fortunately, this recipe only makes about two dozen small cookies or 18 big ones--easy disposal!!  (Notice the chocolate chip font color? Nice touch, eh?)

Round three of the cookie quest was completed this evening, with one variable.  Most of those cookies also have a designated recipient.

Your turn will come.

Still have work to do, but I'm getting closer. 

Much closer.  In fact, I bought two specialty bakery cookies earlier this week on a trip to the big city in NW North Dakota and for the first time ever, wished I had one of mine instead.

More to come...keep following your own quests, by the way.  Success may be closer than you realize.

And don't be afraid to mix up your variables!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The cookie quest . . .

As if the days are not full enough, I have started a cookie quest,
and you can read more about it here.
Blame it on a bad sinus infection and even worse daytime television.
I turned to the Internet and started searching.

A cookie lover has to do what a cookie lover has to do.
I'm not getting any younger, and this is the year to discover
--or develop--
the chocolate chip cookie recipe of my dreams.

Presented here are the results of my first attempt
with a new recipe.
Click on any photo for a mouth-watering, actual size image.

It holds promise.

But not perfection.

The quest continues....
Recipe suggestions are MOST welcome!!  I also share cookies very willingly.

What is your quest this month, of the serious or silly variety?