Monday, February 26, 2007

Look Who's Blogging!

My sister! Here! ("Omaha Orations" . . . you clever--but significantly older--sibling, you.) (And "Happy birthday," Sandy!)

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Hillary's Hero

Hillary brought me a board game from which two plastic parts had snapped off, asking me if I could fix it. I could, and I did. Her reaction:

"Pa, you are such a doctor for stuff! You're the best dad I ever had. You're the mighty man."

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Whitest of White Culture

This post's title sounds a bit racist, so I'd better explain: The topic of this post stands in stark contrast--both figuratively and literally--to the last one. Travel with me now from the varied colors, sounds, flavors, and skin tones of the Asian continent to the pale skin, eyes, and hair as well as pale and bland palate of my own Scandinavian history . . . a celebration thereof in which we partook last night.

The fourth production in the Dickinson Area Concerts Association's 2006-07 series was last night--a musical called Church Basement Ladies, based upon the Scandinavian Lutheran humor of authors Janet Letnes Martin and Suzann Nelson. They have written books teasing/celebrating their memories of growing up Lutheran in ND and MN, where Scandinavian immigrants' descendents have tended to cling to tradition so tightly and rigidly that today's American Norske and Swede conservative behaviors, attitudes, and foods are pretty unrecognizable to modern Norwegians and Swedes who visit our country. ("You still eat lutefisk here in the States? Why?!") (Good question.)

Martin and Nelson's books include Luther's Small Dictionary: From AAL to Zululand, Growing Up Lutheran: What Does This Mean?, Lutheran Church Basement Women, They Glorified Mary, We Glorified Rice: A Catholic-Lutheran Lexicon, Cream Peas on Toast: Comfort Food for Norwegian-Lutheran Farm Kids (and Others), and They Had Stores, We Had Chores: A Town-Country Lexicon. They are a hoot for any of us who recognize from our own childhoods the many social mores, common phrases, religious practices, and foods that Martin and Nelson hold up as exemplars of just what it meant to be Lutheran growing up in this part of the country.

And let me tell ya, even the many non-Lutherans in the audience last night were in stitches. The many jabs at Catholics were received with good humor--good thing, too, since the show was performed in the auditorium of the local Catholic high school! And the truly huge auditorium was filled to overflowing; we had to sit in the balcony. The show takes place in the basement of a small MN Lutheran church in the '60s where we watch three generations of church women prepare food for lutefisk suppers, funerals, fundraisers, and weddings. In most of our communities, social events somehow involved the church; and events at church usually involved food; and food at church had to be prepared and served by somebody: the ladies of the community serving in one of the church's "circles." I was picturing many of them from Zion Lutheran Church in McGregor, ND as I watched, and I'm sure everyone else there was able to see on stage representations of people they themselves knew (or, perhaps, reflections of themselves?).

The melodies weren't particularly memorable, but the lyrics were clever, and the actors delivered them all with clarity and just the right attitude, never themselves making fun of the people whom their characters represented--instead letting the humor come from our own recognition of those people and just how like us all they actually are! The church basement ladies recite the typical foods served at a funeral (Cheez Whiz and green olives on open-face brown buns, seven kinds of pickles, watery Watkins nectar for the kids, etc.), and the audience nods and laughs with a, "Wow, that's exactly right!" kind of recognition. They make it to church and prepare the food no matter the temperature, the weather, the condition of the roads, or the failure of the church furnace. They resist seasonings and spices as sinful temptations, passing up anything more daring than salt or pepper and turning up their noses at the lasagne that the new (and "city girl") wife of the pastor innocently brings as a contribution to a potluck (but repressing their true feelings and avoiding conflict with an insincere, "Well, isn't that nice?").

This concert series has been very, very impressive; and the play last night was a true treat. It makes me proud to be a Midwestern Scandinavian Lutheran (is there any other kind, really?), no matter how repressed or conservative we are, and no matter how staid our traditions and bland our foods.

Church Basement Ladies

(Past events in this impressive concert series: The Golden Strings, Cadence, and Presidio Saxophone Quartet.)

