Thursday, June 30, 2005

Country Living

So I drove from East Grand Forks to my dad's farm (between tiny McGregor and tinier Battleview, ND) this morning. The Aune family (my dad's mom, her sisters, and their offspring) reunion starts tomorrow, and it'll be largely at the farms of my dad and my uncle, who live a half-mile apart. I arrived in time for a noon meal of steak, potatoes, peas, and milk. Such a big meal at noon is not typical of a weekday during my in-town life, but it surely brought me back to my childhood growing up on the farm.

Then I went with my dad to join my aunt and uncle, second cousin, and rural neighbors from the Battleview area to mow and trim the grass at the Bethel Cemetery outside Battleview (where my mom, my grandparents, and other family and friends are buried). The family reunion will end Sunday with a visit to the cemetery, so now it's spic and span, it's spiffy, it's presentable. Caretaking the grounds of a cemetery is a hired-out job in town, but in the country, it's done by volunteers--mostly senior citizens, by the way, who are not as able bodied as the oodles of younger folks who could and probably would do it themselves if they were more active in the churches and realized that grooming cemeteries even is a job that needs to be done.

My dad and stepmother have been busy getting their yard in good shape for all the visitors who will be here over the next few days. All the little kids are invited here for games on Saturday afternoon, so dad had a guy come to spray the yard and trees for bugs today (and to fertilize and lawn and spray it for weeds at the same time). This is a big yard for the two of them to take care of--and they're in their sixties (oops! was that supposed to be a secret, you two? sorry!). It looks very good.

Now I will drive to Williston to pick up my sister Cathy from the train station. She's been on it all night, traveling from Portland, OR. Amtrak is notoriously late. Cathy is scheduled to arrive around 7:00 P.M., so that means closer to 8:00, I'm sure. It takes a lot of driving to get anywhere when you live in the country, but the drives in western North Dakota are usually so pretty. They've gotten a lot of rain recently, so every hill and field is beautifully green, and all the lakes and coulees are full. It's fun to return for a visit--to remember my childhood, to appreciate the details of country living, and to experience a peacefulness that I don't necessarily get in the city.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

July's Thought-Provoking Question(s)


If you have no friends, this month's question is not for you! Ditto if you have friends but no best friend. I'm addressing this post to those of you who can identify someone who qualifies as your "best friend."

My own best friend is out of town for a couple months this summer, and it's been really odd not having him around. We were accustomed to seeing each other three to five times a week, and now he's accessible only by e-mail--and then only sporadically. It has upset my equilibrium. There's a tremor in the force. There is no yin to my yang.

If you have a best friend, what's your story? How did you two come to be best friends? What do you have in common? How do you "complete" one another (*blech*)? How is your relationship different from the friendships you share with others? How would your life be different without your best friend in it? Come on; fess up.


Last night Suzanna and Abigail were cleaning up toys from the basement before going to bed. Earlier in the day, Suzanna had put a slipper over either end of her talking Larry the Cucumber toy (he's a character from Veggie Tales movies, and when you squeeze the toy, it speaks some of his catchphrases from the movies). When I tossed it on her bed during cleanup, it spoke one of its phrases. Suzanna looked at it and said, "Naughty shoecumber." It took me a second to get the slipper/shoe reference, but then we both broke into giggles. *sigh*

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Porn in School Libraries?!

Laurie Taylor, a woman in Fayetteville, Arkansas conducted her own personal "audit" of the schools' libraries and found 70 books that she feels are "inappropriate" due to their characters' sexual activity, language, and/or homosexuality. She would like the "offensive" books removed from the libraries, the district to conduct its own audit, and a parent review board formed to perform oversight of future library purchases. The story, and some of the "offending" titles, are here.

