Friday, July 29, 2011

Want to see slides from our vacation??

Sometimes the best walks are the ones you didn't plan on taking.  

Miner's Falls by aawikstrom
Miner's Falls, a photo by aawikstrom on Flickr.

Learning something on our walk by aawikstrom

We took a road trip to Michigan's Upper Peninsula.  Our first day was a travel day, followed by a day touring from Munising to Grand Marais.  A lot of walks: waterfalls, dunes, painted rocks.  We were tired and hungry for supper when we stopped at Sable Falls (which wasn't on our agenda).  But, the falls were only 500 feet from the parking lot so it didn't seem like more than we could handle.  Some members of our family are more adventurous than others, and we couldn't stop ourselves from continuing down the trail.  The trail ended .6 miles from the parking lot at Lake Superior.  Sand dunes on the left, forested shoreline on the right, and smooth, water-worn rocks on the beach in front of us.  The river that made Sable Falls forms a bit of a pool before emptying into the big lake.  A gorgeous encore for our day of exploring.

Sable Falls by aawikstrom
Sable Falls, a photo by aawikstrom on Flickr.

Lake Superior by aawikstrom
Lake Superior, a photo by aawikstrom on Flickr.

The drive from home to Munising is pretty long.  The drive from Munising to Sault Ste. Marie was a shorter trip, but was an all day affair with the stops mentioned above.  We saw the Soo Locks and even got to see a ship travel through them before getting ice cream cones and heading back out on the road.  The drive to Cheboygan ended up being longer than expected with the advent of a flat tire.  Oh well, at least everyone but the driver had something good to read.

Our family takes road trips without a portable DVD player.  We figure they watch enough TV at home and that there's a greater likely-hood of the kids noticing the scenery if their eyes aren't glued to a screen.    Before vacations, I check the "for sale" pile at our local libraries and pick up a few new to us books for the girls to read.  Sure, they're discards; so they might not be what is currently popular (and with our small libraries, currently means in the past 20 years) but that doesn't mean they're bad books.  My seven-year-old never would have met Mrs. Pickerell if it weren't for library discards.

While my husband got new tires, the girls and I walked around downtown Cheboygan.  Lots of cute little shops that we didn't enter.  One little bookstore where we made ourselves at home.  By this time in our travels, our 10-year-old had already finished 4 books and only had one left.  (I knew I should have packed along that really thick one she's been hesitant to start.)  The majority of books for kids her age were series books (i.e. Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Lightening Thief, and Hank Zipper)  There weren't a lot of stand alone books.  Of the 15 or so, only one looked good to her.  Should've bought it then and there, but I thought we'd come back and get it instead of lugging it all over town.

And off we went.  Down the street a little further, then across the road to the other side and back.  What's that??  A library sign?  Let's go!!  Ahhh, but the only library we found was the old "Carnagie Free Library".  A beautiful building fallen into disrepair.  Having worked in the Carnagie Library in Coleraine, MN; it was a bit saddening to see the building sitting there empty.  The girls were not eager to walk on in search of a new library, so back to Main Street we went.  My husband picked us up there a few minutes later.

Cheboygan, MI by aawikstrom
Cheboygan, MI, a photo by aawikstrom on Flickr.

weather vane by aawikstrom
weather vane, a photo by aawikstrom on Flickr.

Dinner at a local restaurant (where I had the best chicken salad sandwich of my life and the girls had the best BLT's of theirs) and onto the ferry to take us to Bois Blanc Island.  Boblo to the locals.  A cabin on the Lake Huron lake shore has been our home now for a couple of days.  The kids love jumping the waves and donning their life jackets to ride the waves back to shore.  Chicken, corn, and sweet potatoes on the grill, with marshmallows roasted over the fire by the lake and made into s'mores for dessert.  The quiet.  Watching the ships pass.  Listening to the waves roll in.  What a great place to relax with a book (or two).

s'mores by aawikstrom
s'mores, a photo by aawikstrom on Flickr.

reading and relaxing by aawikstrom
                                                         reading and relaxing, a photo by aawikstrom on Flickr.