Friday, February 23, 2007

Dickinson, ND: International Melting Pot

We celebrated the very American holiday of Washington's Birthday this past Monday by attending an international food buffet, served as a fundraiser by a student club at the university where I work. To be fair, American fare was included: chili dogs. However, most of the food was prepared and served by students and faculty from some of the many countries represented on our campus. (Although most readers will think I'm being sarcastic here about ND's isolation from the world and its lack of cultural diversity, I am being completely serious. Although American students are the majority of our enrollment, international students outnumber American students in campus housing by a sizable margin and are a significant presence at our university.)

There were dishes from China, Mongolia, Russia, Germany, and France. We also have a number of students from Mexico, Canada, Jamaica, The Bahamas, and Africa (ah, that great country of Africa!) (this time, I'm being sarcastic), among others, but I don't recall any cuisine served from those places. The girls took some of everything and seemed to enjoy most of it. The German sausage and sauerkraut had apples in it, which was a delicious touch. One Mongolian dish was extraordinarily similar to potato salad, just with ham, peas, and a few other colorful ingredients added. There were pork shishkabobs from Russia spiced with pepper corns and cloves and a spicy pepper dish from China served over white rice. We enjoyed the French crepes spread with Nutella. One Chinese faculty member was on hand to write out Chinese characters in calligraphy on rice paper, and the girls each got one. (We don't know what they say, so I have to bring them to class and ask one of my Chinese students to translate them for me.)

As if that weren't culturally enlightening enough (yes, to me food = culture), this afternoon our family attended a Mongolian lunar new year celebration in the Student Center on our campus. The Mongolian student club organized several tables of displays on Mongolian sports, history, fashion, souvenirs, culture, lifestyle, tourism, and food. They had PowerPoint presentations and slideshows and actual physical items: traditional clothing, trinkets and games, a large model of a ger (yurt) that several students had built themselves, currency, flags, stationery on which some students were writing each visitor's name in traditional Uighur script (the girls each got their names written out--it's unintelligible to us, but quite beautiful), etc.

The food was good: the Mongolian potato salad; buuz, a meat-stuffed steamed dumpling reminiscent of a Chinese potsticker; khuushuur, a deep-fried meat-stuffed dough pocket; and a white rice dish with raisins in it. There was also entertainment. Occasionally people would take to the stage, and we heard two men sing a duet, some people sing with a band, a student narrate a slideshow projected overhead, and all the Mongolians there gather to sing the national anthem. (To view/hear a modernized version that emphasizes the diversity and patriotism of Mongolia, watch this.)

Many of my past and current students and other Mongolian friends I've met on campus were on hand to explain a display, to walk around in traditional Mongolian dress, to sing, to serve food, etc. Here are some of the names I've learned to pronounce: Enkchimeg, Tsogt, Amarsanaa, Uugantsetseg, Tuul, Undraa, Suvd-Erdene, Suvdaa, Nomindari, Enkhurnukh, Battushig, Sabit, Amarbayar, and Tulga. In fact, Amarbayar and Tulga work for a Mongolian tourist company and invited us to join them in July when they lead a group from this area on a week-long tour of their country. They provided us with several Web sites that will give you, too, a taste of their country:

I've never had a hankerin' to travel to Asia, but now that I know people from China, Russia, and Mongolia--people who could guide us, translate for us, explain for us, and take the fear out of venturing into the unknown--I'm actually interested in the opportunity to go there. Who would have guessed that we would become so multicultural only after moving to southwestern ND?!

the Mongolian flag

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Today is my mom's birthday. Although she died six years ago, I still think of her often. You might, too. If you ever knew her, I know you've got positive memories of her. I hope you'll recall them fondly today.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Famous Fruit of My Loins (and a Sprocket Story)

Yesterday morning Abigail and Hillary went outside to play and came inside bound for glory.