At first read, it seemed like a case of an extremist homophobe hoping to impose her ultraconservatism on all local public school students. But the last line of the news article caught my attention: "Taylor said her overall concern has been the availability of explicit books in a public school library without a parent’s consent or knowledge. "

What do you think? Is it wacky for a parent to comb the stacks of the local public school libraries rooting around for books that could possibly offend young readers (or their parents)? Or is it justifiable for a parent to be concerned that the books available to her children at the local public school be appropriate--or, at least, not more sexually explicit than she is comfortable with? I'd be interested to hear others' opinions about the article in particular and the issue in general.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

High Plains Reader Review

While perusing the Web, I stumbled across this review of A Doll's House from the June 23, 2005 issue of the High Plains Reader:

"Classic Norwegian Play Presented"
By Christopher E. Jacobs
Grand Forks Editor

Last weekend the Fire Hall Theater in Grand Forks had a special three-night run of the classic Henrik Ibsen “modern” drama A Doll’s House. The strong cast included regular Fire Hall Theater actors along with performers from the Hatton Community Theater and former Grand Forks actresses back in town before the fall college semester begins.

Directed by Adonica Schultz Aune, the production was carried by its earnest performances, with RaeAnn Levang standing out as Nora. John Thompson handled the difficult role of her husband Torvald with a controlled theatricality that fit the part. The two leading characters are written as such heavy-handed stereotypes that it takes superior stage presence to draw the viewer into the plot, and after a slow, contrived exposition (again inherent in the script), the show soon became an engrossing tangle of complications.

Bob Seidel made a touching Dr. Rank, with Kathy Tingum and
Kevin Moberg both quite effective as Kristine Linde and Nils Krogstad. Also in the cast were Betty Gard, Marie Hjelmstad, Dave Nash, and little Suzanna, Abigail, and Hillary Moberg.

Long held up as an early example of influential feminist literature and realistic drama, the 1879 play is still deeply rooted in 19th century theatrical convention. Today it is more likely to come across as quaintly dated melodrama to viewers unfamiliar with the theatrical style. When viewed (or read) against the context of other popular plays from the mid to late 19th century, however, one can easily see how shock A Doll’s House must have been to audiences of the time.

The most interesting characters are actually the supporting leads, and the relationship between Kristine and Nils has enough material for an entire play or novel of its own, as does the Dr. Rank character and his repressed, unrequited love for Nora, his best friend’s wife. Nora and Torvald might easily be only a minor subplot in another writer’s handling of the basic story elements.

It is good to have the opportunity to see plays that have become part of the “essential” canon of theatre, both for reevaluating their place in that canon and for the reminder of how little some things have actually changed throughout history, even if the styles of expressing them have.

Kids Say the Darnedest Things

Our just-turned four-year-old recently received a fleece blanket as part of a birthday gift from a friend, and she's been spending some nights sleeping atop her bedspread with that blanket on her. Tonight her mother told her that she'd have to sleep under her covers (but could still use the blanket, too). Hillary burst into tears and told her, "You're ruining my entire life!" It's hard to show one's daughter sympathy when one is trying so hard not to laugh.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

A Mental Pause to Reflect . . .

There have been many goings-on that have created a strain on my brain in the past few weeks. They have ended; thus, I'm taking a mental breather to reflect and assess.

  1. I finished reading The Golden Compass and now have its sequel, The Subtle Knife (both by Philip Pullman), to start (thank you, Michael). I also started reading Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer. They're my choices for pleasure reading at the moment, but I haven't had much time for that the past few days. More on that next.
  2. I've been reading for my Ph.D. program courses at UND. I've been enjoying such works as Breaking Ranks II: Strategies for Leading High School Reform by the National Association of Secondary School Principals, The New Principal's Fieldbook: Strategies for Success by Pam Robbins and Harvey Alvy, and Advanced and Multivariate Statistical Methods by Craig Mertler and Rachel Vannatta. Plus a bunch of 40(+)-page articles for both my principalship and Statistics II courses. They're interesting enough to me, but it's certainly a different kind of reading from a Philip Pullman novel!
  3. I read and memorized and reviewed A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen--and then performed it. The play was this weekend, and it went well. I played the meanie, Nils Krogstad, and my three daughters played the Helmers' children. They did a great job, too, and looked very cute in their period Norwegian garb. My sister-in-law Cassie came from Fargo to see the play. It's always good to see her.
  4. I participated in a two-day data retreat with about 20 colleagues: elementary teachers and principals, middle school teachers and principals, high school teacher and principal, and district administration. We looked at test score data for our school district and used it to plan for future school improvement.
Coming up:

  1. My youngest daughter's birthday party tomorrow (well, this morning; it's the wee hours of the morning as I'm typing this). Her birthday was actually yesterday (well, two days ago, really) on Fathers Day, but the get-together with her friends will be tomorrow (well . . . oh, you get what I mean!). It'll be in our back yard. Running through the sprinkler, dragging grass into the kiddie pool, eating a turtle cake that my wife made out of cake and ice cream, opening presents. She's four now and definitely not a baby, no matter how much I wish she still were. *nostalgic sigh*
  2. My weekend "incarceration" in PRACS. I normally use that time to catch up on reading for school, but I'm kind of done with that for now. So maybe I'll get to do some pleasure reading!
  3. The Aune family reunion in a week-and-a-half. I'll get there (to my childhood farm/home outside McGregor, ND) a few days before my wife and kids in order to pack up some things to take back to East Grand Forks (MN)--although where in the world I'll store those boxes of things here I have no idea! Aargh!! The Saturday of the reunion, my wife and I expect to be entertaining little kids at my dad's house while the other adults are playing softball in town or bingo at my uncle's. That could be either very fun or very trying. Or both. Pray for us.
  4. The Morey family reunion (on my wife's side) at Upper Eau Claire Lake in Wisconsin in August. Lake life for a weekend, during which we get to pretend we're carefree lake-goers. Aah!
  5. My summer-long internship with an excellent administrator in our district. It means I'll be at the school all summer, but he will be great to work with.
  6. Two workshops/seminars to attend in August. The Teaching American History workshop (a five-day event) requires a TON of reading beforehand of historical documents--primary sources (or facsimiles thereof) related to the overall topic.

The girls have been experimenting with various sleeping arrangements the past several nights. For three nights, they took turns sleeping on one another's floors. One night (the night before Fathers Day/Hillary's birthday), they camped out on the floor in Susan and my bedroom. They had the sleeping bags out for that, so they kept them out and are now doing the same, except in Abigail's room (for the past two nights). They're all so dang cute and innocent-looking when they're asleep.

Susan and they surprised me with a picnic on Sunday. I wasn't home much at all on Fathers Day because I had one class (yes, on a Sunday) from 9:00 A.M. to 2:00 P.M. and another from 3:00 P.M . to 10:00 P.M. They started the day by fixing a big breakfast and giving me lovely presents. Then, the bevy of beauties showed up on campus at 2:00 P.M. with a blanket and a cooler of food, so we had a picnic and visited, and Hillary and I got to enjoy some of our combined birthday/Fathers Day cake. I got to talk to my sister Sandy on the phone that night, which is a rare treat. Despite having to be in class all day, it was a fine day.

(Shh! Don't tell Hillary, but we're going to take her [and the other girls] to see the animated movie Madagascar sometime this week, too--probably Sunday. It will be a belated birthday treat for her and Fathers Day treat for the family.)

(Oh, and I'll be going to see Batman Begins with my friend Curt one night this week, too.)

Friday, June 10, 2005

Summer Reading

Start by reading this.

Done? Okay, so I'm nearly finished with The Golden Compass, and it's great. Today I saw the student who lent me the book, and he's offered to lend me the other books in the series, too. That should tide me over until the next Harry Potter comes out July 16.