Everyone else went off to pick raspberries this afternoon while I worked on this post: outside, in the shade with a glass of iced tea, with nothing but the sound of waves crashing and the wind in the trees.  A perfect afternoon.  

writing the blog longhand by aawikstrom
writing the blog longhand, a photo by aawikstrom on Flickr.

Once everyone returned, we headed down to the only store on the island for some ice cream.  A late supper of hot dogs roasted over the fire followed by some more s'mores for dessert.  Kids bathed and hopped into bed.  We packed our stuff back up and our relaxing family vacation comes to a close.  We'll take the 8:00am ferry in the morning.  (The girls are having raspberries for pre-breakfast.  We plan on stopping for breakfast at the place that gave us some of the best sandwiches of our lives.)

Here's hoping I don't stay up too late reading my book, but I get the feeling that I'll be glad I brought along three books for this trip.  (Yep, the coffee post is set to go in the morning!) 

girls at the shore by aawikstrom
girls at the shore, a photo by aawikstrom on Flickr.

And just so you know that I know, this quote is for those who didn't care for the slide show.
There is probably no more obnoxious class of citizen, taken end for end, than the returning vacationist. ~Robert Benchley

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Real mail, not junk mail

What a wonderful thing is the mail, capable of conveying across continents a warm human hand-clasp.  ~Author Unknown

One world many stories.  Today we said "auf Wiedersehn".  It was the last day of the summer reading program.  The kids traded their book logs for library dollars and got to buy whatever prizes they wanted.  The summer reading program may be over, but summer reading isn't.  Sure, some people don't have enough time during the summer to read.  What with planting, weeding, harvesting, canning, and playing at the beach; where's the time to crack open a book?  Ha!  Remember those heat advisory days we just had?  Yep; there I was, sitting next to the air conditioner with a book in one hand and a glass of iced tea in the other.  

We've gotten quite a few postcards in the past few weeks.  It's been pretty exciting to get them.  In this electronic age, it's a rare event to get something handwritten in the mail.  It sure is more meaningful.  Those postcards show us that someone took the time to write a line or more, address it, affix a stamp, and mail it to us.  It's really fun to get that kind of mail.  So, if you haven't gotten to it yet; send us a postcard.  If you'd like some postal excitement of your own, include your address and we'll send a postcard back to you.

When I was a kid, there was no email.  I was in second grade before our elementary school got computers.  So, my friends and I wrote letters.  I've got many of them in a box somewhere.  I should dig them out and see what kind of correspondence we had as 10-year-olds.  It was always an extra special day when you got a letter or postcard in the mail.  It still is.  It just doesn't happen as often.  Perhaps we could all try to bring some of that magic back.  Send a letter, card, or postcard to someone.  Draw a picture and send it off.  

Maybe I should add "Mail something to someone" to my summer bucket list.      

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.  ~St. Augustine

To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart.  ~Phyllis Theroux

Friday, July 15, 2011

Life lessons learned in Kindergarten

The most valuable of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do, when it has to be done, whether you like it or not. --Aldous Huxley

What did we learn in kindergarten? We learned to share, cooperate with others, listen, and keep our hands to ourselves. We learned to work together, be kind to one another, and clean up after ourselves. We learned that we have a lot to learn. Or something like that. It's been a long time since I was in kindergarten. It's been a long time since I read Robert Fulghum's Everything I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. But I think I get the gist of the life lessons learned in kindergarten.

At what point do we forget those lessons? Or at what point to we just stoop to the levels of the people who never learned those lessons?

So, it appears the Minnesota government shut-down is almost at an end. Problem solved? Not really, seems like the problem is just put off for another season. I'm fed up with politicians who never learned to listen, play nice, or cooperate. Seems like there's a fight brewing at the national level as well. It appears that there aren't many in D.C. who learned those lessons. Or, maybe we just hear the bad news. "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." I suppose we wouldn't hear from the people who learned that lesson.

I appreciate that there are differences of opinion on how this country should be run. I just wish the powers that be would work together instead of beating each other into the ground over their differences. One world, many stories. So, let's take a listen and see the story from another vantage point.

When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty. --Thomas Jefferson

Try to be nice to everyone, even the boy who eats paste. --Jane Wiitala

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Real Fun vs. Fake Fun

Life ain't easy. Terrible things happen to everyone. You have to keep your sense of humor, give something of yourself to others, make friends who are younger than you, learn new things, and have fun.
-George Vaillant


1. something that provides mirth or amusement: A picnic would be fun.