The weather was so beautiful that they were itchin' to get outside, and they bundled up to go play in the piles of melting snow. Two neighborhood friends joined them, and soon they were making a snowman in the next-door neighbor's front yard. Their friend who lives there has a book, My Friendly Snowman, that tells a story about a snowman as readers build their own, so that was their activity (yes, combining reading with playing outdoors--leave it to our daughters).

A while later, the doorbell rang. It was Hillary, wanting to tell me about the newspaper reporter. "The newspaper reporter?!" I asked. It seems that someone from The Dickinson Press had set out to take some photos for the next day's edition, hoping to find some children out playing in the snow. Her first find: our kids and their snowman project. So she took their photos, got their names and an explanation of what they were doing, and told them to watch the newspaper the next day.

This morning, there was a photo of the four kids, the book, and the emerging snowman with this caption: "Dickinson friends Jordanne McNeilly, Abigail Moberg, Madison Hughes, and Hilary [sic] Moberg make their snowman 'Frosty' after reading the storybook titled 'My Friendly Snowman' as a President's Day activity on Tuesday [sic]." They're famous (albeit misspelled)!

We've been in Dickinson about six months, and already our kids have been in the newspaper twice and on the TV news once. (Read about the previous brushes with celebrity here.) Can Hollywood be far away?

And Another Thing:

If you ever need a residential garage door opener repaired or installed, call Midwest Doors of Dickinson. Yesterday the sprocket that pulls the chain on one of our garage door opener motors snapped off. I looked up the brand on the Internet and found the local dealer: Midwest Doors. I phoned them this afternoon, and they said they could come out today but would phone me first to arrange a time for me to meet them. Susan phoned me a bit later, saying she had returned home to find them at our house repairing the problem rather than installing a new one (as I feared they would have to do). In a blink of an eye, they were gone, having left us with a working garage door opener, not having bothered me to come home from work, and not having demanded payment or left a bill. (I assume one will come in the mail.) I love Dickinson.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Our Sunday without Mom

Breakfast: orange juice, blueberry bagels with flavored cream cheese, sliced fresh pears, and strawberry applesauce or peach yogurt (their choice)

Morning activity: drive to West River Community Center [be sure to watch the "new DVD" on that Web site, and check out the architectural renderings--it's truly an impressive facility], take a walk on the walking/biking trail, play on the three-story [wow!] outdoor playground equipment, return home and play outdoors in the over 40-degree temperature

Dinner: grilled turkey and cheese sandwiches, vegetable soup, three-pear fruit salad, hot chocolate, Valentine's candy for dessert

Afternoon activities: playing alone, playing together, reading individually, being read to by Daddy, computer work

Supper: lettuce salad, leftover hot dish

While waiting for Mom to get back: play Cranium Balloon Lagoon, sing Veggie Tales songs while gathered around the piano

Susan arrived not too long before her aunt Jake and cousin Kelli came over to see her and tour the house. I'm glad she had the chance to see them while they were here briefly from CO. Afterward, we exchanged stories of our weekends and tumbled into bed.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Scrapbook Widower's Weekend

Susan is away with a handful of friends on an annual scrapbook outing. They gather at Thumper Pond Resort in Ottertail, MN this weekend each year for a chance to have fun and to spend time together scrapbooking. The hotel feeds them and provides ample space to spread out and be creative and get a lot of pages done. It was snowing and blowing Friday morning when Susan left Dickinson, but she eventually got out of the bad weather and made it to Harwood, ND to see the brand new baby of our dear friends who live there. Her co-scrapbookers picked her up there and took her the rest of the way to Ottertail. We expect her back in Dickinson by late tonight.

In the meantime, I'm a single dad. Friday evening I picked up the girls from daycare (Suzanna and Abigail had the day off from school and so joined Hillary at her regular Friday daycare appointment), and we came home and shoveled the driveway. I turned some refrigerated boiled potatoes and roast beef into fried potatoes topped with chopped meat in beef gravy for supper, and we sampled a lot of the Valentine's Day candy haul for dessert. We had a slumber party in Susan and my bed: all three girls and I slept side by side. "Too hot in the bed!" I wouldn't say it was comfortable--nobody could move her legs or roll over without waking up someone else, and it was like sleeping in a furnace--but it was still fun.