LIFE magazine today recommended about a half dozen books for summer reading. A few that look interesting to me:

  • 1776 by David McCullough
    LIFE says, "The Pulitzer Prize-winning writer brings to vivid life America's birth year--when mere men became Founding Fathers and 13 contentious colonies a country."
  • Crossworld by Marc Romano
    LIFE says, "What Word Wars did for Scrabble, this will do for the crossword, with its fascinating look at the quirky culture of puzzle fanatics. (And you thought Trekkies [sic] were strange!)"
  • Specimen Days by Michael Cunningham
    LIFE says, "The celebrated author of The Hours trades Virginia Woolf for Walt Whitman in this ambitious work that's equal parts ghost story, thriller, and sci-fi--and likely to boost sales of another literary giant."
  • The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
    LIFE says, "At 600-plus pages, it's not nearly as quick a read as Dan Brown's chart-busting Da Vinci Code, but this similarly riveting tale of professors-turned-vampire chasers who race around Europe in search of Vlad the Impaler (a.k.a. Dracula) will have you up all night."

Check out the links above for more information.

We're Famous!

The names of my daughters and me appeared in an article in today's Grand Forks Herald, so we must be famous. It's a blurb announcing the production of A Doll's House in which we're performing next week. Come see the show! Here's the article, and here [below] is the corrected version [because I'm an English teacher compelled to edit]:

Midnight Sun Ibsen Fest Opens

The Midnight Sun Ibsen Fest will feature Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen's classic play A Doll's House.

Performances will be at 7:30 P.M. Thursday, June 16 through Saturday, June 18 in the Fire Hall Theater. The festival is sponsored by Midnight Sun Public Relations.

A Doll's House is one of the best known, most frequently performed of modern plays, displaying Ibsen's genius for realistic prose drama. A classic expression of women's rights, the play builds to a climax in which the central character, Nora, rejects a smothering marriage and life in "a doll's house."

The play is directed by Adonica Schultz Aune with a cast featuring RayAnn Levang, John Thompson, Kathy Tingum, Kevin Moberg, Bob Seidel, Betty Gard, Marie Hjelmstad, and Dave Nash, with special appearances by Suzanna, Abigail, and Hillary Moberg.

Tickets are available through Ticketmaster outlets, or call (701) 772-5151 or Information only: (701) 777-4090.

Monday, June 06, 2005

June's Thought-Provoking Question(s)


If you are a student or a teacher, you likely just recently started your summer vacation. Some of you just graduated and are beginning your first June as the proud owner of a high school diploma!

If you are neither a student nor a teacher and are still reporting to work daily and don't consider the summer to be any more of a vacation than the spring or autumn or winter, at the very least you cannot deny that June has begun, and with it comes summertime weather [recent dreary, overcast skies notwithstanding] and activities.

What are your special plans for the summer? What will you be doing in June, July, and/or August that you don't normally do the other months of the year? What are you looking forward to this summer? Share details about your summer vacations, summer jobs, summer hobbies, etc.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Musings at the Beginning of Summer

My last day of teaching for the school year was Thursday, June 2, and I had to report to work on Friday the 3rd for teacher workshops. I ALREADY MISS THE STUDENTS! In many ways, it will seem like a very long summer without them.

However, I've already started my summer course work at UND. I'm taking Statistics II (eeks!) for three weekends (Sunday 3:00-10:00 P.M. and Monday 8:00 A.M.-5:00 P.M., June 5-6, 12-13, and 19-20). Tonight was our first session. The instructor, Dr. Richard Landry, is a hoot and is VERY knowledgeable in his field. I took Statistics I last summer, so tonight's session meant dredging up my knowledge from that last course and putting some of it back into short-term memory. I have good group members for all the group work that we will have to do, so that should help.

Why won't it stop raining?! It doesn't feel much like summer when it's overcast and drizzly every day.

My father-in-law spent the weekend with us. It was good to see him again (we hadn't since Christmas), and the girls just LOVE seeing Grandpa.

The girls and I are in the play A Doll's House for the Nordic Initiative next week in Grand Forks, so we've had rehearsals for that the end of last week and this weekend. I'm off book now, so that's a major reduction in stress for me. Today we tried on costumes, and the girls look SO CUTE in their period costumes: dresses, furs, shawls, bonnets, boots, etc. And who looks more Nordic than they?!

I'll be spending time at the high school in June and July, putting in hours for an internship for my program at UND. Mr. Budge will be working with me on that. So it will be as though I never left the building for the summer. Sigh.

Now stop raining, weather!