2. enjoyment or playfulness: She's full of fun.

A&N in the waves by aawikstrom

A&N in the waves, a photo by aawikstrom on Flickr.

So that's what fun is! What's fun for one person may not be fun for another. My dad would often say, "Hey, kids, let's go have some fun!!" which would be met by groans from my siblings and I. My dad's version of fun often involved picking rock, fixing fence, and making wood. That was not fun for us. Now, of course, it is kind of fun for me to haul wood. It's an activity that gets me moving in the crisp autumn air. It's "real" fun. I'm accomplishing something, I'm moving, I'm enjoying the outdoors.

I had a bit of an epiphany the other day as I was playing a game online. It occurred to me that what I was doing was fake fun. I sat like a rock on my chair, playing a game without any physical interaction. Fake fun. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not about to get offline anytime soon. Facebook and I are about as tight as two friends can be. I have just come to the realization that I should spend more time having real fun than fake fun.

So, what is the difference between the two? I'm not really sure. I would think that real fun is something where you are having a good time, with other people or alone, doing something tangible, smiling, laughing, and moving. (Even if it's just moving the coffee cup from the table to your mouth.) Adults have a different idea of what fun is than kids do. I suppose all the various stages of life have their own ideas of what fun is. Candyland is fun when you're 3, but not much fun when you're 38 and playing Candyland for the fourth time in a day. Fun is sitting outside watching the bees buzz around your flower beds when you're 38, but as boring as watching paint dry for a 7 year old.

Reading can be fun. Right now I'm reading Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith and it's FUN! A lot of years ago I read Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. That wasn't fun. But I did it anyway. There are books that are fun, books that are a struggle to get through, books that teach you things, and books that spark thought. We've got them all here at the library. I have a tendency to do more fun reading in the summer. There's something about laying in the warm summer sunshine with a good book.

Go outside and have some real fun. Go ahead and leave a comment on your thoughts on real fun vs. fake fun. What is real fun for you? What is fake fun for you? Let us know, it would make for some fun reading for me!

There is something self-defeating in the too-conscious pursuit of pleasure. ~Max Eastman

Friday, July 1, 2011

EVERYONE has a story.

The world does not need tourists who ride by in a bus clucking their tongues. The world as it is needs those who will love it enough to change it, with what they have, where they are.
-Robert Fulghum

One world, many stories. Everyone has one. Some are just more interesting than others. Other people's stories broaden our views. By hearing the tales of how other people live, we expand our way of thinking. The world is more than just you. The world is more than just your community. The world is vast. Everyone is different, and yet we all share some remarkable similarities. I don't think I need to list them. You can probably figure those similarities out for yourself. If you're having trouble figuring the similarities out, stop in at your local library and pick up some books about people living a life different than the one you're living.

To be perfectly honest, I wasn't originally very excited about the summer reading theme this year. It seemed a bit too much for me to tackle. I liked the theme, I just didn't know which direction to go in with it. One World, Many Stories. I decided to focus on one country per week over the course of our six week program. I wasn't sure how that would go over with the kids. I was kind of thinking they wouldn't be interested. Ahhh, but I forgot, kids don't have that same kind of self-centeredness that we adults sometimes have. They don't have the same kind of baggage attached to other nations. The people of China cannot be summed up by everything "made in China". The people of Mexico are not all the U.S.'s illegal immigrants. While we may see Africa as a place of starving children, that does not sum up the lives of all of the people living there. Afghanistan is more than the Taliban, Nebraska is more than just cornfields.

The kids have enjoyed learning about other countries. I'm not much of a linguist, and the books I've chosen have had some words in the language of the week. I'm thankful to those people yesterday who helped me out with those Spanish words that I was massacring.

I'm glad that the theme of the year that I thought might be a dud, has been one of the best ones we've had in a few years. The kids have gotten the chance to think about other places in the world besides their own communities. It may sink in a bit more than it does in the school setting, simply because it's done in a different way. It's done through stories.

If you don't know the trees you may be lost in the forest, but if you don't know the stories you may be lost in life. --Anonymous