Yesterday we did homework and housework, straightening up rooms and vacuuming after another Dad-created culinary specialty. I fried some onions in cumin, salt, and pepper and fried in them the remainder of the boiled potatoes (yes, I like to use up leftovers). I heated up some leftover chili, added the remains of a jar of black bean and corn salsa, and chopped up and added the last two hot dogs I found in the fridge. I put the hot potatoes on a plate, sprinkled some shredded four-cheese Mexican blend on them, topped that with the chili concoction, and put the rest of the cheese on top. It was quite delicious, and the girls gobbled it up.

I French-braided each girl's hair before we headed over to Susan's aunt and uncle Kathy and Pat's to join the Morey side of her family for supper. Susan's cousins and their new babies were there, so we took photos of the tykes, and then of the tykes being held by the older cousins and second cousins. Kathy had baked buns and served slushburgers/sloppy joes/barbecues (what you call them depends on where you live, but they were delicious). Susan's aunt Jake and cousin Kelli are in town for the weekend from Colorado, so the get-together was for them to be able to see relatives. The two of them plan to come to our house tonight to see Susan and to see the house. Jake saw it before we had started redecorating last fall, and Kelli has never seen it, so we can show off what we've done, and hopefully Susan will have returned from scrapbooking by then.

When we got back home last night, the girls and I had root beer floats using the homemade vanilla ice cream that Susan and the girls made last week. We had another slumber party last night--this time in separate sleeping bags on the floor of the family room downstairs. The little darlings are still asleep, and I'm trying to think of what we can do today that won't undo all we did yesterday to tidy up for our visitors this evening.

Cadence, Kaden, and Matthew

Kaden, Abigail, Hillary, Cadence, Peyton, Kyle, Suzanna, Matthew, and Braxton

Jake and Kelli

Hillary, Kelli, Abigail, Suzanna, and Jake

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Parent Locator Update #3

In the last locator update, I predicted that Dad and Beverly's next stop following Castle Rock Shores outside of Parker, AZ, would be another state altogether: TX.

I was wrong.

They are now at Casa Grande, AZ, at Campground Buena Tierra on the foothills of the Casa Grande Mountains. Here's where they are in relation to the state as a whole, for the geographically inclined among you.

Driving through Phoenix and the surrounding large cities at night in the motorhome wasn't a big joy for them, but they should find Casa Grande more relaxing. It is a little bigger than Dickinson and is known for the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument. They can get cell phone and Internet reception and feel like they're back in communication with the world.

(So, I was wrong about their destination this time, but they are heading east. Any predictions about their next stop? Another AZ spot? Something in NM? All the way to TX? Or a bold turn south of the border? Share your ideas in a comment below.)

Thursday, February 15, 2007

So Notorious!

More of just exactly the kind of notoriety that North Dakota needs is right here.

P.S. Leave a comment if you know to what the title of this post is an allusion.

Literary Naughtiness

Okay, let's have a show of hands: Who all of you received two dozen red roses for Valentine's Day, as my wife did from her husband? Anyone?

I did not, however, think ahead to include a sex-related poem in her Valentine's Day card. Renowned American poet--and past Poet Laureate of the U.S.--Robert Pinsky has assembled some love poems in honor of the holiday--love poems with a decided focus on the mechanical aspects of "love." Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, William Shakespeare--this is the stuff that high school English classes are made of.

Wanna take a peak? Look here.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Sites at Your Disposal

It's Sunday! Feel like making a church sign? Here are some handy tools.

For a decidedly less Christian site (although the one above has plenty of potential for sacrilege, frankly), try this one. It's nothing particularly naughty, but it enables you to take out your frustrations (harmlessly) on a Web site toward which you may be harboring feelings of, well, hatred.

And a bizarre site for the hat trick: this one will spell out a word of your choosing by overlapping book covers whose titles contain that very word. Hard to imagine? Try it out. Hard to imagine its purpose? You're on your own with that one.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Random (but Worthwhile) Thoughts

Random Thought #1

Who else agrees that an excellent idea for a costume party (perhaps at Halloween) would be to have guests dress up as someone else dressing up as someone else? One route would be to re-enact well known poseurs. One could arrive at the party dressed as Carol Burnett dressed as Scarlett O'Hara from The Carol Burnett Show's classic "Went with the Wind" sketch, or dressed as Robin Williams dressed as Mrs. Doubtfire from the movie of the same name.

Or, one could go the non sequitur route, creating unlikely pairings. One could dress as Spiderman dressed as Sherlock Holmes, or as Benjamin Franklin dressed as Starr Jones Reynolds. Everybody at the party would be required to guess who you are, squared! Extra points to those who correctly identify both your personae.

And cash prizes for those who make cultural or historical allusions through their choice of costumes (e.g., dressing as k.d. lang dressed as Roy Orbison, or dressing as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. dressed as Martin Luther, or dressing as J. Edgar Hoover dressed as Rita Hayworth).

What strangely appropriate pairings can you think of for such a party?

Random Thought #2

Kristin Chenoweth is so cute and sings like a bird. Listen to her sing a quaint song, "Taylor the Latte Boy," on public radio's A Prairie Home Companion. Or, more fun yet, watch her sing it on The Late Late Show.

[For pleasant comparison, listen to Liz Callaway, too.]

I have no idea who this is, but she has a lovely voice and does a great job, too, with "Taylor the Latte Boy."

(And this performer? A fine job, too, but a whole new "take" on the song. Watch this one--or this one--last so as not to damage your psyche too soon.)

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Catholic Food

Today the parents of the kindergarteners at the parochial school that Hillary attends were invited to join their children for lunch in the school cafeteria. So I did!

After checking in at the school office, I made my way to the school's lowest level where Hillary's classroom is, and there she was: waiting outside the gym with her classmates, on the lookout for the arrival of the parents. When she saw me, she came running and jumped into my arms with a, "Daddyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!" I love that kind of greeting and dread the day when any of the kids stops doing that (Abigail and Suzanna still do that, too, at ages 7 and 9 -- whew!).

She grabbed my hand and walked me down to her classroom so that I could hang my coat on the hook next to hers in the hallway outside her classroom. Then she escorted me back into the gym, where I espied a familiar setup: a cafeteria at one end of the gym, several tables and chairs and benches set up at one end of the gym for the lunch hour, a trash can and table with bins to collect garbage and dirty dishes at meal's end, a couple hair-netted, plastic-gloved sixth-graders working alongside the adults to dish up food . . . pretty much the way things were done at my own (public) elementary school. (Let's hear it for Hillcrest Elementary in Tioga, ND! Woo-hoo!)

It was a treat to have Hillary show me "how things are done" at Trinity West Elementary. She guided me through the tricks of collecting flatware and napkins before going through the line for my plate: tater tot hot dish, broccoli and carrots in ranch dressing, bread and butter, mixed fruit cocktail, red fruity gellatin, and a carton of milk (Hillary and I chose white, but chocolate was an option). We sat at a table with other kindergarteners and their parents. We adults had lots of questions about policies and procedures and rituals at the school, and, again, they were happy to tell us "how we do things here." Hillary even made me stand with my toes to the masking tape on the floor that marks where the line should form for those wishing to bus their dishes after the meal! ("No, Dad, right here! Because you have to!")

After lunch, we went to the classroom, and Hillary gave me a quick tour of their most recent projects, and the products thereof hanging all over the walls. The teacher took advantage of the presence of all the parents by having us get our kids into their snow gear for recess. I smooched Hillary goodbye and then joined the other parents back in the classroom for a quick informational meeting with the teacher and principal. I was back to work an hour after I had left.

It was a delicious and satisfying meal, and Hillary must have thought so, too, because she ate every last scrap of food without any prompting from me. It was cute to see all the children so well behaved, walking in straight lines, raising their hands for permission to bus their dishes, walking the perimeter of the gym rather than cutting across diagonally, etc. Routine certainly is the key to order in a building filled with so many creatures otherwise inclined to unruly, erratic, impulsive behavior. Everything was very orderly both in the gym/cafeteria and out.

It's nice to be able to leave work to join the kids occasionally for events at their schools. At Suzanna and Abigail's public grade school, I will join Suzanna for lunch next week and Abigail for lunch the week after that. Also next week, I will join them both for a cultural presentation on Ukrainian arts and crafts, and the week after that I will be a guest reader in Abigail's classroom. She and I have to choose a really good "read aloud" book that will appeal to kids her age. Any suggestions?

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Super What?

Surprise, surprise: Super Bowl Sunday, and we didn't watch it. Susan kidnapped me this afternoon to force me to the mall to buy some dress pants and dress shoes (both of which I am sorely in need of) for work. When we got back, we got involved in our various projects: reading, playing, checking e-mail, etc.

Susan did check out the tube in time to invite us all downstairs to watch the halftime show. Prince? I mean, really? Did CBS blow its budget before they got around to booking talent for this year's halftime event? According to the Associated Press, Prince "delivered one of the best Super Bowl halftime shows--ever." Really? Granted, I haven't seen a lot of Super Bowl halftime shows, but that's seriously scary; I shudder to think how dull or awful or dated previous halftime entertainers have been.

Well, we were already gathered around a warm television as a family, so we decided to picnic there for supper and to watch a movie together. I had DVRed Spellbound from IFC a while back. On this day of honor for organized competition before mesmerized spectators, it seemed fitting that we watch that documentary about select American middle schoolers' adversity-filled journeys to compete at the high-stakes National Spelling Bee. You can fumble on the football field and later recover, but you miss just one letter in a spelling bee, and you're out. While the Indianapolis Colts were winning the football game without our viewership, hundreds of acne-faced, braces-wearing early teens were language-of-origin-please-ing their way from local and regional contests to the big one that really separates the men (Middle English, fr. Old English) from the boys (Middle English, possibly fr. Old French).

We didn't finish watching it before bedtime arrived for our rapt daughters, so we'll have to finish it another night. We all found it interesting, though, to watch how various kids from across the country developed their interest in spelling; to see the roles their families played in encouraging and training them; and to discover just what spelling bee victories can mean to those who are fortunate enough to claim them. Also, Susan is the spelling coach at the school where she works, so I figured this qualified as professional development for her, too.

(Yes, you read that right: Susan is the spelling coach at the school where she works. Team cheer: "Give me a 'B'!" "'B!'" "Give me an 'E'!" "'E!'" "Give me an 'E'!" "'E!'" "What's that spell?" "'Bee'!")

So, congratulations, Colts, on winning a football game and everything. But when you can memorize a dictionary and correctly recall the spelling of some randomly selected, obscure word knowing that your fate hangs on whether to double the consonant after the vowel, then you can talk to me about tuning in to watch you do your thang.

("Attitude." A-T-T-I-T-U-D-E. "Attitude.")

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Hairy Potter

Egads! Those of you who read the Harry Potter books probably also watch the Harry Potter movies and thus know the actor who plays Harry--Daniel Radcliffe. Well, the young chap (17 years old) is expanding his acting experience from film to theatre and will star in Equus on London's West End the end of the month. It's a bold choice intended to show the world the range of his acting.

Audiences who see Equus will no longer see him simply as young Harry Potter, the hero of the movie series for children (and for the young at heart). No, it will be apparent to audiences who see Equus that Daniel is thoroughly grown up. You see, audiences who see Equus will see Daniel in the nude. His role in the acclaimed play requires him to perform in the buff in a sex scene and extended flashback.

Compare and contrast: publicity stills from the upcoming movie Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix vs. publicity stills for the upcoming play Equus.

Now THAT'S an Unpleasant Smell!

The girls were in the shower this evening and sent Hillary, dripping, out to find me. It seems they had no body wash or shampoo to use, so I went to another bathroom and grabbed travel-size bottles of each for them. They were not enamored of the scent of the body wash, which was a hotel mini-bottle--probably titled something faux French, like "oatmeale et lavendre" or some strange food/plant mixture meant to pass as high-end odeur.

In any case, the girls called the smell "wretched." I asked what they meant by "wretched."

"Well," said Abigail, "it smells like a mixture of fried onions, mushrooms, and burnt toast."

Mmmm--lather up, everybody!

Expanded Holdings

When libraries display their new acquisitions, they usually put up a table upon which they set books that have recently been purchased. In the library where Susan works, the new acquisitions would easily destroy any table upon which she tried to set them.

The holdings of Trinity High School's library expanded yesterday when I. Keating Furniture delivered a brand new couch and chair, both upholstered in a rich, dark brown and very comfortable. We donated a rug to the library, and now the new furniture and rug form an inviting reading area near the periodicals.

The girls and I stopped by the library yesterday after school and work to see the new furniture. While the girls "played library," I helped Susan set up the reading area, rearrange tables and chairs, decorate the library with statuary and globes from the storage rooms, etc.

Would you like to see the results? Come with me on a tour:

Here we are peering into the library from the west door looking eastward. The library is on the second floor, so we have just walked up a flight of stairs to enter through this door. The periodicals are just inside the door and to the left. Notice the new furniture!

A closer look at the new reading area.

Another angle.

A newly set-up display, this one for Black History Month (February), featuring a calendar of historical events to recall each day of the month as well as several books about or by notable black people. The globe is newly displayed, although it may be several decades out of date--such a useful trait for a globe, no?

Makes you want to celebrate Black History Month, doesn't it? The calendar on display is this one.

Now we're standing near Susan's desk looking past "Fiction" toward the east door. Note the second globe, also pulled out of storage yesterday, and also sadly out of date.

We've stepped across from Susan's desk to the circulation desk, but we're still facing east, this time looking at the tables where students sit to read and work. Do you spy the Egyptian bust atop the book shelves? Books on Egyptian history are just a few shelves below it. We found it in a storage room, too. Ditto a statue of South Dakota's Crazy Horse Memorial, which you may be able to see atop a shelf near the clock.

We have made our way to the east end and have turned around to face west. The display shelf in front of us features biographies. We found the shelf in a storage room, too, and wheeled it out to create another display area--and to fill an open space that otherwise tempts students to rush unobstructed through the library.

Notice the angles? Previously the table were set at right angles to the wall shelves--boring! Don't you just feel the energy in the library now?! I do, too.

From this spot, you can see the circulation desk with its U-shaped, orange formica counter. On the west side of the counter is a dark gray door that opens into a small room that houses a computer lab and the reference book collection--and the library's only window.

Directly across from the circulation desk is Susan's desk. Not so private, actually, but it's a space for her to work on lessons and grading for the two sections of seventh-grade English that she teaches when not in the library.

The wooden doors in the wall behind Susan's desk open out into the gymnasium! Sometimes videographers use this vantage point to record events occurring in the gym. Mostly, though, they're closed, and Susan uses them to post seasonal displays. Here you can see pink hearts for Valentine's Day. She asked staff members to fill in a heart with the title and author of a book that they "love" in honor of the holiday.

Here's a better look at the circulation desk and the door to the computers and reference collection. Can you spot any clues that this is a Catholic school library? Look closely . . .

We're on our way back out of the library's west door. Before we leave, let us pause to look at the new furniture from behind. The door by the couch opens into a storage room that is also office space for Susan; the door by the chair is the exit to the stairwell. The shelves hold the periodicals, and the now-empty (but usually not-empty) rods are for newspapers.

That's the tour, folks. Susan's goal is to use her limited budget, and the donatons of generous alumni and parish members, to build the library's collection and make it as inviting as possible to patrons to increase its use--and its usefulness. An alum or parent bought the couch and chair, and others have recently given money for book purchases, so she's happy with the momentum thus far.

If you would like to donate, just let her know at